A think exercise. If I were to buy a full frame mirrorless camera today which one would it be?

From the Zach Theatre production of "James and the Giant Peach."

I have to say upfront that I'm very happy with the files I'm getting with the Fuji cameras and lenses and have no plans in the immediate future to consider switching to anything else; or even augmenting what I have. Which puts me, as a writer, in the delicate position of having to just write about how I do stuff or why I do stuff but rarely about what's new in the kingdom of cameras. An acquaintance called me, interrupted a nice nap, and wanted to know which full frame, mirrorless system he should buy and that gave me a chance to look around and develop an opinion. 

There are basically four mirrorless systems which would interest professional or advanced users in the full frame space: Sony, Canon, Nikon and Panasonic. I think including Panasonic is a stretch because they are such an unproven player in this space. It's all new for them. But I do include them because after using the GH5s and G9s I have a profound soft spot for the brand. I can't in good conscience include Leica's SL because the sheer cost of the system is too much of a deterrent  for 90-95% of photographers looking at products in this niche. And I can't include Pentax, well, just because. 

Having used a bunch of different Sony products I have to dismiss Sony at the outset. I don't care how good their sensors are or how fast their line of lenses is growing, I just know that I hate the ergonomics of the A7xxx bodies. Hate the hard edges. Hate the small grips. Hate the less than robust feel. I say this having shot with an A7ii and an A7Rii for well over a year. Tens of thousands of frames. The cameras work fine, the images look great, but holding onto the cameras is about as comfortable as hugging cactus. 

Since I would use the chosen camera system to make a living creating photographs for a diverse client base I think I'd have to skip the Panasonic twins because the availability of 2.5 lenses just isn't enough to cover all the stuff I need to do with a camera. I'm sure their image stabilization is incredible and I'm willing to bet that the feeling you get when the camera is nestled in your hand is superb but I'm done being a beta tester for camera companies. That, and occasionally I need access to wildly different lenses than they currently offer. I hope they continue to grow the line-up (both cameras, lenses and flashes) as I'm sure at some point in the future I'll feel compelled to try out the Panasonic full framers. 

That moves me on to Canon. And here, please, don't get me wrong, I think the 5Dmk4 is a great camera but it's not mirrorless. I really think Canon hates the concept of mirrorless and wishes they didn't have to defensively offer products in the space just to maintain parity with their competitors. Scratch a Canon exec and I'm sure they'd grouse about just how much better traditional DSLRs are than the Johnny Come Lately mirrorless stuff. Maybe that's why the models they have on offer seem an odd fit in the market. Decent bodies with cheap lenses or crappy bodies coupled with pricey lenses. I can't figure out their strategy. Maybe they don't have a strategy.... But so far the cameras being marketed by them seem like afterthoughts or basic amateur cameras. You can only woo me so far with the dual pixel AF. Remember? I like to focus my video manually....(snob? you bet). 

In short order that brings me round to Nikon. If I were starting from scratch today and was required by law, peer pressure and divine intervention to pick a mirrorless, full frame camera system to shoot with for the next duration it would be a Nikon Z6 and a bunch of the new lenses along with an adapter that lets me use the old 70-200mm f4.0 (while waiting for the Z version). The camera has its issues;  "only" one card slot, slow C-AF, and a few other misses but it seems like they put a lot of thought into video, the handling is very nice and the 24 megapixel, full frame sensor should be adequate for all but the most extreme needs. Add in a nice EVF and good battery life and you're almost there. But frankly, after having cameras in my hands for  more than 2/3rds of my life I've got to say that the handling, and hand feel, is more important than whether a camera or a brand is X% faster or has X% more resolution, etc. If it doesn't feel right you won't want to carry it around and use it. That's what matters most. 

Yep. I think the Z6 is the right mix. Everyone else can shut down production and go home. Except for Fuji. While I haven't tested them all side by side I'm going to bet that the differences between good full frame and really good APS-C aren't all we've been led to expect. 

But really, it's all just my opinion. Colored by past experiences and nostalgia. YMMV.

Now, what's your take?

This afternoon Studio Dog and I wait. We're waiting for a prop delivery.

I had a great lunch today at an Austin favorite. It's called Maudie's Cafe and it's old style beans and rice Tex-Mex. Basket full of corn chips with a big bowl of bright red hot sauce to get you going, and then you might try their really good caldo, a Mexican chicken soup with lots of vegetables and some white cheese. Me? I went straight for the Tex-Mex plate on the lunch special menu.

I was having a fun get together with my long time friend, Greg. Up until yesterday Greg was a freelance creative director but he finally capitulated and took a job he'd been offered many times before. He's now the executive creative director at a very successful public relations firm. Not old school P.R. but pretty much a public relations agency that also plays well in the purely creative advertising space.

We had a quicker meal than usual because we both had places to be by 2 pm. He needed to be in a meeting with clients but I had much less structured plans. I needed to come back to the studio and wait for a prop to be delivered.

Some people ask me what photographers spend most of their time doing and I'm beginning to think it's all about waiting around for stuff to be delivered, stuff to be returned, and then waiting around for clients to arrive and then, equally good, waiting for clients to depart.

I call what I was waiting for a "prop" but really it's more of a mission critical background...

It all sounded so good when I was on the phone with the art director. He had this idea that we'd shoot a still life and we'd use a sheet of brushed stainless steel as a background for some medical devices and some brochures. I had (and still have) a few concerns about lighting the background to show off the texture of the stainless steel without introducing hard-to-tame highlights but all-in-all it sounded better than yet another still life constructed on white seamless background paper.

The art director sent over a comprehensive layout and I got to work with a proportion wheel to figure out just what we'd need into terms of overall size. To fit everything in at 100% we needed a solid (no seams) sheet of steel that measures 48 inches by 84 inches. I started researching and soon found a supplier in far north Austin. We talked on the phone, I got a price, ran it by the client, and then headed up north to look at the sheet in person. Looked good to me. The sheets come in four foot by ten foot sizes so the metal company would need to cut it down for me. I paid for the steel and the cut and made arrangements to come back today and pick it up.

In the meantime I got out a tape measure and did the math on the interior of my new Subaru Forester. With the seats down.  And what I got from my meticulous calculations was the reality that my new sheet of steel was NOT going to fit into my new car. And, since the sheet of steel has four sharp corners I'm pretty glad it just wouldn't fit. I'd hate to tear up a brand new interior just for one photo assignment...

A swim buddy offered me his truck but I realized that not only was I uninterested in driving all the way back out to the metal shop but I also didn't want to toss this pricey piece of smooth flatness in the bed of a pickup truck and risk getting a kink, a scratch or a bend in it.

I called around and found a delivery service that would pick up and deliver the steel in the same day. I held my breath while I asked the price of the delivery. I exhaled with a smile on my face when I heard: "twenty-nine dollars." But with Austin traffic and the mysteries of commerce the company could only guarantee a window of time for the delivery. Some time after 2pm but before the end of the day.

Studio Dog and I sat on the couch in the house. I tried to interest her in a game of Scrabble but her heart just wasn't in it. We did play "go fish" with a few Pepperidge Farm Goldfish but she's not supposed to have too many carbs so we cut that game short as well.

At 4:45 pm the delivery guy, Brian, backed a large, long cargo van down the driveway and we worked together to bring the suprisingly hefty piece of steel sheet into the studio. Studio Dog barked a few suggestions from the front door.

Now the sheet is in the studio. Ready and waiting for the photoshoot tomorrow. Except. The shoot has been moved back. Delayed. Rescheduled. And I'm left to wonder where the hell to store this thing. It's a

And it just dawned on me that I have to figure out what to do with the sheet of steel after the photo shoot does occur and the ads are finished and approved. It's not really the kind of thing you can drop off at the Goodwill Store, right? Right?

Studio Dog just sniffed the corner of the prop, sighed and went back into the house where she promptly took a nap.

See just how much fun it is to be a professional photographer? In NYC or LA we'd have a prop guy specializing in steel sheets (but not aluminum) and he'd deliver the sheet, set up the sheet and then come by and remove the sheet. And it would only add three thousand dollars to the budget...

Anybody need some sheet metal? 

Oh crap! I forgot to ask! What kind of camera and lens are you supposed to use to shoot sheet metal. Can you use mirrorless? Does it have to be a DSLR? And what format? This is getting more complicated by the minute...