Paul Nicklen Switched to Sony Mirrorless Cameras

Paul Nicklen Switches to Sony.

If you read camera websites long enough, you’ll come across examples of the “why I switched to [insert a brand here]” article genre, and generally the pieces are less than compelling. Does it really matter that an event photographer in Sheboygan changed camera brands? Today, I stopped and took notice because world-famous National Geographic shooter Paul Nicklen switched to Sony.

Famously Canon-shootin Paul Nicklen made the eye-popping, head turning announcement that he’s officially going Sony in his newsletter, and is joining the Artisan program (along with several other amazing photographers).

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Paul Nicklen Switched to Sony

This isn’t just a photographer that switched, this is a world-class photographer putting his reputation behind Sony—the first time he’s specifically supported a camera brand.

I’ve made the decision to switch from my DSLR system to a Sony mirrorless system because I’ve realized mirrorless is the future of our industry and Sony is leading the charge.

Here’s a link to Paul”s  Newsletter.

Paul Nicklen switches to Sony.
Paul Nicklen switched to Sony.

You might known Nicklen from his humorous story of photographing a Leopard Seal in the water in Antarctica, where the massive, curious female seal kept trying to feed him penguins, and her confusion when Nicklen wouldn’t eat them. Or you might know his not-for-profit Sea Legacy, which is working hard to clean up the world’s oceans, where his photography is helping make the world a better place.

Nicklen has won more than 30 of the biggest photography awards, including BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year and the World Press Photojournalism award.

Nicklen’s switch to Sony, and his role as a Sony Artisan is doubly impressive because despite his more-than-a-decade long history with Canon, he never aligned with the brand to represent it. In his newsletter he explains why he’s endorsing Sony:

Early on in my career, most people at National Geographic shot Nikon, the prosumer camera of choice, especially in the film days. I excitedly moved to Canon in the early 2000s as they seemed to be the frontrunner in the digital space, but I never wanted to lock into a relationship with a major camera company because I didn’t want to be held to any one system. I’m a journalist and an artist, and I want to shoot with the best of the best and the latest and the greatest. After all, it’s really about getting the shot—a shot that will live on forever. And in my case, to tell an important story that has enough impact to create change for our planet.

So what changed?

Even though I have been shooting Canon until recently, for the past two years, I have I found myself telling everyone to buy a Sony system. See? Conflicted. It’s like telling someone to become a vegetarian while living on a carnivorous diet.

Cristina Mittermeier, my partner and co-founder of Sealegacy, has been shooting Sony for the past 12 years. I’ve watched her closely in the past two years and have become deeply impressed with the rapid evolution of this powerful photography system.

For his less-technical followers, he explains the advantages of mirrorless photography, and—as a wildlife photographer—the specific benefits of things like silent-shooting.

I’ve received countless angry glances from Cristina and other mirrorless shooters when my DSLR goes clack-clack-clack while they are quietly getting the shot at double the frame rate or nearly double the file size.

Leading the Charge

And what about the Canon shooters out there, those who are heavily invested in their system, who are faced with the fact that Sony’s “leading the charge” and that Canon is—according to their interview with DPReview only now starting to develop sensors optimized for mirrorless photography? Nicklen addresses them as well.

I know these words might frustrate some of you, because for photographers, investing in gear is a huge financial commitment and we all want to get it right the first time. Once we go down a path of bodies and lenses, it’s difficult to switch.

Nicklen isn’t the only major hitter added to Sony’s Artisan program. Sony also announced today that the Artisan program will now include adventure filmmaker Taylor Rees, legendary photojournalist David Burnett, sports photographer Jean Fruth, and photojournalist/author/educator Nancy Borowick.

You can read Paul Nicklen’s full newsletter post below (which includes his gear list), you can subscribe to his newsletter on his site and you can find out more about the new Artisans at AlphaUniverse.

Paul Nicklen’s Newsletter

In My Hands: New Gear

I’ve switched to Sony mirrorless cameras. Here’s why.

I know these words might frustrate some of you, because for photographers, investing in gear is a huge financial commitment and we all want to get it right the first time. Once we go down a path of bodies and lenses, it’s difficult to switch.

I’ve made the decision to switch from my DSLR system to a Sony mirrorless system because I’ve realized mirrorless is the future of our industry—and Sony is leading the charge.

In the same vein as the evolution of life, there is also the evolution of camera equipment; it’s always changing. Early on in my career, most people at National Geographic shot Nikon, the prosumer camera of choice, especially in the film days. I excitedly moved to Canon in the early 2000s as they seemed to be the frontrunner in the digital space, but I never wanted to lock into a relationship with a major camera company because I didn’t want to be held to any one system. I’m a journalist and an artist, and I want to shoot with the best of the best and the latest and the greatest. After all, it’s really about getting the shot—a shot that will live on forever. And in my case, to tell an important story that has enough impact to create change for our planet.

I get dozens of emails from people every day asking me which camera I recommend, a question I haven’t readily been answering. The truth is, I’ve been conflicted.

Even though I have been shooting Canon until recently, for the past two years, I have I found myself telling everyone to buy a Sony system. See? Conflicted. It’s like telling someone to become a vegetarian while living on a carnivorous diet.

Cristina Mittermeier, my partner and co-founder of Sealegacy, has been shooting Sony for the past 12 years. I’ve watched her closely in the past two years and have become deeply impressed with the rapid evolution of this powerful photography system.

Cristina on expedition in the Abrolhos Archipelago, making the most of her Sony gear.

For a long time, the race was for DSLR (digital single lens reflex) cameras. DSLRs use a mirror, meaning every time you hit the shutter, the mirror goes up, the camera opens the shutter, exposes the image, and then the mirror closes. And for years, that race was mostly Canon and Nikon—until the introduction of mirrorless systems.

What does mirrorless mean? No mirror flips up and then bangs shut. You know that mirror sound: the one that almost rattles your teeth and scares huge flocks of birds from the trees and sends a bear running for the forest as you hammer away at ten frames a second. I’ve received countless angry glances from Cristina and other mirrorless shooters when my DSLR goes clack-clack-clack while they are quietly getting the shot at double the frame rate or nearly double the file size.

What happens when you physically remove the mirror from a camera? With no moving parts, the camera gets faster, and it becomes silent: the two most important camera traits for a wildlife photographer.

While other companies were devoting R&D to DSLR systems, Sony quietly went about investing most of its R&D in mirrorless systems. To me, it feels like the other big manufacturers are now trying to play catch-up—and it could take quite some time.

Combining a 42mb file while shooting at 10 frames a second on incredible quality G Master lenses while also being 100% silent makes the decision seem pretty simple. Life is about compromises, and camera equipment is no different.

Finally, for the first time since I became a professional photographer, I can wholeheartedly tell the world that this is what I shoot, guilt-free.

I’m proud to be a Sony Artisan of Imagery; I’m proud to tell everyone who asks me about what system they should get. I’ve stopped being conflicted.

That said, what are my favorite camera and lens combinations? I like the A7R3 for the file size and the speed of shooting. At 20 frames per second (fps), the A9 has its place as well. For me, 10 fps is fantastic; I will take file size over speed, mostly because I love seeing my images as massive fine art prints. But having 20 fps at my fingertips is a tremendous asset as well.

For lenses, I love the 12–24mm G wide-angle zoom for its range at the ultra-wide spectrum: it’s a spectacular lens for underwater photography. The 16–35 focal length used to be my favourite but I find that I leave it in my bag more often than not because I prefer the 12–24mm. The 24–70 f/2.8 G Master lens is great for portraits, but I can’t wait to try the new 135mm G Master after hearing all the recent buzz. But my favourite lens of all is the 100–400mm G Master; it is a workhorse like no other. Finally, the new 400mm f/2.8 is incredible for low-light shooting; with teleconverters, I can shoot it at 800mm. With a 42mm MB file, I can afford to crop in even more, which really makes that lens combo about 1200mm—all while keeping the 30MB equivalent.

I couldn’t be more excited or grateful for the journey ahead. Thank you for sharing in the adventure.

My daily shooter is Sony a9 with a vertical grip and various Sigma lenses attached like the 14mm 1.4 Art. Find more gear recommendations in our shop.