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Opinion: Sony A7

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One of the challenges I’ve faced here, although perhaps not such a great one but an inconvenience none the less, has been getting around with gear. The more time I spend in Japan the lighter I want to travel and the more I’m trying to take advantage of natural light and the gear choices that go along side of that kind of photography style. Lacking a car makes a really big difference when you have to cut across the city to photograph some content. It means not only being limited from being everything but the kitchen sink but having to hold that gear everywhere you go. More over, the crowds here in Japan and on the daily commute can make for some exhausting experiences. While the logistics of it all may not be much more complex the toll of climbing stairs and walking starts to show up once you spend the better part of a day doing just that.

Prior to my purchase of the Sony A7 this ended up weight a lot on my mind. I really enjoyed the mobility and lightness the Sony Nex7 brought me but found it lacking in some respects, though one’s that were tough to put into words. Even now while I love the camera there was something that separated it from being a camera I felt comfortable using in more professional settings. Following that, I absolutely love my Nikon D3s and it still performs the bread and butter load of work. The size of it leaves a bit to be desired at this point and more often than not I have opted to leave it at home when setting out, even if it is a serious project. Ultimately I needed something I could combine my Leica M6 and its set of Zeiss lenses that was portable and mobile but still could deliver on a serious feature level. I spent a lot of time mulling over the Sony A7 and ultimately bit the bullet.

In the end I have to say I was more than pleasantly surprised with the combination. The weight of the Leica M6 and Sony A7 plus lenses feels incredibly comfortable. Both cameras for their size seem a bit heavy for a lot of people but for me they’ve felt sturdy and solidly built. The size of both combined together make them a breeze to sit along side in a smaller camera bag and with the proper Leica to E-Mount adapter switching the lenses between the two bodies is simple and quick. I was generally surprised by the portability of the two. Being able to cover film as well as high resolution digital in such a small kit has made travelling life a lot simpler.

For those unaware one of the advantages of some of the new Sony mirrorless bodies has been the focus peaking system. It opens up a plethora of manual focus lens choices as it displays a color overlay on the LCD / viewfinder to accurately show where focus is. Beyond that the EVF allows you to digitally zoom in while focusing, giving you the opportunity to fine tune it even further. With the ability to map this feature to any number of buttons on the camera you can very easily and quickly get accurate focus with manual lenses while not only shooting at eye level but from the hip as well. This was one huge advantage that I thoroughly enjoyed in the Nex7. With the proper lens adapter you had the ability to get the characteristics of a huge lineup of old lenses from various makers and the ease to make them deliver great results.

One other feature I’ve really fallen in love with since trying it has been the ability to create a wifi connection between the camera and a number of devices such as smartphones or tablets to very quickly transfer pictures on the go or to use it as a tetherless viewfinder. I remember a few years back thinking the idea of cameras having some sort of wifi capability or wireless transfer would be incredibly convenient but only now am I realizing how much I love this feature. I have used both quite extensively these days. Last week I finished up a shoot and had a rather lengthy train ride home. With the click of a few buttons I was able to transfer JPEG previews of the raw images sitting on the camera to my iPad, all wirelessly and rather quickly too no less. It gave me a chance to review them on the way home and make a mental note of the keepers. It’s simple and easy to do. Sure I could have done it with a cable and/or card reader but the ease of it all to me feels like a game changer and I can’t imagine going back to a camera without such a feature, especially when travelling or on the go. I’m a big fan of instagram and I think for users who spend a lot of time on social media something like this can be incredibly convenient.

As for the wireless viewfinder, I have found a chance to use this creatively in a few instances. Basically the camera can directly connect with your smart phone or tablet via an app and then display the viewfinder on it. It also gives you a few options such as adjusting the exposure, grid overlays, and the ability to select points of focus (though in my case I am using manual focus lenses and as such lack this ability). I have set this up to display the viewfinder on an iPad and put it along side the camera, facing the subject, so they could get a better idea of how they look or their posing is, when shooting portraiture work with them. This has helped a lot for communicating the effects particular posing can have on their appearance within an image and it has also helped to really save a lot of time in the process. The non-verbal communication this can help facilitate can lead to better results. More over I have spent a lot of time these days working on self portraits as practice for improving my posing and lighting. As such I’ve had to put the camera on a tripod, usually set a short timer, pop myself in front of the camera before firing off a few frames and then going back to check the results, adjust, rinse and repeat.

This process is slow and at times difficult as often it’s small changes that can make a big difference and having to get up in between poses to see the results can really affect the results as it is quite difficult to return to the same position. Being able to use a smartphone as a real time viewfinder and then fire the shutter remotely via it saves a lot of time and has really helped me to better understand my own posing and lighting. This itself has been a great help to improving those two skills and of course this transfers very much to portraiture work when working with others. It gives me a chance to know right away how everything looks before I fire the shutter. I have to say I love this feature a lot even if my usage of it when working with real people in front of the camera has been limited to only some instances. Regardless, it has been a great asset and I can see myself using it a lot more in the near future.

Beyond all that, all around it has shown to be a solid camera that not only carries with it a wide assortment of useful features but performs wonderfully both in handling and results. It’s been a long time since I’ve fallen in love with a digital body to this degree. I definitely highly recommend this camera to both professionals and hobbyists. Sony has delivered an impress product and they continue to really nail it in the rangefinder department.

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