I come from a DSLR background, having used Canon for over 15 years. After much hesitation I switched over completely to Sony, trading in all my Canon gear and getting two Sony A7R III and six lenses. To my surprise, I’m not missing Canon at all, and now that I’ve used the Sony system for several months, it’s hard to imagine going back. There are so many features that have become integrated into my working style.
First off, the positives. Excellent 4K video, in easy-to-work-with MP4 files. Yes, the codec is pretty compressed compared to higher-end video cameras (and lacks some great features of the GH5, like 10-bit color), but as long as your white balance and exposure are good, the files are a pleasure to work with.
Ability to switch between full-frame and Super 35 is terrific, for both video and, surprisingly, for photography as well. When doing photography, if you’re OK with the smaller Super 35 file size (and it’s still relatively big), then every lens you use becomes a whole set of other lenses, i.e. a 16mm lens becomes 24mm when shooting in Super 35.
The EVF is superb, and has many advantages over an OVF: you can see your exposure while shooting, do focus peaking when manually focusing, and can shoot into the sun without blinding yourself. The articulating LCD is very good, and makes getting lower and higher angles much easier. I also often use it when doing ‘normal’ angles, because it’s simply rather nice to look down into an LCD sometimes, similar to the old days when I looked down into the viewfinder of my Hasselblad 500.
The sensor quality is unbelievable: as much detail as you could ever want, with loads of dynamic range. As for color, people have criticized Sony’s color science, but I actually love it. It’s very neutral and natural, in a good way. I much prefer it, for instance, to the overly pinkish and processed-looking colors from a Fuji camera.
The camera feels wonderful in the hand; without a battery grip it’s too small, with nowhere for your pinky finger to go, but with a battery grip or grip extension, it’s ‘just right.’ Much nicer to carry around, I think, than a DSLR, which feels like a bowling ball in comparison.
One of the best features is the IBIS, which has transformed how I work, especially when doing video. I can’t imagine living without this now. I can do video interviews lasting several minutes, all handheld, if I need to; something that would have been unthinkable with a DSLR.
The autofocus is excellent, and the eye-AF, although not infallible (the way some reviewers have suggested) is a great technology. Continuous autofocus in video is also very good, almost on the level of Canon’s DPAF.
Customizable buttons are another super feature: between these and the ‘My Menu,’ it’s actually quite easy to program and find the features you use most. Although Sony’s menu design isn’t going to win any awards, I think it’s not nearly as confusing as some people make out.
Last but not least, the lenses. Sony has done a class-act job of creating lenses that aren’t just ‘good enough,’ but could even be considered some of the finest glass in the world. For example, the Sony/Zeiss 50mm f1.4 or GM 85mm f1.4, both of which are optically perfect, as far as I’m concerned, and have wonderful ‘character.’ All the GM and Sony/Zeiss lenses I’ve used so far are at least the equal of the Canon lenses I’ve used for so long.
Is there anything negative to say?
Hardly any reviewers of this camera mention dust, but in my experience, dust gets onto the sensor really easily, and you have to constantly have a blower on hand to get rid of it. During my DSLR years, I rarely gave dust a thought, but now I have to be vigilant with it.
The LCD is good, but doesn’t quite compare to the Canon 5d Mark IV LCD. Images don’t look as crisp, the LCD itself is smaller than that of the Canon, and it lacks the full touch sensitivity of the Canon. However, it’s still an excellent LCD. I’ve just been spoiled by the Canon one, which is on a whole different level.
Another gripe is the card doors. They open at a 90 degree angle, but ideally would open at a 45 degree angle (like most DSLR card doors do). As it is, getting the cards out is slightly more difficult than it should be.
My biggest gripe, perhaps, would be moire when shooting in full-frame 4K video. In Super 35, there is sometimes a little bit of moire present, but it’s fairly well-controlled. In full-frame, however, you can expect to see moire whenever shooting man-made textures. It should be remembered, however, that even high-end cinema cameras like the Arri Alexa don’t offer full-frame 35mm shooting. Super 35 is actually the standard in the video world, not a ‘second best’ crop factor. So, just having the option to shoot in full-frame and still get excellent (other than the moire) quality is a great thing.
In conclusion, I absolutely love this camera. Perhaps what I’ve found most surprising is how much I’ve ‘bonded’ with it, how nice it feels in my hands, and how much I love the character of the images I’m getting. Compared to my good old Canon, there’s more of a learning curve in using it; if someone asked me what camera I’d recommend for snapping photos of your kids in the park, then I wouldn’t recommend the Sony (a Canon, Olympus or Fuji would be better). But if you’re a serious amateur or a professional, and are willing to invest some time into learning this new system, then it’s immensely rewarding and, in my humble opinion, a superior product to what the DSLR companies are offering. The user experience, virtually endless innovations, smaller size, and staggeringly good image quality all make it a phenomenal camera, for both photography and video.