I recently traded out my Sony a7r for the newly minted Sony a7rII. With the arrival of this camera I have finally left Canon behind – selling off my Canon system to fully adopt the Sony platform. That is a topic for another post, but in doing so I have really been diving into the new features and and menu system of the a7rII and have been setting it up for regular use. Having had experience over the last few years with the RX100 and the a7r, I already had an idea of how I would be using this unit and what customizations had worked for me. With a few new features in the mix, things changed slightly and I figured that I would briefly go ahead and post on my Sony a7rii customization and setup. Keep in mind that all of this is specific to my shooting subjects and shooting style – which is mainly landscape. I’m not even going to go into the video features of this camera, which in my opinion is another topic entirely.
1 – Creating a Sony Account
The first thing I recommend doing if you haven’t already is to create a free Sony Entertainment Network account here. Having this account will enable you to install apps (both free and paid) from the PlayMemories Camera Apps List on your camera. You can connect directly to the PlayMemories Camera Apps store from your camera and download directly via WiFi OR you can visit the PlayMemories Camera Apps portal online and push apps to your camera from there via USB.
2 – Connecting the a7rII to a smartphone.
I love that Sony cameras can interact with your smartphone, allowing it to do things like transfer images or be controlled remotely. I set my a7rII up to do both of these things. I use a Nexus 5 Android device so this outline is specific to Android:
Once you have set up your Sony Entertainment Network account, the next step is to install PlayMemories Mobile on your smartphone if you haven’t already. This is free and can be downloaded and installed on your phone from the Google Play store.
Back on your a7rII, go to Menu > Application List and check for two applications which should come pre-installed on the unit: Sync to Smartphone and Smart Remote Control. If these are NOT in your applications list you will need to connect to PlayMemories Camera Apps with your Sony Entertainment network account and download them to your camera.
These two youtube videos do a great job explaining just how to get these apps set up and connected to your android device – you only need to do these steps once:
With these apps installed and set up as per the above videos you can now transfer photos to your phone and use your phone as a remote should you so desire. After connecting my camera to my phone I went into the options for Sync to Smartphone and turned the Auto Transfer OFF because I don’t want pictures transferring to my phone every time I use my camera…I just want that option there in case I need it.
3 – Menu Settings
The a7rII menu is fairly comprehensive and I try to make most of my most frequently used features available to me through custom buttons and the function menu. That being said, I do often dig into the menu and adjust things depending on what I am shooting, but for initial setup I went ahead and changed the following settings immediately:
Aspect Ratio: 3:2
RedEye Reduction: Off
ColorSpace: Adobe RGB
Peaking Level: High
Peaking Color: Yellow
Release w/o Lens: On
Release w/o card: Off
AF w/ Shutter: Off
Silent Shooting: Off
e-front Curtain Shutter: On
Movie Button: Movie Mode Only
Airplane Mode: On
These stay like this most of the time. While high peaking can be overwhelming when shooting a detailed landscape, I do occasionally shoot with manual lenses and I like to see that high peaking when I am zoomed in with focus assist. I usually bounce between high and medium depending on the situation. I turn AF on Shutter to Off because I have configured C3 to be a focusing button. I have always preferred to shoot with a back-focus button.
4 – Setting up Custom Buttons and Function Menu
This is the real meat of the a7rII customization and setup. Customization is a very personal thing but my general theory is that I want my most commonly used operations to be easy to get to without having to wade through a menu system or remember where a certain control is. There are also some features of the camera that can ONLY be accessed through a custom key so I like to make sure that the more useful ones are exposed through custom keys, otherwise it is unlikely I will use them. With that in mind here is how I have set up my Custom Keys and Function Menu:
Custom Key Settings:
Custom Button 1: Focus Mode
Custom Button 2: Focus Magnifier
Custom Button 3: AF On (Back-focus)
Custom Button 4: Bright Monitoring (for night stuff)
Center Button: Shot. Result Preview
Right Button: ISO
Down Button: Finder / Monitor Sel. (monitor toggle)
AEL Button: AEL toggle
AF/MF Button: Eye AF
Focus Hold Button: Focus Hold
Fn. upper 2: Focus Area
Fn. Upper 3: Metering Mode
Fn. Upper 4: DRO / Auto HDR
Fn. Upper 5: Selftimer During Bracket
Fn. Upper 6: ISO AUTO Min. SS
Fn. Lower 1: Zebra
Fn. Lower 2: Smile|Face Detect
Fn. Lower 3: Center Lock-on AF
Fn. Lower 4: SteadyShot
Fn. Lower 5: SteadyShot Adjust.
Fn. Lower 6: SteadyS. Focal Len.
‘Out of sight, out of mind’ rings pretty true with me and following that logic if I don’t regularly use a feature of a camera, or if it happens to be buried in a menu system or only accessible by a programmed key, I tend to forget that feature is there. Bouncing back and forth between Canon and Sony for the last few years it was sometimes hard to keep track of which feature was where. This should be less of an issue now that I am shooting solely with Sony. Still, because I tend to be a bit scatter-brained, I went ahead and made a little cheat sheet to keep in my camera bag. On it I have compiled all of the settings and tools that are pertinent to me and the way I shoot.
I loosely divided the camera features up into the categories where I tend to use them most. Each shooting scenario can call for a different set of tools and it is nice to look at this and get into that mindset. I also reminded myself of how my Custom Dial 1 and Custom Dial 2 are set up – and they are set up very very generally for landscape photography (1) and night photography (2). I like to have a quick way to be reminded of all of the features of the camera that I find useful or interesting so I can apply the right tool to the right situation, and this helps me do that.
That’s it as far as software config. Physically speaking I have added an
L-Bracket and have added a D-ring to it for tethering or carrying purposes. In the future I will modify the bracket to work with my Peak Designs clip system.
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