Sony A7iii vs Nikon Z7

I have had my Sony A7iii since October.  In four months I have taken about 5,000 still photos and a dozen videos.  It has been a learning curve for me after three Nikon DSLRs. I would say I am at an intermediate skill level with this camera, but still finding new features frequently.  Last week I rented a Nikon Z7 + 24-70mm f4 lens.  Nikon offered me a special price and my curiosity got the better of me.  The photo above is one of the very first I took with the Nikon.  This was taken hand held and focus was by touching the back screen where I wanted the kit lens to focus and I then pushed the shutter button.  For a kit lens the ability to focus this close and for the photo to be this sharp is impressive.  This is closer than my Sony 24-105mm f4 can focus.  The Nikon has a minimum of 12″ and the Sony 15″.

last roses of the year-13
Taken with Sony A7iii and 50mm f2.8 macro lens.

The above shot with the Sony is also close up and very sharp.  I used a Sigma 50mm 2.8 macro to get it.

  • Overall the image quality of both the A7iii and Z7 are excellent.  The Z7 has more mega pixels, but unless you are cropping and viewing on a very detailed screen you will not see the difference.  To my eye the sensors of these two cameras are very similar when shot in raw.  The colors seem to be about the same.

When I rented the Sony I took it directly from the camera store to a park and started shooting.  I found it remarkably easy to do this.  The menu is mostly the same as on the Nikon DSLRs.  But I just used the back LCD touch screen to get into the menu and did not have to search around.

  • Most of the menu in the Sony was pretty easy for me too.  I have had 4 Sony compact cameras and the menu of the A7iii is similar but longer.  The Z7 is easier to use if you don’t know what you are doing.  And the Nikon just does some things that help.  You can touch the back LCD of the Sony too, to set a focus point.  On the Nikon the place where you set the point is easy to see with a white outline.  On the Sony it uses a hard to see black outline that will turn green when it focuses, but before that happens is difficult to see.  Some of the settings on the Sony are very hard to figure out.  Like settings for jpeg or raw on which card.  The Sony has this in two locations many pages and three sections apart in the menu.  Plus the language used in the description is not clear.  The Nikon has this in one location and is very easy to figure out.
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iPhone XS Max zoomed about 6X using digital zoom and smart HDR color via Apple Photos App

The Sony has lots of customizable buttons.  I have them set up now so I can access menu functions I use all the time.  Only some of the buttons are marked.  This means you have to memorize which ones are which.  In the beginning it is hard to quickly find what you want.  My previous Nikon D750 also had lots of buttons, switches, and dials.  They were mostly marked.  Finding the function you wanted was easy to learn.  Much more so than the A7iii.  The Nikon Z7 has some marked buttons and a full function touch screen.  This is more like my Nikon D5500 than the 750.  There are advantages to both the button system (A7iii & D750) and button-touch screen (Z7).  Done well I would say both systems are about equal in ease of use and speed.  The Nikon D750 and the Z7  good.  The Sony A7iii is just not as easy or fast.  If I had to pick a winner today it would be a tie between the Nikon D750 and Nikon D5500.  The Z7 has the potential to be as good as the D5500, but I just did not use it long enough to say at this point.

  • My controls winner between the Z7 and A7iii would be the Z7, but I have to say I loved the ease with which the D750 worked.  It’s dials, buttons, and switches were placed so you could remember where they were easily by sight or feel.  For the Sony you really have to look where you are pushing a button to be sure on many of the controls.
  • The touch screen winner (between Z7 & A7iii) is the Z7 by a mile.  The Sony is stretching it to even say they have a touch screen.  Right now you cannot adjust the menu with it.  That is a big mistake on a camera that needs a full function touch screen.
  • Overall build quality look, feel, appearance.  This is a hard one.  The Sony body and two lenses I have feel very solid.  I have the 24-105 G f4 and the Zeiss 55mm f1.8.  They look and feel like very high quality pieces.  But the Sony body falls down on the doors over the plug ins.  They are light and poorly designed.  That said besides the doors the Sony body feels solid.  The Nikon Z7 body has a softer feel than the Sony.  The door covers are better than the Sony.  The 24-70mm f4 lens is lighter and does not feel as solid as the Sony.  By a wide margin the Nikon body is much nicer in the hand.
  • The Sony is very hard to hold comfortably for any length of time.  The Nikon designers paid special attention to this and the body is more spread out than the Sony.  And the 24-70 lens is shorter than the Sony 24-105.  Nikon also obviously spent time putting the weight of the 24-70 as far back towards the body as possible.  They made the lens retractable, they made the lens light, there is less spacing in the lens to move the elements further away from the body.  With the Nikon Z7 your fingers are more spread out so more leverage and comfort.  When you wrap your hand abound the grip the knuckles are half way out this lens.  With the Sony when you have your fingers around the grip your knuckles are about a third out the 24-105 lens and maybe a bit less.  The result is the Nikon is the one you want to hold for a long time.
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Nikon Z7 with Nikon 24-70 f4

The above photo has a focus point of the tiny little bud on the side of the cactus.  The second one.  This was very easy to do with the Z7.

Prices

  • Nikon Z7 $3,000 (approx) after $400 reduction for trade in bonus.  Or $3,600 with 24-70mm f4 after $400 reduction for trade in bonus.
  • Sony A7iii $2,000 + $1,300 for 24-105mm f4 = $3,300
  • Nikon D750 + 24-120mm f4 = $1,800
  • Nikon D5600 + 18-55mm kit lens = $530
  • Nikon Z6 + 24-70 f4 $2,200 after $200 off for trade in bonus.

If you are a photographer and don’t care about video or want to shoot video with your iPhone XS Max like I do get the D5500 for $530.  An incredible deal on an excellent camera.  I owned one for 3 1/2 years and it is a great piece of gear.  But if you own an iPhone XS Max you likely want to spend more money so get a D750 or Z6.  I owned a D750 for six months and think it is a step up from the D5500 but much heavier and bigger.  To my eyes the combination of full frame sensor and FX better glass put the quality out of the D750 one notch above the 5500.  For less weight and much better video the Z6 is the pick.

Between the Z7 at $3,600 or the A7iii around $3,300 it is a hard choice.  I would be tempted to go with the Z7 for the comfort of carrying it and the ease of adjustment.  If I were in the market to change I think I would choose the Z6.  To me it is a bargain at the current prices.

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