Zach Theatre Production Stills from "Two Guvners"
We won't have statistical assurance until the numbers start rolling in at the end of the year but I can feel the vibes everywhere these days; mirrorless professional cameras from Sony have just created the front wave of a tipping point that has professional photographers moving from their traditional Nikon and Canon gear to Sony's newest A7iii and A7Riii cameras. In droves.
I was at my favorite bricks and mortar camera store, Precision Camera, yesterday when a thirty something photographer brought in his nearly new Nikon gear and traded in about $12,000 worth of current lenses, and thousands of dollars more in camera bodies, in order to switch to Sony A7xxx cameras and lenses. (Yes, I considered buying his Nikon stuff from the store but remembered that I have a different game plan in mind...).
Earlier in the day I got a phone call from a photojournalist/advertising photographer I've known since college---a decades long Canon full frame shooter---who was calling to pick my brain about several menu options on his new Sony A7iii cameras. He'd just shed his collection of Canon gear completely and was "all in" on the newest Sony product.
I was driving back to Austin from San Antonio this afternoon when one of my video/still hybrid shooter friends called to "pick my brain" about how to choose between three different Sony full frame camera models. He called back a bit later to let me know that he'd ordered the new A7iii camera body (he already shoots with an FS-7 video camera and so has a lot of Sony, and converted, lenses to play with...).
Two days ago a photographer on the east coast called, presumingI'd also picked up an A7iii and wanting to compare notes with me about some features, and about video.
I've never really experienced the almost simultaneous groundswell of a single photo product's extreme popularity before. It seems that everyone I bump into either has one of the new Sony A7iii cameras or has one on order.
What this tells me is that the rank and file professional has finally decided that the benefits of mirrorless cameras (mostly the EVFs and the ability to use just about any lens on them) are now perceived to outweigh any imagined or real detractions. The focusing has been vastly improved, the lens selection in the Sony line (augmented by Zeiss and Sigma) is just about there, and the much increased battery life has entered the mainstream. Factor in the solid video performance and you end up with what seems to be a slam dunk in the $2,000 price category for full frame cameras.
Funny that right now the other camera besides the Sony A7iii that has nearly as much buzz and excitement floating around it is the Nikon D850. And both are barely available to buy because of, in both cases, the unexpected popularity just after their launches.
No matter how we slice it I have to say that professionals as a general group are archly conservative when it comes to imaging technology. They largely insist that their cameras be built around full frame sensors. They wait for a few generations until things like focusing speed and battery life are thrashed out and made competitive; and then all but the financially well endowed wait until the basic, job-usable camera price drops to hit a median/accpetable target zone for acquisition. In this case, around $ 2,000.
At $2,000 ( a little more or a little less) just about anyone considering a career in photography can afford the investment. If someone is entering the field from scratch and has no existing brand connection I can see that the Sony A7iii could be very compelling. It seems to offer most of the features people think they want at a competitive price point.
One only has to look at recent articles on DP Review's website that coyly posit the question: "Is the New Sony A7iii the camera we will now start to recommend?" and "Sony A7iii versus the Nikon D750" which also poses the same basic question., to understand where the sellers of cameras are making inroads. And their competitors are headed...
I've been down this road before and I think I'll catch my breath and try to be logical this time. I've played with the Sony video in their cameras and it just can't compete with the video we're getting out of the Panasonic GH5. The GH5s is supposed to be even better.
By the same token I'm finding that I prefer the color and tonality of the files from various recent Nikon cameras over the full frame Sony cameras I've owned. Philosophically I totally get the benefits that EVFs and short lens-to-sensor distances deliver. I'm just waiting to see what Nikon comes out with in the mirrorless space before I re-visit the full frame models from Sony. Right now I'm gravitating back to the "dual system" approach to get the diversity I need from my cameras. A few D800e's in one bag, a couple of Panasonic GH5's in the other bag. Back to chaos. But fun chaos.