When it comes to professional-spec cameras, photographers now have a huge choice to select from. But this choice isn’t simply down to brand badges, as professionals now have the option to select a DSLR system or a mirrorless camera to capture their professional imagery.
The Nikon D850 is arguably the current king of DSLRs and turned many heads when it was launched in August 2017. Also grabbing the headlines is Sony’s A7III – announced in February 2018, the compact mirrorless is packed with features. So, how do these different camera formats stack up against each other and which one is right for your photography? Let’s take a deeper look at the specification sheets to find out….
Design and build:
As you’d expect from cameras with different build formats, there are some stark difference between the A7III and the D850. Let’s start with the D850, which is built around a full-frame 45.7-megapixel CMOS sensor. Weighing in at 1015g (the Sony weighs just 650g), the camera feels like your typically DSLR, but that doesn’t mean it can’t offer cutting edge features. There’s a large 3.2-inch LCD that tilts to help set up awkward high/low compositions and the screen is touch-sensitive so you can simply tap on the screen to select a focus point. The D850 is weather sealed so professionals won’t have any worries about stepping out to shoot in harsh environments.
By contrast, the Sony A7III is a mirrorless camera and features a 24.2-megapixel full-frame sensor. The mirrorless design means the Sony is smaller as well as lighter than the Nikon but the A7III is still weather sealed, meaning it can operate in harsh environments, just like the Nikon. The A7III’s screen is a little smaller than the Nikon’s (3-inch compared to 3.2-inch), but still tilts to aid composition. Both these cameras feature dual card slots – with Nikon users choosing between one SD and one XQD, while the Sony can take two SD cards (or a Memory Stick Pro). Thanks to the difference in the design of the cameras, there’s is also different viewfinders. While the D850 uses an optical viewfinder, the A7III has a 1.3 cm (0.5 type) Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) with 2359k resolution and also a brightness control that can be adjusted to five levels. The mirrorless design also accounts for a faster burst rate for the A7III – it can capture 10 frames per second compared to the D850’s 7 frames per second or 9FPS when used with the battery grip. That said, the Nikon is capturing a huge amount more data per exposure, so a maximum of 9 FPS from the D850 is hugely impressive.
The Sony also has the edge on focus points, offering users 693 compared to the 153 points found on the D850, but the Nikon bounces back when it comes to battery life, offering 1840 shots between charges compared to the 610 from the A7III. This extra capacity will be attractive to professional photographers who are in the field, away from recharging points for extended periods of time. Finally on the design of each camera, the D850 uses the standard F mount, while the A7III uses the Sony E-mount. In truth, there’s plenty of lens choice for both mounts, so photographers won’t be short on lenses to choose from.
The D850 offers the highest amount of resolution ever from a Nikon DSLR camera, with the full-frame CMOS sensor offering photographers 45.7-megapixels to play with. This groundbreaking figure helps opens new creative doors, giving professionals resolution that are close to those found on Medium Format cameras and the ability to start shooting images destined for big prints and even billboards. The resolution sees a big leap forward from the camera the D850 replaces, the 36-megapixel D810, and allows for heavy cropping without compromising image quality.
While the A7III offers nearly half the resolution, it’s still capable of producing files suitable for big prints and the lower resolution is reflected in the smaller price tag. Both cameras offer incredibly high ISO ceilings, with the Nikon starting at ISO 64 and topping out at 102400, while the Sony starts at ISO 100 before topping out at 204800. As you’d expect from professional-level cameras, both models shoot in RAW and JPEG file formats.
As well as giving photographers the features and power needed to capture high-quality stills, both these cameras have some eye-watering specifications when it comes to video, too. Each model is capable of capturing ultra high-quality 4K footage at 30p and Full HD at 60p, with both cameras also offering a slow motion option at Full HD, too. Along with the video, both cameras have plenty of audio options too, sporting ports for external headphones and a microphone so enhanced audio can be both captured and monitored. The A7III includes Sony’s S-Log profiles, while the D850 can record 8k timelapse footage and both models are capable of producing professional-level video in the right hands.
Other features and verdict:
Both the D850 and the A7III are stacked with additional features that will appeal to enthusiasts and professionals alike. The D850 has 15 AF points at F/8, meaning there’s plenty of focus points to take advantage of when using a lens that’s been fitted with a teleconverter and the Nikon also has illuminated buttons to help adjusted setting in low light.
The A7III of course boasts in-body 5-axis image stabilisation, which affords photographers up to 5-stops of compensation. Because this technology is built into the body, it means that every lens you use with the A7III benefits from the image stabilisation. IS is absent from the D850, so Nikon users have to rely on lenses with built-in IS.
It’s no exaggeration to say that, for Nikon users, the D850 is the best photographers can get. Huge resolution is paired with lightning speed, a sophisticated autofocus system and professional-level video specifications. While the A7III can’t match the resolution power of the Nikon, it offers pretty much everything else, plus that 5-axis IS, in a smaller, lighter body. Whether the compact nature of the Sony is an advantage is debatable – some landscape photographers prefer a larger body, while others try and shed as much weight as possible from their kit. Obviously, the Sony is much more affordable, so for those looking to restrict their budget, the A7III is a sensible choice. Those already invested in the Nikon system or who absolutely need the resolution will find lots to love with the D850.
|Nikon D850||Sony A7III|
|Price||$ 2,419.00||$ 1,829.00|
|Burst mode||10FPS||Up to 9FPS|
|LCD||3.2-inch tilting||3-inch tilting|