Connor McFadden

Atlanta Photographer & Cinematographer

My Latest Obsession: Color Correction on Sony Cameras

I want to preface this by saying I know basically nothing about anything. I'm just trying to figure out how cameras work. :)

On almost every photography & videography project I work on I use Sony's mirrorless digital cameras. I started with the a6000, which I think is an excellent starter camera especially for stills (if you're looking for 4K video, the a6500 might be one to look out for). Then, after years of shooting on it and also getting to play with the Panasonic GH4 and the Canon 5D Mark II, I decided to go with the Sony a7rii. It cost more than the value of my car at the time and was the single largest purchase I ever made. It was also one of the most rewarding.

The a7rii is a beast of a camera, and one of the most valuable assets at your disposal if you are constantly switching back and forth between photography and cinematography, and need something that can handle both. It's full frame, produces 4K video and 42 megapixel stills. After shooting with it for over a year now I feel like I'm still scratching the surface of the capabilities of this camera. I was impressed enough to eventually get a used a7s to go along with it, a more video-centric camera that kills in low light overall but has a similar look. It's a good pair for 2-camera shoots.

I love these cameras. For the features they offer, they hit a price point that Canon doesn't care to compete with. At the same time, they meet a photographic standard that Panasonic doesn't aspire to with its competing cameras. I will say though, after test-grading some GH5 footage, I was very impressed.

But one thing the Sony Alpha cameras can't seem to get right in video is color. If you start using them right out of the box, the colors they capture on video don't look quite right, and they bring out unnatural skin tones & looks. Canon cameras handle color very well, and Panasonic cameras at least offer 10-bit instead of 8-bit, which expands your ability to get the colors right. Sony seems hellbent on leaving the true color capabilities for its FS cinema cameras, which are in the upper four-figure range. If you want one that can fit in your pocket, you're gonna have to sacrifice.

Which is why my newest hobby is trying to get the most out of these cameras by messing around with all the settings, not knowing what the end result is going to be.

The biggest step is using picture profiles. The standard colors are fine, probably useful for edits with a quick turnaround and little color grading. But very limited. Once you get into the picture profiles, you can flatten out the contrast and saturation, leaving more flexibility for choices in editing.

Here are the settings I used for about a year in change. I found this ideal if you want some flexibility in color correction, but don't want to do extensive grading:

  • Picture Profile 6
  • Black Level: +2
  • Gamma: Cine4
  • Black Gamma
    • Range: Wide
    • Level: +4
  • Knee
    • Point :80%
    • Slope +2
  • Color Mode: Cinema
  • Saturation: 0
  • Color Phase: 0
  • Color Depth
    • R: 0
    • G: +1
    • B: -1
    • C: -4
    • M: -4
    • Y: +3
  • Detail: -7

After about a year of using Picture Profile 6, I'm playing with Slog 2. In terms of color, Slog 2 is about as flat as a piece of paper. It's extremely low contrast and low saturation. This gives you the most flexibility later to bend the image to your will.

It's a scary way to shoot. You don't really know what you're looking at because of how flattened out it is. Do I have my white balance set correctly? Am I overexposing or underexposing the footage? Am I going to be completely screwed later?? (Protip: It's better to overexpose Slog footage than underexpose it)

These are a couple examples of some graded footage, with the before and after comparison. I'll let you be the judge of whether or not it's worth shooting this way.

Fun with LUTs. Sony a7sii, Rokinon 35mm t1.5, graded in DaVinci Resolve

A post shared by Connor McFadden (@connoralpha) on

Shootin the 'Hooch. Then, editing the 'Hooch. Sony a7rii, Canon 24-70 f/2.8, graded in Premiere

A post shared by Connor McFadden (@connoralpha) on

If you are going to shoot Slog, I highly recommend using LUTs. Some great free LUTs to start with are Juan Malera's film print emulation LUTs and Ground Control's starter LUT. Also, if you are outputting Slog footage via HDMI to an external recorder, the gamma curve will become skewed and you will lose dynamic range. Is this a huge issue? Not if you download Cinema 5D's corrective LUT, that fixes this problem like a charm.

Here are the settings I generally use when shooting Slog 2:

  • Picture Profile: 7 or 8 (7 on the a7rii and a7s, 8 on the a7sii)
  • Black Level: 0
  • Gamma: S-Log2
  • Black Gamma
    • Range: Middle
    • Level: 0
  • Knee
    • Point: 95%
    • Slope: +5
  • Color Mode: S-Gamut
  • Saturation: 0
  • Color Phase: 0
  • Color Depth: 0 (across the board)
  • Detail: -7

Do you use Sony's Alpha cameras? Do you like their picture profiles? Leave a comment below and share your perspective!