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

It might be a good idea to have your articles proofread before publication, to check for typos, grammar, punctuation, etc.

1. Something missing, perhaps? —> "Sony had learned a hell of about photography"
2. " ... more about bug fixes rather than adding new features" — 'rather' is redundant.
3. " ... the a7 III fit right in" — 'fitted' or 'fits'
4. " ... as any new technology tries to upset the status quo meets resistance" — 'as any new technology that tries to upset the status quo meets with resistance'
5. Two consecutive sentences begin: "Still, ..."
6. Don't start sentences or place commas before conjunctions - and, but, or, etc.

You get my drift...

Sean Sauer's picture

How much did Sony pay for this ad on Fstoppers? This article reads like a commercial. You might want to make it less on the nose next time. lol!

Breaking news. I had an old camera. I bought a new camera. New is better.

Matthew Saville's picture

I was all ready to comment, "you picked the worst possible time to jump ship, considering Canon is just now playing their hand with the new RF system, and it's looking awesome so far"

...but then you said, "I do mostly landscape work, and some nightscapes" and my reaction immediately switched to, "'I'm surprised you didn't jump ship 5+ years ago!"

I have a lot of faith that Canon will remain the top dog in many ways, one of them being portraiture and other commercial types of work where their color "science" (yeah, yeah) and lenses are just beautiful. In fact, for weddings and portraits, I'm pretty tempted to switch from Nikon/Sony to Canon, if their RF lenses continue to be as awesome as they have been so far. the RF 50 1.2 L is amazing, and that cute little 70-200 2.8 is exactly the unicorn lens I was always hoping could exist for mirrorless, but never got in the Sony 70-200 GM or the Nikon Z 70-200 (mock-up).

However, when it comes to landscapes, I'm not so confident that Canon will ever be able to match, let alone surpass the Sony/Nikon base ISO image quality. In short, Canon seems to have prioritized megapixels for its landscape flagship camera, whereas both Nikon and Sony have offered cameras that offer both megapixels and crazy dynamic range, as well as cameras with roughly half the megapixels but still with crazy dynamic range, for those landscape shooters who aren't going to print huge but still want amazing edit-ability with their raw files.

In short, the Z6+Z7 combo and A7Riii+A7iii combo are a one-two-three-four punch from SoNikon, and I doubt Canon's high-megapixel mirrorless flagship will accomplish anything other than maintaining the megapixel crown by just a few hundred pixels' width/height.

The focusing is irrelevant to me, as a landscape shooter. Couldn't care less that Sony is in the lead, or that Nikon still falls behind Canon in that regard. If I /only/ shot landscapes, I'd go for a Z7 in a heartbeat. The weather sealing of the Z7 is far more important than any AF system, or dual card slots...

But, I don't just shoot landscapes, I shoot a lot of different stuff, so I'll probably be cursed (blessed?) to own multiple systems for the foreseeable future. I don't care, I've never been a fanboy of any one brand, I try to enjoy camera gear all equally. (And criticize each brand equally when they fall short, too.)

dale clark's picture

Why does it matter what camera you use? I switched to Sony three years ago after 20 some years with Canon. Guess what...my pictures still look like mine. My style, composition, etc is because of me...not the camera. Shoot with whatever works best for you

Mohammed Alhaidan's picture

Good thing you weren't one of those stubborn photographers.

You spoke to me. I have been on the fence between Canon and Sony so long I have a sore sitter. However, I got an EOS R and saw a story recently from a respected lab that the R has more dynamic range than Sony. The RF lenses seem loaded with features to come thanks to mysterious extra connections waiting to be connected. The follow-on more sophisticated R is said to be coming next year. All that has me leaning to the Canon side should I fall off the fence. Also the reported weak weather proofing of the A7R3 has given me pause. Got that from the CreativeLive class on the A7R3 by John Greengo.

user-233725's picture

All the news just repeats itself, like some forgotten dream, that we've all seen.

It seems like almost everyday Fstoppers and PetaPixel are posting articles about people switching to Sony, after reading countless hundreds of them over the years..it's getting old.

Each person should choose the camera that best suits their needs, but unfortunately, as usual on the internet, we get the usual Sony exaggerations. It's OK to like your camera, but that is no reason to put down other brands with untruths and the usual ridiculous comments. While The Sony sensors are industry leading, let's not exaggerate the difference between the Sony and the sensor in the Canon R and 5D IV. They are almost indistinguishable at base ISO and no better at all in low light. So the constant "better in low light" comment is just not applicable.

I did have to laugh when the author referred to Sony's solid incremental improvements to their camera line. Many users of the first two generations of the Sony FF cameras have referred to those two generations as "beta versions." Incremental improvements is more like "had to fix all the stuff that was wrong with their beta versions." Putting out Beta versions of a camera that cost thousands of dollars is not what I would consider to be a trustworthy camera company. Issues that may or may not have been improved - based on actual photographers reviews include: IBIS that is shaky during video shooting, dust removal system that is far below the other brands, weather sealing that is far below other brands, color science below other brands, ergonomics well below other brands.

I, too was seduced by all the internet talk about how far ahead Sony was compared to the Canon 6D I owned at the time, so I bought the A7. It underexposed by a full stop and the kit lens (not cheap, about $700) was very poor away from the lens center. Color poor, ergonomics almost hard to believe poor. I traded it in for the A7 II, hoping for those incremental improvements. What I got was a camera that now underexposed by 1 1/2 stops! It was slightly more comfortable to hold however.

Based on what I have read and heard from pro photographers, there are some things Sony does better: Yes the sensor DR, and the eye-tracking AF. In most other situations however, AF is worse than Canon DSLRs according to a pro photographer that had a month or so to compare. Now, if you need IBIS, then Sony is a better choice than Canon. If you need two card slots, then Sony beats the two Canon mirrorless offerings so far. Aside from that, I see no advantage to getting a Sony. When it comes to color, ergonomics, ease of use and most AF situations, then Canon is equal to and almost always better.

Phil Kogan's picture

I started with a Canon A1 in 1980 moved to digital in 2006. My 5DIII was 5 years old in 2018 and it was time to upgrade. The Nikon D850 and Sony A7RIII had the the top specs and and lots of enthusiasm from pros. Went with the A7RIII and am pleased with the choice. First on my list of likes is the color. Sony is a bit more bold (not necessarily better) with color. Fast and reliable autofocus -- I felt Canon had fallen too far behind the pack and left me struggling in too many low light situations. High dynamic range -- Sony seems to put more emphasis here while Canon seems a bit complacent.

RIP good color!

25 years with Canon I switched to Nikon, CPS has many weaknesses. I though will stick with pentaprism cameras.

Example showing how the Sony is better would help....

What is the point of photographers explaining why they switch brands? Who really cares. So people like one brand over the other, yea I think you can say that about literally everything in life. Some like cold weather, some hot, some prefer cars, some trucks, some SUVs. What should matter is how you use your gear. How you use it to extend your vision and story, right?

Welcome to the club. I spent far too many years waiting around and justifying Canon's glacial innovation pace. My primary motivators were size and lowlight performance. DSLRs are just too big to be practical in any situation where photography is not the primary purpose. With my Sony's, I can always have a camera with me - without completely annoying my friends and family. Some of my favorite images would simply not exist if I was still lugging around my Canon kit.