A Strictly Hypothetical Question: Which Full Frame Digital Camera (Under $2000) Is the One You'd Buy Right Now?

There you are, sitting around with a stack of APS-C cameras and a bigger stack of micro four-thirds cameras with glorious, jewel-like lenses, and in the back of your mind, no matter how logical you are and no matter how many times you've proven to yourself that your selection of cameras does exactly what you want it to do, you start to think you just might really need a full frame camera. You know, mostly for those times when you'd really like that depth of field to be......tiny. For those portraits like the one above that was done with some sort of esoteric, ultra fast 85mm lens on some splendid, old 35mm film camera.  Maybe you were digging through boxes of prints and some random image just grabbed you by the short hairs and made you uber nostalgic for a look you thought you'd have gotten over by now.

We'll leave out whatever personal or psychological reasons might be driving you to even consider getting back into that full frame....situation and we'll consider the whole exercise to be entirely hypothetical, Okay? This isn't (necessarily) an admission that as soon as I finish typing that one of us might be jumping up, grabbing the credit card and the car keys and heading out to acquire one of the cameras under discussion.  Rather it's intended as a high minded discussion of the various attributes of three different cameras that might appeal to someone who might be considering adding a bit to the kit. 

Just above I mentioned that I was thinking of three different cameras. That's because, to my knowledge, there are just three that can be purchased brand new for under $2,000 each. The candidates I want to discuss are: The Sony A7, The Nikon D610 and the Canon 6D. All three feature full frame, 35mm area, sensors but all three of them are different enough so that a person with no allegiance and no ties to any particular brand might have a hard time choosing. 

When I look at them this is what I see:

The Sony A7 is the odd man out. This is because the camera is designed as a compact, mirror less design and uses contrast detection auto focus. The pros of the camera are (because of its shallower dimension between lens flange and sensor plane) its ability to use just about any full frame lens from any system and from just about any decade. At one point I fantasied about buying the camera along with a Nikon 20mm, a 55 Micro Nikkor lens and the much adored (but probably over romanticized) 105mm 2.5 ais lens and having a wild system that spanned the ages. And probably at the lowest cost of the three system choices. 

The sensor in the A7 most probably shares its DNA with the sensor in the Nikon D610 and both of those sensors are highly rated. The 24 megapixel sensors have AA filters in front of them so I suspect that the performance of both is much like the overall performance of the Sony a99 camera with each company changing the secret sauce of file processing to hit the tastes of their respective markets. I'm sure each sensor resolves plenty of detail and does so even at high ISOs. But I think the reason most cognoscenti are looking at full frame isn't necessarily for performance as much as it is the look of the lenses at particular angles of view. The selling point of any larger sensor camera (at least to me) is
that the look of the lenses and the slope of their defocusing at any given angle of view looks different from smaller sensor implementations. If high resolution was the dominant metric we probably be just as well off considering Pentax or Nikon APS-C 24 megapixel cameras with no AA filters on the sensors (the K-3 and the D7100).

The Sony A7 is the smallest (by far) of the three choices, has the shortest battery life, and focuses much more slowly. In the ultimate plus column I would put the very nice EVF which adds so much to the operational success of cameras---especially those pressed into service with manual focus lenses.

The Nikon D610 is the logical choice of the three....on paper. It's got a sensor that seemingly outperforms the sensor in the Canon camera and matches the sensor in the Sony. The camera is also an interesting camera for some manual lens users since it can accept and make use of manual focus Nikon lenses from decades ago (as long as they are "ai" or auto indexing lenses.).  I've handled the D610 extensively and can report that the camera is very comfortable to hold and exudes that workman like haptic that makes it both reliable and, to some of us, boring.  The finder is nice, the updated shutter (compared to the D600) apparently has stopped spraying oil and dirt on the sensor and it seems to be a well made picture taker. 

The Nikon and the Canon are very much traditional DSLR cameras in almost every sense. Yes, both of them have added the obligatory video apparatus but it feels as though it's been bolted onto both cameras grudgingly. Using the rear screen and live view complicates video work and makes both cameras, with attendant aftermarket finders and after market digital recorders bulkier, more expensive and less fun to shoot with. 

So, if the Sony A7 is one type of camera and the two DSLRs both represent a different design and shooting philosophy are there any major differences (besides lens families) that would drive a photographer to choose one of these over the other? What does the Canon do that the Nikon doesn't?

Well, what is all seems to boil down to for me is the difference in the way the two cameras feel. The Canon has a sensor that is reputed to be a generation behind the Sony sensor in the both the other cameras. The dings against it seem to boil down to about a one stop difference in ultra high ISO noise performance and a stop and a half less dynamic range. I'm sure these two things make a difference to some users but, again, my interest in using any full frame cameras is not the ultimate performance of the sensors but the uniform imaging differences caused by the overall geometry of the class of sensors. 

The Canon and the Nikon handle differently. The Nikon is rounder and has a much more grippable hand grip on the right hand side. The Canon is boxier and feels more squared off in the hand. Both have really nice finders (for optical finders) and both have good shutter itchinakagamichu (or sound that pleases the ears while in the process of creating art. I think it's a common Japanese term for shutters whose sounds don't jangle the nerves in a bad way).  Of the two cameras the shutter itchinakagamichu of the Canon in the default mode is a bit ahead of the Nikon, and surprisingly both of the traditional DSLRs have much better itchinakagamichu than the mirror less Sony A7.  When switched to "silent" modes the Canon and Nikon both do even better with the Canon pulling away into a more rarified sort of itchinakagamichu I describe as anechoic chamber-y mercedes door thump

So the Canon and Nikon feel different from each other. The Canon has, for want of a better description, a stand alone feel. It's as though the camera was designed to be used with one lens and in a very personal way while the Nikon feels to me like it's meant to leverage a system. The Nikon is obvious a serious production tool as indicated by the two card slots while the Canon seems like a self contained photo contemplation machine. I know that sounds a bit weird but the cameras seem to signal their strengths to a user who is open to soaking in all the design touches. 

How is the actual performance of all three? Having shot some with each camera I would have to say that if one were to put the same lens on each body, say a 100mm, and take images of the same things with the camera locked down on a tripod I think the differences between raw files would be minimal or non-existent until we started hitting the nose bleed areas of ISO. Then the Sony sensors might show off their design advantages. In a similar way if the test scene were out doors in brilliant sunlight and included subjects in deep shadows one might have a bit less difficulty pulling more detail from the shadows than one would with the Canon files. But in all three of these cameras I'm confident that the limitations will be the user's technical chops and the vagaries of doing post production on sRGB monitors.

To my mind all three of the cameras are very good image makers but how does a potential (or hypothetical) buyer narrow down the choices and end up with the right tool? Here's my process: 
I would be buying the camera to supplement the current cameras I own by adding higher resolution and the "look" of the full frame sensor. I would not make ISO performance or dynamic range part of my overall calculations. 

Next I would understand that although I see myself as a careful worker I know that I would use the camera mostly to take portraits in the studio and out on location and I'd want to side step the issues I've had in the past when using manual focus lenses with AF designed bodies. I don't have time to DSLR live view. I would want to use the camera with AF lenses. I tried valiantly to use the 85mm 1.4 Zeiss lens for months on a Canon 5D mk2 only to be ultimately defeated by the design of the lens. It shifts focus as you stop down. You may focus wide open and nail something but the lens is shifting it's point of sharp focus as you stop down to, say, f4. It's just enough with close in portraits to make ears wonderfully sharp while eyes go blurry. And it's not that obvious on your little screens unless you stop repeatedly to zoom in and examine your images as you shoot. The only remedy was to use live view and focus at your taking aperture. Shades of the 1950's. 

So, if I bought one of these cameras it would be to use an AF lens as a fast and accurate portrait system. 

As a working stiff there's a lot to like about some of the things camera makers have gotten right for a long time. For instance, I would pretty much disqualify the Sony camera for its slow focus and its use of very small batteries, as well as its heavy usage of the diminutive batteries. I lived through the 100 exposure, half pound, batteries for the old Kodak Professional series cameras and I don't want to live through the hourly battery change cycle again. Yes, the batteries are smaller but who wants to stop and reload batteries throughout the day? And once you toss the used batteries in your pockets who wants to have the extra brainpower draining subroutine of remembering which pocket has the charged ones and which the dead ones?

The one thing that keeps the Sony in contention for some people is the low used prices. If you go to Amazon right now you'll see half a dozen "like new" or "very good" used cameras that are hovering around the $1250 price point. It's a temptation to get into full frame at that price point but I did my research and really, you'll lose the price advantage the minute you either buy the dedicated Sony lenses (which don't currently give me much choice in the 90-105mm range for fast glass) or you'll lose all handling advantages and pay a price to buy an adapter and a legacy lens to put it on. Add it all up, toss in the slow focusing, mix in the obnoxious shutter noise and we're really down to just the other two candidates. 

At that point, to me, it becomes a toss up. I know that Nikon will allow me to use a lot of older lenses but in many cases I'll have to give up automation and go back to the drama and trauma of focus shifting with fast long lenses used manually. I know the sensor is probably better as well and I know that I'd be able to achieve a more reliable one handed hold on the D610 because of the great grip ergonomics. So pretty much my mind should be made up, right?

Logically, yes. Emotionally and aesthetically? Not so fast. I like the overall feel of the Canon and I like the enhanced simplicity of the Canon 6D as well. It seems so focused on picture taking. Some of my prejudice is nostalgia for a cheap but reliable 100mm f2 lens that I used to use to good advantage on the old 5Dmk2. 

Essentially it boils down to a choice between the two majors. In a totally hypothetical exercise.....

I'm curious to know if I'm, A: missing any other candidate?  B: missing some "must have" feature set?
C: How you would make your choice between the three cameras? And D, If you ever have the same (ir)rational desires to add full frame cameras to your already delicately balanced inventory?

Funny that after handling the Panasonic GH4 as a video camera none of the three candidates holds any interest for me as a video tool. Ah, what a fragmented hypothetical reality.

Just a curious morning.


Doug said...

I think I'd look for a used D800 in the 2200-2300 range. More will be coming on the market with the 810 announced and it's the best performing sub $3k camera in the world at the moment.

Dave said...

I'm actually having this exact debate in my head. For me the Nikon probably gets the nod because I have a 50 and 85mm lens for it already (as well as the wonderful little 55mm micro). The video aspect makes me hold off though. The answer is probably none of the above - but adding the little Sony RX10 to the bag.

Pat said...

From Nikon's crummy customer service history, I'd rule them out...

...and then there were two...

Frank Grygier said...

The Nikon only allows a 3 frame bracket for HDR. I don't know how you would live with that. That being said I would go with Nikon. Kai likes them.

Kirk Tuck said...

Frank, I didn't catch that disturbing specification! Knowing how dependent my life and work are on the magic of HDR you can rest assured that the Nikon D610 has been quickly removed from the short list.

Hey.....wait a second.....I'm not Trey Ratliff....WTF do I care about HDR?

Not much. Back the D610 goes, into the mix...

Kirk Tuck said...

Pat, Given Canon's crummy customer service history I'd have to scratch them out too.

And given Sony's non-existent customers service...well....

Looks like it's on to the Ricoh cameras.

Marshall said...

I enjoyed your post but find you make a lot of assumptions.
I recently went through the same process of wanting to upgrade from my APC-S. I did my research and found for my needs that the Sony 7 fitted them best. It was only a few hundred dollars more to get to full frame.
First I would put myself in the 'enthusiast' league. Second I travel a lot, so reducing the weight was a prime factor. I can now carry everything in a much smaller bag.
Third I was finding that a lot my work is now producing large format prints, and going full frame and 24 mp was a logical choice.
I have found the Sony batteries a little light, but saying that have been able to get over 400 photos (keeping the monitor on) per battery.
The Sony is a real change from my past Nikon. It took me a week to really build a workflow, but now it is natural. If I have one complaint, it is that Sony did not provide a external charger and have to wait 5 hours to charge in camera. I plan to get an external charger to solve this.
One feature that I like is being able to WiFi (built-in) over the photos from the camera to my iPad. I am planning to visit Peru this September and will not take my MacBook Pro, so having a way to upload them to my iPad is real convenient.
So if image quality, travel ease, weight, size are important to your photography, then the Sony is a fantastic choice.

Mike Rosiak said...

Hasselblad, for really "full frame?"

Y'know, Kirk, I get this antsy feeling when I'm not anticipating a delivery from either B&H or Amazon. Like, I have this "non-shopping remorse" condition. Some days, I have to fight the urge to just pick something from "Today's Deals" or fish something out from my wish list, and just BUY something.

And the odd thing is, I HATE going to a shopping mall.

What is it that causes that kind of an itch?

Anonymous said...

Surprisingly, where the Nikon and Sony best the Canon is below ISO 1600. Overall, the Nikon measures the best over the widest range, and the Nikon and Sony have substantially better low-ISO dynamic range, but above ISO 1600 the Canon beats them both...slightly. From a robustness of files issue the Nikon probably takes the prize here; the Sony plays games with its RAW encoding and the Canon might have a touch more pattern noise in the shadows. The Canon is the better balanced stills/video SLR, That's the usual case when you're decided between the Canikon duopoly. As attractive as the Sony body is, its system isn't as attractive as the Canikon systems.

Murray McMaster said...

D610 with one of the half dozen 105s you have in the stable. Or even better, the 105f2DC. The new NX-D does pretty amazing stuff on portraits too.

Frank Field said...

As a landscape shooter, what would drive me to full frame? Reasonable pixel density and pixel pitch wide enough to hold off the onset of visible diffraction until at least f/11. To me, that says if I really need 24 MPixel, then I really want to be full frame. The D610 scores high on that count. Why have I not moved from my D300 bodies? The AF points on the D610 are limited to the central 35% to 40% of the image. I would find this quite limiting in the field.
Would I switch to Canon or Sony? Unlikely. When I go into the field, I'm trying to carry two bodies and a set of lenses and accessories I can use across both bodies. I really can not afford the weight penalty from carrying two full systems.

typingtalker said...

A Canon 6D because I already have a bag full of Canon lenses.

I have a 5D MkII that some lucky photographer could buy for less than $2,000.

Kirk Tuck said...

Hey Marshall, Where did I make assumptions? I was pretty clear that I have handled all three of the cameras and shot with them. Everyone is going to defend their own choice, that's the nature of camera buying but not owning any of them I think I am being pretty darn objective.

Five hours in camera battery charging? Not for pros. Get the Wasabi two battery pack with charger for a whopping $28 on Amazon. I got one for the RX10 and it makes camera life easier.

Anonymous said...

You people are all nuts. The best full frame camera ever made was the first digital Contax. 6 megapixels, full frame and used the Contax lenses. Everything else is just hobbyist.

Stefan said...

Start with the lens, then chose between the two dslrs left driven by adaptability. If you have / like old Nikon glass go for the d610, for example. Same for Canon / Canon glass. But if for example you liked your old Leica R lenses, go for Canon because of better adaptability. Etc.

TMJ said...

You need accurate AF.

A. No other candidates
B. All three are well featured enough
C. Choice:
Sony: out (lenses, small battery,etc.)
Nikon:fine as long as you want to use Nikon and Sigma lenses
Canon: Canon and Sigma lenses plus you can use all sorts of other lenses with adapters when you do not need AF
D. I am looking at this too, but for a different reason. Want to use tilt/shift lenses on an FF body rather than take my 5x4 everywhere.

Guilherme Maranhão said...

I can certainly understand your love for the Canon 100mm f/2. I bought mine with my 10D and will never let it go. It became clear it was amazing on the 5D and later on the 5D2 as well.

I run a small wedding studio in Brazil and we have Canons since the 10D. When we had 3 5D2s, one 40D broke and we got a 7D to replace it as a fast flash camera for group shots during the night. The 7D made us stop thinking about transitioning to 5D3s. It seemed to me that there was something wrong with the way its (7D) sensor was designed. Of course there were many more MPs, but DR was worse then say what it was in the Rebel XT (looking at numbers of RAW files lost during editing because of washed out highlights due to TTL flash overexposure and/or unacceptable bright skin tones due to overexposure, problems we didn't have with the 40D, for example).

Right now I'm making my first bet and I just received a Sony A7s.
Maybe when the 5D4 comes out we will buy some 5D3s to replace older cameras here, but not expecting much.
I'd prefer that Canon would be the one using Sony's sensors.

Mark Davidson said...

IMO the Nikon makes the most sense.
As you note, there is probably only the slightest difference in ultimate IQ between them.
The AF on the Nikon is very good.
You have , and are fond of, legacy Nikon lenses.
Battery does not stink.
Ergonomics are more to your liking.
As a Canon owner I have long heard of the superiority of Nikon in AF and TTL flash performance. I don't know if that is true or the usual hype of tiny differences. In either case the TTL may not be areal issue but could be useful in the future.
As far as customer service it seems they all are poor but Sony seems to earn special ire.
Good luck.

neopavlik said...

This is a battlefield that I've waited to step into.

I'll finally make this decision within the next 7 months.

Currently have Nikon D3200 the kit lenses and the 85mm 1.8G ( along with 105 2.5 AIS) but wouldn't have a problem selling or relegating them to backup.

Sony : The A900/A850 have dropped to really really nice levels. The 28-75 2.8 is affordable but the expensive lenses(85/1.4, 135/1.8, 70-200 2.8) are pricey as can be. Used Minolta phenoms ( 100/2, 85/1.4 ) might be worth a try but that might be a lot of risk on used stuff.

Nikon : D610 is logical but I'm seeing used D800 come down to ~$1800 which blurs things. Lenses are good but some of the prices versus Canon hurt.

Canon : From a price/performance standpoint that 100/2 has tempted me to switch systems by itself. If the 1dsIII (or 5d3) drops under $2k I might switch. 6D is probably good enough but I think I might like to try that wheel on the back. Used 70-200/4 is also another temptress for the switch here.

Before that decision though I'm gonna round out my lighting with a super powered light for outdoors ( White Lightning x3200 ), a Scrim Jim / California Sun Bounce / Lite Panel for studio or outdoor work, and probably pelican cases to protect the lighting stuff I have.

Rufus said...

A7 is the wise choice I think,

A7R for maximum FF loveliness with no AA filter.

A7S for low light wizardry AND better AF AND even a totally silent shutter ( lacking with the other A7).

I think you'd have a hoot with the A7S personally. FF, big fat pixels, and although you aren't thinking video I reckon the lowlight capabilities it brings could be interesting creatively.

And it has EVF. You really don't wanna go back to OVF now. Think of all the chimping..

Mike Peters said...

Ok, I'll be odd man out here and say NONE OF THE ABOVE!

Why not just get a 42.5 Voigtlander Nokton? Here is a sample at 0.95: http://www.mikepeters-photography.com/Hold/071814-Nokton-Tests/i-b5vhHv9/A

This lens, as will the 17.5 and 25, has thrown a wrench into my thinking about at Nocticron. Samples from the 17.5 and 25 can also be seen at that link.

With focus peaking in the GX7, which is not as well implemented as in my GH4's, I did just fine at 0.95 for getting images in focus.

Mike said...

Canon 5D Mark I. Still makes beautiful images, and you'll have $1500 left over.

Anonymous said...

One consideration is how they play with flash. How the Canon and Nikon implement flash according to your liking may factor into the equation.
Frank B

Carlo Santin said...

I have this conversation with myself all the time. I've tried the A7 out quite a few times in the store and I quite liked it, felt very nice in my hand and the EVF was quite good. I would take focus accuracy over focus speed (well I would prefer both)but I'm not sure how accurate the A7 focus is in real life use. It's got to be better than my Nex 6, which sometimes decides it's simply not going to focus on anything, at least with the kit lens. But I ruled the A7 out when I looked at the lenses, the prices made me swoon.

I've also tried the D610 a bunch and I like it a lot. Yes it's boring and big but it seems comfortable and functional, and I already have a couple of nice Nikon lenses, AF and MF. I've never gotten along with Canon for some reason and I don't know why. Canons never feel good in my hands. So probably the D610.

Don't really need full frame though, it won't do a thing for my photography. I keep repeating this to myself and it's worked so far...fingers crossed.

sbimson said...

One of the things that's kept me with Canon has actually been third party support. I have a mix of Canon and Yongnuo lighting gear for a mobile studio and it all works together great...at a reasonable price:


That being said, shooting old leica glass on my A7 is a heck of a lot of fun!

Paul H said...

Or, you buy the Nocticron for your micro four-thirds, and for the very rare occasions where you finally convince yourself you really do need a bigger sensor, in spite of everything your brain tells you, you go and rent something with an even larger sensor. But that would still be shy of a proper 6x6 full frame ��

Dave Jenkins said...

If you've been following the comments on The Online Photographer, you already know what I'm going to say, Kirk. But I'll say it anyway: get a 6D and the Canon 100mm f2 lens and live happily ever after in portrait heaven.

Tony Nyberg said...

Hi Kirk

Honestly, if you were to buy the Nikon D610 for portraits, get ready for frustration.

I rented the D600 for an event shoot, mainly to access the high ISO, which was great, but the small area AF meant I was having to manual focus a state of the art modern DSLR/lens combo, which felt uninspiring shall we say.
The other interesting aspect was when I returned the camera, I promptly forgot about it, the lure of full frame just faded away.
The funny thing about full frame is that it give you the look of 35mm film, which not that long ago was not good enough for clients, medium format was the minimum, now some how it is special.
Also don't forget the Nikon 50mm 1.2 manual focus lens, now that is special, the natural skin tones and low contrast are perfect for that nostalgia vibe.

Wolfgang Lonien said...

A: I don't know about the situation in the US, but here in Germany the A7R is also within range, which is, for new bodies:

~ 1200€ (A7)
~ 1700€ (A7R)
+/- 1500€ (Canon and Nikon)

This puts a 36MPix camera into the game for those landscape guys IMHO.

B: the " must have feature set": by now I'm as much as an EVF lover like you are, you've successfully converted me. This and the shorter flange distance compared to DSLRs make both Sony cameras a very compelling choice - for those that use them like a tiny large format camera, with "shot discipline" as Ming Thein uses to call it, and on a tripod (yes, to really make use of that ultra high resolution you should forget about the tiny size and treat those like serious tools. Takes away the small form factor advantage, but still).

C: a tough one. As much as I see the potential of the Sony cameras, lens choice is the obvious weak part at the moment. No 85mm portrait or 100mm macro/portrait AF lenses (without adapted A system ones) rule them out if you want to make images *now*. The choice between the big two: well Mike Johnston started my re-thinking process of this with one of his latest blog posts, and the multi-page review of the Canon on Nasim Mansurov's site (a Nikon user) is also full of good examples and reasons to not dismiss that Canon, especially when paired with that new Sigma "Art" lens. Tough one, like I said. I'd probably take the Canon route, but these thoughts change from time to time (and the grass is always greener...)

D: all of the time, especially if I see that subject isolation / separation like Nasim shows in some of his photos (which reminds me a bit of the images Thorsten Overgaard takes with his Leica & Noctilux setup). It's not so much the portraits in the studio, for these a µ43rds with the 45mm/1.8 is plenty good enough, but these photos of at least half torso adults from some distance is where 35mm-format cameras play out all of their triumph cards. Even for kids & pets / animals, like the Flickr Feature of Elena Shumilova showed. So pair a 6D with a - relatively cheap - 135mm/2 to get an almost medium format like look to your images - for a total of around 2.5k€... And no, you can't mimic that with µ43rds, not even with the 75mm/1.8 lens (which is 40% of that Canon price already). So yes, thoughts and irrational desires like these come up from time to time.

Hope that helped a bit... but in fact I'm as undecided as you are. Good to know that I'm not the only one.

Patrick Dodds said...

I think I'd start with the lens(es) too, like Stefan said. Or maybe scrap all this and look again at MF (about which I know nothing so I won't comment further).

Bill Danby said...

Before you decide, have a look at the A7's eye focus feature. I've re-assigned it to a programmable button. Press the button and you get instant focus on the eye -- wherever it finds it in the frame. Of course, that won't work with legacy glass.

S. said...

I give the D6x0 a slight edge for the dual card slots and the built-in flash that is occasionally useful as a commander or trigger for remote flashes in a field setting. The AF is slightly better with more AF points, but both have such small coverage as to be perpetually annoying. However, for your use case (portraits in studio), I don't see any advantage of one over the other. For me, low light, high ISO, and better dynamic range in adverse situations made the D600 a no-brainer. I also still prefer Nikon ergonomics overall.

I chose a D600 over D800 for the size/weight as well as the U1/U2 settings banks, which Nikon inexplicably leaves off the D800 family. 24 Mpixels is also a sweet spot for my computer gear; 36 Mpixel processing is slightly over the threshold of pain for me.

Racecar said...

Haven't touched the Canon 6D, but I do like how the 5DMkIII gets out of the way and lets me capture the image without any fuss. Easy to navigate the menus, and easy to arrive at the proper configuration for the shot. I mostly shoot in "M" mode, but the P and CA modes have been quite useful in a pinch. I like how the "live view" simulates the the final image - this is rather helpful when shooting carefully with available light. In short I would go with the Canon simply for ergonomic reasons. BTW I have a Canon 100mm F/2.0 lens that is a radiant jewel of a lens in my opinion. And it's not expensive. Shallow depth-of-field at a bargain basement price.

Anonymous said...

I know that 105mm is outside your comfort zone on a crop body. But hey, stretch a little, try the Nikon 105mm f/2.0 DC on a Nikon D7100 body. You may enjoy it, and find you have no need for a FF camera.

BTW I've shot my last photo on a Canon 5D3. From now on everything will be APS-C or smaller.


Doug C said...

You got me going with the Nikkor 20mm, 55 Micro, and 105 AIS fantasy. Those three are often in my camera bag, and they migrate back and forth between the a7 bag and the one for the D600.
One thing I love about using them on the Nikon is having EXIF data, which I find quite handy, that and reading the f-stop in the finder. Both handy luxuries.
I work slowly, often on a tripod, so my style is quite different than yours so for your uses the Canon might have been my choice.
For my uses the EV of the Sony is the clear choice for indoor work where focus and DoF is critical. I even picked up a tilt adapter to buy back a little DoF I lost moving up from APS-C.
But I use both systems, and love the Sony with my Leica M lenses and Nikon lenses. If I need AF, of course the Nikon gets the nod.

Anonymous said...

I own an A7. Last weekend I rented a d610. This weekend I have lined up a rental on a D6.

Here is my strongest impression from last weekend with the D610: If/when the focus on mirrorless cameras catches up to that of DSLR cameras, it is over for the DSLR.

I have maintained a romantic affection for the optical viewfinder; but, in use, now that I have been accustomed to EVF, I found myself more often wishing the D610 had an EVF than I have ever wished for an optical viewfinder on the A7.

I look forward to time with the 6D but have a hard time believing it will be that much better than the D610.

My purpose in renting D610 and 6D rentals was/is to scratch an itch: A guy should have a DSLR! It is just they way things ought to be!

Unless the 6D creates some kind of special magic, I am going to have to say that the A7 was the right choice for me. I'd buy it again.


Ed Posthumus said...

Nice hand grenade Kirk. Where you feeling a little frisky this morning and just wanted to see what kind of trouble you could stir up on this interweb thing?

Jim Tardio said...

What about the Nikon DF?

Kirk Tuck said...

Jim, Have you found a new one yet for under $2,000?

Jim Tardio said...

Here you go: http://www.ibcart.com/details/Digital-Cameras/SLR/Nikon/Nikon-Df-16-2-Megapixel-Bo/1525?gclid=CKqy3Z6o378CFYhcMgodcSAAqw

Can't vouch for how reputable this place is...but hey, you're a rich novelist now :)

mactheweb said...

This brings to mind Mike Johnston's question about practicality vs. fun. I bought the D600 and, after I got the shutter fixed, found it to be a highly capable image making machine. It has anything I could want - if I were to buy off a check list, as I did. The camera makes great files. I appreciate Nikon glass and I find the whole setup as exciting as a dead stump.

I remember that for my first paying photo gig where I was issued a Rolliflex twin lens reflex camera and made it do pretty much what I needed to do for several years. My flashes ran of batteries that probably weighed 12-15 pounds. I even learned to shoot track meets through the mirror that reversed the direction of everything. My own first love with a camera was the Nikon S3, which I also worked with.

So, if one needs a certain feature it might make sense to buy a camera based on the checklist. However, I don't think that we need all the features that we've come to rely on. I'm no luddite. I like the intelligence of modern cameras. And, I will never again buy a camera based on specifications and reviews without first renting a camera or spending time in a store with one.

I'm doing most of my work with a Fujifilm X-E1, which is already dated, even in Fuji terms. I like the camera and can still make images that appeal to me. Yes, it's more work sometimes. Yes, I have to think through exposures and focusing. But I have more fun.

The Fujifilm isn't full frame. But I don't love any of the full frame options. I've shot the 5D3, the 6D, the A99, the D800 and D600, even the A7r. I'll pass on the high end 1Ds or D4s. I'm not shooting sports or headed into a war zone. These cameras can all make great photos. However the Canikon's great ability comes with little soul. All the features are wonderful, but the photographer still makes the image, and that can be done with lots of cameras. They are plastic coated metal computers. The Sony is interesting, but Sony has no track record of completing lens lineups, and the current lineup is too spare by a long ways. If money were no object, I'd shoot Leica as I prefer the lenses available for the M-mount.

Ron Zack said...

I've played over the cheap full frame scenario many times in my mind, and the winner is always the Canon 6D. Why is that? Well, several reasons:

- 40mm f/2.8 STM
- 70-200 f/4 L (non-IS)
- 85mm f/1.8
- 135mm f/2 L
- 100mm f/2.8 macro
- 200mm f/2.8 L

....and so on. I just like the Canon lenses better than what Sony and Nikon offer for their systems. Plus, I've seen hundreds of examples of what the Canon 6D can do when paired with with a decent lens, and the results are simply incredible.

Not to mention the fact that Canon RAW files play very nicely with Adobe products, making workflow a breeze.

And one big, fat cross-type sensor right in the middle of the frame. What more could you want from an AF system? :-)

nigelrobinson said...

Kirk, what is your favourite lens in that range? That would be the way I'd go about it.

nigelrobinson said...

I'd pick my favourite lens from the possibilities and then the camera. Second thing would be how each system renders skin tones.

Andrea said...

The Sony, of course. Why? The EVF. After having shot SRL for 15 years and then digital for the last 3 years, no way I'll go back to OVFs, thanks.

Craig Yuill said...

My answers...

A. & B. No to both.

C. D610. Someone I know who teaches photography and does paying gigs on the side has used the D600 extensively. He says it is a sweet camera. I have been impressed with the quality of the photos taken with it. That said, Canon does have a better selection of short-tele lenses in the 85-to-135mm range than Nikon does.

D. No, I haven't had any desire to add full-frame gear to my inventory. I do a fair amount of wildlife/bird photography. Crop formats work better for me. I would rather put my money toward glass. I could use a couple of more lenses that are not in my inventory, and upgrade a couple that are.

Anonymous said...

Whoah, your mFT (only) romance turned out to be a pretty short one, didn't it. ;-p

A: That depends on your needs and personal preferences. A7s would be one obvious candidate in your case, given your interest in things video, too. You could trade your GH3/GH4 for it.

B: Your life, your needs, your personal preferences, your money, your decision.

C: If those three were really the only choices, it would be very easy, the A7, of course.

-The A7 is a mirrorless camera with a short, highly adaptable lens mount and an EVF.
-The Canikon 6D610 is a DSLR.
I don't wish to invest in sunset technology in 2014, for a number of practical reasons.
-no typical DSLR niggles like focus shifting, awkward video shooting etc.
-EVF is great in studio and portrait work, especially in continuous light, also nice with flash lights, albeit with less difference to an OVF.
-the size and weight of the A7 is just about right, even with the optional power grip (less battery swaps). Not too small without it, either. It's about the same size and weight as most of the pro SLR cameras of yesteryear, without the bulky motor drives.
-a mirrorless design is more versatile and future-proof than DSLR in 2014, even though the native FE lens choice is still small. But that'll get better.
-you get both an APS-C and FF camera, and use both E and FE lenses.
-Canikon have crappy video, and awkward to use, and albeit whilst the video in A7 is not great, either, it still is as good or better as in those two, and it has EVF, zebras, mic and headphone jack, audio meters, etc.
-You can use a number of lenses, not just native ones, even though using a non-native lens is always a slight compromise in useability.
The Nikon in particular is rather limiting, because you can only use lenses made for Nikon.
-the image quality of the A7 is good enough, and it's not as loud as the Canikon, or even the A7s.
-All three are good enough for stills, nevermind the pixel peepers and fanboys. They all have the nice FF look. So the choice boils down to the reasons above.

I could go on, but I'm afraid it might trigger the max character limiter.

D: I'm not sure what exactly you mean by that sentence but...
I do have a rational and irrational desire to add a full frame body/system to my arsenal. I have already sort of decided to go for one, as soon as my budget permits that.

My choice is either the A7 or more likely, the A7s. Budget permitting, both. At first I thought that the A7r would be the obvious choice from the two first A7 bodies, but later I started thinking that the A7r would be a bit of a one trick pony for my needs, namely the high megapixel sensor without AA filter. I can trade that for other features.

The A7s would be more a video camera than a stills one, and the A7 would be a reasonably priced compromise between the FF look and top performance, with 'enough' megapixels. With the aforementioned benefits of a mirrorless system. It could be used for an occasional B-roll clip, too.

Why Sony, then? That's simple, apart from the Leica rangefinder cameras, there are no other FF mirrorless cameras out there yet, and the Sony ones aren't too shabby. Case in point, the A7s.
That's my 2+c.

If you really must choose a Canikon, the Canon lenses would be more adaptable in video use, too. You could get a Metabones mFT to EF adapter with electronic connections, or a Holy Manta variable ND adapter for the GH4, for example. You could also use both Nikon and Canon lenses in a Canon mount, whereas with Nikon you'd stuck with Nikon stuff only.

Anonymous said...

"The one thing that keeps the Sony in contention for some people is the low used prices. "

The corollary of course is that at least in the US the residual value of a used Sony is low. Buy a new one, and expect its residual value to plunge at a much quicker rate than that of the Canon and Nikon... which of course becomes one more decision criterion.

Corwin Black said...

From this choice, I would buy A7. Cause A7 is freedom. Pick any lens you want, use adapter and have fun. If one needs "action shooting", get their SLT adapter (which focus really fast) and use some of Sony A mount lens. Plenty of good ones.

Im usually buying second-hand cameras, cause I can get much better (top class) cameras that way. For example, old A900 or 1Ds MK3 might be old, but if you want only photos, they are still very very good (as far as colors go, unbeatable, tho.. if one wants to go that way, there used to be Kodak :).

FF for me for 2k USD? 1Ds MK3. Not new for sure, but they wont die just cause they are older. :D

Jeff said...

Amazing how the number of comments spikes when you talk about buying cameras vs making images.

Kirk Tuck said...

Data not lost on me Jeff. Thank you for mentioning it.

ezra said...

For a wedding shoot I did last weekend (I've been an infrequent and occasional pro for 25 years) I rented a Metabones Speedbooster adapter to stick my whittled down collection of MF Nikkor lenses onto my EM-5. With both my 50 1.4 and my prized Series E 75-150 3.5 I was getting delicious and sharp, shallow DOF shots on the easy to focus EVF (with Image stabilization to boot.

I now believe the hype of this little optical wonder - focal length reducer and max aperature increaser - for portraits, it gave me *most* of what I gave up when I sold my D700 but makes nailing focus in low light a relative breeze while at the same time carrying around small and minimally invasive gear.

Worth a rental to evaluate for sure!

Dave Jenkins said...

It's a lot easier to talk about cameras than it is to talk about photographs. . .

That doesn't mean that your posts about making photographs don't get read and absorbed. It just means that there's not as much that can be said about photographs or the making of them as about equipment. Photographs are essentially to be looked at rather than to be talked about.

Dwight Parker said...

Don't know what you may do but I'm going to pull the trigger on a 6D with the 24-105 "kit" lens for a little over the $2000 you mention within the next couple weeks after I dispose of 1 toy to buy another... I am not a professional but I have stayed at a Holiday Inn (and probably will again some day....)

Anonymous said...

Do carpenters fret so much over the hammers they use? Do thoughts of a new brush keep painters awake at night? I wonder.

The leading image is lovely. If that is the look you want, why not just create new images the same way you did that one? Just walk past the dangling carrots of FF cameras that Canon, Nikon, and Sony are desperately trying to convince you that you need and visit the used film gear counter at Precision. You'll probably be able to walk away with a splendid 35mm camera and lens with a lot of money left over in your pocket to buy some B&W film for the next few years. What would you be missing? Endless nested menus and instant gratification? :)

Hugh said...

I'd buy a 5D3 or D800, even if it was over budget and then I wouldn't want to buy anything else for years and years. :) I'd choose which depending on the lens I wanted to use.

"Full Disclosure" - I've gone from 5D to 5D2 to 5D3 because I'm not interested enough in cameras to look at alternatives, and because I only need or want 35/50/85/135 prime lenses.

Anonymous said...

Solution: Speedbooster with Nikon 105mm f2.5 and your EM5. Thanks

Kirk Tuck said...

Hey Guys! If you read the headline you'll see that this is all hypothetical, I'm not looking for buying advice or alternate use advice. I was asking a more or less academic question which was: Which of the three full frame cameras described would you go for?

Also, to the various folks who've tried to teach me about film or film cameras......you do know that we actually cut our teeth in film and still have lots and lots and lots of full frame, 35mm cameras, and their attendant lenses, standing by. No mysteries here.

Anonymous said...

"Hey Guys! If you read the headline you'll see that this is all hypothetical, I'm not looking for buying advice or alternate use advice."

Yes, I'm pretty sure everyone did see it, but no one actually believed the "hypothetical" part of it, and still don't. For some "unknown" reason. ;-)

Roger Jones said...

Greetings Kirk

If it were me and it was me awhile ago I purchased a Nikon D700. It works great with all my AI lenses or my D lenses, I thought about the D610 but I didn't want to spent that much money right now. I can use all my lenses on both my the D700 and my F2 but if I needed video I'd go with the D610 or keep a Panasonic, if were me.
Good Luck

Anonymous said...

The grass is always greener... Hypothetically.

Klarno said...

Instead of buying a full frame camera, I bought a Sony A3000 (horrible camera with a nice sensor) and a Metabones Speedbooster, and I use the two together with my OM lenses. My desire for full frame look is pretty much settled now.

Of the three cameras mentioned though, I'd probably go with the A7. Because all I really want full frame for is manual focus legacy lenses, and the mirrorless option that accepts any lens fulfills that task best.

Michael Robbins said...

how do you guys focus with FF cams if you want the subject to be off center but with a shallow dof? focus and recompose doesnt work without some adjustment. would have thought that the advantage of the sony was to be able to choose anywhere in the frame. still i would be interested to read the responses. btw, u have a a99, why consider the others?

Rod Thompson said...

I thought a 6d would be a good upgrade from my em5's, but the meter was all over the place and the responsiveness/accuracy were not there. 5d too heavy and expensive, A7r tempting due to res, but lenses?
Fuji can get you close to the full frame look, XT1 and 56 might be worth a try.

Kevin Blackburn said...

Already being a Nikon D800 D600 user and pretty happy with them especially the amount of glass I own. But I will say I have fallen in love with my APSC Fuji mirror-less, So much so that I have been researching the move to the Sony A7 A7R A7S system and with the availability of the Meta-bones adapters until Sony has a larger line up I am closer and closer each day I love the idea of full frame in small light compact higher performance bodies. But that's just me :-)

Low Budget Dave said...

Love the discussion, and never get tired of it.

About 90% of everything that a full-frame does can also be done on ASPC or MFT. But the other 10% is fast primes (and fast zooms) on a big sensor.

Nothing else quite has the same feel as a 50mm F1.4 on a full-frame sensor. (Theoretically, you could put a 35mm F.095 on an ASPC, but if you had the cash for a lens like that, you could put it on your full-frame and shoot in the dark.)

All of them take great pictures, so it is really just a matter of personal preference. Personally, I am saving up my money to buy a nice used Sony A99.

I don't know if it stands up to the newer D610 or 6D, but I tried it out in the store and loved it.