Nikon D90 vs Sony A7R
The Nikon D90 and the Sony Alpha A7R are two enthusiast cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in August 2008 and October 2013. The D90 is a DSLR, while the A7R is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. The cameras are based on an APS-C (D90) and a full frame (A7R) sensor. The Nikon has a resolution of 12.2 megapixels, whereas the Sony provides 36.2 MP.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
|Nikon D90||Sony A7R|
|Digital single lens reflex||Mirrorless system camera|
|Nikon F mount lenses||Sony E mount lenses|
|12.2 MP, APS-C Sensor||36.2 MP, Full Frame Sensor|
|720/24p Video||1080/60p Video|
|ISO 200-3,200 (200 - 6,400)||ISO 100-25,600 (50 - 51,200)|
|Optical viewfinder||Electronic viewfinder (2400k dots)|
|3.0 LCD, 920k dots||3.0 LCD, 1230k dots|
|Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)||Tilting screen (not touch-sensitive)|
|4.5 shutter flaps per second||4 shutter flaps per second|
|not weather sealed||Weathersealed body|
|850 shots per battery charge||340 shots per battery charge|
|132 x 103 x 77 mm, 703 g||127 x 94 x 48 mm, 465 g|
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Nikon D90 and the Sony Alpha A7R? 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 side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Nikon D90 and the Sony A7R. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All width, height and depth measures 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 A7R is notably smaller (12 percent) than the Nikon D90. Moreover, the A7R is markedly lighter (34 percent) than the D90. It is noteworthy in this context that the A7R is splash and dust-proof, while the D90 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 (D90) and the Sony FE Lens Catalog (A7R). Mirrorless cameras, such as the A7R, 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 D90 gets 850 shots out of its EN-EL3e battery, while the A7R can take 340 images on a single charge of its NP-FW50 power pack. The power pack in the A7R can be charged via the USB port, which can be very convenient when travelling.
The adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. 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.
|Nikon D90||5.2 in||4.1 in||3.0 in||24.8 oz||850||n||Aug 2008||1,299|
|Sony A7R||5.0 in||3.7 in||1.9 in||16.4 oz||340||Y||Oct 2013||2,299|
|Canon 40D||5.7 in||4.3 in||2.9 in||29.0 oz||750||n||Aug 2007||1,299|
|Nikon D810||5.7 in||4.8 in||3.2 in||34.6 oz||1200||Y||Jun 2014||3,299|
|Nikon D7000||5.2 in||4.1 in||3.0 in||27.5 oz||1050||Y||Sep 2010||1,499|
|Nikon D3100||4.9 in||3.8 in||3.0 in||17.8 oz||550||n||Aug 2010||599|
|Nikon D300S||5.8 in||4.5 in||3.2 in||33.1 oz||950||Y||Jul 2009||1,799|
|Nikon D3000||5.0 in||3.8 in||2.5 in||18.9 oz||500||n||Jul 2009||599|
|Nikon D5000||5.0 in||4.1 in||3.1 in||20.8 oz||510||n||Apr 2009||749|
|Nikon D60||5.0 in||3.7 in||2.5 in||18.4 oz||500||n||Jan 2008||629|
|Nikon D40X||4.9 in||3.7 in||2.5 in||18.4 oz||520||n||Mar 2007||729|
|Nikon D300||5.8 in||4.5 in||2.9 in||32.6 oz||1000||Y||Aug 2007||1,799|
|Nikon D80||5.2 in||4.1 in||3.0 in||23.6 oz||600||n||Aug 2006||999|
|Sony A7R II||5.0 in||3.8 in||2.4 in||22.0 oz||290||Y||Jun 2015||3,199|
|Sony A7 II||5.0 in||3.8 in||2.4 in||21.1 oz||350||Y||Nov 2014||1,999|
|Sony A7S||5.0 in||3.7 in||1.9 in||17.2 oz||380||Y||Apr 2014||2,499|
|Sony A7||5.0 in||3.7 in||1.9 in||16.7 oz||340||Y||Oct 2013||1,699|
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.
Any camera decision will naturally be influenced heavily by the price. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The D90 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 43 percent) than the A7R, 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.
The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. A large sensor will generally have larger individual pixels that offer better low-light sensitivity, provide wider dynamic range, and have richer color-depth than smaller pixels 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.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Nikon D90 features an APS-C sensor and the Sony A7R a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the A7R 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.
In terms of underlying technology, both cameras are build around CMOS sensors.
With 36.2MP, the A7R offers a higher resolution than the D90 (12.2MP), but the A7R has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 4.88μm versus 5.53μm for the D90). Yet, the A7R is a much more recent model (by 5 years and 1 month) than the D90, 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 has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.
The resolution advantage of the Sony A7R implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the A7R for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 36.8 x 24.6 inches or 93.5 x 62.4 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 29.4 x 19.6 inches or 74.8 x 49.9 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 24.5 x 16.4 inches or 62.3 x 41.6 cm. The corresponding values for the Nikon D90 are 21.4 x 14.2 inches or 54.5 x 36.2 cm for good quality, 17.2 x 11.4 inches or 43.6 x 28.9 cm for very good quality, and 14.3 x 9.5 inches or 36.3 x 24.1 cm for excellent quality prints.
The Nikon D90 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 200 to ISO 3200, which can be extended to ISO 200-6400. The corresponding ISO settings for the Sony Alpha A7R are ISO 100 to ISO 25600, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 50-51200.
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 A7R offers substantially better image quality than the D90 (overall score 22 points higher). The advantage is based on 2.9 bits higher color depth, 1.6 EV in additional dynamic range, and 1.5 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 A7R||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/60p||25.6||14.1||2746||95|
|Nikon D810||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/60p||25.7||14.8||2853||97|
|Sony A7R II||Full Frame||42.2||7952||5304||4K/30p||26.0||13.9||3434||98|
|Sony A7 II||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||24.9||13.6||2449||90|
|Sony A7S||Full Frame||12.0||4240||2832||1080/60p||23.9||13.2||3702||87|
|Sony A7||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||24.8||14.2||2248||90|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. Both cameras under consideration are equipped with sensors that have a sufficiently high read-out speed for moving images, but the A7R provides a better video resolution than the D90. It can shoot movie footage at 1080/60p, while the Nikon is limited to 720/24p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the A7R has an electronic viewfinder (2400k dots), while the D90 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 A7R offers a wider field of view (100%) than the one in the D90 (96%), so that a larger proportion of the captured image is visible in the finder. In addition, the viewfinder of the A7R has a higher magnification (0.71x vs 0.63x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Nikon D90 and Sony A7R in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras.
|Sony A7R II||2400||n||3.0||1229||tilting||n||1/8000s||5.0||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 D90 has one, while the A7R does not. While the built-in flash of the D90 is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.
The D90 writes its imaging data to SDHC cards, while the A7R uses SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards. The A7R supports UHS-I cards (Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 104 MB/s), while the D90 cannot take advantage of Ultra High Speed SD 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 D90 and Sony Alpha A7R and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
|Sony A7R II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|Sony A7 II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
It is notable that the A7R offers wifi support, which can be a very convenient means to transfer image data to an off-camera location. In contrast, the D90 does not provide wifi capability.
Both the D90 and the A7R have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D90 was replaced by the Nikon D7000, while the A7R was followed by the Sony A7R 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 how do things add up? Is the Nikon D90 better than the Sony A7R or vice versa? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.
Reasons to prefer the Nikon D90:
- 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: Features an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (4.5 vs 4 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Longer lasting: Can take more shots (850 versus 340) 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 (43 percent cheaper at launch).
- More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in August 2008).
Advantages of the Sony Alpha A7R:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (36.2 vs 12.2MP), which boosts linear resolution by 72%.
- Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
- Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (22 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (2.9 bits more color depth).
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (1.6 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (1.5 stops ISO advantage).
- Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (1080/60p vs 720/24p).
- 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 96%).
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.71x vs 0.63x).
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1230k vs 920k dots).
- More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
- Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/4000s) to freeze action.
- More compact: Is smaller (127x94mm vs 132x103mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 238g or 34 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- Easier travel charging: Can be conveniently charged via its USB port.
- Better sealing: Is splash and dust sealed for shooting in inclement weather conditions.
- 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.
- Faster buffer clearing: Has an SD card interface that supports the UHS-I standard.
- More modern: Reflects 5 years and 1 month of technical progress since the D90 launch.
If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the A7R is the clear winner of the contest (23 : 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. 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 D90 and the Sony A7R 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 technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the D90 and the A7R in practical situations. 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 why expert reviews are important. 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 D90||+ +||+ +||4/5||5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2008||1,299|
|Sony A7R||+ +||82/100||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||Oct 2013||2,299|
|Canon 40D||+ +||+ +||4.5/5||o||4.5/5||Aug 2007||1,299|
|Nikon D810||..||86/100||5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jun 2014||3,299|
|Nikon D7000||..||80/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2010||1,499|
|Nikon D3100||+ +||72/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2010||599|
|Nikon D300S||+ +||82/100||4/5||5/5||4.5/5||Jul 2009||1,799|
|Nikon D3000||+||72/100||4/5||3.5/5||4.5/5||Jul 2009||599|
|Nikon D5000||+ +||75/100||4/5||5/5||4.5/5||Apr 2009||749|
|Nikon D60||80/100||+ +||4/5||o||4.5/5||Jan 2008||629|
|Nikon D40X||79/100||+ +||4/5||o||4/5||Mar 2007||729|
|Nikon D300||+ +||+ +||5/5||o||4.5/5||Aug 2007||1,799|
|Nikon D80||+||+ +||o||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2006||999|
|Sony A7R II||+ +||90/100||5/5||4.5/5||5/5||Jun 2015||3,199|
|Sony A7 II||+||82/100||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||Nov 2014||1,999|
|Sony A7S||..||86/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||5/5||Apr 2014||2,499|
|Sony A7||+ +||80/100||5/5||4.5/5||5/5||Oct 2013||1,699|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. 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.
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.
- Leica S Typ 007 vs Sony A7R
- Nikon D100 vs Nikon D90
- Nikon D3000 vs Nikon D90
- Nikon D6 vs Sony A7R IV
- Nikon D750 vs Sony A7R III
- Olympus E-520 vs Sony A7R II
- Olympus E-600 vs Sony A7R
- Panasonic GH3 vs Sony A7R II
- Panasonic GX80 vs Sony A7R IV
- Pentax K-5 vs Sony A7R IV
- Samsung NX1 vs Sony A7R
- Sony A7R IV vs Sony RX100 V
Specifications: Nikon D90 vs Sony A7R
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 D90||Sony A7R|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Mirrorless system camera|
|Camera Lens||Nikon F mount lenses||Sony E mount lenses|
|Launch Date||August 2008||October 2013|
|Launch Price||USD 1,299||USD 2,299|
|Sensor Specs||Nikon D90||Sony A7R|
|Sensor Format||APS-C Sensor||Full Frame Sensor|
|Sensor Size||23.6 x 15.8 mm||35.9 x 24.0 mm|
|Sensor Area||372.88 mm2||861.6 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||28.4 mm||43.2 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||12.2 Megapixels||36.2 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||4288 x 2848 pixels||7360 x 4912 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||5.53 μm||4.88 μm|
|Pixel Density||3.28 MP/cm2||4.20 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||no AA filter|
|Movie Capability||720/24p Video||1080/60p Video|
|ISO Setting||200 - 3,200 ISO||100 - 25,600 ISO|
|ISO Boost||200 - 6,400 ISO||50 - 51,200 ISO|
|Image Processor||EXPEED||BIONZ X|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||73||95|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||22.7||25.6|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||12.5||14.1|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||977||2746|
|Screen Specs||Nikon D90||Sony A7R|
|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||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.0inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||920k dots||1230k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Tilting screen|
|Shooting Specs||Nikon D90||Sony A7R|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Contrast-detect AF|
|Manual Focusing Aid||no Peaking Feature||Focus Peaking|
|Max Shutter Speed (mechanical)||1/4000s||1/8000s|
|Continuous Shooting||4.5 shutter flaps/s||4 shutter flaps/s|
|Shutter Life Expectancy||100 000 actuations||250 000 actuations|
|Fill Flash||Build-in Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDHC cards||MS or SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Single card slot|
|UHS card support||no||UHS-I|
|Connectivity Specs||Nikon D90||Sony A7R|
|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|
|Body Specs||Nikon D90||Sony A7R|
|Environmental Sealing||not weather sealed||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||850 shots per charge||340 shots per charge|
|In-Camera Charging||no USB charging||USB charging|
132 x 103 x 77 mm
(5.2 x 4.1 x 3.0 in)
127 x 94 x 48 mm
(5.0 x 3.7 x 1.9 in)
|Camera Weight||703 g (24.8 oz)||465 g (16.4 oz)|
Did you notice an error on this page? If so, please get in touch, so that we can correct the information.