Using Sony professionally/limits

Started Jun 10, 2010 | Discussions
vwgn Senior Member • Posts: 2,106
Using Sony professionally/limits

I have been a champion of the cause for some time as far a Sony goes. I have used their SLR's exclusively to earn a living for a couple of years with what I feel is great results. However one thing I (and many others) know, is that Sony just doesnt cut it in the high iso, and I am not talking 800 or 1600, I mean being able to shoot a paid gig reliably at iso 2000, 3200 or even 6400. I would not dare think of it. I will occasionally at a wedding during a candle lit ceremony where no flash is allowed, use iso 1600 with my a700. It is acceptable, but not for alot of shots. I rented an a900 for a couple of gigs and it was better than my a700, (maybe I just want accustomed to it and didnt push it far enough/properly) but not enough I would have shot the whole ceremony comfortably at 1600 or higher. In studio, my a700 SHINES! heck my a200 does too. The 900 is absolutely amazing beyond words, but thats a controlled environment with lowest iso. Not an on the fly event.

I am now eating some of my words on my "Sony is just as capable" stance and have a different opinion. I am not starting a gear war, just stating an observation and I would like to hear from other WORKING PROS using Sony - Especially if you switched from Nikon or Canon, and your thoughts..

Fast forward to this last couple of weeks. I helped a friend shoot a wedding with a nikon d700. I knew the d700 was a high iso work horse from helping him already. Amazing camera, and by all rights. I also assisted a well known photographer on a commercial gig this week. He was using Nikon D3x's. I know this is starting to be an apples to oranges comparison, as those are $9k bodies, but I was simply amazed at what a camera could do.Him and I had alot of downtime and chatted about Nikons he used vs. my Sony's. I walked away from that gig with some real insight into things. My wedding photog friend keeps things safe and I dont push it on a second shooter gig, but what the other photographer was doing with the D3x, I couldn't fathom at first.

Shooting a concert entirely at iso 2000-3200 wasnt an issue. Doing stage portraits at iso's above 400 wasnt even a concern. And they were going to be used for large prints. All around, you could just use what you needed without questioning how much post work you would have to do to correct the noise. In fact he didnt run anything thru a noise reduction program at all. most of the iso 2000 or 3200 shots were better out of camera than I ever achieved at iso 800 (they looked like iso 200 or 400 shots) with an a700 or a900. I know the full frame helps with noise, but I cant see getting this kind of image out of an a900 either without some serious time in post.

This got me to thinking... Sure the initial cost is significantly more, but how much time am I wasting running tons of wedding photos through denoise plugin and stressing over lighting conditions which has me taking longer than necessary to bring in additional lighting to light it properly at a lower iso, or cringing at the thought of what I am going to need to do to fix the noise when I start to go up the iso ladder during a shoot.

Before anyone starts posting all their "acceptable" iso 3200 shots of book shelves and cats that took 30 minutes of editing, keep in mind, I do not have that luxury. I earn a living from this and each image has a "cost " associated with it. The longer I sit at a PC, the higher the "cost", but I cant adjust the retail price to match. I watched him go from memory card to finished image without ever touching any noise reduction anything of live action shots and portraits. I mean cropping and a tad bit of other tweaking was all that was done. and there was ZERO visible noise at iso 2000 and 3200 right out of camera. Shooting portraits for large printing at iso 400 and above was the same way. Applying this to a wedding, I could be done with editing in less than a day vs. the multiple days it takes me now. That is worth a significant amount of upfront investment. I will now be renting a couple of Nikons for weddings I book. I love shooting photos. Its why I walked away from everything in the corporate world to do THIS for a living. I HATE sitting behind a computer. I also separate my work from family time. This is no longer a hobby and I only alot X number of hours a day to spend shooting or sitting behind a monitor in order to keep that balance.

SONY: You have some work to do. I am not jumping ship tomorrow, because I am buried in your system, but I am considering it in the long run. I know I am not your best customer, but I have a couple of gear bags right beside me with over $15,000 of my money that has gone to support Sony and the A-Mount in the last three years. If you want pros to switch to Sony, why would they do that when they will get LESS. Its not about the cost of the item nearly as much as "will it do what I need without making me work 3 times as hard for the same results?" I found out this last week, Sony is making me work harder than I should. That will never win you pro customers, its in danger of costing you pros. I know I have spent a week second guessing my decision to stay with the A mount because I had a few minolta lenses.

cgarrard
cgarrard Forum Pro • Posts: 15,372
Confidence

Until Sony has that to compete at that level, they won't.

At best they will continue to make very good cameras at a higher level for enthusiasts, which we will find out this year. I hope so.

If they think they can't compete with C/N at that level, they won't and I've got good reason to think that they think just that.

C
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digitalshooter
digitalshooter Forum Pro • Posts: 19,604
I agree I think all we will ever get from Sony at this level AA and up are

a few bones. Sony realizes their niche, its just that they do not have the courage to come out and say: we can and only want to compete in the market below the advanced amatuer.

JMO

RIP Sony

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Thanks,

Digitalshooter

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Audiophiling Contributing Member • Posts: 673
Lightroom 3

Now that Lightroom 3 is out, give that a try. It renders details and cleans up noise good enough that you shouldn't need any extra NR programs.

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-Davie T

Tomodo89 Regular Member • Posts: 135
Re: Using Sony professionally/limits

Interesting post.

The issue you raise with high ISO is an area I almost exclusively have to deal with. Shooting live music the ISO 800-3200 range on my A700 is what I'm using all the time. I now do this full-time.

I would say the A700 is quite acceptable with noise - providing you get a good exposure and the lighting is good enough. I've had some great looking ISO 3200 shots and some horrible ISO 800/1600 shots, all depends on the conditions.

I trap I now dont fall into is looking at images at 100% and seeing the ugly noise because when it comes to scaling down for the web or printing that noise is barely if at all visible.

The other thing to note is that if someone is paying you to take photos, its not what you see but what they see. As a photographer you'll notice noise more than the customer. (unless he/she is one too!)

As far as processing goes - I have a preset in Lightroom which does the basic noise cleaning in one click. Now with Lightroom 3, the results are even better. I simply shoot X Fine JPEG and dont bother with RAW, seperate noise processing etc.

What about Canon? Their cameras are used professionaly by many and as far as I know they aren't praised for high ISO quality as much as Nikon.

What I will agree with though is that the A900 could be better. I'd like to see Sony's next full-frame to be high ISO friendly - I cant justify having the A900 because by what I've seen theres little quality jump at high ISOs from the A700.

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Vivec Contributing Member • Posts: 532
Re: Using Sony professionally/limits

Well, I think you suffer from the 'grass is greener on the other side' effect

Sure, the D700 is the king if high ISO and the A900 has different strengths. The A900 is more of a studio camera with amazing Zeiss auto-focus glass, 24MP, in-body stabilization on all primes etc. In my studio work I consistently see better (skin) colors too than I see from the Canon guys.

With regard to noise though, the A900 is not so bad as you may think. Others already remarked that in the end it matters how it looks in print or on the screen, but not at 100% zoom in lightroom.

For example, if comparing noise with a 100% (1:1) zoom of the D700, you should look at only 50% (1:2) zoom on the A900 since the A900 has twice as many pixels! In fact, when we look at the DXO mark scores in print , the A900 has less noise than any APS-C camera. Moreover, if you compare noise in DXO mark between the A900, D3x, and D700, than the difference between the cameras is less than 3db even at ISO 6400 which is less than 1 stop -- and would never be the difference between a usable and unusable image.

Finally, do try out Lightroom 3, the improvement in noise reduction is astonishing for the A900.

gipper51 Veteran Member • Posts: 4,501
Re: Using Sony professionally/limits

It's not just the ISO performance, but lens selection limits professional applications as well. I'm not a full time pro, but I have side jobs doing architectural photography. Right now I'm using an A700 with 11-18mm and Tamron 17-50mm lenses. For the most part this works fine, but I REALLY would like to have the Tilt/Shift lenses like Canon offers. In the future I will be looking at FF, and I'm going to have a tough decision to make if I put the investment in a Sony body and FF wide lenses or switch to a Canon system. If I switch, that would be the time to do it. Sony may release their own T/S lenses someday, but I'm not investing on a possibility...for that much $$ I want a sure thing.
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Vivec Contributing Member • Posts: 532
Re: Using Sony professionally/limits

I don't agree with that -- the lens selection is actually very good for professional use especially now with the upcoming Zeiss 24mm and the 500mm G.

For tilt-shift lenses, there are the Arax lenses in A-mount in 28mm, 35mm, and 80mm. Sure, the lens for interior photography would be the Canon 17mm but that is a very special lens just for Canon -- even Nikon does not have such lens. Now we could argue that Nikon is not great for professional applications because Nikon's lens selection is limited If you make your living doing architecture you might be better off with Canon though with their 17mm lens, but I guess that in that case you would probably get a large format film camera instead...

zackiedawg
zackiedawg Forum Pro • Posts: 28,497
Tools and photographers

For me, the tool is one factor in the equation, and the best and most expensive tools in the right hands can yield the best results. But at the same time, comfort and familiarity with your tool of choice can make the difference, when combined with skill and good artistic vision, versus an uncreative person with an excellent and more expensive camera. And I have no idea how many photographers with the top cameras actually have the skill, ability, or desire to use all of the astounding extra features of those cameras in a way that produces the best possible outcome. What I do know is that I've seen 'professionals' who have turned out excellent work, gained a following, make a solid living, and have excellent artistry, using mid-grade equipment...and I've seen 'professionals' using top of the line equipment across the board totalling into the 6-figures whose work was uninspiring, bland, typical, formulaic, and unspecial.

As for your high ISO conundrum, Sony is producing cameras that can easily shoot at up to ISO6400, and provide very usable results, with minimal to no processing. Unfortunately, at the moment, it's not popular or acceptable to like those cameras or accept their strong suits, and because it's been deemed by the knowledgeable to be only capable of serving duty for the great unwashed. Unfortunately, many who might have discovered its abilities and really made great use of it were put off and formed an opinion on the cameras without having tried them. While it cannot replace a professional camera and is missing some features which may be necessary for certain photographers or types of photography, it would be plenty capable as a 2nd camera for a specific duty, much as it appears you have the A200 to back up the A700 - or how some might use the A700 alongside the A900. Or as a primary camera if one's photography falls within its niche and is not affected by its missing features.

I am what could probably be most kindly referred to as a light-duty pro, or part-time pro...in that I do make some money from photographic pursuits, but it does not support a living, nor is it my primary job. However, I have been able to make money from my current camera, by selling photos to customers, publications, and doing occasional hired shoots. I do not accept jobs for which I am not capable, or am insufficiently equipped - I will certainly never threaten to take business away from a career professional with lighting equipment and pro lenses and studios - they have the tools I do not, so I do only what I am capable of and confident I can deliver the results the clients will be happy with. And I do it with Sony equipment. Limitations? I honestly couldn't tell you, as it isn't an aspiration of mine to move to that full-time professional endeavor, and therefore wouldn't know if I would have to move to another mount to achieve that. I would presume that camera companies that have been around the longest, serving the largest group of professional shooters, and with the largest lens availability, would be a fairly obvious choice to consider...but I also know that there are always some folks who manage to become successful and make a mark by intentionally bucking the trend and going a different direction from what the great masses dictate.

I think artistic vision, maximum skill in using one's equipment to the absolute peak of its ability, and learning your strengths and weaknesses to maximize the former and minimize the latter, will always be the most important factors in success - and while equipment will definitely be part of that equation, how important it is depends a lot on the photographer.

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OP vwgn Senior Member • Posts: 2,106
Re: Using Sony professionally/limits

I also agree Sony has an excellent lens selection. I own over a dozen, but rarely carry more than 3 on a job (excluding duplicate backup lenses). I dont think its grass being greener. My needs are changing, and that change is difficult as Sony is hindering it. I started shooting T&I youth sports and kids portraits. Most of this work is iso 100/200 and I have all kinds of control on lighting etc.

As I move into weddings, and commercial work, Sony STILL shines at portraits where I can bring in lighting and studio work where I can shoot iso 100. I just delivered some 20x24 prints to a couple of brides from their bridal sessions and with no upressing from a700 they were tack sharp and gorgeous at arms length viewing. Hower at concerts/events/poor lit wedding ceremonies I am struggling. Its not a matter of learning my gear etc I know it inside and out. I have been shooting for over a decade and know what I am doing. I just cant seem to get what I need out of the gear I have, and found another tool that delivers what I need.

I have heard LR3 is great, and I am going to get it soon. That will eliminate some of the extra workflow I cannot introduce. I use LR only for about 98% of my images and staying inside the dev module will be great. However, not having to fool with it to begin with is even better.

I know not to look at noise at 100% on my monitor, but I have had some instances where even at 1600 w/my a700, using some of the known settings for best results (like negative # on zone contrast etc), I could not make a decent 11x14 print, when I know even iso 400 will make a stunning 24x36 print out of that camera. I am also aware underexposure will make noise. This is the dilema: Using a 200mm lens at f2.8, and even on a tripod, you still need 1/125 to get a fairly sharp image at decent print size. that puts me at iso 3200 most of the time or 1/60, which even on a tripod wont make a sharp image at a ceremony.

I must profess I dont shoot concerts and events hardly ever (mostly weddings for this stuff). I was assisting another photographer and using his gear. However I turn these gigs down regularly because I am not equipped to handle them ISO wise. Being able to walk around a stage/vbenue and shoot at good shutter and not have ANY noise is a big plus. Words cannot describe how nice the out of camera images were from the D3x. Again, I know that the a700 was NEVER designed to compete against that level, but I have no option in the A mount (and likely never will) to compete against that. And if I want to pursue these gigs and my competition is using it, I will lose work to them simply because they can deliver better images and deliver them FASTER..

Tomodo89: would you mind sharing your preset or how you came about the settings (email me)? I am fully open to admit, that some of this may just be my post processing skills. I am NOT a PS wizard and simply try to get it right in camera.

HarbingerOfDoom Forum Member • Posts: 98
Re: Using Sony professionally/limits

I am a working photographer and the only limits to ANY camera is the person operating it. The idea behind working for a living is to sell your product. Every single camera I have ever picked up is capable of that bar none. That includes a shoe box with duct tape and film. Too many put too much faith in the tools to do the work for them.
--
Run for your lives.

Vivec Contributing Member • Posts: 532
Re: Using Sony professionally/limits

vwgn wrote:

Being able to walk around a stage/vbenue and shoot at good shutter and not have ANY noise is a big plus. Words cannot describe how nice the out of camera images were from the D3x.

The problem is that this is just not true. As you can verify at dxomark, the difference in noise between the D3X and the A900 is at most 3db or 1 stop.

Perhaps the post processing was done better with more aggressive noise reduction and sharpening, or perhaps the situation was just different. But when starting with the same raw, there is just not more than 1 stop noise difference (at most) between them.

I am not saying you should consider to use Nikon or that the D3x is not nice. I just think that you might do a very expensive switch and then be disappointed as well

Sligital New Member • Posts: 8
Re: Using Sony professionally/limits

HarbingerOfDoom wrote:

I am a working photographer and the only limits to ANY camera is the person operating it.
--

This is plainly untrue all camera have their limitations, although I would agree that the skill of the user plays the major part in the process.

gipper51 Veteran Member • Posts: 4,501
Re: Using Sony professionally/limits

Vivec wrote:

I don't agree with that -- the lens selection is actually very good for professional use especially now with the upcoming Zeiss 24mm and the 500mm G.

For tilt-shift lenses, there are the Arax lenses in A-mount in 28mm, 35mm, and 80mm. Sure, the lens for interior photography would be the Canon 17mm but that is a very special lens just for Canon -- even Nikon does not have such lens. Now we could argue that Nikon is not great for professional applications because Nikon's lens selection is limited If you make your living doing architecture you might be better off with Canon though with their 17mm lens, but I guess that in that case you would probably get a large format film camera instead...

The lens selection is good for MOST pro applications, I'll admit architectural shooting is a very small niche of all the pro categories. But still, there are better systems than Sony if this is what you shoot. And 28mm at the widest is limiting considering other systems offer 17 and 24mm options.

I've never seen a pro architectural photographer use Nikon. My experience dealing with probably half a dozen full time pros I've seen: Canon FF digital, Medium Format Digital and 4x5 film. The 4x5 is a dying breed recently, most now are shooting either Canon or Phase One/Hasselblad systems.

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gipper51 Veteran Member • Posts: 4,501
Re: Using Sony professionally/limits

HarbingerOfDoom wrote:

I am a working photographer and the only limits to ANY camera is the person operating it. The idea behind working for a living is to sell your product. Every single camera I have ever picked up is capable of that bar none. That includes a shoe box with duct tape and film. Too many put too much faith in the tools to do the work for them.
--
Run for your lives.

Just out of curiosity are you doing your dailiy work using that shoe box camera?

That old argument is great for academic discussions...but in the professional world you are at a competitive disadvantage when your colleagues are using gear that lets them work faster and produce technically better photos. If nothinge else it impresses a client more when you tell them you're shooting their project with a $30K setup rather than a cadboard box...and in the real world that kind of stuff matters whether we like it or not. I'd have a hard time doing an architectural commission with a pinhole camera and promising a client my photos will be as good (or better) than the next talented photographer using a MFD system with T/S lenses. If nothing else he probably won the job from me as he could bid it lower by producing the same photos in half the time of me and my "artistic" pinhole setup.

Great gear will never make up for lack of talent and knowledge of photography, but in the pro world it's not a lion among the sheep trying to survive...gear makes a difference. If it didn't then the top gear wouldn't exist and pros wouldn't be spending the big money buying them.
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alphaone Forum Member • Posts: 89
Re: Using Sony professionally/limits

I disagree.
What i use is none of the clients business. The client is not buying a camera.

I use different brands for different things. They are tools to help me sell a product.

Like i said. Don't put so much faith in the tools doing the work for you.

If 10 photographers all have the same body and lens one will get the product that a client will buy. If 10 photographers all have different bodies and lenses only one will get the sale. Not necessarily the one that got the sale in the group with all the same bodies.

Olles Regular Member • Posts: 174
Professional Support from Sony?

Sony recently showed us that they finally are capable of handling high ISOs with the A550 and the NEX cameras (it seems they are playing at least in the same field as C/N)

So my guess would be that Sony comes out with a A900 type body next year with at least that level of high ISO performance. Lenses match C/N as well.

However, you as a Pro, how do you consider the ProSupport of Sony - I didn't hear very good things about it and compared to C/N they seem to have a lot to learn.
Is/Was this ever an issue to you?

Werner

MCromer
MCromer Senior Member • Posts: 1,138
Re: Using Sony professionally/limits

The 550 is as good as it gets in APS-C land. 1600 is no worries at all, and 3200 is fully usable with 6400 acceptable for a lot of uses.

I have no reason to doubt that the replacement for the 900/850 will be seriously better than Sony's current FF bodies.

John A Wake Regular Member • Posts: 379
Re: Using Sony professionally/limits

The question you have to ask yourself as a professional is, will the extra revenue generated by the time saved or more commissions justify the cost of two D3x bodies, as one alone without a back up would leave you exactly where you are now. If the answer is no then you wasted even more of your precious time writing the original post.

John

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Tomodo89 Regular Member • Posts: 135
Re: Using Sony professionally/limits

vwgn - regarding shootings gigs and events, are people actually buying large prints from you? Live music photography in particular is something that often doesn't get printed beyond A4 / 8x11 because at best its printed in a magazine, on small flyers etc. I haven't printed beyond A3 / 11x16 myself so I wouldn't know what my high ISO work looks like on a large print. Obviously weddings do mean larger print sizes sometimes.

My Lightroom preset is simply Color Noise almost full with a small amount of Luminance. That works for me for most photos I do - i just click the preset, make a few more small adjustments and export. Maybe if i was printing large I would make finer adjusts.

I go back to what we see as photographers and what the client sees - you may look at the noise but the client may just be looking for a great photo that captured the moment they wanted. There's even some who like a bit of grain. [especially the film grain look]

An interesting article on photo.net about all the systems and their suitability for weddings: http://photo.net/wedding-photography-forum/00V98v [Sony came out as the choice for the writer]

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