If you were to ask me what improvements I would like to see in the gear I have, I would likely tell you that I want a native super-telephoto lens that is reasonably affordable and a little sharper at the long end than the Sigma and Tamron equivalents. To go with this lens I would like to have a bit more resolution but still with the ability to shoot at a burst rate that beats my Canon 5DS and my Sony A7RII. Really, I’m pretty happy with what I have but that would be the icing on the cake at least until I win the lottery. I would also say I’m pretty lucky to be able to afford to enjoy my hobby to a level that I have gear that I wouldn’t have thought was possible back 20 years ago. But technology moves ever forward, and the improvements that I have seen in capabilities of cameras for photography and more specifically for nature photography just in the last few years are pretty amazing.
So it looks like I can now get just what I’m asking for at a price that, although not cheap, is within the realm of an active hobbyist.
First to come out is the new Sony 200-600 f5.6 - 6.3. This is a pretty interesting lens. The relatively small aperture is a consequence of building a 600mm lens that can be both hand-held and affordable to people who could never justify more than $12,000 on a f/4 prime. The big surprise to me was the internal zoom, something I have seen in the very expensive canon 200-400 f4 with the internal teleconverter and the 120-300 f2.8 Sigma which I did own and used almost exclusively with a 2x teleconverter for a number of years. This is a feature I’m very fond of even if it makes the lens a little more challenging as carry on luggage.
I have not yet tried this lens since I’m not on anyones radar as someone who influences other photographers….at least not so far. If the reviews of this lens continue to be positive I will likely pick one up before my next trip out to Vancouver Island this fall. I will obviously do some comparisons to the 100-400 Sony and Canon lenses that I use regularly as well as my 500 F/4. We shall see if it becomes my go to hiking lens.
The latest announcement from Sony is the second part of the equation for what I picture as the best combination I can get for the money for nature photography (at least until the competition manages to catch up/or push past). If you are not aware of the latest news, this would be the Sony A7RIV. This looks to be a camera to match or beat the resolution of my 5DS but also have 10 frames per second and I’m hoping autofocus tracking as good as the Sony A7III.
This may not be the camera for everyone, but I currently love the resolution of my A7RII and would like it to have the autofocus capabilities of my A7III and that lovely 10 fps and a buffer big enough for the types of bursts that I tend to do. That would be 5 or 6 shot bursts as the action happens….usually not more than a couple of those bursts in a row so this camera should be more than sufficient for me.
If you have read any of my previous blog posts you will know that high resolution is something that I really like to have. I won’t go into all the reasons it is important to me, but it really is. I’ve relied on the Canon 5DS for this resolution for a number of years now.
The biggest question is not whether or not I will buy this camera, the question is will I replace just the A7RII or will the A7III also end up sitting on a shelf most of the time. I’m not going to get rid of my Canon gear….still waiting for Canon to come out with something that makes me want to upgrade the 5DS.
The only complaints I have seen about the new Sony A7RIV is the lack of improvements in the video department, the poor touch screen implementation, and the menu system. For me none of these are reasons to avoid this camera. I do most of my video on a Canon m50 on a Ronin S. I will use the Sony A7III as well and maybe more so if this new camera becomes my main photo shooter. It certainly would have been a bonus if the A7RIV would have 10 bit recording, 60p 4k recording and higher bit rates but I’m still pretty happy with the current capabilities.
The touch screen is something that I actually don’t use much even when reasonably well implemented like on the Canon m50. I really do prefer buttons most of the time, but I would imagine that I’ll change my mind as the implementations improve. I really do like the way the Sony A7III currently works as I can change almost anything I need to with my eye to the viewfinder….at least now that I have put a few features on the programmable buttons. This is a good segue to the menus. I’ve gotten used to both Canon and Sony menus now and if I had to go into either of them in between shots I would hate them both. In reality I almost never go into the menu systems while out on a shoot on either system….both Canon and Sony, although very different are pretty good once you have used them enough to register some muscle memory. I know this is not the case for many other photographers since I see this complaint ‘ad nauseam’ on the camera forums.
It will be interesting to see in a couple of months if both Canon and Nikon introduce new competition to both this camera and lens. Until then I’ll hopefully be happy shooting on some new gear as the fall migration hits and the owls come back.
ps: ordered and confirmed delivery of the 200-600 for August 9th. I will be able to get some practice with this lens before my trip out to Vancouver Island. Big thanks to our Camera Guy - Patrick.