Posts Tagged ‘Nikon’

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Sony A7s Firmware Requests

Sunday, July 27th, 2014

Since the Sony A7s camera was released a few weeks ago, early adopters have been using the camera in the field shooting a variety of material with it, in both stills and motion. I personally pre-ordered it the day it was announced at NAB in April and received my camera as soon as they were released to the general public in the first week of July. I put the camera through a series of tests before using it on actual client work, and I just completed a somewhat major corporate video shot entirely on the A7s.
The camera is truly exceptional; Sony’s sensor technology has, very simply, put Canon and Nikon to shame. Most pros who I’ve spoken to agree though that the A7s’s firmware could use a little bit of polish. There are a number of requests for alterations to the firmware that have become almost universally agreed upon by the pro community.

Therefore, in an effort to make a great camera even better, I’m sharing this list (and I invite other pros familiar with the A7s to chime in with their suggestions) in hopes that Sony may listen to the feedback from the pro community and consider including some of these suggestions in the next version of the A7s firmware. This list is taken both from my own experience using the camera in a variety of settings shooting a variety of material as well as conversations with other users, and it presented in order from most basic (and hopefully most attainable) to most complex. (NOTE: As the A7s is primarily a video camera for me and only secondarily a stills camera, this list is biased towards video, although some of the items are applicable to stills shooting as well).

Sony A7s Firmware Requests

#1: In movie mode, allow shutter release button to be configured to start/stop movie recording (this is the single biggest one: EVERY video shooter I’ve spoken to is begging for this)
#2: Allow video record button to be configured as a custom button
#3: Allow the “APS-C Size Capture” menu item to be assigned to a custom button (at the moment there is no option to assign this function to a custom button)
#4: Allow the “Video Record Setting” menu item (where frame rate and codec are chosen) to be assigned to a custom button (like APS-C mode above, it currently can’t be)
#5: Allow the “FINDER/MONITOR” menu item (where EVF vs. screen use is configured) to be assigned to a custom button
#6:
 Move the “APS-C Size Capture” menu item out from where it is currently buried (in tab 5 of the gear menu) forward into a more prominent and accessible place in the shooting menu in the first couple of tabs
#7: Create display mode with histogram on same screen as all other info (scrolling through the display modes by pressing the “DISP” button only shows the histogram in 3rd screen where much other information is omitted
#8: Create option to reconfigure function of scroll wheels (a number of people, myself included, find the scroll wheels’ function unnatural; it would be nice to be able to configure how each of the three wheels works)
#9: Create iris-open function assignable to a custom button (being able to hold the lens iris to its maximum size by holding down a custom button would make manual focusing much faster & easier)

I would encourage everyone to share this page with Sony (you can tweet it to @SonyProUSA, @SonyProEurope, or any other Sony contacts you may have). And if you’re a pro who uses the A7s and has a suggestion I haven’t included above, please mention it in the comments below!

I already love the A7s… and now I’d love to make it even better. :-)

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Posted in Equipment, Gear | 10 Comments »

Harvard Yard Portrait

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

Yesterday I did a fun, quick portrait shoot for a young entrepreneur and businessman who wanted a professional portrait for his resumé and his personal website. Since earning his master’s degree from the Harvard Kennedy School, the subject has founded a number of consulting services doing business both in the United States and abroad. The client is young, dynamic and technology-savvy, so we wanted a portrait that conveyed these concepts. As such, a traditional head-and-shoulders corporate headshot was too old-fashioned for this application.

Since his experience with Harvard was a substantial part of his background, the client decided he wanted to use Harvard Yard as the setting for his portrait. This presented somewhat of a challenge because while we wanted to capture the overall aesthetic of the school, I very much wanted to avoid being boxed into the stereotypes that come along with many people’s perceptions of Harvard. So, we had to use the setting subtly, so that the image didn’t scream “Harvard!!”

I went down to Harvard Square the day before the shoot scout out a couple of locations and see what might work well. The architecture of the buildings in the yard is quite unmistakably Ivy League, and many of Harvard’s buildings, perhaps most notably its Widener Library, are iconic. Even so, the campus offered plenty of quiet, tucked away corners that could serve very well for my purpose.

The day of the shoot I arrived with a minimum complement of gear, because I wanted to be portable and I knew we would have only a short period of time for set-up. I brought my Nikon camera body, a number of lenses, a small external light unit and a translucent disc light softener with stand. As it turned out, the sky was very overcast that day, diffusing the natural light and making the softening disc unnecessary.

I had spoken extensively with the client before the shoot (something I always like to do, so that photographer and subject can begin to get comfortable with each other, a process that is so important in shooting a good portrait!) so I had a good idea of the concepts he wanted the portrait to convey, so we were able to get started very quickly. I knew that to prevent the image from associating too closely with Harvard I would want to achieve a very shallow depth of field and blow the background way out of focus, so I initially chose a 70mm f/2.8 lens.

We moved around the campus trying different compositions and chatting about the client’s business. I always enjoy talking with people I meet about their backgrounds and what they do. Everyone has got a unique story and I’ve found that if you listen you can learn something from just about everyone. We were on a very tightly limited schedule and as time was running short I wanted to try one last composition. This time I selected my 50mm f/1.4 lens (this is my favorite lens. It yields very sharp images, and has such a wide aperture that it allows extremely shallow depth of field). Usually for a portrait I like a lens longer than 50mm (in the 70-120mm range), but in the location we were working there wasn’t sufficient room to back up (besides, I liked the very shallow depth of field). By now both the subject and I were getting cold and starting to shiver, but we had established a good dynamic and we were comfortable with each other, so I wanted to stick it out a bit longer and see what results I’d get. Sure enough, it was these last few minutes when I captured what turned out to be the best images of the day.

semil

Chris Conti Photography Portrait Photography #4

If I had had more time I would have liked to set up a bit of lighting gear (a bounce reflector to fill in the subject’s eyes, etc.), but alas we were out of time. The client had wanted a head-and-shoulders portrait that portrayed him as competent and capable, but that also was a little bit edgy, and I think we accomplished that; both the client and I were happy with the results.

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Posted in Equipment, Field Notes, Gear, Projects | No Comments »

The Photograph That Almost Got Me Arrested

Friday, January 8th, 2010

I think I’m a pretty normal person. A law-abiding citizen. Aside from the occasional speeding ticket here and there, I’ve never had any serious brushes with the law. But a couple of days ago, I almost got arrested. Why? For trying to take a picture.

You see, my father has worked in health care for his entire career. For the last fifteen years or so before he retired last summer, he served as the president of a hospital in Portland, Maine called Maine Medical Center, and for those fifteen or so years, he poured his heart and soul into that hospital. So as a sort of retirement present, I’ve wanted for a while to shoot a landscape shot of the hospital (it is a sprawling complex with many buildings, and sits very dramatically on top of the highest hill in Portland) for him to remember the place that was such a big part of his life.

For a few months I’ve been casually scouting out the area, trying to find the best angle from which to shoot the photo. I think I’ve found the best spot, a highway bridge that crosses part of Portland harbor offering an unobstructed view of the hospital buildings on the hilltop. This angle faces east, shooting from the west, meaning that at sunset, the buildings are lit up by a wonderful warm glow. So, a few days ago I set out with some gear a little while before sunset to take the shot.

I pulled over to the side of the highway on the bridge and began to set up. I pulled out my tripod, Nikon body and 70-200mm f/2.8 telephoto lens. At the distance I was shooting from, I could fill the frame at 200mm, flattening the image and giving it sharp depth of field throughout the image. The sun was getting low and the light was wonderful. Everything was great.

Unfortunately what I had failed to consider is that the location from which I was shooting also happened to be nearly precisely in line with the runway of the nearby Portland Jetport, and was directly beneath the landing path of approaching airplanes. And in our post-9/11 world, somebody with a tripod and a big long black thing mounted on it right next to an airport runway can be cause for concern. So just as I was finishing setting up, reading the light for my exposure, I hear a voice behind me say, “What are you doing?” I turned around to see a Maine State Police trooper staring at me with his hand on his sidearm.

After I explained that I was a photographer and was merely trying to photograph the hospital, the officer very politely but sternly explained that because I was under the flight path of the airplanes, my presence had alerted the security people at the airport, and that since as a result of the proximity to the airport this particular section of road was designated “emergency stopping only,” I would have to leave or I could be arrested.

So I packed up my equipment, apologized to the officer and left, without having shot a single exposure. I searched for another appropriate place from which to shoot the image, but the best I could find was another point much closer to the hospital from which I shot the image below.

As you can see, the light is unattractive, the angle is bad (shooting up from below) and there are obstructions, including light poles, trees, chimneys and ugly distractions in the foreground. The image is worthless.

mmc bad

So I’ll have to keep looking for a way to get this shot. Moral of the story? In the post-9/11 world, photographers need to stay away from airports.

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Posted in Field Notes, Projects | 1 Comment »

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