Where did it all start...
10 years ago (2004) I was fortunate enough to get the chance to travel in South America. Not armed with any camera or photographic knowledge I naively equipped myself with a little black box and tube with the word Sony stamped on it.
The Sony DSC-V1 was the first camera I had owned that was not simple compact point and shoot. An early edition to the bridge camera range on the market that promised so much, I naturally felt I couldn't really go wrong with this by my side.
Once home the result was nothing short of extreme disappointment – so like many people that walk this path I immediately blamed the camera and it’s miss-selling of functionality, features and simplicity to get the perfect shot every time I decided to press the shutter.
As this classic wrinkly older person shows the focus and details were good enough but my eye for composition and narrative was clearly not as good.
After some period of reflection and better understanding, not to mention a wave of realisation, I embarked on a photographic journey of discovery and education. I soon discovered that the camera was not the thing that was at fault or even what I thought it was - it was me who needed to learn the art of taking a good photograph that reflected the emotion, connection and story behind the picture and use the camera as a tool to capture the raw ingredients that gave me the flavour I was after.
So my next step was to teach myself every aspect of photography I could get my hands on, from camera, to composition, to light to subject matter and anything I could use to help me express what I wanted in a photograph. This was by no means an quick or easy journey and I still consider myself, 10 years on, a student of photography trying to evolve and develop a vision and purpose, but am happy that I can now pass on this experience to beginners and others who chose to come to me for help and development.
Since then I have stuck with Sony, not out of some misguided loyalty or knowledge of some amazing feature over its competitors, but simply because it’s a system that I am familiar with, have invested in and importantly trust. Ultimately photographers take pictures not cameras and with this in mind I have always felt that whatever system and brand you invest in, you need to feel comfortable and confident with the tool in your hands – for me it really is that simple.
So after working through several Sony models, DSC-V1, DSC-V3, Sony A100, Sony A700, Sony A900 and now the Sony A99 what’s my verdict on Sony as a camera brand? Good question and the answer is not that easy put down in a single sentence because I do not believe the camera makes the photographer. So for me Sony has served me well with a range of features over the years: Image stabilisation on the camera body, Carl Zeiss lenses, focus peeking and probably one of the most important aspects over the years, an interface and menu that make its easy to operate in any situation.
Bringing us to the present, what do I enjoy most about the latest Sony full frame camera – that’s a lot easier to answer – focus peeking on the Sony A99, also available on other Sony models, is real pleasure to use and critically means you can really nail your focus and control over depth of field in camera when taking the shot.
Focus peeking simply put, allows you to see the area that you are focusing on through the viewfinder, or LCD, in manual focus by highlighting the edges of the subject that are in the plane of focus. This is really useful for close up shots, macro and where details on a certain point are critical.
It isn’t just useful on macro shots. Likewise on a portrait, the ability to quickly work in manual focus and have the critical areas of focus highlighted have meant the difference between a nearly shot and bang on shot when it comes to focusing.
Since those early days of shooting in automatic modes, pre-sets or the other latest whizz bang modes that appear on the camera, without any real explanation in the manuals as to what they are doing under the covers, I have stuck pretty much to Aperture priority or Manual exposure modes armed with a the great focus peeking feature of the Sony cameras to nail my depth of field and focus point without any worries.
There are many more features on the Sony A99 than I care to even consider, not because I don’t believe they are useful but I am a rebellious soul and prefer to keep control over how the shot is captured in camera and therefore restrict what the camera does automatically for me to the bare minimum – just like my compositions!
So whatever camera you own, just remember it's what the shot looks like and whether it gives you pleasure rather than what brand, size or any technical feature it has or doesn't have. If your camera gear doesn't enable you to get the sort of shots you want then that is a good enough reason to invest in whatever you need to achieve that objective. Don't make the mistake that so many do of buying something way beyond the understanding and capability of your own skills and, or, needs.
If you would like to get help with understanding how you can get more from your camera, what the settings mean and how you can use them to create the shots you visualise then contact Alan to discuss the best course, workshop or 1-2-1 tuition to support your development in photography.