I thought I’d write a post about why I switched from Nikon to Sony cameras for all my professional photography work. I’ve been a Nikon shooter since my father dropped his trusty Pentax MX into the river and replaced it with a Nikon FM. I would beg and plead to borrow the Nikon for my adventures and do extra chores around the house so I could take two rolls of film with me. In my high-school days we had a few Pentax K1000 for our photojournalism and yearbook, classes but I would always borrow the Nikon from my dad for the important shoots like football games or events. The Nikon, with its Nikkor lenses took better photos (in my mind at least) and made me feel like a pro.
This is probably where my gear lust began. I was the kid who had the cool camera, that took better photos, and the others were envious. I could grab a handfull of film from the classroom and fire away with the smugness that only a Nikon can give. I eventually bought myself a second-hand Nikon F4 and could now waste a roll of film in 4 seconds flat. My father still served as a rental house for good lenses, strobes and other gear. My first real digital camera was the Nikon D70, then the D90 and so forth until the Nikon D810. So, I grew up shooting Nikon.
The Nikon D90 was the first DSLR to shoot video. I shot some video with it and at the time, compared to a camcorder its 720p video was amazing. This camera, followed by the Canon 7D, every iteration of the GoPro, some drones and finally a Panasonic GH4 sparked my interest in video. I shot some client work and personal projects with the 7D and GH4 and was hooked on filmmaking.
We had the Nikon D810 at the office and this was/still is the pinnacle of a stills capture camera. My gear lust now needed to be fulfilled with video specs. RED cameras with their Dragon Sensors were priced too far out of reach to even rent for a day, so I looked elsewhere. Canon’s Cine series and Sony’s pro video cameras were also pie in the sky expensive as well. Then Sony announced the A7sII and I preordered it. Internal 4k, in body stabilization, incredible low light performance and a palatable price tag that also took still photos was my gateway drug into the Sony camera world.
Time passed, the A7sII shot 95 percent video. I loved the video, it had incredible dynamic range, it was 4K and everything about it was beautiful. I fired some photographs with it as well but the 36MP Nikon was my go to for photography. The Nikon with three times the resolution was better because more is better. Time passed, I was shooting two camera interviews with the GH4 and A7s and color matching was difficult. Sony announced the A6300 which shot 4K, used the same color profiles as the A7s and would make grading footage together easier. It also fulfilled my gear lust.
The Sony A6300 has a 24MP sensor, incredibly fast autofocus and fires 10 frames per second if I need it. With two-thirds of the resolution of the D810, the smaller Sony had the megapixels to be a “real” stills camera and got used a lot more for photography. The A6300 also fit into a reasonably priced Ikelite underwater housing so I acquired one of those too.
So, some time passes, I’m shooting more and more video for clients and my quiver of Sony lenses starts to grow. One day I’m inventorying gear for a remote shoot that requires both video, and stills and trying to limit myself to my F-Stop backpack and one Pelican Case. (I’m not going to make the argument that Sony Mirrorless bodies are smaller here, just wait.) So I’ve got both Sony bodies, all the batteries, the important Sony lenses and the Nikon D810 with it’s compliment of lenses and I got it all into the bags and it weighed a ton. I hauled it all from my office to my truck, then from my truck to my house and had dinner with my family. I scheduled my early morning Uber ride to the airport and packed my camping gear. I put Agnes to sleep and moved all my gear to the front door in anticipation of the early morning flight, then it hit me.
I didn’t need the Nikon.
That’s right, I didn’t need the Nikon. I didn’t need to pay extra to check a Pelican Case that I would be afraid of losing at the airport. I didn’t need to haul 30 extra pounds of gear into the woods. I didn’t need a duplicate of most of the lenses. I didn’t need 36 megapixels. I didn’t need the extra tripod. The Sony cameras could cover both the video and the stills. They could accomplish all the same tasks as the Nikon. Well, not the 36MP part, but we’ll get to that later.
It finally clicked in my head that the Nikon wasn’t going to take better photos. Sure, it has its merits and things it does a little better but none of them are a real Achilles heel for the Sony cameras.
After this epiphany I sold all the Nikon gear and bought an A7rII with 42 megapixels to make up for that one deficit. I’ve been shooting Sony cameras for a while now, and there haven’t been a great deal of shots that I feel were missed because it wasn’t a Nikon. My whole video and stills kit can fit in one backpack even though I need three times as many batteries.
The image quality from the Sony cameras are on par with the Nikons. Nikon after all uses Sony sensors. The autofocus isn’t quite as fast but it’s adequate for my style. The lenses are now at the same level and according to DXOmark the mighty D810 was narrowly toppled by the A7rII sensor. I’m sure we’ll get a new Nikon D820 or whatever they’re going to call it soon that has an even better sensor in it but, as of today, the Sony wins. (There’s going to be a future blog post about why sensors and gear don’t matter, but this is a gear lust post.) There’s also the ease of use in seamlessly switching from stills to video with the same body.
I’m not saying I’m a total convert. I still love Nikon cameras and lenses. If I were hired to shoot something that required super speed and long lenses I’d rent a Nikon. When I’m invited to shoot the Olympics in PyeongChang, I’ll kit myself out with a Nikon D500 or two, a D5 and every f2.8 and telephoto lens Nikon makes. For my current and foreseeable future I’m a Sony shooter.