Working with the Sony A7 series cameras – Part 1

In Hints and tips, Review, Sony A7 series, technical by a Comment

I thought it was about time I wrote a bit more about working with the new Sony A7 series cameras, I have been using them exclusively for the last few weddings and have also been using them for all the portraiture I do for some time now.

For starters this is a list of the Sony kit that I have bought :

Camera Bodies

  • Sony A7s
  • Sony A7II


  • Sony Zeiss FE 24-70 F4
  • Sony G FE 70-200 F4
  • Sony Zeiss 16-35 F4
  • Sony Zeiss 35 F2.8


  • 2 x HVL-F60M Speed-lights


  • 3 x spare batteries
  • 1 x battery charger

Most of this kit I have bought from Hong Kong because it really is so much cheaper, overall I have saved over £1,000 and this is a significant amount of money. If it had only been a couple of hundred pounds difference in the price then I would have bought from our local camera supplier because they are a great shop but when you are talking four figures you do have to question it. The biggest concern is warranty but the company I bought from (DigitalRev) offer a local warranty service and you need to remember that the warranty only covers you for the first year…. after that any problems and you would be sending the kit in to a service centre and paying for it yourself anyway. The other good thing is that they handle the import tax and VAT so the price you  see on the site is the price you pay !

So, why did I buy what I’ve bought ?

The first Sony camera I bought was the A7s. I had been looking for some time at the mirrorless cameras to replace my Canon gear. I had been using a Canon 5dmk3 and a 5dmk2 side by side at weddings so the image quality of any other camera had to be as good. The first mental stumbling block is the sensor size. The A7s is a 12MP full frame sensor compared to the Canons that are roughly 21MP. It may not seem logical to take a step back to a camera that produces smaller files but you have to get out of the mindset that bigger is better, after all how big to you usually print your images ? Most of the wedding albums we sell are 14×14″ which means the largest double page spread is 28″x14″ and a 12MP file is more than good enough to produce this size print.

The real advantage for me was its low light capabilities. In the UK we don’t have guaranteed sunshine and when you are working in a dimly lit church on one of those days that never really seems to get light you really do need to use some high ISO’s !

There is always a learning curve when it comes to a new camera. I work in manual mode and shoot RAW so really it is a bit like driving a car. With a car when you have learnt to drive you can get in to pretty much any make or model, find where the ignition is, lights, indicators etc and drive. The same is true in photography. If you work in manual, can find how to change white balance, focus mode, ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture the rest is mostly irrelevant.

The low light capabilities of the A7s blow the Canon 5dmk3 away so I have my camera for working in the dark 😉

To go with this I bought the 24-70 lens and the 70-200; with these two lenses I can photograph pretty much anything I normally need to. If I could only take one lens with me to a wedding I would take the 24-70 and I know I could shoot a whole wedding with it. I may not be able to get all the creative shots I want to but I could cover a wedding….

Both of these lenses are f4 throughout the range. What this means is that as you zoom the minimum aperture doesn’t change and this is also why they tend to be a bit bigger and more expensive than some of the other lenses. They have also both been designed to work with Sony’s full frame sensor. Both lenses also have image stabilisation (IS) built in to them. I have been working with f2.8 lenses on the Canons so this is the first obvious difference. I would say however that the 70-200 f2.8 lens that I had with the Canon was so soft at 2.8 I never normally used it below f4….. The other thing I would say is that the 24-70 is faster focussing than the 70-200 and overall I have found I prefer the Zeiss lenses to the Sony G series. With the 24-70 there is some vignetting at the edges, personally I don’t find this a problem, I either leave it if I like the look or use the lens correction option in Lightroom to remove it… the choice is yours !

This combination of camera and lenses meant I could use the Sony for pretty much anything I needed to do both in the studio and at weddings. This meant I was able to use it alongside the Canons to really get to know how it performed and its quirks (every camera has them !) before deciding if this really was the route I wanted to go down… The only thing missing at this point was any sort of speed light to use with it. Most times I needed a speed light I used one of the Canon 580 EXII units that I already had off camera triggered by the Elinchrom sky port radio triggers that I use in the studio. There are times that you do need something on-camera so I bought a Nissan i40 unit. I bought this primarily for the size and weight but to be honest I don’t really get on with it. I think the best I can describe it is “ok” and it tends to stay in my bag…. The flash system is something I will come on to a bit later….

When I was happy that the Sony would work for me I needed to invest in a second camera body. I’m a big fan of having most of my kit the same make so that everything is interchangeable… I wouldn’t want to have to carry two lots of spares with me for two different camera systems all the time ! It was about this time that Sony announced the A7II and for me this seemed to be the perfect camera body. It is still full frame and it is 24MP (a light increase on the Canons). The new camera has the 5 axis stabilisation system built in to the camera body and an improved focus system. Trust me, I can tell the difference in the focus systems ! So, for a lot of the work I do I will use the A7II because it gives me a few more cropping options in post production, something I do need to be careful with when I’m using the A7s (maybe having big files makes you lazy with your in-camera composition ??). The camera body is slightly larger and ergonomically a bit different but not so much so. One thing I love is how flexible the camera is with its programmable buttons so I do have both cameras set up the same; it really is a bit like driving in that you make changes without being consciously aware of it….

It was about this time that I also bought the 35 f2.8 Zeiss lens and the 16-35 f4 Zeiss lens. I use the 16-35 quite a bit at weddings and would have missed it ! (I’m selling my Canon one shortly…). The 35mm lens is primarily for me to use when I take a camera out running with me. It is small and light enough that I can fit the combination in a backpack without making life too uncomfortable 😉

Anyway, this covers the kit I have any why I’ve bought it…. In the next part of this story I’ll compare the two cameras, the flash system and how they work in the real world !


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