In the modern world of digital cameras, there are myriad choices for the average photographer. The decision becomes more complicated every year with the release of multiple new camera models (and, indeed, new lenses) from the various manufacturers. So why choose Sony in 2020, when Canon and Nikon are seemingly surpassing Sony in the mirrorless camera space?
With the ever decreasing sales of digital cameras since about 2012 (coinciding with the increasing sales of smart phones) the camera companies have each endeavored to outdo the others in the performance of their respective models. Yet Sony still remains a driving force in the market.
Much has been made in the last few years about Sony not being a real camera company like Canon or Nikon, but rather just a consumer electronics company. This alone would seem to be one of the best reasons to buy Sony – the diversified product catalog offered by a consumer electronics company tends to offer a certain amount of corporate financial stability. Plus cameras are no longer just light tight boxes that hold and expose film. They are, now, effectively computers in a camera-like body. They are, simply put, electronic devices. If I am going to purchase an electronic device, I think I would be well advised to purchase from a “consumer electronics company”. Similarly Panasonic with its Lumix branded cameras seems to be doing well also, including its recent foray into full frame and partnership in the L-mount Alliance with Leica and Sigma. Leica seems to be doing well also, though as a real camera company, but as strictly a boutique brand with appropriate boutique pricing which puts them well outside of the normal paradigms.
We know that real camera companies are suffering. Olympus recently sold their camera division to a private equity firm for financial reasons, and their future as a camera brand is uncertain at best, at least for the time being. Currently the internet is rife with rumors regarding the suspected financial insolvency of Nikon and that Canon isn’t far behind. I have no idea how true any of these rumors are, but they do make some sense. Even though both Canon and Nikon have just come out with multiple new models each, both based on an entirely new ecosystem, it remains to be seen if this is the cure for their falling sales. FujiFilm is the only real camera company that seems to be doing well right now in the digital space. Sony originally went into the real digital camera space (as opposed to consumer point and shoot models) after purchasing the IP and engineering from Konica-Minolta. You don’t make this kind of investment without making a commitment to longevity.
Sony is not only reasonably healthy at the corporate level but in their camera division as well, and is often a top selling brand globally, doubtlessly due to their budget minded full frame offering we find in the second generation A7II which is typically available with a decent 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens for around $1k (or less on sale) USD. However as most of us know, their lens pricing has traditionally been at the higher end of the spectrum. Canon and Nikon are up there too with the new R and Z mount lenses (excepting one or two budget offerings). The only truly budget offerings in their systems are from the previous EF and F mounts used with adapters. The aftermarket (Tamron, Sigma, and Tokina, as well as others) have fully entered the fray and offer a wide variety of lenses for the Sony mirrorless system. I am certain that they will catch up with Canon and Nikon in the future, provided the market is there. Obviously you can adapt a plethora of vintage manual focus lenses to Sony bodies (as you can to pretty much any other mirrorless camera) giving yet another option.
Ultimately, corporate health is one of the best reasons to buy into the Sony system especially in light of the recent developments at Olympus. Many of the other criteria are much more subjective. There have been, for years now, arguments that Sony’s color science is inferior yet in several objective tests “experts”have been unable to discern the difference (much to their surprise). Even more subjective are haptics and ergonomics. Truthfully Sony’s ergonomics could be better especially on the original A7 and the A7II. I own and shoot an A7II – the ergonomics aren’t that good, but they aren’t that bad either. I do enjoy the haptics and the experience of shooting the camera despite those that say they are somewhat “soulless” and feel more like a computer than a camera, a statement that for me does not ring true. By the way, at the end of the day, it is a computer.
Many reviewers have voiced complaints regarding Sony’s menu system. for those who think it is overly complicated, please try Olympus’ menu. Otherwise it is just about like any other camera. Use it and learn it, and in no time it’s second nature. It is not, however, overly complicated.
Design language is another consideration. It forms the basic visual aesthetic of the camera. I, personally, appreciate the visual aesthetics of the standard full frame Sony cameras. The APS-C line with its more compact and rangefinderesque look is not near as appealing to me though I do own and shoot and A6000 too. Interestingly, this same compact design from the APS-C line has transitioned into Sony’s full frame line with the new A7C, a distinct departure from their previous full frame models.
I find the IQ to be exceedingly good and the raw files eminently useable. JPEGs are equally as good and offer options for in camera customization for contrast, saturation, and sharpness.
The only real shortcoming is the lack of weather sealing and dual card slots in some models. While Sony claims splash and dust resistance, they fail to include an actual rating which makes me somewhat skeptical as to the effectiveness. I am, however, reminded that once upon a time, weather sealing in cameras wasn’t even a thing. I am willing to work with this and can use a camera cover of some sort when needed. As to the dual card slots, that is an internet argument with no clear answer. For the working photographer though, it makes complete sense as redundancy is your best friend. Redundancy can be accomplished other ways though and dual card slots, or lack thereof, could be a deal breaker for some, or not.
All in all, Sony cameras are some of the best offerings in the digital camera space right now and have been for some time. They offer:
– Decently priced cameras with specs to fit just about any need.
– Good IQ from both RAW and JPEG files.
– Reasonable ergonomics and good haptics.
– Appealing aesthetics.
– Fully developed lens library with some reasonably priced lenses and excellent ecosystem of accessories with good support from the aftermarket.
Those are the five primary reasons that I have personally chosen to shoot Sony.
Stay safe and see the world your own way.
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