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My experience moving from A7s to 1DC


austinchimp
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Thought I'd write down a few thoughts about having bought a 1DC as a A7s user. Before that I started off working on SVHS, PD150s, Canon DSLRs and then a GH2, a Blackmagic Pocket and a GX7 as my personal cameras. I've worked in TV, sports and events and now do mostly corporate stuff largely as a one-man-band.

I love my A7s, I really do. And I still haven't gotten the nerve to sell it as I was planning to when I bought the 1DC second hand. The reason I was looking to move on was that I was had experienced difficulty on jobs getting the colour of skin right. I do a lot of work indoors, and in mixed lighting. I also do a lot of work outside in bright sunlight. In both conditions I had difficulties, although in natural light I also had times when the A7s just nailed it.

However the times when it didn't quite work because of artificial light, or a wonky white balance or just some strange bad voodoo just got to me in the end and I decided I wanted a camera that could give me colours that just felt right - that felt real. Hence the 1DC.

First of all, it's a bit of a shock going back to a DSLR form after the tiny, light, inconspicuous and technologically packed A7s. Even the feel of the mirror flipping up just to see a live preview is quite jarring, also not having an EVF, peaking, zebras or any other modern conveniences. On the other hand the 1DC feels like a solid professional piece of high end kit, which is a nice feeling and I like to think causes me to be a little more deliberate in my use of it and even in my framing.

The picture, despite what I've been reading lately, isn't perfect. I haven't used an external monitor with it yet so I've been exposing by eye and by judgement, and when you get it wrong and underexpose it can be noisy. Likewise if you're not shooting in C-Log then the highlights are alarmingly easy to blow compared ot the A7s cine profiles. If you're shooting in 1080p modes too it has that slightly brittle quality to the colour and to the noise that I'd forgotten with the Sony. Whatever you say about the Sony colour, the picture is silky smooth even if you push it. I've rarely had the A7s image break up on me, even if I'm correcting exposure up or down a bit. With the Canon I feel I have to be a little careful again. It's a beautiful image in 4k, but just doesn't feel as elastic and silky as the Sony in 1080p.

However that silky smooth quality was also something that bugged me in the Sony sometimes. It can have a slightly unreal plasticy feel to it, as if you're watching waxworks instead of real living people. That's where the 1DC comes in.

Shooting Log and scrading with a lut and some simple curves - or even without the LUT - I can get beautiful natural looking tones from the Canon if it's lit and exposed well. It almost looks like Red Dragon raw in some cases. The highlight retention is also beautiful.

I'm still working out how I feel about it, but the 1DC has given me a renewed appreciation for just how easy to use the Sony is. I hear a lot of people bashing it for it's ergonomics but really we're spoiled, the camera is a little marvel. I'm still not sure which camera I'd choose to take out with me on a trip or a long job yet. I've been using the Canon to get used to it and in some ways I'm amazed and impressed by it, and in others I pine for the A7s. Sometimes it's a good thing to appreciate the strengths of what you have rather than expecting more expensive kit to be better in every way.

At the moment I feel like the Sony will give you good results in about 80% of situations, and only fall down in certain situations. I feel like the 1DC will give me breathtaking results in about 40% of situations, good results in about 30 pecent of situations, and disappointing results in 30% of situations. That's not based on evidence yet, just on a feeling. I hope that changes as I get used to it more. Initially I had a sinking feeling when I saw the reviews coming in from the A7RII, and regret that I hadn't used the 1DC money to buy one  of those. But now I'm starting to appreciate the magic this camera is capable of, and looking forward to digging out it's secrets.

Conclusion of the story - yes the 1DC is a beautiful beast, but the A7s is still a very capable and loveable little thing. I just wish I could have cracked how to make it sing in more cases.

 

If anyone's interested, here'a a little test film I shot on an afternoon out. Shallow DOP shots of grass, sun through tree leaves - you know the sort of thing. Also there's a girl in it too.

 

 

 

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I also shoot a lot of stills at events, although it's a distant second to the video. So I knew I needed something that did both and did it well. Another benefit of the 1DC is that it works perfectly with my Canon lenses which are cheaper and which I prefer to the Sony stuff. The A7RII caught my eye when I heard it has fast autofocus with EF lenses.

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Here's something to try: shoot raw stills (or even compressed video) with the 1DC, then try to match color to the reference stills/video with the A7S in post. I've done this with the 5D3 and it really helps to have Canon colors as reference to help get excellent skintones with the A7S. That said, after having done this (color matching A7S to 5D3), some clients still prefer the look of the 5D3 (including H.264!).  Slog2 with Pro color (exp. +2 over) has provided by far the best skintones on the A7S. CINE1/4 seem to have strange color nonlinearity with exposure. Canon does a better job preserving color throughout the exposure range- that's one reason why it can be easier to deal with in post.

The A7S really benefits from using a gray card to get white balance right. Mixed lighting is tricky- it's best to make sure not too much green, especially for skintones (requires pulling a bit of green / adding magenta in custom WB, etc.).

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