Canon 5D Mark II vs Sony A850
The Canon EOS 5D Mark II and the Sony Alpha A850 are two professional cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in September 2008 and August 2009. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with a full frame sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 21 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 5D Mark II 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 5D Mark II 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 size 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 (5 percent) than the Canon 5D Mark II. Moreover, the A850 is markedly heavier (5 percent) than the 5D Mark II. 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 following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, you can move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.
|1.||Canon 5D Mark II||152 mm||114 mm||75 mm||850 g||850||Y||Sep 2008||3,499||ebay.com|
|2.||Sony A850||156 mm||117 mm||82 mm||895 g||880||Y||Aug 2009||1,999||ebay.com|
|3.||Canon 6D Mark II||144 mm||111 mm||75 mm||765 g||1200||Y||Jun 2017||1,999||amazon.com|
|4.||Canon 5D Mark IV||151 mm||116 mm||76 mm||890 g||900||Y||Aug 2016||3,499||amazon.com|
|5.||Canon 80D||139 mm||105 mm||79 mm||730 g||960||Y||Feb 2016||1,199||ebay.com|
|6.||Canon 5DS||152 mm||116 mm||76 mm||930 g||700||Y||Feb 2015||3,699||amazon.com|
|7.||Canon 5DS R||152 mm||116 mm||76 mm||930 g||700||Y||Feb 2015||3,699||amazon.com|
|8.||Canon 5D Mark III||152 mm||116 mm||76 mm||950 g||950||Y||Mar 2012||3,499||ebay.com|
|9.||Canon 6D||145 mm||111 mm||71 mm||770 g||1090||Y||Sep 2012||2,099||ebay.com|
|10.||Canon 7D||148 mm||111 mm||74 mm||860 g||800||Y||Sep 2009||1,699||ebay.com|
|11.||Canon 1Ds Mark III||150 mm||160 mm||80 mm||1385 g||1800||Y||Aug 2007||7,999||ebay.com|
|12.||Canon 5D||152 mm||113 mm||75 mm||895 g||400||Y||Aug 2005||3,299||ebay.com|
|13.||Sony A99 II||143 mm||104 mm||76 mm||849 g||490||Y||Sep 2016||3,199||ebay.com|
|14.||Sony A7 II||127 mm||96 mm||60 mm||599 g||350||Y||Nov 2014||1,999||ebay.com|
|15.||Sony A99||147 mm||111 mm||78 mm||812 g||500||Y||Sep 2012||2,799||ebay.com|
|16.||Sony A77||143 mm||104 mm||81 mm||732 g||470||Y||Aug 2011||1,399||ebay.com|
|17.||Sony A900||156 mm||117 mm||82 mm||895 g||880||Y||Sep 2008||2,999||ebay.com|
|Note: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
Any camera decision will naturally be influenced heavily by the price. 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 A850 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 43 percent) than the 5D Mark II, 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.
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 more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.
Both cameras under consideration feature a full frame sensor, but their sensors differ slightly in size. They nevertheless have the same format factor of 1.0. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.
Despite having a slightly smaller sensor, the A850 offers a higher resolution of 24.4 megapixels, compared with 21 MP of the 5D Mark II. This megapixels advantage comes at the cost of a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 5.94μm versus 6.41μm for the 5D Mark II). However, it should be noted that the A850 is a somewhat more recent model (by 11 months) than the 5D Mark II, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that partly offset its pixel-size disadvantage.
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 5D Mark II are 28.1 x 18.7 inches or 71.3 x 47.5 cm for good quality, 22.5 x 15 inches or 57.1 x 38 cm for very good quality, and 18.7 x 12.5 inches or 47.5 x 31.7 cm for excellent quality prints.
The Canon EOS 5D Mark II has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 6400, which can be extended to ISO 50-25600. 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.
Technology-wise, both cameras are equipped with CMOS (Complementary Metal–Oxide–Semiconductor) sensors. Both cameras use a Bayer filter for capturing RGB colors on a square grid of photosensors. This arrangement is found in most digital cameras.
Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. This service determines an overall sensor rating, as well as sub-scores for low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and color depth ("DXO Portrait"). The Overall DXO ratings for the two cameras under consideration are close, suggesting that they provide similar imaging performance. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.
|1.||Canon 5D Mark II||Full Frame||21.0||5616||3744||1080/30p||23.7||11.9||1815||79|
|2.||Sony A850||Full Frame||24.4||6048||4032||none||23.8||12.2||1415||79|
|3.||Canon 6D Mark II||Full Frame||26.0||6240||4160||1080/60p||24.4||11.9||2862||85|
|4.||Canon 5D Mark IV||Full Frame||30.1||6720||4480||4K/30p||24.8||13.6||2995||91|
|6.||Canon 5DS||Full Frame||50.3||8688||5792||1080/30p||24.7||12.4||2381||87|
|7.||Canon 5DS R||Full Frame||50.3||8688||5792||1080/30p||24.6||12.4||2308||86|
|8.||Canon 5D Mark III||Full Frame||22.1||5760||3840||1080/30p||24.0||11.7||2293||81|
|9.||Canon 6D||Full Frame||20.0||5472||3648||1080/30p||23.8||12.1||2340||82|
|11.||Canon 1Ds Mark III||Full Frame||21.0||5616||3744||none||24.0||12.0||1663||80|
|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|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. The 5D Mark II indeed provides movie recording capabilities, while the A850 does not. The highest resolution format that the 5D Mark II can use is 1080/30p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The 5D Mark II 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 viewfinders of both cameras offer the same field of view (98%), but the viewfinder of the A850 has a higher magnification than the one of the 5D Mark II (0.74x vs 0.71x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Canon 5D Mark II and Sony A850 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras.
|1.||Canon 5D Mark II||optical||Y||3.0 / 920||fixed||n||1/8000s||3.9/s||n||n|
|2.||Sony A850||optical||Y||3.0 / 922||fixed||n||1/8000s||3.0/s||n||Y|
|3.||Canon 6D Mark II||optical||Y||3.0 / 1040||swivel||Y||1/4000s||6.5/s||n||n|
|4.||Canon 5D Mark IV||optical||Y||3.2 / 1620||fixed||Y||1/8000s||7.0/s||n||n|
|5.||Canon 80D||optical||Y||3.0 / 1040||swivel||Y||1/8000s||7.0/s||Y||n|
|6.||Canon 5DS||optical||Y||3.2 / 1040||fixed||n||1/8000s||5.0/s||n||n|
|7.||Canon 5DS R||optical||Y||3.2 / 1040||fixed||n||1/8000s||5.0/s||n||n|
|8.||Canon 5D Mark III||optical||Y||3.2 / 1040||fixed||n||1/8000s||6.0/s||n||n|
|9.||Canon 6D||optical||Y||3.0 / 1040||fixed||n||1/4000s||4.5/s||n||n|
|10.||Canon 7D||optical||Y||3.0 / 920||fixed||n||1/8000s||8.0/s||Y||n|
|11.||Canon 1Ds Mark III||optical||Y||3.0 / 230||fixed||n||1/8000s||5.0/s||n||n|
|12.||Canon 5D||optical||Y||2.5 / 230||fixed||n||1/8000s||3.0/s||n||n|
|13.||Sony A99 II||2400||Y||3.0 / 1229||full-flex||n||1/8000s||12.0/s||n||Y|
|14.||Sony A7 II||2400||n||3.0 / 1230||tilting||n||1/8000s||5.0/s||n||Y|
|15.||Sony A99||2359||Y||3.0 / 1229||full-flex||n||1/8000s||6.0/s||n||Y|
|16.||Sony A77||2359||Y||3.0 / 921||full-flex||n||1/8000s||12.0/s||Y||Y|
|17.||Sony A900||optical||Y||3.0 / 922||fixed||n||1/8000s||5.0/s||n||Y|
|Notes: *) Information refers to the mechanical shutter, unless the camera only has an electronic one.|
One feature that differentiates the A850 and the 5D Mark II is in-body image stabilization (IBIS). The A850 reduces the risk of handshake-induced blur with all attached lenses, while the 5D Mark II offers no blur reduction with lenses that themselves do not provide optical image stabilization.
The 5D Mark II 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 5D Mark II 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 5D Mark II and Sony Alpha A850 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
Mic / Speaker
|1.||Canon 5D Mark II||Y||mono / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|2.||Sony A850||Y||- / -||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|3.||Canon 6D Mark II||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||Y||Y||Y|
|4.||Canon 5D Mark IV||Y||mono / mono||Y||Y||mini||3.0||Y||Y||-|
|5.||Canon 80D||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||mini||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|6.||Canon 5DS||Y||mono / mono||Y||-||mini||3.0||-||-||-|
|7.||Canon 5DS R||Y||mono / mono||Y||-||mini||3.0||-||-||-|
|8.||Canon 5D Mark III||Y||mono / mono||Y||Y||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|9.||Canon 6D||Y||mono / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||Y||-||-|
|10.||Canon 7D||Y||mono / -||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|11.||Canon 1Ds Mark III||Y||mono / -||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-|
|12.||Canon 5D||Y||- / -||-||-||-||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||-|
|15.||Sony A99||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|16.||Sony A77||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|17.||Sony A900||Y||- / -||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
Both cameras feature a PC Sync terminal to control professional strobe lights, which will be appreciated by studio photographers.
Both the 5D Mark II and the A850 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on ebay. The 5D Mark II was replaced by the Canon 5D Mark III, while the A850 does not have a direct successor. Further information on the features and operation of the 5D Mark II and A850 can be found, respectively, in the Canon 5D Mark II Manual (free pdf) or the online Sony A850 Manual.
So how do things add up? Is the Canon 5D Mark II better than the Sony A850 or vice versa? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.
Advantages of the Canon EOS 5D Mark II:
- Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (0.4 stops ISO advantage).
- Broader imaging potential: Can record not only still images but also 1080/30p movies.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (3.9 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in September 2008).
Reasons to prefer the Sony Alpha A850:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (24.4 vs 21MP), which boosts linear resolution by 8%.
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.74x vs 0.71x).
- 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 affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (43 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Was introduced somewhat (11 months) more recently.
If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the A850 emerges as the winner of the match-up (6 : 4 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 5D Mark II 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 comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the 5D Mark II or the A850. 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 summary-table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], digitalcameraworld [DCW], 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 5D Mark II||4/5||91/100||..||79/100||4/5||..||Sep 2008||3,499||ebay.com|
|2.||Sony A850||3/5||..||..||75/100||..||4.5/5||Aug 2009||1,999||ebay.com|
|3.||Canon 6D Mark II||4/5||+||4/5||80/100||4.5/5||4/5||Jun 2017||1,999||amazon.com|
|4.||Canon 5D Mark IV||4.5/5||+ +||4/5||87/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2016||3,499||amazon.com|
|5.||Canon 80D||4/5||+ +||4.5/5||84/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2016||1,199||ebay.com|
|6.||Canon 5DS||..||+||..||83/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2015||3,699||amazon.com|
|7.||Canon 5DS R||5/5||+||..||83/100||5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2015||3,699||amazon.com|
|8.||Canon 5D Mark III||..||+ +||..||82/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Mar 2012||3,499||ebay.com|
|9.||Canon 6D||5/5||+ +||..||83/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||2,099||ebay.com|
|10.||Canon 7D||5/5||+ +||..||84/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2009||1,699||ebay.com|
|11.||Canon 1Ds Mark III||..||..||..||+ +||4.5/5||..||Aug 2007||7,999||ebay.com|
|12.||Canon 5D||..||88/100||..||+ +||o||..||Aug 2005||3,299||ebay.com|
|13.||Sony A99 II||..||..||4.5/5||85/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2016||3,199||ebay.com|
|14.||Sony A7 II||5/5||+||4/5||82/100||4.5/5||5/5||Nov 2014||1,999||ebay.com|
|15.||Sony A99||5/5||..||..||84/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||2,799||ebay.com|
|16.||Sony A77||5/5||91/100||..||81/100||..||5/5||Aug 2011||1,399||ebay.com|
|17.||Sony A900||..||+ +||..||+ +||4.5/5||5/5||Sep 2008||2,999||ebay.com|
|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 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? In case you would like to check on the differences and similarities of other camera models, just make your choice using the following search menu. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.
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Specifications: Canon 5D Mark II 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 5D Mark II||Sony A850|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Canon EF mount lenses||Sony A mount lenses|
|Launch Date||September 2008||August 2009|
|Launch Price||USD 3,499||USD 1,999|
|Sensor Specs||Canon 5D Mark II||Sony A850|
|Sensor Format||Full Frame Sensor||Full Frame Sensor|
|Sensor Size||36.0 x 24.0 mm||35.9 x 24.0 mm|
|Sensor Area||864 mm2||861.6 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||43.3 mm||43.2 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||21 Megapixels||24.4 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||5616 x 3744 pixels||6048 x 4032 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||6.41 μm||5.94 μm|
|Pixel Density||2.43 MP/cm2||2.83 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||1080/30p Video||no Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 6,400 ISO||200 - 3,200 ISO|
|ISO Boost||50 - 25,600 ISO||100 - 6,400 ISO|
|Image Processor||DIGIC 4||BIONZ|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||79||79|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||23.7||23.8|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||11.9||12.2|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||1815||1415|
|Screen Specs||Canon 5D Mark II||Sony A850|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||98%||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 5D Mark II||Sony A850|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Continuous Shooting||3.9 shutter flaps/s||3 shutter flaps/s|
|Image Stabilization||Lens stabilization only||In-body stabilization|
|Fill Flash||no On-Board Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||CF cards||CF or MS cards|
|Single or Dual Card Slots||Single card slot||Dual card slots|
|Connectivity Specs||Canon 5D Mark II||Sony A850|
|Studio Flash||PC Sync socket||PC Sync socket|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Microphone Port||External MIC port||no MIC socket|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Canon 5D Mark II||Sony A850|
|Environmental Sealing||Weathersealed body||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||850 shots per charge||880 shots per charge|
152 x 114 x 75 mm
(6.0 x 4.5 x 3.0 in)
156 x 117 x 82 mm
(6.1 x 4.6 x 3.2 in)
|Camera Weight||850 g (30.0 oz)||895 g (31.6 oz)|
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