I often get asked for my opinion on comparing a Nikon D800/D810 to a Sony A7RII/A7II. Just recently a long time shooter of Nikon wanting to switch to a smaller body who is on the fence asked for my thoughts on the matter. So, as a long time photographer who has used various cameras over the years, I thought I would chime in and give you my feedback based on years of real usage and experience rather than just comparing specs.
I have been a long time user of Nikon dating back to the late 70’s. That being the case, I have grown very fond of the brand and have a place in my heart for certain bodies. However, over the past few years I have been shooting Sony almost exclusively and more recently with the A7RII and A7II.
The following are a list of thing to consider when thinking about switching from Nikon to Sony.
There is no question that Nikon has bigger and heavier body’s than the Sony A7x cameras. From the Pro D4S and downward to their entry level models, the majority of the Nikon DSLR’s are much larger and heavier. While the Sony offers a much smaller package there are some things to keep in mind. Depending on what type of photography you do, the A7 can be a God send or a pain in the neck. There are times when you just want that extra bulk in your hands that the A7x does not provide.
I personally find almost all the ergo factors of the Nikon D750 to be superior and more pleasant to use than those of the Sony A7x cameras. With the D750, your grip is firm, solid and reassuring. With the A7RII you’re constantly moving your hand around looking for that sweet spot where you feel you have a good grip. And once you do, you never really have that comforting reassuring grip you get with the D750. On the other hand, the D810 with it’s slightly more bulbous body, larger than the D750 and A7x, Is not quite as pleasant to hold as the others.
If you’re doing studio work, travel or street photography, the Sony could be your primary choice. It is small, discrete and quick to focus with phenomenal glass. Need to shoot sport or other events with big fast long lenses, than the larger DSLR will be more pleasant to work with regardless of adapting lenses to the A7x. However, when I have the need for pure joy, shooting film and an overall better shooting experience, I turn to the Nikon F6. Nothing comes close to it. It is possibly the best SLR body ever built. Actually, I am quite sure it is the best.
Buttons and Menus
I often hear of the dismal menu system and button layout from Sony compared to Nikon or Canon. Quite honestly, this is a non issue for me. I find little need to change settings once the camera is configured and if I do, I have memory settings available to me at the turn of a dial. Customizable function buttons also make life easier when shooting the Sony. The fact that just about any function can be reassigned to a button is very impressive.
Native lenses for Nikon and Canon outnumber FE lenses by a large margin. However, the FE lens selection continues to grow and the available options address most photographic needs quite well with exceptional image quality thanks to offerings by Zeiss and the G series from Sony. While the native FE lens line up is still maturing, the ability to use just about any other lens with an adapter simply makes the A7x the camera of choice for using your lens of choice.
Reliability and build
There is no question that Nikon would be the clear choice if you are looking for build quality, reliability and ruggedness. Although the 2nd Generation A7x body’s are built substantially better than the first generation, they still lack the robust weather sealing, solid build and reliability of Nikon. I have owned Nikons for decades and in those years I have only had to have two body’s serviced. I left a battery in a Nikon F2 which caused corrosion and I dropped a Nikon F6 on it’s head. Both occasion where self inflicted damage. On the other hand, I have sent in two A7II for service in the past 12 month for camera failures. It scares me to the point that I am aware of every action and movement I make while carrying a Sony so I don’t accidentally do something which may damage it.
This is a no brainer. Shooting with a D810, D750, A7II or A7RII will yield excellent images which only a pixel peeper can take apart. I do like the files out of the A7RII a little more than what my Nikons have yielded in the past. But, that is subjective. Most viewers of your work will be more than satisfied by images from any of these high end cameras. However, there is no denying that when shooting higher ISO in low light situations, the A7S or A7SII is the goto camera. And, when you need high resolution, the A7RII is the goto camera with it’s 42MP sensor.
VR or IBIS
Sony is the clear winner here. Every lens you put on your A7II, A7RII or A7SII will work with image stabilization regardless of the age of the lens. To achieve this with Nikon or Canon, yo need to buy lenses that have vibration reduction built into them at a premium.
Sony has the clear advantage when compared to most other DSLR’s thanks to it’s wonderful electronic viewfinder. I can tell you first hand that when using an EVF it becomes almost impossible to go back to an optical viewfinder. So much so, that I am willing to accept the short comings of the camera compared to a DSLR just to have the EVF. Don’t listen to the naysayer who will trash the EVF and defend the OVF. He or she knows nothing. Thats right Jon Snow! You know nothing! Try one for a week. Shoot in near total darkness then go back to an OVF, do the same and tell me what you think.
I chose the A7x over a DSLR for various reasons. Although sometimes I prefer the body and feel of a DSLR, the A7 still works for me quite well with some benefits which are mentioned above .
I love the choices of auto focus Zeiss lenses that I can use with the A7x including A mount lenses with an adapter. You can get Zeiss lenses for Nikon or Canon but the drawback is that they are manual focus. I have grown quite fond of auto focus technology and find it difficult to focus manually these days unless I am photographing the sky.
Lastly, the deciding factor for me was the EVF. Until Nikon comes out with a FF mirror less camera with a premium EVF, they are nothing but an afterthought camera. Go try a camera with an EVF and you will fall in love immediately.