Recently I've switched from a big DSLR to a much smaller mirrorless camera, here are some thoughts about the experience.
I take a camera with me everywhere, everyday. Image quality is always first, but size and weight have become an important second ingredient (especially with a trip to New Zealand on the cards!). For the last few years I've been lugging around a brilliant but tank like camera, the Canon 5D MKlll, usually with 24-70L 2.8 lens attached, a lens that is nicknamed 'The Brick' for a good reason, it's big and heavy but produces beautiful results. I love the Canon, it's capable of delivering the goods in any situation, but it's weight can sometimes feel like a ball and chain.
With the option of having even better image quality from a smaller camera I bit the bullet, sold all of my trusty kit and invested in a new camera (Sony A7R) and a set of 80's prime lenses (Canon FD's). This camera is like a tardis, it appears small and unassuming on the outside but when you poke your head inside theres an enormous full frame sensor gathering all of the light like a black hole. The lenses are fantastic, they deliver enough resolution, are relatively cheap in comparison to the modern day versions and very importantly, they are small.
The image quality feels closer to medium format, with the shooting experience of a classic 35mm film camera, an exciting hybrid where the physical technique of analog meets digital. Using the camera has a really good feeling of creating a photograph with a machine, I love it!
But, like everything there is another side to the coin, such as no auto focus (unless you spend some big money), it takes a long time to change lenses, the big sensor attracts dust like a hoover and accurate manual focus is a slow process.
If you have patience with these and your way of working is flexible enough to incorporate them it's a winner. Enough with the chat, lets have a look at some pictures from the first months use and see how it shapes up!
So, the good and the bad? There is no bad, just compromises.
- The images feel more 'filmic' than the Canon, a quality I really enjoy.
- I love the shutter sound, it's mighty and satisfying. But defiantly not subtle, it would be quite disturbing at a quiet wedding for example.
- The biggest annoyance I've experienced so far is getting the sensor dirty, beware especially near the sea. I'm always really careful and fast when changing lenses but without a mirror the sensor is exposed at the front. The solution, learn how to clean it.
- It's really helpful to see a histogram and exactly whats on the sensor through the viewfinder to get a correct exposure. For example, in the photo above with the sun star I could see exactly where I needed to be to get clear sun rays, thats a true benefit of digital technology.
- But on the other hand In dark situations where I've been using off camera lighting, having an electronic viewfinder can be a slight hindrance as you have to crank up the ISO really high to compose, which makes things very noisy. In the studio and on one photoshoot I've missed having an optical option a few times, but it's no biggie as you can work around it.
- The image quality is insane, I can't wait to print some big photos and drool over them.
- Focus peaking is rough and dirty, i was hoping for higher accuracy, you really need to punch in to nail the focus, which is quite a slow process and only suitable for fairly static shots.
- All the lenses have impressed. The older FD series delivers enough resolution at their sweet spot to satisfy my pixel peeping, they fit the camera well and feel small, sturdy and balanced. I also like their 80's colour rendition. The 50mm macro and 200mm only cost me £50 each, a bargain at triple the price.
My overall thought, it's not a fast system, but thats a quality I enjoy, it can defiantly deliver the goods in the right hands and with a little patients. It's the ultimate landscape and travel camera.
It's often said the best camera is the one you have with you and I will certainly have no problem carrying this everywhere I go. Bring on New Zealand to really see what it can really do.