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Gear & Apps

Why I’m Considering Breaking Up With Canon For Sony

By Brittany Smith on March 16th 2017

“It’s not you. It’s me.” This saying is intrinsically ingrained into most of us when we have blossomed into something better, leaving our former shells behind. Often these are the words that find us when we want to soften the blow and leave a long term relationship because the other person no longer fits into our lives, but maybe it’s applicable to other relationships too.

Canon has been my 35mm brand of choice for over fifteen years. The first roll of film I shot and developed in a dark room was shot with a Canon. I inexplicably fell in love with photography while using a Canon. Canon was synonymous with high quality gear, notoriously good customer service, and for continuing to crank out gear that photographers couldn’t wait to get their hands on.

While I joined the digital revolution while rocking a 5D Mark III, rumor has it that the release of the 5D Mark II was eerily similar to that of Apple when they were killing it. Ironically, the subsequent announcements began to follow the same tone and the same curve, and Canon began to miss the mark of what the population was demanding, almost as if claiming they knew what was best and not to worry. Meanwhile, Nikon introduced their D800, which was a game changer. Higher resolution was where it was at, and the camera body was very versatile in different lighting situations. Sony entered the realm and began picking up Canon’s slack by answering their users’ demands.

GearCanon 5D Mark IIICanon 85mm 1.2L II

Tech Specs: ISO 400, f/4, 1/160 of a second.

As my work progressed, I found myself anxiously awaiting Canon’s answer to these systems. Speculations were flurrying about that they were producing a higher resolution camera while retaining the low light capabilities. This was important to me as my camera was a very versatile workhorse for the demands placed on it.

While I loved my Canon 5D Mark III, I found myself longing for more. Their update is where I feel they missed the mark and a major opportunity. Canon’s answer was to introduce not one, but two cameras to meet this demand; neither of which met the wishes of its shooters.

The 5DS was to be used solely in a controlled environment (and like the D810 it’s a tripod camera in many respects) while the Mark IV had a slight bump in resolution and ISO sensitivity; neither of which were an answer to what I sought. I needed the resolution nearer the 5DS with the low light capability of the 5D Mark IV, and I did not want to buy two separate camera bodies to accomplish this. This, though, is only one of the problems.

The dynamic range capabilities of the Mark IV are definitely an improvement over the Mark III, however it still falls short of both the Sony A7R II and Nikon D810. The dual pixel AF capabilities are something that I don’t need or use, and in fact it would hinder my workflow. The images produced with Canon sensors are softer in comparison to Sony and Nikon and their attitude seems to be that it can be recovered in post. This is a qualm for those who do minimal editing and want to keep it that way, or don’t have the time to spare for unnecessary post processing. Then there’s the downgraded video capabilities, while an effort to move true videographers to their better platform, it’s a disservice. But that all said, I have Canon gear, I’m used to Canon, so I bit the bullet and bought a 5D Mark IV.

GearCanon 5D Mark IIICanon 50mm 1.2L

Tech Specs: ISO 640, f/4, 1/160 of a second.

When I finally broke down and upgraded my camera body, I decided to give Canon one more chance because we have a long history together. After playing around with both cameras and being very disappointed by the noise at slightly higher ISO on the 5DS, I opted for the more versatile 5D Mark IV even though there were reports that detail was still lacking.

The unit I received did not produce adequate performance for the price point. The images produced were lacking far more detail than simply the fact that Canon sensors produce softer images. When I first contacted Canon, their response was that my lenses must need minor adjusted and that the sensor produces amazing detail that can be brought out in post. This was a very frustrating answer as there should be more detail with the increased resolution of the sensor, not to mention that the lenses didn’t need to be micro-adjusted after all.

After troubleshooting the camera by running various tests including various shutter speeds and apertures, mounting the camera on a tripod, utilizing back button focus and then finally taking it back to B&H, they confirmed that my camera body was a dud. This left a very bitter taste in my mouth, especially that Canon had neglected to offer up any responsibility. Thankfully, the awesome people over at B&H accepted the return without blinking an eye.

A few weeks ago I was able to spend some time with and use an A7R II. Having never really worked with Sony, I didn’t know what to expect, but to say the very least, I was blown away. Sony has been a dark horse in stealth mode over the past few years and continues to deliver punches that seasoned and loyal users of other brands couldn’t dodge.

[REVIEW: Sony A7II | Proof Size Isn’t Everything, It’s How You Use It]

For someone used to OVF the EVF takes some getting used to, but it is incredible that what you see is what you get – there are no surprises, and the auto white balance is more accurate than a lot of systems out there. The A7R II tracks incredibly well and rarely misses focus when shooting wide open, unlike when shooting with Canon’s 5D Mark III. The detail is also exquisite right out of camera without having to add an abundance of sharpening in post.

There was no editing done to this image.

GearSony Alpha A7R IIFE 85mm 1.8HVL F45RM flash

Tech Specs: ISO 1600, f/1.8, 1/250 of a second.

The camera itself is lightweight, feels good in the hands and plays nice with other brands’ lenses, meaning there is no need to have to do a complete overhaul of one’s arsenal of lenses. The purchase of an adaptor will let a photographer switch and still use the glass they fell in love with, if not perfectly in all situations.

What impressed me the most was the quality of the image. There was very little need to do post work. As a lover of shadows, it was refreshing to see that Sony delivers incredible blacks while retaining detail. This is definitely an improvement over the Canon sensors and will save precious time editing that would be better served shooting.

The Sony delivers a higher resolution sensor with competitive ISO sensitivity. Combine all of this with a lower price point in addition to being able to use my beloved Canon glass and it is hard not to justify breaking up with Canon. While I would miss the CF card slot and it would take a little getting used to, the temptation to try something new of this caliber is winning out. Dear Canon, until you fill this void that many photographers are requesting from you, I am afraid it isn’t me this time. Our potential breakup is on you.

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Brittany is a fashion and beauty photographer who works between NYC, Montana and LA. She photographs the way she has always wanted to feel and believes in the power of raw simplicity. When not behind a camera she can usually be found at a local coffeeshop, teaching fitness classes at the YMCA, or baking something fabulous in the kitchen.
Instagram: @brittanysmithphoto

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Matthew Saville

    For now, this whole decision really just has to do with which direction you’re pushing the envelope, and how far you’re pushing.

    There are quite a few handful of reasons to stick with Canon or Nikon, and there are plenty of reasons to switch to Sony.

    As a fellow hard-working wedding photographer, I can confirm that if you heavily abuse your gear, Canon is one of the best choices out there, and Sony or others will probably leave you routinely frustrated with both performance and service.

    Sony is effectively doing the same thing that Canon did 10-15 years ago, ironically, with cameras like the 10D and 5D. They’re putting killer sensors that blow away the competition, into mediocre / lackluster bodies that *MIGHT* leave a lot to be desired for a serious pro, if they push the envelope too hard in one direction or another.

    The original Canon 5D sensor was incredible, as was the 5D mk2 sensor. It made a laughing stock out of Nikon’s DX flagship body, and yet it was made for prosumers.

    However, Canon repeatedly put these amazing sensors in under-spec’d bodies, with Rebel-grade autofocus performance that was laughable unless you shot with the dead-center AF point in half-decent light.

    It wasn’t until Canon got totally crushed by Nikon’s combination of Sony sensors and amazing flagship feature trickle-down plus ergonomics etc., that Canon “caved in” and gave us the 5D 3 and 7D 2. Because before those two cameras, (and after, for the most part) they had zero non-flagship bodies with either flagship AF, or dual card slots, while Nikon had been implementing those features in prosumer bodies left and right for years.

    TLDR; Sony has amazing sensors plus a few other bells and whistles, but that’s about it. Don’t get me wrong, the cameras are totally adequate for most professional use, especially if you’re not hard on your gear and you don’t push the envelope that far in extremely poor low-light or high-speed situations. There are plenty of careers / styles that just don’t push those particular envelope very far. Even fellow wedding photographers I know just don’t abuse their gear or demand as much of it, and a Sony switch is awesome for them.

    For now, though, Nikon is where it’s at for me. Sony sensors, plus GREAT ergonomics and customizability, with half-decent professional service too.

    The clock is ticking though, and both Canon and Nikon can only say “yeah, but…” for just one or two more years, and then Sony will have worked out all their kinks an by then it will be checkmate for at least one of the big two as far as market share goes. (Not that either Canon or Nikon will go completely out of business because of Sony, just that they’ll lose *massive* amounts of market share.)

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    • Brittany Smith

      Hi Matthew!  Thank you so much for the information and I remember that when I was getting ready to switch from my 35mm Canon film body and my Hasselblad 501cm. There was a lot of research that went into it and I discovered what you shared with us.

      I agree. I think the clock is ticking. I don’t foresee Nikon or Canon going out of business and I do think that Sony putting the pressure on them is a good thing for consumers. I have also considered looking at getting a used D800 body as I loved that when I used it on set for a few shoots. Nikon has some great gear as well. There is a part of me that is really hoping Sony has an answer to its Nikon and Canon counterparts with a “pro” level camera. That would be exciting. 

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    • Matthew Saville

      Well, here is what I’ve personally asked the head of Sony USA, when I met him a couple years ago: “Historically, the number 7 for Sony has meant a semi-pro or advanced amateur series of cameras, while the number 9 has been reserved for flagship pro bodies. Might this still ring true for the full-frame mirrorless lineup for Sony, eventually?”

      Answer: YES. :-) :-D

      In other words, an A9 mirrorless flagship series *might* be coming out, sooner or later.

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  2. Pye Jirsa

    Great article Brittany. From experience with Sony, you may end up regretting this switch not at the beginning, but after a bit of time with your Sony gear. We transitioned our video over to Sony, then within 1 year came back to Canon. We experienced constant reliability issues with Sony, overheating, cameras crashing, etc. The menu systems and ergonomics left a lot to be desired. But, dealing with the camera just working or not became an issue. 

    Then, when you do start experiencing those issues, you realize just how great CPS actually is. While CPS has its flaws, it is leaps and bounds ahead of just about any other company’s professional service and support. We were sending Sony cameras back to get fixed constantly, having to ship them off and wait 2-3 weeks for a return without loaners. 

    This is in addition to the system being slower to focus and utilize when using canon glass on the Sony system. Yes, you can get decent results with Sony glass, but that variety is limited and using 3rd party gear will always result in slower AF and just about everything else. 

    Yes, the sensor is nice, resolution is great, and price is fantastic. But, you may find that you are paying for it one way or another. 

    If you aren’t shooting a ton, or if you just do simple portrait sessions then I could see it working out. But, if you are constantly on the go shooting big productions, events, etc. I am almost certain you will regret this decision down the road. 

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    • Brittany Smith

      Hi Pye!

      Thank you so much for your response. I love Canon’s ergonomics and menu system. I always have. I was fortunate to never have to send my camera in, and if I had I am sure I would have appreciated CPS. My 5D3 died suddenly and that is what sent me down this rabbit hole.

       I have heard that about Sony customer service and I hope they are listening to the areas of which it can be improved. I would be wanting to keep my Canon 85mm and 50mm 1.2 lenses as they are great. I do appreciate your information. The deciding factor for me will be getting my hands on an adaptor to use with the camera body for the type of work that I do. 

      Thank you again. Cheers!

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  3. Holger Foysi

    We are using two 5div and an A7rii for weddings and portraits. In my opinion, the 5div is a great camera. 

    I consider resolution large enough for all prints which were ever required from us, so I wonder, which print sizes you need?

    5dIV AF is very fast and accurate, high ISO excellent and in real life I can’t see a difference to the A7rii big enough to warrant one over the other. DPAF, easily dismissed by you, is a great thing. It allows us to use the 5div like a mirrorless, which focusses faster than our a7rii in even dimmer light (-4ev) with all focal lengths, even when starting strongly out of focus, something the A7rii struggles with. I like the CPS program, the accessories, flash possibilities (Sony’s flash mount is not well constructed. The plastic flash feet are very flimsy).

    A7rii initial AF acquisition is slow, wake up time from sleep or after switching on the camera noticeable and long enough to have the possibility to miss candid moments. Tracking AF is a hit and miss with faster subjects (slower are fine) and gets awful in low light, as is PDAF whenever I can’t use the lenses wide open due to the construction of OSPDAF. On the other hand the newly developed lenses are great (we use all f1.4 lenses), eye AF (if it works)is  a very nice thing. DR is indeed larger at base ISO, but nothing of influence for your portrait photography in my opinion (unless you want to push 5stops instead of 4). 

    Regarding 5dsr high ISO, my guess is you compared at 100%. In my opinion one should compare equal output formats, 50MP vs. 20MP at 100% will certainly give the larger MP sensor a disadvantage. And if you look at downsized images of the 5dsr (dpreview provides a comparator) the differences to the A7rii are small.

    My suggestion would be to use both systems in parallel. For slower paced stuff the A7rii is a formidable camera.

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    • Sean DeWitt

      I was terribly disappointed with how I was treated. I was a bonafide Canon Fan Boy before this happened. The MK4 is my fourth full frame camera (not to mention the 7 prime lenses and 3 flashes) from them. I just don’t understand why they wouldn’t simply replace it. Instead, they made me jump through hoops to get a bad first edition of the camera fixed. They even made me send them video in which it clearly showed where my focus point was and how it instead focused on the opposite side. I had to prove there was a problem before they decided to take it back a second time. All of my partners and people I mentor were mortified with how it was handled. Why would I show them any allegiance at this point? I never even received an apology.

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    • Brittany Smith

      Hi Holger!

      Thank you very much for your suggestions. It is definitely something to look at. The reason I was looking more at the 5D4 vs the 5Dsr came down to needing a more versatile camera instead of two separate camera bodies for the job. 

      It is definitely worth looking into!

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  4. Sean DeWitt

    I am a full-time wedding and commercial photographer. I bought the Mark4 the night it came out from B&H. I quickly discovered a focusing issue as well. It also would periodically get stuck in monochrome and wouldn’t write quickly enough to take advantage of continuos shooting. Instead of sending it back to B&H, I made the mistake of sending it back to Canon for repair. They sent it back to me with everything fixed but the focusing issue. They didn’t bother to tell me that they didn’t find a problem with the focusing. Instead, I figured it out at my next wedding. Thanks, Canon! When I contacted them again and simply asked for an exchange, they refused. To make matters worse, they told me that I would have it back in time for a large commercial shoot I had. They refused to lend me a replacement. I mistakenly let my Platinum membership lapse. As a result, I didn’t have a camera with wi-fi capability for my commercial shoot. After having their lead engineer look at it, he (gasp!) found that it indeed did have a focusing issue. After making me feel like a moron that doesn’t know how to shoot and treating me like a beginner, I too am considering a switch. I hope this helps anyone else considering a MK4. 

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    • Holger Foysi

      Do you think this experience to be representative to Canon CPS in general, to make you want to switch?

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    • barbara farley

      no experience with Canon, but I thought Sony was the one with terrible CS!

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  5. ruben blædel

    I found that the base ISO on my 5DS was a little noisy – but that it was an ACR / lightroom problem – When processing in ACR set sharpness to zero and not to 25 – finish whatever you like to enhance on the RAW file – open the image in Photoshop and apply the sharpness there – no Noise – clean files.  For sharpness, I don’t get why you pick the 5DS and not the 5Dsr – there are no moiré issues with the 5Dsr. For focus tracking speed I would go for the 5D4 and the dual pixel AF –  I use the 5Dsr as prime camera and are upgrading my backup camera from the 5D3 to the 5D4. I wouldn’t want to sacrifice the sturdiness, reliability, great menu system and the superior ergonomics of the Canon to the flimsy Sony even though I find the Sony sensor and the new GM glass to be amazing. I hope you get the best out of your new choice and wish you great images

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  6. Josh McMurdo

    i made the switch as well, although for completely different reasons. I started out doing only portrait photography and on my measly college kid budget i got a 6d and loved it, in fact still love it. I started getting into hiking and landscape photography and decided to give this a6000 that everyone kept raving about a try. The 6d would become the work camera and the 6000 became my fun camera, until the day i realized the 6d started staying home for shoots. After that i sold it and bought the a7ii, will never look back, still love the canon’s but the size when hiking and the EVF have completely changed the game. IMHO

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  7. Colin Edwards

    I agree with Adam Sanford completely. And have to wonder why Ms Smith would write such an article.

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  8. adam sanford

    Thx for the article!  If I heard you right:

    1) The 5D3 AF system — or should I say the 1DX AF system on every sports sideline that’s in the 5D3 — wasn’t cutting it for you, yet a mirrorless’ AF setup was demonstrating better tracking performance.  [Pause, reflection…]  Okay.

    2) The combination of higher res / more DR / better high ISO camera in a focus-by-wire lens ecosystem is worth abandoning best-in-class customer service, a comprehensive speedlite system, the redundancy of two card slots, higher resale value, and a body design far better built to handle large/heavy pro glass.  Again… okay.

    3)  The 5DS and D810 sensors will meltdown at the high ISOs… that none of the pictures in this article used…

    I’m going to stop there.

    I’ve seen your work and you are super talented, and I’ve enjoyed your writing here.  But why someone of such ability is going on about DR and high ISO performance — an absolute dog-whistle to enthusiasts — is utterly beyond me. 

    Enjoy the new A7 rig, I sincerely mean that.  I’m glad you love your OOC shots now — that is very important, I agree.  But, respectfully, I’m just not convinced your prior gear was really holding you back.

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    • Brittany Smith

      Hi Adam! Thank you very much for your very well thought out response. I appreciate your comments about the prior gear and I am thankful it helped get me to where I am currently. Going forward, the demands of clients are requesting more and I needed something with better resolution, thus more detail.

      I very much took ISO into consideration after using the 5DS and found its level of noise above ISO 200 disappointing. I don’t solely shoot in the studio and I do need less noise at higher ISO. I will probably never push the outer boundaries of maximum ISO. 

      I was very excited at the prospect of the 5D IV, but I feel it missed the mark in many ways not just for myself, but for photographers across the board. The Mark III was a great all around camera, but the detail in the clothing on some full body images could be better. The extra resolution was necessary. 

      When my brand new camera was missing the mark entirely for the reasons I bought it, it was disappointing. Then having contacted Canon and being told it had to be user error or my lenses as their sensors produce amazing images, it didn’t sit well. After troubleshooting, it was found that the camera was in fact a dud.  :( The details in the Sony sensors are better.  I will continue shooting with my D1’s. I am very much in need of a new camera body and I don’t think Canon’s response of having 2 new camera bodies is the answer.

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    • adam sanford

      Awesome.  Appreciate the thorough reply, I do.

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    • Thijs Hupkens

      Why is DR and high ISO something for enthusiasts/amateurs? Not all professionals shoot solely with strobes. 

      1 thing I think you didn’t mention enough imo, was how slow some adapter/Canon lens combinations are in AF. That’s the one thing that’s holding me of. I’ve rented the A7r and the A7sii and both were unuseable for photography cos of extremely slow AF. Luckily I needed them for videography and also rented native glass

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  9. Martin poole

    SONY I’m in…….You must be my soul sister….been there done that and I’m also in the same genre of photography here in Sydney. I sat for hours calibrating lenses etc and throwing images backwards and forwards in Lightroom and Capture one, not satisfied with the 5d mkiii. I then spoke to a fellow photographer who I knew had changed from Nikon to Sony and to my surprise he had sold it on Ebay. We discussed at length why and his main reason was Lo light focussing, he stated it just wouldn’t grab and kept hunting in studio.   I looked at some images he had taken and the detail blew me away for a $3500 camera.  The images were taken using the cheaper Sony 1.8 85mm, which had a great write up. It was during this conversation that he admitted not liking change and preferred the feel of his beloved Nikon and would go back to Sony in a couple of years. 

    I left his studio went to Sydney CBD and purchased the A7rii and a 24-70 G master and I’m as happy as the proverbial pig, It’s awesome !! Focus tracking Brilliant and I’m getting used to framing my shot first and foremost and watching the green box from the eye track pop up and bang ?! My shots have gone from 60% (canon) in focus to 95% (Sony) considering I like my models to move this is awesome. 

    The 5Dmkii has already gone and the 5Dmkiii is now my back up. Transferred all Profoto gear onto Sony with new air TTL and as soon as you roll the shutter speed over 250 they automatically go into HSS. This leaves you free to keep working. I love em!!

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  10. Raymond Craig

    I did the same move, however my reason had more to do with video features as I do a mix of both, with video being my primary. The main thing I noticed now having bought more than one Sony body over the last few years is that with each version they bring all the previous features and then some, regardless of where it fits in their lineup. Even in their tiny RX100 point-and-shoot series you get all the video codecs, high frame rates, and other features found in the big boys, allowing to match footage easily. When I used Canon I got frustrated by the fact that they would hold back features even with their flagship cameras. 

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  11. Morten Obbink

    Well instead of switching switch out your 50 1.2 with a sigma 50 1.4 art and the sigma 85 1.4 art you will se that the images are not that soft.  i went rom 5d3 to sony a7r2 but went back again. prefer the AF on the canon, hated to have 5 batteries in the pocket for a walk. and if feels slow to compare with the 5d3/5d4. Love my 5d4. But the one thing i miss i EVF

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    • Brittany Smith

      I had tried the Sigma art lenses previously. When compared to my Canon 50 and 85, I ultimately stayed with the Canon, but I would test again most definitely. The battery life was less of an issue for me with the Sony vs everything else with the Canon I was having issues with.

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