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Sony A7 II versus Nikon D850

The Sony Alpha A7 II and the Nikon D850 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in November 2014 and July 2017. The A7 II is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, while the D850 is a DSLR. Both cameras are equipped with a full frame sensor. The Sony has a resolution of 24 megapixel, whereas the Nikon provides 45.4 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: Sony A7 II vs Nikon D850

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Sony A7 II and the Nikon D850 is provided in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter. You can also use the toggle button 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 side – the A7 II – represents the basis for the calculations across all the size and weight measures).

Compare Sony A7 II vs Nikon D850
Compare A7 II versus D850 top
Compare A7 II and D850 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D850 is considerably larger (48 percent) than the Sony A7 II. Moreover, the D850 is substantially heavier (68 percent) than the A7 II. 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 Sony FE Lens Catalog (A7 II) and the Nikon Lens Catalog (D850). Mirrorless cameras, such as the Sony A7 II, have moreover the advantage that they have a relatively short flange to focal plane distance and can thus use many lenses from other systems via adapters.

Concerning battery life, the A7 II gets 350 shots out of its NP-FW50 battery, while the D850 can take 1840 images on a single charge of its EN-EL15a power pack.

The adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. 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.

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)
Camera
Model
Sony A7 II» 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.4 in 21.1 oz 350 Y Nov 2014 1,999- i Sony A7 II
Nikon D850« 5.7 in 4.9 in 3.1 in 35.5 oz 1840 Y Jul 2017 3,299 i i Nikon D850
Canon 5DS« » 6.0 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 32.8 oz 700 Y Feb 2015 3,699 i i Canon 5DS
Canon 5DS R« » 6.0 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 32.8 oz 700 Y Feb 2015 3,699 i i Canon 5DS R
Nikon D5« » 6.3 in 6.3 in 3.6 in 49.9 oz 3780 Y Jan 2016 6,499 i i Nikon D5
Nikon D810« » 5.7 in 4.8 in 3.2 in 34.6 oz 1200 Y Jun 2014 3,299- i Nikon D810
Nikon D610« » 5.6 in 4.4 in 3.2 in 30.0 oz 900 Y Oct 2013 1,999 i i Nikon D610
Panasonic GH5« » 5.5 in 3.9 in 3.4 in 25.6 oz 410 Y Jan 2017 1,999 i i Panasonic GH5
Sony A7 III« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.9 in 22.9 oz 610 Y Feb 2018 1,999 i i Sony A7 III
Sony A7R III« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.9 in 22.9 oz 650 Y Oct 2017 3,199 i i Sony A7R III
Sony A9« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.5 in 23.7 oz 650 Y Apr 2017 4,499 i i Sony A9
Sony A7R II« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.4 in 22.0 oz 290 Y Jun 2015 3,199- i Sony A7R II
Sony A7S II« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.4 in 22.1 oz 370 Y Sep 2015 2,999 i i Sony A7S II
Sony A7« » 5.0 in 3.7 in 1.9 in 16.7 oz 340 Y Oct 2013 1,699- i Sony A7
Sony A7R« » 5.0 in 3.7 in 1.9 in 16.4 oz 340 Y Oct 2013 2,299- i Sony A7R
Sony A77« » 5.6 in 4.1 in 3.2 in 25.8 oz 470 Y Aug 2011 1,999- i Sony A77
Sony A850« » 6.1 in 4.6 in 3.2 in 31.6 oz 880 Y Aug 2009 1,999- i Sony A850

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. Normally, street prices remain initially close to the MSRP, but after a couple of months, the first discounts appear. 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.

 

Sensor comparison: Sony A7 II vs Nikon D850

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 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 are more costly to manufacture and tend to 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.

Sony A7 II and Nikon D850 sensor measures

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). Yet, the D850 is a much more recent model (by 2 years and 8 months) than the A7 II, 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 D850 has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.

The A7 II has on-sensor phase detect pixels, which results in relatively fast and reliable autofocus acquisition during video recording.

A7 II versus D850 MP

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. 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 consideration, the D850 has a markedly higher DXO score than the A7 II (overall score 10 points higher), which will translate into better image quality. The 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 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
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Camera
Model
Sony A7 II» Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.913.6244990Sony A7 II
Nikon D850« Full Frame 45.4 8256 55044K/30p26.414.82660100Nikon D850
Canon 5DS« » Full Frame 50.3 8688 57921080/60p24.712.4238187Canon 5DS
Canon 5DS R« » Full Frame 50.3 8688 57921080/60p24.612.4230886Canon 5DS R
Nikon D5« » Full Frame 20.7 5588 37124K/30p25.112.3234388Nikon D5
Nikon D810« » Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/60p25.714.8285397Nikon D810
Nikon D610« » Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/30p25.114.4292594Nikon D610
Panasonic GH5« » Four Thirds 20.2 5184 38884K/60p23.913.080777Panasonic GH5
Sony A7 III« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40004K/30p25.014.7373096Sony A7 III
Sony A7R III« » Full Frame 42.2 7952 53044K/30p26.014.73523100Sony A7R III
Sony A9« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40004K/30p24.913.3351792Sony A9
Sony A7R II« » Full Frame 42.2 7952 53044K/30p26.013.9343498Sony A7R II
Sony A7S II« » Full Frame 12.0 4240 28324K/30p23.613.3299385Sony A7S II
Sony A7« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.814.2224890Sony A7
Sony A7R« » Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/60p25.614.1274695Sony A7R
Sony A77« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.013.280178Sony A77
Sony A850« » Full Frame 24.4 6048 4032-23.812.2141579Sony A850

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. Both cameras under consideration are equipped with sensors that have a sufficiently high read-out speed for moving images, but the D850 provides a better video resolution than the A7 II. It can shoot movie footage at 4K/30p, while the Sony is limited to 1080/60p.

 

Feature comparison: Sony A7 II vs Nikon D850

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 table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Sony A7 II and Nikon D850 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras. The full specs-sheets can be found in the camera manual or in the dpreview camera hub.

Core Features
  Camera
Model
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
Camera
Model
Sony A7 II»2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 8000 5.0 n Y Sony A7 II
Nikon D850«optical Y 3.2 2359 tilting Y 8000 9.0 n n Nikon D850
Canon 5DS« »optical Y 3.2 1040 fixed n 8000 5.0 n n Canon 5DS
Canon 5DS R« »optical Y 3.2 1040 fixed n 8000 5.0 n n Canon 5DS R
Nikon D5« »optical Y 3.2 2359 fixed Y 8000 14.0 n n Nikon D5
Nikon D810« »optical Y 3.2 1229 fixed n 8000 5.0 Y n Nikon D810
Nikon D610« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 4000 6.0 Y n Nikon D610
Panasonic GH5« »3680 n 3.2 1620 swivel Y 8000 12.0 n Y Panasonic GH5
Sony A7 III« »2359 n 3.0 922 tilting Y 8000 10.0 n Y Sony A7 III
Sony A7R III« »3686 n 3.0 1440 tilting Y 8000 10.0 n Y Sony A7R III
Sony A9« »3686 n 3.0 1440 tilting Y 8000 20.0 n Y Sony A9
Sony A7R II« »2400 n 3.0 1229 tilting n 8000 5.0 n Y Sony A7R II
Sony A7S II« »2400 n 3.0 1229 tilting n 8000 5.0 n Y Sony A7S II
Sony A7« »2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 8000 5.0 n n Sony A7
Sony A7R« »2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 8000 4.0 n n Sony A7R
Sony A77« »2359 Y 3.0 921 full-flex n 8000 12.0 Y Y Sony A77
Sony A850« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 8000 3.0 n Y Sony A850

One feature that differentiates the A7 II and the D850 is in-body image stabilization (IBIS). The A7 II reduces the risk of handshake-induced blur with all attached lenses, while the D850 has to rely on optical image stabilization in OIS-equipped lenses to achieve the same effect.

The A7 II writes its imaging data to SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards, while the D850 uses SDHC or XQD cards. The D850 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the A7 II only has one slot.

Input-Output Connections
  Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Type
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
Camera
Model
Sony A7 II»YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YY-Sony A7 II
Nikon D850«YstereomonoYYmini3.0YYYNikon D850
Canon 5DS« »YmonomonoY-mini3.0---Canon 5DS
Canon 5DS R« »YmonomonoY-mini3.0---Canon 5DS R
Nikon D5« »YstereomonoYYmini3.0---Nikon D5
Nikon D810« »YstereomonoYYmini3.0Y--Nikon D810
Nikon D610« »YmonomonoYYmini2.0---Nikon D610
Panasonic GH5« »YstereomonoYYfull3.1Y-YPanasonic GH5
Sony A7 III« »YstereomonoYYmicro3.1YYYSony A7 III
Sony A7R III« »YstereomonoYYmicro3.1YYYSony A7R III
Sony A9« »YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YYYSony A9
Sony A7R II« »YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YY-Sony A7R II
Sony A7S II« »YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YY-Sony A7S II
Sony A7« »YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YY-Sony A7
Sony A7R« »YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YY-Sony A7R
Sony A77« »YstereomonoY-mini2.0---Sony A77
Sony A850« »Y----mini2.0---Sony A850

The D850 is a recent model that features in the current product line-up of Nikon. 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: Sony A7 II vs Nikon D850

So what conclusions can be drawn? Which of the two cameras – the Sony A7 II or the Nikon D850 – 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 Sony Alpha A7 II:

  • Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
  • Better video autofocus: Features on-sensor phase-detection for more confident movie autofocus.
  • More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
  • More compact: Is smaller (127x96mm vs 146x124mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 406g or 40 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
  • Sharper images: Has hand-shake reducing image stabilization build-in.
  • More legacy lens friendly: Can take a broad range of non-native lenses via adapters.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (39 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in November 2014).

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Advantages of the Nikon D850:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (45.4 vs 24MP), which boosts linear resolution by 38%.
  • 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 evaluation.
  • Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (1.5 bits more color depth).
  • More dynamic range: Captures a broader range 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: Features a control panel on top to check 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: Has a touchscreen to facilitate handling and shooting adjustments.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (9 vs 5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (1840 versus 350) out of a single battery charge.
  • Faster data transfer: Supports a more advanced USB protocol (3.0 vs 2.0).
  • Easier wireless transfer: Supports Bluetooth for image sharing without cables.
  • Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
  • More modern: Reflects 2 years and 8 months of technical progress since the A7 II launch.

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the D850 is the clear winner of the contest (17 : 9 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 when reflecting and deciding on a new camera.

A7 II 09:17 D850

In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the handling experience and imaging performance when actually working with the A7 II or the D850. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased. This is where reviews by experts come in. The table below summarizes the assessments of some of the best known 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
Model
cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Sony A7 II»Rec82/1004.5/55/55/5 Nov 2014 1,999- i Sony A7 II
Nikon D850«HiRec89/1004.5/55/55/5 Jul 2017 3,299 i i Nikon D850
Canon 5DS« »Rec83/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Feb 2015 3,699 i i Canon 5DS
Canon 5DS R« »Rec83/1005/55/54.5/5 Feb 2015 3,699 i i Canon 5DS R
Nikon D5« »-89/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2016 6,499 i i Nikon D5
Nikon D810« »-86/1005/54.5/54.5/5 Jun 2014 3,299- i Nikon D810
Nikon D610« »HiRec87/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Oct 2013 1,999 i i Nikon D610
Panasonic GH5« »HiRec85/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2017 1,999 i i Panasonic GH5
Sony A7 III« »HiRec89/1005/55/55/5 Feb 2018 1,999 i i Sony A7 III
Sony A7R III« »HiRec90/1004.5/55/55/5 Oct 2017 3,199 i i Sony A7R III
Sony A9« »HiRec89/1005/55/55/5 Apr 2017 4,499 i i Sony A9
Sony A7R II« »HiRec90/1005/54.5/55/5 Jun 2015 3,199- i Sony A7R II
Sony A7S II« »Rec-4.5/55/55/5 Sep 2015 2,999 i i Sony A7S II
Sony A7« »HiRec80/1005/54.5/55/5 Oct 2013 1,699- i Sony A7
Sony A7R« »HiRec82/1004.5/55/55/5 Oct 2013 2,299- i Sony A7R
Sony A77« »91/10081/100-4.5/55/5 Aug 2011 1,999- i Sony A77
Sony A850« »-75/100-4/54.5/5 Aug 2009 1,999- i Sony A850

The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, 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? 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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