Life with the Sony A7r

It's been 2 months since I've picked up the much awaited a7r.  I have since sold my Canon 5D3, a slew of Canon L lenses and my ever so beloved Sigma 35mm/1.4 Art lens.  Why?  Cause this thing is fucking amazing!  What's not to like?  The somewhat limited bracketing options?  The fact that the cheaper A7 has superior auto-focusing and better ISO performance?  That it shakes like a Chihuahua lost in New York City in the middle of winter?  That the little door where the USB and HDMI plugs are feels like it's going to break off when it's open and since it doesn't come with an external battery charger you're forced to open it constantly to charge it?  That a massive company like Sony has ported more apps over to the A7/A7r yet?  There are currently only 3 native Sony E-Mount lenses available for it? 

World record fireworks at the Jumeirah Palm, Dubai 2014

Yeah....well, we can all nitpick anything we want to, so why should this great piece of technology be any different?  I have a 2013 Audi A8L and I really don't like how far I have to reach to skip to the next track.  And I don't like it when the short valet guy retrieves my car cause the steering wheel is in my chest.  But lets be real here....none of these things are really problems are they?  Take a look at some of the things you yourself or the people around you bitch about...99% of them are not real problems.  Guess this is where that "First world problems" quote comes from.

So lets begin by breaking down some of the above gripes...

Dawn over the Dubai Marina

Bracketing

Single exposure of the sunrise from a 73th floor rooftop

So there are some complaints from the hardcore HDR and digital blending guys.  While I'm really neither, I do have this to say.  Why not just add the option Sony?  This goes out to Canon as well.  I know dudes that do HDR stuff spanning 9 stops of light.  While this is a very small audience...why not just let the user select?  Give the customer the option to shoot  9 shots at .3 or 1 stop or 1 stop at however many exposures I want?  If nothing else...so people have one less thing to bitch about.  With the dynamic range I get out of this camera I don't bother with bracketing very much, but every now and again I'll take some bracketed shots just in-case I choose to use them for some digital blending later, it just depends on the scene.  Since i primarily shoot during sunsets, sunrises and at the dead of night, you can see how it's useful.  You have the option of .3 or .5 or .7 at 3 or 5 shots, and 1ev, 2ev, 3ev at 3 shots only.  If you really want, you can roll the exposure wheel and shoot two sets of brackets.  It's really not a big deal for 99.99999999% of users, but it would just be so simple to let the user select whatever they want.  Also...while we're on the subject...add the ability to use the 2 second timer when bracketing is enabled and just fire off the entire bracket.  Again...these are just simple fixes Sony....you did after all market this camera towards the prosumer/professional.

Auto-focusing

www.kimberyleydenise.com

Click to enlarge

As I've stated in my article "Why the Sony A7r is not for you", the A7's auto-focus is better.  That's really all I have to say about this.  I did a shoot with Kimbery Denise from www.kimberleydenise.com while she was in Dubai.  I shot almost the entire day with my old Canon FD mount 50mm/1.4.  That means I manually focused the entire time with this 33 year old Canon manual focus only lens.  I left focus peaking turned on, used the zoom focus and....I was blown away with how easy it was.  Sure it took a touch longer to setup each shot than it would have with my Canon 5D3 or 1DX, but what's the rush anyway?  And once you have a good feeling/confidence of the focus peaking it just becomes easier and easier.  Not only that...but I used the electronic view finder (EVF) the entire day and....it wasn't until the next day when it dawned on me that I was using an EVF.  Obviously I couldn't use the zoom focus on an optical...but it just felt so right and natural.  The EVF is really top notch in the Sony.
As I've explained previously....if AF is THAT important to you....get the A7.  It's a fantastic camera, has phase detection AF and doesn't have as much shutter vibrations like the A7r.  Wait...shutter vibrations....WTF is that?

I'm picking up good vibrations.....

Or personally, no vibrations for that matter.  So I cannot speak much about this topic.  Why?....cause it doesn't affect me and I pretty much don't care.  Maybe I just haven't shot in one of those configurations where it makes a difference.  I have shot with a Canon 70-200/2.8 mounted on a tripod at the Metabones 3 adapter and a Canon EF 100mm/2.8 Macro tripod mounted on the camera body and it did not seem to affect my photos.  Below are some examples.  Read more about this Sony A7r design flaw at this link.  I have yet to be affected by this, but I don't shoot with long lenses very much.  This does not mean it's not a problem however and I will write about it as soon as I'm affected by it.

Shot with Canon EF 100mm/2.8 Macro

The Sony A7r and the Voigtlander CV15 (15mm/4.5)...

So one of my favorite lenses I've been using lately especially for my nighttime shooting is the Voigtlander 15mm/4.5.  This lens is tiny (it's a Leica M-mount), it has very low distortion and it's looks damn sexy....I does however have some strong magenta color cast in the corners.  This can be removed in post using software like CornerFix, or you simply work with it in your post processing.  I usually leave it in as it has a character I like.  It has a manual aperture ring, the m-mount adapters are very thin so not much is added to the front of the camera (maybe 3mm).  Focusing is extremely easy....set it to infinity and shoot to your hearts content.  Unless you start getting things withing a few feet of you in the frame....you can leave it at infinity.  And best of all....this thing only costs $600.  Paired with a $15 Fotasy m-nex adapter.....well you be the judge....

It's a bird, it's a plane.  30 second exposure with a plane flying over the JW Marriott Marquis Dubai.

73 Floors down, using my tripod as a boom to get the camera 2-3 feet over the edge.

Dubai's iconic Burj Khalifa

SZR heading towards the Dubai Marina.  The JW Marriott Marquis on the left, tallest hotel towers in the world.

73 Floors down, using my tripod as a boom to get the camera 2-3 feet over the edge.

The Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi

PlayMemories App

It's neat...it works, would love to see more bracketing stuff, not sure what more to say here.  Make sure yours is updated because the previous version doesn't hold a stick up to the new version.  I prefer a wired or IR remote only because I don't like sucking down batteries on two devices that don't have the best battery life in the world. 

And speaking of batteries...

Again....SHAME ON YOU SONY, for not including an external battery charger.  I've talked about this before, but there is no external battery charger, instead you have to plug in USB to the side of the camera.  There are third party chargers available online and I highly recommend buying a second battery if you do A LOT of shooting.  Charging on the fly with any USB charger is convenient however, I've charged in the car and once with one of those USB battery charge whatever you want things.  For a camera marketed to professionals and prosumers, get with it Sony.

Conclusion

The A7r and A7 are wonderful cameras.  But remember a camera is a tool....much like the person telling you to get camera x y or z.  This week I read something on the Facebook, and after re-reading it...it was some of the most brilliant consumer advice when it comes to purchasing a new camera. 

Go to the store (or few), see what cameras are within your budget, play with them, press buttons, go thru menus and get whichever one is in your budget and feels best in your hands.

In reality, most cameras within the same price range are going to be pretty equal.  Especially cameras in the <$1000 range.  Most prosumers and professionals know what they are looking for.  If they don't they should probably re-evaluate their titles.  The A7r is a $2300 camera with no lens.  This is not a cheap camera and I feel it's a pretty specialized camera and is NOT for everyone.  Same goes for the A7, it is NOT for everyone.  I have no regrets selling my DSLRs, for what I shoot.  If I got back into shooting action sports, I'd purchase a 1DX again, no brainer. (or a D4)  As mirrorless cameras evolve, that opinion will probably change.

Check back next week for a Fuji X-E2 day in review...