I can quickly sum things up for you: the Canon 5DS/R has a lot of megapixels (50 of them), and the Sony a7RII is the current ground breaking, revolutionary, panacea for all photographers.
While I love shiny new pieces of photography gear, I’m not buying either of these new cameras. Here’s why:
Why I’m Not Buying the Canon 5DS/R
In my opinion the only reason you need a camera with a resolution of 50MP is because you need to print very large. Basically this is useful for commercial photographers, and some landscape photographers. In order to really take advantage of this camera you generally need to be using the best lenses, have excellent camera support, and meticulous technique.
This isn’t a camera aimed at consumers. In fact I would say it offers terrible value for the general photography market. The cheaper 5DS (the version with an anti-aliasing filter) costs US$3,700. If you want it without the anti-aliasing filter the 5DSR will cost you US$3,900! (Side note: While the 5DSR doesn’t have an AA (anti aliasing) filter I believe it does have a glass filter in place of the AA filter in order to maintain the correct placement of the sensor. From what I understand I believe it would have been better if Canon designed the 5DSR in a way that the filter could be truly removed, not just substituted with a glass filter).
Let’s compare the 5DS/R to the Canon 6D. The Canon 6D has a 20MP full frame sensor. The 6D (released in 2012) has two consumer features still not present on the 5DS/R (Wi-Fi and GPS). When we purchased the 6D it cost us around $2,000. You can now buy the 6D for just US$1,400! Now, the 6D is Canon’s most affordable full frame camera, but it can also easily be used professionally. To put things in perspective you could get two Canon 6Ds and a new lens for the price of a 5DS.
Briefly comparing the 5DS to the 5D Mark III: when the 5D Mark III was launched (also in 2012) it had a price tag of US$3,500 and it now goes for US$2,500!
I’m a bit confused that Canon hasn’t announced any other 5D cameras yet, since the 5DS/R doesn’t seem like a logical successor to the 5D Mark III. I would expect to see Canon release another version of the 5D, one that has a sensor more around the 25-35MP range that focuses more on features portrait or wedding photographers would want (low noise ultra high ISO performance, more frames per second, better video performance, better value (around $3,000 or less at launch).
I would also expect to see a Canon 6D Mark II announced this year. Possibly sticking around the 20MP range, but maybe also adding in a flip out touch screen and continuous video autofocus (basically making it a full frame 70D). Hopefully they manage to keep a camera like this priced around $2,000 at launch.
Anyways, it’s all speculation, but I think Canon has at least a couple more full frame cameras on deck. Those (as of yet unannounced) cameras might offer a more compelling reason to buy a new camera (we offer some good reasons to buy a new camera here in our camera buying guide. So, because the 5DS/R has no unique value other than it’s ridiculously high resolution sensor, (which I have no real use for) it’s a camera that I feel very comfortable passing on (especially given how expensive it is).
The Sony a7RII is an Amazing Camera
First off, this camera is amazing. If you haven’t already seen the specs of the Sony a7RII on every other review site here is a quick bullet list for you:
- 42MP full frame back side illuminated sensor (the worlds first full frame BSI sensor)
- 399 on-sensor phase detect autofocus points
- No AA filter
- In-camera-body 5 Axis image stabilization
- OLED viewfinder
- Shoots 4K video recorded internally
- Costs US$3,198 ($700 cheaper than Canon’s 5DSR – the version without the AA filter)
A few more points comparing the Sony a7RII to the Canon 5DS/R
- a7RII is much smaller in size
- a7RII has a screen that can flip up or down
- a7RII has three dedicated adjustment dials (allowing you to quickly control aperture, shutter speed, and ISO). The 5DS/R only has two adjustment dials (so you need to press a button to switch to adjust ISO)
- a7RII has both Wi-Fi and Near field communication (NFC) which make it easy to transfer photos to your smartphone
- a7RII features continuous eyeball autofocus (to help you nail focus on portraits)
I don’t think the significance of the a7RII can be understated. It’s a remarkable camera packed with innovative features you won’t find on any Canon or Nikon camera. My guess is that within the next 2-3 years Sony will emerge as the market leader, outstripping both Canon and Nikon for the professional/semi-professional camera market.
As an aside, if you look at the release cycle for Sony’s a7 cameras it’s less than a year between new cameras. Compare that to Canon’s 3-4 year release cycle for the 5D series. By the time Canon releases another round of 5Ds (in 2018?) they will have been buried by about 3 or 4 more Sony a7 cameras. If you consider the progress that has been made with the a7 line between each release, it’s not difficult to extrapolate the lead that Sony will have in the next few years.
Why I Sold My Sony a7
A bit of back story. We’ve followed Sony’s mirrorless development quite closely. We got the NEX3 when it was first launched (our review here), and we got the Sony a7 when it was first launched (our review here). I love the idea of having these huge sensors in such small form factors. Smaller/lighter gear is much easier to travel with!
Earlier this year I sold our original a7 and lenses. I sold it all for several reasons:
First, I knew that Sony would be announcing the the a7RII and the resale value of our a7 would drop even more, so I wanted to sell it before that happened. With Sony’s short release cycles the value of these cameras drop quite quickly. I wonder how much cheaper you’ll be able to get an a7RII for in a year from now (once an a7RIII hits the shelves)?
Second, the autofocus performance of the original a7 in lower light (typical overhead lighting indoors) was never a match for our Canon 6D. I was always trying to convince myself that the autofocus on the a7 was good enough. It was certainly good enough outdoors, but as soon as I brought it inside it always seemed like it was hunting for focus.
The third reason I got rid of the a7 is because in my opinion, Sony is lacking two critical lenses from their full frame FE-mount lineup. Our most used lens is the Canon 24-70 f/2.8. It’s a spectacular lens that stays on our camera 90% of the time. The image quality this lens produces is outstanding. The color, micro contrast, sharpness, and autofocus speed of the Canon 24-70 f/2.8 are all excellent. I find it to be the most enjoyable lens I’ve ever used.
There is a Sony/Zeiss 24-70mm, but it’s only an f/4 and is no match for the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8.
Because there was no good mid range zoom option for the a7 I found myself constantly going back to the Canon 6D to shoot with the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8.
The other lens missing is a 70-200 f/2.8. Sony has a 70-200 f/4, but where are the fast f/2.8s?
A 24-70mm f/2.8 and a 70-200mm f/2.8 might not seem like a big deal at first, but they really form the core of professional photography lenses (these are the staple lenses of professional wedding photographers and photojournalists). You can (and should) compliment those lenses with great prime lenses, but I feel those two zoom lenses with f/2.8 apertures are essential.
I know that a multitude of adapters exist that allow you to mount camera lenses from different manufactures on a7 cameras. While the performance of these lens adapters has improved, they generally don’t offer the same auto focus speed as native FE-mount lenses.
I do regret giving up the Sony 55mm f/1.8 because I really loved the quality of photos it produced (in particular how in renders from in-focus to out-of-focus, producing such a lovely and natural fall off). But it wasn’t worth keeping a whole system for one lens, especially given the shortcomings with the a7 autofocus.
Sony also has an FE-mount 35mm f/1.4 and an 85mm f/1.8 that both look fantastic – so no complaints about their primes! It is unfortunate that third party manufactures aren’t really creating lenses for FE-mount (no Sigma Art lenses without using an adapter).
When I’ll Switch Back to Sony
I know that eventually we’ll get back into mirrorless Sony cameras. We’ve shot with their cameras quite a bit now, and we still use an RX100III as our take everywhere point and shoot (see our review here).
The thing is that I don’t want to have both Canon and Sony gear anymore. The next time I buy a Sony camera it will be with the intention of switching over to that system completely.
There are a few things I’m waiting for before switching entirely to Sony.
First, my concerns about the current a7RII:
While there’s been a lot of improvement between our original a7 an the a7RII, it seems like this latest iteration of the camera still has a number of shortcomings that need to be addressed. Things like the slow responsiveness of buttons/dials, the colour compared to Canon, and lossy raw compression (read Ming Thein’s thoughts here). And while it seems like autofocus has been greatly improved with the a7RII, it still doesn’t seem super fast – certainly not faster than a DSLR (except maybe under extreme low light situations).
It also appears that the new a7RII might have some issues with battery life (it ships with two batteries!). This makes sense when you consider the fact that a relatively small battery needs to constantly power either an LCD or electronic viewfinder. And I’m sure that the 5-axis sensor stabilizer eats up a bunch more power.
Another weakness frequently mentioned from purchasers is the camera overheating while shooting 4K video. Yikes!
I’m sure Sony will address at least some of these issues with the next a7 camera (some problems might be remedied by firmware updates – but that’s a strategy that Sony hasn’t really employed, opting instead to address issues with their short release cycles of new cameras. That’s too bad since both the short release cycles, and lack of firmware updates really act to devalue the cameras quite quickly).
Even if Sony fixes these issues I still have a wish list of stuff I’d like to see before I switch over completely:
A flip out screen – We’ve been shooting more videos for the blog (and of our growing family!) and having a screen that can flip out has been really useful with our Canon 70D, so I’d love to see that in Sony cameras. Unfortunately, flip out screen doesn’t seem likely given the current design of the a7 cameras, so I’ll probably have to go without it. Sony has been able to put flip up screens on some cameras, but that doesn’t really work with cameras that have view finders (like the a7 series).
Touchscreen – I’m honestly surprised that the a7RII doesn’t have a touch screen, since it seems to pack in every other feature. A touch screen certainly has it’s uses (even if it’s as simple as improving how quickly you can review images with swipe gestures and pinch to zoom). Moving through menus is also much easier with a touch screen. And touch to focus is super useful!
More lenses – I need to see a 24-70mm f/2.8 from Sony/Zeiss that rivals Canon’s. It’s possible the autofocus on the next version of the camera (a7RIII) will work so well with adapters that the Canon 24-70mm could be used (I think this is a more likely scenario). Either way, for my own shooting preference I want to be able to use a great 24-70mm.
Cheaper – I don’t want to spend over $3,000 on a new camera when my current camera is working perfectly, especially given how quickly these a7 cameras are dropping in price. My guess is that I’ll be waiting at least another 2 years before switching (a year to wait for another Sony a7 to come out, and then another year to wait for them to slash their prices.)
Check Out Our Other Camera Guides & Recommendations
Making the decision to pass on the the 5DS/R was a pretty easy one for us, given that we don’t have the need to print super huge. Unless you’re desperately needing 50 megapixels, you’ll probably want to really consider whether it offers you good value.
But saying no to the Sony a7RII wasn’t as simple. With it popping up in my news feed every single day, I’ve looked longingly at it’s fancy new features. I think it’s definitely a great camera and, despite my concerns, I still think it’s a solid option for many photographers out there. In the end, for myself, it’s just not the right camera right now. I’ve rushed into gear decisions before, and regretted it. So this time I took a hard look at the camera, and what I already have, and what I want, and knew it wasn’t my time. I know it’s the right time for a lot of others though, as it continues to impress many!
Have you considered either of these cameras? What made you decide to buy, or, like me, say no?