Sony Artisans of Imagery Program Celebrates 10 Years!

Sony Artisans of Imagery

A decade ago today at PhotoPlus Expo in New York, Sony announced their professional still photography program – The Sony Artisans of Imagery.

Today, Andy Katz, Cristina Mittermeier, David McLain, and I celebrate a decade as Sony Artisans. Me Ra Koh would join us early the following year to round out our group. It’s been far more interesting than any of us could have foreseen.

It at all started with a call from Kayla Lindquist in early 2008 asking if we were interested in a Pro Program Sony was launching to support the fullframe camera they were developing.

All I knew of Sony was I had seen their 85mm F1.4 and 135mm F1.8 ZEISS lenses at the Sony product table at a show in Miami where I was speaking. I also learned they were quickly becoming the leading sensor manufacturer – making sensors for other DSLRs like Nikon.

I was shooting Hasselblad H1 with a Leaf Aptus digital back at the time. Because of the the cost of medium format digital backs at the time, nobody owned a second back-up back. Everyone who shot medium format digital relied on a 35mm DSLR as their back-up camera and I was never happy with the look I got from my back-up DSLR. The lenses didn’t match the quality of my medium format glass and the shadow detail was crunched compared to the dynamic range of medium format.

All I wanted from a DSLR was a great sensor and great glass. I was ready to give Sony a try.

A couple weeks before the WPPI 2008 Tradeshow, Mark Weir sent me a Sony a700 with 85mm F1.4 and 135mm F1.8 Zeiss lenses to get my feedback. I was extremely impressed with the glass. When Mark told me that a 24-70mm F2.8 Zeiss lens would soon added, that sealed the deal. As a portrait photographer, those three lenses covered 99% of my needs.

2008: Start with a Great Sensor and Great Glass

 
New York Yankees Hideki Matsui photographed with Sony a700 and Sony 135/1.8 ZA

We were asked for feedback on the camera for the engineering team developing Sony’s first fullframe camera. In my experience at the time, the only “feedback” camera manufacturers wanted was “tell us how great we are…”

I took a different approach.

I made a list of 20 Things professional photographers would expect from a high-end DSLR. My list included things like “The camera should feel solid as a brick in your hands”, “Start with a great sensor and great glass”, “Don’t crunch the shadow detail or over-saturate the RAWs”…

The moment I hit “send”, I was certain I’d never hear back from Sony.

To my surprise, I did hear back. That fall, just before PhotoPlus Expo I received a pre-production a900 to try out for a few days.

At PhotoPlus Expo, I sat down with members of the Sony engineering team including Hirokuni “Rocky” Miyai who was on a field rotation in the San Diego office. Rocky’s words remain etched in my mind:

“What Did We Do Right?”
“What Did We Do Wrong?”
“What Should We Do Next?”

I’d never before had a camera manufacturer actually want my opinion – but that became the norm with Sony. It’s been a symbiotic relationship. Sony engineers have developed many innovations like Eye AF that I could never have dreamed of. But at the same time they’re looking to exceed expectation they are always listening for ways to improve their cameras based on user feedback.

Many of suggestions made by readers in the comments on this website are channeled their way.

2009: Ditch the Medium Format

 
I started shooting a pair of Sony a900 cameras and Sony 24-70mm F2.8, 85mm F1.4 and 135mm F1.8 Zeiss lenses. I kept my medium format Hasselblad gear and figured I’d use the Sony a900s as back-up. But I quickly realized the Sony RAW files not only gave me the quality I needed but without the medium format digital headaches like mid-shoot camera shutdowns. When photographing a busy athlete or celebrity, the shoot is often over if you have to stop to reboot the camera. Not having that worry about that allowed me to forget about the gear and give my undivided attention to the person in front of my lens.

In the Spring of 2009, Artisan director Kayla Lindquist approached me with a dream shoot. Would I be willing to fly out to LA to photograph actors and musicians during Oscars Week for a project The Creative Coalition and Sony were doing to support arts education and funding in America? Hell yes…

I’d have between five to fifteen minutes to shoot a portrait of each star. Then they’d write a message of what the arts means to them in a notebook. Three portraits into the project we all knew we’d hit gold and our “three day shoot” stretched into 18 days over the next year and a half.

Art-Soul-Anne-HathawayAnne Hathaway | Sony a900 | 24-70mm F2.8 ZA

Art-Soul-Samuel-JacksonSamuel L. Jackson | Sony a900 | 24-70mm F2.8 ZA

Art-Soul-Kerry-WashingtoKerry Washington | Sony a900 | 24-70mm F2.8 ZA

Art-Soul-Alyssa-MilanoAlyssa Milano | Sony a900 | 85mm F1.4 ZA

Art-Soul-Taraji-P-HensenTaraji P Hensen | Sony a900 | 24-70mm F2.8 ZA

Art-Soul-Spike-LeeSpike Lee | Sony a900 | 24-70mm F2.8 ZA


David Hyde Pierce | Sony a900 | 85mm F1.4 ZA

Art-Soul-Kelsey-GrammerKelsey Grammer | Sony a900 | 24-70mm F2.8 ZA


Tim Daly | Sony a900 | 24-70mm F2.8 ZA

Art-Soul-Adrian-Brody
Adrian Brody | Sony a900 | 24-70mm F2.8 ZA


Oliver Platt | Sony a900 | 85mm F1.4 ZA


Alfre Woodard | Sony a900 | 24-70mm F2.8 ZA


Dule Hill | Sony a900 | 24-70mm F2.8 ZA


Omar Epps | Sony a900 | 24-70mm F2.8 ZA


Rick Yune | Sony a900 | 135mm F1.8 ZA

Art-Soul-Elliott-ErwittElliott Erwitt | Sony a900 | 24-70mm F2.8 ZA

2011: Is Mirrorless Ready for Prime Time?

 
My first actual job shooting mirrorless came when I made my prime-time debut photographing celebrity portraits of The X Factor Finalists with SONY NEX-5N. I would only have 2-5 minutes to photograph each contestant. The results would appear on Prime Time TV. No pressure, right?

In addition to shooting their portraits, I’d give a few pointers to the contestants so they could see how easy it was to get great professional results with a camera small enough they can take it with them everywhere.

Check out Season One’s Episode: ‘One of Ten Voted Off’ of The X Factor (USA) for these portraits of Melanie Amaro, Josh Krajcik, Chris Rene, Marcus Canty, Rachel Crow, Drew, Astro, LeRoy Bell, Stacy Francis and Lakoda Rayne.

XFactor-Melanie-AmaroMELANIE AMARO | SONY NEX-5N | SONY 85mm F1.4 ZA + SONY LA-EA2 Lens Adapter

XFactor-Chris-ReneCHRIS RENE | SONY NEX-5N | SONY 24-70mm F2.8 ZA + SONY LA-EA2 Lens Adapter

XFactor-Josh-KrajcikJOSH KRAJCIK | SONY NEX-5N | SONY 24-70mm F2.8 ZA + SONY LA-EA2 Lens Adapter

XFactor-Marcus-CantyMARCUS CANTY | SONY NEX-5N | SONY 24mm/1.8 E-Mount Lens

XFactor-Lakoda-RayneLAKODA RAYNE | SONY NEX-5N | SONY 24mm/1.8 E-Mount Lens

XFactor-LeRoy-BellLEROY BELL | SONY NEX-5N | SONY 24-70mm F2.8 ZA + SONY LA-EA2 Lens Adapter

XFactor-Drew-RyniewiczDREW RYNIEWICZ | SONY NEX-5N | SONY 24-70mm F2.8 ZA + SONY LA-EA2

XFactor-AstroASTRO | SONY NEX-5N | SONY 24-70mm F2.8 ZA + SONY LA-EA2 Lens Adapter

XFactor-Rachael-CrowRACHAEL CROW | SONY NEX-5N | SONY 24-70mm F2.8 ZA + SONY LA-EA2

STACY FRANCIS | SONY NEX-5N | SONY 24-70mm F2.8 ZA + SONY LA-EA2 Lens Adapter

2013: Mirrorless Goes Fullframe

 
Suddenly mirrorless got real. Kayla Lindquist and Mark Weir contacted me to see if I was interested in testing a new fullframe camera that Sony was about to announce. It came in two versions but all they would tell me was they would be sending me the high-resolution version aimed and studio and landscape photography and that nothing about the camera could leak out before the announcement.

Mark expected that I’d use it for a studio portrait, but I always like to push things in ways they aren’t designed so I told them I’d like to take the camera to Haiti for a few days.

It was exactly the type of camera a WISH I had back in the 80s when I covered Haiti for the Miami Herald. Plus I knew that no one in Haiti would give the new camera a second look. Of course I still taped over all the logos just in case. Sony a7 & a7R were announced a week later. These are among the images I posted.

portrait with Sony a7R and FE 55mm F1.8 ZA lens
Sony a7R + FE 55mm F1.8 ZA • 1/4000 • F2.2 • ISO 200

Sony a7r camera with zeiss fe 35 za lens street photography haiti
Sony a7R + FE 35mm F2.8 ZA • 1/320 • F5.6 • ISO 200

Sony a7r camera with zeiss fe 35 za lens street photography haitiSony a7R + FE 35mm F2.8 ZA • 1/640 • F5.6 • ISO 200

Sony a7r camera with zeiss fe 35 za lens street photography haiti
Sony a7R + FE 35mm F2.8 ZA • 1/1250 • F5.6 • ISO 200

Sony a7r camera with zeiss fe 35 za lens street photography haiti
Sony a7R + FE 35mm F2.8 ZA • 1/640 • F6.3 • ISO 200

Sony a7r camera with zeiss fe 35 za lens street photography haiti
Sony a7R + FE 35mm F2.8 ZA • 1/800 • F8.0 • ISO 200

Sony a7r camera with zeiss fe 35 za lens street photography haiti
Sony a7R + FE 35mm F2.8 ZA • 1/1000 • F8.0 • ISO 200

Sony a7r camera with zeiss fe 35 za lens street photography haiti
Sony a7R + FE 35mm F2.8 ZA • 1/640 • F6.3 • ISO 200

Sony a7r camera with zeiss fe 35 za lens street photography haiti
Sony a7R + FE 35mm F2.8 ZA • 1/500 • F6.3 • ISO 200

Sony a7r camera with zeiss fe 35 za lens street photography haiti
Sony a7R + FE 35mm F2.8 ZA • 1/320 • F8.0 • ISO 200

Sony a7r camera with zeiss fe 35 za lens street photography haiti
Sony a7R + FE 35mm F2.8 ZA • 1/640 • F5.6 • ISO 200

Sony a7r camera with zeiss fe 35 za lens street photography haiti
Sony a7R + FE 35mm F2.8 ZA • 1/320 • F5.6 • ISO 200

sony a7r camera and fe 55 lens review haiti
Sony a7R + FE 55mm F1.8 ZA • 1/80 • F2.2 • ISO 200

sony a7r camera review sample photo with 70-400 g lens la-ea4
Sony a7R + 70-400 F4-5.6 G lens + LA-EA4 Lens Adapter • 1/40 • F5.6 • ISO 1600

Since the FE 35mm F2.8 ZA was the widest native lens available before the a7R announcement, I also packed a couple M-mount lenses with a Leica M to Sony E adapter.

sony a7r camera review sample photo with zeiss zm 18 4 lensSony a7R | Zeiss 18mm F4 ZM | 1/100 | F11 | ISO 200

2016: They’re Real and They Are SPECTACULAR!

 
The Sony FE lens lineup has grown very quickly in five years. The most-requested lenses since the a7/a7R announcement were 24-70mm F2.8 and 85mm F1.4. When Sony finally announced them, they received the new top designation of ‘G Master’ combining both exceptional sharpness and beautiful bokeh. Once again I was given a chance to shoot with the new G Master glass and show images I shot at the worldwide announcement. Where better to do that than New Orleans?

Armstrong Park New Orleans Jazz Brass Band shot with Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM lens
Benny Jones, Sr. of the Treme Brass Band
Sony a7RII + FE 24-70 F2.8 G Master at 24mm • 1/10 sec • F8 • ISO 100

Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, New Orleans shot with Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM lens
Lafayette Cemetery No. 1
Sony a7RII + FE 24-70 F2.8 G Master at 26mm • 1/160 sec • F11 • ISO 100

Big Chief Kevin Goodman of the Flaming Arrows photographed with Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM lens
Big Chief Kevin Goodman of the Flaming Arrows
Sony a7RII + FE 24-70 F2.8 G Master at 35mm & 70mm • 1/640 sec • F4 • ISO 100

James Southern on his porch in Houma, Louisiana shot with FE 24-70 F2.8 G Master lens
James Southern on his porch in Houma, Louisiana
Sony a7RII + FE 24-70 F2.8 G Master at 24mm • 1/200 sec • F4.5 • ISO 100

House in Houma, Louisiana shot with FE 24-70 F2.8 G Master lens
Sony a7RII + FE 24-70 F2.8 G Master at 24mm • 1/100 sec • F9 • ISO 100

New Orleans, Louisiana cemetery shot with Sony FE 85mm F1.4 G Master lens
Sony a7RIISony FE 85mm F1.4 G Master • 1/200 sec • F7.1 • ISO 100

Antique Car in French Quarter, New Orleans shot with FE 24-70 F2.8 GM lens
Sony a7RII + FE 24-70 F2.8 G Master at 31mm • 1/2 sec • F8 • ISO 100

Sony FE lens review New Orleans, Louisiana
Sony a7RII + FE 24-70 F2.8 G Master at 35mm • 1/125 sec • F13 • ISO 100

Sony FE lens review New Orleans, Louisiana
Sony a7RII + FE 24-70 F2.8 G Master at 38mm • 1/80 sec • F5 • ISO 100

Sony FE lens review New Orleans, Louisiana
Sony a7RII + FE 24-70 F2.8 G Master at 35mm • 1/80 sec • F11 • ISO 100

Sony FE lens review New Orleans, Louisiana
Sony a7RII + Sony FE 85mm F1.4 G Master • 1/125 sec • F4.5 • ISO 100

Sony FE lens review New Orleans, Louisiana
Sony a7RII + FE 24-70 F2.8 G Master at 28mm • 1/125 sec • F11 • ISO 100

Sony FE lens review New Orleans, Louisiana
Sony a7RII + FE 24-70 F2.8 G Master at 27mm • 1/500 sec • F8 • ISO 100

Sony FE lens review New Orleans, Louisiana
Sony a7RII + FE 24-70 F2.8 G Master at 24mm • 1/160 sec • F5.6 • ISO 100

Chef Elray Holmes at Kermit's Treme Mother-in-Law Lounge shot with Sony FE 24-70mm F2.8 GM lens
Chef Elray Holmes at Kermit’s Treme Mother-in-Law Lounge
Sony a7RII + FE 24-70 F2.8 G Master at 26mm • 1/125 sec • F9 • ISO 100

Sony FE 85mm F1.4 GM smooth bokeh and out-of-focus highlights at F1.4
Here’s the smooth bokeh and out-of-focus highlights at F1.4
Sony a7RIISony FE 85mm F1.4 G Master • 1/160 sec • F1.4 • ISO 400

Krewe of Chewbacchus at Mardi Gras, New Orleans shot with Sony FE 24-70 F2.8 G Master
Krewe of Chewbacchus | Mardi Gras New Orleans
Sony a7RII + FE 24-70 F2.8 G Master at 24mm • 1/200 sec • F2.8 • ISO 6400

Krewe of Chewbacchus at Mardi Gras, New Orleans shot with Sony FE 24-70 F2.8 G Master lens
Krewe of Chewbacchus | Mardi Gras New Orleans
Sony a7RII + FE 24-70 F2.8 G Master at 38mm • 1/640 sec • F2.8 • ISO 6400

Krewe of Chewbacchus at Mardi Gras, New Orleans shot with Sony FE 24-70 F2.8 GM lens
Krewe of Chewbacchus | Mardi Gras New Orleans
Sony a7RII + FE 24-70 F2.8 G Master at 40mm • 1/320 sec • F2.8 • ISO 6400

Krewe of Chewbacchus at Mardi Gras, New Orleans shot with Sony FE 24-70 F2.8 G Master
Krewe of Chewbacchus | Mardi Gras New Orleans
Sony a7RII + FE 24-70 F2.8 G Master at 24mm • 1/200 sec • F2.8 • ISO 6400

Parade in New Orleans, Louisana shot with Sony FE 85mm F1.4 G Master
Sony a7RIISony FE 85mm F1.4 G Master • 1/640 sec • F1.4 • ISO 100

2018: Sony Makes a FE 400mm 2.8 it’s a BEAUT!

 
Sony finally made a FE 400mm F2.8 GM OSS and it’s the lightest, sharpest and fastest focusing four-hundred-two-eight ever made thanks to ground-breaking lens design featuring XD Linear Focus! Expect more long fast glass to follow, but paired with the FE 1.4X & FE 2X converters this is a great start!

Sony FE 400mm F2.8 GM OSS lens test
Sony a9 + Sony FE 400mm F2.8 GM OSS + Oben CTM-2500 Carbon Fiber Monopod • 1/1000 • F2.8 • ISO 800

Sony FE 400mm F2.8 GM OSS lens test
Sony a9 + Sony FE 400mm F2.8 GM OSS + Oben CTM-2500 Carbon Fiber Monopod • 1/1000 • F2.8 • ISO 800

Sony FE 400mm F2.8 GM OSS lens test
Sony a9 + Sony FE 400mm F2.8 GM OSS + Sony FE 1.4X TC + Oben CTM-2500 Carbon Fiber Monopod • 1/1250 • F4 • ISO 800

Sony FE 400mm F2.8 GM OSS lens test
New York Red Bulls defender Aaron Long celebrates a goal against Dallas.
Sony a9 + Sony FE 400mm F2.8 GM OSS + Oben CTM-2500 Carbon Fiber Monopod • 1/800 • F2.8 • ISO 800

Sony FE 400mm F2.8 GM OSS lens test
Sony a9 + Sony FE 400mm F2.8 GM OSS + Oben CTM-2500 Carbon Fiber Monopod • 1/640 • F2.8 • ISO 800

Sony FE 400mm F2.8 GM OSS lens test
Sony a9 + Sony FE 400mm F2.8 GM OSS + Sony FE 2X TC + Oben CTM-2500 Carbon Fiber Monopod • 1/200 • F5.6 • ISO 400

Looking Ahead

 
From our original five members, Sony Artisans of Imagery has grown to 40 Strong. Have a look at their amazing work featured on Alpha Universe.

In addition to Kayla Lindquist and Mark Weir, I’ve made great friends at Sony including Neal Manowitz, Mike Fasulo, Matt Parnell, El-Deane Naude, Jen Geddy, Jen Sugarman, Michaela Ion, John Bruehl, Johnny Pham, Daisuke Goh, Mike Bubolo, Amy Koppmann, Jason Mantell, Ben Manlove, Glenn Weinfeld, Rob Shelly, Van Nguyen and Amanda Arrick. Cheers to the next time we can hang out!

Hirokuni “Rocky” Miyai is now Deputy Senior General Manager for Sony Interchangeable Lens Cameras.
He’s Still Listening.

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7 thoughts on “Sony Artisans of Imagery Program Celebrates 10 Years!”

  1. David giancatarina

    Hirokuni “Rocky” Miyai is now General Manager for Design of Sony Interchangeable Lens cameras. He’s Still Listening….

    Hey Rocky 🙂
    a bunch of sony customers ( me included ) will be please to have a choice of ratio ( 1/1, 4/3, 4/5 ) even with a full frame raw… when your client ask for a 4/3 pic… and your style of shooting implies perfect framing… it’s so much better to be able to frame directly in 4/3…

  2. What an incredible voyage and I guess there is more to come.

    I hope that Sony doesn’t forget lenses that are requested by Sony users everywhere like the 135mm, 35mm F1.8 and a prime between 16mm and 21mm F2.8 or wider

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