Nikon D1 vs Sony A7S
The Nikon D1 and the Sony Alpha A7S are two professional cameras that were announced, respectively, in June 1999 and April 2014. The D1 is a DSLR, while the A7S is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. The cameras are based on an APS-C (D1) and a full frame (A7S) sensor. The Nikon has a resolution of 2.6 megapixels, whereas the Sony provides 12 MP.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Nikon D1 and the Sony Alpha A7S? Which one should you buy? Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their imaging sensors, their shooting features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.
The physical size and weight of the Nikon D1 and the Sony A7S are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are available. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony A7S is considerably smaller (50 percent) than the Nikon D1. Moreover, the A7S is substantially lighter (56 percent) than the D1. In this context, it is worth noting that both cameras are splash and dust-proof and can, hence, be used in inclement weather conditions or harsh environments.
The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. A larger imaging sensor will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, although exceptions exist. You can compare the optics available for the two cameras in the Nikon Lens Catalog (D1) and the Sony FE Lens Catalog (A7S). Mirrorless cameras, such as the A7S, have moreover the advantage that they can use many lenses from other systems via adapters, as they have a relatively short flange to focal plane distance.
As can be seen in the images above, the D1 has a battery grip built in. This facilitates image-taking in portrait orientation and gives it additional battery power. In order to provide similar functionality for the A7S, Sony provides the VG-C1EM vertical grip as an optional accessory (see here on eBay). The power pack in the A7S can be charged via the USB port, which can be very convenient when travelling.
The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, you can use the CAM-parator app to select your camera combination among a large number of options.
|1.||Nikon D1||157 mm||153 mm||85 mm||1100 g||..||Y||Jun 1999||5,499|
|2.||Sony A7S||127 mm||94 mm||48 mm||489 g||380||Y||Apr 2014||2,499|
|3.||Nikon Df||144 mm||110 mm||67 mm||760 g||1400||Y||Nov 2013||2,749|
|4.||Nikon D4||160 mm||157 mm||91 mm||1340 g||2600||Y||Jan 2012||5,999|
|5.||Nikon D300S||147 mm||115 mm||81 mm||938 g||950||Y||Jul 2009||1,799|
|6.||Nikon D3||160 mm||157 mm||88 mm||1300 g||4300||Y||Aug 2007||4,999|
|7.||Nikon D300||147 mm||114 mm||74 mm||925 g||1000||Y||Aug 2007||1,799|
|8.||Nikon D2Xs||158 mm||150 mm||86 mm||1252 g||3800||Y||Jun 2006||4,699|
|9.||Nikon D200||147 mm||113 mm||74 mm||920 g||400||Y||Nov 2005||1,699|
|10.||Nikon D2X||158 mm||150 mm||86 mm||1252 g||3800||Y||Sep 2004||4,999|
|11.||Nikon D2H||158 mm||150 mm||86 mm||1070 g||2900||Y||Jul 2003||3,499|
|12.||Nikon D1H||157 mm||153 mm||85 mm||1100 g||1200||Y||Feb 2001||4,499|
|13.||Nikon D1X||157 mm||153 mm||85 mm||1100 g||1200||Y||Feb 2001||5,999|
|14.||Sony A7S II||127 mm||96 mm||60 mm||627 g||370||Y||Sep 2015||2,999|
|15.||Sony A7 II||127 mm||96 mm||60 mm||599 g||350||Y||Nov 2014||1,999|
|16.||Sony A7||127 mm||94 mm||48 mm||474 g||340||Y||Oct 2013||1,699|
|17.||Sony A7R||127 mm||94 mm||48 mm||465 g||340||Y||Oct 2013||2,299|
|Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The retail prices at the time of the camera’s release place the model in the market relative to other models in the producer’s line-up and the competition. The A7S was launched at a markedly lower price (by 55 percent) than the D1, which puts it into a different market segment. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.
The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors of image quality. A large sensor will tend to have larger individual pixels that provide better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixel-units in a sensor of the same technological generation. Furthermore, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more possibilities to use shallow depth-of-field in order to isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Nikon D1 features an APS-C sensor and the Sony A7S a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the A7S is 131 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.5 and 1.0. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.
With 12MP, the A7S offers a higher resolution than the D1 (2.6MP), but the A7S has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 8.45μm versus 11.93μm for the D1). Yet, the A7S is a much more recent model (by 14 years and 9 months) than the D1, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units.
The resolution advantage of the Sony A7S implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the A7S for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 21.2 x 14.2 inches or 53.8 x 36 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 17 x 11.3 inches or 43.1 x 28.8 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 14.1 x 9.4 inches or 35.9 x 24 cm. The corresponding values for the Nikon D1 are 10 x 6.6 inches or 25.4 x 16.7 cm for good quality, 8 x 5.2 inches or 20.3 x 13.3 cm for very good quality, and 6.7 x 4.4 inches or 16.9 x 11.1 cm for excellent quality prints.
The Nikon D1 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 200 to ISO 1600, which can be extended to ISO 200-6400. The corresponding ISO settings for the Sony Alpha A7S are ISO 100 to ISO 102400, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 50-409600.
Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. This service assesses and scores the color depth ("DXO Portrait"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports") of camera sensors, and also publishes an overall camera score. The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.
| DXO |
|2.||Sony A7S||Full Frame||12.0||4240||2832||1080/60p||23.9||13.2||3702||87|
|3.||Nikon Df||Full Frame||16.2||4928||3280||none||24.6||13.1||3279||89|
|4.||Nikon D4||Full Frame||16.2||4928||3280||1080/30p||24.7||13.1||2965||89|
|6.||Nikon D3||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||none||23.5||12.2||2290||81|
|14.||Sony A7S II||Full Frame||12.0||4240||2832||4K/30p||23.6||13.3||2993||85|
|15.||Sony A7 II||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||24.9||13.6||2449||90|
|16.||Sony A7||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||24.8||14.2||2248||90|
|17.||Sony A7R||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/60p||25.6||14.1||2746||95|
Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The A7S indeed provides for movie recording, while the D1 does not. The highest resolution format that the A7S can use is 1080/60p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. For example, the A7S has an electronic viewfinder (2400k dots), while the D1 has an optical one. Both systems have their advantages, with the electronic viewfinder making it possible to project supplementary shooting information into the framing view, whereas the optical viewfinder offers lag-free viewing and a very clear framing image. The viewfinder in the A7S offers a wider field of view (100%) than the one in the D1 (96%), so that a larger proportion of the captured image is visible in the finder. In addition, the viewfinder of the A7S has a higher magnification (0.71x vs 0.53x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Nikon D1 and Sony A7S along with similar information for a selection of comparators.
|14.||Sony A7S II||2400||n||3.0||1229||tilting||n||1/8000s||5.0||n||Y|
|15.||Sony A7 II||2400||n||3.0||1230||tilting||n||1/8000s||5.0||n||Y|
One feature that is present on the D1, but is missing on the A7S is a top-level LCD. While being, of course, smaller than the rear screen, the control panel conveys some of the essential shooting information and can be convenient for quick and easy settings verification.
The reported shutter speed information refers to the use of the mechanical shutter. Yet, some cameras only have an electronic shutter, while others have an electronic shutter in addition to a mechanical one. In fact, the A7S is one of those camera that have an additional electronic shutter, which makes completely silent shooting possible. However, this mode is less suitable for photographing moving objects (risk of rolling shutter) or shooting under artificial light sources (risk of flickering).
The D1 writes its imaging data to Compact Flash cards, while the A7S uses SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards.
For some imaging applications, the extent to which a camera can communicate with its environment can be an important aspect in the camera decision process. The table below provides an overview of the connectivity of the Nikon D1 and Sony Alpha A7S and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
|14.||Sony A7S II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|15.||Sony A7 II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
It is notable that the A7S offers wifi support, which can be a very convenient means to transfer image data to an off-camera location. In contrast, the D1 does not provide wifi capability.
Studio photographers will appreciate that the Nikon D1 (unlike the A7S) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.
Both the D1 and the A7S have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D1 was replaced by the Nikon D1X, while the A7S was followed by the Sony A7S II. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Nikon and Sony websites.
So what conclusions can be drawn? Is there a clear favorite between the Nikon D1 and the Sony A7S? Which camera is better? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.
Arguments in favor of the Nikon D1:
- Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
- Easier setting verification: Features an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
- Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/16000s vs 1/8000s) to freeze action.
- More portrait friendly: Features an integrated vertical grip for easier portrait shooting.
- Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
- More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in June 1999).
Advantages of the Sony Alpha A7S:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (12 vs 2.6MP), which boosts linear resolution by 113%.
- Better image quality: Is equipped with a larger and more technologically advanced sensor.
- Richer colors: The sensor size advantage translates into images with better, more accurate colors.
- More dynamic range: Larger sensor captures a wider spectrum of light and dark details.
- Better low-light sensitivity: Larger sensor produces good images even in poorly lit environments.
- Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 1080/60p video.
- More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
- More complete view: Has a viewfinder with a larger field of view (100% vs 96%).
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.71x vs 0.53x).
- Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 2.0") for image review and settings control.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (921k vs 120k dots).
- More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (5 vs 1.5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Less disturbing: Has an electronic shutter option for completely silent shooting.
- More compact: Is smaller (127x94mm vs 157x153mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 611g or 56 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- Easier travel charging: Can be conveniently charged via its USB port.
- More legacy lens friendly: Can use many non-native lenses via adapters.
- Easier file upload: Has wifi built in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
- Easier device pairing: Supports NFC for fast wireless image transfer over short distances.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (55 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Reflects 14 years and 9 months of technical progress since the D1 launch.
If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the A7S is the clear winner of the contest (22 : 6 points). However, the relevance of individual strengths will vary across photographers, so that you might want to apply your own weighing scheme to the summary points when reflecting and deciding on a new camera. A professional sports photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a street photog, and a person interested in family portraits has distinct needs from a landscape shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.
How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Nikon D1 and the Sony A7S place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera and Best Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera listings whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.
In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the D1 and the A7S in practical situations. At times, user reviews, such as those published at amazon, address these issues in a useful manner, but such feedback is on many occasions incomplete, inconsistent, and unreliable.
This is where reviews by experts come in. The adjacent summary-table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], dpreview [DPR], ephotozine [EPZ], photographyblog [PB]). As can be seen, the professional reviewers agree in many cases on the quality of different cameras, but sometimes their assessments diverge, reinforcing the earlier point that a camera decision is often a very personal choice.
|1.||Nikon D1||..||..||+ +||..||..||Jun 1999||5,499|
|2.||Sony A7S||4/5||..||86/100||4.5/5||5/5||Apr 2014||2,499|
|3.||Nikon Df||4/5||..||81/100||4/5||4/5||Nov 2013||2,749|
|4.||Nikon D4||..||..||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jan 2012||5,999|
|5.||Nikon D300S||5/5||+ +||82/100||4/5||4.5/5||Jul 2009||1,799|
|6.||Nikon D3||..||..||+ +||5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2007||4,999|
|7.||Nikon D300||..||+ +||+ +||5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2007||1,799|
|8.||Nikon D2Xs||..||..||..||..||..||Jun 2006||4,699|
|9.||Nikon D200||..||+ +||+ +||o||..||Nov 2005||1,699|
|10.||Nikon D2X||..||..||+ +||..||..||Sep 2004||4,999|
|11.||Nikon D2H||..||..||+ +||..||..||Jul 2003||3,499|
|12.||Nikon D1H||..||..||+ +||..||..||Feb 2001||4,499|
|13.||Nikon D1X||..||..||+ +||..||..||Feb 2001||5,999|
|14.||Sony A7S II||5/5||+||..||4.5/5||5/5||Sep 2015||2,999|
|15.||Sony A7 II||5/5||+||82/100||4.5/5||5/5||Nov 2014||1,999|
|16.||Sony A7||5/5||+ +||80/100||5/5||5/5||Oct 2013||1,699|
|17.||Sony A7R||5/5||+ +||82/100||4.5/5||5/5||Oct 2013||2,299|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.
Other camera comparisons
Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.
Specifications: Nikon D1 vs Sony A7S
Below is a side-by-side comparison of the specs of the two cameras to facilitate a quick review of their differences and common features.
|Camera Model||Nikon D1||Sony A7S|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Mirrorless system camera|
|Camera Lens||Nikon F mount lenses||Sony E mount lenses|
|Launch Date||June 1999||April 2014|
|Launch Price||USD 5,499||USD 2,499|
|Sensor Specs||Nikon D1||Sony A7S|
|Sensor Format||APS-C Sensor||Full Frame Sensor|
|Sensor Size||23.7 x 15.6 mm||35.8 x 23.9 mm|
|Sensor Area||369.72 mm2||855.62 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||28.4 mm||43 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||2.6 Megapixels||12 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||2000 x 1312 pixels||4240 x 2832 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||11.93 μm||8.45 μm|
|Pixel Density||0.71 MP/cm2||1.40 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||no Video||1080/60p Video|
|ISO Setting||200 - 1,600 ISO||100 - 102,400 ISO|
|ISO Boost||200 - 6,400 ISO||50 - 409,600 ISO|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||..||87|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||..||23.9|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||..||13.2|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||..||3702|
|Screen Specs||Nikon D1||Sony A7S|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Electronic viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||96%||100%|
|Viewfinder Resolution||2400k dots|
|Top-Level Screen||Control Panel||no Top Display|
|LCD Framing||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||2.0inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||120k dots||921k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Tilting screen|
|Shooting Specs||Nikon D1||Sony A7S|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Contrast-detect AF|
|Manual Focusing Aid||no Peaking Feature||Focus Peaking|
|Max Shutter Speed (mechanical)||1/16000s||1/8000s|
|Continuous Shooting||1.5 shutter flaps/s||5 shutter flaps/s|
|Electronic Shutter||no E-Shutter||YES|
|Fill Flash||no On-Board Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||CF cards||MS or SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Single card slot|
|Connectivity Specs||Nikon D1||Sony A7S|
|Studio Flash||PC Sync socket||no PC Sync|
|USB Connector||Firewire||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||no HDMI||micro HDMI|
|Microphone Port||no MIC socket||External MIC port|
|Headphone Socket||no Headphone port||Headphone port|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||Wifi built-in|
|Near-Field Communication||no NFC||NFC built-in|
|Body Specs||Nikon D1||Sony A7S|
|Environmental Sealing||Weathersealed body||Weathersealed body|
|In-Camera Charging||no USB charging||USB charging|
157 x 153 x 85 mm
(6.2 x 6.0 x 3.3 in)
127 x 94 x 48 mm
(5.0 x 3.7 x 1.9 in)
|Camera Weight||1100 g (38.8 oz)||489 g (17.2 oz)|
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