Sunday, May 6, 2018

My settings for the Sony A7M3

Recently my friend Jim Palik moved from Canon to Sony after over 40 years with the big gun. At 75, he says, you start to think about how much weight you are carrying around and the Sony mirrorless camera is much lighter than the 5D Mark II. So we went down to his favorite camera store and he bought the A7M3, a Sigma adapter for his Canon lenses, a Sony 64 GB SDXC memory card and an extra battery. Now he is ready to get out and play!

But first I promised to tell you readers (and Jim) what settings I've decided to use for my camera - the menus inside and the customizable buttons and dials on the body.

First of all, I've never noticed that the camera added movement to the picture when it was taken on a tripod with Steady Shot on. Therefore, I'd recommend simply leaving on the Steady Shot. If you are using a lens with stabilization in it, you can easily turn that off if you like, but the chances that I would forget to turn it back on are so great that I would prefer to just leave it on.

For the first time, I've chosen to change two focusing settings with this new Sony camera. The focus peaking feature has been highly praised over the years and I've usually had it set to High and turned the color to Red. However, that was using the AF-S focusing mode. With this camera I've begun using the DMF function and have turned off the (distracting) red focus peaking. The camera focuses and then moves to manual focus mode so that you can check and perfect the focus point if necessary.
Why did I do this? In the past it was somewhat bothersome to do this because when I adjust the focus manually, I have the camera zoom in on the subject so that I can see it better. However, the zoom area is not always where I want to focus, so I had to fiddle around with the toggle switch and by then the camera had either zoomed back out or the subject had moved. But with the new touch screen, it is easier to move the focus area to the desired spot, even while you are looking through the viewfinder.

However, when I am shooting sports or some other active subject, I move to AF-C and can easily focus-follow the moving person or animal with a quick click of the button inside the big control wheel. I have set C1 to Focus Mode to make this change easily.

Speaking of zooming, at the baseball game last week I often opted to shoot in the APS-C mode from the center ("sweet spot") of the sensor, resulting in a 10MP image which is basically a digital zoom. The advantages here were three-fold: I could crop the picture in-camera, the images wouldn't take up as much space on my hard-drives and the buffer didn't fill up as quickly. I have the AEL button on the back (top-right) of the camera set to one-click zoom because in the menu (Camera 1, first page) I have set APS-C/Super 35mm to "Auto" and "Manual: On". The AEL butt on is then set to "Full Frm Sel."

So where is my AEL button? That is on the front under C2. I wanted to be able to zoom and click the shutter at nearly the same time, so I set the zoom button to the back. But for AEL, I can have that up front. I prefer AEL toggle so that my other fingers are free to make other adjustments after I've made that all-important exposure adjustment.

I usually shoot in Wide Focus Mode, making adjustments later manually. Since I change this setting relatively rarely, I have it on the C3 button, which requires a bit more fumbling about to find and change. Zone focusing is a good choice when simple compositions such as landscapes are in front of your lens. Simply jog the Multi-Select Button left or right, up or down to change the zone. The same works for the Flexible Spot (mine is set to "Medium") or the new expandable flexible spot.

When I want to shoot in Manual Focus mode only, I click on the AF-ON button on the back, which is pre-programmed to turn the automatic focus on and off anyway. I'm used to having this function there, so I don't have to think about it any more.

The trash can/C4 button is also customizable. I want to take advantage of the new touch screen for focusing. There are times, however, when I don't want to have it on. So I simply press C4 and it turns off.

The next thing I have programmed is the Multi-selector, which I press to set the Eye focus. I haven't used it as much as I had originally hoped to, but when I do more portraits, I'm sure I'll be turning it on more frequently.

Finally, the control wheel is set like this for me:
Left is Drive and Right is ISO. Why override the icons painted on the camera body here if there is no good reason to? I don't have to change ISO with this camera very often; it is usually set to Automatic 100-8000 because I've found everything within this range to be good. I might raise the minimum ISO to 200 or 400, but that's just out of habit. Having the Auto ISO Shutter Speed minimum set to Fast or Faster does the same thing.
Pressing the bottom of the control wheel changes my silent shutter function. Read all about the pros and cons of that here. That post also explains when I want to turn it off (or back on). I've recently realized, however, that when using the LA-EA4 adapter with the A7iii, the set-up makes a click when you take a picture. The shutter is no longer silent.
The top of the control wheel cannot be changed. It always changes what the display looks like: graphic display, all info or none, level, histogram, blank (off - such as for night shooting). These settings can be changed on the second Camera menu on page 6 (DISP Button). Set the display and viewfinder to show different things if you so wish.

My Function Menu looks like this:
Top row -
Auto ASP-C (in case I end up accidentally zooming too often, I can easily turn off the function)
ISO Automatic Shutter Speed (usually set to FAST)
Focus Area
Metering Mode (usually matrix)
Picture Effect (rarely used, but it is otherwise hard to find and turn on; only relevant when shooting JPEGs only)
Live View Display (important to turn off when using a flash)

Bottom row -
DRO (usually AUTO, but unnecessary when shooting RAW)
Priority Set in AWB (Standard; read more about this setting improvement here)
White Balance (AWB, though I sometimes change it to Flash when shooting primarily with a flash)
Picture Quality (RAW)
Creative Style (Standard tends to be the best, but I think you get a bit more light if you set it to Light in darker situations)
Grid Line (usually on Thirds, but turning it off can give you a feeling of freedom with your picture composition)

Furthermore, I stay in airplane mode unless I want to use my phone to transfer the GPS coordinates to the metadata in the pictures I'm shooting. I have tried this and it worked perfectly. Why don't I do it all the time? It drains both batteries (phone and camera) if on all the time.