Canon 1D Mark II vs Sony A850
The Canon EOS-1D Mark II and the Sony Alpha A850 are two professional cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in January 2004 and August 2009. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on an APS-H (1D Mark II) and a full frame (A850) sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 8.2 megapixels, whereas the Sony provides 24.4 MP.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
|Canon 1D Mark II||Sony A850|
|Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Canon EF mount lenses||Sony A mount lenses|
|8.2 MP, APS-H Sensor||24.4 MP, Full Frame Sensor|
|no Video||no Video|
|ISO 100-1600 (50-3200)||ISO 200-3200 (100-6400)|
|Optical viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|2.0" LCD, 230k dots||3.0" LCD, 922k dots|
|Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)||Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)|
|8.3 shutter flaps per second||3 shutter flaps per second|
|Lens stabilization only||In-body stabilization|
|Weathersealed body||Weathersealed body|
|1200 shots per battery charge||880 shots per battery charge|
|156 x 158 x 80 mm, 1535 g||156 x 117 x 82 mm, 895 g|
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Canon EOS-1D Mark II and the Sony Alpha A850? Which one should you buy? Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their imaging sensors, their shooting features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.
The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Canon 1D Mark II and the Sony A850. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony A850 is notably smaller (26 percent) than the Canon 1D Mark II. Moreover, the A850 is substantially lighter (42 percent) than the 1D Mark II. In this context, it is worth noting that both cameras are splash and dust-proof and can, hence, be used in inclement weather conditions or harsh environments.
The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. Hence, you might want to study and compare the specifications of available lenses in order to get the full picture of the size and weight of the two camera systems.
Concerning battery life, the 1D Mark II gets 1200 shots out of its NP-E3 battery, while the A850 can take 880 images on a single charge of its NP-FM500H power pack. As can be seen in the images above, the 1D Mark II has a battery grip built in. This facilitates image-taking in portrait orientation and gives it additional battery power. In order to provide similar functionality for the A850, Sony provides the VG-C90AM vertical grip as an optional accessory (see here on eBay).
The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, just click on the right or left arrow next to the camera that you would like to inspect. Alternatively, you can also use the CAM-parator to select your camera combination among a larger number of options.
|Canon 1D Mark II»||156 mm||158 mm||80 mm||1535 g||1200||Y||Jan 2004||4,499||Canon 1D Mark II|
|Sony A850«||156 mm||117 mm||82 mm||895 g||880||Y||Aug 2009||1,999||Sony A850|
|Canon 5DS« »||152 mm||116 mm||76 mm||930 g||700||Y||Feb 2015||3,699||Canon 5DS|
|Canon 5DS R« »||152 mm||116 mm||76 mm||930 g||700||Y||Feb 2015||3,699||Canon 5DS R|
|Canon 1D Mark IV« »||156 mm||157 mm||80 mm||1230 g||1500||Y||Oct 2009||4,999||Canon 1D Mark IV|
|Canon 1D Mark III« »||156 mm||157 mm||80 mm||1155 g||2200||Y||Feb 2007||4,499||Canon 1D Mark III|
|Canon 1Ds Mark III« »||150 mm||160 mm||80 mm||1385 g||1800||Y||Aug 2007||7,999||Canon 1Ds Mark III|
|Canon 1D Mark II N« »||156 mm||158 mm||80 mm||1565 g||1200||Y||Aug 2005||3,999||Canon 1D Mark II N|
|Canon 5D« »||152 mm||113 mm||75 mm||895 g||400||Y||Aug 2005||3,299||Canon 5D|
|Canon 1Ds Mark II« »||156 mm||158 mm||80 mm||1215 g||1200||Y||Sep 2004||7,999||Canon 1Ds Mark II|
|Canon 1Ds« »||156 mm||158 mm||80 mm||1265 g||600||Y||Sep 2002||8,999||Canon 1Ds|
|Canon 1D« »||156 mm||158 mm||80 mm||1585 g||500||Y||Sep 2001||6,499||Canon 1D|
|Sony A99 II« »||143 mm||104 mm||76 mm||849 g||490||Y||Sep 2016||3,199||Sony A99 II|
|Sony A7 II« »||127 mm||96 mm||60 mm||599 g||350||Y||Nov 2014||1,999||Sony A7 II|
|Sony A99« »||147 mm||111 mm||78 mm||812 g||500||Y||Sep 2012||2,799||Sony A99|
|Sony A77« »||143 mm||104 mm||81 mm||732 g||470||Y||Aug 2011||1,399||Sony A77|
|Sony A900« »||156 mm||117 mm||82 mm||895 g||880||Y||Sep 2008||2,999||Sony A900|
|Note: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
Any camera decision will obviously take relative prices into account. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The A850 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 56 percent) than the 1D Mark II, which puts it into a different market segment. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down.
The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors of image quality. A large sensor will tend to have larger individual pixels that provide better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixel-units in a sensor of the same technological generation. Furthermore, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more possibilities to use shallow depth-of-field in order to isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Canon 1D Mark II features an APS-H sensor and the Sony A850 a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the A850 is 57 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.3 and 1.0. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.
In terms of underlying technology, both cameras are build around CMOS sensors.
With 24.4MP, the A850 offers a higher resolution than the 1D Mark II (8.2MP), but the A850 has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.94μm versus 8.17μm for the 1D Mark II). Yet, the A850 is a much more recent model (by 5 years and 6 months) than the 1D Mark II, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units.
The resolution advantage of the Sony A850 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the A850 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 30.2 x 20.2 inch or 76.8 x 51.2 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 24.2 x 16.1 inch or 61.4 x 41 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 20.2 x 13.4 inch or 51.2 x 34.1 cm. The corresponding values for the Canon 1D Mark II are 17.5 x 11.7 inch or 44.5 x 29.7 cm for good quality, 14 x 9.3 inch or 35.6 x 23.7 cm for very good quality, and 11.7 x 7.8 inch or 29.7 x 19.8 cm for excellent quality prints.
The Canon EOS-1D Mark II has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 1600, which can be extended to ISO 50-3200. The corresponding ISO settings for the Sony Alpha A850 are ISO 200 to ISO 3200, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 100-6400.
Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. This service determines an overall sensor rating, as well as sub-scores for low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and color depth ("DXO Portrait"). Of the two cameras under consideration, the A850 offers substantially better image quality than the 1D Mark II (overall score 13 points higher). The advantage is based on 1.5 bits higher color depth, 1.1 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.5 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.
|Canon 1D Mark II||APS-H||8.2||3504||2336||none||22.3||11.1||1003||66||Canon 1D Mark II|
|Sony A850||Full Frame||24.4||6048||4032||none||23.8||12.2||1415||79||Sony A850|
|Canon 5DS||Full Frame||50.3||8688||5792||1080/30p||24.7||12.4||2381||87||Canon 5DS|
|Canon 5DS R||Full Frame||50.3||8688||5792||1080/30p||24.6||12.4||2308||86||Canon 5DS R|
|Canon 1D Mark IV||APS-H||16.0||4896||3264||1080/30p||22.8||12.0||1320||74||Canon 1D Mark IV|
|Canon 1D Mark III||APS-H||10.1||3888||2592||none||22.7||11.7||1078||71||Canon 1D Mark III|
|Canon 1Ds Mark III||Full Frame||21.0||5616||3744||none||24.0||12.0||1663||80||Canon 1Ds Mark III|
|Canon 1D Mark II N||APS-H||8.2||3504||2336||none||22.3||11.2||975||66||Canon 1D Mark II N|
|Canon 5D||Full Frame||12.7||4368||2912||none||22.9||11.1||1368||71||Canon 5D|
|Canon 1Ds Mark II||Full Frame||16.6||4992||3328||none||23.3||11.3||1480||74||Canon 1Ds Mark II|
|Canon 1Ds||Full Frame||11.0||4064||2704||none||21.8||11.0||954||63||Canon 1Ds|
|Canon 1D||APS-H||4.1||2496||1662||none||..||..||..||..||Canon 1D|
|Sony A99 II||Full Frame||42.2||7952||5304||4K/30p||25.4||13.4||2317||92||Sony A99 II|
|Sony A7 II||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||24.9||13.6||2449||90||Sony A7 II|
|Sony A99||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||25.0||14.0||1555||89||Sony A99|
|Sony A77||APS-C||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||24.0||13.2||801||78||Sony A77|
|Sony A900||Full Frame||24.4||6048||4032||none||23.7||12.3||1431||79||Sony A900|
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The 1D Mark II and the A850 are similar in the sense that both have an optical viewfinder. The latter is useful for getting a clear image for framing even in brightly lit environments. The viewfinder in the 1D Mark II offers a wider field of view (100%) than the one in the A850 (98%), so that a larger proportion of the captured image is visible in the finder. On the other hand, the viewfinder of the A850 has a higher magnification (0.74x vs 0.55x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Canon 1D Mark II, the Sony A850, and comparable cameras.
|Canon 1D Mark II||optical||Y||2.0||230||fixed||n||1/8000s||8.3||n||n||Canon 1D Mark II|
|Sony A850||optical||Y||3.0||922||fixed||n||1/8000s||3.0||n||Y||Sony A850|
|Canon 5DS||optical||Y||3.2||1040||fixed||n||1/8000s||5.0||n||n||Canon 5DS|
|Canon 5DS R||optical||Y||3.2||1040||fixed||n||1/8000s||5.0||n||n||Canon 5DS R|
|Canon 1D Mark IV||optical||Y||3.0||920||fixed||n||1/8000s||10.0||n||n||Canon 1D Mark IV|
|Canon 1D Mark III||optical||Y||3.0||230||fixed||n||1/8000s||10.0||n||n||Canon 1D Mark III|
|Canon 1Ds Mark III||optical||Y||3.0||230||fixed||n||1/8000s||5.0||n||n||Canon 1Ds Mark III|
|Canon 1D Mark II N||optical||Y||2.5||230||fixed||n||1/8000s||8.5||n||n||Canon 1D Mark II N|
|Canon 5D||optical||Y||2.5||230||fixed||n||1/8000s||3.0||n||n||Canon 5D|
|Canon 1Ds Mark II||optical||Y||2.0||230||fixed||n||1/8000s||4.0||n||n||Canon 1Ds Mark II|
|Canon 1Ds||optical||Y||2.0||120||fixed||n||1/8000s||3.0||n||n||Canon 1Ds|
|Canon 1D||optical||Y||2.0||120||fixed||n||1/16000s||8.0||n||n||Canon 1D|
|Sony A99 II||2400||Y||3.0||1229||full-flex||n||1/8000s||12.0||n||Y||Sony A99 II|
|Sony A7 II||2400||n||3.0||1230||tilting||n||1/8000s||5.0||n||Y||Sony A7 II|
|Sony A99||2359||Y||3.0||1229||full-flex||n||1/8000s||6.0||n||Y||Sony A99|
|Sony A77||2359||Y||3.0||921||full-flex||n||1/8000s||12.0||Y||Y||Sony A77|
|Sony A900||optical||Y||3.0||922||fixed||n||1/8000s||5.0||n||Y||Sony A900|
One feature that differentiates the A850 and the 1D Mark II is in-body image stabilization (IBIS). The A850 reduces the risk of handshake-induced blur with all attached lenses, while the 1D Mark II has to rely on optical image stabilization in OIS-equipped lenses to achieve the same effect.
The 1D Mark II writes its imaging data to Compact Flash or SD cards, while the A850 uses Compact Flash or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards. Both cameras feature dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails.
For some imaging applications, the extent to which a camera can communicate with its environment can be an important aspect in the camera decision process. The table below provides an overview of the connectivity of the Canon EOS-1D Mark II and Sony Alpha A850 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
|Canon 1D Mark II||Y||none||none||-||-||none||1.1||-||-||-||Canon 1D Mark II|
|Sony A850||Y||none||none||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Sony A850|
|Canon 5DS||Y||mono||mono||Y||-||mini||3.0||-||-||-||Canon 5DS|
|Canon 5DS R||Y||mono||mono||Y||-||mini||3.0||-||-||-||Canon 5DS R|
|Canon 1D Mark IV||Y||stereo||none||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Canon 1D Mark IV|
|Canon 1D Mark III||Y||none||none||-||-||none||2.0||-||-||-||Canon 1D Mark III|
|Canon 1Ds Mark III||Y||none||none||-||-||none||2.0||-||-||-||Canon 1Ds Mark III|
|Canon 1D Mark II N||Y||none||none||-||-||none||1.1||-||-||-||Canon 1D Mark II N|
|Canon 5D||Y||none||none||-||-||none||2.0||-||-||-||Canon 5D|
|Canon 1Ds Mark II||Y||none||none||-||-||none||2.0||-||-||-||Canon 1Ds Mark II|
|Canon 1Ds||Y||none||none||-||-||none||FW||-||-||-||Canon 1Ds|
|Canon 1D||Y||none||none||-||-||none||FW||-||-||-||Canon 1D|
|Sony A99 II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||Y||Y||Y||Sony A99 II|
|Sony A7 II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-||Sony A7 II|
|Sony A99||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Sony A99|
|Sony A77||Y||stereo||mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Sony A77|
|Sony A900||Y||none||none||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Sony A900|
Both cameras feature a PC Sync terminal to control professional strobe lights, which will be appreciated by studio photographers.
Both the 1D Mark II and the A850 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The 1D Mark II was replaced by the Canon 1D Mark II N, while the A850 does not have a direct successor. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Canon and Sony websites.
So how do things add up? Which of the two cameras – the Canon 1D Mark II or the Sony A850 – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.
Reasons to prefer the Canon EOS-1D Mark II:
- More complete view: Has a viewfinder with a larger field of view (100% vs 98%).
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (8.3 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- More portrait friendly: Features an integrated vertical grip for easier portrait shooting.
- Longer lasting: Can take more shots (1200 versus 880) on a single battery charge.
- More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in January 2004).
Arguments in favor of the Sony Alpha A850:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (24.4 vs 8.2MP), which boosts linear resolution by 73%.
- Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (13 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (1.5 bits more color depth).
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (1.1 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (0.5 stops ISO advantage).
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.74x vs 0.55x).
- Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 2.0") for image review and settings control.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (922k vs 230k dots).
- More compact: Is smaller (156x117mm vs 156x158mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 640g or 42 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- Sharper images: Has stabilization technology built-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
- Faster data transfer: Supports a more advanced USB protocol (2.0 vs 1.1).
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (56 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Reflects 5 years and 6 months of technical progress since the 1D Mark II launch.
If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the A850 is the clear winner of the contest (14 : 5 points). However, the pertinence of the various camera strengths will differ across photographers, so that you might want to weigh individual camera traits according to their importance for your own imaging needs before making a camera decision. A professional wildlife photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a family photog, and a person interested in architecture has distinct needs from a sports shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.
How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Canon 1D Mark II and the Sony A850 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera listing whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.
In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the 1D Mark II and the A850 in practical situations. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased.
This is where reviews by experts come in. The following table reports the overall ratings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, and photographyblog). As can be seen, the professional reviewers agree in many cases on the quality of different cameras, but sometimes their assessments diverge, reinforcing the earlier point that a camera decision is often a very personal choice.
The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.
Other camera comparisons
Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. As an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool.
- Canon 1D Mark II N vs Nikon D90
- Canon 1D Mark II N vs Panasonic FT7
- Canon 1D Mark II vs Canon 1D Mark IV
- Canon 1D Mark II vs Canon T6s
- Canon 1D Mark II vs Olympus XZ-1
- Canon 1D Mark II vs Panasonic GF3
- Canon 1D Mark II vs Panasonic TZ95
- Fujifilm X20 vs Sony A850
- Leica M9 vs Sony A850
- Nikon P1000 vs Sony A850
- Sony A850 vs Sony HX350
- Sony A850 vs Sony NEX-6
Specifications: Canon 1D Mark II vs Sony A850
Below is a side-by-side comparison of the specs of the two cameras to facilitate a quick review of their differences and common features.
|Camera Model||Canon 1D Mark II||Sony A850|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Canon EF mount lenses||Sony A mount lenses|
|Launch Date||January 2004||August 2009|
|Launch Price||USD 4499||USD 1999|
|Sensor Specs||Canon 1D Mark II||Sony A850|
|Sensor Format||APS-H Sensor||Full Frame Sensor|
|Sensor Size||28.7 x 19.1 mm||35.9 x 24.0 mm|
|Sensor Area||548.17 mm2||861.6 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||34.5 mm||43.2 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||8.2 Megapixels||24.4 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||3504 x 2336 pixels||6048 x 4032 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||8.17 μm||5.94 μm|
|Pixel Density||1.49 MP/cm2||2.83 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||no Video||no Video|
|ISO Setting||100-1600 ISO||200-3200 ISO|
|ISO Boost||50-3200 ISO||100-6400 ISO|
|Image Processor||DIGIC II||BIONZ|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||66||79|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||22.3||23.8|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||11.1||12.2|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||1003||1415|
|Screen Specs||Canon 1D Mark II||Sony A850|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||100%||98%|
|Top-Level Screen||Control Panel||Control Panel|
|Rear LCD Size||2.0 inch||3.0 inch|
|LCD Resolution||230k dots||922k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Fixed screen|
|Shooting Specs||Canon 1D Mark II||Sony A850|
|Autofocus System||Phase-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Continuous Shooting||8.3 shutter flaps/s||3 shutter flaps/s|
|Image Stabilization||Lens stabilization only||In-body stabilization|
|Fill Flash||no On-Board Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||CF or SD cards||CF or MS cards|
|Second Storage Option||Dual card slots||Dual card slots|
|Connectivity Specs||Canon 1D Mark II||Sony A850|
|Studio Flash||PC Sync socket||PC Sync socket|
|USB Connector||USB 1.1||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||no HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Canon 1D Mark II||Sony A850|
|Environmental Sealing||Weathersealed body||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||1200 shots per charge||880 shots per charge|
156 x 158 x 80 mm
(6.1 x 6.2 x 3.1 in)
156 x 117 x 82 mm
(6.1 x 4.6 x 3.2 in)
|Camera Weight||1535 g (54.1 oz)||895 g (31.6 oz)|
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