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Sony A7R III versus Nikon D5

The Sony Alpha A7R III and the Nikon D5 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in October 2017 and January 2016. The A7R III is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, while the D5 is a DSLR. Both cameras are equipped with a full frame sensor. The Sony has a resolution of 42.2 megapixel, whereas the Nikon provides 20.7 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 A7R III vs Nikon D5

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Sony A7R III and the Nikon D5 is provided in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are available. All width, height and depth 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 A7R III – represents the basis for the calculations across all the size and weight measures).

Compare Sony A7R III vs Nikon D5
Compare A7R III versus D5 top
Compare A7R III and D5 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D5 is considerably larger (109 percent) than the Sony A7R III. Moreover, the D5 is substantially heavier (118 percent) than the A7R 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 (A7R III) and the Nikon Lens Catalog (D5). Mirrorless cameras, such as the Sony A7R 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 A7R III gets 650 shots out of its NP-FZ100 battery, while the D5 can take 3780 images on a single charge of its EN-EL18a power pack. As can be seen in the images above, the D5 has a battery grip build in. This facilitates image-taking in portrait orientation and gives it additional battery power. In order to provide similar functionality for the A7R III, Sony provides the VG-C3EM vertical grip as an optional accessory (see here on eBay).

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.

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 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
Nikon D5« 6.3 in 6.3 in 3.6 in 49.9 oz 3780 Y Jan 2016 6,499 i i Nikon D5
Canon 1D X Mark II« » 6.2 in 6.6 in 3.3 in 54.0 oz 1210 Y Feb 2016 5,999 i i Canon 1D X Mark II
Nikon Z7« » 5.3 in 4.0 in 2.6 in 23.8 oz 330 Y Aug 2018 3,399 i i Nikon Z7
Nikon D850« » 5.7 in 4.9 in 3.1 in 35.5 oz 1840 Y Jul 2017 3,299 i i Nikon D850
Nikon D4S« » 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.6 in 47.6 oz 3020 Y Feb 2014 6,499- i Nikon D4S
Nikon D750« » 5.6 in 4.4 in 3.1 in 26.5 oz 1230 Y Sep 2014 2,299 i i Nikon D750
Nikon D610« » 5.6 in 4.4 in 3.2 in 30.0 oz 900 Y Oct 2013 1,999 i i Nikon D610
Pentax K-1« » 5.4 in 4.3 in 3.4 in 35.6 oz 760 Y Feb 2016 1,799- i Pentax K-1
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 A9« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.5 in 23.7 oz 650 Y Apr 2017 4,499 i i Sony A9
Sony A99 II« » 5.6 in 4.1 in 3.0 in 29.9 oz 490 Y Sep 2016 3,199 i i Sony A99 II
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 II« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.4 in 21.1 oz 350 Y Nov 2014 1,999- i Sony A7 II
Sony A7R« » 5.0 in 3.7 in 1.9 in 16.4 oz 340 Y Oct 2013 2,299- i Sony A7R
Sony A99« » 5.8 in 4.4 in 3.1 in 28.6 oz 500 Y Sep 2012 2,799- i Sony A99

The camera’s price is obviously a critical decision-making factor. The retail prices at the time of the camera’s release place the model in the market relative to other models in the producer’s line-up and the competition. The A7R III was launched at a markedly lower price (by 51 percent) than the D5, 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. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.

 

Sensor comparison: Sony A7R III vs Nikon D5

The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors 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. Moreover, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more control over depth-of-field in the image and, thus, the ability to better 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 A7R III and Nikon D5 sensor measures

With 42.2MP, the A7R III offers a higher resolution than the D5 (20.7MP), but the A7R III has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 4.52μm versus 6.44μm for the D5). However, the A7R III is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year and 9 months) than the D5, 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 A7R III has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.

The A7R III has on-sensor phase detect pixels, which results in relatively fast and reliable autofocus acquisition during video recording.

Unlike the D5, the A7R III has the capacity to capture high quality composite images by combining multiple shots after shifting its sensor by miniscule distances. This multi-shot, pixel-shift mode is most suitable for photography of stationary objects (landscapes, studio scenes).

A7R III versus D5 MP

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. 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 A7R III provides substantially higher image quality than the D5, with an overall score that is 12 points higher. This advantage is based on 0.9 bits higher color depth, 2.4 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.6 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.

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 A7R III» Full Frame 42.2 7952 53044K/30p26.014.73523100Sony A7R III
Nikon D5« Full Frame 20.7 5588 37124K/30p25.112.3234388Nikon D5
Canon 1D X Mark II« » Full Frame 20.0 5472 36484K/60p24.113.5320788Canon 1D X Mark II
Nikon Z7« » Full Frame 45.4 8256 55044K/30p----Nikon Z7
Nikon D850« » Full Frame 45.4 8256 55044K/30p26.414.82660100Nikon D850
Nikon D4S« » Full Frame 16.2 4928 32801080/60p24.413.3307489Nikon D4S
Nikon D750« » Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/60p24.814.5295693Nikon D750
Nikon D610« » Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/30p25.114.4292594Nikon D610
Pentax K-1« » Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/60i25.414.6328096Pentax K-1
Sony A7 III« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40004K/30p25.014.7373096Sony A7 III
Sony A9« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40004K/30p24.913.3351792Sony A9
Sony A99 II« » Full Frame 42.2 7952 53044K/30p25.413.4231792Sony A99 II
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
Sony A7R« » Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/60p25.614.1274695Sony A7R
Sony A99« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p25.014.0155589Sony A99

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. Both cameras under consideration have a sensor with sufficiently fast read-out times for moving pictures, and both provide the same movie specifications (4K/30p).

 

Feature comparison: Sony A7R III vs Nikon D5

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the A7R III has an electronic viewfinder (3686k dots), while the D5 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 Sony A7R III and Nikon D5 along with similar information for a selection of comparators. 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 A7R III»3686 n 3.0 1440 tilting Y 8000 10.0 n Y Sony A7R III
Nikon D5«optical Y 3.2 2359 fixed Y 8000 14.0 n n Nikon D5
Canon 1D X Mark II« »optical Y 3.2 1620 fixed Y 8000 16.0 n n Canon 1D X Mark II
Nikon Z7« »3690 Y 3.2 2100 tilting Y 8000 9.0 n Y Nikon Z7
Nikon D850« »optical Y 3.2 2359 tilting Y 8000 9.0 n n Nikon D850
Nikon D4S« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 8000 11.0 n n Nikon D4S
Nikon D750« »optical Y 3.2 1229 tilting n 4000 6.0 Y n Nikon D750
Nikon D610« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 4000 6.0 Y n Nikon D610
Pentax K-1« »optical Y 3.2 1037 full-flex n 8000 4.4 n Y Pentax K-1
Sony A7 III« »2359 n 3.0 922 tilting Y 8000 10.0 n Y Sony A7 III
Sony A9« »3686 n 3.0 1440 tilting Y 8000 20.0 n Y Sony A9
Sony A99 II« »2400 Y 3.0 1229 full-flex n 8000 12.0 n Y Sony A99 II
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
Sony A7R« »2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 8000 4.0 n n Sony A7R
Sony A99« »2359 Y 3.0 1229 full-flex n 8000 6.0 n Y Sony A99

One feature that differentiates the A7R III and the D5 is in-body image stabilization (IBIS). The A7R III reduces the risk of handshake-induced blur with all attached lenses, while the D5 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 A7R 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 A7R III writes its imaging data to SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards, while the D5 uses Compact Flash or XQD cards. Both cameras feature dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails.

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 A7R III»YstereomonoYYmicro3.1YYYSony A7R III
Nikon D5«YstereomonoYYmini3.0---Nikon D5
Canon 1D X Mark II« »YmonomonoYYmini3.0---Canon 1D X Mark II
Nikon Z7« »YstereomonoYYmicro3.1Y-YNikon Z7
Nikon D850« »YstereomonoYYmini3.0YYYNikon D850
Nikon D4S« »YmonomonoYYmini2.0---Nikon D4S
Nikon D750« »YstereomonoYYmini2.0Y--Nikon D750
Nikon D610« »YmonomonoYYmini2.0---Nikon D610
Pentax K-1« »YstereomonoYYmicro2.0Y--Pentax K-1
Sony A7 III« »YstereomonoYYmicro3.1YYYSony A7 III
Sony A9« »YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YYYSony A9
Sony A99 II« »YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YYYSony A99 II
Sony A7R II« »YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YY-Sony A7R II
Sony A7S II« »YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YY-Sony A7S II
Sony A7 II« »YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YY-Sony A7 II
Sony A7R« »YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YY-Sony A7R
Sony A99« »YstereomonoYYmini2.0---Sony A99

Both the A7R III and the D5 are recent models that feature in their makers' current product line-up. The D5 replaced the earlier Nikon D4S, while the A7R III followed on from the Sony A7R II.

Review summary: Sony A7R III vs Nikon D5

So how do things add up? Is there a clear favorite between the Sony A7R III and the Nikon D5? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.

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Arguments in favor of the Sony Alpha A7R III:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (42.2 vs 20.7MP) with a 42% higher linear resolution.
  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • High quality composites: Can combine several shots after pixel-shifting its sensor.
  • Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (12 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
  • More dynamic range: Captures a larger spectrum of light and dark details (2.4 EV of extra DR).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (0.6 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.
  • More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
  • Less disturbing: Has an electronic shutter option for completely silent shooting.
  • More compact: Is smaller (127x96mm vs 160x159mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 765g or 54 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).
  • Easier file upload: Has wifi build in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
  • Easier device pairing: Supports NFC for fast wireless image transfer over short distances.
  • Easier wireless transfer: Supports Bluetooth for image sharing without cables.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (51 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Is somewhat more recent (announced 1 year and 9 months after the D5).

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Advantages of the Nikon D5:

  • 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 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 1440k dots).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (14 vs 10 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More portrait friendly: Features an integrated vertical grip for easier portrait shooting.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (3780 versus 650) out of a single battery charge.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in January 2016).

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the A7R III is the clear winner of the match-up (20 : 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.

A7R III 20:09 D5

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras is instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the A7R III or the D5 handle or perform in practice. 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 why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The following table reports the overall rankings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). The full reviews are available 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 A7R III»HiRec90/1004.5/55/55/5 Oct 2017 3,199 i i Sony A7R III
Nikon D5«-89/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2016 6,499 i i Nikon D5
Canon 1D X Mark II« »-89/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Feb 2016 5,999 i i Canon 1D X Mark II
Nikon Z7« »-89/1004.5/5-5/5 Aug 2018 3,399 i i Nikon Z7
Nikon D850« »HiRec89/1004.5/55/55/5 Jul 2017 3,299 i i Nikon D850
Nikon D4S« »--4.5/55/54.5/5 Feb 2014 6,499- i Nikon D4S
Nikon D750« »HiRec90/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2014 2,299 i i Nikon D750
Nikon D610« »HiRec87/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Oct 2013 1,999 i i Nikon D610
Pentax K-1« »-84/1005/54.5/55/5 Feb 2016 1,799- i Pentax K-1
Sony A7 III« »HiRec89/1005/55/55/5 Feb 2018 1,999 i i Sony A7 III
Sony A9« »HiRec89/1005/55/55/5 Apr 2017 4,499 i i Sony A9
Sony A99 II« »-85/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2016 3,199 i i Sony A99 II
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
Sony A7R« »HiRec82/1004.5/55/55/5 Oct 2013 2,299- i Sony A7R
Sony A99« »-84/1004.5/5rev4.5/5 Sep 2012 2,799- i Sony A99

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, 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 comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. 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 use the search menu below. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored. If you do not see the camera that you are looking for, please send me an email, and I will try to update the database with the necessary infos.

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