When it comes to architecture and interior photography, it’s generally best practice to shoot using a tripod. There are several obvious reasons why, mostly due to being able to shoot effectively with slower shutter speeds and to compose your images more precisely.
Many landscape photographers will more than likely agree with the idea of using a tripod too. Unfortunately, there are certain scenarios where shooting with a tripod is simply not feasible. Take for instance a recent contract I received from a construction company that wanted one of their staircases photographed. The location itself does allow you to photograph the interior without any permits or permissions, however, tripods are not allowed due to it being a potential tripping hazard. I obviously wanted to ensure I produce high-quality images for the client and submitted a request to the location to use a tripod.
The back and forth ensued and the time it took to receive replies was eating into the time I had to complete the shoot. Not to mention the amount of paperwork required, suffice it to say there was a lot of red tape. Conscious of my deadlines I decided to shoot the location without a tripod and I’m very pleased with the results.
The equipment I used for this was without a doubt the lightest setup I’ve ever used on any interior shoot. My choice of camera was the Sony a7R III and the lens I decided on was the Laowa 12mm f/2.8 Zero Distortion lens. I decided on the Laowa lens because of the wider aperture and the working space available to shoot.
Always remember to scout your locations as much as possible as it will help you to decide what equipment will be best for the job.
There are several reasons the a7R III was a better choice compared to any current Canon camera on the market.
The Laowa 12mm lens is completely manual and therefore autofocus was out of the question. Considering the lack of light, I decided to shoot wide open at f/2.8. The great thing about the 12mm lens is that even wide open you get a great degree of depth of field and it was sufficient for this particular location.
Shooting handheld in low light with a manual focus lens brings in a number of challenges. Fortunately, a good EVF will negate many of these issues. For one, looking through the viewfinder as opposed to using the back screen offers more stability in the way you hold the camera. Focus peaking and being able to punch in to check focus through the viewfinder meant that I never had to use the back of the screen. Although the 12mm lens does produce a relatively deep depth of field, some effort did need to go into making sure I was focusing correctly.
Canon and Nikon have announced their mirrorless cameras too but it’s not as though you can go out and buy one as I write this. Sony has been the only full-frame manufacturer offering a good EVF for a while now, making them a fantastic option.
In-Body Image Stabilization
Sony is still the only company on the market that offers a full frame camera with IBIS rated up to 5.5 stops. Even the newly announced cameras from Nikon don’t offer IBIS to this degree (it provides 5 stops). Canon, on the other hand, isn’t even competing in this area — the new Canon EOS R lacks it.
IBIS is extremely useful and without it, I doubt I would have been able to produce high-quality images. Due to the lighting, even when shooting at f/2.8 I had to shoot at shutter speeds as slow as 1/15th of second. Had I have picked my Canon 5DS R, as I do normally, I wouldn’t have been able to shoot at shutter speeds that slow and produced detailed images.
It seems Canon still believe that in-lens image stabilization is a better option. I recently demonstrated how this is not true and IBIS performs either about the same or better than IS. Even with adapting the Laowa lens, IBIS proved to be invaluable.
Other Compelling Reasons to Consider Sony
We are now three generations into Sony mirrorless cameras and currently they are the only manufacturer that offers a proper well-rounded system. Yes, Canon and Nikon have announced their mirrorless systems and although they do look pretty good as a first edition, they’re far from perfect. Above I discuss a real-world scenario where Sony was by far the best option for the job. There are, however, several other very compelling reasons Canon and even Nikon shooters should consider Sony cameras.
I normally discuss this as a major advantage for Canon and talk about how native is always best. In practical real world uses though, Sony has some pretty notable advantages here.
Not only does Sony have a large selection of native lenses on the market already, they continue to develop more and more. Not to mention the vast options available if you choose to adapt lenses. Sony E-mount cameras have adapters available for pretty much all the major lens mounts. From its own Sony A-mount to Canon EF, Nikon F, and even Leica M mount lenses can be adapted.
Heck, you can even adapt some medium format lenses, making it the most adaptable lens mount currently on the market. To add to this, Sigma has recently joined Sony making native lenses for E-mount cameras. Having options like the 105mm f/1.4 and the 14mm f/1.8 make Sony cameras an even better option than ever before.
Most importantly for me and many architectural photographers is the fact that you can effectively adapt tilt-shift lenses to Sony cameras. Once again, all these lenses are going to be stabilized due to IBIS, something that Canon still does not offer. Sony is by far in the best position when it comes to available lenses for full-frame mirrorless cameras.
The Sony a9 was the first mirrorless camera that really showed what a properly developed mirrorless camera can do. The zero blackout EVF and incredible focusing and tracking ability of this camera made it the first proper option for many professionals.
Focusing from the sensor is not only more accurate than conventional systems in DSLRs but allows for more interesting and useful features. Take eye detect autofocus, for example: this feature individually makes Sony cameras a much better option than a lot of what else is available on the market. For some time, this feature was seen as a bit of a gimmick due to its ineffectiveness, but cameras like the a7R III have completely changed this perspective. If you’ve ever used eye detect in the latest Sony cameras, you’ll know just how good it is.
I can’t stress enough how incredible this feature is. Shooting portraits is so much easier because you’re not having to constantly move your focus point every time you slightly change your composition. It frees you to be able to concentrate on composing the shot and not compromise that point.
On several occasions with a DSLR camera, I’ve found I had to adjust the composition to ensure the image is in focus. The alternative was to use focus recompose, but, this is not a great solution especially when shooting with wider aperture lenses. Ultimately the autofocus systems in the latest Sony cameras are simply brilliant.
Although Nikon has only recently stepped up its game when it comes to video, Canon is still seemingly crippling its video features. The newly announced EOS R camera offers 4K at 30p, however, it massively crops the sensor (1.8x).
Sony, on the other hand, has been offering fantastic video features for a few years now. With its latest cameras, features like internal Log profiles and dual card recording mean that they are still the best option. Its autofocus for video has proven to be very reliable and properly effective.
From all the current full frame manufacturers, it feels like Sony is the only company that actually listens to its customers. Sony now produces some of the absolute best mirrorless cameras on the market and this is because they’ve taken time to properly listen to the complaints. They don’t make excuses, they make changes.
Take dual card slots, for example. This was a major complaint and Sony addressed this as soon as they could with its third generation of cameras. Nikon on the other hand, even though all of its higher-tiered DSLR cameras offer two card slots, decided on a single slot for its mirrorless cameras. Canon too, for some ridiculous reason, has decided to do the same.
It’s a baffling choice especially when you consider how Canon and Nikon know what Sony has been through. If your camera isn’t big enough to house two card slots, then you haven’t made your camera big enough.
Canon had every opportunity to deliver a fantastic camera with two card slots but, as usual, it does just enough and nothing more. Even Fujifilm, with its relatively tiny cameras, has managed to offer two card slots for its cameras.
Many individuals have described how Sony takes criticisms, and it’s generally very positive. It would seem Sony care what its customers have to say and that’s part of the reason why we see so many meaningful updates for its systems.
Picking the right tool for the job is an important decision and, in many circumstances, I still pick my Canon cameras. Having said that, in the last year I’ve found myself using my Sony cameras more and more and it’s because of the wide range of properly useful features.
Sony has been working extremely hard over the last few years to develop their system and deliver fantastic options to photographers. They have a pretty vocal following for good reason: they make fantastic cameras and work hard to deliver what their customers want.
Canon and Nikon seem to only want to do just enough to keep their respective market positions. Their lackluster approach to mirrorless really demonstrates their commitment and they constantly require excuses and defending.
When you have third party manufacturers starting to develop lenses and accessories for Sony just a few years into their development, you can tell they’re doing something right. The full-featured cameras offered by Sony are now extremely compelling options for many photographers and I predict their market position will be increasing dramatically over the next few years. For many photographers, Sony is fast becoming the absolute best option.
About the author: Usman Dawood is the lead photographer of Sonder Creative, an architectural and interior photography company. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of his work on his website, Instagram, and YouTube.