It’s been almost two years since I purchased the Sony A7R III mirrorless camera as a second body to my Canon 5D Mark III DSLR. Since then, I’ve used the two cameras side-by-side to shoot a wide variety of professional events, from concerts to food to corporate conventions. There have been pluses and minuses to using both systems simultaneously, which I thought I’d share for those of you considering the switch.
Why go mirrorless?
Prior to the A7R III, I had been using the Sony a6300 and was thoroughly impressed with its autofocus capabilities and video features. On both fronts, this tiny camera seemed lightyears ahead of my DSLR, so I was curious about how much better Sony’s full-frame cameras could be. I was also expanding my photography business to include video services and needed a camera that could shoot in 4K video resolution, which the 5D Mark III could not do.
Why keep both systems?
So why keep the Canon DSLRs at all?
I have a large library of Canon L glass that I intended to use on the Sony via a lens adapter. This worked with mixed results, but long story short, lens adapting did not work with my style of photography (more on that below). Given the significantly higher prices of Sony lenses, it made more financial sense to keep the DSLR kit and simply purchase a couple of Sony lenses to use. In the end, here’s what my resulting camera kit looked like:
- Canon 5D Mark III with 16-35mm f/2.8, 24-70mm f/2.8, 70-200mm f/2.8, plus various prime lenses.
- Sony A7R III with 24-70mm f/4 and 55mm f/1.8.
*The overlapping 24-70mm lenses might seem like overkill, but there is such a HUGE size difference between the two.
What was worth it
1. Video features
The Sony A7R III and A7 III are packed with video features including the ability to shoot in 4K resolution, 120 fps slow motion, in-camera timelapse, and in-body-stabilization (IBIS), to name a few. Since this is a photography site, I won’t go on more about the video features. But the specs are more than what the newer Canon 5D Mark IV offers. So from a video perspective, the Sony A7R III was completely worth it.
2. Having an Electronic Viewfinder (EVF)
One of the ways mirrorless cameras differ from DSLRs is that they tend to have an electronic viewfinder (EVF), while DSLRs have optical viewfinders (OVF). An OVF shows you what the camera lens sees, while an EVF shows you what the camera sensor sees. An EVF shows you almost exactly what your final image will look like before you press the shutter button.
There are pros and cons to using an EVF over an OVF, and most people prefer one over the other. For me, the EVF is preferred mainly because it allows for composing and shooting still photos with the LCD – something that is still hard to do with a DSLR.
Shooting with a tilting LCD has been a complete gamechanger, allowing me to find creative compositions that I wouldn’t have been able to do with a DSLR.
3. A truly silent shutter
Another advantage of mirrorless cameras is that they can have truly silent shutters. For the effort that Canon makes to offer a “silent shutter” on its DSLRs, it’s still a jarring sound compared to a mirrorless camera’s silent shutter.
The only thing to note is that silent shutters on mirrorless cameras can produce banding in images where LED lights are present, so be wary of that.
4. Insane and Accurate Autofocus
My experience with the Sony a6300 taught me that Sony autofocus was truly on another level compared to DSLRs. That’s still true on the Sony A7R III. Not only do you have phase detection and contrast detection autofocus with 5 focus modes, but you also get Sony’s acclaimed face detection and eye autofocus.
To be fair, Canon has upped their autofocus game with dual pixel autofocus, something that isn’t on the Canon 5D Mark III and thus isn’t a feature I can compare. However, there are reports that a recent firmware update to Canon’s new EOS R includes “Sony-like eye autofocus,” so that much seems to have always been in Sony’s favor.
5. Rapidly developing lens library with lots of third-party options
Compared to the Canon and Nikon mirrorless camera systems, Sony, by far, has the biggest lens library for both its full-frame and mirrorless cameras. Even third-party brands like Sigma and Tamron have latched on, currently offering high-quality lens options at a fraction of Sony’s prices.
Better yet, lens adapters, such as the excellent Metabones V, allow you to pull from Canon’s EF and EF-S lens library as well. So when it comes to lens options, the Sony mirrorless is hard to beat.
What wasn’t worth it
1. Size and weight savings
The argument of switching to mirrorless cameras to have a smaller and lighter system compared to DSLRs isn’t completely true. Sure, the Sony A7R III is smaller and lighter than any of the Canon 5D cameras. However, the fast Sony lenses that I would need to replace my DSLR equivalents are just as heavy and bulky. When it comes to full-frame cameras and fast glass packed with features such as image stabilization (IS), there’s not much of a size and weight difference.
2. Adapting lenses isn’t for every scenario
There are some great lens adapters out there, such as the Metabones V that I was initially sold on. In practice, the lens adapter worked 90% of the time, which was okay when shooting things like food or portraits. But that 10% failure rate wasn’t acceptable for the fast-moving concerts and events when it could mean missing THE shot of the night.
If you choose to adapt lenses, give yourself ample time for testing to make sure it works for your photography style.
3. Realizing they aren’t completely dead yet
While many photography news sites publish headlines proclaiming the death of DSLRs, Nikon and Canon prove otherwise. Both camera brands are rumored to be releasing new DSLRs in 2020, and there’s even supposed to be a 5D Mark V on the way! So if you shoot with DSLRs, there’s no pressure to make the switch yet.
4. Canon could make a mirrorless camera comeback
Actually, this part could already be true if you look at Canon’s crop-sensor mirrorless camera line.
Even though Canon seemed late to the mirrorless camera party, they are making big gains with their popular EOS M-Series APS-C mirrorless cameras, and the EOS R full-frame cameras continue getting better.
They are also developing innovative RF lenses (have you seen the RF 70-200mm f/2.8?!) and allowing Canon shooters to use DSLR lenses via their own lens adapter. It’s questionable if they will be able to catch up to and surpass Sony’s cameras and ever-growing lens library, but it is a good thing to see Canon continue to innovate.
So two years later, do I regret adding the Sony A7R III to my kit? Absolutely not.
The photos and videos that I’ve captured and the overall elevated experience of shooting with this camera have been worth it. However, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t quietly rooting for Canon and hoping that they beef up their full-frame mirrorless line. When they do, it might be worth making yet another switch.