Alpha 7R IV Review: Documenting Current Affairs with Vincent Thian
From international events to small-town narratives, photojournalism is the telling of untold stories through photographs. Some shots even hold the power to not only bring awareness to the unheard, but also leave an impact on the public discourse of the world.
Meet veteran photojournalist Vincent Thian. An accredited photojournalist for the Associated Press, Vincent Thian frequents the frontline of the world’s most important stories. He likens his 30 years’ worth of pursuit as recording history through photos.
He shares: “I believe the pictures I take today will be tomorrow’s history.”
Travelling in uncharted territories is common in photojournalism. However, Vincent’s recent project takes place not far from home in Malaysia. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the country issued a Movement Control Order (MCO) that barred anyone leaving or entering the country. Citizens had to soon get used to a routine interrupted by a slew of restrictions and preventive measures.
Armed with Sony’s Alpha 7R IV, Vincent flexed his profession as a veteran photojournalist and seized this historic opportunity of safely documenting interesting behind-the-scenes moments during the MCO. The combination of his artful eye and the camera’s superb capabilities effectively capture this visual narrative for a glimpse into an experience vastly different from our own.
Alpha 7R IV | FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS | 200 mm | 1/500 sec | F3.5 | ISO 400
The Alpha 7R IV – A storytelling device
Photojournalism is a genre not to be taken lightly. Vincent testifies to this, where every picture he takes is part of history.
“100 years later when I’m long gone, my pictures can still tell the future of what happened during my time,” he explains.
Therefore, the photographer stresses the importance of the highest quality pictures, an achievement he attributes to the Alpha 7 IV.
Alpha 7R IV | FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS | 200 mm | 1/1600 sec | F2.8 | ISO 125
For starters, the camera touts a whopping 61-megapixel resolution that ensures consistent corner-to-corner sharpness, including the smallest details. This aspect provides photojournalists room to crop shots without compromising on quality.
Furthermore, Vincent’s need for speed in his craft is achievable with the Alpha 7R IV. At a burst of 10fps, the camera gives high-quality imagery that remains consistent when he shoots in Shutter Priority mode with Auto ISO.
Alpha 7R IV | FE 135mm F1.8 GM | 135 mm | 1/100 sec | F1.8 | ISO 160
Real-time Eye AF is another feature that Vincent relies on. Thanks to the AI-aided technology, the feature provides instant eye detection for clear focus on the subject’s face. This is very helpful in documenting fast-moving humans involved in a transpiring event. Also, the camera’s battery is deemed a lifesaver in his line of work.
“The battery life lasts a lot longer than I thought,” he says. “I’m able to charge the battery via USB on the go which benefits a photojournalist.”
Alpha 7R IV | FE 24mm F1.4 GM | 24 mm | 1/5000 sec | F2 | ISO 160
Shooting during MCO
As a photojournalist, Vincent faced challenges during his documentation of the MCO. Some of these include the lack of information to chase a story and having to shoot subjects from afar.
He elaborates: “Being safe is also a main concern and we had to work fast without carrying too much equipment.”
Alpha 7R IV | FE 200-600mm F5.6-6.3 G OSS | 600 mm | 1/2000 sec | F6.3 | ISO 1250
Thankfully, the Alpha 7R IV tided Vincent over this challenging period. Many of his successful shots boil down to the camera’s 61 megapixels and decent shutter speed for consistent high-quality images. Even when zooming in with the APS-C mode, shots still maintain a sharp 26 MP resolution. Further boosted with the FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS lens, Vincent is able to deftly zero in on his subjects clearly without having to move closer.
“When health officials were taking samples, we will be stationed far away,” Vincent shares. “So with the FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS in APS-C crop mode, I can shoot with more flexibility while having good quality.”
Vincent also relies on the FE 24mm F1.4 GM for low-light conditions as some of the testing areas are in a shade. The sharpness of the prime lens is outstanding, according to him. It gives him 30% more sharpness and smoothness in his images versus zoom lens.
Alpha 7R IV | FE 200-600mm F5.6-6.3 G OSS | 207 mm | 1/1000 sec | F5.6 | ISO 400
Camera tips when hitting the streets
Vincent counts on high Frames Per Second for all styles of photography, especially in his line of photojournalism. Whether it’s to capture a spontaneous moment or something in motion, the Alpha 7R IV offers a decent fps for an effective burst shooting mode. This offers more frames to choose from at the end.
Alpha 7R IV | FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM | 16 mm | 1/25 sec | F2.8 | ISO 1000
Focusing on the eye is important in street portraits. Previously, Vincent had to aim the focusing point near the subject’s eye. However, with the Alpha 7R IV’s Real-time Eye AF, he can put all his concentration on the framing and when to fire off the trigger at the right moment.
Lastly, picking the right lens is important for a smooth-sailing shooting experience. Vincent’s go-to lens is the FE 70-200mm F2.8 GM OSS as it allows more flexibility in his framing. For prime lens, he looks to the FE 135mm F1.8 GMFE 135mm F1.8 GM for stunning portraits.
More than a photo
“My pictures are to tell a story” – Vincent elaborates on how photojournalism goes beyond just a single photo. His snapshots each tell a different story, an attainment that only a honed skill can bring about.
Obliging with a peek into his creative process, the photojournalist ends off by saying: “I look for stories of an area of a person, before illustrating them in photos.”
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of Vincent Thian. They do not reflect the opinions or views of Sony Singapore.