Another year another Wimbledon. Arguably the most prestigious Tennis Championship in the world and my annual opportunity to test my reflexes in the company of some of the best players and best photographers in the business all using the best cameras available. With this in mind this blog is bit more of an equipment review, so look away now if that’s not your cup of tea.
As usual we assembled, a few days before the crowds descended, to cover players’ pre tournament training. This turned out to be wise as it was our first and only sighting of twice champion and Great British hope Andy Murray. There was some debate that his recovery from surgery wasn’t complete but he turned up wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the words ‘I Will’ and went through a hard training session.
In the end it turned out he ‘Wouldn’t’.
With no Murray at Wimbledon and England doing well, in that little international football competition in Russia, it looked like it was going to be a quiet fortnight. There were other Brits playing but they all fell before reaching the Singles Finals. Even Roger Federer couldn’t make it all the way for once.
So a quiet Wimbledon was the perfect opportunity to accept the offer from Sony to put some of their cameras and lenses through their paces. Sony had approached The BPPA to see if anyone covering the Championship wanted to try out their A9’s and a variety of glass including a phenomenal 400mm f2.8, which came with a 1.4x and 2x converters. The most outstanding feature of this lens, which I used quite a lot, was its weight, or rather its lack of weight, making it possible to handhold it with the 2x effectively giving you a short, light, 800mm f5.6 telephoto. It’s about 1000g lighter than the Nikon 400mm f2.8 and about 1600g lighter than their 800mm f5.6. The focussing is lightening fast but then again so are the Nikons. The cameras do over 20 frames per second, quite useful for tennis but in reality working on your timing is more effective. As a die hard Nikon user, the layout of the controls were very sympathetic, back button focus dials were in almost the exact same place as they are on my D4s and D3’s. The zoom function works in the same direction as Nikon and once you’ve had a bit of instruction the camera menus are easy enough to navigate. The cameras are smaller and lighter but the image file sizes are bigger. The pictures they produced were stunning. I loved the Electronic ViewFinder and the fact that it went lighter and darker as you adjusted exposure meant it was easy to get it spot on without looking at the lightmeter details. I especially liked the way you can review pictures in the viewfinder rather than trying to see them on the screen, which is fantastic for those of us who are usually scrabbling around to find our glasses. Personally, I’d have no qualms whatsoever with swapping over to Sony if it wasn’t for the cost and one other drawback; covering news and lots of Royal jobs, many of which are ‘Solo Rotas’, I need to be able to caption, edit and send directly from the camera via a mifi device. I’m not technically minded but I managed to set up my D4S to do this and once you preload the caption it’s a case of deciding which photo you want to send, then hitting two buttons simultaneously and the picture is sent. You can crop in camera and adjust the exposure on raw files then export as JPGs. You can also add voice tags to the files before you send them. All this stuff is vital to me and whilst I loved the A9s without these features they are of very limited use to me. They’d be great for anyone who never has to send from the camera and, trust me, your back would thank you for swapping. To be totally honest, the tech is there to send from the Sonys but it buries the pictures in numerous folders making it difficult to find at the other end, which will not go down well with a busy picture desk. I didn’t go down the route of trying out the sending capability so I can only say what others far more knowledgable have told me. Sony say the problem can be overcome with firmware and by using their App on your phone to add captions etc but this, to me, is a step backwards from how I operate now. I imagine the techs in Japan are solving this issue as I write and if the next camera they come up with deals with the problem then I can’t think why (money aside) you wouldn’t swap.
Anyway that’s the boring bit over. Here are some of the pictures I shot, some Sony, some Nikon. Can you tell which is which?