Associated Press will begin to round up its staff photographers’ old Canon DSLR gear and replace it with Sony mirrorless full-frame systems, after striking a major partnership deal with the pioneer of premium mirrorless systems.
Sony’s high-end Alpha systems now rival the DSLR equivalents from Canon and Nikon. However existing partnerships between news agencies and camera brands has left Sony, with its relatively short tenure in the photography market, with a big barrier to entry into the media scrum at newsworthy events.
A row of sports photographers wielding Canon’s iconic white zoom lenses has become a testament to its top-level pro applications and a powerful marketing tool for the company. For instance at the 2016 Rio Olympics AP deployed 61 photographers armed with the Canon EOS 1D X Mk II, Getty likewise was exclusively partnered with Canon. There was so much Canon gear at Rio the company had its own depot and sent over 78 Canon Professional Service technicians to assist photographers.
All this is undoubtedly influential on aspiring action/sports photographers.
The AP photo department, consisting of a few hundred photographers around the world who produce about 3000 images per day, will now be lugging Sony cameras around at upcoming events. More Sony a9 cameras will appear alongside the Canon 1D X and Nikon D4/5 series cameras.
‘The AP has been thinking about switching to mirrorless on the stills side for a couple of years.’ said J. David Ake, AP director of photography, to DPReview. ‘We like the advantages [like silent shooting] which means we can be whisper-quiet in places where a DSLR shutter sound is disturbing. We like the super-fast autofocus and we like the light weight of the cameras.
‘We tested cameras from several manufacturers in really harsh zones from the Arctic to the rainforest, to hostile environments, to hurricanes. The overwhelming response from the photographers was that they really liked the Sony equipment: the way it worked, the way it felt, and the image quality.’
Sony FS video equipment will also be used by AP videographers, with Ake highlighting two benefits are a similar colour and image quality between both mediums, and by using the same mount AP photographers can share lenses with videographers.
‘The vast majority of the stills photographers will get a9 Mark IIs. We will get some a7R IVs for the videographers, and a couple for some of our entertainment shooters who do a lot of portraits. But the standard kit will be an a9 Mark II. ‘
When Sony released a press release for the announcement pundits began claiming Sony was either paying AP, or giving them gear for free. However, Ake clarified the news wire agency is purchasing the cameras, and it would take up to a year for AP to round up the ‘old gear’, replace it with Sony bodies and lenses, and have the photographer spend a day or two with Sony technicians.