So, you’ve just bought a Sony A7S II (or some other Sony Alpha camera) while feeling pretty excited and ready to take it out for a spin. You run home, unpack the device, and power it up, eager to use it on your next videography gig.
Before you go out there, though, we highly recommend checking out this video from Harv Video/Audio Stuff first. In essence, it outlines a few hacks/techniques you can use to not only get started more quickly with this fantastic mirrorless camera but also should help you to eliminate most of the trial and error process involved along the way.
Bare in mind that when shooting at higher frame rates, there is a noticeable difference in the crop factor utilized by the camera, meaning that you will get a significantly narrower field of view when compared to shooting in at a standard frame rate. On those occasions, Harv suggests using a wide APS-C lens, which should allow you to have a wider field of view than using a traditional full-frame lens. A good piece of glass that would be perfect for this situation is the Canon EF-S 10-18mm F4.5-5.6 or the Tokina 11-16 F2.8 lens.
Now if you have a Sony A7S II, the camera does include an option to shoot in APS-C mode (1080p only) thus allowing you to use APS-C lenses as well. Although if you want to get a wider field of view from your shots, it might be better to disable the option. Instead, shoot in the full-frame 4K resolution that the tool is capable of and correct any of the vignetting in post-production (which is an incredibly simple process). That way not only do your wide shots become wider but the extra image quality when shooting in 4K allows you to retain more detail in the picture.
If you want a more vibrant looking image compared to what you get out-of-the-box, try increasing the primary colors under the color depth settings. This is an especially handy tip if you want to lean your image’s look more towards a Canon picture profile, compared to a more Sony aesthetic appealing to teals and blues.
Obviously, there is a multitude of menus inside of Sony cameras. In fact, there are even menus inside of menus too mainly due to the insane number of features available on board. Hence why if you have a few favorite features you use constantly, but struggle to access at a moments notice, you should try utilizing the Quick Menu the camera provides. By doing so, you will save a lot of time in production while being more focused on the actual shooting.
Furthermore, Sony Alpha cameras are rather small and have one single hot shoe mount as a means of expansion. To add more mounting points for accessories, Harv recommends that you buy a cage for your camera. As a rule, these modular enclosures could be pretty handy on set and most importantly will allow you to build your rig in a manner that suits your needs.
Even if you decide to switch cameras, most of the components of the cage are modular, so you don’t have to buy new accessories. While there are many brands out there that sell cages, Harv suggests considering those manufactured by Small Rig because of their product’s great value.
One of the biggest qualms when it comes to production is the battery life of a camera. Sony Alpha cameras are notorious for having a rather short battery life, requiring the purchase of multiple batteries to remain afloat on set. To save battery, make sure to turn on Airplane Mode on your camera, which disables features like WiFi and NFC.
This way, all those extra communication signals aren’t draining the precious battery life you may or may not need on set. In addition, to further extend your battery life, you can even power your camera off a portable power bank through the USB port on the side of the camera. This is especially handy if you need emergency camera power in a pinch.
Even though this is not a comprehensive list by any means, the included tips should help you get started and optimize the shooting workflow with your favorite Sony Alpha camera in an instance. If you have any other suggestions, please feel free to share those in the comments section below.