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Reader Question: Nikon or Sony?

Get Nikon D810 DSLR and Sony A7R II Mirrorless B&H Photo. The Nikon D810 has $300 instant savings.

See also deals, discounts and rebates by brand.

See my review of the Nikon D810 and review of the Sony A7R II and so on.

Bobby writes:

I'm a Nikon shooter, but recently had my entire system stolen, including Nikon D800E and seven lenses. Now I have to purchase a whole new system, so I'm debating whether to go Nikon D10 or Sony A7R II.

I'm a retired 70 year old male who likes photography as a hobby, shooting mostly landscapes and botanical with some portrait work.

I loved the Nikon, but don't mind changing platforms if that is the better way to go. I was also thinking the electronic viewfinder on Sony would help my ability to get good focus. Please help me decide which is best way for me to go.

DIGLLOYD: this is a complex question that hinges on many factors. For those investing either system with 3-5 lenses, it can mean costs of at least $7K and as much as $15K, so it may be worthwhile to engage me via consulting to go over all the considerations, rather than making the wrong decision for oneself.

A lot depends on a lot!

There is a way to defer the final choice for those with a thick wallet: get both Nikon D810 and the Sony A7R II, since any Nikon F-mount lens with an aperture ring (e.g., Zeiss) can be used on Sony with a simple mechanical adapter. Then buy lenses on the basis of long term value (Zeiss Otus) or expediency of use (Zeiss Batis or Zeiss Loxia or other). Later, if one finds either camera not as appealing, sell it, considering it as a long-term rental (the D810 is likely to hold more value).

Thank you for buying through B&H Photo with my links: Nikon D810 DSLR and Sony A7R II Mirrorless. B&H is generous with loaner gear so I can cover so much. That deserves your support, and how B&H sees that value is when buying through links on this site or MPG.

Working style is a huge consideration: hiking with a tripod or travel handheld and/or any other number of variants. Anyone who wants smaller and lighter should go with the Sony A7R II with the Zeiss Loxia and Zeiss Batis lenses, which cover a good range now, and it will get better, soon. It’s that simple: size/weight/EVF/deadly accurate autofocus (Loxia is MF, but the EVF works great once the Sony A7R II is well programmed).

I have plenty of things I don’t like about the Sony A7R II (including its non-camera feel), but that size/weight/EVF/focus thing is compelling for most shooters more than ever. That said, if one is going to shoot Zeiss Otus or similar large or specialty lenses, I’d say that natively mounting the lenses is preferable in many cases (though not all). And maybe there will be a high-res Nikon D900 with EVF option someday, which would alter the equation strongly towards Nikon for me (for my work at least).

I’ve written at length in many posts here in this blog about many issues to consider, for example Reader Comment: Travel Cameras, Small Kit. As well as my discussion in Sony A7R II vs Nikon D810 DSLR System Considerations: Battery Life, Weight, Service and Support.

So many issues to consider: lens selection (range, native vs adapted), size/weight/portability, autofocus accuracy, EVF, battery life, choice of manual vs autofocus lenses, service and support, 4K video, file quality under extreme conditions, and many more. Distill needs down to the 90% case, and decide based on that.

But there is one Beautiful Thing: the combination system consisting of the best of both Nikon and Sony (this applies to serious usage, including landscape and speciality). This can mean lenses *and* camera body. When I leave on my trip to the mountains soon, I will be carrying *both* a Sony A7R II and a Nikon D810. The Sony EVF is a huge plus, but mounting Zeiss Otus with adapters is quite a nuisance, especially when hiking, so I prefer the D810 for that (and is unrivalled dynamic range). On the other hand, Zeiss Loxia and Zeiss Batis lenses are ideal for hiking (though since my goal is lens reviews, my choices are often job-based).

Finally, if the question is choosing an all-new system, I don’t see that Canon brings anything to the table as compelling as Nikon: while I like the 50 megapixels of the Canon 5DS R, the dynamic range of the D810 is unrivalled. Moreover, if I’m going to adapt lenses such as Zeiss Otus, I want lenses I can use on Nikon or Canon or Sony—and that means ZF.2 mount (Nikon F-mount).

James M writes:

Regarding Nikon vs. Sony: For whatever it is worth, I sold my top of the line Nikon equipment (D4, D800e, D810 plus all top of the line Nikkor lenses) and purchased a Sony Alpha 7II plus a Sony Alpha 7RII body and 8 “native” Zeiss and Sony/Zeiss lenses. When I was finished I had cash left over - which I will spend on more Zeiss lenses. That is what I use for landscape and every day photography.

I agree with everything you say, but to me there is something about the color of the Sony/Zeiss images that appeals to me more than Nikon. That remains so whether I use ACR/Photoshop, Capture 1, or DxO OpticsPro 10 for processing. Specifically, I mean that I prefer the color resulting from a Zeiss lens on a Sony Alpha body to a Nikon Lens on a Nikon body.

Sony/Zeiss is not competitive with Nikon/Canon for sports or wildlife photography. I do not do sports photography and for wildlife I use an Olympus OM-D E-M1 and Olympus PRO lenses to save weight and to leave the tripod at home. But that’s another story.

DIGLLOYD: color varies so much even by flipping profiles that this is a tough nut to crack. But the latest Sony sensor is surely the best on the market in technology (file format and raw-file cooking are another matter).

I also prefer the Zeiss rendering and color over Nikon glass, but one can't change two variables and make a fair assessment: Zeiss on Sony and Zeiss on Nikon would be better. But the only valid comparison if one wishes to speak to color in this manner is to shoot the *same lens* on each, e.g. a Zeiss lens on Nikon and the same lens on Sony. I am not prepared to agree that the Sony color is better when this is done. Rather, I think the Nikon color is better, and for those really picky about color, Nikon Capture NX2 is probably the right choice.

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