Dumping My 20+ Year Canon Loyalty for a Sony Mirrorless

Dumping My 20+ Year Canon Loyalty for a Sony Mirrorless

I've been a long-time Canon shooter, back to the film days, then a Canon 10D, 20D, 5D, and 6D. I do mostly landscape work and some nightscapes. They've been great cameras, close to state of the art at their release, and frankly, I've never needed a single repair on any of them.

So, why the switch to a Sony a7 III? Did I benefit? What about lenses? Using the camera in the field in terms of design, ergonomics, and usability? It's complicated, but let me explain my progression, noting in advance that my experiences and reasons likely won't be the same as yours.

When evaluating cameras, most of us, myself included, look backwards. In my case, Canon always satisfied. It worked in poor weather, never corrupted a CF or SD card, autofocus was reliable, and my photos came out as intended, whether as single shots or sometimes, bracketed HDRs.

A couple of years ago, I took a trip up to Page, Arizona with another photographer who had just purchased a Sony a7R. I was prepared to tell him Canon was so reliable, why stray off (from Nikon in his case) to something untested and without the glorious history of Nikon or Canon. It was about the images and the size and weight of the camera he said, and I had to admit, his images were beautiful, in low light, at night, in the canyons with mixed lighting. I loved the dynamic range in difficult lighting conditions. I also noticed his enthusiasm about using the camera in the field.

I didn't succumb just then, but kept my eye on Sony. A year ago, I was seeing more and more rave reviews, this time for the Sony a7 III. It was less expensive, was purported to have great dynamic range, and there was a feeling that somehow Sony had learned a hell of about photography and image quality while adding features photographers wanted. 

I also sensed that Canon was moving slowly, perhaps protecting its DSLR line. Firmware updates were more about bug fixes rather than adding new features. Sony, in contrast, was adding or improving features rapidly. 

So, as far as I was concerned, looking backwards at my camera experiences with a particular brand was not the only way to evaluate buying a new camera. I tried to see how aggressive the camera brands were about new technology and where they were going in the future 

For me, that was the moment of revelation. I liked where Sony was now (mirrorless, IBIS, dual SD card slots) and the easy ability to use my Canon glass using a Sigma MC-11 adapter

I liked where Sony was heading with solid incremental improvements to their camera line. They acted like a company with something to prove, not a company that had already proved their worth and was relaxing.

I almost never buy the most expensive product from a manufacturer, settling on a middle ground that gives me the most bang for my buck, so pricewise, the a7 III fit right in.

After using the Sony for almost a year, I'm happy with my choice. My Canon lenses and my third party lenses have worked fine on the Sony a7 III, even my wide field Rokinon that I use for Milky Way photography. Here's the Sony fitted with my 14mm Canon mount Rokinon lens using the Sigma adapter.

I like the increase in dynamic range, and although the menus take some getting used to, I like the many customization options. 

Sony has delivered firmware updates regularly, with new features and not just bug fixes. And the market seems to have validated the Sony camera as many pros and semi-pros have made the switch. 

It's not, however, a decisive change. Most pros are sticking with their DSLRs out of familiarity and comfort. That makes sense, as any new technology tries to upset the status quo meets resistance. And, of course, there's nothing wrong with the image or build quality of the best of the Nikons and Canons. Still, Sony is winning over a lot of photographers.

Still, I feel that Nikon and Canon were too comfortable and were protecting their high end, rather than pouring R&D into new camera bodies and technology.

It's not productive to start the religious debates over cameras anew. That's not my intention. I'm just one photographer who made the switch, and I'm glad I did. It wasn't so much image quality or color science, but the a7 III satisfied me in those criteria. All the major companies have their fans and detractors. It was more a matter of my liking Sony's direction and aggressive stance. To many, the new Canon mirrorless entries have been less than overwhelming, and I think Canon needed but failed to get an early home run.  

So, my main reasons for moving were:

  • New camera (my Canon was 6+ years old)
  • The Sony could use my Canon and third party Canon mount lenses (with a Sigma adaptor)
  • Better dynamic range
  • Faster focusing
  • Better low light performance for my night work
  • Lighter and smaller
  • Better resolution (20 versus 24 mp)

I'm hoping that the more competitive the field becomes, all the manufacturers will step up and offer better technology at lower prices. I doubt the Sony will be my last camera. I'd like to see Nikon, Canon, and the others step up with even better products. And who knows who else might be out there to surprise us all with something with innovation and breathtaking image quality. 

Log in or register to post comments

136 Comments

Warren An's picture

Welcome to EVIL (electronic viewfinder, interchangeable lens)! lol

David Stephen Kalonick's picture

You need faster focusing for landscape and nightscapes? If these are your two mediums for photography and you haven't upgraded in 6 years, you missed out on an amazing camera that I'm sure would have knocked your socks off and you can get used for an amazing price. And that would be the Canon 5DSR. It's coming up on its 4th birthday and I'm going out on a limb but I'm pretty sure it would blow the Sony a7 III out of the water(calm down internet, I'm taking landscape use here). Either way, happy shooting but I disagree. 👍🏼

Michael Jin's picture

"I'm going out on a limb but I'm pretty sure it would blow the Sony a7 III out of the water(calm down internet, I'm taking landscape use here)."

From a purely technical standpoint without considering ergo or weathersealing, the only advantage the 5DSR would have is resolution.

Agree, the 5DSr is getting pretty long in the tooth and although it is a great camera it's no where near what the D850 or A7 III is. Both of which have BSI sensors, which no one has mentioned and yet is a huge advantage. The BSI sensors also give a huge boost to high ISO performance as well as the dynamic range everyone is talking about.

David Stephen Kalonick's picture

"no where near what the D850 or A7 III is." Really? I think it's a lot closer than *nowhere near. You think Felix or other working professionals are concerned about DR, ISO, etc.? https://fstoppers.com/bts/how-felix-renaud-shot-personal-project-section...

It is a well known fact that Canon sensors have less DR than Nikon or Sony, and it is also a fact that the newer BSI sensors in Nikon, Sony and fuji camera's are far superior. Now having said that, of course anyone with skills and talent can take amazing pictures with any camera. I too am a working professional and am a staff photographer for Getty Images. It's not the gear that matters and the Canon 5DS(r) are amazing camera's, they are just not very good when put next to the newer BSI sensor high megapixel camera's, which some (D850) also have far superior autofocus.

David Stephen Kalonick's picture

"It's not the gear that matters" Exactly. We've been creating with less for many years. My point was saving money, especially when it's primary use will not need DR or superior autofocus.

David Stephen Kalonick's picture

"I too am a working professional and am a staff photographer for Getty Images" Why not post work on your profile? Fstopper really needs to worry less about engagement on this site and only let people that post a link to their website and photos on their bio. Do you agree?

Landscape use - dynamic range. Sony leaves the Canons in the dust. You did see him talking about DR, right?

Tony Tumminello's picture

This isn't Formula 1 racing, those cactus aren't going anywhere. Just bracket.

Christian Möhrle's picture

Bracketing time-lapses sucks though :/

Michael Jin's picture

Argument for Bracketing/Exposure Blending: You will get a much cleaner final image as you can avoid the noise (and sometimes color shifts depending on the sensor) from having the bring up shadows in post.

Argument against Bracketing/Exposure Blending: The end result is a composite photograph rather than a singular event. It can also be troublesome when dealing with a landscapes in which there is moving water or wind because the blending process will create artifacts that you will have to put in the work to mitigate.

There are pros and cons to each decision.

Ed Sanford's picture

I totally agree. I have the 5DSR and purchased it at release. I couldn't be more pleased. I do landscapes and 90% of my work is on a tripod. So, I get around the DR issue by exposing to the right. I've done very little HDR (no need) with this camera. The resolution knocks my socks off. I have used it for bird photography occasionally. The extreme resolution allows you to crop and achieve great images that I regularly enlarge to 16X20. The only way that I will change is if Canon leverages the 5DSR resolution into a mirrorless camera. One of the main barriers to entry is that I have always used two bodies... typically a DSLR that I used after a new purchase. My take is that if and when I go mirrorless, I have to purchase two bodies... ouch! As an example, I was in Iceland last year with a photography group. One photographer had his A7RIII swept into the surf while we photographing ice crystals on the beach. By the way my heavy 5DSR was right near his and its weight plus my tripod held steady. He only had the one body and he was SOL. If that had happened to me, I would have reached for my old but reliable 5DMKII...

Kevin Harding's picture

So the 5DSR is better because it's heavier ?! Oh dear God. Or because you have two bodies (that one assumes you paid for) ? And if you switched to ML you'd also have to buy two ? You could also buy the superb, but 2 series old, A7r as a backup - still an awesome Landscapers camera. The fact the photographer next to you only had one camera doesn't have anything to do with anything under discussion !

All I see in your comment is uninformed excuses. However I still believe people should use what they are comfortable/happy with and if they don't need to change then I'm not advocating they make the switch.

Ed Sanford's picture

Kevin, with all due respect, you would have made a great English Composition professor. You did a great job of reinterpreting, nit-picking, twisting and omitting portions of my comment. The point that I made was that the 5DSR is a great camera. Changing to another technology is not going to add that much to my photography right now. I, in no way, castigated the Sony. I do have two bodies and because I am not a thief, I paid for both. When I upgraded to a new DSLR, I kept the old one for backup. Because I can carry lenses and other peripherals forward, it is cost efficient. All the way back to film days I've done this and frankly don't plan to change this practice. I discussed these things because they are personal barriers to entries to mirrorless. The point that I made about the photographer next to me is relevant because he purchased a new camera and went on a trip half way around the world with no backup. I would never do that because I wouldn't want to be left in the lurch in case of an accident. Therefore, it is a cost element to an upgrade. The other point is that my camera didn't get washed away is relevant because it is heavier than a mirrorless Sony. That doesn't make it better than a Sony. It does demonstrate that knowing how your equipment performs is relevant and should be considered when upgrading. When I buy new equipment, I don't put it into production until I have thoroughly tested it. So, for me an upgrade to a new technology in which I cannot efficiently carry my lenses forward is a huge decision (adapters notwithstanding). I then test the system in varying conditions before relying on it as my primary tool. That's a personal decision and not an excuse. I think folks who want to move up to mirrorless should make their own decisions. I was only casually sharing my biases and experiences which is why we have this forum. So dude, relax, have a cold one and keep your blood pressure down. "Oh dear God"... is pretty over the top melodrama.

Kevin Harding's picture

Hi Ed. I absolutely respect your right and decision to stick with the gear you have, that wasn't my criticism at all, as indeed my final paragraph above stated.

However I simply can not fathom your conclusion and insinuation that the difference in weight between your 5DSR (930g) and his A7riii (657g) was what kept your rig stable whilst his was washed away. Frankly it's ridiculous to assume that because of less than 300g.

I've photographed on that beach at Jokulsarlon numerous times and the waves are strong there - I've seen much larger rigs upended. However if you want to add stabilisation to your rig then add a sandbag to the hook. Those few kgs will make a much greater difference to stability than less than 300g in camera weight or even a heavier tripod. I shoot there with the A7rii, a light travel tripod and a weighted sand bag and except for the larger stronger waves (where I pick up my gear and run !) it works very well.

As for the 'two cameras' comment. I'm with you all the way, I never go anywhere without a backup (currently using A9 and A7rii), and by anywhere over the past year that means, just to name 3 trips, a month hiking in Kyrgyzstan, 25 days trekking in Nepal and 8 days hiking & sleeping on the wild sections of the Great Wall.
However I don't understand at all why you felt it was a necessary or integral aspect of the debate to mention that you could have reached for your backup, as if that was any sort of reflection on using a Sony vs your Canon. What is more relevant is the DR, the lighter weight and bulk.

Again though I will reiterate that there is no need for anyone to change if they are happy with their current gear and the results.

Good shooting Ed.

Ed Sanford's picture

Thanks for your clarifications. To be clear, I was only really discussing barriers to entry. Remember in my first post I even said if Canon takes the 5DSR forward, I may go with that because I would purchase a new body with a kit lens and an adaptor. That way, my old 5DSR isn’t thrown away and I can keep my lenses. I would use the new camera in low light situations. That would provide a very graceful upgrade. By the way check out this article. I think that it is fair and objective. https://www.deepgreenphotography.com/blogarchive/2018/sony-a7riii-canon5dsr

All the best.

Kevin Harding's picture

Thanks Ed.

I read the linked article and yes it seems fair but outdated perhaps ? It seems a lot of his well documented issues originated from using the MB V. The current version with the updated firmware (I use the Sigma MC-11 which doesn't have the same issues) is reputedly much better. I'm really surprised though that as he was using two Sigma lenses he went with the MB and not the Sigma adapter. However as he actually surmises :

Begin Quote --------
Now, it's not fair to say that the autofocus issues amount to a shortcoming of the Sony a7R III. Sony does not make their cameras to be used with non-native lens designs. If Canon mount lenses don't work well, that is not an indictment of Sony cameras. Is it a shortcoming of the Metabones adapter? Possibly. Is it simply asking too much to get great autofocus results for nature photography with a mismatched body and lens? Quite possibly.
End Quote ---------

If you are interested in an alternative (and far more recent) review of Canon lenses on Sony bodies go to Fred Miranda and look for the top photographer (birds, portraits, landscapes) AGeo (Joshua) who used/uses Canon's lenses extensively on Sonys (now Sony have released the 400/2.8 I believe he uses that but may be wrong) especially for one of his trips to Costa Rica.

As far as the A7riii as an alternative to the 5DSR (for the OP) is concerned then this quote from the article seems to sum it up :

QUOTE The Sony a7R III with Canon mount lenses and the Metabones adapter works very well for landscapes. Some of the mirrorless features on the Sony a7R III also offer some nice advantages over the Canon 5DsR. I bought the Sony a7R III for my landscape photography.

And

The sky was about 4 stops brighter than the foreground. With my Canon 5DsR I would have been forced to try bracketing exposures, tricky use of a graduated neutral density filter, or multiple attempts with a cloth to block exposure to the sky. With the steady drizzle and spray from the waterfall, which would pour down in buckets as flash flooding was happening upstream, this would have been an agonising exercise in wiping the lens clean and trying to avoid water drops. With the Sony, I could work quickly, utilising the articulating screen and focus peaking while the amazing sensor allowed me to hold back the sky just enough that I could recover detail in the foreground in post-processing.

The ability to capture a workable histogram in one shot was a revelation. In tough conditions and under a time crunch, I don't think I would have been able to pull off a workable image of this landscape were it not for the great sensor and mirrorless features of the Sony a7R III. Again, for landscapes the Sony sensor and mirrorless features are a boon.

If you are a Canon shooter looking for a great performer in terms of dynamic range and features for your landscape photography with Canon mount lenses, I think that the Sony a7R III will deliver what you need. That is why I chose to buy the Sony a7R III.

END QUOTES

I would also add that the new firmware update to the Sonys brings excellent eye-AF to birds !

I'd mention that I find (and others have said the same) that the Sigma MC-11 seems to be more stable for using Canon lenses on Sonys, though that is likely to vary from lens to lens. I use the Canon 135/2 (eye AF is awesome) and will shortly add a 16-35/2.8 as a used version is far cheaper than Sonys' superb equivalent.

Cheers !
Kevin

Ed Sanford's picture

Great job... I think we’re not as far apart as we may have started. For me, I am going to take a slower approach. All the things that he mentioned about bracketing exposures is all true. I am a slow worker in the field and I have embedded all those things into muscle memory. I am going to give it another year and see where things land. I will confess that I nearly pushed the buy button on an A7Riii when it came out; I then put the breaks on and decided to work on technique. Kinda like golf. I stopped buying clubs and started working on my swing. All the best...

Mike Stern's picture

5DSR is significantly behind the A7r3 especially after the latest sony firmware update.

How so? Do you have anything to add to the reviewer's article? Just curious.

SHIBU GEORGE's picture

Agreed, I had 5DSR for 2 years (before that 5d III) and now completely switched to Sony (Sony A7R3 annd A73). I primarily shoot landscape and some portrait phtoshoots. Based on my experience and for my type of use, Sony significantly better than Canon in DR, and much lighter and less bulkier. Also really like the EVF, customization buttons, focus peaking.... I'm not interested in a debate, just sharing my experience with both cameras.

Mu Tru's picture

Why would you need fast focusing for landscapes or at night?

K G's picture

C'mon, he needed another bullet point to strengthen his excuse

Ken Johnson's picture

I'm not the OP but I would guess because there are times when he shoots other things that do benefit from faster focus.

Matthew Saville's picture

Comparing the 5DsR against the A7iii is one of the worst apples-to-oranges comparisons possible.

At the very least, compare the 5DsR against the A7Riii instead, where the 42 megapixels comes a lot closer to matching the Canon's ~50 MP.

And, once you get that close in megapixels, the difference is tiny when actually comparing print sizes, and the dynamic range and overall cleanliness of the files takes a front seat in terms of printability. In which regard, the Sony makes the Canon look outdated by a decade, not just a couple/few years.

Canon's got one chance to make things right with their forthcoming "mirrorless 5DsR"; hopefully they can achieve clean enough images overall, and offer good enough shadow recovery at base ISO.

I think the biggest strenght mirrorless currently have for landscape is the amount of lenses available, especially from 3rd party manufacturers.
For astrophotography in particular there is no comparison, most of those for DSLR are junk with terrible coma and ludacris prices.

Kawika Lopez's picture

Great write up. Quality content. Wonderful insight and a classy way of communicating your perspective and opinion without criticizing the opinions of others. Well done.

Dumping my sock company for another sock company today, won't make me a faster runner but just so you know.

Jonathan Brady's picture

That type of argument is tired as f&+#. There are numerous reasons that upgrading camera gear can make a photographer produce better work

More comments