Entry 242 : Alpha Super Workshop 2018 + Sony a7R III First Impressions

Hello, there.

It's been an unsurprisingly quiet time here at THE FEAR these past few months. Despite doing jobs here and there, I still haven't been able to dedicate any time to post new entries. Work has taken all my time but I vowed to at least post my coverage on the recent Alpha Super Workshop 2018 held by non-other than Malaysia's leading full frame camera manufacturer, Sony.

Back for its fifth instalment, ASW continues to provide Sony Alpha owners a chance to gather for a weekend full of photography and friends. This time around, over 200 participants were gathered in the heart of Penang to not only take part in photography sessions at outstanding locations, but to also stand a chance to win extravagant prizes in the photo hunt activity.

This year, I was invited as a member of the media to take part in the event to be a part of the Sony Alpha community and experience the benefits of becoming a Sony Alpha customer. Sony and the organizers, Digital Imaging Publications, made it their life's mission to ensure that the whole weekend went smoothly right from the get go on Saturday morning, where participants converged at KL Sentral as early as 4.30AM. The trip to Penang was a long and tiring affair but once we got to the first venue, everyone was wide awake in anticipation for what's to come.

Participants were greeted with a warm welcome from the organizers and staff at Sunway Hotel. There, we had our lunch while listening intently on the presentation about the newly released 24mm f1.4 GM lens; a wide prime lens that claims corner-to-corner sharpness, stunning bokeh, and exceptional performance while maintaining a small form factor. Personally, I wouldn't ever require such a niche prime for my own collection but after some brief conversations with other participants, I was surprised that some were actually interested in getting one. Truly, that is the whole point of gathering so many individuals with a variety of photographic backgrounds.

After lunch, it was finally time to do some shooting. The whole afternoon was booked for a hands-on photo shoot session with models placed at various stations within the Penang Peranakan Mansion, and boy what a joy it was to have such a beautiful setting for an outing with Sony cameras. For the whole weekend, I was bestowed with Sony's latest offer in full frame greatness, the a7R III.

Click on the photos to view the 42.4 megapixels in all their glory.

Throughout the afternoon, participants were left to their own devices to shoot the models placed at various locations within the Penang Peranakan Mansion. At each location, there would be either an Alpha Professional Photographer or a Sony Alpha trainer to assist and guide participants with regards to the various shooting conditions. It was awesome to see and learn from the masters such as Eddie Putera and Eric Ooi who were very candid and open to questions. Listening to every bit of information that seeped through them felt like attending a master class, which made the afternoon that much more special.

Participants were given the opportunity to shoot in professional lighting conditions while receiving guidance from professionals

On hand trainers were there to help

I used this opportunity to fully indulge myself in the a7R III, the next step in high resolution photography. Many had thought that the a7R line of cameras hit a ceiling with the a7R II due to its already beefy megapixel count and great 4K capability, but Sony never stopped working to further perfect its megapixel mega machine. Upon turning the camera on, I was immediately greeted with a responsive, quick camera that adhered to every command I gave it - none of that sluggishness I got from the Nikon D850. The first hour went by like a breeze and before I knew it, I had already clogged up my memory card! Thankfully, the a7R III now comes with DUAL memory card slots, so all I had to do was insert another card in and I was good to go.

Shooting RAW (right) + JPEG (left) into one card can fill it up extremely quickly

Imagine each straight out of camera extra fine JPEG was around 27MB while each uncompressed RAW file took about 86MB of storage, which totals up to 113MB per frame. Now imagine shooting those huge files at 10 frames per second! That is an insane amount of images being chugged out of the camera. This proved to also be the detriment of the camera as the buffer filled up quickly and rendered other functions (other than pressing the shutter) useless. The camera is paralyzed for a short while as the buffer relieves itself from the back-up of images. This camera was never meant for high intensity photography and the high continuous drive, I guess, is more for those moments where a little extra speed is needed during photo shoots.

But, damn, just look at those pixels
100% crop

Once it neared sunset, all participants were rounded up to be transported to our accommodation. We checked into the beautiful Hotel Jen and were given time to freshen up before going out for dinner at a privately booked cafe nearby.

I took this on my old 5s, don't be alarmed about the quality

The next day, all participants were sent out on a photo hunt first thing in the morning. My group mates and I saddled up and went hunting for five photos, each one needing to fulfil the tasks given to us on the day itself. Calling the tasks difficult would be a massive understatement because they were definitely borderline impossible. Not only did we need to match the photos to the given tasks, such as "bokeh and transportation", but we also had to tell the story of "evolution" for all five photos. Plus, we only had three hours to complete all five tasks. All in good fun, though, as it gave us the chance to see Penang and have a good time bonding over a common passion. My group didn't win any of the four places up for grabs, but the time spent shooting was already its own reward.

Can't wait to be back

After lunch and the award ceremony, participants from KL were ferried back to KL Sentral. I thoroughly enjoyed my short weekend getaway to Penang, especially because I got to experience the a7R III for the very first time.

However, since I only got to use for such a short period, I still have my reservations about the camera and its overall performance in various shooting situations. What I can say about it now is that it is a great step up from the a7R II in terms of battery life (doubled), dual memory card slots, 10 fps burst, and overall speed and responsiveness. Just like my a9 review, I welcome better responsiveness the most over any other improvements as I feel that my tools for my work should always be at their most efficient; and slow cameras just won't cut it.

The quickest draw in the West just isn't enough

The photos from the a7R III are one of the best in terms of image quality and the RAW files are plenty fun to play with, but I can't help but notice a large amount of noise in low light shots.

Visible noise in the shadow areas such as her face and arms

Other than that, I would have to say that the a7R III worked great the entire weekend I had it. The handling and feel was familiar while the operations weren't that much different as well. Again, the sole fact that it was quick already made me very happy.

And that wraps up this entry. I know it may not be like my usual first impressions but I didn't see any reason not to just combine both entries about the workshop and the camera, too. I will make sure to make a more comprehensive write up when I get the a7R III to review fully.

Until then, take care.

Check out the photos in this entry and more at my new imgur gallery here.

Many thanks to Sony Malaysia for inviting me to join Alpha Super Workshop 2018. Be sure to follow them on their Facebook page for updates and also the Alpha Universe Malaysia Facebook page for more workshops and events.

DISCLAIMER: I do not represent Sony, or any other brand that might be showcased in this coverage and first impressions. This entry is written for THE FEAR and is delivered with utmost honesty and sincerity.