Sony A1 vs Canon R3 vs Nikon Z9: Battle of the Mirrorless Giants

Sony A1 vs Canon R3 vs Nikon Z9

In the world of mirrorless cameras, Sony, Canon, and Nikon are considered giants for their flagship cameras. The mirrorless landscape is dominated by the Sony A1, Canon EOS R3, and Nikon Z9. Sony is often considered the best hybrid camera, people swear by the Canon Raw, and others believe the Nikon Z9 to be the camera for sports photography. Often time these sparks debate among enthusiasts asking which is the best among these.

Sony A1 vs Canon R3 vs Nikon Z9

In this article, we will compare the Sony A1 versus the Canon EOS R3 versus the Nikon Z9 and see how they stack against each other. 

Stills Capabilities

Sony was the first to introduce stacked sensors, and it gave us the power to shoot 50MP photos at 30fps through the A1. Integrated with the stacked sensor is DRAM memory, granting the camera its speedy capabilities. But that’s not all; the viewfinder on this camera is bigger and comes with a .90x magnification. What set’s it apart from more is the variable refresh rate, ranging from 60fps all the way to 240 fps, with 9.44 million dots.

Sony A1 Mirrorless Camera
Sony A1 Mirrorless Camera

On the other hand, we have the Canon EOS R3. Unlike the Sony and Nikon, the R3 comes with a 24MP stacked sensor, shooting at 30fps. The 24MP can disappoint some people, but Canon makes it up with their eye control AF; more on that later. Also, Canon has introduced an HDR viewfinder promising to show life-like previews through the EVF. It comes with 0.76x magnification and 5.8 million dots.

While Sony and Canon have been battling it out forever, Nikon recently joined the battle. The Z9 also comes with a 45.7MP stacked CMOS sensor capable of shooting stills at 30fps. So while Sony has a higher megapixel count, the difference is negligible. As for shooting capabilities, the Sony gets a leg up over the Nikon thanks to its mechanical shutter. However, comparing electronic shutter performance, both cameras perform similarly. 

However, the Canon beats them all when shooting burst in Raw. Canon can utilize its full resolution and shoot at 30fps. The A1, on the other hand, can shoot 30fps at raw, but it’s a lossy format. Lastly, the Z9 can shoot 120fps but at just 11MP. 

So who’s the winner for shooting stills? Unfortunately, the answer isn’t simple. If you don’t mind the lossy compression, then the A1 will suit you. But, if you want all the details but don’t mind the 24MP, then the Canon wins. 

Autofocus Prowess

As for autofocus, Sony incorporates real-time tracking with their A1. With that, you can seamlessly switch between an object to face and eyes and vice versa. With 92% frame coverage, its also capable of detecting bird’s eyes. If you focus it correctly, you will get crips shots, even in burst mode. Speaking of burst mode, thanks to the latest sensor, it adjusts the focus and exposure level with every attempt. The A1 utilizes phase and eye detection to achieve great pictures even in low-light situations. 

Canon R3 Mirrorless Camera
Canon R3 Mirrorless Camera

Nikon has added new autofocus features that give it a slight advantage over the A1. The camera is fine-tuned to shoot sports and action-packed pictures. It packs nine focus profiles to help you get sharp images. They have also incorporated eye and body detection for humans and eye detection for animals. The new addition to Nikon’s software is 3D tracking; it automatically tracks the object and focuses perfectly. 

The R3 also includes eye, face, and body recognition and tracking. Like the rest, the canon system automatically detects its tracking and focuses accordingly. Its also programmed to recognize animals and fast-moving vehicles. However, the camera won’t change the focus mode if it loses focus; instead, it will look for similar objects to focus on. 

Another great feature Canon incorporates eye control AF. You choose the subject of focus with your eyes. Unfortunately, it’s not perfect and doesn’t work well for everyone. While Canon’s eye control AF is a great feature, it doesn’t work well for everyone. Also, you need to customize the autofocus a lot before getting the perfect focus for every situation. With Sony and Nikon, it’s a tie. Both have fantastic autofocus capabilities and bring something new to the table that works out of the box. 

Recording Power

Moving to record capabilities, Nikon Z9 comes with the most power in this department. Firstly, you can record 8K UHD up to 24 or 30fps while utilizing the entire sensor. Then, moving down to 4K UHD, you can record up to 120fps. Also, with the oversampled footage, you’re getting the most out of every footage. However, oversampling only works in 30fps. When using ProRes, you can push up to 4K 60fps. Not only that, but you’re also getting professional color profiles and HDR recording with this camera. Mix all these with the six-step image stabilization, and you will get the best footage out of a camera. 

Nikon Z9 Mirrorless Camera
Nikon Z9 Mirrorless Camera

Now let’s talk about the Canon R3; while it does not come with an 8K recording, you will get 6K 60fps internal recording. With a 6K recording, you’re getting all the color profiles and Canon’s internal raw. Then, moving down, you can shoot 4K at 120fps, however, only in mp4. But, if you’re shooting 4K 60fps, you will get oversampled 6K footages, meaning it will be filled with details. R3 beats the Z9 in image stabilization, having eight stops of it.

Lastly, with the Sony A1, you can record 8K at 30 fps. When recording 4K, you can shoot in 30fps with sound, but when pushing it to 120fps, you need to shoot with the sounds off. The sad part is that the A1 does not support internal raw and oversampled footage. That means the details won’t be as crisp as the R3 and Z9. 

Overall, the Nikon Z9 is the clear winner here. It packs most features cinematographers want and look for in a camera. The inclusion of ProRes and oversampled footage makes it the best camera for recording footage. The Canon falls behind as it only offers 6K footage. Other than that, the R3 performs well too. Sony will disappoint most cinematographers with their limited feature set. 

Final Verdict

So, who’s the winner? Unfortunately, the answer isn’t cut and dry. Each camera performs in its own regard. If you’re a cinematographer looking for the best features in the market, you will love the Nikon Z9. It is also perfect for people who shoot fast-paced action. 

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a photo-centric camera, the Canon R3 is the best. None of the other two gives you the capability to shoot burst in uncompressed raw. So whether you’re shooting on the street or the race tracks, the R3 will suit your needs.

Lastly, the Sony A1 is great for photography, and if you don’t mind the limited recording capabilities, it will serve you well in everyday situations. This is how the A1, R3, and Z9 stack against each other. What do you think? Which one stole your heart?

Joe Pfeffer

Joe Pfeffer

What started off as just a dream for Joe Pfeffer, turned into his passion and livelihood. He started his career as a wildlife photographer and then transitioned into becoming a cinematographer. With a decade of raw on-the-field experience, Joe Pfeffer has all the technical knowledge about the ins and outs of cameras. Now, he uses his vast experience to educate others about photography.