Shooting in the Sky

I recently wrote an article about why I switched from using Canon to Sony (here). Writing about equipment can be a little boring, after all it is just a tool that I use to do my job. However, it was my switch to Sony that prompted me to write as I felt I had finally had something to write about.

On the back of this, I was approached by Sony to write an article.

“It’s a fast course and one that compromises a photographer’s ability to not only make several points during the race, but also to reach those points. A highlight of the race coming at 3000m. I’m lucky, today I have a helicopter and it departs at 0715 – the race start coming at 0800.”


“My bag is packed and I’m soon on the road. I meet the mountain rescue team and before we know it, the helicopter is hovering at the summit as the team and I climb out.”


If you are interested, it’s called SHOOTING IN THE SKY and you can read the full post HERE.

Adidas Terrex Skychaser Shoe Review

It has been a long time since I did a run in Adidas shoes. When I did a great deal of road running, Adidas was one of my go-to brands but when I headed to the trails and mountains, I defected to other brands such inov-8, Salomon, TNF and so on.

I’d heard lots about the ‘Boost’ technology and was keen to try it. I was a little sceptical about this (what looks like polystyrene balls) Boost technology would withstand the battering that trail brings, but hey, Luis Alberto Hernando has done well with them huh?

The TERREX SKYCHASER is not the lightest shoe on the market, not by a long way at well over 300g for my UK9.5. However, I was pleased that the shoes were ‘true-to-size,’ I the past I had always found Adidas sized small.

The fit is definitely narrow, but not very narrow, in the toe box area and there is plenty of protection with a really great toe bumper for protection – invaluable on rocky terrain. The lacing is  via a narrow cord that is pulled tight from the top and then an adjustable stopper retains the tension – it’s very similar to what one sees on Salomon shoes. The excess cord can be stored under a small elastic loop towards the bottom of the lacing section.

The upper has the classic Adidas ‘three-stripes’ on the sides and these also act as the lace-loops from which one pulls the lacing tight. This holds the foot in place and keeps it secure.

The tongue is attached to the upper (my preferred method) as this not only reduces what debris can enter the shoe but also it allows the foot to be held more secure and it also increases comfort. Iv’e said it before and I will say it again, this is the way it should be for all run shoes in my opinion.

The shoes cushioning comes from ‘Boost’ technology and it’s reassuringly cushioned without being spongy. You can see that the insole has a chunk of orange and blue added, this is Adidas’s ‘Pro Moderator’ technology that adds medial and lateral support with additional stability in the midsole. I run in ‘neutral’ shoes and I was worried that these additions would spoil my experience of the shoes – it didn’t! For sure, it provided me with a different feel on the trail and mountains but what I did like was the reassurance it provided when the going got tough – the shoes felt rock solid.

The upper is breathable but most definitely resilient. The Terrex Skyxchaser could  definitely be a lighter shoe with a different upper, however, Adidas have obviously decided that this shoe is for tough outings – they don’t want the upper falling apart and in testing, I have to say it’s extremely durable and resistant to abrasion. You’ll also notice the upper has a darker orange colour, this is welding which also adds the increased support of the shoe.

As a cyclist and triathlete, I always chose Continental tyres but this is the first shoe I have used with the legendary German rubber as an outsole – I was impressed! Yes, the outsole didn’t disappoint and the compound provided great grip on dry and wet trail and rocks, it was excellent. The grip profile would make the Terrex Skychaser a great ‘all-rounder’ allowing cushioning and comfort on some road, hard-packed trails and should conditions become wet, the Continual runner really does its job. The profile can handle mud but should conditions become very sloppy, the outsole profile and lug depth is not aggressive enough to provide the grip that say an inov-8 Mudclaw would provide – that comes as no surprise and is not a criticism.


Heading out on the road for my first run, I was struck by how the shoe felt on unforgiving tarmac. The Terrex Skychaser gave me a plush ride with the Continental outsole doing a great job on the hard stuff.

I had purposely chosen routes that involved a multitude of terrain to test the Terrex Skychaser and with Skyrunning courses to hand, this is where I have used these shoes for the last few months – from steep grass banks, hard and dry single-track, scree slopes, boulders, fire-trail, some snow and ice and river sections with slick rock.

In a nutshell the Terrex Skychaser handled all this extremely well with the highlights of the shoe coming with excellent cushioning without a loss of feel from the ground beneath my feet, excellent and reassured grip from the Continental outsole and a snug plush feel from the sock-like fit.

A 6mm drop worked well, for me, my sweet spot is 8mm as I find this to be preferable when I am on my feet for longer. With 4mm and 8mm now being many peoples choices, 6mm sits well as a compromise.

Like I said, I prefer neutral shoes and although this shoe has plenty of ‘extras’ to control my foot, I never found that I was being over controlled, something that I could in a La Sportiva shoe – read HERE.

Cushioning is good without losing feel, 23.5 at the rear and 17.5 at the front makes them ideally suited for a runner who needs some additional protection or who prefers a plush ride.

The overall fit of the shoe is narrow and when the trails are technical and you need reassurance that is a positive. However, if you need a wider toe-box, this is probably not the shoe for you.

It wasn’t an all-singing and all-dancing story. I found the heel box just wouldn’t hold my heel in. When climbing, my heel constantly was coming out of the shoe – a real irritant and a recipe for disaster in regard to performance and the increased risk of blisters. In a conventionally laced shoe, I would have re-laced my shoes and I would have almost certainly used a ‘lace-lock’ method (here) at the top of the lacing to secure my foot. You can’t do this with the Adidas as it does not have two eye-holes at the top and… This brings me to my second issue – the ‘speed-lacing!’ I know many love it and when it works it works, however, with the Terrex Skychaser I just couldn’t adjust the lacing so my foot felt comfortable with the correct tension and adjustment in the places that I needed it. I would that I had to tighten the lacing so much to retain my heel in the shoe that after 15-20 minutes my foot was aching on the in-step due the tension and pressure on the foot. I also found that lower down where my foot bends, I had effectively reduced the width of the shoe and therefore I was getting some pain and discomfort around my toes and metatarsals. I took the shoes off, loosened the laces and then put he shoes back on trying to leave the lower loop lose and wide, the middle lace-loops tight but not too tight and then the top two loops tight and secure – I sort of got to to work but it all felt compromised.


Loads of positives on this shoe but ultimately for me, it’s not a shoe I would use. I say this with regret as I loved the grip, the durability, the overall comfort but the heel box and the lacing made using the shoe a compromise. Because of the heel box, consider trying a half size smaller – it may do the trick? However, you may well find the shoe is then too narrow in the toe box.

Adidas Terrex Skychaser Shoes

Olympus Marathon 2017 Summary and Images – 2017 Migu Skyrunner® World Series

Olympus Marathon 2017 Summary

It’s not every day that you get to run with the gods, but nearly 1000 runners toed the line to participate in the 2017 Olympus Marathon, the next race in the Migu Skyrunner® World Series. 

The course is tough and beautiful with two directions, up and down. The first half of the race climbs from just 3m above sea level in the sacred city of Dion and the runners climb to 2700m and the impressive Mt. Olympus. Will they be a sacrifice to Zeus? From here, the race drops down and the runners retrace history and myth and finish in Litochoro.

 The race was very much controlled by two outstanding Skyrnunner’s, Aritz Egea and Ragna Debats. Egea just last weekend placed 2nd behind Tadei Pivk at the Livigno SkyMarathon, here he led from the front setting a blistering pace. Victory was never in doubt and this was confirmed when he crossed the line with a new course record 4:24:26.

 “I am feeling very good this year, I think it’s maybe the best form I have ever had. Last year I wasn’t motivated… Sometimes you need a break and I am now reaping the rewards.”

 Previous course record holder, Jessed Hernandez was 2nd in 4:43:12 and a late surge placed Kiril Nikolov 3rd ahead of local favourite and one of the pre-race favourites, Dimitrios Theodorakakos, their times 4:44:32 and 4:46:13.

 For Debats, a very full racing calendar is pushing this lady to the limits but she is handling the strain well. Under the intense heat of a Greek sky she lead the race from the front and took victory with a new course record 5:18:20.

“It was a good day, I am very happy with the victory. I will need to make sure I plan some rest but I am feeling good.”

 Laura Sola de Miguel ran in 2nd place for the whole day and this was her finishing position almost 10-minutes behind Debats in 5:32:05. Glykeria Tziatzia had run in 3rd for the duration of the race and looked strong and confident, however, in the closing miles the heat and strain of the day took over and her pace dropped allowing Hillary Allen to pass and take the final podium place in 5:37:13. A heartbroken Tziatzia crossed the line in 5:46:04 – a name to watch for the future! 

It was a long, hot and tough day for all, when crossing the line the fatigue and dehydration from a tough race was clear to see. The consensus confirmed an incredible course – beautiful and brutal!

A break in the Migu Skyrunner World Series next weekend will see the action continue in Spain and France, with the Buff Epic Trail and High Trail Vanoise.


Olympus Marathon 2017 Preview – 2017 Migu Skyrunner® World Series

Olympus Marathon Preview – 2107 Migu Skyrunner® World Series

Reaching for the SKY turns to Greece and the Olympus marathon, the 3rd race in the 2017 Migu Skyrunner® World Series

Coming just one week after the Livigno SkyMarathon, this 44km course with 3200m of vertical gain will be a hard-fought battle for victory and valuable SWS points. Reaching a high-point of 2780m, the race is a real challenge.

Starting at just 3m above sea level at Dion, a renowned archaeological site, the incredible Mount Olympus provides a stunning backdrop. Reaching 2780m, the route climbs with mountain views to the surrounding higher peaks. Passing below the ‘Throne of Zeus’ the route goes through the Mount Olympus National Park and comes close to Olympos Orgs. The route is classic Skyrunning, starting low, getting high and then returning low.

Course records stand at 5:21:36 for the ladies, set by Stevie Kremer and 4:33:37 by Jessed Hernandez.

Aritz Egea heads-up the male race after placing 2nd in Livigno SkyMarathon behind Tadei Pivk just last weekend. He is without doubt in great form. Strong competition will come from his teammate Hassan Ait Chaou and Kiril Nikolov. Dimitrios Theodorakakos won the 2016 edition of the race and although he is on the start list, we are unsure if he will run, therefore, keep an eye on Julien Martinez De Estibariz, Aleksandr Ivan, Babiano Marconi, Franco Sold, Artem Rostovstev, Alexey Kurochkin, Roberto Sancho and Oscar Carrasco.

Ultra SkyMarathon Champion Hillary Allen, heads up the ladies’ race but she will be in for a battle from Ragna Debats, Aitziber Ibarbia and the UK’s Holly Page. Laura Sola, Paloma Lobera and Eugenia Miro are also racing and are likely to contend the top-5.

Action starts in the early hours of Saturday June 24th and you can follow on this website and via Skyrunning Facebook and twitter.

Western States Endurance Run #WSER 2017 on IRUN4ULTRA

With 18.000ft of climb and 22.000ft of downhill, the race has in the past been full of incredible stories – Ann Trason, Scott Jurek, Nikki Kimball, Ellie Greenwood and Timothy Olson to name just a few names from an incredible 40+ years of history.


Over the years, the course is often discussed around the heat that the canyons bring and if it will be a snow or no snow year.


Let’s be clear, the 2017 WSER is going to be a snow year but it is melting.

Read the full preview on IRUN4ULTRA HERE

Livigno SkyMarthon 2017 Summary and Images – Migu Skyrunner® World Series

Livigno SkyMarathon 2017 Race Summary

Days in the mountains rarely get better… the Livigno SkyMarathon really did provide a truly spectacular mountain experience that will be difficult to better – the weather, the course and the stunning town of Livigno all came together along with great organization to give everyone a memorable day.

The race really is a personification of pure Skyrunning. Over the 34km course, the runners climbed over 2700m of vertical gain with much of the race taking place between 2500 and 3000m.

Exposed mountain ridges, roped sections, via ferrata and abundance of technical terrain make the Livigno SkyMarathon a challenge – but a challenge to embrace.

Following on from Zegama-Aizkorri which took place in May, this race was always going to be exciting with valuable Migu Skyrunner World Series points available.

SWS World Champion Tadei Pivk, has had a troubled 2017 with injury, however, he was a last-minute entrant to the Livigno race having missed Zegama-Aizkorri. Pivk was the winner of Livigno in 2017 so he was soon tipped as a favourite for the win. Equally, Zegama-Aizkorri winner Maite Maiora, was tipped as the potential winner for the ladies’ race.

The duo started the race with a determination and a commitment and took the respective leads from very early on. Maiora looked invincible throughout the race, Pivk also looked strong and in control but Aritz Egea was tailing the Italian for much of the race.

At the line Pivk and Maiora were triumphant.

Egea pushed the 2017 champion close and on the line, it was just 2-minutes that separated them, 3:52:42 to 3:54:39. Third placed runner was Eduard Hernandez Texeido ahead of Eugeni Gil Ocana and Robert Krupicka, their times 4:00:39, 4:02:00 and 4:05:24 respectively.

Maiora was in a different league in the ladies’ race, her time of 4:37:30 incredible on this course. Denise Ionela Dragomir ran a strong 2nd throughout the race and her podium place never looked in doubt, she crossed the line in 4:43:21 ahead of Laia Andreu Trias who finished in 4:47:16.

The 2017 edition of the Livigno SkyMarathon was different to 2017 and therefore the times recorded this year are course records. Conditions were exceptional throughout the day with clear blue skies, sun, little to no wind and temperatures were kind until the early afternoon when they started to rise.

The talk post-race was all about how incredible the course is. The opening flat miles providing a warm up before the first climb with no technicality. What follows are walls of rock with chains attached, scree slopes of rock and slate, narrow and exposed technical ridges that really place you in the sky. The high point of the course at 3000m in many respects brings an end to the very technical sections and then the course changes over the second half with plenty of single-track and of course climbing. The final drop from Monte Campaccio at 3007m is long with plenty of rocks and scree. The final 10km’s to the line sap the legs and mind – a Livigno finish is hard fought.

The 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series now moves to Greece for the Olympus SkyMarathon which will take place on the weekend of June 24th.

All images ©

Full image galleries will be available at

Santa Caterina VK 2017 Summary and Images – Vertical Kilometer® World Circuit

Michele Bosacci and Valentina Belotti were the 2017 champions of the Santa Caterina VK, the 6th race in the Vertical Kilometer® World Circuit.

The route starts from Santa Caterina (1,739 m) and climbs 1000m to Costa Sobretta (2,739 m). Starting at 3pm in the centre of Santa Caterina, the runners departed en-mass. The early road section allowing for a fast getaway and then the 2.9km course soon pointed upwards as the runners fought position through a mixture of terrain – grassland, pastures, ski pistes and trails across scree slopes. The final section is equipped with a fixed rope to guarantee participants’ safety as they fought to the finish line.

Michle Boasacci dictated a song pace ahead of Nejc Kuhar, Patrick Facchin and race director Marco De Gasperi. However, despite a last minute surge by Kuhar, Bosacci had too large a gap before entering the final technical section of via feratta where it would have been almost impossible to pass.

Boascci took the victory in 34-minutes 56-seconds, Kuhar crossed 18-seconds later and Facchin held of De Gasperi finishing in 35:40 to the race directors 35:41.

For the ladies, Valentina Belotti had a convincing lead over 2nd placed lady, Susanna Saapunki and her victory never looked in doubt. She crossed the line in 41:26 in comparison to the Finish ladies’ 42:23.

Pre-race favourite and VK specialist Francesca Rossi finished 3rd despite nursing a knee injury, her time 43:08.

Attention now turns to Sunday for the 34km Livigno SkyMarathon, the next race in the Migu Skyrunner World Series.

Episode 137 – Camille Herron, Tom Withers and Tania Hodgkinson

Episode 137 of Talk Ultra brings you three interviews – Camille Herron talks about the winning the biggest road ultra in the world, Comrades. We delve into the mind of Tom Withers and how he used his brain to finish the UK’s Dragons Back Race. Niandi Carmont talks with Tania Hodgkinson in her next ‘one-on-one’ interviews and yes, Speedgoat is back.
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BIG NEWS – In June we have loads of giveaways that can be won but those listeners who support the show on Patreon. We have two pairs of inov-8 shoes, two Osprey Vest Packs, X-Bionic Compression, Compressport Compression and an Osprey handheld Soft Flask.
00:18:37 NEWS
We spoke about  KJ in the last show Karl but welcome your thoughts…
Then of course in a similar theme we need to mention Alex Honnold who in my opinion has just done one of the most amazing feats not only in climbing but in any sport – El Cap free solo is off the scale.
World Trail Champs
Luis Alberto Hernando proves he really is a class act by winning on a course that he said beforehand, would not suit him as it was too flat and too fast. He won 4:23 and proves he is, the worlds best. Cristofer Clemente ran an incredible waiting game and moved out of the top-30 to finish 2nd in 4:24 and Cedric Fleureton was 3rd in 4:28.
Adeline Roche was a surprise winner in 5:00 just 3-seconds ahead of Amandine Ferrato, also a surprise. Silvia Rampazzo is also a new name on the block after placing 2nd at Zegama a few weeks ago, she is now 3rd at the worlds.
I guess also the worlds is about so many who didn’t perform – it’s a story of bad pacing and fatigue… same old story and will they learn?
Scenic 113km
It was a joint win for this super-tough Skyrunning race in Switzerland. 113k and 7500m of vert saw Stephan Hugenschmidt and Matthias Dippacher cross the line together in 15:40. The ladies winner was Francesca Canepa in 19:43. You can read the race story and get full images HERE
Race to the Tower
Notable as MDS 3rd place runner Tom Evans won this with a convincing victory (7:30) and we also Ironman Legend Chrissie Wellington toe the line of her first ultra. Not only did she win the ladies race but she placed 3rd overall in 8:35.
Wow, Camille Herron bridges 20-years and Ann Trason victories to be the next US runner to take the title in 6:27. Incredible. Alexandra Morozova 2nd in 6:31 and Charne Bosman who was defending champ was 3rd in 6:39. Good year for the US with three other ladies in the top-10, Sarah Bard, Colleen De Reuck and Devon Yanko 6th, 7th and 10th.
2014 winner Bongmusa Mthembu ran 5:35 for victory ahead of Hatiwande Nyamade in 5:38 and Gift Kelehe in 5:41. The UK’s Steve Way was 9th in 5:49 – a great gold medal.
00:36:00 Lets go to an interview with CAMILLE HERRON
Ultra SkyMarathon Madeira
The UK’s Jon Albon ran a great and perfectly paced race not only take victory but smash the old course record by 15-minutes in 5:45. Aurelien Dunand-Pallaz had lead the race from the front but faded in the last third of the race, he still made 2nd ahead of Dimitry Mityaev, their times 5:55 aND 6:07.
USA’s Hillary Allen progressed her Skyrunning career with victory after placing 2nd last year, Ekaterina Mityaev was 2nd and Elisabet Masanes 3rd, times 7:06, 7:34 and 8:35 respectively.
Bob Graham Round
The UK’s BGR is certainly becoming popular and although not an official time, Ryan Smith ran 14:17 – as far as we know, this is the second fastest time ever? It seems only a matter of time before the stars align and somebody betters the Billy Bland record – will it be Kilian?
In the last show we discussed the Dragons Back Race and I wanted to include an interview with Tom Withers who placed last almost running and walking twice as long as the male winner Marcus Scotney. He had a story to tell and I think for those ultra-runners who don’t understand how important the mind is, this interview will make it clear.
*Although the sound is generally good for the interview, we did have a few connection issues. I hope it doesn’t disrupt your listening pleasure.
01:36:00 Interview with TOM WITHERS
And finally Niandi brings us a great ‘one-on-one’ interview with Tania Hodgkinson
02:25:29 Interview with TANIA HODGKINSON
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I’m Ian Corless and he is Karl Meltzer.
Keep running
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A Double Bill in Italy #VK and #SKY – Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series and Vertical Kilometer® World Circuit

Skyrunning heads to Italy this weekend for a double bill of high mountain action organised by Alta Valtellina Skyrunning Experiences headed up by mountain running legend Marco de Gasperi.

Santa Catarina VK

Friday, the Santa Catarina VK takes place, the next race in the Vertical Kilometer® World Circuit. Starting at an altitude of 1739m the course covers just 2.9km to reach 2739m in a lung and leg bursting race.

Covering a variety of terrain, the route is primarily free of technical difficulty as passes over pastures, grassland, ski routes, trails and slopes made of scree. However, the final section has fixed rope to the summit.

It’s a mass start race and the runners will depart at 1500 from the Centro La Fonte ski station.

Ones to watch:

It will come as no surprise that the La Sportiva team will be present in large numbers with Marco Moletto and Nejc Kuhar heading up the team. Both these runners are VK specialists and we can expect them to be fighting for the podium.

Saul Padua will of course be in the mix too along with Hannes Perkmann and Pere Rullan. Other string contenders are Ales Palko, Joan Freixa Marcelo, Marc Trassera Puyol, Eugeni Gil Ocana, Eduard Baquer, Josep Roset and Actor Aijuria. The ladies race is somewhat compromised after a succession of recent races, the last taking place just last weekend. Therefore, it looks likely that the battle for victory will be between Therese Sjursen, Francesca Rossi and Marianna Jagercikova.

Livigno SkyMarathon

On Sunday, the action moves to Living, approximately 90-minutes by car from Santa Caterina for the Livigno SkyMarathon, the next race in the 2017 Migu Run Skyrunner® World Series .

The Living race personifies pure Skyrunning with 2700m of vertical gain over a 34km course. Exposed mountain ridges, ropes, chains and most the course at altitudes of 2500 to 3000m, this course is not only one to participate in, but one to watch! It’s a classic.

The race takes place on the border of Italy and Switzerland and therefore captures the best of both worlds. Following on from Zegama-Aizkorri, the race will be a hot bed of action with valuable points at stake for the Migu Skyrunner World Series.

The race will start at 0800 on Sunday 18th June.

Ones to watch:

Oh, boy it’s a stacked field for the weekends main event with many of the world’s best Skyrunners toeing the line for battle. The 34km course is the perfect distance for those who will depart at 0800 on Sunday.

Hassan Ait Chaou had a great 2016 and will no doubt be a favourite along with his teammate Aritz Egea who recently has had a return to form. The Casal Mir brothers, Oscar and Marc will also be strong contenders with Marco Moletto.

But the biggest threat may well come from Bhim Gurung. He had an incredible run in China with a breakneck descent that gave him a superb victory.

Andre Jonsson, Adrien Michaud, Nuno Silva, Pascal Egli, Inaki Uribe-Etxebarria, Pere Rullan and a whole host of other top talent will be in contention for top-10 places. In total, 38 elite male runners are on the start list.

Maite Maiora after victory at the recent Zegama-Aizkorri is the outright favourite for the lady’s race – she will take some beating!

Celia Chiron (5th at Zegama) though has the potential to provide a good battle along with Aitziber Ibarbia, Michaela Mertova, Maria Zorroza, Natalie Roman Lopez, Hillary Gerardi, Addie Bracy, Katerina Matrasova and Katrine Villumsen.

Race information can be found HERE on the race website.

The Migu Skyrunner World Series can be found HERE and the Vertical Kilometer World Circuit can be found HERE.

Switching from Canon To Sony – Tip From A Professional

I have held off writing about cameras. You see, although a camera is important, ultimately what is behind the camera is the most important thing. A camera is a tool – just as a hammer to a joiner or a scalpel to a surgeon. However, tools in the right hands can create something quite beautiful.


So, why write now?

Well you see, something has happened that I finally feel is worth writing about.

As a Canon user, I have long loved my relationship with the 5D MKIII and laterally, the 5D MKIV. They are solid work horses that can take a beating, produce great results and ergonomically fit the hand well. Add to the body some quality glass from Canon and you have a great relationship. For years, these cameras and lenses and have provided me with quality images. Where they perfect? No, I struggle to find anything that is perfect but without a doubt they were great and if you look around, you will see the 5D is the workhorse of many a professional.

However, if you work in the mountains, particularly with runners, and you have a need to follow the action on foot. The Canon 5D is not the lightest of friends, stick a 70-200 f2.8 on it and you go weight training at the same time as shooting. So, I have always looked for something light and fast that will allow me to run, take great shots and not compromise on quality.

It’s fair to say I have wasted plenty of money looking for such a camera…

Image © petapixel

Then 18-months ago I came across the Sony A7 (mark 2 version). I was aware of the compromises this camera would bring but I took the plunge. With the Zeiss 35mm f2.8 it was the best ‘running’ camera I had ever used. Light, solid and great images. Plus, it was full-frame, a real bonus!

I continued using the Canon’s and ran with the Sony when required.

Then Sony announced the A7RII with a whopping sensor, faster focusing, silent operation, more frames per second and yes, I was reaching for the credit card.

This camera was a pivotal point. I started to use it more and more and then in December 2016 I packed my Canons away and decided to work solely with the A7RII and decide if I could make the shift to pure Sony shooting. The A7 with the wonderful Zeiss 35mm f2.8 is a great running combination.

Image taken from YouTube clip ©

Image © kenrockwell

You may be asking why was I hesitant?

The answer is simple. The Sony A7 is mirrorless, therefore it can be smaller and lighter, however, mirrorless cameras have ‘blackout’ when shooting. Therefore, following runners and capturing them is an art. I must admit, I did learn this art and was happy! The other issue with the A7RII was that the images were so large (over 80mb each in Raw) that the camera could only manage to read 7 or so images in one burst to the memory card and then you had to wait. Another issue when shooting sport. Again, I worked around it but at times I did feel I was compromising.

In 2017, I had used Sony 100%. The only exception coming for two night shoots, one in Transgrancanaria and the other a tower race in Paris. Why? Quite simply I have an expensive flash set-up for my Canons that I don’t have for the Sony. I also photographed The Coastal Challenge in Costa Rica with my Canon 5D MKIV.

The big test came at Marathon des Sables. I took the Sony’s and they were brilliant. I was sold.

May arrived and my Sony world was blown with the announcement of the A9.

Image © photographylife

I read the specs, looked at the set-up of the camera, held a test one and I knew there and then that this was the reason, no question, to make a full conversion to Sony.

I jumped in head first and sold my Sony A7MKII and I sold two 5D MKIII’s and retained the MKIV and my Sony A7RII’s

The A9 was ordered and arrived just a couple of weeks ago.

I can hear a big gasp from photographers out there, wow, this is a big step. Darn right it is! Especially when you look at the price of the A9 – yes, it’s a whopping 4500.00 pounds!

Let’s be clear from the off, the A9 is (in my opinion) the most highly specced camera on the market with performance to match.

Unlike the A7RII, the A9 offers an image size almost half at 24.2mp. There is a reason for that, the A9 camera wants to be fast. It has a stacked Exmor RS image sensor which is mind-blowing.

Why is this mind-blowing? Well imagine pressing the shutter on the camera and then being able to take over 200-images without the camera stopping… yep, high-quality, DRAM memory and Brion X image processing and this camera is designed to take on (and exceed) the best of what Canon or Nikon have to offer.

Image © photographylife

Image data is sent through the sensor instead of around it which is give or take 20x faster. This equates to 241 raw images and approximately 360 jpeg images continuous shooting. If you shoot fast action sport, this is beyond any other camera and in many ways, even beyond what I thought possible. To clarify here, I don’t need THAT for running imagery but you never know…

Another key feature of the A9, or should I say, another two key features is blackout free shooting and an incredible ability to shoot, if required, 20 frames per second. This is the deal breaker for sports photographers and will without doubt start getting Pro’s to turn their heads. The A9 has a QUAD VGA Tru-Finder and therefore you can follow action, live, in the viewfinder, without missing a thing, just like Canon, Nikon or other DSLR’s. Add to this the ability to shoot in 4 different speeds of frame capture – single, Low (5fps), Med (10fps) or High (20fps) and you have a dream combination for action. Note – frames per second reduce if shooting in uncompressed Raw. For example, in high, it reduces to 12 instead of 20. No big deal! The camera uses an electronic shutter for this and it’s wonderfully noise free. You can set to mechanical shutter too and for example, if using flash or if one needs long exposures, mechanical is required.

Image © photographylife

What else?

Well, look through a DSLR and you will usually see some little boxes – these are focus points. The more you spend on the camera, the more focus points you usually get. In a 5D for example it’s over 60 – that is great huh? Actually no. It’s always a problem in sports as one always feel compromised on where one places the focus point. How did Sony get around this? Well they pretty much made the ‘whole’ frame available for focusing with 693 focus points – that is insane and brilliant! No more compromising, no more cropping. I can pretty much use the whole of the frame and place my subject within the composition, exactly where I want it.

Image © Sony

Yes, 93% (arguably this is 100% as you’d never go to the edges) of the frame is available and add to that super-fast AF – the camera makes 60 AF/AE calculations per second. In a nutshell, the AF is stupendous and there is also some other great add-one like the enhanced eye-AF. For most Pros though, good fast AF in a moveable small focus point is what we require – the A9 gives you this with bells on.

The Sony also comes with Image Stabilization (IS) within the camera which is such a plus and yep, it works like a dream. In low-light you get extra stops without hand-shake and that’s a plus for all. It means every lens that you add to the camera has stabilization, with Canon and Nikon, only lenses have this, not the body and they usually cost more.

The doubters will say the images are not as good. No! The Raw files are sweet, great to work with and if you are shooting with Zeiss or Sony G lenses, they are pin sharp, even at f1.8. Don’t get me started on lenses, but for those who want to know.

I am now using the Zeiss Batis range which are beyond incredible in terms of build and quality – 18mm, 25mm and 85mm. I have the Zeiss Sony 55mm f1.8 which is soooooo sharp. I have the uber expensive Sony G 70-200 f2.8 with IS and finally I have the tiny Zeiss 35mm f2.8 for when I want to run and be fast and light.

For some time, many Pros have been writing about their ‘new’ Sony’s and yes, they have been in addition to an existing system. Now, I think we will see more and more make the switch. Nikon have already lost sales to Sony and yes, Sony are now outselling them. Canon still sell the most but believe me, considering the Canon 5D MKIV was only released in September last year, the difference between the A9 and the MKIV is chalk and cheese – I have both so I know! If I was working at Canon, I would be worried – the R&D team must be pulling their hair out!

There are many other features that make the A9 my dream camera.

Image © Sony

  • Exposure compensation dial on-top of the camera, I can + and – my exposure as shooting.
  • Two memory cards that will allow me to shoot Raw to one and JPEG to the other – a nice safety feature should one card fail.
  • The ability to change focusing and frames per second via two dials on-top of the camera. The ability to move my focus point anywhere in the frame with a toggle on the back of the camera.
  • Custom menus and so on.

Basically, this camera is awesome. Video specs I have not tested, not my thing, sorry!

Of course, nothing is perfect, so, what are the negatives re the A9?

It’s a smaller camera and therefore has less of the feel that say a 5D has. But then again, the attraction of the A9 is that it is smaller and lighter.

Image © Sony

Sony have added an optional battery grip that beefs up the camera and a small grip that just makes holding the body a little more pleasing.

I will add neither, the small body is part of the appeal the A7 and A9 range.

This image shows the difference between the A7 and A9.

Image ©

Now the Canon 5D in comparison to the A9.

Image ©

Batteries have been a big concern on the A7 range and the new batteries for the A9 are considerably better and last much longer – I am happy but they don’t last as long as Canon or Nikon – you will need spares!

The A9 is a solid camera with a Magnesium Alloy body (673g), a little beefier than the A7 and it has an adjustable screen but it will not have the longevity of a 5D. The 5D is robust and solid and you can drop them – believe me, I have! The A9 will take a drop for sure, but not as many as a 5D. Of course, the simple answer is don’t drop one but as Pros will tell you, shit happens when you do this day-in and day-out.

The price is crazy, it will come down in time but this camera is not for everyone, if you are a Pro who needs the spec it may be worth it. For me, it’s a game changer.

Weather sealing is ok but not great. I always use protective covers in bad weather.

Why do I say, ‘may be worth it?’

Well, camera gear is expensive and to replace a system is costly. You need a good reason. Also, the Sony range is still building and some compromises will be made on lenses. For example, if you need 300mm, 400mm or longer, you have no choice. So, a football photographer who sits on the sideline of a football match certainly would love the speed of the A9 but he doesn’t really have to worry about the weight as he only has to carry his gear from the car to the football pitch. Also, he needs and requires the long and fast lenses of 300, 400 and 600mm. These photographers won’t be changing! Not yet anyway.

Finally, I am already aware of other Pros who have made the change and I have spoken to and helped others discuss the changes and options.

*Alpine Exposures Jonathan Griffith wrote a blog in April 2016 discussing a shift to Sony, you can read HERE – makes perfect sense for a mountaineer to use the smaller A7 as the subject is moving slower and he as a photographer has more time to compose the shot.

*Pattuci Photo has written several blogs on Sony HERE and you can read one about shifting from Canon to Sony HERE.

*What is interesting is that all the articles by Griffith and Pattuci were before the A9 – I wonder what they say now.

As cameras go, the A9 is a game changer and why I have ultimately decided to write something about ‘kit!’

“…the Sony A9 is a huge advance in sports, news, concert, motion-picture stills and corporate shooting because it does all this at 20 frames per second, tracking autofocus and setting exposure at 60 FPS in the background, and the best part is it does this in complete and total silence. It is an unworldly experience to be motoring along at 20 FPS with full tracking exposure and autofocus, get great exposure and color in each shot, and have this happen in complete silence. It offers full autofocus over the entire frame, not just in the center of the picture like full-frame DSLRs. It’s also the first Sony mirrorless with two card slots, and has the toughest mechanical shutter of any camera ever, “tested” to 500,000 cycles! The mechanical shutter is tough, and the silent electronic shutter has no moving parts to wear out —  ever! The A9 is a landmark in photography; no pro camera has ever been able to go this fast, much less do it in complete silence.” – Ken Rockwell

More reading:

My thoughts above are real world thoughts and I have tried to avoid delving into the complexities of the camera, its technology and so on. However, Ken Rockwell always does a great job of this and he doesn’t mince his words. It’s fair to say Ken has always had a bias for Canon and therefore this review of the A9 provides a great insight into the camera HERE


You can view images taken recently on the Sony A9 below.

Ultra Skymarathon Madeira HERE

Scenic Trail 113k HERE

Images on the A7RII can be viewed below:

Dragons Back Race HERE

Transvulcania HERE

Marathon des Sables HERE

Product images are all © and are used for illustration purposes only