Mirrorless on the Job. Sony A7r, A7, a6000, Fuji XT1 and.......... Nokia 1020.

This was a bit of a camera fest. Four mirrorless cameras, six lenses and.......my Nokia Smartphone, which was responsible for the images you see above, screengrabs from the video I shot with it.

So what was going on? Well after a gap of a year or two, my nephew Ben who works in education asked me to help with the production of a video of a training session for Physics teachers in schools. This also involved some stills shooting for website use. If all goes well and the client likes the results, there may be further work shooting more specific training scenarios. 

Like the previous education shooting we have done, we had to fit in with what was going on around us, which was a combination of lectures, demonstrations and hands-on workshops. So we took a fair amount of gear. For video Sony A7, A7r and a6000 cameras. 10-18mm, 28-70mm, 55mm and Sigma 35mm f/1.4 lenses, four tripods, pair of headphones and Rode microphone. For stills, I used my Fuji X-T1 and 35mm f/1.4 and 85mm f/1.2 lenses. 

Shooting was a mixture of tripod mounted and hand-holding. Having experience of doing this kind of work before and shooting weddings together meant that we weren't particularly fazed by the situation and the results look good. Though my nephew has the footage from 4 cameras to edit by Monday. I don't envy him that. As indicated above I also used my Nokia 1020 mounted on a gorilla pod for close up work. 

All our previous work like this had involved DSLR's and this was the first time I'd gone out on a pro commissioned assignment with mirrorless cameras only. In practice of course the mirrorless aspect was pretty irrelevant. The Sony A7 / A7r had battery grips, as did the Fuji, so yes there were marginal weight and size savings, but I still had aching arms and legs at the end of the day, so it makes little difference. 

The Sony's worked well and were chosen in preference to my Panasonics because of the marginally better high ISO performance. Though the a6000 turned itself off after a long take because it was overheating. Why Sony can't solve this I have no idea. The Fuji worked very nicely for stills and I have a series of clean sharp images taken in pretty dim light. The fast lenses helped.

I have to mention the Nokia Lumia 1020 as well. I had intended to use it to take some video and stills of us working, but the screen is so good, I ended up using it on my small tripod to shoot some of the experiments close up. The footage is amazing and though I haven't had time to go through it properly, it looks like it has performed better than the Sony's at high ISO's. Now this isn't particularly surprising since many professional broadcast video cameras have sensors this size. However it was pretty amazing and has the bonus of producing some nice video grabs for website use.

Would I use the same kit again? Well maybe, but maybe not. Battery life on the Sony's and Fuji wasn't great and I'm thinking that if more work like this turns up then either a Sony RX10, Panasonic FZ1000 or both might be a better option. The fast zooms, and 1" sensor offer advantages for this kind of work and the fact of taking stills off the Panasonics 4K output is very appealing. High ISO performance is obviously a consideration here, but to be honest the only real issues where when the lights were turned off for a particular experiment. My Nokia coped with that anyway. (Did I really just write that?) 

So it was hard work but fun to be working with Ben again and shooting people in situation. Hopefully at some point in the future I can post the finished video, since we have negotiated that we can use the footage for our own promotional purposes. Not sure I'd want to be doing this every day, but it was fun to have to react instinctively to situations again and I do like the 'buzz' of that. The gear mostly performed well, but I'm beginning to think that Nokia phone has almost 'magical' powers!!! (It actually doesn't because the sound is rubbish. The sound of the IS working ruins the recording. But hey, you can't have everything I suppose.)

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