Contemplating a camera brand switch - Part 1 of 5

February 18, 2024  •  Leave a Comment

Changing camera brands every few years is reserved only for the foolish or the rich. This is an expensive endeavor and one which results in the loss of a lot of money. Camera brands leapfrog each other all the time. For now, this camera may be the best and tomorrow another brand's offering may be the best. So being patient is key since waiting a while may mean that the next camera release from your brand may be tops. Besides, we do not always need the latest and greatest to take stunning images.

          My photographic gear journey started off with a Ricoh screw mount camera. My father gave it to me. During that time Ricoh seemed to be dead-ish and just did not bring out anything new. I grew as a photographer but my gear did not. At a massive sale I bought a Canon T70 which I used for a number a years. During college I ran out of money and shooting film was expensive. So I sold everything and did not do much photography for a brief period of time. Right after college I started with photography again. There seemed to be a general consensus (at least from those I talked to) during that time that Canon made the best lenses, Nikon made the best bodies, and Minolta was in between with good bodies and good lenses. So I went with Minolta.

          My photography flourished and I was very happy with my kit. Then digital happened! I waited and waited for Minolta to go digital, but that day never came. Eventually, I had to make a decision to jump ship. In hindsight, that was obviously the correct decision. That taught me an important lesson that there is a delicate balance between waiting patiently and waiting too long. Waiting patiently may save you a lot of money and your brand may reward you with a great new release. Waiting too long may cost you a lot of money as a brand loses favor or goes out of business, making your gear almost valueless on the used gear market. I am glad that I sold off all my Minolta gear at the right time. This lesson learnt is busy playing a major role in my decision to consider jumping ship now, but more of that later.

          Canon seemed to have the best sensors at the time so I went with Canon. As before, my photography flourished and I was happy with my decision. One day, a number of years later, a client brought a new Sony mirrorless camera to a workshop where I was a co-instructor. I was very impressed with the files that that camera produced. I started looking in mirrorless gear, but more out of being intrigued. Famed photographer Don Smith (donsmithphotography.com), whom I was co-instructing for at some of his workshops, received one of these Sony mirrorless cameras to try out. I distinctly remember the moment when we sat in the hotel room opening one of the raw files after an early morning shoot. We were blown away at the file's ability to lift the shadows without much resulting noise. We were both sold. Naysayer rebuffed with "who shoots underexposed by four or five stops?" But they missed the point. The point was that one could expose for the highlights and save the shadows, effectively gaining dynamic range and getting beautiful shadow areas rather than black areas.

          Lesson number two was learnt. Technology advances seem to come in waves. Those very waves crush some companies, sweep others off of their feet, and births new companies which may lead the pack in the new era. The digital era was one of those waves. Minolta was crushed and Canon took the early lead. Mirrorless was one of those technological waves. Canon and Nikon was caught off guard, they were too cautious to move ahead. Sony took the market by storm. Nobody would have guessed a few years earlier that Sony would conquer a lot or market share from Canon and more specifically from Nikon. The auto industry is experiencing such a wave right now. These waves bring with them many questions. One such important question is whether to duck the wave or to ride the wave. Not all of these waves turn out rideable. Some of these technologies don't pan out and at times competing technologies fight it out leaving consumers uncertain. Remember, VHS and Betamax? We have had battles like that in the memory card space too. Both Don and I felt certain that mirrorless was the way to go. We sold our Canon gear and bought into Sony. We were going to ride this wave. In hindsight, we made the right decision. Mirrorless has taken over the market. I have been happily using Sony since almost the beginning of the mirrorless wave.

          So why am I considering switching brands now? Just over two years ago I moved from California to Nebraska, a move that I have been very happy with. But Nebraska is not particularly famous for their ocean views or mountain vistas. I don't have landscape photography opportunities here (at least not within reasonable driving distance). I was forced to adapt and found myself gravitating towards bird photography. My Sony A7R IV is a brilliant camera which I love. It excels at landscapes photography, at bird photography not so much. It's autofocus is just too slow and it frame rate likewise. It is not the camera's fault. It is simply not a birding camera, was never intended to be.

          Here we are. I have to buy a new camera. Naturally, Sony is the first brand I will look at. It just makes sense since I have the lenses I need and switching system, as we have already said, is very expensive. I have done a lot of research but am not quite at the point of making my final decision yet. Next week, I will share my hesitancy to continue with Sony. During the next weeks I will talk about every brand I am considering and in part five (perhaps six) I will make my final decision. I hope that you will join me on my journey towards that decision.


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