An article to end all articles.
It’s really not, but I feel like the potential for a flame-war and s–t storm is so great that I have to put on a raincoat just to start laying out the words haha!
That’s right my friends, today I’m going to be talking about the Sony A7ii and why I’ve decided to ditch my entire Canon system (including a 6D & an 85mm 1.2) for a Sony setup with older manual only lenses (though I do have one modern 85mm).
So first and foremost, what prompted the switch?
Nikon users check this post out by Phillip Reeve too! He has been going through a similar transition.
I think it’s been a subconscious build over the last year working with the Canon 6D that’s never really gone away. I’ve always liked shooting at wide apertures such as f/1.4 and f/1.2 etc, and honestly, with the 6D specifically I’ve always found it a real struggle to get the eyes perfectly in focus.
Ahha! User error I hear you say. And granted, I could entertain this idea were it not for the fact that I’ve never had issues with any other system I’ve used including the fact that the 6D still let me down via tripod.
It’s led me to believe that the centre focus point, while fantastic, is too large. I believe it captures the eyebrows, cheeks, eyelashes etc before it will capture the focus on the eye accurately.
Perhaps I got a bad copy, perhaps it’s user error and coincidence. All I know is that for me I’ve never been happy with the performance, it’s always felt like a chore. To achieve flawless focus and also recompose. A ball ache if you will. Here’s a Canon 6D + 85 f/1.2 vs a Sony A7ii + 85 f/1.4 GM (both shot at f/1.4).
The Sony is just sharper, and not to mention it focused WAY faster, it;s a newer, lighter lens.. it’s just better in my opinion.
A few days ago I saw a video by Manuel Ortiz in this article and would you believe it… Using a Sony A7Rii with eye autofocus and TTL flash.
No recomposing, smack on perfect focus on the eyes and to top it off awesome metering for the TTL. Leaving him to think about composition and the balance of natural to artificial light. The latter of these issues was literally a case of shooting in aperture priority mode and scrolling the shutter speed. No difference to a DSLR there, however you will certainly have to recompose or move a focus point over the eye, which means if you move too much you have to move the focus point again or compromise your composition.
Not ideal, but most are so used to it at this stage they don’t even think of it as a problem. Perhaps people even justify the clumsiness of it by saying it’s fine. It is fine, well, it’s more than fine. But it’s not ideal.
Aside from focus issues I’ve loved everything about my Canon setup, the feel, the functionality, the image quality, focus speed, the battery life, price (and most recently, the resale value haha!) I mean look at this shot I got a few weeks ago on the 6D:
Looks fine right? Well check this out: Disclosure (the image has been colour graded and skin retouched, but NO sharpening has been added here).
And this has been typical for me working with the 85mm f/1.2, getting this odd motion blur / out of focus effect. This is shot at 1/250th too! And I know it’s not the lens because sometimes it’s nailed and on a tripod (unless I’m using auto focus in which case it always seems to struggle grabbing the eye).
Perhaps I got a bad copy of a 6D (I don’t think this to be the case as it is TACK SHARP with everything I put on it, with this exception. And a bad copy of the lens? I can’t see how as it’s also tack sharp a lot of the time and always when on a tripod etc except for aforementioned auto focus on the eye.
There’s just something about the Canon and 85mm f/1.2 setup that wasn’t working FOR ME. Hell, let’s cave in, let’s say screw it, it was me, it was all me doing it wrong. What does that benefit? Well it benefits the fact that someone with medical conditions or of the older generation, perhaps someone with less steady hands… they could swap over to a Sony and get results like below, with no effort…. TACK. SHARP.
Other than weight and focus accuracy on centre point specifically on my 6D. I’ve really loved it. Created some incredible fun with it and in a way sad to see it go. Here’s one of my favourite images with it:
But then I look at the weight, focus functions, image quality, dynamic range, lens compatibility, electric view finder of the Sony and after a single shoot and less than a week I feel like I’ve found a better woman to spend my life with.
The ability to setup 3 buttons on the back of the camera to swap between face, eye and main focus instantly is just a godsend. Or techsend, depends how sensitive you are to “the light”. See that pun right there? Grade 1 self diagnosed genius.
You gotta have a sense of humour, just wait until I bring out the other puns I have planned. I like to think I have a real… Eye for them. *gets coat*.
While on a shoot I can compose my image without even thinking about focus, hold one button to grab the eye and boom. And you know what? It’s really d–n accurate! Like, seriously so!
Check this 100% out…
Eye focus at f/1.4 and it’s NAILED! (Disclosure the image has been colour graded and skin retouched, but NO sharpening has been added here).
Now, I must confess, the battery life is pretty bad, we’re talking 300 shots at a guess from my last shoot, where I took 178 and had 40% left. But at the same token… Is that REALLY a problem unless you need to film for over an hour straight?
A battery takes 3 seconds to change over and they cost as little as £7 each, which means you can buy 5 of the little things for the same price as one of the Sony branded ones.
Also I believe that the Sony A series all use the same batteries so you have a bonus there too!
A hassle to carry more batteries? Well, yes and no… Yes it’s a hassle to carry more of anything, but when they are this cheap, charge to full in an hour, are 2/3rds the length of your thumb and can fit into any pocket ever, is it really that much of an issue?
I don’t think so, I think people like to make a fuss over it because it helps fight the war against new technology or justifying other purchases. In reality it’s not a big deal is it? Not unless you need to video a LOT in which case yeah, it could grate on you a fair bit. Depends on your personality.
Dynamic range.. It’s got close to 14.3 stops of dynamic range if memory recalls (I know it’s certainly 14+, which puts it 2 stops of information ahead of the Canon 6D at 12. (thanks Jemore Santos!)
The recovery from shadows is quite frankly wrong. It’s so disgusting what you can get out of this camera it shouldn’t be allowed. It’s insane! However the highlight recovery isn’t anything we haven’t seen before. The trade off is the noise to ISO ratio. It’s pretty crappy to be honest.
The 6D destroys the Sony in noise to ISO ratio, but by the same token you could just simply shoot a lower ISO on the Sony and bring it back in post. So, while no ideal for low light, it’s still entirely possible to work that way.
Useable range for me kinda stopped after 3200. Perhaps even a click lower. After lowlight we have shutter speed and movement, which logically brings me onto two main advantages over the 6D.
1/8000 vs 1/4000 and in body 5 way IS. However I believe that the roll / tilt aspects of the IS system only work on Sony lenses. The fact is though that you’re STILL getting IS on EVERY LENS. Even old film manual only focus lenses….
Let that sink in, then realise that this means you can shoot Canon L series lenses with a Metabones adapter and get sharper results at lower shutters than actual Canon users. Ha! Technology rules so hard! That’s genuinely hilarious and exciting to me, regardless of camera system owned.
The IS works insanely well, I got sharp enough results at 1/10 but at 1/20 it was a LOT sharper. Some may even say…….. twice as sharp. I’ll f/stop with the puns soon.
So as it stands what we’re looking at is this:
- More Dynamic Range
- Built in IS
- Superior focus functionality
- Quick charging batteries
- Cheap batteries
- Electric view finder
- Ability to use any full frame lens with the right adapter (coming up below!)
- Focus peaking (more on this soon)
- Faster max shutter speed
- More detail in sensor
- On sensor AF system meaning no lens focus issues for native lenses
- Faster focus
- Longer battery life
- Superior low light focus
- Faster focus for sports etc
- Superior ISO noise
- Great resale value
- No risk of being outdated within the Canon Eco system quickly (Sony brings out a new high end camera every year, it seems!).
I may have missed some so feel free to jump in on the comments, but that’s a quick overview off the top of my head. Both systems have bonuses in their favour so like anything it will always come down to personal preference. For me I preferred what the Sony was offering.
To final up some of the great features I’ve found about using the Sony are these:
- Focus peaking
- Lens compatibility
The focus peaking is optional and it lets you see exactly what is in focus by painting a coloured outline around whatever is in focus when manually focusing. I find it invaluable and great fun to use, here’s a quick example of what it looks like (skip to 50 seconds in):
What this means is that you can use manual only focus lenses and focus,them almost instantly, no issues! There have been reports that the system is flawed to prioritise contrast over focus, but I’ve yet found this to mean my focus has been wrong.
Maybe it only happens in certain situations?
The EVF means you get a live view constantly so it’s BERY easy to see exactly what you’re getting before you even take the shot, this means less time chomping and checking and more time shooting. It takes guesswork out of the equation, unless you throw strobes in of course.
Lastly, the ability to use old film lenses for £20 that optically compete with modern £1000 Zeiss lenses is insanity.
Don’t believe me? Check out this awesome comparison from Phillip Reeve.
See what I mean?
Well, by no doubt you’re all bored at this point ;) and want the article to end or hopefully, I’ve helped clear up some things on the swap and helped you guys to make a more informed decision.
I’m not trying to sell you a Sony or bash a Canon I’m just trying to share as unbiased as I can what I’ve found so far. Ultimately I’m only human so there may well be bias in here, but I hope it to be mild and easily detected to be passed over by you guys.
Thanks for your time and happy shooting!
P.S. As a quick sidenote, if you like textures (like the lens flare the lead photo) don’t forget to check out the store here: http://bit.ly/1Uow4dU
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