Not Really a Blog

Staying with the A7R - the honeymoon continues

Well, the A7R and I have been together for a couple of weeks, and we’re still looking forward to continuing our relationship. There have been a few misunderstandings, and some transient longings to how things were with the Nikon D3S, but we now seem to know each other better, and we’re able to work together without too many spills or mis-steps or mistakes.
Our most recent “photo date” included a trip to Berry Point, followed by an hour or so at Drumbeg Park. That outing is documented here.

Autofocus and confidence:
It took me close to a week to overcome the initial challenges with the A7R’s buttons and dials. For at least a few days, I was unable to use autofocus, and was wondering if it existed (or if it was working) on the new-to-me Sony Alpha. Finally, after doing a proper job of setting the AEL button to “toggle” between AF and MF, I found that I could easily turn-on autofocus. I was pleasantly surprised to see that I could not only use autofocus, but also that it works very well. I haven’t yet pixel-peeked to the point where I’ve confirmed that focus was always perfect, but I believe I got at least an 80% success rate in bird photographs at Berry Point with the 70-200mm f/4 Sony lens.

Battery power:
Having read tales of troubles with quick-draining batteries, I purchased two spares. With the trip to Berry Point in the cold (a bit below zero), I was sure I’d need to change batteries at least once or twice. That was not the case: I took about 250 shots at Berry Point and Drumbeg Park, on a single battery, That battery was getting low (down to about 15%) by the end of my photo-ramble, but it still served me well.

Memory card:
I also purchased a couple of memory cards. As a “statistical photographer” (similar to the million monkeys typing at a million typewriters for a million years, who will at some point produce an exact duplicate of Joyce’s Ulysses), I take a lot of photographs. The one (64GB) card in my A7R was only a fraction full, even though the 36 megapixel sensor produces large raw files. BUT: IT WAS DISCONCERTING AT ONE POINT LATER IN THE DAY (AFTER I GOT HOME) TO TAKE A FEW MORE TEST SHOTS, WITHOUT KNOWING THERE WAS NO MEMORY CARD IN THE CAMERA. Yes, there was a little flashing notice in the EVF telling me there was no card in the camera, but I was brought back to the comfort of the D3S, which could be set to refuse to take photos at all if no card was in it.

Speaking of comfort:
I was able to wander around the beach today, with an extremely good camera (the Sony A7R, of course) and a powerful lens (the 70-200mm Sony f/4) attached to a wrist strap! I had tried a variety of wrist straps, neck straps, shoulder straps, belts and other contraptions with my Nikon D3S, but I was never completely comfortable with the weight of the camera or its lenses. Now, I can scramble over rocks and driftwood with less worry about tripping, and I can occasionally put my hands in my pockets for protection from the cold without having to deal with the camera. The strap, by the way, is a PacSafe strap that attaches to the ring at the right side (from the photographer’s point of view) of the camera. It cost me about $30 at a luggage store at Woodgrove mall, and I think it was a great deal. According to the PacSafe advertising people, the strap can withstand a samurai sword or a small neutron bomb, but its real benefit to me is its durability for everyday use. And, thanks to the relatively small weight of the camera and lens, I don’t have to worry about losing feeling in my hand when the camera is hanging loose.

Sensor cleaning:
I had learned to deal with having to clean the sensor on my D3S. Today, I realized that I’d have to exercise similar care for my A7R. After doing the necessary googling, I found web pages that warned me against using the sensor fluid (the Eclipse brand) I had been using on the D3S; I also found web pages that told me I could use that type of sensor fluid. Thankfully, none of the “Sony sensor cleaning web pages” had warnings against Giottos Rocker Air blowers: I gave the Sony’s sensor a good blow-job (am I allowed to say that on a blog?), and it was fine. In the process, I also learned the Lightroom technique for checking for dust spots (“D” to get to Develop module; “Q” to show the spot removal tool; “T” to show the toolbar at the bottom; click on the “Visualize Spots” check-box, and then slide the slider to spot the spots).

Learning more and more:
I couldn’t develop a relationship with the A7R, without learning more and more about the A7R. Two great sources have been:
  • Brian Smith’s Sony A7/A7R - from Snapshots to Great Shots book (which Bob Wyche kindly loaned to me); and
  • Gary Friedman’s The Complete Guide to Sony’s Alpha 7 and 7r (an eBook that I’m still reading on my iPad)
Of course, there have also been an untold number of youtube videos, and lots and lots of experimenting and practising.

Where I am now:
The initial technical struggles are behind me. There will be plenty more, as there’s plenty more to learn. Now, though, I can get out and enjoy my photography again. Today’s trip to Berry Point and Drumbeg Park is a good example of my return to enjoying the process of photography.