5 Questions For Colby Brown About the Sony A7RII


The B&H SuperStore is pleased to be hosting a live-streamed panel conversation on the incredible Sony a7R II Mirrorless Digital Camera. Panelists include photographers and camera experts who have had the chance to use this new full frame camera, as well as Sony and B&H representatives. For more information see our dedicated webpage for the August 12th, 2pm event. In preparation for the event we asked photographer Colby Brown a few questions regarding his work and his experience with the a7R II. 

Can you talk about switching to mirrorless from DSLR; was there a decisive moment; or when had you see enough to make the switch?

To be honest, I think my desire to move away from using a DSLR dates back to my last trip to the Everest region of Nepal, back in 2011. I distinctly remember carrying a 65-lb pack full of gear up to the Gokyo Ri overlook (17,575') and thinking… “There has to be a better way.”


As an adventure-travel photographer who often works in fairly remote locations around the globe, I am constantly trying to save weight and space by carefully looking at the gear I use. Shaving a couple of ounces here and half a pound there really goes a long way. But while I was interested in trading in my DSLR during those early days of mirrorless, I didn’t want to sacrifice functionality or image quality by making the move to a lighter and more portable system. However, everything changed in October of 2013, when Sony launched the a7 and a7r full-frame cameras. In my mind, those two cameras really helped jump-start the mirrorless revolution that we are seeing today.

Having shot the other a7 variations, to what do you look forward most about the a7RII? What aspects of your work will benefit the most from this new camera?

Sony did something interesting with the a7 line of full-frame mirrorless cameras that I really hadn’t seen any other camera manufacturer do. They choose to slowly and methodically build out camera-model lines based on the needs of photographers. We all know the a7r (which stands for resolution) focuses its strengths on dynamic range and resolution. With the a7s, you get the low-light king, allowing you to capture clean images above 10,000 ISO. With the a7II, you have a great AF system with 5-axis image stabilization built into the body, often times allowing you to capture sharp images with a shutter speed as low as 1/10th of a second.


The a7rII is essentially the culmination of all that technology and knowledge into a single body. You get the resolution and dynamic range of the R series, with some of the low-light performance of the S series (helped by the new backlit sensor) and the best of the AF and image stabilization from the a7 line of cameras. For me, it has essentially become the jack of all trades. While I might hold on to my a7s for extreme low-light work, I see the a7rII replacing nearly all of my other a7 series cameras… which is why I bought two!

When you first started shooting with an a7, did you use non-native lenses with an adapter? And now do you only use Sony FE lenses on a7 cameras? Do you have a favorite?

When I first moved to Sony, their FE line of mirrorless full-frame lenses wasn’t nearly as impressive as it is today. To help me with my “migration process,” I used a variety of Canon lenses with a Metabones adapter, which was easy since I had shot with Canon for 7 years and had well over $20k invested in their equipment. Paired with my a7r, that combination worked well for me for many months, especially since I manually focus all my landscape and travel work, from a tripod. While this setup did allow for AF, it was painfully slow (although accurate) at the time. This is, of course, changing now with the a7rII, which I am excited about.


These days, I have sold off all my old Canon lenses, including my beloved Tilt-Shift lenses, and now primarily shoot with Sony FE line up. In terms of my favorite lenses, you would be hard pressed to not find the FE 16-35 f/4, FE 70-200 f/4, or the new Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 on one of my cameras at any given time.

How much do the ergonomics of a camera and button placement influence your decision to use a certain camera?

Truth be told, I haven’t thought about it all that much. At the end of the day, I certainly want the cameras I use to be both comfortable and intuitive. At 6'3 and 225 lb, I am not a small guy, which means I also have big hands. With the first generation of Sony a7 cameras, I found them just a touch small for me, although certainly usable. Now that the a7 lineup has evolved, first with the a7II and now the a7rII, to offer a more robust camera body, I am pretty thrilled. The button placement, especially the shutter release, feels much more natural and the grip is also greatly improved, especially for my “man hands.”


Can you speak about your humanitarian work and specifically your work with NGOs around the world?

Ever since I started traveling around the globe, I had the desire to help those in need. This stems back to well before I picked up my first serious camera, in 2006. These days you will occasionally find me using my skills and connections to get into locations that are in desperate need of help. Most recently, I found myself in Tacloban, Philippines, just days after Typhoon Yolanda ripped through that part of the world. While on the ground in these situations, I am not only capturing the stories and challenges I witness, but often rolling up my sleeves and getting involved when and where I am needed. I am not only a former wilderness first responder, but graduated with a degree in Emergency Management and Planning, which certainly does come into play in these situations.


Additionally, I was fortunate to be able to found The Giving Lens, in 2011. It is a humanitarian photography organization that blends photo education with support for sustainable development initiatives around the globe. Each year we take photographers of various skill levels to developing countries where we have partnered with NGOs and charities that have chosen to fight for a variety of different causes, such as child education, clean drinking water projects, women’s rights, and species preservation, to name a few. In addition to the hands-on work we do with these NGOs, each trip also acts as a fundraiser where TGL donates up to 50% of the profits back to the organizations and communities we work with on the ground. It is incredibly exciting to see a passion project like this take off and evolve into what it is today. To learn more about The Giving Lens, be sure to check out its website.


Gorgeous images and insightful knowledge from someone who made the swtich.