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Which camera would you prefer?  

8 members have voted

  1. 1. only one is selectable

    • Sony A7R IV
      4
    • Sony A7R III
      2
    • Nikon Z7
      2


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Hi guys!

I am totally new to this forum. I tried to find a thread treating my issue but haven't found one, so I decided to start a new topic.

I have been using Oly MFT (since 2011 OM-D M5, since 2016 OM-D M1MII) for years and I was quite happy with it, especially with its packed-size and "travellability"!

Nonetheless, I started to look around for another (better) solution and rented a Sony A7 IV for 1 week on a dive-trip in the mediterranean sea - the result KNOCKED ME OFF!!! I am sure all of you guys already using a FF mirrorless can only laugh of me :-)

So, I took the decision to upgrade my gear to a fullframe, mirrorless cam and started searching different options. I am currently struggling between the 3 models:

NIKON Z7

SONY A7R IV

SONY A7R III

 

I wonder if anyone of you could give me a clue why I should prefer the A7R III or Nikon to the A7 IV (except the additional price-step to take and the higher noise)...! :-)

For those of you who'd like to read some pros and cons about the 3 candidates, just read on.

For those of you who can give me a hint, feel free to scroll down and type your answer - THANKS!!

 

 

I've read several forums and comparisons about advantages and disadvantages, some of which I'd like to share with you!

 

Nikon Z7

I have had "hands-on" in a camera-shop. Good "look and feel"-feeling, but nothing really better than the SONY.

+ proven manufacturer

+ high-quality products

+ sensor quality

+ quick cardslots (XQD)

+ menu-structure a bit more well-thought than the Sony (not necessarily from my personal point of view, though)

+ quite a fair price

- currently only a few lenses available (except F-mounts with adapter)

- generally one or two steps behind in developing mirrorless cams

- "only" 1 cardslot (although I cannot imagine this really being an issue in everyday use...)

 

Sony A7R IV

I was able to do a 1-week-live-testing with a rented equip. and I was absolutely convinced of this baby! :-)

+ successfully selling and developing mirrorless fullframes since 2013

+ incredibly high pxl: 61MP

+ rocket-fast autofocus (provided using a GM-lens)

+ picture quality

+ highest resolution of viewfinder (5.6 MP vs 3.6 MP on the Z7 and A7R III)

+ very wide variety / choice of lenses (all possible lengths, types and price-segments)

- due to the very high density of pxls on the sensor (50% more pxls on the same area 36x24mms), slightly more noise

- ... and maybe some erratic colors (I haven't been able to confirm this issue => anyone an idea?)

- the cardslots are not working very quickly, despite the fact that both slots are UHS-II SDXC

- Sony is not very known (as far as I know) as a manufacturer in the PHOTO-segment (more in the movie industry)

 

Sony A7R III

I have not yet been able to see it live, but I was told that for my purposes, it would serve almost as well as the A7R IV with some compromises. However, its price is remarkably lower...

Compared to the A7R IV:

+ remarkably less pricey

+ noise and color accuracy are told to be a bit better => can anyone confirm this??

- less resolution (42MP vs 61MP)

- viewfinder less resolution (3.8 MP vs 5.6 MP)

- slower autofocus

 

Thanks for reading, folks!!

 

 

uwpix_03.jpg

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Hi @PhilW

There is a lot of discussion about the cameras you list here on the forum. I would have a search around.

The short answer is that lens options for underwater are challenging for all three cameras. There are no native fisheye lenses for Sony full frame or Nikon Z series, and no native macro lens options for Nikon Z.
 

 

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The idea that lens options are limited is a bit of a false narrative, I have used all of these cameras, including the Z6 and the EOS R cameras all with adapted fisheye lenses. With the proper adapter all work as well as they do on native DSLR cameras. I don't see DSLR users complaining about the Nikonos RS 13mm fisheye or after market fisheyes being used on DSLR's. 

The facts are that the Sony mirrorless cameras have a wide range of lenses suited to U/W work. Wet wide optics like WACP and WACP II can also be used with these cameras just as they are with DSLRs'. If you own Canon lenses like the 8-15mm fisheye zoom and macros these can also be used with the Sony cameras. Nikon DSLR lenses can also be used on the Z-cameras with a Nikon adapter. Currently auto focus Is outstanding on the A7R IV with Canon EOS R cameras running second and Nikon Z cameras running third. 

I realize that native lenses would be the best investment but the upsides of 21 century tech out weights the the downsides of 20th century tech and its is only going to get better. 

You can checkout my reviews on many of these cameras and lenses in the back issues of uwpmag.com.

 

 

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I would suggest you are approaching this from the wrong angle - don't start with the camera body you need to look at the full system.  I would also throw into the mix the new Canon mirrorless offerings due to the lens selection available. 

I would start with what you would like to shoot and where.  the mirrorless bodies are smaller but if you shoot wide rectilinear lenses the domes are just as large - and a lot larger than the domes used with m43.  If you are spending all that money to improve image quality you don't want to cheap out on the dome or wet wide optics.

You don't say what you prefer to shoot, wide angle is one thing - domes are your limitation, macro is another - AF is important and different lenses will AF better or worse in each system

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@Phil Rudin

I don't agree (obviously) with the "false narrative" premise.

Old lenses like the RS 13mm still use phase detect AF technology, with a dedicated AF sensor, so still outperform all the on-chip AF solutions out there. 

WACP 1 and 2 are amazing, but neither is a fisheye, they are both significantly more expensive than a lens and 7" port and are both considerably heavier. You can shoot splits with the WACP2, but not WACP1.

Yes, you can use adaptors, but then you could use an SLR with faster, more accurate AF and a range of native lenses that are ideal for underwater use...

Speaking of which, what are the upsides and downsides?

Quote

upsides of 21 century tech out weights the the downsides of 20th century tech 

People keep telling me about them, but I fail to see them. Fir example, I think Nikon's Z mount is very clever and will ultimately outperform other lens mount systems, but while i have to use an FTZ adaptor, I can't actually realize any of its benefits. The AF on my D500 or D850 is also way better than that of any of the Nikon Zs or the Sony A7RIII.

It seems likely that at some point we will all be forced into using mirrorless cameras, but as of right now, I can see no "upside." When there is, I will be the first to make the switch!

Adam

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Hi Adam, Phil + Chris

thanks for the hints.

I usually do both, macro + wide angle - with a hang to wideangle since quite a while. So I'd say 80% of my photos are WA (of which a good part is CFWA) and 20% pure macro.

For wideangle shots, I have been using:

  • Oly OM-D EM1MII
  • 8mm fisheye
  • 7-14mm
  • 230mm or alternatively a 170mm dome

 

@adamhanlon

1) I did find various arictles treating these cameras - yet none that compares them to each other, is there?

2) I haven't really taken into consideration a DSLR, due to the bigger dimensions. As far as what I have seen + experienced with the SONY A7R IV, it really convinced me. Another approach (any maybe a naive question): what are the downsides of a mirrorless compared to DSLR?

 

@Phil Rudin

thanks - I took a deep look into your magazines. Great job!

 

@ChrisRoss
thanks for the "heads-up-call" with the Canon, I'll think about it.

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@PhilW Bluewater photo just released a review about the Canon R5 that makes that sounds VERY promising. It might be the sweet spot for non-DSLR full-frame mirrorless. https://www.bluewaterphotostore.com/canon-eos-r5-review

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Hi @heynsheyns thanks for the link to the R5 review. I am wondering how you felt about the sharpness/focus on the videos of the two eels starting around 1:50 mark in the review video? I felt like the vidoes were a bit mushy in that part..


By the way, I have been mulling the same options, and had pretty much the same opinions as @PhilW listed in the original post. I'd love to be able to go FF with a decent wide angle (16-35), but I absolutely don't want to lug a 23cm dome, and don't want to buy the super-expensive WW** ports of Nauticam. I would love it if someone has photos from Sony A7R III or IV, with a 18cm dome port, at different apertures, where I can get a sense of the corner softness compromise one faces.

Many thanks and Kind regards,

Ajay.

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2 hours ago, ajay said:

Hi @heynsheyns thanks for the link to the R5 review. I am wondering how you felt about the sharpness/focus on the videos of the two eels starting around 1:50 mark in the review video? I felt like the vidoes were a bit mushy in that part..


By the way, I have been mulling the same options, and had pretty much the same opinions as @PhilW listed in the original post. I'd love to be able to go FF with a decent wide angle (16-35), but I absolutely don't want to lug a 23cm dome, and don't want to buy the super-expensive WW** ports of Nauticam. I would love it if someone has photos from Sony A7R III or IV, with a 18cm dome port, at different apertures, where I can get a sense of the corner softness compromise one faces.

Many thanks and Kind regards,

Ajay.

That is a difficult question to "prove" an answer to with images.  You will probably find some images around that show corner performance at various apertures of 16mm rectilinear wides in large domes and you can see how they perform and know that a 180mm dome will be worse.  This link gives some hints at expected performance and includes a pic with a  17mm and a 170mm dome at f8:

https://uwaterphoto.com/?p=839

it's for a different camera system but in reality the camera system doesn't matter it's just the dome port radius and sensor size in combination with a focal length.  If you scroll down you'll see far corner crops of detail loss.  Rest assured the corners in a 180mm dome will be worse.   It talks about the S&S correction lens in the linked page, there are a number of threads on here reagrding using the S&S lens to improve the performance of 16-35 lenses in 230mm dome ports because people are unhappy the corners.

To me if you are going to spend the $$$ to buy and house a full frame camera you might as well use the best optics available and for rectilinear wides this is a big dome or a WWL.  If you don't want to haul big ports around you may as well buy a cheaper cropped sensor camera as you don't get the benefit of all that extra resolution if you don't buy and haul around the best optical arrangement - either that or go with a fisheye lens.

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@PhilW

I'm pretty sure I set out a series of specific disadvantages in my posts above, however:

There is a single significant disadvantage with mirrorless cameras - autofocus.

As underwater photographers, the bulk of our images are going to be taken using AF, and while you can fix almost everything else in post, if an image is soft, it is worthless. 

Mirrorless AF has improved over time, but so has SLR's. The best mirrorless systems AF are around 3 generation behind that of SLRs.

Secondary disadvantage (as I mentioned above) is the lack of suitable lenses for use underwater. Yes, you can use adaptors or the excellent conversion ports, but this increases the weight/bulk/expense and (in the case of the MTZ adaptor particularly) removes some of the actual advantages in the lens mount system. 

Not a disadvantage per se, but the bulk/weight for an SLR system is going to be close to that of a mirrorless one, once you factor in ports, strobes, housings etc. At least, the difference is much less marked. If you offset that against  improving the chance that your camera will be correctly focused at the "peak of the action" in that once is a lifetime shot, the weight/bulk argument is pretty moot.

I guess searching for people's opinions and discussing their choices and thoughts is what this forum is about. There are lots of threads about the cameras you list...why not ask your questions in those? 

In general, be very wary of reviews by camera stores....it is in their interests to get you to buy new stuff!

Adam

 

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5 hours ago, adamhanlon said:

..autofocus..

Hi Adam, I do recognize you (and others) stressing about the autofocus deficiencies of mirrorless cams. On the other hand, I see some remarkable photography of fast moving birds by an amazing gentleman called Mark Smith on youtube. He shoots Nikon and Sony -- and he finds AF in both of those systems equally good. Do check out his channel -- his photography really is amazing. Of course, I am not sure how AF in (presumably) good outdoor light and very long lens compares with relatively short focal lengths and less light underwater.
I do appreciate your points about total system weight/bulk. But to my mind, there is another factor: I feel like a mirrorless and a proper lens would be significantly more convenient if I want to double its use for travel other than diving.

Thanks!

Ajay.

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38 minutes ago, ajay said:

Hi Adam, I do recognize you (and others) stressing about the autofocus deficiencies of mirrorless cams. On the other hand, I see some remarkable photography of fast moving birds by an amazing gentleman called Mark Smith on youtube. He shoots Nikon and Sony -- and he finds AF in both of those systems equally good. Do check out his channel -- his photography really is amazing. Of course, I am not sure how AF in (presumably) good outdoor light and very long lens compares with relatively short focal lengths and less light underwater.
I do appreciate your points about total system weight/bulk. But to my mind, there is another factor: I feel like a mirrorless and a proper lens would be significantly more convenient if I want to double its use for travel other than diving.

Thanks!

Ajay.

Very few Bird In Flight photos are taken underwater.  :)  I do a lot of bird photography myself and there is a big difference in the amount of available light.  Even a cloudy day will have a lot more light to assist focus than in often available underwater.  It's is the low light autofocus capability that really distinguishes DSLRs like the D850 or D500.  Also note that most camera & lens development is optimized and tested with photographers shooting birds and such above water.  I would venture to guess that very little engineering is done to optimize for underwater shooting.

Edited by davehicks
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What @davehicks said!

I am familiar with Mark's beautiful work. I should point out that there are lots of birding pros shooting D850/D500/D6 and achieving similar or better results. The key with AF performance is the number of in focus images you can capture. With previous iterations of AF, I still managed to get in focus images. The difference now is that I get a lot more of them.

Sadly, this makes my first cull more difficult (!) but also helps ensure that when something unique happens, any images I take are usable!

Agreed, SLRs are bulkier traveling companions, but I don't think this was within the scope of the OP's question?

 

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I don't think there will be a noticeable difference in AF within the next generation or two. Already we're at the point where people are arguing that there is no difference at all, so we are probably very close. I think shooting experience with SLRs is very different to mirrorless. Some prefer SLRs, others prefer mirrorless. I also agree that with UW cameras the size of the camera itself is not an actual factor and housings don't seem to be that much smaller with mirrorless. Lens size and (dome)port size (scaling with sensor size) is much more important for total travel size. 

If you want the absolute best performance I think DSLRs are still the way to go, but the difference is tiny and if you prefer mirrorless for whatever reason I don't think it will make a big difference.

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In my opinion, companies have 'taken off' on the mirrorless bandwagon for a couple of reasons. Again, my opinion but I believe that building a mirrorless camera yields a higher profit per unit than building a similarly spec'd DSLR. With cellphone and similar devices replacing camera sales for a number of large user groups, certainly understandable. The new buyer at large has been 'sold' on this idea that MILC's offer some great advantages. Meh...minor ones at best. As 'analog' creatures, an EVF will never completely replace a quality OVF in the same way that reading from a tablet cannot replicate the 'satisfaction' of reading from a book. 

I have current top models of both DSLR and MILC cameras with housings. I still find the DSLR the better tool underwater photography but if I want/need to shoot video, the MILC system get the nod. The DSLR is certainly the more enjoyable tool for me to use and I do hope Canon and Nikon do not fully abandon DSLR's any time soon.

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@Akoni
Two comments...
Background: I still shoot with 2 high end DSLR's, but my kids shoot with Sony mirrorless now.

1. Although I enjoy shooting using an OVF today, AI-driven augmented vision with make EVFs the future in the next several years. It's already true in optical medical equipment and it will be true in photography equipment "soon." The reality is that integrating enhanced AI-driven optics is just easier in EVF, and that will drive the change. If the DSLR format survives, I expect it to do do with EVF augmentation.

2. As an avid reader I've switched almost entirely to consuming written content on my Kindle. Much more flexibility, more portable, can manage multiple sources at once, better in all lighting conditions, more weather resistant, etc. The only type of content left worth consuming on paper are books with numerous scientific (or other) illustrations or older, collectable books.

 

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I tend to agree with @oneyellowtang on those -- I'm old enough to recall when the battle over computer monitors for CAD pitted the vector graphics vs the "raster is faster" gang (and those CD vs vinyl ones)..
I think the conclusion from Adam, Dave and others that from current choices, DSLR cams would give a better shooting experience and results with not much compromise in the weight/volume of the UW rig - is correct.

It would be great to hear when the OP @PhilW decides to make the plunge (and his system). My own choice, likely, will be a mirrorless, because I definitely want a lighter top-side alternative -- but one that improves upon my current UW system (Nex-7) by giving me better focus, wide-angles and videos. I shall do so with the understanding that I will sacrifice %-ages and UI underwater. Really appreciate all the advice and discussion!
Ajay.

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@oneyellowtang

No doubt that such technology can offer benefits not achievable otherwise. Where I work, we have access to devices with EVF’s that outperform what todays cameras offer and yet for certain applications, the OVF continues to handily outperform the EVF counterpart. There are needs for both. As for AI augmentation, there is a company with an EVF binocular that in theory could load data for say birds, such that on top of presenting you an image of the subject, it will also provide an identification. Is that the future of birding? I certainly hope not and I’m not even a birder.

I too grab my kindle when I’m heading out on travel but when I have the time to read at home, I still prefer by far and away to read from a book. There are numerous studies indicating that comprehension and retention are higher when reading from printed pages than from a device. So while I love technology, I do realize that it has limitations as well and when it comes to more ‘artistic’ endeavors, technology can be a double edged sword. AI sky replacement in some of today’s photo editing software is becoming quite believable but I’d personally never use it and ‘look down’ upon its use. So while ‘change is inevitable’, we must realize that it is not always for the better.

However, I’m not trying to change anyone else’s opinions just offering my view.

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Hey guys

big thanks to all of you who put a lots of brains, experiences, opinions, etc into this post! As I expected, the sheer amount of information hasn't helped me to take a decision yet. Although, I must say I am very close to committing myself to the A7R IV.

As for the issues which have been raised:

- if you say the autofocus is better: you mean, it is quicker? or more precise? the speed convinced me, but I'd like to do a live-testing on a D850 for comparison

- lens choices: well, I see disadvantages for the Z- and R-mounts, pro's for E- and F-mounts

- no native fisheye: I heard the Canon 8-15mm works almost perfectly?

On 9/16/2020 at 11:13 PM, heynsheyns said:

@PhilW Bluewater photo just released a review about the Canon R5 that makes that sounds VERY promising. It might be the sweet spot for non-DSLR full-frame mirrorless. https://www.bluewaterphotostore.com/canon-eos-r5-review

yeah, I heard about the R5. If the rumours are correct, they overdid it with the video-capabilities they tried to implement... and I don't see any advantages in the stills compared to the R IV...

 

On 9/17/2020 at 8:52 PM, adamhanlon said:

Agreed, SLRs are bulkier traveling companions, but I don't think this was within the scope of the OP's question?

 

You're right, Adam - I am aware of the bulkiness, yet I haven't really experienced what it feels like! :-)

So, the choice now is between the R IV and a Nikon DSLR...

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AF has a number of dimensions - Birds in flight has been mentioned - this requires quick acquisition and the ability to stay on subject in spite of  foreground objects interfering - not really a thing underwater - except maybe in fast action around a bait ball perhaps.  Wide angle work is mostly straight forward and most systems will snap to focus very quickly in anything but the dirtiest water. 

Macro is going to be the test - down around life size and higher is where the AF systems will typically struggle.  On land this is not so much an issue - you are probably on a tripod and may even have a focusing rail and you may well use manual focus.   Floating around UW shooting life size is another story.  I would think you could probably test that out in a camera store with your chosen macro lens - the light is going to be low which will stress the AF system and you can see how well AF snaps in at minimum focus distance.  The AF is likely to vary with the chosen macro lens so if you try it out, do so with the lens you plan to shoot with.

You talked much about what you like to shoot - macro 20%- wide angle the rest - video?  All of those could come into the equation.  For example custom white balance for video can be a problem with Sony.  Regarding compactness _ shoot with EM-1 MkII and travelling is fairly easy - it all fits in a carry on size backpack or roller

Chances of doing that with a full size housing are much less - the D850 housing is really quite massive - I have dived with people using them and handled the rigs.  If you are happy to stick with a fisheye and macro with no rectilinear option then you can take some advantage of the slightly smaller mirrorless housings and perhaps develop a carry on option.

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I can put my entire Nauticam D850 setup with two Inon 330 strobes, arms, 105mm lens, 15mm lens, macro port, 170mm port and various accessories into a rolling Thinktank carry-on bag.  It's pretty heavy but it is legal carry on size.  I usually put the camera body and topside lenses in a backback, but it could go in the housing.  (although not recommended)

Edited by davehicks

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Macro underwater can easily be simulated on land shooting flowers details in a mildly windy day at golden hour
Camera usually fail because of the lens motor not responding quick enough
The focus tracking as implemented by nikon/panasonic on mirrorless may fail olympus/sony with the right lens will work fine
Lots of the ‘superior’ autofocus of DSLR actually comes from the lens response not from the tracking
I would skip the Z series and get a sony camera on loan to run this test


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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One thing that never gets a mention, is AF fine tune. We have four bodies, D850 and D800 and a dozen lenses, each of which need to be adjusted precisely for each body. This is a pain to say the least. With mirrorless focusing off the sensor, this issue disappears. I have a Nauticam, D800, 230 glass etc and it's simply too heavy for me now. A Nikon Z50 in a Nauticam with the 16-50DX behind a WWL-C will save a lot of weight for rectilinear and an 8-15 fisheye and FTZ adapter behind a 170 dome will cover the fisheye requirements. I'm tempted to use the Tokina  instead, with FTZ and a dome with manual focus... Anyone tried this? The Z50 uses the same sensor as the D500.

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I certainly find my Canon long tele lenses benefit from AF fine tune, but I've never had the need to fine tune my wide angle lenses.  I suspect for UW usage only your macro lens might benefit?

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@adamhanlon@Phil Rudin@ChrisRoss@ajay@heynsheyns@davehicks@Akoni@hyp@oneyellowtang@Interceptor121@PeteAtkinson

 

Thank you all for the broad, honest and facts-based discussion, opinions, etc!

I finally took the plunge into the SONY A7RIV. I already went on a one-week-trip and am totally happy with it. I even had the opportunity to try out the brand-new NAUTICAM EMWL with the whole range of accessory lenses! :-)

Of course, it's still a battle to accustom myself to the new functionalities etc to get the best out of it, but I quite got the hang of it.

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