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Sony A7 III Fast Start

Lesson 5 of 29

Camera Controls: Top Deck

John Greengo

Sony A7 III Fast Start

John Greengo

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Lesson Info

5. Camera Controls: Top Deck
Navigate the remainder of the controls on the top of the camera, including the custom controls, like programming Sony's excellent eye AF.


  Class Trailer
Now Playing
1 Class Introduction Duration:16:37
2 Photo Basics Duration:04:38
4 Camera Controls: Mode Dial Duration:26:05
5 Camera Controls: Top Deck Duration:18:35
9 Left & Right Side Controls Duration:07:02
10 Bottom Controls Duration:04:59
11 Front Controls & Lenses Duration:13:16
15 Menu Page 6: AF2 Duration:05:42
16 Menu Pages 7 & 8: AF3 & AF4 Duration:05:56
19 Menu Page 13: Focus Assist Duration:06:03
20 Menu Page 14: Shooting Assist Duration:06:29
21 Camera Settings: Movie Duration:07:43
25 Network Menu Duration:11:19
26 Playback Menu Duration:07:18
27 Setup Menu Duration:26:52
28 My Menu Overview Duration:08:13
29 Camera Operation Duration:10:14

Lesson Info

Camera Controls: Top Deck

Next up is the other dial on the camera, which is exposure compensation, a little nod to the retro style. A lot of cameras used to have this and a lot of them are now putting it back on the camera. And this is a very simple way to make your pictures brighter or darker in certain modes. And it's doing this by adjusting either shutter speeds or apertures, whatever the camera is in control of. And so, minus will make your pictures darker, plus will make it brighter by whatever number you choose it to, to be with. So this is something that you would use in aperture priority, shutter priority and the program mode, you would not use it in manual, it doesn't do anything in manual. It doesn't magically make your pictures brighter and darker, it's just changing shutter speeds and apertures, whatever the camera is in control of. My main word of warning on this is that this dial is on the top edge of the camera, which is right where your hand is grabbing the camera, and at many times, when I've b...

een using the camera, it's been bumped one or two clicks in one of those directions, and so, you do have to kind of keep an eye on it. It is listed in the viewfinder and in the LCD in the back, so just make sure that it's normally on 0, unless you are specifically wanting it someplace else. Next up we have the C1 button, this stands for Custom 1. There is going to be a whole host of features that you can go in and program into Custom 1. It is already pre-programmed into something that's pretty good right now, but if you wanna dive into the menu system, camera settings 2, page 8 of 9, the Custom key, you can go choose what you would like this button to be programmed as. Now, I'm not gonna go through all of these right now, but this is the options that you have in here. There are 22 pages of options that you can program to this. Now, actually, we are going to talk about most everything on this list in here, as we go through the class. But there is one in here that is a little bit unique and different, that I wanna highlight, and it's this one right here, Eye AF. Because this is not a feature that you turn on in the focusing system. In the function menu, that has a lot of the shortcuts, it's not in there. It's something that you have to program to a button, and then the camera will focus on an eye, which is very interesting. And there's some few other cameras that do this, but I don't think any that do it as well as the Sony. And so, I am gonna need a volunteer up here. I don't know if it was you or we wanna get one of the students to do it, do we have a volunteer to do a little face modeling? (audience member mumbles) Excellent, come on up here, stand in front of our stand. And I'll give you some simple instructions here in just a moment. I'm gonna keep things real simple, I'm just gonna leave my camera in the Program mode right now, and I wanna double-check my auto focus system right now, it's currently in the wide, we're gonna talk more about this right now. And you'll see, right now, as standard, it can detect the face. Why don't you take a couple of steps towards me? And if I move the camera around, it seems to pick it up. And why don't you do profile to me? Turn 90 degrees, and we'll see if it picks it up. And it still picks this up. OK, so turn back towards the camera. So, it's just picking up the face right now. And, you know, just to have some fun, I'm gonna change this into the continuous mode. And so, take a few steps from side to side, give a little-- And now do a 360, let's see if it pays attention. It lost it for a moment, but then it kept it. And so, OK, so this is kind of interesting, turn around to the camera, face away from it, now back up towards the camera a little bit. You see how it's tracking the subject? Now walk forward a couple of steps. And so, it's tracking the subject. So it doesn't know what it is, but, turn around, and it suddenly recognizes it as a face. But it hasn't gone to the eye. In portrait photography, one of the most important things is getting the eye in focus here. So now, what I am gonna do, is I'm gonna reprogram this C1 button to focus on the eye, and we're gonna see how that changes. And so I'm gonna have to dive into the menu system, and I'm gonna go to page 8 of 9, because I have this stuff memorized. That's what fills my head, folks. Custom key, C1 is currently set to white balance, so I'm gonna go in here and we're gonna-- I'm trying to remember, let's find what my notes say, oh, I didn't put it in my notes. We're looking for eye focus, it was pretty early on, I thought it was like page 6. Oh, four, there we go. So we're gonna put this in Eye AF. So Eye AF is now on C1 button. So, if I press the C1 button, notice how it's picking up his eyes. Why don't you walk towards the camera? And look at that eye, let's see, let's get this back. And just turn your head from side to side. And so, it picks up the near eye, and then it switches eyes and picks up the other eye. Go ahead and turn back. You see how it's just following it back and forth? That is incredible. If you're trying to shoot a model and get the eye in focus-- Thank you very much. And so, you can see how well it tracks the subject moving forward and backward. And this is a feature that you don't normally turn on any other place. And so, a lot of people who own the Sony cameras program one of the buttons, not necessarily the C1 button, to do eye focus if you do any sort of portrait photography on a regular basis. And so, there's a number of things that we'll continue to talk about. Subject tracking, face tracking, eye tracking. And so, this was the Eye AF feature of the camera. And if you wanna get in and do that, there's a whole bunch of custom controls that we're gonna talk more about in the menu system. All right, so that's one of the interesting options in there. By default, the camera comes programmed from the factory, C1 to white balance, which is a very important feature. So I don't know that this is the button you wanna replace with, it depends. So, white balance controls the way that the camera records color. It doesn't know what color the lights are, that are illuminating the scene, and so, sometimes you need to give that input to the camera. There is an auto setting, but let's talk about this white balance. So it ranges from red to blue along the Kelvin scale. We have natural lighting, daylight, cloudy, open shade, things like that. We have artificial whites, which all have a variety of different lights, there's a bunch of different fluorescent lights that you can get, for instance. Flash is of course very neutral. And so, if you know that you are shooting under a particular type of light source, it is advisable to change the white balance to that light source. There is a special one for underwater. Now, let me just say the really stupid thing, this is not an underwater camera, but it can be put into a housing. And so, a proper housing will probably cost you $1,000 to $6,000, it depends on how fancy you wanna get it. We do have a few other options. Auto white balance. Auto white balance is where the camera chooses according to the highlight in other information that it sees. If you're photographing a blue wall, kind of like we have here in the room right now, that's gonna throw off the white balance reading of the camera, and that's where you might wanna manually input something. But in most situations, it's gonna pick it up, and it's gonna do a pretty good job. And so, I leave my cameras in auto white balance all the time, unless I know I'm gonna be in a particular environment for a period of time. Set a specific Kelvin temperature. If you know exactly the Kelvin temperature, you can set that specific number in there. A lot of people don't do that, but it can be very handy, especially if you're shooting with multiple cameras that you wanna have exactly the same look. And that can be very important in video. And then, finally, you can calibrate on a white surface. And so, what you do is basically get a gray card, or a white piece of paper, and you take a picture of it, and the camera understands that that's the correct reflection of the color in the room, or whatever environment you're in, and you can calibrate it for whatever funky lighting system you might be under. So there's all the options that you could hope for. So, to start with, I go with auto, and then change it as needed from there. Next up is C2, guess what that stands for? So, we have more custom options we can put in here, so it's the same custom key that we can reprogram. We're gonna jump to what it is programmed right now from the factory at, and that is the focus area. And this is something that really hasn't changed too much on recent models of Sony cameras, but they have been improving the performance level of it. And so, let's talk a little bit about the focusing system on this camera. The camera has 425 contrast AF points, and that is the way mirrorless cameras work in general, is through contrast detection. The big advantage is that they can have any size box they want, they can have as many as they wanna fit on screen, and they can go out virtually to the edges of the screen in here. The contrast points are known to be very, very accurate, because they're reading the light on the sensor, they can tell if something is sharp or not. And, if it is sharp, it is 100% guaranteed, in your final focus, to be in focus. And that is great, that's the type of accuracy photographers like. But it tends to be a little bit on the slow side. So they have also added in 693 phase detection auto focus points on this camera, which are known to be very fast, but sometimes not perfectly accurate. So, with the combination of the two systems, we have fast and accurate. And so, this camera is doing an amazing job at focusing. It's not perfect in every imaginable scenario, but the hit rate of in-focus shots with this camera is in the 98 to 99% ratio for basic photography and basic action. When it gets to really high-speed action, the hit rate might be 95% in that case. We can focus down to EV -3, which is a light level, very dark, not too far off from, say, full moon at nighttime. Focus area, of course, deals with choosing different areas in which to focus. The wide area essentially looks at pretty much the entire area of the framing in there. We saw that earlier in our tracking test. So it's looking over the wide area, and this is the most simplistic way that the camera focuses. The main problem with this system is it wants to focus on whatever is closest to the camera. And so, if you're focusing on somebody walking down the street, and somebody else happens to walk between you and them, it's gonna refocus on that person. And that may not be what you want the camera to do, so you need to choose a smaller area. And when it does focus, it will show you in green boxes, what areas it has chosen. And so you'll have an idea of what the camera is trying to do. So the next way to narrow it down is with a zone, which is a group of nine boxes that you can use the joystick on the back of the camera to move up, down, left and right, into whatever quadrant of the frame. And so, this is something that I use for what I would consider slightly erratic sports action. If I was trying to film a runner coming towards me, that, you know, might be weaving a little bit back and forth, it'd be good. For basketball players, be pretty good. For birds in flight, be quite good for that. The simplest one is the center one, this is my least favorite, because it's very inflexible, it's just in the center. That's all it is, and this is the way the first auto focus cameras had their systems. I do like the flexible spot quite a bit, because we have three different sizes and we can move them around the frame wherever we want. So we have small, medium and large. I keep changing my opinion on which one I like, it just depends on what I'm doing. So I'm glad to have so many different options in here. And so, I think that's a very handy one. Another one that is kind of a combination of the first, or the one that we just talked about, is a small and a large one at the same time. It uses the small one, but if it can't find something to grab on to, then it goes to the larger area, and focuses right there. Now, one of the things that, in all the reviews, and as I researched this class, I just look at everything I can online, I wanna see what everybody has to say, because my class usually comes out a little bit later than the reviews, and so it needs to be... An accumulation of all the information on this camera. And something that, it seems, everybody has totally missed, is that this camera does not focus on horizontal lines. And let me show you what I mean by this. So let's go ahead, turn this camera on. I'm gonna change this into a flexible spot, and medium seems pretty good. And so, let me turn off a little bit of this display, so you can see our focusing box right here in the middle. And so, if we focus it on something like these flowers, the green light down here in the corner comes on, that turns on nice and clearly. Now, if I just point this at an area with no contrast, you can see that I get the warning down here, and the green box does not go green. If I put this on a horizontal line right here, it does grab it. If I put it on the edge of the frame here, depends on if it sees enough contrast. And so, let's see if I can get this to cause a problem down here. It depends on the contrast level of it. And so, it can't grab on to this little bottom of this area here, and you can see it's just struggling. Sometimes it gets it, sometimes it doesn't get it. It didn't get it. And that is because the phase detection points are looking for vertical lines. And so, vertical lines will do better than horizontal lines, when it comes to the focusing. If you are going over a larger area, let me change this to a zone focusing. Actually, let's do zone here. And now you can see that it's grabbing a much bigger area, let me change this over to single area here, so that we can see this grab, you can see where it's grabbing this stuff, and what it's grabbing on to. And so, with those little bit larger areas, and that's why you wanna be concerned with small areas and concerned with vertical lines, it just doesn't do as well in those cases. Or, excuse me, it doesn't do as well with the horizontal lines. All right, next up is more focusing areas. They're all exactly the same, but when you are in the continuous mode, you do have these that will track your subjects back and forth. And we did see a little bit of that when we were tracking our subject back and forth on there. And so, these will only become available when you are in the continuous mode. And then, as the subject is moving towards you or further away from you, you will see boxes in the frame that'll show you where it's tracking that subject. And I have done this in a number of cases, with people running or cycling towards me, and it's just amazing how you see this information and how the tracking goes. It does an incredibly good job. And so, for sports photography, I think this camera does an excellent job. And so, I like using the flexible large spot, so I can kind of choose where I'm starting. And so, if I was going to photograph what I consider to be challenging sports, like basketball or soccer, where you have players on a field and they're crisscrossing, and the player you're tracking might have somebody in front of them and back of them, you wanna try to get that focusing box on their torso, their number, their jersey. And then, when you press down on that, it knows that that's the subject that you were trying to track. And as they move around, it'll track them, as you saw on our earlier demo. And so, that'll happen only in the AFC mode, when you've chosen these lock-on options for all of these. And sometimes it shows you to a little box, and sometimes it shows you to in big boxes. So that is a bit about the focusing area. All right, the hot shoe on top of the camera is not just a simple hot shoe, it is a multi interface shoe. Thank you, Sony, for that. So, not only does it synchronize with flashes, it communicates with them in a more sophisticated manner. There are a bunch of flashes from Sony, and one of the interesting things about most flashes, not all, I'm talking about all the manufacturers, most of them, is that the number in the name of the flash is a direct relationship to the power of that flash. And so, the bigger number reflects the higher guide number, and how powerful that flash is. So, we have a variety of flashes that are available from Sony, your camera doesn't have a built-in flash, so if you need that, there's a lot of options to choose. They do have new ones that are the RM models, which have a radio control, so that they can trigger multiple flashes without the pre-flash, through walls, and in a variety of professional situations. Now the flash is not available with the all-electronic shutter that we will be talking about later on in the class. And so, you do need to use the focal plane shutter if you are gonna be using the flash. The advantage of the multi interface shoe is that there's some connections up front, so we can send up microphone information as well. So it's a good place to mount microphones. And so, if you are shooting video, the Sony microphones do have a little advantage in that you need less batteries and less cords connecting up with the rest of the camera. We do have a couple of microphones. If you do wanna shoot great video, you wanna shoot and record great audio as well. The built-in microphones are very limited, but it does have stereo microphone. And when you play your movies back, there's a little speaker on the top of the camera, and that's where the sound is coming from. The little focal plane mark there is indicating where the sensor is, and this is important for people doing critical focusing. Oftentimes, with cinema lenses, they need to measure the distance from their subject to the focal plane, and that's the little mark you need to measure to.

Class Description


  • Use the advanced focusing system with 425 Contrast points and 693 phase detection points
  • Understand and leverage bracketing options for Exposure, White Balance and Dynamic Range Optimizer
  • Use the multitude of customizing options
  • Use video features like 4K video, slow motion, and time-lapse
  • Better use any modern mirrorless features like the EVF


Sony set the bar high by calling the Sony A7 III a basic mirrorless camera, packing the $2,000 body-only digital camera with a 24.2 megapixel Exmor CMOS sensor and image processor capable of 10 fps. The entry level full frame camera is being touted as one of the best options for full frame, even among Canon and Nikon competitors.

This class helps you get the most of your Sony camera with a complete step-by-step walkthrough of the camera’s features, whether you are just picking up the a7 III for the first time or you want to learn new tricks for your well-loved camera. Join expert photographer John Greengo as he gives you all the information you need to understand this Sony Alpha camera's buttons, menus, and functions -- without the 642-page instruction manual.


Anyone who has purchased, or is thinking about purchasing the Sony A7 III

Sony A7 III


John Greengo is a veteran instructor and an experienced photographer with over 50 Fast Start classes in the CreativeLive catalog. He has dove into the complex menu systems of multiple Sony cameras including the a6000, a6500, a9, and a7r III, as well as mirrorless and DSLRs from Panasonic, Nikon, and Canon. Besides being adept at dissecting new cameras, John works as a travel and outdoor photographer. With his experience in analyzing camera manuals, he will discuss the complete breakdown of your camera’s exposure, focus, metering, video and more. After this class, you’ll be able to use your new Sony A7 III with confidence.


a Creativelive Student

John GreengO! What a wonderful teacher! As always to the point. You do all the testing for us and we get an amazing tour of the camera. Really thrilled with your class once again. Thanks a lot!


Thanks John. Another great class! I appreciate the thorough explanations. I many never use all of the features on this camera but at least I know what they do. Love all of your classes and would definitely recommend them.


Wonderful class. John is a great instructor. Learned a lot. Only wish he'd include a bit more on using a7iii to shoot video, such as using Clear Image Zoom, and including video in the ending Camera Operation settings section. Loved the course though.