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Sony finally launches a flagship camera – the 50-megapixel 8K-HDR video Sony A1

Sony has now announced its new flagship mirrorless camera; the Sony A1. The Sony A1 features a brand new 50.1-megapixel stacked CMOS sensor with upgraded BIONZ XR processor offering eight times more processing power than the previous generation. It offers blackout-free shooting at up to a whopping 30 frames per second and it shoots 8K […]

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Sony Alpha 1 announced – 8K, 50MP (Canon EOS R5 competitor, but $6500)

Sony go 8K finally – with the Alpha 1 (a1) mirrorless camera announced today. It is the most technically advanced camera Sony has ever released, and also the most expensive. It has a 30 minute limit in 8K mode due to heat, but a proper structure inside the camera to dissipate it more quickly. The camera is $2000 more expensive than the Canon EOS R5, but likely more dependable rather than the toy-like will-it-won’t-it get through a shoot reliability we have come to expect from Canon. Technically the Alpha 1 has a number of advantages over the cheaper Canon body. …

Read moreSony Alpha 1 announced – 8K, 50MP (Canon EOS R5 competitor, but $6500)

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Cinematographer Sam Care shares the production story of Marcella series 3

 

As the popular ITV drama series Marcella returns to our screens, cinematographer Sam Care reveals how he teamed up with director Gilles Bannier to push boundaries and create a stylised look while staying true to some of the series’ classic recurring themes.

Initial impressions…

I had really enjoyed the first two seasons of the show and the depth of Anna Friel’s lead character (Detective Sergeant Marcella Backland). When director Gilles Bannier first contacted me about shooting season 3, I was excited as he described it as a re-boot season, with a largely new set of characters and setting. The story is now set in Belfast where Marcella Backland has taken on the identity of Keira Devlin and is working undercover to infiltrate a wealthy organised crime family (The Maguires). This season has an amazing ensemble cast of Amanda Burton, Martin McCann, Hugo Speer, Aaron McCusker and Michael Colgan joining regulars Anna Friel and Ray Panthaki. We had the scope to come up with a new visual style for the show this season, while staying true to some classic recurring Marcella themes, like her fugue states which evolve in the new series into more of a split personality disorder between her undercover and real personas.

 

Collaborating with director Giles Bannier…

This was my fourth collaboration with Gilles Bannier, a French director who is now based in the UK. I had previously worked with him on two seasons of The Tunnel for Sky Atlantic and In the Dark for BBC. We certainly had developed a shorthand and knew each other’s visual taste. On Marcella we decided to challenge this and push ourselves out of that comfort zone as much as possible. Our previous cinematography was very natural both in terms of camera and the lighting, which was always motivated by reality. On this show we decided to create a more stylised and not worry about realism to the same degree. Marcella is a heightened show that should really get inside the lead characters head and the visual possibilities for this are very exciting.

 

The core team…

We assembled a fantastic local camera, grip, and lighting crew. A-cam camera operator Angus Mitchell whose handheld skills had attracted Gilles and I to working with him. A-cam focus puller Paul Christie kept things sharp perfectly, even in some tricky improvised handheld moments with no marks. A-cam loader Erin O’Rawe was a fantastic organiser and positive influence on set and to the whole crew. Our key grip was Nick Chester, a New Zealander now based in Belfast. He came up with some great bespoke rigs for us including a descender rig and ronin hand off shot at the end of episode 1. He also created some great car rigs to utilise the Sony Venice’s Rialto’s extension system, which allows the removal of the front image block of the Sony Venice for mounting into a much smaller housing. 

Our lighting team was headed up by gaffer Seamus Lynch who I enjoyed working with immensely. His experience was invaluable and his understanding of lighting and enthusiasm for discussing it were fantastic. He had a great team around him too, including Best Boy Ger O’Hagen, Stuart Flynn and Gino Lynch.

Left to right: DP Sam Care; 3rd AD; director Gilles Bannier
Left to right: Mark Aiken; DP Sam Care; director Gilles Bannier

References, inspiration, and research…

We looked at some classic references such as The Godfather shot by Gordon Willis ASC and The Yards shot by Harris Savides ASC for their golden colour temperature (which we used Antique Suede filters to replicate), use of top lighting and their photographic sense of darkness. Before this I was afraid of dark costumes against dark walls, but I embraced it completely on this one! Animal Kingdom shot by Adam Arkapaw ACS was also a reference for the use of cyan and metal halide colour temperatures, which we used in the Belfast estates extensively. We borrowed elements from many references, but the thing that tied them all together was a sense of mystery, timelessness, and tragedy.

 

Creative discussions and bringing the vision to life…

All our previous shows had been framed for 16:9, shot on the Arri Alexa with Arri/Zeiss Masterprime spherical lenses. So, for this one Gilles and I decided to embrace something new to go for a widescreen aspect ratio of 2.00:1 and shoot with anamorphic lenses. I had previously tested shooting on Alexa with anamorphic lenses and cropping into 16:9 or 2.00:1 ratios. I felt it hadn’t been worth it in terms of capturing the lenses specific characteristics or a good enough resolution. This is because the most interesting parts of anamorphic lenses tend to be in the corners and edges and by throwing away so much resolution (in the 16:9 crop) you end up with quite a forced look. However, with the influx of Large Format cameras on the market I decided to revisit this. I tested the Red Monstro, Alexa LF and Sony Venice. All the cameras produced impressive results and had their own strengths and weaknesses in terms of image quality and camera builds. But in the end, we settled on shooting with the Sony Venice camera in 4K anamorphic mode to make extensive use of its native 2500 ISO setting. I was also impressed with its reproduction of colour and it’s flexibility in the grade too. After testing a variety of anamorphic glass, we chose the Russian Elite S7 anamorphic lenses from One Stop Films in London.

 

Colour choice…

We had two distinctive worlds we were portraying onscreen. The Maguires’, mostly set at the wealthy organised crime family’s mansion and the world of the Belfast estates, which they control. We decided to give the Maguire’s family story and locations a golden look of wealth and affluence and shot these scenes with Antique Suede filters on the camera and warm gels on the lights.

For the other world of the Belfast estates, we went for a colder look by setting the camera’s white balance to 4000 kelvin in daylight scenes. For night scenes we used a combination of actual metal halide fixtures for street lighting and HMI sources gelled with White Flame Green and 1/2 CTO.

 

Using framing and composition to tell the story…

Gilles and I love discussing the camera aesthetic for projects. On this we got excited by the idea of using negative space and short sided eye lines to show Marcella’s sense of isolation and disconnect with people around her. We also pay particular attention to the use of eye lines. When to use over the shoulder, clean or direct POV shots. It’s Marcella’s story so subjectively we wanted to feel closer to her than anyone in scenes with a large family gathering. We were very inspired by the use of eyelines in The Silence of the Lambs shot by Takashi “Tak” Fujimoto, ASC. They use direct POV shots a lot for the lead character and have the actor look directly into the lens. When shooting reverses, they used tight eyelines on the edge of the mattebox, which creates a lot of tension and makes the audience feel closer to Jodie Foster’s character Clarice Starling. It’s a great example of the camera creating cinematic subjectivity.

The camera package…

Sony Venice camera in 4K anamorphic mode with Elite S7 anamorphic lenses from One Stop Films in London. We supplemented these with a Cooke 35-140mm T3.1 zoom lens. The main camera package was supplied locally by Acorn rental in Belfast. We chose the Elite lenses as they had wonderful creamy softness in combination with the Sony sensor and they had an interesting oval focus drop off around the edges which we felt matched Marcella’s precarious mental state visually. The camera’s native 2500 iso mode helped me achieve a stop of T4 on the Elite lenses at night and low light scenarios in particular. For scenes where Marcella was in a heightened state, we shot at T2.8 to accentuate the lens’ focus drop off and get inside her mind. It was very much a combination of those lenses and that sensor that created the look for this season. When shooting digitally we no longer have older celluloid tools such as lab techniques and film stock choices, I tend to really spend time and effort searching for unique combinations of sensors, lenses and filters which will give me a specific look.

 

Telling the story through camera movement…

For the Maguires’ story we decided to shoot primarily with the camera on a dolly and head to represent their stability and control over the world. We used slow tension building tracking shots at times while also embracing the camera’s stillness to create the tension at other moments.

For the other world of the Belfast estates we shot primarily handheld to represent a sense of raw instability and the lack of control it’s characters have over their future. As the series progresses and the dynamics start to shift, we begin to merge these two visual styles together more and more. On previous shows we had used Steadicam extensively but on this one we didn’t use any. In fact, we only used a gimbal for one day in combination with a descender rig and ronin hand off shot at the end of episode 1. I like to create rules for the visual style in prep and give ourselves limitations to the type of kit we use, so the options are not endless.

 

Camera tricks and techniques…

One of the most interesting elements of Marcella’s character in previous seasons were the dissociative fugues she experiences and the way they were visualised. In season 3, these fugues have evolved into more of a split personality disorder, as Marcella loses touch with the reality of her undercover identity and her real self. In moments where this emerged, we wanted to use a new visual technique to represent this on screen. So, I developed some bespoke diopters for this look. I cut holes and shapes in old diopters of different intensities, as well as placing optical glass shapes over diopters to cancel out their magnification. Then we shot and focused through these sections of the diopters so the surrounding glass knocked the edges of the frame massively out of focus and introduced some double imaging to represent her split personality. We also shot Marcella into mirrors with a fractured double image effect to continue this visual theme.

 

Lighting approach…

I used LED fixtures extensively on the job, more than on any previous job. They just give you so much quick control to colour temp and dimming especially for fast paced tv schedules. The workhorses for interior scenes were ARRI SkyPanel S360-C’s, S60-C’s, Asteras LED tubes and LED ribbon (95cri +) inside practical lamps shades using small battery powered wireless lumen radio drivers. To control all these LED fixtures, we used a portable wireless DMX solution controlled via an iPad interface through the app Luminair 3. The speed and portability of this system gave me instant studio-like control. Gino Lynch who oversaw it, and always lived by the monitor next to me so we could make quick adjustments to the fixtures while setting up and rehearsing the shots.

For nighttime scenes at the Maguires’, Gilles was keen not to use any moonlight motivation. So, we decided to continue the warm golden look of the location at night by using doubled layers of full CTO gel on our fixtures to create a sickly warm night time look. For our night exteriors Seamus and I used full Wendy lights with double full CTO on them. We had one in each main direction around the front of the house and used one at a time depending on the camera’s direction, as either a back light or side light. We also used 5K and 10K tungsten fresnels dotted around the gardens to create pools of light in the background of shots. I shot most scenes at T4 so we needed quite a bit of light to achieve this stop at night. I was happy with the results and the decision to use a warm colour temperature even for a rural night exterior seemed strangely more motivated in the finished scenes than I feel cooler moonlight would have been. A great example of Gilles pushing us to be bold and leave a convention behind to great success.

Gaffer Seamus Lynch

DI, workflow, and the final grade…

Marcella 3’s postproduction was completed at Belfast’s Yellowmoon Post and graded by their colourist Scott Ferguson. I was shooting another project during the grade period, but they kindly arranged for me to be able to fly over and grade during my weekends off. I found the Sony Venice’s colour capability and flexibility in the grade to be quite incredible as well as its dual native ISO options which allowed me to shoot at 2500 ISO and helped me to light for my preferred stop of T4 on these beautiful pieces of Russian glass.

Colourist Scott Ferguson adds: “We were fortunate on Marcella to have the time at the beginning of the process to shoot some tests and to work on a show LUT for our dailies. I always find this hugely beneficial as getting the dailies to look at least in the ballpark of what you hope to achieve in final can smooth out the final grading process and sign off, as you’re presenting a final look that is familiar but also much more nuanced and polished.

“Sam told me early on that he planned a shoot anamorphic on the Sony Venice and wanted a look that would harmonise with that. So, we tried to come up with a softer contrast film look to complement the pristine digital aesthetic the Sony Venice produces. It became clear to us very quickly when working with the Sony Venice (a first for me) that we could do whatever we wanted; I didn’t have to push and pull the image to get beautiful results. So we got to work trying to dirty up our digital image, keeping the shadows thick and cool, and highlights warm with a nice roll off.

“Our main location was oppressively, almost sickly, warm while everywhere else stayed cooler, all the while maintaining consistent skin tones. This was a big departure from the look on previous seasons, a risk for sure, but the producers and directors were behind us. New season, new city, new look and I couldn’t be happier with what we were able to accomplish. This was made possible by the images our fantastic DPs Sam and Dirk (our second block DP) were able to capture but also thanks to the latitude that we were granted by the Sony Venice.”

Overcoming obstacles…

Our main location was the Maguires’ mansion, which had some huge lighting challenges. A south facing mansion with dozens of windows always poses a challenge for a cinematographer in terms of lighting control. Planning was everything to achieve a look of consistent light over lengthy daylight scenes. The solution was careful scheduling around the light direction as well as using a combination of large 20 x 20 eyebrows on machines over windows to control the sunlight. then either lighting directly with 18K HMI fixtures or bounced M90 HMIs on low stands into frames just above windows for a softer lighting effect.

 

Production highlight…

My proudest moment was after we had achieved a difficult oner for the end of episode 1. It included a 360-camera pan, a descender rig and gimbal hand off and lighting a huge staircase, hallway, corridor and living room without any lights on the floor at a stop of T4! With some careful, tricky lighting rigging, lots of planning and rehearsal we managed to do it in three takes at the end of an exhausting day and week! Kudos to my crew for being so good and for our grip Nick Chester for suggesting how we could achieve the shot with the descender rig.

 

Lessons learnt…

I learnt to not just do what is conventionally done, but to challenge yourself and your tastes as a filmmaker to see what happens. The boldest decisions that Gilles encouraged me to take on the show were the most successful in the end. It’s all about working with directors whom you trust and who push you to be bold and take risks.

 

Sam Care is represented by Casarotto Ramsay & Associates. The first two episodes of the new series of Marcella will air on ITV, Tuesday 26th January at 9pm and 10:05pm. All eight episodes of the series will then then be available to view on the ITV Hub.

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Sony’s announcing… something on January 26th

Sony is, apparently, announcing something on January 26th, according to a video placeholder that’s popped up on the Sony Camera YouTube channel that’s set to premiere at 3pm UK time (10am Eastern, 7am Pacific) on January 26th. There are no clues as to what it is, except for the fact that it’s on Sony’s camera […]

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Comparing the Sony a7R Camera Line’s Different Shutter Sounds

The unique click of one camera’s shutter can be fun to compare against one another. In a series of short videos posted by Map Camera, you can listen to the slightly different sounds of the shutters from Sony’s a7R line.

PetaPixel has featured numerous videos highlighting the different sounds shutters can make, like this one that compares a variety of DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, to one that lets you hear different classic analog camera shutters, to this video that highlights 37 different shutter sounds in three and a half minutes.

But it’s less common to see a comparison of the same camera model across generations.

The original a7R, which debuted in October of 2013, can be heard below:

The a7R II made its debut in August of 2015, two years after the release of the a7R. It was characterized most notably by its 42-megapixel sensor and 399 on-sensor phase-detection points which dramatically improved the autofocus capability of the camera. You can listen to its shutter below:

The a7R III came to market two years after the a7R II in October of 2017. While it maintained the 42-megapixel resolution, Sony added more autofocus points and further improved autofocus performance. Probably most notably, however, was the boost to battery life and the addition of a second SD card slot. Listen to its shutter below:

Continuing with its two-year release schedule, Sony debuted the a7R IV in July of 2019. This latest iteration added more autofocus points and pushed the resolution up to 61 megapixels. Still, the a7R III was still considered to be an excellent camera and while the a7R IV did make notable improvements, many saw Sony’s latest high-resolution mirrorless as more incremental than revolutionary. Listen to its shutter below:

Despite the four cameras sharing the same “R” designation, and Sony never mentioning changing the shutter mechanism itself, do you think you can hear a difference in sound with each model? Let us know in the comments.

(via Sony Alpha Rumors)

Canon: Camera Sales Will Soon Be 8% of What They Were a Decade Ago

Canon is preparing for a time when the digital camera market will only ship 10 million units annually, about 8.2% of the number shipped in 2010. With that in mind, the company is slimming down its production, sales, and product lineups going forward.

Toyo Keizai has been publishing some outstanding stories that are delving deep into the digital camera industry, and the latest is based on an interview with Canon’s General Manager of the Image Communication Business Division Takeshi Tokura, the same Tokura who also told Toyo Keizai that 8K was only included in the EOS R5 because Canon wanted to beat its competitors to that spec, and Minoru Tanaka, the Vice President of Canon.

Tanaka says that the company is preparing for an era where the annual shipment of digital cameras worldwide will drop below 10 million units. 10 years ago, the digital camera market was shipping 121.5 million units, with a vast majority of those sales of cameras with a built-in lens. As those fixed-lens cameras have become less popular thanks to smartphone cameras, the total number of units shipped has been declining steadily. In 2019, only 15.2 million units were shipped.

via Statista.com

Looking at the above chart from Statista.com, 2018 marked the first time that interchangeable lens cameras actually outsold fixed-lens cameras, and that trend continues. What is also clear is that while the number of interchangeable lens cameras has diminished slightly, the demand for them appears rather consistent over the last decade.

It’s also rather obvious that foreseeing the fixed lens market continuing to diminish makes Tanaka’s statement about fewer than 10 million units shipped annually a very real possibility.

According to Toyo Keizai, Tanaka has stated a policy of “accelerating all slimming down of business development, production, sales systems, product lineups, etc.” in continued preparation for those low shipment numbers. Canon will likely focus on the segment that has shown the most resilience, interchangeable lens cameras, and also says that it is expanding further into the field of video equipment.

But that does not mean Canon isn’t interested in testing the waters with unusual cameras. For example, Tokura referenced making cameras that are “not like Canon” such as the PowerShot ZOOM that was released in December of 2020, and the iNSPiC REC wearable camera from 2019 that was an inexpensive foray into a type of device that can coexist with a smartphone.

Canon seems to believe that it is just as important to try new concept cameras that specialize in use and function as it is to continue to develop interchangeable lens cameras like the R5.

“We will increase the functions and services including the entry-level and increase the added value (of them),” Tokura says, translated from Japanese. “It is too narrow of a field of view to only produce interchangeable lens cameras.”

(via Digicame-Info)

Cinematographer Declan Quinn brings decades of Cooke lens experience to A Suitable Boy with S4/i Primes

Credit: Supriya Kantak

When it came time to select lenses for the Lookout Point’s six-episode series of Vikram Seth’s bestselling novel A Suitable Boy, DP Declan Quinn knew exactly what he wanted: Cooke Optics’ flagship spherical S4/i primes.

Produced to  extremely high production standards and directed by Indian-American filmmaker Mira Nair, A Suitable Boy tells the story of spirited university student Lata (Tanya Maniktala) as she comes of age in North India in 1951, at the same time as the country is carving out its own identity as an independent nation and is about to go to the polls for its first democratic general election.The series involves more than a hundred characters, many belonging to one of four extended families.

Mira Nair has been trying to make a live-action adaptation of A Suitable Boy ever since its publication in 1993, but the BBC Studios-owned UK production company Lookout Point only recently secured the rights. “I’ve worked with Mira for a long time, with a history that goes back to 1996 with Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love and Monsoon Wedding in 2001, which was a homage to the book of A Suitable Boy,” said Quinn. “Aesthetically we’re on the same page. Mira starts with a ‘look book’; paintings, fashion and location pictures from her first scouting trip to India, then I add images from other movies or photographers and we narrow everything down to create a cinematic grammar for the story.”

Credit: Supriya Kantak
Filmmaker Mira Nair and Amit Chatterji (MIKHAIL SEN). Credit: Sharbenu De
Credit: Supriya Kantak

The series was shot in 4K with four Sony Venice cameras – two each for the primary and second unit – and both units started out with full sets of Cooke S4/i primes (16/18/25/32/40/50/75/100/135mm) and a set of re-housed vintage Cooke Speed Panchros, all from One Stop Films of London.

Quinn first used Cooke lenses in film school in the 1970s. “I knew they were something special,” he said. “I love the Cooke vintage lenses, the 25-250mm big Varotol zoom lens and then the 20-60mm zoom, it is just a beautiful lens that covers the focal lengths I like for hand held work. The sharpness and ability to keep close focus is unparalleled for a zoom lens of that time.”

Quinn’s only problem with using his vintage 20-60mm zoom today is that it doesn’t cover large format sensors. “I just can’t go all the way wide – 25mm is about the widest in 4K,” he noted. But in 1998, Quinn found another set of Cooke lenses to love. “When the original S4/i primes came out, I tested them. That’s all it took for me to use them on every film for years, and I also started experimenting with vintage glass, like the Cooke Speed Panchros.”

Quinn was so comfortable with his choice of the Cooke S4/i primes that he didn’t even do any lens tests. “I’ve got a long history with this lens and the Cooke Look. I knew what Mira was after and the S4/i delivered what she needed, while giving me what I needed: true colour, flesh tones – where the warmness of the Cookes worked wonderfully with the warm Indian flesh tones, sharpness across the entire field, a coating that’s great for flare and exterior work, and reliability in a hot and dusty environment. The S4/i’s were a solid choice for this project.”

One major change made after the first week of filming was to discontinue using the vintage Speed Panchros. “They flare differently than the S4/i does,” explained Quinn. “With the S4s, I have more control with the flare and colours, so I decided to stick with the S4/i’s because it is easier to grade when intercutting footage shot by two different units.”

With a very dialogue-driven script with many characters, Quinn’s tendency was to approach A Suitable Boy with natural light and to see faces most of the time, as opposed to silhouette. “We would have the camera move through a scene from a certain character’s perspective – usually Lata’s [the story’s heroine]. Tom Walden, our A Cam/Steadicam operator would keep a moving master shot where most of the scene played out. This wasn’t a wide shot, but a very useable shot where the camera would flow through the space to follow the gist of the conversation. It was all choreographed, and we would use cuts to cover the other characters as they needed to be covered.”

Quinn’s hero lenses for A Suitable Boy were the 32 and 40mm. “Those have been my favourites for most of my career,” said Quinn. “They represent the human visual perspective the best and are great at separating the actors from the background. And with a 2:1 [18:9] aspect ratio, the 32/40 combo works very nicely.”

With large format sensors becoming more commonplace, Quinn does have some experimenting to do. “The S4/i are great lenses, but I’m looking forward to testing the S7/i for larger format projects.”

A Suitable Boy is executive produced by Andrew Davies, Mira Nair and Vikram Seth; with Faith Penhale, Laura Lankester and Will Johnston for Lookout Point; Aradhana Seth and Lydia Dean Pilcher (who also produced); and Mona Qureshi and Ayela Butt for the BBC. BBC Studios distributes the series internationally.

A Suitable Boy is available to view on BBC iPlayer in the UK, Acorn TV in the USA, Canada and Netflix for all other territories, except China.

Credit: Taha Ahmad
Credit: Taha Ahmad

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Yet Another Major Japanese Retailer Shows Canon R5 Topping Sales Charts

Yodobashi Camera has published its top ten cameras sold in December of 2020 and the Canon EOS R5 it at the top of the list. While we’re still waiting for BCN+R and CIPA to reveal December sales numbers, this is the second major retailer to report the popularity of the R5 in December.

Yodobashi Camera is the fourth largest consumer electronics mass retailer in Japan, and just like Map Camera has reported that the Canon EOS R5 returned to the top of sales charts in December.

Echoing reports of product shortages being the culprit for not sustaining top position, Yodobashi writes that the second half of December showed a ballooning of sales for the camera as a wave of stock became available. The EOS R6 also made the list, landing at both the number four and number 10 spots (kit and body only).

Below is Yodobashi’s full list:

  1. Canon EOS R5
  2. Sony a7C Kit
  3. Sony a7S III
  4. Canon EOS R6 Kit
  5. Sony a7 III
  6. Sony a6400 Double Lens Kit
  7. Sony a7 III Kit
  8. Nikon Z7 II
  9. Panasonic Lumix S5 Kit
  10. Canon EOS R6

Yodobashi writes that both the Sony a7C and a7S III remain popular and Nikon was able to slip into the top 10 despite the Z7 II only being available for half the month. This is a bit in contrast to what Map Camera reported though, as the Z7 II was much more popular compared to other options at its retail locations.

The Sony a7 III found itself occupying two of the top ten spots, which is notable given the camera’s age. Many believe Sony is due to refresh the a7 line soon, and given the continued popularity of the a7 III bodes well for sales of the a7 IV, should it ever arrive.

Even if you consider that Yodobashi might be more tailored to a more hobbyist/casual market than Map Camera (the prevalence of cameras bundled with kit lenses makes that seem like the case), both retailers sold more Canon R5s than any other camera.

Canon recently changed its sales expectations because both of its new full-frame mirrorless options outsold expectations.

(via Digicame-Info)


Image credits: Backgroud of header image by Rina Miele.