The Sony Generation

Unbelievable Low Light Quality from a Compact Camera!

Unbelievable Low Light Quality from a Compact Camera!

As a dedicated Canon shooter for the last 25 years and “digitally” since the Digital Rebel was released over 10 years ago, I have loved working with my Canon equipment. Every time a new upgrade is released, I can’t help but get it.

The last major purchase for me was the Canon 5d MkIII and it’s been an incredible camera, powerful, well designed and completely customized now, finally… to my needs. Yet, as the years roll forward, everything seems heavier to me. I start to think about which lens to leave home, not “how can I cram one more lens into this bag” so weight is an issue.

About 2 years ago, I picked up a Sony RX100 camera that held promise as a super high-quality micro-portable camera. It was certainly small, almost as small as my once favorite pocket camera, the Canon S120.

Except it had a large, 20-megapixel sensor. I decided to get that Sony right before my trip to Jordan. I found the menu structure confusing and certain functions; like shooting in RAW didn’t work with other functions, like shooting an HDR image.

Sony RX100But I was impressed with its low light performance. The image of The Tea Man (above) was shot at a camp fire, at ISO 12,000 and with Sony’s image clarity technology, I was shocked at how well this came out. But for my other work, it wasn’t very useful, and still way too complicated for my taste. It felt like this camera was really a computer with an awkward interface to a sensor.

I was about to sell it when I had an idea. Why not convert it to InfraRed and see how it does? So that’s what I did. I converted the camera to IR and I took it with me a year later to New Zealand. If you’ve never been to New Zealand, it’s too beautiful to describe, you should go, look at my gallery here first of course and then go.

The Perfect IR Camera

Since I didn’t need any of the automation, just the converted sensor and the manual control of shutter speed and aperture, I found a use for this megapixel mini-monster.


The Grand Divide

Even from a private plane, shaking as it was, hand-held no less, this camera performed at a much higher level than I would have imagined. I’ve converted many a camera over the years to Infrared, this is – by far – the best of all.

I found a use for my Sony RX100 as a light-weight IR camera and my Canon 5D Mk III still had its place as my high fidelity, time exposure, night photography tool. It’s full frame sensor and incredible long exposure at ISO 100 noise reduction AND smooth, velvet like skies were not to be beat.

Now, back to my problem. How to reduce weight. And yes, there’s a birthday present in this story. My darling sweetheart Carol bought me (surprise, surprise) a new camera for my birthday, a Sony A6000. This is an APS-C size sensor with an incredible 24-megapixel sensor.

As you might guess, this was a candidate to take the place of my 5d MkIII and reduce my shoulder pain. The A6000 has a completely redesigned menu system which is far better than earlier Sony cameras, so right away I liked it. But unfortunately, Sony has overcomplicated the menus with too many useless options yet again.

Note to Sony: Let the photographer control the camera and get all those useless picture modes and options out of the way. For reference, see [popup_product]Canon 5d MkIII [/popup_product]menus. Another note to Sony, what about custom functions? It’s HARD to switch modes in the dark!

Sony A6000 Hand-held, ISO 3200, wide open F3.5 1/20 sec

[popup_product]Sony A6000[/popup_product] Hand-held, ISO 3200, wide open F3.5 1/20 sec

As you can see, the A6000 has some wonderful attributes; high resolution, light weight and well made. It’s not very expensive, about $700 for the “kit” which includes a nice short-range zoom.

I could go on and on about it, but there are lots of reviews if this camera on the web already. Here’s the point I am making. The era of the large SLR may be coming to an end. Naturally, there will always be a place for that type of camera but as these more miniature cameras show up in 2nd and 3rd generation releases, it will be harder and harder to ignore them.

You may have seen stories about this new micro-four-thirds camera system, they are available from multiple manufacturers. They are small for sure but their sensor size is 1/2 that of a full frame camera. While excellent for some applications, they won’t replace my [popup_product]Canon 5d MkIII[/popup_product] and that’s what I am eventually looking for.

Update: The latest version of the Canon S100 is now the [popup_product]Canon S120[/popup_product], an incredible, tiny camera capable of wonderful images and rich, detailed raw files.

Upgrading to a Full Frame Sensor in a Small Package

Part of why I called this article “The Sony Generation” is because Sony has really leapfrogged the rest of the industry. The new Sony A7r really is a full blown SLR equivalent in a smaller package. The 36-megapixel sensor produces stunning images and the low light performance is spectacular. They have really leap-frogged the rest.

Sony A7r

There are still some things my Canon does better, even at just 22 megapixels, than this new Sony. Yet, it’s very tempting to change brands and go with lighter weight, higher quality images as some of my photographer buddies have done.



What do you think?
Are you going to switch?
Have you already done so?
Leave me a comment and let me know what you are doing.

On my next trip, I will rent one and I will report back. (Update: I did rent one, I took it to Iceland and I was blown away, I now have ALL Sony gear!)

Update: I did, in fact, buy my own, but I waited until the new Sony A7rII was released and wow, do I love it! But… I had to get the Sony Zeiss FE 16-35mm zoom lens as well. This is now my standard travel pack.

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