More Of What I Want
In a camera it’s not just more bells and whistles that I look for but substance which is why I have put off upgrading from by Canon 7D for several years waiting for new technology. I was not just looking for more pixels as camera’s such as the Canon EOS 5DS Series has a much larger 50mp and that was only what you got. It lacked a wider dynamic range and sharper low light image capability required when shooting places like the dark forests of Redwood National Park or the slot canyon's of the Colorado Plateau. The Sony’s A7R was much better rated but it too lacked other important features after I field tested one. The Sony A7r Mark II received many positive reviews on its dynamic range, sharpness and other important developments such as faster autofocus, a feature lacking in the A7R, that I took the $3,200 plunge then I headed out on for my winter photo road trip. The results did not disappoint me!
|Dusk on the "Trillium Trail" Redwoods National Park, California|
The Sony Model A7RII, also known as the ILCE-7RM2, is a full feature full frame mirrorless camera. It features a new breakthrough technology design known as “Back-Illuminated” sensor. Instead of just making a larger sensor like that of the 5DS series, Sony redesigned the sensor to hold more pixels in the same space and moved the light collecting photodiode layer closer to the surface of each lens. It now mimicks the same principle as that of a wide angle lens design collects more light. Conversely, a standard sensor photodiode is positioned at the back of the sensor acts much like a long telephoto lens. Light now travels a longer distance which inherently causes it to lose more light. In order to combat this, the outer lens element must be made much wider to collect more light which makes for a beast of a lens. Sony’s compact light collecting design makes even the darkest section of the image lacks noise when compared to the noise found in the standard sensor. You can now shoot at higher speeds or smaller apertures and black shadows are just that- Black! The compacted design of the Sony sensor allows for a more enhanced copper electrical back that increases faster data transfer rates by 3.5. This becomes a noticeable difference when shooting extremely large sized images at 5 frames per second.
|Hoh Rain Forest, Olympic National Park, Washington|
I could get into other features that make this camera a better choice, like how the world’s highest viewfinder magnification at 0.78x is over an optical viewfinder, or how much better a digital viewfinder is in a low light situation, or that it has 399 autofocus points, or how a mirrorless shutter improves camera shake but why repeat those when there are many good reviews that cover them. I would rather post the results. I would like to point out one last thing, since it is a metal cast mirrorless digital camera, its compact size is a joy to hold and operate compared to its bulkier professional cousins on the market.
Remember, it’s the image quality that counts. The bells or whistles are just the frosting on this camera body- so on to the images!
No more HDR!
|Upper Saint Marys Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana|
The above image is HDR and Grad Filter free. It took a while to get used to the digital viewfinder image as a properly exposed for most situation of extreme contrast. The image in the viewfinder can look ugly as both the highlight and shadow clip warnings blink- I guess the software has not kept up the sensor’s capabilities. This Sony, the A7RII, has the widest dynamic range of all camera’s available at the time that I bought it. As I slide both the Highlight and Shadows Adjusters I was floored! It was like I opened a door to a new world. I could even equalize some high contrast scenes. That was something I never expected. Now I can shoot those high contrast images I always dreamt of. In the above scene, the images holds sharp detail especially within dark areas. In it, the darkest shadows are black with no noise and its color is the closest to the natural scene than any other sensor now on the market I’ve read in reviews.
|Badlands National Park, South Dakota|
The first images I shot were under exposed as the sky’s highlights were being clipped and of course if it was my canon, the clipping meant the sky would be washed out. Not on the Sony. This I did not know it until they were imported into Bridge. So to properly expose the above badlands scene, I had to open up the f-stop so just some warnings of Highlight appeared on in the brightest sections of the scene in the viewfinder. If I had adjusted them to remove the clip warning my image will appear too dark. This scene also had no shadowed area so concern for clipping was not a factor but if this was one that had dark shadows a properly exposed image would show both clipping in both the highlights and shadows. As I said earlier, it does look ugly in the viewfinder.
The image below was shot without grads produced nice details and color retention throughout the dynamic range.
|Volcanic Plateau, Fishtrap Lake Recreation Area, BLM, Eastern Washington|
The Sony gives you a large enough image size to work with as most images run about 241.3mb @ 16bit uncompressed so now you can crop out details with little to no interpolation for most editorial work!
|Vernal Pool, Volcanic Plateau, Eastern Washington|
One of my signature trademarks is shooting into the sunrise or sunset as with the image below. With a 3 stop grad, I can now record the whole dynamic light range of shadow to highlight to create truly amazing work. Whereas before and even with my 4X5 field view camera, I had to compromise the shadows to properly expose the highlights. Now there’s room to open up the shadows and stop down on the highlights. If I shoot moving subjects such as the flowers waving with the wind, I can make use of the higher ISO settings like ISO800 in the below image.
|Columbia River Gorge, Oregon|
As you can expect, I am very pleased with the landscape aspects of this camera from the results of this western trip. It is a pleasure I have not felt since discovering the large view camera format many years ago. Now I have something that can truly complement it in a compact dSLR camera!