Uh oh, a gear talk…

It’s time! I haven’t written about the ‘G’ word in my blog… or even spewed crap in my blog in forever! I know you’ve missed me. Probably not actually. A fair warning that this post will contain some snark.

Essentially what I want to do here though is give my logical and thought out reasoning towards why I push people certain ways when they ask me “what’s a good starter camera?” I’m a gear head and if you’re asking me about gear, I’ll give you my honest opinion about the tech out there. I’m a Nikon user but I can admit that the Nikon system isn’t the best for everyone.

Without any further delay, let’s get into it!

tl;dr

Buy Nikon if you are primarily interested in stills and probably will only use video casually. Avoid if you want the best video features.

Buy Canon if you are planning to use your camera a lot for HD video and want the best interface for making video easily. Avoid if you want the best pure image quality for stills.

Buy Sony if you want the latest tech and will probably use the camera for both still and video. Avoid if shooting very important work.

 

Choosing a System – The Major Players

There are three major players in the market and anyone that tries to say that there are more is pulling your leg. I don’t have official numbers but I’m fairly confident that at least 80% of photographers with decent digital photographic equipment (I’m defining this as APS-C sensor or larger) are shooting Canon, Nikon, or Sony (mostly Canikon). Fuji has a bit of a following, Pentax probably has a smaller group, and save a sliver of space for the hipsters with their Leicas too! I’m only going to talk about the biggest three though. I will talk about negatives first before positives in each section.

Why choose Canon?

Personally, I wouldn’t! (But keep reading to see if you should)

Don’t get me wrong, Canon isn’t bad, but unless you’re shooting the high end 1DX Mark II that was recently announced with it’s ability to shoot 14 fps while continuously focusing on a target, Nikon DSLRs handily trump Canon across the price range in models that are direct competitors with each other when it comes to pure image quality. Canon fans can whine if they want to but this is pretty much shown all over the internet… Canon has been losing in the sensor quality game handily since 2010 or so. And if that isn’t enough, Sony trumps them too. Canon is bottom tier of the big three when it comes to image quality at base ISO. They do start to even out a bit at high ISO nowadays though. We’ll see what 2016 brings with Canon’s new releases but right now I can’t recommend Canon to someone interested primarily in still photography… which brings me to my next point.

Now I said personally I wouldn’t choose Canon and I stand by that because I’m primarily a still photographer… but everyone isn’t. I would push Canon towards people with an interest in videography. Canon has easily hackable firmware so a lot of videographers use custom firmware unlock the potential of the camera as a video recording device. For this reason I can definitely say that Canon would be the top if you want to take your video game to the next level. They recently announced the 80D model which comes with a new kit lens that has a power zoom attachment for smooth video zooming. They have a newer motor in some of their lenses that is even quieter so microphones wont pick up the noise too. If you’re in the game for videos you can’t really go wrong with Canon as a choice. They are also still a good choice for still photography but the ceiling is higher with other brands as of early 2016.

Why choose Nikon?

If you’re a tech nerd (me), think video is just an additional feature (me), and want awesome stills (me), Nikon is the way to go!

Nikon, while they do have some high quality sensors and ability to take nice video, Nikon seems to treat video as secondary to stills. They only recently have gotten some features that other manufacturers have had for years like zebra stripes. Since I don’t really use video much this has never been much of an issue for me but if you really do care about video ability, I would push you towards one of the other brands.

Recently, adopting products early with Nikon has been a risk. The D600, D800, and D750 all have had issues that prompted a recall. I really hope this doesn’t happen with the D500 since I’m going to be an early adopter for it haha.

On the positive side, Nikon has consistently been at or near the top with low ISO dynamic range and color reproduction as well as high ISO noise performance for at least 5 years (tech nerd numbers coming out). Given the capabilities of the new D5 and D500 cameras it appears that title is going to remain unless Canon really pulled something out of their butts for the 1DX Mark II and 80D (doubt it). If you want high quality stills then Nikon is really the way to go as of early 2016.

Why choose Sony?

If you’re a hipster! In all seriousness though, If you need to have the latest and greatest and don’t mind your gear being obsolete and losing resale value even quicker than the other brands, have at it!

Sony is probably the worst built of the manufacturers. You wont find any TANK bodies from the Sony line so baby them if you buy them! I’ve known two people that broke Sony bodies by dropping them. My D810 and lens took a drop and I lost nothing but the filter that was mounted on the lens.

The native lens selection is abysmal and don’t let fanboys tell you otherwise. Fanboys will argue that you can use any lens with Sony with adapters… Okay, it’s true, you can! What they’ll fail to tell you is that some lenses will lose features… you know, like autofocus… but even without that minor detail, using native lenses is always better to get the best out of the body. There are videos online where you can clearly see lenses mounted with conversion adapters struggling to achieve focus and nobody wants to miss focus at the critical moment.

Sony loooooves to brag about their smaller camera bodies and uses this as a selling point. Guess what? A smaller body is actually worse if you decide to get serious and buy big, heavy, professional lenses like the “G Master” lenses Sony just announced. Do you really want to lug around a huge 70-200mm f/2.8 lens on a tiny body like the A6300 (recently announced APS-C mirrorless body)? I think big lenses balance much better on DSLR bodies like a Nikon D500 or a Canon 7D Mark II. If you stick with tiny kit lenses or semi-fast primes in the 1.8 – 2.8 range though, I can’t argue that the smaller size is nice.

Here’s the killer that’s really going to piss off the fanboys… I really can’t recommend any current Sony body for use with critical paid work. Sony image quality is really solid and this is not a gripe about imaging at all. The real problem with Sony bodies is that NONE of them offer dual memory card slots to allow you to save your shots to two cards currently. Way back in 2011, I got burned by not having a backup (luckily before I ever started doing paid shoots) when my card reader crapped in the middle of an import and decided to completely wipe the rest of the content on the card. 99.9% of the time there will probably not be any disaster like this, but that 1 time in 1000 that it does happen it could be a client that just paid you thousands! So if you’re going to do mission critical work I highly suggest saving to both cards in a body with two slots from either Canon or Nikon (or Fuji if you really want to go smaller).

On a positive note, like Canon, I’d probably push someone towards Sony if they have an interest in video. This is especially for 4K as right now it’s the only manufacturer that has a 4K capable video camera with no sacrifices. I would call Canon the video interface champ since they have custom firmware to boot but Sony’s A7S II is the video quality champ as of now. Also, Sony bodies have very good imaging sensors like Nikon (a lot of Nikon bodies use Sony hardware for the sensor even) though Nikon tends to get a bit more out of them with their internal processing software. If Nikon is the champ of image quality then Sony is a very close second.

One thing Sony offers that neither of the others do is in body stabilization. Nikon and Canon put their stabilization in the lens. Being built into the lens is better in one respect… it allows tailoring to the specific lens itself. But with the Sony bodies, it’s there for every lens regardless even if it’s at a lower level on a whole. Sony has lenses with stabilization too and they can work in tandem with the built in which makes it very effective.

All in all, I can still only recommend Sony for someone that is unlikely to be doing critical work right now (even though there are some pros that happily use it, I wait for the day they have a memory card failure and lose a critical event…). Sony has good image quality and good video quality so I’d say Sony is kind of a jack of all trades at the moment.

 

In conclusion…?

It may seem like I was pretty hard on Sony compared to the other two but disadvantages need to be known. Sony is the relative newcomer in the market and will undoubtedly catch up in some areas, but the small bodies really don’t matter at all if you want to use big lenses and having a backup adds insurance with critical data. Nikon and Canon have been in this market a lot longer and have certain things down to a science at this point. They also will never lose the advantage of native lens selection. Keep in mind though that this comes from a viewpoint of someone that (albeit not that much) makes some money using the equipment and may not be relevant to everyone.

Thanks for reading!

~rensuchan

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Quality Gear Recommendations – Early 2016 | 2016 | Photography, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Comments (0)

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