Is the Sony FE system a waste of time?

One of the reasons I dislike 'instant' reviews, usually carried out with pre-production cameras (jpg. only) at some junket where the 'reviewers' plied with cheap wine and vol-au-vents fall over themselves (and each other) to tell the world how marvellous their hosts new camera is, is that they tell a very scripted story. Likewise the sites on the mailing list who get sent a review copy on the understanding that positives will be emphasised and a few negatives allowed to slip through so that a pretence of objectivity can be demonstrated. I don't trust any of them.

None of them use the cameras long enough to come to any conclusion about how they work over time in a variety of situations. What's useful, what's not. I've had my Sony A7 and A7r for several months and unless something remarkable happens I'll be selling the lot. Cameras, lenses, grips, adapters etc. Because as the title of this post indicates, I think the whole FE system is a waste of time for me. It's flawed, and yes it has three redeeming features, the A7 and A7r sensors and the 55mm lens, but ultimately it falls some way short of being a genuinely useful set of photographic tools for me. Hobbyist playthings is how I would describe them. Fun for certain things and undoubtedly capable of producing great images, but, as far as I'm concerned it's a system that is going nowhere at the moment. The following is an explanation of why I've come to that conclusion. As ever this is an entirely personal subjective view.

Two things happened over the last day or so. Firstly Sony launched yet another camera, the A77MkII. On the lens front? Nothing apart from a hint of a 16-35mm f/4 lens for the FE system. No pictures, no release date. It's on it's way. Well I for one am fed up with waiting for FE lenses. I'm fed up having to use bulky a-mount lenses and adapters. And the point is I don't think Sony are going to get any better at this. They prioritise cameras over lenses, they seem disinclined to produce good value good quality optics and they seem to work on the basis that people just buy the kit lens and stick with that or want pro spec. heavy big lenses at pro spec. heavy big prices. They have been around for long enough for me to see that this is the way they work and this is the way they seem intent on carrying on.

Secondly, after my fourth attempt to download the Smart (Smart???) Remote Control app so I could control my FE camera from my iPad, I finally succeeded. The website didn't crash (Like it did twice before) and I finally managed to get the updated app onto my camera. And you know what? You can't shoot video with it!!! It's only marginally better than the pretty basic version that came preloaded on the camera and it's for stills only. Compared to the Panasonic Image App it's a complete joke. So these were the final two straws that led me to my decision that I just can't be bothered with this any more and it's time to cut my losses and use cameras that I actually like using, are well-thought out, have a lens range that gives me choice, quality and value for money and that seem to have been designed by photographers rather than marketing executives whose main function is to part us from the cash in our bank accounts and hand it over to them. And by that I mean I will be sticking with my (mostly Panasonic) m4/3 system and my Fuji X cameras and lenses. 

As I've indicated many times the image quality produced by the A7r in particular and the 55mm f/1.8 is spectacular. But that's one lens and I need more than that. The 28-70mm is OK, but pretty mediocre when compared with either the m4/3 or Fuji X systems. From what I read both the 35mm f/2.8 and Zeiss 24-70mm are flawed and the 70-200mm is again big heavy and expensive. Wide-angle m-mount lenses have severe problems, so that leaves a-mount lenses with adapters or manually focused (D)SLR lenses again with adapters. And despite the lightness of the body I've often ended up with a combination that is really no different in feel, size or weight to a DSLR system.

Like many, I've been seduced by the 36MP A7r and I have no hesitation in saying again that it's a great sensor. But the body it resides in is far from great. That ridiculously noisy shutter, decent but hardly jaw dropping AF and an AVCHD codec for video are things that need changing....................


So, that's what I was in the process of writing and was about to publish when I'd finished it, until I got an email notifying me that someone I respect had written this.

Now if you remember Martin took 'that picture' the one I raved about and will repeat again is one of the best images I've seen for years.

So, I'm inclined to take what he writes seriously. And even after all I've written above (and I meant every word of it) I'm now inclined to give at least my A7r a second chance and I WILL try the 35mm f/2.8. 

And this is why I value personal, long term experience of using gear much more than review sites with dubious motives and financial incentives to be nice to manufacturers. As I wrote in a comment on Martins blog, the power of real world photographers and their real world experiences and the opinions of people I respect rather than the bought and paid for 'opinions' of 'reviewers' hand in glove with the manufacturers is something I will take notice of.

And that's the way it should be. Because that's what I try to do here. That's why I write 'in the moment', why my 'reviews' take weeks and sometimes months, why a firmware upgrade or a software update can change my mind and how discovering an alternative approach or trying something different can alter a piece of gears usefulness to me. I know from what people tell me that they can be influenced by what I write and as I'm indicating here I can also be influenced in the same way. And to me that is the real benefit of the photographic internet. Not those dreadful forums with their aggression and constant spamming by camera company employees paid to rubbish their competitors products. Not those 'review sites' who pretend to be objective when they are not, because if they actually had the bottle to write an honest review the manufacturers would cut them off from the gravy train and they would have to buy their cameras and forego the pleasure of invites to scenic locations.

So today, which is going to be sunny, I'm taking out my A7r. And after the bank holiday is over I'll get myself a 35mm f/2.8 and see what it's like. At least that will get me over the depression I'll probably be feeling about the football club I support being relegated yet again. So round about 2PM today I'll either be punching the air or (as I expect) be shuffling along wondering why on earth have I spent my life going through this nonsense at the end of every season. But then that comes with the territory if you are a Birmingham City supporter!!

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Please note that opinions expressed in this blog are just that, opinions. What is written here is at no time intended as a recommendation or otherwise of photographic gear or practice. This is a personal blog written 'in the moment' and is primarily intended as an entertainment. I would also point out that this is not a review site and not intended to be so and the Google+ groups where you can post comments are not forums. I am the sole moderator and I will remove any post (and poster) if I think fit. 

Plus the Soundimageplus blog is 100% independent. No-one sends me gear to review and I have no relationship with any manufacturer or retail outlet. I buy all the gear I use and write about. The advertisements that appear on this site are generated by Google and I have no control over the content, which differs from country to country. I do make a small income from them, which covers expenses and some small recompense for the time I take to write this, but no more than that. If you like what you read and would like to help me to continue to keep buying stuff to write about then clicking on a few adds will earn me a few fractions of a penny. It will cost you nothing and you don't have to buy anything to contribute a (very!) small amount to my coffers.  

N.B. to see more on the cameras and lenses featured in this post click on the relevant labels (tags and keywords) at the bottom of this post.