You’ve probably seen a million comparisons between the A7III and the Nikon Z6, but have you seen any honest comparisons that talk about meaningful features that are actually useful to photographers?
Both cameras are having holiday sales.
You can get the Nikon Z6 for about $100 less. But before you buy, know what you’re getting into.
Sony A7III – Amazon / Adorama / B&H
Nikon Z6 – Amazon / Adorama / B&H
As a Sony and a Nikon shooter, I thought I would share some key differences between the Nikon Z6 and the Sony A7III. Features and specs revolving around real-world experience based on my experience with each system and that can a big difference.
I’ll reference some other cameras as well to give some perspective as to where Sony and Nikon sit in the industry with their technology.
Here is the blunt truth.
Nikon Z6 vs Sony A7III | User Interface
The user interface or user experience gets overlooked in just about every online review, especially when a camera is compared to Sony.
I don’t know why this is because it’s super important to people that have to interact with a camera all day, every day.
Here is a chart comparing some camera specs that are pertinent to the user experience.
|Nikon Z6||Sony A7III||Winner|
|LCD Res Dot||2,100,000||921,600||Z6|
|Touch Screen UI||Yes||No||Z6|
|Weight||1.29 lb / 585 g||1.43 lb / 650 g||Z6|
Regarding weight, I’m not sure if Sony’s weight is with or without the battery. This could be a tie.
When it comes to actual technology on the camera the Nikon Z6 is better in every way, by a lot.
Twice the pixels on the LCD screen that is 0.2″ larger. Over a million more pixels with the EVF. Lighter, better user touch screen, a top screen, better ergonomics.
No touch screen interface on the Sony, so no pinch to zoom to preview your photos and you can’t swipe them around or anything like that.
The Z6 is just a better camera.
Nikon Z6 vs Sony A7III | Focus Specs
There is so much to the way a camera autofocuses that never gets talked about, but here are some autofocus specs.
I include bootup time again because it’s important for street and photojournalism. The A7III will boot up fast or slow depending on if it’s a cold boot or just a sleep boot.
|Nikon Z6||Sony A7III||Winner|
|Boot Up Time||.5sec||1-3sec||Z6|
|Toggle Between Faces and Eyes||Yes||No||Z6|
|Eye AF Distance||Good||Good||unknown|
|Eye AF In Multiple Modes||No||Yes||A7III|
|Eye AF Hit Rate||Good||Good||unknown|
|Adjust Tracking Settings||Yes||Yes||Tie|
Now we can see a few advantages of the Sony A7III. Some of them don’t make a difference to real-world use, like eye af distance since far distance face detection is always good enough. And even an f0.6 lens won’t have the depth of field to distinguish between a nose and an eye at the far distances people are usually getting excited about.
The Z6 does struggle a little more in low light compared to my other cameras. It’s close but there is always this extra second pause in low light as the Z6 tries to figure out the scene. Using faster f1.2 lenses would probably help when they come on the market. Right now you can get f1.4 lenses for the A7III.
So there is a little advantage here for the A7III.
Update: Nikon has updated its firmware quite a few times since I wrote this and the AF is significantly better than it was before. I’m no longer sure how much better the A7III is at autofocus if it’s better at all. The Nikon tracking is very good now as well as low light performance. Sony still has an advantage of being able to use eye AF in multiple modes.
Sony A7III Is Not The A9
The Sony propaganda machine would have you thinking that all Sony cameras are better than the Nikon and EOS R cameras.
And everyone says, “oh that Sony Eye AF though.” Notice all the online comparisons today rate the A9 vs the Z6, not the A7III. I haven’t seen an A7III comparison for a long time. I wonder why. Keep in mind, when you see people cheering for Sony autofocus, the A7III is not as good as the A9 just like my A7rIII is not as good as the A7III.
The Autofocus Break Down
PDAF Points – Sony A7III has 693 PDAF points, Nikon only has 273.
Having the 693 should help eye af with distances because you get better focus resolution, but I’m not sure. Both Canon and Fujifilm’s latest cameras have significantly more Phase detection at points than Sony or Nikon, but there is nothing game-changing happening with Canon and Fujifilm.
Eye AF Control – I like how Fujifilm and Sony will let you use face and eye detection in any of the focus modes like the single point, zone or wide tracking. With Nikon, it only works in the Auto-area AF.
When it comes to shooting groups, with the Nikon and Fujifilm you can pick different faces with a focus joystick (Fujifilm you have to use the touch screen), you cannot do this on the Sony.
AF Tracking – All the cameras engage their AF tracking a little differently. With the Nikon Z6 you can engage autofocus tracking by first pressing a button, a box will come up and you lock that onto your target.
My favorite thing about the Z6 is at any time you can cancel a face or eye detection by pressing the OK button which engages the tracking box. Then if you don’t want the tracking box you press exit. Once you get your muscle memory down, you can instantly cancel any false positive face or eye detections you don’t want by switching to a tracking point.
With Sony, you can set it up to have a tracking box which is a pain to use, but you can also just use the lock-on functions instead. This is usually why Sony and Canon will have an advantage in some situations because of the auto-tracking lock. If you lose a face or an eye it will auto track and attempt to track onto that last point until it can face or eye track again. Once the Nikon loses a face or eye, it will try to sit a little longer on the target, but it eventually just breaks and goes back into full auto mode.
There are so many different tricks you can set up with Sony I’ve never really figured out what works best. So I mostly just use zone boxes with face or eye af turned on or the box with tracking called Lock-on AF: Expand Flexible Spot.
The Nikon AF system is primitive in some ways but more advanced in others. Because the camera can be so customized with amazing button placement, I find I can instantly fly between different focus modes and controls to get it to almost instantly do what I need it to do by switching between eyes or faces on the fly.
Speed & Subject Acquisition With AF
This is a big thing and something that’s very important and never talked about. When shooting street photography you often turn the camera off after each moment, then when the next opportunity comes, you turn the camera on, acquire focus and take the shot.
The Z6 and Z7 completely smoke the A7III and A7rIII when it comes to turning on the camera, getting it up to your eye, acquiring face and eye detection and take the shot. This is a problem with all Sony cameras even the new ones.
The Z6 also boots up significantly faster than the A7III, after a dead sleep.
If you’re turning the camera off and on regularly the Sony will reboot almost as quick as a Nikon, but cold boots are very slow.
This is not a huge deal, but having to wait a few seconds for the camera to power up the first time is annoying and it’s something that I always have to deal with on my Sonys.
I also notice on my Sony, there is always this lag before it decides if it wants to engage face or eye detect or not. To be fair, this could be an A7rIII thing since that’s mostly what I shoot with, but the AF between the two cameras is very similar. The main difference between the A7rIII and A7III is with the A7rIII, there is a slight lag between when the camera says it’s in focus to when it tells the lens to acquire that focus.
When you consider all this, the Z6 is powering on and tracking the face a good couple of seconds before the Sony is even ready out of a cold boot. 2-3 seconds of delay could cost you the shot.
Nikon Z6 AF Weaknesses
The Z6 is still not as good in low light as even my Sony A7rIII or the A7III.
The Z6 does close focus a few mm sometimes with eye AF. Often times hitting the eyebrow or the eyelash. Not all the time, but sometimes I do notice it. Actually all cameras do this every so often as I get eyebrow and eyelash focused shots on my Sony as well, but the Nikon does it a little more.
The problem is the Nikon always has a close focus bias. You can’t toggle it like you can with Fujifilm. So it draws a focus box over the eye, but if areas within that box are closer to the camera, it will pull the focus back to the closest object.
Nikon could definitely refine autofocus a little, maybe give us the option to switch between front or rear bias.
Autofocus Bottom Line
The Sony and Nikon cameras just have a different way of doing their autofocus. There are some situations where the Nikon is better than the Sony and some situations where Sony is better than the Nikon.
Nikon AF Strengths: Aquisition speed, bootup time, no center frame bias (meaning if someone pops into the frame real quick the camera is very good at grabbing them), very good and fast user controls and user interface.
Nikon AF Weakness: Only a front focus bias, so you get foreground object priority which will hit things like the eyelashes and eyebrows more often, and eye and face AF only work in Auto-area AF.
Sony AF Strengths: Very fast graphical feedback, eye and face Af work with tracking which helps prevent the camera from losing the subject. More accurate eye af.
Sony AF Weakness: The clunky user interface makes it harder to switch between focus modes on the fly, slower acquisition times, slower bootup times, center frame bias (there is a delay before it notices what’s on the edges of the frame – bad for street photography), eye and face AF is useless when dealing with multiple people since you can’t switch easily.
Sensor and Processor Specs
In 2019 it’s hard to find meaningful improvements with these specs between cameras.
One will have 12 fps one will have 10 fps. I personally never shoot more than 5fps and honestly, that’s not a meaningful spec I don’t know why reviews are always weighing that so heavily.
|Sensor||24.5MP Full-Frame||24MP Full Frame||Tie|
|Continuous FPS||12 fps||10 fps||Z6|
|Video Resolution||4k30 / 1080p120||4k30 / 1080p120||Tie|
|Video Out||Raw (coming)||4:2:2 8-bit||Z6|
|Log Profiles||HDMI Out Only||Internal||A7III|
|Memory Cards||Single XQD||Dual UHS-II / UHS-I||Opinion|
|IBIS||Great||Not That Good||Z6|
Looking at these specs the Z6 takes the lead in a few areas.
If you’re a disciple of the church of dual card slots then the A7III is the winner there.
Those Sony UHS-II Tough cards are very good, but the Z6 does outperform the A7III with buffer clearing speeds. Not really a meaningful advantage for normal people.
In the Sony A7rIV I did see the buffer clearing at the same speed as the XQD cards in the Nikon Z7. But don’t expect those speeds from the A7III.
IBIS is significantly better in the Z6.
The Z6 will have RAW video with HDMI out at some point, but overall, video is better on the Z6 unless you want to shoot log internally. The Z6 does offer a flat profile that is very close to log and the 144Mbps does give a boost to image quality.
RAW Compressions & Continous Shooting
This is somewhat of an important thing you should know about if you’re a Sony A7III shooter, but not the end of the world for Sony shooters either.
Sony still does not offer a Lossless RAW compression. Meaning, if you shoot compressed on a Sony camera, it will throw away some information. Maybe this is good or bad since it makes file sizes smaller.
With Nikon cameras, you gain a 36% increase to storage capacity when going from the Lossless Compressed to Compressed. The way Sony does their compression also is not great with adding extra delta modulation steps which will cause some posterization. Nikon applies a tone curve before compression that is removed when unpacking, so they have slightly different ways of doing their compression. Theoretically, Nikon’s way of doing compression is better although I doubt there is a human on earth that can see the difference.
To make it even worst for the Sony A7III, if you shoot continuous burst, the camera will drop from 14-bit compressed raw to 12-bit compressed raw. You need to shoot uncompressed RAW to maintain 14-bit color when shooting in a continuous burst.
On the Nikon Z6 you have choices, You can do 14-bit compressed or lossless compressed, or you can switch to 12-bit compressed or lossless compressed.
|Compressed RAW||Yes||Yes||Tie but less Posterization with Nikon|
|14-bit Continuous Burst cRaw||Yes, 14-bit||12-bit only||Z6|
|14-bit Continuous Burst UncRAW||Yes||Yes||Tie|
|Option to change bit depth||Yes||No||Z6|
|Option To Change Compression Type||Yes||No||Z6|
Here the Nikon is quite a bit better than Sony with these features. Of course, none of this matters if you just shoot Uncompressed RAW.
In Sony’s defense, you will likely not see any visual loss using 12-bit vs 14-bit unless you’re at lower ISO values. But you might see it when going above ISO 640. Like ISO 100-640.
Make sure if you’re shooting on Sony, that you switch to uncompressed if your shooting burst when at low ISO, like ISO 100. The Sony A7rIII and A7rIV don’t have this issue but the A7rII did.
Nikon Z7 vs A7III Color Science
There is a lot to color science that gets totally missed with online comparison and I can’t get into it all here, but here is the gist of it.
Color science is more than just the look, it’s the AWB, tonal gradations (how well colors blend), color depth, and the profiling of the RAW.
Originally Sony mirrorless cameras had terrible auto white balance until about the A7rIII which fixed it, this is what’s mostly responsible for the bad reputation they got.
People also now attack Sonys color profile, which tries to simulate reality as close as possible but sometimes ends up looking a little hyper-real.
The truth is, color science changes between cameras regularly, with the look of profiles, the color depth, the tonal gradations, and the auto AWB technology.
The color gradations are still a little problematic with the A7III in my opinion, but still very cutting edge compared to older cameras. Since the A7III they’ve improved it a few times with the A9 firmware and again with the A9II, but Sony isn’t one to roll back improvements into older cameras.
In general, color science on the A7III is a little more stable than what’s going on with the Z6 but, there are situations where the Z6 is better.
Like when just shooting landscapes.
Sunsets or even natural environments look way more organic on the Z6 than they do on any Sony camera, Sony’s output always feels digital to me and the transitions from the bright yellows in the sunsets to the purples of the sky never render as well on Sony cameras.
Right now the Z6 seems to less than perfect when it comes to auto white balance in tough lighting conditions. It’s not as bad as the A7rII was, but it sometimes doesn’t feel right to me and I find myself noodling AWB a lot when shooting Nikon.
I find when editing, I’m having to adjust my white balance with the Nikon more than any of the other new full-frame mirrorless cameras.
Despite what you hear online, the RAWs look different between each camera as each brand has their own recipe for converting the analog signal that comes off the sensor into a digital signal.
Sony colors do a very good job of trying to simulate reality. Not as good as Fujifilm but they are close. Some of Sony’s colors feel a little too punchy, almost electric neon. Like the Yellows to Pinks and the Blues. I always find I have to adjust those colors in post by shifting them or bringing them down. Or sometimes toggling between the different camera profiles in Lightroom can help a lot too especially with Landscapes.
Ultimately there is just something that feels slightly unnatural with Sony colors. It’s not in every environment, in fact, in most situations it’s fine but Sony colors can have a harsher digital look to them.
Nikon colors are a little weird to me. There is definitely a unique filmy look they have but everything always seems like it has a little bias towards yellow and sometimes I struggle to get it feeling more real. Sometimes it’s a white balance issue.
Personally, when it comes to filmy looks I think Canon does it best, however, when shooting Landscapes or the natural world with Nikon, images just have this magical quality to them that’s unlike any other camera.
Nikon Z6 SOOC (Straight Out Of Camera) Samples
RAW photo set to Adobe Color in Lightroom.
There is a very soft blend between colors that I love in some situations. Sometimes I feel like there is a bias towards a yellow/pink tone.
Sony A7III SOOC Samples
RAW photo set to Adobe Color
The first three shots are A7III, the rest are A7rIII since that’s the camera I shoot with. Color between the two cameras is pretty similar.
You can see in the first shot a very nice balance between the colors. Very nice skin. In the second shot, you can see the greens get a little electric. The first thing I would do on that second shot is to desaturate the greens and shift them slightly blue. Easy fix. The third photo looks great. So you can see with any camera, the color profiles are always situational, and no camera looks perfect all the time.
Color Science Conclusions
As you can see they both look good. Sony shots come in with a little more contrast and are overall a little more poppy, you could call it a bit more clinical. Nikon shots have a ‘look’ to them.
Some advice, if you’ve shot with Sony or Nikon for a long time and you have a catalog of presets you’ve created that define your style, don’t switch brands because presets for Sony do not work the same as they do for Nikon.
Lightroom presets between Sony and Fujifilm work pretty well, but not between Fujifilm and Nikon. Same goes for Canon, the look is too unique and presets don’t cross over.
Color Science Chart
|AWB||Struggles a little in Mixed Lighting||Good||A7III|
|RAW Look||Filmy / Pastel||Clinical / Electric||Situational|
Personally I prefer the natural look of Fujifilm to Sony, and I prefer the styled look of Canon to Nikon.
Even though I shoot with all four brands regularly, the difference isn’t really enough to push me into one brand over the other and it’s not something I worry too much about. Color science is always changing with each new camera iteration. For example, my Canon R looks nothing like my 5DII.
Sony A7III vs Nikon Z6 Bottom Line
Reasons To Buy The A7III
Lenses – Sony has so many lenses to choose from even third-party lenses with autofocus capabilities. You can see what’s out there with my massive list of every Sony E Lens.
Not a lot of them are great, but there are a ton of options at different prices. If you want micro-contrast you have native mount Voigtlander and Zeiss lenses or even some Korean and Chinese lenses with autofocus, if you don’t believe micro-contrast is a real thing, you have Sigma lenses, and you can get it all today.
Smaller Body – Some people don’t like the smaller body, some love it. What I love about the smaller body is it allows you to add a vertical grip and the camera is still fairly compact.
Dual Card Slots – As long as you buy good memory cards for the A7III from a trusted source, you won’t have issues with counterfeit cards and you’ll likely never have a corrupted card. However, if you’re shooting high profile work or you are a travel photographer and you’re not good about clearing off your cards for backing up, a second card is a nice feature. I personally never use it except for overflow.
Vertical Grip – People make a big deal that the Nikon has no vertical grip, but honestly I’ve never once, ever, ever, or even EVER seen anyone shooting with a Sony with a vertical grip, never! I’m pretty sure I’m the only person that bought one.
Reasons To Buy The Z6
Build & Features – The Z6 without a doubt has a significantly better build, UI, and features. It’s just a better camera. It feels like it’s at least 5 years ahead of anything Sony has. Actually, probably more because Canon and Nikon implemented full touch interfaces in 2012-2013. So the Nikon Z6 is at least 6 years ahead of Sony with the actual physical camera hardware and UI implementation. The screen is more than twice as good, the EVF is better the IBIS is better, the build is better, the controls are better, even the mount is better. Not by a little, by a lot.
Nikon Glass – Sony works with a lot of different companies for their lenses, from Cosina with for some of the ZM lenses and Tamron for their Batis lenses, I once even heard a rumor that Canon plays a roll in the design their GM lenses which are top tier awesome (just a rumor, but an inside source a long time ago, grain of salt). However, Nikon glass has a uniqueness to it that only they are known for and when designing their new system, they planned everything around that Z mount rather than Jerry-rigging an old APS-C mount to make it work for full-frame as Sony did.
Because of the massive Z mount, you get very unique lenses like the 14-30mm f4 that also takes front screw-on filters and the amazing 50mm f.095 Noct lens.
The Nikon f1.8 lenses are the best f1.8 lenses ever made when looking at across the chart features and specs and their current line up of zoom lenses are all very good.
Eventually, all those third-party lenses Sony has will come to Nikon. It’s already started as you can see by looking at my massive list of every Nikon Z Lens.
Better Mount – The Nikon Z mount does lend itself to more interesting designs. We’ve already seen it with the 14-30mm f4 and we’ll likely continue to see even more designs we’ve never seen before going forward.
Because the Nikon mount is so big, you can even adapt Sony lenses to it with the Techart Sony E to Nikon Z mount. While autofocus is not perfect with this adapter, it gives you access to all those manual focus Sony lenses.
F-Mount Lenses: A lot of people forget that Nikon has decades of F mount lenses that are available to purchase. There is a stigma against doing this since people think DSLR lenses are inferior. However, most of the third-party lenses for Sony today are still DSLR designs with extensions tubes built-in. Sigma and Samyang finally just started released real mirrorless designs just this year.
Better IBIS – The Nikon IBIS (in-body image stabilization) is significantly and noticeably better. I tried an A7rII with the IS Batis 85mm next to the Nikon Z6 with the unstabilized 85mm, and the Nikon was still significantly better.
Nikon Z6 vs A7III Comparable Features / Differences
Autofocus: I just can’t give Sony the win on autofocus. Because of the speed at which you can change around your settings on the Nikon, and the acquisition time and speed of those Z lenses, I find it’s a more advanced machine that I can command to do exactly what I need faster and more precise than the Sony.
If you want Jesus to take the wheel, the Sony A7III is a little more accurate with eye AF and I like the way the tracking works with it. However, if there are groups of people, eye and face af is useless.
Sony is also a little better in low light, but with real-world use, the Nikon is still amazing and I regularly use it for my night street photography without any real issues.
You also need to be very careful about which lenses you buy. The Nikon Z6 with the Z 50mm f1.8 will obliterate the Sony A7III with the Sony 50mm f1.8 in every situation.
If you buy the A7III thinking you have world-class autofocus then buy cheap lenses, the Z6 with any of the sub $1000 dollar f1.8 lenses will run circles around you in every situation.
Color Science: I like the look of Sony when I’m shooting people, kids family, but I like the way the Nikon renders when shooting the natural world. When shooting Japan street photography at night, I find I have to noodle AWB a little more on the Nikon than on the Sony.
Video: Although Nikon has a higher bitrate 4k at 144Mbps and RAW hdmi out is eventually going to come out with a firmware upgrade (it probably never will), I can’t give them the win because they don’t have an internal F-log and they don’t have RAW right now. But maybe the Nikon Flat look is good enough for most people. So video features would have to come down to your needs.
XQD / CFexpress vs UHS-II / UHS-I – UHS-II cards are the same price as XQD unless you buy cheap sd cards. But if you are a member of that church of dual memory card slots, then you have to buy two cards and the second slot is only UHS-I which brings your camera down to 2009 write speeds.
If you’re buying the camera mostly for video, then you can save some money on the slower cards like the Sony M or stick with UHS-I with the A7III. Whereas with Nikon, the cheaper XQD cards were discontinued by Sony right about when the Z6 came out and there are no cheap options for XQD cards or CFexpress coming.
If you want max performance out of Sony A7III you will have to buy the v90 UHS-II cards. Usually, people buy the Sony G UHS-II card which is the #1 selling UHS-II card based on my sales data from this site. So clearly Sony people like to buy that card the most, which tells me they aren’t using a dual card setup because you only need UHS-I cards with a dual card setup because of the UHS-I write speed bottleneck in slot 2.
XQD and CFexpress are faster but the difference is negligible in the real world. XQD is supposed to be tougher and more reliable, but those Sony Tough cards are really good.
You can see Sony A7III memory card benchmarks and compare them to Nikon Z6 memory card benchmarks.
Sony A7III vs Nikon Z6 Bottom Line
I’ve shot with both camera systems for a long time now and have been working on this article for a long time. There is a lot of noise and confusion out there about which system is the best, but really they are both great at different things.
While the Nikon is a much better camera physically, it’s hard to ignore Sony because of what they have with all those E-Mount lenses and there are a lot of little things that Sony gets right.
Nikon has laid a more technologically advanced foundation so they will continue to have better cameras in the future because of that bigger mount and better IBIS system. However, there is a unique character to Sony cameras that make them very fun and their technologies that power their cameras are solid and very refined.
Sony is a great system to buy into because they are usually a full year ahead of everyone on implementing new sensor technology, however, it’s going to get hard and harder for camera companies to implement meaningful updates and these advancements will have less of an impact on image quality. The future will come down to physical camera features and UI, which Sony is already a good 6 years behind on, and looking at the new Sony A7rIV, there is little chance they will improve it anytime soon.
Both cameras and lenses for each system are having sales.
Sony A7III – Amazon / Adorama / B&H
Nikon Z6 – Amazon / Adorama / B&H
The ultimate guide to Sony A7III Accessories.
The pretty amazing not quite ultimate guide to Nikon Z6 Accessories.
These are affiliate links. I get a few pennies on every dollar. It’s either this or plasting my page with ads.
Nice article. You wrote alot. I read most of it. In the end ya, the lens line up isnt there yet for the nikon but personally they have everything out already that I would want. So I dont find it a disadvantage in my case. And the UI, ability to switch between faces etc is a big deal. I dont have that in the XH1 and it really pains me to have to just turn off face detect entirely and do single point af focus recompose just cause of that. Thats one of the biggest things for me right now and why I want to get on the new Fuji’s asap.
On the X-T3 you have to use the touch screen to toggle between faces and you have to program manually to switch between left eye an right eye. Can’t you touch to switch faces in the X-H1? I think you can.
And there is also a toggle called “EVF face select on,” that you can set to a button, when that’s engage, it will allow you to use the focus joystick to toggle between faces when looking through the EVF. I can’t remember if the older cameras had that though, I don’t think they did. Update: Yeah it’s only the X-T3.
Here we go. Finally. Thank you for writing all of this Alik I have been waiting to read your opinions.I must say I am personally into the higher res cameras but it seems a lot of A7III and Z6 would transfer to the DNA of their bigger brothers.
I am torn now between Eos R since the price makes up for all of its shortcomings and one of the Sonys – A7R3 or 4. I would love that Nikon z7 but I have nothing from that brand and would have to replace all of my gear.
Actually, I think that it is not the best time to buy into new systems. We are clearly in the transition period. Both Canon and Nikon need to flesh out their lens lines – let’s be honest: adapting is ok for some time but most people will want to get new lenses to get the most out of their new systems. Sony is still struggling with a lot of things around ergonomics – I tried a7r4 extensively and there were some good steps into the right direction but still far from perfect. And where is lossless Raw compression.
I love this blog – no camera brand is religion here. Thank you for your hard work, balanced opinions and zero fanboyism.
Yes even though some of the cameras beat the others on spec, it’s really hard to just say one is the winner or the best camera.
The A7rIII is actually a little nicer than the A7III, it has a better screen and better EVF, but the Z7 has all the same specs as the Z6. Still better screen and EVF than the A7rIII though. The A7rIII are Z7 are such good deals right now.
The A7rIV has the new EVF Panasonic is using which is even better than what the Nikon Z7 has. But the screen is the same as the A7rIII. I was really hoping the A7rIV would upgrade their screen to match Canon and Nikon and implement full touch screen support, but I think we’ll have to wait for the A7rV. It makes sense though, Sony holds that market so there is no reason to throw the whole kitchen sink into the camera if they don’t have to. So I’lll skip the A7rIV personally and maybe wait for the A7rV.
I appreciate the thoroughness of your article and breakdown, but I have to say that this point – “Sony probably has Canon design their GM lenses (total speculation, but I’ve heard rumors)” – is SO utterly ridiculous that it makes me question everything else you’ve written. “Probably”? In what world does this make any sense? Do you have ANY backup for this at all – even a citation of a rumor from a “reliable” rumor site?
I’ve heard rumors. First time I’ve ever mentioned it on my blog. That’s all I can say or will say. But what difference does it make? It’s not unreasonable to have collaborations between companies. It’s very common actually. There are even rumors GoPro has a partnership with Canon where they trade technologies. So many of these hardware companies, especially camera companies work together in some capacity.
Panasonic and Fujifilm have partnerships, Panasonic and TowerJazz have partnerships, Nikon Sony and TowerJazz have a partnership, there were rumors that Japan wanted Fujifilm to buy stake in Nikon to form a partnership. Hasselblad and Sony had a partnership, Panasonic and Leica have a partnership, Sony and Zeiss have a partnership. Cosina now owns Voigtlander and they all make some of the Zeiss lenses for Sony, Tamron makes the Batis lenses for Sony, Fujifilm designs Hasselblad lenses. Then there are observations that some of the Olympus lenses are very similar to Fujifilm lenses which makes me think there is a partnership there, just like Canon and Sony lenses are very similar. They even both came out with the “control ring” on lens at almost the same time.
So it’s not unreasonable to say that these companies have difference licensing agreements or partnerships with each other. The point I was trying to make was that Sony GM lenses are very good. Just as good as Canon often times better.
Certainly companies do have licensing agreements and other arrangements, but it’s also important when to note that technologies and innovations are a company’s proprietary IP vs. something that someone else is doing for them. The fact that Sony is making the majority of sensors in the marketplace is an example of this.
So suggesting that Canon (their #1 competitor) has a role in Sony’s lens design implies that Sony’s lens design is not up to par. And BTW, Sony doesn’t have a partnership with TowerJazz either.
I still wouldn’t write it off though, especially since Canon uses Sony sensors in many of their entry level cameras. Or they at least use to a few years ago, they might not anymore after Canon has doubled down on their sensor production and expansion but I haven’t heard anything about it recently.
My comment about Nikon, Sony and TowerJazz having a partnership was about the rumor that Nikon uses TowerJazz for the main sensor components and everything else is assembled at Sony. It’s likely Nikon designs and provides a lot of the components themselves too since they use to be one of the biggest suppliers of steppers, although it sounds like they’re not going to continue to invest in this anymore.
Thank you for all the work you have done for this article. Because of my existing f mount lenses, I decided to go with the Z6 but I always wondered how much difference getting the A7III would be like. Your article answers them all. Thank you for that.
I have shot with D4s, DF, Xpro2, x-t20, x-t2 and while none can compare to the D4s in terms of nailing the shot consistently, I only use that camera for paid shoots as it’s not a fun casual and light camera. I have found that with the way that I shoot, I tend to just rest the camera at the right side of my waist and when I see a nice photo op I raise the camera up, take the shot and put it down. With the Fuji cameras, the dials tends to shift out of place when I do so. It’s a good thing then that for mirrorless what you see is what you get as the exposure compensation dial is the one that always get changed. I believe the x-t3 has stronger dial ‘holds’?
I do like the aperture ring on the lens itself tho. Way faster to change aperture on the fly. But I don’t think Nikon fans would like that change lol. I have to credit the x-t2 for converting me over to mirrorless, that camera with the 16-55mm was excellent for my trip to Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka in April. I really loved the relatively ‘lightweight’ setup and lens performance wide open. Battery life, some AF issues and slow switching from EVF to LCD were minuses for me. I’m only 3 weeks in for my Z6 w 24-70 f4 so I haven’t reviewed it completely yet but it seems to have resolved most of the nagging issues I had with the fujis.
My next lens would be the 35mm, I hope it’s as good as what the reviews said
Thanks Jan, The X-T3 does have dial locks, but I still find myself bumping them unlocked and the dials adjusting themselves. I went one day last year shooting around in Miyajima Japan for about an hour or two before realizing my ISO shifted to 10,000 by itself. Luckily I was shooting with a second camera for a review that day so it didn’t ruin the day.
As far as Z lenses, I’m loving the 35mm for the Z6. I now have the 50mm the 35mm and the 85mm. I’ll probably do an 85mm review soon. I have a ton of images for the review now but I’ve been trying to shift my Lightroom looks to now work for Nikon and it’s taking me some time.
As far as the ‘look’ of the images, like the rendering, I think the 35mm might be my favorite so far. The 85mm is insanely good, and technically perfect, but the images just lack in pop, more so than the 50 and the 35mm for some reason. But I guess it’s a portrait lens, and everyone that shoots portraits today likes to make people look like plastic 3d renderings, so I guess it’s fine.
Here is a fun story, I actually rented the A9 II last weekend for some tests, and I shot between it and the Z6 throughout the day just to see if the A9II autofocus was a game changer for that sort of event style photography with kids running around and everything. Honestly, it was snappy and great, but it wasn’t doing anything I could do with the Z6. It was stickier and everything, but it was not outperforming the Z6 in any way with real world use like that. Maybe with sports it would be different.
So when reviewing photos, there wasn’t a clear advantage for that kind of photography with either system. I could switch eyes with the Z6 which was amazing, but I totally reconfigured the A9II to get it to perform close to that with some manual work, where I move zone boxes around and it prioritizes what’s in those, not as good and a bit clunky to do it that way but you can make it work. I’ll do a write up on that as soon as A9II RAW comes to Lightroom. It was a fun experiment and kind of validated what I’ve been thinking, most of the new cameras are good enough and a lot of the new improvements with new cameras aren’t really showing an advantage.
Yes that exact thing happens to me all the time on Fujis. It’s really annoying especially if you also shoot out of a messenger bag and suddenly it’s all at high ISO. They could design it like Leicas, making them relatively small and not resting against your body when at your side. Fuji just makes me stare at my dials from time to time to prevent stuff like that. And it’s annoying when you’re taking photos of kids or weddings or anything actually.
Oh wow thanks for that endorsement for the 35mm 🙂 I literally just ordered it as part of the Black Friday sales. I wanted the 50 as well due to it being the best 50 native Nikon has made but that would have to wait. I do have a sigma art 50 but getting reliable infocus shots even with the D4s is frustrating. I really like the rendering of the 50 art tho. 85mm would have to wait too until I get sick of the 1.4g. I’m actually quite satisfied with the native lens for the Z mount as 95% of my shots are covered by the 24-70, 35, 50 and 85.
That is interesting to hear about the A9II autofocus. Mirrors what Thom Hogan said about the Z7/Z6 autofocus. While not as fast as the best A series cameras, they’re no slouch either. From my experience way back from taking pictures with D70 and D2H (considered dinosaurs in digital cameras), pre-focusing and learning the quirks of each lens helps a lot with focusing issues. You’re right, most reviews are painting this huge gap between the cameras but to me they’re like the medal winners at the Olympics. 2nd and 3rd placings are already better than everyone else.
Yeah pretty much. The difference between the focus systems with these new cameras is so minor in the real world application of it, yet the majority of camera comparisons and reviews are still this. I almost never see anyone mention body and build features like screen size and resolution but they’ll talk for days about battery life though. This is why I did this comparison. Because I go back and forth between Sony, Fujifilm and Nikon all the time and there are just very clear and big differences with the way the cameras are setup, and the autofocus too me is almost an insignificant metric between them.
Thanks for the in-depth article. I found your review more balanced than most I’ve come across. I have a Nikon Z6, I like it, and I’ve been happy with my experience so far. The whole “Sony vs. Nikon” thing is a bit ridiculous. It’s like owning a BMW and getting upset at Mercedes drivers. Both options will get you to your destination (all depending on how you drive it). I just wanted to say thanks and I’ll keep reading your posts.
Good article. Have you tried to optimize the AF acquisition for Nikon? There are three settings that can really help increase AF speed – particularly AF acquisition and re-acquisition if you lose focus. All three settings are set to increase speed: A3 to 1 (Quick), G4 to +5 (Faster), and G5 to 1 (High). The G settings are movie settings, but they appear to affect the refresh cycle and positively improve AF speed even for stills. You don’t want these settings for video 🙂
I’ve tinkered with the settings but I’ve never sat down and actually optimized it for my shooting style. I never really have issues. But I’ll try your settings for awhile. Mine were pretty close already.
A3 to 1 – I had it at 3. Sometimes I like this delayed if there are foreground obstacles.
G4 to 5 – I had it set to this already.
G5 to 1 – I had it set to this already.
Just stumbled onto your blog Alik. Well written and a clean interface.
And I appreciate your POV being an active and long term shooter of both systems.
Perhaps you should’ve written that “State of Z mount” article on Petapixel instead. You seem more qualified to give that assessment. Cheers
I’m actually going through this right now and have both system (Z6 and A7 III). I also use 5D MK III and D750 as well as Panasonic M43 cameras.
I tried the Techart adapter on the Z6 with the Tamron 17-28. It focused just like native lens, but yes, it had issues in very low light (was in the middle of the desert, no camp fire, lit by the half-moon). It only occurred to me later that I should have switched to the Nikkor 14-30 S to see the problem was with the Z6. I also had the A7 III body with me but forgot to compare (was sleepy, cold, tired). But in not very low light, the AF with the Techart adapter v2.0 firmware works well.
So, for me, with the Techart adapter, pretty much all Sony E mount lenses (AF + MF) are available on the Z6.
Oh, the EVF! I think this is worth highlighting a little bit. You mentioned the better resolution and technology, but more than that, the EVF on the Z6 is so much better than the Sony’s. Much better — brighter and easier to see.
Now, the focus point (or focus rectangle) is another thing that Sony did very poorly. What were they thinking? It’s dark grey when using the joystick, therefore it gets easily lost in the scene (almost any scene except white studio setup). I got frustrated with it frequently. I would have to light it up to green to find where it is, or if I remember, I would use the the touch screen as a trackpad to get it to light up in orange (but only if I remember the feature is there, because the touch screen is not a touch screen in other modes! Speaking of, Panasonic focus point selection using the touch screen is so much better. I wished Nikon does this too).
So for me, I am leaning toward the Z6. The A7 III has richer AF features and more customization options, but I think I can do quick AF just as well if not better on the Z6, and can do without Sony’s custom options. As an overall package, the Z6 is better put together than the A7 III, and I can use E mount lenses (with AF).
For the Z6: the Wepoto grip is a really nice one (ASIN B07PWF52JV). It’s an Arca Swiss compatible QR plate, has slits for Peak Design tether, and the battery is accessible if you move the battery door from the camera to the grip (but that might compromise weather sealing — or if you’re cautious, cover it with gaffer tape and bring extra tapes for resealing). The hex wrench magnetically stays with it
For the A7 III: Lennon Gecco LB3 (ASIN B07BC8MZVZ) is similar to the Wepoto but a section swings open to access the battery door, retaining full weather sealing. Neat!
Awesome man thanks for the tip and feedback. I’m actually upgrading my firmware on my techart to v2 right now. I finally found my little connector plate.
I didn’t want to get too nitpicky about comparing the specs of things like EVF, but yeah, every single component on the body of the Z6 is generations ahead of the A7III. I actually have the A7rIII which uses a better EVF and LCD, so it’s not as bad. Also, didn’t Sony update the focus box color on the new cameras? It seems like I remember seeing that last time I had them for testing.
I’ll check out the Wepoto grip, I was looking for something like this. Right now I’m using Lim’s half-case but it’s expensive, super cool though. And thanks again, I love it when people recommend cool gear since I”m always on the lookout for new things to try. I still need to figure out what the best low budget L brackets are. I desperately need one for my A7rIII.
Hi, thanks for the thorough breakdown. However, I haven’t tried the Z6, so it’s weird to have so many conflicting reviews.
For example, regarding AF, have you checked Nikon Z6 Review by Northrup (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQkzoj7fIsE) where they say that AF is terrible?
Or this review (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYX0CBKrVjM) where the guy shows that every second picture taken by Z6 is completely out of focus?
Nikon has continued to improve AF. I think online reviewers should really stop leaning heavily on software performance features on camera reviews because they change so much with cameras today on a monthly basis. It would be like reviewing an Alienware computer based on the current iteration of Windows. Or like reviewing a video game based on the Beta or even launch. Usually, they’re pretty buggy so you have to look past that, most reviews with game reviewers do, some don’t. Like if you were pulling up Destiny 2 reviews at launch, they are pretty bad, but the game is totally different now. Same with Diablo. I don’t know if you’re a gamer, but cameras are kind of the same and camera reviews don’t understand that cameras can get software updates that dramatically change things. Which we’ve seen with Fujifilm, Nikon, and Canon these last few years but a lot of reviewers lean heavily on these software features of cameras which change constantly. This is why there are so many conflicts.
I don’t watch Northrup videos. He’s one of the few people that actually make more mistakes then I do. 🙂 So take his stuff with a grain of salt, watch him for entertainment only.
Really thoughtfull and nicely present comparisons. I am confuse in between two sony a7iii with 24-105 f4 G or nikon Z6 with FTZ tamron 35-150 f2.8-4. I am not professional and not going to invest frequently, need for family photographs and videos. After firmware 3.0 update z6 af is seriously come very close to sony what is your thoughts. Could you please suggest which way I should go, I like the tamron lense for extra range and low light capabilities. Could you please test z6 with tamron 35-150 for still and video af against sony a7iii with 24-105? Thanks
Does that Tamron work with the FTZ adapter? They were having issues in the past.
Both cameras have AF so hopefully reviewers stop placing so much emphasis on that. It shouldn’t matter anymore between cameras they are all very good. The Sony A7III is not as good of a camera as the Z6, but the native lenses are still nice. It’s tough since Nikon doesn’t have a 24-105mm f4 but they do have a 24-200mm if you don’t mind f6.3 on the long end.
Honestly, I wouldn’t sweat it too much. Both systems will leave you very happy.
I would love to test those cameras, but I don’t have access to loner gear these days. When I’m here in the US I can get whatever I want from BHphoto for up to a month, but in Japan, I don’t have a contact and I left most of my cameras in Japan while I”m in the US for the next few months.
I have been reading your thoughts on the various mirror less cameras and after having recently bought a new Nikon Z6 i have admit you really call a spade a spade in your views regarding the Z6. I don’t recall seeing anyone else commenting on images of people appearing too yellow or lacking tonality in skin tones. I too constantly have to fiddle the WB on my images to make them appear more natural. I shoot RAW in portrait profile and use Nikon’s proprietary software to adjust the images. The colors also are a bit off on skin tones and i need to constantly fiddle with them. I m was coming from another Nikon, the DF. That nailed skin tones and looking back at images from that camera I struggle to match the quality most times. That said, i m overall happy with the Z6 as the focusing is top and i can take photos i could not with the DF in autofocus terms. And then there is video too. In fact i may actually buy a DF again just for the skin tones.
One thing that helps me a little here is trying the different AWB settings. It doesn’t fix the problem but it will help some. Maybe toggling them around in different situations is the way to go. I’m on Auto1 right now and it’s been giving me better results, you can also try keeping things warmer with Auto2. Maybe one of those will better work for your situations. I find Auto1 makes my skin tones look pretty good, but it will still be off on other people.
But there are so many Auto white balance settings. Natural Light Auto, Auto0, Auto1, Auto2. The Yellow skin tones is a bit strange still though. I guess with Sony it’s often too Pink and with Canon it’s too red, so you can never win. 🙂
I got the Ninja V for 10-bit video with the N-Log and the results are amazing.
Thanks for the suggestions. I m using Auto1 as well and like you find it better. In between i tried Natural light auto and it messed up a lot more. (I m beginning to realise your preferences are so close to mine haha). My gripe is that another Nikon body ( yes the DF) gave me perfect skin tones then why did Nikon change it in newer bodies! Again as u said somewhere even Canon bodies have different colour tones. I guess it is the inherent sensor/filter combo that makes that bit of the difference and ofcourse the resolution.
These brands also change their colors too. Not sure exactly why but my Canon 5DII looks nothing like my EOS R. Probably like you said, sensor filter / combo could be the problem. Every time these brands switch sensors colors always change a bit.
Hi, so just as i was about to get more frustrated with the skin tone output of the Z6 I managed to find something that gets me close. Use Flat profile with some tweaks to hue, saturation and an S curve to up the contrast a bit get me close to my Df ‘s output on the Z6. The portrait profile puts too much emphasis on yellows i feel, and when you apply even a hint of S curve it becomes a yellow mess. ( I use Nikons own CX-D software hence the emphasis on their picture profiles) I don’t know if Lightroom profiles have this issue or not. Also just to clarify that skin tone that i m talking about here is an Indian skin tone and specifically of my pet subject during the lockdown – my baby. The Z6 Portrait may work better with Asian, Caucasian or Black skin tones. I don’t want to put anyone off buying an otherwise super camera. Hope this helps anyone out there sitting on the fence.
Thanks for the suggestion. I’ll try messing with this and see if I can get it better.
It’s definitely yellowish with caucasians and asians.
Lightroom matches the Nikon profiles pretty well and now even Capture One has Nikon profiles. I do have all custom built looks through that I’ve tuned just for the Nikon so it’s not that big of a deal, but for image playback when shooting it’s nicer to get things looking a little more neutral. And it’s especially important for video. I haven’t shot people yet with N-Log, I wonder how that looks.
You mention with Nikon the colors have a bias toward yellow… have you tried Capture One? There is a 30 day free trial for it (fully functional), and I have found with Capture One, it renders much more accurate skin tones and also has far less issue with color cast issues (i.e. yellows, greens) that you might find in Lightroom. After using Capture One I will not go back to Lightroom, the workflow is so much easier in C1 since I don’t need to mess around as much with the colors any more.
Thanks so much for this. I was looking at the Fujifilm X-T4 and then realised I can get FF for about same price. So was between a7iii and Z6.
I am tempted by the Sony because I heard a lot about the great video performance but actually I prefer the ergonomics of a larger camera and the Nikon sample images you have here are superb.
Hopefully will find a good deal on Black Friday!
occasionally the z6 will drop down to about $1600. Wait for that, and I believe the 50mm is on sale right now, probably extended to black friday.