There are many reasons why people may like one brand of camera equipment over another. And if you ask a room full of photographers which camera manufacturer they like the best, and why, you will often get a wide range of responses and opinions.
Often the reason for choosing a particular brand or camera is based subjectively upon one’s own specific photographic needs. Other times the reasons may be purely objective.
In this article I am going to cover the 5 main reasons why I recently switched back to shooting with Canon from Sony, while providing a mix of subjective and objective reasoning. But first I am going to give you a bit of my own camera use history over the last two decades.
I have been a Canon shooter for about 20 years. I also shot with a medium format Hasselblad film system for quite some time, up until 35mm DSLR cameras reached the 16MP level with the arrival of the Canon 1DS Mark II in 2004. Then, in 2006, I left film behind and went fully into digital.
I have owned and dedicated my shooting to at least 5 different Canon camera models over the years, until, in 2016, I decided to take a wider look at camera technology and took a leap into a totally new direction.
At that time I felt there was no point in continuing to stick with only one brand, especially if there were other cameras coming out that could do things better and that would improve my work.
From mid 2015, through to early 2016, there was an increase of new cameras released by various makers, many with new features and functionality. Most of the new improvements were related to video and some of them seemed to be pulling well ahead of Canon as well. One of those companies at the time was Sony, and they are still one of the main competitors to Canon in a lot of ways, through to this day.
I was also starting to get more into video projects, which is where Sony mirrorless cameras seemed to really excel over Canon DSLRs, and where Sony was offering a wider range of features and functions. Also, I wanted a more lightweight camera setup that would be easier to carry around for capturing still photos while traveling overseas.
It was then, in early 2016, that I made the move to a small Sony mirrorless camera, the Sony Alpha a6300, which has some great features, for very little money, and gave you a lot of the things which Canon didn’t yet offer at the time.
The Sony a6300 (now only $900), gives you a very lightweight/portable body, with the ability to shoot 4K video, continuous autofocus for video, 11 frames per second when shooting 24MP still, raw photos, and a few other interesting features. Also, I was able to buy a very good lens mount adapter for Sony E-Mount cameras (made by Metabones) which allows me to use the Sony a6300 with all my existing Canon EF-Mount lenses as well.
At the time I was still shooting with a Canon 5D Mark II as my main workhorse (which was already considered an older body at the time), so this new Sony acquisition came before the Canon 5D Mark IV had been released as an option. I felt that Sony had made a quantum leap forward, ahead of Canon, by offering some of the new technology I wanted for video and by offering better value for the money overall.
Fast forward to 2018: I have been shooting with Sony for travel photography and for video for two years. I am now also shooting with a Canon 5D Mark IV and Canon lenses as my main camera setup for both photo and video, which offers some of the video functions the 5D Mark II is missing. As a result, I can now honestly say there are a number of areas where I feel Sony cameras still really fall short.
Following are the 5 main reasons why I have now gone back to shooting with only Canon (though I plan to still use the Sony a6300 as a lightweight travel camera).
1 – Better Autofocus – Canon surely has better continuous autofocus tracking for video. All you do, when the 5D Mark IV is in live view mode, is tap on your subject on the back of the LCD preview screen and you’re done. It then tracks the subject wherever it goes within the frame. Sony has various autofocus tracking modes too: face recognition tracking, continuous eye autofocus tracking, center lock autofocus, etc. But none of them are as easy to engage as Canon’s focus tracking. Sony also uses a combination of phase detection autofocus (PDAF) and contrast detection autofocus (CDAF), which works well, but does not seem to be able to match Canon’s Dual Pixel Autofocus when it comes to accuracy in situations of low light, or when shooting subjects that have limited contrast.
2 – Canon Log – Canon has a function on the Canon 5D Mark IV for shooting video, using a built-in flat picture profile to increase dynamic range. This means less blown out highlights and less detail lost in the darker shadows. The function is called “Canon Log” or “C-Log” and it gives you as many as 12 stops of dynamic range to work with when color grading your video in post. Sony has their own SLog2 and SLog3 flat picture profile camera settings too. But in my opinion Sony’s SLog can’t compete with Canon Log in terms of either dynamic range, or the ability to restore accurate colors in post later on.
3 – Better Color Science – Overall, I feel Canon has much better color rendition when it comes to reproducing colors and providing natural hues in the way we expect them to look. I have spent a lot of time editing Sony video footage, trying to get it to look right in post. When I shoot video with Canon Log, though, I simply apply a LUT (a Look Up Table file created and supplied by Canon) to my Canon video files in post and, with basically just one mouse click, I get nearly perfectly color graded Rec.709 footage. Something I can say isn’t as easily achievable with Sony.
4 – Ease Of Use – Sony has never been praised for their ease of use when it comes to their expansive and confusing menu systems, but it was something I tried to get used to and live with. Although one can learn how to work with the Sony settings, there is still nothing like Canon menu settings for me, which I find to be so easy, simple, intuitive and fast to work with.
5 – Feel In The Hand – One of the most important things, something often less emphasized by others, is how a camera feels in your hand when shooting. When I am clutching a Canon DSLR, I feel that it provides just the perfect fit and feel, which gives me a relaxed confidence when shooting. This is something that is very necessary in my opinion in order to stay focused on what you are shooting, and without being distracted by the awkward or uncomfortable shape of a camera that you don’t like.
Although much of my experience, as well as the general conclusions in this article, were based upon the comparatively lesser performance of the mid-level Sony a6300, the a6300 does have a very advanced video feature set that is worthy of being compared to the functionality of the Canon 5D Mark IV. I also reached the same 5 conclusions about Sony cameras after working with their higher priced full-frame Sony A7R II as well. I realize Sony has made some recent improvements to autofocus and dynamic range for 4K video in their newer A7 Mark III and A7R III bodies. However this isn’t enough to inspire me to reach for one of those either. Color science for video, Log functionality, and menu usability are still issues I feel that Sony can’t seem to improve enough upon.
But at the end of the day, everyone has their own ways of working and their own tastes in camera gear. So I am very happy if many people really like shooting with Sony and don’t agree with my opinions. I am not trying to change anyone’s mind here or sell you on Canon. But I did want to share my own observations and experiences with you.
There is also no right or wrong in terms of what one feels most comfortable shooting with. It is really up to each individual to decide what works best for them and that is why there isn’t just one flavor of camera out there.
But what is most important, when you are working with a piece of camera equipment in your hand, while having various other variables to think about all at the same time – things like lighting, subject, background, composition, angle, and exposure – is that you have a tool that you feel is solid, reliable, responsive, and is not going to slow you down, hinder your concentration or get you lost in menus and settings while you are trying to produce your best work.
For me, generally speaking, I feel the more desirable camera is still a Canon at the moment. Peace.