Thursday, February 28, 2019

On a Kenyan Safari with Sony Photo Gear

I just returned from a month safari in Kenya using Sony photographic equipment.  In December 2018 completed my migration after 23 years with Canon to Sony.  I moved to Sony mostly due mirrorless innovation, light weight and high quality lenses.  I carried a Sony a9 with a power grip, a Sony7RIII, a 100-400, 400 f 2.8 and a 1.4X and an Apple 6 for landscapes. Minimizing weight and size is a must when flying in bush planes.
 Both the a9 and the a7RIII cameras worked flawlessly in a very adverse environment.  No issue with dust in the sensors since I never changed lenses in the field.  Used the a9 with the Sony battery pack but battery length of life use not an issue with either camera; usually a battery lasting ¾ of a day.  Surprisingly battery charging took less time than in the USA probably due to the 240 volts outlets at the various lodges in Kenya. Only negative comment I can make about these cameras is that the ergonomics need improving and particularly the exposure compensation dial that is too small, stiff and the serrated edge hard on the thumb.
  If Sony wants to compete in the wildlife photography realm it has to develop a bigger camera with a built-in grip following the designs of the Canon 1DxII or Nikon D5.  The fit of the a9 and the accessory grip is a compromise, leaving a gap between the camera and the grip (probably affecting water resistance) does not allow reaching all the controls in the camera when used in the portrait orientation. Who knows maybe the next a9 will come that way with a global shutter and a higher resolution EVF/rear LCD.  Replacing the SD cards with a larger card will be another improvement for the action photography realm, not to mention having both card slots with the same speed.
 Used the 400 mm with the 1.4X extender 100% of the time alternating its use every 2 weeks between the a9 and the 7RIII; it worked fine and amazingly with almost no dust accumulation in the front element.  With the use of the 1.4X resulted this lens became a 560 mm f4, and with crop factor in the cameras it became an 840 mm.  I used the crop factor only with the a7RIII since it is a 42 megapixels camera that gave me approximately 20 megapixels images; more than adequate that I still could crop with great en results.  The a7RIII camera has amazing image quality.  The a9 has a faster frame per second rate and the viewfinder basically covered 100 % with focusing points. Regardless the a7RIII is a grate performed for shooting action scenes.
 As explained above, when using the 400 mm in one in one camera, I used the other  with the 100-400 mm.  The apertures of f5.6-11 of the latter lens were not an issue since sunlight was abundant throughout the safari.  The 100-400mm optical quality is outstanding and quite honestly, cannot differentiate much of images taken with the lens and those taken with the 400mm + the 1.4X.  Zooming of this lens requires effort since it is not a smooth mechanism; Sony needs to come with a lens whose length remains the same when zooming.  Another issue that I found with this lens is that when I assigned the magnification function to the barrel, the 3 activation buttons were accidentally engaged; I ended up disabling this function and using a button in the camera instead.
  I noticed when shooting at higher frames/second speed in RAW an in the inconsistency of color rendering of the images as recorded in the cards.  Those that I considered of fine color alternated occasionally with one or two continuous frames with a greenish color rendition (no problem correcting this in Photoshop).  I used Sony SDXC 128 GB cards R: 300/W: 299 and never suffered buffering problems; in fact as backup used Sony SDXC 128 GB R: 260/W:100 and did not experience buffering issues either.
 When it comes to Autofocus both cameras were about 70% in focus and both struggled with contrasting backgrounds.  I decided not to further elaborate in this topic since the new software update may improve autofocus performance.

I had taken this Sony Photographic gear during the last nine months from the humid hot tropics of Brazil, to below freezing temperature this winter in Yellowstone and now through the dusty and bumpy roads of Kenya and had no failures.

1 comment:

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

What a wonderful time you seem to have had there and wish I could have gone there too.

I have always liked Sony for their video cameras and love the fantastic results. Nice write up of their cameras.