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Mike Kobal

December 29, 2011

Africa with the Sony SLT A77: Kibera Project: Field Review Part One

Filed under: City Life,City Life Portraits,Gear Reviews,Street Photography — mike.kobal @ 10:55 pm

Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya, Africa
UPDATED WITH LOTS OF PHOTOS! After landing in Nairobi I had about 15min to get my equipment set up and ready before heading to Kibera for the first day of shooting.The assignment involved a long walk through the slums and the photographs you are seeing here were captured along the way and aren’t part of the job. After about an hour in a packed car we arrived and were introduced to our local guide and bodyguards. Sunny skies, about 80 degrees Fahrenheit, dry heat, no shade, lots of soot and dust in the air. I knew right away this was going to be tough on equipment. 5 minutes into our journey, camera, lens, flash where very hot to the touch and I was worried about sensor overheating. It turned out to be fine (taking photographs), the flash however, was a different story. More on that later.

Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya, Africa
I opted for the Spider camera holster system to carry camera, flash and lenses, we had to move fast and the idea to keep the gear in a camera bag wasn’t practical. The grounds were polluted by human refuse, garbage and waste, no way to lay down for low angle shots and I was glad to have an articulated LCD. I also carried a Sony 5n and a few lenses, it stayed in the bag the first two days, I will have a separate write up soon, as it turned out the 5n was very handy traveling from location to location letting me snap along without being too intrusive.
It took 2 fully charged batteries (A77) to get through the day. So after two days of shooting, how did the A77 do?
Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya, Africa

Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya, Africa
Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya, Africa
Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya, Africa
Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya, Africa
Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya, Africa
Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya, Africa
Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya, Africa
Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya, Africa
Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya, Africa
Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya, Africa
Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya, Africa
Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya, Africa

The Good: Heat and dust (dust sealing works) weren’t an issue with the A77, or the lenses I used. (16-50mm, 8-16mm, 70-300mm)
Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya, Africa
Af was extremely accurate and lightening fast with all lenses (SSM), to be expected since we shot mostly in very bright and high contrast situations.
The silent shutter was a big plus and I got away with a few candid shots-impossible using a DSLR.
Tripod use was out of question and image stabilization was welcome once we entered the dark living quarters of our subjects. It is going to be hard to go back and shoot with cameras not having InBody stabilization after this trip.
The Sony16 50mm kit lens and the Sigma 8 16mm produced superb images at all apertures, already wide open and up to F11. The Sony 70 300G (chosen for it’s compact size and focal range) only fell short at the long end and needed to be stopped down to 8 or 11, but produced fantastic results already wide open from 70mm to approx 240mm. No complaints here.
The A77 produced superb raw files that put a smile on my face while optimizing my favorite shots.
Perfectly balanced fill flash with the Sony HVL F58AM in HSS when it worked
Articulated LCD for overhead and low angle shots, good visibility in bright light.
The Not So Good:
Changing to manual movie mode the camera glitched and did not allow shutter speeds below 1/250 and apertures below 11. The only way to fix this was by removing the battery for 10 seconds and reinserting it.
(I have tested the camera extensively prior to this trip and haven’t encountered this problem, safe to assume this issue is heat related).
The EVF (which I love and would never go back to OVF) works best in medium to low contrast situations but isn’t great for high contrast scenes. Let’s hope Sony will give us a firmware update which will allow manual EVF contrast adjustment.
Lost the eye cup the second day
70 300mm wide open at 300mm (soft)
The Ugly.
Flash overheating. I am not sure how to prevent this, cover the flash unit with a highly reflective skin? Redesign the flash? Sony has to take this seriously and come up with a solution; I have worked with most flash guns from Quantum, Nikon (which I consider the best in the business) Canon and Metz and never ran into over heating issues so quickly. This is a real shame since the Sony HVL F58AM performs as well as Nikon’s top flashguns when it works.

But overall, after 2 days of shooting I was more then satisfied with this set up, the A77 handled pretty much anything I threw at it, a perfect choice for this trip.
Next, I will post pictures taken during our “journey” towards Eldoret and Iten, mostly shots with the 5N and a few with the A77.
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7 Comments »

  1. are you still in kenya ? been following your blog for quite a while, check out my blog and hit me up if you want to go out and shoot in the streets of nairobi.

    Comment by Louis — December 30, 2011 @ 5:11 am

  2. hey Louis, just got back in nyc, will check out your blog

    Comment by mike.kobal — December 30, 2011 @ 6:09 am

  3. love your photographs! This is meant as respectful feedback: The video doesn’t seem to do them justice, you know with the music and the zooming. Perhaps just my taste.

    Keep it up!

    Comment by Rob — December 30, 2011 @ 6:35 am

  4. thanks Rob, your feedback is welcome and I agree, this is just a temporary solution, I am working on a gallery with my favorite shots from this trip

    Comment by mike.kobal — December 30, 2011 @ 7:17 am

  5. Mike:

    I enjoyed the “real” real life review and the photos. First time I’ve visited, but am bookmarking. I read someplace, that by setting portrait mode and reducing contrast a little, that the EVF opens up in high contrast scenes. As you shoot raw, this would be an easy fix. Also I think they said that the EVF has to be set to view the scene modes selected, or it just produces normal view.

    I’m glad to hear that you and others like the EVF. My primary rig is the Alpha 900, and I’ve used my friends A55 for a few days, so that is my only experience with an EVF, I really like the data overlay and “get what you see” when shooting. Hope the new A99 is just as impressive as the 77.

    Joe

    Comment by Joe Gilbert — January 8, 2012 @ 10:26 am

  6. Joe, thanks for swinging by, glad you enjoyed the post. I will try your suggested settings for the EVF. It took me a while to get used to the EVF “look”, when shooting video one really doesn’t have a choice and most of my projects/jobs require shooting both. I found going back and forth between the OVF and EVF a bit annoying, ultimately I think the EVF represents the final result better.
    I am using the Zacuto EVF on the 5D2 and was quite impressed by the EVF on the GH2, but the one on the A77 beats them all, by far the best EVF currently available

    Comment by mike.kobal — January 8, 2012 @ 10:58 am

  7. [...] few more Africa links (A77 and 5N): Standing in line for sugar and rice editorial Kibera with the A77 En Route with the Sony Nex 5n and A77 If you find this information helpful, please consider helping [...]

    Pingback by East Africa: Feed The Children: Sony SLT A77 « Mike Kobal — January 26, 2013 @ 8:25 pm

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