Three systems go head-to-head in this camera & lens comparison with some surprising results

Jan 2, 2017

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.

Three systems go head-to-head in this camera & lens comparison with some surprising results

Jan 2, 2017

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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There are always new photographers trying to figuring out which system to buy into. There’s also experienced photographers considering switching. They post on Facebook and forums to ask the opinions of others. 99% of the responses will be suggesting the brand they themselves use. It’s inevitable, really. They promote what they know, without really knowing what the person asking the question wants to shoot. So, seeing comparisons can be a good way to get a little insight into how each system handles.

This video from The Slanted Lens is a bit of a departure from what we’ve come to expect. But, it can be a valuable one, especially if you want to shoot portraits.  Jay and his team put the Nikon D810, Canon 5D Mark IV and Sony A7R II head-to-head in a variety of real world shooting situations. They try not to come to any real conclusions, but just demonstrate how the different systems compare. This way, you can make up your own mind which is best for you.

YouTube video

The team shot native system lenses on each of the bodies. The Nikon D810 used a Nikon 50mm f/1.4G, the Canon 5D Mark IV was equipped with a Canon 50mm f/1.2L, and the Sony A7R II was paired with the Sony 55mm f/1.8 Sonnar T.

There’s four main areas looked at on each of the systems. Each one going into a little more detail on specifics of each system.

  • 1:35 – Picture quality
  • 4:04 – Autofocus features
  • 9:45 – Dynamic range
  • 11:50 – Low light situations

A constant theme throughout each of the tests is handling, and this is actually a pretty big factor. It doesn’t really matter how good a system is if it feels awkward to use. But, handling is often a subjective and personal thing. I’ve used multiple cameras pretty extensively from all three manufacturers over the years, but I feel the most comfortable using Nikon. I know others who have similar experience with the different systems but prefer Sony or Canon.

One thing I found quite interesting was how the three systems stacked up when you compared the price.

That’s a pretty significant difference in price between the Nikon setup and the other two. In fact, the camera & lens together cost less than either the 5D Mark IV or A7R II for the body alone. It kept up just fine, though, and even seemed to win out on a few aspects. Of course, portraits are only one area. Each of the systems offer advantages that benefit the user in different situations.

Ultimately, despite how much information videos like this pass along, there’s really no substitute for trying them out yourself. Each manufacturer has a very distinct feel when you get the camera in your hands. Even between different models from the same manufacturer, there are differences. Some are quite subtle. Others, not so much.

So, whatever systems you’re considering, try to actually use them. Borrow from friends if you can, or rent. I’ll rent gear for specific jobs, but for things I want to test out to buy, I prefer the used market. I get to keep them for as long as I like to really put them to the test and see if I like them. If I didn’t, just resell them, and not take a huge loss. If I did, either keep them if they were good samples, or sell them and buy new with full warranty.

Are you still figuring out which system to buy into? Are you considering switching from one to another? Have you already settled on a system? Or do you shoot several? Let us know in the comments.

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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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31 responses to “Three systems go head-to-head in this camera & lens comparison with some surprising results”

  1. Spike Brown Avatar
    Spike Brown

    Surely it would have been better to test all 3 cameras with standard 50mm F1.8 lenses?

    1. Zak Neumann Avatar
      Zak Neumann

      Could have used a Sigma 50 1.8 so it was equal.

  2. Stewart Scott Avatar
    Stewart Scott

    I have come to the conclusion that cameras are a bloody rip off. I love photography but the their is no way the canon 5D mark IV is £2500 better than the mark ii that I currently use. Couple of hundred possibly. Its certainly not leaps and bounds above the mark iii. As long as you have something thats around 10 – 15 megapixel and you know your settings then stick with it and save your cash.

    1. Ahmet Avatar
      Ahmet

      I have to agree. I thought maybe I’ll upgrade the MkII to MkIV then I saw the features and the price tag and started to laugh.
      (MkII + 24-105 was 2500 GBP soon after release. Origianally I wanted to by MkI but the differece was only 500 so I went by the new. MkIII did not impress me nor the MkIV even compared to MkII.)

      1. WillMondy Avatar
        WillMondy

        I’m more tempted by the 5DsR to replace my Mk2
        50Mp for my landscapes and still better dynamic range and high-ISO noise. Also, it’s cheaper than the Mk4 at the moment, especially the non-R version of the 5Ds, which is almost 2/3 of the price in the UK!

        1. Ahmet Avatar
          Ahmet

          It is good, if you know why you want to change and it is also good if someone knows why he/she doesn’t want to.
          So many people “upgrade” because they think it will improve their images’ overall quality.

          1. WillMondy Avatar
            WillMondy

            I know full well that it is skill, but there are frustrations in having a camera that lacks features, or doesn’t do what you want. I am adding glass too, but my New Years resolution has been to aim for 100 sunrises, which will hopefully give me plenty of practice and add skills which ultimately are most important.

          2. bartom Avatar
            bartom

            Think of what the great masters used and do not worry about features. Evey camera has fstops/shutter speeds/focusing and are or have a manual mode. Only about 2% of the worlds photographers need a $4000 camera regardless of the brand.

    2. Ted Gamron Avatar
      Ted Gamron

      The new version is way better. Esp the auto focus.

  3. Stewart Scott Avatar
    Stewart Scott

    I have come to the conclusion that cameras are a bloody rip off. I love photography but the there is no way the canon 5D mark IV is £2500 better than the mark ii that I currently use. Couple of hundred possibly. Its certainly not leaps and bounds above the mark iii. As long as you have something thats around 10 – 15 megapixel and you know your settings then stick with it and save your cash.

    1. Ted Gamron Avatar
      Ted Gamron

      The new version is way better. Esp the auto focus.

    2. Stewart Scott Avatar
      Stewart Scott

      Enough to part with a few grand for?

    3. Petar Maksimovic Avatar
      Petar Maksimovic

      Only if the last one’s AF was so bad but if that was the case why did it cost so much with such a bad AF?

  4. Tobias M Schneider Avatar
    Tobias M Schneider

    Gotta love it when “experts” talk about which system to get into and conveniently forget that Pentax exists.

    1. Duncan Knifton Avatar
      Duncan Knifton

      agreed!

    2. Kaouthia Avatar
      Kaouthia

      To be fair, they “conveniently forgot” (ie, don’t own) Fuji, Hasselblad, Phase One, Olympus and others, too. I wouldn’t take it too personally. :)

    3. Ahmet Avatar
      Ahmet

      It’s not the quality, it’s the popularity. Looking back, Minolta had the best film cameras. They had live histogram before digital… Where are they now?

      1. Josofa Harris Avatar
        Josofa Harris

        Sony purchased the Konica Minolta Camera division and technologies. In 2006…

        https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Konica_Minolta

    4. willdmo Avatar
      willdmo

      Yes, it’s a shame that at least not all the fullframe players are included. I use pentax and like it much.

      Pricewise with the DA 50mm F1.8 it would come around $2,200

      would be very good at Picture quality

      Would lose at Autofocus features

      would lead in Dynamic range

      will be on pair with others in Low light situations, when subjects are bit moving

  5. Gary Kohl Avatar
    Gary Kohl

    Check out the Pentax full frame. Great camera at a better price

  6. lazlo toth Avatar
    lazlo toth

    Even though it was released in 2014 and it’s replacement is just around the corner, I bought the d810 this year. It’s a solid camera at a great price and the only dslr on dpreview to be judged as competing with medium format dynamic range quality. Iso 64 rules!

  7. Duncan Knifton Avatar
    Duncan Knifton

    No Pentax again !!!!!

  8. Brenda Lee Arbeau Avatar
    Brenda Lee Arbeau

    I vote for the underdog, Mr. Pentax.

  9. nekrosoft13 Avatar
    nekrosoft13

    Selling the 5diii was the best decision I ever made! A7rii rules ;)

    5diii was like an anchor, photography was getting stale and boring, almost stopped. A7RII brought passion back into photography, no longer do I leave camera at home because of the giant size. Photography is fun again.

    1. bartom Avatar
      bartom

      the A7rii is $3000 us. so you should be having lots of fun for tht investment. :-)

  10. Martijn Avatar
    Martijn

    Comparing these camera’s with all different lenses makes zero sense… Most of the differences will be due to the lens (when they talk about contrast, autofocus and so on). All in all, a really really bad review/comparison. Should have used the Sigma ART 50mm, or perhaps the newest 70-200mm 2.8 for each brand.

  11. Martijn Hermans Avatar
    Martijn Hermans

    Comparing these camera’s with all different lenses makes zero sense… Most of the differences will be due to the lens (when they talk about contrast, autofocus and so on). All in all, a really really bad review/comparison. Should have used the Sigma ART 50mm, or perhaps the newest 70-200mm 2.8 for each brand.

  12. onthedot Avatar
    onthedot

    I would try to find lenses more comparable in nature from each manufacturer. Preferably comparable pro level zooms. At least comparable system lenses. The canon fast lens is a bit of an odd duck. As for not testing pentax or olympus, their systems are late to market, and its hard to convince a seasoned pro to invest in a less stable system than Nikon or Canon.

  13. Peter Keuning Avatar
    Peter Keuning

    Starting into photography? Yes? Buy these multi-thousand dollar cameras! Like getting your drivers license and choosing which Ferrari is right for you.

  14. Lullaby Sweet Avatar
    Lullaby Sweet

    Shh… there’s one more brand called Pentax!!

  15. Majeed Avatar
    Majeed

    where is the Pentax K-1, Where is it? it will beat Canon