Which DSLR should I get? Canon vs Nikon vs Sony
by Jae Yoon
A question often posed to me both by friends and online acquaintances. To address it, in one sentence: Go visit a camera store, pick the one you like that looks the best.
Why? Because current DSLRs will give you image quality and capabilities beyond the skills of even most professional photographers. They are all excellent and all the major brands have excellent glass to back you up if you want to spend a bit more. What camera you choose is tertiary to you reading a few books or taking a few photography classes.
I happen to shoot both Nikon (D7000) and Sony (A850), I used to shoot Canon and Nikon. In my experience, all the current bodies will give you excellent images and cameras/glass that are far beyond the capabilities of people who do it for a living.
As far as Sony goes, keep in mind, in professional video which dwarfs photography in complex equipment, serious people use Sony. As an imaging company, Sony has a lot more experience and R&D than Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Olympus, all of them combined. Therefore, it’s not surprising to see that Sony provides the sensor for Nikon and Pentax cameras.
That said, Sony in my opinion, isn’t for professional photographers.
Sony cameras are mostly for hobbyist because of 4 reasons:
1. If you are shooting internationally, getting support for a broken body or lens is much more difficult unless you’re in Asia. (Real pros carry a backup body on assignment. The critical focal lengths [24, 35, 50, 85, 135, 200] are also usually crossed over with a backup fast zoom).
2. If you shoot with other photographers as an assistant or second shooter, they’ll most likely be shooting Canikon and you won’t be able to share glass, batteries, back up bodies, or flash systems.
3. High end Sony Zeiss glass is not weather sealed. Canon L and Nikon Gold ring are for the most part, weather sealed.
4. Nikon has the best flash system and Canon’s is also very good. Sony’s is OKAY but not spectacular. (honestly though, only noobs and reporters use TTL flash, to bounce or diffuse, you really need to go full manual anyway)
However, there are other factors that makes Sony a better choice for hobbyists who don’t need to make a living from photography:
1. Zeiss ZA native glass is sharper, has more micro and macro contrast than the equivalent Canon or Nikon glass. Its the only way to get autofocus Zeiss glass because of exclusionary licensing agreement between Zeiss and Sony. While the glass isn’t cheap, its often less expensive than the inferior Canikon equivalents. As the oldest big optical company, Zeiss REALLY fing knows glass.
2. 24mpx full frame for $1750. The best viewfinders under $4000. Excellent often superior ergonomics for real shooters on the full frame bodies. They are in a way the Anti-Leica in terms of value for $ and excellent ergos.
3. Back catalog of excellent Minolta glass is native autofocus mount and relatively inexpensive.
4. In body image stabilization is the way to go (Sony, Pentax, Olympus). Its generally about 20% less effective than in lens stabilization (Panasonic, Canon, Nikon) for long glass but you’re not adding additional lens elements. That ALWAYS sucks for IQ. Any lens that is designed with additional elements suffers from more chromatic aberrations and loss of contrast than it has to. Also the cheaper stabilized glass often have parking errors which fs up your IQ. Now the other major advantage of IBIS (in body stabilized) is that ANY lens you put on it can be stabilized, big bonus.
Nikon seems to be a company run by camera designers. Canon seems to be a company run by product managers. Sony’s Alpha camera division feels like a company run by photographers. The photographers I admire the most who are active online (Luminous Landscape) who generally shoot medium format and can shoot with whatever the hell they want, they shoot Sony if they have to ghetto it up with a plebian DSLR.
In the end though, if you want the look of DSLR cameras, any of the current bodies will do, just pick up a book and a fast prime lens.
You can see some of my photography here: Flickr