Nikon D3400 vs Sony A9
The Nikon D3400 and the Sony Alpha A9 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in August 2016 and April 2017. The D3400 is a DSLR, while the A9 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. The cameras are based on an APS-C (D3400) and a full frame (A9) sensor. Both cameras offer a resolution of 24 megapixels.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
|Nikon D3400||Sony A9|
|Digital single lens reflex||Mirrorless system camera|
|Nikon F mount lenses||Sony E mount lenses|
|24 MP, APS-C Sensor||24 MP, Full Frame Sensor|
|1080/60p Video||4K/30p Video|
|ISO 100-25,600||ISO 100-51,200 (50 - 204,800)|
|Optical viewfinder||Electronic viewfinder (3686k dots)|
|3.0 LCD, 921k dots||3.0 LCD, 1440k dots|
|Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)||Tilting touchscreen|
|5 shutter flaps per second||20 shutter flaps per second|
|Lens stabilization only||In-body stabilization|
|not weather sealed||Weathersealed body|
|1200 shots per battery charge||650 shots per battery charge|
|124 x 98 x 76 mm, 445 g||127 x 96 x 63 mm, 673 g|
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Nikon D3400 and the Sony Alpha A9? 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.
An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Nikon D3400 and the Sony A9 is provided in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
The D3400 can be obtained in two different colors (black, red), while the A9 is only available in black.
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D3400 and the Sony A9 are of equal size. However, the A9 is substantially heavier (51 percent) than the D3400. It is noteworthy in this context that the A9 is splash and dust-proof, while the D3400 does not feature any corresponding weather-sealing.
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 (D3400) and the Sony FE Lens Catalog (A9). Mirrorless cameras, such as the A9, 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.
Concerning battery life, the D3400 gets 1200 shots out of its EN-EL14a battery, while the A9 can take 650 images on a single charge of its NP-FZ100 power pack. The power pack in the A9 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, just click on the right or left arrow next to the camera that you would like to inspect. Alternatively, you can also use the CAM-parator to select your camera combination among a larger number of options.
|Nikon D3400||4.9 in||3.9 in||3.0 in||15.7 oz||1200||n||Aug 2016||499|
|Sony A9||5.0 in||3.8 in||2.5 in||23.7 oz||650||Y||Apr 2017||4,499|
|Canon SL2||4.8 in||3.7 in||2.8 in||16.0 oz||650||n||Jun 2017||549|
|Nikon Z6||5.3 in||4.0 in||2.6 in||23.8 oz||310||Y||Aug 2018||1,999|
|Nikon D3500||4.9 in||3.8 in||2.8 in||12.9 oz||1550||n||Aug 2018||429|
|Nikon D5600||4.9 in||3.8 in||2.8 in||16.4 oz||970||n||Nov 2016||699|
|Nikon D500||5.8 in||4.5 in||3.2 in||30.3 oz||1240||Y||Jan 2016||1,999|
|Nikon D5500||4.9 in||3.8 in||2.8 in||14.8 oz||820||n||Jan 2015||899|
|Nikon D7200||5.4 in||4.2 in||3.0 in||27.0 oz||1110||Y||Mar 2015||1,199|
|Nikon D3300||4.9 in||3.9 in||3.0 in||15.2 oz||700||n||Jan 2014||499|
|Nikon D5300||4.9 in||3.9 in||3.0 in||16.9 oz||600||n||Oct 2013||799|
|Nikon D3200||4.9 in||3.8 in||3.0 in||17.8 oz||540||n||Apr 2012||599|
|Nikon D5200||5.1 in||3.9 in||3.1 in||19.6 oz||500||n||Nov 2012||749|
|Sony A9 II||5.1 in||3.8 in||3.0 in||23.9 oz||690||Y||Oct 2019||4,499|
|Sony A7 III||5.0 in||3.8 in||2.9 in||22.9 oz||610||Y||Feb 2018||1,999|
|Sony A7R III||5.0 in||3.8 in||2.9 in||22.9 oz||650||Y||Oct 2017||3,199|
|Sony A7 II||5.0 in||3.8 in||2.4 in||21.1 oz||350||Y||Nov 2014||1,999|
Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.
(1) Number of images that can be taken on a full battery charge according to the CIPA-standard; (2) Official announcement.
The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The manufacturer’s suggested retail prices give an idea on the placement of the camera in the maker’s lineup and the broader market. The D3400 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 89 percent) than the A9, 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 associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Nikon D3400 features an APS-C sensor and the Sony A9 a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the A9 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.
Even though the A9 has a larger sensor, both cameras offer the same resolution of 24 megapixels. This implies that the A9 has a lower pixel density and larger individual pixels (with a pixel pitch of 5.94μm versus 3.91μm for the D3400), which gives it a potential advantage in terms of light gathering capacity. In addition, the A9 is a somewhat more recent model (by 8 months) than the D3400, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the D3400 has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.
The A9 has on-sensor phase detect pixels, which results in fast and reliable autofocus acquisition even during live view operation.
The Nikon D3400 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 25600. The corresponding ISO settings for the Sony Alpha A9 are ISO 100 to ISO 51200, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 50-204800.
Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many 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 A9 has a markedly higher DXO score than the D3400 (overall score 6 points higher), which will translate into better image quality. The advantage is based on 0.099999999999998 bits higher color depth, 0.6 EV of lower dynamic range, and 1.6 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.
|Sony A9||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||4K/30p||24.9||13.3||3517||92|
|Nikon Z6||Full Frame||24.3||6048||4024||4K/30p||25.3||14.3||3299||95|
|Sony A9 II||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||4K/30p||25.0||14.0||3434||93|
|Sony A7 III||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||4K/30p||25.0||14.7||3730||96|
|Sony A7R III||Full Frame||42.2||7952||5304||4K/30p||26.0||14.7||3523||100|
|Sony A7 II||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||24.9||13.6||2449||90|
Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The two cameras under consideration both have sensors whose read-out speed is fast enough to capture moving pictures, but the A9 provides a better video resolution than the D3400. It can shoot movie footage at 4K/30p, while the Nikon is limited to 1080/60p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the A9 has an electronic viewfinder (3686k dots), while the D3400 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 A9 offers a wider field of view (100%) than the one in the D3400 (95%), so that a larger proportion of the captured image is visible in the finder. In addition, the viewfinder of the A9 has a higher magnification (0.78x vs 0.57x), 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 D3400 and Sony A9 along with similar information for a selection of comparators.
|Sony A9 II||3686||n||3.0||1440||tilting||Y||1/8000s||10.0||n||Y|
|Sony A7 III||2359||n||3.0||922||tilting||Y||1/8000s||10.0||n||Y|
|Sony A7R III||3686||n||3.0||1440||tilting||Y||1/8000s||10.0||n||Y|
|Sony A7 II||2400||n||3.0||1230||tilting||n||1/8000s||5.0||n||Y|
One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The D3400 has one, while the A9 does not. While the built-in flash of the D3400 is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.
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 A9 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 D3400 writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the A9 uses SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards. The A9 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the D3400 only has one slot. The A9 supports UHS-II cards (on its first slot), while the D3400 can use UHS-I 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 D3400 and Sony Alpha A9 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
|Sony A9 II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||3.1||Y||Y||Y|
|Sony A7 III||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||3.1||Y||Y||Y|
|Sony A7R III||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||3.1||Y||Y||Y|
|Sony A7 II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
It is notable that the A9 offers wifi support, which can be a very convenient means to transfer image data to an off-camera location. In contrast, the D3400 does not provide wifi capability.
Studio photographers will appreciate that the Sony A9 (unlike the D3400) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.
Both the D3400 and the A9 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D3400 was replaced by the Nikon D3500, while the A9 was followed by the Sony A9 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 is the bottom line? Which of the two cameras – the Nikon D3400 or the Sony A9 – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.
Advantages of the Nikon D3400:
- Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
- More dynamic range: Captures a larger spectrum of light and dark details (0.6 EV of extra DR).
- Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
- Less heavy: Is lighter (by 228g or 34 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
- Longer lasting: Can take more shots (1200 versus 650) on a single battery charge.
- Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (89 percent cheaper at launch).
- More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in August 2016).
Arguments in favor of the Sony Alpha A9:
- Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
- Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (6 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (1.6 stops ISO advantage).
- Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (4K/30p vs 1080/60p).
- Better live-view autofocus: Features on-sensor phase-detection for more confident autofocus.
- Better sound: Can connect to an external microphone for higher quality sound recording.
- Better sound control: Has a headphone port that enables audio monitoring while recording.
- 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 95%).
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.78x vs 0.57x).
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1440k vs 921k 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.
- Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/4000s) to freeze action.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (20 vs 5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Less disturbing: Has an electronic shutter option for completely silent shooting.
- Easier travel charging: Can be conveniently charged via its USB port.
- Better sealing: Is splash and dust sealed for shooting in inclement weather conditions.
- Sharper images: Has stabilization technology built-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
- 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.
- Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
- Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
- Faster buffer clearing: Supports a more advanced SD data transfer standard (UHS-II vs UHS-I).
- More modern: Was introduced somewhat (8 months) more recently.
If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the A9 is the clear winner of the contest (25 : 8 points). However, the relative importance of the various individual camera aspects will vary according to personal preferences and needs, so that you might like to apply corresponding weights to the particular features before making a decision on a new camera. A professional wedding photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a travel photog, and a person interested in cityscapes has distinct needs from a macro 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 D3400 and the Sony A9 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 remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the D3400 or the A9. 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 (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, and photographyblog). 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.
|Nikon D3400||+||76/100||4/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2016||499|
|Sony A9||+ +||89/100||5/5||5/5||5/5||Apr 2017||4,499|
|Canon SL2||+ +||78/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jun 2017||549|
|Nikon Z6||..||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||5/5||Aug 2018||1,999|
|Nikon D3500||..||75/100||4/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2018||429|
|Nikon D5600||..||79/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4/5||Nov 2016||699|
|Nikon D500||+ +||91/100||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||Jan 2016||1,999|
|Nikon D5500||+||79/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Jan 2015||899|
|Nikon D7200||+ +||84/100||4.5/5||4/5||4.5/5||Mar 2015||1,199|
|Nikon D3300||+||77/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jan 2014||499|
|Nikon D5300||+ +||79/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Oct 2013||799|
|Nikon D3200||+ +||73/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Apr 2012||599|
|Nikon D5200||+ +||79/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Nov 2012||749|
|Sony A9 II||..||90/100||5/5||..||5/5||Oct 2019||4,499|
|Sony A7 III||+ +||89/100||5/5||5/5||5/5||Feb 2018||1,999|
|Sony A7R III||+ +||90/100||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||Oct 2017||3,199|
|Sony A7 II||+||82/100||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||Nov 2014||1,999|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date 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 use the search menu below. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.
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- Canon G9 X Mark II vs Nikon D3400
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- Leica S-E Typ 006 vs Nikon D3400
- Nikon D3400 vs Nikon D810
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- Panasonic LX5 vs Sony A9
Specifications: Nikon D3400 vs Sony A9
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 D3400||Sony A9|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Mirrorless system camera|
|Camera Lens||Nikon F mount lenses||Sony E mount lenses|
|Launch Date||August 2016||April 2017|
|Launch Price||USD 499||USD 4,499|
|Sensor Specs||Nikon D3400||Sony A9|
|Sensor Format||APS-C Sensor||Full Frame Sensor|
|Sensor Size||23.5 x 15.6 mm||35.6 x 23.8 mm|
|Sensor Area||366.6 mm2||847.28 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||28.2 mm||42.8 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||24 Megapixels||24 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||6000 x 4000 pixels||6000 x 4000 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||3.91 μm||5.94 μm|
|Pixel Density||6.55 MP/cm2||2.83 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||no AA filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||1080/60p Video||4K/30p Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 25,600 ISO||100 - 51,200 ISO|
|ISO Boost||no Enhancement||50 - 204,800 ISO|
|Image Processor||EXPEED 4||BIONZ X|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||86||92|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||24.8||24.9|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||13.9||13.3|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||1192||3517|
|Screen Specs||Nikon D3400||Sony A9|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Electronic viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||95%||100%|
|Viewfinder Resolution||3686k dots|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.0inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||921k dots||1440k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Tilting screen|
|Touch Input||no Touchscreen||Touchscreen|
|Shooting Specs||Nikon D3400||Sony A9|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||On-Sensor Phase-detect|
|Manual Focusing Aid||no Peaking Feature||Focus Peaking|
|Max Shutter Speed (mechanical)||1/4000s||1/8000s|
|Continuous Shooting||5 shutter flaps/s||20 shutter flaps/s|
|Shutter Life Expectancy||100 000 actuations||500 000 actuations|
|Electronic Shutter||no E-Shutter||up to 1/32000s|
|Image Stabilization||Lens stabilization only||In-body stabilization|
|Fill Flash||Build-in Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDXC cards||MS or SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Dual card slots|
|UHS card support||UHS-I||Single UHS-II|
|Connectivity Specs||Nikon D3400||Sony A9|
|Studio Flash||no PC Sync||PC Sync socket|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||mini 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|
|Bluetooth Support||Bluetooth built-in||Bluetooth built-in|
|Body Specs||Nikon D3400||Sony A9|
|Environmental Sealing||not weather sealed||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||1200 shots per charge||650 shots per charge|
|In-Camera Charging||no USB charging||USB charging|
124 x 98 x 76 mm
(4.9 x 3.9 x 3.0 in)
127 x 96 x 63 mm
(5.0 x 3.8 x 2.5 in)
|Camera Weight||445 g (15.7 oz)||673 g (23.7 oz)|
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