Why I Never Switched Over To Sony and How It Turned Out To Be a Good Decision for Me

During the previous years, many of my photographer friends and colleagues switched over to Sony, often for good reasons. I also considered a switchover, but I never did. Now, I am grateful I never did.

When I bought my first DSLR back in 2005, I decided to choose a Canon camera because of its ergonomics. At first, I wanted a Nikon, but the Canon felt so much better. I liked the design and how the camera operated. It just felt good in my hands. This was a personal decision, of course, and it doesn’t say anything about the quality a camera produces.

Through the years, I discovered how pleasure in photography is also determined by the way a camera is designed. If it's enjoyable to use the camera, there will be more fun using it. Otherwise, photography may become a frustrating thing to do. This is something I see a lot with my workshop participants. If they are struggling with settings, buttons, or even withholding a camera, it takes all the fun out of photography.

I didn't choose Canon. The camera chose me. It felt as if the camera was designed for my hands.

The Switch to Sony

When Sony introduced their mirrorless cameras, many photographers decided to switch over. Often, they were talking about better quality pictures, better autofocus performance, and the ability to customize the camera. The Sony cameras were also smaller and lighter weight. And indeed, the mirrorless system offered options that could never be achieved with regular DSLR cameras. But, I wondered if those options made those cameras better or just different.

Switch over to Sony mirrorless? Or stay with the Canon DSLR? I wondered often which path to choose.

I often wondered if switching over to Sony could benefit my own photography. I could keep using my Canon lenses through an adapter, so I wouldn’t need to invest in new lenses. According to many Sony users, it was the best decision they made. They were praising their cameras as if these were the answer to all problems. This made me very suspicious since the perfect camera still has to be invented, if something like that is even possible. So, I kept being skeptical about these cameras everyone was talking about and kept on shooting with my Canon.

Using a Sony a9 and Sony a7R III

When I got a chance to review the Sony a9, I didn’t hesitate. During a couple of months, I used this small camera exclusively, ignoring my Canon 5D Mark IV. I took the Sony a9 with me on vacation and used it for a series of action shots next to my Canon 1D X. I used it for some portraits and for my landscape photography, of course.

Photographing with the Sony a9 left me with a lot of great images. It was okay to use the camera, but it was not as much fun compared to my Canon 1D X.

The results from the Sony a9 were great, but not that different from what I could shoot with my Canon cameras or any other camera I had used in the previous years, for that matter. Its autofocus with eye detection worked great, but I never felt I could completely rely on it. I guess this was something I would need to learn and get used to. 

I enjoyed the 20 frames per second with the Sony a9. But there were a lot of downsides that became frustrating after a while. One of those downsides was the camera buffer. It took a lot of careful planning and prevented continuous shooting for an extensive amount of time.

There were a couple of things I didn't like about the Sony a9. First of all, I found the menu to be terrible. It lacks a logical structure, which made it difficult for me to change settings in a quick and easy way. It was possible to assign buttons to meet your type of shooting, but that is not a solution for the difficult menu. It is a workaround. Many participants of my workshops, who used Sony cameras for many years, still had difficulties in using the menu.

Another issue I found is about the design of the camera body. It handles terribly, and many buttons don’t have that quality feel I would like from a camera of that caliber. Sony had already improved the buttons and rotation wheels on the Sony a9, but it was still not up to par. The small-sized bodies don't have much clearance between the grip and lens, which makes the use of the camera uncomfortable. It becomes worse when wearing gloves.

The Sony is not built for my hands. It is too small, even for my hands that aren't that big. Perhaps other photographers find it okay. This is very personal, of course.

I found the Sony a7R III to have the same issues. Although the camera produces great images and the customization is very versatile, I find it far from user friendly. When I got my hands on the Sony a7R IV, I discovered it was more comfortable than its predecessor, and the buttons were improved even more. But it still felt as if it was cheap and fiddly. I believe the newest Sony a7S III camera finally has an improved menu structure, something a lot of Sony users have been asking for for years.

Sony knew its menu wasn't that good, but it took them years before they listened to the complaints. Now, in 2020, they released the first camera with an improved menu.

Enough Reasons To Not Switch Over... Yet

All the things I have seen and experienced with Sony cameras made me decide not to switch over. It is not about the quality of pictures or the possibilities Sony cameras offer. They produce stunning images. But it's about the way these Sony cameras operate and how the cameras feel in my hands. Although I shot really great images with the Sony a9 and Sony a7R III, I cursed the handling and menu structure many times. For me, it took the fun out of photography.

I never felt very comfortable when using a Sony camera. That was one of the reasons I never switched.

When Canon finally introduced their first full frame mirrorless camera, the Canon EOS R, I was excited. Although I love my DSLR, I do know the benefits a mirrorless camera offers. The eye autofocus abilities can be of great help with my wedding and portrait photography. Unfortunately, the excitement about the Canon EOS R turned into disappointment when I was confronted with the infamous touch-bar. It made the camera terrible to operate.

Canon's first full frame mirrorless camera was a big step towards a great camera. But why did they incorporate that terrible touch bar and strange locations of the buttons? They were enough reason to leave the camera behind.

On the other hand, the Canon EOS R also had a lot of things that Sony cameras lacked. It had an amazing electronic viewfinder, the well-thought-through menu structure, a very useable touchscreen, and a great ergonomic design despite the touch bar. I experienced similar superior features with the Nikon Z7 and also the Panasonic S1. Altogether, I found operating all these cameras much more intuitive compared to Sony.

The Canon EOS R6 in use for some landscape photography.

Now I’m Happy I Didn't Switch Over to Sony

Now, Canon has introduced a couple of amazing cameras that at least address all the flaws of the Canon EOS R. When reviewing the Canon EOS R5 and Canon EOS R6, I realized it was a good decision to stay with Canon and wait for the right moment to switch over to a mirrorless system.

These two cameras have the amazing eye autofocus for which Sony cameras are famous, together with a good ergonomic design and a user-friendly menu structure. They also have a good touchscreen, which Sony lacks altogether.

The autofocus of the Sony is not perfect, but it works very well indeed. For a long time, I wished Canon had the same quality of autofocus. Unfortunately, it didn't. That is why I wondered for a long time if a switch to Sony was wise.

It made me realize something. If I would have decided to switch over to Sony, I would have had a camera that would make great quality photos, but which wasn’t perfect for me. Perhaps I would have had very useable eye autofocus in the previous years, but that would have been the only benefit. Sony was the first to make a mirrorless up to par with the DSLR and even beyond it in some ways. But I believe Sony kept its cameras in puberty for too long.

Sony paved the path for a mature mirrorless camera. Unfortunately, Sony kept its cameras in puberty, I think.

Something to Think About

When I imaginemyself now, using a Sony camera, I am sure it would have given me a lot of great images with high quality, just like any other modern camera can produce. And I know I would have gotten used to the menu. After all, you learn to find settings by using it over and over again.

I am glad I have waited for so long. Now, I feel the mirrorless world has matured enough to make a switch. The newest mirrorless cameras now have the best of both worlds: a well-designed camera body, a good menu structure, and all the benefits like amazing eye AF tracking.

I would love to read your opinion about this subject. Please leave a comment down below with your thoughts about a camera switch and the newest series of mirrorless cameras that hit the market in 2020.

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134 Comments

Daniel Lee's picture

I switched from Canon to Sony although it was purely out of GAS. I really wanted a FF Mirrorless body and since Canon didn't have one at the time and the A7III had so much to offer for the price, I couldn't resist.

After the release of the R6 I'm really tempted to switch back to Canon but the truth is there's nothing wrong with my Sony gear. Whether it be Canon or Sony, they both do an amazing job. I switched out of GAS and I'm trying not to make the same mistake again.

One thing I will say is I like Sony's gaming approach of working with 3rd party lens manufacture rather than fighting them. That would probably be the one thing I miss if I swapped back to Canon.

Nando Harmsen's picture

Concerning imaging I totally agree on "Whether it be Canon or Sony, they both do an amazing job"
Thanks for the comment

Daniel Lee's picture

I feel I'd be happy with a Nikon Z body too for what I shoot. Even with their current lens lineup, the only thing I'd miss is a 100mm macro.

Nando Harmsen's picture

I am reviewing the Z6 II now. It is a great camera.

Trey Mortensen's picture

100% my situation. I have an a7iii, the Sony 35 1.8, 20 1.8, but still use my Canon 85 1.8 and 70-200 f/4L. I got good deals on all of the gear and if I were to get equivalents with the new R6, it would be close to $1500 more unless I found some sneaky deals.

Like you, I have no complaints and love my gear (and the 3rd party support), but I still root for Canon and maybe one day I'll go back...

Daniel Lee's picture

Funny you say this now as I actually just initiated a switch back to Canon and have started selling off my Sony gear! I like to sell off gear when the price is high and costs have been inflated here due to COVID which means we can also sell gear for a bit less of a loss. Also all rumors state the A7IV will go up quite a bit in price to a point I'm not sure if I could afford it.

I was looking at what advantages I'd get using the R6 and I found this:

- Fully Articulating Screen - I Do 0 video but this is really useful for stills too
- Both dual card slots are UHS II compared to 1 being UHS-I on the A7III
- Both rear screen and EVF are higher res, I tried the Z6 EVF which is the same res and it was amazing
- Bulb timer so you can set it and not have to worry about a remote, this would have come in handy when I forgot my remote on my San Francisco trip
- During timelapse mode, the camera can actually make it into a movie for you just like my Osmo Pocket
- A7III never got the real time tracking update so the 1DX3 level of tracking and 20fps is obviously a huge jump up too
- Shutter closes when changing lenses to prevent dust
- Full touch screen which is really quick to use
- Better app that allows you to AF and release the shutter independently unlike the Sony one

I still wouldn't deny that Sony kills it with 3rd party support and if my budget allowed, I'd keep the A7III and the 85mm Art to have dual systems but sadly it doesn't.

Trey Mortensen's picture

Good luck with the sales!

For me, I've never been much of a fan of using the tilt screen except for vertical stuff. I get a weird parallax headache if I try to shoot waist level with the full swivel screen. I feel like a Fuji XT3 execution would be my favorite.

The full AF functionality with my remaining EF glass would be my biggest reason to switch back, but I'd like to upgrade to the Tamron 70-180 which is even smaller (and cheaper) than the Canon one.

Finally, I plan on using the a7iii for another 5-7 years (based on how long I shot with my 6D), so I'll be super curious to see what the market looks like now. I'm still not really pushing the a7iii, shooting on mid burst, compressed raw, UHS-I cards, and some adapted glass, so for me, I don't need to switch.

I hope it goes well for you and you love the R6. If Canon had come out with that Camera a year earlier, I would definitely still be with Canon today. Heck, if the R just had the same body as the R6, I'd probably still be with Canon today. Oh well.

Bjarne Solvik's picture

Of cause the last generation Sony cameras have addressed the issues you talk about, so it would be fair to compare Canons new cameras to A9ii or A7riv.
I find a Sony cameras after initial set up to be wery good to work with, as far as menus goes. So the complaints about menus, well there is a learning curve but after it’s fine.
But yes at this point we have a lot of selection between brands if mirrorless is desirable that’s great. For Sony users the third party lenses are a great upside, for Nikon and Canon the adapter to old mount is.

Nando Harmsen's picture

I have used the A7RIV for a bit, but it still has the same issues. It has improved, but not much. About the A9 II, it is basically the same camera with not much differences.

Bjarne Solvik's picture

Yes it’s a mark3 to 4 upgrade, not a new model. Other have reported positively about the last small changes, perfecting the camera. But it’s not a Canon, if that’s what you want.

Nando Harmsen's picture

I do think Canon has the best ergonomics... for me that is. Others may have other preferences that fit other camera body designs. But Canon is also not perfect.
The thing that surprises me is the fact Sony keeps on adding relatively small improvements. It is getting better, but it takes so very long.
But that can also be company policy. It is a way of keeping photographers buying new cameras. But it not only Sony, I must confess :)

Bjarne Solvik's picture

I am happy with Sony. The listen and improve. But now I am happy with Canon and Nikon to, they all make great cameras. All with dual slots now. Ibis and eye detect. But for my budget Canon is to expensive. They make Sony a budget alternative, even Sony always was expensive. The R6 have a 20 mp sensor, not wanting to step backwards in resolution. R model don’t have ibis. R5 is to expensive. Lenses are expensive and no third party options. And I don’t want to use adapted lenses. So I am good with Sony, for now:)

Nando Harmsen's picture

Thanks for your comment. Indeed, these cameras are expensive. In the end it doesn't matter which camera you use. It is about the picture you take.

Robin Férand's picture

That was a great article! I'm going to share it along because I agree with the points about the ergonomics and the constant whisper of people switching from Canon to Sony. I've used both simultaneously as my old company owned both systems. And although Sony was always superior for video features and Autofocus - using the camera daily wasn't great (ergonomics+menu). And I agree it produced great results but wasn't fun to use at all. I personally bought the EOS R (from the 5D2) a few weeks after the release of the R5/R6 because these were over budget. I like most of it (curiosity enough I don't mind the touch bar) but I wish it has better video features and the control wheel that was brought back on the R5/R6

Trey Mortensen's picture

Wow, surprised you got so many down votes.
I find it interesting how everyone gets different things out of the same gear. After using the EOS R for a week, it pushed me to get an a7iii and just adapt my Canon glass. It was just a frustrating experience for me, and I was a life long Canon shooter then. Go figure. I find that even a year later, I get excited to find excuses to shoot with my a7iii. It really energized my excitement in photography. Not everyone will have that experience, but that was mine.

I'm glad there are so many good choices on the market. Really no truly wrong answer (although there may be better fits for someone).

Edison Wrzosek's picture

“But it still felt as if it was cheap and fiddly” <- I stopped reading here, as there is NOTHING cheap and fiddly about a Sony alpha camera.

And yet another person whining (yes, whining) about the menus, geeze get over it! Yes they’re more complex initially, but after you customize the buttons, My Menu, and the Fn button, you’re flying faster than anything Canon or Nikon has.

Rayann Elzein's picture

I have a Sony 7s and a Canon 5D Mark III in front of me right now. Sorry, but the Sony, as much as it produces excellent and clean night time videos, just looks and operates like a toy, where every time I take it out I am afraid that something will break.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

I've dropped my Sony with a 85 f1.4 still attached. The only thing that broke was lens hood...it cracked. So, don't worry, you're good to go.

Edison Wrzosek's picture

ROTFL!!! Yeah, ok... I guess you haven't seen some of the pro landscape and sports photographers out there, beating the absolute shit out of their Sony Alpha's, with no issues. I myself have taken my A7RIII into some very adverse and tech-damaging conditions without even the slightest worry, and my camera came out without even a hint of issue.

David Pavlich's picture

Geeze...why get your bowels in an uproar? This stuff is pretty much all subjective. You like your gear. Good! If you didn't, you'd use something else. I like my gear. Good! If I didn't, I would use something else.

Sony does nothing for me. So what? Canon does nothing for you. I don't really care who likes or dislikes what I use. Why do you?

Edison Wrzosek's picture

Because regardless of what camera brand (like you said), I don't like misinformation, and what you, Rayann, and the OP, state and/or imply as the Sony being like a toy or fragile, is utter rubbish and woefully inaccurate, and that's been proven time and time again.

You don't like the size, ok fine. But it's not like a "toy", nor is it fragile, far from it.

Oh, and if it was like a toy, or fragile, do you think the entire Associated Press core of reporters would've been assigned Sony Alpha cameras? Or landscape / sports photographers using it at the ends of the Earth and beating the snot out of them and they continue to perform day in and day out?

No, full stop.

David Pavlich's picture

Lighten up! I said it FEELS LIKE A TOY IN HAND, which it does to me. I didn't say it was a toy.

Maybe it feels like the Ferrari of cameras to you, but for me, it feels like it belongs on a shelf in Toys R Us. Part of the joy of shooting is having my camera feel like it was made to fit my hands. Sony doesn't have that feel.

Sony cameras take great pictures. We know that. What we non Sony users know is that they aren't right for us for whatever reason.

Rayann Elzein's picture

Oh man, talking about fanboys here... As I said, I own both, and I use the 7s A LOT. I just feel that it's not as strong as my Canon bodies, jeez, relax, what's wrong with saying something like that? Isn't it important as well, what the customer's/user's perception is of your product?

Nando Harmsen's picture

Ah, a Sony fan... ;)
perhaps if you read the article you knew I addressed your points also

David Pavlich's picture

It's subjective. Sony cameras feel like toys in hand and that's a deal breaker for me. It's not right or wrong, We like what we like.

Jean-Philippe T's picture

sony user here, if they had fixed these damn menus via firmware update I would stop whinning but the truth is that they did not and they should have, menus are not rocket science

Edison Wrzosek's picture

I’ll agree and disagree on the points you made...

Having seen what Sony is capable of doing when they released the A7SIII, I agree it would’ve been brilliant if they pushed out an update for their older cameras to receive the same UI, at least the A7RIV and A9II.

Having said that, I think that’s actually a very BAD idea, after having given it some thought.

If someone who had been using their camera for an extended period, gotten used to the menu structure, function placement, etc., to all of a sudden have everything changed after an update, would be VERY disconcerting to many owners who are not as tech savvy as some. As an example, there’s a reason many people love the fact macOS has retained the general UI and workflows for al these years, despite several new coats of paint so to speak; it allows the end user to continue to feel as though they still know their gear with little need to adjust.

Remember the Windows 7 to 8 transition? That was a disaster for many, and IMHO Sony has done the right thing in NOT bringing the new menu’s to older camera bodies and throwing owners for a loop.

On the other hand, for someone like yourself or me, I would’ve likely welcomed the change, but for me, it’s no deal breaker, as I’ve stated many times, once you get used to them, and customize your My Menu, Fn button and C buttons, you’re flying and almost never go back into the main menu structures, so people screaming about the Sony menu UI really just need to chill out, as it’s no where NEAR as much an issue as they make it out to be.

Jean-Philippe T's picture

the way I see it, they could make the new interface optional

Edison Wrzosek's picture

Having an IT background, I can tell you there’s no way that would happen even if it were possible, as that would require them to maintain dual code bases and drivers for the firmware; remember that they also changed the level of interaction with the touch screen on the A7Siii, which likely means more under-the-hood changes.

Mutley Dastardly's picture

A camera is something personal. What you don't like about Sony - i have with Nikon.

Rk K's picture

You need to stop whining about the menu just because it's different than what you're used to. It's complicated because the customisation options are beyond anything canon has ever provided. You learn it then you get over it.

Rayann Elzein's picture

Using my Sony 7s for the past 3 years, still not used to the menus... How long more do I have to try?

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

You either use your Canon more than your Sony, or a testament nobody really needs to menu dive often so you really don't learn/remember the menus, or just a slow learner.

mark meerdam's picture

You need to be a better human being and learn that there are different opinions and preferences and leave your (not so micro) aggression at the door. Because while you are in a way completely right from a rational standpoint about adaptation, personal preferences are just not logical, neither should they be. You should ask yourself why you have the ability to adapt to a Sony menu, but can't adapt to the fact people have their personal preferences and voice those on a site dedicated to that. If you don't want to be confronted with opinions - don't read columns / articles. Those inherently confront you with their writers biased opinions. And it was in the title already. Learn to respect other and ask questions instead and you'll get over yourself.

Edison Wrzosek's picture

Rk makes valid points and you tell him he needs to be a better human being? Look in the mirror Bub...

mark meerdam's picture

Oh yes now I see. In hindsight you are right! RK's is simply an amazing train of thought coated in just the appropriate level of arrogance and superiority to really bring the argument home. Ain't it nice to be nice :P

Rk K's picture

Be a better human being?! What a wanker, getting all offended over pretty much nothing... It's a rudimentary menu system, not rocket science. If you can't learn it you have bigger problems than operating cameras... It has nothing to do with preferences, abilities or lack thereof. Besides, this is an article on a professional website, it should be as objective as possible. It also invites comments.

mark meerdam's picture

The fact you're not even remotely sensitive to the nuances of psychology, interface design and their impact on preference or choice is telling. It's also a big part of why your pictures are these empty soulless shots of random things you stumbled upon. Objectively that is ;-)

Rk K's picture

Haha, you couldn't make this s* up. Come on, attack some old hobby shots of mine while having nothing in your portfolio, since clearly you've run out of any sensible arguments. Interface design would matter, except that cameras are barely more complicated than a calculator. It doesn't matter if you can learn in half and hour then forget it's even there. Especially if it's your job to do it. Worry about "psychology" (pff) when it actually matters.

mark meerdam's picture

I have a secret for you. Nobody cares about objectivity. Is that what really makes you such an angry man?

Nando Harmsen's picture

You said it is complicated... I almost stopped reading... ;)
Well, I agree it is complicated, but that is not because of the customization part. A good menu structure will make something like that much easier.
Sony finally listened to the complaints by many about the menu and changed the menu structure on the A7S III. And I am glad they did, because it makes the use of the camera much easier, At least, I think it will because I haven't used it yet.
But perhaps we're not as clever as you

Rk K's picture

Even if there's more to it than other cameras, it's still a very simple interface, not rocket science. If you don't have the attention span to learn it that says more about you... Besides, you can literally recreate the canon menu system with the available customisation.

Nando Harmsen's picture

Well, seems you're fine with it. That's okay with me. If you think it is because of me, I don't mind as well. Saying I don't have the attention span to learn it, shows you have no knowledge about me or what I do.

David Salzer's picture

Seems to be a common thread with Mr RK - lest anyone say anything remotely bad about Sony and he will crap all over you - while his opinions should be respected it would be good if he used a tone that showed respect to others

Tommy C's picture

I recently switched to a Sony and have a real love hate relation with it.
I love the images I am getting, love the light weight (I use to have a Canon 77D), and I like the focus system.
I also have big hands, and the Sony is very uncomfortable for me too, and that alone is a reason to go back to a Canon. The only thing keeping me on Sony is I have invested in the system and just do not have the means to switch to something new, I would be giving up a lot.
If I had the money, sure I would switch in a second, but sadly us hobby shooters, or those with tight budgets, moving is way to hard.
Now a few years down the road when I am ready to look at going full frame, maybe I will be more willing to give up stuff for the switch and just start fresh again on Canon.

Trey Mortensen's picture

Best thing I ever bought for my a7iii was a pinky extender. It changed how the camera felt in my hand. With it on, I can confidently band comfortably hold heavy lenses and now actually find my Canon 6D's grip oddly big feeling. Your mileage may vary, but for me with that grip on, I can comfortably hold the camera in hand for hours (such as the weddings I've shot with the camera). Hope that helps!

Tommy C's picture

I have seen a few 3rd party grips for my a6500, not sure if I trust them all that much.
I know as some point I will go full frame, and then just get a Sony one that I know will work.

Trey Mortensen's picture

Here's what I use. I don't need extra battery capacity, just a mounting plate and access to the battery. It honestly transformed the handling of the camera. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07B9G6X83/?coliid=I398KVPETWNH6W&colid=11DFKF...

Nando Harmsen's picture

That is a nice mounting plate. Clever design also.

Tommy C's picture

What do you have it on? I do not see anything on the listing saying it would work on a a6XXX model. I do like that.

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