I’ve decided to finish out 2021 with two of my favorite weekend workshops here in Montana! Both of these workshops I’ve had the privilege of teaching over the years and they have some of my favorite locations to photograph in the fall. These workshops will be held in October and will be limited to a small group size. I will be offering the Bitterroot Valley Workshop Oct. 15-17 and the Seeley-Swan Valley Workshop Oct. 22-24, please see the workshops page for more details or to reserve your spot. Here are a few images from our previous trips over the years.
Fall Photography Montana
I’ve finally wrapped up a few of my fall trips here in Big Sky Country for September and October. Talk about a weird fall! Our September had some beautiful weather and fall colors were slowly coming in until we had a crazy arctic blast from the north putting things in a deep freeze throughout October. Unfortunately this took a lot of the fall color with it. We had a record breaking snowstorm the week after my September Glacier National Park trip that dropped up to four feet of snow in some areas of the state. Crazy!
So it’s been an interesting fall here in Montana to say the least. Despite the lack of color, we still managed to get some great stuff. One tree that was immune to the early freeze was the Larch and these were going full force during my Seeley-Swan Valley trip. Really breathtaking up there this year and even more so with some fresh snow.
All in all it’s been a great fall, now shifting gears and looking forward to some upcoming winter trips! Here’s a few from the last couple months in Montana.
Perfect Photo Backpack?
Recently I was doing a bit of downsizing and decided I wanted to refine how I organize my gear when on the road. I thought it might be helpful to share my findings for those who are still on the fence picking out a new camera backpack or those on the quest for that “perfect” bag. I do have a surprising collection of bags in my office from that particular quest and I’m sure I’m going to find it one of these days! However, I think I’ve found one that’s pretty darn close.
For years I had been using Gura Gears bags as I really liked their light weight materials and durability. However a few years ago I was lured over to Think Tank Photo’s sister company Mindshift Gear, more out of curiosity than anything. At the time I was in need of a smaller bag for short day hikes and picked up one of their Photocross sling bags. I was very impressed with the thoughtfulness of design and functionality, it also turned out to have some great durability.
Eventually I switched over from the Gura Gear bag I was using at the time to Mindshift Gear’s Firstlight 40L as my main bag for travel. Right away I noticed a big difference in comfort when hitting the trail. The Mindshift Firstlight 40L is designed more like a traditional hiking backpack with adjustable torso system and more heavily padded straps. This makes a big difference for those trying to get a proper fit where the bag rides properly on the hips, distributing the carrying weight more efficiently and comfortably. Here’s my review on that bag and two others.
One of the most comfortable bags I have hiked with, hands down! With the adjustable torso feature and heavily padded straps, this will fit just about anyone looking more for a traditional fitting hiking backpack. Its storage space is huge, allowing you to fit some pretty large telephotos if you are so inclined. I usually carry two bodies with a wide angle and 100-400mm attached along with 2-3 other lenses, filters, flash and other miscellaneous essentials. This thing swallows all of that up and then some. The durability has been good as well. After a couple years of heavy use, no rips or tears and frankly it doesn’t look like it’s been used much. All good signs.
Now a few thing I don’t like. The main front zipper access is just one big opening, allowing for things like filter holders, batteries, snacks, a light weight windbreaker, etc., but not great pockets for organization nor very much space. It also has access for a laptop, but with very little to no padding. I’ve never traveled or hiked around with a laptop in there, so I can’t say how it would hold up, just not a feature I would use on this pack. When I travel, especially when leading workshops and trips, I like to have an extra rain jacket, maybe a super lightweight down jacket, first aid kit, GPS, water bottle, some snacks and a few miscellaneous items. Very few packs are designed to carry a lot of extra stuff other than camera equipment and this has always been one of my main gripes. This bag does OK there, but it would be a nice if it was a little more roomy in the extra compartment area. It does have an additional side compartment that has storage for smaller items.
Pros: Super comfortable, will carry a ton of photo gear, very durable, will carry a full size Nalgene bottle in its side pockets
Cons: Not as many options for organization with extra compartments, doesn’t carry much non-photo gear
For anyone not familiar with Gura Gear’s bags, they were created in 2008 by photographer Andy Biggs and in 2014 aquired the Tamarac company. They are extremely lightweight bags designed for international travel, specifically photo safaris. The secret of these bags was not only the super durable lightweight sailcloth material used in their construction but also the butterfly design opening with two separate gear compartments allowing photographers to avoid exposing all their gear when opening in harsh environments. Also, it allowed for great organization with many photographers carrying a large telephoto on one side and the rest of their gear on the other. You could also stuff a surprising amount of gear in these and still be able to get on a plane. These bags were awesome and I’ve used just about all the different models they’ve had over the years. Recently they released a new bag, the Kiboko 30L 2.0 which pays tribute to their first bag the original Kiboku that started it all, of course with a few revisions. I decided to give this one a try on my quest for a slightly slimmer bag. Everything about this bag is very similar to the first. The use of sailcloth material, butterfly opening option and carrying handles. The front compartments are designed a little differently now allowing full zipper access (previous models only allowed partial zipper access). The bag size has been slightly altered from the original, not only in depth and width, but also slightly in length. So it’s a little tighter fit. Especially for pro size bodies like Canon 1DX or Nikon D5, just doesn’t have the depth it should for these.
I like a lot about this bag, the design is similar to their others with the great lightweight sailcloth, which is extremely durable and seemingly indestructible. It is the lightest of these three bags, coming in at just under 4lbs, one of its main selling points. Organization is great in the front pockets for filters, batteries, cards, etc. However there are a few drawbacks and reasons why I returned it. There isn’t much space for carrying any extra non-photo gear like a jacket or anything else you might want to stuff in the front. This bag was specifically designed for those out on Safari, shooting from a vehicle and for air travel, so its lack of room makes sense. This backpack is also not the greatest on the trail either, especially when hiking more than a few miles. I have hiked with theses bags a lot over the years and they are tolerable but not the greatest in comfort.
Pros: Great for air travel, very organized system for photo gear, durable, super lightweight
Cons: Not a lot of extra space for non-photo gear, uncomfortable for hiking, shallow depth
Right around the time I was looking at new bags, Mindshift just released their new and improved Backlight series with the 45L Elite. I had tried the regular Backlight 36L a couple years back and had preferred the volume of the Firstlight 40L at the time. Now that I was looking to travel with less gear and looking for more functionality, the Backlight 45L Elite looked like it might be the ticket.
Right away when packing up this bag I knew it was going to work perfectly. A ton of thought has gone into this bag, I mean a ton. All of the little nit picks, gripes and complaints I’ve had with outdoor photo backpacks have been addressed.
For one I can stuff a ton of non-photo gear in this pack. The front opening is huge! On my last trip I had everything I needed with room to spare. Rain jacket, rain pants, lightweight down jacket, first aid kit, gps unit, snacks, hat, gloves. No problem. You can even slip in a laptop if you’re so inclined. The top of the pack also has two extra compartments as well. This make going on longer hikes or leading groups nice, because you can have everything you need with you on the trail. Holds water bottles, has good tripod carrying system and even features a cool little miscellaneous side pouch on the waist belt for holding snacks, memory cards, or whatever you want.
One other thing I want to touch on is its construction. It’s made from lightweight sailcloth material, which is totally bombproof. I love this material and it’s one of the reasons I liked Gura Gears bags so much. It’s also the thing that got me excited about this bag enough to try it out. This cloth is a good choice paired with a back opening pack like the Backlight 45L Elite. The front of the pack is going to be set down on the ground a lot and will take some serious abuse over time. So far I’ve taken this bag on a few workshops through rainforests, beaches and mountains environments with plenty of dust, rain, rocks and mud and it’s holding up fantastic.
The main internal function of this bag is made up of removable compartments that hold all your photo gear. This can be configured for different uses. You can opt for a small removable compartment that will allow you to carry much more non-photo related gear, especially if you want to do some overnighters with this bag. If you want to carry a ton of camera equipment you can get a larger insert that will take up all of the internal space. I have the original insert that came with the bag and you can see in the photo below how much stuff I have crammed in here. This insert does not fill up the whole internal space and allows for a little extra room up top acessed by a top zipper.
Fit and comfort are very good on the Backlight 45L Elite. This bag however does not have an adjustable torso system like the Firstlight 40L does, so everyone’s fit is going to be different. I’m 5’10” with an average torso length and this fits me very well. The waist belt rides on the top of my hips and fits like it should. So your results may vary. The straps on this are pretty good, but not as comfortable as the Firstlight, but definitely better than Gura Gears. In overall comfort I would probably give this an 8.5/10 and the Firstlight a 10/10.
All in all, the Backlight checks all of my needs as an outdoor photographer. It’s a rugged pack that will hold a wide variety of photo gear, a lot of non-photo gear, great organizational compartments and isn’t an overall huge pack. It’s tall but its depth and width are slimmer.
The only downsides I can find is the lack of torso adjustment( for obvious reasons), slightly less comfortable than the Firstlight 40L and weighs a little bit more than the other two packs. The added features and design of this pack are enough for me to overlook the extra weight.
Pros: Lots of extra space, great organization, rugged, comfortable, customizable
Cons: Slightly heavier than some bags, no available torso adjustment, could use better padded shoulder straps
Volume 45 liters
So if you’re looking for the ultimate outdoor pack, the Backlight 45L Elite may be the one that’s right for you. If you want one that’s the ultimate in comfort and holds the maximum amount of gear, the Firstlight 40L would be a great choice. If you’re primarily shooting out of vehicle and doing a lot of airport to vehicle trips, the Gura Gear Kiboko 30L 2.0 is a pretty sweet bag to consider.
There are a lot of other options out there for photo backpacks, especially smaller ones, these just happen to be a few I’ve recently tried. You may look at Think Tank Photo or F-Stop bags if you don’t find one with Mindshift or Gura Gear. For now I think I’ve found the one that’s as close to perfect as it gets, for now:)
Back from Glacier National Park
Just returned from another epic trip in Glacier National Park! We had a great workshop with a fantastic group of travelers. I think someone had the good sunrise mojo because we had wonderful clouds and amazing color every single morning of the trip. Two of these we had no wind which allowed for some perfect landscapes. It’s not everyday we have these conditions come together, but when they do it’s magical!
We had great wildlife viewing as well and saw around 7 or 8 grizzlies and a black bear with cubs, along with the usually Bighorn Sheep, Mountain Goats, and some smaller critters. A wonderful trip and sorry to have to go. This workshop also marks my one year anniversary shooting Sony and I’ve been nothing but impressed with how this system is performing, still absolutely no regrets on making the switch last year from Canon.
I’m really looking forward to getting back up to the park and will be conducting my fall workshop in late September. Here are a few shots from last week.
Sony a7R III Review
After finally having some time in the field with Sony’s a7RIII I thought I would share a few of my thoughts on their high resolution performer.
Initially impressions were high when I received this last year. As with the a9 the body is nearly identical and a majority of the button layout as well.
My first thoughts:
Body ergonomics and size are very nice. Some have complained about the body not fitting well in their grip and having the pinky dangle aimlessly, which I can see happening for some. However I didn’t find this to be too bothersome. In addition I added a Really Right Stuff L plate to mine, so this was really a moot point on my end.
I do like the aestihiccs of Sony’s body . Sony has always had a strong vision with their design not only with their camera line but with all their electronics. I certainly think this carries over well to their Alpha lineup.
I do have one gripe though (as noted on the a9) and that is Sony’s lack of weather sealing on the bottom of the camera. Roger Cicala did a complete breakdown of this on Lensrentals which illustrates this particular shortcoming.
It’s not a deal breaker for me, but I know it has been for some, especially those working in critically demanding situations.
In all honesty, I’ve shot this body in days of down pour in the rainforest, some of the dustiest backroads, below freezing conditions and I’ve yet to have an issue. You just don’t want to set your camera down in a puddle of water, probably wouldn’t fair well.
That aside, the rest of the body is fully sealed much like the a9 and for most of us, this is sufficient.
Controls are nicely laid out, buttons are easy to press and everything is pretty much where you need it. I do like the customization, as you can prioritize certain buttons for certain features, really making things work for your own particular style of shooting. I do wish however they would move the menu button to the right side of the camera. If you are looking through the viewfinder and want to jump into the menu, you have to remove your eye and reach across with your right hand which just feels awkward to me.
So lets talk about what’s under the hood. Everything inside the a7rIII is specactular for the most part. The sensor is one of the best I’ve used for overall color rendition, resolution and dynamic range. I noticed the dynamic range and pleasant color rendition right away after reviewing my first shots with this camera. It handles high ISO noise very well and I’m comfortable shooting up to ISO6400 all day long. The dynamic range performance was also very noticeable in a positive way, being able to bring in so much more shadow detail than on some previous sensors I’ve used.
Not only is the performance of the sensor impressive but it also seems to repel dust extremely well.
As with with all mirrorless cameras there is no mirror to protect when changing lenses, leaving your sensor exposed to the elements. I’ve had no issues keeping the sensor clean, matter of fact I don’t think I’ve had to wet clean this sensor once since I’ve had it. Very good coating and sensor clean technology.
Performance seems to hit a sweet spot with me for this camera. It shoots ten frames per second which is completely adequate for almost all wildlife and fast moving subjects and it has some of the best autofocus I’ve used on any camera. Matter of fact the auto focus was one of the first things that caught my attention when I started shooting with it. Not only does it lock on and track subjects incredibly well, but how it handles busy and distracting elements was what impressed me the most. Tracking a moving animal through the brush or trees, following a bird in flight with busy backgrounds; all handled extremely well.
My only couple gripes I had with performance related more to the processing with Sony’s software and chip. The first thing I noticed was the seemingly long load times when formatting a card. It usually takes around 8-10 seconds to format a card (64gb Sandisk 300MB/s). Now this may seem like a trivial amount, but when you have amazing light changing or wildlife in action and your card fills up, that extra time you have to wait can be the difference in getting the shot. Most formatting I was used to on DSLRs and other systems was near instantaneous with maybe a second or two to accomplish. I imagine Sony will improve on this with future models or updates.
The other complaint I had was on a similar note. The ability of the a7rIII to capture sequences with a high buffer is nice, but it can relegate certain functions on the camera inoperative while it’s buffering. In real world shooting this can be prohibitive to workflow and it is something that needs to be improved on. One example I keep running into is switching from full format to aps-c mode when shooting wildlife. The a7rIII will give the appropriate field of view through the viewfinder when switching from full frame to aps-c and visa versa, but not when the camera’s buffering. The usual scenario will be me shooting bursts of wildlife in action and wanting to get some extra reach and recompose the scene, but unable to switch to aps-c mode as the camera is processing the preceding images. Again these might seem trivial on paper, but in the field these things are hiccups in the process of getting the shot.
Standout features that I love:
The main selling point of the a7rIII and what I love about this camera is it’s “do all” ability. It’s such a well rounded camera particularly with it’s 42 mp sensor providing superior resolution for printing and it’s flexibility to shoot in 18mp aps-c mode all the while delivering 10fps and industry leading auto focus.
If I had to travel with just one body, this is the one I would grab. When I’m out shooting wildlife and need some extra reach, I like being able to switch back and forth from full frame to aps-c. Sure you can do this in post, but to have real field of view though the viewfinder helps with composing for me.
After shooting Canon for around 20 years and using many other systems, the Sony a7RIII may be one of my favorite cameras I’ve used thus far. It’s the camera I always want to grab when going out.
While there are some considerations and gripes I have with some of the delay in it’s processor when dealing with the camera’s buffer and an omission of a weather sealing on the bottom, these aren’t deal breakers for me in such a well rounded camera that delivers outstanding files. I really like Sony’s overall system between bodies and lenses and in my first year of switching over to them, I am still extremely satisfied with my switch. I’m also looking forward to adding a couple of their recently announced lenses to my arsenal particularly their 24mm 1.4 and the wallet-draining 400mm 2.8 at some point.
These are just a few of my thoughts from being out there in the field. There are many other technical intricacies of the system, but hopefully this helps some of those that are choosing between Sony’s offerings or getting into mirrorless for the first time.
Sony a9 Review
Sony A9 Review
With my recent switch over to Sony I thought I would share a few of my thoughts and experiences with their bodies and lenses for those looking for some comparisons and also those possibly contemplating the switch from DSLR to Mirrorless.
While a majority of my work is landscapes, I also do a fair amount of wildlife photography and always have a dedicated camera in my bag that meets those demands.
Having been a Canon shooter for the last twenty years, the last bodies I used for wildlife were the 1DX series as well as the 5D mkIV on occasion. Those were some serious workhorses and stood up well in demanding conditions. Looking forward, I knew I needed something at least on par with them.
When I first switched to Sony I picked up their a7rIII. This camera in itself is really a “do all” camera. It shoots 10fps, has amazing autofocus and its 45 megapixels can be put into crop mode for extra reach. So when adding a second body for wildlife, I was really on the fence. Should I get another a7rIII or go for the a9? In reality the a7rIII could do just about everything I need for wildlife, but I decided to bite the bullet and pay the extra $1000 at the time for the a9 to see if it was really worth it for a couple key standout features.
When unboxing the a9, the first thing I noticed was how close in appearance it was to the a7RIII. Body size is identical and design is very similar. Which is a good thing!
The one difference users will notice is a second dial up top that is used for both autofocus and frame rate selection. The other dial up top (which is the same on the a7rIII) is used for shooting modes and also custom mode selection. The back of the camera is well laid out with easy to reach buttons as well as a dedicated joystick for autofocus point selection. The memory card compartment has a nice pop open door and will take dual sd cards.
Overall I like the design. It’s compact and has a good layout. Some have complained on the ergonomics being a bit small giving the pinky finger no place to rest when gripping the camera. I can see why this might have an issue for some, but I don’t find it bothersome. I also use a Really Right Stuff L Plate on both of my bodies and that adds extra space to the bottom alleviating this issue entirely. I imagine Sony may address this in future body iterations as it’s something you continuously see brought up in reviews and online forums.
The body of the a9 is tough and seems pretty solid. It’s made of an all magnesium alloy body and for the most part is well sealed against dust and moisture. The one caveat being the bottom of the camera. Sony did leave out a fully sealed battery compartment as well as a seal on the bottom plate of the camera (more on this in a bit), leaving it more susceptible to moisture.
Sony’s EVFs are very impressive. The a9 uses a 3.9 million dot OLED with a 120fps refresh rate and frankly I think it’s the best I’ve used on any mirrorless system. This goes for both the a9 and the a7rIII as they both use the same EVF. I really don’t notice that I’m using an EVF during most shooting situations, it’s that good. One of the standout features with all mirrorless and not just with the a9, is the added bonus of being able to overlay your exposure info, histogram, view realtime exposure, focus peaking, etc…
Since switching from DSLRs I find the EVF advantages have grown on me so much that I really wouldn’t want to switch back to an optical finder.
What I like and what I don’t
The two standout features that I purchased the a9 for were its blackout free shooting through the EVF and its 20fps shooting.
It does both of these things very very well.
When shooting blackout free and using high frame rates, you are required to use the electronic shutter on the a9. In addition to blazing speeds, this also gives you complete silent shooting if you so choose. I have shutter replication sound enabled on mine most of the time, I use it just for reference though. I didn’t know if I was going to like this at first, as I’ve always been used to the familiar satisfying clunk of the shutter, but it really didn’t bother me one bit!
Tracking moving animals blackout free when shooing high frame rates is huge. It allows you to better frame and compose the animal in the scene, especially when panning.
After shooting thousands of images through the a9, I would say if you are a dedicated wildlife shooter or looking for a second body to fulfill those needs, both of these features are worth the extra cost.
Also before I forget, I should mention its autofocus system. On paper it’s slightly better than the a7rIII, but in all honesty I can’t really tell any real world difference. They’re both so darn stinking good that maybe if all I shot were sports or wildlife day in and day out then maybe I might be able to differentiate. But at this level, its spot on. Matter of fact, I really feel like it performs much better than my Canon systems did and that’s really saying something.
I’ve photographed a number of situations using multi autofocus points tracking animals through very busy situations which normally would give most systems trouble, but almost always it stays on point. Also if you like face and eye detection, the technology will leave your jaw on the ground, at least it did for me. Photographing my kids running around, the face detect never misses and enabling the eye focus, it locks on every time.
Now a couple small gripes. First the menu system. Come on Sony, lets get things organized! I won’t go into this too much as there’s a ton of critiques on this already, but it could be better arranged. It still takes me time to find my way around, definitely not a deal breaker but can be improved upon.
The other big thing I’ve heard gripes about, not just on the a9, but across their other bodies as well, is the lack of weather sealing on the bottom of the camera. Be sure to see Roger’s tear down on Lens Rentals if you want to see the innards of a Sony and also the weather sealing issue addressed in detail. Besides the omission of sealing on the bottom, the rest of the camera is tightly sealed for tough use. I don’t know why they did this, but it’s turned some photographers who routinely shoot in rough environments away from investing in Sony’s system.
Initially I had concerns about this, as I do routinely shoot in some pretty unforgiving environments.
However, I spent numerous days this summer and into fall shooting in torrential rain storms, some of the dustiest environments you can imagine and both of my Sonys came out just fine. On one trip I spent 4 days in the mountains of Montana in some serious torrential downpours using a Lenscoat Raincover just as I did with my Canon’s and not one problem.
After that experience, I’m not worried one bit. Still mindful when out, but not worried. I will say on future builds going forward, put the darn seal in!
So I’ve put the a9 through its paces, worked in the some of the usual demanding situations I’ve shot in over the past 20 years, and came out with big smiles. I really love this camera, it just feels right, especially paired with Sony’s 100-400mm. I’ve also added the additional battery grip for better handling and vertical shooting controls and it feels like a little solid brick in the hands.
In summary, if you’re looking for a fast, predictable and reliable body for sports or wildlife, the a9 delivers. Is it worth paying the extra cash above the a7rIII? I would say yes if you’re a dedicated wildlife or sports shooter who needs every last bit of help making your job easier in the field and really need those few extra features this body offers.
2019 Montana Weekend Workshops
2019 Montana Fall Weekend Workshops are now listed!
We had probably one of the best fall seasons I’ve seen in all the years I’ve been photographing Montana. Colors were really popping in the western part of the state and we had some great opportunities on our trips.
Both of my Fall Weekend Workshops are located in western Montana, so if you want to visit Montana and don’t have the extra time to commit to a longer workshop, these trips are a great way to get a taste of the Montana landscape in fall.
Here are a few images from this year’s trips.
Switching to Sony
My Switch to Sony
This last year has been a very interesting one to say the least and I’ve felt somewhat like a fish out of water for the better part of it when it comes to my camera system.
For some reason or another late last year I got a wild hair to go all in on Mirrorless and sold off every single bit of my Canon gear just like that. Completely nuts, I know! (I had been primarily shooting Canon since I started photography nearly 20 years ago).
I decided to jump into Fujifilm’s medium format system while also supplementing it with their X system for longer lens stuff. First off I’ll say that Fujifilm’s cameras are extremely fun to shoot and their lenses are superb in every respect. Their 50s medium format system is wonderful with incredible image quality, but certainly designed for a more specific type of photographer. Their X system is also great and well rounded for APS-C shooters, a good fit for photographers wanting to lighten their load.
With that said, I really wanted to make Fujifilm work for me, but in the end my own particular shooting style along with their lens limitations of the medium format system and a few other issues with their X system (which I’ll touch on in a later post) had me back at square one.
For my own shooting style I really needed a full frame sensor along with a mature lineup of zoom lenses and was determined to stay with a mirrorless system. After doing some more dipping of toes in the water I decided to take the plunge with Sony and to see what all the fuss was about.
I picked up an A7rIII and an A9 with their entire lineup of G Master lenses as well as their excellent 12-24mm f4 G lens. I also added their wireless flash system and transmitter.
I received my full kit just in time for my upcoming workshop in Glacier National Park and what better place to test out a new camera system! I was able to spend time in the field evaluating the system with both landscapes and wildlife, really putting it through its paces. I’ve also had the opportunity to travel and shoot with it the last couple months so I feel pretty confident by now to make an overall assessment.
Here’s my take: Sony has developed a superb mirrorless system that rivals and exceeds anything I have shot with in DSLR’s and other mirrorless cameras. Their quality of design and performance deliver.
So what’s it like to shoot? Here are a few of my thoughts on “real world use” of what I like, what can be improved and everything else.
Right away I was impressed with the attention to detail and overall build quality on their bodies.
The bodies are high-rigidity magnesium alloy, have fairly thorough weather sealing (I’ll touch on this in a bit) and have a button layout that works. The resolution on their viewfinders is as high as anything out there and looks great. I also like the tilt screen and quality of the back LCDs. So overall layout, viewfinder and aesthetics work well for me. The bodies are compact and much less in size to a DSLR.
Battery life seems to be good and not too different then what I was used to with DSLRs. Although I will note that when shooting wildlife and constantly using the EVF for extended periods of time it can wear things down compared to DSLRs, nothing too bad but worth noting. An obvious issue with all mirrorless cameras.
The camera feels very comfortable in my hand. However, without an L plate on the camera or bottom plate for that matter, I can see what some folks are saying about the ergonomics being a bit small for some people’s hands and how the pinky finger has nowhere to go when gripping the camera. I would agree with this, but I don’t see it as being terrible or completely uncomfortable. For me this issue doesn’t matter as I have Really Right Stuff L Plates on both bodies and with an L plate it’s a perfect fit giving a spot for all your fingers to rest. Also if you’re using a battery grip, it’s a non issue.
I imagine Sony will address this with future releases as it’s a topic brought up frequently in photography forums.
The cameras menu system is another area of contention, with photographers claiming that it’s confusing, unorganized and hard to navigate.
I would say I agree with those sentiments for the most part. They could have done better and the way it’s currently laid out makes navigating to certain areas hard to remember. For instance every time I go to format a card I have trouble remembering exactly where to go and there are a few other much used options that take a little bit each time to find. This isn’t a deal breaker for me, but I do hope they improve upon this.
The last negative I have with both the a7rIII and the a9 is the weather sealing. Both bodies are very well sealed on the top, sides, back, everywhere except the bottom. The battery door and bottom of the camera are not sealed at all. Why they did this I do not know. There are many photographers who have not bought into the Sony system on this one oversight and it kills me that a company designing a camera for professional photographers would make the decision to leave out a tiny little rubber seal. It’s certainly cost Sony some customers.
Now this isn’t exactly a huge deal for most, but in today’s climate in the photo world, every little thing counts as competition has become rather fierce and photographers are ever more so demanding.
But in real world use you are very unlikely to have a problem unless you’re setting your camera down in a puddle or really getting dumped on without a camera cover. This is probably the only thing that really bothers me on these cameras, but I’m willing to roll with it as I love everything else about their systems. We’ll see how they fair, so far so good though. I’ve had a few trips in the rain and some days shooting waterfalls in the mist and everything has worked just fine. Be sure to check out Roger Cicala’s teardown on Lens Rentals to get the whole lowdown.
Impressive! That was my first thought when I was testing out their new glass. Great build quality and design. All of their G Master lenses feel solid and are tack sharp. Zoom and focal rings turn smoothly and have a feeling of quality. In addition all of the G Master lenses are fully weather sealed. The optics are really outstanding and coming from Canon I was surprised to see most of their G Master lenses producing better results then Canon’s equivalents. If you visit DXOMark you can view lens tests revealing some interesting comparisons with Sony. Most are out-resolving Canon and Nikon by just a hair.
I have absolutely nothing negative to say about Sony’s lenses, I think they’re some of the best out there and image quality is tack sharp. I really really like these lenses (I have my eye on you 400mm 2.8!)
The first thing I noticed when I sat down to Lightroom was the dynamic range and proprietary color of Sony’s sensor. The dynamic range on the a7RIII is amazing and I find a lot more shooting situations where I’m only taking one exposure rather than two to blend or foregoing a graduating filter altogether. Very impressive indeed! The colors are also very good, although I will say out of all the camera systems I’ve used, I still think Canon has a leg up in this department, not that the Sony colors are inferior they just take a little more working in post processing to get me where I need to be. But I will say I am completely satisfied with the results and feel I’m getting better results at the end of the day.
The other thing that I noticed right away with both cameras is their autofocus system. I don’t think I’ve every used anything quite like these. Even the 1DX’s I shot with don’t seem to match what Sony has done in some areas. The focusing for one never seems to miss. I’ve been photographing wildlife in difficult and very busy situations and the autofocus seems to work through and stays amazingly on point.
Their autofocus is a huge selling point in my opinion especially with the face and eye detection. It never seems to miss and the technology although somewhat perplexing to me in how it works, is pretty incredible. I’m still amazed at how it does this, but it works!
The other thing I really like is the overall feel of everything working together between the electronic viewfinder, customization of controls and construction. It really feels like a mature, professional Mirrorless system. I think we’ve finally arrived at the juncture where Mirrorless is a real viable choice for professionals. In the not too distant past, many systems I’ve used weren’t quite there, almost, but not quite. Many had a number of quirks, bugs, or just didn’t offer everything professionals need for their day-to-day work. With both Nikon and Canon’s recent announcement of their new full frame Mirrorless entries and Olympus, Fujifilm and Panasonic refining their systems, I think we’ve reached that point where mirrorless is there. Not to mention the options are now huge for photographers. Micro Four Thirds, APS-C, Full Frame and even Medium Format give photographers a ton of choices based on their shooting styles and needs.
I’m extremely excited to be shooting Sony’s system and it’s working very well for what I do. I plan on posting a full review on both the Sony a7RIII and their A9 here soon. For now I’ll say not only am I completely sold on Sony’s system, but it’s hands down the best I’ve used of any camera system and fits my needs perfectly. I have absolutely no regrets leaving Canon for Sony and that’s saying something!
Back from Glacier National Park
I’ve just returned from my summer workshop in Glacier National Park and thought I’d share a few images from the trip. First I must say that one of the reasons I love teaching workshops is meeting all of you fabulous photographers out there and like minded wanderers! We had such a great group on this trip and thanks again to everyone for making it such a blast! We really lucked out on this trip with weather and had pretty decent temps with a couple really nice sunrises, not to mention some fantastic wildlife encounters. We had Moose, Mountain Goats, Bighorn Sheep and plenty of Black Bears wandering the east side of the park this year. And the wildflower blooms were just plain ridiculous.
I also really enjoyed getting to test out my new Sony gear on this trip and I must say, I’m extremely impressed. As some of you may know, I left Canon last year and I have been experimenting with different mirrorless systems. Well I must say I think I’ve found a winner! Sony’s files, camera technology including autofocus and overall performance are simply incredible and seem to fit me very well with my shooting style.Their lenses are also superb and very much in-line build quality-wise with Nikon and Canon, but optics are slightly above, which is saying something.
I look forward to posting some equipment reviews here shortly. In the meantime, I’ll be busy in front of the computer editing away:)
Wild Goose Island
One of my favorite times is well before sunrise, waiting, anticipating what the morning light will bring. With it brings the “blue hour”, delivering moody, subdued and often very tranquil images. Don’t be afraid to shoot well before sunrise and after sunset, this time of day can deliver some truly unique tones and often you may be surprised at what you see on the back of your lcd!