This is my quick test of the Sony A7s and Atomos Shogun recording 4k ProRes 4:2:2 in a low light high ISO shoot on a moonlit beach at Holland-on-sea, Clacton. England.
Although it looks like a daytime shoot, it was lit just by the moon light and some distant street lights. The view out to sea was almost black with just the lights of the offshore windfarm and some distant clouds visible to the naked eye. You could not see the wind turbine blades with the eye but you could with the Sony and the shot of the plane with the vapor trail above the clouds was too faint to see by eye too.
I have seen a few of the test shots on YouTube and Vimeo of moon light shoots but its only when you get to use the camera yourself do you see just how good it really is. Unless you can see how it really is and how dark even with the full moon the shots are, most would just think that it was shot on a summers eve. But this is on a very cold, zero degrees February evening in England 4 hours after sunset and the moon high in the sky.
Most cameras when filming in low light will only give you a monochrome image but this is in full colour and with the white balance set to auto you can see the colour of the pebbles and sand on the beach, the lights in the buoys and wind turbines offshore along with a light blue sky which makes it look even more like an early evening.
With the addition of the Atomos Shogun, not only are you capable of recording in in 4k but you also get a great 1920 x 1200 7″ display. Its also has features like focus peaking, false colour exposure and up to 2:1 zoom to make sure you really are in focus. That’s something that is not that easy to do with the small screen on the back of the A7s even with its focus assist on and is very important when filming in 4k as its easy to be just a bit out and then your shots look soft.
The Camera was fitted with a Canon FD mount 50mm f1.4 lens which was wide open all the time with the ISO set to 64,000., yep that’s right 64,000 and although that might seem amazing high the A7s can go up to 400,000 though at this level it is getting very noisy but still less than most other cameras at much lower settings.
Something that did become quite apparent due in the shoot and much more when editing was the vignetting of the Canon 50mm f1.4 FD lens. It was a toss up between me taking the canon 50mm f1.4 or the Samyang 35mm t1.5 cine lens i have. I think that the Samyang may be a bit better when wide open but I haven’t tried them out side by side.
To get any of the those really clean shots that you might see the Sony A7s doing in very low light, you really do need a fast lens of 1.8 or less or you will have to make up for it with the ISO
setting and the added noise it creates too.
The Atomos was recording at 4k UHD 3840 x 1920 in ProRes 4:2:2 HQ from the Sony’ A7s HDMI port and the Shogun was mounted on the hot shoe mount with an adapter, which wasn’t quite tightened so when I did the first pan up the see the stars it slide out and I had to catch it…. pheww, that was a close call.
I did have a Canon FD zoom 70-210mm f4 fitted earlier but the f1.4 meant i could keep the ISO to 64,000 or lower and get much cleaner less noisy shots. With the f4 zoom lens I had to set it to 160,000 ISO to get the same light levels but with a lot more noise, so in the end I cut those shots from the video.
There is no noise reduction or brightness / contrast changes applied and the Sony A7s was set in its standard cinematic mode with no picture profile added, so this is just as it is when it comes out of the camera as much as possible.
There is quite a bit more noise compared to a daylight shot but you have consider that it is running at ISO levels that no other commercial video camera can come near and towards the end I show what my iPhone 5 could see at the same time, which was not a lot. In fact it was virtually completely black on auto settings and had to be boosted a huge amount in the edit just to show the really very grainy black and white image you see in the video.