My switch from Sony to Canon

You are currently viewing My switch from Sony to Canon

Since with the release of the Canon EOS R5 there is often a sys­tem com­par­i­son with the Sony Alpha 7R, which is already avail­able in 4th gen­er­a­tion. There­fore I would like to briefly describe my expe­ri­ences here, since I have now worked with both systems.

Since 2003 I have been tak­ing pic­tures with dig­i­tal SLR cam­eras from Canon. I have also been using the Sony Alphas 7R in gen­er­a­tions from I to III since 2014, but they were always just addi­tion­al bod­ies that I used with my Canon lens­es via adapters. This final­ly worked quite well with the 7R III, so that I seri­ous­ly thought about switch­ing sys­tems. I own the Canon EOS R5 only for about 2 weeks now.

As a long-time Canon user, how did I even come to Sony? Well, I want­ed to have a mir­ror­less sys­tem camera.

Why mirrorless at all?

As an admit­ting tech­nol­o­gy geek, com­put­er nerd and enthu­si­as­tic pho­tog­ra­ph­er for more than 40 years now, I have already gone through the great trans­for­ma­tion from ana­log work with film (small and medi­um for­mat) includ­ing my own col­or pho­to lab to dig­i­tal pho­tog­ra­phy. My dig­i­tal era start­ed in 2003 with the Canon EOS 300D, fol­lowed by the 20D, 5D, 5D MkII, 1DS Mk II, 5D Mk III, 7D, 7D Mk II and final­ly the 5DS R. How­ev­er, at that time, only the tech­nique of image stor­age has changed, the old SLR prin­ci­ple was adopt­ed 1:1 by the ana­log cam­eras. The cam­eras looked exact­ly the same as before - which was a big advan­tage in the beginning.

But in the end it seemed to me as a log­i­cal next step to aban­don the remain­ing con­ven­tion­al ana­log viewfind­er tech­nol­o­gy with its com­pli­cat­ed and fail­ure-prone flip­ping mir­ror sys­tem and to dis­play the sen­sor image direct­ly in a dig­i­tal viewfind­er. This would real­ly allow you to see the fin­ished image direct­ly when you take the pic­ture. With com­put­er pro­grams, the prin­ci­ple is called “WYSIWYG - What You See Is What You Get”. How­ev­er, this has long failed due to the low read­out speed of the sen­sors and the small high-res­o­lu­tion dis­plays required.

The first steps were the live-view dis­plays on the rear mon­i­tor - very low res­o­lu­tion, hard­ly usable in sun­light and uner­gonom­ic. In addi­tion, the con­trast aut­o­fo­cus used at the begin­ning was grotesque­ly slow - but then always accurate.

My first cam­era that sup­port­ed live-view was the Canon EOS 5D Mk II - I even added a viewfind­er mag­ni­fi­er that could be attached to the back of the cam­era, but that was just a crutch.

My time with Sony

Over time, how­ev­er, the tech­nol­o­gy of sen­sors and dis­plays devel­oped fur­ther, mak­ing usable mir­ror­less sys­tem cam­eras pos­si­ble. The first mod­els were already devel­oped in 2008 by Pana­son­ic and Olym­pus for the Micro-FourThirds for­mat (MFT). Since Canon did not make any efforts to devel­op com­pet­i­tive mir­ror­less sys­tems, I bought in 2014, in addi­tion to my 5D Mk III, the then new Sony Alpha 7R with a sig­nif­i­cant­ly increased sen­sor res­o­lu­tion of 36 megapix­els com­pared to Canon. A cru­cial point for me was the fact, that the 7R allowed me to con­tin­ue using my Canon EF lens­es via adapters.

Sony Alpha 7R

The cam­era already had an elec­tron­ic OLED viewfind­er with XGA res­o­lu­tion (2.4M sub­pix­els) at that time, which was already quite use­ful. Since I already had many Canon lens­es, the cam­era was only meant to be a sup­ple­ment, so I only bought a cor­re­spond­ing FE-EF adapter in addi­tion to the includ­ed kit zoom 28-70mm.

Oper­at­ing the Sony a7R took a lot of get­ting used to. The menu con­trol was con­fus­ing, the cam­era seemed edgy and uner­gonom­ic. One could see, that Sony is pri­mar­i­ly an elec­tron­ics com­pa­ny. The Alpha 7R some­how always felt like an elec­tron­ic toy. With Canon cam­eras, on the oth­er hand, you had the feel­ing of hold­ing a real “cam­era” in your hands. Annoy­ing, also with the fol­low­ing mod­els, was the long boot time, the cam­era need­ed almost 2 sec­onds after switch­ing on until the first pic­ture could be taken.

The con­trast AF was very “leisure­ly” even with the native kit zoom, but always accu­rate. On Canon lens­es, the AF worked, but also very slow­ly. The image qual­i­ty, how­ev­er, was excel­lent. Espe­cial­ly fun was the use of my 17mm TS-E, as I could now direct­ly see the effect of an adjust­ment in the viewfind­er. With the Canon 5D, even slight shift move­ments caused mas­sive vignetting, so that even Canon rec­om­mend­ed the use of the Live­view. Since then I have used the TS-E exclu­sive­ly on my Sonys!

Nev­er­the­less, I still used my Canon cam­eras most of the time. In Octo­ber 2015, I final­ly exchanged my EOS 5D Mk III for a 5DS R, which offered even a high­er sen­sor res­o­lu­tion than the Sony a7R and which I still like to use today.

Sony Alpha 7R II

Sony Alpha 7R II

In 2017, I replaced my 7R with a 7R II. Besides the slight increase of the sen­sor res­o­lu­tion to 42 megapix­els, it was the first cam­era with a mov­able sen­sor (the first IBIS for full for­mat cam­eras!), so that all my lens­es were sta­bi­lized. Thanks to Metabone’s Adapter IV, this worked per­fect­ly with my 100mm macro, the 85mm f/1.2L, the 50mm f/1.4, the 40mm f/2.8 and also with the 17mm f/4L TS-E.

In addi­tion, due to 399 phase con­trast aut­o­fo­cus points inte­grat­ed in the sen­sor, the aut­o­fo­cus was now well usable and quite fast. Anoth­er nice fea­ture was the high-ISO capa­bil­i­ty of the back­lit sen­sor which com­pen­sat­ed well for the cor­re­spond­ing deficit of my Canon 5DS R. By the way, I could now film in 4K with the 7R II - but I hard­ly ever did that 😉 . Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the menu sys­tem remained confusing.

Sony Alpha 7R III

Sony Alpha 7 R III

After less than 1 year I replaced the 7R II with a 7R III in 2018. This one had the same 42 megapix­el sen­sor, but became a lit­tle more a “cam­era”. There was now a rear joy­stick, 2 mem­o­ry card slots (one of them UHS-II capa­ble), a big­ger and longer last­ing bat­tery, high­er res­o­lu­tions of viewfind­er and dis­play and the cam­era became faster over­all. With the elec­tron­ic shut­ter, it achieved an impres­sive burst rate of 10 frames per sec­ond with con­tin­u­ous AF. A new eye AF was also intro­duced, which after an update also rec­og­nized ani­mal eyes (dogs and cats), but the AF mode had to be changed for that. With my Sig­ma 150-600mm and lat­er 60-600mm zoom lens­es and the Sig­ma MC-11 adapter, the aut­o­fo­cus was fast and very use­ful for wildlife pho­tog­ra­phy in Africa. Some pic­ture exam­ples can be found in my pic­ture gallery and in my report from our safari in the Masai Mara 2018/2019. The menu sys­tem was slight­ly improved, at least there was now the pos­si­bil­i­ty to use a cus­tom menu.

All in all a step in the right direc­tion. In addi­tion to the cam­era, I also got the native 24-105G f/4 stan­dard zoom, which was much bet­ter than my EF 24-105G f/4L IS II USM - it has been sit­ting in the cab­i­net unused ever since.

More infor­ma­tion about the Sony Alpha 7R III can also be found in my short field report and adden­dum.

Over­all, the cam­era was now quite usable - as I said, a lit­tle more “cam­era” and less toy. In the begin­ning, some lens­es were miss­ing in the Sony sys­tem, espe­cial­ly an equiv­a­lent to my pop­u­lar EF 400 f/2.8L IS II USM was absent and this worked only very unsat­is­fac­to­ri­ly on the Sony. When in sum­mer 2018 a cor­re­spond­ing coun­ter­part from Sony was intro­duced, I seri­ous­ly thought about a switch­ing to Sony. I was already close to replac­ing my 7R III with a 7R IV when Canon announced the EOS R5 and leaked its first features.

Canon EOS R5

Final­ly, Canon seemed to be able to bring out a com­pet­i­tive mir­ror­less sys­tem cam­era. I nev­er seri­ous­ly con­sid­ered using the pre­vi­ous­ly avail­able RF cam­eras R and RP, as I felt that they lagged far behind the Sony cam­eras both tech­ni­cal­ly and in terms of image qual­i­ty. This seemed to be chang­ing with the Canon EOS R5. Canon leaked more and more infor­ma­tion peu-a-peu and the cam­era seemed more and more inter­est­ing to me.

When final­ly on July 9th, 2020 (due to Coro­na online) at the Canon Event the cur­tain was lift­ed and the cam­era was pre­sent­ed in detail, I spon­ta­neous­ly took the deci­sion: The pre­sen­ta­tion of the cam­era start­ed at 2:00 pm MEZ and I received the order con­fir­ma­tion of my online pho­to deal­er already at 2:16 pm. My Sony equip­ment then quick­ly went into new hands via eBay.

Despite my ear­ly order, the demand for the R5 was so high that I was only includ­ed in the sec­ond deliv­ery date. Since August 12th, I have it now.

Except for the sen­sor res­o­lu­tion (45 vs 61 megapix­el), the EOS R5 match­es or exceeds the fea­tures of the Sony Alpha 7R IV in every respect. I was espe­cial­ly impressed by the progress in aut­o­fo­cus and the incred­i­ble speed of the cam­era. I can now use my exist­ing lens­es via the Canon EF-R Mount Adapter* with­out any restric­tions. Fur­ther­more, I always like to have a sec­ond body avail­able and can con­tin­ue to use my exist­ing 5DS-R.

Comparison of Sony Alpha 7R III vs Canon EOS R5

So, now I already have had my first expe­ri­ences with the R5. What do I miss from my Sonys?

In short: sim­ply nothing!

How­ev­er, I can only com­pare with the Sony Alpha 7R III, I only know about the cur­rent 7R IV from test reports and videos. The Alpha a9II cer­tain­ly has an excel­lent aut­o­fo­cus and is light­ning fast, but its sen­sor res­o­lu­tion of 24 megepix­els is far too low for me at the present time, so it nev­er came into con­sid­er­a­tion for me. And, I should also men­tion, that I have used the Sonys except for the FE 24-105 only with adapt­ed lenses.

The EOS R5 is a Canon all over, a “cam­era”. For me as a long-time Canon user, the con­trols are just in the per­fect­ly right posi­tion. It fits per­fect­ly in the hand. Final­ly, the cam­era is instant­ly avail­able after switch­ing it on, I no longer have the feel­ing that it might still be busy boot­ing at the cru­cial moment. For the first time, the view through the viewfind­er is such that I do not miss an SLR viewfind­er. At low bright­ness, it is even supe­ri­or to a SLR viewfind­er, because it is much brighter.

Com­pared to the Sony 7R III, the OLED res­o­lu­tion of the R5 is high­er (the 7R IV prob­a­bly has the same res­o­lu­tion) and, what is espe­cial­ly pleas­ing, the viewfind­er image is much less noisy in the dark. When set to 120Hz, the image impres­sion is flu­id, so that object track­ing works well e.g. with run­ning or fly­ing ani­mals. With the elec­tron­ic shut­ter at 20 fps, there is no black­out. Clear point for the R5.

All of my Canon lens­es work at least as fast on the EF-R mount con­vert­er as on the 5DS R. Work­ing with my 400mm f/2.8L IS II is great thanks to the aut­o­fo­cus area now cov­er­ing the entire viewfind­er image. My now addi­tion­al­ly pur­chased RF 24-105 f/4L is even much faster, even faster than the com­pa­ra­ble FE 24-105 on the Sony. Also my Sig­ma 60-600 works bet­ter on the R5 than on the Sony, although it was there sup­port­ed native­ly with the Sig­ma MC-11 adapter. Espe­cial­ly pleas­ing is the size of the AF area of the R5 and the high num­ber of focus points. Anoth­er clear point for the R5.

The eye aut­o­fo­cus of the R5 is supe­ri­or to that of the 7R III by orders of mag­ni­tude. It also rec­og­nizes the eyes of birds. It even iden­ti­fies the eyes of flamin­goes and the black eyes of a crow. There are already some videos on the net, which prove, that it even rec­og­nizes the eyes of fish.

Some infor­ma­tion about my set­tings and more pic­tures are also avail­able in my first expe­ri­ence report about the EOS R5. I test­ed this in my gar­den with birds and it worked fine. Once found, with the appro­pri­ate set­ting, the aut­o­fo­cus point sticks to the eye even when pan­ning and even at 20 fps in con­tin­u­ous shoot­ing mode. In addi­tion, you don’t have to switch man­u­al­ly from per­son to ani­mal mode, as is required with the Sony a7R III, the R5 always rec­og­nizes both, but you can choose whether the pri­or­i­ty should be on peo­ple or ani­mals. Anoth­er point for the R5.

The result­ing qual­i­ty of the pic­tures was excel­lent. In fact, I have the impres­sion, that the R5 even sur­pass­es the 5DS R in res­o­lu­tion, despite the 5 megapix­els that are nom­i­nal­ly miss­ing. I don’t know if this is due to the fact, that the 5DS R is not always 100% accu­rate in focus­ing via the sep­a­rate phase con­trast AF or because of the min­i­mal vibra­tion caused by the flip­ping mir­ror. When I saw the first images of the R5, I was very impressed by the sharp­ness. But the new Sony 7R IV will not be worse, the 7R III also had a very good image qual­i­ty already, so I see a tie here.

For the first time with Canon sys­tem cam­eras, the R5 has a sta­bi­lized sen­sor, which Sony has been using since the 7R II. Accord­ing to the tech­ni­cal data, the R5 should com­pen­sate up to 8 f-stops, the Sony 7R IV reach­es only 5.5 stops. I can’t check this exact­ly, but the sta­bi­liza­tion feels indeed bet­ter. In a short test with my RF 24-105, I man­aged to take sharp pic­tures with 1 to 2 sec­onds expo­sure time, this would cer­tain­ly not have been pos­si­ble with the Sony 7R III. But all in all this is only the cat­e­go­ry “hearsay” and with­out any rating 😉 .


On the whole, I’m com­plete­ly sat­is­fied with the Canon EOS R5. Final­ly, I now have a mir­ror­less sys­tem cam­era, that per­fect­ly inte­grates into my exist­ing exten­sive Canon sys­tem with­out any compromises.

Would I switch to Canon if I had a complete Sony Alpha system?

Prob­a­bly not, also the cur­rent cam­eras from Sony are very good and the cur­rent sta­tus is also only a snap­shot. As I know Sony, they will sure­ly catch up quick­ly and the mea­sure of all things is at the moment the Canon EOS R5.

And newcomers?

On the oth­er hand, if I were a new­com­er, my cur­rent choice would clear­ly be the Canon EOS R5. It offers the advan­tages of a Sony a9 II and a7R IV in one body - it even sur­pass­es this com­bi­na­tion in some points. In addi­tion, the res­o­lu­tion of the sen­sor of the a9II would no longer be suf­fi­cient for me today. The ergonom­ics of the R5 demon­strates Canon’s decades of expe­ri­ence in cam­era devel­op­ment. The menu is intu­itive. The cam­era fits per­fect­ly in the hand. Com­pared to Sony, the num­ber of avail­able RF lens­es is still small, although there are some pearls in the mix. On the oth­er hand, the exist­ing Canon EF lens­es work as native lens­es and there the selec­tion, even of exot­ic spec­i­mens like TS-E or MP-E, is unsur­passed. Fur­ther­more, there is also a good sec­ond-hand market.

But this is my opin­ion as a long-time Canon user, I would appre­ci­ate any comments.

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