Pro street photographer: why I swapped my Canon 5D Mark IV for the Sony A9 Review

Mark Wylie
Review

2017 has been an exciting year for the photographic industry with new launches, innovations and a mass of kit lined up as we approach 2018.

Away from the camera manufacturers and photo press, it’s the photographers who ultimately decide what kit will survive and dive in the year ahead.

Over 2017 I’ve met plenty of fantastic photographers, many with strong opinions about the kit presently on offer and ultimately what they as photographers want and expected.

Across the board there are familiar themes, everyone wants to go smaller, ditch the old DSLR and switch to lighter weight CSC’s (compact system or mirrorless cameras), but as I’ve found out there’s also conflict.

Do we really want to ditch the trusted Canon 5D’s for slimline Sony Alpha 9?

One such photographer is Salisbury-based Mark Wylie; you can check out more of his work at:

wyliephoto.wordpress.com/tag/salisbury/

I caught up with him about his switch from Canon, through Fuji to Sony in search of the perfect camera.

 

Why have you swapped from DSLR to mirrorless?

I initially swapped over to mirrorless for the smaller size, less threatening form factor (for street photography), silent shutter, and the ability to see a scene immediately in black and white in the electronic viewfinder (as my main interest is shooting in monochrome).

Mark Wylie

Is there anything you miss about DSLRs?

Yes, definitely. I missed my Canon 5D series for two reasons: sentimental value, as this is the camera that I have taken most of the photos of my kids growing up on! Also, typically, the Canon colours. They are just lovely.

Fujifilm is really good on that front too, but for me, Canon still had the edge, particularly the blues and reds, they are done just so well. I like using my Canon camera for street photography for the colours, but the approach has to be quite different as it’s not subtle!

How to set up your camera to shoot an urban landscape

Are there situations where you’d opt to use the Fuji X-T2 over the Sony Alpha 9?

No, I sold my Fuji and bought my Canon back! The Fuji was great in many ways, but I found that it was very slow and buggy in practice. I would often take a while to wake up, meaning that I would miss a lot of quick grab shots.

Also, the image review was awful. I counted how long it took for an image to appear after pressing the button, and it was 8 seconds. This was with the latest firmware update. I also find that the Sony A9 feels much better built (it should be at that price), but it is also very responsive.

It never ceases to amaze me how quick the camera acquires focus and gets the image. I rarely miss anything with the Sony.

Mark Wylie

What features of the Sony Alpha 9 impress you the most?

Silent shooting is a big one for me, and the AF system covering 93% of the frame. The spread of the AF points is incredible and makes it quicker and easier to grab street shots where I want the interest to be on the edge of the frame. It’s just an awesome street photography camera; I can’t imagine anything better.

What is it that makes the A9 enjoyable to use?

It’s such a lot of fun; it puts a smile on my face when I use it. The camera is pretty perfect for me, I don’t really need more than 24MP, especially as most of my work lives on the computer and not in print. I have a great Canon Pro-1 printer, which I bought for black and white printing. The images look great when they are printed.

The AF system is just so quick and accurate. It’s a fantastic street camera, especially in London with a 28mm lens. The main errors in images are mine, not the camera’s – such as setting too slow a shutter speed.

Which lens did you go for and what is next on the shopping list?

I went for the 24-70 GM zoom when I first bought it. The lens is incredible, I love the look of the images it produces. Because the camera is so quiet, I find that by using the flip screen and looking at it I can take images without causing too much offence.

It’s a bit like using a TLR and looking downwards, rather than directly at people – seems much less threatening than pointing a large camera and lens at people! Of course, shooting for quite a while with a DSLR has meant that I have had to learn a few tricks to avoid too much confrontation.

Mark Wylie

I quite like the idea of the 16-35 GM lens next, mainly for landscape, but also for street photography. I started shooting street stuff with a 50mm, but my style is to put people in their context, so I have gravitated to wider lenses over time. It looks to be an amazing lens.

I have a Canon 16-35 vIII lens, which is also amazing, I haven’t used it for street photography (yet!) as the combined weight of a 5D Mark 4 camera and lens is arm wrenching – I wrap the camera strap around my wrist, as I don’t like the feel of it on my neck (a consequence of nearly drowning as a kid – ironically whilst doing surf life-saving training in Cornwall!).

Do you use any accessories and are there some you have your eye on?

I am toying with the grip, mostly as the camera is a little too small for my large hands. I see that Sony does a finger grip adaptor, but I am not so sure about that for me. I have just bought an intervalometer for doing time-lapses, as I want to start trying out video work. I have also just got hold of a Zhiyun Crane gimbal for this purpose.

Salisbury is my main shooting ground, due to work and family commitments. I love night photography, but this year I am going to try and spice it up with some video work. I have no real idea about video, so that is going to be quite a learning curve. I like to stretch my photographic practice, making mistakes and learning is part of the fun.

Street photography tips: how to photograph strangers with confidence

If there was one recommendation you could make to Sony about the A9 what would it be?

For me, I wish the menu system was more like the Canon’s as that is excellent. The menu system is a bit of a pain to navigate, but I am getting used to it. Better touchscreen functionality would be great, too!

Mark Wylie