REQUIREMENTS AND NEEDS
With this Sony a7II review I will not reveal or compare the features of this camera, information that you can easily find on the web… I will reply to a basic and most interesting question: “is it possible to use this camera professionally during a wedding service? and, above all, for a reportagistic service? and if so, how ? What are its limits?”
The idea to have a light and small camera has been fascinating me for a long time.. My photography style requires, in fact, the most discretion; and after my beloved NIKON D700s have retired, unfortunately, I have not found small and discrete cameras that could allow me to work quietly.
Two seasons with D4 have limited me both from the physical point of view, considering their weight, and for the service planning. And that’s hard to do with any reflex system…
That’s why I started to think about mirrorless systems, much less blatant than reflex’s. During last season I tested both Olympus and Fuji. Both with negative and positive results… Unfortunately, none of them revealed as good alternative of Nikon, nor for the quality of the files (not so good for my postproduction) and either as systems.
Going back to a non-fullframe system would have been a strong limit of expression for me.
Therefore, I started to follow the progress and development of SONY system,. When I tested it I understood that it could be a valid alternative, also of NIKON D810s, that in the meantime had replaced my D4s.
The fact that I could not rely on the memory double slot security system for the backup had caused me to wait for further developments. But then, driven by the advice of my colleagues not to be conditioned by this limit, I changed my mind and made my decision.
NOT A REFLEX
Finally, I put this new little jewel SONY A7II besides my NIKONs.
After using it during many services for testing, I can finally state that not only has it passed the test with flying colors, but is has also become my inseparable and trusty travel companion.
I discovered that not only you can use it as a professional body, but that it is also really fun and creative to do it. Of course, it is not like having a Reflex in hand. It is not its lighter and faster substitute. It’s just another thing and it is good to know immediately.
First for the features :
- The body is much more little than a professional reflex 127 x 96 x 60 mm in comparison with D810’s 146 x 123 x 82 mm and D750’s 141 x 113 x 78 mm
- It is much lighter: 599 grams against D810’s 980 grams and D750’s 750 grams.
- It is equipped with a 5 axes stabilizer, which in fact makes unnecessary the use of stabilized optics.
- It has an electronic viewfinder with 100% coverage of the scene. This means that you can see exactly on the viewfinder what the final result will be after shooting.
- It has the Focus Peaking, that lets you quickly check the proper focus in manual. Really very fast and accurate, it has revolutionized the way I watch the scene.
- It is totally customizable: every button and dial can be set without limit according to your exigencies.
- It is without mirror, therefore it is possible to use it with any kind of lens, with adaptors.
RETURN TO MANUAL FOCUS
Sony has not so many autofocus lenses available. The most valid ones were not able to allow me to work according to my expressive language, therefore I should get on with manual lenses. I thus used my own Nikon lenses at first and then I purchased new ones.
Sony system, with the use of third party adaptors, allows the use of all lenses of any brand and era. I use METABONES, not so cheap but well executed. With many lenses of CANON, the system maintains also inalterate automatisms. The available batch of optics thus becomes immense and able to satisfy any expressive language, if you don’t fear to go back and work with manual focus.
Who is used to autofocus, on the other side, will find precision and speed on Sony’s optics, also for the function of detection of faces (that is working also with manual optics) and of the eyes of the portrayed subjects. Focusing is therefore of extreme ease.
To return focusing in manual after getting used to the security of the autofocus seemed a throwback, an anachronistic choice, a little”retro’ “. But, happily I was wrong!!!
For those who, like me, have always used the single focus system combined with the joystick for the choice of the focus area, it will really be the same operating speed.
The Sony system is very fast and reliable thanks to the focus peaking. In practice it is a system which is to analyze and highlight the contrasts, so you immediately notice what are the focus areas of the portrayed scene. After a bit of practice you assume a speed that does not regret any automatism.
As I write, anyway, were announced two new optical Autofocus lenses branded Zeiss (25 and 85) really interesting !!! so I think in the future we are going to see incredible things!!
ISO HIGH PERFORMANCE
Performance at high ISO is acceptable, even if, thanks to my bright lenses I’ve never had to push up too much. The allowable range is from a still 50ISO to ISO 25000.
There is also the possibility to put ISO automatic. Unlike Nikon systems, it is not allowed the choice of the minimum time of posing but only the range of ISO.
Honestly, in my opinion, both for the speed of the choice of iso and because you can see exactly how the photography will be through the viewfinder, the ISO auto loses the importance they had assumed in SLR systems.
Ergonomics is good. The handle is solid and very comfortable. The whole machine is very compact. Also, it can be fully customized. Every button, each ring can be set as you wish, according to the way you shoot and to your needs.
Finally a shutter useful for every occasion. The little Sony is in fact equipped with a minimum shutter speed of 1/8000 which, combined with the ability to select ISO50, allows you to use even in daylight bright TA optics without the need of filters.
As I said, the viewfinder is in my opinion the biggest difference from a reflex system. It is the joy and the cross of this system. Joy because you can see exactly how the image will be, and see exactly how the sensor interprets the scene, allowing you to quickly adapt your choices during shooting. That will let you take home precise accurate and well-exposed shots , basing on your postproduction.
In addition, the viewfinder can also be set in black and white, this is very helpful for shooting in manual focus with focus peaking activated, and above all very useful to look at the scene in terms of light and shadow and thus have a greater attention.
The cross is the refresh time, every time you shoot. It generates in fact a still image on the scene you are looking at; this can sometimes be annoying if you’re shooting in bursts on a fast scene just looking through the viewfinder. In this case, however, the good continuous shooting speed is helpful.
CONTINUOUS SHOOTING SPEED
Sony has a good shooting speed and very quiet in comparison with Nikon D4.
The memory buffer is satisfying. You cannot certainly compare it with D4’s, that is profuse, but it is big enough to come out unscathed from any situation.
TILTING MONITOR LCD
Like Nikon D750, Sony is also equipped with a tilting monitor LCD. Very useful for many kinds of shootings from different angles. It allows you to shoot misleading observers. Note that it displays the same information as the viewfinder and that it turns off just bringing the eye on the same viewfinder.
All this electronics is not good for consumption. The battery covers on average 300 to 500 shots maximum. Then you need to buy at least a couple of extra batteries.
The package does not include, however, a battery charger so, when buying extra batteries, I highly recommend also the purchase of one or more external battery charger.
SINGLE SLOT FOR SD
This Sony unfortunately is not equipped with a dual SD slot, so you can not do the backup on camera. I recommend the use of smaller memory cards to prevent that the breakage of the card involves the loss of a whole entire service.
Finally, can this sony be used for the realization of a professional wedding service and especially for a reportage? Yes. It is very suitable for a Bressonian vision of composition and scene. I compose, expose, wait and shoot. Definitely a return to a more designed and built image. But due to its shooting speed it is also suitable to a type of photography where the choice of the frame is to be done on a second time.
Then complete. Ideal for those who, like me, were looking for a discreet machine that would allow to make decisions quickly and without being noticed.
Who will not like it? Those who love continuous speed shooting, granting themselves the possibility to choose the right, correct and effective image in a second time, among many similar shots; they will surely not find an adeguate camera with this Sony, not because of the buffer capacity, that anyway grants excellent speed shooting, but for the electronical viewer, that does not allow a continuous vision of the scene because of the freeze-frame.
Who will love it? Surely for those who wish to rediscover the taste of photographing. Shooting with Sony a7s is really a pleasure, above all if you use manual optics. By practicing and with the help of focus peaking, focusing becomes really fast and quick. The limit of not having the autofocus is compensated by the almost infinite possibility of decision. In conclusion, being aware that all depends on your capabilities helps you bringing out your best, without being limited by automatisms. I am sure that after a few days, you will deactivate autofocus also on those optics that have this function to fully enjoy Sony a7II‘s magic
REAL WEDDING – SONY A7II IN ACTION