Surprising Comparison Results Between Canon R, Nikon Z7, and Sony a7R III

Reviewing a single camera brand has always been subjective. Placing three of the latest mirrorless cameras on the market side-by-side is more fair. Some fans will be pleasantly surprised while others may feel a little uncomfortable.

The Slanted Lens has always been a great resource when comes to comparing gear that we like or would love to buy. In this episode they put the Canon R, Nikon Z7, and the Sony a7R III to the test in both stills and video mode. The comparison included dynamic range, tonality, sharpness and detail, high ISO, auto focus, and video in 4K and 1080p modes. When testing the dynamic range they underexposed and overexposed the shots by one, two, three, and four stops and then corrected the exposure back in post.

I've seen lots of standalone reviews of those cameras and there have always been conflicting opinions. Most of the time the downsides don't have anything to do with the image quality. When watching this video, I was personally most interested in the outcome from the dynamic range, tonality, and high ISO tests. The results pleasantly surprised me, because I'm using same camera brand as the overall winner. In order to keep spoilers away, I will hint you that one of the cameras was a constant loser in all of the competitions.

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44 Comments

Rob Mitchell's picture

My clients tell me every day that I shouldn't have bought a Z7. They see the images are crap, totally disillusioned with the images I provide for them.
I so wish I was one of those people who bought cameras based on other people's opinion, vblogs, pixel charts and popularity. My work could be so much better. <sigh>

David Pavlich's picture

I like this comment! The discussion of cameras and their strengths and weaknesses are fine for we gear geeks. But, especially in a pro environment when the client has the final word, I would be willing to bet that less than 5% of clients complain because the DR wasn't up to snuff or the color rendition wasn't good.

A pro shooter that knows his/her stuff, including post processing, would not pass along shoddy work to a client. The cameras are so good today that it takes an effort to make a bad shot. I happen to like Canon for a whole host of reasons, but I'd never say that Canon is the best and should be the only camera that a pro should use. Heck, if I were starting over (repeating other posts I've made), I'd be at Don's Photo here in Winnipeg ordering a D850. ;-)

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

We buy cameras for our own comfortability and for making our workflow better and more robust, not because the clients will notice that. As long as you are using a black camera, the client thinks you are a professional.

You are wrong, it's not 5% of clients who complain about DR, it's 0%.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

We always buy based on other people's opinion, unless we want to be the first ones to get the newest camera and make a review we publish to our readers. The problem is with the subjective or dishonest reviews. I've seen quite a few ones for the Canon R and in this video I was surprised how different it was.

No single camera released now a day is crap. A good photographer can take great images with a cellphone. It is just compare them directly, some are better than others.

The dynamic range test is obviously flawed, in that it does not take into account that Nikon's ISO rating appears to be at least 1 stop higher than the Sony and Canon. (The testers in a prior video acknowledged that Nikon rates ISO one stop over other brands, but completely ignores that fact here). The test should have started with an exposure where all the images were equally exposed to start off with.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

That's probably true. They just used the same settings, but one stop overexposed is not that much, because we see the Z7 was falling apart way too soon.

Paul Flatt's picture

Also, the lighting was completely different between the first camera test and the last (Nikon). Look at the shadows. For the Nikon test the sun was shining much more directly at the wall. By the shadows I'd say at least 2 hours if not 4 passed between the first camera test and the last.

If you are going to do a camera comparison, do a camera comparison with an identical environment. Not done in this case.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

The sun is stronger when it's at high noon, i.e. when they shot with the Canon. When the sun is lower its light is weaker. By the shadow of the wall the sun was about 1 hour apart. You can roughly estimate that by stretching a hand and with the width of the thumb see how many thumbs you have between the sun and the horizont. This is roughly how many hours you have before sunset. So, knowing that the sun was about 1 hour apart and was weaker. The ISO tests are pretty much in a controlled environment. The autofocus - too.

Sacha Martin's picture

Unless the same lens was used on the 3 cameras, the test is completely irrelevant in my opinion. Why? Because 2 lenses could have completely different color profiles, details, and micro-contrast performance, etc. As a consequence, it's impossible to attribute the differences we see to the camera or the lens used.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

The dynamic range is mostly sensor-dependent. So is the ISO. The auto-focus is also a property of the camera software (and hardware). The colors and the detail are a property both of the lens and the camera. The lens rarely affects the tonality. If it does, it's a very slight change. The lens will mostly affect the sharpness or the detail.

That said, I think the tests are quite objective.

Objective, maybe. Real-world, definitely not.
You wouldn't continue a shoot with a faulty camera, they should have delayed the test until they got a working Nikon.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

I hope it was a faulty one, because this specific one was performing really badly.

Paul Flatt's picture

That was in fact my first thought. We have 3 cameras here, one has a defect, but we are going to do the test anyway.

NO, STOP NOW. No test today.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

Do we have a proof that Nikon's autofocus actually works quite well when performing the same test? If we do, this camera in the test was surely defective. Also, do we have a test that the same Nikon performs way better at high ISO and its dynamic range is better when overexposed?

If we do have those results in a similar test, then the camera was defective. My main suspicion is that this camera was defective in too many ways, not just the autofocus (for example).

Chad D's picture

YUP and they used a f/4 zoom for the nikon and primes for the other ? again they usually do good stuff but this was pretty bad ! a broken camera and cripple it more with the cheaper zoom lens ?

Pedro Pulido's picture

In today’s standards, you can produce exceptional work with ANY of these cameras. So please spend more time shooting and practicing this art than reading reviews and deciding what’s the Ferrari of cameras this year when all others are very competent options.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

If someone has specific needs, they would definitely know what type of functionality they need and will buy the camera that offers them. But for those who don't know what they want, any of these cameras or even an entry-level one will do a great job.

the test is not standard. youtubers work for money like to politicians, to earn from youtube or companies . do you think the advertisement is only in tv!

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

Please elaborate on that. Show in details what's the exact non-standard approach to the test and what's the standard they have to stick to.

Michael Holst's picture

Wait wait wait.... Let's hear him say more things! I'm sure it's going to be gold!

Majid - Please expand on your point.

photography is art, and of course like to philosophy everybody can talk about that. but camera (a high tech gear) need to high tech laboratory and not street testing that someone release the shutter without any arbiter. every camera model has unique technology.
in this case it's better that engineers judge the cameras together and photographers comment for one model. every photographer like a taste. i can't say i'm perfect photographer but i'm a engineer in material science (not camera engineer!) but know what's the standard perfectly.

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

But the reality is that we never use our cameras in laboratories, unless we have a project that happens in a laboratory. In all other cases it's "on the streets." Lab tests use a synthetic environment and will give you synthetic results. They are useless to us and to the clients. What matter is what this camera can do in the real world on real jobs. This video shows real examples. What's the point if laboratory tests tell you "The XX camera is the best camera", when in the real world it simply doesn't work? Will you tell the client "well, lab tests prove it's great, you just don't understand?"

lab give the result with numbers and not what's good or bad or great. i say before about philosophy and if i say every think u will say your opinion. when u test 5 stop under exposure that is laboratory test condition; do u take photo for client -5 stop really,or u use cameras in this condition . for example u have canon or nikon and u want take photo with a certain setting that camera recommended to u in M mode and u say ok i want take the photo with other brand but with first camera setting??! and other example, the light metering setting or technology for all cameras is unique??
All wars are for money. the advertisement is a science that companies use it today. sony makes a movie with mirrorless in hollywood! nikon send the cameras and gears to space and canon use other way and websites participate in this business. the camera companies wars is similar to middle east wars and will never be over...

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

When testing the dynamic range of, say, a -5 stops exposure you are forgetting that in the real world the exposure in the scene is different. The exposure on the face of the model may be 0, but the exposure in a dark corner can be -2 stops, and the windows behind the model (or the sky) could be +3 or +4 stops. This means you deal with a dynamic range of 5-6 stops between the darkest and the lightest parts of the image. The goal is to know the camera abilities and try to retain the detail in the extremes of the scene. This is why we need to test +3 or -3 stops of overexposure. If we're shooting at a studio and the exposure is within 1-2 stops throughout the scene, any camera will do the job. Outside, in the real world, it's a different thing.

Yes, the manufacturers are fighting for a market and for the average photographer or filmmaker all those three cameras are great. However, if you know what you need, you may find some of them working for you and others — completely unusable. All that is because someone may have the experience of the multitude of different lighting scenarios they have worked on and their image was falling apart, becase of the gear they were using.

"completely unusable", are u kidding me.
when u want take a photo, your subject is important and u have to set the best "METERING MODE" for that for best exposure and if other thing are in very highlight or shadow u need to use exposure bracketing and after that using luminosity mask and not hdr. of course u now every think but u kidding me. ok, then you process +-5 exposure when u want take a photo??!!

Tihomir Lazarov's picture

There is a lot more than the "best metering mode." for a good portrait in the real world. Even if you take a medium format camera with a great dynamic range you won't be able to create good photographs in bad lighting situations, bad looking environment, and with subjects that don't have the proper expressions. For example if you use ND filters and flash it's very hard to focus precisely if you work with an EVF. There are many other peculiarities when you have experienced hundreds of different lighting situations on commercial projects. Then you will know what camera capabilities you need.

Yes, in real world photography you will sometimes need with +3 overexposure (remember that "+5" is a number you made up, while in the video they were showing + and -3 deviations). When you get the full amplitude you could end up with 6 stops of dynamic range that your camera needs to handle. Most cameras today say they have a 14+ stops of dynamic range, but honestly most of the time about 5-6 are usable.

When I am talking about + or - stops of deviation from the proper exposure, I'm talking about the different parts of the frame that may be very dark or very bright. You may not have control over these regions and in this case you need a camera that is capable of giving you enough information in the darkest or lightest parts. Depending on what cameras you use, you will know what the strengths and weaknesses of your camera are. Some cameras bear overexposure better than underexposure and vice versa. If you think that by "best metering" you can always have a photograph that is within a 2 stops of dynamic range, you are probably not having enough experience.

Ok. then u are a professional and camera company need to u for their products that what is good for producing; and i think the previous cameras disqualify with u.
It's a lot of words and my english is terrible but about the test, Mike Calre has commented best in below comment. of course u are ready to tussle with others even gods.
but i respect to you and other professional photographers.
i'm here for learning more from others.

Lots of pertinent comments here about possibly flawed or misleading results, but what I also find frustrating with 'camera tests' is when there is no information posted regarding menu settings. There are so many operation nuances available in modern camera menus that affect these types of outcomes (mostly with regard to video files)... white balance, compression, sharpness, saturation, tone, auto focus, highlight priority, noise reduction, etc, etc. Even if testers claim that they're just running the camera 'out of the box', each manufacturer will have variations in 'neutral' settings, and these base settings may not be relevant to the testing scenario.
The software used and the way the s/w is used to process the raw image files will provide more variation to a test scenario and it would be far more informative to have these methods disclosed if they're going to all the trouble to put something like this together.
Yes, still interesting to see (particularly as I just bought an EOS R), but why not think through all these other variables?

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