Does the Internal Gyro in Sony's a7S III Mean No More Gimbals?

An underappreciated feature of the new Sony a7S III is its internal gyro data. Here's how to use it. 

Sony has gotten a ton of attention for its new a7S III. By sticking with 4K resolution, they're able to up their maximum frame rate and refine its color science while improving noise in low light conditions and autofocus to create a camera that's mighty temptingeven for those of us who have long held out against Sony's call.

One feature that didn't get nearly enough attention, however, is the inclusion of an internal gyro stabilization sensor. Filmmaker Brandon Li took a deep dive into the feature and walked away feeling like, for certain situations, it's a major feature.

Of course, it's not the first Sony camera to have this. The ZV-1, FX9, and RXO II have it, but it's the first Alpha camera from Sony to have it. The FX9 is wonderful, but it's a pro-level body that's as likely to end up on a tripod, dolly, or in a full-sized Ronin 2, so the gyro stabilization feature, while nice, may not be necessary. The a7S III, however, is in the hands of many indie filmmakers and sports video creators which makes it a fascinating feature.

It works by recording motion data as the camera moves about in the real world. This doesn't affect the shot being recorded, but in post-processing in Sony's proprietary app, Catalyst, you can see shots that had the data recorded and apply stabilization to them to take advantage of all the data recorded in the camera. This is cool since post stabilization usually has to guess about camera movement based on data in the image, and can sometimes be wrong. Recording the data in the camera is far more useful and will make for a faster, more accurate post track.

Shot using the Sony a7S III
Shot using the Sony a7S III

Of course, to do this, you'll need to crop in on the shot a bit, and while the 4K resolution of the a7S III is probably plenty sharp enough to handle it, it is something to be aware of. On top of that, it works best when you've turned the shutter speed to a very high setting so you have crisp, clean images with little motion blur. The interaction of heavy motion blur and stabilization can look odd. While needing to turn up the shutter speed might not be the answer filmmakers are looking for when it comes to stabilizing footage, at least this adds another option. The process also only works if you turn off the internal image stabilization in the camera.

The results Li got are impressive, and in some ways, definitely seem to make some wonder if, in the future, gimbals will become optional. There are still times it's the right tool in the toolkit, but it may not be nearly as necessary as before. His tests are thoroughand masked and socially distancedand we get to see some nice attempts at combining a gimbal with the Sony stabilization for particularly hard shots.

Frankly, this is the kind of feature every single camera manufacturer should integrate. It's not tremendously expensive to add, and with integration into post platforms like Resolve and Premiere, it could be a seamless part of the workflow that could smooth out a surprisingly wide array of bumpy footage.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.      

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Your Comment


Gimbals did not kill the dolly or the steadycam. This will not be the end of the gimbal (yet?).

September 10, 2020 at 1:35PM

Director, DOP, Writer, Editor, Producer

it's actually more impressive that I thought it would be

September 10, 2020 at 1:49PM

Nathan Presley

the title is an evident click-bait title, anyway...
is very interesting about motion recording not only for stabilization but also to replace or help motion tracking for vfx that today are ever most tight to every kind of work.
recently for a documentary i did more wire/rubbish remotion work than many full feature lenght where i worked. Mocha was a great tool to do it, but i'm sure that if i can use more motion data from camera i can do better and faster work.

September 11, 2020 at 3:58AM

Carlo Macchiavello
Director (with strong tech knowledge)

I still think a gimbal is the best for stabilizing video. I got a Canon 35mm f/2 IS lens for my 5DIV but I keep the IS turned off because it tends to overreact when on a tripod so I assumed the same for the gimbal. I will have to purposefully shoot with it turned on next time to see if there is a difference between the stillness of a tripod and the movement with a gimbal. I shot this Urban Exploring video, when I was in Texas, with the 5DIV on a Moza Air 2 with that same 35, IS off. I think the results were great considering the lighting, much better than it would have been just handheld recording with IBIS on a camera and way better than lens IS (or OS) could achieve.

September 11, 2020 at 3:37PM

Nick Straub

Where on Earth are 4K60 camcorders at the ~£600 mark?! I've been waiting for a 4K60 camcorder around this price range for about 8 years now. But every year all any of these companies seems to do is rebrand their 4K30 again!

The Sony AX-53 came out very late 2015 / early 2016, which in itself was a refresh of the AX-33. Are Sony really saying they have no better sensor and processor to make a new camcorder in 2020? So what do Sony do? They remove the EVF from the the AX-53, call it the AX-43 and then charge the same price as what you can already pick up the AX-53 for anyway!

Why is 4K60 taking so long to arrive at a non-pro price point? Phones and GoPros have been doing 4K60 for years and in many cases have even moved from this to 4K120 and 8K30. When are we going to see Panasonic or Sony bring this to ~£600 price point? HC-VX2 or AX-63? They wouldn't even need to spend that much money developing them either, they could keep the lens and OIS and body and everything else the same, just update the sensor and processors to give us 4K60 using H.265.
There is no technical reason they can't, heat has nothing to do with it as I said phones and action cameras have done it for years and have a much tighter power/heat envolope to work within.

What annoys me most is all these companies keep crying out that 'phones are stealing all their customers' but then they are so slow to give us new features such as 4K60. Phones come out every single year and move things on significantly every single year, so is it really a surprise customers forget amount them?

For my use-case which is filming low league football, handheld, pitch side you do need a proper dedicated camcorder because the image stabilisation is much better on these than it is on a larger sensor mirrorless camera plus the fast electric zooming and super fast focusing is very much needed too. I just wish someone brought out 60fps version because I often need to slow down clips for goals or fouls, a 4K60 version of the AX43 or HC-VX1 would be a perfect camcorder.

September 13, 2020 at 11:49AM