A7r II vs. A7s, a Sony shooters opinion

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I’ve been a big Sony A7s shooter, buying the camera and loving it for my natural light photography needs.  I loved the camera so much I sold my old Canon gear and switched to Sony exclusively, since it was better in every way to a Canon 5D II for my shooting scenarios with the exception of battery life and resolution.  That tradeoff was easy to make and I have never looked back.

Last week, I rented a A7r II and wanted to post some of my notes of differences between shooting on that and the A7s.  If you’re looking for a full review, look elsewhere.

Shooting Ergonomics

A7r II Canon 50mm 1.4 @ f/1.8 ISO100

My first assumption was that position of the shutter and grip changes would be a huge difference and take some time to get use to.  The A7r II was just as easy to use as the A7s with one small exception:  The C1 and C2 buttons are a little more difficult to get to. I use C1 often to do a focus zoom when focusing prime lenses, and its just more difficult to hit.  I never got use to the position change from the A7s. (more…)

Gear VR Jam 2015

The last three weeks I’ve been working on a project called Crime Watch, a cyber-punk adventure role playing game for the 2015 Oculus Gear VR Jam.

http://vrjam.challengepost.com/submissions/36754-crime-watch

I’ve been told we’re crazy for trying to create it in Unreal 4, since it doesn’t have full tested support for the Samsung Gear VR, but I’ve been working on performance issues so that it runs acceptable on the mobile hardware.  What has been helping us so far is the timewarp feature which gives the illusion of a frame update every 16.2ms even when your software doesn’t have a frame to deliver to the framebuffer.  What this means is that your head movements will always update at 60 vsynched frames per second even when your game misses a frame.  It works surprisingly well even though we’re finding ourselves hitting up to 28ms frametime and still having smooth head tracking.

One way to make the timewarp feel better is to disable the smooth framerate feature, which tries to lock your fps to certain values. You don’t need this since the Gear VR TimeWarp will always make the display update at 60FPS, so even if you’re getting odd skipping frames, you wont notice it when you’re in a slow moving game like ours.

I’m in the last sprint to finish up our final milestone, and I’ll have more to post later.

 

Sony FS700 Vs A7s

I recently purchased a Sony A7s because I needed a still camera, but also liked the fact that it has Slog2 capabilities.  I figured if I was in a low budget pinch, I could use it as a B camera.  I started running some tests and found out that while the A7s is very close to the FS700 in terms of picture quality, there are some differences that could cause problems in post:

  • A7s stops sampling every pixel on the sensor when you do >60fps, meaning you get aliasing on fine edges as seen in the above video.
  • A7s has a different base ISO, meaning you’ll need to put some ND on your scene, or use a different aperture to get the same lighting.
  • A7s is not as easy to white balance in a custom mode.  Be careful if you have to do a run and gun situation
  • While both cameras have Slog2, the color science is different enough between both cameras that you will need to do some post color correction to do a 2 camera match.  It is easier than trying to match the FS700 to any kind of Canon camera so if you’ve done that in the past you’ll do just fine.

I really love my Sony A7s and find my self taking it out more often just due to the size and portability.

New to color management? Start Here

While working at Volition, I found myself spending a lot of time explaining to artists why they were having issues getting their content to look the way they wanted across multiple displays.  I knew there had to be a better way to get the info out, so I created this training video on what color management is.

Unfortunately because I did this on my own, I didn’t have the budget to do things like rent a teleprompter, or get a UI team to do professional graphics.  It’s still a good piece of information, but I always wish I could do more to make this just a little more professional.

It was a big success with our artists and even though they may not be able to troubleshoot color management issues, they do come to me now better informed on what the problem is.  They also go out of their way to calibrate their monitors too, so it’s been a big win for the studio.  I petitioned the art council if we could release the video publicly since I felt it was a valuable resource for any artist struggling with color management issues, and they agreed.

Blizzard Dogs

I woke up Christmas morning in 2012 and saw a huge blizzard outside.  I ran outside and grabbed my Sony FS700 to shoot some slow motion footage of my dogs jumping through one of the heaviest blizzards we had seen in a decade.  The backdrop of the snow was interesting as it’s usually hard to expose a white scene outdoors, but the FS700 had no problem in Cine4 gamma handling all the subtle variations in white, even in the 24mbps AVCHD mode.

After shooting, I knew I needed to do a small amount of color grading on it, but I was at my parents house at the time.  They didn’t have Pro calibrated IPS monitor like the dreamcolor, so I had to rely on scopes heavily on the small color grade I made.  I really didn’t know if it was OK until I went home to watch it.  Everything in it was OK with the exception of the end shot where it’s just a tad too green.  Oh well this was just for fun.

I had also been receiving coupons for a new service called Virool stating that they would make my video appear on many sites and get it lots of hits.  I used the $100 coupon they gave me and said “Why the hell not?”  I wouldn’t recommend it to people making more art focused videos as there were many trolls whose comments I had to delete.  It also tanked the engagement rate of the video on the metrics.  While it does drive traffic to your video, it wasn’t the correct audience.  It might be OK for an ad where you’re just trying to get impressions, but for getting legitimate engagement, I found it better just to link it to pet blogs and have them show it to their engaged audience.

 

Autocross Car mount Test with Sony FS700

I took a Gripper 3025 package from Film tools and mounted a Sony FS700 with a Tokina 10-17 Canon mount on a friends car on quite possibly the most demanding application you could do with a car mount: Auto Cross.

Generally during autocross there are safety rules that prevent you from having anything mounted on the outside of the car.  I worked with the safety team and showed off the suction cups + weight carrying abilities of each one, and how the camera was to be mounted.  After their safety team agreed that it was OK, we were out filming.