Behind the Scenes at High ISO with the Sony A7S III

Behind the Scenes, Precision Camera Concert - Austin, Texas

Behind the Scenes, Precision Camera Concert – Austin, Texas

I mentioned yesterday that I attended a concert photography event at Precision Camera in March, borrowing a Sony A7S III, a 12MP camera known for superior performance at super-high ISOs. So naturally, I wanted to test this. But first, I changed the lens from the 85mm f1.4 GM to the moderately wide 24mm f1.4GM to document behind the scenes.

The first photo is at ISO 2500 — no sweat — any modern camera should easily handle this ISO. I shot at faster-than-normal shutter speeds to get the auto-ISO to ratchet up. The image looked super clean.

Behind the Scenes, Precision Camera Concert - Austin, Texas

I included this second image to show you the “club” — a classroom-turned-concert venue with a raised stage and LED lights. All I needed was the brick-textured walls and smoke to create that bar-like atmosphere. At ISO 640, the photo is as clear as it can be. On the other hand, at 12MP, I can only zoom in somewhat to check for any noise.

Behind the Scenes, Precision Camera Concert - Austin, Texas

Further away from the stage and the lighting, I hit ISO 8000 at 1/250th of a second. Still a clean image, though I noticed texture creeping into the background after lifting the shadows. I often slightly underexpose my pictures to preserve highlights — a habit I’ve acquired after shooting urban landscapes at night.

The Sony exposed darker than Fujifilm; thus, this image is more underexposed than usual. In addition, bringing up the shadows in post-processing tends to emphasize the previously hidden noise.

Behind the Scenes, Precision Camera Concert - Austin, Texas

Finally, this is an image at ISO 12,800. It’s noisier than expected, and I thought the Sony A7S III would do better. However, as I indicated above, I underexposed more than I should have. Brightening the image most definitely emphasized the background noise. The foreground subject, on the other hand, looks reassuringly low-noise.

I could eek better low-light performance out of the camera with more practice. Exposing brighter would help, though it would get tricky in high dynamic range dark environments. It’s not a camera that interests me, however. 12MP is too low of a resolution for me these days. Remember, the A7S III is designed more for video than still photography. It should excel in that capacity.

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