The China Experiment – Dumping Nikon for Sony – Stuck in Customs

The China Experiment – Dumping Nikon for Sony

Update – the Transitions is Complete

In July of 2013, I decided to switch and stop using DSLRs as my main weapon. To see more, come read “Hello Sony. Goodbye Nikon.

The Sony NEX Experiment in China

I’m going to spend a few weeks in China using only my Sony NEX (see Sony NEX-7 Review) I’m sidelining the Nikon D800 (see Nikon D800 Review) for the time being. It will be my backup camera in case the Sony breaks down. This is a role-reversal for my cameras! For the last year+, the Sony has been the backup quarterback, but now the coach has made a big decision.

DSLRs are a dying breed

Over a year ago, I wrote a controversial article called DSLRs are a Dying Breed. I got a lot of hate for that… but that’s cool.

Important Questions to Ask Me

Whenever you see someone come out and say something sensational like this, you should ask:

Question #1: Is Sony paying you to say this or make this move?
Answer #1: No.

Question #2: Did you get your Sony NEX-7 for free or discount?
Answer #2: No. I paid full price

Question #3: Does Sony pay you to advertise?
Answer #3: No. These Japanese companies don’t seem to care much about social media… I’m sure if I showed them the Google Analytics on this blog and that I have over 10 million followers when you add up Google+, FB, Pinterest, and Twitter that they would just give me a blank-Japanese-stare. They still care more about advertising in old photography magazines that hardly anybody reads any more. I have another article you might enjoy called “Stop Advertising in Magazines” where I did an experiment.

Anyway, if any of the answers were “Yes,” it would not necessarily make what I am saying invalid, but it should make you more suspicious. If you see other photographers in the media make a surprising change, you should ask these questions too.

Maybe if you’ve followed me on for the past 6+ years, you know I’m honest about what I use and say. Nikon doesn’t pay more or have any financial relationship whatsoever, and I’ve always pimped their wares. I’ve always paid full price for all my Nikon equipment. NOW, having said that, maybe things will change in the future… but they could never pay me enough to make me say something I don’t believe already. Life’s too short, you know?

Why am I able to be so honest, independent of sponsorships (and/or the sad lack thereof)? Well, the blog is very profitable and keeps our team of about ten people happily paid and rewarded. It makes money because many nice people like you visit our store and get goodies you just can’t live without! 🙂 hehe… but, seriously, I don’t have to scrounge around for business and sponsorship deals so that we can make payroll. I’m very grateful for this… it keeps the website and me independent, and I’m also very glad we have so many happy customers that keep the whole circle of love going. Thank you! 🙂

Why are you switching to the Sony NEX?

For over a year, my Nikon D800 has been my Main Camera and the Sony NEX-7 has been the backup. They are now swapping places!

I’m just experimenting with this swap two weeks while in China. However, this is a pretty major decision because I don’t go to China too often. If I come back and miss shots because of a bad camera decision, then it’s all my fault. I don’t want to have any photography-regrets! I have enough other regrets in my life… I don’t need to add photography regrets to the list!

Something that honestly drove this decision is that I’m without my 14-24mm Nikon lens. But I’ve been without it now for 6 weeks, and another 4 weeks in the past year because of a fault with the lens that Nikon could never really fix correctly. During that 10+ weeks, I’ve been using the Sony NEX-7 a lot, and I think it can pretty much do everything I need.

Update: Nikon just offered to send me a free loaner 14-24mm lens, but I declined. It’s problematic to ship it to me since I’m on the move, and I’m happy to go forward with my Sony experiment. Also, I’ve been without the 14-24mm for so long, I’ve gotten quite used to a Nikon-less way of life. It’s not so bad.

I’ll include a bunch of photos from NEX-7 so you can see the quality and judge for yourself.

HDR Photo

Above: I just took this photo a few days ago with the NEX-7 and the 10-18mm lens. I don’t think I could have done any better with the Nikon D800.


Okay, but, still, what are the main reasons I have made this decision? Here they are:

  • The new 10-18mm lens on the Sony NEX-7 is amazing. It’s a cropped sensor at 1.5x, so I’m really getting 15-27mm, which is not that different than the 14-24mm that I am used to. I love landscapes, so just backing up a few more feet is quite easy most of the time.
  • The camera is SHARP. Oh god… that mirrorless sensor system is just so sharp… never blurry.
  • It has all the basic lenses I need (which are not many – a wide angle and a telephoto)
  • 24 megapixel — more than enough. Sure, the D800 has 36 megapixel, but, that doesn’t translate into many more horizontal pixels… Since I’ve been shooting with the D800, I haven’t been printing any bigger or doing any different licensing deals because of the higher resolution.
  • Smaller. The NEX-7 is 5.9x smaller! Let’s just say SIX TIMES SMALLER for the sake of argument. Six Times. 6X. 111x49x38mm for the NEX-7 vs 146x123x82mm for the D800. It takes up hardly any space AND is…
  • Lighter – 2.9x lighter (350g vs 1,000g) – I like measuring things in grams… I feel like a drug dealer.
  • Faster at shooting 10 fps vs. 4 fps
  • Screen that flips around – That is more useful than I ever knew…
  • I have a Leica lens adapter on my NEX-7 that lets me use amazing Leica lenses, like this sweet f/1.2 that sometimes makes a surprise appearance !

Sample Sony NEX-7 Photos

While my Nikon has been in various states of disrepair (my fault, I assure you) I have been left with my Sony NEX-7. Here are some photos that I took. I’m very happy with them! Note that most of these are with the kit lens! Also note that I post-process a lot of my photos unapologetically.

HDR Photo

The above photo was taken with…. drumroll… the Sony NEX-7! And the kit-lens, no less!


HDR Photo

Above: The NEX-7 can really take some incredible photos. Wait, I took it. Well, you know, the NEX-7 helped… But yes, it’s a lovely camera. Oh, and this is the kit lens!


HDR Photo

Above: Here is another photo I took a few days ago here near Queenstown with the 10-18mm lens.


HDR Photo

Above: My son and daughter play in the ocean in Virgin Gorda… Kit lens.


HDR Photo

Above, a path in Glenorchy. Kit Lens.


Taken with the Sony NEX-7.  I took that with the kit lens. Let me repeat – I took that with the KIT LENS ! :)  - Read my full review here.

Above: I don’t do a lot of shallow DOF work, but you can see it’s pretty good even though it is an APS-C sensor. Note also this was taken with the kit lens!
ISO 200 55mm f/5.6 0.05s (1/20)

HDR Photo

Above, a fun photo while using the Leica-mount and f/1.2 lens.


HDR Photo

Here’s a shot of my friend Ben, who is the founder of Pinterest.


HDR Photo

My kids playing on the rocks…kit lens.


HDR Photo

Above: This is an HDR shot with the NEX-7 kit lens. I did three exposures then did the steps from the new HDR Tutorial.


Why the Sony NEX-7 and not another mirrorless system?

The micro-four-thirds are another very good system. There are also a lot more lenses available for that system rather than Sony’s new E-Mount system. But, I just really like the NEX-7 better than any of the micro-four-thirds cameras right now. Note all of that could change relatively quickly. But, really, the micro-four-thirds cameras are just fine and really cool. There are a lot more manufacturers making cameras and lenses for that system, and I know it has a huge following.

How will you determine if the “China Experiment” is a success or failure?

Well that is a good question. I wish I had not asked it. I’m quite scientific and analytical, you know? So I don’t know how I will know if this was truly a good move.

If I could do some sort of quantum experiment, where a parallel-universe-Trey made the opposite decision to use the Nikon D800 instead and happened to visit all the same places — and then I could quantum-combine the results and compare the photos from A and B — well that would be a good experiment, but I won’t do that. Well, I would, but I can’t think of a way to bring together multiple universes at the moment.

Another way would be if I took both cameras for two weeks and took the same photos of the same things. But that is overkill. I’m pretty Type-A go-getter, but I’m still kinda lazy. I’m not gonna do all that mess.

Here’s the thing, I’ll come back from two weeks in China with a ton of photos from the NEX-7, and either I’ll be happy with them or I won’t. If I come away with a lot of winners, then I’ll consider the whole thing a nice success! If I’m happy, then it will be a successful experiment. It’s quite a holistic analysis, and I am at zen peace with this.

Want to watch the live results roll in?

Subscribe to my YouTube Channel to see my videos that I’ll post while using this camera in China. BTW, thanks for the 2.4 million views on the channel! I’ll upload videos there. Even though China blocks a lot of Google and YouTube, I have a VPN so I’m gonna be sweet-sliding around the Great Firewall of China.

Update: Sony has contacted me now. They asked if they could loan me anything to try, so I asked for the lesser cousin to the NEX-7 — the NEX 5n. I’m interested in trying the new OLED display attachment. It’s also a good deal cheaper than the NEX-7, and I’ve gotten many questions about it… I’ll play around with it and then I can answer.