SAR note: This is a guest post by Patrick Murphy-Racey. If you wnat to write an article for SAR contact me (Andrea) at email@example.com. Thanks!
Mirror-less is More… Guest post by Patrick Murphy-Racey
I’m a convert to Sony, having shot Nikon & Canon my entire career as a photojournalist. I’m a recovering Sports Illustrated photographer that got into Sony through the A99V and Samyang glass strictly for shooting video. Sony afforded me many options not even thought about yet like EVF in a full-frame body, articulated LCD, focus peaking, balanced audio option, and the small & compact size that allows me to fly with very little and still keep my production value high. I recently acquired the A7 for its 60P capability with full manual control. On a whim, I also picked up the RX-10 because it just looked cool and seemed perfect for a budget super-wide to stick on jib-arms, sliders, and to attach to things for POV shots. Put simply, if the RX10 only shot video and cost twice as much as it does, it would still have almost no rival and be a great value. That it also makes fantastic stills is a huge bonus.
This image came from an assignment I shot up in Chicago in the first week I had the RX10. I was shooting all day at this law school and in the afternoon after I was all packed up and ready to head home, I got a call about shooting a quick portrait of four people. One of them had to catch a plane and I was told I had about ten minutes to pull something together. I remembered seeing the frosted lettering in the lobby area commons and how you could see right into “the loop” from that place. I also knew there was plenty of window light there so off I went in a big hurry. I had my A7 and a bunch of Nikon glass that I could have used with the metabones adapter, but then I realized every lens I had was duplicated in the RX10 and I thought, “let’s just travel light and go!” And go we did with this as the result:
I have been talking about the RX10 on my Facebook over the last few months and I have had a lot of photographer friends call me to ask me about more details when they see the images I’m producing with it. I got so many of these calls that I finally made up this joke to offer them:
So, three photographers are sitting in a bar. One says, “let’s use our imaginations and dream up the greatest camera ever! OK, it should be small, and lightweight,” the first says. “It should have a fast lens, at least f/2.8,” says another. “It should do great video and have built in image stabilization.” Another chimes in, “it should be able to shoot 60P, allow complete manual control of exposure and have a de-clicked aperture ring right on the lens.” It should be able take real microphones and have on-board phantom power from the camera.” “Yeah, and have a headphone jack so you can hear if there is a problem with audio before it’s too late,” says the first one. “I want it to shoot ten frames per second and make NO noise (laughter from around the table).” “The battery should last a long time and allow copious chimping throughout the day (chuckles).” “It should have a built-in ND filter so you could shoot wide open in bright sunlight for both video as well as stills. And it should sync flash at 1/1000th so you don’t have to take real lights and you could just use a small flash for portraits.” “OK, if we’re going crazy, it should have a Carl Zeiss lens on it and zoom from 24-200mm and keep the same aperture (more laughter).” “If you are going that far, you should be able to click one button and be able to send the image to your phone and onto the bride’s Facebook right from an assignment.” “One last thing, I want to be able to shoot squares like the old Hasselblads, 2:3, 4:3 for 8×10’s, and 16:9 for landscape and do in camera tilt-shift effects I can control.” Everyone is laughing now. When things quiet down a bit, the one who started the whole thing says, giggling, “All this for just $1298.” Everyone screams laughing and one falls out of the chair…
At this point, RX10 goes wherever I go, even when I take the heavier Nikons. Between the OSS on the RX10 and Adobe Premiere’s “warp stabilizer,” my Steady-Cam doesn’t get much use these days, but it’s OK as the vest always made me sweat anyways. Sony is way out ahead in almost everything regarding shooting stills and video. I’m very excited to see the new A7s with a hopefully a more quiet shutter in the future…
A friend of mine called me a couple weeks ago in a jam. He had hired a second photographer to shoot a wedding with him and just a few days before, he backed out. His contract with the bride specified two shooters. He called me and asked if I could help him out.
This is a good guy and so I agreed and the next day I headed towards Chattanooga on my motorcycle. It was a gorgeous day, and riding on the twisties to get to this barn in the countryside was pure joy. Because I elected to take the bike rather than my car, here is what I brought with me:
2-extra batteries (only used one)
1-8′ light stand
1-small Chimera light bank
1-Yongnuo 560II flash
1-set of Yongnuo radio remotes
1-good attitude, open mind, & rain gear just in case
Weddings are usually fairly stressful affairs with lots of cooks in the soup each with their own needs, emergencies that need plans, fires to put out, personalities to learn, and the pressure is always there to produce excellent work, capture the right moments, and do a good job for nice people.
When you are the second shooter covering a wedding, it’s a nearly stress-free situation. I could just concentrate on making nice images knowing that my buddy Mike was pulling the weight and dragging the gear. I had virtually no weight, and carried the RX10 all day. I had a “big time” as they say down here in East Tennessee. I made a few nice images and have no regrets about leaving the D4S that I bought the week prior at home. If I brought that to shoot, I would have had to have brought the two zooms and the weight of all that would have equaled OVER 4- RX10’s. Put another way, the total weight of the Nikon and two zooms would be 8.1 lb.. The RX-10 weighs just 1.8 lb.. Another comparison is really out there: Retail price on the Nikon stuff that would go from 24-200mm at f/2.8 is $10,300 vs. $1298 for a new RX10. Think about that! Here is a short video that I made which includes both stills and video that I captured with my RX10 and all hand-held: http://vimeo.com/90119636
In another recent shoot my subject was a bank president outside and show their corporate building in the background. The time for the shoot was not ideal: 1pm when the light is pretty much at its worst. I found a nice spot across the street in the shade, and was in a Hasselblad mood so I selected 1:1 on the RX10, and shot square. I was able to sync flash way up high and engaged the internal ND filter so I could shoot wide open. The combination of 80 ISO, NF filter, and the high sync speed allowed me to underexpose the blue sky and really make the woman stand out. Elapsed time for the whole shoot, you ask? About 3 minutes. It would have taken less time but the RX10 was set for 10 fps and it took me a while to find the right menu to get back to single frame the rest of the assignment. When you shoot with strobes outside, it can be really hard to see the LCD on the back of the camera. Not so with the RX10 as it was showing me what I was shooting as I was shooting each frame immediately after each pop of my little flash. I never had to even take my eye from the viewfinder.
OK, so the RX10 isn’t perfect as it only has a 1″ sensor, which is slightly smaller than APS-C, but the ability to shoot in bright sunlight with a low ISO and the ND filter means you can shoot at f/2.8 on the side of a glacier at noon. But it gives me excited pause for what its replacement might be. A 4K version of the Rx10 would be an amazing asset to many videographers, especially if it was capable of 60P at 4K!!! With the smaller sensor size, I wonder if Sony could pull that off. My Sony A6000 ha been pre-ordered and I’m excited to test with that new camera with it’s new sensor as well. The A6000 at $650 just might just be faster than your 1Dx or D4s. The videos that amateurs and camera store employees have posted are downright scary. My point is that as the Cold War rages one, white vs. black, Sony, Panasonic, Olympus, and Fuji are all working hard on the technology that we will all use in the immediate future. EVF’s are here to say and while I never thought I’d say it, they are better. The fact that Sony has elected to put over 2M pixels into the new A7s’s viewfinder is staggering. It should increase by double the ability to find sharp focus with fast lenses of any make.
Last week I used the RX1o on a cool assignment to shoot four Marines who will become JAG Corps. lawyers upon graduation from school. I started out lighting the flag which was pretty involved. The stars required a separate light as the blue was so dark next to the stripes; this required an additional head with a grid-spot to concentrate the light into just the blue area. Each Marine got their own 5 degree grid-spot to create the dramatic light, and each from a slightly different direction. It was a huge room that is actually a volleyball court most days, and we needed every square foot of it to make this image happen. Finally, the guys were patient and let us do our thing. I ended up shooting this on the Sony RX10 as it afforded me the depth of field with it’s 1″ sensor to carry focus through all four guys and still shoot wide open at f/2.8 with the internal ND filter on.
It’s tougher and tougher to find clients that are willing to pay for photographs like this one. I had a pick-up truck full of lighting equipment on hand. In the course of the 45 min. shoot, I used around $14,000 worth of Elinchrom strobes, light modifiers, and grip equipment. There was a total of 7 heads used to shoot the photograph here and an additional head for head-shots and portraits we also did at the same time. I started to shoot this image with the A7 and 55mm f/1.8 which is razor sharp but I could not carry the depth I needed for how I placed the Marines so the RX10 was an easy answer, once again. $14K in lighting to shoot an image with a $1200 camera; I like that ratio. It was a fun day and I’m happy with the picture. I know the guys are:
Things are really getting interesting right now and Sony seems to be able to respond at breakneck speed in developing new products that are all logarithmically better than the last generation from just a few months ago. All in all, I hope the “big two” wake up and smell this EVF coffee. Sony’s Java is tasting mighty fine to me while the “big two’s” cups are virtually empty. Sony’s lineup is really looking good right now with all kinds of possibility. They need to put out a whole lot more glass if the E mount cameras are going to really have a chance to take off. And they need to make Sony lenses for the A7 series and not just the pricey Zeiss versions—real photographers are having a hard time making a living these days. We need more glass that is reasonably priced as well as the high end faster versions of EVERYTHING. My wish list for E mount is pretty simple: I want a 135mm f/2 or 1.8, 90mm f/2, 35 f/2, a true 100-150mm macro at f/2.8 or 3.5, & a 14-24mm f/4 zoom to rival Nikon’s.
There are a lot of ways to spell Mirror-less but for my money, S-O-N-Y is how I choose to do so. The Panny stuff is awesome for video but is that crazy 4/3rds that I just can’t get my mind around when all I shoot is 16:9. The Fuji stuff right now is really hot for stills especially among my recovering newspaper peeps but the video is lack luster. Sony is also HUGE and has been a leader in the video biz forever. I feel like I’m right where I need to be, at least for now. I need some more work to start saving cash for the A7s so if any of you have work you could send my way, I’m al ears.