I have a quick story here to tell about the switch I recently made from Fuji to Sony. I had been using the Fuji mirrorless system (x-e1,x-T1, x100T and x-T2) since 2012. The camera bodies have slowly improved over time giving fast and precise autofocus, a joystick (on the x-T2) to change focus point, a great picture quality and most of all easy access to all the necessary controls : shutter speed, iso, aperture… I must also stress the quality of the lenses, the XF16mm1.4, XF35mmF1.4 and XF90mmF2 are stellar prime lenses and the XF50-140 is a great zoom, sharp at all apertures and all focal lengths.
So why change ?
Well, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence of course… I won’t try to convince anyone or try to justify myself (I’ve had so many cameras and lenses over the years, I gave up on that). I thought it might be interesting to show why the sony a7r III can help me move forwards in my photography and why I now think it is the ultimate (as of today) street camera.
But I like to think I am a little bit rational even if G.A.S is always a factor. First of all, image stabilisation is something that has creeped into a lot of systems and it is not a gimmick. I do a lot of street photography and I also use my macro lenses quite a bit. I own a Nikon 105 AF-D lens, which can be adapted on any mirrorless body, fuji or sony. There is no stabilisation in the lens so the in-body stabilisation is a great thing to have. The difference is huge between a stabilised and a non stabilised lens. I could have gone for the new fuji XF80mmF2.8 macro lens, but I really like my Nikon lens and I also have the laowa venus optics 60mm macro lens in Nikon mount which is really very good.
In street photography, my dream is to be able to walk around, shoot without stopping, getting anything I want in focus. I often pre-compose the picture before shooting, but I need to be lightning fast to put the focus point in the right place and shoot. This is where the Sony A7r III really shines, and where the A7r II does not work for me. The new joystick to place the focus point is a direct copy off fuji. It works well, but is often not fast enough in the street. The touch-screen allows me to place the focus point much quicker.
Now a bit of sony magic : when the screen is tilted out, the viewfinder detector is deactivated. Let me explain : on all the other camera bodies I have used, when the rear of the camera is too close to your body, or when you move a finger in front of the horizontal screen, the screen switches off… and you lose your shot. Not on this Sony camera. A simple thing to program maybe, but whereas I have been very critical of the ergonomics and haptics of the sony a7 series so far, I must admit this is brilliant.
The nail in the coffin for my Fujis is the way the sony can autofocus for my street shots. I have been a long time user of the af-s, flexible spot focusing for all my photography. Af-c has been for specific shoots : my dog, some cars and not much else because I don’t do a lot of wildlife or sport. The sony a7r III (and some other bodies before this one) have a flexible spot lock mode in af-c. Watch a video on you tube if you need to but I’ll explain briefly. When you press the shutter half way down, the small flexible spot focuses on the subject it is on and then stays locked on even if the subject moves around the viewfinder. Forget AF-S and use this! You see a subject in the street, put the focus point on it with the touchscreen, press half-way on the shutter and wait for the subject to get into the position you want, compose while you are doing this and them click! Photo done! Everything tack sharp, even if you are moving because that stabilised sensor really works. I use a shutter speed of 1/250s on my 35mm and it works fine. 1/500s if the subject is moving really close to you.
I have often said that the superiority of full-frame is over-rated, and I keep this opinion. It is an added bonus to have full frame because I can use my 50mm vintage lenses again at their intended focal length. The fall-off between the sharp in-focus areas and the out of focus parts in really smoother with full frame. I don’t give a damn about the number of pixels on the sensor, I really don’t. 16MP was enough, 24MP was great. 42MP is what it is at on the sony, so be it. The raw files by the way are slightly smaller than on the fuji X-T2 which is a bit strange and the rendering on Lightroom is noticeably faster.
Where I stand to lose is on the size, weight and quality of the lenses. I now own the 35mm f2.8 and the 85mm f1.8 lenses. The 35mm is very compact and light. I bought it second-hand so it wasn’t too expensive. It lives on the camera body, it is a great lens, but if someone makes a compact. f1.8 or f2 lens, I’m on it straight away. Full frame is all about subject separation is it not ? The 85mm is sharp but has strange bokeh. In my mind the 56mm f/1.2 fuji lens is better quality. I think I could make a quick article on that later.