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Canon 1D Mark III versus Sony A7

The Canon EOS-1D Mark III and the Sony Alpha A7 are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in February 2007 and October 2013. The 1D Mark III is a DSLR, while the A7 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. The cameras are based on an APS-H (1D Mark III) and a full frame (A7) sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 10.1 megapixel, whereas the Sony provides 24 MP. Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their size, their sensors, their features, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison: Canon 1D Mark III vs Sony A7

The physical size and weight of the Canon 1D Mark III and the Sony A7 are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. 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 measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter. You can also toggle the display to switch to a percentage comparison if you prefer that the measures are being expressed in relative terms (in this case, the camera on the left – the 1D Mark III – represents the basis or 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Compare Canon 1D Mark III vs Sony A7
Compare 1D Mark III versus A7 top
Compare 1D Mark III and A7 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony A7 is considerably smaller (51 percent) than the Canon 1D Mark III. Moreover, the A7 is substantially lighter (59 percent) than the 1D Mark III. 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. A larger imaging sensor will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, although exceptions exist. You can find an overview of optics for the two cameras in the Canon EF Lens Catalog (1D Mark III) and the Sony FE Lens Catalog (A7). Mirrorless cameras, such as the A7, have moreover the advantage that they can use many lenses from other systems via adapters, as they have a relatively short flange to focal plane distance.

Concerning battery life, the 1D Mark III gets 2200 shots out of its LP-E4 battery, while the A7 can take 340 images on a single charge of its NP-FW50 power pack. As can be seen in the images above, the 1D Mark III has a battery grip build in. This facilitates image-taking in portrait orientation and gives it additional battery power. In order to provide similar functionality for the A7, Sony provides the VG-C1EM vertical grip as an optional accessory (see here on eBay).

The adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, just select a new right or left comparator from among the camera models in the table. Alternatively, you can also move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.

Camera Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(yes/no)
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Canon 1D Mark III» 156 mm 156.6 mm 80 mm 1155 g 2200 Y Feb 2007 4,499- i Canon 1D Mark III
Sony A7« 127 mm 94 mm 48 mm 474 g 340 Y Oct 2013 1,699- i Sony A7
Canon 5DS R« » 152 mm 116 mm 76 mm 930 g 700 Y Feb 2015 3,699 i i Canon 5DS R
Canon 5D Mark III« » 152 mm 116 mm 76 mm 950 g 950 Y Mar 2012 3,499- i Canon 5D Mark III
Canon 1D Mark IV« » 156 mm 157 mm 80 mm 1230 g 1500 Y Oct 2009 4,999- i Canon 1D Mark IV
Canon 5D Mark II« » 152 mm 114 mm 75 mm 850 g 850 Y Sep 2008 3,499- i Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 1Ds Mark III« » 150 mm 160 mm 80 mm 1385 g 1800 Y Aug 2007 7,999- i Canon 1Ds Mark III
Canon 1D Mark II« » 156 mm 158 mm 80 mm 1535 g 1200 Y Jan 2004 4,499- i Canon 1D Mark II
Canon 1Ds« » 156 mm 157.6 mm 80 mm 1265 g 600 Y Sep 2002 8,999- i Canon 1Ds
Nikon D610« » 141 mm 113 mm 82 mm 850 g 900 Y Oct 2013 1,999 i i Nikon D610
Nikon D3S« » 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1240 g 4200 Y Oct 2009 5,199- i Nikon D3S
Nikon D3« » 160 mm 157 mm 88 mm 1300 g 4300 Y Aug 2007 4,999- i Nikon D3
Nikon D2Xs« » 157.5 mm 149.5 mm 86 mm 1252 g 3800 Y Jun 2006 4,699- i Nikon D2Xs
Samsung NX1« » 139 mm 102 mm 66 mm 550 g 500 Y Sep 2014 1,499- i Samsung NX1
Sony A7 II« » 127 mm 96 mm 60 mm 599 g 350 Y Nov 2014 1,999- i Sony A7 II
Sony A7S« » 127 mm 94 mm 48 mm 489 g 380 Y Apr 2014 2,499- i Sony A7S
Sony A7R« » 127 mm 94 mm 48 mm 465 g 340 Y Oct 2013 2,299- i Sony A7R

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The manufacturer’s suggested retail prices give an idea on the placement of the camera in the maker’s lineup and the broader market. The A7 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 62 percent) than the 1D Mark III, which puts it into a different market segment. Normally, street prices remain initially close to the MSRP, but after a couple of months, the first discounts appear. 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. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.

 

Sensor comparison: Canon 1D Mark III vs Sony A7

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. All other things equal, a large sensor will have larger individual pixel-units that offer better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Further, a large sensor camera will give the photographer additional creative options when using shallow depth-of-field to isolate a subject from its background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Canon 1D Mark III features an APS-H sensor and the Sony A7 a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the A7 is 63 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.

Canon 1D Mark III and Sony A7 sensor measures

With 24MP, the A7 offers a higher resolution than the 1D Mark III (10.1MP), but the A7 has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.97μm versus 7.21μm for the 1D Mark III). Yet, the A7 is a much more recent model (by 6 years and 7 months) than the 1D Mark III, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units.

The A7 has on-sensor phase detect pixels, which results in relatively fast and reliable autofocus acquisition during video recording.

1D Mark III versus A7 MP

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. This service is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). Of the two cameras under consideration, the A7 offers substantially better image quality than the 1D Mark III (overall score 19 points higher). The advantage is based on 2.1 bits higher color depth, 2.5 EV in additional dynamic range, and 1.1 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Camera
Model
Canon 1D Mark III» APS-H 10.1 3888 2592-22.711.7107871Canon 1D Mark III
Sony A7« Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.814.2224890Sony A7
Canon 5DS R« » Full Frame 50.3 8688 57921080/60p24.612.4230886Canon 5DS R
Canon 5D Mark III« » Full Frame 22.1 5760 38401080/30p24.011.7229381Canon 5D Mark III
Canon 1D Mark IV« » APS-H 16.0 4896 32641080/30p22.812.0132074Canon 1D Mark IV
Canon 5D Mark II« » Full Frame 21.0 5616 37441080/30p23.711.9181579Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 1Ds Mark III« » Full Frame 21.0 5616 3744-24.012.0166380Canon 1Ds Mark III
Canon 1D Mark II« » APS-H 8.2 3504 2336-22.311.1100366Canon 1D Mark II
Canon 1Ds« » Full Frame 11.0 4064 2704-21.811.095463Canon 1Ds
Nikon D610« » Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/30p25.114.4292594Nikon D610
Nikon D3S« » Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832720/24p23.512.0325382Nikon D3S
Nikon D3« » Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832-23.512.2229081Nikon D3
Nikon D2Xs« » APS-C 12.2 4288 2848-22.210.948959Nikon D2Xs
Samsung NX1« » APS-C 28.0 6480 43204K/30p24.213.2136383Samsung NX1
Sony A7 II« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.913.6244990Sony A7 II
Sony A7S« » Full Frame 12.0 4240 28321080/60p23.913.2370287Sony A7S
Sony A7R« » Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/60p25.614.1274695Sony A7R

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The A7 indeed provides for movie recording, while the 1D Mark III does not. The highest resolution format that the A7 can use is 1080/60p.

 

Feature comparison: Canon 1D Mark III vs Sony A7

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. For example, the A7 has an electronic viewfinder (2400k dots), while the 1D Mark III has an optical one. Both systems have their advantages, with the electronic viewfinder making it possible to project supplementary shooting information into the framing view, whereas the optical viewfinder offers lag-free viewing and a very clear framing image. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Canon 1D Mark III and Sony A7 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras. If you need more detail on the specs, you can find comprehensive listings, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.

Core Features
  Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec)
Build-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Camera
Model
Canon 1D Mark III»optical Y 3.0 230 fixed n 8000 10.0 n n Canon 1D Mark III
Sony A7«2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 8000 5.0 n n Sony A7
Canon 5DS R« »optical Y 3.2 1040 fixed n 8000 5.0 n n Canon 5DS R
Canon 5D Mark III« »optical Y 3.2 1040 fixed n 8000 6.0 n n Canon 5D Mark III
Canon 1D Mark IV« »optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 8000 10.0 n n Canon 1D Mark IV
Canon 5D Mark II« »optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 8000 3.9 n n Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 1Ds Mark III« »optical Y 3.0 230 fixed n 8000 5.0 n n Canon 1Ds Mark III
Canon 1D Mark II« »optical Y 2.0 230 fixed n 8000 8.3 n n Canon 1D Mark II
Canon 1Ds« »optical Y 2.0 120 fixed n 8000 3.0 n n Canon 1Ds
Nikon D610« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 4000 6.0 Y n Nikon D610
Nikon D3S« »optical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 8000 11.0 n n Nikon D3S
Nikon D3« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 8000 11.0 n n Nikon D3
Nikon D2Xs« »optical Y 2.5 230 fixed n 8000 5.0 n n Nikon D2Xs
Samsung NX1« »2360 Y 3.0 1036 tilting Y 8000 15.0 Y n Samsung NX1
Sony A7 II« »2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 8000 5.0 n Y Sony A7 II
Sony A7S« »2400 n 3.0 921 tilting n 8000 5.0 n n Sony A7S
Sony A7R« »2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 8000 4.0 n n Sony A7R

One feature that is present on the 1D Mark III, but is missing on the A7 is a top-level LCD. While being, of course, smaller than the rear screen, the control panel conveys some of the essential shooting information and can be convenient for quick and easy settings verification.

The 1D Mark III writes its imaging data to Compact Flash or SDHC cards, while the A7 uses SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards. The 1D Mark III features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the A7 only has one slot.

Input-Output Connections
  Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Type
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
Camera
Model
Canon 1D Mark III»Y-----2.0---Canon 1D Mark III
Sony A7«YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YY-Sony A7
Canon 5DS R« »YmonomonoY-mini3.0---Canon 5DS R
Canon 5D Mark III« »YmonomonoYYmini2.0---Canon 5D Mark III
Canon 1D Mark IV« »Ystereo-Y-mini2.0---Canon 1D Mark IV
Canon 5D Mark II« »YmonomonoY-mini2.0---Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 1Ds Mark III« »Y-----2.0---Canon 1Ds Mark III
Canon 1D Mark II« »Y-----1.1---Canon 1D Mark II
Canon 1Ds« »Y-----FW---Canon 1Ds
Nikon D610« »YmonomonoYYmini2.0---Nikon D610
Nikon D3S« »Ystereo---mini2.0---Nikon D3S
Nikon D3« »Y----mini2.0---Nikon D3
Nikon D2Xs« »Y-----2.0---Nikon D2Xs
Samsung NX1« »YstereomonoYYmicro3.0YYYSamsung NX1
Sony A7 II« »YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YY-Sony A7 II
Sony A7S« »YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YY-Sony A7S
Sony A7R« »YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YY-Sony A7R

Both the 1D Mark III and the A7 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The 1D Mark III was replaced by the Canon 1D Mark IV, while the A7 was followed by the Sony A7 II.

Review summary: Canon 1D Mark III vs Sony A7

So what conclusions can be drawn? Which of the two cameras – the Canon 1D Mark III or the Sony A7 – has the upper hand? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.

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Reasons to prefer the Canon EOS-1D Mark III:

  • Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
  • Easier setting verification: Features an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (10 vs 5 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 (2200 versus 340) on a single battery charge.
  • Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in February 2007).

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Advantages of the Sony Alpha A7:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (24 vs 10.1MP), which boosts linear resolution by 54%.
  • Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (19 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (2.1 bits more color depth).
  • More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (2.5 EV of extra DR).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (1.1 stops ISO advantage).
  • Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 1080/60p video.
  • Better video autofocus: Features on-sensor phase-detection for more confident movie autofocus.
  • More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1230k vs 230k dots).
  • More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
  • More compact: Is smaller (127x94mm vs 156x156.6mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 681g or 59 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • More legacy lens friendly: Can use many non-native lenses via adapters.
  • Easier file upload: Has wifi build in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
  • Easier device pairing: Supports NFC for fast wireless image transfer over short distances.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (62 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 6 years and 7 months of technical progress since the 1D Mark III launch.

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the A7 is the clear winner of the contest (17 : 7 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.

1D Mark III 07:17 A7

In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the handling experience and imaging performance when actually working with the 1D Mark III or the A7. 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 table below summarizes the assessments of some of the best known camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). The detailed reviews can be accessed by clicking on the site logo in the table header.

Review Scores
  Camera
Model
cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Canon 1D Mark III»---rev- Feb 2007 4,499- i Canon 1D Mark III
Sony A7«HiRec80/1005/54.5/55/5 Oct 2013 1,699- i Sony A7
Canon 5DS R« »Rec83/1005/55/54.5/5 Feb 2015 3,699 i i Canon 5DS R
Canon 5D Mark III« »HiRec82/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Mar 2012 3,499- i Canon 5D Mark III
Canon 1D Mark IV« »-89/100-5/5- Oct 2009 4,999- i Canon 1D Mark IV
Canon 5D Mark II« »91/10079/1004/55/5- Sep 2008 3,499- i Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 1Ds Mark III« »-HiRec4.5/5-- Aug 2007 7,999- i Canon 1Ds Mark III
Canon 1D Mark II« »-HiRec-rev- Jan 2004 4,499- i Canon 1D Mark II
Canon 1Ds« »-HiRec--- Sep 2002 8,999- i Canon 1Ds
Nikon D610« »HiRec87/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Oct 2013 1,999 i i Nikon D610
Nikon D3S« »-89/1004.5/55/55/5 Oct 2009 5,199- i Nikon D3S
Nikon D3« »-HiRec5/5rev4.5/5 Aug 2007 4,999- i Nikon D3
Nikon D2Xs« »---rev- Jun 2006 4,699- i Nikon D2Xs
Samsung NX1« »-87/1005/54.5/55/5 Sep 2014 1,499- i Samsung NX1
Sony A7 II« »Rec82/1004.5/55/55/5 Nov 2014 1,999- i Sony A7 II
Sony A7S« »-86/1004.5/54.5/55/5 Apr 2014 2,499- i Sony A7S
Sony A7R« »HiRec82/1004.5/55/55/5 Oct 2013 2,299- i Sony A7R

The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. 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? In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make your choice using the following search menu. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting. If the camera you are interested in is not available, kindly get in touch, and I will try to add information on that model to the database.

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