Challenge 42: The Mega Mirrorless Challenge

Night time fresh coconut ice cream related snack, ISO 8000

No, this isn’t a challenge where I go for several weeks without looking in a mirror (you could be forgiven for thinking I do that anyway…!).

To see my very sleepy intro on FB, click here.

As you may know by now, I bought myself a replacement 2nd camera: the Sony Mirrorless A7 II. 

To read more about what possessed me to do this, check out Challenge 41!

This began as a thorough 2-week test while we were on a family holiday.

Yup, I took the gamble of only taking the new mirrorless camera with me, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to properly check any of the photos until I arrived home (I didn’t take a laptop with me, and as you may have read in my previous experiments with the Sony, the viewfinder screen and main screen are quite inconsistent).

Cloudburst at ISO 12800, although I have had to heavily edit this – it was VERY grainy!!

Once home, I decided I needed to extend the challenge for another couple of weeks.

The flaw in my plan was that as we were in Thailand… with a four year old… we were mostly out and about during the day, in bright sunshine. There wasn’t a huge amount of opportunity for low-light shooting. So the Challenge has continued…

Challenge #42 was all about pushing the Sony A7 II to its limits

Concert in a dark-ish church, ISO 6400, and yes, some editing to reduce the grain!

This included photos while on holiday, at a concert in a church, in a dark hanger containing lots of aircraft, and at a big Freelance Mum event – indoors and outdoors.

Techie Details:
Camera: Sony A7 II (Mirrorless)
Lens: Sony 24-70 f4

At a networking event. Although ideally I’d have focussed on the speaker, the Sony did capture some decent catchlight in his eyes at ISO 2000.
HOW DID IT GO?

I’m much happier than I was a month ago, that’s for sure!

The most important thing for me was to understand the limits of this camera, and I think I achieved that. 

Using the Sony at Fleet Air Arm Museum pushed it to its absolute limit in terms of ISO. In a way I’m sad I didn’t take the Canon, as it would have coped admirably under these conditions, but it was an excellent way to really test the low-light abilities of the Sony. At a maxed-out ISO, it’s not great, and realistically I probably won’t push it above around ISO6400 if I can avoid it, but it was a valuable test.

The Sony performed remarkably well with this photo, and at ISO12800 I haven’t done any smoothing to reduce grain. (You can see how dark it is if you look how dilated LW’s pupils are!)

I tackled the battery-life-draining-away issue by turning off the Sony when I wasn’t using it. I used it as my second camera at an all day event, and had to change the battery just once, so was relatively pleased with that.

My plan to turn the back screen off was foiled by the fact you can’t actually program a button to flick it back on again when you want to preview and check your photos.  Instead you have to navigate a menu system… which isn’t quick!

 

The Sony does a good job at ISO 2000

I still don’t like the fact the electronic viewfinder is a bit rubbish, but I’m getting more used to it, and trusting my gut more with what settings I need to use to get the photo I want.

It’s particularly important to get exposure right in camera in low-level light – there is very little scope to adjust and compensate in post-processing with this camera.

ISO 16000, but I did have to reduce the grain quite a lot!

Adjusting the focussing point continued to be a bug-bear, and although I did find a quick way to do it, it’s all to easy to accidentally knock the camera into a different focussing mode.

Overall the Sony lacks the consistency of the Canon 5D III, and I’d avoid using it as a primary camera in most situations.

That said, the general results were pretty sound, and although grainy, if I keep the ISO down to around 6400 and below (and expose correctly in-camera), they are perfectly fine.

A fun shot from a freelancing event. The colours are good, and the image is clear.

The biggest challenge in terms of usability was switching rapidly between the Canon and the Sony in a real-world, worky-type of way. The controls are very different.

However, in the worst possible conditions (bright, direct sunlight, with darker shady bits and a fast pace with lots going on), I still coped!!

The plan is to stick with this setup: Canon 5D III as primary camera, with Sony A7 II as the secondary camera…

…At least until I can afford the rather lovely Canon 5D IV.

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