The Running Trains - SONY E Mount FF cameras - Part 1
Updated: Aug 21, 2021
My first E-mount camera was the NEX-7 back in 2011 to shoot along with other camera systems I use of the time. Along with the FF A7 series camera released which I quickly upgraded to the original A7R, and then A7R II, A7SII, A7RIII, and A9, the SONY FF E-mount cameras became one of my primary systems for works and travel.
The latest generation of A7 camera, the SONY A7R IV built on the success of A7R III and A9 with improvements across the board. It took me just a few minutes for basic setting and customized my A7R IV, thanks to the familiar menu system that I found quite easy and intuitive to access while many have complained. I use many different cameras, and it takes one a bit time to get to know the logic behind the menu architecture, SONY is not behind the competitors in this regard, IMHO.
I returned to my favorite location, the Bangkok Railway Station, to feel out my new SONY A7R IV with some portraiture shooting with the lovely Canadian model Sabrina Baycroft, courtesy of J.i.m. Modeling Agency Bangkok.
I started the shoot at a relatively dark corner, and instantly I can tell the new AF system is A9-like, focus on the eye right away! My setting for portraiture on A7R IV: Continuous Eye-focusing, Continuous-mid advance, Aperture Priority, Auto ISO, Custom C1 - for minimum shutter speed setting so I can quickly switch to the desired speed for specific situations. The new EVF is brilliant; it allows me to see more details than naked eyes.
Lovely Sabrina behind Leica Q2 and in front of my camera, the SONY A7R IV. Leica Q2 is such a camera that is amazing in quality, beautifully made, an object to appreciate even it is not in use. My approach to the camera is to use the best of it instead of comparing one to another; they are all good in one way or another, the cameras today are far superior to those used to shoot those iconic images from the history! The camera is never the cause of an excellent or poor image!
The SONY A7R IV came out as a result of strong manufacturing history from past generations of E-mount cameras and SONY's high reputation in sensor engineering and manufacturing, I have no doubt what it could do, and as a photographer, it is my job to explore and to ride out the best of it.
Two of a kind?
I have been shotting with the Fujifilm GFX100 since late June till presently, my GFX100 images journal: https://www.kaisernchen.com/post/fujifilm-gfx100 and was quite impressed by the new SONY sensor, and of course, the electronic engineering Fujifilm did around the sensor. Now, with the SONY A7R IV with the new 61 MP sensor, which has the same basic BSI pixel design at about 3.7 microns, with Exmor dual gain capability, and using copper wiring to do the heavy bandwidth lifting, the SONY A7R IV should produce the same level of excellence as the GFX100, cropped of course.
With 1,062 captures took and reviewed, yes, the quality from SONY A7R IV is equally excellent as Fujifilm GFX100, IMHO. The file is smaller than GFX100 obviously, but it shoots more efficiently, focusing acquisition faster and image stabilizing a bit better than GFX100, due to smaller sensor size, the SONY A7R IV is a very appealing option for those looking for the highest quality that works faster. I got my SONY A7R IV for the exact reason, apart from being a long term user of A7R and A9 cameras, but my Fujifilm GFX100 will keep its place, as my other cameras.
The battery life - I use a fully charged two-years-old NP-FZ100 2,280mAh on my A7R IV with 2 X 128G SONY SD-XC II installed, shoot only uncompressed raw for 2 hours, filled the first card with 994 ARW files and 68 iARW files on the 2nd card, total 1,062 captures with the battery still 68% power left! It is potentially 3,318 uncompressed ARW capture per charge!
September 28, 2019 at the Bangkok Railway Station
The Bangkok Railway Station is one of my favorite locations to shoot, and Leica M cameras are my usual tools for its compactness and rendering of colors from shadow to light. My test run of SONY A7R IV, therefore, accompanied by a Leica M10-D and Q2 to get to know more about the new sensor on the SONY A7R IV. It is by curiosity than comparison because color rendering can be entirely subjective and a topic for endless debates that I have no interest to engage. My finding: The colors from SONY A7R IV, processed using Capture One Pro, display quite similar to my Leica M10-D (refers to my Leica M10-D Journal https://www.kaisernchen.com/post/leica-m10-d-diary ), it is slightly different from A7R III, and I take it as an improvement, my subjective opinion, of course. My opinion has nothing to do with JPEG color rendering as I shoot only raw files whenever possible. Shooting raw data will allow more variations of images to be processed and I am also interested to see what future raw processor capable of. Hard disk space is something the photographer needs to manage today as the space to storage negatives or transparencies in the past.
September 28, 2019 SOTA 96 Bangkok
Back to the comfort at my Bangkok studio - SOTA 96
SONY A7R IV - finally, it has the comparable AF performance inside the studio as, for example, Nikon D850 and Canon 5DSr which I also use in my studio, with the aperture setting even to f/14. Coupled with eye-focusing the A7R IV for studio portrait is the best I have experienced with, as of September 2019.
September 29, 2019 at the Bangkok railway Station
October 2, 2019 at the Bangkok railway Station
SONY A7R IV is going to be my primary choice for available-light portraiture, street, and general travel photography, a role previously carried by A7R III. As I would always say, my other cameras will keep their places; each camera is unique in its own way, none is perfect, including this A7R IV.
October 3, 2019, The running train keeps its momentum
It is hard to surprise anyone in camera industries since the birth of rumor mills, and it is such a case as the SONY A9 II released on October 3, 2019.
I enjoyed using my SONY A9 since its release and became available back in May 2017. I did not shoot sports events nor wild-life; instead, I use to shoot primary portraitures and streets, which I found it an excellent camera. I took my A9 with me to my winter Mogolia expedition in January 2018, and A9 worked perfectly in the field for hours under minus 20-28 degree Celsius. The NP-FZ100 delivered more than a thousand images under such temperature per charge!
On paper, the A9 II has refinements all over A9 except the same stacked 24.2MP Exmor RS™ CMOS image sensor with integral memory as the original A9, making it a compelling camera for those who have never tried A9, and for me, a good reason to upgrade.
October 5-6, 2019 Taipei, Taiwan
October 10, 2019 Bangkok
The noise-handling of the SONY A7R IV and it's color rendering in shades area are some of the improvements I preferred over the previous generations of SONY E mount FF cameras. The noise pattern is more akin to a film with a level of appealing that looks quite nice on prints, such as the image of Sabrina at ISO 12,800.
October 27, 2019 the Bangkok Railway Station
November 10, 2019 the Bangkok Railway Station
November 29 - December 10, trip to Russia
Shooting aerial pictures through the commercial airline window is not the best approach, but certainly, it is amongst the best on-board entertainment one can help himself during a lengthy (9-hours) flight. I love Russia and visit Russia whenever I have time, and the Aeroflot SU271 services from Bangkok to Russia is the flight of my choice as it covers some of the most spectacular landscapes on earth.
SU271 flew over the beautiful Ayyarwadi Delta of Myanmar around 1 hour after taking-off, shortly after fly over the lovely Kyaikto Township (image below), Mon State - known for the Kyaiktiyo Pagoda (or the Golden Rock), one of the most famous landmarks in Myanmar.
Nanda Devi 7,816m, the peaks of the goddesses Nanda and Sunanda, captured from the window of SU271 while flying over Dehra Dun, Uttarakhand, India.
Nanda Devi was considered the highest mountain in the world until 1808, when Dhaulagiri proved to be higher by new computation, and in 2019, it is the 23rd-highest peak in the world and the 2nd highest in India, after Kangchenjunga. Nanda Devi, whose name means "Bliss-Giving Goddess" is regarded as the patron-goddess of the Uttarakhand Himalaya and was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site - Nanda Devi National Park, since 1988.
The western anchor of the Himalayas, 9th highest in the world - Nanga Parbat derived its name from Sanskrit "nanga" "parvata" - means naked mountain, looks amazingly beautiful from the window of Aeroflot SU271 services from Bangkok to Moscow, flying over some of the most beautiful landscapes on earth.
This image shot with SONY A7R IV on my Fujifilm GFX100 and three GF lenses with me on the last shooting day of my Russian trip. I own both camera systems for some time already but have never traveled for photography with both together until now. Indeed the larger sensor size on Fujiful GFX100 (+68% over 24X36 FF sensor) gives it a clear edge on image rendering and extra attainable stretch on prints making it a more suitable choice for landscape work. However, at the moment, the Fujifilm does not have the lenses such as the Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-90/2.8-4 ASPH that I have for my Leica SL system nor FE 24-70/2.8 GM for my SONY Alpha system that is somewhat limiting. I owned many Fujinon lenses for my GFX system, but a wide-to-medium-tele GF lens would be great as a mobile and versatile solution. I have many GF lenses, including my 4 Canon TS-E lenses, which will make up an excellent landscape system with my GFX50s and GFX100 but at the cost of compromising mobility and versatility.
On the other hand, the slight disadvantage on sensor size for SONY A7R IV when compares to Fujifilm GFX 100 is more than made up by almost everything else my SONY A7R IV is capable of delivering, mostly with superior performance. A7R IV, as of this writing, December 9, 2019, is still the best overall camera for all uses, IMHO.
December 26, 2019
Working on more images of my new "Surfaced" project!
January 2, 2020 Talad Hua Takae
January 3-5 Bangkok - Nakhon Si Thammarat - Songkhla - Phatthalung
Menora on her way home, Amphoe Tha Sala, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Thailand
January 8, 2020 at the Giberbread House, Bangkok
January 11, 2020 with Katarina Gartell at the Emporio Place, Bangkok
January 15, 2020 Mustang Blu, Bangkok
January 16, 2020 Katarina Gartell - surfaced, at the Emporio Place, Bangkok.
Working on further refinement of my "Surfaced" project with Katarina Gartell. I made some shots five days ago using the Zeiss Sonnar 55/1.8 ZA on SONY A7R IV and Leica M10-D + Summilux-M 50/1.4 ASPH and found that some shots would be more balanced using a little wider lens, so I did this time using one of my favorite E-mount lenses - the FE 24-70/2.8 GM.
I am not interested in making gear comparison between the SONY A7R IV and the Leica M10-D, although I would not doubt that SONY A7R IV would hold a clear edge over my beloved Leica M10-D on final prints. But this is a personal project, and the final print size is not my priority, fun is.
Indeed, the use of zoom allows me to shoot with a bit more freedom and faster with SONY A7R IV, mainly when shooting situation is more limited.
January 29, 2020 Kayr Ri at Samut Songkhram salt farm, Thailand
February 2020 Around Bangkok
Back at my studio - SOTA 96 Bangkok
February 29, 2020 Bangkok Railway Station & Talad Noi Bangkok
Very few activities since mid-March as the CCP virus (yes, I agreed it is CCP virus as it was originated) pandemic situations worsened. As a safety measurement, I have my camera and lenses to go through my UV disinfection chamber every time I use them.
June 2020 Return to shooting
Izem Yilmaz - the Bangkok Railway Station June 11, 2020
Benish Paracha - the Bangkok Railway Station June 11, 2020
Sigma in photographic industries is akin to Subaru in the automobile industries. They do things their way, with a naughty approach in design, characterizing their corporation identity accordingly, and not being afraid to challenge the best.
The recent introduction of the 85mm F1.4 DG DN Art for SONY E-mount and L-mount cameras is one of such example. It carries a rich list of optical specifications, very well-made and assembled, a bold claim to rival or even surpass the highly acclaimed SONY 85mm F1.4 G Master in the optical performance, which I also owned and shoot since 2016, and charge a lot less. All the nice descriptions of the new Sigma 85mm DG DN Art lens are available from Sigma's official website and numerous lens review/marketing websites but I intend to find out by myself by taking pictures with it.
August 13, 2020 - Fotoclub Bangkok, with beautiful Liza Kaylee and Maria Klepikova - Special thanks to Jate Pokmangmee to allow me to use his facility fitted in the Any Warhol inspired style that I use for the shoot.
The reflective sheet is a challenge and balances the exposure for the fair Caucasian skin, but it is handled quite well here, suggesting the new Sigma lens of good contrast and tonal transition.
In Maria's words "Inetergalactic Travel"
Lovely Maria selfie with the 1954 Leica IIIf RD, a camera two generations camera than Maria, is one of the oldest Leica in my collection. The original Leica IIIf introduced in time for Christmas 1950 matches the red color of the bodysuit nicely. The old camera pairs with Maria and the Andy Warhol space theme very well and thanks Maria's beautiful pose to connect all the elements that work well as a picture. More on my blog Behind and in front of my camera.
The shot with Liza that she has such a "nice girl" look that I am sorry to have to ask her to act "сука" (bitch in Russian) each time I shoot her, so I can get a little more of edginess out of her.
Andromeda "The Messier 31 Dream" with Liza Kaylee
August 19 - The Bangkok Railway Station with Maria Klepikova
August 24 Sephora shop at the EMQUARTIER Bangkok
Exercising some quick shots at the Sephora EMQUARTIER
The protest of calling PM resignation and political reform at the Ratjaprasong Intersection, Bangkok, in the evening of October 25, 2020.
November 2, 2020 - Maternity shoot for Ms. Harleen Singhnarula
December 2, 2020 - For the birthday girl, Maria Klepikova
Sigma introduced three more Contemporary lenses to the 45mm F2.8 DG DN Contemporary launched along with the Sigma fp.
The most interesting is the 24mm F3.5 DG DN Contemporary which can focus to 11cm for a maximum magnification of 1:2 (0.5X) - a wide angle macro lens!
Interesting the Sigma material presents the 35mm F2 DG DN Contemporary and 65mm F2 DG DN Contemporary in steel finish to showcase the solid metal construction - not a bad idea as a production model, please.
Since I have most of the SONY GM and G lenses covering 12mm to 600mm include those zooms and most of the GM Primes, the 65mm Sigma obviously is one such lens that can fill in my collection of E mount lenses.
The 65mm DG DN Contemporary is a very well made lens and in good craftsmanship. It looks smart, with some design detail reminiscent Zeiss Loxia and ZM lenses. This would be a good portraiture lens for me.
My new series of project : Cycles of life
"Death is the start of a beginning, life is the start of the end, and the cycle continues forever."
~ Tim I. Gurung, Afterlife
December 14 - continue the project: Cycle of Life - the earlier shots made with Sigma 65mm F2 DG DN suggest that the tilt-shift lenses shall serve better for a more even surface sharpness on the leaf. And indeed, it does.
The beginning of the new project "Submerged"
Soft, the Chiang Mai girl, an old friend
December 29 Tak, Thailand
Movement of Colors 21-297 Mae Rim, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Oom, daughter-in-law of a good friend, pristine as ever! Mae Rim, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Tree Trunk, Mae Rim, Chiang Mai, Thailand
December 31 Camping on the rose farm at the foothill of Chiang Dao, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Pom, visiting my camp site, in his Rolls Royce Wraith
I have 14 SONY E-mount lenses, but I can only use one at a time and try to bring a couple of lenses to cover enough focal lengths in travel. The EF 24-70/2.8 GM is so good that it stays on my camera most of the time since I bought it in 2016, even I have options in my camera bags, and more of than not, it is the only lens I use even in a 2 weeks trip!
SONY E-mount FF camera system - the running train keeps its momentum into 2021.