Why I Switched from A Canon to Sony Camera Sytem

Sixteen years is a long time to spend together.  I was always faithful, never so much as batting an eye at another camera brand, except that one summer when the Nikon D800 came out.  Ooh la la!  We ran away for two weeks on a whirlwind vacation through Wyoming's breathtaking mountain scenery.  We had fun but in the end it was nothing more than teenage lust.  The shine quickly wore off and I crawled back to my Canon with a bouquet of memory cards and a promise that I'd never again stray.  A couple years later the Sony a7R came along and was all like, "Hey, how you doin'?"  I swooned.  Then I caved.  The promise of incredible image quality in a smaller, lighter package was just too much to resist.  I told my Canon 5DIII that the Sony and I were just friends, nothing serious.  But then we spent a month together, traveling through Arizona, California and Nevada.  I knew at the end of those magical twenty eight days that it was over.  There was no going back.

"It's not me, it's you."  Piece by piece I sold off all the Canon gear I'd acquired over the years.  Soon, the only thing I had left was an sad little extension tube. Truth be told, it was a difficult decision.  I'd grown comfortable with the Canon system.  I knew what to expect of it.  Using my Canon camera and lenses became so intuitive that there literally was no thought behind it.  The notion of giving up what I knew for something I didn't was a little bit scary and a whole lot intimidating.  But, the time had come for me to move on.  I gathered my composure and went all-in on a shiny new Sony system.

Why did I do it?  The answers are many; better image quality, more dynamic range, smaller, lighter and less expensive cameras and lenses, as well as a commitment to continuous innovation.  In my view, Canon is a reactive company.  Sony and Nikon are proactive.  They push the limits and are on the leading edge of imaging technology.  Canon waits and then plays catch up.  The new Canon 5Ds is a perfect example.  How long did photographers have to wait for Canon to release a high-resolution camera?  How many photographers jumped ship because of Canon's complacency?  I've no doubt that it is a remarkable camera but at almost $4,000, it's nearly twice the price of the a7R.  It also weighs twice as much and is significantly larger.  It goes without saying that camera choice is a personal decision.  What's right for me may not be right for you.  

I'm not bashing Canon/Nikon/Pentax/etc.  Any camera is capable of producing incredible imagery in the right hands.  No camera system is perfect.  Canon, Nikon, Sony - they've all got flaws.  That will always be true.  The key is to find a system that works for you, one whose flaws are generously outweighed by the good, and for me that is the Sony system.  Here's why I switched, what my new Sony kit looks like and why I chose each piece:      

Why I Switched from Canon to Sony

I truly believe that Sony is leading the pack in imaging technology and innovation.  Sony sensors are used in some of Nikon's most popular cameras as well as a few medium format digital cameras that cost more than my truck.  There's a reason for that - they're incredible.  

Dynamic Range - The a7R records over 14 stops of dynamic range.  14 stops!  I photographed high contrast scenes with a single exposure using the a7R that would have required an exposure blend if photographed with my Canon system.  Fewer exposure blends = less time staring at a computer screen and more time making images in the great outdoors.  Win! 

Image Detail - Sony a7R image files surprised me with the amount of fine detail they contained.  Edges were sharper and small details like thorns on a cactus, palm fronds and pebbles by a creek were all better resolved than I'd ever seen in Canon image files.  I'm sure some of this is attributable to the absence of a low-pass filter but I also noticed that the Sony files held up better when enlarged.  That last point is unimportant if you don't make large prints but I often do so naturally, I got all tingly inside when I made this discovery.

Image Detail, Part Two - A sensor capable of recording incredible image detail is useless without lenses than can resolve those details.  The Sony lenses I tried out and am adding to my kit were as good as, and in some ways better than, their Canon counterparts.  My Canon 16-35mm lens suffered from very soft edges and corners, a known issue with this lens.  At $1,700, there is no excuse for such lackluster performance.  The Sony 16-35mm lens showed significantly sharper edges and corners as well as reduced flare when shooting into the sun for $400 less than the Canon lens.  Sony's 24-70mm and 70-200mm lenses were on par with Canon's offerings, which is to say that they're very, very good.  But smaller. And less expensive.  So, you know, they've got that going for them.

Size and Weight - Sony's mirrorless cameras and lenses are significantly smaller and lighter than their DSLR counterparts.  I'm not getting any younger and the prospect of losing a few pounds without giving up carrot cake and a daily breakfast burrito was too tempting to pass up.

But Wait, There's More

User Interface - I can't say that the Sony user interface is better than Canon's but I found it to be very intuitive.  One press of the "function" button gives immediate access to nearly every commonly used setting or function.  The A7R and a6000 also have three custom function buttons and the A7II has four, just in case you don't find what you need with the "function" button.

Electronic Viewfinder - As a landscape and adventure photographer the vast majority of my work is done outside, in bright light that makes it difficult to see an image on the rear LCD.  I do use a HoodLoupe, which is hugely helpful, but the Sony EVF supports image review in the viewfinder and I've got to admit...I love this feature.  I found that I used it all the time to check for critical sharpness and overall composition.  That said, the EVF has some shortcomings that I'll detail below.

And Now, The Downside

As much as I'd love to tell you all that the Sony system has no flaws I just can't do that.  It's damn good, but it isn't perfect.  Then again, nothing's perfect so this shouldn't be a shocking revelation.

Limited Lens Selection - I need pro quality lenses as my photos are frequently printed at 32" x 48" or even larger, and any lens imperfections that are virtually unnoticeable in a small jpeg can become glaring in a large print.  Sony's current catalog of full-frame E-Mount lenses consists of only eight models.  I've no doubt that Sony will continue to design and develop new lenses for the system but until they do, photographers are left with a limited selection of lenses.  It is true that you can use Sony's A-Mount lenses on A7 cameras with an adapter but that defeats the purpose of a smaller, lighter camera system.

About That EVF - Truly, the Sony EVF is very good but it isn't an optical viewfinder.  It's grainy in low light and there is some lag when working with moving subjects.  This isn't a problem exclusive to Sony.  Rather, it's just an issue with EVF's in general.  I found myself using the LCD screen in live view more often that I ever did with my Canon system, which in turn exhausted the small battery even faster.

The Batteries - Battery life is not at all what I became accustomed to with my Canon system.  With a battery grip on my 5D Mark III I could usually make it through four days of heavy use before the batteries needed to be charged.  I'm doing good to get one full day with the Sony batteries.  And for some reason, those small batteries take a long, long time to charge.  Extra batteries and a dual battery charger are a must.  Speaking of charging, the Sony cameras don't come with a separate wall charger.  You have to put the battery in the camera and plug the whole camera into the wall, which is just cumbersome.  Of course, you can buy a wall charger but it's an extra expense.

Delayed Start Up - Don't expect to flip the power switch and be ready to go.  There is a lag and in some cases (as in the a6000), it may even be a few seconds.  If you're a landscape photographer this probably won't be an issue.  Wildlife or street photographers may find it to be a nuisance.

Miscellaneous Gripes - On the A7R the shutter button is in a bit of a strange position that forces you to move your shutter finger farther back than on most DSLR's.  The A7II was redesigned and the shutter button was moved forward.  I'm hopeful that Sony will do the same with the A7R's replacement.  Auto Exposure Bracketing is limited to 3 exposures.  For extremely high contrast scenes I often use five exposures that I blend together in Photoshop to record the full dynamic range.  Initially I thought this would be a bigger problem but thanks to the incredible dynamic range that the Sony sensors capture it turned out to be a non-issue.  However, photographers who shoot a lot of HDR may find this to be an issue.  I'm not sure if the lack of a mirror is to blame or if it's something else but the Sony seemed to collect more dust on the sensor than my DSLR's ever did, causing a few curse words to escape my lips while processing my images.

And Now, An Introduction to My New Sony System

I started flirting with Sony last year when I purchased an a6000 and 16-70mm lens, which is equivalent to a 24-105mm lens in the full-frame world.  This little camera is without a doubt the best bang for the buck in the market right now.  It won't be my primary camera but as a back-up to the back-up, or for adventures that require me to travel ultra-light, it'll be an amazing piece of kit.

As much as I loved the A7R, I decided not to buy one right away.  Why?  It's a couple years old and a replacement is likely near on the horizon.  I'd rather wait for the newer camera that will most likely address at least some of my gripes.  Instead, I decided to pick up the A7II that was just released four months ago.  When the A7R Mark II (or whatever it will be called) is released I'll add it to my kit and it will become my primary camera.  The A7II will then be relegated to back-up duties.

The three lenses I tested with the A7R were Sony's 16-35mm, 24-70mm and 70-200mm FE lenses.  I loved all of them.  This collection of lenses gives me a range of focal lengths from 16mm all the way out to 200mm, which is almost all I ever need.  Yeah, it'd be nice to have a little bit more reach but if I really need it I'll throw the 70-200mm lens on my a6000 for an equivalent focal length of about 350mm.  Sony's A-Mount 70-400mm lens receives great reviews and could be used on the A7 line with an adapter if more reach was absolutely necessary.  I won't be surprised if at some point Sony develops an FE lens in the same or similar focal length range and if/when they do, I'll pick it up.  I'd also like to see a 15mm or wider fisheye lens added to the line-up as I enjoy using these lenses for adventure photography.

In addition to the aforementioned bits there are several extra batteries, a remote shutter release and a couple wall chargers.  I haven't bought one yet but I'll likely add a Sony flash to my kit.  I don't use flash often but there are times when having it allows me to make an image that would otherwise be impossible.  

So, there you have it.  I've spilled my guts.  But maybe I left something out or you've just got specific questions that I didn't address.  If so, feel free to post them in the comments section and I'll respond as soon as possible.   



Moab Photography Conditions - March 23, 2015

Wildflowers, Waterfalls and National Park Status Updates

UPDATE: March 30, 2015 - Yesterday on a mountain bike ride I saw quite a few wildflowers popping up in the desert north of Moab, even a handful of desert primrose that were looking very healthy.  None of the more showy wildflowers are blooming yet, i.e. mules ears.  We haven't had any rain or snow (in the La Sals) for well over a week.  The snowcap on the La Sals is melting off fast.

Wildflowers and warm weather are here!  Okay, so the wildflowers are nowhere near peak but they are starting to pop up here and there.  I've seen some really nice bouquets of indian paintbrush at lower elevations as well as a few small white, yellow and purple flowers (sorry, I'm not much of a wildflower recognition expert).  Cottonwood trees are just beginning to leaf out and their vibrant green leaves are always a lovely contrast to the rich red sandstone.  

Area waterfalls are flowing nicely as the warmer weather melts snow in the La Sal Mountains.  Speaking of the La Sals, they still have a snowcap but if they aren't visited by any more winter storms this spring the snow will disappear quickly.  Compositions that include the La Sals always look better when they mountains are coated in snow.  

Most of the 4x4 roads are open and in good condition, or as good as can be expected of a 4x4 road.  As an aside, the National Park Service is considering the implementation of a permit system for day use of Elephant Hill and the White Rim in Canyonlands.  For better or worse, you would be wise to keep an eye on the progress of this initiative.  Construction on the new, larger parking lot at Delicate Arch in Arches National Park is now underway.  Visitors will be impacted.  For more information please visit the Arches NP website.

That's all for now.  As the wildflower season progresses I'll post frequent updates, hopefully with a few photos, to give you all a better idea of what's happening around Moab in real-time.

Planning a photo trip to Moab?  I offer private photography workshops that are designed to get you to the best spots at the best times for incredible photo opportunities.  Click here to learn more about a private photography workshop with me.

For Sale: Canon 5D Mark III, Various Canon Lenses & Miscellaneous Photography Equipment

I honestly never thought this day would come but alas, it has, and I am selling ALL of my Canon camera equipment and a few other miscellaneous items related to outdoor photography.  Why would I do such a thing?  Simply put, I tried the Sony Kool-Aid and I liked it. A lot. So I'm switching. I need to sell my Canon gear to fund the crazy shopping spree on which I will soon embark.  Additionally, we just bought a new house and I'm literally cleaning out my closets.  I will probably add more to this list as I dig deeper into storage so if you don't see something you want, check back periodically.

Below you will find a list of the equipment I am selling.  None of the prices indicated include shipping or insurance.  I am happy to provide a shipping quote if you are interested in purchasing something.  Just email me with you shipping address and the item(s) in which you are interested and I will get back to you within a day or so with a shipping estimate. 

Without further ado...

The following items are offered as a package only.  I will not consider parting this out so please don't ask.


(1) Canon 5D Mark III camera body. Excellent condition and just under one year old. Works perfectly. No scratches, dents or dings. Top and rear LCD screen have been under the care of an Invisible Shield screen protector from day one so they are in perfect condition with no scrapes or scratches. 
(1) Canon BG-E11 battery grip. Excellent condition and just under one year old. Same description as 5D Mark III.
(2) Canon LP-E6 batteries. Real Canon batteries, not cheap knock-offs that will explode in your hand.
(2) Canon LP-E6 battery chargers.  Also real Canon products. One came with the 5DIII and the other is left over from my dearly departed 5DII.
(1) Canon Remote Switch RS-80N3.  Well used but in good condition and perfectly functional.
(1) Vello Shutterboss Intervalometer, Version 1. Bought it, used it once or twice and realized I'm not really a time-lapse kind of guy.
(1) Acratech Arca-Swiss style QR plate mounted on battery grip.
Miscellaneous CF cards, incl. (2) Lexar Professional 8GB, (4) Sandisk Extreme III 4GB, (1) Sandisk Extreme 16GB, (3) Sandisk Ultra II 1GB. Yeah, you'll get real, honest to goodness vintage 1GB CF card. Don't hold the shutter button down too long or you'll fill it up in a few seconds.

And, the rest of the riff raff.  Note: These prices do not include shipping or insurance. Please email me with your interest in a specific item and I will provide a quote for the shipping and insurance based upon your shipping address.

(1) Canon EF 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye lens w/ Lowepro padded lens case. The lens functions flawlessly but the front lens element has a small scratch that I've never found to affect the image quality.  I've used this lens primarily for adventure photography but there have been a few scenes that called for it.  Includes box, instructions and warranty card.  The lens cap is in a pothole in Capitol Reef National Park filled with dark, stanky water.  I'll tell you which one if you really want to dive for it.

(1) Canon 16-35mm f/2.8II USM lens including lens hood.  This lens is in excellent condition.  The zoom and focus rings rotate smoothly, the front and rear lens elements are clean with no scratches or other defects.  There are a couple very minor paint scratches on the front of the barrel but no dents, dings, dimples, divots, defects or other "D" words.  Includes box, instructions and warranty card. 

(1) Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens including lens hood.  This has been my workhorse lens and is the one most commonly found attached to my camera at any given time.  As such, it looks the part.  I like to think of it as authentic.  There are minor scratches on the front lens element that do not affect image quality.  The barrel exhibits signs of use (but not abuse) such as minor scratches and zoom/focus rings that rotate freely but sound like they had a rough night at the bar.  Image stabilization works perfectly and image quality is outstanding.  Of everything I'm selling, I am most attached to this lens and I will probably get misty when I ship it off to you.  Includes box, but not instructions or warranty card.

(1) Tokina AT-X Pro 20-35mm f/2.8 lens. I've had this lens for 15 years, though I stopped using it around 8 years ago when I bought a Canon wide angle lens.  It's burly as hell, heavy and in good condition with no defects or scratches on the glass.  You won't want to use it in church because the focus mechanism is LOUD. And not fast. But, it does auto-focus just fine. Comes with a padded Tokina lens case, the original lens hood and nothing else.

(1) Pocket Wizard Mini TT1 & Flex TT5 set. Not much to say here.  If you have to ask what they are, you don't need them.  They're in very good condition, they work perfectly and both come with their original boxes complete with manuals and the cables that shipped with them. 
($250.00 for the pair)

(1) Canon Extension Tube EF25 II w/ storage bag.  Just what it says. Nothing more, nothing less. Very good condition and works perfectly. No box.

(1) Singh-Ray 77mm Thin Mount LB Warming Polarizer. You won't find a better filter manufacturer than Singh-Ray.  This one is in very good condition with no defects or scratches to the glass.  Includes the coveted Singh-Ray storage pouch although the little strap that holds the flap down is starting to unravel.

(1) Singh-Ray 77mm Thin Mount Vari-ND Filter. This filter allows you to dial in between 2 to 8 stops of neutral density, thus allowing for longer shutter speeds, even in bright daylight. This one is in very good condition with no defects or scratches to the glass.  Includes the coveted Singh-Ray storage pouch.  

(1) Black Rapid Curve RS-7 Camera Sling.  Brand new, still in box, never been fondled.

(1) Black Rapid SnapR 35 Camera Bag. I used this bag to carry a Canon EOS M, which it fit perfectly. I no longer own the camera so I've got no need for the bag.  It held the camera & attached lens, charger, USB cord and a wireless remote. I don't have the little slider thing (I think BR refers to it as a wrist strap).  It's a great bag for smaller cameras.

(1) Clik Elite Pro Body SLR Chest Pack w/ Harness. The Canon 5D Mark III with attached battery grip and 16-35mm or 24-105mm lens fits perfectly inside the pack. You can also fit 4 extra CF cards, a remote shutter release, an allen wrench, a few business cards, a microfiber cloth and a hotel room shower cap.  Figure that last one out on your own.  It carries comfortably on your chest using the included harness, allowing instant access to your camera.  This one is black.

(1) Gitzo G1227 carbon fiber tripod.  No head (see below).  This tripod is a grizzled veteran.  It's supported my cameras from coast to coast, in the mountains, in the deserts, in oceans, creeks, rivers and everything in between.  Maybe you're a new landscape photographer and you don't want to give off that "Hey, I'm new here!" vibe on your next visit to [insert iconic National Park location here].  Buy this tripod and no one will mistake you for a noob.  Seriously though, it works just fine - it's just ugly.  All the legs extend fully, the little hook thingy on the bottom of the center column extends and retracts like it should and the legs lock securely in place.  Take it apart and clean it and it'll be your BFF.

(1) Acratech GP ballhead.  Whaaaat? An Acratech GP ballhead for only $75.00 instead of the usual $400?  Yeah, well, this one doesn't come with a QR clamp and though it's still functional, you're gonna wanna get it fixed.  Or if you're handy, maybe you can fix it yourself.  I'm not. At all. The main control knob is stripped so it just spins and spins and spins.  But, you can still use it by turning the smaller tension knob to loosen or tighten the ballhead.  You will need to buy a QR clamp, which Acratech sells for $80, which means you'll have a $400 ballhead for $155.  Cosmetically, it's got a few scratches but nothing that affects the operation of the ballhead.

(1) f-stop gear Tilopa BC backpackIf you are buying the Gitzo tripod above you may also be interested in this backpack to complete the "veteran landscape photographer" look.  This foliage green backpack looks thrashed but is actually still in good working condition.  Until today it was my primary pack, always loaded and ready for a hike at a moment's notice.  It's got the requisite scrapes and embedded dirt from months of use but the suspension is still going strong and the pack material is wondering "Is that all you got?!"  I'm keeping the padded ICU (Internal Camera Unit) so you'll need to invest in one before you can carry your camera gear.  The only reason I'm getting rid of this one is because f-stop gave me a new pack and though I do tend to carry a lot of gear, I just don't need two backpacks.

(1) Olloclip 4-in-1 lens for Apple iPhone 5 or 5S. A marketing agency sent this to me to test and review, so I did. It's cool, but I'm not going to carry it around with me as I already have too much crap in my pockets.  It includes their iPhone case made specifically to work with the lens and comes with the original packaging.  Retail is $100. I'll sell it for...

There you have it, folks.  If you're interested in anything please use the form below to send me an email.  I'll get back to you as soon as possible.  Please feel free to share this post through whatever social media outlet you'd like using the "Share" link at the bottom of the page.  Who knows, maybe your buddy is in the market for some new camera equipment?

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Moab Photography Conditions - December 14, 2014

Update on Moab photography conditions on December 14, 2014. Fresh snow and rain has created interesting opportunities for photography in the state and national parks around Moab, including Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse Point State Park.

Read More

Welcome to the New Moab Photography Workshops Blog!

Thank you for visiting the new Moab Photography Workshops blog!  I hope you'll check in from time to time, as I plan to use this space to post landscape photography and post-processing tips, Moab area wildflower and fall color updates, workshop announcements, gear reviews, and more.  Over time I want this blog to become an invaluable resource to landscape and nature photographers striving to improve their craft.  Got an idea for a post? Please email me! I'd love to hear your suggestions.

Until next time...