One Photographer’s Gear Journey – Volume III: From DSLR to Mirrorless
This article is continued from Volume II
I worked with the Canon DSLR system for years, using a 5D Mark III and a few company-owned L-series lenses in various tv and web productions, but I kept hearing great things about the Sigma Art lenses.
Now, it's been a lifelong battle for me to decide whether I should be a zoom-lens shooter or a strictly prime lens shooter. I absolutely see the benefits of both camps, but I always struggle when it's time to decide what's going in the camera bag today.
Around this time, I decided to get my first modern prime lens after the Canon 50mm f/1.8 II. That lens was the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art. The price was right, and the optics were unbelievable. I ended up loving it so much that I started the process of actually selling most of my Canon lenses and replacing them with the Sigma Art 85mm f/1.4, and the Sigma Art 24-70 f/2.8.
For my career, I found myself shooting a lot of live events and concert footage. The industry was starting to change yet again with Sony mirrorless cameras becoming more and more popular, and the game-changing Sony alpha a7S was the newest tool in my sights.
I hesitated for a long time, though. It sounded like such a huge undertaking to switch camera systems from Canon DSLR to a new mirrorless one.
Having extremely generous friends was once again beneficial and with some help, I managed to get my hands on a gently-used Sony a7S. Granted, at the time I had no lenses or even an E-mount adapter for the camera, so I wandered around town for a bit, freelensing one of my old Minolta 50mm lenses on the front, with mixed success.
Not long after that, I bumped up to the even-newer Sony a7s II for its improved video capabilities and that unbelievable low-light performance. It was perfect for those concerts I was attending for work. If only it were possible to find some inexpensive Sony lenses.
I ended up purchasing a Sigma MC-11 mount adapter which allowed me to use my Canon EF-mount lenses on my new Sony E-mount camera. They gave me accurate autofocus, unlocking a capability that I was really missing in professional situations.
However, even that setup started to get a bit old. Mounting these huge, heavy DSLR lenses on the front of my slim and trim mirrorless camera was a bit of a pain. It was time to upgrade my lenses to catch up with the rest of my kit.
This was right around the time when I discovered KEH camera for the first time, actually. Had I known that KEH bought used equipment, I would have saved myself a lot of time, hassle and headache that I got from selling my gear on eBay & Craigslist. Getting slammed with hidden fees from eBay & dodging scammers left and right on the online marketplace got old fast.
These days, we've introduced a Trade program with 10% more trade-in value which would have made my gear transition even easier, but I digress.
I slowly and painfully sold the MC-11 and Sigma ART lenses and purchased the Sony 50mm f/1.8, 85mm f/1.8 and 28mm f/2 prime lenses. Not wanting to miss out on the wider scenarios, I also grabbed a wide-angle adapter to make that 28mm look more like a 21mm f/2.8. Compact, fast and multi-purpose, this bunch of lenses performed very well for me in most scenarios.
Yet once again I ran into the dilemma of prime lenses vs zoom lenses. The primes worked great, but I missed the versatility of the zooms, especially in live event settings when I needed to be able to change focal lengths on the fly.
The Sony 85mm f/1.8 still remains in my collection to this day, but the 28mm and 50mm made their way to the KEH inventory and I've added the Sony 24-70mm f/2.8 GM, 16-35mm f/2.8 GM and 24mm f/1.4 GM. You can see regularly see video work from this gear on our KEH Youtube channel, and occasionally on our Instagram & TikTok pages.
Over the years, my tastes and needs have changed, much like any other professional or hobbyist photographer or videographer. It's very rare that the type of equipment we use hits a plateau where it can't be improved somehow, and the same goes for our own skills.
This is why new photographers are better off starting with more basic equipment that they can afford and upgrading over the years as they learn more. It's perfectly fine, even recommended, to start with an inexpensive kit zoom lens or a nifty fifty to learn the ropes and get the hang of things before spending thousands of dollars on the top-level gear.
As I found over the years, the newest and most high-tech equipment wouldn't always be my favorite. Once the shine of the newest thing wears off, there's an element of personality that's sometimes missing in the more surgical, precise digital equipment you'll find today.
Hear more about bringing back the classics in Part IV, coming soon.