Comparison: Panasonic S1R vs. Nikon Z7 vs. Sony a7R III

Comparison Panasonic S1R vs. Nikon Z7 vs. Sony a7R III

This week Chris and Jordan from DPReviewTV do a side-by-side comparison between three high-resolution mirrorless cameras: the Panasonic S1R, Nikon Z7, and Sony a7R III to see how they stack up. They just tell us the ins and outs of these three cameras across seven categories and at after this comparison Chris will explain which one is right for you?

Overview: Comparison: Panasonic S1R vs. Nikon Z7 vs. Sony a7R III

1. Handling
2. Displays
3. Batteries and Media
4. Lenses
5. Autofocus
6. Video
7. Image Quality

1. Handling

#3 In third place we’re giving it to the Sony a7R III. First of all, the menu systems are still a little bit archaic although they are vastly improved over what they used to be. The controls are very customizable but they generally have a cheaper plasticky feel. Not the best touchscreen interface from all the cameras. Although I do like the grip and the smaller body for people who want to keep things compact and travel. The grip is so tight to lenses often your fingers dig into the side. So overall it’s not the worst camera on the market but it is the worst of these three.

#2 So in second place we’re gonna go with the Panasonic S1R. But this is a very close one and it really is gonna depend on what you like in a camera. First off this camera is large and heavy and that might be a big deal for a lot of people. But I do love the big size and I think that by far this camera has the best ergonomics as far as dial controls, customizability, feel of all the dials, it’s a solid rugged body. The only complaints are; my nose still hits the touchscreen and moves the point when I don’t want it to and I find that my drive dial on the left is easy to switch. But those are minor things. It’s really gonna come down to if you’re okay with this large body Panasonic S1R might very well be the best camera for you.

#1 Our number one prize is gonna go to the Nikon Z7. This camera gives you a really nice interface, beautiful menus. I love the grip it’s a fantastic looking camera that really harkens to the SLR designs. I love that the EVF stands far apart from the touchscreen so you’re not bumping your nose into it. It’s got an awesome autofocusing joystick. But, in the end, it’s all about balance. This camera is a great compromise between ruggedness without being overly heavy or large and so for that reason when it comes to ergonomics the Nikon Z7 is what I’m gonna take with me.

2. Displays

#3 So in third place it’s gonna be the Sony a7R III here again. That’s really because it’s starting to show its age, it’s the oldest of these three cameras. Although you do have a 3.69 million EVF, the magnifications the lowest of the bunch. The screen on the back only rotates in two directions. It’s nothing to write home about, not super bright, not high-resolution.

#2 Second prize easily goes to the Nikon Z7. I love the over 2 million dots OLED on the back. It only rotates in two directions but it’s sharp and it’s bright. The EVF 3.69 million dots decent magnification but again I really like that it stands apart from the back screen. You don’t lose resolution when you’re rolling video or focusing.

#1 First place is an easy victory for the Panasonic S1R. You’re getting the highest resolution EVF in the industry. It has 120 frames per second refresh rate and just beautiful magnification plus that eye relief control that it has. The back screen does give you three directions of articulation so it beats out the other two. You know that interface between the human eye and the camera is so important so I’m taking the Panasonic S1R.

3. Batteries and Media

#3 In the last place that’s got to go to the Nikon Z7. Now this camera has a single card slot nobody’s talking about it but it is kind of a big deal if you need a backup. Now as well we’re using the old EN-EL15b a new version that can be USB charged but unfortunately, the video really chews through this and it wasn’t great battery life for photography as well. It’s nice that they’re supporting the legacy formats but single card slot and worst battery life of the batch this is a definite number three.

#2 Panasonic S1R is a big improvement. We’re moving over to dual card slots with this and it’s my favorite version where you’ve got XQD and also SD if you want some less expensive media in there. Now this has a big battery and you’d expect this to go all day and if you’re filming does a really great job I’ve gotten over 2 hours of runtime on that. For photography, though we found it really chews through the batteries. If you want to go out all day you’re gonna need a couple of batteries for that reason Panasonic S1R is number two.

#1 Number one we got to give it to the Sony a7R III. You’ve got those dual card slots you’ve been asking, for now,  we’ve got a fast UHS-II but also a slower UHS-I card slot, fortunately, that’ll also do double duty for all those memory stick cards you’ve been hanging on to. But the real draw here is that we’ve got Sony’s NP-FZ100 lithium-ion battery you’ll get tons of record time if you’re shooting video but also this will let you shoot photos all day. It’s very small, very light, and really good life on it. So for that reason, if I need to go out and shoot all day I’m taking the Sony a7R III.

4. Lenses

#3 Naturally third place is gonna go to the Panasonic S1R. They just haven’t been around long enough in this mount to make a bunch of lenses. Now you do have the Leica L-Mount lenses but they’re crazy expensive. Sigma has announced lenses but they’re not out yet and the adapter that they do make for Canon EF doesn’t support Continuous Autofocus.

#2 Now Nikon Z7 is actually impressed us by striking a great balance between expensive but capable professional lenses and accessible affordable lenses while in their lens lineup. They also have a very impressive road map which inspires confidence when you’re looking at a brand-new lens mount. I also love the F-Mount adapter you can often get it provided for free with the kits it’s flawless and it opens up a whole line of F-Mount lenses. The only reason why this camera is not number one is that it’s a relatively new mount.

#1 Number one winner Sony a7R III. I mean Sony you got to give it to them. They’ve really ignored their APS-C line but they’ve absolutely fleshed out their full-frame G-Master line and G Lenses. they do a great job with beautiful lens formulas you got a lot of selection. I also love that there’s tons of aftermarket support and great adapters out there as well. These guys have had the mount the longest in this game and that shows they’ve made the most lenses.

5. Autofocus

#3 In third place I’m actually gonna give it to the Nikon Z7. Although autofocus performance is very similar to the Panasonic S1R and I do like the fact that we have hybrid autofocusing here I still don’t like the implementation of how to engage things like tracking. This is the only company out of the three that hasn’t really incorporated deep learning techniques into their autofocus. I also found that the Panasonic S1R gave us a slightly higher hit rate.

#2 In second place is the Panasonic S1R. It slightly beat out the Nikon for hit rate but it’s still not exactly I want it to be. Also, remember this contrast detect the only system means you get a lot of that wobbling which is very disconcerting. However, this camera has an amazing single point autofocus a lot of people still shoot that way. I like the deep learning animal detect focusing that’s gonna be very handy for wildlife photographers. It has one of the nicest implementations for setting up your autofocus button placement to get it going and that means a lot when you’re out in the field.

#1 It’s no surprise but the winner is gonna be the Sony a7R III. They’ve always had the best Eye Detect system right down at the pupil level. It seamlessly transitions between eye, face, and then full-body tracking. This camera now has new deep learning technology implemented in it where it will track faces even better as well as now animals. Everything is very slick and easy to get set up. So by far the highest hit rate and success rate it’s gonna be the sony Sony a7R III.

6. Video

I should mention these high-res bodies aren’t really ideal for video. Don’t forget that all of these have lower megapixel versions in their same range that’s probably a better choice if you’re going to be doing a lot of videos.

#3 If you want a high-res camera that can shoot capable video number three is gonna be the Sony a7R III.  We’ve got a half hour record limit on this camera and it’s stuck at 8-bit no matter what you do with it. Now it does give you the option to shoot S-Log 2 but honestly S-Log 3 and HLG I don’t find work great until we get ourselves a 10-bit codec. So number three is the Sony a7R III.

#2 Second place we got the Nikon Z7. Now, this is actually my favorite autofocuser of the three cameras if you’re not going to be able to manually pull focus. It has an excellent stabilizer on it as well. It is let down though by the terrible preamp if you want to record audio directly into it. Now in terms of the image quality, it is 8-bit internal but we’ve got Nikon’s excellent ‘Flat’ profile. It’s really easy to grade and gives you a little bit of a dynamic range boost. But if you need more than that kick this thing out to an external recorder you’re gonna get access to N-Log for a lot more flexibility in post and 10-bit recording. So number two is the Nikon Z7.

#1 This is a tricky one and a bit subjective because I don’t use autofocus and video a lot but I’m giving it to the Panasonic S1R. Now we have the best Full-Frame IBIS for a mirrorless camera out there right now. It’s got a great preamp and support for the Panasonic XLR1 adapter which is my favorite XLR adapter for audio. As well this is the only camera the bunch that can shoot 4K/60P. You’ve also got 180 frames per second slo-mo recording where we’re capped at 120 on the other guys. My number one pick for video camera if you don’t need autofocus the Panasonic S1R.

7. Image Quality

Well before I get going I should mention all of these cameras give you some of the nicest image quality we’ve ever seen. But there are some differences that may have a real impact depending on the type of photography that you’re doing.

#3 Now number three we’ve got the Nikon Z7 and this is a really nice balance between high ISO performance, good dynamic range throughout, and we love that it has ISO 64 which gives you the highest possible image quality if you’ve got enough light. However, there is no multi-shot with this. As well we do see some banding when you push those shadows really heavily. Now it doesn’t happen all the time but if you’re planning to use that ISO 64 maximize your dynamic range that banding can rear its ugly head and take a little bit away from that. For that reason, the Nikon Z7 is our number three for image quality.

#2 Number two for image quality we got to give to the Panasonic S1R. Now if you’re interested in getting as much resolution as possible this has the best high-res mode. Takes eight exposures gets you nearly 200 MP image and the interface for doing that is really fantastic. Because there’s no phase detect on the sensor you’re getting no image quality defects like striping if you’re shooting backlit scenes. But we can’t give this the top prize because it does have the lowest dynamic range of all the cameras at base ISO and the most noise when you’re shooting at high ISO. Picture quality is excellent but the Panasonic S1R can’t take our top prize.

#1 Number one we’ve got to give it to the Sony a7R III. It gives you a competitive dynamic range at base ISO but as you start to crank those ISO up higher and higher the dynamic range is consistently better than the other two cameras. As well this is giving us the best high ISO performance regarding image noise. The multi-shot on it only uses four exposures and you have to build them in the post it’s super clunky and as well Sony still refuses to give us a lossless compressed RAW option so those files are bigger than they need to be. It’s gonna slow your camera down and chew through your hard drives but at the end of the day when I need the best image quality, I’m taking the Sony a7R III.

Who’s the Panasonic S1R for?

Well, the autofocus isn’t gonna win any awards but keep in mind that with the IBIS in it you can easily adapt manual focus lenses and get great performance out of the Panasonic S1R. On top of that, you’re getting an incredibly rugged body, the nicest interface, the nicest displays. I could see this being really well at home with somebody doing studio or landscape photography especially. You’ve got the great video as well and really the only downside of the Panasonic S1R, well you’re gonna pay for it and I don’t mean that in a threatening way I mean literally out of your wallet it’s expensive.

READ: Panasonic LUMIX S1 & S1R Review

Who’s the Sony a7R III is Best Gonna Be Suited for?

You keep in mind that the price point here is pretty decent now you’re getting fantastic image quality still even though the camera is to show its age. But with that autofocus capability for shooting portraits the fact that it’s got a lighter more compact body for travel and then its rugged enough with excellent battery life, I think this camera is actually your best all-around performer. You’ve got good video, good landscape capability, good portrait capability, and so if you’re kind of wondering which camera is gonna be best suited for many different tasks I think the Sony a7R III is a great choice.

READ: Sony A7R III Mirrorless Camera Review

Who Should Look at Buying Into The Nikon Z7?

It’s hard to recommend this to people just coming into the system. Because although it has a great balance of body design versus ruggedness and weight and economics as well. I still think that’s mostly gonna appeal to people who will already have Nikon F glass. The tricky part here is you also have to think about the Nikon D80. Although it’s an SLR it has better image quality and it’s got better autofocusing so a lot of people might go that way. I think the real key thing here is that the Nikon Z7 is a great mix of both photography and videography. If you are a Nikon user who has a lot of F-Lenses and you want to get into video or a more compact body design the Nikon Z7 might be your ticket.

At the end of the video, Chris says “Alright so we hope that you find these videos useful and as usual don’t get too hung up on the actual rankings. We’re really trying to accomplish with these videos is to give you a good idea of who these cameras are best suited for? It really comes to what kind of photography you do and whether these cameras will fit into your workflow?”

Left your ideas and questions in the comments section below! and please don’t forget to follow on Twitter @kuulphoto


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