Why the wannabes will want Sony as still and video worlds collide

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One customer's decision to switch vendor is promising what - iPhone apart - may become the biggest impact on photography since the advent of digital cameras.

After mulling the topic for a couple of years, American news agency The Associated Press is switching from mostly Canon to Sony cameras.

Quoted reasons appear to include the desire to standardise across fewer manufacturers, and the relative quietness of the mirrorless Sony equipment. There's the commitment to providing the best imagery and enabling their photographers and video journalists to be "faster and more flexible".

AP has journalists in nearly 250 locations in 100 countries, providing 3000 photos and 200 videos each day - helping it to its 54th Pulitzer and 32nd for photography this year, plus recognition from the Royal Television Society for excellence in video.

This isn't achieved without effort, and with the Olympics - which was to have opened about now - in mind, it's worth mentioning the 61 photographers AP had at the 2016 Rio event, armed with Mk II Canon EOS 1DXs and backed up by 78 Canon technicians.

But there's more than this, as the US-headquartered news agency, established in 1846, starts taking delivery of a range of gear including full-frame mirrorless Alpha cameras, 4K XDCAM video cameras and an assortment of Sony's 57 E-mount lenses including its G Master models.

Most of AP's stills photographers will get A9 Mark IIs, with some videographers using A7R IVs. Fast-focussing and light weight, similar colour and image quality are seen as benefits and for AP, the timing was right for an upgrade of both still and video equipment as the latter becomes increasingly important.

AP and its new partner are looking new ways of working together, improving workflow and making use of technologies such as 5G, where Sony's Xperia is based on that of its broadcast and AV equipment.

The impact on other users is expected to be huge: Others in the business like UPI, Agence France-Presse and Reuters - at all of which director of photography David Ake worked before starting a 20-year stint at AP - will be taking notice, as will staff teams at the world's leading news and magazine publishers. Even Australia's AAP - currently in a wrenching transition of its own as major shareholders News Corp and Nine Entertainment sell out of the business and News sets expands its internal functions - which is apparently hoping to win them back.

The image that counts here is also the familiar one of the batteries of Canon lenses that the world's photographers have for years aimed at politicians, celebrities, royalty, sports and other news events, and the impact it has had on amateur and professional wannabe professional-grade photographers alike, albeit in a market depleted by the use of mobile phones, not just at home but by professional journalists and VJs.

At AP, staff will be able to share Sony cameras and lenses, as well as the images they capture, to produce a news report "unhindered by technical limitations".

And the rest of us already using Sony cameras will be able to switch off the feature that makes it sound like a Canon*.

Peter Coleman

*or a Pentax, the Japanese single-lens reflex with the pentaprism I just recall using in the 1960s

Pictured: AP video journalist Renata Brito covers protests at the Spain-France border last year, using Sony equipment (AP Photo);

Below: Another photo shot on Sony equipment: Georganne Moline competing in the women's 300-metre hurdles at the Weltklasse Zurich Inspiration Games in Walnut, California last month (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

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