Working with the Sony A7 series cameras – Part 2

In Review, Sony A7 series by a Comment

This blog post follows on from my previous post about these cameras and I’ll be talking a bit more about the differences between them, not necessarily in any great technical detail but more how I have found working with them in the real world 🙂

Each of the cameras in the A7 series has been designed to be particularly good at something… with the A7s it has to be its low light capabilities, with the A7R/A7RII it is the resolution and in the middle sits the A7/A7II. The A7s has the smallest sensor resolution at 12MP and the A7RII has the highest at 42.4MP. All the cameras is the series also seem to have slightly different focus systems and this does seem to be one area that Sony have been improving between the first editions of the cameras and the models they are currently releasing.

If I start by talking about the A7s… This is superb in low light. For me this makes working in dark churches so much easier… BUT you do need to remember a few strange things start to happen when you photograph in the dark. This really is a matter of physics and the way that light and colour behave but to put it as simply as I can if you are photographing in the dark you won’t achieve the same colours in images that you will photographing in the light. The other thing you still need to consider is direction of light, although it may be almost non-existant it doesn’t mean that what is there is flattering and just because you can photograph at ISO 40,000 doesn’t always mean that you should !

These are a few photos taken at ISO 8,000 (not that high really…)

Sony A7s

This is the original uncorrected image.

Sony A7s

This is the same image with some White Balance correction in Lightroom. When you start to make corrections you can they have to be small otherwise the image starts to fall apart quite quickly.

Sony A7s


One stage further, some saturation and contrast increases to try and bring back the depth of colour that really existed.

I must admit I really don’t like working in mixed light environments; I’ve found that the colour temperature from the low energy lights that everyone uses varies so much and venues really don’t seem to be bothered about matching the same temperature bulbs in the same light fittings…..

When the light levels get really low the autofocus on the A7s starts to struggle (for me this is usually the first dance) especially if I’m using the 70-200 lens, the Sony Zeiss 24-70 seems to cope much better. What I have started doing is using the video light function on my flash units just to add a bit of light on to the subject (without over powering the ambient light). I have found this helps maintain skin tones as well as help with the focusing. If there is someone using a video light on a camera I will also try and work at 45 degrees to them so I can use their light to light the subject and at the same time give me quite a nice direction of light.

Working in a reasonable amount of daylight focus isn’t a problem but in very low light you do need to look to focus on an area that has good contrast if you want the autofocus system to work. I know most videographers use manual focus but this isn’t something I’ve done yet and I’d really rather not have to if I can help it !

I know when I started photographing weddings it wasn’t possible to work in the church without a tripod, the cameras didn’t produce useable images at anything above ISO800 so you needed fast lenses and slow shutter speeds. Now I can easily hand hold a camera using ISO3200 and above with an f4 lens and still get great photos during the ceremony 🙂 The quality of these images surpasses the ISO800 images from my first (or even second !) dSLR.

So, I’ve said how great this camera is at high ISO’s but what are the downsides…. I think, if I’m honest, the 12MP can be a catch… with the Canon 5dMK3 I had got used to having the 20+MP and being able to crop the images a fair bit and still have quite a big file to work with. You don’t have this degree of flexibility with the A7s so you need to concentrate on your composition far more when you are taking the shot rather than relying on being able to fix it later (maybe we have all got a bit lazy 🙂 ). For the work that I do 12MP is plenty. I still use the images as double page spreads in large albums (a single image printed at 28″ x 14″) and realistically this is as large as most of them will ever be printed and the quality is superb.

The focus system can be a bit hit and miss at times, I’ve been playing with the various settings to try and find the ones that work best for me and I do think I’m getting there. I still tend to use the single spot focus and recompose method rather than keep moving the focus point all over the screen. If I had to compare it to another camera I would say the A7s is about the same as the Canon 5dmk2 but not quite as good as the Canon 5dmk3 when it comes to focus (but it makes up for that in plenty of other areas !)

Ease of use – I love the way that I can change the Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO by just using 3 dials rather than having to press button combinations before I turn something. This makes it super fast to change the camera settings, so much so that I now don’t use the cameras “memory” settings to store the inside/outside settings for the church in the same way that I used to with the Canons. Because I work in manual mode a lot of the cameras settings are irrelevant but ones I do use are the “silent shutter” mode and the “image effect” mode. The Silent Shutter really is silent. Not a single sound comes out of the camera when you press the shutter button and this is ideal for working in churches 🙂 The Image Effect mode lets you see in the view finder or on the screen what the image will look like with the settings you have applied. So, you can see if it is under exposed or over exposed before pressing the shutter button and this does mean you are less likely to make a mistake when moving between vastly different lighting scenes (i.e. inside the church to outside…)

Could I use this as my “only” camera if I needed to ? Yes, I know I could shoot a complete wedding on this camera and get great results but as I will talk about in further blog posts Sony haven’t stood still and have carried on developing these hidden gems of cameras.

If you want to see how high you can go with the Sony A7s ISO then have a look at this blog post here….

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