I’ve used the Sony A7 (and A6 system) for over a year now but it’s no secret that most of my lenses are still Canon. After interacting with Sony for the past year I was lucky enough to receive an email invite from Laetitia Mbog, (Media & Insights), to an all-expenses paid trip to their headquarters in Weybridge this week. I was not alone, as Brian Kerr (a Sony A7RM2 user) and James Grant (an A7R user), had also been invited along.
The itinerary was suggested as a trade event, but with a surprise at the beginning of the day. We all traveled down on the Monday and were put up in a local hotel. I met up with James and Brian for an evening meal, pint and a chinwag.
The next morning, after breakfast, we all gathered (about 20 of us including forum super users and other photographers) in the bar and were told the day’s itinerary. We were loaded onto a coach and the first stop was a visit to Sony’s Pinewood-based centre of excellence for filmmakers Sony’s Digital Motion Picture Centre Europe (DMPCE), based at the world-renowned Pinewood Studios, which provides a meeting point for European cinematographers to get hands-on with Sony’s top-end cinematography cameras in the heart of the UK’s film industry. I had brought my A7RII to capture some stills of the day with my FE 55 and my Metabones IV and Canon 24-70 f/4 (I wasn’t sure I’d be allowed in LOL).
We needed photographic ID and were given written passes to get through security and also told NO PHOTOGRAPHS of anything outside of the DMPCE. Obviously Star Wars episode VIII is starting filming which was an exciting prospect to be in the building next door to Stage C & D. We were introduced then to Richard Lewis, Sony Chief Engineer and Cinematography (foreground) and Matthew Trigwell (background) Operations Manager at Sony Professional Solutions Europe. Courses and masterclasses are run at least twice a week here and are free to attend.
First and foremost was a slap up lunch with some great pizzas, salads and drink to wash it down with while we gazed out, through the windows, at the outside of the Pinewood stages.
We were then introduced to the 3 main professional video / cinematic cameras of the range: PMW-F5, PMW-F55 and F65 and their advantages and disadvantages and importantly their application and costs.
Being a film buff I found this very interesting especially that the F65 was used in sci-fi production Oblivion, among many others.
We were then plunged into shooting a demo scene, with 2 impromptu actors (2 of the guests), and how to frame, pan and focus, with one guest being the camera operator and the other the focus puller (first assistant camera operator).
Despite being a photographer it was exceptionally hard to do either job, and we were told it may take at least 20 years for someone to achieve the skill of a top-level focus puller.
After the fun of ‘pretending’ to be cinematographers, we were then lead into the 4K suite where Richard showed us current 4K technology, with the introduction of the new 4K HDR. We were shown current 4K outputs then 4K HDR.
The difference being a wider colour space and also massive improvement in the displayed dynamic range. You see a greater range of brightness and luminosity than “normal” pictures – so dark areas of the picture will look darker while, at the same time, bright areas will look brighter. You’ll also see more luminance detail in shadowy, darker areas of the picture.
Next on the agenda was a trip to the John Barry Theater where many of the directors like J J Abrahms review 2k and 4k takes from current productions.
We were introduced to the 4K viewing screen and some background about porous projection screens and the potential for HDR screens using laser projection technologies. We viewed a few screen shorts and trailers, including After Earth and Mad Max: Fury Road which looked great; nice to have a private viewing.
We then huddled back on the bus and then went straight to the Sony Europe Headquarters in Weybridge. It’s quite an impressive building from both the outside and inside.
As we arrived we were asked to visit reception to pick up our visitor passes.
Because all of this is very tiring work we were again fed and watered. I did only pick, as although the food was nice, I wanted to keep awake for later LOL.
Unfortunately we were not going to be allowed to mix with the actual trade event. We waited until the coast was clear and then taken around the trade rooms and introduced to the new audio-visual products for 2016, including some beta products. The TVs were all pretty much 4K, and we were introduced to the new 4K HDR sets, which did look very impressive. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take any photographs of these new products. The new gesture pads on the large speaker systems were very amusing, being able to mix in sound effects to the background music.
My main interest was the photographic equipment, and it was nice to move into the photographic trade room. Having got the A7RM2 and A7R and A6000 I was not unaware of their camera bodies.
We were introduced by Ben (Product and Tech Manager DI) and Sam Pilling (Area Sales Manager) and taken through the mirrorless system for those that may have been unaware (non-photographic guests). I was singled out at one point having a Canon/Sony hybrid in my hand, but it did highlight the adoption of the A7 series cameras by Canon lens owners such as myself.
There were trade demonstrations of the low light capabilities of the A7S and II, and the RX100 IV and the high FPS using a Newton’s Cradle. I’m so impressed by the low light capabilities of the bigger pixels in the A7SII, would be great for astro work, but that will have to wait.
He also demonstrated the Cyber-Shot HX90/90V, which is the smallest camera with a 30x optical zoom.
Obviously the full A7 series cameras were on display, with plenty of time to play with the kit.
The whole A series of cameras were present including the A and E mount bodies and the full range of lenses and teleconvertors.
New for 2016 are also the Sony Action Cameras and the waterproof housing which is waterproof to 5m http://www.sony.co.uk/electronics/actioncam/hdr-as30v and the option of the wireless remote (built-in LCD).
I also have my first play with the RX1r (soon to be replaced by the RX1r mark II). Very small for a full frame, very light with an excellent Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 35mm f/2 Lens. The AF is pretty fast but I think the RX1r M2 will be even better. A great carry around camera if you have the budget for it.
After our product review we were bused to a local restaurant, and had a 3 course meal, which was a very pleasant end to a very enjoyable day.
The day after the event we realised that the secrecy was all do to the release of three new FE G Master lenses, which had been rumored for a while; the 24-70mm 70-200mm f/2.8 GM and the 85mm f/1.4 GM and also the new A6x series crop sensor the A6300 (as well as 2 new TC’s 1.4x and 2x). We were sent the press release by email the day after. It’s a shame we could not have a play during the event but the decision was made at a high level I think.
All-in-all a wonderful day spent between the Sony Digital Motion Picture Centre at Pinewood Studios and Sony Europe HQ in Weybridge. We were shown the next big steps in 4K video and we had a first contact with all the new A/V products for 2016. I’ve learned many new things especially about cinematography and HDR video, made quite a few new friends too. A big thanks to Laeticia, Matthew, Laura, Ben, Sam, Simona, Diana, Karl and all the other amazing folks at Sony for providing such a great experience and for taking good care of us!