A7III vs Z6II. I have both in hand and trying to decide which to keep. AMA if desired

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gumert Junior Member • Posts: 27
A7III vs Z6II. I have both in hand and trying to decide which to keep. AMA if desired
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As the post says, I have both an A7III and a Z6II in my possession. I intend to sell one or the other in the near future and am having a somewhat hard choice regarding which to keep and am looking for advice.

Also, if anyone has any comparison questions about the two bodies feel free to ask. They're both within arms reach.

I've owned a number of point and shoots over the years, but my first "real" camera was a D40 that I purchased in 2009. I upgraded to a D5300 in 2016 and got some good use out it before having kids and putting it away for a while due not really wanting to carry a camera around. I picked up a J5 about 6 months ago and have used it basically every weekend since, but I wasn't thrilled with its AF or low light performance. Enter: the decision to try out FF.

I admit that I am a bit of a Nikon fan, so I felt like I had to try a Z6II. After reading reviews, it was clear that not at least trying a Sony also was a bad idea. Now that I've had both in my hands, I'm struggling a bit with the decision.

Here's a quick rundown of the things that make me prefer one over the other. Reviews will go into things that aren't on this list, but they're not big deals to me.

Z6II

  • The stock grip is big enough for my small to average fingers to all fit on it. That's not the case for the A7III
  • The EVF protrudes more. It also turns on with your face further away from it. Both of these are positives for me - I wear glasses and don't enjoy mashing my face/glasses into the back of the A7III. It's not *horrible*, but it's not ideal
  • The Z6II just feels better/more responsive in hand. It always turns on quickly, unlike the A7III, which can sometimes take a while to "wake up". I prefer the feel of its shutter button and the sound the shutter makes is a lot quieter/more pleasing to me. I've also found the Z6II to shoot more rapidly in AF-C when manually triggering the shutter instead of using burst shooting. For better or worse, this is how I take my shots. In AF-S mode they both feel equally snappy
  • Out of the box, the viewfinder and display have the same colors. That's not the case for the A7III (the viewfinder is a bit cooler, but can be easily adjusted). The Z6II viewfinder is also a lot crisper, but I've found the A7III perfectly serviceable
  • CFExpress in one slot + UHS-II in the other slot = woo, although since I don't shoot video or long bursts I don't know that I really need this speed

A7III

  • Sony's AF wide area (whole sensor) AF mode detects faces and eyes before Nikon's auto area (whole sensor) AF mode. I have the 24-70/4S on the Z6II and at f/4 this doesn't matter much, assuming the Nikon is still focused on the desired human, but it might matter more on faster lenses. Nikon can close this gap if you use Nikon's wide area instead, which gives you a box to tell the camera to basically "only worry about stuff in this area", but then you need to worry about moving the area box around
  • Sony's AF is also way more intuitive for selecting which face you want to focus on - just aim the camera at that face and engage AF. Choosing which face you want to focus on with the Z6II isn't easy if there are multiple faces in the frame, even more so if they don't all stay looking at the camera
  • Sony's AF is also very communicative. It will show you the specific AF point(s) that are in focus, whereas Nikon will show you big focus area boxes that span multiple AF points, not all of which are actually in focus (not sure what Fuji does here). Nikon's keeper rate is generally not bad, but I rarely miss a shot on the Sony
  • Sony's lens ecosystem is great. There's a ton of affordable glass out there, especially if you're willing to go used. I like that it's fully open, which enables things like updating firmware on my Sigma 35mm f/1.8 DG HSM by putting it on the A7III and then the A7III to my computer. You do need to do a little more dilligance though - at this point it seems like all the Z glass is pretty solid, but there are also some "meh" options out there for FE, some of which are even Sony's (or Zeiss's back when they were a lens partner)
  • Despite owning 4 Nikon body's, I find Sony's "annoying" menu system a lot more intuitive. Why Nikon chooses to do things like put AF settings in the custom settings menu, as opposed to the photo/video shooting menu, has never really made sense to me
  • Sony's custom buttons are great. Yea, you can remap "normal" buttons to do other things, but having buttons labeled C1, C2, C3, and C4 opens up lots of possibilities
  • Some settings are just more intuitive. For example, in Sony land if you want to do exposure bracketing it's in the drive mode area (eg single shot, continuous, bracket-s). The next setting is bracket-c, which will take the bracket photos right after the other if you hold the shutter button. The Z6II requires you to put the camera into bracket mode. Want to do continuous bracketing? Well, you can do that by changing the drive mode to continuous as well, but if you hold the shutter it will stop once you get through the number of exposures for the bracket, or you can bind one of the function buttons to bracketing burst, which you then have to hold while also holding the shutter to get through the bracket
  • Speaking of changing button controls, any customizable button on the A7III can do anything you want. On the Z6II some buttons can be set to anything you want, but others are can only be set to specific things (for example, the AF-ON button can only do AF related things but the center button in the middle of the up/down/left/right arrow control can be configured to do that bracketing burst thing, and the F1/F2 button can do even more things)

Here's a photo showing the out of box color differences between the A7III rear display and viewfinder, shot with fixed white balance on the Z6II. Note that this was fairly easy to correct, but was disappointing out of box.

SOOTC JPEG from the Z6II, fixed WB

Here's a photo of my cat/dog playing fetch in one of my AF-C tests.

Z6II: 49mm focal length, 1/50 sec, ISO 2800, f/4. A7III: 50mm focal length, 1/50 sec, ISO 2500, f/4.

Note that the ball was different in both colors (she is a cat after all), so I hid it to not have the obvious distraction of "hey these colors are different". If you're shooting RAW and editing to JPEG you can get basically the same colors out of the Sony and the Nikon without a whole lot of effort. As for stock SOOTC JPEGs, the Z6II's colors are warmer. However, I would call the A7III's colors much more true to life. Having shot Nikon for so long, they're not what I'm used to but I think I'm OK with that. On the other side, the A7III's SOOTC JPEGS are a lot sharper and more contrasty than Nikon's. Once you realize the same information is being captured in the raw files on both cameras, it's easy enough to tweak the JPEG settings to suit your tastes (eg warmer vs truer to life, really sharp vs maybe somewhere in the middle). Bottom line here: I wasn't able to substantiate any claims about Sony's "color science" being much different than Nikon's. It's possible this would be more an issue for video, since you can't shoot true raw on the A7III, but I'm a stills person. Either way, you could probably tweak camera settings to achieve a similar result.

In terms of AF-C performance, doing silly things, like taking rapid photos of my cat that thinks it's a dog playing fetch, resulted the A7III achieved a higher hit rate of "super sharp" but the Z6II's hit rate wasn't bad. The "not quite sharp" photos on the A7III were generally closer to sharp than the Z6IIs, but the Z6II's would have been better than nothing.

The Z6II can also do totally-real-world things like track kids running at you.

70mm focal length, 1/160, ISO 500, f/4

But when doing actual real world things, the Z6II exhibited a lot of the behavior that made me not confident in the J5's autofocus.

Here's a very slow subject as an example. This wasn't meant as an AF-C test, I was just trying to ensure I got a few decent frames of the kid looking in the right direction with an OK expression. I was in AF-C, kid was approaching me (slowly), I was zooming out as he approached. Most of the shots were tack sharp, but I really don't know why some were out of focus. See the middle photo in the sequence below.

variable focal length, 1/1000, ISO 100, f/4

In another example, that tree to the right of the kid looks awful sharp and the kid not so much. Turns out that's where the camera decided to focus.

70mm focal length, 1/125, ISO 100, f/4

Here's a screen shot from NX Studio showing where the camera decided to focus:

And this really strikes at the heart of the Z6II's AF woes if you leave it to its own devices in AF-C: it will frantically pop red focus boxes onto the screen and flicker them around, which makes it hard to judge what it's actually focusing on. The focus boxes are also super large and span multiple AF points (there are 132 possible red boxes the Z6II can draw on its screens, the Z6II has 273 AF points). They don't exactly inspire confidence. Multiple boxes will be shown, some of them might contain things that are not fully in focus, there's a bunch of stuff that's still in focus but has no red box, etc.

Here's another screen grab from NX studio of the Z6II in action. The AF box selection is amusing because the kiddo isn't in a box, the left most box is mostly comprised of out of focus background, the random gaps make the AF boxes seem weirdly laid out and are in focus, etc

This next one isn't my image, but it shows how the A7III indicates what it's trying to focus on. What you see highlighted are the actual AF points. In action, there's very little frantic jumping around.

That's not to say that the Z6II can't take good photos of subjects like my kids - there are even a few of them up there. It's just that it doesn't do a great job of communicating when it's going to miss, unlike the Sony which I find a lot easier to understand. The A7III's small AF boxes will be dancing in a tight area, even if that's not my intended subject, vs the Z6II's larger AF boxes that are dancing all over 1/3 to 1/2 of the viewfinder/display.

I find myself emotionally wanting to go for the Nikon for the hand feel. Take enough shots and you will get one that you like. Or take a more active role in managing AF and you'll get a higher hit rate. That's easier said that done, especially for someone who only takes photos on the weekends.

I find myself mentally wanting to go for the Sony. It's AF is far more trustworthy, fewer shots needed means less culling, and some of its ergonomic shortcomings can be fixed by things like a baseplate. It's also really hard to the FE lens back catalog. I recently picked up a Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM for $250 in excellent condition. I admit it was a fluke, but $450 for the same lens is still a great deal. The only 35mm native z mount lens is Nikon's 35mm f/1.8, which is 2/3 a stop slower than the Sigma and isn't available yet on the used market.

Anyone have any feedback on anything I might be missing? I'm all ears.

Z6II, 46mm focal length, 1/800, ISO 100, f/4

A7III, 35mm focal length, 1/100, ISO 100, f/1.4

Nikon 1 J5 Nikon D40 Nikon D5300
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