I have now had my Sony A7iii a little over six weeks and it is time to post some additional thoughts about it and also in comparison to my previous Nikon DSLRs the D5500 and D750. All three of these interchangeable lens cameras have the same mega pixel count, 24.
And to my eye from a users perspective and not a scientific test, all three will give about the same quality photo using the same quality lens.
So why did I switch to Sony if the image quality was about the same. There are two main reasons. 1. Try and get the size and weight down from the D750. 2. EVF. I like being able to set exposure using zebras or the histogram before taking the shot. After about six years using DSLRs I wanted to see if I could be better at getting the exposure right in varied conditions.
- For the most part I did get a size reduction on the Sony compared to the D750. But you still have the problem with the lens size and weight. D750 Nikon 29.5 oz, 50mm f1.4 9.8 oz 24-120mm f4 25 oz, Sony A7iii 22.9 oz 50mm f1.4 27.5 oz 24-105 f4 23.4 oz. So you can see the problem with those two full frames. The Nikon D5500 is way smaller and lighter. I did choose the Sony – Zeiss 55mm f1.8 that is exactly the same weight as the Nikon but only f1.8 and not f1.4. Also, the Sony Zeiss is well over twice the price of the Nikon 50mm f1.4.
- EVF. The Electronic view finder makes it much easier to nail exposure. I don’t have to bother bracketing any more. The Sony finder and back screen allow easy exposure settings. I don’t have any problems with lag in the EVF. It is not as crystal clear as the Nikon D750 OVF. Both the Sony A7 and Nikon D750 viewfinders are far superior to the Nikon D5500’s. The D5500 has a smaller size view. I don’t really know why. My near 40 year old Olympus OM2n has a huge bright viewfinder and it is a smaller body than the D5500.
I am 71 years old and am strong but have a slight bit of arthritis in my right thumb. When I would start out with the D750 and the 24-120mm lens it took a while before it became comfortable to hold. And when walking with that setup it is pretty big. I bought a Peak strap to go with it and that helped a lot, but I still many times would wish for a smaller camera set up. So now I have the Sony A7iii with one 55mm lens that is light. Plus I have five adapted lenses that are Minolta. The A7 & native 55mm f1.8 makes a great package. The adapted lenses do not perform as well as they did with the Minolta film bodies. They work, but some of the photo magic is just not there with them. I do not have a good wide to medium zoom. And if I buy the 24-105 Sony f4 then the A7iii and lens will be right back up there in size and weight with what I have with the 750 & 24-120.
Handling – Lots of writers have complained about the menus. I have had 4 Sony compact cameras over the last 15 years and the menus are all about the same. But no doubt the Sony menu is longer than Nikon’s DSLR menu. Once I set up the programable buttons I did not use the menu much. I am a big fan of touch screens. The one on the Nikon D5500 is great. Neither the A7iii or the D750 have touch screens. Yes the Sony has a very limited touch screen, but not enough for me to use it.
Both Nikons have well set up dials and buttons that are easy to learn and use. The single dial and buttons are very easy to use one handed with the D5500 as it is so light and comfortable to hold. I do prefer both a front and back dial. The D750 has front and back dials. These are the ones to adjust exposure and shutter speed. The D750 is also relatively easy to use one handed if you have something like a 50mm lens on it. A big zoom, not so much. The buttons on the D5500 and D750 are resistant to being accidentally hit and changed when using the camera.
The Sony is a different story. It’s weight is about 6 oz more than the D5500 and about 7 oz less than the D750. The D5500 and D750 have better grips for my size hand than the Sony. The Sony grip however is the least desirable of these three. But the Sony has an additional issue that makes this worse. And that is that you many times want to adjust the camera while in your right hand. Adjustments to the back or front dial or buttons is much harder than either Nikon. It is much easier to accidentally move one of the setting buttons or dials on the Sony. I did just that last time I was out shooting. I took at least 2 dozen shots before realizing it.
I also have 5 film SLR cameras I use all the time. 2 Olympus OM2n’s. This is the gold standard of handling. Perfect size with only a few simple controls. 2 Minolta 600si cameras. Just a little bigger than the Olympus and slightly larger. A wonderful camera for handling and use. Simple excellent quick to use controls for manual or auto use. I like this a little less than the Oly. Mostly because the Oly looks and feels better. The Minolta is plastic and not the Nikon nubby kind. Auto film load and rewind. 3. Voigtlander Prominent from the early 50’s. Same size as the Oly and the Leica M3 by the way. Funny about those coincidences. The Voight is beautiful with just gorgeous lenses. But it is hard to use. Much harder than the Sony.
Color – Lightroom works hand in hand with Nikon files put out by the three DSLRs I have owned in the last ten years. Ever since Lightroom started their new system earlier in 2018 I just only take raw and make my adjustments. Both LR CC Classic and LR CC work very well with Nikon. In tough lighting situations the Nikon files can require some work to get them to look right. Of course you can fix a lot of that by “chimping” and looking at the histogram after you take the shots. In general it is easy to use Nikon colors with LR. Not so with Sony. Sony (and keep in mind this is only my personal use and experience and I am just a user and no expert.) raws and Jpegs do not for me have nearly as much differentiation as the Nikons. Raw with Nikon is flat and obviously not processed. Sony when I shoot raw + jpeg the files come out looking much more similar. And if you get my Sony A7iii near the ocean or a large body of water it swings the raw files towards blue. I am forced to spend a lot of time getting the color to look how I like it. Much more so than my Nikons, Apple iPhone, or my Sony HX 80 compact. The last one really confuses me. Going towards the blue side must be part of the AWB and the camera looks for water and it’s computer must make an adjustment.
The Sony does a very good job for me with jpeg on flowers. I take lots of plant pictures. I worked at getting good at that with the Nikons. The Sony does just as good a job on raw but better for me on jpeg. I also find that even though I have begun to think the Sony jpegs are a little “weird” I am getting the “Ektar” look that I love using that Kodak film. Part of that has to do with the really spectacular Sony Zeiss 55mm lens.
So for me specifically I have things I like about the Sony color and things I do not. I guess I will call this a tie.
Video – The Sony has much much better video ability than either Nikon. The ease of use on the A7iii is significantly better. In the past I disliked the results I got from the Nikon DSLRs and so used my iPhone for video. I have heard that the Nikon Z6 & 7 have much improved video. So if you have to have Nikon get one of those for video.
Price – The Sony with lenses is far more expensive than the Nikon D750 or Nikon D5500. Back when the Nikon was introduced it’s price was about the same as the Sony. And Nikon’s new Z6 is about the same as the Sony A7iii. Right now you can buy a Nikon D5600 and two zoom lenses for $700. And today you can get the D750 with the 24-120 for $1,800. The Sony A7iii with Sony 24-105mm is going to run you $3,300.
Bottom Line – If you want to buy one of these cameras you should do so knowing you are getting a great image maker. If you shoot mostly, almost all still photography get one of the Nikons at todays prices. Even at a big discount the D5600 is 1/3 of the D750 cost. For most people the D5600 is a much better buy. The only really huge improvement in the D750 is the viewfinder (I agree with Ken Rockwell who said the same thing.) Other than that the smaller Nikon is much easier to carry and has a touch screen. If you take video and don’t want to use your phone for that then you should get the Sony or maybe the Nikon Z6.
The Sony and Nikon cameras I have owned over the years have both been very reliable. The Nikons seem a bit tougher but I have not had problems with my Sony’s. For me I am going to stick with this Sony through the end of 2019 at least. I may buy one or two more lenses for it. But I am worn out from all the new cameras in 2018. Time to use the gear I have. Unless Olympus makes a full frame mirrorless the size of my old Oly OM2n. I would buy one of those. And I am going to shoot film too. I love the new Kodak Ektachrome. I think it might be the best slide film I have ever used.