I’ve been shooting with the Sony a9 for almost two weeks now and I still haven’t run it through a full video shoot — only bits of video here and there. Naturally, I was eager to see what the a9 can do in the video side of things. So, I called up a friend immediately to see if he was available to be my subject for an impromptu video shoot the next morning. At the same time, I’ve been waiting for the right moment to upgrade my stabilization rig. I’ve been sparsely using the Steadicam Merlin that I’ve had for over 5 years. My goal was to upgrade to a 3-axis hand-held gimbal system. I stopped by my local camera shop, Horn Photo in Fresno, and they were more than happy to let me test out the Glide Gear Geranos for my shoot the next morning.
About half an hour before sunrise, my friend Phillip and I drove downtown and filmed for about 30 minutes as the sky radiated with a beautiful electric blue. There were a few times that I used the 85mm GM lens, but I mainly used the Sony a9 combined with the 35mm f/1.4 ZA mounted on the Geranos. I didn’t bother reading the instructions (who does that anyway), but the folks at Horn showed me all the basic functions. A quick skim through Basic Filmaker’s Tutorial on YouTube was also really helpful — especially the part on how to quickly pre-balance the camera and how to switch between the shooting modes (of which the Geranos has 3). Other than that, I was ready learn on the go and see how easy or difficult it is to operate this gimbal system. Check out the short video I put together from my early-morning adventure.
Operating the Geranos
I’m super happy to say that the Geranos was easy to setup. When I compare it to the Steadicam unit I used previously, the difference in setup time feels like light years. It took me only a couple of minutes to pre-balance the camera and operation was pretty intuitive. Initially, I was afraid that the camera-and-lens combination might be too heavy for the Geranos. I’m positively surprised to see it easily handle the Sony a9 and 35mm ZA. I rarely had an issue during the shoot. My biggest gripe would have to be the way the motors partially block the LCD screen. It’s definitely usable, but there are some angles where your view is totally blocked. Also, it was tricky when I wanted to invert the unit so I can shoot low to the ground. The gimbal motors might freak out when you sheepishly try to invert it. I suggest turning the Geranos off before doing so then powering it back on after inversion. It adds 10 seconds to the mix, but at least you will keep your lens from being dinged by the gimbal motors. Also, if you’ve never used a stabilization system like the Geranos, you’ll quickly realize the awkwardness of resting the unit on a surface when it’s not in use. I haven’t found a genius way to do this other than turning the unit off and resting it on the ground. A mini-tripod like the Manfrotto Pixi might be my next purchase. That way, I will have a way to rest my setup on the ground without laying it on its side. Other than that, the system worked wonderfully. Needless to say, I pulled the trigger and got my very own Geranos after returning the review copy back that afternoon.
Sony a9 Video Quality
After downloading the a9 video files and doing a quick edit on Final Cut Pro, my early reaction is positive. Previously, when editing movie files from the a7II, I would notice some aliasing on more than a few occasions. The a9 handles fine detail a lot better. Also, I was filming mostly in the 800-1600 ISO range and the a9 seems to be superior in this area as well. It’s not a super scientific side-by-side comparison, but I like what I see.
Ergonomically-speaking, Sony wisely added a few extra buttons that I can use for custom functions. Along with the addition of a custom folder in the menu system, I now have most of my frequently used settings within a button’s reach — instead of diving deep into the menu system. The a9 has become a more usable camera because of these seemingly small changes. Now, a camera operator that switches between stills and video has the flexibility to customize the camera for both disciplines without sacrificing utility. This will make a lot of hybrid shooters jump for joy.
The baked-in color palette was also visually pleasing. I mention this because so far, Sony has not included S-LOG and picture profiles with the a9 — at least not yet. This exclusion has irritated a lot of video folks (and rightly so). This doesn’t bother me so much because with the way I shoot and edit, I try to get the color as close as possible in-camera anyways. I just don’t do a lot of color grading after the fact. Although I might be in the minority here, so I completely empathize with my irritated friends. Color profiles and S-LOG are essential to video production. Consequently, video-centric shooters will likely pass up on this camera because of this one major exclusion. Hopefully color profiles will be included in a future update. But for now, this particular customer is a happy one.
Thank you for reading my blog! And a big shout out to the folks at Horn Photo for letting me test drive the Glide Gear Geranos. If you live anywhere near Central California, I definitely recommend getting your gear there, they’re pretty awesome. Tell them your buddy from Move to Mirrorless sent ya! Thanks again and happy shooting!
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