Turning the Sony Alpha 7 Body into a Nikon Dxxx / Dx Body

Recently I bought a Sony Alpha 7 for its smaller size, lighter weight, tilt monitor and full frame sensor, which makes it a good tool for my favourite photograph subject street candid. Prior to this body, I had been using a Nikon D300 for years and am so used to its control interface. Especially I am spoiled by D300's AE-L and AF-On buttons. So spoilt that I do not quite know how to shoot fast moving objects without these two buttons placed close to each other, easily accessible with the thumb finger of my right hand.

Sony A7 body does offer AE-L and AF-On functions, but by default they are assigned to the same button and a lever must be flipped to distinguish the functions. Worse yet, that very button is further messed up with "Manual Focus" function. No no no, I do not like it.

Good news is, there are enough buttons that can be customized on the Sony A7 body, including that messed-up one. After trying with different settings on different buttons, I've found the most comfortable positions to place the functions I use most of the time. Now the control buttons are nicely laid out on the A7 body, with AE-L and AF-On functions at the right place, the rest functions even better organized and more ergonomic than my Nikon D300 body.

First of all, I should shortly mention my shooting style, which has already been elaborated in more details in another entry:
  • I almost always use spot metering. This way, I can meter directly to the spot where its brightness is what I conceive for the image, and forget about all those exposure compensation stuff....I find this is a much more intuitive and easier method than the exposure compensation dialing. The spot of brightness reference even does not have to be in my final composition, ha!  
  • I always leave WB to auto. No need for a WB button.
  • I always leave ISO to auto, with the upper bound set to 3200 or 6400.
  • I use auto focus (AF) most of the time, AF-Tracking is my friend.
Here is how I assigned the functions to the buttons (I downloaded the Sony A7 Help Guide and studied) :
  • C1: DRO / Auto HDR
  • C2: spot AE-Lock Toggle (do not confuse this item with the AE-Lock Toggle without spot icon in front) 
  • AF/MF button: AF-On. 
  • The lever around AF/MF/AEL button:  Place it on AF/MF and then forget about it. Never flip again, take it as if it does not exist. That 3-in-1 button is so nicely placed for the thumb, use it as AF-On exclusively.
  • Fn: I haven't come up with a better setting than the default, yet.
  • On the back wheel:
    • Center Button: Eye AF as default. I need some time to find out the virtue of Sony's Eye AF yet. For now I don't know what it does. 
    • Left button: Drive Mode
    • Right button: Metering Mode (When I ask someone else to take a photo of me, I need to quickly adjust to multi-metering mode, since it's easier for inexperienced shooters).
    • Down button: Focus Mode
  • C3: AF/MF Control Toggle 
Now the A7 body is even easier to use than my D300. Huray!!!

The Help Guide (manual that is) of A7 is far less good than the D300 manual. A nerd like me will dig around and try around and note down good practices. But for most people, this manual requires too much effort to reassemble the information, almost useless. The Nikon D300 manual is nicely put together, with all buttons / menu options clearly explained and good shooting tips logically presented. Sony has to catch up on this regard. What I also miss from the Nikon D300 body is the embedded help system (the ? button).

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