Thursday, January 7, 2016

Why I Switched from Sony DSLR to Sony Mirroless

It's hard to believe, just 3 short years ago, I came to South Korea armed only with a Sony Bloggie for a camera. I came to Korea on assignment with the US Army and have been stationed at Camp Casey ever since. But it wasn't until 2014 that I took the job as Unit Public Affairs Specialist and started shooting photos nearly full-time. But when I did, my passion for photography was reignited.

I was a professional photographer for 8 years prior to joining the military. Joining the military was a radical change in lifestyle and part of that change included turning the page, leaving all traces of my old life behind so that I could learn and do something completely new. But I guess time will always tell the truth and in time, my love of photography was again in the forefront of my life.

The Sony Bloggie, while convenient and fun, was limited as far as quality and versatility, and if I was going to shoot photos for the army I was going to need better gear. The army does not provide cameras at the Battalion level for their Unit Public Affairs Representatives, only the Brigade Public Affairs Specialists (and higher) get their hands on gear supplied by the army. This fact was ok with me for a few reasons. Firstly, my Brigade was still using older Nikon crap and secondly, I prefer to use what I like. I refer to it as "Nikon crap" only half jokingly because when I was getting paid to shoot photos I was shooting with a Nikon, however, I was never really satisfied with Nikon products overall so I decided I would give Sony a try. 

I started out shooting with the A33 which was a nice little 14 megapixel DSLR with interchangeable lenses. I chose this model because it was cheap and good and I wanted to check out Sony's performance at the lower end of their DSLR line up before spending more money. I was really impressed with the image quality of that little camera, so I quickly bumped up to the similar A35, then the A55, A65 and finally the A77 and A99. One might be able to say that I became intimately familiar with the Sony Alpha DSLR line up, having owned nearly every model they had to offer.

It was around this same time in 2013 that Sony introduced their A7 and A6000 mirrorless cameras and boy did they ever make a splash (and still are). The absence of a mirror in a digital camera allows the camera body to be designed much more compact and lightweight. 

There are a myriad of specifications that mirrorless cameras can be compared to with DSLRs but the bottom line for me is what matters and my bottom line reasons for switching are as follows:

- Quality images. I have included a few sample images at the bottom of this blog post. My first mirrorless camera was the Sony A6000, I was immediately blown away by the image quality that this compact camera produced, even in low light situations at higher ISOs. The image quality matches or surpasses the A77 and A99 DSLR and the A7R and A7II are even better.

- Super fast shutter. The A6000 shoots at 11fps when in continuous shooting mode. This is really, really fast. The A7R and A7II cannot match this speed, neither can the A77 or A99, so when I am shooting sports or fast action, I reach for my A6000.

- 36 megapixel A7R. The Sony A7R is the best camera in my inventory, in fact, it is the best camera I have ever owned. The image quality is superb, second only probably, to the new Sony A7RII at 42mp, however, I can't afford to shell out $2,300 USD for that camera. I was, however, perfectly happy to pay $950 USD for a really nice used A7R, which normally sell new for around $1900.

- Size and weight. My camera bag packed with 2 of my Sony mirrorless cameras and lenses is about HALF the weight when compared to my camera bag packed with 2 Sony DSLR cameras and lenses and this makes a world of difference when you've got a bad back like mine. Why lug around all that extra weight when you don't have to? Taking it a step further, I even bought a beautiful and handy Sony RX100 IV, perhaps the world's best pocket camera. It captures 24 megapixel images, the same resolution as my massive Sony A99! It features a Zeiss 24-70mm f/1.8 lens and simply produces stunning images and will literally fit into a shirt pocket. Wow.

What will I miss most about my Sony A Mount cameras, the A77 and A99? I will miss them for the same reason I am switching to the smaller, lighter weight mirrorless offerings, their robust size and build. Shooting photos for the army, I often times find myself in austere environments, dust, dirt and bumpy rides in a Humvee. The Sony A77 and A99 gave me confidence due to their size, weight and build. They also have a flip-around LCD screen (which the Sony mirrorless cameras do not have) so I never had to worry about scratching the screen while wearing my army gear and running around shooting photos. But now that I will no longer be doing that job, it's not a concern for me.

And finally, there was just no logical reason to keep an inventory that large which basically overlaps. I have all the equivalent lenses for my E-Mount cameras that I do for my A-Mount, save for a few specialty lenses like my Sony 16mm fisheye, which I will continue to use via the Sony LA-EA4 adapter.

Nothing lasts forever in this world and I think being able to part with material things is an excellent discipline to master, therefore I must say goodbye and thank you to my Sony A Mount cameras and lenses and welcome a new chapter in my photography journey.

Pictured above: (L to R) Sony A7R with Sony Zeiss FE 35mm f/2.8 prime lens, Sony A7II with Sony Zeiss FE 55mm f/1.8 prime lens and vertical battery grip, Sony RX100 IV, Sony A6000 with Sony FE Zeiss 16-70mm f.4 lens.

Pictured above: Sony A99, Sony SAL 70-200mm f/2.8 G lens, Sony Zeiss 24-70mm f/2.8 lens, Sony SAL 28mm f/2.8 lens. This package just sold  for $3,900 USD.

Pictured above: Sony A77 with vertical battery grip, Minolta 70-210mm lens, Minolta 28-85mm lens, Sony flash and external microphone plus shutter release cable.

Below - sample images captured with Sony A7II with Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 lens

Below: the author with a variety of Sony cameras...

Above: I believe I have the Sony A77 in my hand.

Shooting with two Sony A35's at the Seoul International Marathon.

Again, two Sony A35's.

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