With so many great full-frame mirrorless camera options on the market today, it is becoming harder and harder to understand their differences. Almost every major camera brand now offers a wide variety of cameras and lenses at similar price points. In this article, we will compare high-resolution mirrorless cameras in the $3-$4K range, namely the Canon EOS R5, Nikon Z7 II, Panasonic S1R, and Sony A7R IV. We will take a look at three key factors. First, we will take a look at the ergonomics of these cameras. Next, we will look at their specifications side-by-side. And lastly, we will take a look at each system as a whole and compare their lens options.
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:
Obviously, all cameras appear differently from each other, but when it comes to personal preference of appearance and design, I would rank the Canon EOS R5 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. In terms of simplicity and user-friendly approach to design, the Canon EOS R5, Nikon Z7 II, and Panasonic S1R are all very 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 A7R IV 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. It is also the only camera that does not feature a top LCD, which can be very useful in the field. Instead of having a flat surface with useless “4K SteadyShot INSIDE” marking, why not move the PASM dial to the left and add a top LCD? 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 a Nikon DSLR to the Z7 – Nikon did a great job keeping most of the controls the same, and the menu system has not been significantly changed either. And the Nikon Z7 II is essentially identical to its predecessor in ergonomics.
The Panasonic S1R 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 A7R-series cameras have gone through a number of ergonomic changes since the original A7R (which didn’t even have a joystick, requiring two button presses to move a focus point), so the A7R IV is quite refined in comparison. The large AF-ON button and the joystick are very comfortable to use, and the overall button placement is great. Once again, I wish buttons like C3 had their default function labels 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 my Sony A7R IV Recommended Settings article for 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 R5||Nikon Z7 II||Panasonic S1R||Sony A7R IV|
|*Canon’s official specifications say the EOS R5 can autofocus from -6 EV to +20 EV. However, Canon assumes an f/1.2 lens at ISO 100, while other manufacturers assume an f/2 lens at ISO 100 for this specification. Thus, the standardized focusing EV range for the EOS R5 is -4.5 EV to +21.5 EV. Read more at EV explained.|
|**The Nikon Z7 II official dimensions do not include the depth of the protruding viewfinder. To match the standards of other manufacturers, roughly 15 mm (0.6 inches) must be added to the Z7 II’s depth measurement, for a total of 85 mm (3.3 inches).|
|Sensor Resolution||45.0 MP||45.7 MP||47.3 MP||61.0 MP|
|Low-Pass Filter||Yes, High-Res OLPF||No||No||No|
|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 23.9mm||36.0 x 24.0mm||35.7 x 23.8mm|
|Image Size||8192 x 5464||8256 x 5504||8368 x 5584||9504 x 6336|
|Lossless Compressed RAW||Yes||Yes||Yes||No|
|Base ISO||ISO 100||ISO 64||ISO 100||ISO 100|
|Native ISO Sensitivity||ISO 100-51,200||ISO 64-25,600||ISO 100-25,600||ISO 100-32,000|
|Image Processor||DIGIC X||Dual EXPEED 6||Venus Engine||BIONZ X|
|Viewfinder Resolution||5.76 MP||3.69 MP||5.76 MP||5.76 MP|
|Flash Sync Speed||1/200||1/200||1/320||1/250|
|Storage Media||1x CFe, 1x SD UHS II||1x CFe, 1x SD UHS II||1x CFe, 1x SD UHS II||2x SD UHS II|
|Shooting Speed M / E||12 FPS / 20 FPS||10 FPS / 10 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||493||N/A||567|
|Focus Points (CD)||1053||493||225||425|
|Low-Light Sensitivity* (f/2 Lens, ISO 100)||-4.5 to +21.5 EV||-3 to +19 EV (-4 to +19 EV with low-light AF enabled)||-6 to +18 EV||-3 to +20 EV|
|Animal Detection AF||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Video Maximum Resolution||8K DCI @ 30p||4K @ 60p||4K @ 60p||4K DCI @ 30p|
|4K Video Crop||1.0×||1.0× (1.08× @60p)||1.09×||1.0×|
|HDMI Out / LOG||4:2:2 10-bit / Yes||4:2:2 10-bit / Yes||4:2:2 8-bit / Yes||4:2:2 8-bit / Yes|
|HLG / HDR Out||No||Yes||No||No|
|Articulating LCD||Full||Tilting||Triaxial Tilt||Tilting|
|LCD Size||3.2″ Diagonal||3.2″ Diagonal||3.2″ Diagonal||3.0″ Diagonal|
|Wi-Fi||Yes, Dual-band||Yes, Dual-band||Yes, Dual-band||Yes, Dual-band|
|Bluetooth||Yes, 5.0||Yes, 4.2||Yes, 4.2||Yes, 4.1|
|Pixel-Shift||No||No||Yes, 187 MP||Yes, 241 MP|
|Battery Capacity||7.2 VDC, 2130 mAh||7.0 VDC, 2280 mAh||7.2 VDC, 3100 mAh||7.2 VDC, 2280 mAh|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||320||360||360||530|
|Weather Sealed Body||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|USB Version||Type-C 3.1||Type-C 3.1||Type-C 3.1||Type-C 3.2|
|Weight (with Battery and Card)||738g||705g||1020g||665g|
|Dimensions** (L×H×D)||138 × 98 × 88 mm||134 × 101 × 70 mm||149 × 110 × 97mm||129 × 96 × 78mm|
|MSRP||$3,899 (check price)||$2,999 (check price)||$3,699 (check price)||$3,499 (check price)|
Looking at the list, we can see that most of the features of the four cameras are quite comparable and similar. The Canon EOS R5 stands out with its 8K DCI video shooting capability, the fastest continuous shooting rate of 12 FPS, and a huge buffer capacity of 180 RAW images. Unfortunately, all these features come at a high price premium of $3,899, making it the most expensive camera on the list.
The Nikon Z7 II is a well-rounded camera with the highest viewfinder magnification, 10-bit HDMI video output with HLG / HDR capability, and a very lightweight camera body. Its biggest weaknesses are viewfinder resolution (3.69 MP vs 5.76 MP) and a relatively low shutter durability rating of 200K (compared to 400-500K on competition). If you look at the last row on the chart, you will notice that it is the cheapest camera in the group at $3K MSRP, so it delivers a lot of value. Although the Sony A7R IV retails for about that same price today, its price was $500 higher at introduction.
The Panasonic S1R is another 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 can shoot high-res 187 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 1020 grams, making it the heaviest camera on the list.
Sony obviously stands out with its impressive 61 MP BSI CMOS sensor, superb battery life, as well as a high-resolution pixel-shift mode that produces 241 MP images. Its autofocus system is arguably the most reliable and feature-rich for shooting fast action. The biggest negative of this camera, and something I have pointed out a number of times before in other articles, is its inability to shoot lossless-compressed RAW images. For some strange reason, Sony still has not added this feature to any of its mirrorless cameras. I also think shipping the camera with two SD UHS-II slots was a mistake, since CFexpress is so much faster. SD memory cards slow down the Sony A7R IV quite a bit, especially when the buffer clears out (inaccessible menu, lags, etc).
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||14||33||44|
|UW Angle Zoom (10-24mm)||1||2||4||4|
|Standard Zoom (24-120mm)||5||4||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 44 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 33 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 much choice of different focal lengths. 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 14 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. Although Nikon promised a 400mm and 600mm prime in its Nikon Z Lens Roadmap, we do not know what types of lenses will be released and when.
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 R5 vs Nikon Z7 II vs Panasonic S1R vs Sony A7R IV: Summary
As you can see, each camera and camera system has its pros and cons. The cameras are quite similar in terms of their overall ergonomics, with the Sony A7R IV being my least favorite of the group due to its cluttered menu system and buttons. When it comes to features, the cameras are once again quite comparable, although it all depends on your priorities and your system of choice. The Canon EOS R5 and the Sony A7R IV stand out with their unique features (8K on EOS R5 and 61 MP sensor + pixel-shift on A7R IV) and excellent and mature autofocus capabilities (A7R IV). When it comes to lens selection, the Sony E mount is the clear winner here. It is the most mature system and has a wide array of lenses for basically every need.
My top pick today would probably be the Sony A7R IV, primarily because of its maturity and wide lens selection. However, I have a huge distaste for its overall ergonomics and the menu system. I have always preferred Nikon’s ergonomics, so the Z7 II makes the most sense for me. Plus, every lens Nikon has released so far is pretty spectacular, beating its F-mount counterparts in every way. Having recently shot with Canon’s mirrorless cameras, I have to say that this is another system that looks very promising right now. Canon’s RF lenses are all stunning, and I really like that Canon is putting so much emphasis on lens development. This is one area the L-mount alliance should really focus on (and hopefully coordinate lens releases to reduce overlap). Let’s not forget that most photographers don’t have deep pockets to buy exotic Leica lenses.
Let me know what you think in the comments section below!
Thank you for this helpful comparison, Nasim. I don’t know if you have had a chance to play with it, but I wonder if the new A7RV changes your view.
Next to my studio gear which is build around a Hasselblad H6D-100, I’ve been a long-time Canon 5D shooter until I moved to Fujifilm early 2015. Finding the Fuji X-system a bit too limitative both in image and build quality, I decided to move back to full-frame last year. For that I had a few sets side-by-side on trial for a month or three (Nov to Jan): the A7RIV, the EOS R (and later the R5), the S1R and the SL2 and finally the Z7 (and later the Z7II).
I choose the Z7II together with a few lenses for a number of reasons. First, the image quality is imo the best of the bunch. It’s native 64 ISO is a huge benefit for me as a fashion/make-up portrait photographer. Next, the colours are gorgeous and the raw files are extremely easy to post process (unlike those of Fuji and Sony). The handling and user experience is top notch with the Z7II (just like the R5). You can really tell this camera was designed for/by professionals. The Sony is a mess (until you’ve learned to deal with it) and the SL2 relies far too much on its menus. Finally, the Z lenses are superb. Each and every one of the S-line lenses is really gorgeous. Even the f1.8 primes (the 50 and 85). Unfortunately we have to wait for the fast 85 and 105 or 135.
For me the R5 was a very close call. We do videos on a different platform, so I have no need for combined video and stills. Otherwise I might have opted for the R5. The S1R and SL2 produce beautiful images too, albeit a bit noisier at high ISO. With the SL2 it is an agreeable kind of noise though. They’re both very bulky as well. The A7RIV (which my colleague uses) was a bit disappointing in real life. Although the high-res images are very nice with less noise than expected from a 61MP sensor, the handling (grip) and lay-out (menus and buttons) is a bit cumbersome. The lo-res LCD is a joke on such an expensive camera. It has a low resolution, poor contrast and poor colour accuracy. I’ve read it was silently updated last month.
As for the two points you criticise the Z7II for, my experience is different. First, the 3,69MP EVF resolution is indeed less than others, but you forgot to tell that at least the S1R and the A7RIV only reach the 5,76MP in playback mode or shooting mode at low refresh rates. Otherwise they also drop to a lower-res. I don’t know about the R5. The Z7II has a very bright and big EVF with a pleasant refresh rate, excellent contrast and good colour accuracy. For me that’s far more important. The Z7II EVF is also uncluttered in terms of info displayed. The A7RIV EVF on the other hand is cluttered with info in all different colours and fonts. Very distracting for my eyes.
Secondly, the 200k shutter durability is for full mechanical shutter in the Z7II. The 400/500k of the others is for electronic first curtain, which is not comparable. By the way, these are arbitrary numbers anyway. I’ve had 5D’s exceeding the durability count by many 100k’s and I have no reason to believe the Z7II is less durable. In fact, we had some shutter issues with Fuji’s and Sony’s in the past while the cameras were way under the guaranteed durability counts. Those were solved adequately by the way.
I hope this real life experience in a professional environment gives readers some perspective. Don’t put your faith in spec sheets. Try/rent a camera before buying. All these cameras here are great tools. It’s a matter of finding out which tool fits best to your needs. The outcome might surprise you…
There’s nothing confusing about Sony’s menu. It’s no more or less confusing than any other manufacturer’s. It’s all what you learn. It’s not rocket science. When I look at a Nikon for example, to me it’s a disaster because I don’t know my around it. Given time I’d figure it out though and then I think it’s great. So the author is needlessly whining about nothing important.
Secondly having the little LCD on the top of the camera is nice, until it ultimately burns out and leaves you with a dark hole at the top and a camera with heavily reduced resale value. Again, more needless whining about nothing important. If you want to know the setting tilt your wrist and look at the back of the camera or through the viewfinder. How often does a photographer have to check she settings anyhow? Once they’re set they’re usually done.
Honestly, if you want the highest resolution, a ton of lenses, and the lightest camera there is only one choice here – the Sony. They’ll all take great photos, and after a while it’s about the Wizard and not the wand.
Silliness! Canon seems to edge out its competitors in nearly every category, but ultimately loses to Sony due to lens selection?
First, this review claims it’s about the CAMERAS and then uses lenses as the ultimate criteria? Is it a camera review or a lens review?
Second, even forgiving that, Canon makes an adapter that opens up the whole EF and EFS lines complete with a control ring. The functionality is all the same! The quality is the same! Being a ‘native’ lens doesn’t matter at all.
This review is lazy.
Author is clearly not a photographer or he would have realized that Canon doesn’t need to make telephotos in RF because they already make the best in the world in the EF and you’re one tiny adapter away from opening up the full range of EF lenses for use on the RF-mount body. Now why did Canon even bother with a new mount? Who knows? But RF lenses aren;t the way to go, and I’d go one further and say that I’d get an FTZ to EF adapter for the Nikon instead of shooting Nikon lenses. So once you bring the EF range of lenses into the equation, Sony not only isn’t way in front, they’re actually sucking hind teat. Is this another review written by “those who can’t, teach”? With respect to the “multi-function ring” BS, the adapter has the ring so there ya go, quit crying.
Thank you Nasim for this good, comparison without the emotional bias noticeable in many reviews.
I have used Olympus, Canon, Fujifilm, Sony and am back to Canon for exactly the reason you mentioned; its ergonomics. The one other thing is the image right off the camera, which, of course, can be reproduced by any other brand but in post processing IMHO.
I was wondering if someone could help me out to choose lenses: I had a Canon lens tutorial but am interested in Nikon lenses (for Z 7II). I am interested in finding a compatible counter piece to Cannon’s: 35mm F/1.4, 50mm F/1.2, 100mm F/2.8 and 85mm F/1.4l. Your help and input would be largely appreciated and I am thanking you ahead of time.
Does the photographer chose the camera which best supports his/her style of use, or does the chosen camera mold the photographer’s style? Both are true.
I need those unlabeled buttons, all of them, on Sony bodies, and wish for more. Most of my use is with MF prime lenses. This was indoctrinated by the pleasures using rangefinders, especially Leicas, in youth. But I also use AF primes and zooms.
With touch of a button I access focus mag, peaking, peaking color, peaking level, bright view, focus mode, AF area, eye detection, zebra lines, flash comp, FF v. APS-C, silent shutter, electronic front curtain, intervalometer and more, beside the factory dedicated ISO and bracketing and shutter delay functions of the control wheel. And with the custom menu a lot more can be added for quick access.
Those multi programmable unlabeled buttons for me are critical and more important than # of AF points or FPS rates.
With 2 FF Sony bodies programmed identically + an a6500 programed almost the same (one fewer C buttons) my fingers know where to go with little thought and few errors.
I agree on that.
After a few weeks of intense use I started to understand and more and more appreciate the Sony body layout. I like it better now than the DSLR Canons I used before.
Also, my APS-C A6400 is programmed identically as my A7R and I switch between both depending on the shot that I’m after. Usually the wonderfully capable A6400 with short or long zoom, the A7R with fast prime. Considering lenses: Sony is, in contrast to Canon and Nikon, open to third party manufacturers. Sigma and Tamron are adding very good and budgetfriendly products to the E-mount lens system.
I don’t mind unlabeled buttons either! You get used to them very quickly.
Having tried Nikon ML for six months I just couldn’t get a setup like a Nikon DSLR! All the options I wanted to program were only available on the front Fn buttons or on lens buttons; which only TWO of the S lenses have! Nikon should have put two buttons on the FTZ, made it with lighter materials, and maybe even one without the tripod mount. Additionally, I tried, and would never setup a dial setting (WB/comp/etc.) on the lens because I’d move/change it by accident. I’d gladly give up a dial to have a few buttons on the lens.
Nikon removed too many buttons and dials on their ML bodies! Especially the simple switches (AF lock, AF/M, etc.) around buttons and dials that are easy to find by touch. They removed the release dial, AF (many functions,) metering, BKT, and flash comp buttons. The record button can’t always record video. At the same time, having used other brands, and even the ML Z50; I can’t stand the playback/delete buttons being on the left. Especially with a telephoto lens mounted! You cannot assign playback to a button on the back. Nikon limits what options you can remap.
Sony lets you put whatever you want. Sony also has 7 user modes, and 4 you can keep on the memory card. I don’t like that you lose them if you format the card in camera though! SMDH
I still prefer Nikon images. I loved my D500, and just want that camera updated and smaller. Just cram it into a D5600 body and add IBIS. ;)
Ergonomics, ergonomics, ergonomics first place Nikon. Just look at the better clearance of the eye piece from the main body of the camera on the Nikon, it’s just perfectly designed. The menu system is class leading and the back catalogue of compatible older cheaper F-mount lenses with their great ftz apapter is greater. The native glass from Canon is just too overpriced for the average persons budget to be able to afford the quality fast aperture lenses like 1.4 and 2.8.
I recently had the chance to try the Sony A7R4 at a Sony Test and Try event about an hour N of Sydney Australia. Weather was appalling so didn’t get much I would want to keep but I found the camera vary easy to get along with. The guy from Sony running the event had pre programmed the 4 C buttons and told us what they were and I found it very easy to use them (I do have a Sony A6000 and RX10 Mk4). I particularly liked one feature that you didn’t comment on (and not sure if the others have it – if they do it will give a smaller MegaPixel size) which is the ability to switch to APS-C mode at 26 MP – which effectively made to 100 to 400 zoom a 150 to 600 or my 200 to 600 to a 300 to 900, this will be useful to me but I realise it may not appeal to everyone. I will be buying one as and when it is next on special offer, or I might wait for the A7R5 with the improved menu system of the recent A7S3 (?) and the articulating screen of the A7C!