Wednesday, 14 March 2012

SONY a77 VS CANON 5D mk II and NIKON D7000 in video mode

Hi Guys,
After I have used the SONY a77, Canon 5D MK II and Nikon D7000 for a while. I finally like to share with you some of my experiences with these cameras. Comparing them head-to-head in the area that is most important for me, video.

In this review, I will be focusing on video performance of the a77 only as there are many people/websites who have done very good review about its ability to take photos.

You also can watch some of my videos taken from a77 here.

The LCD Screen
At the start, the flip screen is a bit awkward to use. But after use it a few times I hardly use view finder anymore. The 3" screen is good but is not big enough to fine tune the focus though. But by turning on the peaking does help with the focusing.
The LCD is not very bright when shooting under the direct sun in the afternoon (But I have not yet to find any LCD to be any brighter).

+ In this section Sony a77 win as it has flip screen.

The Focusing
Thankfully that this camera came with "Focus Magnifier" (so as the 5D MK II and D7000) and peaking function that allows you to fine tune your focus.
I really like it ability to focus though sometime it will not focus on the object you like it to focus if you use Auto focus but it did better in most case when you want to do run and gun style (when you don't have the time to set the follow focus and etc.)

For me the ability to have AF for video is my biggest priority for what I am doing.  And this is the main reason why I bought the SONY a77. I know that there are people out there that may not agree on these. But I did like to share my thought anyway.
I choose to use the a77 AF rather than use MF because:
1. I can't MF better than it!
2. I can't MF as fast as it!
3. I can't MF as smooth as it!
For example in the event like weddings... when the bride walk out... you don't really have much time to muck around with the manual focus, you just want the bride to be IN FOCUS all the time! (of course unless you want to make an artistic shot when you intentionally want to blur out the bride and focus on flowers or for some other reasons...). If you want an artistic shots then MF will definitely be a better option as it has more control but does require extra time and equipments.  When I was using 5D and D7000 for a wedding, I can never get the focus right when doing it manually... and it is way too stressful as I already have too much things to worry about like where I am going to go (walking backward!) plus trying to stabiliser the camera, framing, focusing... etc etc....
By the way... you can now walking forward when shooting the bride with this camera because the LCD can flip toward the lens!

+ In this section Sony a77 win as it has MUCH better auto focus and has Peaking.

Image Resolution (for video)
HD video that came out from the SONY is excellent if you given it a proper lighting. But of course, you can't do that every time in the real world shooting.  So in my opinion both 5D and D7000 image quality are slightly better than the SONY's. Especially at high ISO, the grey scale from 5D has most smooth tone (less noise) out of all. But SONY has done a good job on the CINE look. I was VERY IMPRESS when I first shoot movie with it. No matter whatever dial mode (except Movie Mode), it will suggest the best lighting for cine look. I thought I nailed the exposure pretty well but the Auto exposure on a77 really nailed it. This is great, as I now know that I won't need to worry to set my exposure as much any more.

+ In this section Sony a77 lose both to 5D MK II and D7000 in terms of Resolution. 5D MK II has the most Cine looks out of all (if set it right). But the SONY gain an advantage on auto exposure when doing Movie Recording.

Recording time
I manage to get about 30 mins from the SONY (non stop recording). In most case this is enough for me. The 5D MK II can do around 4 mins.  The SONY also didn't heat up as much as the 5D.

+ In this section Sony a77 beat 5D by far.. however, I don't really know how long D7000 can do.

Battery's life
For videoing a77 is quite good considering that my 3 years old Sony handy cam were recording about 1.5 hours max. The Sony a77 can record about 2-3 hours on one battery* (*=the camera is always ON but ON/OFF recording).

+ In this section SONY a77 scored quite well, from my experienced (non scientific) I've found that the a77 battery life is about the same as 5D and D7000 for video shoot.
But when use it for taking pictures, 5D MK II is the king! I hardly ever change battery when I shoot a wedding with it. D7000 is second and the a77 is third.

Others bit and pieces..
Ease of use to switch from Shooting mode to Video mode. 
SONY a77 is the easiest to switch. You only have to press one button one time and you are good to record. In D7000 you will need to switch to Video mode first (then you may need to change the settings as well as you probably don't need as fast shutter speed) then press record button. In 5D MK II, you will need to turn on Live View first (then change the setting) then press record.
+ a77

Response time
It will take some time for the thing to start up! I miss more than 2 secs of the clip because of this. 5D and D7000 are super fast... in fact I never need turn off my 5D at all.
Reading files - a77 is much faster on firmware v1.0.4.  But 5D is still the fastest and d7000 being the third.

Deleting files - a77 is faster than D7000 in general. But not as fast as 5D.
(Update 21/08/2012 - firmware 1.0.5 make responding time, reading time, and deleting time SUPER fast! I finally DON'T miss my 5D mk II anymore!)

+5D Mk II

Time lapse
Bummer! there are no time lapse on a77 and 5D! So D7000 is the only camera which has this function.


Leveling gauge
SONY is the only one (I think) that has this electronic leveling gauge.  This is very useful and had come in handy in many occasions.

Final thoughts
Get it
- If you need AF for video
- If you already own SONY' lenses and want to grow your SONY' gears.
- Excellent menu systems (at least better than both 5D and D7000 in my opinion)
- On camera image stabiliser
- CINE looks for video
- The Sony batteries can be use for external monitors and third party accessories. (i.e. lights)
- SONY is big in Video, and I believe they will do everything to make sure that they will remain number 1 in making great video cameras. (I am awaiting for the new a99 and new NEX generation)

Don't get
- If you want to take picture/video at night with it! Though this can be solve by using good on camera lighting like LED light. But make sure that you buy an adaptor for the hot shoe! The hotshoe really is the most annoying thing on this camera in my opinion. I always need to remember to carry an adaptor with me.
- If you want touch screen to do AF. Then go for GH2 (changing focus area on a77 by using "Multi Direction" button while you are recording video make the camera shake! Or go with NEX5n instead)
- If you hate MTF files, (But you can choose .mov file as well)
- If you want weather proof lenses. Get the Canon instead.

Every camera had good and bad points, you just need to know what you wanted to do with it and see whether you can live with all the bad points.

If you are rich and can afford more than one camera, get 5D MK II for your artistic shots and get a proper video camera for run and gun style. But if you need one camera to do everything, the SONY a77 might be a better option (cost wise) than to buy 5D MK II or D7000.

(UPDATE 5/09/2016 - a77mkii is way better than a77 for both video and photo. Please do check that out as well. Alternatively if you like full frame looks go for a second hand a99).

Hope you will find this article helpful,
Joe Leeteerakul

If you would like me to do other camera or gear review please let me know.