New Tools

So I recently made the difficult financial decision of trading in my previous camera and lens system which were Fuji X Pro2’s and swapping over to Sony A9 MkII’s.

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I didn’t arrive at this decision lightly and as any freelance who has invested in a camera system will know – it’s bloody expensive when you are buying this stuff yourself!

But as a working news photojournalist you need to keep on top of your kit and equipment and if there is something that is lacking then if it’s deemed something that is necessary to a professional workflow then sometimes you have to bite the bullet and make some hard decisions.

It had become quite clear over the last couple of years that my lack of ability to ‘live file’ some of my pictures from certain jobs was becoming more of an issue and looking down the road a little it would only become more of a problem.

For anyone reading this who doesn’t know what live filing means, it’s a term given to moving a picture from the camera to the picture desk directly and bypassing the need to edit the image on a laptop in the more traditional digital workflow way.

This is achieved on the Sony A9 MkII cameras by using the WiFi connectivity on the camera to connect to a hotspot or dongle and allowing a picture(s) to be sent directly from the camera via FTP to the relevant news desk.

The benefit of this is one thing…speed.

In the demanding 24 hour news cycle we find ourselves working in these days speed is very much of the essence. If your competition has the means to do it and you don’t then at some point you will lose out either on the picture or on getting the job in the first place.

Every job that’s shot won’t have the requirement to do this and to be honest that’s ok. In the majority of cases you can download the pictures to the laptop, go through them to make your selects, edit, caption and transfer the pictures in the standard way.

But on some jobs such as political events or breaking news or indeed with more general events moving a couple of pictures from a job quickly before following it up later with a more rounded edit the ability to live file is another useful tool to have in the box.

A tool that when it comes down to it could make all the difference between having pictures used or not and meeting last minute deadlines.

The Fuji’s didn’t offer this facility so after deliberating between the main alternatives…Nikon, Canon and Sony for a couple of weeks. I opted for Sony.

The process of live filing is quite an easy one with a bit or preparation ahead of time. The most time consuming part is entering the ftp details of the picture desk(s) that you’re sending too – the good thing here is that the Sony’s allow for up to 10 different ones to be added which can be handy. Once entered they remain there so you only have too do it once and not before every job.

So basically my live file workflow is a simple process:

  1. Start up my EE dongle…
  2. Connect my camera WiFi to the dongle…
  3. Once connected start up the ftp in the menu and wait for it to connect…
  4. Then you’re free to start shooting.
  5. As you go through the shoot have a quick chimp as you go and choose a picture you want to send.
  6. Press one of the buttons on the camera that you’ve set as a function key for ‘ftp transfer’ (I use the C3 button) and it will automatically begin to transmit to the ftp server you have chosen.
  7. Once it’s transmitted a (tick) on the picture shows it’s gone and you can send another.

It’s worth noting that you can send multiple images at once but I try and avoid this as it could slow the ftp process down if it’s not a fast connection. Its also worth noting that as pictures are ftp’ing to the desk in the background you can carry on shooting so you’re not going to miss anything going on in front of you.

As with any new camera there is a period of bedding in where you need to become familiar with all the controls, buttons and menus and what does what and this is an ongoing process that over time will let the camera become more familiar.

It’s hard to understand just how much of an important part muscle memory plays in using a camera and anyone beginning with a new camera that is unfamiliar to them will appreciate the feeling of inadvertently moving a thumb or finger to a button or switch only to realise that it either isn’t there anymore or actually does something totally different on this camera!

The only way this is resolved is hands on the kit and practice. Simple as that. As each job passes the familiarity with the camera grows until eventually it all becomes second nature again.

So far I haven’t been disappointed with the move to Sony and they tick all the boxes I look for in good solid professional working cameras and lenses: Image quality is really good, fast processing, they are full frame, weather sealed and robust, dual cards, fast autofocus, accurate white balance, comfortable and balanced to use, decent battery life…live filing ability.

One thing that is a small frustration is that they don’t have the means to perform a very basic edit on an image in camera. The ability to be able to do a quick crop and even a couple of minor adjustments to the image would be helpful just to tidy it up a little prior to sending it to the desk so hopefully Sony will rectify that in a firmware update further down the line.

But so far so good and I’m enjoying using the new system. While I have always looked at any camera I’ve had including the Leica M9’s I still use as simply a tool to get the job done and tools that will get used hard sometimes it’s good to have something that makes you feel you are now on a level technical playing field with the competition…and as a stringer and freelance that’s an important thing in the world of news and photojournalism where it’s hard enough as it is.

Once the technical stuff is sorted and out of the way then you’re free to do the important part…get the pictures!

This is my Sony kit list as it stands at the minute:

  1. Two Sony A9 MkII’s (both with vertical grips)
  2. 24mm f1.4 GM lens
  3. 85mm f1.4 GM lens
  4. 135mm f1.8 GM lens
  5. 100-400 f4.5-5.6 GM lens

 

Images (c) Ian Forsyth

See more of my work on my website & blog at Room 2850

All rights reserved.

No usage without arrangement.

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