Full-frame mirrorless compared: Z6 vs. S1 vs. EOS R vs. a7 III
1 Introduction and comparison
The end of 2018 saw Canon and Nikon introduce their first full-frame mirrorless cameras, with Panasonic on the verge of joining the party. This brought an end to Sony's five-year term as sole mainstream purveyor of this type of camera and set out each company's post-DSLR ambitions.
In July of 2019, we looked at three of those cameras and concluded the a7 III was the strongest all-rounder: the model that was pretty good at everything. However, despite the five-year head start, it was a far from universal or emphatic victory.
Now that the lens lineups have been better fleshed-out and firmware updates have provided some additional polish, we thought it was time to take another look at the circa $2000 full-frame mirrorless cameras, their lens options and how they now stack up.
More than just a body
Perhaps more than at any time in the industry's history, we're seeing the big camera makers adopt new lens mounts for some of their leading products.
This is likely to present the lowest-barrier opportunity for most users to consider a change of system since most DSLR lenses can be adapted to some degree onto any of the new systems. DSLR users should think seriously about whether the benefits of persisting with thier current camera brand is worth a short-term retention of potentially better lens compatibility, or if this would be outweighed by taking this opportunity to switch horses.
This could be the best moment for most users to consider a change of system
The temptation, of course, is to stick with what you know, and put the emphasis on the money already sunk into your lens collection. But it's worth looking hard at whether your favorite brand's new system is really the one best suited to your needs.
All of this makes a decision between different camera bodies more significant than in the past. In this roundup we'll look at which of the cameras (with most current firmware) stand out for a series of common types of photography:
- Family and moments
- Lifestyle and people
- Weddings and events
- Sports and action
- Travel photography
- Video - Controlled shooting
- Video - Run & gun
In an accompanying article we look at where each of the lens systems has got to and where they're going:
Perhaps the most striking detail here is how few boxes can be marked in red or green. Aside from a few outliers (in-body stabilization and viewfinder resolution for example), there's just not a lot to choose between them in terms of pure specification.
There's not a lot to choose between them in terms of Raw performance, either. The Canon has higher nominal resolution and a smidge less processing flexibility, as a consequence of lower dynamic range. The other three cameras are almost certainly built around essentially the same sensor, though, so the differences between them are even slighter.
This is where actually using the cameras comes in, as the reality is that they're all significantly different in terms of ergonomics, user interface design, and AF performance. It's these factors that end up making the cameras a good fit for different types of shooting.
|Canon EOS R||Nikon Z6||Panasonic S1||Sony a7 III|
|On-sensor PDAF||Depth from Defocus
|Image stabilization||Lens only||5-axis||5-axis + sync with lens IS||5-axis|
|Maximum frame rate||8 fps (AF-S)
5 fps (AF-C)
|9 fps (AF-S)
6 fps (AF-C and live view)
|Flash Sync speed||1/200 sec||1/200 sec||1/320 sec||1/250 sec|
|High Res mode||No||No||Yes||No|
res / mag
|2.36M dots / 0.78x|
|Rear screen||2.1M-dot fully articulated touchscreen||2.1M-dot tilting touchscreen||2.1M-dot two-way tilting touchscreen||921k-dot tilting touchscreen|
|Top-plate settings display||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|Video capture||UHD 4K 30p
|UHD 4K 30p
|UHD 4K 30p
UHD 4K 60p (1.5x crop)
|UHD 4K 24p
UHD 4K 30p
|S-Log2 / 3 / HLG
|Paid video upgrade||—||Raw HDMI to Atomos Ninja V||V-Log + tools
10-bit 4:2:2 30p (internal)
10-bit 4:2:2 60p (HDMI)
|Memory cards||Single SD||Single XQD||1 XQD + 1 SD||Dual SD|
|Battery life (CIPA) LCD/EVF||370 (LCD)||380 / 310||400 / 380*||710 / 610|
|Shutter life rating||200k cycles||200k cycles||400k cycles||200k cycles|
|Dimensions||136 x 98 x 84 mm||134 x 101 x 68 mm||149 x 110 x 97 mm||127 x 96 x 74 mm|
|Weight (CIPA)||660 g||675 g||1017 g**||650 g|
** With SD card: 4g more with XQD
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