At the beginning of February, Light + Byte organized the Sony Alpha Universe event in Switzerland.
Invitation and Expectation on the “Sony Alpha Universe Day”
I was invited to this event by a good friend, who is also an avid photographer. Anyone was able to take part in this event, provided he had signed up online. I neither knew that there was a Sony event, nor did I hear that there is a photography store called Light + Byte close to Zurich Altstetten.
Expecting a handful of people and showing the usual gear and nothing newly announced, I was astonished by the sheer size.
Sony Alpha Universe Day Event by Light + Byte
We arrived 15 minutes after the opening at 10am and it was packed with more than 100 photographers. Moreover, there was the entire gear available from Sony ready to be tested. Several tables to various topics (video, GM-lenses, A-mount, DSLR, Mirrorless, Apsc) were put up. Additionally, the store itself was huge with 450m2.
Let’s talk Gear
Regarding gear, there was anything a Sony Alpha photographer could ask for. From the latest addition to the G-Master Family (Sony GM 400mm f2.8 and the Sony GM 24mm f1.4) to the recently announced Sony Alpha 6400 mirrorless camera and back to their Full Frame DSLRs there was everything.
Of special interest to me were the longer focal lengths, because I am on the lookout for an e-mount 400 to 600mm lens for wildlife photography. Sony only offers the GM 100-400 f4.5-5.6 and the ridiculously expensive 400mm prime. Recently, I tested the Sigma 150-600mm f5-6.3 Sports lens with the MC-11 Adapter on my Sony A6500. Now, I was curious about the performance of the native lenses.
Unsurprisingly, the focus performance of the native lenses was faster. However, truth to be told, I compared the images on my A6500 with the Sigma 150-600mm ($1500), Sony GM100-400 ($2500) and the Sony 400mm ($12’000) and I could not tell the difference apart from the obviously better low light performance of the latter. Here are some sample images (unedited):
To the question on the whereabouts of the Sony A7 SIII (S3), the salesman smiled mischievously without saying a word. I guess it is just around the corner.
What I dislike about Sony cameras
What I dislike about Sony cameras is the missing pre-record function that Panasonic cameras have. I think this could be easily fixed with an update and I asked a salesman to forward this info.
Apart from gear and an introduction to Sony novelties, there were three presentations throughout the day. The first by Patrick Kunz about «Steam-Punk Shooting», which was a live presentation with a model on how the A9 performs. He then edited the images live. I was astonished by how amazing those pictures were straight out of the camera and with the right light set-up.
The second presentation was by Tolis Fragoudis named «Explore to Create». He showed pictures and videos from his travels and told compelling stories. Although the opinions on his sound design diverge, I enjoyed some insights into his work. What I did not appreciate in his presentation though, is spot burning, which can be so detrimental to certain fragile places.
The third presentation by Mathias Kniepeiss from Austria called «Sony Stunt and Photography Masterclass» was all about fire. The encouraged all photographers in the room to take pictures, but given there were still more than 50 photographers present, the lighting sucked. It was interesting though to see behind the curtain of other photographers’ work.
Light + Byte Shop
The Light + Byte store is amazing. Everyone I talked to was extremely friendly and knowledgeable. As pointed out, I was not aware that such a huge store existed in Zurich. It will not be the last time that I went there. Apart from Sony gear, they have all major camera brands, editing stations, calibrated screens and lights.
Verdict on the Sony Alpha Universe Day by Light & Byte
All in all, it was a great event and I loved to talk with like-minded photographers. Furthermore, trying and talking gear has almost become a hobby by itself and even if we had discussed the entire day, there was still lots left to say. I am still indecisive on what kind of super-telephoto lens I should get for wildlife photography. Even though not every presentation lived up to my expectations, it was worth going to the event and I can highly recommend joining it next time. I will be there again.