A few months back I was invited by Sony to attend an influencer event in San Diego, where I had an opportunity to use some of their mirrorless cameras and lenses. I have been using Canon for years, and the increasing weight of my camera gear makes me want to eventually switch over to mirrorless, so it was great to get some hands-on time with the Alpha system.
Here is the gear that I used during the event:
- Sony a7R
- Sony a7II
- Sony FE 16-35mm f/4
- Sony FE 24-70mm f/4
- Sony FE 70-200mm f/4
- Canon f2.8L 100mm Macro (with adapter)
What I like:
First of all, there is no denying that the camera is solid. The image quality is superb, the lenses are top-notch, and (most importantly) they are a very progressive company, making big strides in this industry. It’s refreshing to see a company consistently coming out with new lenses, cameras, and technologies that photographers want to use.
I only had a few days to use the gear, and so I can’t provide a thorough review or specifics on the camera or lenses. I can, however, give my thoughts on what it was like using the camera. First of all, the focus was fast. I had zero issue with it locking or focus hunting while hand-held (which was primarily how I used the camera). I had the opportunity to use a good variety of lenses, as well—two of which are focal lengths I use regularly.
Here is a short list of some of the features that stand out for these cameras:
- Beautiful image quality
- Articulating screens
- Camera felt comfortable in my hand
- Lightweight camera body
- I love mirrorless overall (especially photographing and previewing the shots through an electronic viewfinder)
- Some lenses are smaller than my Canon counterparts
What I think is just okay:
I honestly have very few negative things to say about the Sony system. Most of my hangups are due to personal preference, and have nothing to do with there being anything particularly wrong with the camera or lenses.
One thing that was a bit annoying, however, was the menu system. I found it to be a little confusing, but hopefully that is something that becomes easier with time. Once you are used to your camera’s menu system, it’s not easy to immediately jump into a new one right away without a few hiccups. However there were a few items that I was trying to find, and it wasn’t that I could not locate them but that they were named something completely different than what I was expecting to search for. Again, this is more of a user issue but one that is worth bringing up.
The other thing that I don’t like about the Sony cameras is how the exposure settings are displayed, namely that they are visible only on the rear LCD or within the electronic viewfinder (EVF). Maybe I’m overly comfortable with my existing setup, but I like to have at least some indication on the outside of the camera showing my settings. With the Canon SLR I can view this information on the top LCD screen. And on the FUJIFILM all of the settings are decided through physical knobs on the top of the camera, as well as by moving the aperture ring. Once again, this is a user issue but one that is very important to my style of shooting.
Here is a short list of some of the things I’m unsure of with the Alpha camera system:
- Complicated menu setup
- Their current zoom lenses only open to ƒ/4 at their smallest aperture. Although, ƒ/2.8 versions could possibly be as heavy as the Canon equivalent lenses. And some lenses, like the Sony FE 70-200mm f/4, are still the same weight or larger than their Canon counterparts, such as the Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS (Sony’s lens is listed as 840g vs Canon’s 760g)
- The camera design is too “electronic” (or modern) for my taste (no buttons/knobs on camera to switch or see settings)
Sony a7R, Sony FE 16-35mm lens, ƒ/8 at 1/80 sec, ISO 100
Sony a7II, Sony FE 70-200mm lens, ƒ/4 at 1/640 sec, ISO 100
Sony a7II, Canon 100mm ƒ/2.8L Macro lens, ƒ/2.8 at 1/125 sec, ISO 100
Sony a7II, Sony FE 24-70mm lens, ƒ/4 at 1/80 sec, ISO 250
Sony a7II, Sony FE 24-70mm lens, ƒ/4 at 1/80 sec, ISO 125
Sony a7II, Sony FE 70-200mm lens, ƒ/7.1 at 1/250 sec, ISO 125
Sony a7II, Sony FE 70-200mm lens, ƒ/7.1 at 1/250 sec, ISO 160
Am I switching to Sony?
Right now I currently use Canon gear for my photography, specifically for landscape and food work (the 5D3, 6D, and 70D). I also have a small FUJIFILM X-T1 kit that I use for walk-around photos and travel photography. I have been asked by some photographers why I won’t switch to Sony. The only way I can answer that is that I don’t have any plans to fully switch to any other camera at this point.
You may ask, “Why don’t I use Sony alongside my current cameras?” That is a little more difficult to explain. When I am holding and using, a camera, a lot of how I judge whether or not I enjoy using it is based on how the camera makes me feel. I know, I know! It sounds silly. Plus, do I really want to have three camera/lens systems to deal with? No, thank you.
For mirrorless, I currently prefer the FUJIFILM X-T1 system. While the camera bodies themselves are not too different in terms of weight, because it is a crop sensor, the lenses have more opportunity to be smaller and more lightweight. The system can also have lenses with much wider apertures and not be heavy or overbearing (one of my favorites is the Zeiss Touit 32mm f/1.8). I also like that the settings are all analog, and I don’t have to dig into the menu to make exposure changes. However, I am hesitant to switch to FUJIFILM completely, mostly because I have some issues with the image quality when photographing landscapes, which is a big part of what I shoot.
Right now I am not making any big moves. I love my Canon gear, and use my FUJIFILM gear for day-to-day photos and also travel (which will mostly be hand-held and not on a tripod). Will I ever switch over to Sony? Maybe. There is a part of me that hopes I will change my mind about it, or have some compelling reason to switch. I’m a very “camera agnostic” type of person; I don’t think that there is only one great camera out there, but I know what I like.
What I do know is that I will continue to give Sony a chance. I do my best to stay updated on the newest gear and improvements. I also plan on renting or borrowing some Sony gear to use at home, to determine how well it performs with my food and landscape photography at home. Given that I only had a short time with the camera (and in an unfamiliar environment), my overall impression of the system is based solely on user experience. Once I get a chance to use the gear for an extended period of time I will have a more well-rounded opinion on the Alpha mirrorless system.
By the way, Sony just recently announced the Sony a7RII, which is scheduled for release in August. Exciting stuff! :)