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December 18, 2012

Sony Alpha Masterclass Series 2012 (Australia)

So as a few of you know, the Sony Alpha Masterclass Series 2012 came to Brisbane Australia this past weekend. I was signed up for the Intermediate and Advanced sessions on Saturday, basically from midday to 5pm, at the Queensland Museum Theatre. The Sony Ambassadors for the Brisbane sessions were Steve Morenos and Peter Wanny. It didn’t take very long into the first session to realise these guys know their stuff and come from very different fields.

Upon arrival for the Intermediate session at midday, I signed in and paid my fees – $30 for the Intermediate and $50 for the Advanced – and was offered the choice of a selection of Sony interchangeable lens cameras. I had my A77 on me, so I opted for a NEX and was handed a shiny new Sony NEX-6 with the 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 Powerzoom lens…and a new 4GB SD card.

I found a seat, stuck the card into the camera and turned it on. Now, most of you here know I’m no fan of the NEX system so if you’re expecting a fair-minded review of that camera here from me, you’ve come to the wrong place in this forum. I won’t go into too much detail except to say the pics I took with the NEX6 inside the theatre looked good on the camera but, as it was set to RAW, and I don’t have a converter for the new NEX6 RAW files, so I can’t use them here therefore you won’t get to see them. Also, once we moved on to the actual practical lesson I put the NEX6 into my bag and used my A77. I didn’t take the NEX6 back out of my bag until it was time to hand it back. Simple as that



The presentations from the Ambassadors prior to the practical lessons were basically background to who they are, what they’ve done and what equipment fills their bags. That part was very interesting as they have both just graduated from dual A900 bodies to dual A99 bodies. The talk was very FF oriented which suited me just fine as I’m about to add the A99 to my kit bag as well.


The first speaker, Steve Morenos, spoke of his experiences as a photographer for News Limited (Murdoch’s company) and travel photography, and how that affected his bag. When travelling he carries the 2 full frame bodies; a 16-35/2.8Z; a 24-70/2.8Z; and, a 70-400G telezoom. He also carries other important gear (ie flashes) but camera/s and lenses are what we’re all interested in here As I understood it, the zooms fulfil his primary need of versatility in his kit…which makes perfect sense, of course.


Next up, Peter Wanny spoke very quickly about his experiences as a commercial, food and fashion photographer. Again, the need for versatility was stressed and his kit was on display for all to see – A99, fast-tele prime (85/1.4Z I think), big-ass flash all on a very heavy and stable tripod with one of those Manfrotto heads that you can make micro adjustments on little dials behind the hinges. Noice!


We split into two groups that went off with each of the Ambassadors. I was in the first Peter Wanny group and we went downstairs to the Rock ‘n Roll George exhibit (the old car). We all jockeyed for space to shoot where we could also hear Peter talking – he led us through (among other things) the importance of correct White Balance if you’re shooting JPEG (but how it matters nought if you’re shooting RAW) and held up a neutral grey card for us to set our WB on. Thankfully I’d ditched the NEX6 by this stage so it was just 2-presses of a button for me to set the 77 for the ambient light. Then we moved upstairs to the Avian Cirrus display with very different and artificial light where we went through the process again.


Then we changed over and our group went outside with Steve Morenos. Steve got us all switched over to Manual mode and talked to us about metering, specifically his method of using spot metering and manual bracketing. We practised what he spoke of on our volunteer model – the Sony tech-trainer guy whose name I can not remember for the life of me – metering off the bright wall, then his black shirt, then his face. Once we were happy with the face-metering, we were encouraged take a shot at 0EV, then one-click down with the thumb dial to -0.3EV, then two clicks back up to +0.3EV. Manual bracketing made simple using spot meter and the rear dial.


So, is this kind of brand-specific “masterclass” for everyone? Yes, up to a certain level I think everyone will benefit from this kind of session. Essentially, it wasn’t so much a showcase of Sony ingenuity (although there was plenty of Sony-positive rhetoric being bandied about) as the building blocks of photography for beginners and novices. I wouldn’t personally call the information presented at this Intermediate session “intermediate” – it was more beginner/novice stuff for me. I shudder to think what the actual Beginner session contained, although I imagine it would have been about composition, depth of field, rule-of-thirds, etcetera.

After a quick break for lunch and some networking with other attendees, it was back in to the theatre for the Advanced session. This was the session I had come to attend and I put the camera/s down and picked up a pen and paper and started taking copious notes. That will be an article entry for another time.


Comments From Original Article posted on the Forum!

From marketing point of view, I think it was a bit absurd that they didn’t take the A99 to the advanced class! Yet, I enjoyed the day in Sydney, but cant’ say that they have improved the content and presentation since last year! -Kutay

A very well Articulated article Alan and Im glad you like the class. You mentioned the beginners class and you are spot on with that it is all about composition. That was my theme for the sports imagery when I took the Sydney classes. The Sony staff more in particular Shaun Ellwood the Sony Tech Guru and all round nice bloke actually sets the agenda for the presentations as you could imagine it is a very hard task for these type of presentations and practical classes to keep everybody entertained shall I say, but I personally found the more eager and more questions I got from attendees help to realise the actual level they where on and duly adapted my presentation and practical to suit, e.g. the beginner practical was mainly the effect aperture has on the image , a very hard it to see subtle variants in camera at the time so to keep the embers burning I incorporated the zoom burst showing the moving effect on at static object a majority the participants where blown away by a simple yet very affective technic. In the end yes these classes are there for the purpose to market the Alpha system but more importantly they are highlighting that the Alpha system is being used quite well in the professional mainstream market where all the Sony Ambassadors make a living from using the product…..cheers – Photoaction

We had about 10 of the A99 cameras with the 24-70Zeiss lenses to play with at the Advanced session, Kutay. Unfortunately there weren’t enough charged batteries, so I dug out one of my spares and jammed it in so I could play around. What we didn’t have was the elusive RX1. Damn shame. – Al

About the Author

I am a visual artist and photographer living and working in South East Queensland. I've been using a Sony DSLR/SLT camera since I made the big jump from 25-years of devoted film use in 2006. I like to create expressive and unique images using HDR, lightpainting, strobes and long exposure. I'm also knee-deep in a commercial photography start-up where I'm learning respect for the more traditional ways of making pictures. Website | Google+ | Blog

One Comment

  1. Jay

    Great read Al and thank you so much for your efforts!! Killer photography my friend and looks like you had a blast 🙂

    Great work,

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