Why Sony Cameras have Disappointed Me

Sony A7 III

This is a followup to yesterday’s post where I compared the Sony A7 III to the Fujifilm X-T10.

I have to apologize to some of my photographer friends who use Sony cameras. While I believe that all modern cameras are capable of excellent image quality and any of them would serve well as their primary camera, I’ve perhaps been a bit unfair to Sony. Honestly, I really don’t care which camera someone uses. I use a lot of Olympus cameras, and recently Fujifilm. I also own a few Canon cameras including the Canon 6D. If fact, I own 50+ cameras and have models from every major brand except for Hasselblad. Yet, I realized that I have a noticeable bias against Sony. Let me explain why.

Quite understandably, you might think I have something against Sony, the company. That’s actually untrue. I’m actually a big fan of Sony and have been all my life. Since the early ’70s, my family has owned Sony Trinitron TVs. At the peak, I think we had three back then, which was quite rare. Even today, I still own Sony LCD TVs. Including one, I bought a year ago along with a hefty and expensive Soundbar. I also owned the original Sony Walkman and many other versions including the Sports Walkmans. Add to these various models of Discmans, Playstations, organizers, and a Blu-ray player. I own and have owned a lot of Sony products.

I even own two Sony cameras. The waterproof TX5 and my first mirrorless, the NEX 5. I was seduced by my love of Sony and their quirky but neat designs. But, what I learned is that a neat looking camera doesn’t necessarily make a very usable camera. Unlike the other electronic appliances, cameras need to be one with the user. You don’t have to tactilely interact much with a TV, or Walkman. You do with a camera and it can make or break your photograph. And, it can sour your joy of photography if you constantly have to fight a camera’s interface. Back a decade ago, I was a novice photographer and didn’t know any better. I put up with the quirky Sony cameras and their horrible user interfaces. I later came to discover that their color wasn’t especially good either.

So, in retrospect, I think my frustration with Sony cameras is precisely because I like the company. Their cameras disappoint me because I expect more from them.

To Sony’s credit, they’ve aggressively updated their cameras. They continue to improve their color, which I was pleased to find out recently. Their newest A7R IV even updates the ergonomics and robustness of their body. All great changes. Unfortunately, their menu system and interface still seem to lag. But these are positive changes and I continue to be hopeful.

I think Sony has always been an engineering-focused company with some noteworthy industrial designs. While their cameras are technically superior, a few more human design engineers would go a long way towards solidifying their capability. From their storied history, I expect no less. I remain optimistic that some future Sony camera will actually feel like a camera, rather than a picture taking computer that is an engineering marvel.

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8 thoughts on “Why Sony Cameras have Disappointed Me

  1. Off-topic, but wasn’t that Sony MiniDisc device a wonder? I think we all knew it was a transitional technology, someday to be replaced by a similar solid state product. But, for its day, the ability to record CD quality sound — be it music or interviews — and actually edit the recordings on-the-fly, on a device so small it would fit in a shirt pocket…wow!

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