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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Why I Switched from a Canon 5d mk 3 to a Sony a99 (review)

EDIT: before I begin, please remember that this is not supposed to be a very professional review-- it's a review written with the excitement of using a new camera that I'm really impressed by and excited about. It's not a technical review, it's mostly focusing on talking about features that the a99 has that I think make a pretty big difference in my every day shooting that I really appreciate. I haven't been able to fully test the a99 yet, but I'll try to continue updating this post to make it more informative along the way :)

Last week, I got my Sony a99 in the mail along with all the equivalent lenses to my Canon set, and started selling off my Canon gear. This caused a LOT of curiosity and questions from people wanting to know why I was switching! I am BLOWN away by the brand new Sony a99, so I wanted to write a full blog post on the switch and the reasons behind it. My into is gonna be a little long so scroll down to see the main points :)

Well, there are several reasons behind my switch. First of all, for full disclosure, After I did the NEX-5R Taylor Swift commercial with Sont and mentioned liking the NEX-5R, Sony did send me an a77 (crop frame), an a99 (Sony's brand new 5d mk 3/D800 equivalent), and a 85 1.4 Zeiss lens (Zeiss makes AF lenses for Sony only) to use. They did NOT insinuate or ask me in any way to fully switch over brands, to promote their products, or to write this blog post, however. They were excited about their product (as they should be!!) and wanted me to try it out and give them their opinion on it.

I bought myself a 35 1.4 Sony lens, a 50 1.4 Sony lens, and a 135 f/1.8 Sony Zeiss lens to complete my set, since these are the lenses I used with my Canon 5D mk 3, for those of you who will want to know what lenses I use :)

I got to use the a99 while I was helping out on Joseph Gordon Levitt's HitRECord.org tour, and the cinematography crew there couldn't stop talking about how incredible the video was, particularly the face tracking AF! I couldn't wait to try it out during a shoot. Last week, I got it in the mail and very quickly was so impressed and excited that I didn't think for more than a second before selling off my Canon gear.

Don't get me wrong. Canon is a great brand, and the mk 3 was fantastic. I used the mk 2 before that, and before that I used a Nikon D700 as well. When the mk 3 and D800 came out, I debated for a long time over which one I would upgrade to (I was very unhappy with the mk 2's low light performance and AF), and decided to stay with Canon, though the D800 is obviously great too. I always do tons of research before buying a camera, and mostly I've realized that when two brands have an equivalent camera, the small differences between the two usually aren't enough to make a big every day difference unless you're doing something very specific... like if you're a sports photographer, obviously a 1 frame per second capability difference matters, or if you do photography where you need to blow up your photos to billboard size, extra megapixels matter. If you always shoot at night, you need the best low-light performance. But for me and most of the people who follow my work (and the people whose work I follow), where we do mostly portraiture, fashion, conceptual, etc in a semi-pro or pro nature, those technical differences between two equivalent cameras of different brands are usually too small or not often apparent enough to actually make a difference in the way we shoot and the photos we are able to take.

This has not been the case with the Sony a99. The reason I was so blown away is that there are several very apparent differences that affect my shooting EVERY TIME in a very positive way. I'm having a really hard time condensing all the points I have to make, but they're all really important and make a real difference, so be sure to read them all!

Here are the main standouts to me that make me far prefer the Sony a99 to the Canon 5D mk iii (I have not used the D800 so cannot compare)



1. Electronic viewfinder. OH MY GOD. WHAT A DIFFERENCE!! This, this, THIS for so many reasons. Sony's viewfinder is electronic. What does this mean?

-it's like Live View (which the a99 also has of course) in the viewfinder, so you immediately see exposure changes, how your white balance affects the colors, and an accurate Depth of Field Preview. This means you don't need to keep taking pictures and checking the back of your camera to make sure it's what you want. It's a huge time saver and headache saver for me. **also, it has 100% coverage, unlike the mk 2 (97%), though the mk 3 also has 100% coverage**

-ACCURATE DEPTH OF FIELD PREVIEW BELOW f/2.5. This is SO IMPORTANT you guys! I don't know about you, but as someone who mostly takes pictures of people, I almost always shoot below f/2.5. In Canon's viewfinder, the depth of field preview only goes down to f/2.5, so if you're using anything below that, you will not be able to tell if your subject is in focus. This is a huge deal, especially since Canon's AF STILL is not all that great in my experience (to my disappointment, though it definitely improved over the 5D mk ii). In order to make sure your focus below f/2.5 is correct on a Canon, you need to use Live View or keep guessing and checking/hoping for correct focus, which is crazy.

With the a99, because it uses an electronic viewfinder, the depth of field preview is accurate no matter what aperture you're using. YAY! Now onto AF and live view...

2. Auto-Focus in more ways than one!

a) General AF:

The a99's Auto-Focus is WAY better than my Canon 5D mk 3. I have to say, I have been really disappointed with the mk 3's AF. It's definitely an improvement over the mk 2, but even shooting models who aren't moving much, and even with several AF modes to chose from, I had almost completely stopped shooting AF because it just almost never got it right, or had to search for awhile to do so. Obviously, keep in mind I always shoot around f/1.2-f/2.2, so it's difficult to get focus on a model's eyes every time for any camera. But still. I expected better. Because Canon's viewfinder doesn't allow you to accurately manually focus below f/2.5, I was constantly using Live-View to make sure I had correct focus.

EDIT: I had originally said that the even the a77's AF seemed better than my mk 3, and someone pointed out that they had had a different experience and that I may have a lemon copy of my mk 3. I hadn't considered this before, but with all the trouble I've had with AF on it, this is definitely a possibility. I plan on sending it in to be checked. Stay tuned, though it will be awhile before an update on that. Keep this in mind while reading, though the a99's focusing has been fantastic regardless!

Sony actually uses a completely different technology for their AF than Nikon or Canon. Here's a quick summary of it:

"Utilizing the Translucent Mirror technology, the autofocus system is able to continuously monitor the image frame and alter the autofocus quickly and responsively. Two phase contrast sensors, a 19-point sensor above the translucent mirror and a 102-point focal plane phase detection sensor, work together to deliver greatly improved subject tracking performance and increased precision."

Obviously, it doesn't just hit focus correctly 100% of the time like any camera, but it gets accurate focus WAY more often than my mk 3. For example, I could almost never take a good picture of my cats with my mk2/mk3, because they're always moving just when you don't want them to haha (and again, I shoot wide). With my a99, I've gotten plenty of in-focus shots already.


b) Live view AF:

I don't know about Nikon, but the AF on the live view (LV) for Canon is pretty horrible. It's extremely slow, which makes it pretty much useless unless your subject is completely still. I have NO idea why they made it like this. I have never understood it.

With the Sony a99, the AF is just as fast in LV mode as it is in the viewfinder... so it's just lightening fast all around.


c) AF during videos:

Not only does the Sony a99 have AF during videos, it has incredibly accurate AF during videos with Face Detection/tracking. Canon does not offer any AF during video. Nikon does for their D800, but when I was researching that vs the mk 3, I heard from enough sources that it was useless enough not to matter. Sony's is INCREDIBLE. They used it for the whole HitRECord.org tour where they had 4 different a99s (2 stationary, 2 hand held and constantly moving) filming with this AF on constantly (and it was a live feed to the big screen on stage), and it worked like a charm. The only limitation is that it only does AF down to f/3.5, under that, you'll still need to manually focus. Small price to pay, in my opinion! Especially coming from the mk 3, which has no AF during video at all!

The a99 also records up to 1080/60p (60 frames per second) while the mk 3 only goes up to 1080/30p (30 frames per second), which is something to consider. Well actually, if you're really into video, Sony blows the Canon and Nikon out of the park so you should definitely be seriously considering it.

3. Awesome, moving LCD screen:

So this isn't anything new for lower-end cameras, but none of the high end FF cams have it. I didn't think anything of it until I got the a77 and then started using it quite often. Now that I have it on the a99, it's been a lifesaver in a bunch of situations already.

Here's the deal guys. I'm short. And I shoot with tall models often. So with the 5d mk 3, this meant me standing on my tip toes, possibly with live view on, straining to get a level shot that was also well composed and in focus... or me asking the model to squat :P Seriously though, this was a problem. Now with the Sony a99, I can pull the screen out and tilt it as needed, lift the camera up, and compose easily. With the AF being super fast and accurate even in Live View on the a99, I don't need to worry about attempting to manually focus while holding the camera above my head like I did with the mk 3.

Not only that, but it's way easier to get interesting angles without bending down, laying on the ground etc. I just pull the screen out and adjust the angle as needed and hold the camera where I need to for the shot.

ALSO, it can be folded out far enough and twisted around enough that you can take self portraits while looking at live view, which is a really nice added bonus! :)

4. ISO performance and SteadyShot INSIDE Image Stabilization

Here's the technical description:

"This camera features Sony's SteadyShot technology for image stabilization within the camera. By reducing camera shake at the camera level you can achieve shake compensation up to 2.5-4.5 stops in shutter speed. This technology is compatible with any Sony Alpha lens."

Why this matters: with my Canon, there have been plenty of times when I got up to the max ISO I was willing to use, was at the widest aperture possible, and had to call it an evening because I couldn't go below 1/80th (preferably 1/125) shutterspeed before things got shaky. Obviously this may be different for you.. I think I have shaky hands and that + moving subjects does not bode well, but the difference will still be the same. With my Sony, I haven't tested the limits, but I've been very surprised that I can still shoot at 1/50 and it comes out like 1/100 or 1/125 on my Canon. I actually wasn't aware that there was a specific technology that did this, and thought I must be imagining things until I read about it haha! This also means that no matter what lens you use, it's stabilized, which is awesome.

I haven't fully tested the limits of the a99's ISO range (the 5D mk 3 has a slightly bigger range- 2 stops more when expanded), but I've taken it to where I am normally comfortable for non-night shots on the mk 3 (1600) and have noticed no difference. I will expand on this later when I've had it for more time and have shot with it in low light for a shoot :)

5. Zeiss Lenses!!

If you're even semi-serious as a photographer, you probably already know that Zeiss lenses are completely drool-worthy. Sadly, if you buy them for Nikon or Canon they're manual focus only. Zeiss makes many of the Sony lenses though, and so they're all fully compatible, including incredible auto focus!

6. Lighter body

My Sony a99 is noticeably lighter than the 5D mk 3. At first I wasn't sure if I liked this, because heavier gear usually feels more solid. However, I've quickly come to love it! My gear is heavy in general, and having a lighter camera (even though its about the same size) definitely makes a difference.. I don't feel like I'm "lugging" my stuff around anymore.

On/Off switch location

Nikon has this down, but Canon still doesn't. Canon's on/off switch is in a terrible place on the mk 2. On the mk 3 it's improved, but still not exactly natural for switching on and off. When I had my Nikon D700 back in the day, I used to constantly turn the camera off between shots because it was so quick and easy and it became second nature.. I never even thought about it. This makes a big difference in battery life. The Sony a99 has the on/off switch in that same, natural position (kind of in front of the shutter button) for easy on/off and power saving.

Price

Oh yeah, and the a99 retails for $2,798-- a very reasonable price!

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Those are the main things that make a big difference for me and make this camera so worthwhile to me. There are a few more perks that aren't as important to me, like a slight boost in megapixels over the mk 3 (but not as many as the D800, so no huge file sizes/no crowded sensor) at 24mp, a dual SD only card slot (I prefer SD since you can plug it directly into your computer and they are slightly less expensive than CF cards), and much better doors to the area on the camera where you can plug cords in (compared to Canon 5D mk 3). It has all the features I used on my Canon. It shoots 6fps which is equal to the 5D mk 3. I find the image quality to be completely the same if not slightly more pleasing than the Canon.

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EDIT: A few potential cons have come up in discussion (mostly on private messaging). I say potential because neither has affected my shooting, and so probably won't for many people, but may concern a few.

-One concern is battery life. I have only had two shoots with this and the battery has lasted fine for them, but they weren't particularly long and I don't doubt that the battery life must be shorter for the a99 since it always has either an electronic viewfinder on or live view on. This isn't a huge deal for me since I always have a backup battery, but may matter to some people or be a slight annoyance. I like the EVF so much (I think that's my favorite part) that I feel it's a fair trade off.

-Additionally, there IS a slight lag when you turn the camera on. Not sure of the exact time, but it takes about a second or so to be ready to shoot, rather than being instant. My guess is this has to do with the EVF turning on, but I'm not sure. This hasn't really been significant for me since the type of shooting I do doesn't require that I take the picture within a second of turning the camera on, but it may be of concern to a few.

-The a99 automatically detects when your eye is over the viewfinder and instantly switches to EVF, and when you take your eye away, it instantly switches to Live View. Someone asked if there was delay with this. Not at all in my experience so far! :) I actually really like the feature! :)
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Don't get me wrong, Nikon and Canon are great brands and I've happily used both. But I have to say that I very honestly think the Sony stepped WAY up when they released the a99, and that anyone considering a full frame camera needs to at least seriously consider it as an option.

Feel free to ask me any more questions about anything I haven't covered here!

You can see full product specs and pictures or buy the Sony a99 here: Sony SLTA99V Alpha SLT-A99V Full-Frame 24.3 MP SLR Digital Camera with 3-Inch LED - Body Only (Black)


Here are some sample images I took with my a99 on a simple shoot in the park! I have many more from a recent shoot, but we are submitting them to a magazine so I can't release them. Sorry! I'll be adding any photos taken with the a99 to this set on my flickr as well as I release them .


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93 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thanks for the great review
      Actually I have A700 with three lenses (Tamron Af 90mm/2.8, sigma 70-300mm and Tamron AF 17-50mm/2.8) and a Sony HVL-F42AM flash.
      I want to buy a full frame camera.
      I have read a lot about the Canon 5D III and Nikon D800and and last Sony Alpha99.
      since i have sony equipment which of those do you recommend
      Best regards
      Rad

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  2. A very interesting read, Emily! I recently purchased a Nikon D600 and haven't put it down. I's always exciting when you purchase a new camera and fall absolutely in love with it <3

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    1. Thanks Alex!! I've heard great things about the D600, glad you're enjoying it! :) And I agree! Nothing better than getting a camera and falling in love!

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  3. Up until very recently I felt like I was behind the game because I only have a Sony camera while everyone else has Canon or Nikon, but now I feel like maybe Sony could be one of the top brands as well :) I only have an a35 (which I can't seem to find online so maybe they don't produce it anymore?) but I really do love it and am now thinking that when I can afford it and need it I'll just upgrade to an a99 instead of a Mk3 :)

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    1. Glad I could help!! :) I have to admit I didn't think much of Sony til I actually let my guard down and started using it! I expected to keep both systems or to like the Sony equally or a little less... didn't expect that I'd actually love it!

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    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  4. Thank you for all of this awesome info and the photos are beautiful! :) <3

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    1. Thanks for the great review
      actually I have A700 with three lenses (Tamron Af 90mm/2.8, sigma 70-300mm and Tamron AF 17-50mm/2.8) and a Sony HVL-F42AM flash.
      I want to buy a full frame camera.
      I have read a lot about the Canon 5D III , Nikon D800 and last Sony Alpha99.
      since i have sony equipment which of those do you recommend

      Delete
  5. such nice colors it makes! Do u already post-process it?

    lalainephotos.blogspot.com

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    1. Thanks Lalaine! Yes they are post processed the same way I always do! :)

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  6. Hi and welcome to the world of sony users :)

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  7. When I hit the lottery.... I'm still in the stone age with my Canon 30D. Thanks for this review and the beautiful photos accompanying it!! I have never given Sony much thought until now.

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  8. Welcome to our Sony world! I don't see me going FF as I shoot nature a lot and I enjoy the extra reach for wildlife but that first shot with that DOF completely just flippin' has me. Sony offers a lot that other manufacturers don't & it is one of the things I have come to really love. the live view system is utterly amazing across the line. Nothing even comes remotely close.

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    1. Thanks John! I agree! I think the EVF is my favorite part!

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  9. wow! that was one very interesting post to read! thanks so much for sharing your story and experiences. now i actually feel like having to switch to sony, but I'll stay with my 5d, which I love dearly.
    cannot wait to see more photos taken with your new camera! :)

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    1. Thanks Pauline!

      I think for most, it's best to stick with whatever FF they have if they already have one since it's a large investment and each brand has great offerings for the FFs :) I think this is more for anyone wondering what camera to get when they upgrade to FF if they don't already have significant investment in lenses. For people looking to get a FF, the a99 is certainly worth serious consideration :)

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  10. Welcome to the A99 family..

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  11. Well I guess thats how opinions are changed. Sony pays you and you crap all over a much superior camera just because its too complex for an amateur like you to use. Not enough ISO lol???? Epic fail.

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    1. I'm going to consolidate your other posts here so they stop clogging up my wall and I can respond to them as one :)

      "Guess the Canon was too complicated for you to use properly or you didn't bother to read the manual. Beautiful sharp images you've got there.
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      AnonymousDecember 13, 2012 6:46 PM

      What a biased review. Hopefully anyone reading this understands the context: Emily Tebbetts wins a Sony contest to become Taylor Swift's photog. Emily Tebbetts is suddenly an ardent Sony fan who publishes incorrect information about the Canon 5D Mark III. Anyone reading this article should take all claims with a very large grain of salt."

      Anon, I am sad that your comment actually bothered me for awhile last night. Clearly you didn't read the review or are trolling. I very clearly mentioned the context (that after the contest, Sony had given me 2 cameras and a lens to try out, but had not paid me or asked me or pressured me to write this). I'm clearly not an amateur, and obviously the mk 3 wasn't too complex for me to use (not sure how you came up with this?). I actually said the Canon had MORE ISO range, so I'm really not sure where you got that either.

      I also don't see the incorrect info about the 5D mk 3, to respond to your other comment. As for being an "ardent Sony fan", I think that's a bit harsh. When have you ever seen someone get a new, top notch camera they were happy with and not be very excited about it? I felt that way when I got the Nikon D700, when I got the Canon 5D mk 2, and when I got the Canon 5D mk 3. Since Sony wasn't a brand I knew much about until recently, I am really excited that I came in at this time where they're really stepping it up with the a99, and that I actually love it!

      Also, I made it very clear that I thought the mk 3 and D700 (and therefore I'm sure the D800 as well, though I haven't used it) are fantastic cameras. I said it several times actually. Besides the troubles I've had with the mk 3's AF, I haven't said anything bad about it... obviously I've really enjoyed using it. There are some features to the a99, all mentioned above, that make a really big difference for me that I really like.

      Anyway, this was probably pointless since it seems you're just trolling. But just in case you're someone that actually does feel hurt by my review or cares at all about discussion and coming to an understanding, I thought I'd make myself a little clearer for you :)

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  12. The combination of the Minolta heritage, Minolta engineers joining Sony, and Sony's strengths has really pushed the boundaries. I think if the brand name was still Minolta there would be a wholesale shift from Canonikon.

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    1. Really interesting thought. It's amazing how wrapped up people get in one brand vs. another, and how brand image affects our reality almost. I used to be super pro Nikon... until I used Canon and found they were on equal playing ground. Since then, the people who claim one brand is far superior despite nearly identical specs just seem silly to me. Same thing happened with Sony-- never considered them until I actually tried them, and found that I love the a99. I think it's very interesting too, since I recently heard that many (most?) of the sensors in Canon/Nikon cameras are actually Sony technology.

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  13. AnonymousDecember 13, 2012 6:46 PM
    "What a biased review. Hopefully anyone reading this understands the context: Emily Tebbetts wins a Sony contest to become Taylor Swift's photog. Emily Tebbetts is suddenly an ardent Sony fan who publishes incorrect information about the Canon 5D Mark III. Anyone reading this article should take all claims with a very large grain of salt."

    Fully agree.

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    1. I can't tell if you're the same anon or another one, but on the chance you're another one, I'm sorry you feel that way! If you actually read the review, I fully disclosed that Sony had given me some of the gear to try out after the contest. However, writing this review was completely my choice to show my excitement and answer many of the questions I was getting, and Sony in no way asked or pressured or insinuated that I should do this. If you know me at all, I hope that you would know my character enough to know that I wouldn't ever purposely put out opinions that weren't my own. I mean.. I really do feel that way about the camera, so I don't really know what else to say. I hope you are a different anon at least, not just the same one continuing to spam my post. Part of why I'm so excited about this is because I never really considered Sony before getting to know the brand and cameras and capabilities between the Taylor Swift shoot and the JGL tour, and I get very excited when I find something I really like, particularly when I wasn't expecting it. Sony very much surprised me, and I know that many people are very brand loyal and get upset when someone publishes something good about another brand, particularly if it's a brand that has traditionally been third, but I think it's far more biased to reject something because of what you believe of its brand than it is to try it, be open to it, and end up loving it.

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  14. Amateur??? I know Emily very well and have for a few years now and she is definitely not an amateur. She has had literally hundreds of paid client photo shoots over the past few years. And at this point I hear she has been booked up with at least 2 to 4 client shoots a week. These are not words of an "amateur" photographer. Before using the Canon brand I remember Emily was a very proud user of Nikon products for awhile and when she switched to Canon she told about the many reasons why she switched to Canon. This is no different. Emily is a great person that supports herself entirely through photography and is by no means an "amateur" and was by no means paid or told to do this by Sony, she's simply explaining to her followers why she decided to switch camera brands once again. I'm no professional as I make literally no money taking pictures but Emily Tebbetts certainly is no amateur photographer. If your some "professional" photographer why don't you tell us all who you really are so we can go see some of YOUR "beautiful sharp images you got there".

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    1. Just ignore the haters who are insecure with their camera brand that they had to attack Emily's blog for switching to Sony.

      Welcome to Sony Land Emily.

      Great decision for switching since A99 is a great camera better than MK III acc to this review
      http://www.dpreview.com/news/2012/12/12/Just-Posted-Sony-Alpha-SLT-A99-review

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    2. Thanks James! I can't say I've booked quite that many per week since I'm still in school, but I have had quite a few clients :) I really appreciate you standing up for me, thank you!

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    3. Thanks Anon! Wish you had used your name! I appreciate it :)

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  15. welcome to sony girl!

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  16. Wow.. haters gonna hate. But your photos have always been amazing, and they're only getting better. I remember the first time I fell for your images. When you shot Meredith Adelaide (meredith williams, as I knew her back then.. highschool days).. and you shot her a few times. but this shoot was in an alley with flowers and she was leaning on a fence. I just fell in love with that set. and have been in love ever since. keep on keeping on and being awesome <3

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    1. Thanks so much Sierra! That was one of my favorite shoots, and I always love working with Meredith!! :)

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  17. I love your stuff but only one photo looks like the focus was nailed. The rest look like the eyelashes are razor sharp and the eyes are not. I hope this isn't a biased review. Still a good read. The zeiss lens option sounds nice. 135 1.8 would be really fun.

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    1. Ah, I'm sorry you think that! I just looked them over and have to disagree-- I feel that her eyes (and more, depending on the picture) are in focus in all of them. I'm pretty disappointed with the anon who seems to have posted at least 4 (can't tell about the 5th) times, and I hope their comments didn't make you think this was baised. If you have followed me at all on other sites, you'll know what kind of person I am. I have only had this camera for a week and simply wrote this post out of excitement and to answer the questions I was getting about switching. Though it may be biased by the excitement of getting a new camera and not having used it for a long time (which I think I tried to account for pretty well by saying I need to test it further), it is absolutely not biased intentionally. Thank you for a level-headed, non anonymous comment though! I'd much rather discuss things with people and help clear up anything misunderstood than be yelled at for things I didn't do by some anonymous person!

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  18. Glad the Sony system works for you - I've owned complete A850 and A77 systems (at different times, with different lenses). Overall it's pretty good, but for anyone not having experience, there's a bit of hyperbole sprinkled throughout your post I wanted to ask about: (NOTE: I no longer own any DSLR, I've since downsized to m43)

    1) The A77's AF being "way better" than the 5D3. I think you should have had your 5D3 checked or perhaps done some mAF adjustments on your lenses, or even explored the 5D3 AF options a bit more, because this just doesn't jive. Not that the A77's AF is a slouch or anything, but I've certainly used better. Heck, my Canon 1D3 had better AF, and the 5D3 has better AF than that camera, so I have to wonder why you say what you do.

    2) Not being able to take photos of your moving cats with a 5D2/3 - Again, I have a hard time reconciling this with my experience with the 5D3, 5D2 *or* even the 5D. In fact, the 5D (yeah, the old one) could out-AF-C my Sony A77, which I found pretty disappointing (and I tested this hours upon hours). I only mention this because it's sounds very similar to your experience with point #1, which directly contradicts my experience with the A77 (haven't tried the A99, yet!) and Canon's 5D series cameras.


    Glad you like the rest of the camera, though - the EVF can certainly be helpful, and I *love* articulating LCDs. I also wonder if Sony has implemented SSS effects while looking through the EVF, as the A77 does NOT do this (much to my chagrin) unless it's been changed recently with a firmware upgrade.


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    1. Hey JL!

      This post was written in excitement of my a99 and in exasperation with the AF on my mk 3, so there is certainly a possibility that I mis-wrote about the a77 being better than the AF on the mk 3. However, I have to say that I've been constantly disappointed with it-- any of the models I've worked with can attest to the fact that I had this pattern of starting with AF, giving it up quickly to go to Live View manual focusing, giving AF a try again until it didn't work well yet AGAIN, going back to LV, etc. This is really the only qualm I had with my mk 3, and I said in the review, I'm not trying to bash it besides being frustrated with the AF. There is a chance that I have a lemon copy, of course, but I've heard that other people have focusing issues with it as well. I'm looking to sell it right now so I think it may be a good idea to send it in to be checked since you mentioned it. It's definitely not just micro-adjustments needed. It's constant searching and focusing on the wrong thing. I have explored the AF modes pretty thoroughly :) Thanks for pointing this out- I'm going to edit the review to mention this possibility!

      I do have to say that the a77 did easily keep up with my moving cats though! I guess there is always the fact that we may have been using different lenses, and that you could have had a lemon. I haven't used it much but have been very impressed by the focus, especially since it's not supposed to be in the same class as the mk 3 and I've had so much grief with mine!

      And yes, I'm in love with the EVF! It's been very helpful and enjoyable to use. I have heard it drains the battery life more quickly-- I've only had two shoots with it and it hasn't been a problem, but that's something I intend to test and update here! :)

      The EVF responds to all changes on the a99 which is really what makes it so worthwhile in my opinion, though it's still useful for focusing purposes without it on the a77. And I love the articulating (thanks for the word, I couldn't figure out what to call it! haha!) LCD too! Like I said in the review, I'm short so it makes my life easier :P Also I like being able to use it as a waist level finder and that sort of thing. And I'm excited to try it out for self portraits when I eventually get around to doing that! :)

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment! I didn't really consider that my mk 3 could be a lemon with AF since my mk 2 was so bad with AF (and is generally known to have very outdated AF), but I'm very glad that you mentioned that so I can have it sent in now! I will also change the review to reflect it :)

      Delete
    2. Yeah I can understand being disappointed (or angry or frustrated etc) with a poorly-AFing body and wanting to vent/write about it ;) I've gone through about 10 complete systems in 4.5 years, as I used to like to system switch, so I've had my share of AF woes on pretty much any brand of camera except Leica (I ain't that rich!) The good thing is, I've had experience with pretty much all major brands of DSLRs, so I've also gotten to see what each system offers photographers, and it's cool to see that every system has it's own quirks and gems.

      Good luck with your cameras and the A99 certainly looks like a treat - nice photos btw ;)

      I'll probably give it at least a rental sometime soon - as of yet, nobody's produce a FF camera with an articulating screen besides Sony (that I can think of), and I almost refuse to use a camera without one now. While I don't have to worry about height so much as you do, the low-angle and off-angle shots are incredibly easier when you're not low-crawling to look through an OVF/EVF.




      Delete
    3. Emily, thank you for taking the time to write up your experience with the Sony A99 -- I am a hobby photographer and have had a really good experience with Sony this past year as well. I started looking after experiencing the lackluster video capabilities of my Canon T2i. I chose a Sony A57 and was very pleased. I love its EVF -- so nice to work with. I subsequently sold my Canon T2i and my small collection of Canon & Tamron lenses. I'm looking to get to a FF in the next two years and the A99 will stay on my short list after reading about your experience.

      P.S. I also bought a Sony RX-100 this year and am amazed every day by getting so much in a small package -- the 1.8 Zeiss lens is exceptional.

      Delete
  19. Hi!

    I have to agree with Af in canon, 5dmk2 was horrible and 5dmk3 is better but what i have tested, both a77 and a99 are better. I have used many years canon, 1dmk3, 5dmk2, 1dmk4 and now 5dmk3.

    I shoot for newspapers so sometimes i dont have second chance, and i just dont teust to canon anymore.

    I tried also d4 and d800 and even those af work direct better . I dont care about brand, i want gears which work. And its totally possible i can change back to canon if they can compete against sony.

    Btw...canon x is killer camera, i try it and like it but its too expensive.

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  20. Emily, did you try the focus peaking feature on the A77 or the A99 ?
    I'm sure you'll love it.

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  21. Hey Emily, Welcome from one Sony pro to another!! Give me a shout on twitter @chrismeephoto, im following you I think, be great to chat sometime. I love my A99, sold my A850 which I do miss sometimes but the output as useability of the A99 is making even my D700 redundant. Have you tried the 135mm 1.8 yet? Quite probably one of the best optics ever made for the 35mm format, it's just mind blowingly good!

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  22. Whatever haters say, Canon or Sony, I will never stop finding your pictures subtle and touching.
    The first of these portraits is simply perfect, but they are all so intense! ;)

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  23. Nice blog (and nice pictures).

    Part of the vehemence of some of the replies may be down to some people being rather upset that these EVF cameras may supplant the optical viewfinders they have sworn by for years; as you have discovered, EVF does have some advantages (along with some disadvantages) - I think it is great that you feel so enthused about your new system kit: Having got you (and others) to switch to Alpha, lets hope Sony produce more good kit to keep us all happy.

    Bob

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  24. Happy you love your Sony. You created quite a stir on the possibly the best photo forum in the world- dyxum.com. Feel free to join the debate about your blog http://www.dyxum.com/dforum/a-pros-journey-from-canon-to-sony_topic94117_post1115990.html#1115990 or simply join this great forum actively supported by enthusiasts and professionals- who already discovered the Alpha mount- and lurk or contribute at your leisure.

    Steve

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  25. Hello Emily, welcome to the club! The Sony A77 is my fifth Alpha Camera and I love it, still dreaming about the A99!

    Well, you mentioned the possibility of using Zeiss lenses, they should be really amazing... but here's a tip for you, checkout the excellent Minolta Maxxum lenses from mid-80's to mid-90's, there are some great options there... like the 85/1.4G (you said you have the Zeiss 85/1.4, but some people say that the Minolta version has a different "look" better for portraits), the 100 f/2, 135mm STF, 200mm f/2.8... the list goes on. Also, both of your 35/1.4 and 50/1.4 lenses are rebadged Minoltas.

    Don't bother with the Canikon fanboys

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  26. Forgot to mention, loved your photographs! they look very cinematic and always has gorgeous lightning!

    Ivan Lee
    www.ivanlee.com.br

    ReplyDelete
  27. A very well done review. I am a professional photographer in Austin, Texas who switched to Sony this year from Canon. I'm loving the a99. It may be the best digital camera I've ever shot with. But I also like the Nex 6 and Nex 7 for the same reasons you do: The electronic viewfinders. After twenty years in the business the EVF has totally changed the way I shoot and revitalized my enjoyment of the craft. Good on you. Keep posting your experiences.

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  28. Do you know Dyxum? It's a forum/community aimed to the users of the Alpha mount. It's frequented from people who still shoot with their Maxxum 7D's to the happy owners of A99 such as yourself.

    Do check their website, it's www.dyxum.com.

    Cheers!

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  29. Hello. The 5D Mark III will absolutely autofocus in video mode; it's just not continuous autofocus like a camcorder. While in video mode you can hit "AF-ON" to autofocus, even during a recording. Even @ F/1.4 too.
    Also, you do get focus confirmation in manual focus stills mode; simply half-press the shutter while rotating the focus ring and the viewfinder will light up in red when the subject is in focus. It's in the 5DIII manual.
    Thanks,
    SC

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  30. I shot with Nikon and Minolta for years. When Sony absorbed Minolta I decided to stick with Sony to see what they would produce since I was so heavily invested in G lenses both from Minolta and then later Sony. Although each brand has its strengths and weaknesses it amazes me the reactions that I get from other users, and normally this is from the less experienced photographers. Since I shoot with both Nikon and Sony, I have on numerous occasions received positive comments and praise for an image which then turn to groans from amateurs when I inform them that the image was captured with a Sony A900. It happens more often than not, to the point where unless the inquirer is truly interested or I already know them, I just don’t broadcast it. With experienced photographers I get their natural curiosity and comments that they were unaware that the Sony FF could deliver that kind of image. Not sure why some people react that way and I expel little effort in trying to understand this behavior by some (I just don’t care for something as trivial as fervent brand loyalty by some). Now I am not out to convert anyone to a particular brand, it has been my belief that great images can be captured by someone that has mastered the many disciplines of photography, agnostic to any particular brand; although I will concede that a brand due to its strengths or weakness can influence an overall image to some degree. Models I use are the A900, the Nikon D800, and sometimes I borrow my colleague’s 5DIII. Funny thing, after a recent shoot my friend with the 5DIII has asked to borrow my A900, probably more out of curiosity; but I applaud him for approaching the notion with an open mind. For me this is interesting since he was a hard core Nikon fan for years, and switched to the 5DIII, but recently is also curious to the Sony Full Frames. A solid camera, good glass, and great photographer will generate great images, period! Emily, I enjoyed your observations and the images you shared, they are fantastic. I look forward in seeing more of them.

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  31. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  32. There is a intense debate about your switch at http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/thread/3351620 - You should chime in to shut the uninformed posters about you.

    Glad you are enjoying using your Sony A99. I am planning to upgrade my A77.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, DP just locked the thread. They probably did not appreciate the personal attacks against you as well.

      Delete
  33. I loved reading this review!
    I shoot Canon and always have, but I went to school for photography and my school was mostly based on Nikon equipment so I learned both! I upgraded to a Mark II last winter and I love it dearly. I could easily also shoot Nikon if I needed too but to be honest I like Canon a little better. I never considered Sony to be a contender for a professional grade camera system but since reading your review and seeing the images you've produced with the a99 I'm really impressed! And if I ever decide to upgrade my camera again, because of you I'd definitely consider looking at a Sony system.
    I also love how you posted what lenses and everything you use as I'm looking for a new lens for my Canon as my 50mm is a few years old and isn't working quite as well as I'd like. You clearly do your research before you purchase any new equipment and it's definitely helped me in trying to become more informed before I buy something!

    ReplyDelete
  34. Very nice write up. The a99 & 135mm Zeiss is definitely a killer combo! I should know because I have it on my a99 too! The 85mm Zeiss is also a worthy lens to consider if you need to work within a closer distance with your subject. The versatility of the a99 hasn't stopped surprising me yet after having it for about a month. Enjoy yours! (p/s: heard a new 50mm F1.4 Zeiss with AF is coming! Can't wait!)

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  35. hi emily, love your honest opinion. if you would compare side by side image from both camera, you will notice the Sony Sensor gives more life in colors.

    i also brought A99 bout a month ago, and used it during a vacation in Japan. i really love how the camera brings out the color of autumn red maple leaves, the dynamic colors that pops, another friend who brought 5DIII, and having problem to cope with the color of his camera, it just looked dull no matter how much it was adjusted. no mistake Sony had caught up with the professional camera industry.

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  36. ,..Helo,..nice reading a comments from a profesional Photographers ,..i started taking picture since 1972,..started with Camera so called Yasica then to Nikon,Fujica STX1 to Canon Eos1000( Most still functioning and use able)in early 2000 i happen to buy a sony Camera i love the Carlzeiss lens from there i upgrage my Camera from Sony to Sony and again because i love the Great AF syestem of now a99,..Nice reading your Article from your hornest experince Emily...

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  37. I think that currently the best price-performance ratio, the Nikon D600 may have. Low light the weakness to a 1/3 f-stop on the Sony 99 is due to the new principle of the fixed ends before mirror. compares to Sony and Canon they provide a close race in the comparable practicality. The Nikon cameras are not directly related to the alpha 99 and the Canon 5D mark3.
    The D600 is slimmed down compared to the 2 rivals anything and thus not 100%. The Nikon d800 is well. Rather for studio photographers and consequently not for me in the same class as the user Alpha99 and the Canon 5d mk3
    Thus, each camera on its merits as I see the Sony autofocus and video recordings from the new system as an advantage is it konstrucktiv conditionally.

    24 megapixels, etc., are in my opinion more than enough, but there are also reasons for the d800 like Calendar productions advertising catalogs.

    Here you have questions of their own clientele looks like one wants to supply you with pictures. Unfortunately, it is so that the Phsychische component of customer plays an important role. The thicker and the more prominent the camera skills will have expected the photographer or denied.

    The brand image plays a very important role, I can see more and more so-called celebrity photographers use when customers no Nikon or Canon cameras.

    Phase One and Hasselblad Co have taken hold, to the chagrin of professional newcomers who have to earn this equipment only.
    The economic break-even point to be reached, and all too easy to forget that the photographic equipment is not just about the camera and the lenses.

    Here is a huge gap between the photographer deliver true professional quality and will not be able to live off of the fees and the fees of the crazy celebrity photographers an artificially straight to breathtaking absurdity creative gap. The marketing is a selection of the photographers who are reduced to economic policy choice rather than the artistic and social value creation. A well-known professor told me soon is the art of a whore policy makers State Conformal art.
    He also mentioned the marketing of agricultural art is to wage a war.

    Be it rather than photographers prefer Creativ when discussing the new minor features to the head hot. Whether d600 d800 or alpha 99 or Canon 5D mk3 are all very good cameras and ultimately the differences are so small that is really only critical to the camera buying what I do with my camera for any purpose!

    In this sense Sincerely Patrick T.

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  38. What I miss a successor to the d700 in the professional class. here is the case of d600 somewhat inferior to the quality of the d700.
    Nevertheless, I'll probably upgrade to the d600.

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  41. Your photographs are gorgeous, BUT I agree with another poster that the eyes ARE soft in almost all of them. Look closely again, its especially noticeable in the first portrait where the left eye is softer then the right. May I ask why you used AF in this shoot? Do you generally prefer AF? I am the opposite MF as much as possible and usually my sharpest images are MF. Human eye is just better than even some of the best AF I think. Thanks for the info about the Sony a99!

    ReplyDelete
  42. Thank you for the wonderful review. I've been eyeing the A99 for some of the features that you mentioned that I think would also benefit me. I think the fold out LCD and the face recognition focus would truly be beneficial when trying to photograph toddlers at their level. I recently did a shoot where the 1 year old was standing in wet grass and I the only way to shoot at his eye level was to lay down on the wet grass myself. No very fun! I tried the Live View on on my 5d Mark 3 and it was useless for moving subjects. I will be getting the Sony A99 for sure to use for certain situations and depending on how I like it I may end up selling one or both of my 5d Mark 3s. Like you, I shoot with the 35, 50 and 135 90% of the time so it wouldn't be a big deal to switch over the the Sony equivalents. By the way, your work is truly beautiful.

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  48. Thank you Amy for your great review. I just switched myself from a Canon 6D to an A99 and I am also in love with it. The biggest plus is for me the EVF, whenever I use an OVF I feel like I am back in the stone age. Keep up the good work and the beautiful smile :)

    ReplyDelete
  49. Fellow a99 user here. Love your works Emily. I share the same excitement as you knowing the advantages a99 brings to the table. It really shows how pragmatic you are on your system choices.

    I do mainly wedding photography and a99 has both strengths and weaknesses. My biggest gripe has to be lens! But with zeiss 50mm coming out, I'm a happy man.

    Hvg used a mk3, I must admit a99 tends to hunt more on my sigma 50. It could be a sigma chipset issue. In addition noise performance suffers more in comparison to mk3 from 3200 onwards. Just pixel peeping I guess.

    But at the end of the day, does the system solves more or creates more issues for my shooting condition? Glad to say a99 offers so much more of wat i wan. Greater color dynamic range, live view LCD for creative angle composition, zeiss and so much more.

    Lkg forward to your new works.

    ReplyDelete
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  51. Good photographer no matter what brand you are in

    ReplyDelete
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  53. woww Thanks for review, it was excellent and very informative.
    thank you :)

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  54. Hello fellow Sony fans,

    I use NEX 6, this camera is awesome for a cropped sensor! I am a proud Sony dude and cannot wait to grab hold of the A99! I am also a student taking Creative Photography from Humber College in Toronto. Way to go Sony, I just hope that those pro photographer opens up their eyes just to compare their Canon or Nikon to NEX or the a99. I wanted the Canon 5D MKii, but that is a beast and too heavy.

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  55. Just ran across your post and I am happy to read it. I also get crazy looks for being the only Sony shooter in the circle also but hey, shoot me :). I've contemplated going to Canon or Nikon simply because of brand name but the Zeiss glass is wonderful! Your post is great and was what I needed to read Thanks and keep it real!

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  56. heyhey i do appreciate your analysis, felt for the same resons and will receive new toy in 2 dayssss. for the same reason i'm switching from a D800 for the a99, loosing the super high resolution but i will join my comments to yours for certain points, noticably on the autofocus precisions! btw which lens did you buy with your alpha?

    amicalement, tom

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    Replies
    1. Hey Thomas! I just saw your post, I'm also thinking about switching from a D800 to an a99. I'm sure you've received it by now, if you get chance to give me your first impressions I'd appreciate it!

      Best,

      Jon

      Delete
  57. This is a fantastic review, thank you! I've been doing tons of research on the a99 as I'm thinking about replacing my D800 with it.

    Would you mind posting a teeny update now that you've had it almost a year? Thanks again!



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  58. This will seem like an odd comparison, but I think it is so similar I'll make it: Emily is a renouned professional photographer, and the equipment she owns is owned to keep up or improve her high standards.

    This is similar to professional golfers on the PGA Tour. Sure they advertise the clubs they're using, but you can be totally sure they love the clubs they are endorsing, and did not pick the clubs to whoever gave them more advertising dollars. Even slightly worse play, and they won't get to endorse any club.

    Emily obviously loves the Sony, makes great arguments in its favor (which has piqued my interest) , and feels like the quality of her work will improve. If not, she'd have kept what has been working for her.

    ReplyDelete
  59. Thanks for the great review
    actually I have A700 with three lenses (Tamron Af 90mm/2.8, sigma 70-300mm and Tamron AF 17-50mm/2.8) and a Sony HVL-F42AM flash.
    I want to buy a full frame camera.
    I have read a lot about the Canon 5D III , Nikon D800 and last Sony Alpha99.
    since i have sony equipment which of those do you recommend
    which lenses do you recommend
    Rad

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  60. It's possible that one may fall in love with one camera over another. In this example, the author switched from one of the best in Canon camera line to the Sony A99 and she is loving it which is great. It's also possible that the A99 is better than the 5D3 in some areas. However, this review is totally biased. Canon 5D3 has 51 focus points and within that 51, 41 of them are cross type. 5D3's AF system is the best in Canon line, same AF system as the 1DX top of the line. The author is saying A99's AF system is better than 5D3's AF. I mean come on, it's ok for you to love the A99 and it's ok for you to say good things about it. But when it comes to comparison, please, please make it right. Don't lead other people to believe that your camera is better than the 5D3 in term of AF performance. I'm not talking about other areas since no one can really tell them apart by looking at the images.

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  61. Thank god - I thought I was the only person on the planet that needed to stay above 1/80th Thank you so much for injecting the human into the technical.

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