My Next Camera?

Sony A7r I was never into technology as a child. I played with action figures, I played outside, I rode a bike. I climbed trees.

But something changed when I picked up my father's old camera for the first time (over twenty years ago now... gosh, I'm old...).

When I was in high school and college, computers didn't interest me. Not one bit. Sure, I played a brilliant game of Oregon Trail in grade school, and abused a few Gateway PCs as I hammered out last minute (or late) reports and papers in high school. Like a lot of school, I didn't appreciate it because I didn't yet understand their possible application.

Around 2000, I did a year long paid internship for a prominent local portrait photographer. I had just started shooting a few years earlier, and was learning Photoshop. We were 'bleeding edge', using version 6. No... not CS6, 8 versions preceding CS 6.

My first SLR (notice, no 'D' in that acronym) was a Minolta 600si. Following that, I made a huge leap to the Canon EOS 3. The EOS 3 had a brilliant eye focus system. There were sensors in the viewfinder that could detect (after calibration sequences) where your eye was looking in the frame, and the camera would automatically select the nearest focus point. It was extraordinary, and (for me, at least) worked 99% of the time. It was fast, accurate, and really cool. I truly wish someone would bring that tech back into today's photography gear. It is so much better than manually selecting a focus point using a mini-joystick on the back of a camera body.

After using the EOS 3, I was hooked on Canon. I invested heavily in Canon glass, and bought into the Canon system. The problem is, as far as I'm concerned - the eye control focus system of the EOS 3 was one of the last thing they truly innovated with. It was used on just two systems (I believe), the EOS 3, and the Canon Elan 7E. But I stood by my trusty Canon cameras. Even after I bought my first digital SLR, a 10D. It had a horrible issue with back-focusing. As did my 20D, along with a nasty case of the vertical banding of noise. My 40D worked better, but it too suffered from vertical banding. LiveView was a true revelation (and yes, a good innovation).

A few years ago, right before I bought my 5D mark 2, I considered 'switching to the dark side'. Cue ominous music. Nikon had just announced the D700, and I was chomping at the bit to upgrade from my current Canon 50D. Canon was doing everything they possibly could to not unveil the 5D mark 2, or so it seemed. But I stuck by it, because I didn't want to face the challenge of selling my existing Canon kit (at a huge loss, most likely), and buy into a new Nikon-based system. Then they (the aforementioned 'dark side') brought out the incredible 14-24 f2.8 wide angle. And the D800e... and my Canon 5D mark 2 started looking more and more like a relic of a bye-gone era. It was still producing phenomenally detailed images, but I craved more resolution.

Then, last year - during the fall, one of my clients (on a private tour) was using the new Olympus OMD.

OMD - as in, "Oh My David! That is a small camera!"

A small camera with a lot of power, and innovation! It had a great digital viewfinder (I know some 'purists' frown on this tech, but I really like the idea of being able to see my exposure live - in the viewfinder), awesome in-body image stabilization (meaning, every lens you attach becomes stabilized immediately), and a couple of other cool features. Like a LiveView bulb mode that actually shows your photograph 'developing' over time, so you can end your exposure when it is just right. Brilliant. Olympus. Innovating.

Canon? Stagnating.

Nikon. Up-resolution-ating? Yes, they crammed 36 megapixels into a DSLR body (brilliant megapixels, don't get me wrong), but that was it. They were evolving.

Enter Sony's newest digital camera system - the A7. More specifically, the A7r. The 'A' stands for their 'Alpha' line of professional cameras, the 7 stands for... well, I honestly don't know, but the 'r' stands for 'Resolution'. As in 36 megapixels. Yep, a similar sensor to the one in the D800e - though not identical, as it is supposedly built from the ground up. Here's the kicker though, the A7r is less than 1/2 the weight of the D800e. If it's (the A7r) predecessors are any indication, it will have an awesome OLED live viewfinder. It is missing the in-body image stabilization of the OMD. That does suck, but since I'll likely be using it almost solely for landscapes (read: shoot from a tripod!), my images are already 'stabilized'. It is also a few hundred dollars less than the D800e.

I love to print my images large. 30x45 inches for standard format images look great, but I have to 'stitch' 3 vertical images together to accomplish it, in most cases. I also shoot a lot of panoramic photographs, and love to print them large as well. 24x72 inch panos are commonplace - but I'd love to do some 40x120 inch mega prints. I can do it with my current gear, but I would love more resolution.

I'm also tired of schlepping (I believe that is yiddish?) my fairly heavy Canon kit with me, every where I go. Including long hikes into the Alaskan mountains. I (and my back) need a lighter kit.

I think the new Sony A7r is going to fit the bill just fine. The design is a bit avant-garde, but I'm really digging the styling. I'm not one to jump ship quickly (as you can tell by this blog post), so I'm going to wait for some 'real world' reviews to come out, and to rent a Sony system (when they become available) from my friends over at Borrow Lenses, before I invest fully in a new system.

Now, Canon - you might still be able to catch me before I run off with a new fling, but you've got limited time to start to truly innovate.

The times, they are a changing. And I can't wait to be changing with them.