Sony A7 for wedding photography

Are the Sony A7 and A7s suitable for professional wedding photography?

 

what´s in my camera bag - mirrorless wedding photography

Some years have passed since I posted my experiences with the original Sony A7 for wedding photography. I have now used these cameras, together with the Sony A7s, for several years. I still think this review is valid, but I´ll rewrite a bit here and there if I feel I see things differently nowadays. Enjoy:

I do not often post equipment related stuff. Last time I did, I wrote about the Leica M9. But I feel this camera is special, some call it even a game changer. There are many good review sides, that do the technical stuff of testing this camera far better then I ever could. I am a professional wedding photographer and used these little camera-gems (I own two, lucky me) for my first weddings this year. Here you get my impressions, and how the the Sony A7 worked for me in the circus of documentary wedding photography.

The Sony A7 for wedding photography:

There are other reviewers who call these cameras slow, clumsy and loud, which are not directly things you want in your wedding camera, right? Do I agree? Hm, yes and no, lets have a look:

Sony A7 for wedding photography

Handling:

The camera is small, even smaller then my Leicas, which is great. I love the grip, big enough to hold the camera quite comfortably in one hand. It is light. Still, it feels quite solid and well build. Together with the Sony/Zeiss primes, the 35/2.8 and the 55/1.8 you get a really cool set of cameras. Later I also added the Sony A7s and the Sony 28/2.0 to the set, making it even more complete. I seldom shoot above 50 mm. When I am forced to, I just put the A7 with the 50 on crop, giving me something like 75mm, which is far enough for me.

 Together with the Sony primes I have the fabulous Nikon 50/1.2 AIS and the Voigtländer 15/3.5 in my bag. Add a decent flash, batteries (oh, lots of them) some filters and some gimmick stuff and you have a very versatile but lightweight set. Love it.

Overall Speed and Viewfinder:

The shutter feels responsive, there is no noticeable lag, which is uttermost important for catching the right moment. The viewfinder turns black for a noticeable longer time than with a DSLR when making an image, even with shorter exposure-times, which is annoying. The Sony A7s in silent mode is better, but the newer cameras, like the A6300 are much better here in this regard. Also the refreshing time of the EVF in the A6300 is better and makes framing of fast moving objects a lot easier.

bridal shooting with the the Sony A7 in great light

The Sony A7 has a fabulous EVF and a gorgeous tiltable LCD display, which at first I though was more of an amateurish gimmick, but discovered that it can be very useful to make adventurous perspectives very easy. When you look into the viewfinder it automatically turns on, while the LCD goes black, at least in theory. In real world, there is quite a delay. So when you want to take a quick shot in the first split-second you see nothing when looking into the EVF, before it turns on. It is not long, but long enough to bother me as it greatly reduces the responsiveness of the camera. I turned the LCD display off in the menu. Very pity, as you now loose the ability to use the camera with the LCD and even have to chimp in the EVF. Furthermore, there is no way to program any of the custom-buttons to do this, so you have to dig into the menu to change these settings.

Oh, one thing on chimping: there is no need to chimp as often as with a DSLR, because you see the exposure and color cast right before you hit the shutter. But I do still chimp here and then, especially when using flash or want to check for blinkers and sharpness in group shots.

The Autofocus:

I was very nervous as I got the camera, because I was afraid the AF would lack capability. To make it short: it was OK in the beginning, but now as the overall performance of mirrorless cameras has proceeded I wish for more. The Sony A6300 has an AF system that is lightyears in front of the original Sony A7. The Sony A7s ist still the king of low light autofocus, though. There are occasions, when the AF of the Sony is superior to the one of the Nikon D750, e.g. when shooting directly into the sun. When it has difficulties in low light with horizontal or vertical lines, it helps to tilt the camera a bit, get focus and tilt it back. Not very  elegant, but works fine. When using the 55 in low light, I choose a little larger AF field, it helps with focus speed. Otherwise I set it to the minimum size for best accuracy.

shooting a wedding with mirrorless cameras

Manual Focus:

It works better then I thought, and worse. What does that mean? I am quite impressed by how easy it is to focus the Voigtländer 50/1.1. or the Nikon 50/1.2 with focus-peaking. No need for focus-magnifier except in dark or contrast lacking scenes. But I was also disappointed that I could not get my Voigtländer 35/1.4 to work with focus peaking. No chance to get it right without focus-magnification. I mostly set Creative Style to black&white with maximum contrast and peaking-color to red. This way focus peaking works as good as it gets.

So, what are my main complaints with the Sony A7?

– Though the EVF is great in general, I do not like the longer then necessary black-out time when taking an image and the sluggish automatic change between the LCD and the EVF. Also the refresh rate can be improved.

– Battery life! You can´t even call it that, it should be called „battery dying“. This is my main negative-point with the Sony A7. I felt stressed at the weddings and constantly checked how much battery I had left. The speed with which it drained made me nearly panicking. The way too big vertical battery grip is not for me. I wished Sony made the camera a little bigger with a decent battery. So, I take 12 batteries with me to a full lengths wedding coverage.

– Faults in the menu, as not to be able to turn of the LCD-screen with a customizable button. To format the card, you have to dig deep into the menu, something Nikon solved much better.

Sony A7 wedding photography

What makes the Sony A7 a very decent wedding camera for me?

– I love it´s size. The Sony A7 is smaller and lighter then my Leicas, though fully capable, fullframe and all.

– It is robust. In years of heavy usage, including dropping and getting wet, I never had any issues. Something I can´t say of my Nikon D750s.

– The AF capabilities of the Sony A7s is great in low light for a mirror-less camera, or for any camera, so to say. Waiting eagerly for a FF Sony with AF like the A6300. The day they get available, I´ll buy two.

– The EVF is great. To be able to see the image as it will be captured is unbeatable. It not just makes you exposure-setting a brise (I only shoot fully manual) it also makes artistic gimmicky as easy as it gets, like free-lensing, lens chimping, and the use of prisms to name a few.

– The Sony primes, the 35/2.8 and the 55/1.8 are stellar, optical and mechanical. (But, why, why did they make it a 2.8 prime? They showed with the Rx that they can make a small, exceptional 35/2.0. I think only Sony has the answer.) Also the non Zeiss 28/2.0 is decent and I use it a lot.

– The ability to use all the old and crazy lenses on full-frame. Leica of course and old Nikkors work like a charm, but also optical gems like the long forgotten Canon 50/0.95 are very usable (I still kick my ass that I sold mine).

– You can set the camera up that you can change all the important settings, like aperture, shutter-speed, ISO, AF mode etc with one hand. This is a big plus for me, as I sometimes hold my speedlight in the other hand.

 

mirror-less cameras for wedding photographyMy personal conclusion:

After years of using the Sonys, also the A6300s, after adventures with Leica and Fuji and many weddings in between, where I shot Nikon because I wanted faster AF performance, I see myself coming back to the Sony A7s again and again. I simply love the feel, the form-factor and the stellar images it produces. As I said, give me a Sony A7s with the AF of the A6300 and I will be sold. Sony, hello?

So what are your experiences? Any of you using similar gear? I would love to hear your thoughts. It is a very adventurous time at the moment, where small mirrorless cameras finally reach the image quality of big DSLRs but still lacking a bit of performance when it comes to speed. It is up to us, if we are willing to take up the challenge.

More about camera-stuff you can find here. More about Sony A6300Fuji or Leica.

39 comments
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  • Miklos Nemeth11/03/2014 - 10:47

    Excellent review, Heiko and Cati. Thank you for sharing your opinion. I am just a fun-photographer and have an A7, too. What was the reason you taped the Sony logo on your camera? Thank You, MiklosReplyCancel

    • Heiko11/03/2014 - 11:53

      Thanks for the kind words Miklos.
      I like my equipment as little obtrusive as possible.ReplyCancel

  • Aaron Ashley13/03/2014 - 01:33

    Excellent article. As a wedding shooter I was very concerned about a few things like battery life and being able to turn off the LCD but use it only to review photos (like a Leica) i definitely agree.

    I was very worried about the lack of focus assist. The flashes IR ones don’t apparently work with mirror less and so have been disabled which leaves using the god awful orange af light. Which I will never ever, turn on.ReplyCancel

  • Suat19/03/2014 - 02:14

    Hi, very informative real life review, much appreciated.

    I want to get the A7R, but the shutter sound (or explosion more like) was a major turn off for me.

    I understand the A7 is a bit quieter due to the electronic first curtain, what do you think? Does it bother you at all?

    Greetings from sunny FloridaReplyCancel

    • Heiko19/03/2014 - 08:47

      Sure, the shutter is not as quite as Leica´s or of the Nikon D600, but it has a nice acoustic feel to it, low frequent and somehow „organic“. Not as harsh like the Nikon D4 for example. It does not bother me.

      heikoReplyCancel

  • carlos20/03/2014 - 12:59

    Thank you for the real life review!

    Quick question, have you notice any green cast in the images?ReplyCancel

  • Xavier23/03/2014 - 01:26

    Excellent review!
    About the battery life: be sure that you have the Airplane Mode On.ReplyCancel

  • Jürgen13/04/2014 - 19:03

    Ich nutze seit November 2013 die A7r mit FE35 und Leica M und R Objektiven.
    Die Gestaltungsmöglichkeiten haben sich gegenüber meiner vorher genutzten NEX 7 deutlich gesteigert. Alte M Objektive wie mein Noctilux und Summilux 50mm laufen zu neuer Form auf.
    Mein einziger Kritikpunkt bleibt die etwas längere Auslöseverzögerung gegenüber der NEX 7, ist aber immer noch etwas besser wie die M9.
    An das Auslösegeräusch habe ich mich inzwischen gewöhnt und noch kein Bild deshalb verloren.
    Meine D3 ist inzwischen ersatzlos ausgemustert worden.
    Für mich die Kamera die meine analoge M6 ersetzt.
    LG
    Jürgen
    PS: Interessante Betrachtung und schöne BilderReplyCancel

  • LERS17/04/2014 - 21:34

    What a wonderful review. Straight to the point and focused on the important stuff. Just some questions:

    – Have you tried the kit lens?. If so, does it behave acceptably when AF?.
    – What flash are you using?.
    – How are you triggering off-camera flashes?
    – Is focus peaking faster than AF even in low light?.

    Thanks so much.ReplyCancel

    • Heiko24/04/2014 - 13:00

      Hi Lers,

      Sorry, no zooms at all for me, just primes.
      We use the Nikons SB910. Any other flash will do of course, the Sony does not support TTL except for Sony flashes.
      We use the Pocket Wizard system, mainly because they allow off-camera high sync on our Nikon bodies.
      Focus peaking is not working very well in dark conditions. The scene lacks contrast, which focus peaking needs. In very dark light I use manual with magnification (not optimal of course)

      Hope I answered your questions,
      heikoReplyCancel

  • Sreeju Sankar09/05/2014 - 16:31

    hi bro
    still u feel its( A7 ) AF is working perfectly for wedding Ceremony which are not repeated ever ( English is not my First Language )
    Please Reply for me.Pls pls…..ReplyCancel

    • Heiko10/05/2014 - 15:18

      Hi Sreeju,

      the static AF is fine for me up to ISO 3200. The continuous AF for tracking the subject need improvement.
      The good thing is, if it locks, it locks and the images are incredible sharp, no need for fine-tuning the AF here.
      I think you have to test for yourself, if you rely on the AF in such an important situation.ReplyCancel

  • Oskar Wonneberger17/05/2014 - 22:30

    hey, I totally agree for 100 % with your comment on the A7 EVF. I have already written sony an email, but of course they won’t answer.
    At some points Sony hasn’t finished their homework:

    I have mentioned the A7 shuttersound which could have been more discrete if you would have put in a discrete shutter release mode, e.g. you press the release butten, the first electonical curtain will do it’s work (no sound at all) and when you relaese your finger from the release button it will make the noisy sound.

    Also I mentioned the EVF, that there is need for a custom button which lets you activate the evf constantly. When you see something interesting going on, you press that button and the photographer can be sure he will see something through the viewfinder and will not have to wait half a second for his camera to turn that damn thing on.

    On the other side there is a function that lets you deactivate the Mainscreen, but not physically, it just causes the screen to display a dark image, but I wont shut off the screen physically ?! They should have called this function display black image, because that is all what it does. They need to fix that, if the user wants to shut off the screen, then let him do it.

    Also there is no customizable settings for auto-iso (e.g. setting the min. shutterspeed). I have read a sony developer asking in a forum what the use for such a function would be without understanding the reason for it?!)
    He said, well if you want to shoot at a certain speed, select S mode and set your shutterspeed as desired. He didn’t understand, that there is need to tell the camera, „hey, when you reach a 1/60th/s please of going lower, just bump up the ISO for me, but please, keep the f2.8 in apterute mode at all costs“

    The sony a7 feels even more revolutionary as the Fuji X pro 1 / X100 but both Sony and Fuji haven’t done their homework until the end. Fuji messed it up completly with putting in the crapiest AF and the Sony A7 delivers such superb technical image quality but the usage… man, the usabilty has not been developed by a professional photographer, at least if feels like though.ReplyCancel

  • Paul13/10/2014 - 13:24

    You have done a lovely job with taping over the Sony logo. Are you able to share what tape you used?

    Thanks!

    PaulReplyCancel

    • Heiko16/10/2014 - 07:23

      oh, nothing special, just regular isolation tape like the one electricians use.ReplyCancel

  • Chris Blumenshine09/12/2014 - 15:22

    Great article, thank you for sharing. Question, what adapter do you use to mount your nikon and Voigtländer?ReplyCancel

    • Heiko09/12/2014 - 16:12

      Some cheap brand for the Nikon, As I shoot wide open and see the effect in the EVF I do not care for precision. Vor the CV I use Novoflex, expensive but build like a Leica (0:ReplyCancel

  • Paweł Słowik01/06/2015 - 18:31

    Great review 🙂 i’m using my A7 for near year now and now bought second body A7 II. I sold some of my nikon gear left just d800 and few lenses and plan to use mainly a7 and a7m2 for weddings 🙂 i have 55 1.8, 28 f2, 24-70 f4 and and preordered Zeiss Batis 85. I too have some manual lenses, Canon FL 135 f2.5, Revueon 135 f2.8 and Pentacon 200 f4… i love to work with sony 🙂
    some of my last year a7 shoots:
    http://www.pawelslowik.eu/blog/8982/sony-a7-w-rekach-fotografa-slubnego/ReplyCancel

  • browse around this site06/06/2015 - 06:07

    I just want to tell you that I am just newbie to weblog and certainly loved this web site. Likely I’m want to bookmark your blog post . You absolutely have remarkable writings. Many thanks for sharing your website page.ReplyCancel

  • Zlatko13/08/2015 - 05:20

    This was a very good review. You addressed all of the concerns that wedding photographers usually have. Thank you for taking the time to describe your experience.

    It’s now nearly a year and a half later and I’m curious whether you are still using the A7 or perhaps one of the newer Sony cameras (A7II or A7RII) or perhaps you are using Leica or Nikon again? Thanks for any update.ReplyCancel

    • Heiko13/08/2015 - 20:14

      I still use the Sony A7. No experience with the more modern versions though. I use the Sony with the 55/1.8 FE which is an absolutely stunning lens when it comes to difficult (say interesting) light situations. At the moment I also use the 15 Voigtländer and the Nikon 50/1.2 AIS with free-lensing (which I love).

      I had the A7s but sold it again. Stunning in low light, and no shutter noise was great, too.

      But, at the moment I use two Nikon D750 as my main cameras. They are so much faster AF wise, no comparison. The A7 is more for effects and exotic glass.

      I feel it depends totally on your style. I love my Sonys, but for my style of shooting it is simply not fast enough. For styled shots, portrait shootings or when you can afford to miss a moment it is a damn cool camera but not when I „have to get the moment“ I rely on my Nikons.

      Hope this helps. Keep shooting…ReplyCancel

      • Zlatko14/08/2015 - 01:40

        Thank you for your informative and detailed reply. Your review and comments are very helpful and much appreciated. Best wishes!ReplyCancel

  • Sebastian11/09/2015 - 06:41

    Hi!, excellent review and amazing shoots!
    I’m thinking to switch from Nikon d7100/d7000 to Sony A7 (to make a step to full frame) and get more accurate and reliable focus in low light, I love to shoot with prime (made for crop sensor sigma 30 1.4 art).
    what you recommend me? make step on d750 or A7 or another idea
    thank you very muchReplyCancel

    • Heiko11/09/2015 - 09:11

      Hi Sebastian,

      thank you for your kind words.
      The Sony A7 is not the best, if you like a camera that focusses in the dark. Here the A7s is much better. Both are not very fast in reagards to AF either when you compare them to the Nikon D750.

      It depends on what you want. If you are a more deliberate shooter, so that you have time to get the shot, the A7 series is amazing. They are small, have all the advantages of an EVF and produce stunning results (especially the 55/1.8 is a lens of it´s own). But, and this is a big but, if you need a camera that nails the focus every single time, even when the subject moves, you only have a split second to focus, and it even may be dark, then the Nikon D750 is the better choice.

      Hope this helps – keep shooting!

      heikoReplyCancel

      • Sebastian11/09/2015 - 17:57

        Thank you very much I appreciate your words is very difficult for me make a choice without the camera, I’m from Argentina and Sony lack presence here, my first serious camera was a Sony dsc707 (2003) and when first alpha appear I move to Nikon and stay for several years using it, but always in crop sensor never use a Full frame, searching better images ( more reliable and accurate focus on low light and less noise ) the A7 came along, but all my gear stay in Nikon, (nobody knows that like you ) because that all my questions, again thank you very muchReplyCancel

  • JaysonMckinney26/09/2015 - 12:16

    I used to be recommended this blog via my cousin. I am now not certain whether this post is written by way of him as nobody else understand such special about my problem. You’re incredible! Thanks!ReplyCancel

  • KassieChamplin901/10/2015 - 01:53

    Its like you read my mind! You appear to know so much about this, like you wrote the book in it or something. I think that you can do with a few pics to drive the message home a bit, but instead of that, this is great blog. A great read. I will certainly be back.ReplyCancel

  • MorrisSaenz80705/10/2015 - 03:51

    Generally I do not learn post on blogs, but I would like to say that this write-up very compelled me to check out and do so! Your writing style has been surprised me. Thank you, very great article.ReplyCancel

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    Hello! Would you mind if I share your blog with my zynga group? There’s a lot of people that I think would really appreciate your content. Please let me know. ThanksReplyCancel

    • Heiko12/10/2015 - 07:46

      Hi Shana, of course you can share it. Thank you for that (0:

      HeikoReplyCancel

  • Vittore Buzzi Fotografo26/01/2016 - 06:12

    Very interesting article and nice pictures. I am starting to consider Sony for my wedding photography. The new alpha 7 R II it is a little bit too expensive and files seems to be too big but the quality it’s really great. I am a little bit concerned about AF, battery life and I would like to have a double slot. The opportunity of using little leica and voigtlander lens is really somethingh that make me deeam. Thanks a lot for the review.
    Vittore.ReplyCancel

    • Heiko26/01/2016 - 09:04

      Hi Vittore,

      AF is indeed the main problem of the mirrorless system so far. It depends on your style if you can make it work. Good luck.ReplyCancel

  • mike24/06/2016 - 05:58

    Hey what flash do you use with the sony? I have never owned one, but am thinking about purchasing one for my weddings and I have 2 a7 bodies

    Do you feel like the a7 can handle low light well enough with a flash for reception and dance hall?

    Tips for a first time user?ReplyCancel

    • Heiko24/06/2016 - 07:42

      Hi Mike,

      For bounce-flash (dancing) I use the Nissin i40, very small and nice.
      For off camera flash I use Yongnuo in manual mode.

      However I consider changing my system to the new Nissin I60, which have build in radio trigger and could do both. Not decided yet…

      Hope this helpsReplyCancel

  • melanie heller10/05/2017 - 15:56

    hello guys i just cam across your blog and read the review of the Sony a7. i too own the a 7 and i love it. but i must say i also miss a fast AF because sometimes you just want to snap that one look or something quick but sharp. so i was wondering if you are still using your Sony a 7 or did you move on to the a7R2? and i was wondering if you have experience with the Sony a6300 and the fe lenses on the a6300? I was considering buying the a6300 next to my a7 as my second backup camera just because i will have faster auto focus. Was just wandering what your thoughts are! Greetings from Germany and keep it going ReplyCancel

    • Heiko10/05/2017 - 17:19

      Hi Melanie, nice you found the way here. Seems you missed my article about the Sony A6300. See link below. Very pity that the Sonys have still such trouble with AF. Let´s see how the new Sony A9 will perform, but the price is really steep for a wedding photog. Never shot a A7rII, except for some hours at the Mystic Seminar in Portland. Did´t like the AF in low light at all. So at the moment I am back to a Nikon D750 I am afraid.

      https://hamburg-hochzeitsfotografen.de/the-sony-a6300-for-wedding-photography/ReplyCancel

  • Tina30/03/2018 - 16:44

    Hi there. I currently use a Sony A6000 and struggle to get the images you’ve been able to create. Is it because you are using manual lenses? No zoom lenses? I do love the quality my 50mm prime gives me but my zoom has challenges. thanks so muchReplyCancel

    • Heiko30/03/2018 - 19:25

      Hi, I cannot say too much about the A6000, but what I think is, the AF of the A6300 is better by a reasonable amount. I shot here mostly with AF, but only native primes, like the Zeiss 24/1.8 and 55/1.8, both amazing lenses and fast to AF. Hope you get it working (0:ReplyCancel

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