Equipment

Things to Know When Transitioning to Sony Mirrorless Camera Systems

There is no doubt that Sony has made some massive changes over the last few years in the photography industry. What was once a brand that many laughed at, has now become the leading sensor manufacturer and most exciting camera manufacturer in the digital era. So I wanted to take a moment and give you some advice and tips on how to painlessly transition from Canon or Nikon to Sony.

sony-camera-switch-1

I’ll start by saying that I haven’t made this change personally, but have been considering it for the better part of the year. My research comes from a number of rentals of the Sony a7rII system, and talking endlessly to those who have switched. You’ve certainly seen an article or two denouncing Sony systems, for those accustomed to the DSLR format, but there is a huge number of reasons to make the switch. So here are a few things I’ve learned about the Sony system that will help with your transition.

Growth – At A Massive Rate

Perhaps the biggest challenge of making the switch to something like the Sony a7rII or Sony a6500 is understanding the growth of Sony. They’re pushing out more new lenses, and more new products faster than anyone, which can make the shopping process a bit confusing. This year alone, Sony has released eight new lenses to their E-mount/FE mount platform (and two teleconverters), significantly more than Canon with their EF mount at three this year (two of which were version upgrades to lenses already developed).

But all this still requires patience. Canon has been using the EF mount system since 1987, and Nikon has had their lens mount since the late 50s. So while Sony is making a lot of lenses quickly, they have 30-60 years of catching up to do.

Segmentation in the System

The first thing you’ll notice when diving into the research about mirrorless systems from Sony is that they’re segmented with their lens lineup. A-mount, E-mount, FE-mount, how can you tell which one is best for you? The answer is FE mount. E-mount is the format that Sony has chosen for their crop sensor alpha series (confusing, I know), and the FE mount correlates to the full frame sensor cameras. While you can use the E-mount lenses on the a7 series of cameras, the camera will auto crop the sensor to APS-C format to avoid any vignetting caused by the lens designed for the crop sensor. Both of these lens mounts work on the Sony a7s/a7R lines of cameras, though it’s probably best to stick with FE lenses, where 99% of Sony’s research and development is going.

The second thing you’ll notice is that its hot shoe and many of the design elements are different than what’s on a traditional DSLR or camera. This means you’re not going to necessarily be able to put that old flash trigger on the camera and expect it to fire. But new flash triggers will have their problems as well. This becomes most obviously true with the Profoto TLL triggers, which allow for HSS and TTL on their Profoto B1‘s and Profoto B2 strobes. However, Profoto has announced the TTL-S remote, bringing those functionalities to the Sony platform soon. Additionally, anything using a center pin can be expected to work, so all PocketWizards and other common flash units will still work, at least in manual mode.

Third Party Acknowledgement

Another important thing of noting is that third parties are finally happening, though it’s not as fast as many are hoping. For one, Sigma has finally acknowledged Sony as a contender and has started developing an adapter for their Art series lenses – though still no word on when an E-mount Art series line will be released (note, they do have Art series lenses for Sony A-mount, but nothing for E-mount…yet).

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Adapting Isn’t The Best Answer

The solution to the limited, but growing, lens lineup is just to use an adapter, but that isn’t exactly the best answer. The Metabones lens adapter systems are great for many, but we’ve personally had problems with them in the past, which is why I do not recommend them for professional use. While the Sigma MC-11 adapter seems to be more reliable through our studies, it is designed to be limited to Sigma lenses exclusively. The reality is that you can delay the transition of switching your glass out for Sony glass, but it’s not advised to prolong it. The world of shooting Sony camera bodies while using Canon glass isn’t exactly ideal.

You’re Not Saving Space

A Sony a7rII with a Metabones Adapter, Canon 500mm f/1.2L, and Sony 85mm G Series verse a Canon equivalent.

A Sony a7rII with a Metabones Adapter, Canon 50mm f/1.2L, and Sony 85mm G Series verse a Canon equivalent.

One of the biggest misconceptions with mirrorless systems is that you’re going to save space in your camera bag. If you’re just carrying around a camera with a lens attached, sure…but if you’re like me and usually bring a variety of lenses and tools, you’ll find that the Sony systems don’t save space – as the lenses are often larger, and the battery life is a real issue. If we’re honest, you’ll likely get ~260 shots from a single battery using the Sony A7r II, 3.5 times less than what you can expect with a Canon 5d Mark IV or similar. So with batteries taking up that saved space in your bag, we have to look at the cameras on equal playing fields. Which brings me to my next point –

The Future is Awesome

The number one reason for you to consider switching to Sony is that it’s primarily from the future. The tech within the systems is so incredibly far ahead of Canon and Nikon, giving you more power to do what you love. For one, the digital viewfinder feels cutting edge, giving you exposure and depth of field in (virtually) real time. For those who grew up on DSLRs, and especially those who started on film, this feels like cheating. Quite simply, that battery draining viewfinder will, without question, make photography easier for everyone who uses it. Additionally, something like the Sony a7R II has wifi, 399 focus points, 4K video capabilities, 5-axis internal image stabilization, and a beautifully crafted full frame 42mp sensor. Virtually everything you would need, and didn’t know you wanted is available in a mirrorless system, making your bulk DSLR feel like a relic from another, much older era in comparison.

And that is the biggest reason to switch. Over the years, Nikon and Canon have left many frustrated. They haven’t innovated enough, and many feel that the DSLRs released in 2008 can still hold up to today’s DSLR cameras. But our plea’s for wifi, for GPS functionality, and for intelligent autofocus systems has been answered, but as many have found out, they’re being solved by Fuji and Sony systems.

But The Answer Isn’t Always Yes

There is some bad with the good, though, and Sony isn’t all blue skies and rose bushes. The harsh reality that many people have had with the Sony systems comes from their full understanding of the bad. The mirrorless system in the Sony lineup isn’t a DSLR killer, or not yet at least.

For one, the Sony is a bit slower than a DSLR, which could have massive effects on sports photography, or other time sensitive aspects of photography. I’m not talking frames per second, but rather the time the photo takes from pressing the shutter, to the camera responding. The reality is that it’s microseconds in time, but the short delay from the digital viewfinder to your hand, to the shutter activating, can add up – and help you miss the shot. Even still, I often write this off as a learning curve problem, but it’s hard to go back when we have grown so used to real time.

Secondly, I wouldn’t exactly call the Sony a7RII weather sealed, and ready for action. Having said that, I’ve never had, or heard of them failing under extreme conditions – but I believe that’s because people might be sensible enough not to put them through the reigns like you might with a Canon 1DX Mark II or Nikon D5. With it’s smaller form factor and tech design, it’s easy to assume that it’s more likely to break. Canon and Nikon are still on a mechanical platform, where Sony has taken the digital approach, meaning more pieces of hardware can fail.

 

So is it time to switch? Well, I’m not sure. But with Sony’s recent lens updates and the technology that they already have in place, it goes without saying that there is no better time to switch than right now. The hurdles to the system have all shrunk in size, and being less and less frequent, making the mirrorless systems by both Sony and Fuji completely capable cameras to use for professional work. With Nikon and Canon seemingly ignoring our cries, maybe this is the time to show them that other options are available.

Author: Zach Sutton

I’m Zach and I’m the editor and a frequent writer here at Lensrentals.com. I’m also an editorial and portrait photographer in Los Angeles, CA, and offer educational workshops on photography and lighting all over North America.

Posted in Equipment
  • Rebecca Cooper

    My husband is looking into the sony system and found a kit on Amazon. Do you think this is a good deal?
    https://amzn.to/2NjpxVq

  • disqus_Wz58Qq14ii

    What are your thoughts on the A7R3?

  • David Beecroft

    I have been an avid Canon shooter for many years. Presently I have 2 6d’s and some L glass as sell as some Sigma Art. The set up is not optimal for fast action but iq and low light, high iso picture quality is really quite sell-able. I bought the a6500 a few days ago along with the newest Metabones speed booster. After updating the firmware in the Metabones it works surprisingly well with my existing ef lenses, with a few exceptions, one being continuous AF. I have seen amazing feats of focus with the sony and it better than the Canon but I then discovered that the Canon, right out of the box wasn’t all that good at following a subject walking towards the camera, (something I do with actors who want natural street shots), but with a little tweaking of a few of the Fn ii settings, works quite well.
    I bought the Sony because I needed a camera that could shoot without making a sound, as I am called upon to make photos of theater, dance and music (live and in recording studios) performances where shutter noise often isn’t tolerated. The Sony does this and with the added feature (speedbooster) of a gain of one stop of light due to the 0.71 crop makes my already fast 2.8 and 1.4 glass even faster. A bonus in the low light situations I often find myself in. With a heavy Sigma Art lens the Sony feels like an unforgiving brick whereas with the same lens the Canon sits more comfortably in my hands. I will be buying a zoom so that I may use all of the features available to the Sony, probably an APS-C F4 18-105 for general purpose photography and video. The Sony is different but really not bad. I wonder if I will ever “transition” fully as I like the feel of Canon and the naturalness of looking through a viewfinder that doesn’t present an interpretation of the scene and subject for me to see. I also see that things in photography are changing rapidly. It’s better to keep an open mind with first hand experience than to become the “grumpy old photographer”
    Who says one has to give up the tried and true to embrace the new? I want it all!

  • Mike

    Be aware that due to the larger image circle of tilt-shift lenses reflections inside the adapter become more of an issue. It needs to be lined with felt or some sort of absorbing material. I’ve also read mixed experiences with tilt-shift lenses on a7 bodies regarding image quality / sharpness when tilted. Definitely try before you buy.

  • Giulio Dallatorre

    legacy-lenses lovers, wannabee Leica owners ?
    I did actually switched from Minolta and had a good reason… uhm, Minolta “died” and I felt the same way on the A-Mount cameras. When you have to change, change big they say

  • Giulio Dallatorre

    You will all be happy to hear that Vöigtander is bringing the Leica-sized glass to Sony. I’m going to love those f/1.2 as big as the average f/1.8 primes.

  • Maurice

    I use the A7RII and the MC11 with my Canon 24-70II f2.8 and 70-200 II f2.8 since I got the MC11 in May. I have never had a problem using them. Interestingly, the camera detects both as Sony A-mount lenses when you go into the EXIF data.

  • Mick

    Actually I find the 70-200 f2,8 with metabones adaptor works better than 70-200 f4 Sony OSS G at the same f stop (say f8) and BTW the Canon lens performs much better than on my previous 5DMk3 since there is no OLPF and more resolution.
    However, the comments about all the great new sony tech are nonsense from my perspective. The only way I can get high reliability of auto focus is to turn off every last one of the ‘new features’. Complained to SONY for the first year of warranty = only suggestion was to buy SONY lenses and guess what? no change at all and lesser optical performance for the 24-70; adequate for the 70-200 (but only f4 was available or not an an insulting price).
    The zeiss 55mm f1.8 is the best lens on this camera so far followed by 70-200 f2.8 L series.
    I have a lot of very nice Zeiss (and Leica) manual prime lenses, but the manual focus assist on Sony does not show clean 1:1 even when zoomed and with focus peaking – it makes it useless for manual focus lenses. And you can’t preview at 4K HDMI when in photo mode – only in video mode. That combined with the fact that the preview sent to EVF or display is compressed (even when shooting only raw) makes it impossible to do full manual/ At least that has been my experience. 95% in focus if ALL features turned off and all manual except for large spot autofocus. If you enable features the %in focus drops to 50-75% – So you better take 3 identical photos of everything and you might get one in focus LOL Even when on tripod with electronic remote shutter actuation!! BTW the sony equivalent to back focus is a PITA since you have to press like 4 buttons every time to make any adjustment to spot focus placement.
    Using capture one tether does not help much as the software insists on sending raw off camera – there is no way to send jpg and keep raw on camera memory card – so you have to wait for 5-10 minutes every few shots for it to clear the buffers over USB2!!!!
    Burst mode is also useless – after 4 frames the camera goes into busy mode unbuffering images to the card for like 5 minutes (why can’t they write to card without buffer? i/o speed must be too low in their design). So for a real world use – like fashion runway – if you let camera burst you will lose opportunity to photograph the next 3 models! Likewise switching between video and photography.

    And the 100Mbps 8bit only video – 8 bit even over HDMI makes the 4K video useless for anything professional. even with Slog2 profile you immediately get banding because 8 bit does not provide enough range.

    And while I love the resolution when you get a cleanly focused shot, the lack of professional reliability and burst makes me want to do a youtube sledgehammer ‘tear down’ of the A7Rii
    The specs for the new Alpha with same sensor look slightly better on burst, but can anyone even trust Sony marketing specifications? I can’t 🙁

  • Michael Clark

    The entire Canon EOS ecosystem is electronic aperture only. There isn’t a single EOS camera since the system was introduced in 1987 that has ever been made with a mechanical aperture control lever. Thus all Canon EF, EF-S, TS-E, and MP-E lenses have electronic apertures. All third party lenses made for Canon EOS cameras have electronic apertures. The adapters made to use EF lenses on mirrorless mounts all have electronic aperture control.

  • Bowserb

    Hey guys, here’s another opinion…just what you wanted. I don’t know others’ reasons for switching or not. I do know this, however. If I had no camera, I would not buy into the Canon or Nikon DSLR systems. Dinosaurs, and I been saying it for fifteen years. My wife and I both enjoy photography. Because of the thousands of dollars we have tied up (tied up, not “invested”) in Canon bodies, lenses, and flashes we’re kindof trapped, and that’s what I believe Canon counts on. Nikon too. I know two people who have made the jump from Canon to Sony, and one from Nikon. They all seem happy with their decisions.

    Well, I’m seriously considering the A6500 and an imperfect Metabones adapter to start, after which I’ll begin phasing out EFS lenses. My wife is determined to stick with the Canon full frame, especially since they have the most pixels with the 5DSR, but that could change too in time. The thing that did it for me is the Canon M5, supposedly Canon’s first serious mirrorless. No 4k video. No IBIS. Autofocus that buyers can’t figure out why the press liked it so much, when it works so poorly for them. I pre ordered an M5 but cancelled two weeks before it began shipping.
    The A6500, with the cost of a Metabones adapter taken into account, will cost me $1,800, compared to the Canon M5 with the Canon EF/EFS adapter at $1,180. Half again the cost of the Canon to get the Sony, which may or may not work properly with all of our EF and EFS lenses. Worth it? Canon counts on our saying no. The answer may be to wait for the NEXT generation from Sony, which should be mirrorless with an electronic, instead of mechanical, shutter. That might also give Canon a chance to wake up. I don’t know if I can wait. Once you get the “new camera” bug, you know. The M5 is just not new enough, or good enough, so Sony may get another convert in the first quarter of 2017. Maybe I should start with an A6500 and Metabones rental for evaluation. Hmmm.

  • Michael Stone

    I love the IBIS and no need to do microfocus adjustment and silent shutter option. But at the end of the day the speed issue that Zach mentions is huge. I miss more shots with the Sony. And it only has one card which limits it – to me – for only occasional use professionally. But I am watching the technology like a hawk.

  • Hugo Guzman

    I was so confused by this haha.Thanks for clarifying!

  • denneboom

    I found a error in the article

    “Sigma has finally acknowledged Sony as a contender and has started
    developing an adapter for their Art series lenses – though still no word
    on when an E-mount Art series line will be released (note, they do have
    Art series lenses for Sony A-mount, but nothing for E-mount…yet).”

    Sorry, that aint true. Sigma has a native 19mm, 30mm and a 60mm DN ART lens with a E mount.
    They are aps-c but its 100% e-mount

  • Carleton Foxx

    They’re not bad if you stick to the lightweight plastic-bodied prime lenses… My D810 plus the 50mm 1.4G is pretty svelte.
    But you’re right about the 2.8 zooms.

  • Paolo Palmero

    An A7 with the sony zeiss 35mm f/2.8 is smaller and lighter than a dslr with a comparable lens. An A7 with a 35mm f/1.4 is comparable in size. You get more choice with one body. That’s why I switched.

  • Greg Dunn

    Yup. This is one of several reasons that “transitioning to Sony mirrorless” is a long long way in my future. EVF lag, autofocus in servo mode, and simple ergonomics don’t meet my needs at all for the work I do. There’s a LOT more to any camera than just the sensor – and not many applications where the Sony sensor has a meaningful edge.

  • atlanta_guy_1

    Is it possible the Sony excitement will continue until Canon catches up, which may not take long? Selling off Canon gear to transition to Sony is a big step and assumes Sony continues their rise and Canon sits back. I recall Black Magic was supposed to take over the world, but on the lower-end professional, they seem a ghost. (Have URSA problems been resolved?)

  • I think they would better start with building a few servicing facilities and improving customer support… 😉

  • ^ What ahsanford said. +1

  • That looks like a typical Sony PR article in a reputable blog… 😉
    If anyone has a modern FF camera from any brand, there is no point to switch unless the goal is to get some extra pain in the neck.

  • Adam Sanford

    Michael, ALL full frame cameras become big bricks when you bolt an f/1.4 prime or f/2.8 zoom to it. Small FF mirrorless is a myth unless you can live with f/2.8 primes and f/4 zooms… which few people can.

  • User Colin

    As others note, there’s no such thing as E and FE mounts just as there aren’t two A mounts or different mounts for Nikon DX or FX lenses. If you have bought a crop sensor camera then considering the crop lenses is perfectly sensible option. They are likely to be cheaper, smaller and lighter, and frankly what Sony is doing with its roadmap is irrelevant once you have bought the lens. You could well buy/carry several crop lens for the price/weight of one serious FF lens.

    http://briansmith.com/aps-e-mount-lenses-for-sony-mirrorless-cameras/

    There are APS-C lenses for Sony E-mount from third party manufacturers Zeiss, Sigma, Tamron and Samyang, along with some more obscure names.

  • > Everybody now get a Canon so you can adapt Nikon, Leica R, and M42 mount lenses!

    You say that sarcastically, but the ability to use Contax and other lenses was actually a big part of the reason I ended up buying a Canon 5D a few months ago (my beloved Pentax K-30 unfortunately suffered aperture block failure) and not a Nikon. I say Contax in particular because (1) I already had the Distagon 28/2.8 and Planar 50/1.7, and (2) those plus an eventual Sonnar 85/2.8 would make a fine small-and-light yet optically excellent trio of primes that I’m not sure anyone else is even trying to match these days (well, except Pentax with the wonderful FA Limiteds, but those cost 2-3 times more).

    And I actually did end up with the Nikon F-mount version of the Makro-Planar 100/2 plus adapter, because I also discovered that selling lenses is not a particularly pleasant experience, so a lens I can eventually use with only a cheap “dumb” adapter on FF mirrorless years down the line (when I can actually afford it) is worth the hassle of not having auto-aperture.

  • Y.A.

    Right now my fastest lens is my 2.8 zoom, so this hasn’t been much of an issue. I am planning to get some old F/1.4 manual primes to use with the LM-EA7 next year so I may have to change my strategy then. I do occasionally move my point around though without issue.

  • Gil

    Another problem with Sony E Camera,is the lack of support in AF-ASSIST in flashes,it is very critical to wedding photographers and party.

  • HF

    Yes, these are the older Minolta lenses or Tamron lenses, for example. Sony has a list of lenses being fully supported which includes almost all A-mount lenses, in case you use the dedicated AF points. That is similar to what Nikon and Canon do in some modes. Less and less AF points can be utilized when using teleconverters, or AF is frozen after the first shot (1dxii, 16fps). The a99ii looks like a great camera, but I would hesitate to buy one, as I am not sure that Sony will invest a lot in R&D of successors or new lenses. Maybe I am wrong here.

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