Thanks to a great suggestion from one of my former students, I decided to rent a Sony a7r mirrorless camera with a Sonnar 55mm lens. I am debating about upgrading to either this small compact 36 mp camera or the Canon 5d Mark iii 22 mp camera.
Features I love:
- Beautiful, crisp detail. Lovely quality.
- Large file size (about 30" x 40" at 180 ppi without any upsampling)
- So lightweight and compact! I thought of Dorothea Lange and how she put on her camera in the morning as if it was a part of her wardrobe. This is truly a camera that you can put on and wear all day.
- Really impressive at high ISOs. Very little noise and what there is can be modified in Lightroom without major loss of quality. On my old Canon T2i I had noticeable noise starting at 800, bad noise at 1600, terrible noise at 3200 and 6400. With the Sony a7r, I really was blown away by how little noise there was at 1600 and 2000. It became a little more noticeable at 3200. But even at the higher ISOs at 12800 it was amazing. Seemed to be less than if I had shot it on my Canon T2i at 6400.
- The Sonnar 55mm 1.8 lens (rented or purchased separately) is gorgeous. I can see why some people love using a fixed focal length lens. Really a fun lens to work with. Exquisitely, extremely shallow depth of field.
Features I don't love:
- Auto focus kinda sucks. I missed several great shots. Not easy to adjust an auto focus point.
- Frames per second are slow. And lag time between when you press the shutter and the camera actually taking the picture seems like forever compared to what I'm used to with a Canon DSLR. I missed several "decisive moments." Not the best for photographing kids... definitely not what you want for sports or situations where you need to shoot fast like weddings or special events.
- Menus and dials feel a little clunky. I'm sure you would get used to it eventually, but after using a Canon DSLR for so many years, this just didn't seem as intuitive for adjusting important things like auto focus, ISO, aperture, shutter. I still have not found where to format my memory card in the camera. This has always been easy to find on any Canon model.
- No optical viewfinder. You can shoot by looking at the screen in live mode or through the viewfinder which shows you a digital image, not what you would actually see if looking through the lens. This is not the end of the world, but it's a little odd and hard to get used to. I have not noticed any major difference between how I composed the image and what I actually get in the file.
That's all for now. I have the camera for two more days so I may post more findings. If I could afford both the Sony a7r and a Canon 5D Mark iii, I would love to work with both. But I'm leaning toward purchasing the Canon 5D Mark iii just because of versatility.