Dumping My 20+ Year Canon Loyalty for a Sony Mirrorless

Dumping My 20+ Year Canon Loyalty for a Sony Mirrorless

I've been a long-time Canon shooter, back to the film days, then a Canon 10D, 20D, 5D, and 6D. I do mostly landscape work and some nightscapes. They've been great cameras, close to state of the art at their release, and frankly, I've never needed a single repair on any of them.

So, why the switch to a Sony a7 III? Did I benefit? What about lenses? Using the camera in the field in terms of design, ergonomics, and usability? It's complicated, but let me explain my progression, noting in advance that my experiences and reasons likely won't be the same as yours.

When evaluating cameras, most of us, myself included, look backwards. In my case, Canon always satisfied. It worked in poor weather, never corrupted a CF or SD card, autofocus was reliable, and my photos came out as intended, whether as single shots or sometimes, bracketed HDRs.

A couple of years ago, I took a trip up to Page, Arizona with another photographer who had just purchased a Sony a7R. I was prepared to tell him Canon was so reliable, why stray off (from Nikon in his case) to something untested and without the glorious history of Nikon or Canon. It was about the images and the size and weight of the camera he said, and I had to admit, his images were beautiful, in low light, at night, in the canyons with mixed lighting. I loved the dynamic range in difficult lighting conditions. I also noticed his enthusiasm about using the camera in the field.

I didn't succumb just then, but kept my eye on Sony. A year ago, I was seeing more and more rave reviews, this time for the Sony a7 III. It was less expensive, was purported to have great dynamic range, and there was a feeling that somehow Sony had learned a hell of about photography and image quality while adding features photographers wanted. 

I also sensed that Canon was moving slowly, perhaps protecting its DSLR line. Firmware updates were more about bug fixes rather than adding new features. Sony, in contrast, was adding or improving features rapidly. 

So, as far as I was concerned, looking backwards at my camera experiences with a particular brand was not the only way to evaluate buying a new camera. I tried to see how aggressive the camera brands were about new technology and where they were going in the future 

For me, that was the moment of revelation. I liked where Sony was now (mirrorless, IBIS, dual SD card slots) and the easy ability to use my Canon glass using a Sigma MC-11 adapter

I liked where Sony was heading with solid incremental improvements to their camera line. They acted like a company with something to prove, not a company that had already proved their worth and was relaxing.

I almost never buy the most expensive product from a manufacturer, settling on a middle ground that gives me the most bang for my buck, so pricewise, the a7 III fit right in.

After using the Sony for almost a year, I'm happy with my choice. My Canon lenses and my third party lenses have worked fine on the Sony a7 III, even my wide field Rokinon that I use for Milky Way photography. Here's the Sony fitted with my 14mm Canon mount Rokinon lens using the Sigma adapter.

I like the increase in dynamic range, and although the menus take some getting used to, I like the many customization options. 

Sony has delivered firmware updates regularly, with new features and not just bug fixes. And the market seems to have validated the Sony camera as many pros and semi-pros have made the switch. 

It's not, however, a decisive change. Most pros are sticking with their DSLRs out of familiarity and comfort. That makes sense, as any new technology tries to upset the status quo meets resistance. And, of course, there's nothing wrong with the image or build quality of the best of the Nikons and Canons. Still, Sony is winning over a lot of photographers.

Still, I feel that Nikon and Canon were too comfortable and were protecting their high end, rather than pouring R&D into new camera bodies and technology.

It's not productive to start the religious debates over cameras anew. That's not my intention. I'm just one photographer who made the switch, and I'm glad I did. It wasn't so much image quality or color science, but the a7 III satisfied me in those criteria. All the major companies have their fans and detractors. It was more a matter of my liking Sony's direction and aggressive stance. To many, the new Canon mirrorless entries have been less than overwhelming, and I think Canon needed but failed to get an early home run.  

So, my main reasons for moving were:

  • New camera (my Canon was 6+ years old)
  • The Sony could use my Canon and third party Canon mount lenses (with a Sigma adaptor)
  • Better dynamic range
  • Faster focusing
  • Better low light performance for my night work
  • Lighter and smaller
  • Better resolution (20 versus 24 mp)

I'm hoping that the more competitive the field becomes, all the manufacturers will step up and offer better technology at lower prices. I doubt the Sony will be my last camera. I'd like to see Nikon, Canon, and the others step up with even better products. And who knows who else might be out there to surprise us all with something with innovation and breathtaking image quality. 

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Previous comments
Rob Davis's picture

You should really be cashing in on this then. Sony leads in one segment of professional photography (only full-frame mirrorless) and you publish articles every week making it sound like they've taken over the world. They owe you.

Timothy Gasper's picture

LOL. OH God - hell yes!

The problem with Canon innovation is their policy of introducing it three years after their competitors do.

Rayann Elzein's picture

Do you really think that today, there are shots that you can take with a Sony, that would be totally impossible to get with a Canon? Come on...

Yes, there are shots you can take on a Sony that are impossible on a Canon unless you use "tricks". The reason being the improved DR. You'd need HDR on the Canon to match the Sony. What does this mean? It means that for the same two images, where the Canon would display a completely black (assuming late evening shot) foreground, the Sony image would have detail.

Rayann Elzein's picture

I don't use tricks. If some details are not visible to the naked eye, I don't need to capture them. And nobody answered to me yet if Sony has a 600mm f/4 lens. Talking about things you can do with a camera and not the other.

Ryan Davis's picture

I really like the look of my lydith. I like the focal length (30mm). I've had it since I started shooting film on my Praktica way waaaay back in the day. I can't use it on my canon because it fouls the mirror. I can use it on my Fuji walkaround camera, but it's cropped, or I have to put more glass in.

You want to shoot any full frame manual lens on your camera at 40+ megapixels? Then it has to be mirrorless and it has to be Sony. There is a Canon mirrorless, but frankly, I'm not splashing out near on 3,000 euros and forcing myself to use adaptors on all the canon lenses that I've acquired over the last two decades so I can get an extra 4 megapixels of resolution, which is round abut half the resolution of the competitor's product, which has been out for years already.

So yeah, the Canon hate is coming fast and furious. As it should. I'm a long time Canon shooter and I'm not feeling the love right now.

Not totally impossible but easier...The way I work there were some shots that my Canon could not easily produce but the Sony could. I shoot a lot of cars. Sometimes I need to cover a ton of little details like switches, knobs, buttons, readouts etc. After shooting the over all view I would get in the car to shoot like 20 shots. Being able to avoid using a tripod because of IBIS, super DR (no need to relight) the flip up LCD (I have a 5D2 I'd guess the 3 or 4 have that by now) and the wysiwyg from the EVF made things very easy. Just like going from Rz67 to Canon1D made things easier, going from 5D2 to Sony made things easier.

Tony Tumminello's picture

This is the same Android vs iPhone argument on every mobile phone forum on the internet. "LOL iPhone comes out with <feature XYZ> that Android has had for years!!" Yet which company is massively more profitable and provides the best general user experiences for the everyday person?

Just to be completely transparent: I use an Android phone, Windows personal desktop, and Mac as a work machine. I also use a mix of Canon DSLRs, Olympus M43, and a myriad of medium format film cameras. As Apple has proven time and time again, there's nothing wrong with introducing features later, as long as it's done well.

so are you saying the eos r was "done well"?

Tony Tumminello's picture

I haven't handled one long enough to make an informed opinion on that particular model. However we have a 5D Mark IV in the office which we use for all of our professional shoots and have had zero complaints with it, so if the biggest complaints that I've heard regarding the EOS R are true (the touchbar being an odd addition and it recycling a sensor) then it appears to be a perfectly well-done and capable camera, especially considering it's a first-gen product.

The same could also be said for the first-gen iPhone: lacking features such as 3G or a front-facing camera. But over time it evolved to be a fantastic product. How about we see how the RF and Z lineups turn out over time? They're effectively both in their infancy.

Just spent some time with a colleague who just got a R loner. said he doesn't understand why they didn't just make a mirrorless 5d mk 3/4. the touchbar is lame he said.

speaking of iphone back then it was a revolutionary product. canon and nikon are trying to sell an iphone 5 in an iphone x max world. explains why their stock is tanking. i wonder how much runway nikon has with crap like the z.

Patrick Marcigliano's picture

I've been using an R since last October. Shockingly, it takes great pictures.

i'm sure it does for certain situations. its glaring limitations have been expressed by every photographer i have met.

Jonathan Brady's picture

You could always start your own website that does nothing but praise Canon for every decision they make

Jonathan Brady's picture

I own Canon gear.

carmelix's picture

The first thing I do after I read a comment is to look at the portfolio of the author.
Your pictures are truly amazing!

Jonathan Brady's picture

The first thing I do after I read a comment is to consider the comment on its own merits. That's also the only thing I do.

carmelix's picture

Good, having different opinions is always positive!
I also believe that someone's comment is sustained by the work he produces.
If Ian Kruize says that gear doesn't matter, and Ian Kruize has a stunning portfolio, then I believe in what Ian Kruize said.

Rayann Elzein's picture

Good for you! But may I ask why all Sony shooters feel the need to brag about it on all photography websites? Oh and by the way, does Sony have a 600mm f/4 native lens?

Ryan Stone's picture

Paid viral marketing. See NeoGAF, See DPR, see blu-Ray moneyhatting, see rootkit debacle. Sony’s marketing budget is not really going to tv ads, let’s say that.

Alex Cooke's picture

This article was not sponsored.

Ryan Stone's picture

I think you’ll notice I didn’t mention this published opinion piece at all, I was commenting on the vocal minority on the internet- commenters, redditors, forum trolls, etc. Sony absolutely uses social media plants, “new marketing” to spread FUD about competing brands and pays them in PS4 games, consumer electronics, and discounts, instead of just marketing their products directly and transparently. Russian troll farm styles... You’d think every pro was shooting Sony by the reality distortion field they disseminate, when in reality, it’s mostly advanced amateurs and gear switchers who chase paper specs instead of usability and final results. I shoot ~150 events a year (weddings, sports, concerts) and I see Sony less than canon and Nikon, and about the same as Fuji, maybe a bit more, and it’s mostly mid-budget videographers at that. Haven’t seen any Sony stills shooters at major sporting events. Most people I personally know who shoot Sony are aren’t getting paid, just looking for Instagram clout shooting TFP models and over-processed landscapes. A few of my fav wedding ‘togs shoot Sony, but I like them for their work/creativity, not necessarily the actual look of the files/processing.

My EOS Rs have been phenomenal in practice, each system has compromises, for my event work I prefer Canon. My take anywhere camera is an X-T2.

Jerome Brill's picture

I also switch from Canon to Sony. Although what I've learned since then is when it comes to picking a camera, take a look at photos that inspire you. Read up on the trials and errors those photographers went through to get those images. Base your gear on those lessons.

Ryan Stone's picture

So the A7 is better than a 6 year old entry level canon full frame? Who woulda thought.

The Sony A7III has better DR than any of the most current Canon offerings. The Sony sensors are simply significant better than Canon's offering. Why? Because the current Canon sensors are every bit as good as a 6 year old Canon full frame sensor.

Ryan Stone's picture

On paper, the A73 has 0.9 more stops dynamic range than the EOS R, and only at low ISO. In reality, when you underexpose grossly in-camera and “fix” it in post, Sony sensors exhibit smudgy, ashy tonal transitions on skin tones and looks like burnt leather, and exhibits weird colour twists. The R, since 1.2 is pretty clean and skin isn’t weird smudgy brown-orange in shadows. Seeing Caucasian grooms with literal black hands on the shadowed small of a brides back... it’s ugly and rarely talked about.

Canon colour and tonality is a thing, raw isn’t raw, it’s been affected by the lens, the CFA, the camera’s processor (Sony raw polygons anyone?) and by the raw converter before you even touch the file. They are different.

Also, who’s underexposing 5 stops with a mirrorless camera/EVF?

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