Exposure and Manual Mode Explained Using the Sony Alpha A7r

Sony A7r w/ 55mm f/1.8 Zeiss lens @ f/16, 8 seconds, ISO 100, Tri-pod, Raw Quality

In this video tutorial and article, I will explain how to use manual mode on the Sony Alpha A7r, but will first go over exposure and the exposure triangle. It’s important to understand each element of the exposure triangle, so you can adjust the settings on the camera with confidence and efficiency.
The Sony Alpha A7r offers full manual controls with a tri-navigation type system as you will see in the video below.

Exposure is not really that complicated and is only made up of three main elements. Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO. I have highly detailed written tutorials on these topics if you click the following links – Understanding Exposure (Click Here), Aperture Explained (Click Here), and Shutter Speed Explained Click Here)

Below, in this brand new HD video tutorial I go over exposure first quickly, then move on to using the Sony A7r camera in Manual Mode. I then adjust each setting and explain what is going on as I do it. It will make sense if you are new to using manual mode I hope, and if you are familiar with manual mode, this will be a good overview on how the Sony A7r handles it.

Exposure and Manual Mode Explained using the Sony Alpha A7r

Be sure to select the HD Quality in the player options once the video starts. Full screen 1080p is available!

The Exposure Triangle

Check out this exposure triangle diagram I created in Photoshop today. It took awhile, but I think it will help make sense of the three exposure elements if you are a visual learner like myself. Illustrations make comprehending things much easier for some reason, so perhaps this will help some of you. Feel free to copy it, print it, or share it with your friends that are learning photography.

The Exposure Triangle – Click For Larger Version!

Slow Shutter Sample Photos

Getting creative with your photography is one of the most fun things you can ever do as a photographer in my opinion. I decided to play with some lights I had laying around in the Lab and ended up making a swing. I put a small weight on the end of the lights and turned all the other room lights off. This made everything totally dark except for the color lights. I knew I wanted to capture some motion with the lights, so I adjusted the camera to f/5.6, 2 seconds, and ISO 100 for a test shot. The on camera meter was not very helpful in this particular situation and it said I was under exposing the scene by about -1 I believe. In any event, this is experimenting and pure play, so I wanted to show you how I progressed one photo at a time.

First, a 2 second exposure of the lights with no movement at all for reference.

Click Photos for the ~1200px Large Versions!

Sony A7r w/ Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 Lens @ 5.6, 2sec, ISO 100
Sony A7r w/ Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 Lens @ 5.6, 2sec, ISO 100

Now for a little movement @ 2 seconds.

Sony A7r w/ Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 Lens @ f/8, 2sec, ISO 100
Sony A7r w/ Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 Lens @ f/8, 2sec, ISO 100

Now for 8 full seconds at f/16 and now we are getting some cool looking shots!

Sony A7r w/ Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 Lens @ f/16, 8sec, ISO 100
Sony A7r w/ Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 Lens @ f/16, 8sec, ISO 100

Added a little bounce to it and the lights go crazy!

Sony A7r w/ Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 Lens @ f/16, 8sec, ISO 100
Sony A7r w/ Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 Lens @ f/16, 8sec, ISO 100

A little slower swing and spin for a more simple look. Now that I am happy with the 8 second exposure it’s fun to play with the lights in different ways. Experiment!

Sony A7r w/ Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 Lens @ f/16, 8sec, ISO 100
Sony A7r w/ Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 Lens @ f/16, 8sec, ISO 100
Sony A7r w/ Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 Lens @ f/16, 8sec, ISO 100
Sony A7r w/ Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 Lens @ f/16, 8sec, ISO 100
Sony A7r w/ Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 Lens @ f/16, 8sec, ISO 100
Sony A7r w/ Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 Lens @ f/16, 8sec, ISO 100

Here are a few more from last night (05/09/14)

Sony A7r w/ Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 Lens @ f/16, 8sec, ISO 100
Sony A7r w/ Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 Lens @ f/16, 8sec, ISO 100
Sony A7r w/ Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 Lens @ f/16, 8sec, ISO 100
Sony A7r w/ Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 Lens @ f/16, 8sec, ISO 100
Sony A7r w/ Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 Lens @ f/16, 8sec, ISO 100
Sony A7r w/ Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 Lens @ f/16, 8sec, ISO 100

Closing Remarks

Getting a good exposure in manual mode on the Sony A7r is very easy once you get a grasp of the exposure triangle. A little practice and you will have it down in no time πŸ˜‰

Please feel free to ask questions if you have them, and be sure to check out the other tutorials linked above if you need more in depth info on any of the exposure triangle elements etc…

Thanks again for stopping by and have a great day,

  1. Another excellent post Jay ! Manual mode is where I spend most of my time on the A7r–one way to really take advantage of what this camera can do–particularly for handholding with no OSS. I forced myself to use Manual mode on the Nex 6 when I first started to read/learn about the Exposure Triangle. Little did I know this was preparing me for the mighty A7r. πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks for the comments LBier and manual mode is the best way to go if you have the time and want the most power possible. I often us aperture priority mode for convenience, but am trying to break that habit πŸ˜‰

  2. Hi Jay, a little off topic, Now you have had a good play with the A7r, at the time of its release, and you said that you thought it was more important for you to capture shots of your kids with a faster shooting sequence than the A7r could deliver ; does this still hold true ?

    1. Hi Rob,
      I have not had a situation where the A7r has let me down AF wise. My only concern, as I said in the review, is the Zeiss lens is significantly better quality than the kit lens I tested on the A7. The A7 was a little faster, but always being at 55mm and f/1.8 makes the focusing a completely different animal. From what I could tell the Face recognition and eye AF, even in low light, was just as good. I would have to A and B the cameras with the same lens to really be able to tell. From my experience with both cameras using different lenses, the performance was very similar. The Contrast AF is not like on the Nex-6 when the Hybrid doesn’t work. It’s much faster and next generation speeds. That being said, the A6000 looks way faster than anything else to date!
      Bottom line Rob, Can’t go wrong with either camera in my opinion as far as AF is concerned. So, no it doesn’t hold true. Even in low studio lighting conditions the focus was dead on almost every time. The A7 also performed equally as well with the kit lens with low light. My full frame pro grade Canon 5d Mark II is still much faster than both mirrorless cameras in low light and overall AF speed for reference.
      I hope that helps,

      1. Yes, low light performance as I have (had to) learn anew is very important, at least to Me, when it comes to focusing, and will determine (in part) My next camera purchase. You said, “”My full frame pro grade Canon 5d Mark II is still much faster than both mirrorless cameras in low light and overall AF speed for reference.”; So, is the A6000 way faster than anything else to date amongst the Sony genre only, or all that You have had a chance to test or use such as Your Canon 5d Mark II, and does the A6000 speed of fastest focusing include low light (such as -3 stops)?

        1. Hey Gerard,
          My Canon 5d Mark II focus faster than any Sony camera I’ve use in extremly low light. I have never used the A99 though which is the only comparable camera to the Canon 5dII really. The A77 was pretty awesome, but with a much smaller sensor and PDAF sensor array, it dos not compare. Crop factor vs full frame. The A77 was still pretty darn good though, as was the A57. The A6000 looks to be like the A57 or A77 to me. I don’t think it will be as good in extreme low light as the A99 or the 5d mark II for that matter. In good light it looks super fast though. -3ev, I don’t think the A6000 will be that realiable, but time will tell.
          The actual PDAF sensor are really small don’t forget, but lots of them helps. Low light, seams like larger PDAF sensor would be better, or more “sensitive”

  3. Thankyou Jay,
    You often make reference to your Canon 5D Mk11, in the world of ownership, how would you position the A7r vs. Canon. You mention the Canon as professional, so how does the Sony stack up against that in real world ownership.
    We all realize Sony are on the cutting edge of electronics and invent many innovative products, but by and large they lack the speciality of camera companies such as Nikon and Canon, and with these two you can have a love affair for decades.
    I’m still in two mind as to how far I’ll get entrenched with Sony and the A7r, they can be an annoying company for brand loyalty, mainly because cameras are only a small part of their empire and they don’t build on systems as the major players do.
    And in part if it wasn’t for the Zeiss Lenses I think I’d seriously jump ship.
    How do you feel about this Jay ?

    1. Hi Rob and thanks for the comments as always.
      I do often reference my Canon 5d mark II as the stable in amazing focus speed and performance, because it’s the best camera I own. The Sony A99 could totally be in it’s place and I would saying the same thing. It’s to much trouble to swap out all my gear pro gear for Sony at this time, but I’m working on it πŸ˜‰
      Canon has the amazing L lenses and Sony has the incredible Zeiss lenses. Canon has many more lenses to chose from, but Sony has all the necessary quality glass for the pro A-Mount A99 for example. Plus the flash unit’s and other pro gear required. Once you invest in a system it’s a nightmare to switch, especially in the pro line.
      I have several friends who use the A99 and love it. It’s better than the 5d Mark II, I just don’t have the justification for it. Canon and Nikon are more Pro oriented for sure, and tend to not mess with the electronics as much. They also have a huge share of the market, which allows them to sell items for less money. Sony is constantly innovating which is good and can be bad sometimes as you mention.
      The A7r is not a pro camera in the same regard as the 5d mark II or the A99 for example. It just isn’t, although IQ is absolutely incredible. The other features, like build quality, buffer size, battery life, durability, are just not the same as the “pro” grade cameras. The A7 and A7r are very high quality cameras, but until the focus speed is like the A6000, they will not be comparable in the real world to a Pro full frame DSLR. Once the focus is fast, then only the build quality and FE-mount lenses options will be the issue. I think the new pro a-mount cameras will be a nice addition to the Sony line, but time will tell.
      I hope that makes sense, and I look forward to your reply πŸ˜‰

  4. Jay,
    Sorry, it seems I’m always disturbing you for your opinion.( I highly regard it in these matters). Totally off topic but seeing as the Sigma 18-35 F1.8 isn’t available on A mount yet. What do you think of Sony 16-50 F2.8? I need a great wide angle for my A57. Do you think the Sony is worth buying or should I keep waiting for the Sigma to make it’s way to the A mount?

    1. Great question UC, and I would wait for the killer Sigma honestly. Perhaps a prime lens for the meantime? Do you need zoom?

      1. I already have the 50mm and I need a Zoom especially seeing as I’ll be travelling to Europe in a couple of weeks. I’m so tired of waiting for the Sigma because it seems it’s never coming. They said Oct then end of Jan then Feb and now here we are in March 2014! It is absolutely ridiculous!!! The run around is annoying. I need a zoom for my travels. The 50mm is lovely but isn’t ideal for indoor shots. At this point, I’m just about ready to just buy the Sony and get on with it.

        1. In that case UC I would go for the Sony 16-50mm f/2.8 lens or the killer Zeiss 16-80mm lens for much better range and increased quality. I bit more money, but well worth it in my opinion, although not full frame compatible. Neither is the Sigma you want though. You can sell wither lens for almost what you paid once the Sigma comes out for Sony πŸ˜‰

      2. Okay Jay. I’ll just go ahead and wait for the Sigma. I did contact them and they said they’re still trying to catch up with Nikon and Canon orders and A mount perhaps mid May. Doesn’t it just suck how they almost never take Sony as seriously as they go Canon or Nikon. So annoying!!!!
        Thank you so much for your input. πŸ™‚

        1. It is annoying, but when Nikon and Canon have most of the shares it makes complete sense from a business perspective. The lens is amazing based on reviews and DXOMark.com, so everybody wants it yesterday πŸ˜‰
          Have a good day my friend,

  5. Hi Jay, The A 7r, NEX7 & all the NEX series the auto Focus Illuminator will not work unless a Emount lens is attached to the camera. The A 99 850, & all the A mount lenses work fine with the right Adapter & Metz Flash or any other Flash. Even with the LA-EA2 or EA4 & with 8 pin connection on the Zeiss lens or any alpha lens AF Illuminator does not work in dark. I don’t know if Sony knows this. Must use external light to shoot.

    1. Hi Eric and thanks for the comments,
      I was not aware of that, but it makes sense if the eliminator can’t make it past the larger lenses anyway? I’m not sure if that is the issue, but sort of makes sense to me. I don’t know why Sony does this sill stuff like this. A modeling light is very common for the studio environment but for hardcore ni9ght shooting this is an issue if using a-mount lenses like you said. I’m sure Sony knows about it, but thanks for bringing it up anyway!
      Do you by any chance know of a cable to use the flash off camera and maintain ttl, or one that will fire in manual mode off camera with a hot shoe adaptable cable?
      Thanks in advance,

  6. Great stuff Jay,
    The exposure triangle concept its easy to understand, but really hard to master. I use most of time the Aperture priority mode, and I only change if I want some fast or slow shutter speed.
    But I think I must start to use more the manual mode, lot of times I get bad photos because the camera select a very slow shutter speed or a very high ISO.
    And in a full frame camera, any mistake is more evident. Im getting lot of soft pics because I focused wrong, selected a wrong aperture, the shutter spd was too slow… using a FF camera is really harder than a smaller sensor camera. But when we got the things right, we are awarded πŸ˜€

    1. Thanks for the comments Flavio πŸ˜‰ It is a little harder for sure. Especially when you compare to a camera like the RX10 with the much smaller 1 inch sensor and awesome OSS built in. That beast is a point and shoot masterpiece and easy to use. Image results are awesome, but not in the same league as a full frame. Watching the shutter speed is critical when using Auto ISO and a lens with no OSS built in. Full manual and fast fingers is the best way to go if you can deal with the learning curve and time.
      I also still use aperture pretty mode for the speed of it. Much faster in the real world most of the time πŸ˜‰

  7. Hello, love the videos, and how clear this on is. I’m having trouble with the metering or exposure comp. It stays at 0, do I have a setting that does not allow me it to change.

    1. Hi Rene,
      The exposure comp should change if you are in manual mode, so I’m guessing you might have Auto ISO on? Set the ISO to 100 or something other than Auto and I think you should be ok?
      I hope that helps,

Leave a Reply

Zeen is a next generation WordPress theme. It’s powerful, beautifully designed and comes with everything you need to engage your visitors and increase conversions.

More Stories
Sony Alpha A7r II
Sony LAEA4 vs LAEA3 Lens Adapter with Sigma Lenses and A7r II
%d bloggers like this: