We have a long, almost 20 years, relationship with Nikon. It was not very easy to write this article, especially on Friday 13th, and coincidentally on the 100th anniversary of Nikon.
After the marvelous F100 (1999), N80(F80) (2000), and FM3A (2001), my first digital camera from Nikon was Coolpix 4300. That little 4 mpx camera changed the way I was looking at Photography, when it was released in 2002. It was so small and convenient to bring everywhere that I found myself constantly taking pictures of everything, experimenting new techniques, and… I didn’t have to develop film anymore.
Several years later I bought my first Digital SLR and since then I have owned many models, including D80, D200, D5000, D5500, D7000, D800, D800E, D750, D810, and D850. I also had the chance to use many other models, so my overall experience with Nikon cameras and lenses can be considered to be at least “advanced”.
As I mentioned in the first part of this article (“My love to Fujifilm and why I abandoned the system”), in the last few years I wanted to consolidate my camera setup to only one system, or maximum two. Two years ago, I still had gear from 4-5 manufacturers – Nikon, Canon, Fujifilm, Sony, and Panasonic, Olympus or Pentax at times. Pretty much everything, right? I liked something from each system (a topic for another article), but no one of them was giving me everything I needed (or wanted). I know, I know, there is no such thing as “the perfect all-in-one camera” and because of my “unconditional” love with Nikon, I decided that it will be my first (main) system, and I will be looking for a second one, which would “fill the gaps” where Nikon felt short – like video, size and weight for travel, street photography, family trips, etc.
Where I left my readers in the last article was that I made a choice for the first system to be Nikon, and I was looking which one to be my second. “…Let’s see what next generation of cameras will have to offer. I am willing to wait a bit before I invest again in another camera system…” (read the full article here). Knowing that Nikon will be my main system, I reorganized a bit my camera and lens setup – bought few things, sold others, and began to wait for D850 to arrive. In the meantime, I planned a trip to Oregon coast in November 2017, and I was lucky to get my hands on D850, rented from LensProToGo. And oh, boy – was it an amazing camera??? It was – in any aspect of photography – amazing image quality, dynamic range, speed, resolution, reliability, ergonomics, focusing accuracy, features, etc. There is why it won so many awards for camera of the year (2017). It deserves them all!
But, you know there is always a “but”…. And this time it came from Sony. Just about two months later, they released the A7RIII. And it was everything that A7R and A7RII were not. I follow Sony’s A7R line since the day they were announced. The first generation camera was too slow. I liked the image quality – to me it was virtually identical with the one of the D800E. But there were too many reasons why this camera could not replace my DSLR system. Some of the major reasons were:
- Slow when recording to the memory card
- Slow AF
- Small buffer
- One memory card slot
- Small battery
- Slow refresh rate of the LCD screen
- Lack of intervalometer and timelapse features in the menu, and App was not very good
- Lack of lenses – some of the first primes were the Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 and Zeiss 35mm f/2.8, but besides that the choice was scarce.
All these reasons were enough for me to not look seriously at Sony’s full frame mirrorless system. The things changed a bit with the second generation – more pixels were added, in body image stabilization, 4k video, more focus points, and shutter life was increased as well – but it was still slow camera, with little battery life and one card slot. The performance of the A7 line was similar, with less megapixels and less features.
Few years later and the revolutionary A9 was announced. Everyone was crazy about this camera. All YouTubers, Social media influencers and writers were speaking about this camera, and how it challenged the Pro beasts (Nikon D5 and Canon 1Dx Mark II). A9 was a technological marvel but the price point, and being first generation, moved my focus away from it. Then… A7RIII came and completely changed my view on the Sony full frame mirrorless system.
A7RIII kept the 42.4mpx from the previous model, but improved pretty much everything else. The three most important changes for me were the improved autofocus and overall speed performance, adding the second card slot, and changing the battery with a bigger one, more than doubling its life. Continuous shooting speed was also doubled, the Dynamic range was increased, Touch screen, Bluetooth and Flash sync port were added, the Viewfinder and Screen resolutions were increased, and many other things were improved as well. The image quality, overall speed, size, weight and ergonomics, the reliability, and the amazing auto-focus, including the new eye-detection, made A7RIII to jump at number one place in my list, competing only with D850. But what about the systems? We know that the camera doesn’t make the system – we need to consider lenses, lights, etc.
Let’s talk about lenses for a moment. Many years, as Nikon and Canon shooter I believed that I have the best glass, topped may be only by Leica and Zeiss. I know Sony-Zeiss partnership produced some excellent glass, but my perception was that they are equal or no better than the best Nikon and Canon glass, or at least the ones I use. But let’s take a look and compare.
One of my “must have” lenses is the 16-35mm. It fits best my ultra wide angle needs for landscape, video, cityscape, astrophotography and architecture. The only few situations I need wider than 16mm is for specific architecture shots, but I can rent or buy a prime lens for these occasions. I did owned Nikon 16-35mm f/4. Unfortunately, for me, it is only good for small to medium resolution sensors – let’s say up to 24mpx. Once I passed the 36mpx barrier I noticed the softness of the 16-35mm, especially at the edges of the frame. I sold it, and bought the legendary 14-24mm f/2.8. It is legendary for a reason. It’s not only sharp, but it has very little distortion (unlike the 16-35mm), and has better color reproduction. What was torturing me was the sphered front element of the 14-24mm and that I couldn’t fit any screw-on filters. I also appreciated the extra 2 mm on the wide end, but missed the 24-35mm range, and found myself reaching more often for the 24-70mm. I always felt jealous for Canon’s 16-35mm f/2.8 L Mark II, which was producing one of the most amazing sunstars.
When the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 L Mark III came out, I was seriously considering adding the 5D Mark IV to my setup and use it with that particular lens for landscape. The stopper was Canon’s own strange logic to keep the AA filter in 5DM4, which to big extend was diminishing the advantage of the sharp lens. Long story short – once the new Sony 16-35mm GM came out, a quick comparison was making it clear that it surpasses big time any of its competitors.
Same result vs the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8:
Without being too detailed, I will just say that the story of the 16-35mm was repeating itself with almost every single lens that I compared. Sony almost always was beating Canon and Nikon, except in few cases – Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 L II and Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 FL E being sharper by a bit. Below are some comparisons of the lenses I use the most and was comparing between the three manufacturers.
You can see the difference in sharpness between the competitors:
Now let’s move to the next part of the “system” – the lights. Sony’s own flashes have new amazing design, allowing for easy rotation, including smart rotation, which adjust according to the shooter’s style.
In addition, companies like Godox and Flashpoint created some amazing new strobe and speedlight units, which was available for all major camera companies, including Sony.
After all information I just shared with you, and many hours spent in reading about Sony’s products, comparing and testing them, I made the decision to switch to Sony. Even more – Sony was the only company that was giving me all I wanted in ONE system – I have smaller camera, convenient for travel, with nice grip (unlike Fuji X-T1), amazing image quality and resolution, fast auto focus, 4k video with several S-logs, 100mbps and IBIS to compensate for shaking. The lenses were the ones I WANTED. Plus they were sharper, and in many cases cheaper (as I am able to use student discount). And Sony proved themselves to not be afraid of innovating and drive the industry forward.
Add all this to Nikon’s stubborn mentality that they are “simply the best” and do not need to upgrade some obviously aged lenses – like 200mm f/4 micro, 16-35mm f/4, 135mm D and 50mm f/1.4G for example. Or some updates which everyone is questioning and wondering why they were released – like the 24-70mm f/2.8 VR, which besides slightly improved corner sharpness and adding VR, is a step back (from the old version) being softer in the center, bigger, heavier and way more expensive. The stubborn mentality that make Nikon to not doing anything to improve the useless (contrast detection) video AF (shame, because the video quality is really good). The stubborn mentality that Nikon neglected for so many years now to create a good DX lens lineup and instead, pushing their APS-C camera customers to purchase expensive, bigger and heavier FX glass. Just look at the DX prime lenses… Did you see any? Besides the 35mm f/1.8G (released in 2009), two macro lenses and one fisheye, the DX lens lineup is practically not existing. So I say NO! No, Nikon, we don’t have to thank You for using your products – you have to thank Us! Not saying that it’s a good idea to listen to your customers.
So there you have it, these were enough reasons for me to switch. How about you?