Professional photographer Taki T writes:
I've been a pro photographer using Nikon for 20 years and the last few years I've been seriously contemplating switching to Sony. The main reason being Nikon's highly annoying backfocus issues.
I shoot quite a lot of large aperture people photos (among a lot of other subjects) and that Sony eye focus and contrast detect autofocus has really piqued my interest! Sony just became available in my country last month and I was about to take the plunge until I read some of your recent blogs... Suggestions/advice?
I also shoot a lot of macro and was getting the impression that I would get a noticeable improvement in IQ by switching to Sony mirrorless (better sensor and lenses)?
DIGLLOYD: horses for courses: the Sony A7R III and Nikon D850 have each their own strengths and weaknesses. There are no other 35mm cameras for general use that I would consider at this time. Get and use both IMO, but with the best glass and the glass suited properly for the task.
I think Nikon D850 image quality is superior to Sony A7R III, but in particular for multi-second exposures. That is debatable, but I stand firm on Nikon files being more malleable and less 'brittle' to work with. But both cameras produce very high quality images if handled ideally. My main gripe with Sony is its unflattering noise pattern when processed by Adobe Camera Raw.
As for backfocus with Nikon DSLRs, I have documented many problems over the years. It is a continuing problem; see Experience Report: Adjusting Autofocus Accuracy with the Nikon 105/1.4E. There is no way around the issue with DSLR AF; it’s unavoidable due to the the nature of the technology.
The Nikon D850 “focus shift” (focus stepping) feature is unique among DSLRs, and exceptionally useful if one shoots AF lenses and does focus stacking. And I hugely prefer the D850 for landscape shooting because of ergonomics and buttons, particularly with gloves on hands.
Macro: Sony has no macro lens with a focusing helicoid. For “real” macro that is troublesome; autofocus and macro work are not copacetic; see for example the various macro shots I made with the Zeiss Milvus 100mm f/2M. The Zeiss 135mm f/2 APO-Sonnar and its Milvus 135mm f/2 successor go to 1:4 and are superb.
Eye AF and portraits with Sony
The Sony A7R II and Sony A7R III Eye AF feature is unbeatable. If you like the available glass such as the 100mm f/2.8 STM and the 85mm f/1.4 GM, nothing can hold a candle to the Sony Eye AF feature for ultra-high hit rate on sharp eyes for portraits.
Below, this series of shots with the Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM utilized Eye AF. Never before have I had such a high hit rate shooting portraits; with something like 98% in-focus on the iris of the eye at wide apertures: