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Canon 20D versus Sony A7

The Canon EOS 20D and the Sony Alpha A7 are two enthusiast cameras that were announced, respectively, in August 2004 and October 2013. The 20D is a DSLR, while the A7 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. The cameras are based on an APS-C (20D) and a full frame (A7) sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 8.2 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 20D vs Sony A7

The physical size and weight of the Canon 20D and the Sony A7 are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are presented. All size dimensions 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 20D – represents 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Compare Canon 20D vs Sony A7
20D versus A7 top view
20D and A7 rear side
Body view (20D on the left)

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony A7 is notably smaller (22 percent) than the Canon 20D. Moreover, the A7 is substantially lighter (38 percent) than the 20D. It is noteworthy in this context that the A7 is splash and dust-proof, while the 20D does not feature any corresponding weather-sealing.

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 (20D) 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 20D gets 700 shots out of its BP-511A battery, while the A7 can take 340 images on a single charge of its NP-FW50 power pack.

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. 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 Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(y/n)
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Canon 20D (⇒ rgt) 144 mm 106 mm 72 mm 770 g 700 no 2004 1,499discont. check
Sony A7 (⇒ lft) 127 mm 94 mm 48 mm 474 g 340 YES 2013 1,699discont. check
Canon 7D II (⇒ lft | rgt) 149 mm 112 mm 78 mm 910 g 670 YES 2014 1,799 latest check
Canon 60D (⇒ lft | rgt) 145 mm 106 mm 79 mm 755 g 1100 YES 2010 1,399discont. check
Canon 7D (⇒ lft | rgt) 148 mm 111 mm 74 mm 860 g 800 YES 2009 1,699discont. check
Canon 50D (⇒ lft | rgt) 146 mm 108 mm 74 mm 822 g 800 YES 2008 1,299discont. check
Canon 40D (⇒ lft | rgt) 146 mm 108 mm 74 mm 822 g 750 no 2007 1,299discont. check
Canon 30D (⇒ lft | rgt) 144 mm 106 mm 74 mm 785 g 750 no 2006 1,399discont. check
Canon 350D (⇒ lft | rgt) 127 mm 94 mm 64 mm 540 g 400 no 2005 899discont. check
Canon 10D (⇒ lft | rgt) 150 mm 107 mm 75 mm 850 g 500 no 2003 1,999discont. check
Canon 300D (⇒ lft | rgt) 142 mm 99 mm 72 mm 649 g 400 no 2003 899discont. check
Nikon D610 (⇒ lft | rgt) 141 mm 113 mm 82 mm 850 g 900 YES 2013 1,999 latest check
Nikon D200 (⇒ lft | rgt) 147 mm 113 mm 74 mm 920 g 400 YES 2005 1,699discont. check
Panasonic GH4 (⇒ lft | rgt) 133 mm 93 mm 84 mm 560 g 500 YES 2014 1,499discont. check
Sony A7 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 127 mm 96 mm 60 mm 599 g 350 YES 2014 1,999discont. check
Sony A7S (⇒ lft | rgt) 127 mm 94 mm 48 mm 489 g 380 YES 2014 2,499discont. check
Sony A7R (⇒ lft | rgt) 127 mm 94 mm 48 mm 465 g 340 YES 2013 2,299discont. check

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 20D was launched at a somewhat lower price (by 12 percent) than the A7, which makes it more attractive for photographers on a tight budget. 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. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.


Sensor comparison: Canon 20D vs Sony A7

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. Moreover, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more control over depth-of-field in the image and, thus, the ability to better isolate a subject from the 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 20D features an APS-C sensor and the Sony A7 a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the A7 is 153 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.6 and 1.0. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Canon 20D and Sony A7 sensor measures
Sensor size

With 24MP, the A7 offers a higher resolution than the 20D (8.2MP), but the A7 has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.97μm versus 6.42μm for the 20D). Yet, the A7 is a much more recent model (by 9 years and 1 month) than the 20D, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units.

20D versus A7 MP
Sensor resolution

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. This service assesses and scores the color depth ("DXO Portrait"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports") of camera sensors, and also publishes an overall camera score. Of the two cameras under consideration, the A7 offers substantially better image quality than the 20D (overall score 28 points higher). The advantage is based on 2.9 bits higher color depth, 3.2 EV in additional dynamic range, and 1.6 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.

Sensor Characteristics
Camera Sensor
Class
Resolution
(Megapixel)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Canon 20D (⇒ rgt) APS-C 8.2 3504 2336 no 21.9 11.0 721 62
Sony A7 (⇒ lft) Full Frame 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 24.8 14.2 2248 90
Canon 7D II (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 20.0 5472 3648 1080/60p 22.4 11.8 1082 70
Canon 60D (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 17.9 5184 3456 1080/30p 22.2 11.5 813 66
Canon 7D (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 17.9 5184 3456 1080/30p 22.0 11.7 854 66
Canon 50D (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 15.1 4752 3168 no 21.8 11.4 696 63
Canon 40D (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 10.1 3888 2592 no 22.1 11.3 703 64
Canon 30D (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 8.2 3504 2336 no 21.5 10.8 736 59
Canon 350D (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 8.0 3456 2304 no 21.8 10.8 637 60
Canon 10D (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 6.3 3072 2048 no 21.1 10.9 571 57
Canon 300D (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 6.3 3072 2048 no 21.0 10.8 544 55
Nikon D610 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 24.2 6016 4016 1080/30p 25.1 14.4 2925 94
Nikon D200 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 10.0 3872 2592 no 22.3 11.5 583 64
Panasonic GH4 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 15.9 4608 3456 4K/30p 23.2 12.8 791 74
Sony A7 II (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 24.9 13.6 2449 90
Sony A7S (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 12.0 4240 2832 1080/60p 23.9 13.2 3702 87
Sony A7R (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 36.2 7360 4912 1080/60p 25.6 14.1 2746 95

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The A7 indeed provides for movie recording, while the 20D does not. The highest resolution format that the A7 can use is 1080/60p.

Feature comparison: Canon 20D 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 20D 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 adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Canon 20D and Sony A7 along with similar information for a selection of comparators. The full specs-sheets can be found in the camera manual or, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.

Core Features
Camera Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(Y/n)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(Y/n)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(GN)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Canon 20D (⇒ rgt) optical YES 1.8 118 fixed no 8000 5.0 13 no
Sony A7 (⇒ lft) 2400 no 3.0 1230 tilting no 8000 5.0 no no
Canon 7D II (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 1040 fixed no 8000 10.0 11 no
Canon 60D (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 1040 swivel no 8000 5.3 13 no
Canon 7D (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 920 fixed no 8000 8.0 12 no
Canon 50D (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 920 fixed no 8000 6.3 13 no
Canon 40D (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 230 fixed no 8000 6.5 12 no
Canon 30D (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 2.5 230 fixed no 8000 5.0 13 no
Canon 350D (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 1.8 115 fixed no 4000 3.0 YES no
Canon 10D (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 1.8 118 fixed no 4000 3.0 13 no
Canon 300D (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 1.8 118 fixed no 4000 2.5 YES no
Nikon D610 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 921 fixed no 4000 6.0 12 no
Nikon D200 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 2.5 230 fixed no 8000 5.0 12 no
Panasonic GH4 (⇒ lft | rgt) 2359 no 3.0 1036 swivel YES 8000 12.0 17 no
Sony A7 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 2400 no 3.0 1230 tilting no 8000 5.0 no YES
Sony A7S (⇒ lft | rgt) 2400 no 3.0 921 tilting no 8000 5.0 no no
Sony A7R (⇒ lft | rgt) 2400 no 3.0 1230 tilting no 8000 4.0 no no

Both the 20D and the A7 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The 20D was replaced by the Canon 30D, while the A7 was followed by the Sony A7 II.

Review summary: Canon 20D vs Sony A7

So what conclusions can be drawn? Is there a clear favorite between the Canon 20D and the Sony A7? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.


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Arguments in favor of the Canon EOS 20D:

  • Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
  • Easier setting verification: Has an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (700 versus 340) on a single battery charge.
  • Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced segment (12 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in August 2004).

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Advantages of the Sony Alpha A7:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (24 vs 8.2MP), which boosts linear resolution by 71%.
  • Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (28 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (2.9 bits more color depth).
  • More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (3.2 EV of extra DR).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (1.6 stops ISO advantage).
  • Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 1080/60p video.
  • More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 1.8") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1230k vs 118k dots).
  • More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
  • More compact: Is smaller (127x94mm vs 144x106mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 296g or 38 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • Better sealing: Is splash and dust sealed for shooting in inclement weather conditions.
  • More legacy lens friendly: Can use many non-native lenses via adapters.
  • More modern: Reflects 9 years and 1 month of technical progress since the 20D launch.

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the A7 is the clear winner of the contest (15 : 6 points). However, the relevance of individual strengths will vary across photographers, so that you might want to apply your own weighing scheme to the summary points when reflecting and deciding on a new camera.

20D 06:15 A7

In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it says nothing about, for example, the handling, responsiveness, and overall imaging quality of the 20D and the A7 in practical situations. At times, user reviews, such as those published at amazon, address these issues in a useful manner, but such feedback is on many occasions incomplete, inconsistent, and unreliable. This is where reviews by experts come in. The adjacent table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites. The full reviews are available, respectively, at cameralabs.com, dpreview.com, ephotozine.com, imaging-resource.com, and photographyblog.com.

Review scores
Camera camera
labs
.com
dp
review
.com
ephoto
zine
.com
imaging
resource
.com
photography
blog
.com
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Canon 20D (⇒ rgt) - HiRec - reviewed - 2004 1,499discont. check
Sony A7 (⇒ lft) HiRec 80/100 Silver 5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2013 1,699discont. check
Canon 7D II (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec 84/100 Silver 4/5 5/5 4.5/5 2014 1,799 latest check
Canon 60D (⇒ lft | rgt) 87/100 Rec 79/100 Silver 4/5 5/5 4.5/5 2010 1,399discont. check
Canon 7D (⇒ lft | rgt) 93/100 HiRec 84/100 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2009 1,699discont. check
Canon 50D (⇒ lft | rgt) 90/100 HiRec HiRec 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2008 1,299discont. check
Canon 40D (⇒ lft | rgt) 90/100 HiRec HiRec 4.5/5 reviewed 4.5/5 2007 1,299discont. check
Canon 30D (⇒ lft | rgt) 87/100 HiRec HiRec reviewed reviewed - 2006 1,399discont. check
Canon 350D (⇒ lft | rgt) 80/100 HiRec reviewed reviewed - 2005 899discont. check
Canon 10D (⇒ lft | rgt) - HiRec - reviewed - 2003 1,999discont. check
Canon 300D (⇒ lft | rgt) - HiRec - reviewed - 2003 899discont. check
Nikon D610 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 87/100 Gold 4.5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2013 1,999 latest check
Nikon D200 (⇒ lft | rgt) 91/100 HiRec HiRec reviewed 5/5 - 2005 1,699discont. check
Panasonic GH4 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 85/100 Gold 5/5 5/5 5/5 2014 1,499discont. check
Sony A7 II (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec 82/100 Silver 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2014 1,999discont. check
Sony A7S (⇒ lft | rgt) - 86/100 Gold 4.5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2014 2,499discont. check
Sony A7R (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 82/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2013 2,299discont. check

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time 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. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting. If you cannot find the camera you are interested in, please contact me, and I will try to add information on that model to the database.

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