Nikon has now seriously entered the world of mirrorless cameras, and possibly given Nikon shooters who were thinking about jumping ship a reason to stay on board. So how does the Sony a7III stack up against the new Nikon Z6?
From the spec sheet alone both cameras are bursting at the seams with the latest mirrorless technology. We will have to wait for the real world comparisons to find out just how well they perform against each other, but until then, here are the key differences on paper.
Related comparisons: Sony a7R III vs Nikon Z7
The first major difference between these two mirrorless cameras is the lens mount. The Nikon Z6 features the new Z-mount, this has a diameter of 55mm which allows designers plenty of room to direct light into the corners of the sensor, without being constrained by the mount’s throat. Nikon says this will allow them to make lenses with apertures as wide as F0.95, in fact they are already working on a 55mm f/0.95 lens that will be released next year. The Z6 also features a 16mm flange-back distance between mount and sensor which leaves room for almost any lens to be adapted onto the camera.
The Sony a7 III on the other hand uses the E-mount. This has a diameter of 46.1mm which is considerably smaller than the 55mm Z-mount. This makes it much more difficult for Sony to develop extremely fast wide aperture lenses like an f/0.95 lens, as there is simply not enough room for the light to reach the far corners of the sensor without vignetting. So Nikon appears to have a slight advantage here, but the reality is very few lenses will ever take full advantage of this design.
Bizarrely, Nikon does not plan to share technical details of their Z-mount with third parties like Sigma and Tamron, preferring instead to protect sales of their own lenses at the expense of creating a wider and more cost friendly eco system. If third parties wish to make lenses for the Z-mount, then they will need to reverse engineer it. Sony on the other hand provides full design details for their E-mount to third parties, which is why we are starting to now see many new native E-mount lenses coming on to the market from companies like Zeiss, Sigma, Tamron, and Samyang etc.
Nikon will have three Z-mount lenses available initially: a 35mm F1.8, a 50mm F1.8 and a 24-70mm F4. Nikon has published a lens roadmap for future lenses. Sony on the other hand already has a large eco system of 25 full-frame E-mount lenses, and over 30 third-party full frame lenses.
Sensor & Processor
Both cameras feature a full-frame 35mm backside-illuminated CMOS sensor. The resolution of the Nikon Z6 is 24.5 megapixels, whereas the a7 III is 24.2 megapixels. Both cameras also offer five-axis image stabilisation when using native lenses, the Z6 claims 5 stops of correcting, and the a7 III claims 5 stops as well. Both cameras do have a Low Pass Optical Filter (Anti-Aliasing) in front of the sensor.
The a7 III is using Sony’s Bionz X processor, whereas the Nikon Z6 uses their EXPEED 6 processor. Both cameras support a native ISO of 100-51200, and an expanded ISO of 50-204800.
Shutter & Continuous Shooting
Both the a7 III and Z6 feature a silent electronic shutter, with a maximum shutter speed of 1/8000sec, and a minimum speed of 30sec, plus a bulb mode. However, if you use the mechanical shutter with the electronic first curtain option (this uses the electronic shutter to start the exposure and the mechanical one to end it), then the Nikon Z6 limits the maximum shutter speed to 1/2000 sec and the maximum ISO to 25,600. There are no limitations imposed when using the electronic first curtain option on the a7 III, you can make full use of the maximum shutter speed of 1/8000 sec and ISO range.
The Nikon Z6 supports continuous shooting at up to 5.5 frames per second if you want to keep live view between shots, this compares with 8 FPS for live-view shooting with the a7 III. If you are not concerned about following the action with live-view, then the Z6 will shoot up to 12 FPS, and the a7 III will shoot 10 FPS. With the higher shooting speeds both cameras will lock the exposure setting after taking the first photo, the Sony a7 III will only do this when the F-value is greater than F11. It’s not clear at this time if this aperture restriction also applies to the Z6.
When shooting continuously with the Sony a7 III, you can shoot up to 177 JPEGs (fine), or 89 compressed RAW images before you hit the buffer. Nikon has not released any figures for the Z6 at this time, but if the buffer size of the Z7 is anything to go by, and the fact that Nikon are keeping the numbers secret from us, I’m not expecting high numbers at all.
Both cameras feature hybrid autofocus systems with multiple AF points. The Z6 has 273 phase detection points, whereas the a7 III has 693 points that cover around 68% of the sensor. The a7 III also has 425 contrast detection points, contrast detection points for the Z6 are unknown at this time.
Both cameras also offer face detection and tracking, however the Sony a7 III also offers Eye-AF which is a huge benefit for portrait and wedding shooters, as well as close-up sports/action shots when you want the eye to be razor sharp. The Nikon Z6 does not support Eye-AF.
Viewfinder / EVF
The Nikon Z6 has a 3.2” 2.1 million dot tilting rear screen that is also fully touch enabled. Not only can you control focus points, you can also navigate the menu system. The rear viewfinder on the a7 III is 921,600 dots and 3”, unlike the a7 III, the Z6 also features a top customizable OLED display. The Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) on the Z6 is 3.68M dots, this compares with 2.36 million dots on the a7 III. Clearly the Z6 has the advantage here.
Both cameras support full-frame 4K UHD and Full HD 120p/100p video recording without pixel binning. Both cameras can also shoot 1080p footage at up to 120 frames per second, allowing 1/5th speed slow-motion footage if played back at 24p.
The Nikon Z6 also supports 10-bit N-Log over HDMI when using an external recorder, however this is reduced to 8-bit when recording internally. The Sony a7 III supports 8-bit both internally and over HDMI. The a7 III supports: S-Log2, S-Log3 and a HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma) picture profiles, the Nikon Z6 supports Nikon’s N-log.
Both cameras have a maximum movie recording durations of 29 minutes 59 seconds. However, the battery in the Z6 is only rated for 85 minutes of video recording, whereas the a7 III is rated for 210 minutes.
The Z6 also has the ability to record timecode internally and to an external recorder. The a7 III can only record timecode with an external recorder.
Here’s a video from Sony to demonstrate the 4K HDR (HLG) capabilities of the a7 III:
Sadly there is no video to demonstrate the 4K capabilities of the Z6 at this time, but as soon as there is I’ll post it here.
The Nikon Z6 supports a single XQD memory card, this means if you ever suffer the bad fortune of a corrupt card, you could possibly lose your photos. For a hobbyist this is probably not a big concern, but for professionals who can’t afford to lose photos, especially wedding photographers, not having an additional memory card slot for redundancy is really a big oversight by Nikon. Was this a compromise? Possibly the larger Z-mount meant space needed to be saved elsewhere, or would two XQD cards provide too much battery drain? I’m not a camera designer, so I can only speculate! But from reading comments in forums around the web so far, many Nikon Shooters would have preferred two memory card slots.
The Sony a7 III does have two memory card slots, but only one slot is compatible with the faster UHS-II memory cards, and the second slot supports UHS-I cards.
The Nikon Z6 supports the same EN-EL15 battery as previous Nikon DSLRs. However, if you want to charge the battery in the camera body via USB-C, then you’ll need to use the EN-EL15B battery provided with the camera. A CIPA test rating of 310 shots is going to be very disappointing for many Nikon SLR shooters who are used to much better battery life. However, CIPA tests are generally well off real world figures, so expect 310 shots to be the absolute minimum.
Video record time is also limited to only 85 minutes before you’ll need to change the battery.
The Sony a7 III uses the NP-FZ100 battery which is CIPA rated for 710 shots or 210 minutes of video when using the LCD viewfinder. Again, these CIPA figures are pretty useless. I’ve shot well over 2000 images with my a7 III before I needed to change the battery.
The Nikon EN-EL15 battery has a capacity of around 1900mAh, this compares with 2280mAh of the Sony NP-FZ100. When you look at these battery capacities and the number of shots each camera can take on a full charge, it’s easy to see that the Nikon Z6 is very power hungry indeed, requiring almost twice the power that the Sony a7 III needs.
The Nikon Z6 is slightly larger and heavier than the a7 III, which many SLR users will probably be very happy about. The Z6 weights 675g, is 134mm long, 100.5mm tall, and 67mm in depth. The a7 III is 650g, 126.9mm long, 95.6mm tall, and 62.7mm in depth. The controls on the Z6 will be very familiar to Nikon SLR owners. Both cameras feature similar connectivity options, with HDMI, USB-C, microphone and headphone ports.
Nikon says that the Z6 is weather-sealed to the same degree as the D850. In their Engineering Brochure it says “Using it in light rain won’t cause any problems.”, so it appears they are not so confident about heavy rain.
The Sony a7 III is also dust and moisture resistant, but the weather sealing isn’t Sony’s strong point I’ve used my a7 III is some pretty wet conditions, and so far have not suffered any water ingress issues.
Other Features Worth a Mention
There are many minor differences in features between the two cameras, far too many to cover here. But here are a couple worth mentioning. First up is time-lapse recording.
Since Sony decided to remove support for time-lapse apps, it’s no longer possible to record time-lapse sequences in camera, instead you will need to purchase a separate intervalometer. Nikon trumps Sony here as the Z6 features 4K time-lapse recording.
However, the Z6 does have something that I’d like to see in the a7 III, and that’s Focus Shift Mode. This function enables you to shoot sequences of up to 300 frames, while gradually and automatically shifting focus position from the start point to infinity, giving you images with an insane depth of field.
For the body only the Nikon Z6 costs $1,995.00 / £2,099.00, and with the 24-70 F4 lens it costs $2,599.00 / £2,699.00. The a7 III costs $1,998.00 / £1,999.00 for the body only, and $2,198.00 / £2,199.00 with the F3.5-5.6 lens. This makes the Z6 practically the same price as the body-only a7 III.
Sony a7 III vs Nikon Z6 Summary
Despite being an Sony Alpha Shooter myself, and of course running this site! I’m really excited and happy to see Nikon finally unveiling their first serious mirrorless cameras that can go head to head with Sony’s mirrorless offerings. Competition ultimately drives innovation, and that can only mean brilliant new technology for all of us to enjoy, and hopefully lower prices.
The Z6 along with the Z7 is Nikon’s first serious attempt at stopping Nikon shooters from switching to Sony, but is the Z6 going to be enough? The ergonomics will certainly appeal to Nikon shooters, as well as a familiar menu system. Being able to adapt all of their F-mount lenses will also be a big benefit, but time will tell just how well the adapted lenses perform.
These two cameras are really very similar in many ways, and there’s unlikely to be a huge difference in image quality between the two. If I were a Nikon shooter on the fence about switching to Sony, then this might just be the camera to keep me on board. Yes I’d have to be happy with the single memory card slot, and the poor battery life, but at least the upcoming battery grip should provide a little pain relief from the power hungry Z6.
However, the eye autofocus on the a7 III is really exceptional. For portrait and wedding photographers this is really a nice feature to have, it’s a shame that Nikon hasn’t been able to include this technology for now.
It is going to take many years for the Z-mount lens portfolio to grow, in which time there will be even more E-mount lens options available from Sony. This is no suprize really, as Sony has a good 5 year head start on Nikon. However the Z-mount eco-system is also likely to grow at a much slower pace to the E-mount eco system, this is because Nikon is unwilling to share the design specs of their Z-mount with third party lens developers like Tamron and Sigma.
All in all this is really a pretty decent first mirrorless camera from Nikon, and exciting times lie ahead for mirrorless shooters of both brands.
So will you be buying the new Z6? Or has the a7 III won you over already? Would love to hear from you in the comments below.
* Sony a7 III Price Check
* Nikon Z6 Pre-Orders
Full Spec Comparison
|Lens Mount||Sony a7 III||Nikon Z6|
|Lens Mount Type||Sony E-Mount||Nikon Z-Mount|
|Lens Mount Diameter||46.1mm||55mm|
|Sensor||Sony a7 III||Nikon Z6|
|Sensor Size||35mm Full Frame||35mm Full Frame|
|Low Pass Optical Filter (anti-aliasing)||Yes||Yes|
|Resolution||24.2 Megapixels||24.5 Megapixels|
|Processor||Bionz X||EXCEED 6|
|ISO||Native: 100-51200 Expanded: 50-204800||Native: 100-51200 Expanded: 50-204800|
|Dynamic Range||14.6 EV (DPReview Test)||N/A|
|Stabilization||Yes, 5-axis||Yes, 5-axis|
|Image||Sony a7 III||Nikon Z6|
|Image Ratio||3:2, 16:9||1:1, 5:4, 3:2, 16:9|
|Color Space||sRGB, Adobe RGB||sRGB, Adobe RGB|
|Shutter||Sony a7 III||Nikon Z6|
|Electronic Shutter Speed||Min 30sec + bulb, Max 1/8000sec||Min 30sec + bulb, Max 1/8000sec|
|Mechanical Shutter Speed||Min 30sec + bulb, Max 1/8000sec||Min 30sec + bulb, Max 1/8000sec|
|Flash Sync Speed||1/250 sec||1/200 sec|
|Autofocus||Sony a7 III||Nikon Z6|
|Phase Detect Points||693 (93% coverage)||273|
|Contrast Detect Points||425||N/A|
|Continuous Shooting||Sony a7 III||Nikon Z6|
|Max Frames Per Second (FPS)||10 FPS||12 FPS (14-bit NEF/RAW: 9 fps)|
|Buffer Size||177 jpeg, 89 compressed RAW||N/A|
|LCD Display||Sony a7 III||Nikon Z6|
|Resolution||921,600 dots||2.1 million dots|
|Touch Screen||Yes (only to focus)||Yes|
|EVF Display||Sony a7 III||Nikon Z6|
|Resolution||2.36 million dots (XGA OLED)||3.6 million dots (QVGA)|
|Top Display||Sony a7 III||Nikon Z6|
|Video||Sony a7 III||Nikon Z6|
|Resolution||3840 x 2160 @ 30p / 100 Mbps, XAVC S, MP4, H.264, Linear PCM
3840 x 2160 @ 24p / 100 Mbps, XAVC S, MP4, H.264, Linear PCM
3840 x 2160 @ 30p / 60 Mbps, XAVC S, MP4, H.264, Linear PCM
3840 x 2160 @ 24p / 60 Mbps, XAVC S, MP4, H.264, Linear PCM
1920 x 1080 @ 120p / 100 Mbps, XAVC S, MP4, H.264, Linear PCM
1920 x 1080 @ 120p / 60 Mbps, XAVC S, MP4, H.264, Linear PCM
1920 x 1080 @ 60p / 50 Mbps, XAVC S, MP4, H.264, Linear PCM
1920 x 1080 @ 30p / 50 Mbps, XAVC S, MP4, H.264, Linear PCM
1920 x 1080 @ 24p / 50 Mbps, XAVC S, MP4, H.264, Linear PCM
1920 x 1080 @ 60p / 25 Mbps, XAVC S, MP4, H.264, Linear PCM
1920 x 1080 @ 30p / 16 Mbps, XAVC S, MP4, H.264, Linear PCM
1920 x 1080 @ 60i / 24 Mbps, AVCHD, MTS, H.264, Linear PCM
1920 x 1080 @ 60i / 17 Mbps, AVCHD, MTS, H.264, Linear PCM
|3840 x 2160 @ 30p / 144 Mbps, MOV, H.264, Linear PCM
3840 x 2160 @ 25p / 144 Mbps, MOV, H.264, Linear PCM
3840 x 2160 @ 24p / 144 Mbps, MOV, H.264, Linear PCM
1920 x 1080 @ 120p, MOV, H.264, Linear PCM
1920 x 1080 @ 100p, MOV, H.264, Linear PCM
1920 x 1080 @ 60p, MOV, H.264, Linear PCM
1920 x 1080 @ 50p, MOV, H.264, Linear PCM
1920 x 1080 @ 30p, MOV, H.264, Linear PCM
1920 x 1080 @ 25p, MOV, H.264, Linear PCM
1920 x 1080 @ 24p, MOV, H.264, Linear PCM
|Format||MPEG-4, AVCHD, XAVC S, H.264||H.264/MPEG-4 Advanced Video Coding|
|HDMI Output||8-bit 4:2:2||10-bit 4:2:2|
|Max Single Recording Time||29 minutes 59 seconds||29 minutes 59 seconds|
|Picture Profiles||S-Log2 and S-Log3, and HLG||N-LOG profile|
|Storage||Sony a7 III||Nikon Z6|
|Storage Type||SD Card||XQD Memory Cards|
|Memory Card Slots||2 (Slot 1: UHS-II/I, Slot 2: UHS-I)||1 (XQD)|
|Battery||Sony a7 III||Nikon Z6|
|Battery Model||Sony NP-FZ100 (2280 mAh)||Nikon EN-EL15b|
|Still Images||Official: 710 shots (using LCD screen), Unofficial: Closer to 2000 shots||Official: 310 shots|
|Video||210 minutes (using LCD screen)||85 minutes|
|Charger Included in Box||No (USB Only)||N/A|
|Other Features||Sony a7 III||Nikon Z6|
|Timelapse||No||Yes, 4K UHD|
|Connectivity||Sony a7 III||Nikon Z6|
|GPS||Via Smartphone App||Via Smartphone App|
|USB||Yes, USB Type-C||Yes, USB Type-C|
|Flash Sync Port||No||No|
|Physical||Sony a7 III||Nikon Z6|
|Depth||73.7mm, 62.7 mm (from grip to monitor)||67.5mm|
|Price||Sony a7 III||Nikon Z6|
|Body Only||$1,998.00 / £1,999.00||$1,995.00 / £2,099.00|
|With Kit Lens||$2,198.00 / £2,199.00 (w/28-70 F3.5-5.6 lens)||$2,599.00 / £2,699.00 (w/24-70 F4 lens)|