Testissä Sony A7sIII – Hiking +650 Km Across Iceland

Teimme Studiovarustamolla yhteistyötä Sonyn kanssa ja järjestimme ultralight -vaeltaja Paul Ingramille kalustokokonaisuuden vaellusmatkalle halki Islannin. Paul lähti matkaan mukanaan Sony A7s III runko ja toivoimme hänen kertovan meille kuinka A7s III toimi haastavissa olosuhteissa. Lue alta Paulin monipuolinen ja kattava fiilistely reissun vaatimuksista, mitä hän pakkasi matkaan ja kuinka kaikki toimi. Lopusta löytyy juuri julkaistu osa 1 Paulin Vlogista halki Islannin.

I walk long distances, like really long distances. In late summer of 2021, me and my long-term hiking pal Josh hiked from the northwest corner of Iceland to the south coast over the course of about 25 days, covering between 20 and 55 km per day. As a filmmaker and content creator, I need a camera setup that allows me to capture beautiful images (70% video, 30% photo) in a compact, sturdy package. Studiovarustamo hooked me up with the Sony A7siii for the trip and it blew all my expectations out of the water.

Paul Ingram

The Objectives for the Trip and the Gear Requirements

Firstly, it’s important to understand my objectives and gear requirements for such a trip.

The objective for the trip was to hike across Iceland from coast to coast whilst shooting a vlog-style video series, as well as photos for social media and clients and sponsors.

Requirements of The Camera Equipment

Weight is of the utmost importance on a trip such as this. I’m an avid proponent of lightweight/ultralight backpacking and my backpack weight for this trip without food, water, and camera equipment was around 7kg and went up to around 10kg with camera gear. Most people that attempt these kinds of hikes don’t bring a dedicated camera and opt to use their phone camera.

With that said, the weight of every single piece of camera gear is taken into consideration. Then there are specific things I wanted my setup to be able to do:

  • Shoot 4k footage with 10-bit color up to 120fps – although 95% of the footage I shoot on a trip like this is 23.976 fps, it was essential for me to be able to shoot 60fps and sometimes 120fps in full-frame 4k without any cropping and with 10-bit color. The Sony A7siii does that without any issues.

  • I wanted to be able to quickly switch between shooting video and photo – To do this I took advantage of the A7sii’s customizable dial mode. For video I get all my settings correct then use position 1 for 23.976, position 2 for 60fps, and position 3 for 120fps. This enables me to quickly switch between these three frame rates, make slight adjustments to aperture or ISO, and then capture the moment. For photography, I switch to M and snap away, knowing that the camera will remember whatever settings I used previously. The convenience of this is huge.

The Gear

Secondly, I think it’s helpful to understand exactly the camera equipment I had along with me and why with further details and explanations further into the article.

  • Sony A7siii with included Sony Battery
  • Sony FE 20mm F1.8 Lens  – Lens choice was hard as I only wanted to carry one due to weight concerns. I decided on the 20mm to be able to shoot landscapes up close and to film myself whilst hiking. I then used Sonys’ clear image zoom to punch in when necessary, see below. It’s also worth mentioning that my hiking partner also uses a Sony e mount camera and carried two telephoto lenses (one of which he borrowed from me) so I was able to periodically use those lenses also.
  • HÄHNEL Sony HL-XZ100 Battery x2 – These didn’t hold charge as long as the Sony battery but they did great and cost way less
  • Syrp Variable ND Super Dark Filter – fantastic, essential for video
  • Manfrotto Pixi Tripod – I’ve carried full-sized, lightweight tripods on trips like this in the past, and although nice to have I didn’t deem it necessary for this trip. The Pixi from Manfrotto is a perfect compromise. It enables me to get static shots quickly and easily, and I used it as a handle to reduce shakiness when filming myself talking to the camera
  • RODE video micro microphone – cheap, simple, and with decent sound quality. Rain mixed with fierce winds in Iceland meant a decent amount of my audio from the trip is cringe-inducing 
  • Angelbird UHS-II 128 GB SDXC V90 Memory Card x5 – necessary to shoot 120fps in the codec I wanted to shoot, these worked flawlessly. Expensive but what can you do?!
  • Lexar Pro 1667X SDXC UHS-II U3 x5 – Used as “2nd” memory card in my dual memory card/backup setup outlined below. They can’t record 120fps in my selected codec but they handle all other footage well and are significantly cheaper than the Angelbird cards
  • Mavic Mini 2 – I chose it for its super-low weight and packability but I’m very happy with the footage out of this little drone
  • Mavic Mini 2 triple battery charger with two extra batteries (for a total of three batteries) – the charger added a little extra weight but it enabled me to plug in all my drone batteries at once and have them charge overnight or when I was doing other things in town. It also acts as an external battery pack so I could top up other devices if I had “leftover” drone batteries
  • PGYTech ND Filters – ND Filters for drone
  • Baxxtar dual battery charger – can charge two camera batteries simultaneously via USBC from a wall charger or my external battery pack
  • Nitecore NB10000 External Battery – Lightest 10,000 mah battery on the market. It has enough power to keep devices topped up between town stops (every 3-6 days)
  • Zpacks Multipack/Keyhole Camera Holder – front body camera carry for quick access, more details below
  • Lens Pen and multiple microfibre cloths – Essential for cleaning lenses and viewfinders. My hiking partner also carried an air blower for removing dust from the sensor etc
Hiking gear layed out
Paul Ingram with his ultralight hiking gear laid out

My Thoughts on the Sony A7Siii for Video (and photo)

I could write a standalone article with all my thoughts on the positives and negatives of the camera, how I have it set up for me, and review each individual element of the camera. However, to keep this article somewhat concise I’ll just highlight some key points.

  • Image quality – The main reason to spend such amounts of money on a camera is to get great-looking images. The Sony A7Siii delivers fantastic looking 4k footage and the 10-bit color and Sonys’ S Log 3 makes for a huge amount of dynamic range and creativity in post

     

  • Clear Image Zoom – I was skeptical at first with what is essentially “digital zoom”. But, whatever trickery Sony has pulled off has resulted in an extremely useful tool that allows me to use my prime lens and digitally punch in on a subject and/or add a little variation in the “focal length look”. It’s incredibly useful in this situation where I was carrying just one small prime lens. I can see zero difference in the final images.

     

  • Flip Screen – Coming from an older Sony camera without a flip screen I wasn’t aware how much I was going to use a flip screen until I had one. It makes filming yourself 1000 times easier. The screen itself is fantastic. I love the ability to tap to hold focus on a moving subject or to focus on a static object while performing some camera movement.

     

  • Photography – I came from the Sony A7Rii, so dropping down from 42 megapixels to 12 megapixels was always going to be a shock when shooting photos. However, I’m still happy with the photos I got out of the camera. I have to pay more attention to get my framing right in camera because cropping in/reframing on a 12mp image in post does not give the best results. I’ll bring my A7Rii if the project I’m working on is strictly photography. Otherwise, I’m happy with the A7Siii photos as a hybrid shooter.

Keeping Everything Charged

On average we were in a town/gas station where we would charge up our devices every 4-5 days. That meant having enough battery capacity for several different devices including a phone (which is used as the primary navigation device), a satellite communicator, camera equipment, drone, etc.

From a camera and drone perspective that meant having three batteries for the A7Siii and three batteries for the Mavic Mini 2. This was usually enough to get me between charges but If not I was carrying a 10,000mah Nitecore external battery pack. The battery packs’ primary role was to keep my phone charged. But, 2 to 3 days into a section it became easier to assess how much battery each device had and charge accordingly.

All devices were on airplane mode at all times and I took care to use battery power only when necessary. IE, not flying the drone “because” but assessing the landscape first, envisioning the shots, and then flying for as little time as possible to get the shots before landing.

File Storage/Back up System in the Field

Carrying external hard drives etc was not something I could do on this trip, instead, I employed the backup method below.

The A7siiis’ dual memory card slot made this all possible. One Angelbird memory card in slot one, one Lexar memory card in slot two with the camera set to record all footage and stills simultaneously to both memory cards. Both these memory cards were labeled “1” with a permanent marker. There were five pairs, labeled “2”, “3” “4” and “5”.

Every few days I would remove the matching pair of cards from the camera and replace them with the next pair in line, storing the cards separately from one another, but safely inside my backpack. This then meant all footage recorded was backed up twice. If I lost a matching pair of memory cards it wouldn’t mean losing all footage from that section of the hike, only from a few days here, a few days there, etc.

The camera was set to label recorded files in sequence which made it easy to sort files by date captured when I got home.

This sounds complicated but in reality, it’s not, and makes for a reliable backup method in the field. The only downside of this method is the necessity to buy so many memory cards, which were not cheap.

Carrying The Camera on the Chest

Having my camera on hand is extremely important to me. If my camera is inside my backpack whilst hiking then I don’t use it. I’ve discovered two systems for carrying my camera on my chest. One for when environmental conditions will be consistently bad and one for fairer weather.

On the Iceland trip, I used the Zpacks Multipack. The Multipack is made by American ultralight hiking company Zpacks and is designed as a multifunctional pouch to be used in various ways. It is lightweight, water-resistant, fastens securely to my backpacks’ shoulder straps, and holds a full-frame Sony camera with a medium-size lens. Exactly what I needed for the trip.

On hikes where there will be less rain and adverse conditions I use the “Keyhole Camera Holder”. This is something my friend Josh discovered years ago on Amazon. It works great. You screw the including “button” to the cameras’ tripod mount and affix the Keyholes’ strap system to your backpack shoulder straps. Then you slide the button in place on the baseplate and you’re good to go. I clip the cameras’ shoulder strap into the buckle for extra security but rarely has the camera bumped up and out of the Keyhole. The camera is stable and doesn’t bounce to the point that it gets annoying.

Protecting the Camera from Rain, Condensation, and Physical Damage

The A7Siii is a weather-sealed camera and when placed inside the Zpacks Multipack mentioned above I was fine having the camera on my chest during light rainstorms. However, when the weather really turns for the worse the camera goes inside the main body of the backpack inside a waterproof stuff sack and then comes back out again when the weather allows.

Condensation – Condensation on this kind of trip is often a big issue and I recently released a video all about it. When it comes to cameras and electronics all you can really do is to try to prevent them from getting damp in the first place and then have a healthy amount of dry toilet paper on hand to dry your gear when necessary 🙂

Physical Knocks – With this carry setup outlined above I rarely have to worry about physical damage to the camera. I take care of my equipment but I don’t baby it.

Final words

That’s my thoughts on the Sony A7Siii and my down and dirty documentary-style video shooting on long-distance hiking trips. I’m extremely happy with how my setup worked and the A7Siii captured some beautiful images. I’m currently editing the video series together with a planned release in February so subscribe to my Youtube channel to catch those.

I hope you found this article useful, if you have questions for me or want to let me know what gear and tips you put into play, then reach out to me on my Instagram @pieonthetrail

Cheers and happy hiking!

Katso Paulin ensimmäinen osa vlog-sarjassa vaelluksesta läpi Islannin!