I’ve been shooting with the Sony a7 ii almost everyday for 6 months. It has seen mountain tops, beaches, streets of various cities and more! It has been thrown around in my bag through numerous flights, bus rides and daily commutes.
It’s my little buddy.
With heavy use, it shows very few signs of wear. The outer construction is so sturdy! Although it has been through a lot, I am still careful with my gear. I’ve never dropped it and it has stayed pretty dry. It has seen a fair amount of flying dust and has held up to those conditions rather nicely.
I appreciate its size. It does pack away nicely and isn’t too heavy. Something like a full-frame DSLR will be a lot to carry around for long periods of time. If you add up the size of most pro-level lenses with a full-frame DSLR, you’ve got a tank to walk around with.
But the small size does come at a cost. The controls feel a little restricting at times. There is a lot packed into a small body. When you want to constantly change settings, it isn’t the most comfortable body for that.
There are a few modifications and preferences that I use that I want to share with you.
Back button focus and AF-S
Something that makes my camera unique to me is my back button focus. I mapped my AF/MF button to focus my camera. I haven’t see too many other photographers enabling this feature. It makes it easy to focus on a point and then recompose the frame and change the exposure or angle of the shot. As long as the subject isn’t moving, you’ll never have to refocus. With this, I select one focus zone and use AF-S. This is my default setup, but I totally update the auto-focus points and switch between AF-S and AF-C quite frequently. You can “pinch” with your fingers to focus and you can take a photo at the same time.
Turn on back button focus
- Choose Menu > Gear icon (Page 3) > Pre-AF > Off
- Choose Menu > Gear icon (Page 6) > Custom Key Settings > AEL Button > AF On
Change your auto focus settings
- Choose Menu > Camera icon (Page 3) > Focus Mode > AF-S, AF-C, etc…
Using the memory recall
Currently, I only use one of the memory recall dials. For whichever reason, it is mapped to “2” instead of “1” on the top dial. This is my street mode. I have a shutter of 1/2000th, AF-C focusing and ISO100. It’s a quick dial to be able to switch to when I’m walking around, and I can take some from-the-hip-shots or hit-and-run style street shots.
Enable button memory
- Choose Menu > Camera icon (Page 9) > Memory & Memory Recall
Creating new folders when shooting
Whenever I enter a new scene or new day of shooting, I’ll create a new folder on my memory card. This is especially useful when you are traveling, so it’s easy to have a marker when you have lots of photos to go through.
Create a new folder
- Choose Menu > Briefcase icon (Page 5) > New Folder
Turn off shot recall (or Auto Review)
This enables you to use the screen for more useful setting readouts instead of the photo you took. Or, to save some battery, you can leave the screen completely off. The EVF shows you the photo you are about to take, so it’s redundant to see it again on the screen. If you want to review, you can always press the “Play” button to view your recently taken shots.
Disable shot recall (or Auto Review)
- Choose Menu > Gear icon (Page 2) > Auto Review > Off
Turn off all sounds
This is a personal preference with all devices. I don’t like sounds for notifications or confirmation. My phones are always set to super silent mode and I like the same for my cameras. I turn off the auto-focus confirmation and any other camera sounds. The focus peaking or green square is enough for me to know that the camera is in focus.
Turn off sounds
- Choose Menu > Briefcase icon (Page 1) > Audio signals > Off
Common Whoopsies / Reminders
Check your drive mode
A few times, I’ve shot photos and realized that I had bracketing enabled. I later realized that this was enabled accidentally when I was changing my drive mode. If you change your drive mode, make sure you double check that you’re on what you selected! Otherwise, like me, you may end up with 3 shots for every 1 shot.
I change my drive mode by using the Fn button on the camera.
Check your general settings
Check your settings before you shoot. I’ve had my camera on ISO1600 instead of ISO100 (or auto) once and had several shots go off with a higher-than-needed ISO. If you changed your camera for any specific use case, make sure it is changed back before your next shoot. In my case, I was shooting stars and changed a lot of manual settings. If you change settings frequently, it’s a good idea to put those settings in memory button.
The Sony Alpha series doesn’t have a good reputation for battery life. I usually bring several batteries when I leave the house. I have six in total. There has never been a day when I’ve used all six. In my most intensive shooting days, I’ll use two batteries and end the day on the third.
UHS-II cards are great, but not a necessity. Your cards should be high quality. Bring a couple extra with you in case you misplace or break a memory card. A lot can fit on one 64GB card, but, you never know! It adds up quickly if you’re shooting RAW and especially video.