From Canon DSLR to Sony Mirrorless

Navigating the transition: Is it right for you?

While I have been active as a photographer in the Raleigh-Durham area for several years, I’ve allowed this blog to languish. I’ve jotted down several ideas over the years, but few have turned into writing. I’m keenly aware that in the interim, YouTube has become one of the dominant forces in communicating ideas. And I may begin creating content for that platform, but first I had to actually sit down and write something that wasn’t just another e-mail, quote for a job, or some other administrative task that all too often becomes the “main” reason for sitting in front of a screen. Sure, editing through photos happens, too, in-between sessions with Quickbooks! Also, life happens.

I can be a very technical photographer. I like to know about the latest tools. Some call what I do “gear acquisition syndrome” however I am also fanatic about selling gear that hasn’t worked for me / I no longer use to friends, on Craigslist, and on eBay.
This is something I began to write in September 2018. More than a year later, I think there are things that will help those trying to make decisions regarding the equipment they will take them on their own paths forward. Spoiler alert: I switched to Sony in March 2019. Furthermore, I do use affiliate links to certain gear. If you find my articles helpful, please consider making purchases via these links.

My greatest fault, and my strength, is that I am a passionate generalist. It’s a very expensive career path to be equipped for nature photography (wildlife and landscape), travel photography, wedding and event photography, studio portrait photography, and studio-on-location photography. It’s a tangled web, and it has made some of my equipment choices really difficult.  Oh, and I did I mention I’ve shot Canon since the age of 10? I’m heavily invested in that system and currently debating abandoning some of these tools in favor of different ones. While I never spoke formal vows, the idea of leaving behind the system that ushered me into this crazy world of image-making feels like a trial separation that could lead to divorce all the same.

Alaskan coastal brown bear at Lake Clark National Park. Photographed with a Canon 1DX and 400mm DO IS with 2X III extender
Alaskan coastal brown bear at Lake Clark National Park. Canon 1DX and 400mm DO IS with 2X III extender
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Photokina is coming…can you tell?

Every two years, camera manufacturers descend upon Cologne, Germany to push their latest wares. In the past week, on the lead-up to the trade show, Nikon, Sony, and Canon (in that order) have unveiled their latest offerings.

The Sony pellicle mirror diverts 30% of the incoming light to a phase-detect autofocus sensor. Image from
The Sony pellicle mirror diverts 30% of the incoming light to a phase-detect autofocus sensor. Image from

The more interesting announcements, to my mind, include Sony’s decision to revive the Pellicle mirror concept in the form of a “Single Lens Translucent” body that is always in live view, but retains phase-detect autofocus even for video.

Canon has announced a new 60D body that loses many of the features that it’s predecessor, the 50D, had but it gains video and an articulated LCD screen.  I can only hope that articulated screens are found on every future body that shoots video…Note also that this camera has another edge over the higher-priced 7D: manual audio control.  Canon has yet to release firmware to give the 7D the capability to control the audio level, but this lower-priced model might actually become very attractive to videographers for the articulated screen combined with audio control.  That is, if Sony doesn’t steal the show.

However, Canon didn’t end there: the 300mm f/2.8L, 400mm f/2.8L, and 1.4x and 2x teleconverters have all been refreshed with new optical designs.  The updated teleconverters have improved electronics that might only affect their performance with the newly-announced telephoto lenses, but the improved optics should benefit all telephoto lenses.  So, while I can’t say that any of the super-telephoto lenses are in the cards for me at the moment (the longest lens I have is the 400mm f/4 DO IS, and my sights are set on the 800 f/5.6–some day) the new teleconverters are sure to pique the interest of everyone as they are a frequently-used accessory and are therefore an easy way of improving the image quality of one’s photographs.

Also, Canon announced that they will be redesigning the 500mm f/4L IS and 600mm f/4L IS super-telephoto lenses, complete with the new “flourine coatings” on the aforementioned lenses and teleconverters.

Canon 8-15mm f/4L fisheye zoom lens.  Image from
Canon 8-15mm f/4L fisheye zoom lens. Image from

That said, the icing on the cake of the announcements?  An 8-15mm fisheye zoom.  Sure to be of interest to a lot of people for the creative perspectives offered in such a range.  Particularly, owners of reduced frame (APS-C and APS-H) cameras will be interested in this lens for the wider perspective.

Really, the only offering in that mix that doesn’t make sense to me is the 70-300mm f/4-5.6L zoom lens.  I know that the 70-300 range is popular, but how this lens fits on the totem pole in relation to the 70-300 f/4.5-5.6 DO IS lens is something of a mystery to me.

I was curious enough about this “L” version of the popular zoom range that I fired off an e-mail to Scott Andrews, the photojournalism representative for Canon in North Carolina, and his estimate is that this lens will have greater contrast and sharpness as compared to the DO lens.  It is, however, heavier at 2.3 pounds versus 1.6 pounds, bright white as opposed to matte black, and will be priced some $200 more than its DO sibling.  I do wonder if this is Canon’s way of tiding people over while we all wait for an update of the 100-400mm zoom…provided it’s even coming.

Canon 70-300mm f/4-5.6L zoom lens.  Image from
Canon 70-300mm f/4-5.6L zoom lens. Image from

PMA 2010: Sony joins the mirrorless revolution…

Ultra-compact new camera with interchangeable lenses, APS-size sensor and AVCHD; more additions to α DSLR line-up
Ultra-compact new camera with interchangeable lenses, APS-size sensor and AVCHD | image from

On Sunday, syndicated Sony’s announcement at PMA of a new line of mirror-less, interchangeable-lens compact cameras using a proprietary lens mount.  But who cares?

Camera Design of the Future?

For owners of 35mm SLR cameras, the idea of owning a camera that does not allow you to see through the lens–directly through the optics–seems strange.  It seems a throwback to the days of the rangefinder.  Of course, if that was truly the case that no one would want it, then why would Leica, let alone is M9 35mm digital rangefinder, still exist?

The answer, to put it succinctly, is that these smaller cameras with their smaller, but quite fine lenses, bring the fun back into photography.

And with no mirror in the way (electronic viewfinders are getting astonishingly good, and you can have a live preview of what the histogram will be at your given exposure), the lenses can be reduced in size dramatically.  Ever wonder why a 35mm Leica lens looks so different from one from Canon?  Single-lens-reflect requires a retrofocus design to compensate for the distance between the end of the lens and the film plane.  While this is over-simplified, the shorter that distance between film plane and lens, the smaller (and lighter!) the lens can be.

Recycling...They're doing their part...
They're doing their part... | Panasonic Lumix G1 and 45-200mm f/4-5.6 lens @ 45mm; exposed 1/60 sec. @ f/4, ISO 400.

For over a year now I’ve been working with a Panasonic Lumix G1–you can see all the photos I’ve posted with it–and along with its standard lens, a telephoto zoom, and an Olympus pancake lens that I’ve borrowed on occasion, it has enabled me to make pictures that I wouldn’t otherwise have because I don’t always want to schlep along my 5D Mk. II and 24-70 f/2.8L lens.

The G1 and its 14-45mm lens weigh in at one pound, six ounces.  The 5D and 24-70 weigh four pounds, five ounces.  Is the quality the same?  Of course not. But I wouldn’t have had the images without the lighter camera, because I don’t want to have bad knees and shoulders because of camera gear.  A bird in the hand…

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