Canon 30D vs Sony A5100
The Canon EOS 30D and the Sony Alpha A5100 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in February 2006 and August 2014. The 30D is a DSLR, while the A5100 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. Both cameras are equipped with an APS-C sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 8.2 megapixels, whereas the Sony provides 24 MP.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Canon EOS 30D and the Sony Alpha A5100? 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 physical size and weight of the Canon 30D and the Sony A5100 are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are available. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
The A5100 can be obtained in two different colors (black, white), while the 30D is only available in black.
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony A5100 is considerably smaller (55 percent) than the Canon 30D. Moreover, the A5100 is substantially lighter (64 percent) than the 30D. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the 30D nor the A5100 are weather-sealed.
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. Both cameras have similarly sized sensors, but DSLRs have a larger flange-to-focal plane distance than mirrorless cameras, which imposes contraints on the optical engineering process and generally leads to bigger and heavier lenses. You can compare the optics available for the two cameras in the Canon EF Lens Catalog (30D) and the Sony E-Mount Lens Catalog (A5100). Mirrorless cameras, such as the A5100, 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 30D gets 750 shots out of its BP-511A battery, while the A5100 can take 400 images on a single charge of its NP-FW50 power pack. The power pack in the A5100 can be charged via the USB port, which can be very convenient when travelling.
The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. If you would like to visualize and compare a different camera combination, you can navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from a broad list of cameras there.
|1.||Canon 30D||144 mm||106 mm||74 mm||785 g||750||n||Feb 2006||1,399|
|2.||Sony A5100||110 mm||63 mm||36 mm||283 g||400||n||Aug 2014||549|
|3.||Canon 70D||139 mm||104 mm||79 mm||755 g||920||Y||Jul 2013||1,199|
|4.||Canon 60D||145 mm||106 mm||79 mm||755 g||1100||Y||Aug 2010||1,399|
|5.||Canon 7D||148 mm||111 mm||74 mm||860 g||800||Y||Sep 2009||1,699|
|6.||Canon 50D||146 mm||108 mm||74 mm||822 g||800||Y||Aug 2008||1,299|
|7.||Canon 40D||146 mm||108 mm||74 mm||822 g||750||n||Aug 2007||1,299|
|8.||Canon XTi||127 mm||84 mm||65 mm||556 g||370||n||Aug 2006||799|
|9.||Canon XT||127 mm||94 mm||64 mm||540 g||400||n||Feb 2005||899|
|10.||Canon 20D||144 mm||106 mm||72 mm||770 g||700||n||Aug 2004||1,499|
|11.||Canon 10D||150 mm||107 mm||75 mm||850 g||500||n||Feb 2003||1,999|
|12.||Canon Rebel||142 mm||99 mm||72 mm||649 g||400||n||Aug 2003||899|
|13.||Sony A5000||110 mm||63 mm||36 mm||269 g||420||n||Jan 2014||449|
|14.||Sony A6000||120 mm||67 mm||45 mm||344 g||360||n||Feb 2014||599|
|15.||Sony A3000||128 mm||91 mm||85 mm||411 g||470||n||Aug 2013||329|
|16.||Sony NEX-3N||110 mm||62 mm||35 mm||269 g||480||n||Feb 2013||499|
|17.||Sony NEX-3||117 mm||62 mm||33 mm||297 g||330||n||May 2010||599|
|Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The retail prices at the time of the camera’s release place the model in the market relative to other models in the producer’s line-up and the competition. The A5100 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 61 percent) than the 30D, 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. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.
The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. A large sensor will generally have larger individual pixels that offer better low-light sensitivity, provide wider dynamic range, and have 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.
Both cameras under consideration feature an APS-C sensor, but their sensors differ slightly in size. The sensor area in the A5100 is 9 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have format factors, respectively, of 1.6 (30D) and 1.5. 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 24MP, the A5100 offers a higher resolution than the 30D (8.2MP), but the A5100 has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 3.91μm versus 6.42μm for the 30D). Yet, the A5100 is a much more recent model (by 8 years and 5 months) than the 30D, 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 A5100 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the A5100 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 30 x 20 inches or 76.2 x 50.8 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 24 x 16 inches or 61 x 40.6 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 20 x 13.3 inches or 50.8 x 33.9 cm. The corresponding values for the Canon 30D are 17.5 x 11.7 inches or 44.5 x 29.7 cm for good quality, 14 x 9.3 inches or 35.6 x 23.7 cm for very good quality, and 11.7 x 7.8 inches or 29.7 x 19.8 cm for excellent quality prints.
The A5100 has on-sensor phase detect pixels, which results in fast and reliable autofocus acquisition even during live view operation.
The Canon EOS 30D has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 1600, which can be extended to ISO 100-3200. The corresponding ISO settings for the Sony Alpha A5100 are ISO 100 to ISO 25600 (no boost).
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 A5100 offers substantially better image quality than the 30D (overall score 21 points higher). The advantage is based on 2.3 bits higher color depth, 1.9 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.9 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.
| DXO |
Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The A5100 indeed provides for movie recording, while the 30D does not. The highest resolution format that the A5100 can use is 1080/60p.
Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the 30D has an optical viewfinder, which can be very useful when shooting in bright sunlight. In contrast, the A5100 relies on live view and the rear LCD for framing. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Canon 30D and Sony A5100 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras.
One feature that is present on the 30D, but is missing on the A5100 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 A5100 has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing. This characteristic will be appreciated by vloggers and photographers who are interested in taking selfies. In contrast, the 30D does not have a selfie-screen.
The 30D writes its imaging data to Compact Flash cards, while the A5100 uses SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards.
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 30D and Sony Alpha A5100 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
It is notable that the 30D has a hotshoe, while the A5100 does not. This socket makes it possible to easily attach optional accessories, such as an external flash gun.
Studio photographers will appreciate that the Canon 30D (unlike the A5100) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.
The A5100 is a recent model that features in the current product line-up of Sony. In contrast, the 30D has been discontinued (but can be found pre-owned on eBay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the 30D was succeeded by the Canon 40D. 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 what is the bottom line? Is there a clear favorite between the Canon 30D and the Sony A5100? Which camera is better? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.
Advantages of the Canon EOS 30D:
- Easier framing: Has an optical viewfinder for image composition and settings control.
- Easier setting verification: Features an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
- Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/4000s) to freeze action.
- Longer lasting: Can take more shots (750 versus 400) on a single battery charge.
- Better lighting: Features a hotshoe and can thus hold and trigger an external flash gun.
- Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
- More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in February 2006).
Reasons to prefer the Sony Alpha A5100:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (24 vs 8.2MP), which boosts linear resolution by 71%.
- Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (21 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (2.3 bits more color depth).
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (1.9 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (0.9 stops ISO advantage).
- Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 1080/60p video.
- Better live-view autofocus: Features on-sensor phase-detection for more confident autofocus.
- Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 2.5") for image review and settings control.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (922k vs 230k dots).
- More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
- Fewer buttons to press: Has a touchscreen to facilitate handling and shooting adjustments.
- More selfie-friendly: Has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (6 vs 5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- More compact: Is smaller (110x63mm vs 144x106mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 502g or 64 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- Easier travel charging: Can be conveniently charged via its USB port.
- More legacy lens friendly: Can use many non-native lenses via adapters.
- Easier file upload: Has wifi built 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 (61 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Reflects 8 years and 5 months of technical progress since the 30D launch.
If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the A5100 is the clear winner of the contest (21 : 7 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. A professional sports photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a street photog, and a person interested in family portraits has distinct needs from a landscape 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 30D and the Sony A5100 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera and Best Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera listings whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.
In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras can be instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the 30D or the A5100. 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 why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The table below provides a synthesis of the camera assessments of some of the best known photo-gear review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], dpreview [DPR], ephotozine [EPZ], photographyblog [PB]). 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.
|1.||Canon 30D||..||+ +||+ +||o||..||Feb 2006||1,399|
|2.||Sony A5100||4.5/5||+||..||4.5/5||5/5||Aug 2014||549|
|3.||Canon 70D||5/5||+ +||83/100||4.5/5||5/5||Jul 2013||1,199|
|4.||Canon 60D||5/5||+||79/100||4/5||4.5/5||Aug 2010||1,399|
|5.||Canon 7D||5/5||+ +||84/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2009||1,699|
|6.||Canon 50D||..||+ +||+ +||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2008||1,299|
|7.||Canon 40D||..||+ +||+ +||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2007||1,299|
|8.||Canon XTi||..||+ +||+ +||o||4/5||Aug 2006||799|
|9.||Canon XT||..||80/100||+ +||o||..||Feb 2005||899|
|10.||Canon 20D||..||..||+ +||..||..||Aug 2004||1,499|
|11.||Canon 10D||..||..||+ +||..||..||Feb 2003||1,999|
|12.||Canon Rebel||..||..||+ +||..||..||Aug 2003||899|
|13.||Sony A5000||3/5||+||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jan 2014||449|
|14.||Sony A6000||5/5||+||80/100||4.5/5||5/5||Feb 2014||599|
|15.||Sony A3000||3/5||+||..||4/5||4/5||Aug 2013||329|
|16.||Sony NEX-3N||3/5||..||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2013||499|
|17.||Sony NEX-3||..||..||70/100||4.5/5||4/5||May 2010||599|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
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.
Specifications: Canon 30D vs Sony A5100
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 30D||Sony A5100|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Mirrorless system camera|
|Camera Lens||Canon EF mount lenses||Sony E mount lenses|
|Launch Date||February 2006||August 2014|
|Launch Price||USD 1,399||USD 549|
|Sensor Specs||Canon 30D||Sony A5100|
|Sensor Format||APS-C Sensor||APS-C Sensor|
|Sensor Size||22.5 x 15.0 mm||23.5 x 15.6 mm|
|Sensor Area||337.5 mm2||366.6 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||27 mm||28.2 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||8.2 Megapixels||24 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||3504 x 2336 pixels||6000 x 4000 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||6.42 μm||3.91 μm|
|Pixel Density||2.43 MP/cm2||6.55 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||no Video||1080/60p Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 1,600 ISO||100 - 25,600 ISO|
|ISO Boost||100 - 3,200 ISO||no Enhancement|
|Image Processor||DIGIC 2||BIONZ X|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||59||80|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||21.5||23.8|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||10.8||12.7|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||736||1347|
|Screen Specs||Canon 30D||Sony A5100|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||no viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||95%|
|Top-Level Screen||Control Panel||no Top Display|
|LCD Framing||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||2.5inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||230k dots||922k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Tilting screen|
|Touch Input||no Touchscreen||Touchscreen|
|Shooting Specs||Canon 30D||Sony A5100|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||On-Sensor Phase-detect|
|Manual Focusing Aid||no Peaking Feature||Focus Peaking|
|Max Shutter Speed (mechanical)||1/8000s||1/4000s|
|Continuous Shooting||5 shutter flaps/s||6 shutter flaps/s|
|Fill Flash||Build-in Flash||Build-in Flash|
|Storage Medium||CF cards||MS or SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Single card slot|
|Connectivity Specs||Canon 30D||Sony A5100|
|External Flash||Hotshoe||no Hotshoe|
|Studio Flash||PC Sync socket||no PC Sync|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||no HDMI||micro HDMI|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||Wifi built-in|
|Near-Field Communication||no NFC||NFC built-in|
|Body Specs||Canon 30D||Sony A5100|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||750 shots per charge||400 shots per charge|
|In-Camera Charging||no USB charging||USB charging|
144 x 106 x 74 mm
(5.7 x 4.2 x 2.9 in)
110 x 63 x 36 mm
(4.3 x 2.5 x 1.4 in)
|Camera Weight||785 g (27.7 oz)||283 g (10.0 oz)|
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