Flirtation with Sony and back to Nikon

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toucan Regular Member • Posts: 293
Flirtation with Sony and back to Nikon

Thought I would share my 12 month experience with the Sony A9 and 100-400 G Master lens before I gave up and returned to Nikon D500 and f5.6 500 lens.

I purchased the Sony rig because my Nikon gear was getting too heavy for me to lug around and at the time of making the drastic decision to switch, the new Nikon lightweight f5.6 500 lens was not available. So I read the reviews and took the plunge including some professional tuition.

What I liked

The electronic viewfinder.

WYSIWYG view when composing a shot.


Speed of the camera

The ease of using the menu/recall options via the electronic viewfinder once set up.

Responsiveness of the tracking system and its many options.

What I disliked

The relatively small size of the camera makes it fiddly to use. I am used to the AFon button focus technique and had to give up on that with the A9. It was simply too uncomfortable and my hands are not large. I know people say you get used to it but why have to get used to something that is not comfortable.  I can walk with a pebble inside my shoe but its not the preferred option.

30FPS sounds great but at the speed it consumes the memory card and the review time taken, I stopped using it and found the 10FPS option enough.

Noise was an issue and I feel the D500 does a better job of dealing with it.

The phase detection autofocus system does not appear to be quite there yet for some uses. My interest is birds. It hates lack of subject definition, horizontal lines (sometimes you have to rotate the camera into portrait position so the focus system can see the subject) This occurs with less definitive/smaller subjects, backlit subjects and on occasions, very brightly coloured subjects where there is some irredescence.

The focus system appears to be at its best when objects fill the screen, have good vertical definition and are bright and contrasty. (this could be any camera/lens but I am referring to consistency and reliability.)

My experience is that the focus system was unreliable with some shots sharp and others slightly off. Whilst the tracking nailed the subject most of the time (it changes from green flashing dots to a green square covering the subject when it has found focus) it was inconsistent and many times I have been disappointed when reviewing images to find them out of focus when the camera was telling me it was locked on.  This is more prevalent with objects that do not fill the screen e.g. smaller birds, flocks of birds.

I do not think it was helped by the 100-400 G Master Lens which I have had to use with a 1.4TC simply to get some extra distance for birds and this caused some loss of acuity and cropping shots had poor results.

I had initially thought I had a bad copy of camera/lens and sent them to the Sony repair agents for testing after experiencing the phase detection idiosyncrasies and then someone on a DP review forum put me on to Gary Friedman's explanation of why the focus system behaves as it does.

Landscapes, portraits, weddings etc I think the A9 would be great and also pelicans, turkeys, bears and any other wildlife that are large, otherwise I think it struggles.

So, three days ago, my long awaited Nikon f5.6 500 fresnel lens arrived, (ordered back in April) got connected to a D500 and already I am feeling more comfortable with consistent sharp photos and the extra reach.

Of course, I am not feeling better about the backward step away from the electronic wizardry of the Sony but the picture quality is obviously more important.

I am sharing this information simply to tell people of my experience. I am a mug amatuer and my decision cost me a lot of money.

I will let others decide what if anything they can take out of it and no doubt there will be critics. However one thing of which I am certain, it will take more development and a fair bit of convincing for me to make another foray into mirrorless - even Nikon mirrorless!

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 toucan's gear list:toucan's gear list
Sony a9 Sony 1.4x Teleconverter (2016) Sony FE 100-400mm F4.5-5.6
Nikon D500 Sony a9
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