Should you buy a Sony full frame, wait for Canon / Nikon, or forget full frame and go with Fujifilm APS-C. And is the Sony FF system just a lot of hoopla?
Here are my thoughts, I have no brand loyalty, you will probably disagree with me on some points, but I’m loaded up on coffee right now so here we go!
Nikon Full Frame Mirrorless vs Sony
I’m personally really excited for the Nikon. I’ve been shooting with Sony longer than I’ve been shooting Fujifilm, and yes, Sony is a lot of hoopla. However, despite what Sony haters say, they are a real camera company, they’ve been making cameras for a fairly long time and are always the at the tip of the spear when pushing the industry forward. Even if you hate Sony, you have to give them credit and praise for always changing the industry. Companies like Canon and Nikon get very content releasing the same old boring cameras, and if it wasn’t for Sony, your Canon and Nikon would probably still not shoot 4k.
Now today’s Sony are only decent cameras with crazy horsepower. Most of the features people are super excited about are not really noticeable in real world application.
For example, I eventually stopped using eye tracking and face tracking because it’s useless in a crowd or even with multiple people. Yet, this is all anyone talks about.
Low light performance? You can get that with faster lenses Nikon, Canon and Fujifilm offer.
I get that people want full frame, but I personally think the whole point of full frame is the resolution.
ISO 6400 – 128,000 Fujifilm X-T2 APS-C, f1.2 lens. Totally usable.
Full Frame vs APS-C | Performance That Doesn’t Matter Anymore
If you’re not going to buy a high-resolution full frame camera what’s the point? There is very little difference between full frame 24MP vs APS-C 24MP in 2018. It use to matter because of low light performance, but now the APS-C cameras are so good, there is little advantage other than shallower depth of field you get from Sony, but, you can make up for that (and low light performance) with the faster prime lenses Fujifilm offers.
Sony hasn’t been able to make very fast lenses with the FF bodies because their FF cameras use an APS-C mount. It’s very small and makes making lenses like f1.2 or f1 that autofocus very difficult, and if they did make super fast lenses they would be 4x more expensive because of the full frame.
Don’t believe me? Here is a quote from Sigma CEO back in 2014.
“It’s a bit more difficult to make ART lenses for the Sony FE system because of the not so large diameter of the mount. We don’t know why Sony did this. Likely because the E-mount was meant for APS-C first and only after that they did use it for FF too.”
Buying In Now, Or Upgrading Into A New Camera System
My advice to anyone looking to buy into a new system – wait to see what the Fujifilm X-T3 offers or what the Nikon and Canon new camera systems offers. The new X-T3 will have some special sensor, either BSI, or Stacked and it could bridge the gap between APS-C and Full Frame low light performance even more, especially if you slap on the 35mm f1 lens that will be released soon.
Nikon with its large mount might offer medium format compatibility in the future, and bet they will release some crazy fast lenses, capitalizing on the Sony APS-C mount shortcomings.
Sony is a fantastic brand and we have to give them a ton of credit for pushing the industry into mirrorless as fast as they did. They are always on the bleeding edge of performance, but personally I think their cameras are more geared towards tech heads that like to tinker with gear, hence all the youtube tech nerds ( that are not really photographers or filmmakers ) giving them so much praise. And I say that because even running this blog to the point where it barely makes me a living, leaves me very little time to shoot.
It use to be if you wanted resolution and mirrorless, there was no other option besides Sony. That’s all about to change.
Each Brand | A Brief Summary
Nikon cameras are just legendary performance monsters. Nikon colors are really nice, their AWB controls are fantastic and lenses are rock solid. They make cameras that will last years and years. I personally love Nikon even though I’ve never owned a Nikon. I’ve rented them many many times. I will probably get this Nikon FF. Or I’ll upgrade to Fujifilm Medium Format, since for me, the whole point of going for a bigger sensor is for resolution. I believe Nikon feels this same way as they haven’t released a consumer 24 megapixel full frame camera since 2014, unless it was a super pro, super fast sports camera. Which makes sense, keep the resolution lower for faster processing and performance.
I’ve not been buying Sony lenses, because they keep falling apart on me, and the cheap ones are really crappy. So I’m waiting for Nikon. The Sony Zeiss 35mm f2.8 lens hood is held together by double-sided tape and my Zeiss 16-35mm f4 lens hood is already cracked. The 50mm f1.8 shipped with dust in it and is horrible at continuous autofocusing. I guess I need to try the G-Masters.
Sony is always at the bleeding edge of performance, they often rush out their products to beat out everyone in specs, hence, why the nerds love it so much. If any other brand did this, they would be crucified. Watch any review on the Fujifilm X-H1 as an example. Apparently, small batteries are now unacceptable in 2018. It was fine for the 5 years Sony was doing it though.
With Sony you’ll also still see a lot of issues like overheating, poor build quality and bad weather sealing.
I’m personally tired of Sony cameras because, I hate to say this, ultimately they are only consumer grade. Yes, the A7III is cheap, but it’s a Ford, not a BMW. Don’t be fooled, I’ve had a few of their cameras fall apart on me, and a few lenses fall apart. The inside of my A7r was also pretty corroded when I opened it up.
Recently, I have to say, Sony has turned the corner with the III’s. The cameras are much nicer and perform much better, but the A7III is the cheapest of the bunch in terms of build quality.
I actually really like my A7rIII with the grip. I was very disappointed in the A7r ( which was a prototype, never should have been public ) and A7rII ( very poor battery life, very slow memory card buffer ), but I needed / wanted the resolution for landscapes so I made it work. I think the A7III is a very cool camera and anyone buying it will like it, but I prefer APS-C for 24 megapixels, because of size and price of the overall system.
The A6500 is actually a very cool APS-C camera by Sony, but if you’re going to go APS-C, you should go Fujifilm hands down, just because of the lenses. Unless you’re a vlogger, then go Canon for that sweet dual pixel AF and fold out screen.
My history with Sony – I’ve been professionally using Sony video ( remember the old Z1U ) and still cameras for a very long time. I even shot professional still product photography for Piano Wizard back in 2006 with a Sony Alpha camera. I still think their video cameras and even Alpha cameras are great. They’re just trying to cut all costs with mirrorless and it shows.
Fujifilm is doing something nobody else is doing right now, they are all about the user. Offering almost never-ending firmware support for older cameras. The cameras are covered in buttons and dials and switches that are customizable. It means you never need to go into a menu (Sony doesn’t do this because it cost more money).
The Fujifilm JPGs are incredible if you’re just messing around and traveling, and overall the color processing is really good. Camera build reliability is ranked better than Leica and their lenses are legendary and well priced. Right now, you get the most bang for your buck with Fujifilm and their film simulators are very fun. They are the best camera company right now, period.
Canon claims they are going to start investing a ton of money into new technology that will boost performance. They want to be leaders in performance again and they have fallen behind. We’ll have to see what they offer. I usually prefer Canon to Nikon just because their cameras are a little more user friendly then you could totally nerd out on them with Magic Lantern firmware unlocks. They are like the Apple of the Industry, Nikon is like Android, Sony is like . . . PlayStation? 🙂 That’s the way I’ve always seen it anyway.
The Industry Will Change
Right now the camera industry / Youtubers have a stigma still towards APS-C because APS-C has never been taken as serious as full frame has from the big brands. You could buy cool APS-C cameras like the Canon 7DII or the Nikon D500, but there were never great DX or APS-C lenses made specifically for the system or at least they didn’t get the same attention Fujifilm is giving them. ( Nikon did have a few great DX lenses ). So you could buy a cheap APS-C body, but if you wanted great optics, you still had to fork out the cash for huge full frame lenses. So everyone has sort of brushed APS-C aside because it was never that much cheaper in the end. Or you would buy APS-C and never upgrade from the kit lens.
Now, 2017-2018, Fujifilm has released such a legendary lineup of lenses for APS-C, that it’s only a matter of time before people start figuring this out, and it will eventually cut into the full frame market like it already has in many Asian countries where camera propaganda isn’t as strong as in the USA. I believe Canon mirrorless is #1 in Japan right now, and Fujifilm Mirrorless is #1 in Thailand or the Philippines – something like that.
At the end of the day, it has been and always will be all about the lenses. Technology and sensor performance will always push and pull the balance between brands, but every few years, APS-C catches up and passes previous generations of full frame in terms of dynamic range and low light performance. Today APS-C is already so good, the few advantages of full frame don’t matter in real photography, especially if you’re just a casual shooter, which 95% of people buying cameras are. Unless of course you’re going for and need resolution.
Right now, Sony shooters are all saying, “I switched to Sony full frame because I want shallow depth of field.” Just buy faster APS-C lenses and you get the same thing. Fujinon 56mm f1.2, 35mm f1 (coming soon), 90mm f2. Fujifilm was supposed to make even faster primes this last few years but apparently scrapped it to make some more consumer / cheaper lenses.
You’ll also see, “I need full frame because I need better low light performance.” Today’s Fujifilm X-T2 (aps-c) is better at low light and dynamic range than a Canon 5DmkII, and maybe even a Canon 5DmkIII (full frame). I bet the X-T3 even beats the Canon 5DIV.
I hope it makes sense what I’m trying to say here. Basically, if you want full frame performance, wait a few years and APS-C will give it to you.
I always say this but it’s something to think about; almost every movie you’ve ever watched was shot in super 35mm which is very close to APS-C, sometimes a hair bigger depending on the system ( Red dragon ) – unless it was IMax. That should tell you something about the format. It’s legit, it’s professional.
In 2018 and beyond, only buy full frame if you want more resolution, not low light, not shallow depth. Save your money, buy better APS-C lenses and you will not see a difference. That’s my belief anyway, that’s even Fujifilm’s belief. They went all in on that belief, investing a ton of money in it, and it’s paying off big time.
I would love to hear your thoughts. I spend all day tinkering with cameras and shooting and writing and sometimes I just think I’m way off in my philosophy and am losing my mind.
This really makes sense to me, hopefully it makes sense to you. There is a lot of Sony propaganda out there right now and you no longer can trust any big Youtuber or blogger since they don’t even use the cameras for more than a day before reviewing them. FroKnowsPhoto didn’t even know how to change lenses on the X-H1, nor did you test the different continuous AF modes when comparing it to Sony, and he was reviewing it for his 600k subscribers, unbelievable. Every Tony & Chelsea review on any camera now just becomes and ad for the Sony A7III. I’ve seen other reviewers test Sony A7III vs Fujifilm X-H1 IBIS, while the camera was on a gimbal, that doesn’t even make sense! It’s all very sad and disappointing. I don’t know how this all happened.