Nikon D850 versus Sony A7 II
The Nikon D850 and the Sony Alpha A7 II are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in July 2017 and November 2014. The D850 is a DSLR, while the A7 II is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. Both cameras are equipped with a full frame sensor. The Nikon has a resolution of 45.4 megapixel, whereas the Sony provides 24 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 D850 vs Sony A7 II
The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Nikon D850 and the Sony A7 II. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter. If you prefer, you can also use the toggle button to switch to a comparison in percentage terms (in this case, the camera on the left side – the D850 – represents the basis for the calculations 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 A7 II is considerably smaller (33 percent) than the Nikon D850. Moreover, the A7 II is substantially lighter (40 percent) than the D850. 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 (D850) and the Sony FE Lens Catalog (A7 II). Mirrorless cameras, such as the A7 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.
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|
|Nikon D850»||5.7 in||4.9 in||3.1 in||35.5 oz||1840||Y||Jul 2017||3,299|
|Sony A7 II«||5.0 in||3.8 in||2.4 in||21.1 oz||350||Y||Nov 2014||1,999||-|
|Nikon D5« »||6.3 in||6.3 in||3.6 in||49.9 oz||3780||Y||Jan 2016||6,499|
|Nikon D500« »||5.8 in||4.5 in||3.2 in||30.3 oz||1240||Y||Jan 2016||1,999|
|Nikon D810« »||5.7 in||4.8 in||3.2 in||34.6 oz||1200||Y||Jun 2014||3,299||-|
|Nikon D610« »||5.6 in||4.4 in||3.2 in||30.0 oz||900||Y||Oct 2013||1,999|
|Nikon Df« »||5.7 in||4.3 in||2.6 in||26.8 oz||1400||Y||Nov 2013||2,749|
|Nikon D600« »||5.6 in||4.4 in||3.2 in||30.0 oz||900||Y||Sep 2012||2,099||-|
|Nikon D800« »||5.7 in||4.8 in||3.2 in||35.3 oz||900||Y||Feb 2012||2,999||-|
|Nikon D800E« »||5.7 in||4.8 in||3.2 in||35.3 oz||900||Y||Feb 2012||3,299||-|
|Nikon D700« »||5.8 in||4.8 in||3.0 in||37.9 oz||1000||Y||Jul 2008||2,999||-|
|Olympus E-M1 II« »||5.3 in||3.6 in||2.6 in||20.2 oz||440||Y||Sep 2016||1,999|
|Sony A7 III« »||5.0 in||3.8 in||2.9 in||22.9 oz||610||Y||Feb 2018||1,999|
|Sony A99 II« »||5.6 in||4.1 in||3.0 in||29.9 oz||490||Y||Sep 2016||3,199|
|Sony A7R II« »||5.0 in||3.8 in||2.4 in||22.0 oz||290||Y||Jun 2015||3,199||-|
|Sony A7« »||5.0 in||3.7 in||1.9 in||16.7 oz||340||Y||Oct 2013||1,699||-|
|Sony A7R« »||5.0 in||3.7 in||1.9 in||16.4 oz||340||Y||Oct 2013||2,299||-|
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 A7 II was launched at a markedly lower price (by 39 percent) than the D850, 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.
Sensor comparison: Nikon D850 vs Sony A7 II
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 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 45.4MP, the D850 offers a higher resolution than the A7 II (24MP), but the D850 has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 4.35μm versus 5.97μm for the A7 II). However, the D850 is a somewhat more recent model (by 2 years and 8 months) than the A7 II, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the D850 has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.
For most cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service determines an overall sensor rating, as well as sub-scores for low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and color depth ("DXO Portrait"). Of the two cameras under review, the D850 has a notably higher overall DXO score than the A7 II (overall score 10 points higher), which gives it an advantage in terms of imaging quality. This advantage is based on 1.5 bits higher color depth, 1.2 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.1 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 D850»||Full Frame||45.4||8256||5504||4K/30p||26.4||14.8||2660||100|
|Sony A7 II«||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||24.9||13.6||2449||90|
|Nikon D5« »||Full Frame||20.7||5588||3712||4K/30p||25.1||12.3||2343||88|
|Nikon D500« »||APS-C||20.7||5568||3712||4K/30p||24.0||14.0||1324||83|
|Nikon D810« »||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/60p||25.7||14.8||2853||97|
|Nikon D610« »||Full Frame||24.2||6016||4016||1080/30p||25.1||14.4||2925||94|
|Nikon Df« »||Full Frame||16.2||4928||3280||-||24.6||13.1||3279||89|
|Nikon D600« »||Full Frame||24.2||6016||4016||1080/30p||25.1||14.2||2980||94|
|Nikon D800« »||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/30p||25.3||14.4||2853||95|
|Nikon D800E« »||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/30p||25.6||14.3||2979||96|
|Nikon D700« »||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||-||23.5||12.2||2303||80|
|Olympus E-M1 II« »||Four Thirds||20.2||5184||3888||4K/30p||23.7||12.8||1312||80|
|Sony A7 III« »||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||4K/30p||25.0||14.7||3730||96|
|Sony A99 II« »||Full Frame||42.2||7952||5304||4K/30p||25.4||13.4||2317||92|
|Sony A7R II« »||Full Frame||42.2||7952||5304||4K/30p||26.0||13.9||3434||98|
|Sony A7« »||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||24.8||14.2||2248||90|
|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. Both cameras under consideration have a sensor with sufficiently fast read-out times for moving pictures, but the D850 provides a higher video resolution than the A7 II. It can shoot video footage at 4K/30p, while the Sony is limited to 1080/60p.
Feature comparison: Nikon D850 vs Sony A7 II
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the A7 II has an electronic viewfinder (2400k dots), while the D850 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 adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Nikon D850 and Sony A7 II along with similar information for a selection of comparators. The full specs-sheets can be found in the camera manual or, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.
|Sony A7 II«||2400||n||3.0||1230||tilting||n||8000||5.0||n||Y|
|Nikon D5« »||optical||Y||3.2||2359||fixed||Y||8000||14.0||n||n|
|Nikon D500« »||optical||Y||3.2||2359||tilting||Y||8000||10.0||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 D600« »||optical||Y||3.0||921||fixed||n||4000||5.5||Y||n|
|Nikon D800« »||optical||Y||3.2||921||fixed||n||8000||4.0||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|
|Olympus E-M1 II« »||2360||n||3.0||1037||swivel||Y||8000||18.0||n||Y|
|Sony A7 III« »||2359||n||3.0||922||tilting||Y||8000||10.0||n||Y|
|Sony A99 II« »||2400||Y||3.0||1229||full-flex||n||8000||12.0||n||Y|
|Sony A7R II« »||2400||n||3.0||1229||tilting||n||8000||5.0||n||Y|
|Sony A7« »||2400||n||3.0||1230||tilting||n||8000||5.0||n||n|
|Sony A7R« »||2400||n||3.0||1230||tilting||n||8000||4.0||n||n|
The D850 is a current model that online retailers, such as amazon, will have in stock. In contrast, the A7 II has been discontinued (but it can be found pre-owned on eBay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the A7 II was succeeded by the Sony A7 III.
Review summary: Nikon D850 vs Sony A7 II
So how do things add up? Is there a clear favorite between the Nikon D850 and the Sony A7 II? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.
Advantages of the Nikon D850:
- More detail: Offers more megapixels (45.4 vs 24MP) with a 38% higher linear resolution.
- Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
- Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (10 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
- Richer colors: Generates images with noticeably better colors (1.5 bits more color depth).
- More dynamic range: Captures a larger spectrum of light and dark details (1.2 EV of extra DR).
- Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (4K/30p vs 1080/60p).
- 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.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (2359k vs 1230k dots).
- Fewer buttons to press: Is equipped with a touch-sensitive rear screen to facilitate handling.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (9 vs 5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Longer lasting: Can take more shots (1840 versus 350) on a single battery charge.
- More modern: Reflects 2 years and 8 months of technical progress since the A7 II launch.
Arguments in favor of the Sony Alpha A7 II:
- Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
- More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
- More compact: Is smaller (127x96mm vs 146x124mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 406g or 40 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 (39 percent cheaper at launch).
- More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in November 2014).
If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the D850 is the clear winner of the match-up (14 : 8 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.
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 handling experience and imaging performance when actually working with the D850 or the A7 II. 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 (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). You can find the full text of the reviews by clicking on the site logo in the table header.
|Nikon D850»||HiRec||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||Jul 2017||3,299|
|Sony A7 II«||Rec||82/100||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||Nov 2014||1,999||-|
|Nikon D5« »||-||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||Jan 2016||6,499|
|Nikon D500« »||HiRec||91/100||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||Jan 2016||1,999|
|Nikon D810« »||-||86/100||5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jun 2014||3,299||-|
|Nikon D610« »||HiRec||87/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Oct 2013||1,999|
|Nikon Df« »||-||81/100||4/5||4/5||4/5||Nov 2013||2,749|
|Nikon D600« »||HiRec||87/100||5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||2,099||-|
|Nikon D800« »||HiRec||82/100||5/5||5/5||5/5||Feb 2012||2,999||-|
|Nikon D800E« »||-||84/100||5/5||4.5/5||5/5||Feb 2012||3,299||-|
|Nikon D700« »||89/100||HiRec||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Jul 2008||2,999||-|
|Olympus E-M1 II« »||HiRec||85/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2016||1,999|
|Sony A7 III« »||HiRec||89/100||5/5||-||5/5||Feb 2018||1,999|
|Sony A99 II« »||-||85/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2016||3,199|
|Sony A7R II« »||HiRec||90/100||5/5||4.5/5||5/5||Jun 2015||3,199||-|
|Sony A7« »||HiRec||80/100||5/5||4.5/5||5/5||Oct 2013||1,699||-|
|Sony A7R« »||HiRec||82/100||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||Oct 2013||2,299||-|
Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings are only valid when refering 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 rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.
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