Disclaimer: I do not own a Sony camera. Neither do I own Sony Stock. At this point, however, it would be stupid to dismiss the truth of the grand narrative: that Sony will be your - and my - next camera.
Good advertising is focused and accurate. It eschews flourish for clarity and demonstrates a product's or service's unique capabilities.
With a single exception, CP+2018’s mirrorless camera booths were the opposite. In bold typography and with pretty models, they postured style, and lacked substance, or, ineptly, they revealed the weaknesses of the products they demonstrated.
Olympus’s and Canon’s much-touted autofocus systems were demonstrated on slow-moving train sets. Panasonic’s booth, which rotated karate and dance troupes, postured confidence. And yet, despite sporting some of the best m43 zoom lenses out there, its latest G model cameras couldn’t reliably follow the action. (Trains aren't always a bad choice.)
Fujifilm’s booth was tone deaf. The X-H1’s much ballyhooed autofocus engine was demonstrated by lazily swaying models and a drooping floral arrangement. Attendees resorted to ad-hoc pageantry: asking colleagues to jump around, ratcheting various and sundry gadgets in and out on extended arms for the camera to follow; or panning to approximate movement on the stage. The edge of the demonstration area was poorly lit, and all such tests failed to demonstrate what the X-H1 could actually do. (By the way, I own an X-H1. I've written briefly about it here, and here have published the first video of a series comparing it and the Leica SL.)
That crowds at most booths were paltry sort of saved the day.
The single exception - Sony’s booth - was a sweaty mess. Queues were vicious. People pushed and cut queue. A long dais twinkled with sparkly Sony gear, arrayed like a touch and try was actually hands-off. For whatever reason, it wasn’t even roped off, and eager attendees from all corners of CP+2018 were shamed by James Bond lookalikes. Don't touch!
Don't make it so easy, or so tempting to touch!
The rest of the Sony ghetto was well designed. Sandwiched between a raised long-lens demo platform and the keynote arena, was a space rougly six metres by seven metres. As many A7IIIs and a variety of lenses - some as long as 70-200 - lined the left side of the booth. The opposite and outer edges demonstrated the same lenses on bodies ranging from the A9 to the A7RIII. Within its bounds sweated basketball scrimmagers, hip-hop dancers, runway models, slack liners, and modern dancers- each in ten-minute rotations.
After waiting forty-five minutes I got slotted into the corner, behind an A7III and 70-200 F/4. I had five minutes to test the combination. Fast-twirling dancers sweated just metres away. The Sony rep was quick to explain that the programmable button on the side of the lens called eye-focus. What a cracking utilitarian design that is! Just want the face? Don't depress the button. Want the nearest eye in focus? Press the button. It worked so well that even weeks later, I think about it.
What still sucks, and has always sucked, is the mechanical shutter. It's been five years and still the shutter loud and clacky. I denounce the A7R's in 2013. And the A7III's is still ridiculous. And, the A7III's body, inherited from the A7II, is terribly cramped. It bristles enough buttons to overwhelm a much larger camera. And, there’s no way anyone with normal-sized fingers will comfortably use it with gloves. Frankly, it’s a miracle of idiocy that Sony have stuck with the same body since 2014. It’s a greater miracle that the A9, which is aimed at a different market and use-case scenario, is strapped to the same body.
Form over function aside, the A7III is gold. It’s been years since I shot a 70-200 lens, and years more since I did sports and stage photography. But the A7III nails it. Point it at what you want to shoot and watch it nail focus again and again under adverse circumstances and lighting. Punch its lens-mounted custom button for eye-focus and it nails with uncanny regularity irises and pupils and eyelashes, its misses easily catalogued by improper shutter speeds. Canon, Nikon, Fujifilm, Panasonic fans alike: nearly everyone who demoed the camera shot, chimped, and grinned.
Sony demonstrated in tens of thousands of shutter clicks what no marketing slug, promise, or pretty smile could. Putting the A7III into the hands of thousands of conference-goers and aiming the lot at diverse subject matter, all of it moving and active, allowed the camera the space to sell itself.
Sony’s booth was unlike anything else. It nailed what it needed to and pandered only to demonstrable use-case scenarios and the demands they present to the system. Sony proved without a doubt mirrorless autofocus is in their bag. The fruit of their labour will be a drove of new customers, many of whom will be swayed by reports by attendees, and large media.
Had they relied on pretty: sultry models, unique sculptures; or - God forbid! - hobby trainsets, journalists and fans from around the globe would have left with nothing but advertising promises and bromides.
Instead, they wowed the world. And, your next camera will be a Sony.