Posts Tagged ‘stills’

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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 »

Rolling Shutter vs. Global Shutter: Just Learned Something New About My GoPro

Sunday, July 28th, 2013

On this rainy Sunday morning I was just sorting through images I shot during my recent trip to Greece, and I learned something new (and surprising) about my GoPro camera: even when shooting stills, its electronic shutter is rolling, not global. If you just thought “huh?”, then read on.

On a short flight from the island of Milos back to the Athens airport I set up the GoPro on a suction cup mount pointing out the airplane window to do little timelapse of the flight. Looking at one of the still frames from the timelapse, I saw this:

GoPro still frame shot out the airplane window. Well, I guess that answers that question!

The above image is not Photoshopped in any way (other than the watermark). “What in God’s name is going on with that propeller, the blades are split in pieces!” you might say. Photographers, videographers and some others knowledgeable about electronics will know immediately what is happening here. The propeller blades did not, in fact, break into pieces during my flight (thankfully); the blades appear this way in this image as a result of a curious side effect of the way certain digital camera sensors work called “rolling shutter.”

Digital cameras’ sensors are composed of millions of individual pixels arrayed in a grid of rows and columns. DSLR cameras have a physical, mechanical shutter that starts and stops the collection of light hitting the sensor, but other types of cameras (point & shoots, cellphone cameras, and cameras like GoPros) do not have a mechanical shutter, and instead start and stop the process of collecting light on the sensor electronically rather than mechanically; essentially the circuitry in the cameras tells the pixels in the sensor when to start and stop “looking.” On many cameras, the pixels start and stop “looking” the way you’d expect: all at the same time. Cameras that behave this way are referred to as “global shutter,” because the “shutter” (which is in fact just an electrical signal) acts globally, on the entire sensor at once. Some other cameras though (notably, most digital video cameras) use what is referred to as a “rolling shutter” in that instead of reading the entire grid of the sensor’s pixels at once, they read the pixels one row at a time: the camera records what the first (top) row of pixels “sees,” then the row below it, then the row below that and so on, on a “rolling” basis until it reaches the bottom row. This process happens in a fraction of a second, so it is usually fast enough that it isn’t relevant to the image, especially when recording individual, still frames instead of video.

But when photographing something that’s moving very, very quickly (like an airplane propeller at full throttle!) that fraction of a second during which the camera moves from recording the top of the image to the bottom matters: by the time the camera gets around to recording the bottom of the image, the subject recorded at the top of the image has already moved, so in the finished image you’re seeing the same subject recorded in different positions. With a spinning propeller, that results in images like the one above, distorted by the passage of time.

Many cameras use a global shutter when recording still images (as opposed to video) and I thought my GoPro did too. I knew the GoPro used a rolling shutter during video recording (that is quite common on all but the highest-end professional video cameras), but it turns out that it uses a rolling shutter during still frame shooting as well.

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

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