Whether you like it or not, Sony have to be given full points for perseverance in the camera game. Their relentless camera production programme has often been criticised for being over innovative but that constant effort looks like it’s paying off. Eyes are turning.
In my own opinion, the flagship A99 felt like I was using a high end fly-by-wire electronic imaging device rather than a camera. A completely capable and excellent camera but  up against the aura and known factor of established DSLR brands.

The NEX range of interchangeable lens mirrorless cameras broke the pattern and paved the way to much speculation for a full-frame NEX.
The Rx1 seemed to land in the market to test the waters. It caused big ripples by trumping the established Fujifilm X100 with sensor size but at a considerably higher price.

Now Sony have diversified their range further with the new full-frame A7 (24mp) and A7R (36mp) mirrorless interchangeable lens system.

I tested the A7R during a trip to London and immediately it felt like the Alpha DSLR, NEX and RX1 had been rolled into one. The body felt very comfortable in my hand, an expected size with a reassuring grip. Solid and robust dials for aperture, shutter speed and exposure compensation. Loads of function buttons scattered on the back of the camera offer a serious level of customisation which proved to be very handy after I’d squeezed off a few shots and realised that the shutter release was way too sensitive. Typically on any camera a half-press is focus, increased pressure fires a shot. On the A7R I felt the line between focus and shoot was just too sensitive. Luckily I could program the centre button of the rear command dial to focus, freeing up the shutter release button for just making the shot.
I also set up one of the function buttons to  quickly access the user selectable AF point setting. Still, after every shot the AF selector needed to be activated to move the AF point. An issue that I’m sure firmware could ‘fix’ If you’re a centre AF point and reframe person, you’ll not notice this.
I also found the AF system to be a bit hit and miss.  Grabbing the opportunist street styled images I had many false focus locks resulting in too many out of focus shots. To be fair though, the camera was a pre-production model so I’m pretty sure the firmware tweaks will improve the AF performance.

If you’re thinking you’ll be able to use the A7R for some subtle and discrete shots, forget it. The shutter sound rattles your teeth. Logical really considering the small body has no real way of absorbing the mechanical clunks of the shutter. It sure has a reassuring I HAVE JUST MADE A SHOT sound to it.

All in all though, a mighty fine camera that delivers impeccable results. Really. Crisp, clean images with a good neutral feel. The ‘croppablity’ of the 36mp is something I have become accustomed to with the D800 so finding all that detail back in a ‘compact’ camera is a joy. The electronic viewfinder is great and I love the tilt screen. I’m getting used to the Sony menu system too.

Some firmware tweaks and it’s be a properly realistic DSLR companion and in some cases I’m convinced a DSLR replacement.
I think Sony are on the right track with this one. Fighting in the DSLR market is like swimming uphill but by tossing this into the stream they are now waiting on the other side of the hill for others to catch up.

Now, if only they’d include a charger in the box too  ;)

Below, some random shots from the A7R.

The image above is a classic example of how the A7R focusing missed. An opportunity shot but it gave a false lock on the centre of the image. 

Last week saw the opening a new exhibition in Brussels. ‘The Art of the Brick” 
Artist Nathan Sawaya turn his hobby into his job by turning to sculpting with LEGO® The exhibition is a mix of recreations of famous art pieces and his own unique pieces. One thing connects all of his work, it is all built from  just the humble plastic bricks. The 6 metre long T-Rex contains 80,200 of them!

Without spoiling the trip for people by giving too much away, here’s a selection of the images I made at the opening.
The show runs from 22nd November 2013 to 21st April 2014 at the old Brussels Stock exchange.

For some time now I’ve employed the services of a small but very motivated team of testers. They help me whenever I have new gear to test, giving me good feedback on the findings from their unique perspective. The last issue of SHOOT gave them the chance to get their very over cover shot and they jumped at the chance.
I’d written an article for this issue to suggest that simple desktop photography can be done at home with some very modest setups. Big expensive equipment is nice to have but there are often things around the house that will allow a photographer to get good results.

Below are images of the cover and of the ‘behind the scenes’

So here’s the cover.

And here is the ‘behind the scenes’ shot. Made with a Nikon CoolpixA, hand held under the D800E.
The only lighting in the shot is provided by 2 inexpensive low voltage LED strips from IKEA and The Test Team are standing on 2 planks of laminate flooring. All sitting on my kitchen table.

I have been pretty active in the world of business aviation photography recently so I thought it a good idea to bring some parts of that together into a small showreel video.
Virtual tours, videos, time-lapse, stop motion and photography. Lot of aspects of my job focused on one target group.

One of the bits I love about my job is the fact I get to meet a lot of people. These events organised by brewery De Koninck are no exception. In the last couple of weeks I’ve covered 2 events for them in Antwerp. A family picnic in the park and a 2nd hand bicycle market with a street picnic. Both events had a good turn out of people enjoying themselves, and the day.

The picnic in the park took place in the city park right opposite the brewery. People could pre-book a picnic basket to enjoy with friends and family. Of course, there was plenty of De Koninck on tap too. Live music, good food, beer and fabulous weather. A pretty good way to spend your Sunday lunchtime. No?

This weekend was the 2nd hand bicycle market in Antwerp. Organised by a popular 2nd hand sales website, 2dehands.be and supported by De Koninck and Velodome. Again a good turnout of people who wanted to sell their old bikes and people looking for a good deal on a 2nd hand bike.  This was all coupled with the fact that Sunday the 15th Sept was ‘car free day’ in Antwerp city centre. All cars were banned, leaving the roads to pedestrians, cyclists, horse drawn carriages and of course public transport. There were also a couple of picnic baskets handed out to locals who could set up their own street picnic with their neighbours. The 2 basket winners I met were having a lot of fun enjoying a rather nicely filled basket of food and drinks. Not just beer, I should add!

Part of meeting so many people on these jobs is hearing what they have to say about the events. All I heard is praise for the organisation and that these sorts of things should happen more. Seeing people from all walks of life just get together and enjoy the day in their own way is marvellous.

On the 22nd of Sept. it’s Ghent’s turn to have the Bollekespicknick’ in town. Fingers crossed that the weather plays along. Give a wave if you are there.

 

Some of the bike market photos.

Some of the Antwerp picnic in the park photos.