Well, I figured it was time for a follow up on the latest with my switch to Sony. Last December I wrote a post called “My First 60 Days with the Sony A7R ii”, and I thought it’d be cool to follow it up with my thoughts after 6 months. I wanted to see if the things I talked about in that post, fit in with my feelings now (after 6 months). So here goes:
First, Did I Really Switch From Nikon?
I covered this last time, but for anyone who didn’t read that post – Yes. I now shoot with my Sony 100%. I haven’t touched my Nikon in 6 months other than using it as a video camera for my training videos, where I needed to hold or show my Sony camera. That said, I just got the new Sony a6300 (more on that later). But it freakin’ rocks. As a video camera, it shoots 4K video, and has all the video bells and whistles I need, so now I have a Sony to shoot my videos with as well.
And yes, ALL of my still photography – landscape, travel, portrait and general purpose photography has been with my Sony gear since last fall.
Side Note: I’ll be selling my Nikon bodies and lenses if anyone is interested, just leave me a comment or hit me up on the Contact Form at the bottom of the About page.
As another side note, I know a lot of people thought I shot Canon because, when I worked at Kelby, Canon was an advertiser. But that was loaner gear for me to try out, as well as use to balance some of my classes so they weren’t all Nikon heavy. But I didn’t actually own any Canon gear and I sent all of that gear back a while ago.
Camera and Lenses
I haven’t added much to my system since then. I have the Sony Alpha α7R II, the 16-35mm, 24-70mm f/4, and the 70-200 f/4. I did get a good deal on the 55 f/1.8 so I added that one to the mix as well.
So far, that’s been all I need. A bunch of people have asked if I would invest in the new Sony G Master series lenses. They look awesome, but honestly I’m just not sure yet. Part of the appeal of the Sony system to me is the size and weight. Those lenses are quite a bit larger than what I have now, so I’m not sure if I’ll pull the trigger. I honestly don’t have a problem with the quality I’m getting from any of the other lenses, so it’s hard to even consider right now. But we’ll see.
Let’s Talk Features… Again
Alright, let’s get down to features. I’ll go over my “likes” from last time and give you and update on those. Then I’ll go over my “dislikes” and give you an update. Finally, I’ll mention anything new that I like or dislike since last time.
What I Like
Just like last time I want to give a quick disclaimer. First, I know that features come and go. What I mean is that, say XYZ brand has a new feature today. Then, before you know it, ABC brand comes out, and has those features and some better ones. If you followed that line of thinking, you’d switch brands every 12 months. So while I like the features I’m about to talk about, my liking for the overall Sony brand, and where they’re going, means more.
Anyway, here’s my favorites. Most of them are a comparison to what I was shooting (the D810). So I’m not necessarily saying that other cameras don’t have the features. I’m just letting you know what my favorites are in my current system.
I’ll also give a quick rating of it’s importance to me after 60 days (rating scale from 1 thru 10), and how important I think it is today after using it for a while.
Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) – This was at the top of my list last time, and it continues to be at the top today. I love it! I love seeing exactly what my photo is going to look like digitally. I’ve always thought the viewfinder in a DSLR was a total lie. Your photo looks nothing like it does when you look through them. But with the EVF, you’re seeing exactly what your photo is gonna look like, and as you make adjustments, you see the results.
Also, this next part is huge for me. Reviewing photos with the EVF is amazing. As an outdoor photographer, the LCD screen is always tough to really see what your photos look like because of glare. But, when you bring your eye up to the EVF and look through, all that glare is gone, and you see exactly what the photo looks like. I love it!
Plus, I don’t do a lot of portrait shoots, but when I do I can keep my eye on the EVF and see the photos I’m shooting rather than chimping on the back of the camera.
Level of Importance After 60 Days – 8
Level of Importance Today – 10
Extended Focus Points – This is another one that was top of my list back then, and still is today. Sony let’s you position your focus points closer to the edges of the frame. For me, that means I can set up my shot the way I want, without having to focus and recompose. With some of my other cameras, I couldn’t get the focus point out toward the edge as much as I wanted. So that meant I had to focus on something, then reposition my camera for the composition I wanted.
Level of Importance After 60 Days – 8
Level of Importance Today – 8
Face Detection – Again, I don’t do a lot of portrait work, but I do some and Face Detection has been great for me. I also do some video work with the Sony, and face detection helps keep me from interrupting my wife to come focus the camera. Instead I just let the camera do the work (Sorry honey, you’re out of a job) 😉
Level of Importance After 60 Days – 5
Level of Importance Today – 6
Manual Focus Magnification – I still do a lot of work where I manually focus the camera on what I want. Sony has a magnification feature. Essentially when you’re in manual focus mode, and you move the focus ring, the screen zooms in on what you’re focussed on so you can really finesse it to get critical sharpness. I love the feature when I use it, but I’ve found I don’t manually focus as much as I thought I did.
Level of Importance After 60 Days – 8
Level of Importance Today – 5
Tilt Screen – My camera is usually low to the ground. Even turning live view on with other cameras was a pain because you still had to get down low to see it well. The tilt screen on my Sony has been a lifesaver. Now I just tilt it up and position the camera, instead of getting my head down really low and looking through the viewfinder. This was something I wasn’t totally used to using in the beginning, so I don’t think I thought as much of it. But it’s something I’ve really grown to appreciate over time.
Level of Importance After 60 Days – 5
Level of Importance Today – 7
The Apps – This is huge, but has also changed a little for me since my first article. First off, I wrote that I liked the Smart Trigger and Sharing apps. What I’ve found is that I don’t use the Smart Trigger app as much anymore. Instead, I picked up this cheap wireless remote that I really like and use that more often. I’ve found I just don’t want to have my phone out all the time while shooting, and this little remote is much smaller.
Next, the sharing app. That I definitely use. It let’s me share the photo from my camera, directly to my phone right away. So I don’t even need to wait to get back to my laptop, to post a photo online. Do I use it all the time? Meh. More like sometimes. But definitely a nice to have when you want to show off to your friends who don’t have it 🙂
But here’s the game changer for me personally. Two apps: 1) Sky HDR and, 2) Smooth Reflection. I won’t say too much because I’ve done separate posts on both the Sky HDR app (click here to see the article) and the Smooth Reflection app (click here for the article). But they’re awesome. And they output raw files. So anyone who wants to talk about getting it right in camera, these apps are it. The eliminate the need for filters, and you’re actually getting the shot right in camera, with no extra gear.
Level of Importance After 60 Days – 6
Level of Importance Today – 11! 😉
Everything can’t be perfect right? There are a few things I’d love to see improved.
Battery Life – I wrote about this one in my first article. And if you do 10 seconds worth of google research, you’ll find some one dissing the Sony for it’s battery life since the LCD screen is almost always on. While I would love battery life to be longer (I could shoot a whole weekend with my D810 and never change a batter), it’s actually not as bad as I thought.
I was in Iceland last month and was really worried about it. So much so, that I bought 6 extra batteries for a total of 8 (Amazon has a 2-pack with a charger for only $26!). Well, we were shooting almost all day. And in cold temperatures, which tends to drain batteries faster. While the battery life wasn’t amazing, I found that I usually only went through one battery about three quarters through the day. Then I’d swap it out with another one and I was good to go for the rest of the day, and in to the night. So if I only had two batteries, I actually would have been fine if I could charge them every night. Again, it’s not phenomenal, but it’s not as bad as I thought.
Level of Dislike After 60 Days – 8
Level of Dislike Today – 5
The Size – I had mentioned that I’ve read a lot of people criticizing the size of the camera and that it’s too small for their hands. At the time, I hadn’t noticed much of an issue and it felt fine for me. But maybe it’s the fact that I’ve had it out shooting in some cold temps (where I have gloves on, or my hands are cold), but I have felt the buttons and dials are a little harder to control. It’s not a show-stopper, and it’s really just something you have to get used to. Once you figure out where the key touch-points are, and how sensitive everything is, you get used to it. But it is something I’ve noticed more than I thought during the last 6 months. And, where I felt I could still control things with a decent sized glove on with my DSLR, I found I had to take my glove off more often to really get control of the buttons.
Level of Dislike After 60 Days – 4
Level of Dislike Today – 6
Cold Weather Performance – This is something I’d love to see improved. I’ve heard people say the Sony’s aren’t as weather-sealed as some DSLR’s are. Personally, I’ve had mine out in rain, snow, and everything in between and it’s been fine. But… when I was in Colorado last month I went out for an early morning shoot for sunrise. It was about 14 degrees Fahrenheit, and my LCD just shut off. Under normal circumstance that wouldn’t be a problem with a DSLR because most important readouts (like ISO, Aperture, etc…) are on a small digital readout at the top of the camera. But with the Sony, everything is on that LCD screen which meant in order for me to change anything I had to get down low and look through the viewfinder (since that shows all the same readouts as the LCD does).
Level of Dislike After 60 Days – 2
Level of Dislike Today – 5
That’s about it for the dislikes though. I do wish it had an internal bulb timer. And I was shooting next to a Fuji shooter who had a countdown timer on their camera for longer exposures, so you knew exactly how much time was left. But that’s not a huge deal. And last time in my post, I mentioned the lens system was a little confusing. But I’ve found that I’m not a lens junkie. I have my 3 lenses that I use, and I actually pride myself on not using more lenses and keeping my system as minimal and light as I can. So I don’t really have to worry about all of the different lens abbreviations and stuff out there. And when I do, as I mentioned last time, I have my buddy and Sony Artisan Brian Smith, on speed dial 🙂
I’m really happy to say that after 6 months, I’m even more satisfied with my switch to Sony. So much so that I’m actually selling off most of my Nikon gear (just keeping enough to do video with so I don’t have to buy another video camera). But if you’re considering going mirrorless, hopefully this gives you some practical insight from some one who’s been there.
Also, I’m going to wrap this up the same as I did last time. I’m not writing this to get anyone to go out and buy a Sony. I’m simply telling a story that a number of people have asked me to tell. I firmly believe that if you put any camera in my hands, I’m going to be able to take as good a photo as I would with any other camera.
Here’s a quick analogy for you. Will a Toyota 4Runner get me from point A to point B, and have all the bells and whistles in it that I need? Yep, just fine. So why do I prefer to drive my Jeep, which is about the same price? Because it works for me. I can do what I want with both vehicles – just like I can take the photo I want with any camera. Both vehicles have similar features right – just like various cameras do. But the layout, look, feel, and overall experience can be different for different people.
My point… don’t go out and buy this camera (or any camera) because you think it’ll make you a better photographer. It absolutely, positively will not. But your camera should make your experiences while taking photos (which is also VERY important), as good as possible. For me, the Sony has been doing that, and I’m really happy with my switch.
Thanks for stopping by. Have a good one!
Great info. Thanks! I’m switching from d600 28-300 for travel to Sony mirrorless. I’m at a total loss as to whether I should get the a7rii or the a6500. And then what lens? Going to Croatia and Costa Rica for active vacations then Zambia. Would love your thoughts.
Hi. I guess it depends on what you want to shoot. How large do you print?
If you shoot in low light, the ISO in the A7Rii will be better and produce large prints. But it, and it’s lenses are larger. The a6500 is great. I use it all the time for landscapes when I’m not shooting at high ISO and don’t need to print really big. Good luck!
Thanks Matt! I truly value your opinion. On these trips, Im shooting a huge variety-landscape, city shots, cows on the side of the road, flowers. I don’t really print big, but I like crisp. What lenses would you recommend for the 6500 given that I don’t like to do a lot of changing.
I use the Sony 16-70mm lens. They’re all crisp with good camera technique so don’t worry too much about sharpness. Especially if you’re not printing big. Screen size and small prints, just about everything looks good and any lens out there is going to give you sharp photos. Have fun! 🙂
The move to mirror-less intrigues me from the size and portability side of things. I find myself not wanting to haul out my DSLR on quick family trips or activities and default to my iPhone. How significant is the size and weight reduction in these things? Obviously it is a big under-taking to sell off one’s gear, but if it makes life easier and gets me shooting more, I’d be all for it.
Hi Chris – I don’t think it’s that significant. For most people, they seem to be changing to systems that are still larger. Most of the Sony cameras aren’t as big as a DSLR, but they’re still larger than an iPhone. And then, a lot of people are switching, but still buying mega-sized-monster lenses to go on the tiny body.
To me, the ultimate system is quickly becoming my Sony A6300 with a 16-70 lens on it. It’s VERY small and lightweight. Image quality is awesome. Not a full frame camera, but does what I need it to do.
I love your work and teaching style. I too switched from Nikon to Sony. I am struggling with the menus.
Can you please share your settings on the a6300?
Hi Matt, I’ve seen a lot of photographers complain of the lack of dual card slots. While most SD cards are reliable they do fail on occasion. I know you’re not shooting weddings where perhaps it’s more critical, but still you go out to all these locations so I imagine if you lost your pictures it would at the very least be highly irritating. Do you back up in anyway since the camera does not have dual slots?
I know you are mainly a landscape photographer but you do mention taking portraits on occasion. How does the Sony stack up to Nikon in terms of skin tone, color accuracy, etc.? Thanks for your wonderful follow up article. It was very helpful as I’m tipping towards going all Sony and traveling lighter too.
Hi Sharon – I never used the dual slot in my Nikon when I had it, so it’s not a problem for me. I back up my photos when I get back to my computer.
As for skin tones, everything looks good to me! 🙂
Did you ever try any of your Nikon lens with a converter? I shoot canon and hate to replace all my lens.
Hi Butch. No I sold all of my lenses online. I didn’t want to get a smaller camera system, and still use all of my larger lenses so I got the Sony ones. But I hear the converters work just fine.
Hi Matt. I have had my Sony system for 9 months and still learning. I have had recent problems with the LCD screen quitting on me. I’ve been in the Colorado mountains and there might be dust affecting the LCD sensor. Tried blowing out the dust with compressed air. No work. Ideas?
Sorry Linda – no ideas.
I also have the a6000 and was frustrated by the LCD screen cutting off. At first the camera would actually cut off when I changed from landscape to portrait . My clothing or strap was not in the way, but couldn’t come up with a reasonable explanation. That issue has somehow resolved. But the eye piece sensor is very sensitive and will black out, [ not cut off as before) if my left wrist ever so slightly gets in the way. My wrist has been at least 5-6 inches away from the eye sensor. Hope that helps.
Matt, thanks for this follow up post on the Sony. My Nikon D300s with 28-300 got just too heavy for me, so I use the Sony A6000 most of the time. One thing that bothers me is that I just can’t see as clearly in the EVF. Used to be able to use the Nikon for binoculars, but not the Sony. Can’t even really see if something is sharp. Maybe I don’t have it set right. Plus, by the time I get it turned on and the EVF has activated, I’ve lost many a shot (mostly of birds).. Bummer. Once it gets going, though, the burst can leave most anything in the dust :-). I wonder if your A7R II actually fires up faster from zero to framing the shot in the viewfinder..
Try adjusting the diopter. It’s the dial to the right of the viewfinder window. They suggest you take the eyepiece cup off to adjust it to your vision then pop it back on. I wear progressive trifocals and have trouble getting the focus even after adjusting it.
Hi Matt, How does this camera perform in night as in astro photography?
Right now I have a canon 70d and am wanting to upgrade to a full frame sensor. I really don’t have that much money invested as the only other glass I have is a Tameron 70-200, so i’m thinking that this is a viable option. I love doing landscapes, Night shots and then portraits in that order..
Matt, have you used Sony’s Capture software and if so, how does it compare to Lightroom/Photoshop Raw file processing? I downloaded the Adobe dng up to convert the Sony A6300 raw files because my version of Photoshop (CS 5.1) did not open Sony’s raw files. So far, I am happy with the Sony A6300, lots to learn to use all the features.
Hi Gina – I have used it and I prefer LR and PS for my raw processing 🙂
Matt, the big downside of the Alpha system is that the apps are only available in select countries. Even the free PlayMemories Mobile app is geo blocked. So if you live outside of the select countries where these apps are available -and most people do- you can’t download the apps. This is a big issue that I would have liked to know before I made my purchase.
So the big question, how are you finding what I believe may be your first prime? the 55 FE. In your review of the Nikon 24 1.4 prime you stated that although you know the picture is better quality, you could not actually see the difference. As a developing hobbyist this has inspired me to avoid primes, thank you, you saved me thousands! I wasted a lot of time analyzing gear etc. trying to focus more on photography now.
Is it too early to ask your verdict on what is said to be one of the best quality primes out there, the 55 1.8 FE?
Hi Steve – so far, I can’t see much of a difference. The quality is great, but then again, so is the quality of the other lenses I use. I personally don’t find myself reaching the bag for this one a lot for what it’s worth. I’d recommend… save money, travel light, and skip the primes until you absolutely feel you need them and can justify the cost and extra weight in the bag.
Matt: I have a Nikon D800E and the same high end lenses I am sure you had with your D810, 14-24, 24-70, 70-200 and 200-400. I have a few others as well. I wondered about trying the a6300 as my entry into Sony. Can you use the full frame lenses you have on the a6300? There are new adapters soon available that will allow you to use Nikon lenses on Sony cameras including aperture and af control. Is that an option to consider since I already have excellent lenses. I understand about the issue of size. I would consider the other Sony lenses you have for travel. I would appreciate your thoughts. Peter
Hi Peter – I’ve sold all my Nikon gear so I can’t even test this, and I actually haven’t ever used any adapters. So… I’m probably not the best to ask about it. Sorry about that.
I have a lot of Nikon primes and the Sony adapter works fine for me with no difference in the quality of the photo.
Only one I’d probably get from Sony would be the 24-70 as I don’t have that in a Nikon mount either.
Tom in Vegas
And if I can add to that… don’t read all the reviews out there. They’ll tell you to stay away from the less expensive Sony 24-70 f/4. I think it’s a great lens and one of the main ones I use 🙂
Matt: Could you compare your 810 to the Sony wrt image quality and useable ISO range for RAW? Thanks, Jim
Hi James – I don’t have the 810 anymore so I can’t do a side-by-side. But I have in the past, and the Sony is right there with the 810. I wouldn’t have switched if it wasn’t.
So happy you took the leap into Sony! I have been using Sony gear since I took photography up. I enjoy following your journey into the Sony Glass world. I would love to move the nto the full frame world, but I would need a lawyer if I traded up again……. I do use a 16-50/2.8 as my goto almost never leaves the body lens……. I like ve that I can be 2″ up close and personal, and yet have zoom capabilities. I do use my 70-200/2.8 for nature shots and sports…… I have been chewing on 50/1.4 or 1.8, but not sure if it would help with portraits with my 16-50….. Would the prime be worth the investment?
I am totally onboard with the apps on the a7rII. I am sure you noticed it before – but thought i would share this. The smooth reflection app is a great way to remove people automatically in a crowded scene. I was shooting a relatively busy road using the app just for kicks and after 48 or shots that the app does to get the final image – to my surprise it was clean without any people. Next time i am at a famous landmark i am so using this app so i can save myself some serious photoshop time 🙂
!!! I used to read your website back when I had Nikon gear weekly. Then, I sold it all to buy a Sony A7s setup, and didn’t really read the old blogs I used to read… I just happened to scroll down on my Feedly feeds and remembered your site- So glad to see you rock the Alpha! I love this camera for many of the same reasons that you do. I’ll be checking in again weekly. 😀
Just to add a note – I got the Sony A6000 with the 16-50 kit lens – got a steal of a deal on it. I started using it along with my Nikon as a second camera. Have to say – I LOVE LOVE it. When I first got the Sony A6000 I was on a shoot for photos for a book and found the kit lens a bit soft – so I ordered the Zeiss 16-70mm for the A6000 overnight and it basically saved me. At least half of the photos in that location ended up in my book. What can I say. LOVE my little Sony. And that Zeiss lens. I’m thinking the full frame Sony is probably going to be next on my list. Thanks Matt for all you’ve shared – I’ve learned so much from you!!
Matt, have followed you for years and appreciate your insight and photography. About to purchase the a6300 and am wondering about lenses. Reviews I read are not favorable for Sony lenses and recommend Zeiss lenses instead. I’m leaning toward the Zeiss 16-35 and the fact that you use it supports this leaning. Thanks.
Hi Jim. My 16-35 is a Sony lens. I guess technically it’s made by Zeiss, but the lens also says Sony on it.
All I can say is that I’m happy with the lenses I have. I haven’t tried any of the others and I don’t usually read reviews. If I did, I probably wouldn’t have ended up with the 24-70 I have since most reviews don’t like it. But I do. It’s small, light, and does just fine for me.
So… for what it’s worth, I like the lenses I have 🙂
I’m also considering this camera and wondering whether the 10-18 might be a better choice for you than the 16-35 which is more a full frame landscape lens than a crop sensor one. It’d be equivalent to a 24-52.5 on an A7RII.
Excellent review and commentary…….Thx for sharing your thoughts on the Sony. I have been considering same for the past couple of months…..From a Tampabay (Clearwater) neighbor…
Great to hear you’re loving the switch, Matt. Had no idea the Sony cameras could use apps.
I’m holding off on mirrorless until the wireless flash tech improves as I mainly shoot portraits these days. A move to Fuji is definitely on the cards though!
I was intrigued at the Sony A7R2 when it first came out. I thought that it would be so cool for landscape photography as well as it being light and not weighing a person down. But I also like shooting sports and I wasn’t too sure about the AF and fps for the action. What can you tell me about that? Do you have the 400mm lens for sale?
Hi Averil – the AF and FPS for action does indeed seem to be a bit behind some of the larger DSLRs. I haven’t personally stacked it up against a DSLR so I can’t speak much to it other than to say that I think you’re right 🙂
Sadly no 400mm lens.
That’s where your A6300 (a camera I am considering to replace my 5D MKII) comes in. I must say I am sold on Sony’s kit at the moment after buying a RX100M3 which nails portrait focus way better than my SLR even taking into account DoF differences. Eye focus, registered face detection etc, spot on more often than not. They are the king of sensor tech at present and, although their cameras lack in some regards, they seem like they are being driven by people who want to move forward.
Thank you for the nice review. Would you share with us what you are doing for flash since you have switched to Sony?
Hi Dan. I havne’t shot with flash in years, so the answer is – not much 🙂
What about all the complaints I’m reading concerning the slower focusing compared to DSLR? Did you got any problems?
I personally haven’t had an problems. I saw that F-stoppers did a review and they actually reviewed the AF higher than most others.
The Sony AF is worse in low light, on faces.
In daylight is better.
I switched to Sony from Nikon as well. It can be an issue for events in low light.
It also depends on the lens. The Sony FE 50mm 1.8 is terrible.
the 24-70mm is pretty good.
I tried the 24-240mm for travel but I was unhappy of the AF performance at 100mm and +. Too large,
I have the A6000, A7, 7ii. A6000 has the best AF.
Probably the Sonnar 55mm 1.8 has good AF.
Hi Matt, I have the same setup (lenses) as you, with the exception of the 70/200 f/4. I’ve kind of held off purchasing that one because I mostly shoot landscapes and I’m not sure I’d put it to a lot of use. How often do you find yourself using that particular lens? Also, is there anything in particular you find that you use the lens for?
Hey Mitch – I find I use my 70-200 all the time for landscapes. Believe it or not, it lets me get close and isolate things in a way nothing else does. Plus, it’s my portrait workhorse lens so that would be the last lens I give up.
In last December I bought the same camera body Sony A7RII for my travelling. As lens I use the Sony 24 – 240 mm, for me a very versatile travel lens. As it is the only lens I own for this camera, I never switch lenses. Have you ever tried out this lens and if yes, what was your experience ?
I moved over to Sony last year and have loved the mirrorless setup, using an a7 and an a6000.
Just curious, the cold weather issue you ran into, did the proximity sensor frost over where it thought you had it to your face? I’m wondering if it’s the sensor that was acting up and not the display. There’s a menu setting to manually switch back and forth that would help in that case.
Just as long as I’m still on your speed dial…
Always my friend! 🙂
Having switched over to Sony with an A6000, I must say that my biggest surprise ‘Like’ has been the apps. Even with being used to smart phone apps, I didn’t think I’d really make a lot of use of them. I installed the ‘Smooth Reflection’ app after reading your post on it and I have to say thanks for the recommendation! I love it and use it often!
I’m fairly new to the Sony cameras (switching from a Canon DSLR). I have an a6000. I’d like to learn basic photography techniques, can you recommend a resource with video tutorials geared towards Sony shooters?
If you’re looking for just “photography techniques’, check out Creative Live or Kelby One; both are great resources.
If you need more instruction on the a6000, check out Gary Fongs videos. He’s got some fairly good instructional videos on the Sony family. Otherwise, YouTube it all the way!!
Hope that helps.