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Sony A7riv review: My 5 tips on custom settings and documentary photography gallery

I will admit, I am a late adopter with new tech. I like my workflow, it works. I work well with it. So when I recently dove deep and got the Sony A7r4 mirrorless system in an extremely busy shooting time for me, I didn’t have much time to sit down and study. I just had to trust…and shoot.

 Armstrong Park, Zack Smith Photography - Sony A7r4, 135mm 1.8G ISO400, f1.8, 1/250 while walking…yes…

Armstrong Park, Zack Smith Photography – Sony A7r4, 135mm 1.8G ISO400, f1.8, 1/250 while walking…yes…

A new school Review: 3 days with the Sony A7rIV

If you want to really know a camera you have to spend significant time with it. Having never really worked professionally or personally with the new Sony A7riv, or any mirrorless for that matter, there was a bit of a learning curve. I had a few days to watch some Sony videos and a great Tony Northrup tutorial as I waited for the right Sigma MC-11 converter to come in. (Yes, I ordered the wrong one…I even ordered the wrong batteries!)

Without the right converter, I could not use any of my Canon lenses, but luckily I received the Sony 135G 1.8 with my body order and was able to shoot with that all weekend. I probably wouldn’t take just a 135mm lens with me on a street walk or festival, but it’s all I had as I then had to adapt my “lens vision” to 135. I started to see and anticipate subjects and backgrounds in the relationship of 135mm. It was different, fun, and allowed me to see my weekend in a whole different way.

My 5 tips on what to set for documentary photography in the Sony A7riv

  1. Set your Date and Time as well as Copyright Info (SETUP 5 5/7 menu) – get your metadata right!

  2. Display Rotation (PLAYBACK 4) – turn “off” I like to have my verticals full frame, as well as my horizontals

  3. Custom Buttons (C1 – C4 set in Custom Operation 1, in purple camera2 mode)

    • playback custom key C1 – I set to Rating. I love rating my images in the field!

  4. Live View Display (Display/auto Review – set ON) – this way you can see how your exposures look in real time. Great for event and documentary photography.

  5. Turn sound/beep ON. This might just be me, but I love to hear when I am in focus! I can turn off in quiet moments!

 Louisiana State Museum and St. Louis Cathedral, shot with the Sony A7riv and 135mm 1.8G - ISO160 / f2.8 / 1/6400

Louisiana State Museum and St. Louis Cathedral, shot with the Sony A7riv and 135mm 1.8G – ISO160 / f2.8 / 1/6400

Event and documentary photography with the Sony A7r4

When you first get a new camera or lens it’s always good to take it out somewhere that can give you all the action you need to take it for a thorough test spin. I was able to shoot in Baton Rouge at the St. Aloysius Parish Fair during a day of blue skies, colorful rides and music…and a hell of alot of DUST. I highly recommend not shooting in a dusty environment the first time you get a mirrorless camera – the anxiety I had every time a kid ran by me kicking up dust was enough to make me almost put the camera away! That big sensor…with no shutter out there to protect it…and in the open! Yes, you get my point!

Luckily I just had the one 135mm lens so I never had to change. (More Documentary Blog Posts Here) Here are some photos and descriptions of my settings from Saturday. I found that using the Continuous Shooting HIGH+ / AF-C / Tracking: Expand Flexible Spot / Face-Eye Priority in AF with HUMAN subject detection – when doing casual documentary style, available light photography, worked just fine. If you are unfamiliar with these settings, take them one by one and try those settings out. When figuring out what settings to use on your camera for documentary photography, I chose these. Below are my exposure settings. I did some light, very light, Lightroom adjustments.

 ISO500 1/320 F5.6
 ISO500 1/640 F5.6
 ISO200 1/2500 F5.0
 ISO100 1/2000 F1.8
 ISO100 1/500 F1.8
 ISO100 1/800 F1.8

On Sunday I took the Sony and my 135mm out to the French Quarter to shoot the gorgeous afternoon light as well as some music and food at the Treme Creole Gumbo Festival. I found that my settings from the fair the day before worked well here as well. The Sony did well tracking subjects side to side at the fair, and did equally well when my daughter was running towards and away from me. I also liked the way the RAW files retained superior dynamic range from the shadows to the highlights.

 ISO100 1/3200 F2.2
 ISO100 1/2500 F4.0
 ISO160 1/2500 F3.5
 ISO400 1/80 F4.0
 ISO400 1/640 F2.2
 ISO400 1/1000 F1.8

I was able to equalize them a bit in Lightroom without the image having that over-HDR effect. You can see this result in the middle top image of the two guys on the bench. Photographing food with the Sony was a little tricky in my opinion as I really captured EVERYTHING in that one gumbo photo. I didn’t realize how much oil showed up in the photo, something I didn’t see with my eye. I am just starting to get used to the system, forcing myself to use it in professional situations and trusting my instincts and tech savvy in tandem!

Studio Portrait Gallery and Sony Ar7iv Strobe Tips next week!


Explore Zack's Jazz Museum Exhibit


New Orleans photographer Zack Smith’s portraits of Louisiana musicians, artists, and fans are currently on display at the New Orleans Jazz Museum.

Discover the captivating world of jazz through Zack’s lens. 

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