Canon 50D vs Sony A850
The Canon EOS 50D and the Sony Alpha A850 are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in August 2008 and August 2009. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on an APS-C (50D) and a full frame (A850) sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 15.1 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.
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Canon EOS 50D 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 50D 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 larger (16 percent) than the Canon 50D. Moreover, the A850 is markedly heavier (9 percent) than the 50D. 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.
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, you can use the CAM-parator app to select your camera combination among a large number of options.
|1.||Canon 50D||146 mm||108 mm||74 mm||822 g||800||Y||Aug 2008||1,299|
|2.||Sony A850||156 mm||117 mm||82 mm||895 g||880||Y||Aug 2009||1,999|
|3.||Canon 80D||139 mm||105 mm||79 mm||730 g||960||Y||Feb 2016||1,199|
|4.||Canon 7D II||149 mm||112 mm||78 mm||910 g||670||Y||Sep 2014||1,799|
|5.||Canon 70D||139 mm||104 mm||79 mm||755 g||920||Y||Jul 2013||1,199|
|6.||Canon 60D||145 mm||106 mm||79 mm||755 g||1100||Y||Aug 2010||1,399|
|7.||Canon 1D Mark IV||156 mm||157 mm||80 mm||1230 g||1500||Y||Oct 2009||4,999|
|8.||Canon 7D||148 mm||111 mm||74 mm||860 g||800||Y||Sep 2009||1,699|
|9.||Canon 500D||129 mm||98 mm||62 mm||520 g||400||n||Mar 2009||799|
|10.||Canon 40D||146 mm||108 mm||74 mm||822 g||750||n||Aug 2007||1,299|
|11.||Canon 30D||144 mm||106 mm||74 mm||785 g||750||n||Feb 2006||1,399|
|12.||Canon 5D||152 mm||113 mm||75 mm||895 g||400||Y||Aug 2005||3,299|
|13.||Sony A99 II||143 mm||104 mm||76 mm||849 g||490||Y||Sep 2016||3,199|
|14.||Sony A7 II||127 mm||96 mm||60 mm||599 g||350||Y||Nov 2014||1,999|
|15.||Sony A99||147 mm||111 mm||78 mm||812 g||500||Y||Sep 2012||2,799|
|16.||Sony A77||143 mm||104 mm||81 mm||732 g||470||Y||Aug 2011||1,399|
|17.||Sony A900||156 mm||117 mm||82 mm||895 g||880||Y||Sep 2008||2,999|
|Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
Any camera decision will obviously take relative prices into account. 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 50D was launched at a markedly lower price (by 35 percent) than the A850, 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.
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. 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 50D features an APS-C sensor and the Sony A850 a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the A850 is 160 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.
With 24.4MP, the A850 offers a higher resolution than the 50D (15.1MP), but the A850 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.94μm versus 4.69μm for the 50D) due to its larger sensor. Moreover, the A850 is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year) than the 50D, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further 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 inches or 76.8 x 51.2 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 24.2 x 16.1 inches or 61.4 x 41 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 20.2 x 13.4 inches or 51.2 x 34.1 cm. The corresponding values for the Canon 50D are 23.8 x 15.8 inches or 60.4 x 40.2 cm for good quality, 19 x 12.7 inches or 48.3 x 32.2 cm for very good quality, and 15.8 x 10.6 inches or 40.2 x 26.8 cm for excellent quality prints.
The Canon EOS 50D has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 3200, which can be extended to ISO 100-12800. 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 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 A850 offers substantially better image quality than the 50D (overall score 16 points higher). The advantage is based on 2 bits higher color depth, 0.8 EV in additional dynamic range, and 1 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 |
|2.||Sony A850||Full Frame||24.4||6048||4032||none||23.8||12.2||1415||79|
|4.||Canon 7D II||APS-C||20.0||5472||3648||1080/60p||22.4||11.8||1082||70|
|7.||Canon 1D Mark IV||APS-H||16.0||4896||3264||1080/30p||22.8||12.0||1320||74|
|12.||Canon 5D||Full Frame||12.7||4368||2912||none||22.9||11.1||1368||71|
|13.||Sony A99 II||Full Frame||42.2||7952||5304||4K/30p||25.4||13.4||2317||92|
|14.||Sony A7 II||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||24.9||13.6||2449||90|
|15.||Sony A99||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||25.0||14.0||1555||89|
|17.||Sony A900||Full Frame||24.4||6048||4032||none||23.7||12.3||1431||79|
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The 50D 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 A850 offers a wider field of view (98%) than the one in the 50D (95%), so that a larger proportion of the captured image is visible in the finder. In addition, the viewfinder of the A850 has a higher magnification (0.74x vs 0.59x), 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 50D, the Sony A850, and comparable cameras.
|4.||Canon 7D II||optical||Y||3.0||1040||fixed||n||1/8000s||10.0||Y||n|
|7.||Canon 1D Mark IV||optical||Y||3.0||920||fixed||n||1/8000s||10.0||n||n|
|13.||Sony A99 II||2400||Y||3.0||1229||full-flex||n||1/8000s||12.0||n||Y|
|14.||Sony A7 II||2400||n||3.0||1230||tilting||n||1/8000s||5.0||n||Y|
One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The 50D has one, while the A850 does not. While the built-in flash of the 50D is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.
The 50D writes its imaging data to Compact Flash cards, while the A850 uses Compact Flash or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards. The A850 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the 50D only has one slot.
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 50D and Sony Alpha A850 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
|4.||Canon 7D II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||-||-||-|
|7.||Canon 1D Mark IV||Y||stereo||-||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|13.||Sony A99 II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||Y||Y||Y|
|14.||Sony A7 II||Y||stereo||mono||Y||Y||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
Both cameras feature a PC Sync terminal to control professional strobe lights, which will be appreciated by studio photographers.
Both the 50D and the A850 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The 50D was replaced by the Canon 60D, 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 what is the bottom line? Is the Canon 50D better than the Sony A850 or vice versa? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.
Arguments in favor of the Canon EOS 50D:
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (6.3 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- More compact: Is smaller (146x108mm vs 156x117mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
- Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (35 percent cheaper at launch).
- More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in August 2008).
Reasons to prefer the Sony Alpha A850:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (24.4 vs 15.1MP), which boosts linear resolution by 27%.
- Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (16 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (2 bits more color depth).
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (0.8 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (1 stops ISO advantage).
- More complete view: Has a viewfinder with a larger field of view (98% vs 95%).
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.74x vs 0.59x).
- Sharper images: Has stabilization technology built-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
- Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
- More modern: Was introduced somewhat (1 year) more recently.
If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the A850 is the clear winner of the contest (10 : 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 50D 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 specs-based evaluation of cameras can be instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the 50D or the A850 perform in practice. 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 expert reviews are important. The adjacent summary-table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera 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 50D||..||+ +||+ +||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2008||1,299|
|2.||Sony A850||3/5||..||75/100||..||4.5/5||Aug 2009||1,999|
|3.||Canon 80D||4/5||+ +||84/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2016||1,199|
|4.||Canon 7D II||4.5/5||+||84/100||4/5||4.5/5||Sep 2014||1,799|
|5.||Canon 70D||5/5||+ +||83/100||4.5/5||5/5||Jul 2013||1,199|
|6.||Canon 60D||5/5||+||79/100||4/5||4.5/5||Aug 2010||1,399|
|7.||Canon 1D Mark IV||5/5||..||89/100||..||..||Oct 2009||4,999|
|8.||Canon 7D||5/5||+ +||84/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2009||1,699|
|9.||Canon 500D||..||+ +||74/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Mar 2009||799|
|10.||Canon 40D||..||+ +||+ +||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2007||1,299|
|11.||Canon 30D||..||+ +||+ +||o||..||Feb 2006||1,399|
|12.||Canon 5D||..||88/100||+ +||o||..||Aug 2005||3,299|
|13.||Sony A99 II||..||..||85/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2016||3,199|
|14.||Sony A7 II||5/5||+||82/100||4.5/5||5/5||Nov 2014||1,999|
|15.||Sony A99||5/5||..||84/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||2,799|
|16.||Sony A77||5/5||91/100||81/100||..||5/5||Aug 2011||1,399|
|17.||Sony A900||..||+ +||+ +||4.5/5||5/5||Sep 2008||2,999|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. 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. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.
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 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 50D 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 50D||Sony A850|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Canon EF mount lenses||Sony A mount lenses|
|Launch Date||August 2008||August 2009|
|Launch Price||USD 1,299||USD 1,999|
|Sensor Specs||Canon 50D||Sony A850|
|Sensor Format||APS-C Sensor||Full Frame Sensor|
|Sensor Size||22.3 x 14.9 mm||35.9 x 24.0 mm|
|Sensor Area||332.27 mm2||861.6 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||26.8 mm||43.2 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||15.1 Megapixels||24.4 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||4752 x 3168 pixels||6048 x 4032 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||4.69 μm||5.94 μm|
|Pixel Density||4.53 MP/cm2||2.83 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||no Video||no Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 3,200 ISO||200 - 3,200 ISO|
|ISO Boost||100 - 12,800 ISO||100 - 6,400 ISO|
|Image Processor||DIGIC 4||BIONZ|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||63||79|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||21.8||23.8|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||11.4||12.2|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||696||1415|
|Screen Specs||Canon 50D||Sony A850|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||95%||98%|
|Top-Level Screen||Control Panel||Control Panel|
|LCD Framing||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.0inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||920k dots||922k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Fixed screen|
|Shooting Specs||Canon 50D||Sony A850|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Continuous Shooting||6.3 shutter flaps/s||3 shutter flaps/s|
|Image Stabilization||Lens stabilization only||In-body stabilization|
|Fill Flash||Build-in Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||CF cards||CF or MS cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Dual card slots|
|Connectivity Specs||Canon 50D||Sony A850|
|Studio Flash||PC Sync socket||PC Sync socket|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Canon 50D||Sony A850|
|Environmental Sealing||Weathersealed body||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||800 shots per charge||880 shots per charge|
146 x 108 x 74 mm
(5.7 x 4.3 x 2.9 in)
156 x 117 x 82 mm
(6.1 x 4.6 x 3.2 in)
|Camera Weight||822 g (29.0 oz)||895 g (31.6 oz)|
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