Sony A7R2. Want one? Buy it here.
Video production is a weird thing. You have a lot of people who came up through traditional video production pathways. For them the over the shoulder camcorder, with all the right connections, is the preferred equipment combination for just about any project. And it makes perfect sense. You have a package that combines good video codecs with all the things traditionalists want: Zebras for exposure control, focus peaking for accurate focusing, XLR connectors for balanced microphones, as well as power zooms, and a camera body that can be balanced over one shoulder. Sounds cool, right?
But not to me. I like the idea of shooting to a form factor that's familiar to me. I came up through a different set of gear traditions. To me, something like a DSLR or mirrorless camera seems more practical and familiar. And a camera on a tripod is even more familiar.
I've been watching the maturation of the Sony A7 series for a couple of years now and that's a form factor that I'm more comfortable with. But it was only with the upgrade to the recent firmware 3.x for the A7r2 (reduces overheat incidents) that made me feel more confident about using the camera for my clients' projects. The cameras have finally come together in relatively robust packages that make sense, and in a build quality tha
t inspires confidence.
I'm about to embark on a video project that has multiple parts. I'll be shooting in a few rain storms this week but then doing controlled interviews and fair weather b-roll in the weeks after that. I'll hew to the still photographer motif of using multiple cameras for the project. Here's what I have in mind:
The Sony RX10ii is a great camera for run and gun exploits; like shooting in the driving rain at twilight. (The RX10ii is supposed to be weather resistant). The camera is equipped with UHD 4K and the files look really good. If we're shooting foul weather, with rain and hail and grey, ominous skies I'm happy shooting video with this camera up to ISO 1600. I'm pretty sure I won't need to nurse my dynamic range along by using S-Log, but it is available. The real benefits are that the RX10ii is compact and all inclusive, focuses well and has built in image stabilization. It's the perfect camera for what I have in mind: riding around on a big, utility bucket truck, videotaping emergency electrical restoration teams working in bad weather. I'll try to keep it under a rain cover but if the camera goes south at the end of the project I won't cry too hard. I can get another one. They aren't so expensive.
That covers one part of the project for me but I'd like something with less noise and more IQ for the interviews. We'll be doing these right. That means controlling the environment, controlling available light, and providing the right lighting design to make the content shine; visually. I need a camera with interchangeable lenses so I can choose the right lens for the looks my client wants. And I wanted a Sony that was big enough to stick a multi-function microphone pre-amp system on without looking just plain silly.
I tested a number of their cameras and settled on the Sony A7R2. I liked this camera for its really good 4K video when used in the Super35 crop mode. It crops to APS-C but it looks very detailed and has low noise. To supplement the camera I looked for a two good lenses that were constant aperture and covered a wide and useful range. I ended up with the Zeiss 24-70mm and the Sony 70-200mm f4.0 G lens. I've been shooting tests all day today and I'm more than happy with them.
I didn't consider cameras from Nikon, Canon or Olympus because all are limited to 1080p video and my client has woken up to the practicalities of shooting in 4K but editing in 2K...
We may start production tomorrow, if the weather gets bad enough... But the bulk of the production will probably start in early May. We still have budgets and a final script to hammer out. I'm making this production a test run for three different Sony products which can also cross over from stills to video, and back again. The RX10ii will be the "go-to" nasty weather camera. I'll also do things with it that I don't want to do with a pricier camera, like attaching it to the exterior of a truck as we barrel down a highway on our journey to the next outage... If it dies a premature death we've got a classic RX10 waiting to take its place, along with a couple of Panasonic fz 1000's which would be willing to sacrifice their existence to ensure the success of the project.
The Sony A7R2 will be our fair weather, studio and controlled location camera and we'll try to squeeze the maximum quality out of it, using the XLR shoe, great lenses and careful lighting.
Pinch-hitting for the two bookend cameras of the production we'll use the Sony a6300 and the 18-105mm constant aperture, G lens. It's also 4K enabled and I think will come in quite handy for a second angle camera during our interviews. It's also going to be sitting in the bag as "completion insurance" just in case...
The addition of the Sony A7R2 camera to our tool box puts all the other brands we use in possible jeopardy. If it's reliable, lives up to DXO's praise as their top rated camera/sensor system and does convenient stills then it's not hard to imagine that everything else will go to back into the market. Based to some extent on the EVF alone. I'm taking some time to test the new cameras under pressure. But one thing is for sure, a camera from another (here un-named) brand is not inspiring great confidence with its third RECALL in less than 18 months.....
Could be the change of an era.