Sony A7s – First Impressions
Well, I wanted to write a bit about my first impressions of the Sony A7s. This is based on my use of it as a working photographer rather than any technical tests photographing charts !
First of all my reasons for buying it….. I have for a long time believed that if anyone was designing a digital camera from scratch they wouldn’t have put a complicated mirror/prism mechanism in it and I do think that the range of dSLR’s that have evolved have just had a digital sensor put in place of the film rather being designed from the ground up as digital cameras. the first of the “serious” mirrorless cameras was the Olympus OM-D and the Fuji X range. These are cameras that have been designed as digital cameras with interchangeable lens that lend themselves to working photographers as well as keen amateurs.
I have been looking at these cameras for the last few years but wanted to make sure that the image quality, focus speed and low light capabilities were the same as (or better than) my existing kit. The other reason I have been looking at them is weight; the Sony and 70-200 lens is about half the weight of the Canon 5d3 and 70-200 lens and this really is noticeable at the end of a long wedding !
So far I have used the Sony alongside my Canons at engagement sessions, boudoir sessions and a wedding and these are my first impressions.
I have found the focus to be quite fast and not had a problem with it unless I’m photographing a strongly backlit subject; then it is a case of finding an area of slightly higher contrast and using that to focus and then re-compose. The focus speed is certainly as good as the 5d2 and I haven’t noticed any real difference with the 5d3. Most of my subjects are fairly static, I have yet to have a bride sprint down the aisle !
Most of the time I use my cameras in single shot mode set so I can focus and re-compose if needed. I’ve been using the Sony in the same way and only in the last few days have I been testing the other focus modes but for most of my work I’ll stick to the same method I’ve used with the Canons. I have programmed one of the buttons on the back of the camera to allow me easy access to change the focus point in much the same way as I use it on the Canon (and before that on the Nikon). One other thing you can change is the size of the focus point. This is quite nice if you want to focus on a particular eye of your subject if you are working with a very shallow depth of field; I have changed this accidentally by pressing the wrong button so you really do need to spend some time getting to know the camera !
At the moment I only have two lens for this camera, the 24-70 Zeiss lens and the 70-200. Both of these are f4 throughout the range and both have image stabilisation built in. One thing that does take getting used to is using a menu option to turn on/off image stabilisation…. Both lenses feel well made, I particularly love the 24-70 with its lack of anything ! there are no gimicky stripes or bands added to show how much you’ve paid for this lens….
Ease of Use
One reason I opted for this camera over the Fuji XT1 was that it just felt so good to hold. If you are coming from a dSLR it has two dials on top; one for aperture and one for shutter speed. The back wheel is used to change ISO. Because I shoot in RAW and manual mode I don’t really need to change much more than this when I’m working; I certainly don’t need to worry about picture profiles etc in the same way you would if you were shooting JPG. I have programmed one of the top buttons to change metering mode (I normally leave it on matrix and use a light meter if I think I its needed) but that is about it so far….
EVF (Electronic View Finder)
This is all new to me…. Normally with a dSLR you are actually looking through the lens and the scene, you can’t see the impact of your camera settings on the finished result. With an EVF you are not looking directly out but at a tiny screen that has the image displayed on it. One advantage of this is that you can see the exposure you will get before you ress the shutter button. It also has an electronic level built in to help make sure your horizons are straight as well as the camera information on aperture, shutter speed and ISO. I believe this can be changed as to what is displayed but I haven’t played with¬†it yet. One ting I’m not is sure about (and keep switching on and off) is the image review. You see this in the viewfinder as well as on the monitor if you are using it. This takes a bit of getting used to because if you move you aren’t seeing what the camera saw but the photo you’ve just taken. when I use it I have this set as low as possible (2 sec) but 2 secs can seem a long time sometimes ! The advantage of this is that you can see if someone has blinked or moved or for any reason the image isn’t quite what you wanted. I know we could do this with a dSLR but it mean taking your eye away from the viewfinder and looking at the back of the screen….. With the Sony you don’t have to….
Low Light – High ISO
All I can say is wow ! I’ve been really impressed so far at the performance of this camera. I posted a few snapshots on Facebook last week (repeated below) to show how well it performs. The advantage of being able to use a higher ISO is that you can keep your shutter speed up and therefore have less “missed” shots due to movement. I think it’s best I just put the images in here and let you see them….
This image was shot a 1/125 f4 ISO 8,000
This image was shot a 1/125 f4 ISO 16,000
This image was shot a 1/125 f4 ISO 409,600
Yes, this last one is grainy…. but it was dark and the only light was from the candle…. You can still see who it is ! I don’t think I will be using it this high for work but the camera still got focus without any trouble ….
Silent Shutter – this really is silent. Absolutely no noise at all and vicars have no idea you are taking photos 🙂 It feels a bit strange because I’m used to feeling the shutter mechanism in the camera through the body as you take the shot and having the audible feedback that it has been taken. Combine this with using the monitor rather than the EVF and people really don’t know they are being photographed….
Size, Weight and Client perception – It is lovely and light compared to the dSLR’s I’ve been using and for me this is a real bonus. Being female I have smaller hands than lots of male photographers so as far as I’m concerned the size of the grip is perfect 🙂 I don’t *think* that the size of it will be a problem as far as client perception is concerned; it is still bigger than most compacts even though it is “small” compared to my Canon kit. I also think that as photographers we are brand snobs and it is more of a problem moving away from one of the big two (Canon/Nikon) for us than it is our clients. Yes, I’m sure there will still be guests at weddings that have “bigger” cameras than me but I know what I can create with mine 😉
Anyway, these are just my first impressions and I will be posting some more in depth information and sample images over the next few months.
Also, if you are coming along to one of my wedding workshops with the SWPP in November I will have this kit with me if you want to have a try !