Sony a1 vs Nikon Z9 In Depth Hands On Camera Comparison talking about Picture Quality, Auto Focus, Video, Ergonomics, ISO, Dynamic Range and more. Take a look and let us know which camera you would choose and why!
Hi, this is Jay P. Morgan. Today on The Slanted Lens we’re going to take a look at two cameras that I think are amazing in the marketplace right now. There’s the a1 from Sony the A9 from Nikon. I’ve been excited to compare these two cameras because there’s so many things going on here that I think are amazing. I’ve got Brittany here with me today. Let’s look at image quality. Let’s take a look at the dynamic range. Let’s play with the autofocus which is really important to me. Let’s just see how these two cameras stack up. I am not sponsored by either of these camera companies or any camera company. I rented this one (Sony). I borrowed this from Nikon. So we’re going to just take an objective look at these two cameras and see what we’ve got.
Sony has always been about small form factor from the very beginning. That’s why mirrorless cameras were started by Sony basically. But that small form factor has really been an advantage for them. Nikon is more about durable hard-hitting cameras you can take into the field and really use and work hard with. So there’s a very different approach in these two cameras here. But they have some very similar features. They both have 8k. They both shoot about 20 frames a second if you are in uncompressed raw. Which I shoot uncompressed raw most of the time because I want to be able to crop in and change the color and do anything I want with them. Also it’s really interesting to me that these two cameras have one difference and that is this one (Nikon) does not have a mechanical shutter. This one does (Sony). I think that’s the future of all photography, all cameras, is electronic shutters. I do not think you’ll see mechanical shutters very much longer in cameras. I think it’s the future. I think people are going to just go to electronic shutters. There’s no reason for it. So let’s just get going on these two cameras. Let’s look at our tests and just see exactly what we’ve got. So let’s get started and see what we can do.
So our first test is a picture quality test. We’re using an 85 millimeter lens on both these cameras. Of course the Nikon is only a f/1.8 but the Sony is a f/1.4. But we’re going to shoot them both at 1.8. And I just want to put these two images up next to each other and just look at the color and look at the contrast. They’re both set on standard picture profiles and just see how they compare with one another. I think it’s a good test, nice picture quality test. So let’s get some shots. When I look at these two side by side, we have her in this red top with the blue jeans, we see this beautiful greenery in the background. The bokeh, these lenses both look, really look fabulous. But you see a little bit of color difference in them. You see the Nikon is slightly more warm. The Sony is a little more neutral, not necessarily more green, well it certainly renders the green more true to green. Whereas the Nikon is a little more warm. You could certainly correct the Sony without any problem and get it to be exactly the same color or the Nikon to the Sony. So they are so close to each other. You see the, punching in on their eyes, you see this beautiful, you see every wrinkle and every eyelash. I mean they’re just really gorgeous sharp images. When you get into this head and shoulders you still see the same color comparison. The Nikon is definitely a little more warm and the Sony’s a little more kind of cool or neutral. I mean, when you punch in on these things this is a large image and a ton of information. Look how sharp these things are. I mean, again, every eyelash, every wrinkle. But two great cameras and great images. I don’t think image quality, quality wise these two are far apart at all.
So this dynamic range test was really a stretch for any camera because it was very bright outside. It was not late in the day. It was direct sunlight out there. So it was so blown out outside and then inside, deep inside. We did have a small, we did have an aperture light inside. But it didn’t bring up, I mean you can’t compete with that direct sunlight. And so on these first ones the Nikon we see the very same thing we’ve seen in the others. The Nikon is very warm. The Sony color is a little more neutral. We see the detail in the background feels a little more like we have a little more detail to me in the Nikon than in the Sony. And this is normal exposure for both of them. Now when we go to a minus one, minus one is an optimal, almost an optimal place to be for most digital sensors because digital photography likes to be underexposed a little bit. Because it can hold those shadows better or highlights better. I do feel like the Nikon starts to drift a little more warm. The Sony stays pretty clean and pretty comfortable. You see a little more detail in the background which we should. We should see more detail back there. But then we start having issues with trying to recover all the shadow areas. So when we go to -2 we see a lot of great detail in the background but all along I’ve been feeling like I’m seeing just a little better detail in the background on the Nikon than I am with the Sony. This background is so blown out. But the Sony just feels like it’s just a little bit not quite as much dynamic range in the background. We’re talking maybe a half a stop to three quarters of a stop. I’m not talking about a huge difference. But there is a difference there that I can see. I mean, what are you seeing? Are you seeing a difference? leave a comment below. Even at minus three you got just this, I mean, you have better detail in the background. But we’re starting to see the grain build and the rendition from highlights to shadows starts to get this funky little color transition from one to the other. And that makes a huge difference. Minus four, you start seeing too much. Look at all this stuff in the faces. The grain builds and it looks terrible. At minus four everything looks really terrible at minus four. We struggled a little bit with finding the focus. When you start to go in minus two, minus three and minus four it’s like shooting in very low light situation. It’s not giving as much light to the sensor as it wants. And in some ways the Nikon was struggling a little bit to find that focus.
When we go to plus one it’s really interesting because the Nikon immediately is having trouble in the background. We’re losing all that detail that we had before. The Nikon was performing a little better before. But when we go to plus one it’s not. That’s because the Sony underrates their sensors. The ISO here is really under by half to two-thirds of a stop sometimes with the Sony sensors. And so it gives an advantage to the Sony, a perceived advantage that I don’t think is actually there. It’s just their sensors are moved down the scale. You get better in the low end or you get better on the high end. Other cameras get a little better in the low end. All right, now we go to two stops. And both these cameras when you go to two stops it’s kind of like, okay what are we even doing this for. If you’re two stops overexposed you are in trouble and it’s generally not ever a problem. Because where you know, seldom is there too much light, and sometimes if you’re outside. But generally speaking people are struggling to get enough light. When we go to plus three look how orange the Nikon has gone. The Sony colors hung in there pretty well all the way through this process. Whereas the Nikon has certainly gotten a little more orange as we’ve gone along. And they’re definitely super posterized with bad grain. And it’s just everything has kind of built in these last images. All right so there’s a look at the dynamic range test. I can’t see a clear winner on any of these things. I’m struggling to see a big difference. Maybe a little bit of a shift in where they’re placed on the scale. But I don’t see a huge difference.
So let’s take a look at these two cameras when it comes to ISO. It’s interesting to me that when we’re in this low light situation I didn’t make any adjustments to these other than just export them. They are the raw images. We’re not using any kind of sharpening or anything in the jpeg from camera. These are raw images taken into camera raw and exported. You get exactly what you got. Okay, so 400 ISO, when you look at this in the background we see the grain on the wall. It’s pretty acceptable though. I feel like it’s a tiny bit nicer with the Nikon. I feel like maybe it’s not quite as nice with the Sony. But they both have a little bit of a grain pattern even at 400. When we jump up to 800 ISO we’re starting to see some grain. You see it in her skin. You see the kind of in the eyes, the shadow areas. The grain is starting to build. You know, it’s interesting because the Sony is very, very sharp, tack on. The Nikon had a little bit of a hard time in this low light situation finding the autofocus every time.
We go to 1600. You definitely see grain. Look at the background. Look how big that grain is in the background. I wouldn’t use these cameras at 1600 unless I had to. I mean, I know everyone loves to think that the ISO you can go as far and hot as you want. But I just don’t think you can. 3200, for still photography, I think you’ve got way too much grain at that point. And it’s just the grain is too sharp. It’s just too much of it. And when you go from the highlights to the shadow you start to see this color building in that highlight to shadow transition. Let’s go to 6400. The color seems to have stayed fairly consistent with both of them through this as the iso has built. Maybe now the Sony still feels like maybe the grain’s a little more prominent than the Nikon. You’ll have to look at those and see what you think. When you go to 12,800 I mean, I’m looking at this going, this is a ton of grain. And that transition color from a highlight to shadow is starting to build. And 25,600 it’s just grain for days. So when I was back at 400 ISO I felt like the Nikon was performing just a little better. By the time we got to 1600, even 1200, I feel like they kind of were very similar. But then as we went beyond that I felt like the Sony started to perform just a little better as we got up to, you know, 12,800 and 6400. It seems like the Sony started to do just a little better. But you look at the images. See what you think. Leave a comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments about it.
So let’s take a look at the autofocus test. We just do this simple test where she just walked straight towards the camera. This first one is our Nikon and as I look at these as she’s walking towards the camera, boy I’m shooting about 50 to 60 images. So they’re out they’re both in about the same range. We’re not shooting more on one than the other. So we’ve got them about the same burst speed and as she walks towards us they are so sharp. It just stays with it the whole time. There’s a point in here where she gets a little close and I think it buffered out there for one shot. Every single one of these are acceptably sharp. Every single one of them.
All right let’s take a look at the Sony. Now again, we’re doing about the same, actually this is about 70 images versus the other one was about 60 or about 52 to 55. So there’s a few more images here with the Sony. But again as she walks towards the camera it’s just following her the whole way. It’s fun, you see the background falling out of focus as she moves in. There may have been one in there that felt like it was a little on the edge. Wow, on those two they both have excellent auto focus. I’m starting to feel like I can’t tell the difference in these cameras in a lot of ways. I mean they just are so similar and that auto focus on each of these was extremely on. The Sony had a few more images we were shooting than the Nikon. But the Nikon wasn’t struggling. So I think the autofocus with these two cameras is very, very similar. We did have a hard time with her going behind the tree with both these cameras. She would walk behind the tree and it would lose her for a few before I would pick her up again. So in that way the autofocus wasn’t as great. Even when we tried to lock on to her so the autofocus wasn’t as flawless with either of the cameras. But when she’s just walking straight towards the camera both of these are just sharp and right on.
All right, we can’t talk about these two cameras without talking about 8k video. They both shoot 8k and we shot a clip on each one of them. When you look at this clip it’s really interesting to see what’s going on here. We see the same great color, the great picture quality that we did in the still images. Beautiful images, beautiful color rendition. I mean, it’s just absolutely fabulous. We see a very similar kind of color. Look, we see the Sony being a little more neutral and the Nikon being just a little bit warmer. So why do I think 8k is important? Well because most people are going to post out at 4k. That’s become a standard in a lot of ways. Certainly it’s for broadcast, any kind of application in that realm. So if you can shoot 8k, now I can shoot an 8k broad shot and I can cut into a 4k close-up. That just gives me the ability to output a complete 4k from beginning to end. I get that great punch in and punch out as if I have two cameras. And I think it’s a great way to work. So I think 8k can be very valuable. I think it’s really where the market is going and needs to go. When you go beyond 8k I think that’s a little crazy right now until we start posting in something heavier or larger than 8k. But I don’t see that happening for a while.
All right let’s talk about the ergonomics of these two cameras. I mean, right out of the gate it’s pretty obvious the A9 is a very heavy camera. It’s well-built though. It’s made, it’s a rugged build. It’s made to be out and working hard. It’s weather sealed. It’s made to really be out working. Sony is much smaller form factor. I mean a lot of people don’t have a place to put their pinky in there. And it’s a little difficult to use. This is just nice for a couple reasons. The Z9, you have the larger battery case on the bottom which gives you a little larger battery. Really it worked for us all day long. We used both of them. We had to change the battery once on the Sony. We didn’t have to change it on the Z9. I feel like the buttons are all in great places. We have plenty of buttons. We have the double joysticks. If you want to be able to use it in either this mode or in this mode which is really nice. This one’s (Sony) a lot more difficult when it comes to horizontal. You have to roll over. There’s no other way to hold this thing unless you get a battery grip for it. There’s none of this kind of stuff where you can jump to here and you got a place to shoot. Got a lock on this button in case it gets in your way. So you’re not shooting this, you know, accidentally. So lens choice between these two cameras, you do have some limitations. Z mount does not have a huge line of lenses. Yet, I mean they’re slowly coming out. I think Sony’s ahead in that way. Sony e-mount has a lot more lenses. They got a great 50 millimeter 1.2 out which is a fabulous lens. I’ve shot on it. So lenses are a bit of an issue. We’re getting more aftermarket lenses on the Z, but those are just starting to come out now.
So let me wrap this up. I think these cameras are both incredible cameras. They’re flagship cameras for these two different lines and they really rightly are. I think you make a decision about these two cameras based on several things. Number one is the Sony is small compact and easy to carry. It’s just a very easy platform. But it’s not going to be quite as durable. It’s not going to be as durable the Z9. The Z9 is a much more durable camera. It’s got that heavy battery pack on the bottom. But it is big and it’s heavy. So you got a small compact not quite as durable or a heavy duty and really bulletproof. So you kind of make a decision on that as one category. The other one is really the line of lenses you’re in. I think if you are already in one of these ecosystems you’re going to stay with it. If you have all kinds of Sony lenses you’re going to be in the Sony world. If you have all kinds of Nikon lenses you’re going to be in the Nikon world. But I think these two cameras give you a great option. They give you great 8k. They really give you fabulous images and great burst speeds. I think these cameras are so head-to-head that it really becomes a matter of ergonomically which one do you like the most? What lenses do you have? And if you have a line of lenses already you’re going to stick with that. I think those become the deciding factor for you. Other than that, I think they both deliver an incredible image. They both deliver great 4k or 8k. I just think they’re really top of the line excellent cameras. I could have been happy with either them. I would be happy with either one of these cameras. But for me I have so many Sony lenses from Tamron that it’s hard not to stick in that Sony system. But you know, that Nikon has always tempted me. So leave us a comment and keep those cameras rollin’ and keep on clickin’.
I think my SKB case is about to fall out the window. Yep, our Rebel T4i is absolutely dry and still looking good there. On to the next job. We’re still recording we’re still good.
So there you have it, the camera’s still rolling and it’s working fine.
Let’s see if our camera’s still rolling. It dropped about 12 feet onto the side. It is still rolling. This thing’s been dropped about eight or ten times now in this case. This camera’s doing great. It still survived. This case might just fall out the back of our van. Sometimes that’s been known to happen.
My SKB case fell out of the back of the truck. Is it still working? Yep, still recording. The camera is working just fine. So there you go, fell out of the back of the truck and it’s working just fine.