It was already a good week for the boffins over at Sony with Time Magazine naming the A7RIII one of its ’10 Best’ gadgets of the year, and to put the proverbial cherry on top, there’s now the revelation from the boffins over at DxO that the A7RIII ranks as highly on their system as Nikon’s 100-year camera, the D850.
If we’re honest, however, it’s not really a revelation, as anyone who has shot both of those cameras will attest to each’s strengths. And they are strong. The D850’s image quality and performance potential is high –though you have to be more cognizant of your behavior to achieve it since it has no in-body stabilization, and yes, mirrors are more effectual of camera shake and reduce IQ– and the A7RIII is an even more complete a package. It’s nothing short of brilliant.
[REWIND: The Nikon D850 Scores 100 on DXO | Here Are A Few Things You Should Think About When Considering This]
The DxO score just goes to put some visual metrics to just how good much of a performer the A7RIII is, and we can glean a bit more about the performance difference between it and the D850, which ranks higher in DxO’s Landscape and Portrait columns, but falls short on the Sports. The problem with those columns, however, is that they don’t paint the complete DxO picture as can be found with the graphs.
A glance at the graphs and something becomes immediately apparent: the D850’s score bests the A7rIII at its lowest available ISO (32), compared to the A7RIII’s 50, and above that the performance measurements are in favor of the A7. In DxO’s own words:
“As with the Portrait (Color Depth) and Landscape (Dynamic Range) scores, the Nikon D850 achieves a higher score at its lowest sensitivity (ISO) value. Once it exceeds this value, the Sony a7R II and A7R III sensors take the lead, delivering near-identical performance that is approximately 0.3 EV better than the D850’s. By ISO 25,600, however, this lead is extended to around a stop.
The Sony A7R III sensor maintains a high signal-to-noise ratio up to a sensitivity setting of ISO 800, whereas the Nikon D850 should be kept to ISO 500 or lower.”
There’s little here that couldn’t be anticipated, except, perhaps, the impressive color sensitivity of the a7RII compared to both its successor and the D850. In practical use, however, there isn’t a helluva lot of difference, which neatly brings me to the practical usefulness of rating the D850 as highly on account of its low ISO setting.
The average user of either of these cameras is not shooting at ISO32, 50, or 64. Yes, there’s some envelope of landscape shooters who will balk at that and scream about how critical it is, but frankly, the market isn’t made up of just that group, or even primarily so. And keep in mind, if base ISO was all that mattered then there’d be no point in doing anything else. Clearly, that’s not the case, and what matters more is how these cameras handle the higher ranges, and this is an area where the A7RIII is squarely ahead. Photographers want flexibility, and that’s what better performance at higher ISO allows for.
You know, there was (and still remains), some negative sentiment in the broad photography consumer world toward the fact the A7RIII uses the same sensor as its predecessor. And while that decision could be something we discuss the meaning of in detail in the future, what it should highlight is that there was potential in that sensor that couldn’t be realized due to the state of the rest of the tech at the time. Now though, with a primary focus on sensor read-out speed and processing power, it can.
On a more macro level that should signal that this may not be an isolated scenario; that Sony is probably now able to apply the same/similar for other sensors, and perhaps we’ll see something in that same vein when, invariably, the more ‘mortal’ non-R A7iii is released in the coming months. Exciting times.
Also, for those looking to learn more about A7RIII, B&H is having a live stream panel on the A7RIII with a number of Sony Alpha Creative Collective members at 12:30 Nov. 30th. The live stream link can be found below, and will commence at the dedicated time. Bookmark for easy access.