Which Sony camera should I buy for wedding photography?
As a professional wedding photographer of far too many years and having shot professionally with pretty much every camera ever made I am in a great position to help you decide which is the best camera in the sony line-up for you to choose to photograph weddings with and why. First a little background. I have used pretty much the whole of Canon’s 1-series line, their 5d cameras alongside their cropped xxd and cheaper xxxd lines so understand how canon ergonomics work. I also shot with Nikon for many years with the F5 film camera and also the D3, D4 and d800/d750 and d7xxxx, d5xxx lines – so again pretty familiar with how these cameras compare and how they work.
The right camera for you depends on a few factors, is your budget big? what lenses do you use? what sort of weddings do you shoot?
Which Sony cameras have you used?
I’ve used pretty much every sony alpha camera in recent times from a7s through to the a9, a7iii and a7riii – together with a lot of their aps-c line starting with the nex-3 and up to the a6400. So I’ve used a lot of them!
Below I’ll run through some of the best features of the Sony mirrorless cameras and how you can use them at a wedding!
What is Eye-AF? Well as the name suggests is quite simply allows you to track the eye in AF-C mode on all the cameras; meaning no more out of focus faces/eyes.
Eye-AF has to be one of the huge advantages on Sony cameras – all of the current cameras support this in tracking mode now too and the very latest ones also support eye-af in video mode too.
A controversial topic coming from dSLRs which are optical this allows you to use an electronic version which some say is too laggy compared to an optical viewfinder. In reality the ability to overlay information and brighten the scene for easier viewing make this a boon for shooting in dark conditions where you’d be struggling with a dslr.
Which focuses best for weddings?
Having used all the current sony cameras then for weddings they are all fantastic and you’d be hard pressed to tell a difference. Of course if you shoot sports where things move super quickly then you might start being able to tell a difference. All I can say is that the a7 and a6xxxx cameras all perform well enough to track children sprinting about at sports days.. far more quickly than anything i’ve seen during a wedding. So they’re all as quick as each other – i’ve never noticed a real af-speed difference in real world use (several websites which measure this back this up too).
Pros and cons of each camera
Now i’m not going to list each camera ever made here – I’ll just list the current generation cameras
+great focussing , +equal best af coverage with a9, +10fps mechanical shutter, +best low light IQ, +anti-flicker, -banding in silent shutter sometimes, -lowest resolution evf but not a hinderence in day to day use
+great focussing, +10fps mechanical shutter, +best dynamic range/overall IQ, +anti-flicker, -banding in silent shutter sometimes, -worst af coverage with but still 68% so better than any dslr and not really a drawback in the field
+best evf on any mirrorless, +great focussing, +10fps mechanical shutter, +most resolution, +anti-flicker, -banding in silent shutter sometimes
+great focussing (af calcs up to 60/s), +equal best af coverage with a7iii, +20fps e-shutter, +best electronic/silent shutter means virtually band free silent shootin, +1/32000 shutter speed, -can still have banding in silent shutter sometimes, -no anti-flickr, -5fps mechanical shutter, -worst low-light and Dynamic range
+great focussing (af calcs up to 60/s), +equal best af coverage with a7iii, +10fps mechanical shutter, +20fps e-shutter, +best electronic/silent shutter means virtually band free silent shootin, +1/32000 shutter speed, -can still have banding in silent shutter sometimes, +anti-flickr, , -worst low-light and Dynamic range
One of the reasons many look at sony if for video features such as uncropped 4k, slow motion 1080p and picture profiles. Now for video the best option will be the a7iii followed closely by the a7r3.. of course the a9 is also great for video but lacks picture profiles. So if picture profiles are something you’d like then the a9 isn’t for you, if you’re happy with neutral styles then the a9 is also great too.
If you want to take advantage of super-35mm/aps-c crop mode for video then the a7r3/r4 is your only option here.. in full frame mode the a7iii is your best option if you use super-35mm or want that option then the r3 is the best option.
Silent shutter can be a godsend in some instances.. typically where god is involved strangely as it’s often churches that forbid the use of cameras due to the ‘noisy shutter’ noises. The face that all the cameras can use silent shutter (electronic shutter) is a great counter to the fact that you will be making clicking sounds. This is the one time that an a9 gives more flexibility as typically you can shoot at any shutter speed and not have any banding. So the a9/a9ii is the best for being able to use e-shutter without as much worry for banding (note it can still band just less susceptible).
you can often shoot banding free indoors on the a7 cameras if you choose 1/100 as your shutter speed. not ideal for indoor sports but for inside churches during vows where people aren’t moving then it’s perfectly usable (see below image for example of what banding can look like.
Although for wedding photography I’m typically interacting with people most of the day so whilst it’s nice to have the option it’s not the most important feature of a camera for me. If you find people giving you evil eyes and you work without any interaction/talking and silence is golden then the extra flexibility of the a9 shutter might be useful for you.
What is anti-flicker?
Well it’s nothing to do with the once popular photo sharing website. This is where lights have a cycle of brightness and the camera can automatically take the photo at peak brightness. Typically this works best on fairy lights and fluorescent scenes.
Which is best for using flash?
Well all sony cameras can of course be used for flash. The newer cameras with the 10fps mechanical shutter (a9ii,a7iii,a7riv, a7riii) have slightly less lag when shooting flash and can obviously shoot faster so I’d recommend those for heavy flash work, though the a9 at 5fps is still more than capable. Silent shooting isn’t available for flash work so for this the a9’s advantage has gone and only it’s insane buffer depth is of use.
So which is best?
Well best is a nebulous term! It really depends on what you’re shooting – if we stick to wedding photography then the best overall is probably a7iii or a a7r3 in terms of both image quality, AF, responsiveness, flexability. Let me take you through my reasoning.
Weddings don’t require the biggest filesizes as images are never really printed bigger than 24mpx will allow so the r4 is overkill at 60mpx and gives up a bit in IQ to the r3 at higher sensitivities. The r3 and r4 share a great feature in that their aps-c modes are 18mpx and 28mpx respectively both great for using to get extra reach if needed in a pinch to add more flexibility the use of the lenses you have. Though 18mpx is enough for this realistically given the slight IQ edge from the r3.
Many wedding photographers swear by the a9 as they say the ability to shoot in complete silence for the whole day has transformed their way of working. Now having used an a9 and shot in silent for parts of the day then for me and how I work it is minimal difference for the simple fact that although my camera might make less sound in some situations where i couldn’t use 1/100th of a second (very few!) then i’m typically chatting and getting involved in a couples day so although I’m not intrusive I’m not invisible to any noises I might make are secondary to capturing any moments that occur. Also the buffer depth of the a9 simply isn’t needed for the way I cover a wedding – I mostly use 5fps setting on my cameras and at this setting I get over 15 seconds of shooting on my cameras which again just isn’t needed for weddings in my view.
When it comes to AF speed and responsiveness then on paper the a9 is slightly ahead here. But in a wedding scenario it’s not noticable. Maybe if you’re shooting usain bolt’s wedding and his guests are all sprinting around but here in the UK that’s very very very rare indeed, again when I used an a9 for 2 weddings I didn’t notice any difference in AF acquisition or tracking for normal subjects.
So given I would have to give up better flash shooting and anti-flicker feature on the a9 it’s a little too specialist for me.
Ok, Ok, what is the best value then?
Well Best value is easy.. A7iii is the best value simply because it has very few compromises for photography – the evf isn’t as high resolution as the others but it’s still good.
I hope you have found that useful and I look forward to your comments and thoughts – stay tuned for my next post on why I moved to Sony.. should you? and more!