AH AH !? Does it mean I finally wrapped my brains around the camera and brought it to perform like I wanted it to ?? Well, a bit of that. And adapting my expectations and use arount its own personality and behavior, too. One major hurdle I had to get over was getting the IQ right, and for a strict jpeg shooter it means getting the White Balance and Creative Styles down pat. Laborious and unexciting as hell, but *mandatory* to get up and shooting. I’ll tell you a secret : I may be apprear as a gearhead, but that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Truth is, technical stuff bores me to tears, past a certain point. Sure, technical proficiency is a must. But as my one of my portrait heroes, Peter Hurley, says “technique is in your back pocket”. It’s taken for granted, it’s there. “The axe is sharpened”. Then the fun may start. What drove me so mental for the past days (and I apologize to me readers if I sounded a bit fazed ever since I got the new camera) was having my creative juices thickened and slowed down by technical stuff on my plate. Hopefully, that’s out of the way.
A quick look at the various internet photo boards I regularly visit gives me the impression that I was not alone on that boat. I suspect there are a *bunch* of puzzled, or worse, frustrated, A7/R owners scracthing their heads and wondering why on Earth the cameras hasn’t turn them into Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Ansel Adams, or… (insert name of photography hero) yet. So in hope of helping those fazed Sony users, here are my observations, and tips for a peaceful and rewarding Sony A7 experience.
First and foremost, Creative Styles settings. It took me a while to assess the native performance and output of the sensor in jpeg. What I found out, in no particular order : WB is strongly (more or less, depending on sample variation) biased towards amber/green. Good for landscape shooters, a nightmare for portraitists. Thank God you get not one, but three custom WB settings that you can save, so it might be a good idea to make a custom reading for the places you most usually shoot in. I have two for my living room (with and without the TV on, which tremendously impacts the blue tint), and one for my kitchen. And I cheat by having my Kelvin temperature set and tweaked to accomodate yet another lighting scenario in my ever morphing living room.
I also found that the A7 had a rather flat tone curves, so images will naturally tend to look dim and dull, unless you expose to the right like crazy. But the LCD representation of exposure is somewhat different from my NEX7’s, so I was having trouble nailing it. Since the A7 offers a “zebra” option, more familiar to videographers on well specified video cameras, I decided to put that feature to the test and see how it could help me figure out proper final exposure. I tinkered with levels at 70 and 95, but I couldn’t interpret exposure from it properly. So I switched to 100, and it’s useful enough to know where highlights blow. Ideally exposure is optimum when there is *some* zebra stripes in the lighter parts of the frame. Takes some time getting use to, but I think overall helpful (even if with Focus Peaking also enables, that means a helluva lot of visual information in the frame that your brains have to compute !).
Other useful observation, find what the true useful, clean, higher ISO value you can use. In my eye, and in my very, very dim living room, that’s ISO2000. Sure, I can push it to 3200 or even 4000 in better light, but in my dark cave of a home, 2000 is a safe value for fast enough shutter speeds *and* clean enough output. And last, this sensor is crazy demanding for lenses. I bet there’ll be a million other opinions on the web contradicting mine, that’s fine. Actually that’s great I love everybody to be entitled to their own point of view. But in MY experience, I’d say output on the A7 is more optics dependant that it is, say, on the N7 (and yes, I’m aware of how stupid and illogic it sounds).
And the news is, I *just* got my beloved Asahi Pentax 55/1.8 in PK mount back from an extended loan to my buddy Christophe (a fellow gear addict living nearby, we have “camera parties” in lieu of “pyjama parties” !). And from my early tests the lens’ performance is outstanding on the A7 ! So Im outta here, off to edit a bunch of shots I just took with this lens, and will be posting again shortly, hopefully, a true image oriented entry this time 😉