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.


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).


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 I’m also a commercial beauty photographer in Los Angeles, CA, and offer educational workshops on photography and lighting all over North America.

Posted in Equipment
  • HF

    LOL. Do you think there are more A7x sold than higher end Canons? Market share of alpha mount is below 5%. I am not shooting Canon at all, but there is no denying the fact thet they sell far more cameras not only in the entry level segment.

  • Adam Sanford

    Appreciate the thorough reply, I do.

    Question: how do you shoot fast glass with only a center point AF? Shooting f/1.4 and then recomposiing to a non-centered subject will be out of focus. So do you switch to MF/peaking in that case or do you just keep your subject in the middle of the frame?

  • Adam Sanford

    You might want to check the a99 II manual again: (page 46): certain families of lenses as quick as f/4 (!) will lock AF on the first exposure!

    Again, the A99 II is quick, but 12 fps is a conditional feature — and those two conditions are compressed files and (depending on your lens) potentially locked focus after the first exposure.

    It’s still faster than a 5D4 or D810, but I dislike the ‘some conditions apply’ sort of rules.

  • Omesh Singh

    “… weighs the same 750g as a D750” … but has an ergonomically poorer grip.

  • Jose Diaz

    Even if sony labels their FF lenses as FE, they are still E mount. Just like canon labels ef and ef-s to ff and crop respectively, it’s still the same mount. There’s no such thing as FE mount (yet).

  • Sator Photo

    There is also a major problem with the concept of “transitioning” implying that using your current Canon (or Nikon) DSLR lenses on a Sony mirrorless body is a good thing to do.

    What needs to be considered is this article by Roger Cicala:

    It shows that there is significant degradation in DSLR lens performance when using adapters.

    The idea of adapters is based on the false assumption that the only difference between a mirrorless and a DSLR lens design is the flange distance. This is total nonsense. Many DSLR designs are modernisations of designs that go back many decades, but optical engineers have to largely start from scratch when designing optics for a mirrorless system. In particular, there is the problem arising from a short flange distance whereby the incident angle of light in the corners becomes unusually steep on a mirrorless mount. Unlike film, modern sensors have a three-dimension structure when seen under a microscope. That means that digital sensors cannot tolerate a steep angle of a light incidence like film can. One way of overcoming this issue is to make the lens more telecentric. This, however, comes at a cost in that it makes the lens a lot larger. That’s why mirrorless lenses are mostly bigger than their DSLR equivalents (the only exception being with wide angle lenses when the omission of a retrofocal element helps make a mirrorless lens smaller). The Leica SL lenses are ENORMOUS. Since increasing maximum aperture makes the corner angle of light incidence steeper, ultra wide aperture lenses especially end up looking elephantine. That’s why FE mount mirrorless lenses are commonly slower than their DSLR equivalents to avoid this size blowout. Mirrorless lenses also have a special rear element to increase the rear exit pupil distance from the sensor.

    Merely adding an adapter to correct the flange distance is simply not good enough, and the end result is that DSLR lenses perform suboptimally on a mirrorless mount as Roger has shown. After all, the adapter is incapable of doing anything to alter the lens formula to make it more telecentric. Everyone simply needs to understand that there is more to designing lenses for a mirrorless system than changing the flange distance.

    People have also seemingly forgotten that you can adapt Nikkor lenses to a Canon EOS mount, yet nobody does it because it isn’t a fad like it is with mirrorless. Yet it would make more sense to adapt lenses from one DSLR mount to another DSLR mount because there is less optical design mismatch. Everybody now get a Canon so you can adapt Nikon, Leica R, and M42 mount lenses!

    Actually….no. Forget this adapter fad. Adapters destroy any remaining questionable pretence to mirrorless cameras being more compact, as they are fiddly and add bulk. If you are going the mirrorless route then you need to do it in one big expensive hit and just buy native lenses rather than being misled by the false economy of “transitioning” into it.

  • Michael Ogle

    Thank God the Sony doesn’t have a flipping mirror spreading oil all over the sensor, a problem for both Nikon and Canon cameras.

  • Michael Ogle

    To compete with the big bricks, Sony gives you the 99II. Because Walmart sells Canon to the masses, doesn’t make them the leader except as a lost leader.

  • Y.A.

    I have been shooting with an A7II, a Fotodiox EF adapter, and a lot of EF glass (had + sold 50/1.8 STM, 35/2 IS USM, 40 2.8 STM, still have 17-40L, Tamron 2.8 zoom, Tamron 70-300) and some old manual primes. Overall I love it, but it’s definitely not for everybody. My impressions/thoughts over the last couple of months:

    – Adapter performance/reliability is fine…. I came into photography with a D40 so I just use center spot. Most of my photography is pretty general- candids, landscapes, events etc. To that end it works fine, even in somewhat low light (ISO12800, ~1/30s, F/2.8). I would not let that worry you, though I WOULD do research- the new Fotodiox Nikon F smart adapter has bricked 2 Youtubers’ cameras.

    – AF-C performance is abysmal with adapters, at least on the A7II. If you do any kind of action work, look elsewhere.

    – Overall responsiveness is nowhere near as snappy as a DSLR. A DSLR almost feels mechanical by comparison.

    – Battery life is indeed abysmal.

    – Weight is pretty bad too. With the EF adapter my A7II weighs the same 750g as a D750.

    Truthfully, if I could do it all over, I probably would have got a D750. But the A7II works really well, has great image quality and is relatively versatile. I’m looking to get a Techart LM-EA7 to get autofocus on my manual primes…. a Noktor 40 1.4 with autofocus will be a killer street setup. But I am probably going to have to get another body for my dogs as again AF-C has been unusable with every lens I’ve put on it. It’s a pretty contrarian setup that just manages to work well enough and deliver good value (FF IBIS for ~$1300 used!).

  • Frank Kolwicz

    Below is the quote from Roger Clark, it has nothing to do with low light, it’s an inherent lag in frame refreshing:
    “For example, if the sensor is being read out at 30 frames per second,
    that means action is 33 milliseconds ahead of where the live view
    image is.”
    And that is on top of shutter lag time and your individual response time.

  • HF

    Not really, as there is more to a camera than the sensor, esp. since DPAF works great and seems to deliver great 2016-state of the art video (see EOSHD). Aren’t you able to take professional images with Canon cameras? There are still many things where my A7rii is not able to compete with the 5div or 1dxii, for example. The 47% Canon market share tells you, too, that there is still not enough leakage to mirrorless rivals.

  • Eric Brody

    I certainly hope you’re correct, I’m not a Canon person, and not to be overly contentious, there is a specific difference in the Nikon world, at least, between the G lenses, which have no aperture ring but which operate via a mechanical linkage to a control wheel on the camera, and the E lenses which will operate the aperture ONLY electrically. I’d still be really careful before making a major financial commitment if the use of tilt-shift lenses is critical.

  • BlueBomberTurbo

    EVF lag only really happens in low light. You can turn off exposure simulation to prevent that most of the time. Never really ran into shutter lag with native lenses. If you stop down some adapted lenses, you might get some waiting for the aperture to close.

  • BlueBomberTurbo

    I shoot mainly adapted lenses (A + EF) for landscape, birding, and event photography. The only real issue I’d say I have is the lack of AF above 3fps, and that only comes into play in birding. For everything else, no problems.

  • BlueBomberTurbo

    Only problem is Canon is competing with Sony from 2010, and Nikon has all but left them mirrorless game…

  • Frank Kolwicz

    Roger Clark,, also reports significant viewfinder lag (the time it takes to refresh the digital image in the viewfinder) in addition to shutter lag, that would be a concern for action photographers. Maybe that’s what Zach was referring to with “I’m not talking frames per second, but rather the time the photo takes from pressing the shutter, to the camera responding.”

  • p00kienrayray

    Canon lenses have full electronic capability when mounted onto the Sony A7 series via specific adapter. This includes aperture control.

  • HF

    The A99ii is not locking AF in general, only if at f-stops f9 or higher in hybrid mode, using AF points beyond the dedicated PD points. If you use the dedicated points (spread similar to Canikon) this is not the case. In continuous mode you are only getting 12bit, but that is not a big issue in my opinion (sports photographers often shoot jpgs only). Beyond ISO200 you can’t see a difference, as comparisons show as well as measurements of the photon transfer curve by J. Kasson, using the D810.

  • HF

    “The tech within the systems is so incredibly far ahead of Canon and Nikon, giving you more power to do what you love.”. Not really. Canon and Nikon have mirrorless, too. Nikon was the first using on sensor PD in the Nikon 1 (unfortunately decided to use a small sensor) with full tracking and very high fps. Canon has dual pixel AF (DPAF). It is as fast as what I get with my A7rii (and can be used with the touch screen). All Canon has to do is use an EVF, like in the M5 to make the transition to mirrorless. Video AF using DPAF is superior in my opinion to what Sony offers. Nikon uses Sony sensors and is/can use the RGB metering sensor for depth information, face detect etc. So this statement is a huge exaggeration in my opinion. Says someone using Sony and Nikon to earn money.

  • Eric Brody

    I’m not sure about the Canon lenses but Nikon Tilt-Shift lenses have an electronic aperture will NOT allow one to close the aperture except on a Nikon body. Be very careful. If the Canon’s are electronic, (and I believe they are) you may not be able to operate the aperture even if you can attach the lens.

  • Raoul

    One serious drawback of Sony mirrorless is that the sensor is much more prone to collect dust and other pollutions.
    That is easy to understand, since the sensor is only 18mm behind the flange (44mm for a Canon DSLR) and is not protected by the shutter when you remove the lens (the shutter remains open until you actually take the shot, while it is closed on a DSLR).
    That may sound like a detail, but is a real pain in the use of such a camera, in my opinion.
    They could probably program the camera to close the shutter automatically when the lens is removed, but currently they don’t.

  • Ed Bambrick

    iPhone and iPad users wanting a ‘step up’.

  • Ed Bambrick

    Sony’s NEX7 brought me into photography. The A7 and A7r were frustrating. Shutter shock, 12 bit color and horrible white balance. Being unable to edit some portraits to satisfaction and the wasted time led me to Nikon. 2 years ago I switched to Nikon’s D810 and have only used the Sony to make comparisons with in that first year. Maybe the A7rii works for some but it still selectively offers 14 bit only under certain settings and that may limit a photographer. The flash support and AF are also a problem. I still have the A7r and Zony’s near perfect 55mm lens. But they are joke, results wise to what the D810 and an Otus or Sigma art can deliver. And for an apples to apples, the Otii used on the A7r also don’t cut the grade. Lately I grabbed a throwaway Panasonic 4k camera and it’s whipping the Sony on apples to apples comparisons on video and sound. (and at half the price !) The A7r will more than likely become an IR camera and I don’t see myself ever trusting Sony again after their 12 bit fraud they maintained for years.

  • EcoR1

    Aarggh! There is no such a thing as “FE-mount”. Stop confusing people. There is only E-mount when talking about mirrorless systems.

    And no, A7-series does not autocrop any E-mount lenses. Users can choose between autocropping or using the lens witout in-camera-cropping.

  • Tim Cooper

    Regarding the adapter weaknesses, is that something that’s limited to fast work, or that would be an issue with deliberative shooting as well? Specifically if I were looking for a body just to do slow, manual-focus landscape and architecture with Canon’s tilt-shift lenses, would you recommend A7rii over the 5DSr? I’ve found that a difficult choice and so far my approach has been to avoid it and hope something even better comes out.

  • Adam Sanford

    The A7 boom is being spearheaded by enthusiasts, and that makes sense — it’s really hot tech!

    But other than the occasional story about a pro converting, it’s not happening in droves. There are too many missing pieces a pro counts on to make the plunge without cutting off one of the legs he’s standing on.

    Sony will get there, but they need 5 more years of focused development on lenses, flashes and accessories.

  • Adam Sanford

    This is not a partisan affair. I’m just trying to highlight that FF mirrorless has limitations, realities, etc. that must be considered before making the conversion plunge.

  • DP

    > But there are reasons folks are sticking with CaNikon SLRs

    so all those A7* FF shooters there were coming from where ?

  • DP

    > launching FF rigs with 12 bit RAW, 4k overheating, AF locked after first exposure in highest burst settings, etc.

    some companies launch FF cameras spitting oil over the place and w/o 4K at all .. not to mention shutter shock when using viewfinder… and yet.

  • Adam Sanford

    Sony makes exciting stuff, but consider:

    1) Once you slap f/1.4 primes and f/2.8 zooms on it (as all pros are wont to do), your space savings are effectively lost:,682.286,624.514,682.7,ha,t –> so FF mirrorless is great, but don’t buy it if you want a small rig. Physics is physics, yo.

    2) Adapting glass involves headaches, AF limitations, and risks: Don’t be afraid of it, but caveat emptor as the doodad sitting between your awesome old lens and your pricey new camera doesn’t have decades of pedigree, trust, and reliability behind it. Native glass for that mount is always the better call, IMHO.

    3) Sony is famous for great sensors / tech / features, but they also are famous for fine print and surprises: launching FF rigs with 12 bit RAW, 4k overheating, AF locked after first exposure in highest burst settings, etc. They are absolutely improving on this front, but even the formidable A99 II still has these sort of fine-print surprises. YMMV.

    I think Sony and their disruptive innovation is terrific and will change the industry. But there are reasons folks are sticking with CaNikon SLRs: more responsive, better battery life, better AF, more options, more lenses, better service, no adaptor/compatibility nonsense, etc. CaNikon is a far cleaner and straightforward ecosystem to be part of.

    Sony continues to close the gap, though. It’s a great time to be a photographer with all this new tech coming out!

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