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Nikon D800 versus Sony A7R II

The Nikon D800 and the Sony Alpha A7R II are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in February 2012 and June 2015. The D800 is a DSLR, while the A7R II is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. Both cameras are equipped with a full frame sensor. The Nikon has a resolution of 36.2 megapixel, whereas the Sony provides 42.2 MP. Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their size, their sensors, their features, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison: Nikon D800 vs Sony A7R II

The physical size and weight of the Nikon D800 and the Sony A7R II are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. 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. 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 D800 – represents the basis or 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Snapsort Nikon D800 vs Sony A7R II
Compare D800 versus A7R II top
Compare D800 and A7R II rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony A7R II is considerably smaller (32 percent) than the Nikon D800. Moreover, the A7R II is substantially lighter (38 percent) than the D800. 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 (D800) and the Sony FE Lens Catalog (A7R II). Mirrorless cameras, such as the A7R II, 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 D800 gets 900 shots out of its EN-EL15 battery, while the A7R II can take 290 images on a single charge of its NP-FW50 power pack.

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 camera comparisons there.

Camera Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(yes/no)
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Nikon D800» 5.7 in 4.8 in 3.2 in 35.3 oz 900 Y Feb 2012 2,999- i
Sony A7R II« 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.4 in 22.0 oz 290 Y Jun 2015 3,199- i
Canon 5D Mark IV« » 5.9 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 31.4 oz 900 Y Aug 2016 3,499 i i
Canon 5D Mark III« » 6.0 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 33.5 oz 950 Y Mar 2012 3,499- i
Nikon D850« » 5.7 in 4.9 in 3.1 in 35.5 oz 1840 Y Jul 2017 3,299 i i
Nikon D810« » 5.7 in 4.8 in 3.2 in 34.6 oz 1200 Y Jun 2014 3,299- i
Nikon D610« » 5.6 in 4.4 in 3.2 in 30.0 oz 900 Y Oct 2013 1,999 i i
Nikon Df« » 5.7 in 4.3 in 2.6 in 26.8 oz 1400 Y Nov 2013 2,749 i i
Nikon D4« » 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.6 in 47.3 oz 2600 Y Jan 2012 5,999- i
Nikon D600« » 5.6 in 4.4 in 3.2 in 30.0 oz 900 Y Sep 2012 2,099- i
Nikon D800E« » 5.7 in 4.8 in 3.2 in 35.3 oz 900 Y Feb 2012 3,299- i
Nikon D700« » 5.8 in 4.8 in 3.0 in 37.9 oz 1000 Y Jul 2008 2,999- i
Sony A9« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.5 in 23.7 oz 650 Y Apr 2017 4,499 i i
Sony A99 II« » 5.6 in 4.1 in 3.0 in 29.9 oz 490 Y Sep 2016 3,199 i i
Sony A7S II« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.4 in 22.1 oz 370 Y Sep 2015 2,999 i i
Sony A7 II« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.4 in 21.1 oz 350 Y Nov 2014 1,999- i
Sony A7R« » 5.0 in 3.7 in 1.9 in 16.4 oz 340 Y Oct 2013 2,299- i

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The D800 was somewhat cheaper (by 6 percent) than the A7R II at launch, but both cameras fall into the same price category. 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.

 

Sensor comparison: Nikon D800 vs Sony A7R II

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. Further, a large sensor camera will give the photographer additional creative options when using shallow depth-of-field to isolate a subject from its 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 and have a format factor (sometimes also referred to as "crop factor") of 1.0. Within the spectrum of camera sensors, this places the review cameras among the large-sensor cameras that aim for top notch image quality. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Nikon D800 and Sony A7R II sensor measures

While the two cameras under review share the same sensor size, the A7R II offers a higher resolution of 42.2 megapixel, compared with 36.2 MP of the D800. This megapixel advantage translates into a 8 percent gain in linear resolution. On the other hand, these sensor specs imply that the A7R II has a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 4.52μm versus 4.88μm for the D800). However, it should be noted that the A7R II is much more recent (by 3 years and 4 months) than the D800, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that compensate for the smaller pixel size. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the A7R II has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.

D800 versus A7R II MP

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. 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"). The Overall DXO ratings for the two cameras under consideration are close, suggesting that they provide similar image quality. The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Nikon D800» Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/30p25.314.4285395
Sony A7R II« Full Frame 42.2 7952 53044K/30p26.013.9343498
Canon 5D Mark IV« » Full Frame 30.1 6720 44804K/30p24.813.6299591
Canon 5D Mark III« » Full Frame 22.1 5760 38401080/30p24.011.7229381
Nikon D850« » Full Frame 45.4 8256 55044K/30p26.414.82660100
Nikon D810« » Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/60p25.714.8285397
Nikon D610« » Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/30p25.114.4292594
Nikon Df« » Full Frame 16.2 4928 3280-24.613.1327989
Nikon D4« » Full Frame 16.2 4928 32801080/30p24.713.1296589
Nikon D600« » Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/30p25.114.2298094
Nikon D800E« » Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/30p25.614.3297996
Nikon D700« » Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832-23.512.2230380
Sony A9« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40004K/30p24.913.3351792
Sony A99 II« » Full Frame 42.2 7952 53044K/30p25.413.4231792
Sony A7S II« » Full Frame 12.0 4240 28324K/30p23.613.3299385
Sony A7 II« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.913.6244990
Sony A7R« » Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/60p25.614.1274695

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 A7R II provides a better video resolution than the D800. It can shoot movie footage at 4K/30p, while the Nikon is limited to 1080/30p.

 

Feature comparison: Nikon D800 vs Sony A7R II

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. For example, the A7R II has an electronic viewfinder (2400k dots), while the D800 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 D800 and Sony A7R II 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.

Core Features
  Camera Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Nikon D800»optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 8000 4.0 Y n
Sony A7R II«2400 n 3.0 1229 tilting n 8000 5.0 n Y
Canon 5D Mark IV« »optical Y 3.2 1620 fixed Y 8000 7.0 n n
Canon 5D Mark III« »optical Y 3.2 1040 fixed n 8000 6.0 n n
Nikon D850« »optical Y 3.2 2359 tilting Y 8000 9.0 n n
Nikon D810« »optical Y 3.2 1229 fixed n 4000 5.0 Y n
Nikon D610« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 4000 6.0 Y n
Nikon Df« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 4000 5.5 n n
Nikon D4« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 8000 11.0 n n
Nikon D600« »optical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 4000 5.5 Y n
Nikon D800E« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 8000 4.0 Y n
Nikon D700« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 8000 8.0 Y n
Sony A9« »3686 n 3.0 1440 tilting Y 8000 20.0 n Y
Sony A99 II« »2400 Y 3.0 1229 full-flex n 8000 12.0 n Y
Sony A7S II« »2400 n 3.0 1229 tilting n 8000 5.0 n Y
Sony A7 II« »2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 8000 5.0 n Y
Sony A7R« »2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 8000 4.0 n n

Both the D800 and the A7R II have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D800 was replaced by the Nikon D810, while the A7R II was followed by the Sony Alpha A7R III.

Review summary: Nikon D800 vs Sony A7R II

So what conclusions can be drawn? Which of the two cameras – the Nikon D800 or the Sony A7R II – has the upper hand? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.

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Reasons to prefer the Nikon D800:

  • 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.
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.2" vs 3.0") for image review and settings control.
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (900 versus 290) on a single battery charge.
  • Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in February 2012).

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Advantages of the Sony Alpha A7R II:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (42.2 vs 36.2MP), which boosts linear resolution by 8%.
  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (4K/30p vs 1080/30p).
  • More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1229k vs 921k dots).
  • More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (5 vs 4 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More compact: Is smaller (127x96mm vs 146x123mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 375g or 37 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 modern: Reflects 3 years and 4 months of technical progress since the D800 launch.

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the A7R II is the clear winner of the contest (12 : 7 points). However, the pertinence of the various camera strengths will differ across photographers, so that you might want to weigh individual camera traits according to their importance for your own imaging needs before making a camera decision.

D800 07:12 A7R II

In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the D800 or the A7R II handle or perform in practice. User reviews that are available, for instance, at amazon can sometimes shed light on these issues, but such feedback is all too often partial, inconsistent, and inaccurate. This is where reviews by experts come in. The adjacent table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). The detailed reviews can be accessed by clicking on the site logo in the table header.

Review scores
  Camera cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Nikon D800»HiRec82/1005/55/55/5 Feb 2012 2,999- i
Sony A7R II«HiRec90/1005/54.5/55/5 Jun 2015 3,199- i
Canon 5D Mark IV« »HiRec87/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Aug 2016 3,499 i i
Canon 5D Mark III« »HiRec82/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Mar 2012 3,499- i
Nikon D850« »HiRec89/1004.5/55/55/5 Jul 2017 3,299 i i
Nikon D810« »-86/1005/54.5/54.5/5 Jun 2014 3,299- i
Nikon D610« »HiRec87/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Oct 2013 1,999 i i
Nikon Df« »-81/1004/54/54/5 Nov 2013 2,749 i i
Nikon D4« »--4.5/5-4.5/5 Jan 2012 5,999- i
Nikon D600« »HiRec87/1005/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 2,099- i
Nikon D800E« »-84/1005/54.5/55/5 Feb 2012 3,299- i
Nikon D700« »89/100HiRec4.5/55/54.5/5 Jul 2008 2,999- i
Sony A9« »HiRec89/1005/55/55/5 Apr 2017 4,499 i i
Sony A99 II« »-85/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2016 3,199 i i
Sony A7S II« »Rec-4.5/55/55/5 Sep 2015 2,999 i i
Sony A7 II« »Rec82/1004.5/55/55/5 Nov 2014 1,999- i
Sony A7R« »HiRec82/1004.5/55/55/5 Oct 2013 2,299- i

The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings are only valid when refering to cameras in the same category and of the same age. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.

 

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make your choice using the following search menu. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting. If the camera you are interested in is not available, kindly get in touch, and I will try to add information on that model to the database.

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