If you bought your Sony a7, a7R, a7S, a7II, a7RII, a7SII camera with a lens, then you already have everything you need to begin shooting. But depending on the type of photography you’re doing, there are some accessories that can really come in handy. Let’s start with some must-have accessories for your photography.
External Chargers and Batteries
My first suggestion is to buy an external charger and extra batteries. Sure, you can always plug the cord that came with your camera into an electrical outlet to charge your camera battery, but it’s pretty hard to shoot with your camera plugged into the wall.
It’s much better to purchase a Sony BC-TRW battery charger (Amazon | B&H) and a couple extra Sony NP-FW50 Lithium-Ion batteries (Amazon | B&H). If you have the older style W-battery chargers from NEX, they’ll work just fine, but the BC-TRW battery charger has nice features like charge indicator lights.
Sony AC Adapter AC-PW20 (Amazon | B&H) powers your a7-series camera from an AC outlet. This comes in handy when the camera is being used near an AC power supply for extended periods such as for studio sessions, when uploading files to a PC, or when shooting long time lapse sequences.
External Battery Packs
Need to run your camera longer without A/C power? Check out these external battery pack options:
Tether Tools Case Relay Camera Power System is the first infinite hot-swappable power source for time-lapse photography, power-hungry LiveView shooting or video production. It offers uninterruptible power to most DSLR and Mirrorless cameras via any common USB 5V power pack or wall power.
This is an a la carte system you need three things:
1. Tether Tools Case Relay Camera Power System ($99.99 – Order Here)
2. Tether Tools Relay Camera Coupler for Sony Cameras with NP-FW50 Battery ($34.99 – Order Here)
3. USB Power Bank (2.1 Amps or more) such as: Anker 20,000 mAh Portable Power Bank ($39.99 – Here)
Optional (but cool) accessory: Tether Tools StrapMoore ($18.95 – Order Here)
Lens Mount Adapters
One of the best features of mirrorless cameras is that, due to their thin body design, it’s possible to mount a huge array of lenses on them using lens mount adapters. As the first fullframe mirrorless cameras, Sony’s Fullframe E-mount cameras are the only cameras that allow you to use virtually every make of 35mm lenses with the full angle of view for which those lenses were designed.
There are far too many option to mention here, so they’ve discussed in detail in this Guide to the best lens mount adapters for Sony E-Mount cameras:
Vello EXT-SFED Deluxe Auto Focus Extension Tube Set for Sony E-Mount Lenses are compatible with Sony full-frame and APS-C cameras and Sony FE and E mount lenses. Extension tubes extend the close focus range of any lens making them well suited for close-up portraiture and macro photography. This set contains two extension tubes, one 10mm, and one 16mm. They can be used individually or together to create the desired magnification effect. Extension tubes have no optical elements so they do not degrade the quality of your lenses and these fully automatic extension tubes communicate all electronic functions from lens to camera including autofocus and auto exposure. They are built with metal lens mounts for durability and longevity and enable you to convert your E-mount lens into a macro lens while maintaining the lens’ original optical quality.
Shooting with a fast memory card allows you to shoot even longer burst without buffer slowdowns. Good memory cards are one of the best investments you can make in maximizing the performance of your camera. Sony SDXC UZ UHS-I memory cards with 90 MB/s Write Speed/95 MB/s read Speed are an excellent choice.
• Sony 32GB SDHC UZ UHS-I Class 10 U3 Memory Card(Order from B&H | Amazon)
• Sony 64GB SDXC UZ UHS-I Class 10 U3 Memory Card (Order from B&H | Amazon)
• Sony 128GB SDXC UZ UHS-I Class 10 U3 Memory Card (Order from B&H | Amazon)
If 70 MB/sec write speed meets your needs, these Sony SDHC UZ Class 10 UHS-1 memory cards offer very good performance at a great price:
• Sony 32GB SDHC UX Class 10 UHS-1 Memory Cards (Order from B&H | Amazon)
• Sony 64GB SDXC UX Class 10 UHS-1 Memory Cards (Order from B&H | Amazon)
• Sony 128GB SDXC UX Class 10 UHS-1 Memory Cards (Order from B&H | Amazon)
SD Memory Card Cases
Nothing’s worse than searching around your camera bag trying to find a tiny SD card. Digital card cases can make quick order out of that chaos. Pelican 0915 SD Memory Card Case will snugly hold the cards in the removable, shock absorbing liner. The water resistant seal ensures that your cards will be safe from moisture, even if the case is submerged in water. To keep track of which cards I’ve shot, I turn the cards face down once I’ve used them.
Pelican 0915 SD Memory Card Case ($17.25 at B&H Photo) holds and protects up to 12 SD memory cards.
Your camera came with a strap. It might be exactly your style, but if it’s not, you have lots of options. There’s no camera accessory we come in closer contact with than the strap. You can find virtually any strap your heart desires online, so if you’re in the mood for a hot-pink ostrich-leather camera strap, you’ll probably find it.
I have Think Tank V2.0-1″ Double-Sided Non-Slip Camera Straps on all my a7 series cameras. It’s light and flexible and the double-sided non-slip surfaces prevent the camera from sliding off your shoulder even when wearing your favorite slick leather jacket (which should give you a clue why I switched to these.)
But if your prefer a cross-body sling strap, then BlackRapid Metro Sling Camera Strap may be just the ticket.
I like to travel with my photo gear, and typically my travel involves flying. This means that all my camera equipment will be traveling in the cabin with me, not in the luggage compartment. I can’t emphasize this enough: Do not pack your camera in your checked luggage! Thousands of cameras, lenses, and accessories are lost or stolen from checked luggage every year. The best way to ensure that it doesn’t happen to you is to bring your equipment onboard and place it in the overhead storage. I like to bring my laptop as well, so I have found a couple of backpack camera storage systems that allow me to fit a camera body, several lenses, some accessories, my laptop, and even some snacks into one backpack-style bag that still fits in any overhead compartment.
One of great advantages of Sony a7-series cameras is that you can travel with your photo gear without it weighing you down. So you don’t want the bag you carry it in to weigh you down either. Fortunately, there are a few great options that won’t weigh down your shoulder – or your wallet.
ONA Brixton Camera and Laptop Messenger Bag – Black Nylon (Order Here for $279.00) is handcrafted from premium 1050D ballistic nylon and features Italian leather accents and solid brass hardware in a gunmetal finish. Stylish yet understated, each of these bags is designed with materials that are lightweight, highly durable, and water-resistant. ONA makes beautiful bags and I think these are their nicest bags ever. Photographers wishing to seamlessly navigate the urban environment with a DSLR or mirrorless camera with 2-3 lenses, related accessories and a 13″ laptop at their sides will appreciate the luxurious yet stealthy, black The Nylon Brixton Camera and Laptop Messenger Bag from ONA. Made of 1050D ballistic nylon with tasteful leather accents, and dressed with solid brass, gunmetal finish hardware, the Brixton is both well-appointed and durable. The bag’s front flap helps protect the bag from inclement weather and utilizes a hidden tuck-lock closure that is discreet and provides quick and easy access to gear. Leather straps with buckles facilitate incremental adjustments to the bag’s depth. Fully-featured, the bag has a padded insert with four, touch-fastening dividers for protecting and organizing gear to one’s specifications. Located under the ample front flap, are two, adjacent accessory pockets. Carry your Brixton with the top handle or adjustable shoulder strap with a sliding pad.
ONA Camps Bay Camera and Laptop Backpack – Black Nylon (Order Here for $409.00) Store, protect and transport your photography gear in the beautiful, handcrafted, black The Nylons Camps Bay Backpack from ONA. This pack has a main compartment with padded touch-fastening dividers for storing DSLR or mirrorless cameras with attached 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, up to 7 additional lenses and related accessories. The Nylon Camps Bay will also accommodate up to a 17″ laptop. The pack features a 4 – 7″ space for personal items, and an exterior, zippered accessory pocket. Carry The Nylons Camp Bay Backpack with the padded shoulder straps or top handle. For comfort and to wick away moisture, the pack has an air mesh back panel. Made of 1050D ballistic nylon with leather accents and solid brass, gunmetal finish hardware, this pack is both attractive and durable.
If you want to step up to a handcrafted leather bag, check out the dark truffle Italian-leather ONA Prince Street Messenger Bag $389 (Amazon | B&H) or it’s larger sibling the ONA Brixton Camera/Laptop Messenger Bag $429 (Amazon | B&H).
My personal favorite walk-around bag is the Sony LCS-SB1 Sling Bag (Amazon | B&H). It’s a slim, body-hugging bag that doesn’t scream, “Steal me, I’m worth thousands!” Although it weighs virtually nothing, it holds a lot. It can fit everything I need for a day out shooting; even a 70-400mm lens with the LA-EA4 fits neatly inside.
Leather Half Cases
The Gariz leather half-case adds the solidity of a metal base plate with tripod screw and still allows you to change batteries without removing the case.
Vertical Grip VG-C1EM for a7/a7R/a7S (Amazon | B&H) holds two batteries, which allows you to double the battery life of the camera. When the first battery runs out, the camera automatically switches to the second. The grip also adds a second shutter release button positioned for vertical shooting. The grip adds a bit of heft and gives you more to grip when shooting with longer, heavier lenses.
Sony VG-C1EM vertical grip adds a vertical release button and allows you to double your battery capacity.
Vertical Grip VG-C2EM for a7II & a7RII (B&H) holds two Sony NP-FW50 Lithium-Ion batteries and is designed to fit seamlessly with the ergonomics of the new a7II body design and more comfortably in your hand.
Neewer Pro Battery Grip with 2.4GHz Wireless Remote Control for Sony A7II offers an alternative to the Sony VG-C2EM Grip for Sony A7 II mirrorless cameras. The Neewer Vertical Battery Grip holds up to two Sony NP-FW50 batteries and comes with a wireless remote and intervalometer.
Remote controls allow hands-off triggering of a tripod-mounted camera or long bulb exposure times. Sony RM-VPR1 remote control with Multi-Terminal Cable ($50 at B&H | Amazon) allows you to trigger long exposures without touching your camera.
If you prefer a wireless remote trigger, Sony RMT-DSLR2 Wireless Remote ($24 at B&H Photo | Amazon) triggers your shutter by sending an infrared signal to the camera’s remote port, ensuring that you don’t shake the camera as you fire it.
Sony RMT-VP1K Wireless Receiver and Remote Commander Kit ($69 at B&H Photo | Amazon) can operate your camera or a group of cameras remotely using the RMT-VP1K Wireless Receiver and Remote Commander Kit from Sony. The multi-function remote control is compatible with Sony cameras that are equipped with a multi terminal and has further compatibility with MI-show and DI products. For video or still use, the remote has four available modes: Half-push, Release, Bulb lock, and REC/Zoom. The IR receiver has 360Â° coverage. Full Compatibility with all Sony products with multi-terminal port.
Vello 3.5mm Remote Shutter Release Cable for Sony Multi-Terminal cameras ($11 from B&H Photo) is a budget-priced remote release coble that allows you to trigger your Sony mirrorless cameras remotely using a PocketWizard Plus III, MultiMAX II or any other remote triggers with a 3.5mm mini-plug port.
PocketWizard Remote Trigger Cable for Sony ($32) PocketWizard Cables are never the cheapest but they are the most reliable. If you’re mounting your camera in a catwalk or some other hard to reach remote location and you value reliability over price, these cords will allow you to remotely trigger your Sony cameras using PocketWizard Plus III, MultiMAX II as well as control the half-press function. The 3′ cable has a 1/8″ stereo miniphone connection at one end and Sony’s Multi/micro-USB attachment at the other.
PocketWizard Remote Camera Cable with Camera Power for Sony ($40) has a Multi/micro-USB connection and a USB Type-A on one end, and the other end has a 3.5mm stereo miniphone connection. The miniphone jack is compatible with any Pocket Wizard radio and plugs directly into the radio’s synch port. The other end plugs into the camera’s Multi/micro-USB port to establish a connection from the receiving radio to fire off the camera. This type of connection keeps the camera continuously awake and ready to fire at a moment’s notice.
With a transmitting radio, the same miniphone connection is used, but the Multi/micro-USB connection is plugged into the compatible RM-VPR1 Remote Commander to send the signal when pressed. Half press function is available when using a Plus III as a transmitting radio and a Plus III or Plus IV radio as a receiving radio with Channels 17-32. Pre-trigger function is available when using a Plus III, MultiMAX, or MultiMAX II as a transmitting radio and a Plus III, MultiMAX, or MultiMAX II as a receiving radio with Channels 17-32. To supplement power to the camera, plug into the micro-USB port and the USB Type-A connection plugs into an external battery power to extend the camera’s working capacity.
Here are wired & wireless intervalometers that will work with Sony a7 Series cameras:
JJC TM-F2 Wire Multi-Function LCD Timer Remote for Sony Multi-Terminal ($26 at Amazon) This is the choice of time-lapse specialist Sony Artisan Drew Geraci for it simplicity, size and easy to read display.
hahnel Captur Timer Kit for Sony ($89 at B&H Photo) This bundle enhances your Captur remote shutter release system by providing a AA battery-powered interval timer module, as well as a receiver for mounting on a camera. Additional receivers are available for firing even more DSLRs. Use this kit with the transmitter you already have, or purchase one separately. As an alternative to wireless operation, the system can function in wired mode, and this kit includes the cables for connecting both the receiver and timer module to the camera. The module features single, continuous, and bulb exposure modes, allowing you to choose from a huge range of exposure times with the continuous and bulb settings.
Tether Tools Air Direct Wireless Tethering (Pre-order Now $329) offers advanced tethering technology allowing you to tether Sony cameras wirelessly to Capture One, Imaging Edge Remote & Smart Shooter 4. It connects through the camera’s USB tethering port and provides all the same control and tethering options possible with wired tethering. Designed to reach the maximum transfer potential 5Ghz 802.11AC has to offer, Air Direct has two antennas with no interference from metal camera housings.
Think Tank Introduces Hydrophobia V3.0 Advanced Camera Rain Covers including new sizes for Sony Full-Frame Mirrorless and Wide Angle Lenses. Hydrophobia V3.0 covers feature DWR (Durable Water Repellent) coating and is made from three layers of material for durability. It is also seam-sealed for added protection against rain, sleet, snow, sand, and dust. Fold it down to fit into the included compact carrying pouch and slip it into your camera bag so you’re prepared in a downpour or sand storm.
Hydrophobia V3.0 Advanced Camera Rain Covers feature a non-slip, adjustable strap that cinches to the lens hood so it stays put once in place. It can be used while shooting atop a tripod or monopod and has an oversized window for viewing your LCD and controls. Additionally, two cinchable sleeves provide easy access to your camera functions.
Think Tank Hydrophobia M 24-70 V3.0
Fits Sony full-frame mirrorless camera bodies with a 24-70mm f/2.8, 24-105mm f/4, 16-35mm f/2.8, 14-24mm f/2.8, or similarly-sized wide-angle and standard zoom lens. ($114.75 from B&H Photo | Amazon)
Think Tank Hydrophobia M 70-200 V3.0
Fits Sony full-frame mirrorless camera bodies with a 24-70mm f/2.8, 70-200mm f/2.8, 80-400mm f/5-6.3, 100-400mm f/5-6.3, or similarly-sized lens standard zoom lens. ($124.75 from B&H Photo | Amazon)>
Think Tank Hydrophobia DM 300-600 V3.0
Fits Sony full-frame mirrorless camera bodies with large telephoto zooms and prime lenses from 150-600mm f/5.6-6.3 up to 600 f/4 lens. ($149.75 from B&H Photo | Amazon)
Sony a7 cameras use the new multi-interface hot shoe, which allows the camera to be paired with many new accessories for stills and video production. Sony currently makes four flashes that fit directly into the multi-interface shoe: HVL-F20M, HVL-F32M, HVL-F43M and HVL-F60M.
HVL-F20M (Amazon | B&H) is perfect when you want a soft fill of flash up-close or when you want to trigger another Sony flash wirelessly. HVL-F43M (Amazon | B&H) is the best overall choice as it’s nicely balanced in size and weight to the A7/A7R/A7S. HVL-F60M (Amazon | B&H) tops out with a guide number of 60 for times you need maximum power.
If those flashes too big, too small or too expensive, then here’s on that’s JUST RIGHT! Sony HVL-F32M TTL Flash $298 (Order from Amazon | B&H) offers premium both auto TTL and manual flash settings and premium features in a compact size for flexible lighting control on cameras compatible with Sony’s Multi Interface shoe.
It features a retractable 16mm wide-angle panel, as well as a built-in bounce sheet that can be used even when shooting vertically–without changing the angle of reflected light.
The HVL-F32M runs on two AA batteries and it’s sized to nicely balance on mirrorless bodies including Sony a7, a7R, a7S, a7II, a7RII, a7SII, a6300, a6000 and NEX-6.
Nissin i60A Flash for Sony Multi Interface Shoe (Pre-Order for $339.99) is compatible with the Nissin Air 2.4 GHz Radio TTL System is coming in May 2016. I had a chance to check out at WPPI in Las Vegas earlier this month. It’s nicely sized for Sony a7, a7R, a7S, a7II, a7RII & a7SII mirrorless cameras.
This powerful, compact flash is equipped with a 2.4GHz Air radio receiver for wireless slave TTL functionality. Compatible with Sony cameras equipped with the Multi Interface Shoe and featuring ADI / P-TTL, the i60A will have full support for all automatic flash functions. It is rated with a guide number of 197′ at ISO 100 and the 200mm setting and has a zoom head with a total range of coverage from 24-200mm. It can be expanded to 16mm with the built-in diffusion panel. Hybrid stills/video shooters can benefit from this flash as well thanks to a built-in LED video light for constant illumination.
Flash triggers are the best way to fire THIRD-PARTY studio flashes with the A7 series cameras. They fit right into your camera’s multi-interface shoe to trigger the receivers placed on your strobe packs.
PLEASE NOTE: Flash triggers work in the Sony MI shoe to trigger THIRD-PARTY flashes – but NOT the Sony flashes listed above.
Impact PowerSync16-80 Transceiver ($100 at B&H) are my new fave flash triggers feature premium construction at a great price. These wireless transmitter/receivers have 80 channels for elimination of interference, as well as 4 groups that can each handle multiple devices that can be triggered individually or simultaneously. Besides remote flash triggering with the appropriate optional cable, the PowerSync 16-80 can be used as a wireless shutter release that can focus and trigger your camera in single, continuous, and bulb modes.
Impact PowerSync 16-80 is used with at least 1 other unit. One transceiver slides onto the camera’s hot shoe. Third-party Speedlight hotshoe flash foot fits into the transceiver hot shoe or attaches with a mini-plug sync cord to trigger flashes at distances up to 720′.
[PLEASE NOTE: Sony flashes listed above are not compatible with flash triggers.]
Another flash trigger option is my old standby: PocketWizard III transceivers ($150 Amazon | B&H) offer 16 channels plus multiple zones. If you don’t need that many channels, you can save a few dollars with the scaled-down PocketWizard X ($100 Amazon | B&H).
Off-Camera TTL Flash Cords
Vello Off-Camera TTL Flash Cords for Sony Multi Interface Shoe allow you to remotely fire Sony flashes with ADI / P-TTL capabilities and the Multi Interface Shoe – removing the flash from the camera’s hot shoe reducing the harsh shadows commonly encountered with direct on-camera flashes and gives your photographs a more natural look.
Available in three lengths:
1.5′ Vello Off-Camera TTL Flash Cord for Sony Cameras with Multi Interface Shoe ($27.95 at B&H Photo)
6.5′ Vello Off-Camera TTL Flash Cord for Sony Cameras with Multi Interface Shoe ($39.95 at B&H Photo)
33′ Vello Off-Camera TTL Flash Cord for Sony Cameras with Multi Interface Shoe ($54.95 at B&H Photo)
The shorter 1.5′ & 6.5′ coiled options are ideal for hand-held off-camera lighting or with flash mounted on a compact flash bracket. The longer the 33′ straight length is ideal when mounting flash on a light stand.
One side of the TTL cable fits directly into the camera’s hot shoe to ensure that all of the camera’s exposure data is maintained. The other side can be attached to any stand, tripod, or device with a standard 1/4″-20 threaded stud or flash shoe mount and the shoe has a locking knob to ensure your equipment is secure.
Quick-Release Plates and L-Brackets
The biggest pain of using a tripod is tightening and loosening the tripod threads into the camera baseplate. That’s where quick-release plates come in handy. The Arca-Swiss dovetail has become the industry standard quick-release, so you’ll find a wide range of compatible quick-release plates and L-brackets. Neewer makes a great L-Bracket for Sony a7/a7R/a7S (Amazon) that still allows easy access to the slots on the side of the camera. I leave these on my cameras all the time as they also function like a roll bar surrounding the camera with a layer of added protection.
NOTE: For an L-Bracket compatible with Sony A7II see the next listing.
Arca-Swiss style Quick Release Vertical L-Bracket for Sony a7II cameras available from Amazon & eBay. It features Arca-Swiss standard dovetails are compatible with RRS lever-release clamp with a detachable design, the base plate and detachable vertical plate. It won’t block camera battery compartment lid opening or data cables hatch openings or twist when mounted on Sony a7 II cameras and allows full access to the LCD screen. Made of lightweight aviation level 6061T6 Aluminum, machined by precision CNC with a smooth, scratch resistant hard anodized oxidation surface
Tripods and Heads
If you buy only one accessory for your photography, do yourself a favor and make it a tripod. In general, any tripod is better than no tripod at all. A tripod helps you take sharper photos and lets you shoot in any lighting condition. So how do you go about choosing the right one for you? The main considerations are weight, height, head, and of course, cost.
One of the determining factors when purchasing a tripod is the type of head that it employs to secure the camera to the legs. There are three basic types of tripod heads: ball heads and pan heads for stills and fluid heads for video.
Ball heads use a simple ball joint that allows you to freely position the camera in any upright position and then clamp it down securely. Ball heads are flexible and quick to use. Especially if, like the Acratech GP Ball head (Amazon | B&H) they include quick-release clamps compatible with Arca-style camera plates and L-brackets for ease of use and efficiency.
Manfrotto PIXI EVO Mini Tripod available in Black, Red & White (Order Here for $49.95) can hold up to 5.5 lb while weighing only 9.4 oz. It has two leg sections that are adjustable in five steps, allowing it to extend from 2.4″ up to 7.7″ high. The legs can be set at two different angles via the sliding selector. Easily enabling you to place your camera in portrait orientation, a 90Â° notch is built into the integrated ball head.
The weight of your tripod will probably determine whether or not you will actually carry it along with you farther than the parking lot. Many different types of materials are used in tripods today. The lightest is carbon fiber, which is probably the most expensive as well. More than likely, you should consider an aluminum tripod that is sturdy and that has a weight rating that is suitable for your camera and lenses.
Make sure that the tripod extends to a height that is tall enough to allow you to shoot from a comfortable standing position. Nothing ruins a good shoot like a sore back. Taller tripods need to be sturdier to maintain a rigid base for your camera. You will also want to consider how low the tripod can go. If you want to do macro work of low-level subjects such as flowers, you will need to lower the tripod fairly close to the ground. Many new tripods have leg supports and center column mechanisms that allow you to spread the legs very wide and get the camera low to the ground.
Manfrotto Befree Advanced Alpha Travel Tripod (Pre-Order for $189.99 from B&H Photo | Adorama) This special version of the Befree Advanced Lever is designed for Sony alpha camera users who want maximum performance and stability in all shooting positions.
The quick-release plate is designed to match Sony a7 and Sony a9 camera bodies, to ensure perfect grip, even in the most angled camera shots. The front jut of the plate physically blocks the camera, preventing any play both on tilt and rotational movements, always keeping the camera stuck to the head plate.
The plate is also fully compatible with the world’s most widespread standard head attachments: Manfrotto RC2 and Arca-swiss style. With this aluminium plate fixed to the camera, all Manfrotto heads and almost all tripod heads on the market featuring Arca-style attachments can be set up rapidly and effortlessly, without disassembling components.
The 3 Legged Thing X1.1 Brian Evolution 2 carbon fiber tripod (Amazon | B&H) extends to 78.7 inches, yet folds to a mere 16.5 inches for easy packing when traveling.
Value priced alternatives include the Oben CT-3561 Carbon Fiber Tripod With BE-117T Ball Head (B&H) and the Benro A1692TB0 Travel Angel II Triple Transfunctional Aluminum Tripod (Amazon | B&H).
Smooth pans for video all begins with a good video head – which can be the difference between smooth video and shaky cam. Benro makes great video tripod and fluid video heads at a reasonable price. Benro A2573F AL Tripod with S6 Video Head ($300 at Amazon | B&H) is a good entry video head and legs combination for the Sony A7/A7R/A7S or for even smoother pans, move up to the larger S8 video head with the Benro A3573F Series 3 AL Tripod and S8 Pro Video Head ($450 at Amazon | B&H) – it’s larger, heavier video head makes for even smoother camera moves and it’s hard to beat for under $500. If you’re looking for a pro video tripod, Benro H10 Video Tripod with Carbon Fiber Legs ($1,050 at Amazon | B&H) will meet your needs.
Video Tripod/Head/Slider Combo
If you’re looking for the ultimate versatility, Libec ALLEX S KIT (Amazon | B&H) combines a Tripod, Head and Slider into one handy kit that allows you to slide, pan and tilt your camera elevated on a tripod. You can position the slider slanted at various angles on the tripod and capture smooth, diagonally moving shots. Kit includes two padded carrying cases are included, one for the tripod and head – and another for the slider.
Steadicam Merlin 2 Camera Stabilizing System (Amazon | B&H) lets you go where the scene takes you–up or down steps, indoors and out, through crowds–almost without limitation. The Merlin 2 weighs just 1.4 lb and can handle cameras up to 5 lb in weight. It gives you precise, elegant control for dramatic, professional you-are-there footage. The quick-release mount lets you instantly switch between your stabilizer and any tripod. This system utilizes a metal gimbal for smooth camera movement.
The Steadicam Solo Stabilizer & Monopod (B&H) quickly converts back-and-forth between a Steadicam and monopod, handily providing the functions of both in one portable unit. It features a 3-axis gimbal and supports up to 10 lb. It telescopically extends out to four sections to approximately average shoulder height, and it folds to a compact 24″ in length. It can be used handheld or with an optional Steadicam Solo Arm Vest Kit (B&H). A quick release camera mounting plate and a set of counterweights are included, allowing for out-of-the-box use.
Comodo Orbit Handheld Stabilization Rig (Amazon | B&H) is a mechanically driven, twin grip gimbal stabilization system. The Orbit utilizes two gimbal handgrips to isolate the camera from bumps and shakes, helping the camera to seemingly float in space. With a twin grip design, the stabilizer has the unique ability to be passed from one operator to another, allowing it to travel through windows or other tight spaces. Having two handgrips also reduces operator fatigue, letting you shoot longer than with single-handed stabilizers.
If you’re looking for a MoVi-syle rig for under three grand, the DJI Ronin 3-Axis Brushless Gimbal Stabilizer (Amazon | B&H) is a camera stabilization system designed to give the operator close to the freedom of unencumbered handheld shooting but without the hand-shake. Suitable for most camera types and configurations up to 16 pounds, Ronin uses brushless motors that work on three axes: one for side-to-side “roll” – keeping the horizon level – one for tilt, and one for pan. The system is computer-controlled and boasts a precision of control of Â±0.02Â°. An IMU (inertial measurement movement) detects movement and engages the motors to react, using algorithms to differentiate between intentional movement such as pans and tracking shots from unwanted shake.
If you want to eliminate the camera noise that comes with recording sound with your camera, you should consider using an external microphone. You can have much more control over the quality of the audio because you are using a device whose sole purpose is to record audio. There is a growing market of microphones for mirrorless and DSLR cameras, including mics with hot shoe adapters that allow you to mount the mic to the camera so you can record without having to worry about holding the external microphone. Sony’s ECM-XYST1M stereo microphone (Amazon | B&H) slips into the multi-interface shoe. Its features include the ability to fine-tune the angle at which sound is recorded, from a single point to a wide 120-degree spread to pick up ambient sound from an entire room.
If you’re looking to add XLR terminal inputs and audio level controls for a pro external audio input, the Sony XLR-K2M XLR Adapter Kit with Microphone $598 (Order from Amazon | B&H) is just the thing. It includes 2-Channel XLR Adapter has audio level controls for each channel that fits into Sony Multi-Interface Shoe and a Sony ECM-XM1 Shotgun Microphone.
You can also do what the pros do: Record sound separately and sync it later using software. This does take a bit more time, but it also provides you the best sound. Several manufacturers sell separate audio recorders that produce high-quality sound at an affordable price, including the Zoom H1 $100 (Amazon | B&H). I prefer the H1’s bigger brother, the Zoom H2n $200 (Amazon | B&H), because it includes two XLR inputs, which allow the use of a variety of specialized high-quality microphones, such as a more sensitive dynamic or condenser mic, or a shotgun mic that can reach out and grab audio from far away.
Your a7-series camera offers Live View video through your EVF and LCD, but there are times when shooting video that a larger monitor comes in handy because it gives you more surface area, making it easy to compose your shot. Step up to a full HD Monitor with the Sony CLM-FHD5 5″ HD LCD monitor – $700 (B&H) is an ideal companion to the a7RII for video shooting. A compact 5.0 type Full HD (1920x1080p) LCD monitor, the CLM-FHD5 features enlarging and peaking functionality for precise focusing, false color and video level marker for adjusting exposure and S-Log display assist to assist S-Log shooting.
If you wish to step up to 4K 4:2:2 recording, you’ll need a separate 4K recorder like the Atomos Shogun Flame 7″ 4K HDMI/SDI Recording Monitor ($995 at B&H). This 7″ 1920 x 1200 on-camera recording monitor that combines 4K recording with a 10-bit FRC panel that supports native display of HDR (log) footage as well as high brightness viewing of Rec. 709 footage. It utilizes 4K HDMI and 12G-SDI inputs to support clean output signals at resolutions up to UHD 4K (3840 x 2160), recording it to 2.5″ SSDs using 10-bit, 4:2:2 Apple ProRes and Avid DNxHR codecs. It even supports DCI 4K (4096 x 2160) raw video streams over SDI from select Sony and Canon cameras, encoding it as ProRes/DNxHR files.
The monitor features 10-bit FRC processing and AtomHDR display technology support a 10-stop brightness range, allowing you to more accurately monitor your log gamma footage without having to view flat, washed-out looking images or use a LUT to compress the dynamic range and color space.
Video rigs and rails help you attach all the accessories you use on a video shoot. They have threaded holes that allow you to attach monitors, focus rails, batteries, and anything else you might need. The best and priciest are video rigs from Zacuto and Redrock Micro, but many budget-priced alternatives exist including iKan, Kamerar and Shape Video Rigs in case you’re self-funding your indie opus.
If you’re looking for an inexpensive waterproof underwater housing for a7/a7R/a7S cameras, it’s hard to beat the Meikon Diving Waterproof Housing Case For Sony A7 A7R 28-70mm Lens for under $200.
Rated to depths up to 130ft/40m this housing is ideal for diving, surfing, snorkeling, skiing, yachting as well as any rainy, snowy or other wet environment. Constructed of Polycarbonate and ABS plastic with clear plate glass port, it’s ‘O’ ring sealed with a built-in Leak Detection System.
Buttons on the housing work just like they would on the camera itself and while it’s constructed for the Sony FE 28-70mm F3.5-5.6 OSS, it can also be used with Sony FE 24-70mm lens but it will lack zoom capability.
Reflectors and Diffusers
The easiest way to shape light is with reflectors and diffusers. Reflectors bounce light back onto your subject from a solid surface of white, silver, or gold. White is the softest, whereas silver and gold have a bit more snap and contrast. Diffusers are semitransparent material, usually white, that you place between your light source and your subject. The fabric does as the name implies: It diffuses the light, spreading it out into a soft, low-contrast light source that makes any subject look better. You could make your own or buy one of the many commercially available versions. Photoflex LiteDisc 41×74″ oval reflectors (B&H) come in white/silver, white/soft gold, high-contrast silver/gold, and diffusion. Or you can combine them all in a single kit with the Fotodiox 48×72″ 5-in-1 Collapsible Reflector Disc (Amazon) or Westcott’s 6-in-1 reflector kit (B&H) which includes two diffusion panels of varying transparencies, and it also has a reversible reflective cover that slips over either of the diffusion panels so that you can bounce some fill light into your scene. Best of all, the entire system is collapsible, so it fits into a small package for traveling.
Fotodiox 48×72″ 5-in-1 Collapsible Reflector Disc folds down to a third of its open size for travel.
The Small Stuff
There are a few small items I always pack in my camera bag when I travel.
There are several kinds of filters you’ll probably want to keep in your camera bag. In the film days, I used to carry a whole set of pale orange “warming” and pale blue “cooling” filters to adjust the color temperature of the scene. But now I simply adjust the color temperature in-camera or in post. Here are a few filters you’ll want to consider.
I’ve seen far too many examples of the image quality of great lenses ruined when someone put a cheap piece of glass in front of them, so just make certain it’s the highest-quality UV filter you can find and not a $10 add-on you got hooked into buying when you ordered your camera.
This one ranks right up there at the top of the list of must-own photography accessories. You won’t find many landscape photographers who don’t have at least one polarizer in their camera bag. Sony circular polarizing filters (B&H) are a great choice because it’s made with the same glass and coatings used in your Zeiss lenses.
Light travels in straight lines, but the problem is that all those lines are moving in different directions. When they enter the camera lens, they are scattering about, creating color casts and other effects. The polarizer controls how light waves are allowed to enter the camera, letting only certain ones pass through. So what does that mean for you? With a polarizing filter, blue skies will appear darker, vegetation color will be more accurate, colors will look more saturated, haze will be reduced, and images can look sharper.
Most polarizers are circular and allow you to rotate the polarizing element to control the amount of polarization that you want. As the filter is rotated, different light waves will be allowed to pass through, such as those from a reflection on a lake. Turn the filter a little and the light waves from the reflection are blocked, making the reflection disappear. Another benefit of the filter is that it is fairly dark, so when used in bright lighting conditions, it can act as a neutral density filter, allowing you to use larger apertures or slower shutter speeds. The average polarizing filter requires an increase in exposure of about one and a half stops. This won’t be an issue for you since you will be using the camera meter, which is already looking through the filter to calculate exposure settings. You should consider it, though, if your intention is to shoot with a fast shutter speed or use a small aperture for increased depth of field.
Neutral Density (ND) Filters
Sometimes there is just too much light falling on your scene to use the camera settings that you want. Most often this is the case when you want to use a slow shutter speed but your lens is already stopped down to its smallest aperture, leaving you with a shutter speed that’s faster than you want. Maybe you want to make moving water look “smooth” in bright sunlight, or you want shallow depth of field when shooting video and there’s simply too much light, even for ISO 100.
The way around this problem is to use a neutral density (ND) filter to make the outside world appear to be a little darker. Think of it as sunglasses for your camera. ND filters come in different strengths (Figure 13.4), labeled as .3, .6, .9, and so on. They represent a one-stop difference in exposure for each .3 increment. (Some ND filters can be labeled 2, 4, and 8 for the same exposure increments.) If you need to turn daylight into dark, the Tiffen 3.0 Neutral Density Filter (B&H) lowers exposure a whopping 10 stops.
I advise using the best-quality ND filter you can find, because once again, a cheap filter can ruin the quality of a great lens. As their name implies, good neutral density filters should truly be “neutral” in color. Avoid ones that have a color cast.
A great filter for this is Tiffen’s variable neutral density filter (B&H), which lets you vary the amount of density from two to eight stops. Since variable ND filters aren’t cheap, I’d advise buying one in the largest filter size you need and using inexpensive step-up adapter rings on your smaller lenses. Using a step-up ring to an over-sized filter also helps prevent vignetting when shooting with extremely wide-angle lenses.
ND filters come in varying densities, or darkness values, so you can select how much light gets through for the the effect you desire.
Microfiber Lens Cloth
A good microfiber lens-cleaning cloth comes in handy for getting rid of those little smudges and dust bunnies that seem to gravitate toward the front of my lens. I keep a few of these in my camera bag; they can even double as lens wraps in a pinch.
Microfiber cleaning cloth
External Hard Drives
Hard drives are really, really cheap. Memories are priceless. Get a pair of external hard drives for redundant storage. Use the second as a backup for the first. When you fill them up, buy two more. One day you’ll thank me.
Sensor Cleaning Tools
Never, ever, ever use canned, compressed air to blow dust off your sensor. The cans will release fluid when they are tilted, and that’s the last thing you want to get on your sensor. For this reason, I always use my Giotto’s Rocket Blaster (Amazon | B&H). This funny-looking device is great for getting rid of dust on your sensor. It uses a clean air path so that the dust that you are blowing away doesn’t get sucked back into the ball and re-deposited on your equipment the next time you use it. Always point your camera down when blowing off the sensor. That way, any dust you dislodge falls out of the camera.
If the Rocket Blower can’t dislodge the dust, I move on to a VisibleDust Arctic Butterfly 724 sensor brush (B&H). This negatively charged brush helps pull dust particles off the sensor instead of just moving them around. This version includes an LED light so you can see what you’re doing.
Those two sensor cleaners will do the trick 99% of the time. But for really persistent sensor gunk I can’t get off any other way Photographic Solutions Sensor Swabs (Type 3 for fullframe sensors) (Amazon | B&H) slightly moistened with Aeroclipse Digital Sensor Cleaning Fluid (Amazon | B&H) will do the trick. These swabs are clean room manufactured and sealed for the ultimate in purity. Follow the manufacturer’s directions. Brush across the sensor in one fluid motion using light even pressure. Then turn the swab over and brush across the sensor in the opposite direction.
For more tips and tricks about getting the most out of your Sony a7 series camera, check out my new book ‘Sony a7-Series: From Snapshots to Great Shots’.
It’s your guide to all of the Sony a7-Series I & II cameras. While the camera manual explains what the camera can do, it doesn’t show how to use the camera to create great images! Starting with the Top Ten things users need to know about the cameras, author Brian Smith, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer and Sony Artisan of Imagery, carefully guides you through the operating features of Sony a7, a7R, a7S, a7II and a7RII and how to use them. Get practical advice from a pro on which settings to use when, great shooting tips, and assignments at end of chapter to practice what you’ve just learned.
Read more Guide to Sony a7, a7R, a7S, a7II, a7RII Lens Mount Adapters
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