Headed over to Saint James Farm today to give the new Sony A7r a work out on the tripod. It’s one if the first chances I’ve really had to try the camera at base ISO to see just what it is capable of. I took a Canon FD 24mm f2.8, Konica Hexanon 50mm f1.7 and the newly released Zeiss FE35mm f2.8. The 35mm didn’t come off of the camera. Mainly due to me barely being able to feel my hands, I think the temperatures were hovering around 15f.
It seemed like I wasn’t meant to be taking any photos there though. On arrival I setup to take some shots, only to see the dreaded ‘no card’ message on my first press of the cable release! Handily the A7r uses an SD card which are almost as freely available as AA batteries, so I headed over to the nearby Walgreens to pickup an SD card. Great, all sorted I thought as I opened the package, only for the SD card to flip out and fall between the car seats. I almost just drove home at this point! Eventually I managed to wrestle the card out and was on my way.
Saint James Farm is now open year round. It was taken over by the forest preserve a few years ago, but up to now it had only been open from May-October. Regardless, not very many people around there today!
The few people I did see where part of a wedding party having their wedding photos taken! I’ve never seen this at Saint James before, so that was pretty neat and given the bride and bridesmaids were wearing shoulder less dresses, it was quite humorous to observe for a couple of minutes. The photographer had them marching in quicktime from location to location and given the temperatures, I think they appreciated the photographers organizational skill!
I’ve visited Saint James Farm many times, like Kline Creek Farm, it one of the areas hidden gems, not many people either know about it or take the time to visit. Though I had been there many times, I’d never stopped by with the tripod etc, I have photographed several families there over the years, my own family, various events, but never more structured landscape type photos.
This time of year you can get some nice winter feeling shots at Saint James. Visit at sunrise, you can photograph one side, visit in the evening, you get the sun on the other side, so something for everyone!
As for the camera, pretty impressed with it so far, it seems to be the little engine that could. 36 megapixels of resolution, extreme detail, decent noise handling, lightening fast auto focus, great controls.
Sony made few compromises with this camera, probably the worst of it is the battery life and even that isn’t that bad. I arrived at the farm at 3pm, I shot till 4:30pm in freezing battery draining temperatures, the battery was at 60% on arrival and on 1% when I left, thats not too bad. Solution, carry 3 or 4 tiny lightweight batteries, I took a spare, but did not use it. Note these were wasabi batteries, which work great and are available at about $26 for two and a charger!
The camera controls are fantastic, no need to use any menu, shutter, aperture, iso, white balance, focus control all available via a dial. Pretty much everything you need.
FACT: It required so much of the yellow Benjamin Moore paint to paint St James Farm, that they renamed the paint colour to ‘Saint James Yellow'
UPDATE: Once the battery was back at normal temperatures, it went back up to 34%.
A few snaps, very minor processing done, a little black & white point adjustment, cropping, straightening, touch of clarity etc...
December 8th, 2013