Canon 5D Mark III versus Sony A7
The Canon EOS 5D Mark III and the Sony Alpha A7 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in March 2012 and October 2013. The 5D Mark III is a DSLR, while the A7 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. Both cameras are equipped with a full frame sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 22.1 megapixel, whereas the Sony provides 24 MP.
An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Canon 5D Mark III and the Sony A7 is provided in the side-by-side display below. 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. You can also use the toggle button 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 5D Mark III – represents the basis or 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony A7 is considerably smaller (32 percent) than the Canon 5D Mark III. Moreover, the A7 is substantially lighter (50 percent) than the 5D Mark III. 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. 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 find an overview of optics for the two cameras in the Canon EF Lens Catalog (5D Mark III) 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.
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 comparisons there.
|Camera Body Specifications
|Canon 5D Mark III (⇒ rgt)||152 mm||116 mm||76 mm||950 g||950||YES||2012||3,499||discont.||check|
|Sony A7 (⇒ lft)||127 mm||94 mm||48 mm||474 g||340||YES||2013||1,699||discont.||check|
|Canon 6D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt)||144 mm||111 mm||75 mm||765 g||1200||YES||2017||1,999||latest||check|
|Canon 5D Mark IV (⇒ lft | rgt)||151 mm||116 mm||76 mm||890 g||900||YES||2016||3,499||latest||check|
|Canon 1D X Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt)||158 mm||168 mm||83 mm||1530 g||1210||YES||2016||5,999||latest||check|
|Canon 5DS R (⇒ lft | rgt)||152 mm||116 mm||76 mm||930 g||700||YES||2015||3,699||latest||check|
|Canon 5DS (⇒ lft | rgt)||152 mm||116 mm||76 mm||930 g||700||YES||2015||3,699||latest||check|
|Canon 70D (⇒ lft | rgt)||139 mm||104 mm||79 mm||755 g||920||YES||2013||1,199||discont.||check|
|Canon 6D (⇒ lft | rgt)||145 mm||111 mm||71 mm||770 g||1090||YES||2012||2,099||discont.||check|
|Canon 1D X (⇒ lft | rgt)||158 mm||168 mm||83 mm||1551 g||1120||YES||2011||6,799||discont.||check|
|Canon 5D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt)||152 mm||114 mm||75 mm||850 g||850||YES||2008||3,499||discont.||check|
|Canon 5D (⇒ lft | rgt)||152 mm||113 mm||75 mm||895 g||400||YES||2005||3,299||discont.||check|
|Nikon D610 (⇒ lft | rgt)||141 mm||113 mm||82 mm||850 g||900||YES||2013||1,999||latest||check|
|Panasonic GH4 (⇒ lft | rgt)||133 mm||93 mm||84 mm||560 g||500||YES||2014||1,499||discont.||check|
|Sony A7 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||127 mm||96 mm||60 mm||599 g||350||YES||2014||1,999||discont.||check|
|Sony A7S (⇒ lft | rgt)||127 mm||94 mm||48 mm||489 g||380||YES||2014||2,499||discont.||check|
|Sony A7R (⇒ lft | rgt)||127 mm||94 mm||48 mm||465 g||340||YES||2013||2,299||discont.||check|
The listed prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The A7 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 51 percent) than the 5D Mark III, 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 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. Further, a large sensor camera will give the photographer additional creative options when using shallow depth-of-field to isolate a subject from its background. On the downside, larger sensors are more costly to manufacture and tent to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.
Both cameras under consideration feature a full frame sensor, but their sensors differ slightly in size. The sensor area in the A7 is 1 percent smaller. 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 A7 offers a slightly higher resolution of 24 megapixel, compared with 22.1 MP of the 5D Mark III. 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 5.97μm versus 6.25μm for the 5D Mark III). However, it should be noted that the A7 is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year and 7 months) than the 5D Mark III, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that partly offset its pixel-size disadvantage.
Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. 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 A7 has a markedly higher DXO score than the 5D Mark III (overall score 9 points higher), which will translate into better image quality. The advantage is based on 0.8 bits higher color depth, 2.5 EV in additional dynamic range, 0 stops of reduced 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.
|Canon 5D Mark III (⇒ rgt)||Full Frame||22.1||5760||3840||1080/30p||24||11.7||2293||81|
|Sony A7 (⇒ lft)||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||24.8||14.2||2248||90|
|Canon 6D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||26.0||6240||4160||1080/60p||24.4||11.9||2862||85|
|Canon 5D Mark IV (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||30.1||6720||4480||4K/30p||24.8||13.6||2995||91|
|Canon 1D X Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||20.0||5472||3648||4K/60p||24.1||13.5||3207||88|
|Canon 5DS R (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||50.3||8688||5792||1080/60p||24.6||12.4||2308||86|
|Canon 5DS (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||50.3||8688||5792||1080/60p||24.7||12.4||2381||87|
|Canon 70D (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||20.0||5472||3648||1080/30p||22.5||11.6||926||68|
|Canon 6D (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||20.0||5472||3648||1080/30p||23.8||12.1||2340||82|
|Canon 1D X (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||17.9||5184||3456||1080/30p||23.8||11.8||2786||82|
|Canon 5D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||21.0||5616||3744||1080/30p||23.7||11.9||1815||79|
|Canon 5D (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||12.7||4368||2912||no||22.9||11.1||1368||71|
|Nikon D610 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||24.2||6016||4016||1080/30p||25.1||14.4||2925||94|
|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 are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. Both cameras under consideration are equipped with sensors that have a sufficiently high read-out speed for moving images, but the A7 provides a faster frame rate than the 5D Mark III. It can shoot movie footage at 1080/60p, while the Canon is limited to 1080/30p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the A7 has an electronic viewfinder (2400k dots), while the 5D Mark III 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 5D Mark III and Sony A7 along with similar information for a selection of comparators. If needed, the dpreview camera hub, for example, contains further detail on the cameras' specs.
|Canon 5D Mark III (⇒ rgt)||optical||YES||3.2||1040||fixed||no||8000||6.0||no||no|
|Sony A7 (⇒ lft)||2400||no||3.0||1230||tilting||no||8000||5.0||no||no|
|Canon 6D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.0||1040||swivel||YES||4000||6.5||no||no|
|Canon 5D Mark IV (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.2||1620||fixed||YES||8000||7.0||no||no|
|Canon 1D X Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.2||1620||fixed||YES||8000||16.0||no||no|
|Canon 5DS R (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.2||1040||fixed||no||8000||5.0||no||no|
|Canon 5DS (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.2||1040||fixed||no||8000||5.0||no||no|
|Canon 70D (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.0||1040||swivel||YES||8000||7.0||12||no|
|Canon 6D (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.0||1040||fixed||no||4000||4.5||no||no|
|Canon 1D X (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.2||1040||fixed||no||8000||14.0||no||no|
|Canon 5D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.0||920||fixed||no||8000||3.9||no||no|
|Canon 5D (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||2.5||230||fixed||no||8000||3.0||no||no|
|Nikon D610 (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.2||921||fixed||no||4000||6.0||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 5D Mark III and the A7 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on ebay. The 5D Mark III was replaced by the Canon 5D Mark IV, while the A7 was followed by the Sony A7 II.
So what conclusions can be drawn? Is the Canon 5D Mark III better than the Sony A7 or vice versa? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.
Arguments in favor of the Canon EOS 5D Mark III:
- Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
- Easier setting verification: Has an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
- Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.2" vs 3.0") for image review and settings control.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (6 vs 5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Longer lasting: Can take more shots (950 versus 340) on a single battery charge.
- More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in March 2012).
Advantages of the Sony Alpha A7:
- Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (9 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (2.5 EV of extra DR).
- Better video: Provides higher movie framerates (1080/60p vs 1080/30p).
- More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1230k vs 1040k dots).
- More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
- More compact: Is smaller (127x94mm vs 152x116mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 476g or 50 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- More legacy lens friendly: Can use many non-native lenses via adapters.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (51 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Was introduced somewhat (1 year and 7 months) more recently.
If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the A7 is the clear winner of the contest (11 : 6 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.
In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it says nothing about, for example, the handling, responsiveness, and overall imaging quality of the 5D Mark III and the A7 in practical situations. 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 expert reviews are important. 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.
|Canon 5D Mark III (⇒ rgt)||HiRec||82/100 Gold||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||2012||3,499||discont.||check|
|Sony A7 (⇒ lft)||HiRec||80/100 Silver||5/5||4.5/5||5/5||2013||1,699||discont.||check|
|Canon 6D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt)||Rec||80/100||4.5/5||4/5||4/5||2017||1,999||latest||check|
|Canon 5D Mark IV (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||87/100 Gold||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||2016||3,499||latest||check|
|Canon 1D X Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||89/100 Gold||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||2016||5,999||latest||check|
|Canon 5DS R (⇒ lft | rgt)||Rec||83/100 Silver||5/5||5/5||4.5/5||2015||3,699||latest||check|
|Canon 5DS (⇒ lft | rgt)||Rec||83/100 Silver||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||2015||3,699||latest||check|
|Canon 70D (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||83/100 Gold||4.5/5||4.5/5||5/5||2013||1,199||discont.||check|
|Canon 6D (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||83/100 Silver||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||2012||2,099||discont.||check|
|Canon 1D X (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||-||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||2011||6,799||discont.||check|
|Canon 5D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt)||91/100||79/100 HiRec||4/5||5/5||-||2008||3,499||discont.||check|
|Canon 5D (⇒ lft | rgt)||88/100||HiRec||reviewed||reviewed||-||2005||3,299||discont.||check|
|Nikon D610 (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||87/100 Gold||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||2013||1,999||latest||check|
|Panasonic GH4 (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||85/100 Gold||5/5||5/5||5/5||2014||1,499||discont.||check|
|Sony A7 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||Rec||82/100 Silver||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||2014||1,999||discont.||check|
|Sony A7S (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||86/100 Gold||4.5/5||4.5/5||5/5||2014||2,499||discont.||check|
|Sony A7R (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||82/100 Gold||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||2013||2,299||discont.||check|
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. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.
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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