Shootout The Nikon Z6 vs the Sony A7III - Unbiased Comparison!

JonathanF2

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* I took posts I made at Fred Miranda and at Nikon Cafe and combined them here for those interested in maybe switching to the Z (own current Nikon F-Mount lenses) or perhaps want to add the Z to access Nikon lenses. I also highlighted key points if you don't want read through everything! ;)

To make a long story short, I ended up returning a used Z6 I purchased from B&H partly because I missed the current Z6+FTZ+XQD card deal they are running right now by two days (wasn't given a price adjustment), secondly, the camera had more shutter clicks than I was comfortable with (almost 2k clicks) and lastly, I want to wait and see if the upcoming Eye-AF firmware improves other aspects of the camera.

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Nikon Z6 + Voigtlander 40mm 1.4 MC:
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190318_NIKON_Z6_SAMPLES_FRIOLO_009 by Jonathan Friolo, on Flickr

Sony A7III + Voigtlander 15mm 4.5 II:
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181228_VOIGTLANDER_15_A7III_TAP_FRIOLO_001 by Jonathan Friolo, on Flickr

Unlike most reviewers, I was completely fine with the AF. No issues whatsoever using the FTZ adapter. It's fast and works with all my F-mount lenses. The one XQD card slot isn't an issue and for all-intents and purposes the Z6 is a mirrorless Nikon FF body and just works. It was pretty close to my D750 in terms to AF acquisition. Menu settings work just like a Nikon DSLR and surprisingly AF seemed fairly snappy with all my Nikon and Sigma glass using the FTZ. In fact the biggest complaint about AF seems to be the most overblown. Yes it's no D5 or even a D850, but it's almost at D750 level AF performance which means it's fast for all but the most demanding of action.

A few things I want to note comparing the Z6 to the A7III. Sony raw files seem a bit sharper out of camera, but Nikon colors/metering are easier to work with especially in diverse lighting. Nikon files just need a bit more sharpening in post to match Sony files. I did compared images from both cameras using the same lens (Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art).

My biggest issue though with the Z camera was the magnify view. I have about 10 or so MF Nikkors, a few M mount lenses and some M42 Russian glass I like, so having a good magnify view is important to me. I found when magnifying, there is some significant slow down which is a bit of an issue for me. On the Sony and Olympus MILC bodies I've used, it's always been smooth so I was surprised that this wasn't the case with the Z. In fact this is the one area where I want to see if the upcoming firmware will fix.

Also the lack of Eye AF, while awesome on the Sony bodies, I didn't find I needed it all that much on the Z. Since the Z settings are similar to a Nikon DSLR, you can skip every other focus point making it easier to compose your shot. Sony doesn't offer focus point skipping, making Eye AF a bit more necessary to speed up operation in portrait shooting.

For now, I'll wait out the Z until the firmware update (hopefully addressing the magnify view issue), CF Express is released for cheaper cards, more native lenses come flooding the used market and a holiday price reduction come end of year. I think overall the Z6 feels just like a Nikon DSLR and if someone wants to jump into Nikon mirrorless with access to many F-mount lenses, I'd totally recommend the camera! :D
 
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JonathanF2

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A few side notes:

- The current F-mount 70-300mm AF-P FX VR retails for under $600 USD. When combined with a FTZ adapter, it performs virtually as a native lens due to the new AF pulse motors Nikon is using. It's quite fast and is completely silent. Performance is highly rated and is cheaper than the Sony 70-300mm G bought new.

- The Z6/Z7 build quality is excellent and controls are very intuitive. Though I also appreciate Sony's compact approach to FF mirrorless. One issue on the Z6 body is that people with long fingers will dig their nails into the rubber grip, causing possible wear and tear. It's highly recommended to get a half case or perhaps add an arca bracket to change the way the camera is gripped.

- Video is actually awesome (I'm not a video guy though). Full screen recording with no crop. Nikon doesn't penalize you for using adapted lenses and they will focus just as a native lens would in video (though depending on lens AF motor, it might cause some focus noises).
 
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Ziggy99

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Thanks for that extended assessment.
I'd put a deposit down on the Nikkor 500PF anticipating moving to Nikon mirrorless from my D500.
As a bird shooter the Z's disappointed me when they came out, and given Nikon's failure to produce a DX system I had no confidence there'd be a mirrorless D500 anytime soon. Given the contempt with which they treat consumer owners I decided there's no future in Nikon for me.
Yes, Nikon do ergos well and so does Panasonic with their DSLR-style bodies. By comparison the A9 is pretty bad in my hands at least.
 

JonathanF2

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Thanks for that extended assessment.
I'd put a deposit down on the Nikkor 500PF anticipating moving to Nikon mirrorless from my D500.
As a bird shooter the Z's disappointed me when they came out, and given Nikon's failure to produce a DX system I had no confidence there'd be a mirrorless D500 anytime soon. Given the contempt with which they treat consumer owners I decided there's no future in Nikon for me.
Yes, Nikon do ergos well and so does Panasonic with their DSLR-style bodies. By comparison the A9 is pretty bad in my hands at least.
The Z cameras in operation are not that bad. My 300mm PF VR was actually quite fast to AF with the Z6. I found FTZ + F-mount AF speed more dependent if a particular lens is fast to begin with. Honestly I don't find the system a disappointment at all. The current Z bodies actually cover a large amount of photographic subjects except for certain niches of which Nikon has those areas covered with specialized DSLRs (D500, D850, D5). Also the 500mm PF seems to be hard to get everywhere and the same thing happened with the 300mm PF when it was released. I wouldn't be surprised if the Phase Fresnel elements are hard to produce slowing down production.

My biggest complaint about the Z is perhaps the least talked about or flatly ignored and that's the way the Z camera handles magnify view. For my particular niche of adapting manual lenses, to me it's completely unusable.

Having used the camera in-depth, I'm actually quite optimistic about the system. The Z6/Z7 are basically the Nikon equivalent of the A7III/RIII. I think Nikon caught up quite closely to Sony and the weaknesses aren't as bad and overblown in most instances.
 

Ziggy99

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What disappointed me - from the reviews of bloggers I trust - was the frame rate, the departure from the Nikon DSLR AF modes/areas, and most of all the failure to exploit the tech potential of mirrorless such as shot buffering and black-out free bursts (and focus stacking maybe). But that's about my needs as a wildlife shooter.
 

JonathanF2

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What disappointed me - from the reviews of bloggers I trust - was the frame rate, the departure from the Nikon DSLR AF modes/areas, and most of all the failure to exploit the tech potential of mirrorless such as shot buffering and black-out free bursts (and focus stacking maybe). But that's about my needs as a wildlife shooter.
- Frame rate: I consider the Z6/Z7 closer to a D750 class camera and I didn't find the frame rate a big detriment. There's a handful of shooters now using the camera in pro sports and other action, and many seem happy to use everything from their 300mm 2.8, 200-400mm, 200mm f2 and other exotics.

- AF modes: The AF modes are a bit of departure from the DSLRs, but they're easy to adjust to and figure out. In fact I find them closer in operation to Sony's AF mode implementation.

- There is black out, but it's quite brief and it mainly happens at the end of a burst. It was more of an annoyance, but not necessarily a major issue. My guess is Nikon is probably ironing out the software side, but it was either release the camera early and get a jump on market penetration or wait until firmware was more mature, but release the camera at a later date.

My main takeaway is that all the fundamental blocks are in place and Nikon is in a better long term position in regards to F-mount compatibility via the FTZ and a well thought out mount and IBIS. Honestly, I think you should give one a try, you might actually like it!
 

Ziggy99

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My summary is that the Z's are one generation, maybe 1.5, behind the best mirrorless from Sony, Fuji, Panasonic and Olympus.
When you ditch the mirror you can easily bump up the frame rate to make a sports/wildlife camera. The G9 released over a year ago does 20 fps CAF burst with the VF image one frame behind, and it can buffer 8 images in raw and c. 30 in JPEG.
The Nikkor 500PF is a work of genius, but ... it was announced last August and a few trickled to the market. Since then nothing. I mean nothing of anything. I had a deposit down and Nikon Aus couldn't be bothered even just replying to my emails about ETA. They did speak to my dealer to say ... nothing again: no ETA, no indication of whether numbers would meet orders and if not how they would be allocated. When you match that with their refusal to put out a crop-sensor supertele forcing D500 users to pay the extra and lug around FF superteles, I'd call them complacent, and in an era of declining unit sales that's reckless IMO and it lost them this user who'd joined the fold enthusiastically a year ago.
I expect most of their Z sales will be from existing F lens owners. If you were new to Nikon and to mirrorless, I can't see what would attract you cp the competition.
 

JonathanF2

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My summary is that the Z's are one generation, maybe 1.5, behind the best mirrorless from Sony, Fuji, Panasonic and Olympus.
When you ditch the mirror you can easily bump up the frame rate to make a sports/wildlife camera. The G9 released over a year ago does 20 fps CAF burst with the VF image one frame behind, and it can buffer 8 images in raw and c. 30 in JPEG.
The Nikkor 500PF is a work of genius, but ... it was announced last August and a few trickled to the market. Since then nothing. I mean nothing of anything. I had a deposit down and Nikon Aus couldn't be bothered even just replying to my emails about ETA. They did speak to my dealer to say ... nothing again: no ETA, no indication of whether numbers would meet orders and if not how they would be allocated. When you match that with their refusal to put out a crop-sensor supertele forcing D500 users to pay the extra and lug around FF superteles, I'd call them complacent, and in an era of declining unit sales that's reckless IMO and it lost them this user who'd joined the fold enthusiastically a year ago.
I expect most of their Z sales will be from existing F lens owners. If you were new to Nikon and to mirrorless, I can't see what would attract you cp the competition.
I found in actual operation the Z6 to be on par with the A7III which it's directly competing against. The A7/R III buffer is deeper, but it was quite noticeable how fast XQD and (soon to be) CF Express flushes it out. Nikon could of released an A9 caliber body, but who's going to buy it with no native lenses? They have 6 native lenses on schedule to be released this year covering most of of the core zooms and primes. Also I just want to ask if you're NPS? I'm pretty sure Nikon was fulfilling NPS priority orders first and then releasing the 500mm PF to the dealer network. Sony can't even fulfill all their 24mm 1.4 GM orders right now and that lens is significantly smaller and should be easier to manufacturer. Is Sony being reckless for not being able to meet pre-orders?

Also why would they release a cropped super telephoto? The 300mm PF VR is lighter and more compact than most M43 and APS-C super telephoto primes. These new PF primes are reason alone to stay in the Nikon fold for long lens shooting. It's always hard to get new lenses the first year anyways. By this time next year I'm sure 500mm PF VR lenses will be all over the place!
 
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SRHEdD

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I think there is a marketing correlation here Nikon won't admit to... but I'm a conspiracy theorist kinda guy. As much as it was touted that the Z7 and D850 were parallel cameras, the obvious correlation is

Z5 - D5xx
Z6 - D6xx
Z7 - D7xx
Z8 - D8xx

That's with the first digit being the model equivalency. That allows for an upcoming Z8 to be the Nikon most were expecting. D850-class AF, 70+MP, dual card slots, round eyepiece and a potential grip with functionality instead of just a battery holder. Maybe a couple of other DSLR niceties like AF point locking collar some of us miss from our D850 DSLRs. It just makes good numerical sense and explains some of the Z7's shortcomings.

But then, I think we faked the moon landings. :yahoo:
 

Ziggy99

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I found in actual operation the Z6 to be on par with the A7III which it's directly competing against. The A7/R III buffer is deeper, but it was quite noticeable how fast XQD and (soon to be) CF Express flushes it out. Nikon could of released an A9 caliber body, but who's going to buy it with no native lenses? They have 6 native lenses on schedule to be released this year covering most of of the core zooms and primes. Also I just want to ask if you're NPS? I'm pretty sure Nikon was fulfilling NPS priority orders first and then releasing the 500mm PF to the dealer network. Sony can't even fulfill all their 24mm 1.4 GM orders right now and that lens is significantly smaller and should be easier to manufacturer. Is Sony being reckless for not being able to meet pre-orders?

Also why would they release a cropped super telephoto? The 300mm PF VR is lighter and more compact than most M43 and APS-C super telephoto primes. These new PF primes are reason alone to stay in the Nikon fold for long lens shooting. It's always hard to get new lenses the first year anyways. By this time next year I'm sure 500mm PF VR lenses will be all over the place!
The D500 is one of Nikon's most successful models, is one of the two mostly widely used sports/wildlife cams and is APS-C. If you want to use Nikkor with it at longer than 300mm, and wildlife shooters need in the range of 600-800 FE lengths, you have to buy a FF super tele - with the added expense, weight and bulk that this involves, and that precisely undermines the mobility advantage conferred by a smaller sensor body. I take this is evidence of Nikon's lack of commitment to producing systems around a camera format. The same trend is evident with the Z format.

As for 500 PF availability, a few were released last year here in Australia to anyone who'd put a deposit down and was high enough in the queue. I gather that later than that pro's were prioritised in a Canadian release. In the meantime, Nikon Aus has been happy to sit on your money and tell you nothing. Nikon has supply problems. Amazon AU no longer takes orders for it. Nikon behaves like they're still one of the big players in the camera market, but they don't innovate and no longer have the capacity or will to produce systems. They're surviving by cutting unit costs but that strategy has a limited life.
 

JonathanF2

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I think there is a marketing correlation here Nikon won't admit to... but I'm a conspiracy theorist kinda guy. As much as it was touted that the Z7 and D850 were parallel cameras, the obvious correlation is

Z5 - D5xx
Z6 - D6xx
Z7 - D7xx
Z8 - D8xx

That's with the first digit being the model equivalency. That allows for an upcoming Z8 to be the Nikon most were expecting. D850-class AF, 70+MP, dual card slots, round eyepiece and a potential grip with functionality instead of just a battery holder. Maybe a couple of other DSLR niceties like AF point locking collar some of us miss from our D850 DSLRs. It just makes good numerical sense and explains some of the Z7's shortcomings.

But then, I think we faked the moon landings. :yahoo:
Yeah, Nikon should of clarified better where the Z cameras sit performance wise. Z auto focus is definitely D7xx class. I also think they should of launched with the FTZ adapter included as well, as opposed to charging extra for it. The lack of grip also sucks, since the A7/RIII/A9 and Canon R both come with grips. I have no clue what Nikon was thinking there. Yeah also the lack of a locking switch would of been nice. I noticed several times using the Z6, when the AF box moved inadvertently. On the plus side, the 'center' button does reset the position easily.

The D500 is one of Nikon's most successful models, is one of the two mostly widely used sports/wildlife cams and is APS-C. If you want to use Nikkor with it at longer than 300mm, and wildlife shooters need in the range of 600-800 FE lengths, you have to buy a FF super tele - with the added expense, weight and bulk that this involves, and that precisely undermines the mobility advantage conferred by a smaller sensor body. I take this is evidence of Nikon's lack of commitment to producing systems around a camera format. The same trend is evident with the Z format.

As for 500 PF availability, a few were released last year here in Australia to anyone who'd put a deposit down and was high enough in the queue. I gather that later than that pro's were prioritised in a Canadian release. In the meantime, Nikon Aus has been happy to sit on your money and tell you nothing. Nikon has supply problems. Amazon AU no longer takes orders for it. Nikon behaves like they're still one of the big players in the camera market, but they don't innovate and no longer have the capacity or will to produce systems. They're surviving by cutting unit costs but that strategy has a limited life.
Neither Canon nor Sony make long APS-C telephoto lenses. In fact Sony's longest APS-C telephoto lens is the 55-210mm. Sony released the A6400 and for the most part, people are buying either native/adapted Sigma glass, since they're the ones filling in most of the blanks in the lens line-up. I don't understand why Nikon is at fault while Sony is indemnified from such criticisms?

Nikon can definitely work on their product distribution. It was near impossible to find a D850 in the US until around September 2018, despite being launched back in September 2017! I partly blame the old school management at Nikon for their rigid thinking and organizational structure. Saying that, I don't see the Z as being a failure though. It's every bit as good as an A7/R III that it's competing against. Far better than the Canon R as well!
 

Ziggy99

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I'm not comparing brands or cameras. If you're interested in my comparison of the D500 with early A9 impressions I've posted that elsewhere and can add a link here if anyone's interested.
Thom Hogan reckons Nikon is run by bankers, and they're looking for stable returns. The trouble is, it's not a stable environment. There isn't the market for all the players we currently have looking out over the next few years. Some are going to fold. And I don't have confidence that Nikon will aggressively innovate in mirrorless in a way that will meet my needs for action shooting. What they've released is catch-up, capitalising on the legacy F-mount lens base.
This is Thom Hogan's take on what this year should bring and will most likely bring for the big players, esp Nikon: What Would Thom Do (2019 Ed.)? | DSLRBodies | Thom Hogan
 

anupaml

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A few side notes:

- The current F-mount 70-300mm AF-P FX VR retails for under $600 USD. When combined with a FTZ adapter, it performs virtually as a native lens due to the new AF pulse motors Nikon is using. It's quite fast and is completely silent. Performance is highly rated and is cheaper than the Sony 70-300mm G bought new.

- The Z6/Z7 build quality is excellent and controls are very intuitive. Though I also appreciate Sony's compact approach to FF mirrorless. One issue on the Z6 body is that people with long fingers will dig their nails into the rubber grip, causing possible wear and tear. It's highly recommended to get a half case or perhaps add an arca bracket to change the way the camera is gripped.

- Video is actually awesome (I'm not a video guy though). Full screen recording with no crop. Nikon doesn't penalize you for using adapted lenses and they will focus just as a native lens would in video (though depending on lens AF motor, it might cause some focus noises).
but isnt the 70-300 AF-P an apsc lens. Wouldnt it show heavy vignetting on a full frame??
 

SRHEdD

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I've shot both side-by-side, the A7Riii has better AF. But I'd expect the upcoming Nikon firmware update to close that gap almost completely.
Am I allowed to quote myself?

Anyway... I sold my Z7 to a good friend when I determined unscientifically that my A7Riii had better AF (it did, IMHO). Then last week, with the new Z7 kit pricing, discounted 200-500, and the v2.0 firmware, I bought another. I am an AF-S, single point shooter. The Z7 certainly seems as fast now and I am actually getting a higher in-focus percentage so far on birds. Both are exceptional, and if I allow that AF is equal in my use, the build and feel of the Z7 is a no-brainer choice. I don't much care either way about dual card slots. Nice, but not a deal breaker. Nikon is making the lenses I want so far, and the others do work fine for me with the FTZ. So here I am 3 months later, back where I started. I'm currently shooting the Z7 w/200-500 against my A7Riii and 100-400/TC1.4x. I may actually sell the Sony if the Z7 performs consistently as it did this morning (see other post with images). Your use, of course, may vary.
 

Dan Euritt

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I like what Nikon is doing with FF MILC, especially with the glass. They are providing good lenses in focal lengths that Sony has ignored, like the z35/1.8., with some at price points right between what Sony offers, like the z50/1.8 at $600. It's like Nikon took a look at where Sony dropped the ball, and addressed the areas where people were complaining about e-mount lenses.

The big question with the FF MILC competition is whether they will ever be able to catch up to Sony cutting-edge tech, like stacked sensors, and the best EYE-AF in both AF-S and AF-C, using a stable of 15-20fps af-c capable lenses: ILCE-9 Continuous Shooting E-mount lenses | SONY

Rating lenses like that is unequaled in the camera industry, and it speaks to where Sony is headed with future e-mount gear. So as an overall platform decision, e-mount is the best choice for what I shoot. Competition is certainly appreciated, though, it benefits all of us in the long run.
 

anupaml

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I like what Nikon is doing with FF MILC, especially with the glass. They are providing good lenses in focal lengths that Sony has ignored, like the z35/1.8., with some at price points right between what Sony offers, like the z50/1.8 at $600. It's like Nikon took a look at where Sony dropped the ball, and addressed the areas where people were complaining about e-mount lenses.

The big question with the FF MILC competition is whether they will ever be able to catch up to Sony cutting-edge tech, like stacked sensors, and the best EYE-AF in both AF-S and AF-C, using a stable of 15-20fps af-c capable lenses: ILCE-9 Continuous Shooting E-mount lenses | SONY

Rating lenses like that is unequaled in the camera industry, and it speaks to where Sony is headed with future e-mount gear. So as an overall platform decision, e-mount is the best choice for what I shoot. Competition is certainly appreciated, though, it benefits all of us in the long run.
Am I allowed to quote myself?

Anyway... I sold my Z7 to a good friend when I determined unscientifically that my A7Riii had better AF (it did, IMHO). Then last week, with the new Z7 kit pricing, discounted 200-500, and the v2.0 firmware, I bought another. I am an AF-S, single point shooter. The Z7 certainly seems as fast now and I am actually getting a higher in-focus percentage so far on birds. Both are exceptional, and if I allow that AF is equal in my use, the build and feel of the Z7 is a no-brainer choice. I don't much care either way about dual card slots. Nice, but not a deal breaker. Nikon is making the lenses I want so far, and the others do work fine for me with the FTZ. So here I am 3 months later, back where I started. I'm currently shooting the Z7 w/200-500 against my A7Riii and 100-400/TC1.4x. I may actually sell the Sony if the Z7 performs consistently as it did this morning (see other post with images). Your use, of course, may vary.
I like how you really dont care abut brand loyalty and show no soft corner to any brand, while on the other hand people are so religious about their brand and gear.
 
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bdbits

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I find it amusing that people complain about Sony ergonomics. Amusing because I actually prefer Sony bodies. It may have something to do with my first "real" camera being more like a rangefinder than the currently in my eyes curvaceous bulbous bodies (somehow it doesn't seem right to say that). It probably explains why I still really like the A6xxx-series body styles. I suspect in the long run I will lose out and you all will get more what you want in a Sony body. Not sure what I will do then - suck it up, move to Fuji (but APS-C) or A6000 (but APS-C) or something altogether different.

Good luck with the Nikon move. I for one will miss your contributions, SRHEdD.
 

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