Assignments: feeling good without mirrors?

Assignments: feeling good without mirrors?

shot with the Sony A7r and the Series E 75-150mm lens.

Since I purchased the Sony A7 late last year and the A7r shortly afterwards, I haven’t had much use for my DSLR’s. I have shot everything from look books, stills, editorials, portraits, model and corporate head shots with these two cameras. It looks like my days with mirrors are numbered
more after the break

Sony A7, manual extension tubes, Series E 75-150mm

A fair amount of my assignments take me on location rather then to the studio. The smaller footprint of my current mirrorless kit makes it much easier to get around and travel by air.
And since I don’t shoot sports or work with extreme tele lenses, I don’t miss my big gear.

The shot below is an out take from the Soma Denim story, if you haven’t seen the layout click here and for the video, click here.

The Sony A7 series really did it for me. The ultra compactness paired with the best full frame sensors in the business and seriously good video quality was enough to get me interested, especially after I rented the Zeiss 55mm and compared it to the Nikkor 58mm and 50mm lenses. In the end it was the positive shooting experience with the 55mm, which is close enough to 50mm, my favorite focal length, that gave me the confidence to ditch my DSLR’s.

I can now pack two A7 bodies with battery grips, 5 lenses, a tripod, a 15″ Macbook Pro and misc items in one DSLR Video Pack 250. Ready to shoot stills and/or video. Try to stuff the equivalent amount of DSLR gear, including the required loupes or external EVF’s for video, into a medium sized carry on pack! The new set up is quite liberating.

The A7 bodies with the battery grip attached aren’t that much smaller when compared to the Canon 5DmkIII or the Nikon D800. However, they are thinner and lighter, taking two bodies hardly takes up more space then one fat DSLR.

below, the A7 with grip and the D800E

I hesitated for a while to go with Sony, because -you guessed it, there was also the Fuji X system to consider. I really enjoy using the X100s, the X-E2 and the X-T1 is a serious contender for professionals considering the switch to mirrorless. I love the X trans sensor, however, occasionally, I find myself in situations which require a full frame sensor for obvious reasons, like extreme shallow depth of field or maximum per pixel sharpness.

In the end, it was the lack of quality video on the Fuji X series which pushed me towards Sony.
If I wouldn’t shoot video, the choice would have been much harder.
Can’t make up your mind between the Fuji X and the Sony FE system? Check out my depth of field comparison between the X E2 with the 35mm 1.4 and the Sony A7 and the 50mm 1.4 here

So far, I am absolutely stoked with the A7’s, I didn’t encounter any unknown gotchas while on assignments.
I love the identical control/button layout, it makes life on set so much easier. This wasn’t possible when shooting with DSLR’s unless I worked with two identical bodies.
The A7 and A7r complement each other very well and I feel comfortable using either camera on most assignments and as backup in case something would happen to one of the bodies.

2014 really is an exciting year as fusion cameras are finally coming of age and if we consider the newly released Sony A6000 and Panasonic GH4 as indicators of what we can expect in terms of AF performance in the future, the Achilles heel of mirrorless, there won’t be much left to complain about.

Equipment listed or shown in this article.
Sony A7/r at BH
Sony A7/r at Adorama
Sony A7/r on Ebay (great deals, esp on A7)
Zeiss FE 55mm at BH
Zeiss FE 55mm at Adorama
Zeiss FE 55mm on Ebay
Sony A7 battery grip at BH
Sony A7 battery grip at Adorama
Sony A7 battery grip on Ebay
Nikkor Series E lenses on Ebay
Sony FE 28-70mm at BH
Sony FE 28-70mm at Adorama
Sony FE 28-70mm on Ebay (great deals)
Nikkor 18-35mm G at BH
Nikkor 18-35mm G at Adorama
Nikkor 18-35mm G on Ebay
Nikkor G to Sony E mount adapter on Ebay
Peak design strap and cuff at BH
Peak design strap and cuff at Adorama
Generic L braket, does not block microphone/headphone port, on Ebay
Lowe DSLR video fast pack 250 at BH
Lowe DSLR video fast pack 250 at Adorama
Lowe DSLR video fast pack 250 on Ebay
Sony A6000 at BH
Sony A6000 at Adorama
Sony A6000 on Ebay
Panasonic GH4 at BH
Panasonic GH4 at Adorama
Panasonic GH4 on Ebay
Fuji X100s at BH
Fuji X100s at Adorama
Fuji X100s on Ebay
Fuji X-E2 at BH
Fuji X-E2 at Adorama
Fuji X-E2 on Ebay
Fuji X-T1 at BH
Fuji X-T1 at Adorama
Fuji X-T1 on Ebay

If you find this article helpful, please consider helping me maintaining this blog by purchasing your gear through my product links to Adorama and B&H and Ebay. It will cost you nothing and allows me to keep adding! Or consider making a direct donation using PayPal, thank you!

13 thoughts on “Assignments: feeling good without mirrors?

  1. Marc

    Yes, I know…I said I wouldn’t comment again, BUT.
    In Australia, Sony has a special $300 cash back deal starting 1st August on any A7/r or s.
    So I couldn’t help myself, I got the A7r.
    What appealed to me about the A7r was the (obviously higher resolution) build quality and it comes across to me as more of
    a “thinking man’s” camera, if that makes any sense? I spend most of my time in Manual Mode (and sometimes manual focus), with the occasional Aperture Priority Mode.
    I’m not an action/sports photographer..etc.
    I think the A7r is going to be an interest tool to use.

  2. mike.kobal Post author

    In good light, the af speed difference isn’t significant and I often end up using a focus point outside the phase/contrast detect area. I do need a camera with high res for certain assignments, so in the end it was a logical choice.

  3. Marc

    Sorry to add yet another comment Mike.
    I’m curious why you kept the A7r?
    As I’ve read (correct me if I’m wrong) that the focus speed on the A7r is quite slow
    due to the contrast-detect only sensor. (Compared to A7 with it’s Fast Hybrid AF 117-point(phase detect) & 25-point (contrast detect).
    Flash Sync Speed being only 1/160 second and quite a loud shutter (some people complain, but I don’t think it would bother me).
    So, yes I’m very keen to know your reasons for keeping it!
    (this is my last comment!)

    Thank you for your generosity!

  4. mike.kobal Post author

    if you stick with quality glass you will be very happy with that sensor, the A7 has a very weak AA filter and delivers impressive detail when paired with the fe 35mm and 55mm. I almost kept it. My current kit consists of the A7s, A7r and GH4 for 4k video.

  5. Marc

    Thanks for all your assistance Mike!
    I’m impressed with your prompt communication, I appreciate all your time.

    I’ve decided on the Sony A7.
    A little bit more affordable for me and gives me some
    left over cash to buy the “Sonnar T* FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA (and maybe later the 55mm /1.8)

    All the best!

  6. Marc

    Ok, you may be right about the “not so magical” stills from the GH4.
    The video capabilities are amazing, but the photos are alright.
    Acceptable but not magical like the 5D3.

    So, I’m keeping the GH4 for video.

    Choosing between the A7r and A7s is difficult.
    For the best sharpness and super fine detail. A7r ?

    Thanks again Mike.

  7. Marc

    Thanks for your super fast reply Mike.
    I’ve decided to go with the GH4.
    I absolutely love the (large aperture) lens selection from Panasonic, Olympus, Voigtlander, Tamron, Sigma etc. (about 89 lenses to choose from). Sony’s E mount has about 7 to choose from (without using an adapter).
    I think as long as you can keep the iso down at low levels with fast glass, you’ll be fine.
    And working with 4K internally is a blessing. I don’t have time and money to invest in external recorders etc… to me that sounds like a burden.
    Regards from Australia.

  8. mike.kobal Post author

    Hi Marc! Thank you! I am currently using the A7r, A7s and the GH4. Having shot with the 5D3 and D800e I don’t find the GH4 adequate for high quality stills, even with the best lenses available, great for journalistic work, street photography, for anything else I would suggest the A7r or A7s. I love the A7s, it is an absolutely amazing camera, if you don’t need high resolution files for stills, that is the one to get. I find the video quality quite good on the A7r as long as one doesn’t shoot moirĂ© prone subjects. Of course it doesn’t come close to the A7s, which blows pretty much everything else away. hope this helps.

  9. Marc

    Hi Mike,

    I love blog and your photography is fantastic.

    I wanted to ask you about gear.
    I’m currently selling my Canon 5D Mark III and all my L glass, opting for something smaller.

    I would like your opinion on cameras.
    I shoot mostly video, but when needed like to be able to take quality stills.
    I was thinking the GH4 with some fast glass like the Pana Leica Nocticron f/1.2 ? Will the still image quality be high?
    OR do you suggest getting a Sony 7a, 7r, 7s..?

    Any comment appreciated.

  10. mike.kobal Post author

    Hi Joel, my guess is as good as yours, we will have to wait and see. Sony does have good momentum and the A7s announcement could be an indicator that they are serious to offer tools for professionals. We are looking at the first generation here, we will know for sure once Sony releases the A7II. Take the GH1 for instance, certainly not aimed at the pro market, however, Panasonic recognized and reacted to the attention it got from pros and beefed up the camera significantly since then.

  11. Joel

    Mike, this is therefore a very interesting moment for all working pros; can Sony provide the equipment and services that will satisfy you and build on their early lead in this market? They know how to do this for videographers and they are establishing a support system for pro stills in Japan, so the indications are that they are thinking in that direction.

    The other way to see it is that Sony are developing primarily “consumer” products that just happen to have a wider professional application, and given the price points, it’s easier to get on board with mirrorless now even though they are as not as tough as most pro equipment needs to be to survive unavoidably harsh treatment. Perhaps a ruggedised version of A7 is the thing that will pull more people away from DSLRs?

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