So it’s the night before my new Sony α7rII is due to arrive. From all indications, I could be one of the very first people in the world to get my hands on a retail version. It’s exciting. It feels a little like the night before Christmas Morning. I’m also a touch nervous as I’ve dived in with both feet. I’ve sold all of my Canon Gear (all bar two lenses) so right now I’m a Pro Photographer with no camera… kind of embarrassing, but it does make me laugh a little. I find myself contemplating how I go to this point?
I’ve shot Canon ever since I first started with DSLR’s. I’ve known nothing else, and I’ve always been very happy with their products. I started out on the small and inexpensive EOS 400D, before moving to a EOS 50D, then to a EOS 7D, and finally to a EOS 1D Mark IV. Camera bodies come and go, but they were all part of the same family, and all bodies I look back on with fond memories. Each have their own little stories, and each have their place in my life, and in my history.
But over the last few months I’ve become increasingly aware that my main camera body is getting a bit ‘long in the tooth’. I’ve shot with a Canon 1D Mark IV since 2010, and it has served me very very well. I know the body like the back of my hand, so moving away from it to any other would represent a major change in my life.
Unfortunately over the last few months I’ve grown slightly unfaithful to my Canon. I’ve been looking around, and I will admit it, I’ve been looking at younger and slimmer models… I will also admit that this is not the first time I’ve ‘wavered’ in my resolve. I had a brief affair with this one Olympus model, in that place that one time. But it just wasn’t to be.
For the last year, I’ve been eyeing up the Sony Alpha Mirrorless lineup. My eye has occasionally looked over the subtle features of an α7 series when I thought my Canon wasn’t looking. I’ve been tempted, but for many reasons I never ditched ‘old faithful’ and moved to another system.
Then last month in the middle of a shoot, my Canon decided that some setting with the WFT module was incorrect and ceased working. Maybe it had figured I was attracted to these slimmer models, and maybe it was just giving me the silent treatment. It is worth saying that this isn’t a case of a bad workman blaming his tools, as the problem was not the fault of the Canon 1D Mark IV or the WFT, but after reconfiguring the WFT for what seemed like the 100th time that day, I finally realised that enough was enough. Something was going to have to change, and I needed to make a move to a more modern system. (For those of you who have shot with the Canon WFT’s, I’m sure you know that they are painfully slow pieces of equipment, extremely niche, extremely expensive, and fairly lacking in features and innovations.
So I understandably started looked around at a replacement Canon body. The 7D Mark II was very high on my list of potential cameras, as was the 5D Mark III, the 6D and even something as straight forward as the 70D (as this would fulfil my video needs). But when comparing the sensors, I just couldnt get to grips with every photo from every Canon camera looked exactly the same over the last 5 years. None seemed to offer a significant upgrade over my 1D Mark IV. What made matters worse was the comparisons to other cameras, sometimes ones at half the price (I highlight here the amazing Sony α6000, which is just a phenomenal little camera, which is around 1.5 Years old, and is out-performing Canon bodies that have just been released at over three times the price). The icing on the cake is that STILL the only DSLR approaching pro-level with onboard WiFi is the Canon 6D. On every other camera it is a £400-£700 extra… that is a bitter pill to swallow.
Nothing of this added up. Had Canon really not innovated or even upgraded at all since the original 7D and 1D Mark IV? It seemed that way, until I took a step back. Canon HAVE innovated. Their 7D Mark II is a great camera, and their 5DS and 5DSr are good cameras, but the core fundimentals of Canon still exist behind these cameras, and they stop them from being GREAT cameras. So what are these problems?
- Canon’s sensory technology is unable to keep up now compared to the likes of the sensors from Sony
- Canon has an ethos of building a camera that can ‘technically’ do lots of things, but then crippling its functionality (Magic Lantern exists exclusively because of this)
- Canon try to dictate to the ‘Pro’ market, and continually hold them over the proverbial barrel by charging stupid prices to add basic functionality to their cameras, such as WiFi.
On a separate note, I’m absolutely fed up to the back teeth with Canon’s printer division, who seem to be fast asleep while new Operating Systems are released, and then refuse to support printers that are still for sale with the latest OS, but then release a 99% identical product and happily support that… Did you REALLY need to release that Canon Selphy CP1000 or could you just have released a firmware and driver upgrade for the CP910, and what about the CP900 while you’re at it?
I could easily provide reasoning and real world examples for all of these points, but I don’t wish to ramble on, and I don’t want this to seem like I’m Canon bashing. No company is perfect, and I know Canon are not alone in the issues I’ve highlighted above. I’ve spoken to many a Nikon user who is feeling the same.
I took a step back and also reanalysed my life. I realised that the Canon 1D Mark IV was just not coming out of the house for anything but pro work, and that was mostly due to its weight and bulk. The body is one thing, but when you add a 24-70 ƒ/2.8L USM lens to the front, it weighs a LOT and I don’t really want to be encumbered with a large heavy backpack all day, or have it bouncing around on a strap on my hip. It had become a hindrance to my creativity, and that was a startling realisation. Maybe I was just getting lazy, but maybe it was a problem. Either way, it was a problem that I was having.
The final nail in the coffin happened when my personal circumstances looked like they would be changing, and my levels of income would be dropping sharply in the next 4-5 months. I had to act and get set up for the future, but all of these problems I’d been having left me feeling rather sad and frustrated. Here I was with over £10,000 invested in Canon glass, and their camera bodies just couldn’t keep up with the competition or my demands. What was I to do?
Then, along came the Sony α7rII… Seemingly out of the blue came this camera that not only had an excellent sensor, but was small, light, well featured and had an awesome autofocus system to boot. To top it off, the early reviews indicated that AF performance with third-party lenses was snappy and nearly (if not AS good) as on the bodies for which the lenses were designed.
So here I sit, the night before my α7rII is due to arrive, thinking back about how I got to this point… Over the last few weeks I’ve been gradually selling off all my Canon camera gear. The 1D Mark IV and 24-70 ƒ/2.8L has gone off to WEX. My Canon Speedlites have been sold to friends, as has my collection of PocketWizard Flash Trigger. Is all of this a massive risk? Absolutely, but sometimes you’ve just got to take a chance. I just hope I’ve put my faith in the right place.
Why the Sony α7rII?
Backwards compatibility was a big part of the reason. I’ve already highlighted above that they α7rII has been marketed as having great AF performance, and early tests from users indicate that AF on third-party lenses is good. As I’m the owner of a Canon 400mm ƒ/2.8L IS USM lens, (which I managed to pick up for around the £6000 mark – at the time it was a bargain!) I wanted to be able to continue to use this lens. Needless to say, I cannot afford to sell that lens to then have to re-buy it for another system. For decent AF performance, that immediately limits me to a Canon body, or I take a chance on the α7rII and hope that its AF really is as good as those early testers have said.
Another area of backwards compatibility is with the Speedlite systems that I use. A trio of Canon Speedlite 430EX II’s serve as my primary lights, and make for a perfect portable studio setup. These are controlled using a PocketWizard MiniTT1/FlexTT5 setup. A bit of research and a bit of testing proved that by using a MiniTT1 with an AC3 attached, I could continue to use these lights atop non Canon cameras – although ETTL doesn’t work, manual flash power selection using the AC3 works perfectly. Sony was one such camera that worked. As my shooting style with off-camera strobes is always manual, this is a perfect setup. As it happens, I’ve since sold all my Canon Speedlites and PocketWizards, and will instead be increasing my number of Yongnuo YN560-IV’s, used in conjunction with a YN560-TX transmitter – this gives me off-camera Speedlites with full wireless manual control, and at a really affordable price (a single Canon 430EX II is equivilent in price to three Yongnuo YN560-IV’s, with plenty of change left over!).
Another decision I made quite quickly was that I wanted to go Full Frame for my main body, and not APS-C. The reasoning behind this is actually the same reason I wouldn’t consider going for 1-inch or Micro-4/3 sensor, and that is the Diffraction Limited Aperture (DFA). This is where smaller sensors start struggling due to the laws of physics. With smaller sensors, larger ƒ-stops actually lower the visual quality of the image. Back in 2014 I briefly used a Olympus OM-D E-M1, but when Pixel-peeping on this at higher apertures, I could really notice the quality reduction. For the record, I really enjoy shooting with the Olympus OM-D camera range, and think that they produce very pleasing images (to this day I still maintain that they shoot the absolute best in-camera JPEG’s) and I have a lot of respect for the M43 cameras, but they just don’t cut it for me.
Full Frame cameras have a much higher DLA, which produce a better image quality at higher ƒ-stops.
While its not directly linked to TFindley Photography, it is directly linked to my other business (Alopex Productions), a massive requirement I have is video. As I’m now producing professional video content for clients, its important that I have equipment to complete both tasks. The α7rII handles 4K in-body, and from the video I’ve seen from it, the quality of video (even 1080p) from the Sony sensors is very pleasing indeed. After completing a recent Video Shoot with my 1D Mark IV and comparing it to the Nikon D800 and D810 that were also on set, I can safely say that my previous camera just couldn’t keep up! The 5D Mark III does good video, but as I’ve mentioned above, I feel that Canon cripple their cameras, especially in this regard as they want to push their C-range camera. I could just purchase a C100, XC10 or C300, but I don’t really want to have that level of expenditure when I know my primary still camera needs replacing. So a ‘hybrid’ camera that does great stills but also great video is what I’m after, and I feel the α7rII will probably meet that requirement. Either way, its going to be a massive upgrade from my 1D Mark IV.
A massive benefit of moving to a Mirrorless is the size and weight. As I mentioned above, the 1D Mark IV never came out the house unless it was going for a pro shoot. Back in my days of the 50D / 7D, it used to go everywhere with me, but with the 1D Mark IV and ƒ/2.8 glass I feel encumbered. My brief foray with the Olympus range proved to me that portability really was a big thing to me, even if I didn’t initially realise it.
So was this a good decision? I think so!I really hope so! On the eve of getting my α7rII, it feels right. I’m sure there will be things about the Sony’s that will annoy me, and I’m sure there will be things about the Canon that I miss. At this point, I’ve already bought a few bits of Sony gear to replace the Canon gear that was sold, so I’m already invested. Time will tell if it was a sound investment. All I can do now is try everything out and feed back in a few months to let everyone know how I’m getting on.