Camera Gear

To Sony or Not to Sony...

Over the past year or so, I have heard of several of my photographer friends talk about the Sony mirrorless camera offerings and how they were so much better than the major brands... Canon and Nikon. If you want my answer without reading further.. Yes, they are right. Sony knocked it out of the park and their offerings are phenomenal. If thats all you wanted to hear, no need to read further.. If you want the background, take a few moments to read below :)

For the majority of my career as a photographer, I have always gone by the saying that its not the gear that makes you a better photographer, its the person operating the camera. I have always strived to get better with each and every session. I still have a long way to go to get to where I want to be, but its always good to want to be better. And that saying has been true for the most part.

About 2 years ago, Nikon came out with the d750. I was shooting Canon at the time and had been happy with the products they produced... until I started seeing real world examples of what the d750 could do. The struggle with the type of photography that I do is the capabilities of the camera. Without getting too technical, I need to get as much information from a sensor as possible to create the images I want to create. This information is  in the highlights and shadows.. called dynamic range. The greater the dynamic range, the more detail you can get from the highlights AND shadows. 

At the time, Canon cameras didnt have as much dynamic range as the d750. I rented one to test it out and was amazed at what I was able to do with the images in post processing. It was mind boggling. I could bring up the shadows 3 stops or so before I started to see noise in them.. Canon files struggled with this and resulted in banding under the same conditions. It was eye opening how much more detail I could get out of the Nikon camera... so I decided to make a switch and sold all my Canon gear and bought all Nikon gear and never looked back. 

Now here we are with the Sony cameras.. It seems like Deja vu. Am I really going to make another switch? I needed to test out to see what all the talk was about. 

Rather than rent a body, I decided to buy one. I decided on Sony's newest.. the a7iii.  I figured if I didnt like it, I could resell it for close to what I paid for it since they were hard to find. Renting would set me back a couple of hundred dollars which I thought was pointless to waste on a test. I found a deal on Samyang lenses and bought those for the same reason as I bought the camera. 

So armed with the Sony a7iii and 3 Samyang prime lenses (14, 35 and 50). I set out to give it a test. I shot a few frames of a senior session with the Sony and was impressed with what I saw.. It was a bit clunky at first but I expected that as it was a new system. When I got the files into the computer, I was amazed at what I saw.. Every single image was in focus. I used the Eye Autofocus mode that Sony has and its freaking amazing. I have never had every image in focus with any camera body I have shot with until now.. Every single image.. Crazy. 

Impressed with the results, I did something that I wouldnt suggest most people do while testing.. I shot paying clients. I took a quick trip to the Atlanta area for a few senior sessions and a family session.. I shot only with the Sony. I did bring the Nikon gear in case I needed it, but it stayed in the bag the whole weekend. On the way up, I swung into a Best Buy to get a Sony 85 1.8 lens because I typically shoot seniors with a longer lens than a 50.

So here I was.. shooting a few senior sessions with the a7iii and the Sony 85 along with the Samyang prime lenses. I shot about 1000 frames that weekend and the Sony had zero issues. Focus was accurate and fast.. Dynamic range is slightly better than what I had with the Nikon cameras.. Lenses were sharp.. I was impressed. 

So impressed in fact that I took only sony gear with me to the ultimate test... a week in Costa Rica!! I picked up a 70-200 f4 to take with me (again from Best Buy) because I wasnt sure if I needed something longer than 85. Better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it, right? I shot in Costa Rica for a week.. In high humidity.. in rain.. by waterfalls.. all over and the Sony hung in there and did what I expected it to do... and on a single battery charge. Impressive to say the least.

Since most of these reviews have some sort of Pro/Con list, here you go if you want to see what I think. 

PROS
1) Autofocus.. This thing is amazing. I have never used a camera that got as many images in focus than the Sonys. Their AF simply works.. every single time... and Eye AF is amazing. I never knew what I was missing. Now the camera will find the subjects eye in the frame and lock focus on it.. automatically.. no more moving focus points around the screen.. FREAKING AWESOME.. best of all, I notice I shoot less because I dont need "backup" images to ensure critical focus like I did with other systems.

2) What you see if what you get.. Its simple.. what you see on the screen or in the view finder is what the image will look like. Its nice to have a system that allows me to see what I am getting. It doesnt work as well with flash since the flash illuminates the subject, but its super helpful when setting ambient light settings when using flash. Now I can expose my skies how I want them and then add flash to light the subject.. Sony makes it super easy to see exactly what I will get

3) Size.. This thing is small.. Lenses are about the same size but the body is significantly smaller. I travel a lot so less weight and size is always welcomed. 

4) Custom button programming.. Other cameras had this to an extent, but Sony blows them away. Almost every button can be programmed for something you want it programmed for. If you have favorite settings, you can program a button to bring them up. Things like Autofocus modes, Eye AF, color styles, etc can be programmed. Pretty cool to be able to customize it how you want to work with how you shoot. 

5) Video.. Sony simply blows the other cameras away with their video shooting. Nikon did ok.. Canon was pretty good and the leader... but with Sony its a different beast. AF works flawlessly and tracks the subjects.. TONS of settings and shooting modes. I shoot wedding videos and can definitely see Sony making it easier for me. 

6) Electronic view finder - In bright light it makes reviewing images and previewing your shot A LOT easier.. The viewfinder shows the same thing that is on the LCD and makes it easy to see when in bright light. 

CONS

1) Menu System.. What the heck was Sony thinking? Everything is buried in menus.. It makes ZERO sense.. The menu system sucks.. Maybe its just me, but CAnon and Nikon had a pretty good menu system.. Sony's is like 80 pages long.. crazy. 

2) Size.. There is a saying that size matters... well that is true for photography as well. People respond to larger gear differently than they do to smaller gear. If I pull out a huge lens and camera.. I look like a photographer.. If I hold up a Sony camera and use the back LCD, I look like a noob and just another person with a camera. 

3) Weather sealing.. While in Costa Rica I was a bit concerned when it was raining. I took extra precautions to ensure that the camera was kept out of the rain because it isnt as weather sealed as other cameras I have used. 

4) No mirror.. This may seem odd to see this here because the mirror adds size and I mentioned size as a PRO above... but without the mirror, the sensor is the only thing you see when you change lenses. This means that dust can fall onto the senor much easier than traditional DSLRs where you see the mirror when you change lenses and the sensor is protected. I have to remind myself to be mindful of that when changing lenses. 

5) Price.. Holy Hell.. this stuff is crazy expensive. I typically buy my gear used to avoid the initial depreciation.. but its almost impossible to find a good deal on Sony gear.. Its all so expensive and 3rd party options aside from Sigma are not really available. Some lenses can utilize the adapter but may lose some functionality. 

Neither Pro nor Con

1) Shooting with the LCD.. Its weird.. I will admit that. Holding the camera in front of you and looking at the LCD while shooting takes getting use to. There is a viewfinder if you want to use that.  but its certainly different when you have shot with a traditional camera for 13 years. 

2) Image quality... I didnt really notice too much difference in the Sony files over the Nikon files, aside from focus and sharpness.. My images will still look similar in terms of color and all of that.. but man that autofocus. :)

So thats it.. I think its safe to say that I will be switching over to Sony in the near future.. The camera system simply works. Its easy to travel with and produces images that are on par or slightly better than what I was getting before. But that autofocus is what stands out to me. Its amazing and will make my workflow so much easier to manage. 

And since no post is complete without images.. Here are some I have recently shot with the Sony.. Enjoy!!