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Forums Sony Cameras Mirrorless vs. DSLR?

  • Mirrorless vs. DSLR?

     Andy Ford updated 5 months, 4 weeks ago 3 Members · 7 Posts
  • Todd Gruel

    August 18, 2020 at 11:43 am

    Hi, all. I’ve been researching Sony cameras for a couple years and I’m leaning towards getting a Sony a7RIII. I’m also considering a Nikon D850. Although I’ll mostly take photos, I plan on using it for some video, too.

    I do have some final reservations about mirrorless cameras though and wanted to get a final set of opinions before I make a purchase.

    Reservation 1: Mirrorless vs. DSLR. I hear that mirrorless cameras have some quirks with panning (usually past columns which seem to bend); it also tends to overheat; and it doesn’t have the benefit of seeing the exact subject through the viewfinder.

    Reservation 2: Sony. Sony cameras tend to be…less ergonomic. I can get a hand grip, but even then, they are built like small boxes. The Nikon D850 is far more ergonomic, but it’s also a little heavier, being DSLR.

    How do you all feel about mirrorless technology these days? Is the lack of ergonomics and issue for anybody else? Do you simply adapt? Any thoughts about my camera choices and stated concerns?

  • Brad Hurley

    August 20, 2020 at 8:24 pm

    “Reservation 1: Mirrorless vs. DSLR. I hear that mirrorless cameras have some quirks with panning (usually past columns which seem to bend); it also tends to overheat; and it doesn’t have the benefit of seeing the exact subject through the viewfinder.”

    Rolling shutter isn’t just a problem with mirrorless cameras, but the Sonys do have it. The new A7S iii has very good rolling shutter performance compared with the others, but if you’re using your camera mainly for stills it wouldn’t be a good choice because it’s only 12 megapixels; if you’re eying the A7r iii you clearly want more resolution than that. (As an aside, you might want to ponder why you want a higher-resolution camera; the A7iii at 24 megapixels is plenty for most people’s needs; the only reason to need more is if you frequently crop in post or if you do very large-format professional prints.)

    Overheating shouldn’t be an issue unless you’re shooting long clips of video; in your case you say you only want to shoot a bit of video. If you want a dedicated video camera there are better choices; I’m not a fan of Sony’s video in general, although the new A7Siii at least allows you to record raw footage so you can avoid Sony’s not-so-great color science.

    “Reservation 2: Sony. Sony cameras tend to be…less ergonomic. I can get a hand grip, but even then, they are built like small boxes. The Nikon D850 is far more ergonomic, but it’s also a little heavier, being DSLR.”

    I think it’s just a matter of getting used to it. The main complaint I hear with Sony is the complicated and unintuitive menus, although I’ve been using a Sony as my stills camera for more than 8 years now so everything is pretty easy to find for me…it just takes time to figure it out. The A7 series have customizeable buttons so you can map your most regularly accessed settings to those buttons, which saves a lot of time and aggravation in menu-diving.

    But you’re really talking about ergonomics related to size and handling. If you’re used to a big camera, a smaller mirrorless might feel awkward at first. Again, it’s just a matter of time and getting used to it. I find DSLRs ridiculously big, awkward, and heavy and would never buy one myself, but again that’s because I’ve gotten used to Sony.

  • Todd Gruel

    August 21, 2020 at 8:02 am

    Thanks for your thoughts!

    I would estimate that stills will be my focus 3/4 of the time. But quality video would be nice. I don’t necessarily need 4K, but it doesn’t hurt. As far as the color science goes, is that much different for video than for stills? I thought Sony colors tend to be more neutral? I suppose I would get used to the ergonomics and electronic viewfinder that are normal for mirrorless. The dashboard layout might take more time if it’s not intuitive; I’ve heard about that, but my experience is only using film cameras and so it’s all new to me.

    Lastly, Sony lenses seem to be much more expensive than its competitors’ lenses. Are they worth it? I should mention that I’m leaning towards the A7RIII because the quality of its stills is beautiful to my eye but also because the resolution allows me the option of large wall prints (for potential display of my work) and for cropping (I plan on taking subtle cloudscape photos and may need to zoom past what a telephoto may allow).

    DSLRs are definitely heavy, but their bulk feels comfortable in my hands; you see exactly what you get with each photo; and it’s color science allows for high accuracy and dynamic range. I think the Nikon D850 would be my main competition for the A7RIII.

    Thanks for your thoughts. Additionally I’m curious to hear what you all use and why.

  • Brad Hurley

    August 21, 2020 at 9:29 am

    “As far as the color science goes, is that much different for video than for stills? I thought Sony colors tend to be more neutral?”

    For stills you can shoot raw and that gives you freedom to adjust colors as much as you like; with video you have much less latitude (except with the new A7s iii, which can output raw video to an external recorder) and Sony doesn’t get skin tones as well as, say, Canon. Most of the video I see from Sony A7-series cameras has more of a “video” quality to it than a “cinema” or “film” quality. The video I’ve seen from competing mirrorless cameras like the Nikon Z6 looks better to me.

    Before I got my A7iii I debated for more than a year whether to get a Nikon Z6, a Sony, or a Sigma fp as my full-frame camera (before that I was using a Sony NEX-6 APS-C camera for stills; it takes horrible video). The Sigma fp would be the best choice for video-centric applications but for stills it’s hampered by an electronic-only shutter, which can lead to rolling-shutter problems on fast-moving objects as well as banding under certain kinds of artificial light. Since I already have a couple of small cinema cameras, I ultimately decided to get a good stills camera and bring two cameras with me: one for stills, one for video. The dynamic range and image quality from the cinema cameras has spoiled me and I wouldn’t consider using my Sony for video except as a last resort, but plenty of people use Sony mirrorless cameras for video, even professionally. Check out Brandon Li, for example, who uses an A7 iii for his travel videos (he’s now switching to the A7s iii).

    “Lastly, Sony lenses seem to be much more expensive than its competitors’ lenses. Are they worth it?”

    The great thing about e-mount is that almost any other lens can be easily adapted to it. For my full-frame Sony I’m not using any Sony lenses at all and don’t plan to. I like using manual lenses, and the Cosina Voigtländers for e-mount are exceptional; so are some of the Zeiss Loxias. A few of the Sigmas for e-mount are world-class, particularly the 35mm f1.2. I currently use vintage Minolta Rokkors on my A7iii and they are producing gorgeous images (Minolta based their lenses closely on Leica designs and they made their own glass; their lens-to-lens consistency is higher than that of Leica and Leica even contracted with Minolta for a while to manufacture some of their lenses). The Minoltas have poor flare resistance, uninspiring sunstars, and some other problems, but they have plenty of character, lovely rendering, and painterly colors. I got three of them (a 28mm, a 55mm, and a 100mm) for under $500. I’m also using a couple of Nikon F/G-mount lenses with an adapter.

    Many of the Sony lenses are excellent, especially the GM line, but quality control seems to be a trouble spot based on reviews I’ve read.

  • Todd Gruel

    August 21, 2020 at 10:47 am

    Thanks, Brad. It’s helpful to engage in an extended dialogue with someone. ☺

    Interesting choices with your camera research. It seems like the Nikon Z6 is an equivalent of the Sony A7III? The Sigma: Wow, the lack of ergonomics makes me feel better about Sony now — interesting option, though. ?

    If color science is mostly an issue shooting in video then I don’t mind too much as that will be a smaller part of my output. I did research Brandon Li and discovered profile color modes (like EOSHD’s). Are those essentially internal LUTs that get applied at the time of capturing photos? Are they permanent in their effect? Can they be changed or removed after capture? It might be nice to have some control over those features. Either way, it seems like this tech helps modify the “look” of the captures rather than adjust dynamic range and highlights and lowlights and such? In either words, is the effect more “aesthetic” than “essential” in its functionality?

    Hmm, I’m curious to hear why you prefer manual lenses? Don’t you lose out on autofocusing by doing so? That’s one main feature of Sony cameras, right? (For twenty years, I shot on a very old Minolta SLR using shutter or aperture priority modes, so my needs aren’t particular; but it’s good to have options. And I like an easy-to-use workflow.) What are the advantages and disadvantages of shooting with manual lenses?

    My only concern with getting “cheaper” lenses is that doing so might not capture the full potential of the A7RIII’s high resolution capabilities. I do like a sharp image and vivid color tones. I also enjoy a nice bokeh and some lens flair.

    I’m curious, I would like to try to budget $5,500 for a A7RIII body (if I go the mirrorless route) along with three or four lenses. Is this doable going with quality non-prime lenses? I would like one telephoto lens for capturing distant clouds (at least 400mm); one macro lens (in mid-zone territory); one “general” purpose mid-zone lens (between 45-90mm, possibly zoom, if quality permits); and one wide-angle lens (possibly zoom, if quality permits). If I go with my current research, GM makes a great telephoto and Zeiss (?) makes a fantastic macro. The latter I can budget; not so much the former, unless its capabilities are unrivalled. Is there anything you might be able to recommend?

    Like you do, I will eventually get a second camera dedicated to video; likely an A7III when the prices drops. But that’s not my main priority now. 🙂

  • Brad Hurley

    August 21, 2020 at 11:26 am

    “It seems like the Nikon Z6 is an equivalent of the Sony A7III?”

    Yes; the Z7 is more like the Sony A7r series but from what I’ve read it’s not as good for video as the Z6.

    “If color science is mostly an issue shooting in video then I don’t mind too much as that will be a smaller part of my output. I did research Brandon Li and discovered profile color modes (like EOSHD’s). Are those essentially internal LUTs that get applied at the time of capturing photos?”

    I believe that’s correct, although since I’m not shooting video with my Sony I haven’t looked into these options in any depth. So far I’ve only experimented with Slog (since I’m used to color grading log footage in post from my cinema cameras).

    “Hmm, I’m curious to hear why you prefer manual lenses? Don’t you lose out on autofocusing by doing so?….What are the advantages and disadvantages of shooting with manual lenses?”

    I used autofocus lenses on my NEX-6 for eight years (and on point-and-shoot digital cameras before that) and I’m still keeping the NEX with one good autofocus lens (the Sony/Zeiss 24/1.8, which is one of the best lenses available for APS-C e-mount). I do a fair amount of low-light photography (I’m a musician and often shoot photos of other traditional musicians in dark environments like pubs) and I got frustrated with autofocus, and focus-by-wire never seemed responsive or precise enough. Plus I’ve been mainly doing cinematography over the past 3 years and that’s all manual so I’ve gotten to like the control of manual focus. Yes, it means that there are certain kinds of photos I just can’t reliably capture but that’s okay. I work within the constraints. I’ve been able to capture candid portraits, insects pollinating flowers, and even a few shots of birds without autofocus. I like the challenge.

    The main advantages are more precise control; the main disadvantage is that it takes more time to focus manually and you lose more opportunities because of it. I have a button dedicated to magnifying the focus area and have the camera set to go back to the regular view when I depress the shutter button halfway. That system’s efficient; there are also focusing aids like focus peaking although it’s not always reliable (I’ve learned this the hard way with my cinema cameras as well).

    “My only concern with getting “cheaper” lenses is that doing so might not capture the full potential of the A7RIII’s high resolution capabilities. I do like a sharp image and vivid color tones. I also enjoy a nice bokeh and some lens flair.”

    The Minoltas and many other vintage lenses work fine on Sony’s higher-resolution cameras, and they have amazing bokeh…the flare is actually a problem on those lenses though as they are prone to veiling flare that washes out the image. Modern coatings are better in that regard and I am planning to get at least a couple of the Cosina Voigtländer lenses, which have some of the Minoltas’ character with fewer optical aberrations, better flare control, great sunstars, and other benefits.

    “I’m curious, I would like to try to budget $5,500 for a A7RIII body (if I go the mirrorless route) along with three or four lenses. Is this doable going with quality non-prime lenses?”

    A really great resource for this (although not completely up to date) is this complete guide to Sony FE lenses on Philip Reeve’s (fantastic) website: https://phillipreeve.net/blog/fe-lenses-sony-comprehensive-independent-guide/

    This is the best comparison guide I’ve seen; it does tend to emphasize manual lenses since the team there all prefer them, but they cover autofocus lenses in this guide as well.

  • Andy Ford

    September 10, 2020 at 2:45 pm

    The selection of Sony e-mount lenses is not complete in my opinion. If you want a good lens for low light conditions with a servo, forget about it. You can get close, but it’s not like the options you get elsewhere. My guess is because Canon won’t help out here since they want you to buy their camera. This is my only gripe with Sony cameras. Don’t get me wrong, I still own several and use them heavily, but I have to own a bunch of lenses for different scenarios and still not have all the options I used to have with other mount types.

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