Sony a9ii vs Nikon D5 and Z6: High ISO Shootout!

What happens when you take the new Sony a9ii and pit it against the Nikon D5 and Z6 in a high ISO shootout? Will the D5 be able to hold its own against the new kids on the block – or will it be crushed?

Watch the video to find out!

We’ll look at ISOs a stop at a time from 1600 up to 51,2000 and compare the results from all three cameras. Enjoy!

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Below are links to the comparison images in the video. Make sure you click the image once it loads to be sure you’re viewing it full size. All links open in a new tab.

ISO 1600
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
ISO 12,800
ISO 25,600
ISO 51,200

PS – If you enjoyed this post, I think you’ll REALLY like my e-books and video workshops! Thousands of pages and hours of videos filled with tips, tricks, and techniques – all my best content! Check ’em out – click here (hey, it’s free to look).

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Dale Elliott
Dale Elliott
1 year ago

thanks a lot Steve the information has help me out a lot

AJ Ward
2 years ago

Glad I read this Steve. I cover all kinds of live sports, but gymnastics and Friday night high school football are the two sports where exceptional high ISO performance is critical. The DxO Optics website indicates that the A9 ii blows away the D5 in High ISO performance. The difference is so pronounced, I was almost ready to trade in a D5 + 70-200 for a Sony A9ii and Sony equivalent 70-200. However, my brain prompted me to keep searching for the pro sports photogs widespread anointment of the dominance of the A9 ii over the D5, and unfortunately, at… Read more »

Steve Chadwick
Steve Chadwick
2 years ago

This is a great summary! Have you considered including some of the Canon cameras in this type of comparison? It would be great to see something like the Canon Mark II or something similar vs the Nikon D5!

kyass Inc
2 years ago

Does anyone can tell?? How does the Nikon D5 compare to the Sony A9?

Don Naples
Don Naples
2 years ago

Spent a month reading your books and watching your videos prior to going to Africa, since I had replaced 4×5 and Hasselblad film cameras when digital became dominant. I had a D7000 but never spent any real effort learning the camera. I gave it to my daughter and purchased a D7100 and a Z6. One advantage I learned with the Z6 is when animals including a 9 year old lion came so close to our vehicle that we had to be still and quiet, I was able to shoot in complete silence. I got some shots that others were unable… Read more »

Karen
Karen
2 years ago

How does the Nikon D5 compare to the Sony A9 (not the latest version)?

Shiva
Shiva
2 years ago

The mirrorless held up better than I expected. Where would you say the 850 which has the same Backlit Sensor as the Z6, would land up ? Between the D5 and the Z6 (like I assume the D500 will) or the same/better than D5?

Shiva
Shiva
2 years ago
Reply to  Shiva

Never mind my question. I read the rest of the comments and your answers to them, and it’s as I figured out. Interesting discussion about downsampling issues tho, but I believe you are right. Inthe end, you have to compare images sampled down/up to the same size to make an effective comparison. I would think resizing down should remove noise, so in the end, pixel for pixel, the mirrorless are getting a bit of a boost and still not keeping up with the old stalwart. The D6 will be roughly 24MP too, and should have the same BSI sensor, and… Read more »

David Bennett
2 years ago

Where would you put the D500? At what max ISO would you say that “in the field, I doubt you’d notice any difference.”?

Bernard DeGruchy
Bernard DeGruchy
2 years ago

Steve: Your results were as I expected; but only the mirrorless cameras came out better than I thought they would. I shoot sports, mostly, and at the Institute (New Mexico Military Institute) and the marketing guys there just purchased a Z7. He has shot DSLR’s in the past and when I asked him if he’d buy the mirrorless again; his reply was no. The mirrorless cameras just don’t have the response needed (in time shudder trips from when you press the shudder) that the DSLR’s do. I do own the Olympus OM-D mark 5II that i purchased for shooting when… Read more »

Bernard DeGruchy
Bernard DeGruchy
2 years ago
Reply to  Steve Perry

The difference may be between the two models, the Z6 and Z7, or the operator. Wish I had one myself (not rally, I’m perfectly happy with a full frame DSLR) just so I could run a few tests myself. Be nice if we could explore this together but I have no access to a Z7 or Z6. If you have ac4ess to one, you may find that is the difference. An idea for an article for you (you are good at what you do, for sure) might be an article that shows what situations are better for the DSLR, or… Read more »

nelson rocha
nelson rocha
2 years ago
Reply to  Steve Perry

Totally agree Steven. I had initially purchased the A7RIV and fell for more mpx is better. But quickly realized that camera is noisy. I swapped it out for the A9ii and there is a bigger difference in high ISO than sensor scores claim. A9ii is very clean through ISO 6400 and can be used at 12800. The A7RIV on the other hand started showing pixel noise by 1600 and for me the outer limit of acceptable results was ISO 3200. Whats your experience with the A7RIV been? Of course the A7RIV is much slower and less precise than the A9ii… Read more »

James
James
2 years ago

I enjoy most of your posts. Here, I’m not convinced that when judging noise that the resizing pass is as legitimate. At least before doing that, I’d compare how uniform the pixel noise was at the native resolution while keeping in mind the equivalent areas being represented. Also given the Bayer filter’s pattern decode to make color, and gain being non-linear, the R, G, B gain values imposed at a particular ISO may themselves contribute to what is being perceived as noise in the processed raw file, therefore I’d look closer at different color squares in the captures as well… Read more »

James
James
2 years ago
Reply to  Steve Perry

I’ve still got my D810 and I’m considering the D850 with the current sales incentive as a backup (well new primary), with the Z7 not quite yet meeting my shooting style or expectations… also thinking if the 60 MPix makes it to the next mirrorless release that it may be beyond what I’m willing to pay for awhile. Anyway, my comment arose mainly because I work with cameras in an industrial setting and what I’ve noted with Sony’s BSI Pregius and Starvis sensors; many of the processing options are exposed for me to play with there, while those settings have… Read more »

nelson rocha
nelson rocha
2 years ago
Reply to  Steve Perry

Steven agreed, the A7RIV just seemed too noisy for my taste and often missed focus which was highly frustrating, had me questioning my own abilities. I swapped for the A9ii and it rarely misses a shot! I dont miss the noise or extra mpx of the A7RIV at all. If you had to pick one of these bodies which would you pick and why? Thanks

Thomas
2 years ago

Hi Steve!
Thanks for the interesting (as always) review.
I think years ago there were always a great step in
sensor technology. Nowadays the steps ahead in
the sensor development are quite small.
You can see the differences only in comprehensive special tests…..
Btw. your books autofocus and metering are amazing!

Jack W
Jack W
2 years ago

Where did this go?
Just for the heck of it, Did you try the base ISO?

Jack W
Jack W
2 years ago

5

Geoff
Geoff
2 years ago

Thanks, Steve, this is really interesting! Do you prefer to use your D5 in Costa Rica over the D850 given the better ISO performance, since light is presumably a big issue in the rainforest?

Jack
Jack
2 years ago

Steve – great video, thanks. What do think about comparing a prime (Nikons) vs a zoom ( Sony)? Any issue there that would affect ISO?

Herb Brail
Herb Brail
2 years ago

Interesting comparisons, Steve. I am surprised you left out one of your favorite cameras, the Nikon D850, in your testing. If you do another test, please consider including the Nikon D500 which seems often a preferred choice for telephoto wildlife shooters. You threw out an all too brief comment near the end of the video about dynamic range. I appreciate you expanding on that aspect of camera choice in a future video or podcast.

ALEXANDER RAUE
ALEXANDER RAUE
2 years ago

Hi Steve. Thank your cat for the well placed hair. After years of film photography, finally a situation where the little buddy contributions paid off. 🙂 Keep up your great work.

Chris Nelson
Chris Nelson
2 years ago

Hi Steve, thank you for the informative video. I am wondering how would A9II compare to A7R4 and Z6 to Z7, given the smaller pixel sizes on the higher resolution cameras? Theoretically, the A7R4 and Z7 should be significantly worse, is the difference noticeable? Thanks.

dale keith
dale keith
2 years ago

Steve, as I have stated to many of my Nikon shooters, the D6 would really have to be a HUGE techno- advancement for me to replace my D5. I will wait for your D6 comparison video.

Howard Kearley
2 years ago

Sweet video, glad in real life I came to the same conclusion with some Kingfisher shots,

Vincent Van der Beken
Vincent Van der Beken
2 years ago

Hey Steve, I guess there is a typo in the title of the video as you use the Z6 and not the Z7 😉
Happy to be a D5 owner, for me the best camera I have ever owned.

Henry Pollak
Henry Pollak
2 years ago
Reply to  Steve Perry

Hi Steve, what are your thoughts on the focus acquisition plus tracking capabilities of these cameras. Also maybe the difference in total pixel density 20mb vs 24mb might explain the noise differences ?