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When it comes to choosing photography gear, brand loyalty is not what it used to be. While the choice of a camera brand is generally considered one of a photographer’s most fundamental decisions, a collision of factors has shaken up the status quo in recent years, influencing many users to reconsider their allegiances and switch to new products.
At the end of the day, gear is simply a tool to get the job done, and the best choice is the one that feels right for what you're doing.In the weeks to come, we’ll investigate the many stories and myriad reasons that prompted users to switch brands—to offer you new insights for your future buying choices. The following views expressed are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily represent that of B&H Photo.
All Images © Matt Kloskowski
Tampa, Florida-based photo educator, digital image editing and post-processing coach Matt Kloskowski specializes in outdoor, landscape, and nature photography. After a short stint shooting with a Canon 10D, his system of choice from 2000 to 2015 was Nikon, most recently a Nikon D810. “Most of the people I shot with were Nikon users, and it was easier to do the same, so we could swap lenses and gear and settings,” he says.
While his career as an educator gives him the chance to try out many different cameras and brands, Kloskowski notes, “Over the years I really felt that my Nikon was the strongest gear out there, so I would always find myself going right back to my Nikon cameras.”
As mirrorless technology arrived on the scene, Kloskowski was impressed by the Sony cameras he tested; however, making the switch took him the better part of two to three years.
He found the image quality of Sony cameras to be on par with Nikon early on, so his most important considerations became the camera settings and, “all the little things that make up our shooting habits.”
Brand equity was another determining factor. “The brand perception of Sony has always been huge for me, all the way back to the Sony Walkman I had as a kid,” Kloskowski says. “The Sony brand has always had a certain degree of fun to it, a certain degree of reliability, and a certain degree of prestige.”
In 2014, he took a Sony a7R on a week-long trip to Mount Rainier. While he loved the experience, “the camera wasn’t quite there yet,” he points out. “But finally, when the Sony a7R II came out, I realized that it actually met and surpassed the camera I had been shooting with,” he adds.
While Kloskowski wasn’t displeased with any of his Nikon’s technical attributes—resolution, pixel count, image sharpness, noise, dynamic range, color, and so on, “at the same time I’m extremely pleased with my Sony’s performance when it comes to all those things. It’s at least on par if not better in those areas, and it’s also got the scores to back it up,” he says.
These scores come from DxO Mark, a trusted industry standard for image quality measurements and camera and lens ratings, which rates the Sony a7R II on top compared to the other cameras in its class. “So it’s not just a perceived thing for me, it actually performs well in those scores,” he says.
The last, but not least, of the factors influencing his decision to switch is unique to Kloskowski’s career as an educator. “Part of being an educator is support. And for me, Sony added support to the package,” he says. “Not only is Sony incredibly innovative on the camera and technological side of things, they are innovative with education—to help people get better photos. As an educator, I needed somebody to care as much as I do about helping people take better photos. The AlphaUniverse.com website is a perfect example of how Sony is really engaging with their audience by inspiring and educating at the same time.”
Kloskowski’s favorite aspect of his Sony camera—and a distinguishing factor from his Nikon—is the electronic viewfinder. While this wasn’t initially on his radar as a reason to switch, “it’s become very integral to my work, because I can see the picture as it really exists,” he explains. A traditional viewfinder doesn’t do that. It basically shows you a look into the real world in front of you, where the electronic viewfinder actually shows you a digital image based on the camera settings you’re looking at.”
This becomes especially beneficial with portraits. “I can see the photo onscreen as soon as I take it, so I’m able to keep my eye on the camera, but I can also check for sharpness, and to confirm details of my subject’s expression,” says Kloskowski. “I’m actually seeing details rather than chimping on the back of my camera, taking my focus off the subject while I very uncomfortably review the photos to see if they’re any good. It helps the interaction with my subjects.”
Additionally, as an outdoor shooter, the electronic viewfinder allows him to avoid the glare of composing a scene directly on his LCD, because the photo also shows up in the viewfinder.
Another advantage to the Sony system for landscapes is the fact that he can set focus points very close to the edges of his frame. “I focus on the foreground a lot and this helps tremendously,” he says.
After his switch, Kloskowski replaced his three most essential Nikon lenses with the Sony Vario-Tessar T FE 16-35mm, f/4; the Sony Vario-Tessar T FE 24-70mm, f/4; and the Sony FE 70-200mm, f/4 G OSS zooms, complete with Zeiss glass. “These are some of the best made and smoothest lenses you’ll ever hold,” he says.
As a landscape shooter, Kloskowski depends on neutral density and polarizing filters for a lot of his work. While he reinvested in smaller filters for his new lenses, Sony’s innovative ecosystem extends to more than 30 downloadable apps that can be installed in its cameras. “This had nothing to do with why I wanted to switch, but these apps have become something I don’t know that I could give up,” he explains.
Kloskowski’s favorites include Smooth Reflection, which simulates a neutral density filter, and Sky HDR, simulating a graduated neutral density filter. He notes, “the best part about both of these is the fact that you get a raw file in the end.”
The only minor challenges to Kloskowski’s new Sony gear involve the smaller-sized controls, which can lead one to inadvertently hit the wrong button; and the battery life. “I'd love a little joystick in place of the small wheel selector on the back of the camera. I think it would help me be more accurate when changing settings since that wheel is pretty small and sensitive,” he explains.
As for battery life—a pretty common complaint among mirrorless users—Kloskowski says "I definitely did get more with my Nikon. I could often shoot for two days without a new battery. That said, I wasn't using Live View as often. With the Sony EVF, and the fact that it’s almost always on and helping in some way, if I'm shooting a lot I usually find myself going through two batteries a day. It’s not a huge deal,” he adds. “I just make sure to carry a few extras, and charge my batteries every day".
One detail he really misses from his Nikon is not having a little LCD readout on top of the camera for changing shutter speed, aperture, white balance, ISO, and other camera settings. “That always helped a lot, because I could simply look down to see the information as I made adjustments, where everything on the Sony is at the back of the camera,” Kloskowski notes.
While Sony a7-series cameras are equipped with a fully articulating LCD that tilts more than 90 degrees upward, for ease in composing from a low angle, a proximity sensor triggers the LCD to shut down in favor of the EVF when an object (such as a photographer’s face) comes near. “If you maneuver your hand down to change settings with the screen pointed up, you can trip the EVF, which shuts off the screen,” says Kloskowski. “With the traditional readout on top of the camera, none of that happened.”
According to Kloskowski, the most important aspect to great pictures is to get your camera into the right place at the right time with the right group of settings. “That can be done with any camera out there,” he says.
The one caveat to this involves specialty lenses. “If you use certain tilt shift or zoom lenses, or other specialty lenses that don’t exist in the Sony world, that might be a reason to remain with your existing brand,” he points out.
“While there are adapters or additional ways to make other manufacturer’s lenses fit with Sony’s gear, I would recommend waiting until the gear you need comes out, rather than trying to mix systems together. Those adapters do work, but they do introduce a bit of clunkiness into the system.”
“I’m the last person to tell anybody they should switch brands or camera models,” Kloskowski says. “While I think the switch was right for me and that it improves my photography experience, I don’t feel it’s going to apply to everybody out there. I loved my Nikon D810, it’s an incredible camera,” he adds. “But one of the things I’ve loved about my Nikon is the image quality. You may or may not know that much of the sensor technology in the Nikon comes from Sony. So it makes sense that as soon as I saw those raw files, I was hooked, because they had the same image quality that I loved about the Nikon. For me, getting used to a raw file is much like getting used to a particular film. You start to understand where you can push and pull certain sliders, and you develop a style based on that. Plus, like I mentioned earlier, I just like where Sony is going, and it’s something I wanted to invest in now, rather than wait any longer and make further investments in DSLR gear.”
To read the other stories in our series, Why I Switched, click here https://www.bhphotovideo.com/explora/p/why-i-switched.
Do you have a story or some insights to share about switching brands? If so, please add your voice to the Comments section, below.