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Sony A7r III Fast Start

Lesson 4 of 26

Top Deck: Mode Dial and Exposure Compensation


Sony A7r III Fast Start

Lesson 4 of 26

Top Deck: Mode Dial and Exposure Compensation


Lesson Info

Top Deck: Mode Dial and Exposure Compensation

Most important dial, or control on the top of the camera in my opinion is the Mode dial, and this gonna be used for controlling the shutter speeds and apertures on the camera. It has a lock button, so it does require two or three fingers to make a change on the camera, which is probably a good thing, so that it stays where you want it to. But it can be a little bit tricky sometimes on the fingers. Alright, so looking at the Mode dial, what we're gonna do, is we're gonna start off on easy, and get more manual and complicated as we go along the way. The easiest, most simple setting on this is the Auto mode, and this is where the camera will take a look at the scene, and it's not fantastic, but it's pretty good at recognizing what you're trying to take a photo of, and it will adjust shutter speeds, apertures, focusing, menus, or not so much the menu system, but metering system, it'll adjust the camera for those type of scenarios. Now from a experienced photographer's point of view, when I...

say it adjusts the camera for that, I mean it just barely tweaks it in that direction. It doesn't really go as far as most professional or serious photographers would go, and I think anyone who purchases this camera and just uses it in the Auto mode is not really utilizing the camera to it's fullest capabilities. And so, I think this is a perfect mode for all of us serious photographers when we hand the camera over to a friend or a stranger, and we don't want them to mess up our settings, and just take some simple basic photos. I think it's the perfect handover to somebody else who's not shooting, but it is the simplest way just to let the camera take care of everything for you. We're gonna jump around just a tad bit here. We're gonna talk about Movie mode. The camera is very, very adept at shooting movies, and we're gonna be talking about its movie shooting capability throughout the class, but let's just dig in and look at some of the highlights about some of the movie shooting options. In the menu system is the option for choosing the different file formats. It does shoot 4K, it does shoot HD. We have three different options for shooting in the file format. If you want the highest quality, it's probably gonna be the 4K, the HD is still very, very useful these days for a lot of types of purposes if you don't wanna use up too much data. There is also another setting called Record Setting, which is gonna control the frame rate, how many frames per second are you shooting, and the data rate, how much data are you collecting. And it really depends on what you're doing with your camera. If you're just wanting to record a quick video clip that you wanna share with somebody on the internet, you probably don't need to record it with the largest file size possible. If you're gonna be editing the work, and you're gonna be going down to the individual frame to make your edits, that's when you're gonna want more data to record. We do have that standard 29 minute limit when we are shooting in HD or 4K. We do have a 4GB file limit, so if you're recording for a long period of time at a very high resolution, it'll automatically start a new file, that you will then have to piece together in editing. It is essentially seamless once you get it back together. And we will be talking about a lot of different focusing. When you are in the movie focusing, it has a continuous or a manual focus option. It doesn't have the single option, and so if you're recording, there is a difference in the way it focuses in video compared to in stills. Now you can use 4K and HD to record off of the entire sensor area if you want, but the camera, this is kind of strange, and I'm gonna talk more about this in the menu system, it defaults to a 1.5 crop when you go into 4K mode, and I believe it's because, at least Sony believes, and they probably are right, that the camera actually gives you better quality HD video when you are recording off of this smaller area, and that's the way, it has to do with the over-shooting and then compressing all that information into the smaller area, it actually does a better job. But you can choose in the camera whether you want that 1.5 crop when shooting movies, or you can shoot the full area. And as I say, I think you do get a little bit better quality when you are at the smaller APS-C, 'cause it is over-sampling at that point. 4K resolution is all the latest rage, where you get the highest resolution possible. Full HD is still very popular and very usable, and a little bit more manageable when it comes to file sizes. We do also have HD, which is 1280 by 720, and the camera can still record it, but it's in this new thing called Proxy Movie, which is a kind of secondary movie that goes along with your original movie, so that you have a small movie that you can share very easily that's smaller in file size. And these will have different available frames per second depending on how much data that you are recording. The other option that you have in here is choosing which format you use. Anyone who wants the highest quality will be choosing the 4K option. There is an older AVCHD which not very many people are gonna want to use, Sony designed that as a really good system for recording to Blu Ray discs, and people just are not recording to discs the way they used to, but if you wanted to do it, it is there for you. We have different frame rates, and this is something that still photographers aren't as familiar with as those who shoot a lot of video. 30 frames per second is the standard frame rate for video here in the United States. Over in Europe and other places around the world, they're often using the PAL system which uses 25 frames, and in some cases it's nice to shoot double that, because it has its own unique look. Or then you can slow it down to half-speed for special effects looks. You can also go all the way up to 120 frames per second, and Hollywood movies are made traditionally at 24 frames a second, which is one of the reasons why movies look a little bit different than standard video on TV, and so you have a lot of different options on this camera on how you set them. There is also slow and quick frame rates if you wanna do essentially time lapse, or slow motion, with this camera, completely built in. And we'll talk more about that as we get into the menu functions for this camera. So definitely a lot of good movie functions, and so if you do wanna record movies, I recommend moving it over to the movie record mode. You can press the record button at any time you want, but by putting it in the Movie mode, there's a couple things that are gonna happen. Number one, on the back of the camera, or in the view finder, your frame will crop down to the 16 by nine aspect ratio, which is what you're gonna be recording your movies in, and secondly, there's a lot of controls on the camera that you can customize, and have them completely different for still photography versus video, and so there's like four different custom buttons, and you can have a whole set of parameters set up for stills, and a completely different set for video, so that your camera is very quick to switch back and forth between those two systems. I briefly mentioned in that last section about the slow and quick motion, and there is actually a special place on the dial here where you can go in, and if you wanna dive into the menu system, you can go in and set those parameters about what is the final frame rate that you're gonna be playing back this at, what frame rate do you wanna record at, 'cause you could record a time lapse where it records one frame every second, and so it's gonna take 30 seconds to build up one second of final video. And so it's very capable of doing that right in the camera, which is nice. And so if you did wanna produce a video that had 30 frames per second, if you set it at 120 frames, it's recording 120 frames per second, when you play it back, it's gonna be one-third slow motion. At the other end of the extreme, as I mentioned, if you wanted to do one frame per second, it's gonna be 30 times faster. And so you can speed up time, or you can slow it down with this option here. And your final video can either be 60, 30, or frames per second, so it depends on how you're gonna be using your final video. Alright, getting more into the still photography functions, P stands for Program, and this is where the camera is gonna set shutter speeds and apertures for you, and unlike the Auto mode on the camera, the camera has no child safety locks on the rest of the features of the camera, so you can dive into the menu and make full changes. When you look through the view-finder, or look on the LCD on the back of the camera, you'll see that you're in the program mode, and then down at the bottom, you'll see your shutter speed and aperture, and the camera is just gonna try to choose the best set of settings for that given light scenario. Now what it's doing when it's choosing these best settings, is it's trying to give you at least a 60th of a second, 'cause generally for hand-holding a camera, depends a little bit on what lens you have, but generally speaking, you need a 60th of a second or faster. If you do wanna make an adjustment, you can do so by adjusting either the front or the back dial on the camera to do something called program shift, and this is what allows you to move the camera, or move the settings of the camera to something that is a little bit more preferable. Actually, I wanted to jump back before I get into aperture priority here, and I wanted to show you real quickly on the back of my camera what program shift looks like, and what we can see going on on the back of the camera. So if we look on the back of my camera right now, we've got out prop stand over here, and down at the bottom of the camera, the camera is recommending an 80th of a second at F4, and you remember I did a factory reset on my camera, so the ISO is just automatic right now, but if I wanted more depth of field, I can turn my dial back here, and let's see if I can try it in the front, I can do it in the front, I can do it on the back, and so if I want F16, I can go ahead and set that and take that photo, and get more depth of field. Now if I move I around a little bit, these numbers might change a little bit according to the light levels. Now, with auto ISO set, it's adjusting the ISO, and I'm gonna jump that, I'm gonna have that change outta there real quickly, I'm just gonna change it to something else. Let's jump it up here, that's fine. And so let's see what happens now when I set it to F16. And so now, you see, well it changed back to F14 over here, and so the problem that I don't like with the program mode is that you can make a change to get to a general region, but you can't really get to a specific setting because you're in the program mode. The camera's in control of these things. And so if you prefer shallower depth of field, or faster shutter speeds, you can generally go to that neighborhood, you just can't specifically stay in that one spot that you want, so if you are very particular about specific shutter speeds or apertures, it's not the best mode, but it is a good mode for getting quick pictures very easily, generally in the place that you want them. Alright, next up on the Mode dial is the A mode, which stands for Aperture priority, and I have found that for myself, and for a lot of other photographers, this is one of their favorite modes because it gives them a fair bit of manual control with a little bit of automated assisted help from the camera. And so this is where you obviously get to change the aperture, so you're controlling the depth of field, and the camera is going to then give you an appropriate shutter speed. And so as you look in the camera, one of the things that you notice is that as you change the aperture, it will turn orange in color to let you know that this is something that you are manually setting, and you are making changes with. And so if you're not familiar with apertures, you can set an aperture of like F22, which is gonna give you lots of depth of field, so things in the foreground and the background are in focus. If you have a lens that goes all the way down to 1.4, it'll allow you to shoot with very, very shallow depth of field. And so the camera has so many different shutter speeds, it's very, very easy for you to pick an aperture, almost any aperture in any light, and the camera will have a shutter speed. Now you do need to keep an eye on the shutter speed, because it may dip below what you can handhold. And so that's gonna depend on the lens, and how steady you can hold the camera, and the stabilization system that's built in, how well it's gonna do with the way you're shooting, and so you do have to keep your eye on that, but it's very easy to work with the aperture priority system, it's something I think a lot of people will use on this camera quite frequently. Next up is Shutter priority, which is the matching opposite of the Aperture priority system. And in this system here, you are selecting the shutter speed, the camera is choosing the aperture. Now there are less apertures to choose from, so it need to be in the right area for this to work right, but this can be very handy when you wanna set the shutter speed to a specific number. You'll notice it change in orange as you're changing it around, and if the camera cannot find, or does not have an aperture that is appropriate, you'll find that it blinks at you. And in general, in cameras, and maybe in life as well, anything that blinks potentially is something that you should be checking out. In the cameras, it's usually a warning sign that something's not right in the camera, and that you should be really be taking a look at it. So with shutter speeds, you could be choosing very fast shutter speeds, like a thousandth of a second for very fast action. You could be choosing to blur the action with a slow shutter speed like one second, and so there's a lot of fun that you can have, because there are so many different shutter speeds that you can use. And so I wanna show you a little bit on that. So I'm gonna switch my camera over to the Shutter priority mode, and just for reference here, let's, we're gonna set our ISO at 3,200. We have a fair number of lights in here, but it's not quite outside light. And let's turn off some of these displays so that we can concentrate on what's important here. And so I'm gonna be able to change my shutter speeds by turning my dial in the back of the camera. You can see them turning orange down here, but if go to too fast a shutter speed, go up to a thousandth of a second, you'll see that F4 starts blinking. If I go up way too fast, we can see that being reflected in the LCD, and the camera has no problem letting me take a photo. It doesn't know what I wanna get, and it's warned me, it gave me fair warning, we do not have an aperture that's appropriate. And so if you wanna get a proper exposure, set the shutter speed as you want, but make sure that nothing else is blinking in here. And so if I shoot this down at one 60th of a second, then I'm gonna get a properly exposed photo. And so Shutter priority is not something I tend to use as much myself, and I don't see many other photographers using it as much, but there are situations where you know you need a specific shutter speed, and one of the things that does work quite well with shutter priority is by taking the ISO, and putting it in auto ISO, and we'll talk more about ISO in a little bit, but if you have this in auto, we can shoot here at a 60th of a second, and if we go back up to that 4,000th of a second, the camera, well let's see, the camera's auto ISO should kick in, and it does kick in, and goes up to 12,800, and I may have put a limit on it, let's go back to a thousand, that's a little bit more reasonable, and so here the camera has jumped up to 10,000 ISO, and it still allows me to shoot a photo, but it is properly exposed. And so auto ISO tends to work pretty well with Shutter priority, but there's a lot of little games that you can play with, and that may or may not be right for what you're doing, but it's a good option. Alright, next up is manual exposure, and this is for anyone who really is a control freak, and they wanna take control of exactly what their camera is doing. So you will set your shutter speeds in the back of the camera, and your apertures in the front of the camera, and then you will be using the little metered manual down here, and so you'll be looking at this to make sure that you're getting a proper exposure for the environment that you're in. Now I like shooting in Manual Exposure quite a bit of the time because one of the things I like is I like consistent results, so that when I'm shooting a series of photos, they're not brighter or darker. I'm gonna shoot a whole bunch of photos of one particular event, I want them all properly exposed, I'll figure it out for the first shot, and then it'll be the same for the rest of them. The other reason I like it is for tricky lighting scenarios where there might be large expanses of dark area, or light area, or mixed lighting of some sort. Manual Exposure allows you to shoot a photo, see what it looks like, check out the histogram, make an adjustment, and you know exactly how much difference it's gonna be from one shot to the next. One of the options in Manual is if you dial it down beyond 30 seconds, you can get to a bulb exposure. A bulb exposure is for any time that you want a shutter speed longer than 30 seconds, and so what you do with the bulb, is you press down on the shutter release, it opens up the shutter, and you just wait as long as you want, and then you can release it, and that's the end of the exposure. Now doing that actually on the camera is a really bad technique, 'cause you're gonna be moving the camera, so that's where you wanna get one of the cable releases, so that you don't touch the camera when you're actually doing this. And so you can get into that by going into Manual Exposure, and going down all the way to the end. So let me show you real quickly on Manual Exposure on the camera, so let's go ahead and put it in Manual. Let's set an aperture of F8, that's just a nice middle aperture. We can look like we're getting a little bit on the dark side. I'm gonna get it out of auto ISO, 'cause I want us to work hard for what we're doing. And so let's set this at 1,600, that seems fine. So F8 at 1,600 doesn't look quite right, so I'm gonna adjust the shutter speeds until my meter here gets down to zero. And we're getting closer, and there we are at a 50th of a second, let the camera focus a little bit, and we take our photo, and that is proper there. Now if you wanted to do the bulb exposure, let's see if we can go find the bulb exposure. This isn't really the time or place to be doing a bulb exposure, but there it is at the very end. And so it's just one step past 30 seconds. And as I said before, I'd recommend using one of the cable releases that are available for this camera, or some sort of remote for doing that. Now there is one cool feature that I found by really digging in through the instruction manual, and this is a feature that I have not seen in quite some time. There was a Pentax camera back in the '90s that had this, and I saw this, and I'm like, "Why can't every camera have this feature?" So this is called Manual Shift, and by using the auto exposure lock button on the back of the camera, and turning the front dial, and technically it does work with the back dial, but it's really hard on your fingers to do it. So you're gonna want to do it with the front dial most likely, so let's go ahead and look at the back of the camera, and we're gonna set up a manual exposure here. We'll go ahead and keep it on F8, and let's get it back to proper exposure, and I think we figured out, there's about a 50th of a second here. So this is kind of right, middle of the road when it comes to aperture settings. And let's just say, well let's just shoot it with a faster shutter speed. Well you would have to change both front and back dial equal amounts in opposite directions. What we can do is press in on the AEL button back here, and we can start changing it, and you'll notice that both numbers are changing at the same time. So this is kind of like program shift, and so if you wanna shoot at a couple of different settings, and where I might do this, sometimes when I'm doing landscape photography, I wanna get as much in focus as is possible, and so I'll shoot it at F22. But as many of you know, F22 on a camera lens is gonna have a little bit of diffraction problem, and it's not as sharp, and so maybe I'll just shoot a second picture at F16, but if I change it to F16 I need to change the shutter speed as well, and this just allows me to do it very, very quickly and very, very easily. And I have no idea why every company making cameras hasn't been doing this for 20 years, but this is one of the only cameras out there that's doing it right now. Alright next up, we have one, two, and three, and these are memorized positions that you can set the camera up in a particular way with a particular set of menu settings on this camera. We're gonna find out as we go through this class, there are many, many ways of customizing this camera. If there is three different types of photography that you do that require vastly different settings in the camera, you could set each of these up for those different scenarios. Perhaps you do travel photography. Number one might be your general street shooting mode, where you're kind of set up for slightly faster action, variety, kind of real general work. But then you also might like to shoot portraits, where you shoot with shallow depth of field and a different focusing system. Well that can be number two. Then maybe you like to shoot fast action sports with number three, and you would set the camera up for that. So we have three different memorized positions on the dial, but then we also have M1 through four, which are memorized positions electronically that you can select from any of the one, two, or three positions. Now the funky thing about M1, two, three, and four, and I don't know why they did this, 'cause I think it's a little inconvenient, is that this memory information is stored on a memory card. Now that could be good, 'cause if you have multiple cameras, you could move all your memorized settings from one camera to the next, but if you just have one memory card, and you put it on your memory card, and then you format your memory card, all those settings are gone. And so the camera does have two memory slots, and so if you really use these a lot, you would have up to seven different memorized configurations of your camera, you could store that on the top slot which utilizes slower cards, and then you could have all your data going, your pictures going to your second card. And so it's useful, but it seems like they could have put in just a little bit of built in memory into the camera that would have accommodated this. So if you want to do this, you need to set the camera up the way you want it to work. Make all the menu settings, set the shutter speed, aperture, metering, focus, all those sorts of things up the way that you want, you go into the memory setting in Camera Settings one, page three of 14, and you register those settings under the number that you want. One, two, three, or M one through four, and if you wanna recall those up, and you wanna use one of them again, you can go to the recall menu option, and then you can basically pull up those memorized settings and apply those to what you're doing right then and there. So there's a lot of good options. I think a lot of people on this camera are gonna be using the Manual mode, using the Aperture priority mode. Some people like the Shutter priority mode. Fewer people will be using the Program mode on a regular basis, and then a lot of people are gonna of course be using the Movie mode, 'cause the camera does shoot very, very high-quality videos on this. So that covers all of our bases on that mode dial on the top of the camera. Next up, exposure compensation. So it's nice having these physical dials they've started to put back on cameras, and so you can just look down at any time, see if this is set on your camera. Now you do have to be careful, 'cause this does not have a lock switch on it. And so this can get bumped, 'cause it's right there on the edge of the camera. So if you are in one of the more automated modes, and you would like to make your picture a little darker, or you wanna make your picture a little brighter, you can dial in a little plus or minus exposure compensation. I pretty rarely ever go beyond two stops, but it'll allow you to go all the way to three stops. And this will work in the Program, Shutter priority, and Aperture modes because those are modes where the camera has some control over the exposure system, and this will allow you to get your pictures a little darker or a little lighter, and it's very handy when you wanna make that quick little adjustment, but that is also something that you should keep an eye on to make sure that it is generally reset to zero most of the time. Unless there's a problem with the exposure meter, which that's unlikely, and there is another way of fixing that electronically in the menu system that I will show you later. This should be kept at zero kind of as a default system.

Class Description

Get the most out of your new Sony A7r III with this complete step-by-step walkthrough of the camera’s features. You'll learn why this camera is highly sought after by enthusiasts and professional photographers alike. Join expert photographer John Greengo as he gives you all the information you need to understand the camera's buttons, menus, and functions.

In this Fast Start class John will discuss:

  • Improved performance at 10fps for shooting action shots
  • High speed continuous shooting
  • Improved 5 axis image stabilization
  • Faster, lower-noise image processing
  • High quality 4K video

John is a CreativeLive veteran instructor and an experienced photographer. With over 50 Fast Start classes in the CreativeLive catalog, he will discuss the complete breakdown of your camera’s exposure, focus, metering, video and more. John will also explain how to customize the Sony A7r III settings to work for your style of photography.


Angela Sanchez

Super great clearly explained guide for the Sony a7r III. John is always a fantastic knowledgeable instructor who knows how to teach all about cameras in a super clear organized way. I love John Geengo classes!

Craig Markham

As always, John shines as a teacher extraordinaire! His visuals, pacing of presentation, clarity, and and adherence to the class objectives are all spot-on. As a devoted A7r II user for the past 2 years, this was a great review of the shared features, and gave me the best information for evaluating the cost/benefit of an upgrade to the A7r III now.


John Greengo is the man. I've been watching CreativeLive classes for years and there is no better instructor than him. I recently upgraded from the A7r II to the III and had been waiting for this course to be offered. John is incredibly knowledgeable and, with great dedication, provides all pertinent information related to operating and knowing your new camera. If it weren't for John, I wouldn't know the ins and outs of my new camera and would struggle with optimal settings which would decrease the best output possible. You rock, John. Thanks again!

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