I’ve been lugging around my trusty Canon 5D MKII for over 3 years now. Paired with the Canon 50mm f1.4 I was able to capture what my mind saw, rather than what some stupid image sensor thought I wanted.
Actually let me paraphrase that. The 5D MKII allowed me to capture RAW files that allowed me to compose an image through editing that my mind saw.
A couple of years back, I just couldn't get the same level of detail I wanted from other models or brands of camera. Note, this was also before Nikon announced their D800 and Canon released the MKIII.
Things where never perfect though. Focusing was slow, especially in poor light. I quickly learnt to scroll through the few focus points while doing weddings and other events. Low light was good, for a camera released back in 2008. But I knew that when shooting in difficult light, I would have to resort to editing in black and white as the colours became subdued and muddied.
Which for me living in England really started grating on me. You see, for everything I love about this country, the amount of light isn't one of them. Spring and Summer I'm in love. Come Autumn and Winter, you'll find me chasing light and scurrying around as I try and fill the few hours of daylight with picture taking.
I've never really been one for strobes. It's all so much trouble and ruins the joy of spontaneity in the moment.
Because of this, I've traditionally always taken less pictures during the darker months. Don't get me wrong. I love taking pictures in the dark. To capture the deep, dark mood of a scene, without having to resort to long exposures was my dream. So much so that when I saw my friends toting their Fuji X series cameras and showing me how well their cameras handled colour under high ISO (3200+) I was indeed envious. Envious to the point that I actually nearly bought an XE2 while I was out in Dubai.
If it wasn't for the fact that I didn't like the ergonomics of it, I probably would be writing this post about an XE2.
In fact, truth be told if the Fuji XT1 came out a little bit earlier I may of taken the gamble and bought one instead as it really does feels great in the hand and to shoot.
Yes, call me strange but I've always valued how something makes me feel over face value and stats. It's the difference between something you love to keep with you, over something you have to keep with you.
Going back to high ISO performance, the A7S goes up to 409,600. Now, OK you wouldn't really take a picture at this ISO, but it's totally true when they say that iso 50,000 on the camera is the equivilent of 6400 on other cameras. Plus, unlike my 5D where pushing high ISO's causes shifts in colour and muddying, the A7S reproduces colour accurately.
It being Winter now in the UK, I'm finding myself taking way more pictures with this camera, than I ever did during the same period with the 5D. Simply because, I can take pictures in extremely low light without flash and not worry about artifacts.
So why did I end up with a Sony A7S apart from it's crazy high ISO support? Sony never really came to mind when I thought quality photography gear. Sure, the NEX line of cameras were nice, but they always felt like one new iteration over then next. Why should I buy one if there's a version X coming out in a few months with N number of new features? Plus like I said. Pure whizzy features that I'd never use in the real world, never excited me that much, especially when the cameras felt just wrong in the hand.
At the end of last year, Sony announced the Sony A7 range of cameras. Small, lightweight cameras with full frame sensors. Oh, and did I mention Zeiss lenses with autofocus? Yes, autofocus. Don't get me wrong. Some of my favourite lenses of all time are manual focus. But trying to do it on an SLR, especially a Canon was just a pain in the ass.
Sure, I could get Zeiss glass for nearly any mount. But autofocus? Only for Sony as they'd done a deal.
Talking about manual focusing, my A7S is a dream to focus manually. It's got a big bright EVF, peaking and I can set it to automatically magnify a point so I can be sure it's pin sharp. It's so easy that I've bought some much famed Leica glass to accompany the Zeiss lenses.
Because there's no gap between the sensor and the lens it opens up a huge number of possibilities when it comes to adapting other cameras lenses to it. Leica glass is small, even when mounted with the adapter as it only adds a few millimetres. Their lenses are also excpetionally sharp and like Zeiss give a nice pop that can only be seen in certain high end lenses.
Another thing I love about the A7S over, say the cheaper A7 is the colour rendition. I made a point above about how the Canon 5D allowed me to edit an image in Lightroom in a way my mind saw it. The problem with that, is it's all so easy to over work an image to the point that it strays too far from reality, or it looks like any other photographers over filtered images.
With this camera, I'm actually spending less time in Lightroom. Heck, most of the time I'm just tweaking the contrast, exposure and sharpness a little.
The image above with my tattoo was quickly taken, transferred via it's built-in wifi functionality to my phone and tweaked in VSCOCam without using any of the filters, just the colour tools. It's now so easy for me to have Portra'ish look with a light, airy feel. I love it.
Overall, the lightweight package, excellent lenses and shortened editing workflow have breathed new joy into my photography. I love it so much that the Canon 5D is the backup camera, rather than the A7S. And if things continue, I'll probably replace that with an A7 too.