Sony Alpha A7RII. Yeah!


This s the original R as official images of the Mark 2 haven't been released yet.

Sony Alpha A7RII. Yeah!

 

This camera might be the most badass little chunk of digital imagemaking technology bestowed on us yet. But you already knew that if you’ve been keeping up with the blogs and early reviews. The response to the A7R Mark II has so far been overwhelmingly positive as there’s a lot to get excited about - more resolution, more sensitivity, improved autofocus, in-camera image stabilization and 4K video @ 100 Mbps. If you’ve already pre-ordered, then you’re counting down the days until early August, especially if you’re like me and unloaded your A7S and A7R a month early because you read the release date wrong. Oops.

On my last big photo trip, I carried both the R and the S and came to fully realize the advantages of mirrorless cameras. In my own use, I found the high resolution, 36.4 Megapixel A7R performs exceptionally well during the day whereas the S, with its enhanced low light capability and Silent Shutter, is best appreciated at night. The "Stealth" Shutter feature in particular became an indispensable asset that allowed me to get shots that would have been impossible without.

In six months of traveling and shooting, I kept thinking these two cameras really should be one. The resolution of the R combined with the sensitivity and stealthiness of the S would in this shooter's opinion, make for pretty much the perfect digital camera.

To my surprise after only one year, the wish has been granted and everything we love about both the R and S has been combined in a brand new body along with a wish list of improvements and slick new features. Thank you, Sony! 

AT A GLANCE:

The resolution of the S is skimpy at best. 4K is in my opinion, not enough for stills anymore. Perhaps I've been made greedy by the R’s 7.5K photos that can be radically reframed in post without penalty. The RII packs a whopping 42 Megapixels onto a newly designed back-lit Full Frame sensor that scales down to a mathematically perfect Super 35mm Crop for 4K video mode. No pixel binning so no aliasing or moire and the smart downsampling has the added bonus of minimizing the “jello effect” inherent to most DSLR video. All this in the robust XAVC codec, Slog2 @ 100 Mbps, selectable in NTSC or PAL, and recorded in the camera to SDXC card. Remarkable! 

I'm comfortable shooting the S at 25,600 ISO and the R at 3200 ISO. The R is a noisy camera and in practice, not great for night work. The S on the other hand sees beyond what we see with our own eyes and I was constantly baffled by what I was able to get with it. For example, shooting f/4 @ 1/320 with barely a foot-candle and somehow making pleasing pictures such as this -

This is a "no light" photo. Sony A7S, Leica Summarit 90mm @ f/4, 1/320", 25,600 ISO

Despite a maximum ISO of 102,400 on the RII, no one is expecting it to perform in low light as well as the S. If it comes close, all the better but I'd personally be satisfied to be able to shoot with no penalty at ISO 6400.

The Autofocus on both the R and S is comparatively poor and there have been many times I discovered heartbreaking focus problems in Lightroom long after it's too late. Unacceptably soft shots because the R just couldn’t tell that piece of junk Zeiss FE 35mm where to focus. Sony’s lenses for these bodies are definitely the weakest aspect of the product line so it’s good news that in addition to the new camera's vastly improved 399 AF detection points, using the Metabones adapter, Canon EOS lenses will apparently perform natively. This surprisingly open source attitude towards camera design is uncharacteristic of Sony but it's awesome that they're doing it. And though I detest zooms, it would be quite nice to shoot with an autofocusing Canon 24-70mm L on this small camera. Sony’s Zeiss FE 24-70mm is a laughable lens in comparison. Flat, totally lifeless, and with unpleasantly jagged bokeh. In my opinion, a lens only good for video shooting.

Perhaps this is a better solution.

With that sweet little Leica 28mm.

With that sweet little Leica 28mm.

Another problem with the R and S known to cause imaging grief is the lack of In-Camera Image Stabilization. Some of the Sony lenses have it but if you’re not using them, hand shake is an issue, particularly on longer lens, and one that's boned me many times on my Leica Summarit 90mm. The RII features the same 5-Axis In-Body Stabilization found in the A7II which solves the problem and allows for slower shutter speeds when shooting handheld.

And for good measure, one more big blur-related problem has been solved - the new camera's redesigned shutter reduces the excessive release slap of the R that literally shakes the camera enough to potentially blur the shot. With my own A7R, I often found the issue with exposures slower than 1/125 which presented a serious limitation to how I could shoot. The newly lighter, more dampened shutter puts far less stress on itself so beyond not ruining your photos, it's also now good for as many as 500,000 actuations, more than double the expectation of most current cameras. And of course the best feature of all, the mechanical shutter can be bypassed altogether using the Silent Shutter Mode for those situations when the sound of it could get you in trouble or be a distraction. I personally think a silent, electronic shutter for shooting stills is the coolest thing ever but because these sensors aren't global, they roll and occasionally you'll discover some weirdness in your photos - anomalies where the phase of the capture at the sensor and the phase of the light sources didn't agree with one another. It looks something like this - 

Imaging problems relating to electronic shutter

Imaging problems relating to electronic shutter

Imaging problems relating to electronic shutter

Every now and again, this fluke will yield some interesting, even aesthetically pleasing weirdness like in the image above. But usually not!

List price for the A7RII is 3200 USD. Expensive but well worth it if you've found this style of camera helps you do your best work. Don't cheap out on your tools. 

 

 

Digital Black & Whites

Digital Black & Whites

I'm not sure why I was so resistant to the concept of digital black & white. It just seemed so disingenuous; this aesthetic isn't the result of a film stock that physically lacks the dyes to reproduce color but a choice made long after the fact in post production. Along the way in my photographic re-immersion, I saw "Salt of the Earth", Wim Wender's excellent doc on the famed social photographer, Sebastiao Salgado, best described as "witness to the human condition." Equally heartbreaking and inspiring, this man made enormous sacrifices to his personal life and mental health to share his unflinchingly bleak images with the world - most of which are black and white. When I was a student, I spent hours pouring over his photographs of Brazilian gold mines and had forgotten how powerfully absorbing they are. Even though it's unlikely I will ever load another roll of 400 speed Tri-X into a camera in my entire life, the reintroduction to Salgado's images reminded me of the power of the achromatic image, particularly in today's infinite kaleidoscope of unnaturally chromatic digital photos. I now appreciate the simplicity of B&W, even digital despite its inherent "dishonesty", that much more.

The images in this blog post were captured digitally, in full color, and using the latest Sony Alpha cameras while on a boating trip earlier this year down the holy river Ganges in northern India. These photos coincided with the worst bout of food poisoning on my entire six month trip and to be honest, I barely remember taking them. 100 days back into the reality of New York City and it feels like another life. Real but impossibly far away. 

 

 

site updates and.. gear for sale!

Site Updates and.. gear for sale!

Long time visitors have no doubt noticed some changes. I've recently redesigned the site to better feature my photography and my personal brand as opposed to an assumed name. Here's why.. 

For now, I'm not seeking work as a Digital Imaging Technician in order to pursue pro photo and writing gigs. I'm maintaining my Local 600 membership and may re-join the fold at some point if this endeavor proves unfruitful. I'd hope my colleagues wouldn't hold it against me. That's the real beauty of having a trade and being a member of a union - once you're in, you're in and the film & television business certainly isn't going away any time soon.

My decision to try something different reflects only my desire to follow my true passions and now is the time to do it. Regardless of arguments for or against DIT, I personally think the position has a very bright future and see evidence of its growth all the time. Because of the popular Nofilmschool articles addressing this, I get near weekly emails and Facebook messages from people interested in becoming a DIT and the union ranks continue to grow. The bottom line is simple. On professional productions now and forever, someone must know what to do with the mountains of data that come out of these cameras. Someone must be able to correctly answer the questions of the cinematographer, producers, and post production. Someone must be fully responsible for the digital integrity of the day's work. The person currently and who will always be best qualified for this is the Local 600 Digital Imaging Technician.

With a bit of good fortune, in the not too distant future I'll be continuing to do what I've been doing - exploring the world, shooting, writing -  but on someone else's dime. Despite the broadening scope of this site, I'll continue to write about topics that are relevant to DIT's and filmmakers as this is my background, it's what I know best, and is something I'm still very interested in. In this latest version of the site, I've made it easier to access my technical writing on digital imaging in "Projects" and "Archive". Also noteworthy, in order to not break the links to my content across the web, negativespaces.com will continue to point here in addition to the new primary address, bennettcain.com.

It's not doing me much good so I'm selling what's left of my DIT & Video package. The smart thing would have been to unload it all last summer before I left for Asia but at the time, I wasn't sure when I was coming back or what I would do after. Nine short months later, I can expect to get back a fraction of what I could have but that's just the business these days. Eighteen months seems to be the useful life expectancy for professional video equipment now, making it that much harder to get a decent return on these heavy purchases. The lament of the owner-operator. 

First up, two Boxx Meridian Wireless HD Video Systems. Both were recently serviced, are in fair physical condition, work well, and are ready to go out on a job. In the past year, the Boxx has been supplanted by the smaller, cheaper, and more stable Teradek Bolt Pro 2000 but if you find yourself needing two ready-to-go wireless video systems and don't want to spend $18,000, this might be an excellent opportunity for you.

Both kits are identical and include:
Pelican 1600 hard case
Transmitter (Component, Composite, HD-SDI) with Anton Bauer Gold Battery Plate, Alexa Offset Plate, and rubber antenna set 
Receiver (Component, Composite, HD-SDI) with Anton Bauer Gold Battery Plate, high gain antenna, and rubber antenna set 
Audio Cables
2 pin Lemo Alexa to Boxx Power Cable
4 pin XLR to Boxx Power Cable
2x 2’ Canare BNC to BNC Cables
(see pics in the header of this page)

I'm asking $2000 for one kit, $4000 for both. SOLD

I'm also selling the following items:

Please come get this stuff out of my house.

All prices are OR BEST OFFER.

2x Sony PVM-2541A 25.5” OLED Monitors in Excellent Condition in original boxes with Abel Desk Stands (adapted for cart mounts) 
$2500 OR $4500 for the pair, includes big rolling Pelican that fits both SOLD

Blackmagic Smart Videohub 16x16 with 2 power supplies, no issues, excellent condition
$1000 SOLD

2x HDLink Pro DVI/HDMI with cables and adapters, no issues, good condition
$200 OR $350 for the pair SOLD

Blackmagic Designs Ultrastudio 3D Thunderbolt 1 with cables, adapters, and original box, no issues, fair condition
$350 SOLD

AJA Hi5-3D with cables and adapters, no issues, good condition
$200 SOLD

OWC Mercury Rack Pro 4 Bay 1U Thunderbolt 1 Array with 4x Sata6 7200 RPM 2TB Hitachi Drives, no issues, excellent condition
$450 for everything SOLD

OWC Mercury Helios Thunderbolt 1 PCIe Chassis with ATTO R680 card, no issues, good condition
$400 SOLD

OWC Mercury Helios Thunderbolt 1 PCIe Chassis with ATTO H680 card, no issues, good condition
$300 SOLD

25x 3’ lengths of perfectly working Canare BNC to BNC cable
$200 SOLD

6x6 Village Blackout Tent (has sleeve, a few small holes, one support pops out but tent is still fully functional)
$500 SOLD

6x6 Damaged Village Blackout Tent (has sleeve and shipping carton to send to Pelsue in Colorado for repair, quoted 250 to replace broken supports)
$200 SOLD

SKB 10U Rack with 4x half length metal swiss cheese shelves, good condition
$100 SOLD

Please touch base only if you're serious about purchase. Buyer picks up shipping. EVERYTHING HAS BEEN SOLD. THANK YOU, VANCOUVER! 

bennett.cain@gmail.com
+1-718-483-3758