Fstoppers Reviews The Canon 5DsR, Sony A7RII, and Nikon D810

If you thought the megapixel war was over years ago then you might shocked by the latest cameras released by Nikon, Sony, and Canon. The D810, A7RII, and 5DsR are the biggest and baddest pieces of artillery on the front line, and today the team at Fstoppers is going to determine once and for all which camera is the best. With enough megapixels to challenge some of the most popular medium format cameras, these compact full frame cameras pack a lot more punch than you would think. Don't believe us? View the full high res images and take the poll yourself!

 

 

Preface

Before we get deep into our thoughts about all three of these cameras, let me make this clear that we are not here to bash or praise any one of these cameras without good cause. Yes, both Patrick and I shoot with Nikon but as most of you know we are the first ones to point out when something isn't up to speed, is disappointing, or flat out sucks. The truth be told, if you simply want to create photographs, all three of these cameras are absolutely amazing in image quality, and if your photos aren't great it probably isn't because of the camera but instead you probably don't know how to take a good photo with the gear you already have.  

It is very clear that the most talked about camera of the three is the Sony A7RII which is creating a media buzz storm in the photo world. Sony has taken on a very different approach with their A series cameras and because they are the only mirrorless camera in this test, the Sony will have some extra challenges to overcome. Canon and Nikon have become the industry standard for high quality DSLR cameras and it would be foolish to think that any brand could just come in and take the crown away from them overnight. So while our review might seem harsh at times towards Sony, it is simply because they have a few major concerns to address before they can be viewed as an apples to apples contender with a professional DSLR. That being said, everyone at Fstoppers is extremely excited to see this new underdog take on the big boys. It is clear why Sony is gaining so much ground because they are implementing features and upgrades that professional photographers actually want while Nikon and Canon keep slowly releasing uninspiring cameras year in and year out. 

With that preface, let's get on with the tests!

 

Ergonomics 

Let's first start with how the actual camera feels in your hand. Everyone is already pretty familiar with the Nikon and Canon DSLR cameras (and even the Sony Alpha series) and how bulky and large they are next to smaller cameras. It seems that in most cases people typically believe smaller is better (except for the recent wave in smart phones lately). While it is true that smaller and lighter cameras are easier to travel with, they don't always feel great in your hands especially when you mount professional 2.8 lenses to them. 

This is where in my opinion the Sony falls short. For a travel camera, yes the Sony is absolutely the camera I'd prefer hanging around my neck, but the A7RII isn't aimed at travel photography. It is being sold as a high resolution studio camera for professionals. By the time you add a professional telephoto lens, a battery grip to balance out the heavy lens, and strap on your Sony or Metabones lens adapter, this lightweight camera becomes VERY similar in weight and size to a full sized DSLR. As we address later in this review, you are going to need a lens adapter and a ton of extra batteries which completely takes the "small and lightweight" argument completely out of the equation for me.  

To be perfectly fair here, Sony does win part of the ergonomics test by having the best ISO, Shutter, and Aperture button layout. As a professional photographer, these three settings are going to be adjusted more than any other setting besides maybe White Balance. Nikon and Canon both require you to push and hold an extra button to change ISO while Sony has wisely attached ISO to the right hand lower thumb wheel. This means you can easily and quickly change ISO, Aperture, and Shutter without taking your eye out of the viewfinder (EVF in this case) and make every change with one single hand. The Canon 5DS R is the next easiest with the ISO button on top of the right hand grip and the Nikon D810 is the worst by having a dedicated ISO button on the left side which requires your left hand to leave the lens to make this change. 

Dynamic Range Test

Dynamic range represents how much data the camera can capture in both the highlights and the shadows. Typically digital cameras can capture between 11 - 15 stops of light without crushing data on either side of the histogram. For this test we decided to take some test photos of a high contrast image and see how much detail we could pull out of the shadows while keeping the blown highlights to a minimum. I'll be the first to admit this is not the sort of situation you will be shooting in often but it does offer a unique environment to really pull out the shadow and highlight recovery.  

 

Our test results are pretty consistent to what other more sophisticated review sites have found. The Nikon D810 revealed just a little more detail in the shadows under the car than any of the other cameras, and the Canon 5DS R was the clear loser. The dynamic range on the Sony camera was between the Nikon and the Canon but the lens flair from the Sony 24-70 f/4 lens was so bad that the resulting image was actually worse than the Canon. I wish we would have been able to use the same Tamron 24-70 2.8 lens on all three of these cameras because it would have removed the lens as a variable but unfortunately the lens selection for the A7RII is pretty small even from third party manufacturers.  

It's pretty amazing to see how far dynamic range has come in the last 10 years. Having the ability to recover bright highlights and open up deep shadows is a very valuable tool for any photographer, and we were shocked how much details was still there hiding in these grossly underexposed night photos. That being said, these cameras seem to be aimed at studio photographers who have more control over their lighting ratios than other casual shooters. In the studio I don't think any of these 3 cameras really gives a huge advantage over the others especially if your total scene contains less than 12 stops from shadow to highlight. If you are a landscape photographer, you will either go with the Nikon for the best dynamic range, the Canon for the most resolution, or maybe the Sony just to have a lighter camera while sacrificing both dynamic range and resolution just a little bit.  

The ISO Test

One of the most exciting upgrades with each new camera is better performance in high ISO ranges. Both the Nikon D810 and the Canon 5DS R have maximum native ISOs of 12,800 while the Sony A7RII has one extra stop of native ISO at 25,600 (all three cameras have a few extra stops of software expandable ISO). For the sake of making our tests as fair as possible, we decided to only push the ISO to the max native ISO of the Canon and Nikon. Therefore, ISO 12,800 was used as the main high ISO mark for all three cameras.  

As you can see from the small jpegs above, all three of the cameras produced a pretty incredible image at these insanely high sensitivities with very little ambient light on the subject. After processing the RAW files through Lightroom, we had a very hard time distinguishing the 3 cameras from one another and ultimately decided that all three cameras tied when it came to the signal to noise ratio. We found this fairly shocking since there has been so much hype behind Sony's new Back-Illuminated CMOS sensor technology.  

As stated in the video, we did push the Sony ISO even higher to see how it performed but honestly the noise was so bad that in our opinion it really shouldn't be considered an option for professional photographers. That being said, we find it hard to justify shooting anything above ISO 6,400 unless you are just trying to capture something in pure darkness. Most professional photography and video work is always done with some sort of supplemental lighting even in "low light" nighttime scenes. So while the excitement of having these new insanely high ISO options is pretty neat, ultimately it is still pretty much a novelty and produces unprofessional looking results. 

Auto Focus Test

If there was one test I was really curious about it was the Auto Focus Test. So many people have told me that the one thing really holding them back from jumping onto the mirrorless bandwagon has been the slow auto focus compared to the traditional DSLR. When Patrick and I traveled to Photokina last year, we took a Sony A7s along with us to test out during our European journey. We were absolutely amazed at the extreme low light performance of that camera but the autofocus was so bad that we concluded that neither of us would feel comfortable shooting the A7s at a wedding reception (we had the same 24 -70 f4 lens with us too).  

Times have changed in just a year or two though. While we were skeptical that any of the photos would be in focus for this test, the Sony A7RII performed as well as the Nikon and only slightly less than the Canon. To be fair to all of these cameras, our "Miley Cyrus" test was a beast of an autofocus test. All the lenses were shot at 70mm and the swing of our wrecking ball celebrity spanned a good 7 feet from apex to apex. As a whole, the entire group of cameras locked onto focus about 30% of the time with the Canon 5DSR just barely winning out. 

If you were one of the photographers who warned us that AF performance on the mirrorless system would be a deal breaker, you need to give the A7RII a try (and the new A7sII as well). It is too early to tell if the increased performance of the A7RII is going to become the standard for Sony auto focusing but if this is the future then we are pleasantly surprised.  

4k Video Test

For some reason photographers like to complain about the added video functionality being packaged into each new DSLR that hits the market. Video and photography is a converging market, and those professionals who want to remain successful in their craft are going to have to learn how to create content through both mediums. For this test we wanted to see which camera would give us the clearest and sharpest image straight out of the camera.  

Obviously the Sony outperformed both the Nikon and Canon because it is the only camera that can shoot native ISO directly to the memory card. Prior versions of the A7 series cameras could also shoot 4K video but required an external recording device to process and capture the footage. As we found out from our tests, the main reason an external recording device is needed is because these larger megapixel sensors tend to overhead when processing 4K footage internally.  The Sony A7RII locked up on us a few times while filming, and the only warning it displayed was a short "Internal Temp High, Allow it to Cool" error.  

While I have to applaud Sony for pushing the envelope and giving us the high 4K footage we desire, this overheating issue is simply too risky for me to fully adopt this camera for my video work. Many online reviews have said that in order to mitigate this problem you need to shoot in cooler temperatures and also pull the LCD screen out to allow proper cooling of the camera. Our video test was done in about 70 degree weather (while raining on us) and the LCD screen was tilted away from the body of the camera. The failure happened about 30 minutes into recording which is an all too typical continuous record time for interviews, timelapses, and other extended scenes.  

100% crops of 1080 footage (Sony 4k exported to 1080 first)

In terms of 1080 video quality, we found the Sony to win this category easily as well. The Sony does produce the highest quality since it can record at 50mbps in 1080p (100mbps in 4k), but the Nikon and Canon footage still looked pretty good with their lowly 23mbps and 30mbps data respectively. Many people get caught up on the resolution alone when it comes to video quality but the truth be told, the total bitrate is more important since it gives you more information to color grade the footage in post. The Sony also offers an sLog profile which gives you the dullest image with the most dynamic range possible but you do have to dig deep into their menu system to find it since it is not labeled anywhere.   NOTE IN THE VIDEO: we accidentally wrote kbps instead of mbps but the overall results are still the same. 

Slow Motion Test

Since we produce a lot of youtube videos, having extra features like being able to record in slow motion are really important. The results for this test were similar to the previous video test in that the Sony was the clear winner in overall image quality. I would say the Nikon did okay in this test but the lower 38mbps bitrate still doesn't compare to Sony's significantly higher 51mbps files. The clear loser here is Canon which is a bit shocking considering they have always been the leader in DSLR video. This flagship camera cannot even shoot 1080p at 60fps and all of their footage had to be upscaled 100% which caused a major decrease in image quality. One might argue that Canon has divided their photo and cinema cameras into two different offerings but when you see that Nikon and Sony are offering 1080p at 60fps in their lesser expensive cameras it doesn't really make sense.  

One thing that these cameras are all lacking is the ability to shoot faster than 60 fps.  The iPhone and many other cell phones can now shoot 120 fps at 1080p and even 240 fps at 720p. Obviously the quality from the iphone isn't going to be up to Hollywood's standards but it's still pretty amazing for web usage. As mentioned above, Sony has found a way to push 4k into their small camera body even with the overheating issue so maybe there is a similar barrier at the moment with large sensors and super fast frame rates. Even so, 120fps seems like a useful feature we would like to see in future full frame cameras even if it is only intended for short 5-15 second clips. Apparently the brand new Sony A7sII will shoot 120fps at 1080 which is exactly what we are asking for (let's just hope it doesn't over heat).  Why none of these cameras shoots 120fps even at 720p is beyond me. 

 

High Resolution Photo Test

Without a doubt, the most important test for all three of these cameras is how well they resolve detail in a real world studio photoshoot. Since the Nikon, Sony, and Canon cameras are 36mp, 42mp, and 50mp respectively, these cameras are clearly aimed at delivering the highest quality photographs ever produced by a DSLR style camera. This amount of clarity has never been available to the general public outside of having to buy a medium format camera, and in many ways these three DSLR cameras are directly competing with the larger sensor format.  

For this test we wanted to give you the reader the chance to guess which file came from which camera. All three RAW files were shot at the same settings and then tweaked ever so slightly to get the same WB and shadow/highlight detail, and overall color. We then exported the files and resized the Canon and Sony down to 36mp to give Nikon a fair playing field. You can download all three ultra high resolution images below (click image to open full res file) and take the quiz.  We will release the results in a few days.  

Camera 1 

Camera 2

Camera 3

 

 

 

One final thought, although all three of these cameras have a massive amount of resolution, the difference between 36mp, 42mp, and 50mp is not as much as you might expect. Sure, every little bit of increased resolution lets you crop a little tighter and print massive images that you can walk right up to and examine in full detail. However, when you stack the three resolutions up next to each other you can see that all three of these files are pretty similar in size. The advantages are no doubt HUGE when compared to another flagship cameras like the Nikon D4s which is only 16mp, but the difference in resolution between 36mp and 50mp might not warrant you to upgrade and jump ship to another camera brand. In fact, some of you may be surprised by your findings in the above resolution test when you look at all the images scaled down to 36mp for comparison.  

 

A few thoughts on what WASN'T covered in the video

Lenses

Everyone knows that Canon and Nikon have the widest selection of lenses for their cameras, and they should since they've been in the photo game longer than most of the other manufacturers. I'm sure some physics guru can explain why Sony HAD to change their lens mount from the A mount to the E mount but that decision could be the most costly decision the company has made. Not only does it limit Sony DSLR users from using the Sony lenses they already own, but it also makes it increasingly difficult for 3rd party lens makers like Tamron, Sigma, and Rokinon to offer their contributions to the Sony platform because they have to make 2 different mounts now. If mirrorless is the future, you would think it would be wise to make the jump from DSLRs as easy as possible. At the moment Sony does not have the two most flagship lenses available at all, the 24-70 2.8 and the 70-200 2.8. For this reason alone, I would not consider the Sony system for most of the portrait work I do both inside and outside especially if you rely on zooms over primes.  

But what about all those people who say "just add an adapter and you can use every lens ever made by anyone?" It is true that we have not tested all of the adapters made by Sony, Metabones, and others, but we were disappointed to find that our Metabones adapter did not allow the autofocus to pass through. Adapters are fine and many videographers and film makers have been using them for decades to get the specific lens look they want out of their cameras. The issue I have with adapters like the Sony LAEA 4 is that 1) it is another piece I have to keep up with in my bag, 2) it adds even more weight  and lens torque to a system whose main selling point is that it is so much lighter, and 3) it decreases your image quality and AF in a not so negligible way. Sure, lens adapters are a solution but that solution seems more of a work around rather than the most professional option. 

There is no doubt that Sony will release some killer lenses for the E mount in the next few years and they have a close relationship with Zeiss which creates the top rated lens of all time. For me though, I like to buy into a system with lots of options and I do not like jerry-rigging my camera to work with other brands' lenses. It is obvious that Sony is making a huge splash in the camera market which is great for us consumers but at the moment their lack of lenses shouldn't be overlooked for those lusting after the greatest and latest camera technology.  

Battery Life

If there is one thing that really plagues the Sony camera it is the battery life. When we recently traveled around the world for Elia Locardi's Photographing the World tutorial, we took one Sony A7s with us to help capture super low light video. What we noticed with that camera was the battery would deplete right before our eyes. You literally could turn on the camera and watch the battery percentage drain down every minute. Unfortunately not much has changed with the new A7RII. The camera even ships with 2 batteries so it's pretty clear Sony acknowledges how bad their battery life is but I would suggest having at least 5 batteries with you at all time if you are going to shoot anything important like a wedding or a full day photoshoot. Don't forget to bring the charger too!

Many people who love the Sony love it because the camera is so small, the batteries are 1/3 smaller than the Nikon or Canon, and the whole thing weighs a few ounces less than a full DSLR. While all of that is true, the sad reality is you will more than make up that weight and size difference by having to carry more batteries around with you (plus the charger). Being the owner of almost every Nikon DSLR camera to have come out, I can confidently say that you can easily shoot a full wedding with only 2 charged batteries. When we produce Fstoppers videos, we do use more batteries than during a wedding but they still deplete at a respectable pace. Luckily there is a Sony Power Adapter that allows you to plug into AC power which is a crucial accessory if you decide to go this route.  

Camera Flash Sync Speed

I really do not want this review to feel like a Sony bashing but we honestly did have so many little issues come up with this camera that need to be addressed. During our final studio High Resolution Test above, we found that although the Sony claims the camera can sync up to 1/250th of a second with studio strobes, it actually had a much lower sync speed. In the above test, we set all the camera shutters to 1/200th of a second and noticed the Sony had a lot of vignetting along the left side of the vertical frame. Since maximum sync speed is a huge feature for photographers using flash, we decided to leave the image in the test but we also did a separate test on the Sony just to see what was happening. Here are the results we found.

 

As you can see, using our Profoto Air Remote and 2 Profoto D1 heads, the Sony A7RII could not sync beyond 1/125th of a second. That is about a full stop of lost flash sync compared to the Nikon which syncs at 1/250th and the Canon which syncs at 1/200th. According to Sony's website, the A7RII can sync up to 1/250 just like the Nikon but in the real world it is going to sync well below that shutter speed. In a future video we are going to test a few common speedlights and studio strobes to see what the actual flash sync is on the Sony but after reading a lot of reports online, it looks like the only system that will give you the full 1/250th of a second sync is the proprietary Sony flash system.  

Conclusion


When I first got into photography I always had to have the latest and greatest technology. I thought it made my photography better. The truth is that technology is so good now that you could use almost any current camera to get amazing professional results. A few more megapixels or a stop of dynamic range isn't going to effect your pictures at all. 
The Sony A7RII is a great camera. If you don't already have a lot of money invested in a camera system and 2.8 lenses aren't a necessity right now, the A7RII may be a fantastic choice. I just didn't feel like the Sony was able to outperform the DSLR competitors in an area other than 4k video recording. That leads me to conclude that the A7RII isn't actually better than the D810 or 5DSR, it's just a really great smaller option. 


Mirrorless cameras are the future and eventually this type of camera will be better in every way than our current DSLRs, but we aren't there yet. You may be tempted to jump ship on Canon or Nikon and move to the "newer" technology that Sony is producing but I can't recommend that. Nikon and Canon will eventually create an even better camera and you'll feel like switching  back. This happens every 4 or 5 years. 


Take a deep breath and know that your DSLR isn't obsolete. It still takes amazing pictures and it will for quite some time. 

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151 Comments

Why would you review a lens stabilization vs a in body stabilization ?

On any camera, usually lens stabilization > in body stabilization. Still you gain few stops with the in body stabilization. Sad that this was not mentionned.

Yes indeed. This was pretty bad and biased but eventually they will look back at this and realize how close minded they was and biased. Good to know where I WONT come back to read any articles since they are as bad as Tony and Chelsea. No I get that FS stand for fucking stupid...makes more sense now.....

Bwahahaha

JJ Backer's picture

Sorry, Ever Last, but Eye autofocus has been available on Sony mirrorless bodies since the 1st A7 was released and even on some older NEX APSC bodies....

I shoot Nikon, but I don't see how anyone can claim it won. I do think Sony is the least acceptable for professional use.

The Quiz: Two lenses show purple fringing, one does not. Canon and Nikon were used with the same type of lens, Sony has its own. Also the Sony shows problems with flash sync, so it's easy to spot. Of the two candidates with Tamron lenses, the Nikon is sharper because it was not downscaled (which usually results in a loss of sharpness). Easy! :-)

Well damn

TBH I did my voting based on colors alone and was 100%. Didn't even click on the pics to enlarge them.

Patrick Hall's picture

I find this interesting, what did you specifically see color wise? I believe all the colors were assigned primarily from the WB point I picked on the background. I also adjusted the vibrance and saturation to try to make all the color levels the same. Do you think the color difference is an embedded feature of the sensors or something that is more affected by the post production? Either way, that's pretty impressive since the majority of people cannot differentiate the files at all.

Just by looking at the greens and yellows. Even if you're using a white balance card, you're using the camera software for color interpretation in RAW to be decrypted by LR. For some reason LR gives Sony's greens and yellows a bit of a cartoonish look, Nikon more natural, and Canon sits in between. You'd have to actually mess with the colors to alter them from the LR interpretation.

Well, I did get all three answers right based on color too. Didn't even need to look at the full size version. Nikon is kind of, well, warmer. To me, the Nikon skin tones, greens and yellow look better. Looks like canon images have a slight greyish-blue cast to them, which others probably find apealing. That's Something I have consistently observed in the Nikon and Canon compacts I've owned over the years.
Color wise, your sample is quite consistent with my wife's RX-100 behaviour too. Very color happy, but lacks of subtility.

I understand that the sony doesn't have a 24-70 2.8, or 70-200 2.8. However, it does have other lenses that are much much much better than that 24-70 f4 lens you used. That lens is awful! It would have been more fair to use a lens that all three have that are comparable. ie 55 1.8 sony lens, and the 50mm equivalents to nikon and canon. Or the 85 1.8 batis lens with the canon and nikon verion. Ive read plenty of articles that the 24-70 f4 sony lens is garbage. Body doesn't matter much with bs in front of it.

Patrick Hall's picture

It is really easy to say this or that lens should be used but our plan all along was to use the same Tamron 24-70 2.8 since Tamron makes lenses for every brand. Once we figured out there weren't third party lenses available for the E mount, we had to change go with something comparable. If anything I thought Sony would have an advantage because we gave them their own Ziess lens for the test.

If we went with a "comparable" 50mm lens like you suggested we would have run into the same problem or worse if there were 3 different lenses altogether. In the end I think the image quality is so freaking similar, the take away shouldn't be that this wasn't fair or that wasn't fair and instead "wow, yeah the differences are negligible"

I was just saying that glass in my opinion is very important, and that lens gives the sony a big disadvantage. It was pretty obvious that you guys didn't know much about the sony line having so many problems with choosing a lens. More thought should have gone into this to really have a fair test for all parties. Never the less, i enjoyed the article and video. I don't have to tell you guys that glass can make or break the image no matter what body you are using. And for the record, I am a Canon shooter ;)

Patrick Hall's picture

We are going to redo the image quality test with the Sony adapter and a Tamron Lens. We had the metabonez adapter but we thought adding something between the camera and lens would be a big disadvantage but all the Sony people are telling us that is the test they actually want to see. I'm sure if Sony performs in a similar way even with the adapter they will still complain but that is the fair scientific thing to do. We shall see

Eric Knorpp's picture

Get the right metabones adaptor, looks like you all used the wrong one.
I am very interested in these test as I am seriously thinking about switching over to Sony after being a Canon user for over 20 years. Not sure I really get the Studio flash deal bc if your shooting flash in studio and there is not a lot of ambient light, it does not really matter what sync speed you shoot at. I almost always shoot at 1/160th with Canon in the Studio. Also you forgot to mention that the Sony has a lot more focus spot options covering almost the whole sensor. I have not actually used one but this sounds nice bc you would no longer have to tilt up to focus on the face/eyes then re composite, I imagine you could just keep the camera where you want it and get focus on the eyes. Again just going on what I have read on the internet. Maybe someone can correct me if I am wrong?

I guess you guys haven't heard of the LAEA 3, since you had two copies of the ZA24-70 f/2.8 for the test, which Leigh made a point of (for comic effect I'm sure). You mention the LAEA 4 in the article, but a little bit of research would have shown that it is not the appropriate adapter for use with the A7RII and the ZA24-70, the LAEA 3 is, then you get native use of all 399 AF points. The LAEA 4 was a stop gap for when the AF in E mount cameras sucked, and added support for screw drive lenses with an internal AF drive module. With the A7RII this is no longer necessary, apart from the screw drive support for older lenses. I am no fan of the A7 family, I shoot A99, and have that lens. I also shoot a few other cameras where appropriate, so I am no fanboy (too old for that at 45). I can see that Sony are trying to make the transition easy, but could do a better job of making these things clearer.

Patrick Hall's picture

Well we have the LAEA4 coming our way so it will be that adapter. I've read a little and all the comments from Sony shooters said to get that version.

Again, in my opinion, the fact that there is so much confusion and conflicting info on this sort of stuff (like a freaking lens adapter) makes me so disappointed in the system as a whole. Obviously we aren't Sony shooters but we are pretty competent as photographers and even we are confused. If you go and buy the most expensive lens from any other camera company, almost every time that is the best option with the best quality. With Sony it seems like navigating a maze to figure all of this out and I've never seen a system that requires so much research just to make a simple purchase.

I'm curious to see what the new results will be after using the Tamron lens on the Sony but I'm already expecting backlash now that yet another issue with the adapter seems to be brewing on the horizon.

Well, maybe the difference would not be so freaking similar if one would use really sharp lenses. In your comparison, the D810 wins (in my opinion, but that does not really matter here, because they are really similar, as you said).
Just try the A7RII with the 55mm prime lens at f/5.6 and try to match the sharpness/detail with the D810 and any lens. I guess, that would be really hard.
Also the 5DsR could have some sweet prime lenses where its sensor shines much better than in this comparison here.
People who are really interested in sharp, high resolution pictures might not be those to use a Tamron 24-70.

Patrick Hall's picture

That seems like a really poor way to run a scientific test....use this for one and then use a bunch of others to try to get the same result. The truth of the matter is the Tamron is just as sharp at f8 in the center of the frame as any other 24-70 lens. When you buy a 2.8 or faster lens, you are buying it for the wide open aperture and using a 50mm prime and stopping it down just seems silly.

Perhaps the real issue here is that maybe all these sensors are actually able to out resolve any lens you put on the camera (I've heard that argument a lot once we've surpassed the 24mp mark).

Again, if every camera uses the same lens and one or two stand out as being sharper, I think that's the most fair way to run a test like this especially with a tiny aperture when everything is in focus.

Look, don't blame your ignorance on the system. There are tons of people more than willing to help you out. You were ambitious, and that's fine and all, but don't be too proud to approach experts who know a system, when you admit you are ignorant of it. You would have had a ton of help and avoided just about every (deserved) negative comment you have received.

Yes, it would be not scientific. Your test with three lenses instead of one lens is also not very scientific. But it does not have to be!

My point is, I would not buy a camera with a high resolution sensor only for fun. I would certainly not buy an A7RII if 24 MPix would be enough for my needs because I could (well to some degree, only for still images) get an A7II and save a lot of money. I also would not get a D810 if I could manage to use a D750 with less resolution.

Therefore I would compare the systems (not only the camera bodys) with the corresponding lenses which give very good image quality and see what the differences are. What is the benefit of saying, well these three cameras with these three same lenses have no difference in image quality if I would never be using the tested lens because I am interested in high resolution and therefore not using any zoom lens at all?

In the article you say that these cameras are contenders to medium format cameras. Well, I do not know of any photographer who uses medium format and is expected to deliver very sharp high resolution pictures who would use something like a "24-70 2.8 medium format equivalent lens" because he likes the zoom range and could not care less about sharpness and these awkward to use prime lenses.

Of course you would use a 24-70 2.8 for weddings but when exactly do you need 50 MPix pictures to be delivered to your bride and groom?
This is not the typical use case where pixel-level sharpness matters.

I really do not understand what you intend to tell me in the first paragraph about apertures, I'm sorry. I agree that in not perfect conditions I would use a small aperture number (and of course a fast lens) to get a reasonable exposure. I do not agree about getting a sharp prime lens and not stopping it down because of "well, it is a fast lens, stopping it down just seems silly". That is not the approach you will be using when you want these megapixel monsters to deliver really sharp pictures.

Also, I personally do not believe that with the exact same lens on these three different sensors there will be a big difference in sharpness, detail, whatever. The differences will be in the lenses people would actually buy for their use case and my point is that usually those pixel peepers who buy 50 MPix cameras would not get a 24-70 2.8 but sharp (not necessarily fast!) prime lenses.

Also, my suggestion to you to get a 55mm 1.8 Sony/Zeiss lens and try on the A7RII is not meant for another comparison or something. I just thought that it seems that you have the means to get lenses to try out so maybe you personally would be interested and possibly more satisfied with the Sony camera when paired with a lens which could deliver better resolution images to its sensor. Also the 90mm 2.8 macro is said to be very sharp.

Also for the Nikon and Canon there have to be lenses (and I am pretty sure you also own some) which make the sensors shine much more than any 24-70 zoom lens.

Sean Molin's picture

Did you get a bad copy of the Sony? It's a pretty solid performer. And I'd say even a mediocre Sony/Zeiss is going to perform better than (or at least the same as) a top-tier Tamron.

f/4 lenses straight up have a sharpness and chromatic aberration advantage out of the gate to their f/2.8 counterparts. And the Tamron straight up has really poor spherical aberration and crappy onion bokeh.

Patrick Hall's picture

I honestly don't really buy into the whole "bad copy" argument. If you look at the final studio photos, they all look very very similar except for a little CA if you look hard. I think everything performed as expected. Plus at f11 most lenses should even out and perform pretty well across the board. The big advantages come when a lens is wide open.

Just curious for all the Sony 24-70 f/4 haters, what Sony lens SHOULD we have used instead of that one?

The FE 90/2.8 is my studio portrait and do everything tele lens. It's absolutely fantastic. It's probably only beaten by the Zeiss Otus lenses.

Patrick Hall's picture

yeah but we can't use that same lens on the other two cameras, that's the problem.

If you want to rule out differences between lenses, I think there is no other way than adapting an SLR lens to the Sony for the sharpness comparison. There is no lens that has both native SLR and E-mount (other than the Samyang 14mm/2.8, which is probably not the best portrait lens).
Then again, I guess we will see no difference at all in this studio portrait. ;)

Yes, that is right. But where is the problem?

Someone who would buy the A7RII would get the Sony 90mm 2.8 for high resolution macro work.

Someone who buys the D810 would perhaps get the AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED for macro work.

And someone who buys the 5DsR would perhaps get the EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM.

These are the real world usable options you have (well in this example for macro lenses and/or portrait tele lenses) when you are about to drop more than 3000 $ or € on a camera so this should be the contenders to compare. You can do the same with 50mm lenses or wide angle or whatever. If you test this and compare picture quality that would be of great benefit for anyone interested in the differences of these systems!

Anton Blinkenberg Zeuthen's picture

One of the Sigma Art lenses. You can get them native for canon and nikon, and can easily be adapted to the sony. That would work well in all tests except AF :)

I'm a pretty big Sony fanboy, but Lee is making a key point here. The big aperture zooms are essential in a system that aims to prioritize professional photographers, particularly those who shoot weddings. Sony doesn't have a reliable zoom yet, despite how great their prime offerings are. In fact, being constrained to f/4 zooms, Sony isn't there at all. Comparing a ZA 55 to the CaNikon 50s could be a fair comparison, but they're still very different and it would not be the point. Canon and Nikon have excellent zooms available for professional event photographers while Sony has *yet* to make any significant offering in that regard. Sony has many great lenses for FE, but none of them are the zooms that pros need.