A quick re-cap of my work at the theatre last night. Warning: This blog post does NOT include anything about the Sony RX10mkiii.

It was kind of a relief to be back on familiar ground, taking photographs instead of working with video yesterday evening. It was another dress rehearsal shoot for the folks at Zach Theatre. This time we were shooting a farcical English comedy, "One Man, Two Gunners."  The play is classic theater and the cast was great. Martin Burke is one of Austin's finest comedic actors and he brought some really great energy to the stage last night; as did the rest of the cast.

What a departure from the very serious productions Zach has produced in the last few months! In a total departure from the standard procedure the house opened 40 minutes before the show and there was a full bar up on the stage. Audience members were invited up to buy drinks and walk across the stage. There was a 1960's cover band playing right up until curtain --- on the same stage. A very festive atmosphere to be sure.

This is the first production I've photographed with my full complement of Sony products. My last theater adventure was the dress rehearsal of Holland Taylor as "Ann Richards" and I did that one with the a6300 and the quixotic 18-105mm f4.0 G lens; backed up by a Sony RX10mk2.

Yesterday afternoon I pulled together a kit to take to the performance and it all fit in a very small Husky tool bag. The top of that bag opens wide for quick access... It cost $19 at Home Depot. It's a great bag for a small assortment of day to day stuff, like a note book, some pens, a phone, two cameras and two lenses. Maybe a little zipper pouch with some batteries in it as well.

There was no hesitation in packing yesterday. I grabbed the A7R2 and the a6300 along with the 70-200mm f4.0 G lens and the 24-70mm f4.0 Zeiss lens. I loaded both cameras with fast, 32 gigabyte cards and I brought along an extra battery for each camera.

I set up dead center in the house, just below and in front of Eric Graham, an old friend, and the person who shoots the video documentation of the shows. The row I set up in the cross over row between the two sides of the house so there is no row in front of me. I have the house manager block off the seven center seats so I can shoot from the center and have three empty seats on either side. This is a holdover from the days when I shot with Nikons and other mirrored cameras that were loud enough to disturb audience members sitting adjacent to me. It's still good because I can lean left or right to get a better viewpoint and it also means I'm walking in front of fewer people if I need to get up and re-position to shoot an important shot of an action that plays to one of the corners of the stage.

I put the 70-200mm on the A7R2 and the 18-105mm on the a6300. After a brief consultation with the lighting designer and the videographer I decided to shoot in Jpeg. We'd need to send a ton of files over to the marketing people the next day and extra fine Jpegs at around 20 megapixels is much more fun to wade through than 42 megapixels of raw mania...

I was comfortable in doing so because the nature of the play meant that the stage was lit brighter and a bit less dramatically (dynamic ranges challenges!) than a drama. The videographer asked me to go up on stage with a white towel he keeps in one of his camera cases so he could white balance under actual stage lighting. The lighting designer confirmed that the color temperature didn't change much during the performance. Eric set 3000K on his cameras while I opted to go a slight bit warmer at 3200k. The lighting in the theater is predominantly LED and bare it's seems balanced to around 4400 to 4600K but a large number of the lights used in this production were gelled warm.

So, with the A7r2 set to medium resolution, extra fine, we were getting 18 megapixel files while the a6300 set at large gave us 24 megapixel files. Not a very big different, mathematically speaking.

With the color temperature/white balance set I started looking at ISO settings. Even though the light levels were higher than I am used to working at I decided to set both cameras at ISO 1250 because, well, they make 1250 look like "old school" 200. I've switched from my previous way of using AF in the theatre because the two Sony cameras have PD elements on the sensor and both are very, very fast to acquire subjects. I had both cameras set to C-AF using zones. I'd put the zone over the subject I wanted to focus on a wait for the tiny green boxes to light up in the desired areas. On the A7R2 I'd push one of the focus hold buttons that surround the front barrel of the lens and shoot away, holding the button until my subject changed position. Same with the a6300 except you have to use the AEL/AF lock button instead.

Another change for me was to be able to shoot both cameras in the silent mode, which is really silent mode and not "silent mode."  Really, the only way you know whether you've taken a photograph is seeing the review image coming up in the finder. The lack of mirror slap, combined with good image stabilization in both lenses, and in the A7r2 meant NO photographer induced motion blur.

Speaking of finder... I have gotten into the habit of just turning off the rear screen altogether. It's as obnoxious as the screen of a cellphone in the theater and with a great EVF there's no good reason to add any light pollution to the space. I can review in the finder and set menu items in the finder as well. I have to give high regards to the EVFs in both cameras. They are absolutely the closest to the final image of any camera I have yet used. I am able to use the finder, along with zebras set at 100% to accurately judge exposure. How accurate? Well, I could have sent along all 1300 images without making a single exposure correction after the fact. I didn't because I wanted to add some shadow recovery to a good number of shots and I fine-tuned everything else out of habit.

The images were impeccable. Both camera and lens sets delivered images that were correctly color balanced, sharp and with appreciable dynamic range. I like to add a bit of clarity slider to give shots destined to run small a bit of "presence."

After I edited the take in half (or less) I did my post production and started the upload to Smugmug.com. I make a web gallery so everyone who needed or wanted to see the images (theater staff) could do so concurrently. I'm sending links with folders of downloadable files from Smugmug to the executive who heads up marketing for distribution to the people who will actually use the images for public relations and marketing. They'll make a subset of the images to send along to social media and conventional media.

The Sony's were small, light and outrageously good. The lenses don't have too many faults (as long as I have distortion correction set for the 18-105....) and the battery use wasn't the drama most people would profess it to be. I changed batteries at the 800+ mark in the A7R2 and not at all with the smaller camera.

So, now I have used my little Sony collection for several events, a bunch of video, a theatrical dress rehearsal, two product shoots and about 40 portraits. Am I still happy? Yes, where do I sign up to be "paid off" by Sony? I would dearly like just one or two more things.... A second A7r2 and a 55mm f1.8 lens. Or maybe the 50mm Loxia. But overall? Happy as can be. But ready to become a fanboy for the right price....(not).


jiannazzone said...

I can't decide whether you are brand agnostic or a serial monogamist. In any event, your gear choices seem to be rationally based and free of emotional attachment. But ... a Husky bag instead of a Domke? I never saw that coming.

omphoto said...

Wouldn't 3200k be a bit cooler than 3000k rather than warmer?

Kirk Tuck said...

If the actual light is 3000k and you set your camera to 3200K you will make the resulting image 200 degrees warmer than reality. Think about it. If I am shooting in a tungsten environment and set my camera to daylight WB will the resulting photo be warmer or cooler? It will be quite warm. Original example is a much milder but warm change from the actual lighting.