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Canon 1D Mark IV versus Sony A7S

The Canon EOS-1D Mark IV and the Sony Alpha A7S are two professional cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in October 2009 and April 2014. The 1D Mark IV is a DSLR, while the A7S is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. The cameras are based on an APS-H (1D Mark IV) and a full frame (A7S) sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 16 megapixel, whereas the Sony provides 12 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 IV vs Sony A7S

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Canon 1D Mark IV and the Sony A7S is provided in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear 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 side – the 1D Mark IV – represents the basis for the calculations across all the size and weight measures).

Compare Canon 1D Mark IV vs Sony A7S
Compare 1D Mark IV versus A7S top
Compare 1D Mark IV and A7S rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony A7S is considerably smaller (51 percent) than the Canon 1D Mark IV. Moreover, the A7S is substantially lighter (60 percent) than the 1D Mark IV. 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 IV) and the Sony FE Lens Catalog (A7S). Mirrorless cameras, such as the A7S, 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 IV gets 1500 shots out of its LP-E4 battery, while the A7S can take 380 images on a single charge of its NP-FW50 power pack. As can be seen in the images above, the 1D Mark IV 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 A7S, Sony provides the VG-C1EM vertical grip as an optional accessory (see here on eBay).

The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. If you would like to visualize and compare a different camera combination, just use the right or left arrows in the table to switch to the respective camera. Alternatively, you can also navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from the full list of cameras 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 IV» 6.1 in 6.2 in 3.1 in 43.4 oz 1500 Y Oct 2009 4,999- i Canon 1D Mark IV
Sony A7S« 5.0 in 3.7 in 1.9 in 17.2 oz 380 Y Apr 2014 2,499- i Sony A7S
Canon 1D X Mark II« » 6.2 in 6.6 in 3.3 in 54.0 oz 1210 Y Feb 2016 5,999 i i Canon 1D X Mark II
Canon 1D X« » 6.2 in 6.6 in 3.3 in 54.7 oz 1120 Y Oct 2011 6,799- i Canon 1D X
Canon 60D« » 5.7 in 4.2 in 3.1 in 26.6 oz 1100 Y Aug 2010 1,399- i Canon 60D
Canon 7D« » 5.8 in 4.4 in 2.9 in 30.3 oz 800 Y Sep 2009 1,699- i Canon 7D
Canon 5D Mark II« » 6.0 in 4.5 in 3.0 in 30.0 oz 850 Y Sep 2008 3,499- i Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 1D Mark III« » 6.1 in 6.2 in 3.1 in 40.7 oz 2200 Y Feb 2007 4,499- i Canon 1D Mark III
Canon 1D Mark II« » 6.1 in 6.2 in 3.1 in 54.1 oz 1200 Y Jan 2004 4,499- i Canon 1D Mark II
Canon 1Ds Mark II« » 6.1 in 6.2 in 3.1 in 42.9 oz 1200 Y Sep 2004 7,999- i Canon 1Ds Mark II
Nikon D4« » 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.6 in 47.3 oz 2600 Y Jan 2012 5,999- i Nikon D4
Nikon D3S« » 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.5 in 43.7 oz 4200 Y Oct 2009 5,199- i Nikon D3S
Sony A7R II« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.4 in 22.0 oz 290 Y Jun 2015 3,199- i Sony A7R II
Sony A7S II« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.4 in 22.1 oz 370 Y Sep 2015 2,999 i i Sony A7S II
Sony A7 II« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.4 in 21.1 oz 350 Y Nov 2014 1,999- i Sony A7 II
Sony A7« » 5.0 in 3.7 in 1.9 in 16.7 oz 340 Y Oct 2013 1,699- i Sony A7
Sony A7R« » 5.0 in 3.7 in 1.9 in 16.4 oz 340 Y Oct 2013 2,299- i Sony A7R

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The A7S was launched at a markedly lower price (by 50 percent) than the 1D Mark IV, 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.

 

Sensor comparison: Canon 1D Mark IV vs Sony A7S

The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant 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. 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 IV features an APS-H sensor and the Sony A7S a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the A7S is 65 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.

Technology-wise, both cameras are equipped with CMOS (Complementary Metal–Oxide–Semiconductor) sensors.

Canon 1D Mark IV and Sony A7S sensor measures

Despite having a smaller sensor, the Canon 1D Mark IV offers a higher resolution of 16 megapixel, compared with 12 MP of the Sony A7S. This megapixel advantage comes at the cost of a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 5.70μm versus 8.45μm for the A7S). Moreover, it should be noted that the A7S is much more recent (by 4 years and 5 months) than the 1D Mark IV, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units.

1D Mark IV versus A7S MP

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. 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 A7S offers substantially better image quality than the 1D Mark IV (overall score 13 points higher). The advantage is based on 1.1 bits higher color depth, 1.2 EV in additional dynamic range, and 1.5 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 IV» APS-H 16.0 4896 32641080/30p22.812.0132074Canon 1D Mark IV
Sony A7S« Full Frame 12.0 4240 28321080/60p23.913.2370287Sony A7S
Canon 1D X Mark II« » Full Frame 20.0 5472 36484K/60p24.113.5320788Canon 1D X Mark II
Canon 1D X« » Full Frame 17.9 5184 34561080/30p23.811.8278682Canon 1D X
Canon 60D« » APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.211.581366Canon 60D
Canon 7D« » APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.011.785466Canon 7D
Canon 5D Mark II« » Full Frame 21.0 5616 37441080/30p23.711.9181579Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 1D Mark III« » APS-H 10.1 3888 2592-22.711.7107871Canon 1D Mark III
Canon 1D Mark II« » APS-H 8.2 3504 2336-22.311.1100366Canon 1D Mark II
Canon 1Ds Mark II« » Full Frame 16.6 4992 3328-23.311.3148074Canon 1Ds Mark II
Nikon D4« » Full Frame 16.2 4928 32801080/30p24.713.1296589Nikon D4
Nikon D3S« » Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832720/24p23.512.0325382Nikon D3S
Sony A7R II« » Full Frame 42.2 7952 53044K/30p26.013.9343498Sony A7R II
Sony A7S II« » Full Frame 12.0 4240 28324K/30p23.613.3299385Sony A7S II
Sony A7 II« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.913.6244990Sony A7 II
Sony A7« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.814.2224890Sony A7
Sony A7R« » Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/60p25.614.1274695Sony A7R

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. Both cameras under consideration have a sensor with sufficiently fast read-out times for moving pictures, but the A7S provides a faster frame rate than the 1D Mark IV. It can shoot movie footage at 1080/60p, while the Canon is limited to 1080/30p.

 

Feature comparison: Canon 1D Mark IV vs Sony A7S

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the A7S has an electronic viewfinder (2400k dots), while the 1D Mark IV 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 IV and Sony A7S in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras. The full specs-sheets can be found in the camera manual or 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 IV»optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 8000 10.0 n n Canon 1D Mark IV
Sony A7S«2400 n 3.0 921 tilting n 8000 5.0 n n Sony A7S
Canon 1D X Mark II« »optical Y 3.2 1620 fixed Y 8000 16.0 n n Canon 1D X Mark II
Canon 1D X« »optical Y 3.2 1040 fixed n 8000 14.0 n n Canon 1D X
Canon 60D« »optical Y 3.0 1040 swivel n 8000 5.3 Y n Canon 60D
Canon 7D« »optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 8000 8.0 Y n Canon 7D
Canon 5D Mark II« »optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 8000 3.9 n n Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 1D Mark III« »optical Y 3.0 230 fixed n 8000 10.0 n n Canon 1D Mark III
Canon 1D Mark II« »optical Y 2.0 230 fixed n 8000 8.3 n n Canon 1D Mark II
Canon 1Ds Mark II« »optical Y 2.0 230 fixed n 8000 4.0 n n Canon 1Ds Mark II
Nikon D4« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 8000 11.0 n n Nikon D4
Nikon D3S« »optical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 8000 11.0 n n Nikon D3S
Sony A7R II« »2400 n 3.0 1229 tilting n 8000 5.0 n Y Sony A7R II
Sony A7S II« »2400 n 3.0 1229 tilting n 8000 5.0 n Y Sony A7S II
Sony A7 II« »2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 8000 5.0 n Y Sony A7 II
Sony A7« »2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 8000 5.0 n n Sony A7
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 IV, but is missing on the A7S 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 reported shutter speed and shutter burst refer to the use of the mechanical shutter. In addition, the A7S features an electronic shutter, which makes completely silent shooting possible. However, this mode is less suitable for photographing moving objects (rolling shutter) or shooting under artificial light sources (flickering).

The 1D Mark IV writes its imaging data to Compact Flash cards, while the A7S uses SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards. The 1D Mark IV features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the A7S 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 IV»Ystereo-Y-mini2.0---Canon 1D Mark IV
Sony A7S«YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YY-Sony A7S
Canon 1D X Mark II« »YmonomonoYYmini3.0---Canon 1D X Mark II
Canon 1D X« »Ymono-Y-mini2.0---Canon 1D X
Canon 60D« »YmonomonoY-mini2.0---Canon 60D
Canon 7D« »Ymono-Y-mini2.0---Canon 7D
Canon 5D Mark II« »YmonomonoY-mini2.0---Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 1D Mark III« »Y-----2.0---Canon 1D Mark III
Canon 1D Mark II« »Y-----1.1---Canon 1D Mark II
Canon 1Ds Mark II« »Y-----2.0---Canon 1Ds Mark II
Nikon D4« »Ymonomono--micro2.0---Nikon D4
Nikon D3S« »Ystereo---mini2.0---Nikon D3S
Sony A7R II« »YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YY-Sony A7R II
Sony A7S II« »YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YY-Sony A7S II
Sony A7 II« »YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YY-Sony A7 II
Sony A7« »YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YY-Sony A7
Sony A7R« »YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YY-Sony A7R

Both the 1D Mark IV and the A7S have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The A7S was replaced by the Sony A7S II, while the 1D Mark IV does not have a direct successor.

Review summary: Canon 1D Mark IV vs Sony A7S

So how do things add up? Is there a clear favorite between the Canon 1D Mark IV and the Sony A7S? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.

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Arguments in favor of the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (16 vs 12MP) with a 15% higher linear resolution.
  • 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 (1500 versus 380) 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 October 2009).

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Advantages of the Sony Alpha A7S:

  • Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (13 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (1.1 bits more color depth).
  • More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (1.2 EV of extra DR).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (1.5 stops ISO advantage).
  • Better video: Provides higher movie framerates (1080/60p versus 1080/30p).
  • Better sound control: Has a headphone port that enables audio monitoring while recording.
  • More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
  • More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
  • Less disturbing: Has an electronic shutter option for completely silent shooting.
  • More compact: Is smaller (127x94mm vs 156x157mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 741g or 60 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 (50 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 4 years and 5 months of technical progress since the 1D Mark IV launch.

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the A7S is the clear winner of the contest (16 : 8 points). However, the relative importance of the various individual camera aspects will vary according to personal preferences and needs, so that you might like to apply corresponding weights to the particular features before making a decision on a new camera.

1D Mark IV 08:16 A7S

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 IV or the A7S. User reviews that are available, for instance, at amazon can sometimes shed light on these issues, but such feedback is all too often partial, inconsistent, and inaccurate. This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The adjacent table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). The full reviews are available 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 IV»-89/100-5/5- Oct 2009 4,999- i Canon 1D Mark IV
Sony A7S«-86/1004.5/54.5/55/5 Apr 2014 2,499- i Sony A7S
Canon 1D X Mark II« »-89/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Feb 2016 5,999 i i Canon 1D X Mark II
Canon 1D X« »--4.5/54.5/54.5/5 Oct 2011 6,799- i Canon 1D X
Canon 60D« »Rec79/1004/55/54.5/5 Aug 2010 1,399- i Canon 60D
Canon 7D« »HiRec84/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2009 1,699- i Canon 7D
Canon 5D Mark II« »91/10079/1004/55/5- Sep 2008 3,499- i Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 1D Mark III« »---rev- Feb 2007 4,499- i Canon 1D Mark III
Canon 1D Mark II« »-HiRec-rev- Jan 2004 4,499- i Canon 1D Mark II
Canon 1Ds Mark II« »-HiRec--- Sep 2004 7,999- i Canon 1Ds Mark II
Nikon D4« »--4.5/5-4.5/5 Jan 2012 5,999- i Nikon D4
Nikon D3S« »-89/1004.5/55/55/5 Oct 2009 5,199- i Nikon D3S
Sony A7R II« »HiRec90/1005/54.5/55/5 Jun 2015 3,199- i Sony A7R II
Sony A7S II« »Rec-4.5/55/55/5 Sep 2015 2,999 i i Sony A7S II
Sony A7 II« »Rec82/1004.5/55/55/5 Nov 2014 1,999- i Sony A7 II
Sony A7« »HiRec80/1005/54.5/55/5 Oct 2013 1,699- i Sony A7
Sony A7R« »HiRec82/1004.5/55/55/5 Oct 2013 2,299- i Sony A7R

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. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, 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 would like to check on the differences and similarities of other camera models, just use the search menu below. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting. If you do not see the camera that you are looking for, please send me an email, and I will try to add information on that model to the database.

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