Know your equipment! / by Simon Ng

This blog post is a result of a very frustrating end to a very enjoyable session at Diamond Bay, Sorrento, Victoria. It is essentially a review of a piece of software (more on that in a minute), but thematically it is more of a 'know your bloody equipment you idiot' exercise in self-flagellation.

This morning I rose before the birds for the eighty minute drive from my house in cozy, snug and 'oh so comfortable' Warrandyte to a little known beach on the ocean side of the Mornington Peninsula: Diamond Bay and the Bay of Isles (neighbours) are beautifully picturesque places worth your attention.

I arrived ahead of the sun, did a scout around, and set up overlooking the large sandstone formations that give the Bay of Isles its name. 

 

The tang of salt and the thrum of the ocean waves got my juices flowing!. 

With dawn and water, I always turn to my filters (Haida, the only way to go if you aren't rich) and my trusty remote trigger. Filters? Check. Remote trigger? Arghhh.

But that's ok, I told myself, because Sony have a nice little piece of software called PlayMemories Smart Remote Control. So out comes the iPhone (it works on Android too), on goes the camera and up comes the app. And away I went. As the sky slowly brightened, I started to capture long-exposure frames of the Bay of Isles. It all looked beautiful on my (little) Sony screen and my bigger iPhone 6S screen, and I was generally pretty chuffed. No, the sky wasn't perfect, and the sun was coming up behind my left shoulder, but there was enough visual interest in the eroded sandstone and the just submerged reefs that I was thoroughly engrossed.

I came home with what I thought was a reasonable catch given it was the first time I'd visited, plugged my camera in to my computer, imported everything into Phase One's Capture One RAW editor (my editor of choice after I discovered how bloody awesome it is), and went to start my workflow. The first step is to trigger all the lens corrections to make the file as perfect as it can be ahead of colour editing and...

...I'd been shooting in JPG and not RAW. No lens corrections possible. The cry of shame and frustration would have been heard across the street. I cursed Sony for developing an app that had seduced me with its convenience and then plunged me into the dark side of JPG. I cursed a camera that didn't tell me it was shooting in JPG. I went online to vent my frustration, and then I discovered that the whole thing was my fault. 

The app will shoot RAW if you go to the Quality setting in your camera and select RAW+JPEG (as the image below shows). Sheepish me.

Remote App image.jpg

Which leads me to the lesson for today: know your equipment. The Sony Smart Remote control is actually an extremely powerful remote app. It provides complete control of almost all your camera's settings, including:

  • live view (great for selfies too)
  • shooting mode
  • drive mode
  • flash mode
  • face detection
  • silent shooting
  • smart zoom
  • BULB shooting (and it even has a timer)
  • ISO adjustment
  • shutter adjustment
  • WB adjustment
  • flash compensation
  • metering mode
  • exposure compensation...

...and so on. And it turns your camera into a touch screen camera with a screen as big as your phone screen. Well done Sony! I don't think I even need to go find that remote trigger I'd forgotten to take.

It connects via wifi, which is a battery drain, so carry a few spare batteries  (I carry four). You need the Remote Control app (on your camera follow the menu tree Menu>Application>ApplicationList>PlayMemories Camera Apps and install from there). You also need the PlayMemories Mobile app on your phone (ignore the reviews, it works fine for the majority of users). It does require an account with Sony Entertainment, which is annoying.

But all in all, it is a very useful and powerful remote trigger, and I'm going to make a lot more use of it.  

And just to give you a sense of the consequence of shooting in JPEG, here is the image after processing. Normally, this would produce a wonderfully nuanced image with no colour banding or other digital artefacts. But look at the sky as the colour intensifies from left to right...