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Canon 7D vs Sony A850

The Canon EOS 7D and the Sony Alpha A850 are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in September 2009 and August 2009. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on an APS-C (7D) and a full frame (A850) sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 17.9 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.

Headline Specifications
Canon 7D versus Sony A850
Canon 7D Sony A850
Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
Canon EF mount lenses Sony A mount lenses
17.9 MP, APS-C Sensor 24.4 MP, Full Frame Sensor
1080/30p Video no Video
ISO 100-6,400 (100 - 12,800) ISO 200-3,200 (100 - 6,400)
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
3.0 LCD, 920k dots 3.0 LCD, 922k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
8 shutter flaps per second 3 shutter flaps per second
Lens stabilization onlyIn-body stabilization
Weathersealed bodyWeathersealed body
800 shots per battery charge880 shots per battery charge
148 x 111 x 74 mm, 860 g 156 x 117 x 82 mm, 895 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Canon EOS 7D 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.

Body comparison

The physical size and weight of the Canon 7D and the Sony A850 are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

Size Canon 7D vs Sony A850
Compare 7D versus A850 top
Comparison 7D or A850 rear

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 (11 percent) than the Canon 7D. Moreover, the A850 is slightly heavier (4 percent) than the 7D. 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.

Concerning battery life, the 7D gets 800 shots out of its LP-E6 battery, while the A850 can take 880 images on a single charge of its NP-FM500H power pack.

The adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. If you would like to visualize and compare a different camera combination, just use the right or left arrows in the table to switch to the respective camera. Alternatively, you can also navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from the full list of cameras there.

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Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life 1
Weather
Sealing
Camera
Launch 2
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
 
Canon 7D 5.8 in 4.4 in 2.9 in 30.3 oz 800 Y Sep 2009 1,699i
 
Sony A850 6.1 in 4.6 in 3.2 in 31.6 oz 880 Y Aug 2009 1,999i
 
Canon 7D II 5.9 in 4.4 in 3.1 in 32.1 oz 670 Y Sep 2014 1,799 i
 
Canon 70D 5.5 in 4.1 in 3.1 in 26.6 oz 920 Y Jul 2013 1,199i
 
Canon 60D 5.7 in 4.2 in 3.1 in 26.6 oz 1100 Y Aug 2010 1,399i
 
Canon T2i 5.1 in 3.9 in 2.4 in 18.7 oz 440 n Feb 2010 699i
 
Canon T1i 5.1 in 3.9 in 2.4 in 18.3 oz 400 n Mar 2009 799i
 
Canon 5D Mark II 6.0 in 4.5 in 3.0 in 30.0 oz 850 Y Sep 2008 3,499i
 
Canon 50D 5.7 in 4.3 in 2.9 in 29.0 oz 800 Y Aug 2008 1,299i
 
Canon 30D 5.7 in 4.2 in 2.9 in 27.7 oz 750 n Feb 2006 1,399i
 
Canon 20D 5.7 in 4.2 in 2.8 in 27.2 oz 700 n Aug 2004 1,499i
 
Nikon D750 5.6 in 4.4 in 3.1 in 26.5 oz 1230 Y Sep 2014 2,299i
 
Nikon D7000 5.2 in 4.1 in 3.0 in 27.5 oz 1050 Y Sep 2010 1,499i
 
Sony A7 II 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.4 in 21.1 oz 350 Y Nov 2014 1,999i
 
Sony A7 5.0 in 3.7 in 1.9 in 16.7 oz 340 Y Oct 2013 1,699i
 
Sony A99 5.8 in 4.4 in 3.1 in 28.6 oz 500 Y Sep 2012 2,799i
 
Sony A900 6.1 in 4.6 in 3.2 in 31.6 oz 880 Y Sep 2008 2,999i
Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.
(1) Number of images that can be taken on a full battery charge according to the CIPA-standard; (2) Official announcement.

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 7D was launched at a somewhat lower price (by 15 percent) than the A850, which makes it more attractive for photographers on a tight budget. 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.

Sensor comparison

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. 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 tend to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Canon 7D 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.

Technology-wise, both cameras are equipped with CMOS (Complementary Metal–Oxide–Semiconductor) sensors.

Canon 7D and Sony A850 sensor measures

With 24.4MP, the A850 offers a higher resolution than the 7D (17.9MP), but the A850 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.94μm versus 4.31μm for the 7D) due to its larger sensor. It is noteworthy in this context that the two cameras were released in close succession, so that their sensors are from the same technological generation.

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 7D are 25.9 x 17.3 inches or 65.8 x 43.9 cm for good quality, 20.7 x 13.8 inches or 52.7 x 35.1 cm for very good quality, and 17.3 x 11.5 inches or 43.9 x 29.3 cm for excellent quality prints.

The Canon EOS 7D has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 6400, 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.

7D versus A850 MP

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 7D (overall score 13 points higher). The advantage is based on 1.8 bits higher color depth, 0.5 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.7 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.

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Sensor Characteristics
  Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
 
Canon 7D APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.011.785466
 
Sony A850 Full Frame 24.4 6048 4032none23.812.2141579
 
Canon 7D II APS-C 20.0 5472 36481080/60p22.411.8108270
 
Canon 70D APS-C 20.0 5472 36481080/30p22.511.692668
 
Canon 60D APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.211.581366
 
Canon T2i APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.111.578466
 
Canon T1i APS-C 15.1 4752 31681080/20p21.711.566363
 
Canon 5D Mark II Full Frame 21.0 5616 37441080/30p23.711.9181579
 
Canon 50D APS-C 15.1 4752 3168none21.811.469663
 
Canon 30D APS-C 8.2 3504 2336none21.510.873659
 
Canon 20D APS-C 8.2 3504 2336none21.911.072162
 
Nikon D750 Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/60p24.814.5295693
 
Nikon D7000 APS-C 16.1 4928 326410800/24p23.513.9116780
 
Sony A7 II Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.913.6244990
 
Sony A7 Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.814.2224890
 
Sony A99 Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p25.014.0155589
 
Sony A900 Full Frame 24.4 6048 4032none23.712.3143179

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The 7D indeed provides movie recording capabilities, while the A850 does not. The highest resolution format that the 7D can use is 1080/30p.

Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The 7D 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 7D offers a wider field of view (100%) than the one in the A850 (98%), so that a larger proportion of the captured image is visible in the finder. On the other hand, the viewfinder of the A850 has a higher magnification (0.74x vs 0.63x), 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 7D, the Sony A850, and comparable cameras.

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Core Features
  Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
(000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Mech
Shutter
Speed
Shutter
Flaps
(1/sec)
Built-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Built-in
Image
Stab
 
Canon 7Doptical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 1/8000s 8.0 Y n
 
Sony A850optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 3.0 n Y
 
Canon 7D IIoptical Y 3.0 1040 fixed n 1/8000s 10.0 Y n
 
Canon 70Doptical Y 3.0 1040 swivel Y 1/8000s 7.0 Y n
 
Canon 60Doptical Y 3.0 1040 swivel n 1/8000s 5.3 Y n
 
Canon T2ioptical n 3.0 1040 fixed n 1/4000s 3.7 Y n
 
Canon T1ioptical n 3.0 920 fixed n 1/4000s 3.4 Y n
 
Canon 5D Mark IIoptical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 1/8000s 3.9 n n
 
Canon 50Doptical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 1/8000s 6.3 Y n
 
Canon 30Doptical Y 2.5 230 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 Y n
 
Canon 20Doptical Y 1.8 118 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 Y n
 
Nikon D750optical Y 3.2 1229 tilting n 1/4000s 6.0 Y n
 
Nikon D7000optical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 1/8000s 6.0 Y n
 
Sony A7 II2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 1/8000s 5.0 n Y
 
Sony A72400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 1/8000s 5.0 n n
 
Sony A992359 Y 3.0 1229 full-flex n 1/8000s 6.0 n Y
 
Sony A900optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 n Y

One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The 7D has one, while the A850 does not. While the built-in flash of the 7D is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.

The 7D 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 7D only has one slot.

Connectivity comparison

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 7D and Sony Alpha A850 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.

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Input-Output Connections
  Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Port
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
 
Canon 7DYmono-Y-mini2.0---
 
Sony A850Y----mini2.0---
 
Canon 7D IIYstereomonoYYmini3.0---
 
Canon 70DYstereomonoY-mini2.0Y--
 
Canon 60DYmonomonoY-mini2.0---
 
Canon T2iYstereo-Y-mini2.0---
 
Canon T1iYmonomono--mini2.0---
 
Canon 5D Mark IIYmonomonoY-mini2.0---
 
Canon 50DY----mini2.0---
 
Canon 30DY-----2.0---
 
Canon 20DY-----1.1---
 
Nikon D750YstereomonoYYmini2.0Y--
 
Nikon D7000YmonomonoY-mini2.0---
 
Sony A7 IIYstereomonoYYmicro2.0YY-
 
Sony A7YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YY-
 
Sony A99YstereomonoYYmini2.0---
 
Sony A900Y----mini2.0---

Both cameras feature a PC Sync terminal to control professional strobe lights, which will be appreciated by studio photographers.

Both the 7D and the A850 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The 7D was replaced by the Canon 7D Mark II, 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.

Review summary

So what is the bottom line? Is the Canon 7D better than the Sony A850 or vice versa? 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 7D:

  • Broader imaging potential: Can record not only still images but also 1080/30p movies.
  • More complete view: Has a viewfinder with a larger field of view (100% vs 98%).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (8 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced segment (15 percent cheaper at launch).

ilogo

Reasons to prefer the Sony Alpha A850:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (24.4 vs 17.9MP), which boosts linear resolution by 17%.
  • Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (13 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (1.8 bits more color depth).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (0.7 stops ISO advantage).
  • Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.74x vs 0.63x).
  • 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.

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the A850 emerges as the winner of the match-up (7 : 5 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 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.

7D 05:07 A850

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Canon 7D 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 7D 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.

Expert reviews

This is why expert reviews are important. The adjacent summary-table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, and photographyblog). 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.

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Review Scores
  Camera
Model
camera
  labs  
dp
review  
ephoto
  zine  
imaging
resource
photography
  blog  
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
 
Canon 7D+ +84/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2009 1,699i
 
Sony A850..75/100..4/54.5/5 Aug 2009 1,999i
 
Canon 7D II+84/1004/55/54.5/5 Sep 2014 1,799 i
 
Canon 70D+ +83/1004.5/54.5/55/5 Jul 2013 1,199i
 
Canon 60D+79/1004/55/54.5/5 Aug 2010 1,399i
 
Canon T2i+ +77/1004/55/54.5/5 Feb 2010 699i
 
Canon T1i+ +74/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Mar 2009 799i
 
Canon 5D Mark II91/10079/1004/55/5.. Sep 2008 3,499i
 
Canon 50D+ ++ +4.5/55/54.5/5 Aug 2008 1,299i
 
Canon 30D+ ++ +oo.. Feb 2006 1,399i
 
Canon 20D..+ +..o.. Aug 2004 1,499i
 
Nikon D750+ +90/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2014 2,299i
 
Nikon D7000..80/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2010 1,499i
 
Sony A7 II+82/1004.5/55/55/5 Nov 2014 1,999i
 
Sony A7+ +80/1005/54.5/55/5 Oct 2013 1,699i
 
Sony A99..84/1004.5/5o4.5/5 Sep 2012 2,799i
 
Sony A900+ ++ +4.5/54/55/5 Sep 2008 2,999i
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.

Canon 7D:
Check Ebay offers
Sony A850:
Check Ebay offers

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 7D 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 Specifications
    Camera Model Canon 7D 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 2009 August 2009
    Launch Price USD 1,699 USD 1,999
    Sensor Specs Canon 7D Sony A850
    Sensor Technology CMOS CMOS
    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
    Crop Factor 1.6x 1.0x
    Sensor Resolution 17.9 Megapixels 24.4 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 5184 x 3456 pixels 6048 x 4032 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 4.31 μm 5.94 μm
    Pixel Density 5.39 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 100 - 12,800 ISO 100 - 6,400 ISO
    Image Processor DIGIC 4 (Dual) BIONZ
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 66 79
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 22.0 23.8
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 11.7 12.2
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 854 1415
    Screen Specs Canon 7D Sony A850
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 100% 98%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.63x 0.74x
    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 7D Sony A850
    Focus System Phase-detect AF Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 8 shutter flaps/s 3 shutter flaps/s
    Image StabilizationLens stabilization onlyIn-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 7D Sony A850
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    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 7D Sony A850
    Environmental SealingWeathersealed bodyWeathersealed body
    Battery Type LP-E6 NP-FM500H
    Battery Life (CIPA)800 shots per charge880 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 148 x 111 x 74 mm
    (5.8 x 4.4 x 2.9 in)
    156 x 117 x 82 mm
    (6.1 x 4.6 x 3.2 in)
    Camera Weight 860 g (30.3 oz) 895 g (31.6 oz)

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