For those of you who know me, you know that I have been shooting mainly with Canon and Hasselblad cameras for the last 20 years. I also have said many times I will never personally own a mirrorless camera. Mainly because I don’t like the electronic viewfinders and the small size of the bodies that I find more challenging to grip in my big hands.
But recently I have started getting more into video work and there are a number of advantages to shooting with a very small and lightweight mirrorless body for video. But weight is just one advantage to the line of Sony mirrorless cameras made for video. So in this article I am going to explain in detail the various reasons for my upcoming purchase of a Sony Alpha a6300 when it is to be released in about 3 weeks from now.
First, I decided that it would be better to separate my video work from my still photography as a whole by employing a completely different camera setup for workflow purposes. I do plan to continue to use Canon DSLR cameras and lenses though for most of my still photography shooting, especially studio stuff. I also require video specs for the filming I am doing that are not yet available in most Canon DSLR cameras at the moment. Lastly, I want a video camera which does not have a full frame 35mm sensor in order to give me more depth of field in my video work because I often need to shoot a lens wide open for video when working in low light situations. So this Sony body with its smaller sensor will give me the added depth of field and sharpness I need.
So why Sony? Well, for the last couple of years I have been watching the developments with the various brands of mirrorless cameras very closely, awaiting one to come along that offers all the video functionality that I am needing.
Then, at the beginning of this month, Sony announced what sounds like the perfect lightweight mirrorless camera for video. It has an APS-C cropped sensor, as I have been wanting, so, over the last few weeks, I have been studying it closely and come to the conclusion that it checks all the boxes. In addition, it is priced at US$1,000 for the body and the only Canon DSLR available right now that offers the same video specs as the Sony a6300 costs $6,000, but I will get back to that point a bit later.
In general, to get a video camera that can shoot both 4K video, and 1080p up to 180 frames per second for slow motion, is almost impossible to find in a camera body for $1,000 and yet the Sony a6300 has it all. In addition, it has a follow auto focus system for capturing video of moving objects and face recognition technology for focusing and following people as well. And it has built-in SLog2 and SLog3 profiles for shooting video that strips out all the contrast and saturation to preserve greater dynamic range in the highlights for later when editing and color grading your video in post. These are features that none of the Canon and Nikon DSLR cameras are offering for video as of yet.
But one of the main things of importance is its light weight. Because when shooting video you need to stabilize the camera in order to avoid jittery looking footage. And when the camera is lighter weight, it is also much easier to make smooth movements with when using rails to set the camera in motion for cinematic looking effects. This is something that would not be easy to do with a larger DSLR body because of its weight.
The Sony a6300 also has many other unique specifications. It has 425 focusing points that cover the entire sensors and viewfinder. The most of any camera on the market. It also claims to have the fastest auto focus system on the market. Sony also claims the a6300 has 14 stops of dynamic range for video, which is almost as much as a Canon RAW file. It also has a microphone jack to connect an external microphone to it for capturing better quality audio for your video. The only negative I can see about this camera based on its specs is that battery life isn’t great, as with all Sony cameras since they try to minimize the weight of the camera by keeping the batteries small. So one will simply need to buy a few extra batteries for it as it only comes bundled with one battery.
It also can capture 24MP RAW photos and shoot at 11 frames per second in burst mode. This makes it an ideal, lightweight and inconspicuous still camera for shooting outdoor action, travel and street photography. So it is possible I may also use it for certain still photo applications too because of these amazing specs.
Now you are probably wondering what I am going to do for lenses and if I am going to buy a whole bunch of new glass for it. Many photographers that are buying mirrorless cameras these days are using adapters so they can use their existing Canon and Nikon lenses with them. In fact, some photographers feel they will get better sharpness from Canon or Nikon glass than from Sony glass, but the jury is still out on that in my opinion.
For one, I don’t like adapters because when you use a lens together with a body that it wasn’t designed for there are always sacrifices. Inevitably there will be slower auto-focus, more weight and heft added by the adapter, not to mention additional cost (the adapters that provide auto focus average around $500) and, by putting on a big and heavier Canon lens, it would defeat my aim to drop the weight on my camera setup for video.
So the lens I plan to buy for starters is the Sony Vario-Tessar T* E 16-70mm F/4 ZA OSS Lens. It is a Zeiss made lens, quite sharp, has built in Optical SteadyShot Image Stabilization, which is a plus for video work, and because of the 1.5 crop factor on the Sony sensor, it will provide a 24-105mm equivalent focal length, which will cover me for 90% of my video work.
This lens sells for US$1,000 and many people complain that it is really only worth $500-$700, but that you are paying extra for the Zeiss name. But I think the lens offers a lot of value. It is also light weight, relatively small, and specifically designed to work with Sony cameras. So in my opinion it is the best lens option and better than spending another $500 for an adapter to attach another, imperfect brand of lens to this camera.
Some people also argue that this Zeiss lens is not so sharp, especially at the edges. But I have seen lab tests done on this lens and I can say that it is quite sharp and that all 16mm wide angle lenses will be a bit soft at the edges.
I have heard talk that this lens might be offered as part of a kit/package with the a6300 and at a lower total cost, but that is not confirmed yet.
Getting back to what options I would have for video if I want to buy a Canon DSLR for video instead, at the moment the only option with comparable video specs and high speed burst shooting for still photos is the newly announced Canon 1D X Mark II which costs $6,000 as I mentioned. It is obviously a much more professional camera body, and a much higher quality build than the $1,000 Sony a6300, but the Canon would also be much too heavy and not suited for my video needs because of its weight.
So there you have it and I will post my first impressions after I get the camera in a few weeks. It is set to be released on 10 March 2016. If you like you can preorder a Sony a6300 here on Amazon too. You can also buy the Sony Vario-Tessar T* E 16-70mm F/4 ZA OSS Lens here on Amazon as well.