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Sony A7 III versus Nikon D850

The Sony Alpha A7 III and the Nikon D850 are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in February 2018 and July 2017. The A7 III 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 III vs Nikon D850

The physical size and weight of the Sony A7 III and the Nikon D850 are illustrated 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 width, height and depth dimensions 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 side – the A7 III – represents the basis for the calculations across all the size and weight measures).

Compare Sony A7 III vs Nikon D850
Compare A7 III versus D850 top
Compare A7 III 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 III. Moreover, the D850 is substantially heavier (55 percent) than the A7 III. 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 III) and the Nikon Lens Catalog (D850). Mirrorless cameras, such as the Sony A7 III, 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 III gets 610 shots out of its NP-FZ100 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 III» 127 mm 96 mm 74 mm 650 g 610 Y Feb 2018 1,999 i i Sony A7 III
Nikon D850« 146 mm 124 mm 79 mm 1005 g 1840 Y Jul 2017 3,299 i i Nikon D850
Canon 6D Mark II« » 144 mm 111 mm 75 mm 765 g 1200 Y Jun 2017 1,999 i i Canon 6D Mark II
Canon 5D Mark IV« » 151 mm 116 mm 76 mm 890 g 900 Y Aug 2016 3,499 i i Canon 5D Mark IV
Canon 5DS« » 152 mm 116 mm 76 mm 930 g 700 Y Feb 2015 3,699 i i Canon 5DS
Fujifilm X-H1« » 140 mm 97 mm 86 mm 673 g 310 Y Feb 2018 1,899 i i Fujifilm X-H1
Nikon D810« » 146 mm 123 mm 82 mm 980 g 1200 Y Jun 2014 3,299- i Nikon D810
Nikon D800« » 146 mm 123 mm 82 mm 1000 g 900 Y Feb 2012 2,999- i Nikon D800
Nikon D800E« » 146 mm 123 mm 82 mm 1000 g 900 Y Feb 2012 3,299- i Nikon D800E
Olympus E-M1 II« » 134 mm 91 mm 67 mm 574 g 440 Y Sep 2016 1,999 i i Olympus E-M1 II
Panasonic G9« » 137 mm 97 mm 92 mm 658 g 400 Y Nov 2017 1,699 i i Panasonic G9
Panasonic GH5« » 139 mm 98 mm 87 mm 725 g 410 Y Jan 2017 1,999 i i Panasonic GH5
Sony A7R III« » 127 mm 96 mm 74 mm 650 g 650 Y Oct 2017 3,199 i i Sony A7R III
Sony A9« » 127 mm 96 mm 63 mm 673 g 650 Y Apr 2017 4,499 i i Sony A9
Sony A7R II« » 127 mm 96 mm 60 mm 625 g 290 Y Jun 2015 3,199- i Sony A7R II
Sony A7S II« » 127 mm 96 mm 60 mm 627 g 370 Y Sep 2015 2,999 i i Sony A7S II
Sony A7 II« » 127 mm 96 mm 60 mm 599 g 350 Y Nov 2014 1,999- i Sony A7 II

The camera’s price is obviously a critical decision-making factor. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The A7 III 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.

 

Sensor comparison: Sony A7 III vs Nikon D850

The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant of image quality. All other things equal, a large sensor will have larger individual pixel-units that offer better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and 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.

Both cameras under consideration feature a full frame sensor, but their sensors differ slightly in size. The sensor area in the D850 is 1 percent bigger. 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.

Technology-wise, both cameras are equipped with BSI-CMOS (Backside Illuminated Complementary Metal–Oxide–Semiconductor) sensors.

Sony A7 III and Nikon D850 sensor measures

With 45.4MP, the D850 offers a higher resolution than the A7 III (24MP), but the D850 has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 4.35μm versus 5.94μm for the A7 III). It is noteworthy in this context that the A7 III is a somewhat more recent model (by 7 months) than the D850, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that neither of the two cameras has an anti-alias filter installed, so they are able to capture all the detail the sensor resolves.

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

A7 III 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 III (overall score 4 points higher), which will translate into better image quality. The advantage is based on 1.4 bits higher color depth, 0.1 EV in additional dynamic range, 0.5 stops of reduced low light sensitivity. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar 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 III» Full Frame 24.0 6000 40004K/30p25.014.7373096Sony A7 III
Nikon D850« Full Frame 45.4 8256 55044K/30p26.414.82660100Nikon D850
Canon 6D Mark II« » Full Frame 26.0 6240 41601080/60p24.411.9286285Canon 6D Mark II
Canon 5D Mark IV« » Full Frame 30.1 6720 44804K/30p24.813.6299591Canon 5D Mark IV
Canon 5DS« » Full Frame 50.3 8688 57921080/60p24.712.4238187Canon 5DS
Fujifilm X-H1« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40004K/30p----Fujifilm X-H1
Nikon D810« » Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/60p25.714.8285397Nikon D810
Nikon D800« » Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/30p25.314.4285395Nikon D800
Nikon D800E« » Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/30p25.614.3297996Nikon D800E
Olympus E-M1 II« » Four Thirds 20.2 5184 38884K/30p23.712.8131280Olympus E-M1 II
Panasonic G9« » Four Thirds 20.2 5184 38884K/60p----Panasonic G9
Panasonic GH5« » Four Thirds 20.2 5184 38884K/60p23.913.080777Panasonic GH5
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 II« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.913.6244990Sony A7 II

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, and both provide the same movie specifications (4K/30p).

 

Feature comparison: Sony A7 III vs Nikon D850

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. For example, the A7 III has an electronic viewfinder (2359k 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 following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Sony A7 III, the Nikon D850, and comparable cameras. If needed, the dpreview camera hub, for example, contains further detail on the cameras' specs.

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 III»2359 n 3.0 922 tilting Y 8000 10.0 n Y Sony A7 III
Nikon D850«optical Y 3.2 2359 tilting Y 8000 9.0 n n Nikon D850
Canon 6D Mark II« »optical Y 3.0 1040 swivel Y 4000 6.5 n n Canon 6D Mark II
Canon 5D Mark IV« »optical Y 3.2 1620 fixed Y 8000 7.0 n n Canon 5D Mark IV
Canon 5DS« »optical Y 3.2 1040 fixed n 8000 5.0 n n Canon 5DS
Fujifilm X-H1« »3690 Y 3.0 1040 full-flex Y 8000 14.0 n Y Fujifilm X-H1
Nikon D810« »optical Y 3.2 1229 fixed n 8000 5.0 Y n Nikon D810
Nikon D800« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 8000 4.0 Y n Nikon D800
Nikon D800E« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 8000 4.0 Y n Nikon D800E
Olympus E-M1 II« »2360 n 3.0 1037 swivel Y 8000 18.0 n Y Olympus E-M1 II
Panasonic G9« »3680 Y 3.0 1040 swivel Y 8000 20.0 n Y Panasonic G9
Panasonic GH5« »3680 n 3.2 1620 swivel Y 8000 12.0 n Y Panasonic GH5
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 II« »2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 8000 5.0 n Y Sony A7 II

One feature that differentiates the A7 III and the D850 is in-body image stabilization (IBIS). The A7 III 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 reported shutter speed and shutter burst refer to the use of the mechanical shutter. In addition, the A7 III features an electronic shutter, which makes completely silent shooting possible. However, this mode is less suitable for photographing moving objects (rolling shutter) or shooting under artificial light sources (flickering).

The A7 III 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 III 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 III»YstereomonoYYmicro3.1YYYSony A7 III
Nikon D850«YstereomonoYYmini3.0YYYNikon D850
Canon 6D Mark II« »YstereomonoY-mini2.0YYYCanon 6D Mark II
Canon 5D Mark IV« »YmonomonoYYmini3.0YY-Canon 5D Mark IV
Canon 5DS« »YmonomonoY-mini3.0---Canon 5DS
Fujifilm X-H1« »YstereomonoY-micro3.0Y--Fujifilm X-H1
Nikon D810« »YstereomonoYYmini3.0Y--Nikon D810
Nikon D800« »YmonomonoYYmini3.0---Nikon D800
Nikon D800E« »YmonomonoYYmini3.0---Nikon D800E
Olympus E-M1 II« »YstereomonoYYmicro3.0Y--Olympus E-M1 II
Panasonic G9« »YstereomonoYYfull3.0Y-YPanasonic G9
Panasonic GH5« »YstereomonoYYfull3.1Y-YPanasonic GH5
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 II« »YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YY-Sony A7 II

Both the A7 III and the D850 are recent models that feature in their makers' current product line-up. The D850 replaced the earlier Nikon D810, while the A7 III followed on from the Sony A7 II.

Review summary: Sony A7 III vs Nikon D850

So what is the bottom line? Is there a clear favorite between the Sony A7 III and the Nikon D850? 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 III:

  • Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (0.5 stops ISO advantage).
  • Better video autofocus: Features on-sensor phase-detection for more confident movie autofocus.
  • More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
  • Less disturbing: Has an electronic shutter option for completely silent shooting.
  • More compact: Is smaller (127x96mm vs 146x124mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 355g or 35 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.
  • Faster data transfer: Supports a more advanced USB protocol (3.1 vs 3.0).
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (39 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Is somewhat more recent (announced 7 months after the D850).

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Arguments in favor of the Nikon D850:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (45.4 vs 24MP), which boosts linear resolution by 38%.
  • Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (4 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (1.4 bits more color depth).
  • 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 922k dots).
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (1840 versus 610) out of a single battery charge.
  • Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in July 2017).

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the A7 III comes out slightly ahead of the D850 (11 : 10 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 III 11:10 D850

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras is instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it says nothing about, for example, the handling, responsiveness, and overall imaging quality of the A7 III and the D850 in practical situations. 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 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.

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 III»HiRec89/1005/55/55/5 Feb 2018 1,999 i i Sony A7 III
Nikon D850«HiRec89/1004.5/55/55/5 Jul 2017 3,299 i i Nikon D850
Canon 6D Mark II« »Rec80/1004.5/54/54/5 Jun 2017 1,999 i i Canon 6D Mark II
Canon 5D Mark IV« »HiRec87/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Aug 2016 3,499 i i Canon 5D Mark IV
Canon 5DS« »Rec83/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Feb 2015 3,699 i i Canon 5DS
Fujifilm X-H1« »Rec86/1004.5/5-4.5/5 Feb 2018 1,899 i i Fujifilm X-H1
Nikon D810« »-86/1005/54.5/54.5/5 Jun 2014 3,299- i Nikon D810
Nikon D800« »HiRec82/1005/55/55/5 Feb 2012 2,999- i Nikon D800
Nikon D800E« »-84/1005/54.5/55/5 Feb 2012 3,299- i Nikon D800E
Olympus E-M1 II« »HiRec85/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2016 1,999 i i Olympus E-M1 II
Panasonic G9« »HiRec85/1005/55/55/5 Nov 2017 1,699 i i Panasonic G9
Panasonic GH5« »HiRec85/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2017 1,999 i i Panasonic GH5
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 II« »Rec82/1004.5/55/55/5 Nov 2014 1,999- i Sony A7 II

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. 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, 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 would like to check on the differences and similarities of other camera models, 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 you cannot find the camera you are interested in, please send me an email, and I will try to locate and add the respective data to the application.

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