DSLR vs. mirrorless, and semi-pro vs. pro-level gives us the Nikon D850 vs Sony a7R II. It’s not a simple case of which is better. It’s about which camera meets your style, needs, and budget.
Nikon revealed its D850 DSLR in July 2017 and Sony their Alpha A7R II in June 2015. They’re both digital cameras with very different bodies, but their common strengths may surprise you.
But why choose a mirrorless camera over a DSLR? Or why move away from a DSLR for a mirrorless model? Our guide outline below has all the best answers:
|Nikon D850 Digital-SLR||Sony a7R II Mirrorless Digital Camera|
|Best For||Pro & semi-pro level lifestyle & commercial||Pro level, excellent all-rounder, especially people|
|Price||See Price on Amazon||See Price on Amazon
|Max Sensor Resolution||46-megapixel (9% more pixels)||42-megapixel|
|Sensor Pixel Area||18.88µm2||20.33µm2 (7% larger pixel area)|
|LCD Screen Size||3.2-inch (0.2" larger)||3.0-inch|
|LCD Screen Resolution||2.359k dots (91% higher LCD screen resolution)||1.229k dots|
|Top Mounted LCD||Yes||None|
|Camera Weight||35.5 oz.||22.0 oz. (13.5 oz. lighter)|
|Built-in Image Stabilization||None||Sensor-shift stabilization|
|Battery Life||1840 shots (1550 more shots per charge)||290 shots|
|Shutter Life Expectancy||200000 cycles||500000 cycles (300,000 more cycles)|
|Timelapse Recording||Yes (with app)||None|
|Memory Storage Slot||2||1|
|Continuous Shooting||7.0fps (2 fps faster)||5.0fps|
|Flash Sync Port||Yes||None|
Here’s what we cover in the review:
Nikon D850 and Sony a7R II Shared Features
There are quite a few shared features with the Nikon D850 and Sony a7R II. Let’s start with their connectivity. Each camera has built-in WiFi and NFC (Near Field Communication) connection.
NFC wirelessly connects other compatible devices to the cameras within a short range. They also have smartphone control. That’s handy for remote shutter release if the phone has an infrared blaster.
Another welcome feature is the cameras’ flexible tilting LCD screens, but they’re not equal. The sections below highlight the main differences between their respective displays.
Both viewfinders provide 100% coverage that allows for more accurate framing and overall control. Shared external features include mic and headphone ports, flash hot shoes, and photo storage card slots.
Videographers demand headphone and microphone ports today. They allow much better control over video including high-quality audio. And the external flash shoes are standard on all modern DSLRs.
The memory card slots on both models can read and write data at ultra-high speeds (UHS). The Nikon D850 supports SDHC/XQD UHS-II, and the Sony a7R II supports SDXC UHS-I.
Weather sealing is not something we see on all digital cameras though it’s in high demand. Each body has its environmental seals to protect the delicate electronics from harsh conditions.
Image perfectionists need RAW uncompressed file support, and these cameras have it. It gives photographers more creative monitor editing control using post-processing programs such as Adobe Lightroom.
Shared Shooting Modes
And finally, we have shared shooting modes. One is Face Detection Focus that aids portraiture. It works by calculating the ideal focus and exposure so that you don’t have to. It’s also a time saver.
The other shared shooting mode is AE Bracketing or AEB. With AEB, the camera varies exposures settings over two or more photos. AEB is invaluable when shooting in tricky light conditions.
Camera Body Comparison
It’s obvious which is the bigger of the two when looking at these cameras side by side. The Sony A7R II is smaller than the Nikon D850 by almost 33% and 38% lighter. Its dimensions are a key attraction.
I won’t go into too much detail about the bodies as they’re as different as day and night. The size, shapes, and layout of the physical controls are not even similar.
The simple table below shows a side-by-side comparison of the dimensions and weight:
|Nikon D850||Width: 5.7”||Height: 4.9”||Depth: 3.1”||Weight: 35.5 oz.|
|Sony A7R II||Width: 5.0”||Height: 3.8”||Depth: 2.4”||Weight: 22.0 oz.|
Nikon’s D850 has a lot more going on all around, especially at the rear. It has buttons across the top as well as both sides of its 2-hinged tiltable touchscreen display.
The ergonomics and therefore feel of these cameras are different from each other. The Sony A7R II is more comfortable to use with smaller hands yet more awkward for folks with large fingers.
The Nikon D850 is bigger and bulkier but looks can be deceptive. A couple of days shooting with this puppy and it feels like a natural extension to the hands. It’s a shame its weight isn’t as comfortable.
Why Consider the Nikon D850 over the Sony a7R II?
DSLRs are here to stay despite the growing popularity of smaller, lighter mirrorless cameras. The Nikon D850 here has plenty of advantages over the Sony a7R II, but they won’t all matter to all people.
It’s also a more expensive camera than the Sony. OK, let’s start by looking at the sensors. The Max sensor resolution for the D850 is 46 megapixels to Sony’s 42MP, a difference of 9%.
Both cameras have articulating screens. The Nikon D850’s is 0.2-inches bigger at 3.2” to Sony’s 3″. The Nikon is also a touchscreen display, so it has easier navigation and control of menu functions.
The D850’s tiltable screen has a 91% higher resolution, too. It has 2.359k dots vs. the a7R II’s 1.229k dots. Staying with screens is the top LCD panel on the D850. The a7R II doesn’t have one.
Top-mounted LCDs are useful when shooting low down, especially below waists level. They give photographers a quick view of the main camera settings and the option to make any changes.
Illuminated buttons are a welcome feature that the D850 has, and the Sony a7R II doesn’t. Not seeing the buttons in the dark is one frustration D850 users don’t have to worry about.
Each camera supports ultra-high-speed (UHD) memory cards. The Nikon has dual card slots to the Sony’s one, though. That can prove invaluable should one of the cards fail.
Another advantage that goes to the Nikon D850 is its flash sync port. Being able to connect off-camera flash gives photographers much more creative control over lighting.
Shooting Advantages of the Nikon D850
Battery Life is one more advantage that goes to the bigger, heavier D850. It has 1550 more frames on a single charge. That gives the Nikon an impressive 1840 shots to the Sony’s disappointing 290.
The D850’s continuous shooting (burst mode) is 2fps (frames per second) faster. The difference is 7.0fps to Sony’s 5.0fps. Another plus point goes to Bluetooth connectivity that the Sony lacks.
Time-lapse video at 4K and 8K6 gives a creative edge to the D850. Another is Focus Bracketing. It works by taking several shots at variable focus points to increase the depth of field (DOF) in close-ups.
Being able to autofocus at f/8 aperture is one more gain for the Nikon D850. The main advantage of that is the ability to use autofocus with teleconverters.
Nikon’s D850 has slightly higher color depth and dynamic range than the Sony a7R II. The numbers are 26.4 vs. 26.0 and the dynamic range is 14.8 vs. 13.9 respectively.
OK, that concludes the Nikon D850’s advantages over the Sony a7R II, but it’s not over yet.
Why Consider the Sony a7R II over the Nikon D850?
There are fewer photographic advantages for the Sony a7R II than the Nikon D850. Some of them are sure to be decision-makers for certain people, though. Let’s start with the most significant first.
Sony’s a7R II has 5-axis image stabilization whereas the D850 doesn’t have any in-body stabilization. The a7R II’s in-body image stabilization (IS) is good, but not as good as a DLSR for slow shooting.
The lightweight advantage the Sony has over the Nikon is no small detail. These lighter, more compact bodies are key attractions for mirrorless fans. The difference here is a whopping 390g lighter.
To put the a7R II heft in perspective, 390g is about the same weight as three medium-sized oranges. Another Sony advantage is the longer shutter life. It has 500000 cycles to the Nikon’s 200000.
Cost is a big factor, especially when working with a tighter budget at the amateur level. Prices do fluctuate with cameras of course. Currently, the Nikon D850 costs more than twice that of the a7R II.
Three other pluses for the Sony relate to focus points, ISO, and sensor pixel area. It has 399 focus points—246 more than the Nikon’s 153. It also has better High ISO performance at 3434 vs. 2660.
Its sensor pixel area is larger by 7% and reads, 20.33µm2 vs. the D850’s 18.88µm2.
These are the most significant advantages the Sony a7R II has over the Nikon D850. Whether they are game changers depends on individual needs and photographic expectations.
These camera brands have many more shared advantages than they do disadvantages. Their collective cons are more like wishes than faults and unlikely to affect buying decisions.
The only two shared weaknesses are no integrated GPS or built-in pop-up flash units.
Inbuilt flash is not flattering and is always a last resort. Even so, the built-in flash can be invaluable for spontaneous shooting in the dark. It can mean the difference between capturing an image or not.
So, most photographers prefer to see a pop-up flash than none. Built-in GPS—though not a major setback—is something users would have liked for geotagging footage.
What the Reviewers Say
There are few shared gripes among reviewers of the Nikon D850 DSLR. There will always be personal likes and dislikes with any camera. These tend to be subjective and don’t reflect the bigger picture.
Many reviewers say that the D850 meets or exceeds their expectations and that’s huge. The cost of this camera suggests that most owners knew what they were getting long before they bought it.
Reviewers praise the Nikon D850 for its bright, iPhone-like touchscreen. They also appreciate the sharp images and fast autofocus. The deep, comfortable grip and the layout of the buttons are two more.
The D850’s quiet shutter, Live View functionality, and connectivity options are more shared likes.
Some reviews compare the D850 to other cameras owned or used. That results in different feedback depending on personal experiences. It’s almost always positive in the majority of cases.
There are a few shared negatives but nothing significant enough to devalue the positives. Nikon’s wireless iOS app gets a bad rap. And some photographers complain about no built-in stabilization.
No focus peaking for 4K video is another feature many reviewers would like to have seen. The missing pop-up flash also gets a thumbs-down for the reasons mentioned earlier.
There are a few other ‘minor criticisms’ that are personal rather than shared negatives.
Reviewers Take on the Sony a7R II
Most photographers agree that the Sony a7R II is an excellent mirrorless camera. It’s not a cheap mirrorless, so we expect it to be well-received. It’s unquestionably popular among fans of mirrorless technology.
The most predictable shared positive feedback refers to the camera’s lightweight and compact design. Image resolution and high-quality, colorful 4K video, and the incredible dynamic range are others.
Low light performance—including autofocus (AF) in dim light—gets plenty of approval too. Reviewers also welcome the in-body stabilization and being able to shoot at slower shutter speeds.
Everyone loves the tiltable 3-inch rear LCD, though most would have preferred a touchscreen. A more significant shared con is the Sony a7R II’s abysmal short battery life of just 290 shots per charge.
A few Sony fans complain of the limited range of a7 lenses (especially compared to D850 compatible glass), even though they are exceptional quality. Alas, there are only 83 available for the camera’s E lens mount. Nikon has 286 lenses for its F-mount.
There are some personal dislikes, but overall most owners of the Sony a7R II love this model.
The extra advantages of the Nikon D850 make it a clear winner—feature-wise. Its standout pros are the larger LCD, touchscreen, and longer battery life. It also has Bluetooth among other advantages.
The Sony a7R II is not without attractions. It’s a high-quality little camera with in-body image stabilization. The a7R II is also considerably lighter and more compact than the D850.
Whichever camera checks enough of your photography boxes is YOUR winner. At least now you have the facts to make a better-informed decision.Back to Top