December 15, 2014 at 6:18AM


Sport and documentary: 5dIII, a7s or GH4?

Hey guys,

I'm currently posed with a very difficult decision on what body to upgrade my camera to. I shoot DSLR video and am upgrading to a professional body. The 5d III has always been the king but with the release of the a7s and gh4 there are so many options! The a7s, after countless reviews and side by side comparisons really has taken my fancy but mainly shooting documentary and sport i think the rolling shutter i think would be to much of a problem. Which is such a shame because if that wasn't an issue i think id buy it! the 5d3 is a lovely camera and completely changed the game but the quality difference between that and the gh4 and a7s is amazing!

This is my first post on ay type of forum so id be very thankful for some help!


There are rumors of a Canon 5D Mk4 being announced in March 2015, so I would consider waiting if you can.

Otherwise, I think the Pansonic GH4 would be the best buy right now. ( you could always sell it next year if something better comes down the pike )

December 15, 2014 at 10:41AM

Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer

Thanks guy. I think however the 5d Mk4 would be a bit out of my price range. Im also wanting to keep my canon glass so would have to get a speed booster. Thank you!

kieran ryan

December 16, 2014 at 6:17AM, Edited December 16, 6:17AM

and the low light on the gh4 also isn't great. which could be a bit of a problem. i wish we could combine the 3 cameras!

kieran ryan

December 16, 2014 at 6:24AM

am starting to feel it may be easier sticking with the 5d Mk3

kieran ryan

December 16, 2014 at 6:26AM

Shot a documentary for television this year on the 5dIII which turned out great! No regrets there buying that camera second hand.

However, for a new camera I'd say go with the a7s b/c of the lowlight capabilities or wait around to see what Canon brings next year. GH4 I wouldn't do for documentary personally, if only because the crop factor would annoy me in tight spaces. Unless you totally map out every scene and location...

December 16, 2014 at 8:29AM


5d Mk3 has always been the cam i was planning on upgrading to but after seeing the a7s the quality difference is just amazing. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying the 5d Mk3 is terrible because its an amazing camera but it really has found its match! Its just a shame that the rolling shutter on the a7s would effect me to much in the sport aspect of my work, such a shame. The low light is just amazing! Totally agree on the GH4, the sensor really turns me away.

kieran ryan

December 16, 2014 at 11:13AM

Having shot a bit of sport with the a7s I can confirm the rolling shutter issue is a real issue, though it is lessened significantly in APS-C crop mode. According to this test in APS-C the a7s actually has less rolling shutter than the 5D III. If your willing to fiddle about switching in and out of crop mode when you're on a long lens it could be ok. Not great but ok.

The reason for the comment is I think It's still worth considering. The video quality is superior to the 5D III and the high iso is incredibly useful for spot shooting as you can shoot at f8 - f11 in a poorly lit hall and get fairly clean images back.

As always, test before you buy. Talk to your local rental place. After christmas can be a great time to get a cheap hire rate as cameras aren't usually so busy.

December 16, 2014 at 9:53AM


I came across this aps-c (part) fix on a few YouTube videos and it does combat the issue very well! Didn't know it had less of a rolling shutter than the 5d Mk3 on the crop mode though, thats very interesting! Whats your go to camera for sport? Still the Canon like most others? The a7s really has blown me away and i think buying the 5d will in some sense give me regret where i will constantly be comparing it to the a7s, the low light alone is just incredible. Thanks for the advice though, will definitely try get some tests done

kieran ryan

December 16, 2014 at 11:18AM

I saw this aps-c (part) fix on YouTube and its amazing how much it combats it. Didn't know about it having less rolling shutter on crop mode than the 5d Mk3, thats very interesting!

Whats your go to body for sport? The 5d Mk3 like most others? The body of the canon is also very, very durable. Whats the a7s like?

The rolling shutter really is just a put of, otherwise its a perfect camera (bold)! The low light does it for me, its just amazing how clean it is. I will definitely test them out and see what works best!

December 16, 2014 at 11:23AM


Honestly, if I could avoid using a dslr for sport I would. It's one of those situations where a smaller sensor is an advantage. I own an a7s though so, for my personal stuff, thats been the camera available.

I previously shot on the 7D which was built like a tank. By all accounts the 5D III is better again. The a7s isn't as good. That's not to say it's poorly made, but if I was filming something like skiing where the environment is quite harsh, and there was the chance of dropping it in snow etc, I'd think twice. That said, Phillip Bloom has been using the a7s all over the world recently in humid and dusty conditions and it appears to have stood up to the challenge. The other thing I would recommend is getting the a7s with the movcam cage, which is built really well and would protect the camera in a fall, but obviously not help the weather sealing.

It all depends on which sports you are shooting, when and where you a shooting them and what style you want to shoot them in. All three of the cameras really good and its very hard to make a decision. What clinched my choice was having a look at shooting I admired and then working out which camera would allow me to achieve that most easily. If you love the images your getting back from the camera and what you can achieve, you'll find yourself really happy to work around the disadvantages.

Seamus Foley

December 17, 2014 at 1:04AM

It depends on what sport, honestly. Soccer or another outdoor sport that isn't played under lights...the GH4. Grab a Lumix lens with autofocus and image stabilization and you will be able to get close to the action, the low light thing won't be an issue, and you can shoot in 96fps if you want drama.

If it's Basketball, Volleyball, or an indoor sport I would go with the A7s. Low light plus close quarters which means the full frame won't stop you from getting close to the action. You can shoot at 120fps and switch to APS-C mode to get around the rolling shutter.

There isn't any situation where I would pick the Mark III. It's the most expensive of the three and the worst specs. Good in low light but not as good as A7s, only 60fps (96 or 120 on the other 2).

December 16, 2014 at 5:03PM, Edited December 16, 5:03PM

Luke Neumann

The sport stuff would mainly be fast downhill mountain biking and skiing. The gh4 is great but the sensor put me of quite a bit, i have been quite excited to go full frame which is why I've been siding with the 5d Mk3 and the a7s.

A LOT of the time i will be doing documentary so the a7s would do the job just fine.

Im really convinced by the a7s so i think i will end up going with this.

kieran ryan

December 17, 2014 at 1:25AM

Since this is almost exactly the problem i'm having, i'll jump on the bandwagon and won't start a new thread (if that's against policy, tell me and i'll ask in a new thread).
I also need a camera to shoot some documentary with some action, so rolling shutter would be an issue. But it's going to be on a boat, so lot's of low light (A7 seems better) but lots of water in the air too (GH4 or 5D for weather proofing) and small spaces (it's a 60 meters boat, but still a boat). AND i need the ability to take good stills too (GH4's sensor is smaaall, i'd love to finally play with a nice full frame sensor). I feel like the 5D is the better choice, am i wrong ? With these things in mind, is the 6D a viable alternative ? For lenses, i'm looking at a Tamron combo (24-70 2.8 / 70-200 2.8 + canons 50 mm (1.8 or 1.4). Are these a good setup to work with ?
Thanks for the help !

December 16, 2014 at 6:44PM

Loïc Bailliard
Journalist / director / editor

Such a tricky choice! Almost exactly the same situation! IF only we could combine all 3!

Let me know what you go with! Good luck

kieran ryan

December 17, 2014 at 1:07AM

I shot quite a bit of footage on a speedboat this year and all-in-all not optimal camera conditions but the 5D performed so well. I don't think I'd have been as comfortable with any other of the camera's.

it's probably also easy to get for a good price second hand since everybody is trading it in for the sony or panasonic...

Yeah the camera is not ideal and I wish I could shoot high frame rates and 4k, but on the other hand it can still deliver a very good picture suitable for television and the durability is nothing short of awesome. I wouldn't trade it for an a7s though, as I rather save up and get the FS7 some day


December 17, 2014 at 12:02PM

as for the lenses you mention, I believe those are not really weathersealed. I'd recommend getting Canon L lenses if you're filming near water.

Also, for documentary work I wouldn't recommend prime lenses if you're filming on the go. You can't change frame midst-shooting an interview and setting up for a frame on a boat is also something quite challenging since you're always moving. So unless you have 4k to crop on a 1080p timeline (which personally I don't think looks too good but ok) I'd recommend the zooms


December 18, 2014 at 1:49AM, Edited December 18, 1:49AM

Does anyone have any experience using the a7s with canon glass using a metabones speed booster?

December 17, 2014 at 1:36AM


A friend of mine tested it at a rental house: we wanted a wide lense with speedbooster to use it with APS-C on. Didn't work so good, so we used a normal metabones adapter.
I wasn't there, so I don't know the specifics.


December 17, 2014 at 11:43AM, Edited December 17, 11:43AM

Just shot a commercial on an a7s. My DP owns the camera and a Metabones Speedbooster, not the regular adapter. So all our shots are done in the APS-C crop mode which leads to less rolling shutter. We shot on Canon glass and had no issues. In fact, we shot for about 8 hours and only used two batteries, which seems contrary to everything i read about poor battery performance with the a7s.

Sean Tracy

December 17, 2014 at 2:19PM

Definitely go for an a7s mainly for the lowlight capabilities but also depth of field options. If you are shooting indoors with a GH4 you will more than likely be near to wide open on many occasions and the shallow depth of field look may not be what you want, at least with the a7s you'll have options. A plus with the GH4 is being able to punch in, which can give you tremendous flexibility composition wise, a speed booster in my opinion is essential for a gh4, so for outdoor sports a GH4 would be a good option. However I strongly recommend a a7s if you really want 4k you can get an external recorder for it down the line

December 18, 2014 at 4:13AM

Gino Lynch

At the moment, I'm really not worried about shooting 4k. My only real concern now about the a7s is the weather conditioning it will take in some very potentially nasty conditions, snow, rain and temperatures in the minus. Im not sure how the camera will react in those conditions and it is something i wouldn't have to worry about with the 5d Mk3

December 18, 2014 at 6:49AM


will you do more of this kind of work? Does it pay enough for you to justify buying a camera specifically for this assignment? Then go for the 5D
Do buy it second hand though! Otherwise wait for the mark 4 if possible

If this is a one-off thing and after this you're doing corporate vids and this is a big investment for you for the following years, then perhaps get the a7s and be extra carefull in those conditions


December 18, 2014 at 2:33PM

I have been using an A7S for about for about 3 months now shooting a mixture of run and gun interviews, studio interviews and sports (soccer, basketball, volleyball, pro rally). The rolling shutter hasn't been as big a problem as I thought it would. Yes, if you whip pan or shake the camera you will see it, but if you it's properly stabilized it isn't a problem. Even shooting handheld run and gun is fine. In APS-C mode it's much better which usually works better for sports in order to get additional reach, but even shooting basketball handheld in full frame wasn't a problem. 60p also further improves rolling shutter.

That being said the image off the A7S is just incredible and even the internal audio quality is very good which now means I can do run and gun style shooting without worrying about an external recorder. That in itself has greatly simplified my life. I have also used it during a pro rally shoot while it was raining. Although I was conerned it wouldn't take it I had no problems and feel like it's pretty resistant to rain.

Also, being lighter and smaller means it's easier to carry which is a plus on long shoots. But at the end of the day it's the quality of the footage that counts and the A7S delivers. And don't forget about the low noise. Need to shoot documentary style indoors without additional lighting? No problem.

December 19, 2014 at 11:47AM

Mark Riutta
Owner Defined Visuals

Canon 7D mark II is the best. Is fast and have a good quality and low light abilities.

January 23, 2015 at 2:53AM

Ragüel Cremades
Film producer and director

I shot a feature length documentary on the GH4 (trailer at the top of my bio page on this site). I found it worked well, and I liked having the flexibility of internal 4k recording. However, I used a speedbooster, it was pretty much a required additional purchase for me. I also had an A7S on hand for low-light shots that were necessary and which the GH4 was ill-equipped to handle; I don't like pushing the GH4 above ISO 400 because of the noise.

May 18, 2015 at 12:58PM, Edited May 18, 12:58PM

Philip Heinrich
Director, Producer

Your Comment