Renowned Photojournalist David Burnett Announces Move to Sony Gear After 50 Years of Using Canon

Famed Photojournalist David Burnett has today released a video both announcing and explaining his decision to move to Sony equipment after more than 50 years working with Canon gear.

Despite his lengthy career, including co-founding Contact Press Images, Burnett is very much still an influential photographer in the industry. He’s noted for being published repeatedly in the likes of Time Magazine, has worked at the White House, and has won a plethora of awards, not least of which was the World Press Photo of the Year award.

In the above video, he declares: “I’ve decided to swap […] It’s the new technology, the cameras have a lot of things going for them that cameras never did before.”

Listing his reasons for the move, Burnett said he had been trying out Sony cameras for the last month, citing that the a9 and a7R III both shoot very quickly (the a9 up to 20 fps), which he says can be a real advantage, particularly in sports photography.

Secondly, he rates the large resolution of Sony cameras. Speaking to PetaPixel, he describes the files as “big and beautiful,” and heaps praise on the weight of the cameras, adding that the Sony equipment is lighter than what he’s used to.

He’s also intrigued to adapt his old Canon lenses onto his new Sony bodies: “Since the Sony cameras are mirrorless, the bodies are thinner, enabling a huge variety of legacy lenses to be used with them.”

Naturally it’s a big change, and one that isn’t with consequence. Burnett did admit the biggest struggle was having to learn from scratch how to operate a different menu layout, but remains optimistic that in time, the experience will feel normal.

“I have to say, I kind of feel like I’m finally stepping into the 21st century with these cameras,” said Burnett.

[via PetaPixel]

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57 Comments

David Penner's picture

But... Youtubers are saying Canon is better 😛

bert duarte's picture

this article brought to you by Sony

Stas Aleksandersson's picture

Not a native speaker but “has today released” sounds wrong to me...

Dallas Dahms's picture

Photographers use gear. Gear shouldn't use photographers. Yet here we are again...

Mark Holtze's picture

True! Part of why I love using “old” lenses and camera gear to achieve results. Some of my fave lenses are my grandfathers old SLR lenses. Finding them got me right back into photo taking.

Pieter Batenburg's picture

Well, the guy has probably more experience than most of the readers of these pages, so don't belittle him. He knows what he is doing.

David Crossley's picture

exactly this^

Mark Holtze's picture

I think it's not about be-littling him and just having a different persecutive. Doesn't matter how many readers or how experienced someone else is, it's all about personal preference when it comes to this topic. Yes his points are valid, but users demand different things. There is no right or wrong, it's art and that's what makes it brilliant IMHO.

Mark Holtze's picture

Ummm where did I say it was exclusively an art? I didn't, wouldn't ever make that statement either so clearly you misunderstood my point. I simply inferring that photographers have various degrees of what's important to them. Technical abilities are always a factor but the importance will vary per the photographers needs. Read camera reviews and you will see the example of this...polorized and divisive this is better on that cam, that is better on this cam debate that never ends.

You simply have to understand the science to craft the image so ya, I'm in full agreement with your statement and wouldn't ever suggest otherwise.

Mark Holtze's picture

Well glad I had a chance to clear that up then. Because simply saying 'it's an art" doesn't negate the technical side. No art is simply just art, in every element of the craft there is an underlying technical side. Music, painting, singing, cinematography, photography, editing, acting...etc.

I also have huge respect for that photographer, he's had an amazing career, I just personally find "i'm switching because" videos to be quite subjective.

Mark Holtze's picture

I agree, I can see why my statement now given your explanation might have triggered that based on your past experiences. I would just assume anyone who downplays the technical side of the craft doesn't know what they're talking about so I just assume it's a given ;)

Reason I didn't single it out. Anyway thanks for the clarification Bob! Appreciate it.

Tomash Masojc's picture

and video was posted on vimeo, it looks too old school for me :D

David Crossley's picture

don't be impatient, Simon Cowells newest boyband will be right out-lol

Mike Dixon's picture

"...trying out Sony cameras for the last month..." - He said in the video "For the last eight months or so".

dusko pilic's picture

He also said he switched from Nikon to Canon 40 years ago - so I'm imagining the title should read "after 40 years...." not 50 years of using Canon. I wonder if sometimes they bother actually viewing the video before reposting it.

Owen Garfield's picture

"Naturally it’s a big change, and one that isn’t with consequence."

Big change that isn't with consequence? That sounds wrong.

chris bryant's picture

I tried an A7 for a number of months and sold it because I disliked the colour output. I much, much prefer the colour output from my 5DS R and that sole fact was the deciding factor.

Kenneth O. Soto's picture

Not that it matters much to you, but the first few A7s were not so great in color and AF performance.

Mark Holtze's picture

I have both, I love both for different reasons. Mirrorless have less optical “stuff” inside so ya they will always be smaller than the DSLR. But the cold weather crushes my already strained Sony batteries...you’ll have to carry more batteries as well because the Sony is always using them.

I don’t love these kind of statements. Camera brand selection is complex (depending on user)and always feels like a compromised statement.

Wonderful photographer though and it’s about time canon started stepping up their game. I also think they have too many cameras on market now with not enough variation.

No 4k on 6D m2 because it will hurt sales of 5D mIV.

Also canon glass with adapters isn’t nearly as effective as one would think. I have started to collect Sony glass just because of this.

Also my Sony is mostly used with vintage slr lenses.,but .it’s always nice to have native glsss for your camera.

Enjoyed the read none the less :) thanks!

Mark Holtze's picture

Simply they're not as effective. It's not buy the $350 adapter and expect the same results as you would if you're shooting natively.

Mr Hogwallop's picture

Depends on the Canon lens. And be sure the firmware on the Metabones 4 is updated.
I have/had old Canon glass. The (fairly recent for me)85mm1.8 is as good if not better on my a7r2 than 5Dmk2. It was marginal on the old version 1 (15+ years old) 24-70 and 70-200 2.8 (sold them for Sony) non-existent on my really really old 300 2.8.
From what i have heard if the Canon lens is not too old it will work (AF, AE) pretty well on new Sonys.
Also have a Canon mt 24-105 Sigma that does not play well with an adapter. I wonder if there is a firmware up date for the lens....

Mark Holtze's picture

Ya it's just added complications. It's all good, just expect some maintaining work surrounded by it. Once you stick something else between your body and your lens you're going to have to compromise. In my experience anyway ;)

Lens age is definitely a factor for sure.

Mr Hogwallop's picture

Mark, it depends. I feel the adapter is not a compromise because it allowed me to use my oddball Canon lenses on the Sonys. I kept a 14mm. 15mm fish, 24 and 45 TS, 85mm 1.8, and the 300 2.8. and now they have IS! The middle of the road workhorses I replaced with Sony as they were so old they didn't adapt 100%.

Mark Holtze's picture

Thanks for additional info. I’ve not been Tom happy with it personally but prob the older lens issue. I keep vintage or native for now both Sony and canon. (Only haven one 16-35 Sony lens) I use that with vintage SLR mostly.

Mr Hogwallop's picture

No Bob, not yet. I have looked online and there is some sort of Sigma pod that connects lens to computer for firmware upgrade. I think I decided I would keep that lens for the rare time I use Canon.

Hugh Dom's picture

It doesn't seem to be as much of an issue on the latest bodies due to the increased AF speed and continued improvement on the body / adapter with hard & software.

Marcelo Valente's picture

He metioned that he was missing shots at the Olimpic Games. If the reported inaccuracy of the 20 fps of the Sony is true, I’m not sure he will do any better.

Eric Salas's picture

I haven’t experienced inaccuracies in the AF with the A9. If anything, I’ve experienced higher hit rates and end up with more keepers than usual when I should have missed.

What we’re you shooting at the time you had your difficulties ?

Pieter Batenburg's picture

And sometimes it is very tiring to see all the bashing of a brand that actually innovates at a very fast pace and tries to introduce new technology and really brings something new to the table.
The same old, the same old gets defended by some fanboys.

Why always bash Sony and pretend that Canon is the greatest. When was the last time Canon actually introduced a real innovation that meant something?

They introduce new cameras that are worse than their predecessors or they introduce a new camera that hardly catches up with cameras that were introduced a year before and are severely handicapped because Canon don't want to cannibalise their higher-end products.

Marius Pettersen's picture

"When was the last time Canon actually introduced a real innovation that meant something?"
Dual Pixel AF.

Pieter Batenburg's picture

That excellent system was introduced in 2013. 5 years ago. Thanks for proving my point

Marius Pettersen's picture

Huh? You didn't set a time limit on your inquiry. Developing new technology takes time - and especially when it needs to work every time. Canon does not accept bugs or shit that can ruin something for a professional. So yes, Canon and Nikon has been fairly laid back in the recent years, and it sucks in a lot of ways. They still make some of the best camera equipment out there though. I'm also glad to have Sony and others to act as guinea pigs with new tech.

Pieter Batenburg's picture

Nikon is pushing boundaries again. The D850 and D500 were excellent cameras that pushed the boundaries. Only Canon seems to have fallen asleep. Well, I guess as long as their customers are happy enough and keep dishing out money...

Marius Pettersen's picture

Got some examples for new cutting-edge Nikon tech?

Mr Hogwallop's picture

Canon is not asleep, they are too concerned about feature cross over from hi priced to low priced cameras and from still to video products. They want to keep you on the upgrade path for more features.
Just like GM wanted you to buy a chevy, then move up to a buick , then a Cadillac.

Hugh Dom's picture

Also, does Dual Pixel AF actual translate to better performance and photos in the end compare to other brands ?? Most reviews seem to say it doesn't.

Marius Pettersen's picture

Dual Pixel AF is most effective and useful with video, but it's also amazing to use in ordinary Live View. So much better then old contrast based systems. I haven't heard a single bad thing about the technology.

Pieter Batenburg's picture

No, it is was developed for video (and stills with live view). And most mirrorless cameras are better for video because you can use the evf. But is indeed an excellent system

Marius Pettersen's picture

Who uses the EVF when recording video? Dual Pixel AF is built into the sensor and therefor it is irrelevant to bring up mirrors or lack of one - it's not in use when filming. And being better? Yeah, great battery-life and overheating issues.

Mr Hogwallop's picture

Wow, people still beat the dead horse battery issue. Carry a few batteries.
Electric cars don;t have the range of a gas powered car. But people have learned to recharge.
Marius, how long to your Sony batteries last during a typical job? I swap out a couple times, depends on what I shoot. I also have a external battery for video.

Marius Pettersen's picture

So here's the issue from my perspective. I do not want to think about having to switch batteries during a shoot - or memory cards for that matter. While A9 is better, it's not good enough for me not to worry about it. Just like an electric car, I observed the battery percent drop steadily in a fairly short amount of time.
It doesn't help that the frickin' screen on the back is always on either - except when the sensor at the EVF is triggered, or it's off, or if you disable the screen in the menu.

But my main issue is not with the battery. It's with the ergonomics. I hated using the A9 - especially with a larger lens (100-400), and that body is an improvement over the A7-series.

I truly hope that a future mirrorless from Canon is packed in a body with decent ergonomics.

And a funny thing. I shot so many unnecessary images because of the shutter button on the A9 grip. The bottom part of my hand would rest almost on top of the button - due to the small combined size and the stupid angle.

But on the other side. I wish I was rich enough to own a kit from all the top brands. They all do something great, and I'd love a Sony camera with amazing GM-glass.

Mr Hogwallop's picture

Knowing Canon they will have 3 versions of their mirrorless. A bare bones a mid level that has some essential hobbled and the pro where everything works fast and perfectly.
There usually is a switch to turn off the grip release. Maybe it was on?

Marius Pettersen's picture

We can hope so. Canon is rather conservative, so I hope their focus on build quality and ergonomics will transfer on to the different bodies.

Yes, there is a switch, and I tried to use it, but when you in a second needs to switch orientation and then forgets that the shutter button is turned off, rage begins to build up. :-P
I was photographing sports, so that second resulted in missed shots.

But I guess you'll adapt to most 'features' after a while.

Pieter Batenburg's picture

Dou you even know what they have?

Marius Pettersen's picture

Good for him. He'll probably deliver excellent work regardless for camera. I hope he brings along enough batteries and a grip to the Olympics. I spent a day with the A9, and it worked fine, but I really can't stand the lack of ergonomics - and terrible menu system. Wondering how he'll deal with the lack of longer lenses. Using the Sony A-mount 500mm with an adapter will hurt the performance.

Hugh Dom's picture

There is an E-Mount Sony 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS for FF body which also works well with their FE 2X Teleconverters.

Marius Pettersen's picture

Yeah, I've used it. Works great, but can't really compare to 600mm or 800mm from Canon/Nikon. Better focal length, optics and aperture. With regards to David Burnett however, it's seems like he's adapting to whatever he chooses to use, so I guess he's not burning for the extreme lenses.

Andrew Ashley's picture

I used to use Coke... now I use Pepsi... Pepsi make me feel like I'm sipping the future. Coke just hasn't kept up with the times, but Pepsi... now that's where things are headed.
I'm really happy when someone finds equipment that they feel comfortable with, kind of like putting on a good pair of glasses that fit just right. Or a well tailored suit. There are very few "bad" cameras produced these days, and we always say, "in the right hands great images can be produced with anything," thus the whole "I shot this with iPhone" crap. I think the more relevant coverage should be finding the equipment that feels best to you. It's why I love going to B&H in NYC... Picking up the cameras, looking through view finders or at the screen of a full range of manufacturers. Which one feels right in hand? Are the controls right under your fingers? Is the layout intuitive? With any new system there is some "getting used to" period, but if your hand cramps after playing with a camera for 2 minutes then move on. Just because it feels intuitive / great to you, doesn't mean it will to someone else. And if I camera feels good, doesn't get in the way, and is just... well... easy, you are more likely to pick it up on the way out the door and love working with it. And if you feel good, your shots will show it. And guess what... 14.2 stops of dynamic range vs 13.9 won't make a lick of difference if you leave your camera home. sigh. Did you shoot today? How did it feel? Last time I shot for 10 hours with my camera bag strapped across my body it hurt... a lot... I'm looking for alternatives, and I don't care what the name is on the front of the body.

Sean Sitter's picture

Has he considered the weather sealing? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c7BG74w0gAw

Eric Salas's picture

Not everyone cares about waterproof and can live with water resistant.
I’ll never take my camera into conditions like a rain storm so I’m not concerned with just having a weather resistant (not “proof”) camera.

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