A New Generation of Camera Intelligence.

By Gerry Blaksley

Recently I received the new α7R V from Sony MEA. I ended up traveling with it shooting both photos and videos, above and below water. I was mostly curious to find out if the AI autofocus is as good as advertised as I knew I would be shooting some notoriously hard-to-track surfers. I was pleasantly surprised in more ways than one.

Although I am not one to get involved in the resolution game, as that does not always equate to better picture quality, I was fully expecting Sony to increase the sensor resolution on the α7R V. I was surprised to see it has the same 61 MP sensor as the α7R IV. But don’t let that lack of spec bump fool you, the latest Bionz XR processor allows not only a small increase in dynamic range but also an enhanced AI based autofocus system. For me, that is the main selling point.

Before leaving for Bali, I modified my Ikelite Alpha 1 underwater housing to be able to take the α7R V up to 60m deep. I got together with fellow ambassador Faisal AL-Bisher for an underwater shoot in the world's deepest (and most visually interesting) pool, Deep Dive Dubai. We put a long flowing dress on a professional free diver and thanks to the amazing safety support from the Deep Dive team we were able to take her to multiple breath-taking backdrops at multiple depths in the pool. I shoot underwater several times a week and am keenly familiar with the quirks of autofocus in that environment. I was blown away by how well the α7R V AI was able to hold our subject in focus in both photo and video shooting. I can honestly say that I didn’t have a single missed moment with AF underwater which is a rare occurrence even with Sony’s flagship α1. I might add the color rendition underwater in the 8K 10bit video mode was absolutely on point.

After a successful shoot at Deep Dive, I was off to Bali to put the camera through its paces. Upon arrival, it was straight into the sea for some surfing action. One of the dilemmas of shooting just above the surface of the water is that the dome of the camera housing collects beads of water causing the autofocus system to get confused as it creates too many contrast points to interpret. There are a few ways to combat this like running the lens shallow in hopes that the camera can better separate a person from closer distractions, but in the end, it often comes down to a bit of luck to get the perfect shot. With the α7R V, this is no longer the case. Once I set the AF to human tracking, incredibly I had all the luck in the world! I was so stoked that I didn’t get out of the water until the battery finally died, which coincidentally was about the same time I filled both Sony Tough CFexpress Type A cards.

Once we were done surfing for the day it was off to the Ubud Monkey Forrest to see if the animal AF worked as well as the human. I am sure you already know what I am going to say. It worked like a champ tracking those little gangsters swinging from tree to tree and jumping in and out of the crowds stealing anything they could get their little paws on. Needless to say, the 10 frames per second RAW shooting came in quite useful. The fun little surprise for me was how handy the new fully articulating screen actually was, especially in the monkey forest where the subjects are coming from every direction.

One of my favourite moments of the whole trip was during white water rafting. I thought, what a perfect opportunity to test the “weather resistance.” A little splash here and there shouldn’t hurt, right? Boy was I in for a shock! As we began our adventure a proper downpour came blowing in and created a perfect storm of rising rapids combined with monsoon-sized raindrops. I was horrified to be caught in such a scenario and thought for sure that not only was this brand-new camera finished but my workhorse 24-70mm GM II was also a goner. To my astonishment, both continued to work until we were forced to shore 10 minutes later due to the rising river becoming unmanageable. I turned the soaked camera off and upon arrival back to my room I ran the dryer over the soggy gear praying for a miracle. Of course, Sony would never officially endorse this kind of mistreatment of gear, but I can now confidently confirm that both the α7R V and 24-70mm GM II are indeed every bit of the weather resistant that Sony claims as both are still in perfect working condition today.

Overall, I could not be happier with the α7R V and cannot wait to see how Sony continues to iterate this amazing AI functionality. It feels as if we have entered a new generation of camera intelligence and the future is bright.

About Gerry Blaksley

Gerry Blaksley a Creative Director as well as an experienced Director of Photography, Aerial DOP and Underwater Cinematographer. Gerry directed the feature documentary “Fittest in Dubai” and has worked with numerous large brands across the globe such as Sony, Paramount, Mercedes, Emirates, Red Bull and celebrities such as Will Smith, Tom Cruise and Lionel Messi to create scores of inspiring images and stories

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