There are a lot of comparisons out there between the Nikon Z9 and the Sony A1, but most of them are pretty lacking in information. This comparison will take a deep dive into some of the specs that are often not mentioned, but will also break down and compare the total system price when loading batteries, grips, and cards.
Nikon Z9 vs Sony A1 – The Ultimate Comparison
I can’t fully say there is a clear winner between these two cameras, obviously, the price is a big factor here and Sony doesn’t really have anything to justify how much more expensive it is, but besides that, both are slightly tuned to hit different audiences. The Nikon Z9 is a little bigger, bulkier with no way of making it compact. Whereas the Sony A1 comes in the traditional style body they’ve been using. This could help a little with the versatility of the camera, especially with filmmakers looking for a compact B-Camera, however, this comes at a cost. And if you want to add the grip and the extra battery to the A1, you even further increase the price gap.
The smaller Sony body also uses CFexpress Type-A cards which are considerably slower than Type B cards used in the Nikon. Sony tries to get around this by adding a bigger buffer, but you also have the option to use UHS-II cards if you want to save money for long video recordings. I can’t say one way of approaching this space is better than the other, but the Sony will cost you a lot more, but is still slightly lighter when fully loaded with cards, batteries, and the grip.
When looking at the EVF, at first it seems like the Sony EVF is the clear winner. 9.4m Dots with a 120Hz, it’s also bigger at 0.64″ vs Nikon’s 0.5″, which is nice, however, the viewpoint is slightly closer on the Nikon which could produce a similar perspective.
Real-world performance is never the same as specs with Sony since they throttle the resolution and overall quality of the displays when doing things like focusing or shooting video. I’m not sure if the display quality is reduced while recording video on the A1 as it was with previous Sony cameras.
The Nikon Z9 does not throttle the performance of the EVF or display, plus it’s the brightest EVF we’ve ever seen in a camera. The Nikon Z9 sensor has a slightly faster readout speed, translating into slightly less lag between subject movement and what you see in the display.
I tend to favor the Sony Viewfinder here a little since 120hz is nice and it is bigger with more resolution which is nice for manual focus or image playback for review, but the faster readout speeds of the Z9 could be really nice as well.
Nikon again went with their 3.2″ display with over 2m Dots. Sony is still using their tired old display of only 3″ and only 1.4m Dots which is now beaten by even Fujifilm’s entry-level cameras like the X-E4.
Both brands took a different approach to the articulating screen. Sony does a full flip-out screen, to satisfy the vlogging market looking to spend $6500 on a camera to take selfies. Nikon took a more traditional 4-Axis tilt screen, similar to what we saw on older Sony DSLRs or some Fujifilm cameras which makes shooting from lower angles a bit more convenient.
The biggest difference between these two cameras is the price. If you want to build out the Sony A1 to be a traditional journalist, sports or wildlife camera with the added grip and extra batteries, you’re spending $1,500 more. Plus CFexpress Type-A cards are considerably more expensive than CFexpress Type-B cards, and Type-A cards don’t even have half the performance. Not to mention the mechanical shutter replacement you may have to do after 4-5 years of heavy use compared to the Nikon Z9 which no longer has a mechanical shutter. In the end the Sony just costs more money.
Sony A1 – B&H
Nikon Z9 – B&H
Nikon Z9 vs Sony A1 Spec Chart
Some information I don’t have, like the brightness of the Sony EVF and the various readout speeds in the different video modes. I’m also not sure if the Z9 has focus stacking yet, but considering it’s in their Z6 II and Z7 II, I imagine it’s also in the Z9.
Some of the video specs and features of the Z9 are still to be determined and some stats are just hard to find. I’ve seen the Sony sensor readout speed listed at 5mn, but also at listed 1/240, which would make it closer to 4mn.
|Nikon Z9||Sony A1|
|Camera Only + Included Battery||$5,496.95||$6,498.00||Nikon Z9|
|Price + Vertical Grip + 1 Batteries||Included||$426|
|2x 160GB CFx Cards*||Type – B $526.48||Type – A $658|
|Camera Grip + 2x 160GB Cards||$6023.42||$7582||Nikon Z9|
|Body Only||1160 g||737 g||Personal Preference|
|+ Battery & Memory||1340 g||831 g|
|+ Grip & Batteries + Cards||1340 g||1206 g||Sony A1|
|EVF Size||0.5″||0.64″||Sony A1|
|EVF Resolution||3,690,000 Dot||9,437,184 Dot||Sony A1|
|EVF Eye Point||21 mm||25 mm||—|
|EVF Brightness||3000cd/m2||no spec||Nikon Z9|
|EVF Refresh Rate||60Hz||120Hz||Sony A1|
|EVF Performance Throttling||No||Yes||Nikon Z9|
|EVF Blackout Free||Yes||Yes||—|
|LCD Size||3.2″||3.0″||Nikon Z9|
|LCD Resolution||2,100,000 Dot||1,440,000 Dot||Nikon Z9|
|Adjustability||4-Axis Tilting||Articulating Hinge||Personal Preference|
|Accepts SD Cards||No||Yes||Sony A1|
|CFx Type B vs Type A||1710 MB/s||700 MB/s||Nikon Z9|
|Battery Power||3300mAh||2280 mAh||Nikon Z9|
|Battery Wattage||36 Wh||16.4 Wh|
|Max Power With Grip||3300mAh 36Wh||4560 mAh 32.8 Wh||Sony A1|
|Battery Performance||740 shots LCD||530 shots LCD||Nikon Z9|
|Battery Performance + Sony Grip||—||1060 shots LCD||Sony A1|
|Mechanical Shutter||No||Yes||Nikon Z9|
|Shutter Life||—||500,000 cycles||Nikon Z9|
|Flash Sync Speed||1/200 – 1/250||1/400||Sony A1|
|Max Shutter Speed||1/32000||1/32000||—|
|Operating Temperatures||14 to 104°F / -10 to 40°C||32 to 104°F / 0 to 40°C||Nikon Z9|
|Sensor Size||35.9 x 23.9 mm||35.9 x 24 mm||—|
|Actual Resolution||52.37 Megapixel||50.5 Megapixel||—|
|Effective Resolution||45.7 Megapixel||50.1 Megapixel||—|
|Sensor Pixel Pitch||4.35µ||4.16µ||—|
|AA Filter||No – unconfirmed||No – unconfirmed|
|Micro Lens Design||Standard||Aggressive||Nikon Z9|
|Sensor-Shift||No||200 megapixels||Sony A1|
|Mechanical Shutter Scan Time||—||3.5 ms||Sony A1|
|Sensor Readout||4ms||5ms||Nikon Z9|
|Readout Speed 8k||14.3ms||—|
|Readout Speed 4k120p||5ms||—|
|Photo Bit Depth|
|12-Bit Raw||No||Yes||Sony A1|
|10-Bit HEIF||No||—||Sony A1|
|30fps RAW Lossy||No||Yes||Sony A1|
|20fps RAW Lossless||Yes||Yes||—|
|120fps 11MP||Yes||No||Nikon Z9|
|Buffer Size||2GB Est.||4GB Est.||Sony A1|
|Lenses That Support 30fps||100+||40+||Nikon Z9|
|Phase Detection Points||493||759||Sony A1|
|Contrast Detection Points||unknown||425||—|
|Autofocus Sensitivity||-8.5 to +20 EV||-4 to +20 EV||Nikon Z9|
|Detection Modes||Humans, Animals, Vehicles||Human, Animals, Birds||—|
|Focus Bracketing||Yes – unconfirmed||No||Nikon Z9|
|Base Performance||64 to 25,600||100 to 32,000||Personal Preference|
|Extended||32 to 102,400||50 to 102,400||Nikon Z9|
|8k60p Internal||Yes||No||Nikon Z9|
|ProRes 422 HQ Internal 10-bit||Yes||No||Nikon Z9|
|ProRes Raw 12-bit Internal||Yes||No||Nikon Z9|
|H.265 10-bit Internal||Yes||Yes||—|
|8k Record Limit||125 minutes||Unlimited||Sony A1|
Nikon Z9 vs Sony A1 Conclusions
I can say the Nikon Z9 is better at a lot of the big specs that matter, like the faster sensor readout speed and the better video specs and features. However, that can be a little subjective, because the lighter smaller A1 system might be the game-changer for some people, especially considering you can add a grip or take it away as needed, which I frequently do with my A7rIII.
Nikon technically has a higher resolution sensor, but the effective resolution is higher on the Sony A1. We’ll have to wait to see how this affects real-world performance with ISO and other benchmarks. We’ll also need to see how the Nikon and Sony compare with features like AWB and color accuracy, something that the original Nikon Z6 and Z7 struggled with and something Sony mostly solved with the A7rIII.
I listed the micro-lens design on the Sony A1 as being aggressive because this can cause some issues with color ring patterns, and corner and edge performance with some lenses. Especially if you’re using third-party lenses or adapting lenses. Whereas the Nikon sensor produces a flawless image with any lens you throw on it, even Leica M lenses.
We’ll also need to see how overall performance is on the Nikon Z9 without the mechanical shutter which at 4ms, does get pretty close to the 3.5ms cycle time of the Sony mechanical shutters.
What else I’m curious to see is if the Sony A1 autofocus is better, or if they are mostly just the same, and does the A1 give a better tracking box feedback that feels more sticky, which looks like it, but does that come at the cost of the throttling of resolution that happens when AF is engaging. Sony displays will drop in resolution while engaging AF.
I have a feeling Sony could be doing a user psychology trick with their sticky tracking box. I say this because the Canon R originally had a really laggy focus tracking box but the AF was fine, they updated the tracking box responsiveness, but the AF didn’t really improve, just the visual aid was more responsive. So there are tricks you can do to make an AF tracking box more “sticky” but at what cost? and does it actually improve performance? If this is how it works, I wonder what mosts people’s personal preference would be, a higher resolution display while AF is tracking, or a lower resolution display for a stickier tracking box.
If I missed anything or got anything wrong let me in the comments. Thanks!