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Sony A7R III versus Nikon D800

The Sony Alpha A7R III and the Nikon D800 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in October 2017 and February 2012. The A7R III is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, while the D800 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 36.2 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 D800

The physical size and weight of the Sony A7R III and the Nikon D800 are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are presented. All size 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 A7R III – represents the basis for the calculations across all the size and weight measures).

Snapsort Sony A7R III vs Nikon D800
Compare A7R III versus D800 top
Compare A7R III and D800 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D800 is considerably larger (47 percent) than the Sony A7R III. Moreover, the D800 is substantially heavier (54 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 (D800). 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 D800 can take 900 images on a single charge of its EN-EL15 power pack.

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
  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» 127 mm 96 mm 74 mm 650 g 650 Y Oct 2017 3,199 i i Sony A7R III
Nikon D800« 146 mm 123 mm 82 mm 1000 g 900 Y Feb 2012 2,999- i Nikon D800
Hasselblad X1D« » 150 mm 98 mm 71 mm 725 g .. Y Jun 2016 8,995 i i Hasselblad X1D
Nikon D810« » 146 mm 123 mm 82 mm 980 g 1200 Y Jun 2014 3,299- i Nikon D810
Nikon D610« » 141 mm 113 mm 82 mm 850 g 900 Y Oct 2013 1,999 i i Nikon D610
Nikon Df« » 144 mm 110 mm 67 mm 760 g 1400 Y Nov 2013 2,749 i i Nikon Df
Nikon D800E« » 146 mm 123 mm 82 mm 1000 g 900 Y Feb 2012 3,299- i Nikon D800E
Nikon D700« » 147 mm 123 mm 77 mm 1074 g 1000 Y Jul 2008 2,999- i Nikon D700
Sony A7 III« » 127 mm 96 mm 74 mm 650 g 610 Y Feb 2018 1,999 i i Sony A7 III
Sony A9« » 127 mm 96 mm 63 mm 673 g 650 Y Apr 2017 4,499 i i Sony A9
Sony A99 II« » 143 mm 104 mm 76 mm 849 g 490 Y Sep 2016 3,199 i i Sony A99 II
Sony A6500« » 120 mm 67 mm 53 mm 453 g 350 Y Oct 2016 1,399 i i Sony A6500
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
Sony A7R« » 127 mm 94 mm 48 mm 465 g 340 Y Oct 2013 2,299- i Sony A7R
Sony A99« » 147 mm 111 mm 78 mm 812 g 500 Y Sep 2012 2,799- i Sony A99

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 D800 was somewhat cheaper (by 6 percent) than the A7R III at launch, but both cameras fall into the same price category. 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: Sony A7R III vs Nikon D800

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 and have a format factor (sometimes also referred to as "crop factor") of 1.0. Within the spectrum of camera sensors, this places the review cameras among the large-sensor cameras that aim for top notch image quality. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Sony A7R III and Nikon D800 sensor measures

While the two cameras under review share the same sensor size, the A7R III offers a higher resolution of 42.2 megapixel, compared with 36.2 MP of the D800. This megapixel advantage translates into a 8 percent gain in linear resolution. On the other hand, these sensor specs imply that the A7R III has a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 4.52μm versus 4.88μm for the D800). In this context, it should be noted, however, that the A7R III is much more recent (by 5 years and 8 months) than the D800, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that compensate for the smaller pixel size. 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.

Unlike the D800, 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 D800 MP

For many 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 A7R III has a notably higher overall DXO score than the D800 (overall score 5 points higher), which gives it an advantage in terms of imaging quality. This advantage is based on 0.7 bits higher color depth, 0.3 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.3 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 D800« Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/30p25.314.4285395Nikon D800
Hasselblad X1D« » Medium Format 51.3 8272 62001080/25p26.214.84489102Hasselblad X1D
Nikon D810« » Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/60p25.714.8285397Nikon D810
Nikon D610« » Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/30p25.114.4292594Nikon D610
Nikon Df« » Full Frame 16.2 4928 3280-24.613.1327989Nikon Df
Nikon D800E« » Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/30p25.614.3297996Nikon D800E
Nikon D700« » Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832-23.512.2230380Nikon D700
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 A6500« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40004K/30p24.513.7140585Sony A6500
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 also of capturing video footage. The two cameras under consideration both have sensors whose read-out speed is fast enough to capture moving pictures, but the A7R III provides a higher video resolution than the D800. It can shoot video footage at 4K/30p, while the Nikon is limited to 1080/30p.

 

Feature comparison: Sony A7R III vs Nikon D800

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. For example, the A7R III has an electronic viewfinder (3686k dots), while the D800 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 D800 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.

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 D800«optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 8000 4.0 Y n Nikon D800
Hasselblad X1D« »2360 n 3.0 920 fixed Y 2000 2.3 n n Hasselblad X1D
Nikon D810« »optical Y 3.2 1229 fixed n 4000 5.0 Y n Nikon D810
Nikon D610« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 4000 6.0 Y n Nikon D610
Nikon Df« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 4000 5.5 n n Nikon Df
Nikon D800E« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 8000 4.0 Y n Nikon D800E
Nikon D700« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 8000 8.0 Y n Nikon D700
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 A6500« »2300 n 3.0 922 tilting Y 4000 11.0 Y Y Sony A6500
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

The A7R III is a current model that online retailers, such as amazon, will have in stock. In contrast, the D800 has been discontinued (but it can be found pre-owned on eBay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the D800 was succeeded by the Nikon D810.

Review summary: Sony A7R III vs Nikon D800

So what is the bottom line? Is the Sony A7R III better than the Nikon D800 or vice versa? 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 36.2MP) with a 8% 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 markedly higher (5 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
  • Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (4K/30p vs 1080/30p).
  • More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1440k vs 921k dots).
  • More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
  • Fewer buttons to press: Is equipped with a touch-sensitive rear screen to facilitate handling.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (10 vs 4 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More compact: Is smaller (127x96mm vs 146x123mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 350g or 35 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
  • More legacy lens friendly: Can take a broad range of non-native lenses via adapters.
  • Sharper images: Has hand-shake reducing image stabilization build-in.
  • More modern: Reflects 5 years and 8 months of technical progress since the D800 launch.

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Advantages of the Nikon D800:

  • 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: Has 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.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (900 versus 650) out of a single battery charge.
  • Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in February 2012).

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the A7R III is the clear winner of the match-up (15 : 7 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 15:07 D800

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 D800 handle or perform in practice. 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 table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular 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 D800«HiRec82/1005/55/55/5 Feb 2012 2,999- i Nikon D800
Hasselblad X1D« »rev---4/5 Jun 2016 8,995 i i Hasselblad X1D
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
Nikon Df« »-81/1004/54/54/5 Nov 2013 2,749 i i Nikon Df
Nikon D800E« »-84/1005/54.5/55/5 Feb 2012 3,299- i Nikon D800E
Nikon D700« »89/100HiRec4.5/55/54.5/5 Jul 2008 2,999- i Nikon D700
Sony A7 III« »HiRec89/1005/5-5/5 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 A6500« »HiRec85/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Oct 2016 1,399 i i Sony A6500
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

The review scores listed above should be treated 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. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time 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? If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. An an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool. If you do not see the camera that you are looking for, please send me an email, and I will try to locate and add the respective data to the application.

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