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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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