You should know some things about me before we begin.
- I’ve only ever shot Canon, except for once when my camera failed on me.
- I don’t really have a bias towards Canon except that I’m too lazy to switch.
- A lot of my landscape friends have jumped ship and I’m tempted even before I tested anything out, simply on their word.
- If I was graded on my technical understanding of how to really dive into camera performance from a pixel-peeper’s level of intensity I’d probably get a C-
- The areas I was looking at are really, REALLY important to me and to landscape photographers so I will weigh in more heavily there, and much less so for wedding/portraiture work of any kind.
- If you just want to look at pretty pictures scroll to the end
There, have I thinned the crowd a bit? Good.
So, straight out of the box 2 things struck me. 1. The Sony feels tiny, like just barely larger than a point and shoot I bought my daughter a couple years back. 2. The Nikon lens feels huge, sturdy, and definitely capable of standing up to weather. For a more direct side by side comparison with Canon’s 16-35mm and technical aspects check out Ultra-Wide Lens News & Thoughts: 14-24mm VS 16-35mm f/2.8?
The Sony is small, basically a hair smaller than my outstretched hand, but not at all flimsy. It sort of feels like a sports car: they might be smaller but you kind of know that is for a reason and that they put all the parts where they needed to and didn’t waste space or weight. Another small disclaimer: I used Canon and Nikon lenses with adapters on the Sony body, so you wont find thoughts on the functionality of a native Sony lens either. I wasn’t too bothered by that, though. I was much more concerned with the tonality, dynamic range, sharpness, and ease of use for fine-tuning the landscape shots I wanted. Those are the non-negotiable areas of need I have.
One of the features off-the-bat that caught my eye was the level in live viewsame and in the viewfinder. As a landscape photographer I try my best to get a good horizon and if I don’t and have to crop, sure it may be marginal, but losing any piece of an image is still a loss. Also, while I’m sure the autofocus works as it should, I was only able to manually focus with my adapted lenses, and its feature of zooming for focus worked incredibly well. I was able to fine-tune all of my images with the Manual Focus Assist. For those that use tripods and want the exact focus, this is awesome, and with 42 megapixels that are really solid throughout you will be able to crop however you’d like and get a really solid image for all kinds of use. Without a tripod the internal stabilization and shutter reduced vibration also made quick shooting easy, and the ability to tilt the LCD screen was great to not have to lay on the ground like I’m so used to doing with my Canon. It just felt good, and fast. Looking through the menu it also has a bunch of other really swanky options that make it a dream for videographers.
Honestly though, the ease of use is tangential to what I was really looking for, and that’s how the images performed in post processing and the quality of the final image, which is where it shines the most for me. The usability and functionality felt similar to my 5D Mark III (which might be saying something that it felt as usable out of the box as my Canon that I’ve used for years) but the images felt quite a bit different. I had a 5D Mark IV for the trip as well and the images were slightly edged out by the SONY, you really almost need to get to the pixel-peeper level to really compare, but the dynamic range and color quality of the Sony seems purer.
Again, I’ll reemphasize that this review is lacking the technical language/aspects of typical reviews.
Adjusting color tones and contrast with the 5D Mark IV RAW files felt as though they’d reached the limit of usability before the Sony A7Riis RAW files. It could have something to do with the Sony being mirrorless and the extra 12 megapixels, but seeing that they are comparable in price and both getting a lot of attention, an a/b comparison didn’t feel like apples and oranges (again not concerned about how they function shooting fast paced events or portraiture).
The final results of the image might come down to how they “feel” to you or I, and if so, then to each his own, but it is saying something where I can zoom in more and get an equally strong image out of the Sony. Megapixels aside, the image quality even out of the Mark III were more than passable.
Here’s the Sony at full size for you to see:
So why not switch?
Now that’s a real good question. One thing that concerns me would be how it could/would crossover in the event I need or want to do some “rent work” (those jobs that don’t inspire you at all but pay the bills), like weddings, corporate portraiture, events, etc… A full switch over would probably require me to do some more research on how it performs on a broad amount of work. I know the Mark IV could hold up in both, and I have the lenses and local support. Canon is familiar, but that isn’t enough at this point; it’s starting to feel too familiar, like a friend in High School who never left town and has nothing but High School to talk about when you catch up.
I’ll also attach an edited image here so you can see some of the color quality once processed as well (and a 100%crop)
I am also not the guy who ever buys something right when it comes out or on early review hype. The A7Rii is just over a year old, and the Canon is just over a month old, and I’d love to get my hands on a few of the Sony lenses and give it a proper go. If they were even near or similar to my Canon experience the image quality alone might have me Craigslisting some Canon gear. My Mark III for the meantime is no slouch and gets the job done, but that is also the line any old person uses while modern advancements leave them in the dust. For me it’s not about keeping up with the Jones’, it’s about knowing that an evolving market is going to have evolving expectations and quality standards and I never want to be on the tail end of that.
Now, For The Nikon Lens
This shouldn’t take long.
If I was a Nikon shooter it would be a no brainer. This lens is durable, hefty, and is a sexy piece of glass. With the adapters I had I was only able to shoot the 14-24 it wide open (F/2.8) and no lens performs its best wide open.
A couple obvious things to note:
- Fixed hood. No way to attach filters. Bummer but not a killer.
- Huge. Or yuuuge (sorry). Again, not a deal breaker but if you need to travel light or if you are limp-wristed, or are accident prone, this thing could take a hard fall and breaking that bulbous glass would also shatter my soul.
- Zoom is solid. Nothing feels ‘loose’ about this and when I set the lens anywhere between 14-24 it’s going to stay.
- It’s most revered use I wasn’t able to test (astrophotography) because the moon was in full force, and right now the galactic core isn’t at it’s peak so it might need another review another day (errr… night)
It’s a great lens as far as landscape images are concerned. Even at 14mm the horizon isn’t bowed and the quality of the image doesn’t fall off at the corners. Typically I would be used to seeing some intense vignetting at a lenses most wide open aperture and at it’s widest zoom length, but this one was somewhere between bearable to pleasant. The outer edges of this lens is what I’ve heard most people rave about, and why in astrophography it does so well; it preserves the details throughout the frame giving those tack sharp stars all the way through.
Colors and sharpness are similar to my Canon 17-40 (I prefer the saturation and warm tones in my Canon) and even when I’ve used the 16-35mm F/2.8II from Canon I notice more vignetting than the Nikon. I will have to get it side by side with those two lenses for some astrophotography next July when the galaxy comes back out to play.
I think it’s worth pointing out that Banff is one of the most gorgeous places I’ve seen and was shocked at the views from where I stood. In less ideal situations, or in places you find yourself more commonly shooting it should go without saying that renting gear for a non-paying shoot is a great idea. Shoot what you normally do, how you normally would, in average conditions and see if it really stands out at a practical level either in performance or final delivered image quality. Really it comes down to if yes then consider it, if not, shake it off. Don’t be a gear head just to be one, it will just make you poor and unsatisfied always with the gear you do have.
And now, pictures of Santa’s Village.