Rumours are swirling over on SonyAlphaRumours that the much-hyped Nikon D850 has struggled in dynamic range tests compared to the high-vaunted, but slightly aging Sony A7r II. Estimations created by William Claff Photons to Photos show a surprising difference between the dynamic range in the newly announced Nikon D850 and the older Sony A7r II with the Sony coming out slightly, but noticably on top.
The Sony A7r II, announced in 2015, remains popular amongst mirrorless camera users. Though there aren't enough Nikon D850 reviews for us to come to solid conclusions, the graph above says a lot about the power of the A7r II.
Don't worry if the graph looks like an indecipherable language to you. All it's showing is that the Sony A7r II has a “better” dynamic range than the D850, which leads to the question…
What Is Dynamic Range?
Dynamic range refers to the wideness of the range of tones captured in-camera . A wide dynamic range is highly valued by many photographers. The ability to evenly capture various tones, similar to what the eye can see, is what makes a wide dynamic range so valuable. Thus, the higher a camera's dynamic range, the better.
Dynamic range is often associated with HDR photography (short for High Dynamic Range). As you can see in the photo below, HDR photos are sharp and seemingly well-exposed photographs, usually of landscapes and nature. HDR photos attempt to replicate what the human eye naturally sees. In short, they combine as many values as possible to create a sharp, even-looking image. (If you'd like to find out more about HDR photography, check out this article.)
However, HDR photographs are usually created in editing programs like Photoshop. Typically, they are stitched together using three differently exposed photographs of the same scene.
What's So Special About the Nikon D850, Then?
If capturing a wide range of tones is important to you, the graph at Photons to Photos will certainly matter to you. You may lean toward the A7r II because of its higher dynamic range. On the other hand, the Nikon D850 may appeal to you because of its sensor and improved autofocus system.
The D850 and A7r II have many similarities despite their age difference. Both have great image quality, 4K video, and an advanced autofocus system.
The differences include the prices ($3,300 for the D850, and $2,700 for the A7r II) and the fact that the former is a DSLR and the latter a mirrorless camera. Additionally, their size and weight vary greatly (the D850 weighs almost twice as much as the A7r II). The D850's battery life is stronger; it also has dual memory card slots. The A7r II is lighter and more affordable.
Ultimately, it all comes down to your personal preferences and shooting style. Though the D850 has yet to be tested to the point where its capabilities are evident, it's a given that both cameras are powerful and incredible tools for a variety of artists. The conclusion we can all come to based on the graph is that certain cameras, such as the Sony A7r II, are timeless when it comes to popularity and strength. Will we be able to say the same thing about the Nikon D850 in a couple of years?