I’m very proud to share the news that Sony Electronics has just launched their newly designed website for all things Sony Alpha Cameras called Alpha Universe!
Here’s a look at the main home page:
Included are profiles on the 40+ members of the ever-expanding Sony Artisans of Imagery Program (of which I am proud to be a member!). You’ll find photographs, information and inspiration from the photographers in this group and you can see what this looks like here:
The new Social section includes photographs from around the web by photographers that use the #sonyalpha on their social media. It’s a great way to showcase what you’re doing using Sony Alpha Cameras!
The Calendar section allows you to connect with members of the Sony Artisan Program that are doing meet-ups, seminars and talks about the Sony Alpha Cameras! See if there’s an upcoming event soon in your area!
Finally, in the Discover section of the site, you’ll find a variety of tips and techniques that you might find helpful as you learn more about the ever-expanding Sony Alpha line of cameras.
I hope you find the work a good source of information and inspiration in your photography!
As a photojournalist I always wanted to be the proverbial “fly on the wall”.
It was always a bit tricky to be that invisible especially when a camera with motor drive would make a very loud and distinctive sound.
In sporting events and other loud events like NASCAR or a Metallica concert it never mattered.
But in other situations — on the set of a television show, shooting pro golf (you can’t shoot during the backswing if you want to stay on the course, or during a putt), a funeral or other religious ceremony, in a high-powered private meeting — being invisible is imperative.
All of those situations are very tricky with DSLR cameras. I’ve even tried (over the course of my career) using cameras such as a Leica, with it’s quiet shutter, but even that could be heard and there were a lot of limitations for lenses (in a courtroom you would often need a longer lens such as the ubiquitous 70-200 to adequately tell the story). Then there is the Jacobson Blimp — a staple on the soundstages of the movie business — proof that shooting quietly was not a perfect enterprise. Yes the box deadened the sound, but it was big, awkward to work with and pricey.
Soft blimps — that is fabric types of blimps — did just an okay job but were never as quiet as they needed to be and would not be considered quiet enough for work on television.
Thankfully with the advances in camera technology, there’s now a way to shoot silently with the Sony a7rII (though the Sony a7s was the first Sony mirrorless camera to incorporate this feature).
And this morning, I got to see the benefit of this technology first hand.
At the local Tesoro H.S. where I photograph the Tesoro Titans football team, they had their first day of camp and it started with a meeting. Head Coach Matt Poston addressed a packed classroom and I shot a combination of stills and video.
These three photographs were made with the camera, the 35mm f1.4 lens and the camera in Silent Shooting Mode.
Finally you can truly be that “fly on the wall” (when it comes to shutter sound) while shooting still photographs!!
ETA: You can now set the Silent Shooting Mode to a custom button! I now have the C3 button set to Silent Shooting.
The Sony a7rii Launch Event on Saturday, August 22nd at Samys Camera in Los Angelesis going to be fantastic!
Here’s an update:
· First two sessions are SOLD OUT
· Sony is giving away over $2000 in ZEISS glass ( 1 Sony Zeiss lens per session) MUST BE PRESENT TO WIN
· Think Tank Photo will be giving away 1 bag per session
· Session #3 opened due to overwhelming demand of the class
Want to see the new Sony a7rii? (and have an opportunity to win 1 of 2 Full Frame Sony lenses??
Join Samy’s and Sony for an in-depth class on the camera by Sony Senior Tech Rep Rob Shelley and live model shoot with the camera (by me), please mark your calendar for an event on Saturday, August 22nd at Samy’s Camera at 431 S. Fairfax Avenue in LA.
Yesterday I had a family portrait session down in Carlsbad and *thought* I had everything ready to go.
About twenty miles from home and passing San Onofre, I realized that I had neglected to pack my usual 5 in 1 reflector(s) that I typically bring for portraits.
That could have been trouble for me on many days but I was lucky and dodged the proverbial bullet in this particular case.
Normally I bring two or sometimes three reflectors with me. The reason is that one is set for silver, one set for white and the other set for translucent.
On a bright sunny day I can go through all of them quickly. Having only one reflector with me and then having to change out from silver to white to translucent would be a huge pain and slow down the session…it’s simply easier to use 3 at one time all set up and ready to go.
Seeing that’s how I tend to use reflectors on a portrait shoot, you can see why I was a bit frustrated.
Luckily though the day was overcast and so I would not have to battle bright sun or even sun popping in and out of the clouds. Reflectors on this day would not even be an option — especially for the big groups.
For that, the Dyna-lite Baja 400 JR with a small softbox turned out to be the perfect light and I used it for virtually everything (save for the full speed running sequences of the little kids on the beach).
It made me realize that with all the stuff I might bring (and now with audio shoots and studio lighting shoots requiring vastly different tools) it became clear I have to create a list that covers the broad range of gear — from cameras to lenses to audio to reflectors to support (tripods, lightstands, etc.).
It can get tricky to control. And thanks to my friend Jon Streeter for pointing it out.
I created this checklist at the end of this post for the variety of gear I use and wanted to share it with you (so YOU don’t have happen what happened to me yesterday!). You’re welcome to use it as a starting point perhaps for your own equipment checklist. I hope this helps (BTW, I used Evernote to create this — love the checkboxes in that program!)
Have a great week ahead.
p.s. Here are a few of my favorites from yesterday’s portrait session at the beach — a large extended family portrait session of Fritz and Ellie from Phoenix with their kids, grand kids and GREAT grandkids!! Fritz is a WWII veteran and they have been married for 68 years!!!!
The timing could not have been more perfect making the announcement on the Fourth of July, the American Independence Day holiday because privately I considered that announcement
my own Independence (from DSLR) Day!
At that time I was very new into the system and in fact had only a small kit combined with some supplemental rental gear.
In the subsequent year it has been an amazing experience.
Sony continues to evolve their technology at a pace that is breathless in it’s speed.
With an industry that is used to updating pro grade cameras in 2,3 or more years, Sony is upgrading their cameras in 12-18 month cycles.
For example, they upgraded their original a7 with the a7ii in a year’s time; the recent announcement of the Sony a7rii is about 18 months from
the original a7r was launched.
These cameras have allowed me to push beyond what I have normally done — using wi-fi technology to share photographs with the world in mere moments, and
growing in my use of video and loving the whole process.
To say that using Sony mirrorless cameras has changed our world would be an understatement. With the new technology, the smaller size and weight of the glass,
the ability to do full HD video at 60P (and soon a camera that does full frame, 4k video internally!) has been a total change — and ALL for the better.
It’s been exciting times and I am also grateful to the fine folks at Sony that invited me to be a part of their Artisans of Imagery program and helps support
the work of me and other Artisans in the program.
With the latest announcement of the a7rii, Sony has shown that they are a serious force to be reckoned with and are starting to get folks that were long established
in the Nikon and Canon camps to not just turn their head, but stop and take a really serious look.
This is the most exciting time that I can remember in photography because this Sony technology is pushing what was once thought impossible. To create a camera that
in one small form factor allows a photographer to take beautiful high quality still frames and immediately switch a button to capture amazing quality of video. (Not that it’s
the tools that make one a better still photographer or make someone an award-winning cinematographer — it is just that in capable hands, these are incredible tools).
This technology and especially a camera like the a7rii allows someone like me to be a Complete Storyteller — with the ability to use stills, motion and audio to tell a story in
a way that may have been done in the past but with far more effort and far more technical requirements.
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Happy Fourth of July (for my American friends) and Happy Independence (from DSLR) Day!
Some of my favorite images that have been made with Sony Mirrorless cameras and lenses since that first announcement:
Marlen and Nathan pose for a portrait at the beach this past Saturday. They are planning a wedding for this coming fall in Temecula.
Yesterday I rushed over to Image One Camera and Video in Riverside for the store’s one year anniversary and that included Sony (among other vendors).
At this event Sony was making their first public debut in California of the new and highly anticipated Sony a7rii!
I was anxious to try this camera with a Metabones Adapter and Canon zoom lenses because I know that there are a huge number of
working pros already invested in Canon glass. I wanted to see if the new sensor with it’s 399 PDAF on the sensor would indeed be all that I had hoped for.
It was. And more.
With this camera and a Metabones, I was able to use the Canon zooms — the 24-105 F4L IS and the 70-200 f2.8L IS II lenses virtually seamlessly. It was as if I was using the cameras on a native Canon camera.
Fast, quiet and responsive — the AF worked very well (and I only expect it to work better with the final firmware installed in the camera (this was not the final version) and with the most current firmware on the Metabones (that is on me).
Sorry about the audio quality of the video, which I made for Periscope yesterday but I think you’ll be able to see that the responsiveness is amazing when you consider that
Canon shooters can now put their glass onto the amazing new Sony a7rII body.
Quick initial observations of the camera:
• Solid feel, 4 oz heavier than the a7ii and in the exact same case
• Crisper, brighter EVF — the best I have ever seen on any mirrorless camera
• Comfortable feel — not too big, not too small — maintains same updated ergonomics of the Sony a7ii
If you get to Riverside today before 5 pm PST, you will be able to see the Sony a7rii.
TTL Flash vs. Manual Flash — Two Choices for Sony Mirrorless Photographers
The world of on-camera and off-camera flash has exploded over the past several years.
Never before have there been so many choices for manual and TTL flashes that work with such a variety of cameras. Third party companies such as Yongnuo, Neewer, Cheetah, Phottix and more have dotted the photo marketplace and are giving the name brand manufacturers a veritable run for their money when it comes to available flash units.
In the past you virtually had a couple of choices — your Nikon, Canon, etc. branded flash or perhaps something like a Vivitar 283 or 285.
Not only are there a myriad of choices there are also a load of accessories that make using small portable flashes almost as useful as using bigger, more powerful studio flash units.
In this blog post I will cover two brands of flash units for Sony mirrorless camera users.
TTL Flash – The Phottix Mitros +
In the TTL realm, Phottix has introduced the Mitros+ flash. It is the first flash for Sony (name brand or otherwise) that offers full wireless radio transceiver capabilities. This is big for users that prefer TTL as I do for events.
The Phottix is relatively large and powerful — about the same power as the Canon 580 EXII — it has a guide number of 58 with 100 ISO. Slightly smaller and slightly less powerful than Canon’s new flagship (and probably the standard bearer in the TTL flash space — the 600 EX-RT). It is just a little bit top heavy on the smaller form factor of the Sony a7 line of cameras, yet still workable.
It has a conventional swivel and bounce head, much like a Canon or Nikon branded flash.
The key thing though is the radio control from the flash. If you simply must have full radio control from your on camera flash, currently this is the only option available for Sony mirrorless users. It also has High Speed Synch in TTL and Manual modes.
(I plan on a longer review of this particular unit in the near future). Sony makes a very good line of TTL flashes though they do not feature radio control (a more detailed review on the Sony top two coming up soon as well).
The only downside that I have found is that the price is a bit high — $399, though not as high as the cost of the Canon 600 EX-RT which is selling for $499 at the time of this writing.
The Phottix Mitros + I have for the Sony is the one with the Minolta foot and thus requires a special add-on adaptor (ADPMAA) to work on the current Sony a7 hotshoe (called the ISO foot). Phottix is manufacturing a model with that ISO foot but I have not used it. (As I write this article I’m finding a lot of backorders on the Sony strobes by Phottix. Amazon, normally a great resource has no new, just used, and B & H and Adorama are showing that the Sony Mitros + is on backorder. I have contacted Phottix re: the issue and will report my findings).
How I Configure my Sony camera when using the Phottix Mitros + flash
Working with this flash with mirrorless is slightly different than I used to work with flash in the hotshoe with my previous Canon cameras. It took me a bit of time to come up with an effective way to work. Now that I have, I have to say that I enjoy working with these cameras with flash more than I did with DSLRs!
Here is the way I currently configure my camera when using flash in the hotshoe:
1. Use Manual Exposure settings control
2. Auto ISO (my range is 100-6400 ISO) (yes, this is a new one for me — I always used to use one ISO that I selected–indoors that would typically be 800-1600 ISO).
3. Set focus to DMF (Dynamic Manual Focus)
4. Set focus start to back button or AE_L button on Sony a6000 or the AF/MF button on the a7 (With DMF this allows me to control the AF with the thumb and then the exposure lock is handled by depressing the shutter halfway.
5. Set focus peaking to color Red and High
6. Optional: Turn focus magnifier on if you would like the camera to “zoom in” when you tweak manual focus by turning the focus barrel ring). This is really handy for those group photographs where you can make sure that the focus is exactly as you like it. It does take a bit of getting used to the rhythm of the switch between wider and tighter views but it is one of the killer reasons for using an EVF. (ETA: Someone asked what the magnification factor is when zooming the lens. I am not certain but will check and add it).
Optional: Setting effects OFF — In a dark room such as a wedding reception, this will help keep the EVF at a consistent level, much like you might find from an optical viewfinder on a DSLR. In low light this often helps to brighten the scene.
7. Focus set to Flexible Spot Large — I have been using this lately with much success and while it takes a bit of practice to move the focus point, you pick it up quickly. This is such an improvement from my old center single focus only spot on the DSLR. I prefer this new method over the center only focus point because focus can change if you recompose and you’re working at a large aperture. I find that my sharpness % of images has improved by virtue of the ability to move the focus point over a large area of the scene.
8. Set flash exposure compensation to -1.0 to start if bouncing off a white ceiling. Use that as a starting guide for your own shooting. You’re personal taste in the density of your file might dictate a change in exposure compensation. I shoot RAW + jpeg so I have some flexibility in bringing back any slight exposure imperfections, but have found this to be a consistent and useful starting guide for using flash with the Sonys.
Please note that the infrared focus assist comes from the body and not on the flash. It is a bit brighter than I am used to but it makes the camera and flash combo work well.
Manual Flash — The Yongnuo YN560-III and YN 560-TX radio transmitter
There are are huge selections of third party manual flash units out on the market mostly on Amazon and Ebay.
Brands like Yongnuo, Neewer, Cheetah are very popular.
When I purchased my last manual flash, a little over a year ago, I opted for the Yongnuo YN-560III. This flash is currently selling for the insanely low price of $66 on Amazon!!!!
It was a tough choice because I almost went with the Neewer TT850 which is a similar strobe to the Yongnuo with the exception that it has a proprietary lithium ion battery and an add-on external receiver to enable wireless shooting.
Initially I was attracted to the idea of that battery because it was fast recycle time and didn’t require an external battery pack. BUT since it is proprietary it thus requires a separate charger (another battery). The Yongnuo uses common AA batteries which you can find in any corner gas station AND it has a built in receiver on the flash — nothing external required.
The new Yongnuo YN-560IV is a further refinement of this flash and might very well be the best choice because it is a transceiver — so that means with a flash in your hot shoe you can control the flash on board AND any external YN-560IV flashes. That is a very cool feature.
With the YN-560-III I use the YN-560-TX transmitter which allows me to use a radio frequency to fire the flash. If you own the YN-560IV flash units the transmitter would not be necessary
My Essential Tool for Manual flash
Something that I find essential when using manual flash units is something that might seem a bit “old school”. Now you don’t NEED it but I do find that it helps me make much more effective use of limited time and I’m able to dial in precise exposures because of it.
What is it?
It’s a flash meter. I happen to use the Sekonic L-758DR which is probably overkill for most folks–even me. But it does include a spot meter feature as well as measuring the light falling on the dome for flash exposure (or ambient light exposure, too!).
If you want a smaller one, or a basic flash meter, then check out the Sekonic L308s flash meter that costs around $200.
A slightly larger and with a few more features meter is the Sekonic L-358 flash meter. You can find those used on Amazon at this time.
A newer, and digital flash meter that Sekonic has is the L-478DR meter. I have not used this meter but it looks superb, as are all the Sekonic meters that I have used over the decades (dating back to the late 80s!).
You can always use the view screen on your camera to tweak manual flash exposures on the fly. After a time you will get good at gauging the exposure.
Still for fast moving events like weddings, I prefer TTL and for more quiet portrait situations I like using manual flash. Each has strengths, each has weaknesses. Your style, your experience and your comfort level will dictate which works best for you!
I hope you find this post useful. Please share it on your social sites and with your photographer friends that you think might be helped by it.