I recently made the decision to switch camera platforms from Nikon to Sony. What started as an experiment with two competing platforms, turned into a decision to sell all my gear and migrate to Sony. Each platform has pros and cons but in the end the benefits far outweighed the issues. Below are the 5 biggest reasons I made the switch.
It’s really easy to dismiss a smaller camera body and lenses until to set up in the field and shoot with them. As you can see in the picture below, the new A7ii is about 1/2 the size of my Nikon D800 with the battery grip. Even the Sony lenses were designed to be smaller than the traditional lenses from Nikon and Canon. In this picture below I have the Zeiss 55mm f1.8 lens attached to the Sony A7ii. Since I decided to buy the A-Mount Zeiss 24-70 f2.8 instead of the Zeiss e mount 24-70 f4.0, some of this sized difference is negated, but I was able to buy e mount lenses to replace my 85mm and my 16-35mm which saved me a lot of space and weight.
When I purchased my Nikon gear I decided to buy the prior model lenses which offered the same image quality, a better build and without image stabilization. The reason I did this was to save about half the money of the new gear . I also wasn’t sure I needed the stabilization built into the lens. After using the Sony A7ii system, I realized that I no longer had to pay a premium or make that decision since the 5 axis image stabilization is built into the camera. This is a huge upgrade and is worth the price of admission alone. Given the prices of the Nikon and Canon lenses with IS, this is a huge selling point for Sony. Sony also works with every almost any lens you can buy (more on this later) and since the IS is in body, you get IS on those lenses as well.
When I first started exploring the mirrorless sytems for both Fuji and Sony, I was not excited about the electronic viewfinder. After all, I was used to seeing exactly what I was about to shoot straight through my lens. When I rented the Sony A7ii I was pleasantly surprised with the clarity, brightness, pixel density and refresh rate of the electronic viewfinder. As I began to use the camera and dig through the settings I started to find out that it brought many more advantages than I thought.
What is impressive about the electronic viewfinder is all the other tricks it can do that a regular SLR can’t. For instance, on my last shoot I ended up with some shots that my subject’s nose was in focus but his eyes and face were slightly soft. Unfortunately with the DSLR it’s not too easy to see this while shooting. Because you just have the mirror there is no way to zoom in until after you shoot and the screen on the back of the D800 isn’t the best. So it’s hard to tell whether your images are soft until after the shoot. With the Sony A7ii you can hit one of the programmable buttons and zoom in 100% or 200% of the image. This allows you to fine tune your focus and check to see if you are hitting your focus target.
The electronic viewfinder also shows a live update to what the image sensor sees. This is an incredible advantage over traditional DSLRs because as you change your aperture or shutter speed and can see exactly how this will affect your image. This is especially useful when you are in manual mode because you can see if your highlights are blown out or if you are underexposing an image. If you pair this feature with the zebra lines feature it becomes even more powerful. In the settings menu you can turn on zebra lines which will show lines that look like….. zebra lines … when a portion of your image is blown out. This makes shooting in manual mode easy and allows you to balance portions of your image using your aperature, shutter and ISO settings. A real world example is when you are shooting indoors and you want to properly expose for the scene outside the window and use fill flash to illuminate the room. With these settings it is super easy to expose for the outside first before you set up your flash.
The 3rd feature of the electronic viewfinder is the ability to put a histogram right in the viewfinder. This makes exposing an image that much easier and help you get the shot right in camera the first time.
Wifi / NFC / Easy Sharing
I’ve always wanted the ability to easily export my images to my smartphone but the Nikon solution was bulky and expensive. The Sony lineup has this feature in the camera so there is no extra equipment required. It’s not a feature that I need on every shoot, but the last wedding I attended I wanted to share a few of the images to the photo stream during the weekend. This was super simple with the Sony. All I needed to do was download and app to my iPhone and turn on the wifi on the camera. Once this was done, the transfers came over pretty quickly and I was able to drop the photos right in the stream with no problem. I was shooting RAW at the time so I assume the camera converted the images to JPEGs before sending them to the camera.
Sony’s lineup of lenses is not nearly as strong as Nikon of Canon’s. To combat this Sony has allowed third parties to make adapters so that all sorts of lenses can be used on the Sony platform. One of the lenses I bought was designed for the larger full frame cameras but I have a Sony adapter that gives me full autofocus and metering. There are all sorts of third party lens adapters out there for pretty much all the lenses you can think of. There are a few adapters that allow you to use autofocus on the Canon lenses but the other adapters are mostly manual focus. This isn’t such a big deal because the A7ii has focus peaking which is something out of a sci-fi novel. The premise is that as you focus the area that is in focus lights up on the screen. As you focus on the subject's face, you will start to see the hair light up red (or yellow or white depending on your setting) telling you that it is in focus. This turns what used to be a difficult process into an easy one. Because of the focus peaking and the manual adapters, this opens up a whole new world to older primes that have been all but forgotten. I haven’t purchased an older lens to try this out on but I have my eyes on the Nikon 55mm f1.2.
The switch to Sony is still in the early innings but so far I’m pleasantly surprised with the quality of images and all the benefits of the Sony platform. Not everything is better but the tradeoffs are perfectly acceptable and the benefits heavily outweigh the issues. If you are getting ready to jump into the DSLR world, I see no reason to start with another platform. I do still love my old Nikon gear but with all the advantages the Sony platform offers, I believe it’s the future of photography.