Now that almost all major camera brands offer great mirrorless options, it is a good time to look at their offerings and compare their differences. In this article, we will compare mirrorless cameras in the $2K range, namely the Canon EOS R6, Nikon Z6, Panasonic S1, and Sony A7 III. We will explore different factors such as camera ergonomics, menu system, specifications, and lens selection.
Please keep in mind that all discussions around camera ergonomics are highly subjective. Everything I point out below is based on my personal observations and experience, so if you do not agree with it, please let me know in the comments section below in a civilized manner.
Here is how the cameras appear from their front view:
While all cameras appear differently from each other, when it comes to personal preference of appearance and design, I would rank the Canon EOS R6 as the best overall-looking camera. Canon did a great job making it look very sleek, simple, and uncluttered – something it has always done well. All other cameras have a more edgy, modern look, which might be preferred by others.
Next, let’s see how these cameras differ in their ergonomics, button layout and grip size from the top:
Obviously, each camera differs on its own depending on the brand’s past ergonomic designs. All cameras have deep, comfortable grips, so handling them should be quite similar. The main difference one can quickly notice is the lack of top LCD screens on the Canon EOS R6 and Sony A7 III. This is certainly a disadvantage to these cameras in my view, since the top LCD screen can be quite useful when shooting. In terms of simplicity and user-friendly approach to design all cameras are quite similar – they have clearly marked buttons located in easy-to-reach parts of the camera. I personally have a huge gripe with cameras that feature unlabeled buttons, or buttons that don’t clearly define their purpose.
So for me, the Sony A7 III is the loser here, with its C1 and C2 programmable buttons that I always have to wonder what they are programmed to. Sony also wastes quite a bit of space to the left of the side of the camera, while heavily cramming its right. I know some Sony fans will disagree with me on this, but I am not the only person who grills Sony on its poor ergonomics and its cluttered menu system. Over the past 10 years, I have used almost every interchangeable lens camera on the market, and Sony’s mirrorless cameras have always been the least user-friendly for me.
Lastly, let’s take a look at the backs of each camera:
Once again, most of the designs follow the traditional ergonomic path by each camera manufacturer. Canon’s top-heavy button layout, the rotating dial, as well as a large joystick are going to be very familiar with Canon shooters. The fully articulating screen is an advantage for some, but others don’t like it as much due to interference with an L-bracket. While there are some solutions to this (like ProMediaGear’s L-Bracket for cameras with articulating screens), they are not particularly attractive, and usually come with a high price tag.
Nikon follows the same path of proven ergonomics, with slight modifications. I had no problem transitioning from the Nikon D750 to the Z6 – Nikon did a great job keeping most of the controls the same, and the menu system has not been significantly changed either.
The Panasonic S1 also has a very clear, ergonomically-friendly button layout that is easy to understand and follow, even for a non-Panasonic shooter. The buttons feel great, are clearly labeled, and easy to reach with a thumb.
The Sony A7-series cameras have gone through a number of ergonomic changes since the original A7 (which didn’t even have a joystick, requiring two button presses to move a focus point), so the A7 III is quite refined in comparison. The button placement is quite good, but once again, I wish buttons like C3 had their default function labels on them to make the camera more user-friendly.
The menu system is another topic that can be highly subjective. Personally, I have always been a fan of Canon and Nikon menus, and I can easily find a particular setting quickly and effectively. It is easy to develop muscle memory with these brands, especially after many years of use.
Canon typically uses a top-down menu approach, with pages of sub-menus indicated underneath, as shown below:
Nikon, on the other hand, uses a left-to-right menu approach, dividing the menu by different sections and sub-menus:
Panasonic also uses a left-to-right menu approach, which isn’t very hard to navigate through and find settings:
Sony has changed its menu system a number of times over the years, and the latest version uses a top-down approach. Sub-menus are grouped into pages, with labels like Setup2, Setup3, etc.:
I personally find the Sony menu system to be the worst in the group. Sony sometimes uses cryptic language to describe some settings, which often does not fit the menu, so it is normal to see the menu with different-spaced menu fonts and weirdly cut-off words / sentences. For example, there are settings like “Reg Cust Shoot Set”, “Face Priority in Multi…”, “Auto Slow Shut.”, so on and so forth – just see our Sony A7 III Recommended Settings article to get an idea of what the menu system looks like. Menu settings are placed all over the place, and finding important settings can be very time-consuming. I personally find the Sony menu system to be an ergonomic disaster, but others say that it is not as bad once you get used to it.
|Camera Feature||Canon EOS R6||Nikon Z6||Panasonic S1||Sony A7 III|
|Sensor Resolution||20.1 MP||24.5 MP||24.2 MP||24.2 MP|
|Sensor Type||CMOS||BSI CMOS||CMOS||BSI CMOS|
|In-Body Image Stabilization||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Sensor Size||36.0 x 24.0mm||35.9 x 24.0mm||35.6 x 23.8mm||35.6 × 23.8mm|
|Image Size||5472 x 3648||6048 x 4024||6000 x 4000||6000 x 4000|
|Base ISO||ISO 100||ISO 100||ISO 100||ISO 100|
|Native ISO Sensitivity||ISO 100-51,200||ISO 100-51,200||ISO 100-51,200||ISO 100-51,200|
|Image Processor||DIGIC X||EXPEED 6||Venus Engine||BIONZ X|
|Viewfinder Resolution||3.69 MP||3.69 MP||5.76 MP||2.36 MP|
|Flash Sync Speed||1/200||1/200||1/320||1/250|
|Storage Media||2x SD UHS II||1x XQD / CFe||1x CFe, 1x SD UHS II||1x SD / 1x SD UHS II|
|Shooting Speed M / E||12 FPS / 20 FPS||12 FPS / 12 FPS||9 FPS / 9 FPS||10 FPS / 10 FPS|
|Max Shutter Speed||1/8000||1/8000||1/8000||1/8000|
|Electronic Front-Curtain Shutter||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Exposure Metering Sensor||384-Zone||Image Sensor TTL||1728-Zone||1200-Zone|
|Autofocus System||Hybrid PDAF||Hybrid PDAF||Contrast-Detect||Hybrid PDAF|
|Focus Points (PD)||1053||273||N/A||693|
|Focus Points (CD)||1053||273||225||425|
|Low-Light Sensitivity||-6.5 to 20 EV||-2 to 19 EV||-6 to 18 EV||-3 to 20 EV|
|Animal Detection AF||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Video Max Res / Crop||4K @ 60p / 1.07x||4K @ 30p||4K @ 30p / 60p 1.5x||4K @ 24p / 30p 1.2x|
|HDMI Out / LOG||4:2:2 10-bit / Yes||4:2:2 10-bit / Yes||4:2:2 10-bit / Yes||4:2:2 8-bit / Yes|
|Articulating LCD||Full||Tilting||Triaxial Tilt||Tilting|
|LCD Size||3.0″ Diagonal||3.2″ Diagonal||3.2″ Diagonal||3.0″ Diagonal|
|Wi-Fi||Yes, Single-band||Yes, Dual-band||Yes, Dual-band||Yes, Single-band|
|Bluetooth||Yes, 4.2||Yes, 4.2||Yes, 4.2||Yes, 4.1|
|Pixel-Shift||No||No||Yes, 96 MP||No|
|Battery Capacity||7.2 VDC, 2130 mAh||7.0 VDC, 1900 mAh||7.2 VDC, 3100 mAh||7.2 VDC, 2280 mAh|
|Battery Life (CIPA, LCD)||360||380||380||610|
|Weather Sealed Body||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|USB Version||Type-C 3.1||Type-C 3.1||Type-C 3.1||Type-C 3.1|
|Weight (Battery and Card)||680g||675g||1021g||650g|
|MSRP||$2,499 (check price)||$1,999 (check price)||$2,499 (check price)||$1,999 (check price)|
Looking at the list, we can see that these cameras have a very similar feature set. The Canon EOS R6 has a sensor with the least resolution, but there isn’t a huge difference between 20.1 MP and 24 MP. It has the fastest continuous shooting speed of 12 FPS, massive buffer capacity of 240 images, a robust autofocus system with 1053 focus points and an excellent low-light sensitivity range of -6.5 to +20 EV. It can shoot 4K video with a very small crop of 1.07x, and has a fully articulating LCD screen.
The Nikon Z6 is a strong contender with the highest viewfinder magnification and excellent-quality 4K video recording with 4K 10-bit RAW output capability via its HDMI port. However, when compared to the rest of the group, the Z6 also has a few serious downsides, the biggest one of which is the single memory card slot. In addition, its buffer capacity is quite limited at just 43 shots (worst on the list), and it has a limited low-light sensitivity range of -2 to +19 EV.
The Panasonic S1 is another strong, feature-rich camera. It has the fastest flash sync speed of 1/320, an impressive low-light sensitivity range of -6 to +18 EV, a superb triaxial-tilt LCD, and it is the only camera on the list that can shoot high-res 96 MP images using the pixel-shift mode. Its biggest disadvantage is the autofocus system that relies on contrast-detection AF rather than Hybrid AF, as well as its massive body that weighs 1021 grams, making it the heaviest camera.
Considering its age and price, the specifications of the Sony A7 III are quite good. It has the best battery life among these cameras, has a very stable and refined autofocus system that can shoot up to 10 FPS, and has a big enough buffer to shoot continuously for over 8 seconds, making it a desirable camera for shooting fast action. However, it does lack in a few areas, as noted in the above table. It has an EVF and LCD screens with the least resolution. Its video shooting is limited to 4K @ 24p, and if you want 30p, you have to live with a 1.2x video crop (and only 8-bit 4:2:2 HDMI output). But my biggest gripe with all Sony mirrorless cameras is their inability to shoot lossless-compressed RAW images. For some strange reason, Sony still has not added this feature to any of its mirrorless cameras.
Let’s now take a look at the lens selection for each system. This is an important metric for any camera system, arguably even more important than the cameras themselves. Please note that I will only list native lenses for each mount by the camera manufacturer, and will not list any third-party lenses, as those are very difficult to count.
|Camera Feature||Canon RF||Nikon Z||L Mount||Sony E|
|Total Native Lenses||15||11||31||41|
|UW Angle Zoom (10-24mm)||1||1||4||4|
|Standard Zoom (24-120mm)||5||3||4||5|
|Telephoto Zoom (70-300mm)||2||1||4||5|
|Super Telephoto Prime (300mm+)||2||N/A||N/A||2|
Sony’s dominance in available lenses is very clear from the above table. Being the oldest mirrorless player, Sony has been able to make a wide selection of both zoom and prime lenses for the full-frame Sony E mount, bringing a total of 41 lenses from Sony and Zeiss. Note that Sony basically dominates in every category, offering the biggest selection of ultra-wide, standard, and telephoto zoom lenses.
Next, we have the L Mount Alliance with a total of 31 lenses. With Panasonic, Leica and Sigma all developing lenses for their systems, the mount has gotten quite a few lenses since it got started. However, there is one problem here – quite a bit of overlap, with not all that much choice. This system might look good in numbers, but needs a lot more selection of other lenses.
Canon RF has 15 lenses so far, which is not bad considering that these are mostly high-quality, pro-grade lenses. Nikon is in the last place here, having only 11 lenses released, so it is certainly at a disadvantage.
Lastly, if you look at the Super Telephoto Prime category, you will notice that both Canon and Sony have 2 primes. However, it is important to point out that the Canon RF super-telephoto lenses that have been announced with the EOS R5 and R6 cameras have a maximum aperture of f/11, and they cannot be directly compared to the high-end 400mm f/2.8 and 600mm f/4 options from Sony. This shows that Sony is basically the only player on the list of mirrorless systems to offer professional-grade super-telephoto lenses.
Overall, this one is a huge win for Sony. It will take a few years for all other manufacturers to catch up, and by then, Sony will have even more lens options available.
Canon EOS R6 vs Nikon Z6 vs Panasonic S1 vs Sony A7 III: Summary
As you can see, each camera and camera system has its pros and cons, and it is hard to pick an absolute winner. The cameras are quite similar both in terms of their ergonomics and features, with the Sony A7 III being my least favorite of the group due to its cluttered menu system and buttons, as well as slightly weaker specs. However, keep in mind that the Sony A7 III is also the oldest camera on the list, and Sony has the best selection of lenses for the E / FE mount.
Overall, all cameras have their pros and cons. I have been very happy with my Nikon Z6, especially for 4K video recording needs, but if Nikon wasn’t my brand of choice, I would be happy with any of the cameras presented in this article.