Follow-Up: My Switch to Sony – This Is Not Why I Did It

This is a direct follow-up to my original article: Why I Switched From Canon To Sony. If you haven’t already done so, it’d probably be a good idea to read that first.

I knew my move from Canon to Sony would cause a bit of a stir and provoke a few questions. What I wasn’t prepared for were the abusive emails, with people lashing out and calling me things like “a f*&^ing idiot”. The world is a strange place! I’m not trying to force people to move in one direction or another with their own camera gear, merely laying out the facts and story behind my own decision.

It wasn’t all bad, though. In fact, many more people messaged, emailed or left comments that were supportive and thanked me for my frank discussion of the topic. A surprisingly large number of people also said things along the lines of “yes, I made the same switch myself a few months ago.” Fascinating stuff.

After answering all the questions and messages, though, I found that I was often repeating myself and several common themes were emerging. In this follow-up, I’m going to address those particular topics in more detail.

First a very quick one: No, this doesn’t mean I’ll stop covering Canon on the site.

There was some disappointment from Canon folks that it might signal the end of Canon content on the site. That’s not the case at all. Whilst I did sell all my Canon DSLR gear, I kept my EOS RP mirrorless camera for the purposes of reviewing Canon’s newest RF lenses. Later in the year, I will probably purchase an EOS R5 or R6 to replace the RP and give me a higher resolution camera for testing the lenses. I currently have several RF lens reviews in progress. I’m now using Sony as my primary work system, but I will continue to bring Canon content to the site.

The second point I want to discuss deserves its own sub-heading.

NOT Why I Switched To Sony

I’m paraphrasing and summarizing here, but many comments I received were along the lines of:

It’s not the camera, it’s the photographer.

Switching to Sony won’t help you take better photos.

I think these two common threads can be rolled up into one discussion, so here it goes…

Firstly, I want to make it totally clear that I never said I was switching to Sony so that I could take better photos. Anyone that switches their camera brand allegiance for that reason is on a fool’s errand. The only way to improve your photography and “take better photos” is by putting in the time and exploring the art through a combination of experimentation, practice, peer evaluation, self-critique and learning, whether that be at an academic institution, or simply consuming educational content through print or digital mediums.

Everyone responds to different teaching methods and environments in different ways, and you are most likely the best judge of what will work for you. Experimentation, self-critique and long periods of contemplation about my artistic failures are the things that seem to best fuel my own improvements, but perhaps you are different. One thing I can assure you is that your photos won’t improve by buying a new camera or switching to an entirely different camera brand.

I realize that this is exactly what people were telling me in their emails and comments, which is great because it means I have a lot of smart readers! But somehow the glaring bold headline of my Sony switch had seemingly overshadowed the reasons behind it. Perhaps some of those comments were instant reactions from people that didn’t read the original article, but whatever the reason, it’s something I felt needed to be addressed so that people don’t blindly follow this path hoping to find photographic improvement.

So if I didn’t make the switch to improve my photography, why did I do it?

The answer is actually quite simple: I switched so that I could create more of the images that I envisage.

If you don’t consider this statement carefully you might misunderstand it and confuse it with a desire to take better photos, but that is definitely not what I’m saying, and this is where we get into the second theme of the comments: “It’s not the camera, it’s the photographer.”

This, I’m sure, is a phrase we are all familiar with, and whilst I don’t know who said it originally, I can’t imagine that they meant it to be taken 100% literally. Contained within that short phrase is the sentiment that photography is an art, and it’s something that requires a great amount of patience, practice, learning, failure, artistic forethought and technique, among many other things. And you know what? It also requires a camera of some sort.

But saying all of that isn’t quite as neat, or quite as perfect a soundbite as simply saying “It’s not the camera, it’s the photographer.”

Here’s the important bit: I agree that you can create photos with any camera, and I agree that you can create art with any camera, but can you really create any photographic art with any camera? No, you can’t. You are dealing with a piece of technology, and that means there will always be technical constraints. Perhaps your chosen style of photography doesn’t bump up against those constraints, but it doesn’t mean that other people’s don’t. A more accurate statement would be that it’s 90% the photographer and 10% the camera, but again that doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, does it?

What if you are given a black and white film camera, but the photos you envisage making are full of bright colours? Yes, a good photographer can make beautiful photos with a black and white camera, and they may even be beautiful photos of the very same subject that they envisaged photographing in full colour, but they won’t be exactly the photos that they envisaged, and they will likely feel creatively constrained by that.

To give you another example, let’s say you are a bird photographer and you visit a beautiful location full of soaring birds of prey, but all you have is as an instant film camera with a fixed lens and basic exposure controls. Sure, a good photographer will know how to work with those limitations and still come back with some compelling images, in fact, such a situation, when self-imposed, can be a great creative exercise. But it’s more than likely that the photographer will feel the constraint, and not be able to capture all of the images that they might have envisaged before embarking on that trip.

If you had the option to remove some of the constraints and create more of the images that you can envisage, you’d take it, wouldn’t you?

When shooting wildlife with my old Canon DSLR gear I could do all my research to put myself in the right place at the right time. I could put my years of experience into practice and choose the perfect exposure for the light and environment, and I could leverage the knowledge of the artistic craft to choose a compelling composition that suited my style. I could even leverage knowledge gained from years of dealing with less-than-ideal tendencies of a specific piece of equipment, in order to try and give it the best chance of getting the shot. In short, I could do my 90% of the equation, as it were.

But if the camera decides to hunt for focus at the critical moment, I don’t get the shot I envisaged. Perhaps I get a similar, but not quite as good shot a moment later, but more than likely I get no shot at all.

In my case, the desire to switch from Canon to Sony was primarily fuelled by the desire to have a faster and more accurate focus system. With my wildlife photography, if everything else remains the same during my 90% of the procedure, I believe the Sony camera will more often complete its 10% of the equation successfully, and the result is that I will create more of the images I have envisaged. I will stare less often, forlornly, at almost-perfect images in Lightroom that are great in every way apart from the fact that the camera front focused or back focused at the critical moment. That is why I switched to Sony.

It’s very possible that the type of photography you enjoy is not as greatly affected by technology differences between different camera brands, or perhaps the medium in which you display your images would simply never reveal these differences. If that’s the case, great! Photography probably isn’t going to be as expensive an exploit as it has been for me 🙂

If you only post your photos to Instagram and edit them on your phone, the improved high ISO performance or expanded dynamic range of a specific camera brand or model isn’t going to make the slightest bit of difference to you. If you only shoot landscape images, the speed of the latest CFexpress cards probably isn’t something that’s even on your radar, and if you shoot macro photos of fruit in bowls, I’m sure you don’t care whether your camera shoots 3 or 20 frames per second.

If your camera, your tool, doesn’t limit the creation of what you envisage, be thankful. But don’t be naive and blind to the fact that some people do have legitimate reasons to upgrade or change their equipment with the hope that it will remove some barrier to their own creative vision. Not to mention the fact that sometimes there is a business behind the photography you are looking at online. For me, less camera-based failures in the field mean more work completed in less time. Out of focus shots don’t make me any money.

This is why I switched to Sony.

Photo of author

Dan Carr

Professional photographer based in Yukon, Canada, and founder of Shutter Muse. His editorial work has been featured in publications all over the world, and his commercial clients include brands such as Nike, Apple, Adobe and Red Bull.

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32 thoughts on “Follow-Up: My Switch to Sony – This Is Not Why I Did It”

  1. What is WRONG with people these days? What type of person leaves vulgar comments about such an inconsequential thing as changing camera systems: people lashing out and calling me things like “a f*&^ing idiot”.

    Thanks for your posts and informative website.

    One thing minor thing that makes me NOT switch from Canon gear is that their lens diameters are all pretty much THE SAME! Looking at Sony lens diameters they’re all over the place from 82mm to 72mm. After investing several hundred dollars in nice filters for Canon I’ve got one set of filters at 77mm and they can be used on all of my (primary) lenses. Not a major concern as my photography isn’t generally pushing any of my gear limits – although I did find my 5DMarkIV hunting more than I would have thought shooting polar bears in Churchill last year, so your reasons are compelling…

    Reply
    • You’re not wrong about the filters. I have a lot of 77mm and 82mm from my Canon days and now I have to make a decision about whether to buy a lot of new filters or use step-down adapters for 72mm and 67mm.

      Reply
      • I’ve never had a need to use step-down adapters. It would seem you lose the ability to attach a lens hood when you do? Thanks!

        Reply
        • In a lot of cases, yes, you do. And they have a tendency to get stuck on the filter. Great for saving money, not so great for saving sanity.

          Reply
  2. Like many I have a lot of money tied up in Canon bodies and glass. I have 5 Canon bodies – the main ones being a 5DSR and 1DX MkII. The bodies are heavy and the L lenses long, heavy and intrusive. I am happy with the quality but the equipment is both heavy and intrusive. Mirrorless is without question the future. It is like the latter days of film cameras. We knew what the future held. I have bought a Sony A7 II camera. It is small and lightweight. It has IS on the body, a silent mode, and with a Sigma adaptor I can use Canon lenses. I bought a Sony 24-105 mm f/4 lens. It is superb in low light and not intrusive. Photography is not about the equipment but for street and travel photography and taking photos where sometimes there are issues, my Sony camera has increasingly become my camera of choice.

    Reply
  3. While I’m not yet ready to abandon all my Canon gear, another thing I’ve read about the new Sony mirrorless cameras is that the sensors are not covered by any shutter when turned “off” and then they attract a lot of dust? Not sure this is a real thing or if it’s just bloggers coming up with something to say to get attention?

    If I could justify the expense, I’d love a mirrorless camera for things like having the histogram in the viewfinder and also having a camera that was actually, really quiet on quiet mode!

    Reply
    • Currently the only mirrorless camera that has the shutter close over the sensor when it is turned off, is the Canon EOS R. One camera. Not even the EOS RP does it. So this isn’t a new thing, but it is true. It is easier to get dust on the sensor, and on top of that I also find that the Sony sensor cleaning mechanism is not as effective as Canon’s. So, yes, having just made the switch, I can say that dust is more of an issue. This isn’t just a thing people say to get some attention. I have found that I have to carry a rocket blower with me absolutely everywhere, which is not something I have felt the need to do before. I think actually this is a topic that I should write about, or perhaps at least write something about the things that annoy me having made the switch. It’s not all roses.

      Reply
      • Thank you for this clarification. As you mention, it doesn’t sound like it would be a deal breaker but could become annoying – I’ve never worried about dust except when I came back from safari in Zambia and carelessly changed lenses in the Jeep. Appreciate your blog and honest responses! Cheers!

        Reply
        • Very welcome Eric! Yes I would worry about this a lot more in a dusty safari situation. I would definitely think long and hard about how many bodies I took and how/when I would change the lenses or add extenders. I hope everyone copies Canon’s great idea for closing the shutter during camera shut down. It’s a simple and elegant solution.

          Reply
  4. With wildlife I like to say that good shots are given, not taken, but you have to be ready for the gift.

    That includes having both the tools and techniques.

    Cameras are just tools: they have varying strengths and weaknesses.

    I shot a D500 and Sony A9 side by side for a year, BIFs almost exclusively.

    The A9 is great at plucking a bird out of the sky and sticking on it. It regularly fails to focus on a small perched bird 8-10m away. The D500 takes more skill to use but it will get that little perched bird. So if you know your needs you can make a choice.

    There’s a lot of tribalism in social media about brands. I get a lot of pushback from Sony fans when I share my experience as above. They can’t believe that 693 PDAF points can fail. I invite them to go out and reproduce my shooting conditions and see how they go. It can be done in a back yard. I’ve yet to have one come back and say ‘well look at that!’.

    Reply
  5. You said, “I will stare less often, forlornly, at almost-perfect images in Lightroom that are great in every way apart from the fact that the camera front focused or back focused at the critical moment.”
    Exactly! Love the incredible fast focus on my a6400. Its ridiculous!

    Reply
    • Yeah, it’s all quite a shock when you realize how much better AF systems can be. a6400 looks like an awesome little camera.

      Reply
  6. Dan – thank you for your articles and perspective. I certainly don’t find the need to agree/disagree to enjoy them. So disregard uncivil comments!

    I am primarily a landscape and wildlife photographer and am heavily invested in Canon glass. I recently bought a sony system (A7 R3 and G / GM lenses) primarily for the dynamic range of the sensor. Having used it for about 8 months here are my brief observations:

    1. Weight benefit is marginal as Sony GM lenses are just as heavy and big as the Canon ones.
    2. I am enjoying not having to micro-adjust my Canon lenses for each camera. This is an issue when photographing wildlife.
    3. I still prefer Canon’s color science; With images from Sony I find my self having to make more hue adjustments in post.
    4. Dust is a MAJOR problem with the Sony cameras. An article on best practices would be appreciated. I am afraid to clean my Sony sensor myself given that it has image stabilization.
    5. MY BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT – the dynamic range on Sony’s sensor is fantastic. However, their “blinkies” (highlight alert) and histogram don’t seem to be synchronized. When I get the first “blinkies” the histogram is not up against the right wall. If I expose to the right (ETTR) going by the “blinkies” and then evaluate the images in post they are about 2 stops underexposed. This makes maximizing the dynamic range of the sensor in the field very frustrating. I don’t understand why camera manufactures are unable to give us accurate histograms from RAW data.

    Your thoughts on #5 would be appreciated as I am assuming this is a Sony issue and not that I have a defective camera. Curious if others have experienced a similar issue.

    Reply
    • Thanks for taking the time to share such in-depth comments, Christopher. Really helpful for me and other people. To your points:

      1. I agree. GM lenses are typically very big. I’m excited to try the new Tamron lenses which people love so much for their lower weight and comparable sharpness to G/GM lenses. Also the 370g 20m f/1.8 G that just came out.
      2. 100%. I should mention that at some point, but it is nice!
      3. Again, 100%. I rarely adjust Canon colours, but I get magentas in the Sony shadows that bug me.
      4. Yeah, it’s annoying. I’m not even sure I know what the best practices are yet. I’m still figuring it out, but I definite find myself second guessing the need to switch lenses or add/remove teleconverters more often.
      5. Yeah again this is something I need to do more testing on. I assume you know you can adjust the threshold of the blinkies in the menu? I think to start with I set mine to 70, and that was way too low. Anything that blinked at 70 was not even close to being blown out in the RAW file. So I need to do some standardized testing of this, and some “mental calibration”.

      Reply
  7. Both were great articles!!! I have a Canon 5D Mark Iv..But I purchased a SONY a7lll because it allows mw to capture better images shooting Astrophotography…Stay well and keep sharing! You and your work are awesome…

    Reply
  8. Ern’s comment, “There’s a lot of tribalism in social media about brands.” is spot on. In fact, it might make a pretty good signature line! And the tribalism certainly isn’t confined to photographic gear. Pick any endeavor with gear involved and you’ll find someone willing to call someone else an effing idiot over nothing more than brand choice. As if what brands you prefer somehow affects their lives?!

    You are an honest, informative writer, Mr. Carr. Anyone calling you an idiot reveals more about themselves than it does about you.

    On another forum I frequent, one of signature lines is “Keyboards make people braver than alcohol ever did. Alas, some use both!”

    Best regards!

    Reply
    • Thanks Gun Doc! Appreciate the words.

      On another forum I frequent, one of signature lines is “Keyboards make people braver than alcohol ever did. Alas, some use both!”

      ^^ This made me laugh!

      Reply
  9. J’apprécie beaucoup votre site . Mon anglais étant déplorable , je préfère écrire en français.

    Vos analyses du matériel photographique sont très enrichissantes et objectives.

    J’ai quitté également Canon pour Sony hybride (A7RIV) : je ne le regrette pas .

    Merci encore pour vos tutoriels . jean michel

    Reply
  10. I’m looking forward to your review of the R5 even more now. If you’re anything like me, the universe has a way of going “haha” so naturally, Canon’s R5 will be everything you wanted from them, just a bit too late to have prevented all the effort in changing systems – Murphys Law I think 😀

    Reply
    • I’m not so sure. And I’m also not sure when I’ll get around to the R5.

      If you look at DPReviews just-published review of the a9 II, they state unequivocally that it has the best autofocus of any camera they have every used. I’d agree with that. Given that this was the main reason I switched to Sony, I’m very happy with my decision, and not in the least bit tempted to switch back to Canon. I’m very much in love with some of my Sony lenses now, too. Their newer lenses match the best ones I ever used with my Canons, but tend to be a lot smaller and lighter. Particularly compared to the latest RF L-series lenses which are frankly a ridiculous size..

      Another thing that seems to be forgotten, likely because the R5 is such a big step forwards for Canon, is the fact that Sony have had the 62MP a7R IV for over a year now. There will be an a7R V long before there is an R5 Mark II Canon have made one camera to do it all, while Sony have split things up. R for high MP, a9 for speed and AF, a7S for video. I’m happy with that approach because I think when you try and do too much on one camera, things will suffer. The useless video on the R6 and R5 is a good example of that. BTW, I ordered an a7S III once I saw the R5 was not of much interest to me.

      TLDR: The R5 looks great. I’m happy that Canon users have something that can compete with Sony, but it’s not going to pull me back!

      Reply
      • Interested in your take on the still images of A7SIII after u have it in your hands. I’m a huge admirer of still images produced by larger pixels. Needless, to mention I’m not into videos.

        That’s the same reason why I’m on the lookout for an EOS 5D Classic. I’m a 100% enthusiast nature and wildlife photographer. DSLRs are fine with me. However might get one MILC as I’m convinced that EF and EF-S lenses work flawlessly via adapters on their MILCs.

        Reply
  11. It is both the camera and the photographer. It is the tool and the artist that work together. If you are a chef, you keep your knife sharp. If you are a racer, you work with the team of people who can put together a great car.

    Reply
  12. You have switched to Sony, that’s entirely your decision. IMO, you’ve done that because you found it convenient. Fine, we shouldn’t have any questions about that – sincerely I don’t.

    As an enthusiast landscape and wildlife photographer, I’m a Canon DSLR user for last 12 years. But I don’t want to promote the brand. Since I had to make full payments for my gears; it’s not my responsibility either. Moreover, I have complaints against some of their gears.

    Now, MILCs have entered the market and Sony took it by storm. They have been researching on this system since long and have developed some cutting-edge technologies like BSI Sensors. So, due credit must be given to them.

    Now, both Canon and Nikon are gasping for oxygen. In fact, they shouldn’t as they enjoyed brisk business for more than a decade and dominated the market.

    At this moment Canon users might get some relief that this brand is trying hard to catchup which is a good sign. We hear R5 and R6 are good cameras. May be the successor gears will be even better. Enthusiast photographers like me who shoot just for the sheer pleasure of it, are naturally reluctant to initiate a switch. Even an ordinary guy like me owns seven lenses majority of which are L category. Selling all these glasses and buying new ones translates to considerable financial damages – a strong enough reason to reject a switch. However, the other main reason of optimism and staying back is; the EF and EF-S lenses work flawlessly with the Canon MILCs via adapters.

    Being a Canon user for long but refusing to be a promoter of the brand, I thank Canon for making this provision of enabling us to retain the net-worth of our valuable properties in the form of glasses. Now, I’m seriously contemplating an MILC body.

    Reply
    • Good job on chosing what is good for YOU, not for other people!

      Never mind the conformists and fad followers who were so keen to jump to half-hearted conclusions: they usually do so because they have grown used to basing their arguments on hearsay, rather than empiricism.

      TBH, I have been a Canon gear user (not fanboy) for a decade and a half due mostly to serendipity, not because I thought it was the best then – and haven’t probably changed that fact thanks to my steering my career path off photography – so today’s only enthusiastic photography for me – hence my not bothering looking elsewhere.

      But your original article, and this follow-up, have showed me that, had I proceeded in a similar path to yours, I might have taken the same carefully considered decision.

      Reply

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