First thoughts on the a6400 and iPad Pro

Links talked about in this episode:

Courses
Walla Walla Shoot-n-Print Workshop

Time to talk about two pieces of gear. The iPad Pro and a mobile workflow opportunity that it provides, and the Sony a6400.

Let’s talk about the 6400 first.

I took it with me to my conference in April 2019 to San Francisco. I was there for a web design conference, but I landed at about noon on Sunday and went straight for Cataract falls in the Marin Headlands area.

  • Took only this camera
  • Was concerned about leaving the Canon kit behind.
  • This is a very capable camera, but I’m just so used to my Canon and three lenses.
  • Took a small bag that went into my computer bag.
  • Took two batteries and my normal ThinkTank photo pixel pocket secure with my cards.
  • It charges via USB plugged straight into the camera.

Let’s look at a few Specs of the camera.

  • Sony E mount, crop sensor 
  • 24MP
  • ISO to 32,000, extendable to 102,400
  • Electronic Front Curtain Shutter to 1/4000thsec.
  • Silent shutter, is completely silent
  • Tons of video options, all the way up to 4K and full HD at 60fps
  • I’ve yet to do any video with this camera.
  • 425 Phase Detect AF sensors
  • 425 Contrast Detection Areas
  • Viewfinder resolution almost 2.4MP
  • Monitor resolution 921,600 dot
  • Tilting screen (up and down, flips up but not flippy screen. Rather annoying that it is hard to operate with an arca swiss plate attached)
  • USB 2 micro b for charging L
  • Weight: 14.22 oz, 403g (with battery and memory card)

All in all, not a bad camera for less than $900. Quite respectable in fact. 

There’s a few things I couldn’t get used to, or couldn’t yet figure out.

  • Screen resolution is too low. 
  • Hand keeps turning off screen when I reach toward the camera, the sensor for the viewfinder senses the hand, turns off screen. Kind of annoying. I know I can switch it to be only the rear screen or the viewfinder. I don’t want that. I want a sensor that actually senses it’s on a tripod and that when something approaches it it should leave the screen on. Then, when I have it in one hand or both hands, and that sensor is tripped, it should then go back and forth between EVF and the screen.
  • But I like it when I want to use the viewfinder.
  • Viewfinder is too low resolution as well.
  • The AF system is good, but I couldn’t intuitively figure out how to change it so I can manually select which AF spot I want. I had to rely on the ability to touch the screen to override the camera’s auto selection of AF points. But when using the viewfinder, I was out of luck. Probably just my inexperience, and my being used to the Canon system. But it should be more intuitive to make that selection. On my 5D4, it’s a quick flick of the joystick item.

Comparisons to the Canon 5D4

In one sense it’s rather unfair to make a comparison because these are two totally different cameras. But that too is my point. I’ll be looking at image quality soon, so that ultimately tells the whole story, but for now, let’s look at the physical differences. 

I use a Pro Media Gear L bracket with my 5D4, it makes this package a massive beast to behold. But I do like it and it has worked well for me. But I’m very much interested in a smaller kit. I want to travel more and take more pictures, and I do know that the girth of the camera does cause me to not get it out sometimes.

I bought the Sony with the 18-135 lens. Together they weigh 25.72 oz or 1.6 pounds. Not bad. The Canon with the 24-70 I shoot weighs in at about 48 oz. or 3 pounds. That’s nearly twice the weight. The Sony is rated with the battery, the Canon is not. Add the battery and my L bracket and I’m saving half the weight when going with the Sony.

Image Quality:

I just completed working on several images in LR. Before I get too far into this I gotta say one thing, This is not a direct comparison of the same exact scenes between the Canon and the Sony.  I did not take my Canon so I only had the Sony to shoot and think about on this trip.

Thoughts:

  • Golden Gate Bridge at night: Came out very well. I shot mostly in the 100, 200 and 400 ISO range and I let the shutter speed go on up to 10 seconds or so. I did a lot of experimenting so I’m just going off of the two that made it to my keepers file thus far. 
  • I’m really impressed with the flexibility of these files. I can push them up in LR easily about ½ stop more than my Canon with the same amount of noise build up. Past 400 though and it starts to fall apart in my opinion. And by “fall apart” I really mean that you can see the noise, it’s still very well controlled, but it’s certainly there. Pretty much on par with the Canon.
  • This is impressive given that the Pixel area of the Sony is 15.13 µm²and the Canon is 28.73 µm²

Story behind shooting these images

  • Woke up at about 4:30 a.m. Drove to the Marin Headlands area, specifically, to the Battery Spencer overlook.
  • Arrived way before sunrise. Had the place to myself. 
  • Looked at a few options for framing. Decided to largely hang out a bit to the left of the battery area so I could have a slightly better angle on the bridge and the city behind it.
  • Got plenty of shots with it pitch black. However,  my favorite shot is the ones where just a bit of blue is starting to come through. 
  • Reds of the bridge are not feeling all that “original” or natural. Not sure if this is a lighting issue, a Sony issue or something else. I was able to manipulate the colors in post to get them pretty good, but to begin with they were awful. I’ve never had this problem with my Canon. Initially, however, I’ll chalk this up to just loads of experience with the Canon, and preconceived expectations.
  • As the sun continued to rise it looked promising. I wanted to catch the harsh light on the bridge with the city behind. But the fog rolled in on the horizon. It remained mostly clear where I was, but over the main land area it got a bit thick. 
  • So I went over to the edge of the ridge and shot the sun coming through the clouds. It was quite good actually. Very pleased with how those came out.
  • I was able to frame up Alcatraz with a large ship, and with the sun poking through the clouds and reflecting off the water, it was rather sweet.
  • I then got back on the main road and headed down towards Point Bonita Lighthouse. There were signs posted saying it’s only open for a few hours on Sunday afternoon, but I had no idea they’d close a tunnel that is the only access to the area and you can’t even see it from the trail. I was a bit disappointed. 
  • I then drove to the Battery Alexander Parking lot and walked to the beach that leads to Bird Island. It was all right, but nothing too exciting. I just shot a few wet sand texture and pattern studies. 
  • One afternoon I walked downtown after the conference and I got on top of a parking garage and shot an old fashioned street car. I zoomed in and framed it up tight, the curvy lines, windows and the pattern of the road made for a striking composition. I really like the guy in the back window. You can see his face and that’s the only major human element in the shot.
  • And then finally, I got the sailboat with the ridge behind it. I like the simplicity of this shot.

Waterfall shots.

  • Actually, before I shot the bridge and downtown I went to Cataract falls a bit further north. It was an excellent hike. But it was also the first time shooting with this camera in CA. I had shot it a bit before with two listeners who met me in Clarkston, WA, and we went to Hell’s canyon and did a bit in the Palouse area. Anyway, I got a few images that worked, but I was really spending too much time getting used to the camera, most of what I got wasn’t worth much. But it was still a valuable experience.
  • Really the only true keeper is a B&W vertical panoramic with a log crossing over the top portion of the frame and the water flowing into a small pool area with rocks surrounding it. The files held up really well to how far I have to push them when doing a shot like this. B&W helps too, but still, it’s a good quality image.

Lens quality

  • The 18-135 is a quality lens. I was almost surprised at how good it is. I could easily trust most of my shots to this lens. I tried it with severe backlighting, side lighting and some of my favorite types of subjects, and they were rendered quite well. 
  • I’m not done testing, and my opinion may change, but so far so good.
  • I did not do quality tests at various focal lengths, I’m just speaking candidly from what I was able to see from these initial images.

Can I actually do it, make the switch?

  • It’s hard to make the switch just now. I think the lower res screens and EVF bothered me too much. I need something like the EOS-R with a higher resolution viewfinder and flippy screen.
  • The FujiFilm X-T3 has a much higher resolution EVF at 3.69mp, but the rear screen is only barely a few more pixels at 1.04mp. The canon EOS R has the same resolution EVF as the FujiFilm but it has a 2.1MP rear flippy screen. So if I’m looking for the best experience in shooting, and I did notice the lower res rear screen was annoying, then the Canon EOS R still has a bit of a nod. 
  • The Panasonic has a whopping 5.7MP EVF and the same 2.1MP rear screen as the EOS R. 
  • This is why I’m still officially waiting to declare which direction I’ll be going with my shooting. Canon has predicted a drop in camera sales and we’re seeing that now with the latest reports coming out in the last couple months. Is it any wonder? There’s lots of good equipment out there, but when you have a 5D4 already, not much is really pulling me one way or the other. Things are to incremental at this point to make me want to pull out the plastic an make it happen with a new body.

Video capabilities.

  • I’ve yet to shoot video on the Sony. Though I just got the ThinkTank Photo PhotoCross 15 in the mail today. I’ll be doing a YouTube video on that soon and then I’ll be able to talk about this camera and it’s video capabilities.

iPad Use

  • I’d love to be able to use my iPad Pro 2 as an exclusive platform for when out on a trip and I think I’m getting close to saying that is becoming more and more feasible for me.
  • Download images to camera roll.
  • Then import into LR mobile. Rather annoying.
  • iOS 13 supposed to fix this issue, allowing us to import directly into 3rdparty apps such as LR mobile. I look forward to that. 
  • Then I have to wait for LR to upload the images to the cloud and then wait for LR on the computer to download them. If you thought importing images into LR was slow, just do this. However, it would be rather worth it for me if I can do this because I’d be able to leave the computer at home if I needed or wanted to. 
  • Still waiting for full PS on the iPad. Once that happens things are going to get very interesting. 
  • However, with the changes in pricing Adobe has started “testing” even I’m tempted to find another solution even though I get the creative cloud through work. And the price they give educational institutions… it’ll be hard for us to justify moving away from adobe anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean I can’t personally make a switch. Time will tell. The Jury is still out on that one.

Closing Remarks

Finally, some information you’ve been waiting for on Denver.

I’m going to do a one-day print workshop on July 28. I’m working with a local camera club for hosting it but the best part is that they said that I can easily invite my listeners to join in on the fun as well. We don’t need to keep it exclusive. Club members will get a small discount but otherwise it’ll be open to you folks as well. 

I don’t have everything figured out just yet, but you can check out the FB group for an announcement and those of you who have contacted me personally, I’ll be reaching out to you once I have the details all worked out.

I have another workshop for you as well. It’s based here in Walla Walla. We’ll plan to get up to the Palouse as well, but it’s all about shooting, processing and printing. We’ll spend five days going through the whole process from start to finish. And you’ll return home with some great images and new skills. If you’re interested in pushing your image making to new heights this workshop is for you. It happens June 17-21 of this year. Check out all the details on the website, https://brentbergherm.com/workshops/ww-print

The Walla Walla workshop does include access to the online course as well. So you’ll get access to over 8 hours of learning and inspiration for taking your images off the screen and into the real world. We’ll talk about working with labs too, so you don’t need your own printer to make this a valuable experience.

And quickly, a quick shout out to all those who have purchased the online course. It’s been out almost a month now and I’m thrilled to see the progress many folks are making. I get the stats of video downloads and such and I’m loving the opportunity to help so many folks who have decided to take the plunge. I’m about to announce my first group session that’s associated with the course, so those of you enrolled, watch for that in your email. I’m talking to David, Bill, Steven, Hank, Dino, Gary, Jeremy, Brian, Steve and the others. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

So if you’re ready to take that next step head on over to the website and sign up today!

In the next few episodes I’ll be talking with the host of the longest running photography podcast, Chris Marquardt. I’m also bringing on Mary Malinconico to talk about selecting workshops and participating in other photo outings. Jeff and I recently talked a bit about workshops and how to select them on the Master Photography Podcast, but with Mary we’ll go quite a bit deeper.

I’ve also got three people interested in talking with me about the book Making Photographs by Ibarionex Perello. So that episode will be exciting and it’ll happen in early July.

Thank you so much for listening. I hope you have a fantastic day, whatever you’re doing and until next time, happy shooting!