Sony a7iii & a7riii
I thought I'd spend some time and go through some settings, menu's and so on. I've been using these cameras for a few months now and have shot multiple weddings, family shoots etc so whilst I won't claim to be a Sony expert or ambassador I do feel like I've now got a decent handle on them. If you'd like someone who'll go through every screen and explain every possible option, have a look at Mark Galer's YouTube channel. Mark is a Sony Ambassador and probably knows as much about all the Sony kit as anyone.
That being said, hopefully you're looking for a real world discussion on the merits of these cameras and how I've used them. There will be zero mention of video settings, I don't do video.
I'm going to try not to quote from the manual or official website for explanations. I will likely jump around a bit rather than going from screen 1 to 2 etc etc Instead I've focused on what I would do if someone handed me a new camera and said you've got 10 mins before you need to start shooting!
It's worth pointing out that I have both camera's setup in exactly the same way.
First things first.
Setup the timezone, date and copyright information. The latter you'll find on Setup5 of the menu...
Quality & Image settings.
File Format should be RAW. I honesty believe the only reason anyone should be shooting JPEG is in an emergency. No space on the memory card and no spare card. I honestly can't think of another reason to not shoot in RAW.
RAW File Type
This is a strange one. Nikon uses something called 'Lossless compression', Canon's version is 'lossy compression' (AFAIK) & Sony's is much the same. Compressing the RAW files inevitably means losing some of the data stored though Nikon's compression algorithm claims to be lossless. Whether any of us would notice the loss of data is another question. Coming from Nikon I was a little disappointed to not find a lossless compression option, especially on the a7riii with it's massive files.
It really does make a huge difference to your storage if you go with compressed RAW. For example on the a7riii using a 128GB SD memory card, shooting in uncompressed RAW will let you store roughly 1485 images. Shooting compressed gives you space for slightly over 2900. So in other words double the space. On the a7iii it's pretty much the same doubling of space. Uncompressed on a 64GB SD card gives you space for approx 1280, compressed is ~ 2500. Which for the majority of events that's probably way more than needed but for a wedding I will often shoot ~ 2000 images between the cameras, sometimes more depending on the day itself.
For the last few months I've been shooting compressed but I'm going to try uncompressed for the remaining events in the year (it's early November 2019 as I write this). Will update this blog with my findings as soon as I can.
The most important settings...
Drive mode: Continuous: Hi (8fps) - Mid gives you 6fps and lo is 3fps. I've used Mid for most weddings this year and 90% of the time it's perfect but how many times do you take 3 shots in a burst and somehow the subjects eye's look half shut in them all? So I'm going to try Hi, which in conjunction with uncompressed files should be interesting!
Focus mode: Continuous AF . I only ever really change this to AF-S (single) if I'm doing product shots.
Often I'll forget though and to be frank the AF still does a bang up job with the wedding details for instance. I never use any of the other modes.
Manual focus I would normally just use the lens switch or if my manual focus lens is on the camera it's automatically in manual mode.
Focus area: Flexible Spot:M(edium) or Lock-on AF: Flexible Spot M(medium).
As the name would suggest they are very similar.I have custom button C2 setup to switch between the two options*.
*Custom key - set to Regist AF Area tggle (weird name I know). Now put your camera into the Focus area you want to use. Press and hold the Function button on the rear of the camera (Fn), now change the focus area to your other preference. Now when you press the custom button you chose, it should toggle between the two focus areas.
I use the latter if the subject is moving but read on for how Eye AF affects this.
I only had a Sony camera for about a week before the latest firmware update arrived.
I could be wrong but with the new firmware (unlike previously) the camera will pre-focus on a subjects face.
That's the only way I can think of describing it. Without pressing any button a grey box will surround the subjects face, even while the whole image is completely out of focus.
Pressing the AF-ON button (back button focus obviously) will automatically focus on the subjects eye. So in essence there might not be a need to assign a button to Eye AF anymore.
I still have AEL set to Eye AF but I rarely use it to be honest. So focusing using Eye AF with AF-ON & Continuous AF means the camera will lock onto the subject and as long as the AF-ON remains pressed, stay there. It doesn't really get much better than that! In case it wasn't clear, I absolutely LOVE the autofocus in these cameras!!!!! (yes it is worth 5 exclamation marks)
I shoot in two modes... Aperture priority and Manual.
Ditch the snobbery, world famous photographers use Aperture priority. This isn't an automatic mode, far from it. It allows you to trust the camera to get some things right but within parameters that you control. Personally I define the minimum shutter speed, the maximum ISO and obviously the aperture.
My most common settings are...
SS 1/250(min), ISO3200(max) & wide open as often as possible. Clearly I will change the aperture to an appropriate one if shooting a family group shot where there is more than one rank of people for example. Cake cutting photographs are generally at something like f/2.2 or 2.8. You get the point. Choose an appropriate aperture and trust the camera to set the rest. The EVF will mean you know if the shot will be well exposed. Strangely enough I rarely use exposure compensation, which allows you to change the exposure whilst in Aperture Priority mode. The most common problem with Aperture Priority mode and Multi-metering is when a subject is backlit. In that case I'll sometimes use the exposure compensation dial but most of the time I'll just switch to manual.
Manual & Flash
I use manual for with flash, every time. I don't generally use TTL (Through The Lens) though I have very, very occasionally. As mentioned in my blog about moving from Nikon to Sony (here) the EVF attempts to help you focus when using flash. I'm not entirely sure why they've made the assumption that it must be dark because we're using flash but there you go. So, wanting to avoid that scenario where I'm essentially losing the benefit of an EVF, I keep the trigger or speedlight switched off until I've set my ss/aperture/iso. Once I've got the ambient light where I want it, I'll switch the flash back on and take a test shot. Rinse and repeat until satisfied with the results.
Metering Mode: Multi, because I've found it to give me pretty consistent results.
White Balance: AWB (auto white balance)- white. Being entirely honest I have it set to prioritise white because I see quite a few white-ish dresses! I shoot in RAW so whilst it doesn't really matter it's helpful if the camera gets it pretty close. Saves me making lots of adjustments in post processing.
I turn off all the style settings or have them set to neutral. They only impact JPEG files as far as I know. I don't see the point of having them switched on and the camera showing me something when reviewing on the screen, that won't bear much resemblance to the RAW file I'll see in Lightroom.
General comments and advice.
Rolling shutter: If you switch off the mechanical shutter (by shooting silently for example) and you're shooting moving subjects watch out for 'rolling shutter'. My understanding is it is caused by the subject moving too fast for the shutter to capture them perfectly and you get distortion. Using the mechanical shutter solves this. On a side note the shutter sound of both the a7iii & a7riii is quite different. The more expensive a7riii has a much quieter and less clunky sounding shutter. I rarely worry about either during the quiet moments of a wedding ceremony for example but if I am, I'll use the a7riii.
Silent shooting: It still amazes me that I can shoot utterly silently using these cameras. I've found it to be very useful during bridal prep to get those candid moments, especially before the bride and her friends & family have gotten to used to me being there that they forget about me. Putting the camera on silent shooting and finding a corner of the room is just a fantastic way to capture completely unselfconscious images. However you have to watch out for banding.
Do not put the camera into silent mode unless you have time to test the results and adjust!
I found that if I slow the shutter speed down to ~1/140 the banding disappeared & I was able to shoot silently.
Electronic Front Curtain: Leave it switched on most of the time. It reduces shooting lag & makes the shutter quieter. It gives you more fps as well. When to switch it off? This is a hard one to answer. I only switch this off if I'm using flash in High Speed Sync (HSS) as it reduces banding by having it off. The problem with switching it off is there is definitely shutter lag so if you're shooting a fast moving subject it'd cause problems. For me though, when I'm using flash it's 9/10 a portrait so there's not a big issue with lag.
Buy a battery grip: You won't worry about battery life at all, even when shooting all day if you get a battery grip. I bought Neewer grips for both cameras from Amazon and they came with two battery's. So I now have my Sony battery plus a Neewer battery in the grips. During a full day wedding I'll likely exhaust one of the Sony battery's on the camera I've used the most (usually the a7iii) so the second battery is a must. I also feel as if the grip not only makes the ergonomics of the cameras better, it makes them feel more solid. There's a bit of protection there with the grip I think.
Eyecup: One thing I didn't like about the Sony cameras was the eyecup. Maybe I've just got a big nose but I felt like my whole face was pressed against the rear of the camera when using the EVF. So I bought replacement eyecups. I went for the Kiwifotos eyecup, again on Amazon. It extends a little further without being one of those huge tear drop shaped eyecups and does two things. Keeps my face off the rear of the camera and makes it a little easier to review images via the EVF in bright sunlight. You can get both the grip and eyecup I bought for about £100 which given it includes two very good extra battery's, I don't think that bad value at all.
Flash: I've embedded a wee video to show you what the EVF does when it detects a trigger or speedlight. So long as you remember it does this it isn't a big deal in my opinion. Just set your ambient exposure and then switch on the trigger or speedlight and work from there.
The other quirk with flash is how an on camera flash will work. I haven't tried a Sony flash yet, I only use Godox lights so maybe this is a third party thing.
One of the menu options is Wireless Flash...
If this is on and you have a speedlight on camera, the speedlight will not go into wireless mode. Nor will it allow you to change the speedlight to TTL or manual mode. In essence you'll be stuck in the optic transmission/wireless shooting mode. Again not really a problem in most cases. Personally when I'm using a speedlight on the camera as fill and to fire an OCF I prefer the speedlight to be in Radio Transmission mode. It might not be the right or best way to do it but it's how I've done it for years and it's worked so I see no reason to change. During first dances I sometimes like to switch off the OCF and just use the bounced light from the on camera flash and I want to be able to do that quickly.
So I switch the Wireless Flash to Off.
Important to point out that this doesn't affect the trigger, only the speedlight. The trigger doesn't care if the setting is on or off!
...and with that I think I'm done for now. I'll probably just add to this if I think of anything else done the road, unless it's major in which case I'll write a new post.
These really are game changing cameras. The autofocus alone is revolutionary but the lighter kit, the accuracy of exposure thanks to the EVF. The accurate AWB, dual card slots etc etc
For a couple of weddings I shot with a Nikon DSLR and a Sony a7iii. The optical viewfinder is sharper and doesn't feel like I'm looking at a wee TV screen but it doesn't tell me if I'm making a huge mistake with my exposure. Yes we should all check the meter before hitting the button but with an EVF I don't have to remember that. The image is just there!
It was like jumping backwards and forwards through time. Optical VF then Electronic VF. Standard autofocus then Eye AF. A hefty 24-70 on a D810 then an 85mm on a a7riii.
Hope this helps someone out there.