First impressions of a mirrorless late adopter, 7D2 -> R6

PeteH

I'm New Here
Oct 5, 2020
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Edit: wow oops I didn't realise what a gigantic essay I'd written here! :oops: Anyway tl;dr don't hesitate to move on from your DSLR and embrace mirrorless, you'll be delighted you did. Read on if you want to see me say the same thing at much greater length...

I've been shooting crop Canon DSLRs for ~10 years as an amateur, done some local competitions, shot the odd thing to commission, etc. Lots of casual family / social documentary type stuff too as kids have been growing up. The last few months, most of my shooting has been basically albums of young kids' birthday parties for a parents' WhatsApp group, there isn't a lot else going on right now.

I've been using a 7D2 for years. I've been considering full frame bodies for a while, have several times almost got either an R or a 5DS to sit alongside the 7D2 as a complement. Eventually decided to go the other way and take the plunge with an R6, ostensibly as a full replacement for the 7D2 if it works out (spoiler: it is, bigtime). I've been using it a week and I thought I'd write a few impressions in case it helps any other waverers.

I'm using exclusively EF lenses right now. Collection currently is as follows: EF-S 10-22 / 18-55 / 55-250; EF 50/1.8 II, 85/1.2 II, 85/1.8, 135/2; Sigma 30/1.4 EX, 50/1.4 Art, 70-200/2.8 OS (the 2011 pre-Sport version), 150/2.8 macro (old, non-stabilised, nice lens though); Tamron 150-600 G2. A bunch of flashguns and whatnot. So I'm equipped to at least try my hand at most things. Obviously I don't currently have any full-frame lenses shorter than 50mm, I'm still considering what to do about that.

The main thing I was looking for in a mirrorless body was precise autofocus with the fast lenses. On my 7D2 I always find the 135/2 gives glorious images but is twitchy and prone to misfocus, which I suspect is related to it being fairly long for crop, and unstabilised. It's better on moving subjects than on static ones IME. Still thinking about performance on the 7D2, the 85/1.2 is fairly reliable as long as I don't get too ambitious about how far off-centre I want to focus, but wider than f2 I'll still shoot a bunch of frames if I want to make sure I have one in focus - and famously it's useless for anything moving faster than walking speed. The Sigma 50/1.4 Art is pretty good for AF in general in my hands, but I do still get misses.

I also find the Tamron 150-600 G2 is quite prone to misfocus on the DSLR, especially at the long end (not surprising for max f6.3 of course). And yes like all my other lenses I've AFMA'd it but even with spot focusing it just doesn't always acquire the subject I'm aiming at. So again I tend to shoot bursts and hope for the best.

I do frequently lean quite hard on the AF system, eg shooting wide open at kids whizzing around on bikes, that sort of thing. (The 85/1.8 has always been my reference go-to if I need to track fast action.)

Anyway, following a week's usage of the R6, the long and the short of it is that it has completely solved pretty much every autofocus issue I've ever had. For casual / reportage style shooting with fast lenses, I cannot emphasise enough what a total liberation it is to be able to autofocus totally precisely over the whole frame, with any lens at any aperture in any light level, and know for a fact that you can count on getting perfect focus near as dammit every time. No more finessing the composition to be able to use shallow DOF, no more going back and forth through bursts considering the tradeoff of peak action vs precise focus, no more closing down the aperture a little to give a bit more margin for error; just concentrate on getting a picture that expresses what you want to express. It's absolutely magical.

As you'd probably expect I've mostly used the Art 50, the 85L and the 135L so far. All of these lenses are totally transformed in casual use by the R6 autofocus; they never miss, whatever you're trying to do. The sheer doggedness of the R6 tracking even helps the 85L with moving subjects; it's still not the best, but it is so quick and so accurate to respond to any movement that you can push it way harder than you'd think. The IBIS is also amazing as the light goes down. I tended not to go below 1/250 with the 135L on the 7D2, for example, but have shot at 1/40 without issue on the R6 (at static-ish subjects obviously).

For my specific case of the 7D2 to R6 upgrade, the reduced pixel density also makes it feel like a lot of lenses, in particular 85L, 135L and Sigma 70-200/OS, have all received significant sharpness upgrades, at least for the central portion of the frame. (The 50 Art is so sharp anyway that it's not really any different.)

It feels to me just slightly more ponderous in use than the 7D2 did, eg the mechanical shutter cycle is slower. I prefer the larger body of the 7D2 but the control wheel EF adapter makes up for ergonomics to some extent (I'm still experimenting with setup but currently use the control ring for EC, which works fantastically well with lenses under 1 kg or so - with larger ones it's too far away from the centre of gravity to be useful. I mostly shoot in manual w/auto ISO unless I'm using fast lenses in daylight in which case Av usually.)

Coming from a mirror the finder is of course very strange to start with, but you adjust pretty quickly. Live exposure preview plus accurate bokeh make composition just so much, much easier under certain circumstances. I'm strongly considering junking RAW and switching to jpg for 70% of my shooting just because it's so easy to get exposure spot on in camera.

If you're sitting on the fence like I was, and you have use cases that in any way resemble mine, I really cannot recommend highly enough that you make the leap, it's great.
 
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