Camera test – Canon 1dx Mkii and Sony A7rii

Not the most obvious comparison, but I had the opportunity (thanks to Sony for the A7rii) to play with both on a couple shoots and tests last month.  FWIW, I thought I’d share my un-biased-ish thoughts.  I shot both alongside my Canon 5d3’s for comparison.

 
Canon 1dx mk2
Holy crap this thing can shoot fast.  It makes you jump the first time you release the trigger on continuous.  I’ve been shooting a mixture of portraiture and action and I’ve been wanting something that can pull focus better, faster, more consistently than my 5d3’s.  This can do it.  Shooting a runner on a track running straight at me full speed on the straightaway, I missed 1 frame out of 20.  I’ve also been looking for something that will miss focus less often when the background is blown out.  My 5d3’s back-focus in this situation most of the time (sharp ears at f4).  The 1dx mk2 was better, not perfect, but better.  File size – a few hundred pixels smaller than the 5d3 files, but not enough to be concerned about.  I tested ISO up to 1600 and noticed it looking a little better than the 5d3s.  This camera is supposed to have better shadow detail as you get up there because of it’s low light greatness.  Personally I never get up over 2500.
 
Will I buy it?  Yes.  I’m going to wait a few weeks until the next job I have calls for fast action, but the consistency of this is well worth it.  I’ll normally have a running model run a stretch of trail 20 times, but with this camera, I feel I have the shot after 5 or 6 passes.  You are definitely shooting more frames per second, and so I thought the edit would be a nightmare, but because I didn’t have to shoot as many passes, I had a similar number of frames to review as normal.  Price $6K.  I’m planning to unload my Canon 5dsr which was never a smart purchase on my end.  Nice large files, but I’m not convinced they are any better than a 5d3 file up-res’d.  Every time I use the 5dsr it feels like I’ve hit the max on the ability of the lenses to remain sharp.  Or, perhaps it’s the 50 megapixels showing the slightest bit of lens movement during the exposure.  This and the fact that it’s slower to focus and operate makes it really not worth it’s space in my case.  If I shot landscapes, or architecture, maybe, but even the ads I did with it could probably have been better shot of the 1dx2.  Now, a 35 mega pixel 1dx2 would be the perfect thing.
 
Canon 1dxmkii

Canon 1dxmkii

 
Sony A7r2
Granted using this camera as a sports camera was pushing it outside it’s comfort zone.  My first impression was that the lenses were sharp.  I thought it focused well, but it’s not going to work for action.  Great files and lots of resolution.  I could see this working well in a static portrait, architecture or landscape setting.  It has the same tendency as the 5d3s to back-focus when the background is hot.  But, when it nails it, you have a better file with great resolution than the Canons – event he 5dsr in my opinion.  However, you have to get past one Major problem – it does not shoot like a professional camera like you’re used to.  It feels like you are using a point and shoot.  When you want to change the ISO on the fly, you need to hit a button on the back and use the menu screens – same with f-stops.  Yes, there are wheels you can rotate, but the screen-based-non-real-viewfinder-situation of the whole camera would take me a lot of getting used to.  I think you would have to switch completely and adapt to the new system.  I’m sure you could do this, and learn to milk what has the guts of a great camera.  But, I cannot get past the ergonomics.
 
Things that bugged me:
  • It displays the image you just shot in the viewfinder – not just the screen in the back but up in your eye.  I’m done with that shot, I want to see my subject not what I just shot.  I’m sure you can turn this off, but again – back to non-intuitive menus to do so.
  • Changing ISO while shooting – I do this a lot, and people were standing around while I struggled to remember how.
  • Quick change of f-stop – again, it just feels like it’s not where it should be.
  • Batteries – don’t expect to go out for a day of shooting.  You’ll get about an hour of heavy use before needing to switch.
  • Little SD cards – yes, they are small and I can stick them in the side of my laptop, but they just don’t feel fast.
  • Burst speed – you need to sit and wait for the camera to catch up with you.
  • Follow focus – not it’s strong suit.
 
Things that are crazy amazing:
  • If you want it will make no noise whatsoever.  You could put this next to a sleeping baby’s ear and it wouldn’t wake up – even a cranky-holy-crap-would-you-just-stay-asleep kind of sleeping baby.
  • Lenses – sharp, they get it right and look great.
  • The 70-200 f4 is great at f4 – like using a Canon 70-200 f2.8 and shooting at f4 cause you know if you shoot wide open you’ll miss focus.
  • Files – Nice, though Lightroom would take some tweaking to get a good color starting point.
  • It’s compact, light and small.
 
Will I buy it?  No, not for what I shoot.  I could see renting it for a very specific purpose.  If I was shooting on a set and needed to be quiet – hands down, yes.  If I was shooting landscapes and needed great files but didn’t have a medium format budget, yes.  Carrying this in a pack where weight is a concern – maybe a good choice, but you need to remember the battery won’t last long.
Sony a7rii

Sony a7rii

 
 
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