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So I currently have a Sony A700 which i bought a year ago, and wanting to get some quality glass. I was looking at the Carl Zeiss 24-70/f2.8 lens, but then got talking to a friend who's a canon user.

He raised some good points about Canon vs Sony, namely: - Availability - second hand gear, hire gear, borrow, etc - Repairs - if my camera breaks when i'm in the Amazon jungle, much better chance of finding somebody to repair a canon than a sony

I'm totally happy with my Sony A700, however if i'm going to be spending $2000 on some quality glass, i'm starting to think maybe i should spend some more and get Canon quality glass (along with a canon body of course). I could sell my Sony + lenses and recoup perhaps 1/3 of the cost of the new kit, a little less than the extra i'll be paying for a new body, so really what i'll be losing out of it is the extra sony lenses i have, but gaining a kickass new body, a killer lens, and a new more widely supported system.

If i do this, i'm thinking the 5D (either second hand, or a new Mark II).

My question is, for all your experienced photographers/ enthusiasts out there, what would you do if you were in my shoes?

Its a tough choice, as was my original choice to go with sony (which I am now slightly regretting).

Cheers, Greg

UPDATE: Thanks for an excellent discussion everybody, i'm glad i stumbled across this site the other day. All things considered, i'm leaning towards cutting my losses and switching to Canon before i have even more invested.

I figure if i can sell my sony kit (which i've spent about 2.3k on) for about 1k, then for a 5d mk II with 24-105 lens i'll be out of pocket another 2.4k. That gives me an amazing body, video capabilities, a great versatile pro lens, and the advantages that canon has over sony.

on the other hand, if i stick with sony, i'm looking at spending about 1.7k on their 24-70 carl zeiss lens. that's a saving of around $700, but i'll still be on a partial frame camera, and still have the pitfalls of a smaller user base and less gear availability. I think now is a good time for me to switch... it feels like the right thing to do.

Thanks everybody for your advice... i'm very surprised to have seen such level-headed arguments about brands... amazed in fact. Nobody bashed another brand, at all, which is really refreshing.. i can see the value of sony and carl zeiss (reading reviews it seems there 24-70 is best in class lens, as are their new primes), however they just dont have the market penetration i'm craving.

I still have a little while before i part with my cash, so will be partaking in further discussion here if there is more, but if not i'm happy with what i got from it. you're all fantastic.

Cheers Greg

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When it comes to sensors, Canon has recently made some massive headway in that arena, with its new 120 megapixel APS-H sensor. Thats kind of hard to beat. Might be something to think about regarding future upgrade path, in addition to John Cavan's answer. –  jrista Sep 22 '10 at 4:23
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While there're good pro-Canon arguments, this is not one of them ;) –  Karel Sep 22 '10 at 6:37
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Yes future upgrade is definitely a big one. I really through Sony would push ahead this past year with more lenses, more cameras, but they seem to be focusing more on semi-compacts (their nexus range) to the detriment of their slr range. this is unfortunate, and leading me to considering switching camps before i have too much invested. tough choice, i know. –  Gregorius Sep 22 '10 at 6:44
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I'm surprised nobody's mentioned a good reason to switch; namely you can borrow all of your friend's gear that suggested the idea to you :) –  Rowland Shaw Sep 22 '10 at 12:07
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Funny, I'm thinking of switching from Canon to Sony! The NEX-7 body with Voigtlander, Leica, or Zeiss glass. Love my L glass, hate missing shots because the gear bag is home... –  Paul Cezanne Dec 7 '11 at 17:36

6 Answers 6

up vote 32 down vote accepted

I don't have specific Sony experience, but I'd suggest getting over the doubts. There's a number of reasons for this:

  1. Sony bought Minolta, a camera company, and thus bought into the Minolta legacy and their glass. In other words, your friend isn't correct, there is a lot of Minolta gear on the open market and much, if not all, will work on a Sony.

  2. When it comes to second hand, legacy, gear the only company that will better Sony in support (and that may be debatable) is Pentax. Like Pentax, Sony has shake reduction on the body and that means old glass will benefit and there is some truly great optics out there for peanuts.

  3. Sony is a massive corporation, you can get gear repaired by them, they're everywhere. Bear in mind that a dSLR is an electronic device and Sony is the king of electronics. Frankly I'd expect it to be easier to repair Sony, they have their own stores after all, the only camera maker that does. Besides, a close friend with a 7D got to spend more than 3 weeks with film when his 7D was in for repair with Canon, not exactly speed service there, so I wouldn't assume that you gain anything from Canon on this front.

  4. Zeiss glass will equal or exceed lenses made by Canon. We're talking one of the best lens makers on the planet with Zeiss.

  5. Sony makes more than 50% of the worlds sensors, including sensors for Nikon, Pentax, and others. Simply put, if you aren't shooting Canon, you're very likely shooting a Sony sensor. Does it mean anything? Well, cameras making the most buzz about things like high ISO with low noise carry a Sony sensor.

  6. Like Canon, Sony has full frame options and they're very well priced and well reviewed.

Now, after all that, Canon makes an excellent camera beyond question. They have great lenses, strong support, and their image IQ doesn't give into others. So, if you do cave in and go Canon, I'm sure that you'll be happy with them. However, I think you'll also find that you really didn't gain anything over Sony with a comparable camera.

That's my take, in any case, and I'll be curious to see what others think. For myself, I can't believe I just defended Sony!

By the way, the question is subjective and that may get it shot down but I didn't vote for that because I think it's worthwhile to have people ask some of these questions. There's a weird brand loyalty in the camera world that goes a little beyond the rational sometimes and so it's worthwhile for us to have some discussions that maybe challenges those beliefs a little bit. After all, it's a photographic tool, not a life partner... :)

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This is what you call a turnaround. Possibly argumentative question, saved and turned into something useful. Kudos –  BBischof Sep 22 '10 at 3:37
    
Excellent answer. Double what BBischof said. Interesting fact about Sony sensors, never knew that myself. Kind of makes the question of Sony vs. Canon all the more important if they really do service 50% of the worlds sensors. –  jrista Sep 22 '10 at 4:21
    
Thanks John that was an excellent answer. I know my question was subjective - that was the purpose - to get some discussion like this flowing, and its served its purpose well. WRT the sensors, i know sony make excellent sensors. Their cameras are fantastic and i'm totally happy with my A700. Repair options are probably good too, my doubts are more around available equipment. If i break a lens in central america somewhere, and need another one to use - i think my chances of finding a canon would be far greater than a sony/minolta. Carl-Zeiss are amazing lenses tho, that much is true. –  Gregorius Sep 22 '10 at 6:40
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@Gregorius: how much time do you honestly spend in the jungle (or the Sahara, Antarctica, etc?) If you're honestly spending a lot of time in places like that, your only real option (regardless of brand) is to carry spares. –  Jerry Coffin Sep 22 '10 at 8:32
    
@Jeffry... I do alot of travel. I will be travelling around Central and South America for 2 years plus starting next year.. .while it wont be as remote as a jungle all of the time, there will be long periods of time when i'll be in areas without a capital city. In situations like these, i'd look for second hand stores that could sell gear that might help me get by... or even try to buy something off another traveller to tie my over until the next big city... i think my chances of scoring canon gear are much greater than sony/minolta gear. –  Gregorius Sep 24 '10 at 11:38

I have specfic experience in this as I switched from Sony to Nikon earlier this year,

Now first I must mention tht I chose Nikon as they use the Sony manufactured sensors in their cameras.

I had an a700 and a450, both with grips, etc. The main reason I switched is beacuse there was no 400mm f2.8 lens on the market. Otherwise I think the Sony cameras are perfectly good and there was otherwise no need for a change.

However I have noticed that you have a 5D so you must have jumped ship like I , and I hope you are enjoying it.

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My answer to these questions (same fore Olympus) is even if you assume that Sony makes just as good equipment, Canon and Nikon have waaaay more options as far as both 1st party lenses, bodies and equipment AND third party lenses and equipment. Not to mention more resources everywhere and more mindshare.

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At least IMO, there are a few real reasons to favor Canon:

  1. If you need/will use really long lenses. Canon has the best selection here -- but unless you're really going to use a 1200mm f/5.6, the fact that it's listed in the catalog doesn't really make a huge difference.
  2. If you shoot a lot in low light. At ISO 1600 and above, Canon currently does substantially better than Sony -- but Nikon does better still.
  3. Lens-based stabilization. Canon and Nikon make some fairly persuasive arguments that stabilization built into the lens can be more effective than sensor-based stabilization -- perhaps enough so to give sharp results with a shutter speed that's a full stop slower (but see below for a counterpoint...)

At least IMO, most of the reasons he gave have little (if anything) to do with reality though. Almost all real repairs of digital cameras will be done at the factory. A local camera shop can send either brand in equally well (and will almost never be able to do more than that). Minolta lenses have been around for decades, so there are lots of used available. Old Minolta lenses actually work well with digital sensors; most film-era Canon lenses don't. Likewise, while they're (mostly) from different agencies, you can certainly rent Alpha-mount equipment if you're so inclined (e.g., Alpha Lens Rental). OTOH, this could be an issue if you might truly need a really obscure lens on a specific schedule, and the smaller number of Alpha rental agencies decreased your assurance of getting what you need, when you need it.

There are also reasons to favor Sony:

  1. Portrait lenses. Sony's 85/1.4 and 135/1.8 are the best lenses of those focal lengths available. The 85 is only a little better than Canon's or Nikon's but the 135 is in a class by itself -- faster and sharper than anybody else's.
  2. A long lenses mere mortals might actually get and use. Neither Canon nor Nikon has anything that really competes very well with the Sony 70-400G. The Canon 100-400L is a great lens -- but the Sony 70-400G is clearly sharper.
  3. Sensor-based stabilization. Having stabilization on all lenses is a big win. There are lots of arguments about whether lens-based stabilization has advantages, and theoretically it might -- but at best, you can only get it on a handful of lenses, all of them zooms, and mostly slower zooms at that. Even if we assume their claims are all correct, and lens-based stabilization is .5-1 stop more effective, an f/1.4 prime with stabilization comes out way ahead of an f/5.6 zoom with stabilization.

There are also some niche lenses that can be influential in either direction. For a couple of examples, Canon doesn't have anything to compete with the Sony 135/2.8[4.5] STF. Sony doesn't have anything to compete with the Canon tilt/shift lenses (well, you can get a Hartblei tilt/shift lens in Sony mount -- but a Canon T/S lens with body will cost less). None of these matters at all to most people, and if one of them did to you, you probably wouldn't ask the question to start with.

Edit: I'm putting this into the body of the message primarily because the links are getting broken in the comment. While it's true that the Carl Zeiss ZE 85/1.4 that's available for Canon/Nikon bodies has some problem with flare, the same does not seem to be true of the Sony version -- which is completely different design (not even the same number of elements). I haven't use the Canon 85/1.2L enough to say a lot about it from direct experience, but the reviews I've seen of it do not seem to indicate that it does as well as the Sony in this respect. Just for example: Lenstip.com has reviews of both the Sony and the Canon. Both their comments and sample photos clearly favor the Sony over the Canon in this respect. Photozone.de even directly points out the difference between the two Zeiss designs in this respect: "Unlike its cousin - the Zeiss ZF/ZE 85mm f/1.4 - it shows a very snappy contrast at f/1.4 ..." Their conclusion is simple: "Are you listening Canon and Nikon ? Welcome the new owner of the 85mm f/1.4 class - the Zeiss ZA Planar T* 85mm f/1.4."

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Interesting comment about the 135mm f/1.8 of Sony's-- how would it compare, do you think, to the Nikon 135mm f/2 DC lens? –  mmr Sep 22 '10 at 21:31
    
@mmr: the Sony/Zeiss seems to be sharper, but of course doesn't have the defocus control to do cool stuff with bokeh. Sony's idea of the "bokeh-master" lens is the 135/2.8[4.5] STF mentioned below. The latter is a much less versatile lens though... –  Jerry Coffin Sep 23 '10 at 13:42
    
I think it is very difficult to categorically state that one particular lens from one manufacturer is far better than anything else in its class. Canon has some superb 135mm portrait lenses, including a soft-focus lens that does a fantastic job naturally smoothing out skin without giving it that hideous look you get when its smoothed out with Photoshop. Even though it is not f/1.8 (which would have an extremely thin DOF), it is still an excellent lens. –  jrista Oct 19 '10 at 16:13
    
You state that the Sony 85/1.4 is the best of its focal length available. I've red several reviews of the Zeiss 85/1.4, which I believe is the same thing as the Sony. It is a superb lens, however in comparisons with Canon's 85/1.2, I found the Canon to be superior in several ways. One of the things that annoyed me about the Zeiss 85/1.4 was its focus plane shift as you stopped down...terribly annoying problem. It also appeared that flare was FAR better controlled with the Canon 85...it looked pretty bad in reviews of the Zeiss 85. Categorically, there are pros and cons for both brands. –  jrista Oct 19 '10 at 16:16

So I decided to switch to Canon. I got a 5D mark II with 24-105/f4 lens. And all i can say is "WOW"... its totally awesome!

Granted the comparison is not really fair (partial frame Sony with prosumer lens vs full frame canon with pro lens)... but already i'm happy i've made the switch.

Now to sell the old Sony kit.. hopefully i can get half my money back.

Thanks again for the fantastic (and completely unbiased) advice everybody. Looking forward to the next interesting discussion on here. :)

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At least you didn't go Nikon... runs and hides :-P –  Nick Bedford Oct 20 '10 at 4:58
    
hahaha... stirr it up a bit Nick ;) –  Gregorius Oct 26 '10 at 3:02

If you want to rent gear a lot of the time you may well be much better off with a Nikon or Canon system. I don't know what it's like where you are but the two rental places I use in the UK stock a wide range or Canon and Nikon lenses, bodies and other accessories and no Sony equipment. This isn't a criticism of Sony, it's just that C&N are far more established in certain segments of the professional market and if you're a rental company you can't accomdate everybody.

Depending on your type of shooting this can be a cheap way to switch. e.g. if you do a couple of big shoots a year it's much cheaper to rent top of the line glass for a few days than to buy. Get one body and learn how to use it then rent the lens based on the assignment.

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yeah matt, that's definitely true where i am (Australia) too.. in fact i know of many places that rent nikon and canon gear, but none that rent sony gear. –  Gregorius Sep 24 '10 at 11:40

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