The Nikon Z6 goes head to head with the Sony A7III with some surprising results

Feb 15, 2019

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

The Nikon Z6 goes head to head with the Sony A7III with some surprising results

Feb 15, 2019

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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With Nikon and Canon finally entering the fray and the whole Panasonic/Sigma/Leica alliance thing, it’s starting to get quite exciting in the world of full frame mirrorless. It feels a lot like when DSLRs first came into existence. Of course, we didn’t have Facebook then, so people were more concerned with shooting than measuring.

But these days, kit comparisons are inevitable, especially with the rate at which technology is advancing and new products are being released. In this video, Jay P Morgan looks at the Nikon Z6 and Sony A7III cameras. On paper, they’re pretty close, with both cameras having some slight advantages over the other in certain areas. Some of Jay’s results, though, are quite surprising.

For the tests, the Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 S was mounted to the Nikon Z6, with the A7III using the Sony Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 ZA. The 16-minute video covers a fairly extensive list of the two cameras capabilities. They look at everything from ISO performance and dynamic range to their video and slow-motion capabilities.

Image Quality

When it comes to image quality, both cameras seem pretty evenly matched. Which I suppose is to be expected, really. They did note a slight green shift coming from the images out of the Sony, although if you’re profiling your cameras with something like the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport or Datacolor SpyderCHECKR, I don’t think this will be much of an issue.

Dynamic Range

This was quite a surprising test. both cameras were exposed using the base exposure on the subject’s face, and then several shots were taken with the images under or overexposed by several stops in one stop increments.

While both cameras seemed to have fairly similar dynamic range, it was applied in the two cameras slightly differently. For the Nikon, it dealt far better with underexposure, with even five stops of compensation added in post yielding an impressive result. The Sony, on the other hand, looked like a dot matrix print when it was bumped five stops in post.

Overexposure was a slightly different story with the Sony holding details in the highlights that the Nikon lost when the exposure was brought down in post to compensate.

So, it looks like “expose to the right” is very much the name of the game for Sony shooters, while you might be better off underexposing slightly on the Nikon to prevent blowing out those highlights, knowing that you can safely recover the shadow detail in post.

Other tests

The ISO performance test showed quite a noticeable difference with the Sony showing quite a bit more noise than the Nikon as the ISO crept up, as well as increasing that green cast. Autofocus was also similarly surprising, as the Z6, despite lacking Eye AF (it’s coming!), seemed to actually perform better than the A7III in this example. Although, they do note in the video that the A7III seemed to underperform in this test compared to their previous experiences.

For video, the results were also quite surprising. While both shoot 8-bit internally, the Nikon footage seemed quite oversharpened and processed compared to the clean footage coming from the Sony. Sony’s mirrorless cameras have become favourites for many hybrid shooters when it comes to video, and it’s an area in which they have a lot more experience than Nikon. Perhaps the Nikon could be improved with a settings tweak to reduce sharpening.

That being said, and although it would be a slightly unfair test, I’m curious how the Sony’s 8-Bit footage compares to 10-Bit externally recorded footage from the Nikon. Chances are, that although it may have a bit more colour depth to work with in post, the footage would be equally as processed and oversharpened. What really intrigues me, though, is how externally recorded footage will look from the Nikon once it gains raw HDMI output.

Looking at this comparison, it seems that if your goal is photography, get the Nikon Z6. But if video’s your thing, then go for the A7III. Neither camera is all that terrible for either situation, though, really.

You can see more of their results over on The Slanted Lens website.

Which of these would you go for? Which do you already own?

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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21 responses to “The Nikon Z6 goes head to head with the Sony A7III with some surprising results”

  1. JC Gonzalez Avatar
    JC Gonzalez

    I mean…. who makes Nikon’s sensors? Lol

    1. Stefan Filipov Avatar
      Stefan Filipov

      Question is not who manufactures them, but who designs and develops them (which is Nikon themselves ;)

    2. Fritz Asuro Avatar
      Fritz Asuro

      Nikon doesn’t use Sony’s sensor. Nikon only outsourced the manufacturing of their OWN sensor design and tech to Sony. Sony has no rights to use Nikon’s designs.

  2. krb Avatar
    krb

    You forget the dual cards, better lens lineup better c-af… Also, the dynamic range test should make it obvious why the Sony is noisier (there’s more detail left in the highlights). It means there’s no real advantage to be had with either in this regard, as long as you shoot and process knowing how your camera works. Nikon just “cheat” with their isos moretthan Sony (every manufacturer does this).

    1. Yakinabe Avatar
      Yakinabe

      If the Sony retains more detail in highlights and have more noise in underexposed areas, doesn’t that mean it’s Sony who is “cheating” with the ISO number (i.e. actual ISO is less than what the camera is set to)?

      1. krb Avatar
        krb

        You cheat to make your image look cleaner, so I don’t think so? Not sure

    2. zepy3 Avatar
      zepy3

      Gimmie all the shadow recovery. I could careless about highlights, highlights mean you’ve got light to work with generally. If you lack light though you’re totally boned with that Sony recovery.

      1. krb Avatar
        krb

        You don’t seem to understand. It looks like they just shifted the default ‘midpoint’ of the raw files. It’s not an advantage for either.

        1. Mark Harris Avatar
          Mark Harris

          Exactly but at this point butthurt Nikon fans will embrace any BS to be happy lol

  3. Munchma Quchi Avatar
    Munchma Quchi

    There will be a lot of twisted panties when Sony Alpha Rumors hears about this.

    1. Mark Harris Avatar
      Mark Harris

      You don’t need to be a Sony user to spot the BS nonsense of this “article”. Nikon must be real desperate. Good thing there are real professional websites doing the comparison and showing facts

      1. Munchma Quchi Avatar
        Munchma Quchi

        Those twisted panties are going right up you butt Mark. We can hear it in your written words. Like a high school cheerleader shrieking at a mouse.

  4. Marko Avatar
    Marko

    I am very impressed (and surprised) with the Nikon performance. I did not think they would hold well against a veteran mirrorles brand like Sony. I shoot stills and a Nikon user so I would probably go with the Nikon.

    I wish they tested and reviewed the Nikon adapter and see how DSLR lenses perform on the Z6.

    1. zepy3 Avatar
      zepy3

      They work very nearly flawlessly. Other than the focus seeming to hunt slightly more with my cheaper glass, on the 70-200 2.8 VRii it’s just as solid as if it were attachedato a D850 in my book.

      The extra functionality of the Z glass though will definitely tempt me to upgrade glass.

      1. Marko Avatar
        Marko

        Good to know. Thank you.

  5. Philip La Lumiere Avatar
    Philip La Lumiere

    Let me guess they look the same? Maybe because the body isn’t nearly as important as glass and yet everyone seems to pour their budget into a body and I’ve literally met ONE other photographer who even has an f1.2?

    1. Miku~~ Avatar
      Miku~~

      Because everybody needs a f1.2..

  6. krb Avatar
    krb

    Horrible test for iso. You need to use the same lens, adapted to both cameras, same shutter speed and iso, then bring both images to the same brightness in post. Anything else is just bs.

  7. pavel168 Avatar
    pavel168

    Please check the DXO graphs. Z6 uses Sony sensors, the dynamic range is nearly identical: https://www.dxomark.com/Cameras/Compare/Side-by-side/Sony-A7-III-versus-Nikon-Z6___1236_1269

    1. Morgan Patrick Miller Avatar
      Morgan Patrick Miller

      Processing tech is different dude, the same reason why color science is different

  8. Fink Avatar
    Fink

    I need to test my ‘6 for low ISO performance. But the few shots I’ve taken? Superior. I’d like to go to the desert for some sky shots at night. And yes, even with the f4 ‘kit’ lens. I’ll also hunt around the really deep menu structure for JPG default settings, though a nice comparison could be to use RAW, which I have set for lossless compressed and I think 12 bit.
    A superficial test as is this article really won’t show EITHER camera to best advantage. I suspect a long term test, maybe 3 to 5 months EACH followed by a detailed review. Simply too much to take in in even a week of testing.