Bob Nuttmann

Why I Switched From 2 Nikon DSLRs to a Sony Full Frame A7iii and then Back To a Nikon Z 50 & Z 7 a Year Later.

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The top photo was shot with the Z 7 and 24-70 f4 ZS lens.  It was shot raw and very slightly edited in Lightroom.

Before 2012 I used smallish digital cameras for work and a few personal photos.  I started with a Sony Mavica about 1999.  After that I bought a Sony DSC compact that was about $400 and this one had regular file cards.  It could take both photos and video.  I took thousands of work photos and a number of short video clips.  Starting about 2003 I added many hundreds of those photos and some video clips into a web site I wrote.  About 2006 I got a newer Sony compact because my kids dropped the old one and it stopped working.  I took tens of thousands of work photos and hundreds of video clips with that camera.  I think it was a DSC W100.  About 2006 I started using the Sony for personal photos and some video plus phones.  And used my two old 35mm film bodies to shoot many dozens of rolls of film.  At that time you could send your completed roll of film off to somebody like Seattle film lab and they would develop, make a set of prints, scan and add files to a CD, and send you a new roll of 36 ex film for about ten bucks.  And this includes postage both ways.

The first phone that was somewhat serious about getting better photos was my Motorola Droid Razr from about 2010.  It was 8 mega pixels and the files did not suck completely from it.  About this time I started looking around to find a better digital camera to replace the Sony, phones, and film SLRs.  After a lot of research I bought a Nikon D3200 about 2012 with an 18-55, 55-200, and 35 f1.8.  I shot thousands of photos with this camera and about 3 videos.  The most influential voice that got me to buy this camera was Ken Rockwell from kenrockwell.com.  I read his blog for hours.  Then in 2015 I upgraded to the Nikon D5500 which got very high ratings from Ken and nearly every reviewer who’s blog or video I watched.  I loved that camera.  The big added feature compared to the D3200 was a well functioning touch screen.  I shot many thousands of photos and maybe 25 videos until I sold it in October 2018.  That camera worked perfectly from the day I bought it until the day I sold it.

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Shot with Nikon Z 50 and native 16-50mm lens.  Natural light no flash.  Jpeg only direct from camera.  

So in 2018 I just felt the urge to buy a full frame camera.  I had used film 35mm full frame most of my life for photos and this just seemed the way to go.  Nikons higher end DX crop sensor cameras weighed about 29 oz and the full frame D750 were about the same.  Nearly everyone praised and said good things about the Nikon D750.  However, it is worth adding that Ken Rockwell liked the D750 but said the photos looked about the same using the full frame D750 and crop sensor Nikon.  Nikon kept sending me offers for the D750 and lenses.  I finally bought one about April 2018.

The D750 was just as easy to use as the D5500 but with marked buttons that were easy to find without looking and very well written menus that were similar to the D5500’s.  Focus on the 750 was a lot faster than the 5500.  And the FX lenses gave better results than the DX lenses on both cameras.  I really liked the ability to use the lenses back and forth.  Right away though my carry kit for camera gear got a bigger.  And I still had the problem of mid day full sun photography getting the highlights not to blow out.

After watching too many videos I decided to get a mirrorless full frame camera because I wanted to shoot more video and I wanted to be able to see the histogram in the viewfinder to avoid blowing out the highlights when shooting in full sun mid day.  In October I drove down to my local camera shot to buy a Z 6 or Z 7.  They were out of them.  They had a Sony A7iii and at the last minute bought one of those with a 55mm f1.8 Zeiss and a LE-LA4 adapter for Minolta – Sony AF glass.  I had 5 or 6 AF Minoltas at the time I liked, and they worked quite well on the Sony except for flash.  TTL flash did not work on the adapted lenses.

The above video was shot with the Z 50 and 16-50mm native lens.  The file I inserted into this blog is 720p but I shot the actual original file in 4K at 24.  This video clip was shot with everything in auto.  My grand daughter was strongly backlit and the overall light in the room was medium.

As I have written and posted in this blog I got very good files from the Sony right away.  However, I did not adjust to the Sony grip, controls, balance, or menus well at all.  After many months I did remember which buttons I set up for different functions.  But I never understood a bunch of the functions of the camera stills and video settings.  The grip was always too small for me.  I did test the new larger grip for the A7rIV.  It is still too small for me.  The D850, Z7, Z 50 all fit better in my hand than the Sony A7iii or Sony A7rIV.  And it was obvious in one second of holding them.  I lined them up on a camera store counter before going back to Nikon.

Then there is balance.  The Sony body is light and small.  When I attached my smallest lens the 35mm f2.8 of 4.4oz to it the body was fine for me to hold.  But when you add the 24-105 f4 zoom the camera just is not balanced well for me.  This is not the case with the Nikon Z cameras.  The Sony just has more weight on the nose of the camera and lens.

The Sony A7iii did give me very good results.  Having EVF meant I could shoot photos in full sun mid day and set the camera up to not blow the highlights.  This was an improvement over both Nikon DSLRs.  The colors on the Sony A7iii were not as easy to work with as the Nikon DSLRs.  It seemed like the Sony would go to the blue side when around the ocean.  And I don’t just mean the water, but also things in vicinity of the ocean.  When Apple came out with their iPhone XS I got one.  I thought at the time that Apple’s color balance was better than Sony.  And then when Apple added smart HDR it seemed like many times the output of the Apple was about the same as the Sony.  And when I got the iPhone 11 Pro this was even more the case.

I wanted to trade back to my former gear and give back the Sony.  Of course that could not be done without a huge loss and my budget just would not allow it.  So I waited a year.  I went to a photography workshop in Yosemite in October of 2019 right when the Sony A7iii turned one year old.  At the workshop 11 of the 14 participants /students had Nikon.  About equal DSLR to Z series.  2 of us had Sony and 1 Fuji.

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These colors are striking on my high end computer monitor.  From the Z 7 and 24-70 f4.  Edited in Lightroom

About this time I decided to go look at the Sony A6400 crop sensor at Best Buy.  All Sony crop sensor cameras are left side viewfinders.  I am left eye dominant and left side viewfinders just don’t work well.  Your nose is in the middle of the back screen.  Plus the A6400 had almost no grip and no touch screen.  I picked one up and took a look at the same old Sony menus and just put the camera down.  I decided then and there that one year with Sony cameras was enough.

The Z 50 crop sensor Z camera came out.  I went and bought one the first day they hit my local camera store with the 2 native lenses.  It is a wonderful camera and the native lenses are great.  The tepid reviews this camera got on the big you tube Chanels are just wrong according to my preferences.  Within two days I went back to the same camera store and bought a Z 7 and the 24-70 f4 lens.  A few days later I got the ZS 50mm f1.8.  Within a week of getting it I used the Z 50 at Thanksgiving.  The camera worked so well in both stills and video with it’s native 16-50mm kit lens I could not believe it.  The comments I have seen by so called reviews are incorrect.  The Z 50 takes great video and stills with natural light.  The auto focus is super.  The Z 50 does have good easy to use and quick eye and face auto focus on stills and video.  Even the A7iii full frame did not have eye auto focus on video a few weeks ago when I sold it.

The Z 50 is light, easy to handle, quick to set up, and fully functioned.  It has now replaced my Nikon D5500 as my favorite digital camera of all time.  And by the way the tiny short kit lens works well, focuses close, and is a very good travel or every day carry around lens.  Is it as good as my 50mm f1.8 ZS, no.  But the ZS cost a lot more and is much bigger.  The Z 50 50-250 is another winner.  I get very sharp stable shots at it’s full range.

The Z 7 is quite similar to the Z 50 but with a bunch more mega pixels.  I currently have the 24-70 f4 and the 50mm f1.8.  Both are not good but great lenses.  The 24-70 zoom is very well balanced on the Z 7 with most of it’s weight in the back so it does not lever on your hand like the Sony Z7iii and 24-105 f4 does.  Both of these lenses also work well on the Z 50.  The Z 7 has almost double the pixels of the A7iii so it is a little hard for me to compare some of the results.  The still shots I am getting look much better than ones from the Sony, but some of that is due to the additional pixels.

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Shot in relatively low light with Z 7 and 24-70 f4 hand held.  The red is just radiant and the details on this image extremely sharp.  

To me Nikon’s cameras are designed around ease of use and high quality.  To me Sony’s cameras are more designed around technical specifications.  Nikon just does not seem to forget that people are operating these boxes and not camera technical people.  I care about both, but have learned the hard way that if a camera is not easy to use you will not like it.

A big advantage of the Nikon Z 50 and Z 7 that I have is that they work hand and glove with Lightroom.  Lightroom knows the camera, lens, and what you have set the picture profile to on the camera body.   This means that if you shoot raw it is very quick to give results that are good without adjustment or close to the needed result.  The jpegs out of both of these cameras are excellent.  A significant improvement over the Sony A7iii.  Most of the Thanksgiving shots on the Z 50 were done as jpegs out of the camera.  The results were excellent.  Much better than what I got out of my iPhone 11 Pro.  Which brings up the point of iPhone vs Nikon.  The Z 50 is light, smallish, and very easy to handle.  It’s shape makes it much easier to get good stills and video than the iPhone.  With the Z 50 you can get down low to the floor and use the back screen tilted up to catch your grand daughter at a low angle.  Doing that on a smartphone would be very hard to impossible.  The Z 7 is more about getting detailed photos of people and landscapes where you want the results to be top grade.  Both the Z 50 and Z 7 are much the same in your hand and the controls and settings will all fall into place.

I can’t say that the transition from Nikon to Sony and back to Nikon has been easy on the budget, but there is not doubt in my mind that for me these Nikons are better cameras than my Sony was.  And unlike some people who have a big following on you tube I pay for my own cameras out of my own pocket and pay full price.

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