Photographs and Story by Mark Forman. Edited by Jon Fauer.
August 3rd 2015
August 3, 2015. Twenty-two journalists gathered in Portland, Oregon for two 16-hour days and one evening of shooting Digital Stills and 4K UHD Video with the new Sony Alpha 7R Mark II and the RX10 Mark II Cameras.
Loaner cameras were signed out, followed by dinner at the Hotel Vintage’s Pazzo Restaurant. Mike Fasulo, Sony President and COO, and Mark Weir, Sony USA Product Manager gave the welcoming speeches.
The new Sony a7RII is an important camera for Sony as it is capable of shooting both 42 Megapixel ARW (Sony RAW) and JPG stills internally and MP4 4K (UHD) motion equally well. One would not hesitate to shoot a documentary with it or use it as a lightweight “B” camera on a feature. It has a versatile e-mount lens mount (18 mm flange focal depth).
For 4K video, it can be used both in APS-C 16:9 crop mode and also in 36 x 24mm Full Frame. Aliasing and moire are almost non-existent. The CMOS Sensor uses a new BSI (back-illuminated sensor) technology and reads much more quickly than before. The low-light capabilities are also better than the previous generation a7R and almost as good as the low light champion a7S.
After dinner, I went for a walk around downtown Portland with the a7R II camera and Sony FE 28-135mm PZ 28-135mm f/4 G OSS Lens to test its nighttime capabilities.
August 4th 2015
August 4. We started off with Breakfast at the Pinot Blanc room at the hotel and a presentation by Brian Matiash, Sony Artisan of Imagery. Technical Presentations were made by the Sony engineering team: Asuka Tsuruoka (Software Design) and Akifumi Mizukami (Focus Application Design). We were then off in a bus to our first shooting location—the Japanese and Rose Gardens in Portland. I decided to try out the versatile new Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS Lens in the garden.
We were then off to a food shoot and lunch at Shaker-style Elder Hall. Prominent chef and owner Ned Ludd spoke about his philosophy of providing fresh locally grown organic foods.
This gave us the chance to use the 90mm macro lens once again and to shoot in the kitchen where I also used other lenses, including a Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM Lens with the Metabones IV Canon E to Sony FE (e-mount) adaptor. The focus response is much faster than before with this arrangement.
After lunch we were off to Mount Hood where Sony had arranged a more locations, including helicopters, chairlifts and the Timberline Lodge on the Mountain. “Here’s Johnny!” Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film “The Shining” opens with a beautiful aerial sequence (9.8 and 16 mm wide angle lenses) that ends at Timberline Lodge. However, interiors of the Overlook Hotel, as it was called in the film, and many exteriors were actually done at Elstree Studios outside London, near Kubrick’s home.
Dinner was served on the terrace of the lodge but we never stopped using the new cameras as sunset and magic hour arrived: time to shoot timelapse using the in-camera Time Lapse Mode. The images looked wonderfully clean.
August 5th 2015
Another busy day awaited us. with a technical presentation by Sony Artisan of Imagery Ben Moon. Next, we were off to a warehouse that was prepared by Tim Gordon, DP on “Sport Science.” Think slow motion and high shutter speed shooting. The location had a number of setups including a skateboard ramp, an acrobat and contortionist, a martial arts area over a splash zone and a carnival scene complete with paintball guns and darts.
After lunch at Portland’s Bearlic Microbrewery, with two food trucks (Berlin Bratwurst Cart and Handmade Ice Cream), it was back to the media lab at the hotel for post work at the six workstations provided by Sony Electronics. A school bus picked us up after the media lab and most of us wondered, Why a school bus? That would come later. But first, we were off on a jet boat ride on the Willamette River under the city of bridges, Portland. No one got wet.
Back in the school bus and off to cocktails and dinner at Washington High School. We took the elevator to the roof, and it turned out that it was a former High School, was now a multipurpose center. We were treated to a superb dinner and sunset views of Portland from one long table seating 38. The next morning it was time to reluctantly return the loaned equipment and head home.
Impressions and Technical Notes
The Sony Alpha 7R Mark II camera was impressive for me in a number of ways, for cinematography as well as stills. It is affordable. This small, mirrorless camera is able to record 4K UHD in multiple lighting conditions without visible aliasing and moiré.
The a7R II has 5 Axis Stabilization that works well with most optically stabilized lenses. It also provides steady images with non-stabilizAPS-C crop modes was also very helpful.
With its maximum ISO of 102,400, the a7R II is capable of approaching the low light ability, within a few stops, of the a7S. The native sensor ISO of the a7RII is 800 in S-Log2.
The OLED viewfinder has an XGA resolution of 2,359,296 dots with .78X magnification. This made it the largest and most comfortable VF eye point of any DSLR or mirrorless format camera I have used.
The Camera has both Phase Detect and Contrast Detect Autofocus in motion mode with native autofocus lenses. It’s quick and accurate.
In-camera 4K UHD recording is 4:2:0 to an internal SD card at 100Mbps in XAVC S. External 4:2:2 8-bit recording can be done to a Convergent Design Odyssey 7Q+ or other HDMI capable recorder.
Why S Log2 and not 709?
From the Sony Site:
“This proprietary Sony setting featured in professional camcorders creates a 1300% wider dynamic range for smooth gradation with reduced whiteout and blackout. Use color grading in post-production to make the most of low-noise images and super-rich detail to express footage in various ways. ISO 800 or higher is available when S-Log2 Gamma is selected.”