5.23.2018

Ah. The leading edge of the tipping point...the rush to professional mirrorless cameras.

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, presuming
I'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. 



18 comments:

ODL Designs said...

I wonder how the big players will deal with lenses. Will they develop new ones or rely on adaptors...

Hugh said...

Sony are good at marketing.

$2000/£2000 is a tipping point.
People can afford to try it out, while keeping their existing gear, or buy a two body outfit and swap.

£3500 was very painful for a 5D4, even for a long time user.
Canon appear to deliberately cripple their cheaper cameras.

Sony did the same with the A6000 at $400 ("biggest selling camera?").
That got a lot of people into the Sony system, including me.

Jim said...

I remind myself to wait just a few more short months to see what Canon and Nikon will have to offer before I decide my next step, if any. I see no overriding reason to make the move to Sony, based on lenses alone, as all three camera makers' respective lenses are similarly sized (can't defy physics yet), and Sony's prime lens lineup is lacking compared to Nikon and Canon. And Sony has made some dubious choices for the sake of size.

tnargs said...

"The colour and tonality of cameras". How do you even get to say that these days (assuming you shoot raw)?

Michael Matthews said...

I wish Nikon would pick up the pace and release its entry into the large sensor mirrorless market. A DX-sized senor and body would be more to my taste than a full frame model. Why Nikon announced a new mirrorless product line, then scuttled it before the release date remains a mystery to me. Obviously a bit of internal turmoil there. If both Nikon and Canon continue the practice of reserving their full-featured models for the absolute top price tier it all becomes irrelevant. I’ll just keep grappling with the Olympus menu system until I smash the thing out of frustration and buy a Panasonic FZ2500.

Kirk Tuck said...

tnargs, you've got to start with some kind of file. They come out of the camera with different looks and different amounts of color, etc. You can fix or change some stuff in raw but not everything and I think its almost impossible to perfectly mimic a camera file from another camera that you like better with one from a camera the files of which you like less.

Roger Jones said...

"Back to chaos. But fun chaos." Sorry I don't like chaos. For me it isn't fun. Although I'm also running two system at this time, why I don't know? I can't let go/bring myself to sell off my old friends, friends who've been with me in good and bad times, they still work fine and can be repaired. Which brings me to another point, do you repair your gear or junk it, and buy a new one? The new wiz-bang camera on the market? I see no need for the latest and "greatest". As for DP Review they're no more and a marketing front for Sony this week, if Canon gives more money for Ads, Canon's will be the best next week, or Nikon, or, or, or
Using you for and example Mr. Tuck, I'd like to believe or I know that you could out do one of the new "professionals" on talent and skill alone. You could out run them, and out gun them using a D700, D2hs, D800e, or a F2, F2AS, F4s and your Nikkor lenses. While the whole time they're dragging around their $12,000 worth of wiz-bang cool stuff.
I visit with a friend yesterday who was shooting down South in the 60's, 70's using Leica and still shoots his Leica's today. He just bought a new M240, although he hasn't printed anything from it as he can't figure out the new software, so back to the darkroom he went. He tried a Sony with adapters, he said " it took to much time to work thru the menus, wasted time, I can shoot ten shots with my Leica and be done before they get the camera to their eye".
Oh well, what can you say.

Roger

Anonymous said...

Comparing Canon and Nikon pro body images to the Sigma DP Merrill images - I find that in actual use I grab the Sigma body in the approximate focal length more often. Slower, clunky and no interchangeable lenses - but the image quality! Even compared to pro glass on the bigger cameras the Sigma Merrils still shine.

mosswings said...

With regards to tmargs comment, Kirk, you've also been playing with older model Nikons aside from the D800e, which is older but not that old. There have been weakenings in the Bayer filter discrimination characteristics as higher sensitivity and resolution have been chased. There have also been changes in the JPG rendering engine as well. They're fairly complex changes, with brightness-dependent twists in the color rendering that are deucedly hard to back out of. And then there's the fact that RAW files aren't really raw (unprocessed) anymore. They never were, but more and more there's fiddly gremlins at work.

So yeah, even RAW files converted with exactly the same rendering steps can show tonality differences.

Jeff said...

I think it will be interesting to see in a few months how many of the professional photographers switching to Sony cameras are happy with their choices and how many are regretting what they did..

ODL Designs said...

You are right Kirk, even using a colour checker, creating your own profile only gets them close, but not identical.

Bill Whitworth said...

I just sold my m4/3 system (mix of Pan/Oly) and bought an a7iii and 3 primes. I had rented an a7 and a7ii in the past and did not enjoy them. Really love the a7iii so far, and the eye focus rocks. Having said that, my Nikon d700 and d2h are not going anywhere. Can't stand the thought of giving up those beautiful files!

dierk said...

tnags and Kirk,
I will never understand the problem. When I want perfect colors, i shoot a control shot with the ColorChecker in the picture and use the profile from that shot for this specific light and camera/lens??

Alex Carnes said...

In fact, the short flange distance seems to me to be one of the biggest compromises with mirrorless. Obviously you gain a smaller package, but all sorts of image quality problems come with it, from strong vignetting to very unpleasant lens-sensor reflections. For numpties like me who enjoy putting the sun or other strong light source in the frame, this is a deal breaker. Indeed, it's largely why I sold my Sony gear and went back to Nikon.

tnargs said...

This is new, Kirk: you being in a camera store and remembering your game plan. ;)

Anonymous said...

I'm sitting on the fence too, waiting to see what Nikon do. They've left it so late though I'm not sure they're deserving of the support.
Also as they're so late to the game it's hard to see how they could get the package right for both still and video while having a suitable lens line at launch, it's too much to hope for.
The only thing you can count on is that Nikon will build a better camera body than Sony ever has.

AaronL.

Gary L. Friedman said...

Please send your Sony-question-asking friends my way. I have answers and even a book or two they might find helpful.

texascbx said...

Yes. I have the A7III. It is definitely the tipping point.