Greg Beadle has once again received an invitation as one of the photographers at this year's WEF conference in Davos. This time, Sony gave him their gear to try out. Here are his thoughts and some of the pictures he took.
Beadle told me he's been considering switching to Sony for a few months but he never managed to get his hands on the gear to properly test before deciding. For his initial research and reading it was mostly reviews on YouTube and Fstoppers and to him it seemed like a no-brainer. Sony had the best camera on the market.
He does event and sporting photography and chatted to local industry experts about it. The key point for him was "if you're on the finish line of a global cycling event, you need to know you'll get the shot."
He's a loyal Canon shooter and has been for the past 10 years so it obviously feels familiar. He recalls seeing Bob Martin's photos at the 2018 Winter Olympics. Martin's feed was filled with high-speed action photographs done with a long lens. He had panning shots in low light. He saw what he would be able to achieve and what the camera made possible.
In Beadle's Bag He Had the Following
- Sony a9
- Battery Grip
- Two Batteries
- Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS lens
- Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 24-70mm f/4 lens
- Sony FE 12-24mm f/4 G Lens
What's the Difference?
He was looking forward to the silent shutter, which at events where captivating speakers can often cause a crowd to go go silent. So quiet that a regular DSLR shutter would disturb and distract. He recalls shooting with a mechanical shutter and having people look at him even while only shooting single frames. The second feature he loves is the eye-tracking focus feature, and in third place, he loves the low-light ability that this camera provides.
The first thing he realized when shooting with the camera was that the lenses don't rotate to find focus. He mentioned that at first he was checking the lens was set to AF and not MF, and it took him a couple of minutes to make sure AF was indeed working, silently, which was quite a nice discovery.
The lenses also turn the other way than a Canon and this takes some getting used to. It was his first time shooting with this camera, and the menu was very complex and that he didn't know how to set up the camera to show the shots remaining on the rear display screen and had to check through the viewfinder to know. Beadle also said that the menu might be complex, but in some areas, it was easier to change settings than the Canon menu he knew very well.
He had his Canon gear at the event in case he didn't like what the Sony was doing, but didn't use the Canon once. He received the gear when he landed in Zurich, so that's not a lot of time to get to know the camera.
In summary, he thinks the a9 performs well. He tested the burst mode but mostly shot single frames. He's not one to shoot using motor drive or burst photographs, but it was good to know he could if he wanted to, and do so silently. The focus system is also impressive. Although not perfect, it is better than his Canon. He sold his Canon 1DX MarkII within three months after buying it due to his satisfaction. He still thinks the 6D Mark II takes better images.
He likes the eye-tracking and says it's accurate and an improvement on Canon's face tracking system. He also liked the way the eyes where perfectly in focus in most of the shots, and that the colors were accurate straight out of camera. According to him, the photos didn't need deeper blacks and pushed shadows which was by now a default with Canon event photos.
He is a Sony fan now, but hasn't converted yet. He wants to buy the Sony lenses which is of the most expensive purchases to make, and he wants native lenses, not a mount with Canon lenses. He has only shot with the a9 and has not tried the a7 III or a7R III but he would choose the a9 if he could.
"On paper the Alpha 9 comes across as only more frames per second but the deeper you dig the more you understand the reasons for a price difference," said Beadle.
His Tips on Becoming a World Economic Forum Official Photographer
- Get experience covering corporate events. You need to be able to work long hours at speed. On average the team covers over 100 sessions per day, some sessions have 8-10 delegates on stage with all names and credentials to be tagged in all images when they are shared to be published.
- His day starts around 8 a.m. and doesn't normally end before 8 p.m.
- You have to be able to blend in and be non-intrusive with a low profile. You need ot be able to move around the center filled with delegates, celebrities, politicians, and TV cameras.
- As with any professional goal, take any opportunity to practice and the doors will begin to open.
At the end of our interview, Beadle finished with his thoughts on cameras and Sony. "I realized after a day shooting with Sony, it is not all about the camera," he said. "You can achieve good results with most cameras. Sony does make it easier to achieve great photos more often though."