Randy Bachman and BTO in Concert – Still Some Issues with the Sony A7r-iv

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Randy Bachman of BTO at Chevalier Theater, Medfod, MA March 8, 2024
Randy Bachman of BTO at Chevalier Theater, Medfod, MA March 8, 2024 captured with the Nikon D850.
Randy Bachman of BTO at Chevalier Theater, Medfod, MA March 8, 2024 captured with the Sony A7r-iv. Note there are no horizontal banding lines in the image.
Tal Bachman of BTO at Chevalier Theater, Medfod, MA March 8, 2024

The last time I used the Sony A7r-iv for concert photos the camera created bands of horizontal lines throughout the images (you can see the results here). For this concert I was anxious to see if these lines could be eliminated with the proper settings.

Here’s a quick summary of the problem I experienced.

I initially set up the Sony A7r-iv to shoot in silent mode by using the EFCS – the electronic first curtain shutter. I liked EFCS because of its silent shooting and the fact there is no latency between when you press the shutter button and when the image capture begins. However, under certain shutter speeds, bands can be created in the images. These artifacts are nearly impossible to remove in Photoshop (my earlier post has examples).

For the show, I set up the Sony A7r-iv to use the mechanical shutter, and, indeed, this eliminated the horizontal bands. Hooray!

I had the 70-200mm lens on the Nikon F850 and a 24-70mm on the Sony A7r-iv. Unfortunately, the band was set way back from the edge of the stage – I’d roughly say about 15 feet away. This meant the only kind of shots I was going to capture with the Sony were wide shots of the band. My plan was to compare both cameras more directly by capturing similarly framed images, but this was not possible given the location of the band. Oh well. At least I was able to confirm that the mechanical shutter performed as desired.

I did bump up into two new issues I had with the Sony A7r-iv.

The first was the camera resetting the exposure compensation. Concert lighting is such that you need to manually compensate the auto exposure because the scenes are mostly dark with some very bright lights on the subjects. The amount of compensation has to be manually tuned for each show and venue, but once I find what works, I forget about it. With the Sony A7r-iv, you can set the exposure compensation via the menu. There’s even a quick access via the “Fn” button. However, it you set the exposure compensation this way, every time the Sony A7r-iv goes to sleep, it will reset the exposure compensation back to zero.

To prevent this you should use the exposure compensation dial. This will maintain the compensation after the camera goes to sleep.

The Nikon D850 does not work this way. Once the exposure compensation is set, the camera remembers when it goes to sleep or is powered off.

As I get more experience with the Sony, these things will become second nature, but, at the moment, they are gotchas.

The second issue occurred at the end of the show.

The band members came to the front of the stage to bow and shake some hands with the audience. I was positioned perfectly to capture these shots, however, I missed some opportunities because the Sony was dutifully displaying the recently captured image in the viewfinder – which is typically what you want. To stop this, all you need to do is tap the shutter button, but I found that this was unsatisfactory because things were happening very quickly.

With an SLR, the viewfinder is always displaying what it is in front of the camera, so you do not need to dismiss the image to watch what is happening to take your next shot. It amazes me that I haven’t had a situation with the Sony A7r-iv as a still camera to realize this before. I know I missed a bunch of shots when both Randy and Tal were shaking hands because I simply couldn’t see what was going on to snap the next picture. This was a situation I would never be in with the Nikon D850. So, another lesson learned with the Sony. If I need to see the action continuously, I’ll be sure to set the Auto Review feature off or get very good at double-tapping the shutter button so I can see “through” the camera more.

Randy and his band were great. The setlist consisted of his best songs from both the Guess Who and BTO. Randy was in great form telling some great stories about his time in both bands, including what was going on in his life to him to inspire to write These Eyes, No Sugar Tonight, and You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet. He chronicled when he met Steven Stills and let him know that he nicked some of his ideas – including this one – then launched into No Time.

For the encore, Randy encouraged everyone to get up and dance, clap and sing along. They then played Hey You with an extensive break in the middle to play the best parts of Alright Now, Rockin Me Baby, Honky Tonk Woman, I Love You Baby, Band a Gong, Na Na Na, and Highway to Hell. I kept thinking this must have hearkened back to the days when the Guess Who was a mainly a cover band playing in venues specifically to get the audience excited and dancing. The band certainly looked like they enjoyed the positive feedback from the audience.

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