This is a story about how I got into a fight the other day. Not a real fight in a grungy bar or someplace like that. Or anything that involved fisticuffs or any real physical violence. An online fight on Instagram. Well maybe an exchange of words really, not to say that things don’t get out of hand on social media pages sometimes. I was scrolling through my Instagram feed and saw a post with a Sony camera body and I think 3 different Canon lens mounted. And one of the first comments on the post was to the effect of why, if Sony cameras are so good, do 90% of the posts show them with Canon lenses.
Now the question could obviously be interpreted as a genuine query on why this general observation would be so. Or, and this was the more likely intention, it was a backhanded swipe at Sony using one of the common reasons people use not to buy the camera bodies – Canon and Nikon glass is considerably better. If you haven’t noticed this already, camera nerds can be very very brand loyal. To the point that they will pick fights with users of other brands in what can only be described as almost religious zeal. One of the first questions a camera nerd will ask is what brand are you shooting on. Then they will tell you about what brand they are on and how it is better than your own. Even I was guilty of that and some would argue this post talks to the same.
To an extent, with my limited use of my Sony camera and lens and the limited time Sony has been in country, I will concede that Canon and Nikon have the best range of lenses but Sony is indeed catching up. Sony mirrorless mount lenses were limited in the past but the range is constantly being added to. However, I have to admit that the good to great lenses come at quite astounding prices. Sony recently announced a $12000 400mmF2.8 lens for wildlife photographers which is going to break the bank of many Sony users as soon as it lands. If you look at the ratings on DXO mark for some of the GMaster lenses you will see that they actually are much better than their Canon and Nikon counterparts on the high megapixel count camera bodies. My Sony 100-400mm Gmaster ranks a few points higher than the Canon 100-400mm MkII lens and almost as high as the 200-400mm Canon lens. But the cost of the Sony is about 30% more than the Canon and what I have also been finding of late is that the availability is also an issue here on the Southern tip of Africa.
So for the compromise of the loss of a little (sometimes hardly noticeable) quality and saving a lot of money, a lot of Canon lenses get used in combination with the Sony bodies. It just makes sense to use the best body you can get your hands on with the best lens you can get your hands on. And Canon lenses in particular work really well with the Metabones adapters, losing very little autofocus speed and the quality of the lenses are for the most part close to what you would get with the native Sony lenses for stills (with the caveat that it may not be as great when shooting video). Nikon lenses on the other hand don’t, or rather don’t have an adapter currently that performs the same as the Metabones does. So this is part of the reason that there are so many Canon lenses being used on the Sony bodies, and maybe not so many Nikon lenses.
The other part I have mentioned before. For the R32 000 I paid for my Sony Alpha A7III, I would not be able to even get a Canon camera body that currently comes even halfway close. The 6D MKII is full frame but slower on the frame rate and low light performance is worse than the 6D MKI so worse than the Sony and almost no comparison on the autofocus. The 5DMKIV has a higher megapixel count but is closer to R60 000 all in and also is slower on the frame and autofocus is also perhaps not as well suited for action and fast moving objects. So a lot of other Canon users are moving across to Sony and have a lot of glass that they bring with them. Why not the same with Nikon? Because Nikon has for a large part, kept up with the Sony bodies’ performance in the last few years and actually are better camera body makers than Sony so the need to change is not as great. And without the added bonuses of being able to migrate expensive lenses across, I think fewer Nikon users may be tempted by the Sony camera bodies. There are actually a number of stories of Canon users who got tired of waiting and switched to Nikon as well.
You are probably thinking that’s all well and good but Canon will probably catch up with their own Mirrorless Full Frame camera body soon. And indeed, that’s exactly what some of the rumours are saying. Canon and Nikon have both recently announced their intentions to build a new mirrorless full frame camera aimed at directly competing with Sony. And I believe that they may well do it, except they are about 5 years behind already so it has to be a massive leap forward in terms of technology but would also require a massive mind shift on the part of the predominantly DSLR manufacturers. And that is they will have to aim to cannabalise some of their own DSLR sales to slot the mirrorless full frames into the current line up. Canon has been particularly bad at this though, deliberately down speccing cameras so that they do not compete with each other in recent years (perhaps the reason why the 6D MKII was a bit of a damp squib). So I believe they know what needs to be done but whether they will do it is still debatable.
I think, for what its worth, Canon should perhaps try an alternate tack. They know how to make lenses and how to make a lot of different lenses. If I were Canon I would approach the guys at Sony and offer to make their lenses for them, with the correct mount to fit the Sony systems. Like Tamron and Sigma currently do with their lenses. Keep making the DSLRs because there are pros who will never switch off Canon so the market may be shrinking but could be there for a while. And avoid the distraction of trying to out-compete Sony on the full frame mirrorless front and perhaps carve a new niche as lens suppliers. But then again time could well prove me wrong and they could make a good show of it. Maybe by this time next year we will know, I just got a case of the proverbial ants in the pants and could not wait that long to see if they came close. And as much as I love my Canon lenses, if I can shoot with them on the Sony body then why not? So do I shoot Canon or Sony? Both actually. And DJI to boot.