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.
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.
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.
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.
The ultimate guide to Sony A7III Accessories.
The pretty amazing not quite ultimate guide to Nikon Z6 Accessories.
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