Playing about with photography makes up a large part of my travel experience, and while it’s more the process of enjoying the locations than taking photos that I’m concerned with, I still want to capture the best quality images I can. That’s why the Sony A7 is my main go-to camera.
The Sony A7 is a full 35mm frame compact system camera with interchangeable lenses. It’s not pocketable by any means (at least not when a lens is attached), but it’s smaller and less bulky than nearly every other 35mm DSLR out there, and the image quality is fantastic.
With Sony’s penchant for releasing a new body every year, the price of the A7 has plummeted, and it is now the cheapest full frame 35mm digital camera on the market.
Having previously owned a number of APSC cameras like the Pentax K5 and Nikon D5100, the appeal of going full frame was the greater control over depth of field, and the increased light gathering capability – I tend to shoot a lot in low light. What’s more, using an adapter the Sony works with practically every lens that’s ever been created, providing a great number of alternatives to the expensive native lenses.
Here are some samples:
Pocket camera – Sony RX100 MK4
Chase Jarvis is quoted as saying that the best camera is the one you have with you. But what if you have two, or three, or four?
To my mind the best camera is the one you can access to in an instant. There have been times on the road when I’ve had the A7 packed away tight and thought it to much effort to get out, or when out at night and not wanting to carry a bag around that says “hey bad guys, come and mug me!” Whilst the camera on my phone is handy in a pinch, I’ve been considering a small pocket camera.
I’d love a waterproof system like the Nikon 1 AW1 (though not that pocketable), but I just don’t think they are there yet in terms of quality or features. So my thoughts turn to another Sony camera, the RX100. Widely regarded as one of the best small cameras on the market. This is another product that Sony have upgraded year on year, meaning the original MK1 version is just a fraction of its initial launch price.
On my trip along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, was a first for me. I left the A7 at home and travelled with the RX100IV as my only camera. It performed well and I was impressed with some of the results.
The best action camera – Sony AS100
The Sony A7 takes some stunning high definition video, but when on the bike I use a Sony AS100 action camera. Now there is plenty of online debate about the best action camera, but I chose the AS100 since it’s compatible with Sony Play Memories app that I already use with the A7, produces high quality 50Mbps video files, and has built in image stabilization. That last feature is particularly important for me on a vibey 650cc single.
Here’s a sample I took whilst riding the Salar de Uyuni. Note that even 1080p Youtube compression reduces the video a fair way from it’s oringal 50mbps file.
I don’t have a problem with Gopro (in fact I now have one), but for me the AS100 wins out on the combination of price, performance and features. I also find the shape works better for mounting on a helmet and other areas of the bike, which after all is why I bought it. Though I will concede that the Gopro shape is better when using a chest mount harness.
Here’s a long detailed review of the AS100 from fellow Brit Techmoan:
GoPro Hero 5
I’d resisted buying a GoPro for so long. The Sony AS100 has great video quality, it well built and splash-proof without its housing, but in the end I bought a GoPro. Truth be told I never really liked the look of the GoPro 3 image files, but when deciding on a 4k capable camera, I skipped past Sony’s offerings and headed straight for the Hero 4. It’s just so much easier to use, which means more time shooting and less time faffing about with the camera.
Unfortunately I lost the Hero 4 in a sailing accident, but now have the Hero 5. Specs-wise it’s pretty similar, but its form factor and easy of use are much better.
A Sony love affair or a necessary evil?
From the list above I run risk of being a labelled something of a Sony fan boy, but the fact of the matter is the equipment above works for me at a price I’m willing to pay, I don’t really care who it’s made by. In fact it would probably be better if it weren’t Sony, since the company isn’t well known for its support, or adding new features via firmware like Fuji or Panasonic now are, instead they tend to just churn out a new models.
If you can recommend products in each of the categories above with the same features at a similar price point, then I’ll happily listen to what you have to have say.