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Sony A7R III versus Nikon D850

The Sony Alpha A7R III and the Nikon D850 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in October 2017 and July 2017. The A7R 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 42.2 megapixel, whereas the Nikon provides 45.4 MP.

Body comparison

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Sony A7R III and the Nikon D850 is provided in the side-by-side display below. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are presented. All width, height and depth 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).

Sony A7R III vs Nikon D850 front
A7R III versus D850 top view
A7R III and D850 rear side
Body view (A7R III on the left)

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 A7R III. Moreover, the D850 is substantially heavier (55 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 (D850). 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.

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 comparisons there.

Camera Body Specifications
Camera Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(y/n)
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Sony A7R III (⇒ rgt) 127 mm 96 mm 74 mm 650 g 650 YES 2017 3,199 latest check
Nikon D850 (⇒ lft) 146 mm 124 mm 79 mm 1005 g 1840 YES 2017 3,299 latest check
Nikon D5 (⇒ lft | rgt) 160 mm 159 mm 92 mm 1415 g 3780 YES 2016 6,499 latest check
Nikon D810 (⇒ lft | rgt) 146 mm 123 mm 82 mm 980 g 1200 YES 2014 3,299discont. check
Nikon Df (⇒ lft | rgt) 144 mm 110 mm 67 mm 760 g 1400 YES 2013 2,749 latest check
Nikon D800 (⇒ lft | rgt) 146 mm 123 mm 82 mm 1000 g .. YES 2012 2,999discont. check
Nikon D800E (⇒ lft | rgt) 146 mm 123 mm 82 mm 1000 g .. YES 2012 3,299discont. check
Pentax K-1 (⇒ lft | rgt) 137 mm 110 mm 86 mm 1010 g 760 YES 2016 1,799 latest check
Sony A9 (⇒ lft | rgt) 127 mm 96 mm 63 mm 673 g 650 YES 2017 4,499 latest check
Sony A99 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 143 mm 104 mm 76 mm 849 g 490 YES 2016 3,199 latest check
Sony A6500 (⇒ lft | rgt) 120 mm 67 mm 53 mm 453 g 350 YES 2016 1,399 latest check
Sony A7R II (⇒ lft | rgt) 127 mm 96 mm 60 mm 625 g 290 YES 2015 3,199discont. check
Sony A7S II (⇒ lft | rgt) 127 mm 96 mm 60 mm 627 g 370 YES 2015 2,999 latest check
Sony A7 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 127 mm 96 mm 60 mm 599 g 350 YES 2014 1,999 latest check
Sony A7R (⇒ lft | rgt) 127 mm 94 mm 48 mm 465 g 340 YES 2013 2,299discont. check
Sony A99 (⇒ lft | rgt) 147 mm 111 mm 78 mm 812 g 500 YES 2012 2,799discont. check

The listed prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The A7R III was somewhat cheaper (by 3 percent) than the D850 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

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants 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 are more costly to manufacture and tent 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 D850 sensor measures
Sensor size
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Sensor size

Despite having a slightly smaller sensor, the D850 offers a higher resolution of 45.4 megapixel, compared with 42.2 MP of the A7R III. This megapixel advantage comes at the cost of a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 4.35μm versus 4.52μm for the A7R III). Moreover, it should be noted that the A7R III is a somewhat more recent model (by 3 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 pixels. 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.

Unlike the D850, 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 D850 MP
Sensor resolution
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Sensor resolution

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for most 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"). The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.

Sensor Characteristics
Camera Sensor
Class
Resolution
(Megapixel)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Sony A7R III (⇒ rgt) Full Frame 42.2 7952 5304 4K/30p .. .. .. ..
Nikon D850 (⇒ lft) Full Frame 45.4 8256 5504 4K/30p 26.4 14.8 2660 100
Nikon D5 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 20.7 5588 3712 4K/30p 25.1 12.3 2343 88
Nikon D810 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 36.2 7360 4912 1080/60p 25.7 14.8 2853 97
Nikon Df (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 16.2 4928 3280 no 24.6 13.1 3279 89
Nikon D800 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 36.2 7360 4912 1080/30p 25.3 14.4 2853 95
Nikon D800E (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 36.2 7360 4912 1080/30p 25.6 14.3 2979 96
Pentax K-1 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 36.2 7360 4912 1080/60i 25.4 14.6 3280 96
Sony A9 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 24.0 6000 4000 4K/30p 24.9 13.3 3517 92
Sony A99 II (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 42.2 7952 5304 4K/30p 25.4 13.4 2317 92
Sony A6500 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 24.0 6000 4000 4K/30p 24.5 13.7 1405 85
Sony A7R II (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 42.2 7952 5304 4K/30p 26.0 13.9 3434 98
Sony A7S II (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 12.0 4240 2832 4K/30p 23.6 13.3 2993 85
Sony A7 II (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 24.9 13.6 2449 90
Sony A7R (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 36.2 7360 4912 1080/60p 25.6 14.1 2746 95
Sony A99 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 25.0 14.0 1555 89

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. 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

Beyond 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 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 A7R III and Nikon D850 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras. If you need more detail on the specs, you can find comprehensive listings, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.

Core Features
Camera Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(Y/n)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(Y/n)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(GN)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Sony A7R III (⇒ rgt) 3686 no 3.0 1440 tilting YES 8000 10.0 no YES
Nikon D850 (⇒ lft) optical YES 3.2 2359 tilting YES 8000 9.0 no no
Nikon D5 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 2359 fixed YES 8000 14.0 no no
Nikon D810 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 1229 fixed no 4000 5.0 12 no
Nikon Df (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 921 fixed no 4000 5.5 no no
Nikon D800 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 921 fixed no 8000 4.0 12 no
Nikon D800E (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 921 fixed no 8000 4.0 12 no
Pentax K-1 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 1037 full-flex no 8000 4.4 no YES
Sony A9 (⇒ lft | rgt) 3686 no 3.0 1440 tilting YES 8000 20.0 no YES
Sony A99 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 2400 YES 3.0 1229 tilting no 8000 12.0 no YES
Sony A6500 (⇒ lft | rgt) 2300 no 3.0 922 tilting YES 4000 11.0 6 YES
Sony A7R II (⇒ lft | rgt) 2400 no 3.0 1229 tilting no 8000 5.0 no YES
Sony A7S II (⇒ lft | rgt) 2400 no 3.0 1229 tilting no 8000 5.0 no YES
Sony A7 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 2400 no 3.0 1230 tilting no 8000 5.0 no YES
Sony A7R (⇒ lft | rgt) 2400 no 3.0 1230 tilting no 8000 4.0 no no
Sony A99 (⇒ lft | rgt) 2359 YES 3.0 1229 full-flex no 8000 6.0 no YES

Both the A7R III and the D850 are current models that good online retailers will have in stock. You can check the latest prices, for example, at amazon. The D850 replaced the earlier Nikon D810, while the A7R III followed on from the Sony A7R II.

Summary

So what conclusions can be drawn? Is there a clear favorite between the Sony A7R III and the Sony A7R III? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.


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Arguments in favor of the Sony Alpha A7R III:

  • High quality composites: Can combine several shots after pixel-shifting its sensor.
  • 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 355g 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: Is somewhat more recent (announced 3 months after the D850).

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Advantages of the Nikon D850:

  • 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.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (2359k vs 1440k dots).
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (1840 versus 650) out of a single battery charge.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in October 2017).

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the A7R III comes out slightly ahead of the D850 (7 : 6 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.

A7R III 07:06 D850

In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it says nothing about, for example, the handling, responsiveness, and overall imaging quality of the A7R III and the D850 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 following table reports the overall rankings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites. You can find the full text of the reviews, respectively, at cameralabs.com, dpreview.com, ephotozine.com, imaging-resource.com, and photographyblog.com.

Review scores
Camera camera
labs
dp
review
ephoto
zine
imaging
resource
photography
blog
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Sony A7R III (⇒ rgt) .. .. .. .. .. 2017 3,199 latest check
Nikon D850 (⇒ lft) .. 89/100 Gold 4.5/5 .. 5/5 2017 3,299 latest check
Nikon D5 (⇒ lft | rgt) - 89/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2016 6,499 latest check
Nikon D810 (⇒ lft | rgt) - 86/100 Gold 5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2014 3,299discont. check
Nikon Df (⇒ lft | rgt) - 81/100 4/5 4/5 4/5 2013 2,749 latest check
Nikon D800 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 82/100 Gold 5/5 5/5 5/5 2012 2,999discont. check
Nikon D800E (⇒ lft | rgt) - 84/100 Gold 5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2012 3,299discont. check
Pentax K-1 (⇒ lft | rgt) - 84/100 Silver 5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2016 1,799 latest check
Sony A9 (⇒ lft | rgt) .. 89/100 Gold 5/5 5/5 5/5 2017 4,499 latest check
Sony A99 II (⇒ lft | rgt) - 85/100 Silver 4.5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2016 3,199 latest check
Sony A6500 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 85/100 Silver 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2016 1,399 latest check
Sony A7R II (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 90/100 Gold 5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2015 3,199discont. check
Sony A7S II (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec - 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2015 2,999 latest check
Sony A7 II (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec 82/100 Silver 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2014 1,999 latest check
Sony A7R (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 82/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2013 2,299discont. check
Sony A99 (⇒ lft | rgt) - 84/100 Gold 4.5/5 reviewed 4.5/5 2012 2,799discont. check

The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings are only valid when refering to cameras in the same category and of the same age. 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 comparisons

If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes 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 locate and add the respective data to the application.

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