For the last two weeks I've been eating my words regarding mirrorless cameras. Until very recently, I was one of those "Nothing less than a full frame DSLR will do," and "An electronic viewfinder will never match the immediacy and clarity of an optical viewfinder," and my favorite "I like the heft of a full frame DSLR with the battery grip" camera guys.
And in my experience these things were all true. I hadn't felt the need to downsize from my full frame Nikon and I needed the image quality and low light ability that it delivered for shooting performances and events. Mirrorless or smaller sensor cameras always seemed like a compromise.
Since I needed video capabilty lacking in my Nikon D700, I spent months vacillating between the Nikon D800 or D610. I didn't feel the need to upgrade the D700 outside of its lack of video. The big, fat pixels on the 12 megapixel D700 sensor are a perfect sweet spot for low light event work and flattering for portraits.
I didn't need the 36MP of the D800 - if I want the megapixels for cityscapes I choose my Hasselblad or 8x10 camera. When testing the D610 it just didn't feel right in my hands - the control layout seemed like a significant step backwards from my D700. After much thought and research, I couldn't convince myself to trade in my D700 for either one.
Over the last few years I've watched so many new "have to have" cameras released, but after carefully considering my needs, I've always chosen to stay with my lowly D700. Until now. I require video capability, but I don't need the extra megapixels of the Nikon D800 or want the layout of the Nikon D610. And I didn't want to switch to a new system - Canon has great video, but I don't like their button layouts. Honestly, I felt stuck.
A couple of weeks ago, while I was at Adorama waiting for Simon to finish with a customer, I started playing with the mirrorless cameras on display in front of me. The Panasonics were like mini DSLRs with impressive video capabilites, but I wasn't interested in the m4/3 sized sensor. The Olympus cameras (also m4/3 sensor) just looked fake and plastic to me - full disclosure, I own and still use an original Olympus OM-1. The Fuji cameras were stylish and felt okay in my hands, but they have mediocre to horrible video AND I live in Brooklyn where Fuji retro-styled cameras are worn like jewelry. None of these options would work, let alone replace my D700.
Enter the Sony mirrorless cameras. The only two things I knew about Sony was that they make excellent sensors for other camera manufacturers (including Nikon) and they have a very solid reputation for video. The full frame Sony A7 felt fantastic and the stats seemed impressive, but I couldn't imagine replacing my DSLR with a new system, especially a mirrorless one.
Sony had a few other models, but the one that I kept going back to was the Sony a6000. It had a 24MP APS-C sensor that topped the Fujis and the m4/3 sensors of the Panasonic and Olympus cameras. In fact, it had twice the megapixels of my Nikon and it was only $600. I went back and forth between a few mirrorless options while waiting, but the a6000 always felt the best in my hands. Its specs were perfect and I could theoretically keep the D700 that I love and have a totally different camera for my occasional video work. The two cameras could work in tandem.
I didn't make a decision that day. I went home and spent the next week researching online. Purchasing the a6000 seemed like a no brainer. If I didn't like this new-to-me mirrorless thing after using for a week or so I could return it, sell it, or trade it in.
So two weeks ago, I purchased the a6000 to augment my D700. The Sony has been a game changer. I can't remember enjoying a camera this much since falling in love with my Hasselblad years ago.
Here are a handful of pics from my first week with the camera. I'll update next week with my thoughts and experience using the a6000.