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. 

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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.

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...

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

Timothy Gasper's picture

Yes sir...that is true and not true. I was always told (from at least 50 years ago) that it's not the camera but the photographer. Hell even Ansel Adams said it and who are we to question him? But that verbage has gone out the window a while ago. With new technologies we see more and more increases in 'better' photos. But i still ask myself if it's the camera or photographer. Maybe both? Maybe that old verbage should be revisited? What a quandry.

Jonathan Brady's picture

Exactly! Gear may not make a bit of difference in some cases. In fact, it may lead to worse results, hypothetically speaking. For instance, if something is too big and heavy and it demotivates someone and they don't even bring it with them then the lack of an image is necessarily a worse result than what they would have taken with even the worst gear. Conversely, gear which has capabilities that other gear doesn't have can lead to a shot that never would have existed otherwise.
So, the only time gear doesn't matter is when all gear is capable of achieving the exact same result given the circumstances. Then, all that matters is the photographer. Otherwise, it's some combination of the two (gear + photographer).

"too big and heavy" this argument is tired as f&+#. When the bonus point of a camera is that it's light then we've gone off the deep end. A pic is taken in raw and then edited. Everyone acting like they never edit pics and the camera did the magic. No it's the person that gets up early or stays out late to shoot the sun rise or stars or the way a photographer makes people feel at ease and knows how to direct a model that makes the image good. I've seen way too many bad images shot on the latest and greatest to start camera worshipping. But hey at least it's light.

Jonathan Brady's picture

It appears as though you've confused an example with THE reason. There are many other examples I can give which illustrate the differences between two or more pieces of gear which will result in better output. Hell, you gave one yourself. Jpeg vs. Raw. In that case, proper editing software to develop the raw file can produce a superior result versus a JPEG image. It doesn't necessarily guarantee it. But it can absolutely result in it. Would you not consider software and computers to be gear?
Thank you for supplying a second example to complement the first.

Ryan Davis's picture

I left my 5D and my lenses at home a few years ago, when I walked the Camino, and used my iPhone as my principle camera. When you are walking 800 kilometers, and humping gear already, 3 extra pounds feels like lead in your boots. I sure wish I'd have had one of those Fuji x100s.

My colleague bought a full frame camera with some heavy lenses. After the holidays I asked him if he liked his pictures. He told me that he left his camera at home because it was too heavy. My comment was that he bought the wrong camera. He should have stayed with a ligher aps-c camera.

Doesn't make one produce better work, just makes the gearhound rationalize their decision.

Jonathan Brady's picture

I never said it "MAKES" one produce better work. I said it CAN. Gear can unlock possibilities. Just like processing a raw file can unlock possibilities that a jpg can't.

Eric Myre's picture

How many of those articles are you guys gonna put up?
Well written article, but seriously who cares at this point?!

Timothy Gasper's picture

Exactly. If you're happy with what you have then stick with it. But writers do need to write about something. Perhaps they could look for more creativity or originality?

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