Eric L. Woods

Reconsidering recent camera releases: The case (maybe) for the Z5.

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Preface:

Camera, brand, etc mean little. Choose one new or old and enjoy. Near any digital camera I have owned would suit most of my needs.

I am happy with my current gear and this post is a hypothetical exercise. What would I choose between if I were building a system from scratch this day?

And here we go.

There has been a lot of talk about the Canon EOS R5, EOS R6, and Sony A7SIII while the Nikon Z5 hardly caused a blip comparatively. I understand. New cameras are exciting. The flashier the features the better and the Z5 seems mild in comparison. The last round of Youtube and Blog chatter seems louder than ever over the first three. Perhaps more people are looking for a distraction than usual. I wonder why. No, I don’t.

If I were building a system from scratch today the two most talked about cameras, the EOS R5 and A7SIII, would not be on my list. Both are very impressive video-centric wonders, albeit for different reasons. The EOS R5 is a high MP 8K (will leave others to debate overheating) beast but, as I have stated in earlier posts, I find the 24MP neighborhood my sweet spot and I do not need 8k.

The A7SIII is an impressive low light wonder capable of creating great 4K video and more than acceptable stills with 12MP.

Having made do with as few as 6MP, with a much older Minolta Maxxum 7D a while back,…

Minolta Maxxum 7 vs 7D
Minolta Maxxum 7D
Minolta Maxxum 7D
Minolta Maxxum 7D

…12MP does not rattle me much. But if I were offered the choice between other worldly low light 4K video and 24MP stills I would choose the A7III’s 24MP. While very reasonably priced considering their video credentials we now hit upon a key issue for me. Price. Both the EOS R5 and A7SIII cost well more than $3,000. Far more than I need to spend. Nothing wrong with them at all. I am just not their target customer. For as much as I shoot video I would rather get a dedicated stills camera and pick up a Sony ZV-1 for video on the side instead.

Of the new releases listed above the humbler offerings interest me more. I have said that all Canon and Nikon had to do the first time around was to create their own versions of what I still believe is the best feature to price camera on the market today. The Sony A7III. The first wave of mirrorless Canon bodies were good and I even tried and liked the EOS RP, but a lack of IBIS and only one card slots eventually did it in. I did not seriously consider Nikon, even with IBIS, since the first models also lacked two card slots and were not priced competitively enough for me to take them seriously at the time. But the EOS R6 and Nikon Z5 addressed all of these considerations.

Link to B&H comparison at above image or this link.

What am I on about? Here is my base use case ask list:

  • Phase detect AF. (Come on Panasonic. Get in there. I’m pulling for you.)
  • IBIS.
  • 2 memory card slots.
  • 24MP.
  • 4K capable.
  • 5fps or above.
  • Adapting older glass.
  • Reasonable price. (Will not argue the merits of Leica. I get it. Just not for me.)

So all three are doing fine so far. But for me the Canon EOS R6 drops in rankings as I look to a few more of my preferences.

  • Sharing a mount with a crop model to expand the flexibility of the lenses purchased.
    • Sony has the a6000 models (more on this below) and Nikon has the Z50 while Canon has two distinct full-frame and APS-C mounts currently.
  • Great price to performance ratio.
    • The Canon definitely offers a more expansive feature set but I would lean towards the lower priced good enough for me Sony and Nikon cameras.

So Sony and Nikon.

Clean slate, starting a system from scratch comparison.

Sony A7III pluses:

  • 693 vs 273 focus points. But truth be told 273 would be just fine.
  • 10.0fps vs 4.5fps. Better, but not a deal breaker.
  • Feels weird to say since Sony caught flack for so long, but better battery life with 610 shots vs 470 shots. But another non-deal breaker.
  • It is lighter at 650g vs 675g… But not a big deal.
  • It has NFC where the Nikon does not. I almost never use NFC however.
  • Another one that feels odd to say. Greater native Sony lens and much greater third party lens selection. Also a healthy used and 3rd party lens market since the system has been around for a while now. Perhaps Tamron will come to Nikon’s rescue with their their three f/2.8 lens trio in Z mount. Perhaps the Rokinon/Samyang lens trio will be made in Z mount also. While we are at it why not crop Z mount versions of the wonderful Sigma f/1.4 prime trio also? That trio of trios has truly sold me on Sony. If they were available for other brands it would level the playing field a bit.
  • Less expensive older models still on the market like the A7II.
  • As a bonus round AF adapters like the TECHART LM-EA7 which allows AF with near any M Mount or SLR lenses.

Nikon Z5 pluses:

  • It is new. That is a thing. New gear is fun. While I am content I will admit that I miss trying out new gear. Contentment saves a buck but can be booooring.
  • Ability to adapt a huge selection of Nikon DSLR glass. This nearly offsets the lack of Z glass on the market. I say nearly since I would want native glass eventually.
  • Ergonomics. While I have made my peace with Sony’s ergonomics without ever holding a Z5 I already know the Nikon will be better.
  • Menus. I am truly hoping Sony releases the A7SIII’s improved menus in firmware to the A7III. That may close the gap, but much like ergonomics Nikon does it better.
  • Personal. I legitimately like Nikon. My second interchangeable lens camera was the Nikon D3300. I so wanted to upgrade to Nikon DSLR full-frame, but their convoluted model feature structure seemed to arbitrarily demand you pay a premium or sacrifice pretty basic features. The two models I bounced between were the D750 and D810. Want an articulating screen? D750. Want built in Wireless connectivity and smartphone remote control? D750. Want 1/8000s shutter speed? D810. That last one really put me off. The dinky NX300 I had at the time (And still have. Why did you do us so wrong Samsung?) bested both my D3300 and the D750’s 1/4000s with 1/6000s. When the A7II came out later that same year with nearly every feature I wanted including 1/8000s shutter speed (1 card slot was the only real demerit) for $600 less ($2,299 vs. $1,700 if memory and Google serves) that was a wrap. Nikon had me right there as a customer three lenses in, but that was a bit much to ignore.
Really liking this new lens. Tamron 28-75mm f2.8
Duke Gardens
Shots from the day.
Some shots...
Recent shots..
Recent shots...
  • Price. A $600 lower price is nothing to sneeze at and would play heavily in my decision. It is like an A7II and A7III mash up with better menus and ergonomics with a price placed between the two as well. Impressive for a brand new release. I must admit that the Z6 is also looking good based on price alone and would be a legitimate contender if I was Nikon inclined. The main question for me would be whether or not the Z6’s full frame 4K would be worth losing a card slot and $400. But this makes me even more inclined to believe that they are likely to drop the price of the Z5 sooner rather than later. <ahem>… and the A7II for $500 less body only or $400 less with a kit lens I actually like would still be attractive also. The A7II price drop is what eventually did the EOS RP in when I wanted a back up to the A7III for a wedding shoot.
Kauffmann Wedding - The Reception
A7II as 2nd camera on wedding shoot low light
Kauffmann Wedding - The Reception
A7II as 2nd camera on wedding shoot low light
Kauffmann Wedding Shoot - The Wedding
A7II as 2nd camera on wedding shoot low light
Kauffmann Wedding Shoot - The Wedding
A7II as 2nd camera on wedding shoot heavy crop
Kauffmann Wedding Shoot - The Wedding
A7II as 2nd camera on wedding shoot heavy crop
Kauffmann Wedding Shoot - The Wedding
A7II as 2nd camera on wedding shoot

This from a six year old camera (full gallery). Good times.

So how do I resist the Z5’s new camera siren song? Easy actually.

  • As mentioned I am perfectly happy with Sony. Any change would be a gamble. Have toyed with others brands before more than once only to come back to a full Sony house. No. Not again.
  • The main Nikon shortcomings are a function of time rather than feature set. Lens selection and good lens value takes time out on the market for gear to depreciate and hit the used market. The Sony system got a many years mirrorless head start on Nikon and Canon. No amount of camera body price cuts can fix this. It is like choosing a gaming system based on console price and specs but you are left with fewer, and considerably more expensive games. I lean towards f/2.8 zoom lenses and f/1.8 or faster primes and Nikon is priced out of my league right now. You could sell your whole camera bag set up, regardless of brand, and you would likely only be able to score one Z5 body and a couple of lenses at most. Not even one lens if you are swinging for the f/2.8 zoom fences. And starting from scratch would mean an even steeper climb into the system. Additionally the market is so full of capable gear right now you would likely be scoring a lateral move at best performance wise.
  • I keep beating this drum, but Sony has the leg up on timing. Going back in time if they had released this A7III near feature clone (Cropped 4K, no backlit sensor, and no 10fps are not deal breakers but do it no favors in comparison.) at a reasonable price alongside the Z6 and Z7 things might look different right now. I definitely would have purchased this before the EOS RP I tried out as it would have barely cost any more at that time. The Z5 has all of the EOS RP’s perks, ergonomics and handling. and does not have the weakness that caused me to trade it for the A7II eventually, lack of IBIS. While it also lacked lens choice depth the two card slots and IBIS may have kept the Z5 in contention… two years ago. That would have made it a price mark down king by now two years on.
  • Hearing that Sony is about to release a budget full frame camera I would also be hesitant to buy anything else until I see the price and full specs. If Sony manages to create a better camera than the A7II for the same or less money as the A7II that would crush all comers for me. I am here all day for the rumored full frame a6000 like body with offset viewfinder.

So what will it take to break Sony’s hold on my money? It will take Canon (19 at the date of this post for RF) and Nikon (11 at the date of this post for Z) quite a bit of time to flesh out their full frame AF lens systems to match Sony’s current level (93 at the time of this post for FE) and until then Sony has the easy win for me.

While true that Canon and Nikon do play well with their DSLR lenses adapting glass is not the same even when the brands match. With the Canon EOS RP I used an older Canon 70-200mm f/2.8

Canon EOS RP
Random
Canon EOS RP

…and the Canon 50mm STM f/1.8.

Canon EOS RP
Canon EOS RP
Canon EOS RP

While both were good I preferred using the excellent RF 35mm f/1.8 Macro lens more.

Canon EOS RP
Canon EOS RP
Canon EOS RP
Canon EOS RP
Canon EOS RP

Had a lot to do with the RF 35mm Macro having Lens Stabilization since the EOS RP does not have IBIS. Over on Sony I also used the Sigma MC-11 Sony FE adapter for the same Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens and had a better experience than the Canon adapted on Canon EOS RP largely due to IBIS.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM
Night Light
Night Light
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM

I also used the Sony A mount LA-EA4 DSLR adapter on Sony FE.

Maxxum 20mm f/2.8
Minolta Maxxum 135mm f/2.8 / LA-EA4 / Sony A7Rii
SE Camera

Sony A mount adapted to Sony FE mount was actually a good experience, but that adapter loses a 1/3 of a stop of light due to it using the in adapter translucent mirror AF system instead of the camera’s more up to date AF system. Worked well but defeats the whole point of buying an FE Sony body. The newer focus system is largely the point. So I eventually abandoned both the Sigma MC-11 and Sony LA-EA4 adapters. I do still enjoy adapting old glass for fun, but for day to day real use native lenses won out and it would be the same for Nikon eventually.

For now.

Who knows what the future holds. My decision is largely based on the amount of system lens choices and affordable second camera and mount compatible camera choices, like the A7II and a6000 line for Sony. Using crop bodies with full frame tele glass is a nice way to get a bit of extra reach.

a6000/Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8 Di III VXD
Tamron 70-180mm f/2.8 Di III VXD
a6000/Tamron 70-180mm
a6000/Sony FE 70-200mm f/2.8
a6100
Low light shot from balcony with a6100/Rokinon-Samyang 85mm f/1.4

Fast forward and perhaps Nikon (if they add 3rd party lens support options), Canon (if they add an RF crop body and more 3rd party lens support options), or even Panasonic (if they see fit to go with phase detect AF, add affordable crop L mount bodies in addition to Leica’s offerings, and they gain more 3rd party lens support) will be attractive enough systems to change over. I am ultimately brand agnostic. I have owned and really enjoyed cameras from each brand mentioned and more. Change is never out of the question if a compelling argument to do so is made.

The good news is that consumers are really spoiled for choice right now and that is a win for everyone. And I will take as many wins or at least distractions as I can take between doses of reality.

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