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The Sony A7RIII Scores 100 On DxO Mark | Same As The D850? Not Quite & Here’s Why

By Kishore Sawh on November 28th 2017

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.”

Murmurings

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.

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About

Kishore is, among other things, the Editor-In-Chief at SLR Lounge. A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

5 Comments

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  1. robert garfinkle

    One of the first things I noticed about the D850 was the jump in usability (versatility) from the earlier D8nn models.

    The D800(e) / D810 started out to be a studio / landscape camera (pretty much) and the D850 takes the photographer to more places (i.e. sports arena, world of macro “focus stacking feature”, joined the multimedia circus and allows us to leave the planet) – Nikon has broadened the D8nn’s usability. excellent move.

    The D850 also allows FF high-speed (@9FPS) vs. having to drop into DX-crop mode to get higher FPS – nice! And we have to pay respects to the new focusing features too…

    Would I jump from Nikon to Sony because of the differences in the RIII, no.

    I will say I’m a bit ticked at Nikon for forcing me to buy a battery grip and the really expensive battery to achieve 9FPS, adding $1000 to the overall price of the camera – whereas in the D810, yes, I may have had to buy the grip but I could achieve 7FPS with AA battery holder (way cheaper than a $240 battery)

    I think Nikon has done a phenomenal job with this upgrade, in my opinion, it was designed for the existing Nikon users to move into the next model. I am sure Nikon would love to see Canon / Sony / Fuji owners get rid of their stuff and hop over to Nikon to get a taste of the D850, sure, but as for us Nikon owners, we have a great new camera, feature packed, at a decent price point.

    As for now though, whilst I hear nothing but praise for the D850, it is yummy that much I can tell you, I am holding off for the moment. I love my D810

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  2. Matthew Saville

    Isn’t the native base ISO of the two cameras 64 (D850) and 100 (A7R3)?

    DXO represents their charts using the “measured” ISO brightness, not the rated ISO itself, so although you can use either camera in “LO-1” mode and achieve those ISO’s, both of them would represent a compromise of highlight DR preservation if not exposed as if they were, well, ISO 64 and 100.

    Either way, the bottom line is clear: Below ISO ~200, the D850 is a champion, however once you get to ISO 800 or higher, the A7R3’s image quality pulls ahead.

    This does not come without a tradeoff, however, as Sony does “raw cooking” at higher ISO’s (allegedly) in order to achieve such great high ISO performance, which since it can’t be turned off, is actually a negative to some shooters who shoot stars and other stuff routinely at both longer shutter speeds AND higher ISO’s. (Most traditional photographers will only ever find themselves using one or the other, either a long exposure at their base ISO, or a fast exposure at a high ISO, in which cases drawbacks are minimized on the Sony; however for stuff like nightscape photography, when you need both ISO 6400 AND a 30-60+ second exposure, …you might still be better off with the D850.

    All in all, both camera are incredible, and which you choose will largely be based on your desire for certain features / functions, or customizations / interface preferences, …and not the slight differences in image quality itself. Because, remember, to see any of these differences, you have to be nailing your exposures to within less than a stop of “perfect”, otherwise whatever slight advantage one sensor has over the other at this or that ISO is completely lost, negated by human error.

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  3. adam sanford

    I see the latest gen of Sony / Nikon as being far less about resolution or quality of the sensor nearly so much as a *staggering* throughput:

    A99-II:  42 x 12
    A7R3:  42 x 10
    D850: 45 x 9 (with a grip)
    A9: 24 x 20

    Even if you consider the Nikon figure requires a grip and Sony figures are riddled with fine print (most notably, uncompressed RAW will not hit those fps levels), it’s still quite impressive.  These are all ‘supercameras’ like we’d think of supercars — no compromises.  They are high res *and* they are high detail, and the manage to not murder the high ISO performance in the process.  Impressive tech indeed.

    I’m a Canon user and I don’t need/want these insane throughput levels, but Canon was probably not planning on fighting a *throughput war in the high megapixel* segment when they were planning their future.   But if they follow suit and put out a 2019 5DSR 2 at (say) 60 x 7 or 50 x 9, 5D4 sales will plummet unless they drop that rig into a cheaper mid-level FF camera slot under the 5DS line, something Canon does not want to do.  They want an affordable 6D2 and two different premium rigs for different camps of shooters. 

    Enter Sony and Nikon with ‘All Your Base Are Belong to Us’ and these supercameras that do not force users to choose between detail and framerate, base ISO and high ISO.  I must tip my cap.

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  4. Thomas Starlit

    For me there are two key points. One is that in the Nikon/Sony arena, progress since 2014 has been pretty slow when it comes to sensor performance and output quality. Minute differences are blown up in marketing material, but in everyday life there is absolutely nothing that clients will notice between D810/D850/A7R2/A7R3. I hope next-gen cameras will show some more significant improvements. The other key point is that Canon is hopelessly behind, and show no signs of catching up. Neither 5D IV nor 6D show any progress over predecessors in terms of sensor performance, leaving Canon effectively on a 2012 level of performance.

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    • adam sanford

      Correct on Nikon/Sony only making small jumps of late.  They went through an on-chip ADC upgrade across the line around the time of the A7R1 / D800 / D800E / D810 and all those (Sony made) sensors jumped to stratospheric DR levels.  Since then, not so much — just small improvements due to additional processing power on the high ISO end.

      Canon, however, is a mixed bag depending on the model (could not disagree more with you on the 5D4):

      The 1DX2 + 5D4 got the on-chip ADC and both saw nearly a two stop bump in base ISO DR.  Those sensors are terrific.  SO I could not disagree more with you on the 5D4: https://goo.gl/SKGwT7 — that’s a huge jump on the low ISO end!

      The 80D, M5 / M6 and I believe the SL2 got the on-chip ADC as well.  The 5DS and 7D2 will surely get it with their next offerings.

      The only ‘party like it’s 2012’ disappointment is the new 6D2, which for whatever reason, was given last-gen tech consistent with the older off-chip architecture.  The high iso improved as the processor improved over the last 5 years, but the base ISO DR is effectively what it was way back then.  We continue to scratch our heads on that one.

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