Nikon D3 versus Sony A7R III
The Nikon D3 and the Sony Alpha A7R III are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in August 2007 and October 2017. The D3 is a DSLR, while the A7R III is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. Both cameras are equipped with a full frame sensor. The Nikon has a resolution of 12.1 megapixel, whereas the Sony provides 42.2 MP.
An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Nikon D3 and the Sony A7R III is provided in the side-by-side display below. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are presented. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter. You can also toggle the display to switch to a percentage comparison if you prefer that the measures are being expressed in relative terms (in this case, the camera on the left – the D3 – represents 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony A7R III is considerably smaller (51 percent) than the Nikon D3. Moreover, the A7R III is substantially lighter (50 percent) than the D3. 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. Both cameras have similarly sized sensors, but DSLRs have a larger flange-to-focal plane distance than mirrorless cameras, which imposes contraints on the optical engineering process and generally leads to bigger and heavier lenses. You can find an overview of optics for the two cameras in the Nikon Lens Catalog (D3) and the Sony FE Lens Catalog (A7R III). Mirrorless cameras, such as the A7R III, 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.
The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, just select a new right or left comparator from among the camera models in the table. Alternatively, you can also move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible comparisons there.
|Camera Body Specifications
|Nikon D3 (⇒ rgt)||160 mm||157 mm||88 mm||1300 g||4300||YES||2007||4,999||discont.||check|
|Sony A7R III (⇒ lft)||127 mm||96 mm||74 mm||650 g||650||YES||2017||3,199||latest||check|
|Canon 1D Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt)||156 mm||156.6 mm||80 mm||1155 g||2200||YES||2007||4,499||discont.||check|
|Nikon D5 (⇒ lft | rgt)||160 mm||159 mm||92 mm||1415 g||3780||YES||2016||6,499||latest||check|
|Nikon D4S (⇒ lft | rgt)||160 mm||157 mm||91 mm||1350 g||3020||YES||2014||6,499||discont.||check|
|Nikon D4 (⇒ lft | rgt)||160 mm||157 mm||91 mm||1340 g||2600||YES||2012||5,999||discont.||check|
|Nikon D3S (⇒ lft | rgt)||160 mm||157 mm||88 mm||1240 g||4200||YES||2009||5,199||discont.||check|
|Nikon D3X (⇒ lft | rgt)||160 mm||157 mm||88 mm||1260 g||4400||YES||2008||7,999||discont.||check|
|Nikon D700 (⇒ lft | rgt)||147 mm||123 mm||77 mm||1074 g||1000||YES||2008||2,999||discont.||check|
|Nikon D300 (⇒ lft | rgt)||147 mm||114 mm||74 mm||925 g||1000||YES||2007||1,799||discont.||check|
|Nikon D2Xs (⇒ lft | rgt)||157.5 mm||149.5 mm||86 mm||1252 g||3800||YES||2006||4,699||discont.||check|
|Nikon D2X (⇒ lft | rgt)||158 mm||150 mm||86 mm||1252 g||3800||YES||2004||4,999||discont.||check|
|Sony A7 III (⇒ lft | rgt)||127 mm||96 mm||74 mm||650 g||610||YES||2018||1,999||latest||check|
|Sony A99 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||143 mm||104 mm||76 mm||849 g||490||YES||2016||3,199||latest||check|
|Sony A7R II (⇒ lft | rgt)||127 mm||96 mm||60 mm||625 g||290||YES||2015||3,199||discont.||check|
|Sony A7 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||127 mm||96 mm||60 mm||599 g||350||YES||2014||1,999||discont.||check|
|Sony A7R (⇒ lft | rgt)||127 mm||94 mm||48 mm||465 g||340||YES||2013||2,299||discont.||check|
The listed prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The A7R III was launched at a markedly lower price (by 36 percent) than the D3, 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 size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants 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 more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.
Both cameras under consideration feature a full frame sensor, but their sensors differ slightly in size. They nevertheless have the same format factor of 1.0. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.
With 42.2MP, the A7R III offers a higher resolution than the D3 (12.1MP), but the A7R III has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 4.52μm versus 8.43μm for the D3). Yet, the A7R III is a much more recent model (by 10 years and 2 months) than the D3, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the A7R III has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.
Unlike the D3, the A7R III has the capacity to capture high quality composite images by combining multiple shots after shifting its sensor by miniscule distances. This multi-shot, pixel-shift mode is most suitable for photography of stationary objects (landscapes, studio scenes).
Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for most cameras. This service is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). Of the two cameras under consideration, the A7R III offers substantially better image quality than the D3 (overall score 19 points higher). The advantage is based on 2.5 bits higher color depth, 2.5 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.6 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.
|Nikon D3 (⇒ rgt)||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||no||23.5||12.2||2290||81|
|Sony A7R III (⇒ lft)||Full Frame||42.2||7952||5304||4K/30p||26.0||14.7||3523||100|
|Canon 1D Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-H||10.1||3888||2592||no||22.7||11.7||1078||71|
|Nikon D5 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||20.7||5588||3712||4K/30p||25.1||12.3||2343||88|
|Nikon D4S (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||16.2||4928||3280||1080/60p||24.4||13.3||3074||89|
|Nikon D4 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||16.2||4928||3280||1080/30p||24.7||13.1||2965||89|
|Nikon D3S (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||720/24p||23.5||12.0||3253||82|
|Nikon D3X (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||24.4||6048||4032||no||24.7||13.7||1992||88|
|Nikon D700 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||no||23.5||12.2||2303||80|
|Nikon D300 (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||12.2||4288||2848||no||22.1||12.0||679||67|
|Nikon D2Xs (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||12.2||4288||2848||no||22.2||10.9||489||59|
|Nikon D2X (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||12.2||4288||2848||no||22.1||10.9||476||59|
|Sony A7 III (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||4K/30p||..||..||..||..|
|Sony A99 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||42.2||7952||5304||4K/30p||25.4||13.4||2317||92|
|Sony A7R II (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||42.2||7952||5304||4K/30p||26.0||13.9||3434||98|
|Sony A7 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||24.9||13.6||2449||90|
|Sony A7R (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/60p||25.6||14.1||2746||95|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. The A7R III indeed provides for movie recording, while the D3 does not. The highest resolution format that the A7R III can use is 4K/30p.
Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the A7R III has an electronic viewfinder (3686k dots), while the D3 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 table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Nikon D3 and Sony A7R III in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras. If you need more detail on the specs, you can find comprehensive listings, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.
|Nikon D3 (⇒ rgt)||optical||YES||3.0||922||fixed||no||8000||11.0||no||no|
|Sony A7R III (⇒ lft)||3686||no||3.0||1440||tilting||YES||8000||10.0||no||YES|
|Canon 1D Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.0||230||fixed||no||8000||10.0||no||no|
|Nikon D5 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.2||2359||fixed||YES||8000||14.0||no||no|
|Nikon D4S (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.2||921||fixed||no||8000||11.0||no||no|
|Nikon D4 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.2||921||fixed||no||8000||11.0||no||no|
|Nikon D3S (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.0||921||fixed||no||8000||11.0||no||no|
|Nikon D3X (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.0||922||fixed||no||8000||5.0||no||no|
|Nikon D700 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.0||922||fixed||no||8000||8.0||12||no|
|Nikon D300 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.0||922||fixed||no||8000||6.0||12||no|
|Nikon D2Xs (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||2.5||230||fixed||no||8000||5.0||no||no|
|Nikon D2X (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||2.5||235||fixed||no||8000||5.0||no||no|
|Sony A7 III (⇒ lft | rgt)||2359||no||3.0||922||tilting||YES||8000||10||no||YES|
|Sony A99 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||2400||YES||3.0||1229||full-flex||no||8000||12.0||no||YES|
|Sony A7R II (⇒ lft | rgt)||2400||no||3.0||1229||tilting||no||8000||5.0||no||YES|
|Sony A7 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||2400||no||3.0||1230||tilting||no||8000||5.0||no||YES|
|Sony A7R (⇒ lft | rgt)||2400||no||3.0||1230||tilting||no||8000||4.0||no||no|
The A7R III is a current model that online retailers, such as amazon, will have in stock. In contrast, the D3 has been discontinued (but it can be found pre-owned on ebay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the D3 was succeeded by the Nikon D4.
So what is the bottom line? Is there a clear favorite between the Nikon D3 and the Nikon D3? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.
Advantages of the Nikon D3:
- Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
- Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
- Easier setting verification: Has an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
- Longer lasting: Can take more shots (4300 versus 650) on a single battery charge.
- More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in August 2007).
Reasons to prefer the Sony Alpha A7R III:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (42.2 vs 12.1MP), which boosts linear resolution by 87%.
- Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
- High quality composites: Can combine several shots after pixel-shifting its sensor.
- Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (19 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (2.5 bits more color depth).
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (2.5 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (0.6 stops ISO advantage).
- Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 4K/30p video.
- More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1440k vs 922k dots).
- More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
- Fewer buttons to press: Has a touchscreen to facilitate handling and shooting adjustments.
- More compact: Is smaller (127x96mm vs 160x157mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 650g or 50 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- More legacy lens friendly: Can use many non-native lenses via adapters.
- Sharper images: Has stabilization technology build-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (36 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Reflects 10 years and 2 months of technical progress since the D3 launch.
If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the A7R III is the clear winner of the contest (18 : 5 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.
In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras is instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the handling experience and imaging performance when actually working with the D3 or the A7R III. 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 why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The table below summarizes the assessments of some of the best known camera review sites. The detailed reviews can be accessed, respectively, on the websites of cameralabs.com, dpreview.com, ephotozine.com, imaging-resource.com, and photographyblog.com.
|Nikon D3 (⇒ rgt)||-||HiRec||5/5||reviewed||4.5/5||2007||4,999||discont.||check|
|Sony A7R III (⇒ lft)||HiRec||90/100 Gold||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||2017||3,199||latest||check|
|Canon 1D Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||-||-||reviewed||-||2007||4,499||discont.||check|
|Nikon D5 (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||89/100 Gold||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||2016||6,499||latest||check|
|Nikon D4S (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||-||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||2014||6,499||discont.||check|
|Nikon D4 (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||-||4.5/5||-||4.5/5||2012||5,999||discont.||check|
|Nikon D3S (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||89/100 Gold||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||2009||5,199||discont.||check|
|Nikon D3X (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||86/100||4/5||5/5||5/5||2008||7,999||discont.||check|
|Nikon D700 (⇒ lft | rgt)||89/100||HiRec||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||2008||2,999||discont.||check|
|Nikon D300 (⇒ lft | rgt)||90/100 HiRec||HiRec||5/5||reviewed||4.5/5||2007||1,799||discont.||check|
|Nikon D2Xs (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||-||-||reviewed||-||2006||4,699||discont.||check|
|Nikon D2X (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||HiRec||-||reviewed||-||2004||4,999||discont.||check|
|Sony A7 III (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||..||..||..||..||2018||1,999||latest||check|
|Sony A99 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||85/100 Silver||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||2016||3,199||latest||check|
|Sony A7R II (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||90/100 Gold||5/5||4.5/5||5/5||2015||3,199||discont.||check|
|Sony A7 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||Rec||82/100 Silver||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||2014||1,999||discont.||check|
|Sony A7R (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||82/100 Gold||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||2013||2,299||discont.||check|
The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.
If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. An an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool. If you cannot find the camera you are interested in, kindly get in touch, and I will try to update the database with the necessary infos.
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