Bob Nuttmann

User Comparison Review Of Nikon Z7, Nikon Z50, Nikon D750 Sony A7iii, Nikon D5500, Nikon D3200

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In 2013 I bought my first interchangeable lens digital camera a Nikon D3200.  Before this I had several compact digital cameras and a couple of film interchangeable lens cameras.  The Nikon D3200 has a 24 mega pixel sensor that is a “crop” size.  Crop size is a general digital camera term used by many of the main camera makers but originally mostly promoted by Canon and Nikon.  Today Sony also has a wide range of this sensor size.  And much of Fuji’s camera line is crop sensor.  Before I bought the Nikon D3200 I did several months of research what I should buy as my first more advanced digital camera that would launch me into the digital age from using relatively good film cameras for years.

The Nikon D3200.  

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As mentioned before this camera body had a 24 mega pixel sensor that was widely used in Nikon bodies and it gave excellent results.  There is a wide variety of DX style lenses from Nikon specifically for this sensor size camera and they are quite reasonably priced ,light and small plus give very good to excellent results.  I had the 18-55mm VR that came with the camera, a 35mm f1.8, and a 55-200 VR tele.  Both of these zooms had vibration reduction.  This camera had a built in flash.  I picked this camera after reading most of Ken Rockwell’s blog page by page and seeing lots of other reviewers rate this a very good choice in this price range.  This camera was relatively inexpensive and could be bought for around $500 with the 18-55 lens.  You can buy the updated current Nikon D3500 with 18-55 lens for $400 and that is a screaming good deal.

Pros – Excellent image quality.

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  • Light and easy to hold.  For me (And I have size large glove size) the grip is about perfect.
  • Very easy to use.  Controls are right at hand and very well organized for use.  Menu is relatively simple to understand with terms that most people can figure out with either referral to the explanation in the camera or looking at the manual.
  • Excellent auto focus.  When I have this camera I mostly used center focus on landscape shots.  But when I just left it on auto it found the subject pretty easily.
  • Very good battery life.
  • Fairly rugged.
  • Reliable.  Mine worked perfect for the 2 years I had it.
  • Easy to fit the full kit with three lenses in a small sling bag.

Cons

  • Smallish optical viewfinder.
  • No touch screen.
  • Poor focus on video.
  • Not all lenses work well with video using auto focus.  You can hear them moving.

Nikon D5500 

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I moved up to the Nikon D5500 about a year after it was introduced because of rave reviews and a touch screen.  I sold the D3200 on eBay for a good price.  I immediately loved everything about the D5500 except for a smallish optical viewfinder and poor video capability.  The image quality was the same as the D3200.  It used the same sensor.  With the D5500 I got a slightly newer version of the 18-55 that seemed about as good as the previous one.

Pros – Excellent image quality

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This is essentially the same camera as the D3200 but with a touch screen and floppy screen.  So the Pros are the same as from the D3200.

  • Light and easy to hold.  For me (And I have size large glove size) the grip is about perfect.
  • Very easy to use.  Controls are right at hand and very well organized for use.  Menu is relatively simple to understand with terms that most people can figure out with either referral to the explanation in the camera or looking at the manual.
  • Excellent auto focus.  When I have this camera I mostly used center focus on landscape shots.  But when I just left it on auto it found the subject pretty easily.
  • Very good battery life.
  • Fairly rugged.
  • Reliable.  Mine worked perfect for the 2 years I had it.
  • Easy to fit the full kit with three lenses in a small sling bag.

Cons – Cons are mostly the same as the D3200 except this camera has a touch screen.

  • Smallish optical viewfinder.
  • Poor focus on video.
  • Not all lenses work well with video using auto focus.  You can hear them moving.

Comment – In my opinion this is still a great camera for stills.  If you do not plan to make video files on your camera or you are going to make them with your smartphone then this is a great inexpensive but very capable unit.  I would get the updated D5600 though as Nikon is selling it cheeper than the D5500 last time I looked.  Nikon frequently sells the D5600 on sale or refurbished.  Price tends to be about $600 with two lenses.  The second lens is a 55-300mm but without VR.  That means Nikon is only charging you 50 bucks for the tele.  So take the no VR and hold your breath to steady your shot.  And make sure you have an appropriate shutter speed.

Nikon D750.  

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The Nikon D750 is a full frame digital DSLR with a big bright viewfinder, 24 mega pixels of detail, a very good full frame sensor with excellent dynamic range, rugged build, weather sealed, built in flash, long battery life, optional grip, and at a reasonable price.  I bought mine in 2018 with a 24-120mm f4 and a 50mm f1.4.

I bought the D750 because I wanted to go back to full frame cameras like I had had for so many years with film SLRs.  What I did not fully appreciate when I bought this camera was that full frame camera bodies and full frame digital camera lenses with VR had grown since the film days.  The D750 is actually a light full frame DSLR compared to many other cameras.  But it is much heavier than my Olympus OM2n, my Voightlander Prominent, or the Minolta 600si.  When I bought my camera Nikon included as a bonus the extra grip with extra battery.  I liked using the grip but that added even more weight. But pared with the 50mm f1.4 it was not too heavy or big.

The Nikon D750 does not have a touch screen.  What is does have is a lot of marked buttons that lead directly to the main functions of the camera.  This is similar to the D3200, but the 750 has a better and more complete set up.  Looking back I would have to say that this control system is likely the best of the six cameras I am comparing here.  The Sony A7iii does something very similar but the Sony does not mark their buttons and they are not in unique places and shapes so you can find them as easily without looking.

The D750 has a similar auto focus system to the D5500 but much faster and more advanced.  Plus it has a very good tracking system that is quite easy to use.  This is similar to the D3200 and the D5500 but the one in the 750 is better.  For me leaving this camera in auto and letting it find the subject and lock on to it was the best of these six cameras.  The mirrorless cameras are able to find eyes very quickly.

The Nikon D750 has a very similar menu system to the Nikon DX cameras I have had.  That made it quite easy to go to the 750 from the 3200 and the 5500.  As with the two DX Nikons the battery life on the 750 is very good.  Very very good.  When you add the grip most people will go their whole vacation without recharging.

Pros – Excellent image quality.

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  • Medium size and weight for a full frame DSLR.
  • Excellent grip for my size hands.
  • Easy to use control system
  • Simple to use control and menu system
  • Rugged – weather sealed
  • Thousands of lenses to choose from.
  • Built in flash
  • Well set up software to set and get settings quickly
  • Many settings can be seen visually on dials or top screen
  • Very long battery life
  • Reasonable price
  • Reliable
  • Always on optical viewfinder
  • Large clear optical viewfinder

Cons

  • Heavier than DX or mirrorless camera bodies
  • Can’t think of anything else.

Comment – A great camera for stills.  The largest camera in this group of six but comfortable for me to hold except for weight.  Very nice optional grip.  When I bought this I noticed right away that the two lenses I bought with it were better than the DX lenses on the smaller Nikons.  When I put the FX full frame lenses on the DX bodies you could tell the difference.  A very good bright viewfinder.  Live view on this camera is not as good as on the mirrorless but much quicker at focus than the DX bodies.  Auto focus was very fast and accurate.

Sony A7iii 

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So after getting caught up in the “upgrade to full frame” fever the result being my purchase of the Nikon D750 I then proceeded on to get the “mirrorless is the future” stampede and the Sony A7iii is the result.  I actually went to the local camera store to buy a Nikon Z6 but they did not have any.  They did have a Sony A7iii at their other branch for delivery the next day, and I took it.  Why, mostly that I had had a string of several Sony compact digital cameras going back to 2000 and was sure the Sony brand was OK.  Plus I already had several very good Minolta AF lenses that would adapt easily to the A7iii.  My original purchase was for the body, the LA-EA Sony adapter, and the Zeiss 55mm f1.8.  Total cost $3,500.  The 55mm lens was near a grand, ouch, but an excellent lens.  Two months later I bought the 24-105mm f4 lens.

Besides the fever of going mirrorless brought on mostly by one blog (Not Ken Rockwell) and a number of you tube channels there was also size and weight.  I much preferred the lighter Nikon DX cameras size and weight to the full frame.  And the Sony was quite a bit lighter than the D750 and the 24-120.  What I did not count on though was something that was pretty obvious within the first few days of getting the Sony was that it’s grip fit my size large hands poorly.  The grip lack of good fit made worse the fact that the Sony lenses and the Minolta lenses with the adapter put a lot more lever action on my hand and the camera felt much more unbalanced to me than the D750 or either DX camera.

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And then there was the confusion with all the unmarked buttons, no touch screen, and very confusing terms on some of the menu choices.  But as far as image quality for stills or video the A7iii was great.  Since I was now dealing with an EVF I could see the histogram in the viewfinder and this was great for getting the exposure right.  The Sony A7iii was the first camera ever that I felt I could get color as good as well taken and developed film shots easily.  Video was easy to use too and gave very good results.  The Zeiss 55mm 1.8 was a beautiful lens as were several of the Minoltas.  That said, I did not have the D750 long enough.  If I had kept it at least a year I would have discovered that you can see the histogram in live view.  I use the back screen and live view a lot on my cameras and that would have gone a long ways to improve hard to get exposure.  Plus the D750 was very easy to set up bracketing (Unlike the Sony) and I just would have used bracket to get the best exposure.

About 2 months after getting the A7iii I bought the excellent Sony 24-105 f4 zoom.  This is a very good lens.  However, I found the Nikon 24-120 mm f4 to also be a very good lens and 24-120 is a much better zoom range than 24-105.  And either 24-105 or 24-120 is better than 24-70 that I now have on my Z7.  The 24-105 Sony was not as beautiful a render as the Zeiss 55, but it was really good.

laguna park-7

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One of the advantages of the Sony I liked a lot was eye auto focus.  The A7iii worked quite well and zeroed right in on the subjects eyeballs not the eye brows.  Not so appreciated were the ginormous raw files.  Sony did not have lossless compression for their raw files when I bought this camera and still did not last December.  I ended up using compressed raw files or shot jpeg.

For the most part Sony color was pretty good.  But not as good as Nikon.  Nikon raw and jpeg on both the D3200 and D5500 plus the D750 were more pleasing to my tastes than the Sony in general.  On the other hand mid day full sun shots ended up with better color due to getting the right exposure more often.  You can see this in the forest shot above.  I mostly used Lightroom Classic to edit the Sony files.  I tried Apple Photos but for me I really needed the additional adjustments of LR to get the Sony files how I liked them.

Pros – Excellent Image Quality

  • Access to many excellent Minolta AF lenses that were relatively low cost.
  • Reliable – well built
  • Long battery life for mirrorless
  • Lots of programable buttons and controls.  I don’t like the fact that they are unmarked and in my opinion not laid out as well as the Nikon D750, but once you had programmed them and used the camera a lot you mostly remembered where they were.  Once you remembered where they were this is a good system.
  • Some very good native glass.
  • Two standard SD cards.
  • Eye auto focus

Cons – Grip did not fit my hand

  • When I bought the very expensive Sony additional grip holding this camera was a little better, but much heavier.
  • The sensor in this camera is a dust magnet.  This is a real problem that is a big bother.  I cannot remember one dust issue with any of my three DSLRs ever.  Not once.  My two Nikon mirrorless are MUCH less prone to dust problems than the Sony A7iii.
  • Raw files did not make nice with Lightroom like the Z7 and Z50 do.  Much more adjustments on the Sony to get files right.
  • Miserable menu system.   With many terms in the menu hard to impossible to understand.
  • Very confusing auto focus system compared to the three Nikon DSLRs in this review.
  • The three Sony FE lenses I had for this system were electronic focus and not mechanical.  If you are going to shoot video you want electronic.  But if you are going to shoot flowers and close up botanical and want to do some manual focus you want mechanical.
  • Raw files are huge if you don’t use compressed and not lossless if you do use compressed.  Nikon long ago solved this problem.
  • No top screen like on the D750 and Z7.  I find those quite useful.
  • Does not come with a battery charger.  I like and use the ones that come with Nikons.

Comment.  This is an excellent camera that works for a lot of people and may work for you.  The key issue I had was always the handling.  The grip just did not fit my hand well and when you put a zoom on the camera it was unbalanced to me.  On the other hand when I used the tiny Sony-Zeiss 35mm f2.8 it was much better.  If I had not sold this camera I might have tried to get a cage for it or some kind of mod to the grip.  The eye auto focus was dead nails on pin point.  Great system.  But I maybe only used eye auto focus 6-7 times in a year.  I have heard for wildlife this is a great system.  I just don’t shoot that much wildlife.  I did shoot some wildlife with the Nikon DSLRs and thought that system worked well.  I did try the newer size Sony grip before selling the Sony system that now comes on the A7RIV.  For me it was not enough of a change.  The Nikon Z7 or D850 have much better grips than the A7iii to me with my size hands.

Nikon Z50 

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Z50 with 16-50

After a year with the Sony A7iii my first of two Nikons was the Z50 mirrorless.  This is a crop sensor camera with a bit over 20 mega pixels very much identical pixel count to the very well liked Nikon D500 DX crop sensor sports and wildlife camera.  I have no idea if it is the same sensor but likely a very similar one.  I bought mine the first day they showed up at my local camera shop and have loved it since I bought it.  It is light, well built, fits my hand perfectly.  Has the typical Nikon menu system and a very easy to use touch screen.  It was introduced with two new lenses and I bought both of them.  It has eye auto focus and face auto focus.  It switches between stills and video very easily.  Much more so than the Sony.  This camera retains separate stills and video settings so you do not have to reset them when you switch over.  I have read reviews and watched you tube videos complaining about the auto focus, but I like it.  The way you use subject tracking on this camera is way wonkier than any of the three DSLRs in this review but once you set it up in the Z50 it works well.  In almost five months of use with this camera I have not used subject tracking auto focus once.  I just don’t do sports or wildlife.  In a year I never once used it on the Sony.  I tested it and can tell you it is wonky too.  If you are going to do a lot of sports and wildlife get a DSLR.  All the Nikon DSLRs I have used do subject tracking well and easily.

This camera was introduced with a 16-50mm very small lens that pancakes down and weighs about 4 oz.  This lens is a marvel.  Tiny easy to use and has excellent quality.  In the last few days I have tested it against my highly rated ZS 50mm f1.8 and thought the results were the same.  The second lens this camera was introduced with is a 50mm-250. Both of these are stabilized.  Again, with the Z50 the 50-250 is about the same quality for me as the more expensive ZS lenses.  Part of this may be due to the ZS lenses not being stabilized.  Both of these lenses are able to focus very close.  The short lens gets so close you likely do not need a macro lens.

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Z50 with 16-50

Is this camera with the 16-60 lens give as beautiful a rendition as the Sony A7iii with the Zeiss 55mm f1.8, no.  But you would have $3,000 invested in the Sony and $1,000 in the Nikon.  That said, the results would be close and if you were viewing on anything but a high quality monitor you would not see the difference.

The light form factor, shape, and tilt up and down back screen makes this a very powerful social camera, much easier to work with on varied conditions than my iPhone 11 Pro.  With the tilt up screen I am able to get right on the carpet with my small grand daughter and video her using the flip up back screen.  You cannot do this on a phone.  The Z50 has controls that are much easier to use than any phone.  Plus the focus on this camera is easy to get precisely the subject you want in either stills or video.  This Nikon when set to A-FF tracks and focuses on children very well.  And it has a viewfinder for when you are outside in the sun.  It has a built in flash that does a very good job of fill flash.

With both kit lenses you can focus optically from a few inches to a very long telephoto easily.  However, in testing I have found that when outside hiking that my iPhone 11 Pro does a better job of stabilization than the Z50.

Pros – Very good image quality

  • Extremely comfortable to carry around and travel with.
  • Very easy to learn to use controls.
  • Two control wheels.  One in the front and back.  This is unusual for DX size cameras and very useful.
  • Clear sharp EVF
  • Excellent raw and jpeg files right out of the camera.  Better than any of the 3 Nikon DSLRs in this review or the Sony A7iii.
  • Lossless compressed raw files.
  • mostly marked buttons.
  • Standard Nikon menu that is fairly easy to learn and use.
  • Low price compared to full frame
  • Manual focus you just reach down and move the focus ring.  No menu settings required.
  • Sensor seems to be resistant to dust.  Stays far cleaner than Sony A7iii.

Cons

  • Auto focus system not as accurate or easy to use as the three Nikon DSLRs in this review.  The exception is eye auto focus.  This camera does that very well.  To me on par with the Sony A7iii.  The Sony eye autofocus is better but the overall Nikon Z50 auto focus system is easier to use.  Keep in mind that this comment reflects my type of photography which is landscape, architecture, some family, travel.
  • Battery life could be better.
  • Touch screen not as sensitive as the D5500.  I like the D5500 better.  It is more like and iPhone.

Z7 – The most expensive camera in this review

Two days after buying the Z50 I bought a Nikon Z7 with 24-70mm f4 lens.  Less than a month later I bought the 50mm f1.8 ZS lens.  Nikon gave me a FTZ adapter for free when I bought the camera body.  I have not used it.  The Z7 is my first camera with over 24 mega pixels.  The Z7 with it’s high mega pixel count and these two beautiful lenses can give just great results.  But you need to be looking at the files with a high quality monitor or large print to easily see the difference.  There is a big difference when you go from 12 mega pixels to 20 1/2 – 24 mega pixels.  From 20 1/2-24 to 46 mega pixels, not so much.  I do really like the fact that when I take photos I can make a huge crop and still get a good image.  I do not find that my 2018 Mac Book Pro with six cores has any problem handling this size raw file.  Storage is not free, but I mostly use Lightroom Classic and have my files on external drives and the cost is not prohibitive and going down.

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A7 & 24-70 f4 ZS lens Shot raw and edited in Lightroom Classic

This camera is lighter than the D750, and the D750 body is bigger.  The D750 controls and buttons are more spread out.  For me Nikon has made the right type of lenses for the Z mount, or at least the ones I want to buy.  I simply do not have the budget to spend $2,000 for lenses.  And why do I want to spend $2000 and up when I have paid $400 for a Nikon 50mm f1.4 F mount lens.  or $600 for a 24-120mm f4 F mount.  Or for that matter the excellent 16-50mm Z50 lens at my cost of about 100 bucks.  And the excellent 50-250mm Z50 tele for my cost of about $150.  The 50-250 Z50 lens is a super bargain for a great lens.  When Canon came out with their R cameras and a 24-70 f2 that weighed 50 oz and cost $3,000 I just laughed.  I would only pay this kind of money if I won the lottery or was a professional photographer or YouTuber.

The Z7 and Z50 capture video incomparably better than the D750 or D5500.  I do shoot some video with my big cameras and always say I am going to do more, but really I am a still photographer and not a videographer.  I shoot most of my videos with an iPhone which does a better job of stabilization than either Z camera.  Plus it is just easier to use.  Last year I did take some videos with my Sony A7iii.  The results were very good.  When I looked at the renders in edit the Sony looked better than the iPhone XS Max.  But then my little compact Sony HX99 had a much better zoom ability than the A7iii and in many ways was better to use.

So we get down too, what are you going to use the camera for?  What kind of photography or video? If you are not going to shoot video or do it on your iPhone you choice of camera as a tool becomes much bigger.  In my humble opinion DSLRs are just as capable as mirrorless for stills.  In some cases better and some worse.  If you are going to do photos with mostly people eye auto focus is handy.  But if you are going to shoot flowers and botanicals close up in my opinion a DSLR with an optical viewfinder and mechanical lens is a better tool than either the Sony A7iii or the Nikon Z50 or Z7.  1. DSLR auto focus is better for close ups.  A lot better.  2. A big bright optical viewfinder with a mechanical lens is easier to use than and EVF with electronic focus lens.  A LOT easier.  Although I would have to say that the Sony A7iii on a tripod worked very well with either my adapted Minolta 100mm f2.8 macro or the Sony 24-120 or Sony 55 f1.8.  Better than the Nikons.  Right now my best close up flower rig is my 20 year old Minolta 600si with big bright OVF and 50mm f2.8 macro lens.  It is super easy to get perfect focus almost every time.  That same lens worked very well adapted on the Sony A7iii also.

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Is the Z7 the best camera for general landscape shots like the above of the six reviewed here.  Yes.  It gives very detailed files, allows you to get the best exposure possible (although this shot would have been best using a grad ND filter).  You can fiddle with the controls until you see what you want in the viewfinder and then shoot it.

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Shot with Nikon D750 and 24-120 f4

However, the full frame Nikon D750 achieves very good results and if you want to see a histogram or live view you just switch on the back screen and both appear.  Or since the 750 has a separate button for bracket you can just push this button and bracket the shot and be sure of getting a good exposure.

The Nikon Z cameras seem to have better software to output raw and jpegs compared to all three of the Nikon DSLRs in this review and the Sony A7iii.  Maybe Nikon and / or Sony have improved this since I sold the cameras but my experience is that the files both raw and jpeg come out of the Z cameras in many cases much more finished.  I use Lightroom, Lightroom Classic, and Apple Photos.  All three like the Z files.

Pros

  • My hands are mens size large.  The grip on the Nikon Z7 fits my hand very well.  However, when I was in the camera shop the D850 was better still.
  • Excellent sensor with high mega pixel count and lots of dynamic range.
  • Striking rich colors.
  • Very well made – reliable – weather sealed
  • Detailed EVF
  • Good control and button setup
  • Very good native lenses that are sold at mid range prices
  • Auto focus has pinpoint setting for small macro subjects
  • Manual focus is possible by just reaching down and moving the focus ring.  No menu settings required.
  • Effective anti dust cleaning.  Stays much much cleaner than Sony A7iii which is a dust magnet.

Cons

  • Battery life is so so
  • Auto focus with full screen only sometimes gets subject right.
  • Macro manual focus not as easy as a DSLR or SLR with mechanical lenses.
  • Auto focus just not as foolproof as Nikon DSLRs.  This includes the cheap crop sensor bodies.

Conclusions 

  1. Any of these six cameras can give you excellent photographic results.
  2. The three mirrorless cameras have far superior video results over the DSLRs.
  3. DSLRs for photography are still very much alive and well in 2020.  And I suspect they will remain that way for a long time.
  4. I am split over if I prefer OVF or EVF.  I like the exposure control you get from EVF but I much prefer the always on of OVF.  I like that the viewfinder and the back screen show the same thing with mirrorless.  But just bringing the camera up to your eye any time and see what you are going to get is huge.
  5. Full frame OVF far superior to viewfinder in D3200 or D5500.
  6. Long battery life in DSLRs is significant.  You just don’t have range anxiety like you do with mirrorless including the A7iii.
  7. I still like using the older style battery chargers.  They are fast and effective.  I only use USB charging occasionally.
  8. Two card slots using standard SD cards is a good thing.
  9. Not having full function extra grips for the Z cameras is a disadvantage.
  10. Not having two SD card slots for the Z7 and Z50 is a mistake.
  11. Sony’s inaction regarding almost universal criticism of the handling and menus is a mistake.  It cost me as a customer.
  12. Nikon’s and other camera makers survival during the coming tough times is a worry.

One last thing.  The very top image of the Cow Palace in South Dakota is a film shot.  I took it with an old camera, used inexpensive 400 speed Kodak film, used a funky Quantaray 24mm lens, and had developed and scanned by one of the mid priced services.  I took the same photo with my D5500 Nikon and the colors were just not as good.  Film is not dead either, along with the DSLR.

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