I get a lot of “what camera should I buy,” emails and instead of spending an hour replying with all the details someone needs to make this decision, I thought I would share my reply to a question here.
It’s mostly a Sony vs Nikon question I get, that comes out of my article Sony A7III vs Nikon Z6 The Blunt Truth.
So here is an update to everything that’s bouncing around inside my head on this topic.
It starts with this.
FroKnowsPhoto switched to Sony from Nikon because they have the best autofocus (allegedly) and for him, that is the end-all-be-all to a camera. Should I buy into Sony for this reason?
This is an opinion piece focused on full-frame mirrorless cameras only, and I’ll try to clean it up a little in the future. Short on time right now.
All The Influencers Are Switching To Sony, Sony Is The Best Right?
As someone who has been blogging about cameras for 10 years, I’ll say this. Influencers, bloggers, and YouTubers, are guided by analytics, nothing more. Here is what kind of happens behind the scenes.
FroKnowsPhotos likely jumped into Sony, not because of autofocus, but because they are one of the most popular brands in the USA, and by having Sony gear and Sony lenses, this gives him the ability to make content with a bigger audience. The Nikon online audience is fairly small, so most Nikon Youtubers or bloggers switch over to Sony or Fujifilm for this reason. You have to if you want to make a living doing what they are doing.
A Youtuber friend of mine switched to Leica, and we talked about this, and his content gets less traffic now that it’s not Fujifilm related. And I told him “You know you’re views are going to drop now that your not Fujifilm,” he said, “yeah I know.” But he’s not really in it for that, he’s trying to build a street photography channel. Check it out.
On my site, I get significantly more traffic when I do content around Fujifilm gear instead of Nikon gear. The Nikon audience just isn’t as big, or maybe it is big, but they are an older crowd and there are likely fewer hobbyists that shoot Nikon that sit in front of the computer all day absorbing entertainment.
I’m assuming ForKnowsPhoto is smarter than people think and that’s likely his reason for going with Sony until Nikon can regain popularity and catch up to the flagship level AF found in the expensive Sony cameras.
Notice he still does do Nikon gear reviews from time to time and his whole show is shot and produced on Z6 cameras. He’s just having fun messing with the community and there was little reason to hang on to all his old F-mount gear going forward into the mirrorless era, where he makes a living reviewing gears.
You also lose 5-axis IBIS when adapting F-Mount lenses to Z bodies, or any third-party lenses will drop to 3-Axis IBIS only. Better to sell it and buy mirrorless gear and get all the capabilities the system has to offer to continue to build a channel or blog with relevant cutting-edge content.
Nikon Z6 + 50mm f1.8
There is one more thing. Sometimes you’ll see me do this. Bash a particular feature of a camera if nobody else is. I often give Sony criticism for their terrible screens. They’re a total joke and Sony screens are laughably bad compared to the competition. They’ll sell a Sony A1 for $5k or more, and the screen on the Fujifilm APS-C $800 dollar X-E4 is superior. Sometimes, influencers, actually genuinely like Nikon, like Fro, but see them going in the wrong direction, so they go really hard on them, hoping their marketing takes note of the controversy and they inform the engineers, and then change happens.
Notice Sony has started refreshing some of their cameras like the Sony A7rIV, and A7rIII with new screens? Still only 3″ screens which are smaller than what Canon, Panasonic and Nikon screens use, but at least they have better resolution now. But nobody talked about how bad the screens were, instead they would comment how good the battery life was. Even though the good battery life comes at the cost of the screens which are low-resolution and awful and dim or drop resolution even more when using some features of the camera. See, it’s always a trade-off. Do you want good battery life and an awful screen? Go Sony, Do you want decent battery life and an amazing screen? Go Canon, Panasonic, or Nikon.
I personally think having a nicer screen is better than having a battery that lasts two days.
So those are some of the reasons you see Fro going hard on Nikon. I don’t know him, just assuming that he is playing to his influence, and hoping it will push Nikon harder to more quickly give him the features he wants. For example, we saw a fairly quick refresh of the Z6 and Z7 to the Z6 II and Z7 II because of user complaints. It really works, these companies do listen. So a lot of bashing of cameras is justified, a lot of times it’s taken out of context, or not as big of a deal as people make it out to be. Like Sony having pathetic screens, it’s really not a huge deal, especially if you’re an EVF shooter, but I like having a nice big screen, it helps with manual focus lenses, it helps catch errors when shooting landscape, it’s beneficial in a million different ways for the way I shoot.
Sony Has The Best Autofocus, Right?
Regarding Autofocus – today most of the midrange priced cameras have similar autofocus, except the Canon R6 which is noticeably better, but the Sony A7III, Nikon Z6 II, have pretty similar AF.
There is now the Sony A7c which does have the Real-Time Tracking + Eye AF, like the Fujifilm and Canon cameras. Nikon doesn’t do that yet. So the A7c will be a little more functional with AF than the Nikon Z6 II if you use these features. Which I do sometimes on my Fujifilm cameras.
Honestly, any AF improvements over the Z6 II, which is already better than my Z6, won’t matter that much for normal people. I shoot constantly on different cameras and never have serious issues with the Z6 unless I’m trying to track someone in low light that is almost silhouette, or shooting crazy hyper kids with eye AF turned on where I can get slight misses, eyebrow instead of the eye kind of thing.
My Nikon Z6 also does not like focusing on really dark subjects backlit and it aims for higher contrast, whereas the Canon R6, will be fine tracking something like this. This is not something I ever really do, but that’s just the only thing I’ve noticed that my Z6 can’t do as well as an R6, which is also overall more responsive, like the A9II. I haven’t tested the A7c in these conditions yet.
A wedding photographer I was talking to has also rented several of the cameras, and the Canon R6 had the best face recognition for when people are wearing masks. He was contemplating going R6 or Nikon Z6II, but for his line of work, the R6 was clearly the best camera.
But, for what I do, it just doesn’t matter. If you’re a bird photographer with lazy technique, it will matter more, for casual photographers, pretty much all the relatively new cameras are going to give you amazing results with AF.
Also, know that Youtubers will often stress test cameras to get more dramatic results and shoot in situations you’ll likely never shoot in to create more exciting content ( like a model dancing and bobbing in and out of the frame. ).
A7III and Z6 II should be for the most part equal in Autofocus, they each have some strengths and weaknesses when looking at faces and eyes. But really right now, if you want the best autofocus for under $3,000, it’s not Sony, it’s the Canon R6.
I don’t always use face and eye detection autofocus that much, maybe 10% of the time, because I like having full control of where the camera looks and I often don’t always want just faces in focus.
Then, for some reason, everyone always compares the Sony A9 or A9II or A1 or A7rIV (significantly more expensive cameras) to the Z6II or Z7II, so people get this idea that ALL Sony cameras are significantly better with autofocus than the competition, which is not true. The Sony A7c and A7III, are not the Sony A1.
Will A Nikon Be Future Proof? It’s About The Lenses
Any camera brand will be future-proof, they are all fantastic. Today’s cameras are so good, you have to really split hairs to compare them. Sony, Canon, and Nikon are Amazing, even the Panasonic cameras are amazing. None of the brands will fail you for casual photography.
Figure out what lenses you want and need, and start from there. I’m mostly shooting Nikon these days because I really like the Z primes and the Z bodies ergonomically are fun for me.
Sony has some great primes, obviously, but Nikon sort of beat them and continues to beat them on midrange primes for under $1,000, but these Nikon primes are often a little bigger than the Sony primes, and often come with some improvements over the Sony primes, like no focus breathing. Sony is playing catchup here, releasing follow-up lenses like the 35mm f1.8 to match this, and that is now a fantastic lens. So there are always some tradeoffs.
Canon really doesn’t have any compelling mid-range primes. The 35mm f1.8 is just ok for an entry-level (not really mid-range), the Nikon Z 35mm f1.8 smokes it, which it should, it’s twice the price.
Nikon recently just bitch slapped the Sony 100mm f2.8 with their Z 105mm f2.8. Not only is it $500 less expensive, but you also get a 1:1 macro instead of 1:4.
Sony f1.2 lenses are more attractive to me, being significantly smaller than the Nikon 1.2 lens that doesn’t focus breath, and of course, Nikon doesn’t have any f1.4 Z lenses, yet. So if you want lenses in the over $2000 price range, Sony really is the way to go in my opinion – or Canon. Nikon doesn’t really have too many exotics yet.
I also like Nikon because I do adapt a lot of old lenses and Leica M lenses, and the Nikon sensor handles those the best since it doesn’t have an insane micro-lens design to compensate for the APS-C mount that is on the Sony camera. Even on Sony lenses this sometimes causes a color ring pattern which is very annoying to deal with.
Should you buy an A7III over a Nikon Z6II?
If you really only care about autofocus, you should actually buy neither and go with the Canon R6, it’s more expensive but is a better camera. For what I do, I wouldn’t buy into a camera system based on bodies alone. Focus on collecting the lenses you need or want, that’s significantly more important.
But regarding the A7III or the Z6II, the Nikon Z6 II is better than the Sony A7III in literally every category.
Better at video, better handling, better IBIS, better menus, better touch screen implementation, better memory card configuration, lossless compress RAW, you can burst and maintain 14-bit up to 9fps in compressed RAW, bigger better screen. Literally, everything in the Z6II is better than the Sony A7III. Raw Video, 10-bit video with HDMI, ergonomics, focus stacking. I can go on and on and on about how much better the Z6 II is to the Sony A7III.
Maybe, the A7III is better at doing eye detection autofocus at very far away subjects where the depth of field is deep enough for this not to matter.
But again, if you need an 85mm f1.4 lens, or a 50mm f1.4, or a 14mm f1.8, just go with Sony. Having the lens you need is more important than nitpicking camera body features like lossless compressed vs compressed. If you want a good range of gear and capabilities and you have about $3,000 to spend, you won’t beat Nikon currently, unless you go Fujifilm.
You can see all the Sony Lenses here.
You can see all the Nikon Lenses here.
The better question is, Wait for the A7IV or buy the Z6II?
There are a few fundamental flaws with the Sony system you need to be aware of. I’ve yet to see them release a camera with IBIS that’s of the same caliber as to what Nikon, Canon, and Panasonic are doing. And the smaller mount does force Sony to use an aggressive micro-lens design on their sensors that can cause some issues with some lenses like the color ring pattern, or a drop in IQ in the corners and edges with some third-party or vintage lenses – ‘some,’ not all.
Are those flaws important to you? Maybe. But most people don’t seem to care. Or maybe they just don’t know.
Should you wait for the A7rIV?
I’m not sure if it’s worth waiting unless you’re happy with your current camera don’t mind waiting. Most people thought the A7IV was going to come out last year, who knows if it will come out this year. Maybe it won’t even come until next year. The waiting game isn’t fun to play.
Even if the A7IV comes out soon, the big improvements will likely be, adding the “real-time” AF tracking (which most people don’t know that the A7III does not already have this), it will likely add H.265 for video, and likely a higher MP sensor. You’ll get the improved menu system and potentially a better 3.0” screen, hopefully with 1.5m dot at least, but see, now we’re starting to sound like the Sony A1. If Sony releases with A7IV with all these features, they essentially kill the A1. So don’t get your hopes up that it will be this loaded.
My guess is the A7IV will be a severely crippled A1. It could be amazing if it’s priced right, but if it has a high-resolution sensor with fast AF, it puts the A7rIV, A9, and A1 cameras at risk of being cannibalized, if they price it to compete with the Canon R6 or Nikon Z6II.
The Sony lineup is just in a really weird place right now. If you want 10-bit video and H.265, you’re only options are the A1 or the A7sIII. The A7sIII is mostly a video camera and the A1 is super expensive. The Canon R6, mostly does what the A1 does, but has some limitations to IPB video codecs only and no 8k.
Sony will have to compete with the Canon R6 somehow, but not make it too good so that it steals sales away from the A1. I’m personally hoping they just keep the 24MP or maybe move up to a 30MP sensor in the A7IV, keep it 4k video and introduce H.265 and 10-bit internal codecs. Then give it all the body updates and feature updates of the new cameras, new menus, better screen, faster USB-C. That way the A1 still has its place as an 8k beast. I think going too high of a resolution sensor will be a mistake. Those massive files are too hard on my computer for general day-to-day stuff. I only want massive files for landscape photography where I’m dealing with only a few photos at a time.
Reasons To Buy Sony Cameras Over Nikon Cameras
You’re willing to buy a flagship A1, A7rIV, or A9 II for blazing-fast AF because you don’t feel like spending only $2500 for a Canon R6 with similar autofocus capabilities.
You want smaller f1.2 lenses.
You want smaller f1.8 lenses.
You want f1.4 lenses.
You want to use cheap third-party lenses with AF, (you’ll lose ‘good AF’, 5-Axis IBIS, weather sealing, and built-in profile corrections by doing this). – Don’t buy an expensive camera and then buy cheap lenses. Except for a few of the Sigma and Tamrons.
You’re favorite influencer or friends have Sony – This is actually a real thing, it’s fun shooting on the same gear as friends sometimes.
You want to build out a full Sony ecosystem with some of their amazing video cameras and still cameras that all share the same lenses – This is one of the biggest reasons to go with Sony. The full ecosystem, which includes their cine cameras is unmatched in my opinion.
Reasons To Buy Nikon Cameras Over Sony Cameras
You want cool-looking cameras. My opinion obviously. I do think the Sony FX3 looks awesome for a cine camera though. The A7, A9, A1 cameras look lame. The new body style is a lot nicer though.
You want better controls and ergonomics.
You want a sensor that is better at adapting third-party lenses or older retro lenses.
You want a nice big screen.
You want better IBIS.
Some of Nikon’s midrange f1.8 prime lenses are better. In my opinion of course.
Dare I say color science.
You just want a better entry-level to midrange system at a better value. ( this will likely change when Sony updates the A7 ). Nikon Z5, Nikon Z6 II. – The Nikon Z6II plus a 24-70mm f4, is even a better value than the Fujifilm X-T4 with the equivalent lens. Nikon and Panasonic are probably the best value systems for the mid-range price right now as far as bang for the buck.
To Sum It Up
If you’re just looking at camera bodies. Sony midrange and lower-end camera bodies are not a good buy right now. The competition, like the Canon R6, Nikon Z6 II, and Panasonic S5 gives you a lot more. Sony’s higher-end cameras like the A1, A7rIV, are where you want to be if you go to Sony.
Are Sony Cameras Really The Best? | Conclusion
I sort of beat-up Sony in this post. They are still a great system, and I still drool over all their lenses when I go to the camera store. But I’m a lens nerd, I care a lot about lenses more than bodies.
I’ve shot with Sony for 8 years, and these are just the reasons I’m leaning more into Nikon these days. Most reasonable Sony shooters will say this is fair. But Sony is still a great system, and I’m still always tempted by their f1.4 GM lenses and some of their other amazing glass like the 14mm f1.8. If you don’t need fancy lenses, then Panasonic, Canon, or Nikon might have something that works for you as well. You definitely can’t go wrong with Sony, but they aren’t for everyone, so try to go to a camera store, hold the camera, see the lenses in person, and see if it speaks to you.
There is absolutely no best brand, they just all do things a little differently and you should buy the brand that does things you like. Nikon and Fujifilm are great entry-level and mid-range systems, Sony and Canon can get a bit more specialized because of their exotic lenses, and as time goes on and lenses and bodies get more built out, the camera brand you choose today will matter even less.
Sony is also great if you just want super cheap simple lenses like the Viltrox or Rokinon which use hacked AF protocols so you won’t get great AF-C. And by doing this, you’re conceding that you don’t care about amazing autofocus which sort of kills the whole allure of Sony to begin with.
I’ve done some amazing things with my Sony cameras. If you’re nervous about other brands, just go with Sony. My only real legitimate complaint that I feel actually holds me back a little after shooting with Sony since 2013 and compared to today’s Nikon and Canon cameras, is the screens on all their cameras still are not good and there is really no option to shoot 10-bit video unless you spend over $3k for an A7sIII or over $5k for an A1.
I still use my A7rIII today for landscape photography with the 16-35mm f4, because there hasn’t really been anything that’s come out yet that justifies switching over to, or upgrading to. I just want to get better at taking photos, and all the cameras I have today don’t limit me in any way possible. With these modern cameras, it’s all up to my own skill at this point.
If I had to buy a brand new landscape system today, I would probably go with the Z7 II with that 14-24mm lens. But then again, Sony has that 14mm f1.8, and that Sony 12-24mm which is kind of expensive, but still, a tough choice.
One more thing, today if I wasn’t using Nikon for my Full Frame system, I would probably try out Panasonic. I really like that Leica, Panasonic, and Sigma all share in the ecosystem with full compatibility across brands, and this will only get more powerful going forward.
Here are some photos from the A7rII, A7rIII, and A7III.