Professional Photography Gear
As a professional wedding and corporate photographer, I get a lot of questions about the gear that I have and use to create my photographs. I love gear and I'm always looking for new possibilities for new and improved systems. I am a planner, a schemer and a list maker. My latest master plan is to switch to Sony gear.
Switching from Canon to the Sony Camera System
Switching camera systems is a big deal for a professional photographer. These are the tools that I use to create my art and run our business. For me it will be a transition period in April until I feel comfortable. I hope that it will be a near instant comfort with the new system. I am usually pretty adaptable, so I am excited by the prospect.
The reason I am strongly considering a change to Sony is all about technology. However, it started out as a quest for smaller and lighter set of cameras and lenses. I looked at the newest offerings of Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fuji and even the Olympus system.
I have Canon, but I have not been all that enthused with their latest camera body offerings. The 6D Mark II is a very good camera. I wanted it to have the joystick for choosing an autofocus point and a wider dynamic range at low ISO. The Canon 5D Mark IV is a fantastic camera, but I feel that it is overpriced in the current market by about $700 per body, which I would need two of. Also, I want smaller, sharper lenses. The 85mm f1.8 that I have loved so much over the years is getting a little long in the tooth at this point, but Canon came out with the 85 f1.4L IS, which is phenomenal, but didn't fit my desire for a smaller, lighter design.
Nikon felt like looking at the enemy, but they have a nice, but not spectacular, set of f1.8 primes.
The Olympus system was quickly eliminated. Even though they have amazing cameras and lenses, the sensor was just too small for me. If you aren't aware of how sensors effect the final image, for me the sticking point is the depth-of-field and the ability to throw the background out of focus. To give you an example, I currently shoot with a Canon system and use the 85mm f1.8 for my portrait work. With the Sony, they have full-frame sensors and an 85mm f1.8, so no change. With Fuji, they have a their equivalent portrait lens, the 56mm f1.2, which gives basically the same depth-of-field on the smaller sensor. With Olympus, they have a 45mm f1.2, but that does not give the same depth of field, so they were eliminated.
The Fuji system was also very tempting. They have an excellent set of fast primes like I like to shoot with and a very nice user interface. It was tempting, but I wasn't finding quite enough reason to change.
Then, I looked at the Sony Alpha A9, and I loved everything about it. Except the price. At $4500 per body and needing two bodies for whatever system I used, plus an whole new set of lenses, I couldn't quite justify the finances. However, I was sold on the idea of a Sony system after looking at the technology that was involved. It became pretty obvious that it would be a better system for me even if it was the same weight. Below is a list of advantages of the Sony (specifically the Sony Alpha A7III) over my current Canon system.
- Full frame, same as my Canon, but larger than the Fuji system. This is great for image quality, but not completely necessary. Fuji gets excellent results from their APS-C sized sensors.
- In-body image stabilization. This is a fantastic feature. The IBIS system allows you to use slower shutter speeds without having the image influenced by the shake of your hands. This will lead to more completely sharp images.
- Autofocus points all the way to the edges of the frame. This is one of my biggest complaints while I shoot portraits. I rarely do images with the point of focus anywhere near the center of the image, but that is where most of the focus points are with DSLRs like Canon and Nikon. With newer mirrorless designs, the focus points can be farther from the edges. Sometimes with my Canon gear I have to focus and re-compose, which can lead to slightly out of focus images due to slight movement on the part of either me or the subject after focus has been set. With the AF points out wider, this won't happen as much.
- Amazing sports autofocus system. Nearly the same AF system from the Sony flagship Alpha A9 is present in the Alpha A7III at less than half the price. It also includes a continuous drive system at up to 10 frames per second.
- Eye AutoFocus. Activate this system and it follows your subject's eye wherever it is in the frame. This should lead to more sharp images. Super cool.
- Silent electronic shutter. Completely silent. This is a game changer for being in a quiet church. I appreciate the quiet shutter system of the Canon 5D Mark III and the 6D, but silent is better the quiet.
- WYSIWYG viewfinder. This is a great way to make sure you are nailing your exposures. You actually see it before you shoot. The downside is that you are looking at an electronic screen rather than the optical image through the lens.
- Smaller and lighter bodies. This is important at the end of a long wedding.
- Tilting screen. This allows for more interesting compositions on the ground or above my head. Or even shooting from the hip.
- Better high-ISO quality. It's a newer camera than what I am currently using, so that is to be expected.
- Greater dynamic range at low ISO. This has been on my wish list for a while, but the Canon cameras have made smaller steps than I was hoping.
- Joystick on the back for choosing an Autofocus point. For a Canon camera with this feature, you have to go with the 5D Mark IV at $3300. Not cool.
- Great video features. Full frame 4k and HD at 120 frames per second with useful LOG features. Not really something I use, but it's cool.
- Newly designed lenses. Almost every one of the sharpest lenses available today were introduced in the last 10 years. With Sony being a much newer system, all of their lenses are newly designed and tend to be much sharper than the Canon equivalent.
- Change forces creativity. It is a weird thing that I have noticed over the years -- when I get new gear, I tend to try new things and become more creative.
From that point, it was a matter of time and what was offered in future cameras. I watched with great interest as the Sony Alpha A7RIII was introduced. At $3200, it was a lot of what I wanted, but not quite perfect for me. To start with, it is 42 megapixels. I have never had a need for more than about 15 megapixels, so that was a lot of extra storage space and processing power that was basically adding a new computer system onto the price of the camera system switch. There is also the fact that the focus points didn't cover as much of the sensor area as the Alpha A9 did. However, it would work great for me. I decided to let my trigger finger itch a bit longer. Now, the Sony Alpha A7III has been announced which is almost exactly what I want in a camera. It is basically 90% of the Sony A9 with 40% of the expense.
Sony Alpha A7III. This is a low-priced dynamo of a professional camera. It's like they took a $3500 camera, made it smaller, and decided to sell it for $2000. I will be using this for everything from Sports to portraits to landscapes to weddings.
Sony A6000. I already own this camera and use it as a personal camera. It will also be a backup. If I were to be using a Sony crop camera as a full time professional, I would probably to looking at the A6500 or A6700.
Sony's Alpha A9 and Alpha A7RIII are also amazing cameras, but I'm not sure why you would buy them unless you had a specific need. With the Alpha A7RIII, that would be the ultra-high resolution for landscapes or something of that nature. The Alpha A9 is the sports camera, but the Alpha A7III will be more than enough for all but the most die-hard full time sports photographer.
I am a big fan of what Sony has done with their lenses. They have partnered with Zeiss for design work on some of their co-branded lenses as well sharing information so that Zeiss could make their own line of lenses specifically for the Sony cameras. I have a great love of Zeiss lenses. My first camera was a Contax with a Zeiss 50mm 1.7 lens. I have also owned Zeiss lenses for Hasselblad. In addition to the Zeiss and Sony/Zeiss offerings, all of their lenses have been designed in the last six years since they started full frame camera bodies. That makes even the lowliest of their lenses some of the sharpest available for any camera system. They have also made a line of premium lenses that have put an emphasis on the small size and weight that I was originally hoping for when I started looking at new camera gear.
Here are the lenses I am thinking to start with. I generally shoot with three lenses for most of all of my photography currently -- 24, 50 and 85. I use my 16-35 when I need something super wide like the dance floor or an amazing interior. I also have a Sigma 70-200 f2.8 that I've had for many years. It works as a sports lens with a 1.4x teleconverter or for big churches.
Zeiss Batis 25 f2.0. DXO rates this as the best wide angle autofocus lens available. I currently shoot with a Canon 24 f1.4L, but I normally shoot it at f2 because it just isn't that sharp at 1.4 or 1.6. It's okay at 1.8. I expect this lens to be sharper all the way around even wide open. One of the things people don't realize is how much sharpness affects the way we view the bokeh or out-of-focus areas in an image. With the subject sharper, the bokeh appears smoother because of the contrast between the subject and the background. So sometimes the depth of field may be less, but the subject pops out more with some lenses than others. Zeiss and Leica know this and have designed their lenses for this pop. This lens is rather large for it's weight. It looks like it would be unbalanced on the Sony cameras, but it feels perfectly weighted on the small body.
Sony Zeiss 55 f1.8. I am so excited about this lens. This lens is a unicorn for me. A super-premium, small lens in one of my favorite focal lengths from my favorite lens designer that has been rated as one of the top 10 best lenses ever tested by DXO
Sony 85 1.8. This one is the oddball of my choices. It is not designed by Zeiss and not one of Sony's vaunted G Master series. However, the images look identical to the Zeiss Batis 85 f1.8. Some people have suggested that it may be the same optical design, but at 1/2 the price. I like that idea, but I have no idea if it is true.
Sony Zeiss 16-35 f4. I currently have a Canon 16-35 f2.8L that I avoid using because it is so front-heavy. Which is fine most of the time because I hold it with two hands. However, when I use it most often is on the dance floor at weddings when I am holding it with one hand and a flash in my left hand. That leaves my right hand hurting after a couple of hours. Since I am using flash anyway, the f4 doesn't bother me in that situation. Let's be honest, there isn't much control of the depth-of-field with a 16mm lens anyway.
Sony G 12-24 f4. I think I am going the with the 16-35, but I am very tempted by this amazing lens. I love superwide lenses and this is small, light and wider than anything I have ever owned. It would be a very fun toy. Does it make more sense if I say "tool" instead of "toy"?
Sony GM 70-200 f2.8. This is an amazing lens, as are the Canon and Nikon equivalents. This one will hurt to buy. I don't use this focal length every day, but when I need it, I need it. Nice that it is such a good lens for that hefty price.
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