Sony A7 and A7r - Are these stock photographers dream cameras?

 All images shot with Sony A7 and A7r cameras











Picture libraries accept images from any camera that produces files over a certain size. These days, particularly with the rise of Microstock (images at cheaper prices for web use and above) the acceptable size has reduced. Up to a few years ago many libraries had a minimum of 48MB, which in 3:2 ratio is around A3. These days, with the huge increase in demand for pictures intended for the web, that can be as low as 6MB, which is what you get from a 2MP sensor. Many will also accept phone pictures. So you have a pretty wide choice if you want to submit pictures. 

But it is the case that the larger your file size, the more opportunity for sales. Picture Library and Stock sites will offer a range of sizes, from the very small suitable only for websites, to huge files capable of massive print reproduction. I've often written that 36MP is overkill for the majority of library uses as there just aren't that many requirements for printing at that size. Yes images can be cropped severely, but these days with the choice available (many sites have in excess of 20 million images available) finding the 'right' image without cropping isn't that difficult. But having said all that I've used a Nikon D800E and now a Sony A7r for shooting stock and I think that 24MP is probably the ideal size for submitting stock images. So why so large?

Well again I've often written about how the larger file sizes give the impression that the file is very high quality. There is also the fact that when a large file is reduced to a smaller one, the quality, particularly the sharpness, tends to improve quite dramatically. Noise reduces, artefacts disappear and though it's not true in every case, average larger files can produce great smaller ones. 

So the Sony's have an advantage there, producing large file sizes without upsizing. But they have other advantages as well. Since the OOC jpgs. are so good, editing time is reduced and the default color renditions are also very 'punchy' which helps when you're selling images via small thumbnails. 

That's just the images. Operationally the cameras have advantages for photographers. The small size and weight and with the right lens, a relatively unobtrusive look, make life easier for the actual shooting of the images. Back in my film days I used to almost fill a car boot for a trip to Europe with camera gear. Two medium-format cameras plus lenses and the same for 35mm. Flash guns and tripods, since I only ever used Fuji Velvia 50 and of course a bag for that film. And people did notice that I was taking pictures when I was out shooting. Of course these days I have to pack a laptop and an external drive as well, but even so I take a lot less with me and for the most part when I'm out shooting I 'blend' in quite nicely because of the smaller size of my gear. Though using my D800E plus 28-300mm zoom wasn't exactly 'stealth photography'. However the last trip away I did was shot entirely on m4/3 with G6 and GH3 cameras.

For me there are two main advantages that the Sony's give me. The first advantage is what the huge file size lets me do. After years of working mainly with relatively small sensor m4/3 and APS-C cameras, I've pretty much honed my compositions down so that my images are almost uncroppable. Plus I've often shot wide-angle to telephoto options of the same scene. But as I indicated in a previous post, I'm shooting in a different way with the Sony's. And one 36MP image can yield a lot of further images if I crop. A panoramic image is very possible from an A7r file, with of course still plenty of pixels in it. And the fact that I'm a bit light on telephoto options for the cameras is dealt with by the fact that again I can crop dramatically and still have a pretty large file. 

The second advantage of the Sony's is a direct result of the lighter, smaller body. When I took the D800E away for a weeks stock shooting trip, I would start off using it since it seemed crazy not to take advantage of the huge file size, but after a day or two, the weight and size would get to me and I'd turn to a smaller, lighter camera. In fact for one of my trips last summer, when I was doing a lot of coastal walking in summer heat, I ended up using my Nikon 1 V1 more often than my D800E. The Sony's of course are cameras that I would use all the time and I'm going to be making sure that I have small light lens options to go with them, to make the most of this. This added to the cropping possibilities outlined above means that I should be taking less gear with me and carrying less gear when I'm actually photographing. And that has certainly been the case up to now. 

John M Flores's post I linked to yesterday shows that in many circumstances the nature of what and how you are shooting determines what you can use. It's all very well for photographers who never leave the studio or remain rooted to one spot at a sporting event or news conference to go on about the virtues of 'big boy' DSLR's. But they should try walking several miles day after day in difficult terrain in UK weather. Which can of course involve anything from 30 degree heat waves to freezing temperatures and knee high mud! And yes I know that there are the 'Superman' photographers with 3 Nikon D4s and a set of the f/2.8 zooms in their backpack, but I'm not one of those. (And maybe they aren't one of those either! After all we only have their word for their 'exploits') So for me the Sony A7 and A7r in particular, are perfect cameras for what I do. Resolution to spare in a small, light package. Perfect. In many ways I suppose I'm the perfect customer for these cameras and I did title one of my posts 'Resistance is futile'. 

However I now of course have a different problem to that with the D800E. With that camera, despite it's virtues in terms of the images it produced, I had to convince myself that I should take it out. With the Sony's I have a hard time convincing myself to take anything else out. And certainly since I've bought them that really hasn't worked. It's not quite the case that I have a collection of photographic 'white elephants' sitting on my shelf, but I must admit it's getting there. 



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