Punta Cana 2014 -- A Sony A7 review

January 8 - 14, 2014

So I was going down to the Dominican Republic to shoot a wedding and originally I was just going to bring 2 5Diii's.  But a couple weeks before, I made an impulse purchase and bought the Sony A7 from Broadway Camera. And just my luck, a couple days later the Sony Store in Richmond Centre had one Zeiss 35mm and 55mm in stock.  I was so impressed with it at the time that I challenged myself to shoot the wedding entirely with the A7.  And I did... most of the time!

When the A7/A7r first came out, I was a bit disappointed because it lacked 2 key features;
1) Lenses.  No fast primes.  No wide angle.  
2) In body stabilization.  Come on!  Olympus and Panasonic figured it out!  The A99 has it... why can't the A7?!

Other stupid things were;
- Have to use adapters like the LE-A4 (that just adds bulk and weight) to utilize other lenses
- Moire and Aliasing is nowhere near as good as the Canon 5Diii/1DX

So why did I buy it then?  Well the main reason is because it has a full frame sensor in such a small body!  I can take it almost anywhere!  Before the A7, I took my Olympus OMD EM-5 everywhere and only took my Canon's out when I had a paid job.  I love the Olympus and I still have it!  But you just can't beat full frame!

Anyways, here are some photos from my trip!  We had a little rough start... an hour delay in Vancouver... then a 2.5hr layover in Toronto -- BUT wait, an additional 4hr delay on top of that!! 

Please click HERE to view the entire set (including 5D stuff and video) on our wedding page!

After a couple hiccups with ground transportation, we finally arrived at our resort, the NOW Larimar Punta Cana.  Kyle (he was shooting video for the wedding) and I just spent the night eating and drinking...

The next day we just wanted to relax!  Time to see what the A7 and 35mm can do on the beach!

After reviewing the resort shots, I am fairly impressed.  In post, I hardly adjusted my exposure because I had nailed it in camera.  The EVF helps a lot with that!  One issue though that I found was with the palm trees in the sky.  Note the third picture (vertical one), you'll notice that the edges of the palm trees are WHITE!  It wasn't anything I did in post as the original raw file had it too.  It was only present in some of the images.... You'll notice a little more on the 4th image down.  

And now for the wedding... scroll to the bottom to read about my entire experience shooting with this camera!

This set was shot entirely on the Sony A7 with Zeiss 35mm and 55mm.

During the reception, I chose to shoot with my Canon 5Diii as it is better in low light, had fast wide primes, and focused the best!  To view the entire wedding set (including a mix with the 5D stuff), please check out our wedding website at RF Weddings!

A big shout out goes to Katya Nova for referring us!  Her work is amazing!  

Okay, so what are my thoughts about the camera after this wedding?

THE GOOD
- Small, lightweight, portable
- EVF is great
- Love the live exposure.  After shooting quite a bit with it, I've realized I nail the exposure in camera and don't spend any time at all in post adjusting it.
- Image quality is superb.  The straight out of camera JPGs/RAWs look nicer than what comes out of my 5D or 1DX.  
- Autofocus from the Zeiss lenses are pretty fast and accurate
- Headphone and audio jack for video

THE BAD
- The white fringe phenomenon that I experienced with the palm trees
- Noticeable aliasing/moire compared to the 5D/1DX
- Slow bootup time
- If you have your camera setup with 2sec image review, then you'll experience a little lag when taking multiple photos when looking through the EVF.  Not a lag in taking the photos, but a lag in what you will see through the liveview EVF.  I would suggest turning it off if your shooting an event where you won't want to miss a moment!
- Low light not bad, but not as good compared to the 5D.
- Wish it had something like the Olympus, 5 Axis Stabilization
- When shooting the wedding, I think I had a few people worried that I was shooting with a small mirrorless camera... but I had my 5D strapped around me the full day so I was all good!

This review is completely unscientific and is just based on my experience as a user.  I don't care too much about the pixel peeping or the amount of noise, blah blah blah.  It's all about image quality, ease of use(ergonomics), and portability.

**NOTE** I did bring the Metabones Canon EF - Emount V3 adapter but I never used it.  I'll definitely use for another shoot though!

I will continue to shoot as many things as I can with this camera so stay tuned in on my blog!

Here is what I packed on my journey! These are my 2 carry-on bags.  In the event that the airline loses my luggage or something, I should be able to survive on just these items!  (shot on the RX100)

Thinktank Wired Up 10 (This has to be one of my favourite bags of all time!  Too bad its discontinued...) - Sony A7 - M-Sling Strap by CarrySpeed - Zeiss 35mm f2.8 - Zeiss 55mm f1.8 - Extra battery - Lens Cloth - Empty water bottle (so I can fill up after airport security) - Google Nexus 7 - Sony A7 charger - 3 pairs of contacts - Lip Balm - Passport - Skullcandy in-ear headphones - Pepcid AC - Sunglasses - iPhone cable - USB external battery pack charger - Bag of mixed nuts - Travel documents - Money

Thinktank Wired Up 10 (This has to be one of my favourite bags of all time!  Too bad its discontinued...)
- Sony A7
- M-Sling Strap by CarrySpeed
- Zeiss 35mm f2.8
- Zeiss 55mm f1.8
- Extra battery
- Lens Cloth
- Empty water bottle (so I can fill up after airport security)
- Google Nexus 7
- Sony A7 charger
- 3 pairs of contacts
- Lip Balm
- Passport
- Skullcandy in-ear headphones
- Pepcid AC
- Sunglasses
- iPhone cable
- USB external battery pack charger
- Bag of mixed nuts
- Travel documents
- Money

Lowepro DSLR Fastpack 250 AW - Macbook Pro - MBP Charger - Lacie Rugged External Drive - Hyperdrive - Canon 5D Mark III - 3 Batteries - Charger - 24-105L - 50mm f1.2L - 20mm f2.8 - 135mm f2.0L - 600 EX Speedlight - Puffer - Thinktank Card pouch with extra CF and SD cards - Card reader - 2 Sony A7 batteries - Glasses - Pepcid AC - Contacts - 2 Shirts - 2 Shorts - Sandals

Lowepro DSLR Fastpack 250 AW
- Macbook Pro
- MBP Charger
- Lacie Rugged External Drive
- Hyperdrive
- Canon 5D Mark III
- 3 Batteries
- Charger
- 24-105L
- 50mm f1.2L
- 20mm f2.8
- 135mm f2.0L
- 600 EX Speedlight
- Puffer
- Thinktank Card pouch with extra CF and SD cards
- Card reader
- 2 Sony A7 batteries
- Glasses
- Pepcid AC
- Contacts
- 2 Shirts
- 2 Shorts
- Sandals

Oh and here is the video that Kyle made!  (Shot on 5Diii and Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera)

On our last day we got to meet up with some good ol Vancouver photographer friends!  Melinda and Rob Werner from Shoebox Photography! Good times!

On our last day we got to meet up with some good ol Vancouver photographer friends!  Melinda and Rob Werner from Shoebox Photography! Good times!

LA 2013

Alisa and I decided that we needed a mini vacation and chose LA since it wasn't too far away.  I'll try and be as brief as possible with my reviews but if any of you have any more questions, feel free to contact me directly!  We chose these places based on suggestions from friends and TripAdvisor.

Pretty much all photos were taken with the Olympus OMD E-M5 with Panasonic 14mm 2.5.  I had the 20mm 1.7 with me too but used it only once.  I also took my Sony RX100 but only used it for 1 photo since it has a built in flash and its much better than the small flash on the OMD.  I love the OMD and it is the perfect travel camera.  

Trip Highlights:
1) Son of a Gun Restaurant -- The "Bourbon Crunch" ice cream.
2) Nobu Restaurant -- Miso Black Cod
3) The Bazaar at SLS Hotel -- Very cool swanky place for drinks and dessert!
4) Pizzeria Mozza -- Butternut Squash Bacon Brushetta w/ caramelized onions, garlic, and parmesan.
5) Universal Studios -- Transformers Ride

Day 1 -- Travel, Santa Monica, Nobu, Bazaar at SLS

Umami Burger.  8/10
500 Broadway, Santa Monica, CA 90401, United States

Got the original Umami burger with truffle fries.  Took us a while to find it as it was hidden behind Fred Segal!

Nobu Restaurant.  9/10
903 N La Cienega Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069, United States

Fairly pricey.  We spent about $140 and that was pretty conservative.  We only had one drink too (shared a large sake).  Overall it was a very good meal.  Everything tasted great, but there was only one stand out item we had.

Miso Black Cod -- This is the best one I've ever had.  Easy 10/10!
Rock Shrimp Tempura w/ Spicy Mayo -- Largest of the dishes.  It was good, but you will get better Ebi Mayo at Hapa Izakaya in Vancouver, BC.  Much cheaper too!
Wagyu Beef Tacos -- Super tiny, but super delicious.  
House Special Roll -- Probably the best value out of all the sushi items.  Not the best I've had, but pretty good!
Kobocha Tempura -- It was good, but it wasn't anything special.

The Bazaar at SLS Hotel -- 9/10
465 S La Cienega Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90048, United States

The drinks and food quality was good, nothing crazy or memorable.  But what was very memorable was the design, decor and their whole display of desserts!!!  This was a great place for us to end off the day!

Vito's Pizza.  8.5/10
846 N La Cienega Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90069, United 

Honourable mentions goto Vito's pizza!  Very good pizza by the slice place!  Found this place on Trip Advisor.  A lot of people say it's as good as NYC Pizza!  I wouldn't know, cause I haven't had NYC Pizza.  Slices were about $4each.  This place isn't very large so don't expect great seating.  

la-44-PC010190 copy.jpg

Day 2 -- The Hollywood Hotel, Universal Studios, Pizzeria Mozza

The Hollywood Hotel.  6/10 (or 3 out of 5 star hotel).
1160 N Vermont Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90029, United States

We chose this hotel because we got 40% off through our credit card travel deals (RBC Infinite Avion via Travelocity).  It worked out to be only $340ish for 4 nights.  All the other hotels that were in the similar category was $400-$600.

The Pros:
- Excellent breakfast.  They had an omelette and waffle station, fruit, pastries, breads, cereals, yogurt, sausages, and juices, all included!  Sonia and Oralia were great!  There was another chef too but I forgot his name.
- The service was great!
- 1-2min walk to Rite-Aid and some other places (if you wanted some drinks, food, etc.)
- Free wifi.  But its slow!
- Microwave
- Minifridge
- Nice rooftop terrace.  Perfect for the summer!  (we didn't spend much time there cause it was cold...)
- Open air lounge in the middle of the building (would be nice in the summer)

The Cons:

- The room had a weird smell to it.  But after a while being in it, you forget it.
- Walls are pretty thin.  
- Wifi was pretty slow.
- No free parking.  It was an additional $20/night.

Bottom Line... Would we stay here again?
Only if the price is right.  Most of the places we went to were in the West Hollywood area so maybe next time we'll stay closer there!

 

 

Universal Studios.  8.5/10
100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City, CA, United States ‎

Not too much to write here, except awesome!  Would HIGHLY suggest getting the "Frontline Pass" which gets you pretty much to the front every time.  Fortunately we went on a day that wasn't too busy so we literally had zero line ups.  Was a little worried that we weren't going to see it all in one day, but we did it all!  Studio Tour, Transformers, and WaterWorld were fun!

Only disappointing thing of the day was the Turkey Leg from the Flintstones BBQ.  It looks delicious, but nope... I would have gotten something else instead!  It was really tough to eat because of these thin long bones everywhere. 

Be prepared to spend another $15-$30 on parking (depending on how close you want to be to the entrance).

Pizzeria Mozza.  8.5/10
641 N Highland Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036, United States

One thing to note is that there is NO parking anywhere close to this place except valet.  We fortunately found this back lane and I managed to squeeze into a spot for free parking, but that was after 20min of searching!

Anyways, the pizza was very good.  Not the best, but still fairly good!  What was amazing was the Butternut Squash Bacon Brushetta with caramelized onions, garlic and parmesan!  WOW!  That made like one of the top 10 appies I've ever had!  For dessert, we had ice cream; chocolate hazelnut, pistachio, and pineapple coconut.  It was good but nothing special.

They actually gave us the wrong pizza and instead of taking it back they gave us an entirely new one.  So we had 2 pizzas for the price of one!  

Day 3 -- Shopping, In-N-Out, Little Tokyo

Ontario Mills Outlet.  10/10
1 Mills Cir, Ontario, CA 91764-5207

So this one was about an hours drive away from our hotel but it was worth it!  We spent some time comparing the outlet malls (Citadel, Camarillo, Desert Hills), and we found that this one had a combination of them all, plus some additional ones like Nordstrom Rack, Marshalls, and In-N-Out Burger!!  (like 2min drive away).  

After In-N-Out we headed back towards Little Tokyo.  Unfortunately we arrived a bit late and everything had closed by then.  A good tip is that if you park in the parkade that's connected to the main village, and assuming you shop there, you can get your parking ticket validated!  We went to Mikawaya for some mochi ice cream!  So good we had three!

Day 4 -- Hollywood, Beverly Hills Hotel, Rodeo Drive, Son of a Gun

Hollywood Strip.  7/10
Hollywood Blvd & Highland

It was very touristy.  The place is pretty cool, but after walking around for an hour, there wasn't much of anything else to see or do.  It was very annoying having people dressed up in halloween costumes asking to see if you wanted a picture with them, and if you do, they will hound you for money.  There were also 'up and coming' rap artists who would give you their CD for free, but then ask for a donation.  But other than that, its worth visiting if its your first time!

The Beverly Hills Hotel & Polo Lounge.  8.5/10
9641 Sunset Blvd, Beverly Hills, CA

It was pretty funny rolling up to this place in my Red Chevy Impala rental, when all the cars there were luxury vehicles.  Even better, it was valet only lol.  But no, I didn't get treated differently, service was excellent!  The whole place was very upscale including our delicious lunch at the Polo Lounge.   As an appetizer we got their butternut squash soup which was rather average... I wouldn't get it again.  On the plus side, their hanger steak and frites was excellent!!  Beware though, they charge an extra $5 if you decide to split your entree or appie!  So we got charged $10 just for splitting the two items.  Overall, very nice place!  Glad we visited there!  

Son of a Gun Restaurant.  9/10
8370 W 3rd St, Los Angeles, CA 90048, United States

What I really liked about this place was that it was VERY different from all the other restaurants.  The menu was very unique and everything tasted great.  Beware, they are small portions so you'll probably have to order quite a few plates.  Service was excellent too (our server's name was John).  Their drinks too were AMAZING!  We had about 4 drinks total and each one was fantastic.  Their number one item though, that I wanted to order another one, was their BOURBON CRUNCH ICE CREAM.  Holy crap that has to be one of the most memorable ice creams I've ever had in my entire life.  DELICOUS!  Here is what we had in order of preference;
1) Bourbon Crunch Ice Cream -- MUST HAVE! 10/10
2) Roasted Escolar -- SUPERB! Truffle mashed potatoes are to die for.  10/10

3) Cobia Poke -- Quite different from a traditional tuna poke! 8.5/10
4) Amberjack Sashimi -- Tiny, only 2 pieces. 8/10
5) Kale Caesar Salad -- Pretty flavourful!  But its just a Caesar Salad... 8/10
6) Dungeness Crab -- I would much prefer a crab cake.  6.5/10

 

Day 5 -- Susie Cakes, Home.

Susie Cakes. 10/10
11708 San Vicente Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90049, United States

All I gotta say is; RED VELVET CUPCAKE + SUSIE NUTTY (Peanut butter buttercream cookie sandwich.....) mmmmmm
 

Advantage Car Rental.  ????/10
LAX Airport

I had a fairly positive and a fairly negative experience with this company so I'm not too sure what I would rate them.  

The Pros:
- Great price ($19/day after tax)
- Pretty good service from some people.  I forgot my luggage keys after dropping off my car and they had a guy privately drive it to me at the airport
- Our shuttle driver from the airport to Advantage was very friendly
- We had a private driver driving us to the airport from Advantage

The Con:
- When picking up my vehicle, the service lady pressured me extremely about buying additional insurance with them.  I told them that I have international rental car insurance through ICBC (my broker at home), but they kept saying that it was different and that I wasn't covered and I that I don't have proof, and guilting me heavily that if anything happens then I would be F*ed.  I was very frustrated, annoyed, and stressed, cause she made me second guess about my own insurance.  After I got to our hotel, I contacted my insurance broker at home and they assured me that I was covered.  But yeah... my only suggestion is that you make sure you print off some kind of document stating your exact rental vehicle coverage so that you won't get harassed.

Bottom line, would I rent from them again?
I think next time I would pay the extra $20 or whatever to avoid stress and go with a bigger company like Avis, Hertz, Budget, etc.  Only because of that one negative experience.  

Overall, we both had an AMAZING trip!  I would totally come back here again, but not for a couple years as we still got some other places to hit up first!

Stay tuned in for my next adventure in Punta Cana!  Heading there in January!

Below is a little video I made of our trip!  Completely handheld with the Olympus OMD!

Disaster Strikes...

Nothing but chaos for what was supposed to be a relaxing escape in the Dominican Republic.

Alisa and I were on our way to Punta Cana with a connection in Toronto with WestJet.  We were booked for the redeye, departing YVR at 10:55pm.  It started off with the plane being delayed about an hour coming in...  but whatever, no worries as we had a 3.5 hour overlay in Toronto...

As we were ascending, a peculiar smell invaded the cabin.  20min later, the pilot announced that we had struck a flock of birds that had gone through the engine... great...  had to turn around back to Vancouver Airport which took another 20-30min.  After another 20min on the ground as we waited for the engineering report, we were then de-planed and sat in the lounge, waiting for them to prepare another plane for us. After about an hour, we boarded the new plane.  I asked the WestJet Attendant if we were going to be able to make our connection flight, and was told that we would JUST make it!  Phew! Plane was scheduled to arrive at 8:50, and boarding was at 9:15am.  Perfect! ...

About 15min after everyone was seated, the pilot then announced that they had no fuel and that we had to wait another hour or so to get the fuel... All the fuel attendants had gone home so they had to wake someone to come.  There goes our trip to Punta Cana!  But that's okay, most likely WestJet will put us in a hotel for a night and then we would be able to go the next day, right?

NOPE!  After we arrived, we booked it to the WestJet customer service desk where we were told that we wouldn't be able to fly out for TWO days because there were no other flights available.  Well if that were the case, that means our 4night vacation in paradise would be cut down to only two.  It was very difficult to extend our vacation to still get our 4nights so we had to contact our travel agent to figure things out.  

Pretty bad news right?  Well after about 1.5hours talking on the phone trying to figure things out, we realized that our baggage was missing... WHAT??! YEAH... so we spent another hour or so trying to deal with that!

At that point, Alisa and I were just going mental.  We were tired, hungry, upset, angry, confused, and aggravated.  We just wanted to go home because it had been so emotionally draining.  But the issue was, that if we did decided to go home, we would lose out on about $2000 worth of travel.  We could have argued with WestJet to reimburse us, but that would mean more time spent on arguing, and nothing was gauranteed that they would have done anything.  But at the same time, if we continued forward with traveling to Punta Cana without our luggage, we would be VERY VERY VERY upset.  Lose-lose situation.  We were also given the option to fly the next day, but that would mean we would have to fly with Air Canada, putting in another $700 in flights.  So now we had 3 options, all of them putting us in a shitty situation.  And we needed to make a decision... 

We needed a break so we went to the hotel to check in, rest, and eat.  Fortunately, after a few hours, we got a call from WestJet telling us they had found our luggage.  What a relief!  We decided to continue on the trek to Montreal and to extend our trip by 2 days... We managed to spend the evening and the next day in Toronto relaxing and doing nothing.

Surprise surprise! Our flight departing from Toronto to Montreal was delayed 45min...  

WestJet was kind enough to give us meal vouchers for the two days that we were stranded, BUT they didn't give us enough money.  They gave us $10 each to spend on each meal, but at the hotel, each meal was like $15.  So I still had to put money out of my pocket for the difference.  

What was supposed to take us only about 10hours of travel time to get to Punta Cana, took actually around 66hours!  ARGG!!!!!