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 II, 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 Nikon Z6 II is essentially identical to its predecessor in ergonomics.
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 II||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||Dual 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 CFe, 1x SD UHS II||1x CFe, 1x SD UHS II||1x SD / 1x SD UHS II|
|Shooting Speed M / E||12 FPS / 20 FPS||14 FPS / 14 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||-4.5 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 / 60p 1.5x||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|
|ProRes RAW via HDMI||No||Yes (Paid)||No||Yes (Paid)|
|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, 2280 mAh||7.2 VDC, 3100 mAh||7.2 VDC, 2280 mAh|
|Battery Life (CIPA, LCD)||360||410||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||705g||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 second fastest continuous shooting speed of 12 FPS (fastest with electronic shutter), 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 II is another strong contender with the highest viewfinder magnification and excellent-quality 4K video recording with 4K 10-bit output capability via its HDMI port. When compared to other cameras, other than the Panasonic S1, it is the only other camera capable of shooting Apple’s ProRes RAW, although both companies require cameras to be sent to a service center for a paid upgrade.
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||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 43 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 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 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. Both Nikon and Canon have plans to release high-end super-telephoto lenses in the near future, but the development of those lenses has not been announced yet.
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 II 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 (and the newer Z6 II is even better), but if Nikon weren’t my brand of choice, I would be happy with any of the cameras presented in this article.
Is it still true that only NIKON allows you to save RAW files in three different size options (lossless compressed 12-bit)?
I wanted to send a message to the camera design team that the shutter release button should be in the front than the top because it is more natural grip and will help camera shake !
Then I see the Canon here already have done that !
My limited and only exposure to Nikon system !!
Are you not missing the key factor? What do the images look like from each camera?
How some no one ever covers how stupid Canon is with button layouts. Nikon, Sony, Panasonic all put the power button on the right side where everyone holds the camera on that side as well as the trigger is on the right. Canon put the power switch on the left meaning you can’t run the camera one handed. I never will own a camera that I can’t turn on as I bring it up to my face. Why soes canon so this?
Ergonomics and layout of the menus has become a prominent factor as to whether one invests in a camera system. In fact, how easily and comprehensively one can change settings is crucial. As importantly, one need to download E Manuals and compare potentials of Custom settings – what functions you demand can be assigned to Fn buttons etc. This factor alone will decide if how many do or do not upgrade to a Z II Nikon.
In this arena, Nikon has had a great deal correct for several decades.
As for comparing optics, there is much more to the practicalities. The crux is how well the Smart Adaptors work in practice. The FTZ enables any seamless conversion of dozens of AFS F-Nikkors + many other 3rd party F-Mount Canon also has a reliable adapter for its EF optics. So in reality wrt the respective lenses there is “…huge win for Sony.” Unless one compares specifics eg weights of CaSony 400 ands 600 telephotos against heavier Nikons. But Nikon has the two Phase-Fresnel primes (300 f4 and 500 f5.6) with several more patents registered recently. (Hopefully, they are shrewd enough
Oh and teleconverters? These are critical to many travellers besides budgets.
Added to these native adapters are the 3rd party adapters and also manual adapters to port older Classic lenses to Mirrorless cameras – see Novoflex etc
Strategically, the Z mount is ahead of all competitors – with its 55mm width and 16mm Throat. Thus, the Fringer ZEF and Techart ZE smart adapters work with Canon and Sony AF lenses. Adapters have their foibles but the Fringer and Techart work with NZ. The advantages add up to massive cost savers, besides expanding the universe of possible optics one can use.
…Hopefully, Nikon is are shrewd enough to make the 400 and 600 Z Nikkors as PF primes!
According to Nikon USA, lowlight sensitivity of Z 6II is higher in lowlight AF – viz. -4.5 to +19 EV (-6 to +19 EV with low-light AF)
Yes you are correct. WHy was this not in article above, By the way what is low-light AF and is it automatically activated. www.nikon.co.uk/en_GB…tech_specs
A7iii ProRes? Should that be on the Panasonic column
Image quality does not matter? :-)
As others have mentioned, I don’t think you can ignore the 100+ lenses both Canon and Nikon have from their DSLR ranges. Both makers designed robust adaptors to work seamlessly with their latest pre-mirrorless lenses, and probably have no intention to ever ‘upgrade’ some of them because there’s a limit to the improvements that can be made. For example I use my 200/2 on my Z50 and it works just as well as on a D5, which I don’t think anyone is saying is bad! Especially regarding the telephotos, given the initial size and since a monopod or tripod should be used, there are no serious problems with using the adaptors. Furthermore, you then have to consider the 200+ Sigma, Tamron etc DSLR lenses for those mounts as well. Conversely Sony and Panasonic didn’t retain access to previous lenses, although there were only a few of those anyway. Latest lenses are definitely not necessary on Canon or Nikon mirrorless systems, which is an advantage.
The official specs are what they are. But it is also true that some specs are misleading. For the Z6 in 12fps 12-bit mode, I get about 160 or so shot buffer. 80 or so in 9fps 14 bit mode. That is quite a bit more than on the chart. And as someone mentioned, it clears almost immediately.
Number of total focus points is not really meaningful anymore, like it was in the DSLR days. Its a lot. Low light sensitivty AF, again, claimed EV’s are also meaningless. I would rather have a single XQD or CFExpress slot than any number of SD slots of any UHS, so that’s actually a plus for Z6 and S1. Price is always an important consideration. The Z6 is currently $1800, which is a full $700 cheaper than the R6. That $700 buys you a lens (24-70 f4, 50mm f1.8), an extra battery, and a bag. Canon and Nikon have the lens advantage. Lots of great glass available via adapter.