A popular question I get when someone sees me shooting with the Sony A7R II, is why I shoot with such a high megapixel camera (42 megapixels). Also, I used to shoot with the Nikon D800/810, so the huge megapixel thing isn’t a new thing for me. I’ve shot with a 36 megapixel+ camera for the last 4 years.
So I figured I’d share my thoughts on why I’ve gravitated toward those cameras over the last few years.
Reason #1 – It’s Really Satisfying to Edit
I’m just being honest with this one. If you’re a photographer, then you’re a visual person. I don’t know how to put this so I’ll just say it – sometimes it’s just fun to edit an image that size. To be able to appreciate the detail in a tack sharp photo is kind of cool. There I said it. It has absolutely no bearing on how good the actual photo is. It’s just fun to edit. To zoom in. To pixel peep. And to appreciate a huge photo, all of its detail – in all of its glory – on a giant 30 inch screen 🙂
I always hear people talk about the darkroom “experience” back in the film days. And I think that’s a good word to describe it. Experience. I’m really not even talking to pros here. I think there’s a lot of people (like me), that love shooting and just shoot on their own time because they enjoy it. And we also enjoy editing and the experience of crafting the photo on screen that we feel it should be. We’re not on a time crunch and we don’t have clients or deadlines. We just like certain parts of post-processing. That’s where that larger image comes in for me. I enjoy seeing that detail and working with it afterwards in post.
Reason #2 – Cropping
I shoot mostly landscapes and being able to crop in helps a ton. What it let’s me do is shoot wider in the field, knowing that if I want to have a tighter shot later I’ll have the resolution to do it. The alternative would be to take off my 16-35mm lens and put the 24-70 on to get the same shot, just tighter. Now, I’m not going to take a 16mm photo, and crop in to a tiny bird that may be off in the distance. I’m really just talking about maybe shooting a lake with some rocks in front and a mountain off in the distance. Then, if I want, I can easily crop in and just have the mountain as part of the photo and not the rocks in the foreground. Or maybe I shoot wider to capture some clouds, but then crop in later to show off another part of the photo like below.
Reason #3 – I Teach Lightroom and Photoshop for a Living
Okay, there’s a back story to this and it’s party what got me to write this post. I was teaching at the Out of Chicago Conference a couple of weeks ago. I was asked to be part of a panel on mirrorless cameras and Fredrick Van Johnson was the panel moderator. The topic of why I shoot with the Sony A7R II (with its whopping 42 Megapixel images) came up. Earlier in the panel discussion, I said it was because it’s very satisfying to edit (the reason above). But when it came back around, I had also mentioned the fact that not everyone needs that megapixel count, and that I also like it because I teach. It’s useful to be able to zoom in and show people what I’m doing to the photo.
Well, there’s a few things to know about Fredrick. First off, he’s an awesome guy and one of my favorites in the industry. He’s also a professional host. He hosts a great photography show, TWIP, and he’s been doing this for years. Being the good host he is, he has to stir the pot a little from time to time – just to keep things interesting. In stirring the pot, Fredrick mentioned that I was contradicting myself from what I said earlier, about it just being very satisfying to edit a photo like that.
After the session, it got me thinking. Did I contradict myself? Then it hit me. Why can’t it be all of the reasons mentioned here? Why can’t I love the fact that my photos look great when I edit them on a large screen. Why can’t I like having the ability to crop in. And why can’t I also like the fact that it’s helpful when teaching, because it let’s me zoom in on areas in the photo, and really show people what I’m doing when I edit?
One Final Reason – You Just Never Know
Sometimes you just never know when you’ll need that huge megapixel sized photo. I’d say that 99% of my photos will never get printed at a size large enough to take advantage of the 36 or 42 Megapixels these cameras put out. But that doesn’t mean the 1% isn’t really important.
When I couple that with the reasons above, it makes shooting with the large-megapixel cameras worth it for me.
Of course there’s a couple of downsides. First is the obvious one – file size. I fill up my drives really fast. It’s forced me to become more picky about the photos I keep and I delete more. But I still keep a lot. Luckily drive space is cheap so it hasn’t been much of a problem.
The other downside is that editing is slower. Every app has to churn through these larger files and it takes more time. Luckily, I’ve been using these cameras for 4 years. So at this point I’m conditioned to it 🙂
Anyway, I hope that helps a little if you’ve considered shooting with one of these high megapixel cameras. For what it’s worth, I love my Sony A7R II. But as always, if you have any questions, just leave ’em below.
Have a good one!
I’ve been a Nikon DSLR user for many years and would like to move to a Sony mirrorless camera. I’m very much an amateur and shoot mostly for my own enjoyment and to share on social media and photography websites. I’d like to eventually try selling some of my photos, but I’m not there yet. My question is whether I should purchase the A7R II or something less robust like the A7 II. I was leaning toward the A7R II until I read under your Gear section that you don’t use it for most of your photography and instead use your a6500. I’m not currently in the position to have more than one camera, so I’m really struggling with which one to get. I shoot mostly landscape and wildlife but also want something that works well for travel photography. I’m a bit concerned about the file size with the A7R II. I edit in Lightroom and some Photoshop. Any advice you could give me would be greatly appreciated!
Hi Lisa – My first question is why switch from Nikon? Do you have a compelling reason? I don’t believe that the mirrorless are so incredibly light that you’ll notice a huge difference. But… if you’re already convinced you want to switch I’d ask yourself a few questions (which you’ve already kind of answered).
1) How large will you print (doesn’t sound like large so a6500 or A7ii will be fine).
2) How high ISO do you usually shoot? If you’re shooting wildlife, you’re probably pushing your ISO. You’ll see more noise in the non-full frame (A6500). That said, you’ll never see that noise if you don’t print large (which goes back to #1 above). So it sounds like a6500 could work for you. Smaller, cheaper, great camera! I personally love it and unless I know I’m in front of a scene that I’m going to print large, I usually pull out the 6500 myself.
Matt, I am seriously considering getting the A7 RII. My only concern is lens selection. Have you run into a problem with that?
Hi Chris. Not sure what you mean by concern? Like which lenses to get? Click the Gear link at the top and you’ll see the ones I have. I also added the 90mm macro to my list recently. Are you asking because you’re not sure which ones to get?
Hey Matt, thanks for your reply. My question is totally answered. The only question I am left with is that I noticed that all of your lens selection is F/4. All the information I read states that for portraiture you would want a faster lens, like 2.8 as a min. Is there any reason you are comfortable with an F/4 or is it just your personal preference? Thanks again man!
Hey Matt, thanks for your reply. My question is totally answered. The only question I am left with is that I noticed that all of your lens selection is F/4. All the information I read states that for portraiture you would want a faster lens, like 2.8 as a min. Is there any reason you are comfortable with an F/4 or is it just your personal preference? Thanks again man! C
Hi Chris – for portraits, the f-stop deals more with background blur than anything. Sure, if you’re shooting weddings or other portraits in low-light, then you’ll want a “faster” / low-f-stop lens to help get faster shutter speeds. But mostly, for portraits, you want good background blur and shooting at f/2.8 will give you more blur than an f/4 lens will.
That said, I shoot mostly landscapes which means I almost NEVER shoot at f/2.8 or f/4. I usually want maximum sharpness from front to back which means I’m shooting at f/16 more often.
So I figure why spend double the money, and double the weight/size for a 2.8 lens when I’ll never use it.
I do shoot the Sony 70-200 f/2.8 lens though. I don’t do a lot of portraits but I do enough that the 2.8 version of that lens is worth it to me.
Hope that helps. Thx.
Matt, much appreciated! Chris
I’m with you when it comes to having lots of megapixels to work with. I recall a blog post you wrote talking about the difference between the D800 and D800E about the time I was trying to decide which one to buy. That little extra bit of clarity you showed us that the 800E had over the 800 was what convinced me to go with the ‘E’. Your caveat that the only difference really came in if you were intending to print large prints. Your comparison and explanation is an excellent example of what a great teacher does – make it possible to understand the impact of a decision. I went with the D800E and a set of Really Right Stuff Panoramic (Multi-Row) Rails for really large prints which made it possible for me to begin doing super-sized prints for hospitals, hospitality and commercial spaces. With the combination of the D800E’s 36 megapixel sensor and the RRS rails the details are there!
One question I have about your current Sony camera – once you add on your favorite lenses, how do you feel the weight compares to your Nikon bodies and lenses?
Good article, and I am pleased to see that it echoes one I wrote for a local camera store’s blog. It is user’s choice and there are pluses and minuses to all decisions, that’s why decisions are a balancing act. If you are happy with your a7R Mark II, really that’s all that matters. If you are able to use the images for your preferred artwork, no one else’s arguments are as relevant.
I do not agree with the point made by Mr. Van Johnson. I do understand that he likes to poke the anthill with a stick, and that actually may be his primary role. In my opinion, you did not contradict yourself because editing can be a real pleasure. My primary DSLR is a Canon 1Dx Mark II but much of my commercial work is done on a Hasselblad. I have shot the a7R Mark II for a review and thought it was very good, although I and other pros have discovered a serious issue when using it with G Master lenses. Creativity is in the eye and mind of the artist. Your balanced article puts the decision back in the hands of the user, precisely where it belongs.
Although 14 bit raw is now available on Sony A7rii… Compressed 14 bit still makes more sense. File size is reduced to half while maintaining 99% of the quality.
Hard to be A7rII for stills and A6300 for action shots. With Lr mobile now you can read the raw files into your iPad, do a bit of basic editing and wifi them to your desktop Lr. When IOS 10 hits and the newer IOS devices can shoot/save in raw, many of us will start to see the mobile device cameras starting to make a significant percentage of our libraries.
Also helpfull when you want/need to crop the image.
Using the same camera as Matt I had to find a way how to deal with the file sizes specially while travelling. An uncompressed raw image out of the camera is 85 MB. After post processing in ON1 it can easily become 1 GB. This is for me a limiting factor. Such big files fill up my mobile SSD’s I use for travelling much too fast. But I still want to see, how my image would look after finish it in ON1. So when I’m done with editing in ON1 and before applying the settings and therefore return to Lightroom, I save the settings as a preset. I name the preset the same as my image file, i.e. _DSCxxxx and put it in a category that I name the same as the image folder in Lightroom. After returning to Lightroom I can now delete the generated psd-file, knowing that I can recreate by editing the raw file again in ON1 and apply the saved preset. Yes it takes some more time, but it is portable procedure. I can sync the presets from my laptop to my Mac Pro back at home and regenerate the psd-files when I’m back.
While travelling I copy the ON1 preset folder on a backup drive or if connection available simply upload it to dropbox. Each preset is only a few kb, so easy to handle.
This way I can get along with this big files pretty easy, still giving my all the flexibility while on the road.
Hi Andreas – that definitely sounds like it takes some time. I’m a Photoshop user too, and just about all of my good photos will see Photoshop. So my workflow is go from LR > PS. Edit there. Then jump to ON1 and back to PS. That way, I don’t get the bloat that Effects or Layers can sometimes give, and it’s just a Photoshop file.
I hope you’re sharing feedback about slower editing with large file size to the software design folks at ON1 for Photo Raw. I’m shooting with an older DSLR with a lower pixel count, but after stitching a few images together, I can quite easily bring Lightroom to it’s knees on my desktop PC. I’m curious to see how Photo Raw will handle the next generation of sensors. Pixel count isn’t going to shrink in the coming years; will tomorrow’s software be ready?
With the new G master lens starting to come from Sony allowing the full potential of the 42+ mega pixel sensors to demonstrate what photography in the future will be like — it makes one want to return to places visited in the past and relive the experience.
One other potential downside you don’t mention is that, as the pixel count rises, so does the likelihood of the sensor out resolving the lens in front of it thus you are pushed towards increasingly expensive lenses in order to get usable images. It’s hard to believe that at one point that was the case with my 5D MKII, especially when now comparing its output with more modern systems.
I have shot a full size digital camera or years. I wanted a lighter weight camera for health reasons. The write ups on this camera were wonderful while my practical experience was terrible. I used the camera on a trip to India in March of this year. Neither the manual nor the camera store staff told me that this so called dust proof camera is only somewhat dust proof. One needs to keep the small square at the top of the eye piece clear of dust or the rear view screen goes out. I figured this out after I got home from our trip. No one at Sony or the store knew about this issue.
I also had problems with the camera overheating. At times I could not hold it. If I turned the camera off then back on, all my settings were changed to manual. Really frustrating.
Talking to Sony repair was terrible. They would not let me speak to a supervisor plus accused me of sending it to a non approved Sony repair location.
I have sold all my Sony equipment and gone back to my Nikon gear.