Why I left Nikon for Sony - From a Family Portrait Photographer

I recently made the switch from Nikon camera gear to Sony and purchased a Sony A7iii. That meant selling pretty much all of my gear (camera, lenses, flash equipment) and starting over with gear compatible with Sony. As you can imagine, it was no small decision for me. Below are some of the reasons why I personally decided to make the switch. I’m not necessarily advocating that the switch is right for everyone, but it was right for me.

This is going to be a post mostly for other photographers. I’m going to geek out a bit about camera gear. For those that don’t know me, I’m a family portrait photographer (that’s important to know because it influenced some of the decisions I made in selecting the camera).

Nikon is anti-competitive

Over the years as a Nikon shooter, I’ve seen Nikon do some things that I really didn’t like. Things that purely benefit themselves, at the expense of their customers. For example, Nikon keeps their autofocus algorithm as a secret so that it’s harder for third-party lens manufacturers to create lenses. Presumably, they do this to sell more Nikon lenses. In order to make lenses with autofocus, third-party manufacturers have to reverse engineer the technology. Which I would imagine (and have experienced) is a time-consuming and imperfect science. Additionally, if Nikon releases a firmware update, it sometimes breaks the functionality third party lenses. With Nikon’s latest mirrorless lens mount (Z mount), they have continued this tradition.

Sony, on the other hand, has an open auto-focus architecture. When manufacturers want to create an autofocus lens for the E mount, they can use the Sony autofocus spec to develop their lens precisely to the spec. Sony's strategy is much more consumer friendly. As a consumer, the only vote I have is with my money, and I'd much rather vote for a company with my interests in mind.

Camera Technology

I wanted to make the switch to a mirrorless camera. I personally think it’s the future of photography. If I’m investing in lenses, I might as well invest in lenses I can own for a long time. Mirrorless cameras also offer some features that DSLR cameras aren’t capable of. (Silent shooting, edge to edge focusing, small size, etc…). In comparing comparable Sony and Nikon mirrorless offerings, Sony was the clear winner for me. Before I get into the specific reasons, I think it’s important to note that Nikon is brand new to the mirrorless full-frame market. I’d expect most of my issues to be addressed eventually.

Memory

For starters, for some inexplicable reason, Nikon chose to only include a single memory card slot in their cameras. The Nikon Z line uses XQD memory cards, which are more physically durable than an SD card, but at their core, they both use flash memory, which can become corrupt. I don’t ever want to have to have a discussion with a client to explain that I lost their entire session because of a corrupt memory card. Dual memory cards are the only option for me.

Lenses

Since the Nikon Z mount is so new, there are only a few native lenses (currently 4) out for the mount. That is compared to about 150+ lenses for the Sony E mount. Nikon does offer the FTZ adapter, but I personally don’t love the idea of shooting through an adapter. From the evidence that I’ve seen, the performance just isn’t the same, especially with third party lenses.

Battery

The battery performance of the Sony mirrorless cameras blows the Nikon out of the water. I haven’t used the Nikon mirrorless cameras personally, but from the evidence that I’ve seen, I’m not sure if I could finish a 2 hour family portrait session on a single battery. The performance on the Sony is incredible, especially considering that the viewfinder is electronic.

Eye AF

The eye AF on the latest Sony cameras is just amazing. It locks on almost instantly, tracks the subject, and nails the focus. As a portrait shooter of fast moving subjects (kids), this is a game changer for me. Nikon is supposedly also releasing Eye AF in a future update, but it’s an unknown for me at this point. I’ve been burnt by vaporware before and I can’t count on it coming out and being good.

Innovation

I love the fact that Sony innovates, takes risks, and pushes boundaries. In comparison, Nikon releases solid tried and true technology. Some examples of Sony innovation over the last few years that I’ve been interested in are: integrated wireless transfer, FF mirorrless, a compact pocketable APS-C camera (RX100 line), and eye AF. In all of these areas, it’s taken Nikon a while to catch up.

I’m personally an early adapter and I’m willing to deal with issues here and there if it means that I get to play with the latest technology. So, while both Sony and Nikon have viable strategies in this area, I think the Sony cameras meet my needs better.