In the last post, Goodbye Canon, I explained the need to lighten up my camera bag recently; it was simply too heavy after surgery in 2010. When looking to see where that weight was coming from, it didn’t take long to see it was the Canon 6D and three lenses. After a week of searching online, I finally settled on a new camera system and made the purchase. When the new camera arrived, I took lots of shots and while it wasn’t a familiar Canon, I figured I’d get used to it. I sold the Canon gear on eBay and started a journey which felt, like I said a few weeks ago, as if I were marching a parade with two left shoes on because I knew I’d make it, just not comfortably. I ended up buying a Sony A7R and let me say upront that the image quality is fantastic and with two lenses is lighter than what was carried previously. In the areas of image quality and weight, I’m totally satisfied. However, this new camera had two areas that made me feel like a photo failure. Trying to navigate a menu system that was totally unfamiliar ground and a focus system that wasn’t much better proved difficult. Getting clear photos was a hit or miss propect for days and at one point I even told my wife it was going back in the box and sent back to the store, but she’s used to my Jan Brady hissy fits. Frankly, after using Canon camera for years I now realize that I became spoiled because I felt like I was learning to shoot all over again, that was unexpected. Canon cameras were easy, this wasn’t easy.
I decided that after reading the manual that the camera would go everywhere, after a couple of weeks I’m still going back to the manual but up for the challenge at this point. Everything I read prior about Sony digital cameras warned that Sony’s menu system was, as we used to say in the military, “less than desirable.” I remember reading somewhere that the menu system was “clunky” and had no idea what that meant; now I know “clunky.” Why Sony doesn’t release new firmware to fix this is beyond me. While now getting used to the Sony A7R, the truth is that I wish there was a Canon lightweight mirrorless camera and glass that functioned like the trust old 6D with L Series lenses. If Canon ever released a mirrorless that recieved the kind of reviews that their new 5D Mark IV gets, I’d probably jump ship back to Canon instantly. Time to let go…
Some people will ask why I didn’t simply shell out the extra money for the Sony A7Rii? Well, I actually gave that a lot of thought and it came down to this. The A7R shoots at almost twice as many megapixels than my old 6D, so for the money, this was worth looking at and shelling out $1,800. The A7Rii shoots roughly 6MP larger than the A7R but costs another $1,200, that’s a $3,100 price tag. Not being a pro or making a bunch of money selling photos, was that $1,200 worth an additional 6MP in larger photos? Not to mention, the A7Rii’s uncompressed RAW files are a whopping 80MB per photo, I’d need new hard drives as well to accomodate the file size because my 2TB drive would be full in no time. Again, if I were putting food on the table from photography and had clients who needed the best images possible, the A7Rii would have been the choice. However, I’m just a retired guy taking pics and the A7R’s image quality is perfect for my needs and the file size is just a little larger than that of the Canon 6D. While many folks don’t like the Sony A7R’s compressed RAW files, they suit me just fine because nobody will ever see most of my photos anyway.
What do I like about the Sony A7R? First, the weight is exactly what I was hoping for and carrying the Sony around is much lighter and easier on the back. This was the prime reason for ditching the 6D. Second, image quality is excellent and seriously crisp. While it took a while to get clear images regarding the Sony focus system, the images are impressive. The two lenses I purchased are incredible as well; the Sony FE 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS and Sony 16-35mm Vario-Tessar T FE F4 ZA OSS give me almost the same capabilities that I had previosly with three Canon lenses. Actually, the Sony 16-35 reminds me very much of the previously owned Canon 16-35mm f/4L IS USM in the way I can get right up on the subject to take advantage of the wide agle capabilities. The photo at left, Swingin’, was one of the first Sony A7R photos taken at a front yard in Coronado, California with the Sony FE 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS lens (at f/10, 1/160 sec, focal length 134mm, and ISO 500).
The above photo, Cove Fog, was taken at Fiddlers’s Cove in Coronado, California and is two photos stitched together. It was shot with the Sony A7R with the Sony FE 24-240mm (f/3.5-6.3 OSS lens at f/9.0, 1/5 sec, focal length 24mm, and ISO 50). What is it that I don’t like about the new camera? As mentioned earlier, the menu system is tough and seems to have been created from a bad dare. It’s as if two drunk Sony techs were in a bar and one said, “I’ll bet you $100 I can make the crappiest menu system ever but people will still buy it because it’s a Sony.” I thought maybe menu items were grouped in Braille and I couldn’t find the raised dots. That said, getting used to a Sony is half the battle but there isn’t anything that makes me regret the purchase. Being a smaller camera, it has a completely different feel ergonamically. Once it’s in your hands the buttons feel that much closer together than other cameras. However, I fully expected this given the Sony is a smaller camera. This is a temporary thing and I’ll adjust to the size, but for now my hands are instinctively sliding where the buttons aren’t. All the other little things, like the lens release button being on the opposite side of every camera I’ve ever owned, are just growing pains coming from Canon.
So, while it may not sound like it at times in this post, I’m pleased overall with the Sony A7R, but I admittedly have a hard time letting go of my Canon ways. When I whine about Canon, I make my seven year old daughter seem like the mature one in our house, again just ask my wife. Coming from another brand, the learning curve has been steep but not impossible. I just hate picking up my camera and fidgeting for settings but that was going to happen no matter which brand I went with. Lastly, while researching this purchase I had read how Canon has fallen behind in mirrorless camera technology and, while only recently releasing a serious mirrorless, it appears they’re years behind Sony. While I’ve moved to Sony for the moment, I’m still keeping my eye on Canon and hoping for game changer from them down the road.