Both Nikon and Canon released their first full-frame mirrorless cameras around the same time, with Nikon releasing the Z6 and Z7 and Canon releasing the EOS R all in Autumn of 2018. In the years since, both companies have made many other mirrorless cameras, but that doesn’t mean their first attempts were bad. In fact, with used prices being so good these days, all three of these cameras may be worth considering. So, let’s compare the Nikon Z6, Z7, and Canon EOS R.
Below are the technical specifications of all three cameras, including their mount and pricing information:
|Camera Feature||Canon EOS R||Nikon Z6||Nikon Z7|
|Mount Inner Diameter||54.0mm||55.0mm||55.0mm|
|Sensor Resolution||30.4 MP||24.5 MP||45.7 MP|
|Sensor Type||CMOS||BSI CMOS||BSI CMOS|
|Sensor Size||36.0 x 24.0mm||35.9 x 24.0mm||35.9 x 23.9mm|
|In-Body Image Stabilization||No||Yes, 5-axis||Yes, 5-axis|
|Sensor Pixel Size||5.36µ||5.9µ||4.35µ|
|Image Size||6,720 x 4,480||6000 x 4000||8256 x 5504|
|Image Processor||DIGIC 8||EXPEED 6||EXPEED 6|
|Buffer Capacity (14-bit RAW)||47 Images||43 Images||19 Images|
|Native ISO Sensitivity||ISO 100-40,000||ISO 100-51,200||ISO 64-25,600|
|Boosted ISO Sensitivity||ISO 50, ISO 51,200-102,400||ISO 50, ISO 102,400-204,800||ISO 32, ISO 51,200-102,400|
|Dust Reduction / Sensor Cleaning||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Viewfinder||Electronic / EVF||Electronic / EVF||Electronic / EVF|
|Viewfinder Type / Resolution||OLED / 3.69 million dots||QVGA / 3.6 million dots||QVGA / 3.6 million dots|
|Flash Sync Speed||1/200||1/200||1/200|
|Storage Media||1x SD (UHS-II)||1x XQD||1x XQD|
|Continuous Shooting Speed||8 FPS (no AF), 5 FPS with AF||12 FPS||9 FPS|
|Max Shutter Speed||1/8000 to 30 sec||1/8000 to 30 sec||1/8000 to 30 sec|
|AE Bracketing Range||±3 EV||±3 EV||±3 EV|
|Shutter Durability||200,000 cycles||200,000 cycles||200,000 cycles|
|Electronic Front-Curtain Shutter||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Autofocus System||Hybrid PDAF||Hybrid PDAF||Hybrid PDAF|
|Number of AF Points||5655||273||493|
|Video Maximum Resolution||4K @ 24/25/30 FPS||4K @ 24/25/30 FPS||4K @ 24/25/30 FPS|
|1080p Video Max Frame Rate||60 FPS||120 FPS||120 FPS|
|4K Video Crop Factor||1.74x||1.0x||1.0x|
|HDMI Out / LOG||4:2:2 10-bit HDMI Output / Yes||4:2:2 10-bit HDMI Output / Yes||4:2:2 10-bit HDMI Output / Yes|
|LCD Size and Type||3.2″ Tilting Touchscreen LCD||3.2″ Tilting Touchscreen LCD||3.2″ Tilting Touchscreen LCD|
|Articulating LCD||Yes, Tilting and Front/Back||Yes, Tilting||Yes, Tilting|
|LCD Resolution||2,100,000 dots||2,100,000 dots||2,100,000 dots|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||350 shots||330 shots||310 shots|
|Weather Sealed Body||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|USB Version||3.1||Type-C 3.1||Type-C 3.1|
|Weight (Camera Body Only)||580g||585g||585g|
|Dimensions (Excludes Protruding Viewfinder)||135.8 x 98.3 x 67.7mm||134 x 100.5 x 67.5mm||134 x 100.5 x 67.5mm|
|Original MSRP||$2,299.00 (check price)||$1,999.95 (check price)||$3,399.95 (check price)|
|Lowest Recent Price||$1800||$1400||$2300|
Resolution-wise, the Canon EOS R sits between the Nikon Z6 and the Nikon Z7, so it strikes a good balance here. Unfortunately, Canon decided to go with a very similar image sensor as on the Canon 5D Mark IV, which means that we are still dealing with older CMOS sensor technology, while Nikon is using newer BSI CMOS sensors. However, if we look at it from the practical side, the differences between CMOS and BSI CMOS in image quality aren’t great enough to put Canon at a serious disadvantage.
All three cameras have excellent high ISO performance, but the Canon EOS R falls a bit behind in dynamic range (especially compared to the Nikon Z7 at ISO 64). The lack of a low-pass filter on the Nikon Z7, combined with the higher resolution, also means that it can capture slightly crisper details.
Another important difference here is the camera mount itself. The Nikon Z mount has a 55mm inner diameter and a very short flange distance of 16mm. Canon isn’t far behind with a 54mm diameter lens mount and a 20mm flange distance. Between the two, Nikon has a slight advantage when designing lenses, but Canon’s is plenty flexible as well. This is apparent in the equally high-quality Nikon Z and Canon RF lenses that we have seen so far. (See more at lens mounts explained.)
Arguably the biggest difference between these cameras is in-body image stabilization (IBIS). Here, Canon is at a rather serious disadvantage – it decided to go only with lens-based stabilization, whereas Nikon introduced its first IBIS implementation on the Nikon Z6 and Z7 cameras. Canon definitely loses out here, mainly because Canon shooters will not be able to take advantage of image stabilization on all lenses, new or old, whereas Nikon shooters can use any existing Nikon F mount lens, even really old glass from 50 years ago and still enjoy the benefits of image stabilization.
On the other hand, Canon outclasses Nikon is in its excellent implementation of Dual Pixel AF technology and a flip-out LCD screen. As we have already seen on a number of Canon DSLRs, Dual Pixel AF is a fantastic autofocus technology that does an excellent job with tracking and focusing subjects. Because of this technology, many vloggers pick Canon DSLR cameras to create their video content and now they have a much smaller, lighter and more capable camera. Couple this with a fully flipping articulating screen and Canon has definitely hit the spot for video content creators. Unfortunately, Nikon is not even an option for this purpose, as its LCD screen only tilts, making it impossible to see what is being recorded when facing the camera.
Thanks to Dual Pixel AF, Canon was also able to make a whopping 5,655 autofocus points available and selectable to use. This is something that has never been done before and no other camera on the market has this many focus points to choose from. Compare that to 273 AF points on the Nikon Z6 and 493 AF points on the Nikon Z7 and you will see why it is a significant difference.
At the same time, the sheer number of autofocus points does not make much difference if it takes too long to move those focus points, or if the AF system itself is slow. In this case, all three cameras have similar autofocus performance overall. Neither the EOS R nor the Nikon Z6/Z7 are perfect at tracking fast-moving action, but for anything outside of extreme wildlife photography, all three cameras are more than good enough. That’s especially true for photographing people, since all three cameras have an excellent eye-autofocus system that tracks your subject’s eye across the frame.
When it comes to continuous shooting speed, the Canon EOS R is a bit weaker than its Nikon counterparts with its 8 FPS shooting and locked autofocus. In comparison, the Nikon Z6 can shoot 12 FPS while tracking the subject continuously, while the Nikon Z can shoot 9 FPS. If you want to be able to track subjects continuously with the Canon EOS R, you will need to drop shooting speed to 5 FPS, which is unfortunate.
Both manufacturers decided to go with a single memory card slot, but Nikon’s decision to go with the XQD memory card is probably better in the long run, since XQD cards are much faster and more reliable (though also more expensive) compared to regular SDs.
Lastly, Nikon is also ahead in video features, aside from the tilt-flip screen I mentioned a moment ago. The main issue with the EOS R is Canon’s 1.74x built-in crop factor, which is much worse compared to Nikon’s 1.0x full sensor read-out. Basically, anyone who wants to shoot video with the Canon EOS R will need to properly plan their lenses and focal lengths for the desired angle of view coverage, while all lenses mounted on the Nikon Z-series cameras will behave normally. All three cameras are capable of outputting 4:2:2 10-bit video via their HDMI ports, but both Nikon Z6 and Z7 can shoot up to 120 FPS in 1080p mode, while the Canon EOS R is limited to 60 FPS.
Image Quality Tests
Let’s do a quick comparison between the Canon EOS R, Nikon Z6, and Nikon Z7 for image quality purposes. First is a high ISO test. The following images are 100% crops from the Canon EOS R (left) and Nikon Z6 (right), starting at ISO 1600:
As expected, both cameras perform very similarly at ISO 1600. Here’s ISO 3200:
The same thing can be said for those images. ISO 6400:
At ISO 6400, one could argue that the Nikon Z6 seems to contain slightly more color noise, but to be honest, the differences are too small to matter. Let’s look at ISO 12,800:
Both cameras start to look bad at ISO 12,800, as you can see above, but the noise performance is still very similar. Next stop, ISO 25,600:
At ISO 25,600, the Nikon Z6 seems to retain detail a little better. ISO 51,200:
ISO 51,200 shows a very similar performance in slight favor of the Nikon Z6. Now let’s look at the highest ISO on both cameras, ISO 102,400:
While ISO 102,400 looks unusable for both cameras, the Nikon Z6 shows clearly better results. However, no one would use such high ISOs for everyday photography (for which even ISO 6400 is unusual.)
What about the Z7? It falls a bit behind the other two cameras at high ISOs, but by no more than about a stop. You can see that in our Nikon Z6 vs Nikon Z7 comparison article.
Now let’s take a look at the dynamic range of these three cameras. I started by overexposing each image by three stops and doing highlight recovery in Adobe Lightroom. First, here’s the Canon EOS R:
The Nikon Z6:
And the Nikon Z7:
While all three cameras struggle to recover full highlights at three stops of overexposure, the EOS R is a bit worse than the other two. Note the discoloration in various parts of the photo, especially the yellow color swatches. Between the Nikon Z6 and Z7, it is hard to see any differences.
What about shadow recovery? Here’s how it looks after an extreme six-stop underexposure, again recovered in Adobe Lightroom. First, the Canon EOS R:
Now the Nikon Z6:
And the Nikon Z7:
The Canon has noticeably more shadow banding than the other cameras in this test. It also exhibits more noise than the others, especially compared to the Nikon Z7. Of the three images, it’s no contest that the Nikon Z7 has the best shadow recovery and least amount of color shift, thanks to its lower base ISO of 64. However, keep in mind that this is much more extreme shadow recovery than would normally be done in real-world conditions, and all three cameras have perfectly acceptable dynamic range at the end of the day.
Of the three cameras compared here, we would recommend that photographers without existing ties to any brand go with either the Nikon Z6 or Z7 (the Z6 for most because of the price). Although the EOS R is a good camera in many ways, it falls short of the Z6 overall, despite being more expensive than the Z6. The Z7 is the best of the three cameras, but also the most expensive, so we don’t recommend it unless you need maximum dynamic range and resolution.
Existing Canon users will be happy to know that the differences between the EOS R and Nikon Z6 (or Z7) are not so drastic that it’s worth jumping ship. The EOS R is the best choice of the three if you already have existing Canon lenses that you’d like to adapt.
Also, keep in mind that both Nikon and Canon have several other mirrorless cameras aside from the Z6, Z7, and EOS R. In fact, many Canon users will find that the EOS R6 fits their purposes much better than the EOS R, without costing too much more. You’ll find the following links helpful if you wish to compare more cameras from these two companies’ lineups:
- Nikon Z6 review
- Nikon Z7 review
- Nikon Z6 II review
- Nikon Z7 II review
- Nikon Z6 II vs Nikon Z7 II
- Canon EOS R review
- Canon EOS R6 review
- Canon EOS R5 review
- Canon EOS R5 vs R6
- Canon EOS R6 vs Nikon Z6
- Canon EOS R6 vs Nikon Z6 II
- Canon EOS R5 vs Nikon Z7
- Canon EOS R5 vs Nikon Z7 II
At the end of the day, though, you can take great photos no matter which of these cameras you use. Our real recommendation is to find a good deal on any of them and don’t look back.