Crazy Fast: Tony Gale Shows Off the Sony a6300's Action-Stopping Capabilities

By Jeff Wignall   Thursday June 23, 2016

Tony Gale

It’s not much of a surprise that when it came to testing a new camera’s ability to capture great action stills, New York-based photographer Tony Gale would turn to athletics as a subject. After all, he’s a triathlete himself and has run in over 80 races and logged more than 1,400 event miles (I get winded just typing that). “These action photos started as a way to test the Sony a6300 and it’s speed,” he says. “I shoot athletes both for clients and for myself, and I wanted to get a sense of whether or not the camera could handle fast action. It certainly can!” 

It also seems kind of fitting that Gale first got interested in photography after visiting screen legend Bruce Lee’s grave in Seattle (Gale grew up in Bellingham, Washington, about 90 miles north of Seattle). After seeing the results of a point-and-shoot snapshot of the grave, he says he promptly broke the camera (intentionally) and bought his first SLR. He later moved to Seattle to pursue photography and in the fall of 2000 moved to NYC, which he refers to as, “the center of the world.”

Gale specializes in shooting portraits for a variety of editorial, corporate and advertising clients. He has shot covers for Poets & Writers magazine, and some of his other clients include New York Moves magazine, GAME Sportswear, Procter & Gamble, Rebuilding Together, Phoenix House, and Alamini Creative Group. He also teaches photographic lighting at FIT in New York City, and he has taught at Parsons, the New School for Design and SVA in New York City. In addition, he has traveled the country leading workshops for American Photographic Artists (he is also the APA national president) and he is a Manfrotto Ambassador, an X-Rite Coloratti and a Sony Artisan of Imagery.

I recently caught up with Tony while he was in the midst of putting the Sony a6300 (not to mention a group of volunteer athletes) through its paces on the streets and in the parks of New York and he graciously agreed to share his experiences with the camera—as well as some of his wonderful action photos with Street Tests readers. 


PPD: Was there something about the a6300 that drew you to go out and shoot action subjects with the camera?

TG: The a6300 is crazy fast, so it is perfect for shooting action. The first time I used it I had people running toward camera going progressively faster on each pass, until I told them to run as fast as they could. The camera kept up on focus every time. 

PPD: Does being a triathlete yourself give you an advantage in shooting other athletes? 

TG: It does help, in that I know someone of the language specific to run/bike/swim so it is easier to be clear about what I need. I can be more specific about running speeds by saying 5K pace or marathon pace or threshold pace as opposed to just faster and slower. With all of those paces, it’s less about the actual speed and more about running form which changes at different paces.


PPD: Are you shooting exclusively with mirrorless cameras now and when did you start shooting with the a6300?

TG: I shoot almost exclusively mirrorless, I still have an a99 and will use it occasionally for it’s fully articulating LCD screen, but the a6300 and a7RII are so good that there is rarely a need to shoot with anything else.

PPD: When it comes to shooting action, are there particular advantages to mirrorless cameras vs a DSLR in general?

TG: It really depends on the camera, for some time DSLR cameras were faster to focus, but when the a6000 came out it was quite fast and now with the a6300 it is crazy fast and has the fastest autofocus of any camera I have ever used. Also being able to shoot low or high with the tilting LCD screen without the limitations of having to look through a viewfinder can be a huge asset. The a6300 is the first camera I have ever used that tracks runners going as fast as they can.

PPD: Do you ever feel naked out there without a big DSLR or is it more of a liberating experience?

TG: Cameras are tools, I want the best tool for the job. A DSLR or mirrorless, it doesn’t matter to me if it does what I need. When the high-end mirrorless cameras came out, people I knew thought it might look professional enough, but what makes you a professional is getting the results the client needs.

PPD: The a6300 camera has something Sony calls “4D” focus, which they explain is a kind of action-predictive focusing system. Have you noticed any significant speed up in focusing—particularly in these action situations?  

TG: I have definitely noticed an increase in tracking focus speed with the new “4D” focus, I have been able to have people run full speed at the camera and have it be sharp every frame.

PPD: Also, how is having a 425-point focusing grid a useful feature with moving subjects?

TG: The 425 AF points let me place my subject almost anywhere in the frame and have it lock on and track easily. Super cool stuff.

PPD: You’ve shot a lot with the a7RII. Is using an APS-C format camera a significant trade-off from using a full-frame body?

TG: It’s a different tool for a different purpose for me. I use the a6300 anytime I need speed and the a7RII when I don’t. The higher resolution of the a7RII is great when I shoot portraits as is the ability to shoot with a shallower depth of field because of the full frame sensor. When I travel I will often put the 16-35mm f/4 or 24-70mm f/2.8 G Master on my A7RII and my 70-200mm f/4 G on the a6300 which gives me more reach because of the crop factor. It’s a great combination.

PPD: With photos like the shot of the man doing the “jumping” push-up, are you shooting in a single-frame mode or a fast burst mode? Related to that, are there differences in the way that a mirrorless camera and a DSLR handle the same situation?

TG: When I am shooting something moving fast, like the man doing the jumping pushups, I will typically put the camera on “Continuous Shooting: Mid or Hi.” It also has Low and Hi+ but I rarely use those. With a DSLR you will have brief blackouts when the mirror swings up and back down and with the a6300 there is a brief blackout between frames, but depending on the speed you set it can be almost imperceptible, on Hi+ I don’t even see the blackout, on low it is more apparent.. 

PPD: Is there one particular lens that you favor when using with the a6300?

TG: Most of these were shot with the 70-200mm f/4 G, I also use the 24-70mm f/2.8 G Master. A great thing about the full frame lenses on the a6300 is the extended reach.

PPD: Do you think that cameras like the a6300 are starting to blur the lines between pro and consumer cameras? 

TG: Cameras like the a6300 are absolutely blurring the lines. It is easy to get caught up in what we traditionally think of as the “right” tool, but ultimately it should be about what the best tool for the job is. For speed, the a6300 is simply incredible.

PPD: Have you done any video shooting with it? 

TG: I have shot video with the a6300, yes. I have a personal project where I am shooting video every day this year, and editing together five-second clips from every day. I have used the a6300, the RX100III, the a7RII and the x1000V Action Cam for that. The a6300 has excellent video quality, it oversamples at Super 35mm 6k for the 4k it records in, so it is really excellent video. Of course, like everything it depends on what I need. The a7RII being physically bigger, has a headphone jack so if I need to monitor on camera sound I use that. But often I am running a separate digital audio recorder and then that small detail no longer matters.

If you'd like to see more of Tony's fine work, follow him on Instagram: @tonygalephoto

New Product News:

Hasselblad X1D. Hasselblad is making a big splash (or a small one, depending on your perspective) in the world of mirrorless cameras this week with the introduction of the Hasselblad X1D—the world’s first compact medium-format mirrorless camera. At 725g (about 1.6 pounds if my math is correct) the new 50MP CMOS-sensor camera weighs less than half of a conventional medium-format digital and includes HD video, Wi-Fi and built-in GPS. The sensor, says Hasselblad, delivers up to 14 stops of dynamic range. They are also introducing a new group of dedicated autofocus XCD lenses with shutter speeds of 60 minutes to 1/2000th second and full flash synchronization throughout the range; 45mm and 90mm are available at launch. Price: $8,995. 

Western Digital My Passport Wireless Pro. If you’re one of those photographers or filmmakers that is always running low on storage in the field (and who isn’t?), the newly upgraded Western Digital My Passport Wireless Pro portable storage devices should help. Available in both 2TB and 3TB sizes they use the latest in speedy wireless 802.11ac technology and feature a SD 3.0 card reader for super fast media from SD cards (you can also connect directly to your camera with the built-in USB 2.0 port). Battery life is good for up to 10 hours it and also has a USB power back that lets you charge other mobile devices. 

Profoto 24" OCF Beauty Dish. Profoto has introduced the 24" OFC Beauty Dish, a collapsible version of their popular Profoto Softlight Reflector that is handy for on-location photography. Folding it up takes just seconds and once collapsed it takes up about the same space as a traditional umbrella. Aimed largely at fashion and beauty shooters and compatible with B1 and B2 OCF heads, the new reflector creates what Profoto describes as a “creamy” and yet crisp light. It comes with a deflector plate, diffuser, and carrying bag. 


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