So, Nikon is coming out with its first full-frame mirrorless camera, finally accepting the future that Sony has unilaterally forged.
I switched to Sony from Nikon earlier this year and have been asked what I imagine many Nikon users are wondering. “Do you, as a new Sony user, have second thoughts?” The question seems less based on facts and more about the fickle feelings of a relationship - like I just broke up with someone and now that they’ve upped their game do I have any regrets?
Sadly, I only regret not leaving earlier. But I wish the best for them.
The problem with overstaying your relationship with a brand is that, like any dysfunctional relationship, it works on a certain level. Your basic needs are met, your professional identity has been wrapped up in it, many friends know you through the brand, and you might even have logo coffee cups that cement the relationship. Changing all that just seems all too much to bear, especially if we think of ourselves as loyal people and not bandwagon folk. Maybe, you think to yourself, “if I just stick through this a little bit longer, it could get better. It might make all the waiting worth it. I could look smart.”
Sadly, I only regret not leaving Nikon earlier. But I wish the best for them.
Besides, what would we do with all this stuff that has piled up throughout the years? Is it cold of me to unload my nostalgia on eBay? (Full disclosure: I held on to my Nikon F3 as a paperweight.)
Putting away such doubts and without getting into camera particulars for the moment, it helps to have the big picture about why switching to Sony made sense for me. Sony is delivering technology that is transforming photography and it has the leadership, energy and ambition to make a new relationship worthwhile. Sony doesn’t remind you of the good old days, make you wait on the curb while the party is in full swing or squeeze you for more money at marginal improvements.
I’ve lost count how many cameras Sony has released in the past two years, delivering a staggering level of technology at price-points that are unbelievable. My jaw dropped when I saw what the α7 III offers for the price. What are people waiting for? Sony is iterating and delivering now. They have the momentum and are wooing new users on tangible actions, not on promises on how they might improve in the future.
Sony also has so much more breadth and depth as a company, which matters in a photo industry that is constantly evolving. One of the main reasons I switched to Sony was because I was being asked to shoot more and more video. Who wants to leave money on the table when video is growing exponentially? I knew that if I was going down that road, however, I wanted a system that could grow with me. I needed options with higher-end video, which Nikon lacks.
I was stuck for years toggling between Nikon still cameras and Canon Cinema EOS. I didn’t want to buy Nikon glass that I couldn’t easily use on my C100 and I didn’t want to buy lenses for the C100 that I couldn’t use on the Nikons. I wanted to have one system where my investments could serve both. So I sold both and bought a Sony. At Sony’s price-points and video depth, I could look ahead with confidence.
Getting back to camera specifics then, as a happy owner of Sony Alpha full-frame cameras, what do I see in the comparable Nikon Z7, the new “flagship model”?
- The absolute worst aspect of the flagship Nikon Z7 and Z6 is the lack of dual card slots. From workflow to backup, having two memory card slots is a must for me. As a professional who works on corporate projects and ad campaigns, backups are everything. It’s mind-boggling that Nikon would release a camera with a single slot at this stage in the mirrorless game.
- No Eye AF. As someone who often shoots portraits wide open, Sony’s Eye AF has been breakthrough technology for me. The Nikon Z doesn’t even have it at all.
- The Nikon battery is rated an anemic 330 shots versus the 530 shots of the α7R III. That just means more batteries and more bottom line cost of growing with the Nikon system.
- The Nikon Z7 shoots at 9 frames per second and it locks exposure on the first frame, shooting faster than 5.5 frames per second. The Sony α7R III shoots at 10 frames per second, with its electronic or mechanical shutter, and with full AF and AE at 10 fps.
- Nikon offers limited native mirrorless lens selection with a total of three (a 24-70mm and two others), and there’s no 70-200mm until next year sometime. As someone who uses 24-70mm and 70-200mm zoom lenses in tandem, I would have been stalled immediately. It will take Nikon a very long time to catch up to the more than 25 native full-frame mirrorless lenses available from Sony for the Alpha cameras. Don’t even get me started on the all 58mm F0.95 'Noct' lens that is planned. An all-manual lens at $6,000+ for a modern mirrorless system? Seems like a headline from The Onion.
- The Nikon Z7 is $600 more expensive than the α7R III. If you add the cost of the $250 FTZ lens adapter to all those F mount lenses, that means as a former Nikon owner, I would pay an additional $850 premium, on top of everything else, just to get into mirrorless. Hardly a reward for staying with Nikon.
Last year on Alpha Universe, I wrote about how Sony’s mirrorless is changing the game for many genres, but especially photojournalism. My conviction has only deepened. Low light, silent shutter, low price-point. Sony makes perfect sense.
Nikon has finally revealed itself. It's arriving late to the game and isn’t bringing any new features or technology that would change that game. It’s also more expensive than Sony. My former Nikon brethren can call me cold and distant for pointing out the facts but it’s all too little, too late. Sometimes there are things you can only fully accept after you’ve moved on. I can’t even say “It’s me and not you.” Let’s just say we’ve grown apart.
About The Author:
Alex Garcia is a Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist based in Chicago. A former staff photographer with the Chicago Tribune, Garcia is now a professor at the School Of Visual Arts in New York. See more on his website.