Sony was worth the risk.

If you follow my social media accounts you would have recently seen I photographed my friend, mentor & now Sony Ambassador’s wedding in Croatia, on Sony - not Nikon. I’ve had numerous messages & comments asking why & my opinion on the camera so I thought it easier to write a blog post which will hopefully explain it all, in my honest & emotional way rather than a technical review. If you are wanting a technical review I would advise you to read no further, as I always dig a little deeper....

Jessica-raphael-photography-sony-a7iii-wedding-photographer

When attending the Photography show in March, I had a feeling I was about to make a big purchase as I already had my eyes on the new Nikon D850 but was unsure whether I would buy it, or just some new lenses. There was a very different vibe in the air with many people pushing towards Sony, everywhere we turned people were talking about Sony. Rob & I were also with my friend who is also a Photographer - Alishia Love, & she wanted to check out the Sony’s. Before we did this, I headed straight to Nikon & picked up the D850 - SNAP, I took a photo & got very excited by its speed & clarity. “I want it”, without hesitation or rational thought on how bloody expensive it was, I wanted a new gadget & knew it was the right time. Then we headed to Sony. The same thing happened to Alishia & Rob when they picked the Sony A7Riii up. Both of them instantly wanted one after having a play & a long discussion with one of the Sony experts. I picked it up stubbornly & was just talking about what I thought were the negatives - the size of it & the electronic viewfinder (EVF). “No” doesn’t feel like a ‘proper’ camera & I instantly shot it down. How would anyone think I’m a professional turning up to a wedding with a camera this small, I was saying. “Buy the battery grip!!” - nope, I still wasn’t having any of it. Both Rob & Alishia were blown away & tried to explain to me how mirrorless cameras were the future & how everyone will be using them in around five years. To be honest looking back, I was just scared. I was thinking about all my Nikon flashguns, my lenses & quite frankly my comfort zone. Nikon is the only thing I had ever known & I was holding it close to my heart as it’s the brand which turned me into a professional photographer, so I shut myself off to any others. However I do remember deep in my gut as I purchased the Nikon D850, I was thinking about the Sony. I kept asking people have I made the right decision, with most people behind the stands giving me ‘the look’ of - not really. Sony explained to me how their sensors are used in both Nikon & Canon cameras who’s latest cameras were still way behind that of Sony’s technology & features. For example, Nikon & Canon’s latest cameras, are Sony’s from, well, ages ago - if that makes sense. Obviously Sony keep all the good stuff for them! But again, I didn’t want to hear it.

Shooting my first wedding on the Nikon D850 didn’t feel much different to my Nikon D750. The quality of the images seemed richer & it was faster. However I wasn’t using it’s epic 46 megapixel resolution because quite frankly that’s just ridiculous for weddings. You do not need images that big & you would be buying a new hard drive every week! So I didn’t come home from the wedding jumping up & down, it was just “yeah it was good”, which again looking back, is quite sickening considering how expensive the camera is. I was watching Rob loving his Sony & started to think I may make the switch sooner than I thought. However I didn’t have time to even consider anything cause once I did my first wedding of the year, it was non stop, but I can't deny I wasn't having indecisive thoughts.

My next experience with the Sony was when I went to London to see Alishia & she took some photos of me. I had a little play with it & was very impressed with the tones, quality & especially the Eye AF - this secretly blew my mind! You can lock the focus on your subjects eye, so no matter where they move you can take the shot & it will still have their eye in focus. I’m explaining it like this as it’s a very simple way of emphasising what it does - not saying you’re thick, I’m just not a complicated technical talker. 

So anyway - you get the picture! Skip now to two weeks ago. We visited Kate & Brent to go through all the plans for their Croatia wedding. Once we had talked through everything Kate said, “lastly, another bit of pressure is, I need you to edit an image for us whilst you’re out there so we can announce we’re married, & also this....” & just held up their Sony European Ambassadors logo. I’m not going to lie - I felt sick for myself. Not for them of course!!! I was hugely excited for them. But it was now panic central for me. I was already feeling rather nervous (I can admit now!) but this just frightened me. I suddenly felt behind the times, & it was the cherry on top for how I had been feeling. “Why the hell didn’t I just get the bloody Sony!”. Kate also said Sony asked if I would be shooting the wedding on a Sony, “no Nikon”, to which they replied, “that’s a shame”. Well that was it, I had to act fast! The panic I felt knowing I had two weeks before their wedding & only one wedding before was unreal. I spent most of that night debating what to do. Rob’s switched. Alishia’s switched, and now Kate & Brent - who’s opinions I take very seriously as you know. I sat up all night watching YouTube videos & reading millions of reviews. Without sounding dramatic, it did make me feel ill. I was thinking, right, I predicted to make the switch in a few years, that would be the easier way, do a few more years with my Nikon’s before Sony completely take over. No stress. I’ll shoot the wedding with kit I know like the back of my hand. But the Devil on my shoulder (now I know it was the Angel) was saying, what a better time than now!? My Nikon was still virtually brand new & I'm about to photograph a Sony Ambassadors wedding! Surely it makes sense for it to be now. I’m quite an indecisive person. This is where Rob really helps me & plays a huge part in my life as he is a very logical & rational thinker. Rob is the sensible one so I highly value his opinion. So I said, yes it all looks amazing & sounds amazing, but what do you think I should do, really, I have two weeks.... & he plain & simply said “you won’t regret it”. I was having a very difficult week all in all with my stress levels, & workload so Rob said he would phone London Camera Exchange to even see if there were any Sony’s in stock......

SIDENOTE: Rob has the Sony A7Riii but I was looking at the Sony A7iii, more recent, but cheaper due to the 24 megapixel over the A7R’s 46. This was my next problem. Which one to bloody pick! There’s a £1,000 price difference so I knew I could get two cameras if I had the A7iii which is what I needed. Luckily Kate could speak direct with Sony & both her & them insisted the A7iii was the one for me. When would I use the 46 megapixels?! Again, this is the exact same point I mentioned about the Nikon D850! So please bear this in mind if you are thinking about these cameras. Don’t be fooled into thinking you need the most expensive, & higher megapixels do not make it a better camera. The ISO on the A7iii is actually better than the A7Riii, AND Nikon D850.....just saying.

ANYWAY - Rob phoned London Camera Exchange explaining the ‘dilemma’, they were amazing & literally searched all the shops in the country to source me two Sony A7iii’s as everywhere was sold out. Luckily they returned the call saying they could do it, & they would be there in three days. We agreed on a straight swap with my Nikon gear & all the essential Sony stuff I needed. I won’t go into detail about this as London camera exchange were very kind to us after we spent so much money with them at the Photography Show so I wouldn’t want to promote something that they maybe wouldn’t do all the time. But yes, basically the offer was a straight swap, I only needed to buy one extra flash gun & some new memory cards. So I said yes without thinking. I jumped in blind & spent the next three days shaking - seriously. 

Once in the shop three days later I was not feeling great, watching all my Nikon gear which has made me the phogotapher I am today being taken away & these new alien Sony’s placed in front of me. “Your brave” said the guy. But then did say, he isn’t surprised as he’s had LOTS of photographers doing the same thing recently. I went home, had a call with Kate, going over certain aspects of the camera so I could set it up in super speed time as I had a shoot in the Flower Fields the following day! I read the manual & got the cameras set up. My shoots in the Flower Fields were a success & I instantly loved the camera. I then had two more days until my next wedding. So spent a bit more time when I had chance, going through & making sure I was ready to rock. The amazing thing about the cameras is the fact you can customise nearly every button to whatever you feel you use most & to what helps you work most efficiently which is so good for weddings!

Off I go to the wedding & MY GOD. I was absolutely thrilled. For the first time EVER, I was actually blown away whilst shooting. The electronic viewfinder which I was so apprehensive about is actually my favourite thing about these mirrorless baby beasts. You can see EXACTLY what you are shooting. This basically means it’s so much harder to take a crap photo. To put it bluntly. What I also found it did was make me even more considerate when shooting, because you can see exactly what’s happening it meant I came home with not one image being under or over exposed, unless I made the deliberate decision to do so. When looking through a DSLR you are just looking straight through, & sometimes at a wedding, when being rushed, you can end up having a few trigger happy moments, the Sony doesn’t let you do this cause you can see EXACTLY what you’re taking. Just thought I’d emphasise that again....

Two days later we fly to Croatia to photograph Kate & Brent's wedding. As soon as I saw them at the airport, I felt calm & ready. I stayed calm & ready for the whole four days of photographing their celebrations which I won't talk about. I was actually surprised by how calm I was, considering I was photographing a friends wedding who also happens to be an incredible photographer, who also happens to be my mentor & who also happens to be a Sony Ambassador AND using kit I had used TWICE. I mean, I find it quite funny now. It's funny because it's that mad! It proves how incredible the Sony's are as I was able to adapt & feel 100% confident very very very quickly. It was a dream shooting with it, again.

Jessica-raphael-photography-sony-a7iii-wedding-photographer

As you can probably tell I actually haven't said anything about why I really like them / what makes them better etc & I'm probably getting on your nerves now. I thought it easier to do bullet points as I wanted to let you into the full story as to how & why I switched before talking tec. So here goes:

  • EVF - The electronic viewfinder is INSANE. This is something which originally put me off, but once you spend a bit of time playing & looking through you will come to love the fact that you can see your exact image. The reason mirrorless cameras are going to be the future is mainly because of this reason I believe, as the resolution through the viewfinder is now incredible (can only account for the Sony A7iii & Sony A7Riii) whereas years ago it wasn't good enough. Want to know something else crazy? When you turn the flash on, it also shows you the correct exposure - IT SHOWS YOU THE EXPOSURE YOU WILL HAVE WHEN USING FLASH. Hello?! Amazing. Basically this feature makes it incredibly difficult to take photos with the wrong exposure & forces me to make more considered setting decisions. You can also review images through the viewfinder which I adore, especially as the two weddings I have photographed on it have been in harsh sun. No more squinting or covering the screen with your hands!
  • Eye AF - Again I have touched on this briefly above. But this is honestly incredible. Locking on your subjects nearest eye to you to sustain the focus. They can jump around, laugh their head off, cry, run & it stays on their eye. Obviously it isn't always 100% depending on lots of factors, it may accidentally pick their eyebrow instead, but it's very nearly spot on every time. I have mainly used this feature for the confetti shots along with the incredible 10fps continuous shooting. Please note I believe the Eye AF only works if you have your focus on AF-C, which I have actually left my camera set to mostly & it's been fabulous!
  • 10FPS Continuous shooting - Erm, yeah, it's super fast. Enough said.
  • Silent Shooting - Yep that's right, SILENT SHOOTING. The Nikon D850 has this feature but only if shooting in live view which I rarely do. However on the Sony A7iii you can use silent shooting through both the viewfinder & the screen. Bear in mind that with certain LED lights it can create colour banding on your images - I actually found this happened on my Nikon D850 so just be careful of this. But otherwise it's incredible to use for ceremonies & any intimate moments you may not want your subject to be aware of the shutter. I only really use it if essential because guess what? Sony shutter is so cute & quiet. Another thing I prefer as I sometimes used to cringe with the noise of the Nikon in churches! By the way, the silent shooting is DEAD silent. To the point when I first used it I had to check I had actually taken a photo.
  • Battery Life - Is absolutely INCREDIBLE. I charged one battery from each camera once the whole time I was in Croatia & I only charged them to be extra safe not because they were dead. Need I say anymore?
  • Customisable Buttons - One of my favourite things is you can customise nearly every button on the camera to suit your need & style of shooting. For example, I have one set for the eye focus, focus mode, silent shooting, continuous shooting & focus hold as well as a full customised menu you can reach in seconds with whatever you may use frequently. This means that once you get to grips with your camera & remember what you have set everything to - you can work super fast with great ease. There's also two buttons which can memorise full settings, so if you know you shoot certain aspects of the day with the same settings, you can now switch straight to these with one turn of the dial! I think this has definitely played a part in how I have made the transition so fast.
  • ISO - The low light performance on this camera is fantastic & was a main feature I was drawn to when frantically watching reviews the night I made my final decision. With a max ISO of 51200 it beats the Nikon D850's 25600.....
  • Face Detection - Again, this bothered me at the start but I now use it all the time. You can register a face so the camera knows when it finds it. Great for the bride & groom!?
  • Flashgun HVL-F60M - Amazing, simple to use flashgun with it's own powerful LED & quick shift bounce in horizontal & vertical formats! It makes flash simple & exciting.
  • Touch Screen Focus - Haven’t felt the need to use this much as of yet as I predominantly use the viewfinder but it’s an incredible feature & I imagine comes in useful if suddenly caught off guard or want to capture something fast.  
  • Lightweight - Obviously a lot smaller & lighter than the Nikons! This also put me off as I thought people wouldn't take me seriously & it felt too small & flimsy in my hands. However I got the battery grip which is really nice to hold & completely transforms the size, if you also think it would be too small. But you honestly get used to it very fast! I would recommend the battery grip anyway as not only does it store two batteries (obviously) but I love the fact when you turn the camera portrait, the battery grip becomes part of the camera with all your buttons in the right places! Please note the  Sony A7iii does not come with a charger, you charge straight from the camera - but I have liked this & haven't felt the need to frantically order a charger.

I could go on & list every amazing feature on this camera but I will be up all night as it has SO MANY. These are just the essentials that have helped me with my decision & what had made me fall completely head over heels with the Sony for the 13 days I have 'officially' been shooting with it. This is intended with no ill-will towards Nikon, Canon - whatever else. This is just a personal review on what I have discovered, & the bottom line is, I have discovered that Sony is the one for me & has filled up any doubt in my mind about my kit & what I should be using. It feels at home in my hands & is the perfect partner to take my photography to the next level. However, this may not be for everyone. Everyone works differently & has their own preferences, so this is by no means meant to cause any panic to those not using Sony. However I usually believe there's not a right or wrong but the fact is - Sony are ahead, there's no denying that, & I really believe they are the future. As I have said before though, the photographer is in charge of the camera, not the camera in charge of the photographer. Meaning - if anyone picks this camera up they won't suddenly produce Vogue cover images, & if you're already a photographer, you may not even tell the difference in the actual images. I can, but mainly for me it is a breath of fresh air, & has suddenly made everything feel so easy......but I am still glad I learned the hard way & took the biggest risk - ever.

The first wedding I shot with Sony.

The first wedding I shot with Sony.

I give you the new Sony European Ambassadors, photographed by me on the Sony A7iii.

I give you the new Sony European Ambassadors, photographed by me on the Sony A7iii.

A model bride on the streets of Dubrovnik. I had seconds to get this which included having to get the Sony out my bag. It's now one of my favourite images - ever.

A model bride on the streets of Dubrovnik. I had seconds to get this which included having to get the Sony out my bag. It's now one of my favourite images - ever.

If you are wanting to know all the new kit I have - x2 Sony A7iii's / x2 Sony HVL-F60M flashguns / 24-70mm lens / 85mm 1.8 lens / Battery grip / Magmod diffusers. I also borrowed a Sony 16-35mm for Kate & Brent's wedding for the epic landscape shots.

Hope this helps & or inspires! 

Source: www.jessicaraphaelphotography.com