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Canon M3 vs Sony A5100

The Canon EOS M3 and the Sony Alpha A5100 are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in February 2015 and August 2014. Both the M3 and the A5100 are mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras that are equipped with an APS-C sensor. Both cameras offer a resolution of 24 megapixels.

Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.

Headline Specifications
Canon M3 versus Sony A5100
Canon M3 Sony A5100
Mirrorless system camera Mirrorless system camera
Canon EF-M mount lenses Sony E mount lenses
24 MP, APS-C Sensor 24 MP, APS-C Sensor
1080/30p Video 1080/60p Video
ISO 100-12,800 (100 - 25,600) ISO 100-25,600
Viewfinder optional No viewfinder, LCD framing
3.0 LCD, 1040k dots 3.0 LCD, 922k dots
Tilting touchscreen Tilting touchscreen
4.2 shutter flaps per second 6 shutter flaps per second
250 shots per battery charge400 shots per battery charge
111 x 68 x 44 mm, 366 g 110 x 63 x 36 mm, 283 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Canon EOS M3 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.

Body comparison

The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Canon M3 and the Sony A5100. 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 measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

Both cameras are available in two different colors (black, white).

Size Canon M3 vs Sony A5100
Compare M3 versus A5100 top
Comparison M3 or A5100 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony A5100 is notably smaller (8 percent) than the Canon M3. Moreover, the A5100 is markedly lighter (23 percent) than the M3. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the M3 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. 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 M3 gets 250 shots out of its LP-E17 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 following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, just click on the right or left arrow next to the camera that you would like to inspect. Alternatively, you can also use the CAM-parator to select your camera combination among a larger number of options.

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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 M3 4.4 in 2.7 in 1.7 in 12.9 oz 250 n Feb 2015 679i
 
Sony A5100 4.3 in 2.5 in 1.4 in 10.0 oz 400 n Aug 2014 549 i
 
Canon M50 Mark II 4.6 in 3.5 in 2.3 in 13.7 oz 305 n Oct 2020 599 i
 
Canon M50 4.6 in 3.5 in 2.3 in 13.8 oz 235 n Feb 2018 779i
 
Canon M6 4.4 in 2.7 in 1.8 in 13.8 oz 295 n Feb 2017 779i
 
Canon M100 4.3 in 2.6 in 1.4 in 10.7 oz 295 n Aug 2017 499i
 
Canon M5 4.6 in 3.5 in 2.4 in 15.1 oz 295 n Sep 2016 979 i
 
Canon M10 4.3 in 2.6 in 1.4 in 10.6 oz 255 n Oct 2015 499i
 
Canon T6i 5.2 in 4.0 in 3.1 in 19.6 oz 440 n Feb 2015 749i
 
Canon T6s 5.2 in 4.0 in 3.1 in 19.9 oz 440 n Feb 2015 649i
 
Canon G7 X 4.1 in 2.4 in 1.6 in 10.7 oz 210 n Sep 2014 699i
 
Canon M 4.3 in 2.6 in 1.3 in 10.5 oz 230 n Jul 2012 599i
 
Sony A5000 4.3 in 2.5 in 1.4 in 9.5 oz 420 n Jan 2014 449i
 
Sony A6000 4.7 in 2.6 in 1.8 in 12.1 oz 360 n Feb 2014 599i
 
Sony A3000 5.0 in 3.6 in 3.3 in 14.5 oz 470 n Aug 2013 329i
 
Sony NEX-3N 4.3 in 2.4 in 1.4 in 9.5 oz 480 n Feb 2013 499i
 
Sony NEX-3 4.6 in 2.4 in 1.3 in 10.5 oz 330 n May 2010 599i
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 manufacturer’s suggested retail prices give an idea on the placement of the camera in the maker’s lineup and the broader market. The A5100 was launched at a somewhat lower price (by 19 percent) than the M3, which makes it more attractive for photographers on a tight budget. 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.

Sensor comparison

The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant 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 11 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have format factors, respectively, of 1.6 (M3) 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.

Canon M3 and Sony A5100 sensor measures

Even though the A5100 has a larger sensor, both cameras offer the same resolution of 24 megapixels. This implies that the A5100 has a lower pixel density and larger individual pixels (with a pixel pitch of 3.91μm versus 3.72μm for the M3), which gives it a potential advantage in terms of light gathering capacity. It should, however, be noted that the M3 is a somewhat more recent model (by 5 months) than the A5100, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that at least partly compensate for the smaller pixel size.

The Canon EOS M3 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 12800, which can be extended to ISO 100-25600. The corresponding ISO settings for the Sony Alpha A5100 are ISO 100 to ISO 25600 (no boost).

M3 versus A5100 MP

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. 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"). Of the two cameras under consideration, the A5100 has a markedly higher DXO score than the M3 (overall score 8 points higher), which will translate into better image quality. The advantage is based on 1 bits higher color depth, 0.9 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.2 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.

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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 M3 APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/30p22.811.8116972
 
Sony A5100 APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p23.812.7134780
 
Canon M50 Mark II APS-C 24.0 6000 40004K/24p........
 
Canon M50 APS-C 24.0 6000 40004K/24p........
 
Canon M6 APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p........
 
Canon M100 APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p23.512.9127278
 
Canon M5 APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p23.412.4126277
 
Canon M10 APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.211.475365
 
Canon T6i APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/30p22.712.091971
 
Canon T6s APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/30p22.612.091570
 
Canon G7 X 1-inch 20.0 5472 36481080/60p23.012.755671
 
Canon M APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.111.282765
 
Sony A5000 APS-C 19.8 5456 36321080/60i23.813.0108979
 
Sony A6000 APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.113.1134782
 
Sony A3000 APS-C 19.8 5456 36321080/60i23.712.8106878
 
Sony NEX-3N APS-C 16.0 4912 32641080/60i22.812.5106774
 
Sony NEX-3 APS-C 14.0 4592 3056720/30p22.112.083068

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The two cameras under consideration both have sensors whose read-out speed is fast enough to capture moving pictures, but the A5100 provides a faster frame rate than the M3. It can shoot movie footage at 1080/60p, while the Canon is limited to 1080/30p.

Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The M3 and the A5100 are similar in the sense that neither of the two has a viewfinder. The images are, thus, framed using live view on the rear LCD. That said, the M3 can be equipped with an optional viewfinder – the EVF-DC1. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Canon M3 and Sony A5100 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar 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 M3optional n 3.0 1040 tilting Y 1/4000s 4.2 Y n
 
Sony A5100none n 3.0 922 tilting Y 1/4000s 6.0 Y n
 
Canon M50 Mark II2360 n 3.0 1040 swivel Y 1/4000s 10.0 Y n
 
Canon M502360 n 3.0 1040 swivel Y 1/4000s 10.0 Y n
 
Canon M6optional n 3.0 1040 tilting Y 1/4000s 9.0 Y n
 
Canon M100none n 3.0 1040 tilting Y 1/4000s 6.1 Y n
 
Canon M52360 n 3.2 1620 tilting Y 1/4000s 9.0 Y n
 
Canon M10none n 3.0 1040 tilting Y 1/4000s 4.6 Y n
 
Canon T6ioptical n 3.0 1040 swivel Y 1/4000s 5.0 Y n
 
Canon T6soptical Y 3.0 1040 swivel Y 1/4000s 5.0 Y n
 
Canon G7 Xnone n 3.0 1040 tilting Y 1/2000s 6.5 Y Y
 
Canon Mnone n 3.0 1040 fixed Y 1/4000s 4.3 n n
 
Sony A5000none n 3.0 461 tilting n 1/4000s 3.5 Y n
 
Sony A60001440 n 3.0 922 tilting n 1/4000s 11.0 Y n
 
Sony A3000202 n 3.0 230 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5 Y n
 
Sony NEX-3Noptional n 3.0 460 tilting n 1/4000s 4.0 Y n
 
Sony NEX-3optional n 3.0 920 tilting n 1/4000s 7.0 n n
Both cameras have an articulated rear screen that can be turned to be front-facing. This feature will be particularly appreciated by vloggers and photographers who are interested in taking selfies.

The M3 writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the A5100 uses SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards. Both cameras can use UHS-I cards, which provide for Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 104 MB/s.

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 M3 and Sony Alpha A5100 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 M3YstereomonoY-mini2.0YY-
 
Sony A5100-stereomono--micro2.0YY-
 
Canon M50 Mark IIYstereomonoY-micro2.0Y-Y
 
Canon M50YstereomonoY-micro2.0Y-Y
 
Canon M6YstereomonoY-mini2.0YYY
 
Canon M100-stereomono--micro2.0YYY
 
Canon M5YstereomonoY-mini2.0YYY
 
Canon M10-stereomono--mini2.0YY-
 
Canon T6iYstereomonoY-mini2.0YY-
 
Canon T6sYstereomonoY-mini2.0YY-
 
Canon G7 X-stereomono--micro2.0YY-
 
Canon MYstereomonoY-mini2.0---
 
Sony A5000-stereomono--micro2.0YY-
 
Sony A6000Ystereomono--micro2.0YY-
 
Sony A3000Ystereomono--mini2.0---
 
Sony NEX-3N-stereomono--micro2.0---
 
Sony NEX-3Ystereomono--mini2.0---

It is notable that the M3 has a hotshoe, while the A5100 does not. This socket makes it possible to easily attach optional accessories, such as an external flash gun.

The A5100 is a recent model that features in the current product line-up of Sony. In contrast, the M3 has been discontinued (but can be found pre-owned on eBay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the M3 was succeeded by the Canon M6. 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 how do things add up? Is there a clear favorite between the Canon M3 and the Sony A5100? Which camera is better? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.

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Reasons to prefer the Canon EOS M3:

  • Better sound: Can connect to an external microphone for higher quality sound recording.
  • More framing options: Can be equipped with a hotshoe-mounted accessory-viewfinder.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1040k vs 922k dots).
  • Better lighting: Features a hotshoe and can thus hold and trigger an external flash gun.
  • More modern: Is somewhat more recent (announced 5 months after the A5100).

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Advantages of the Sony Alpha A5100:

  • Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (8 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (0.9 EV of extra DR).
  • Better video: Provides higher movie framerates (1080/60p versus 1080/30p).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (6 vs 4.2 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 83g or 23 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (400 versus 250) out of a single battery charge.
  • Easier travel charging: Can be conveniently charged via its USB port.
  • More affordable: Was released into a lower priced segment (19 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in August 2014).

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the A5100 emerges as the winner of the match-up (8 : 5 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 before making a decision on a new camera. A professional wedding photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a travel photog, and a person interested in cityscapes has distinct needs from a macro shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.

M3 05:08 A5100

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Canon M3 and the Sony A5100 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens 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 partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the M3 or the A5100. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased.

Expert reviews

This is where reviews by experts come in. The following table reports the overall ratings of the cameras as published by some of the major 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 M3o75/1004.5/54.5/54/5 Feb 2015 679i
 
Sony A5100+..4.5/54.5/55/5 Aug 2014 549 i
 
Canon M50 Mark II.......... Oct 2020 599 i
 
Canon M50+79/100..4/53.5/5 Feb 2018 779i
 
Canon M6..80/1004/54.5/54/5 Feb 2017 779i
 
Canon M100+..4/5..3.5/5 Aug 2017 499i
 
Canon M5+82/1004/54.5/54/5 Sep 2016 979 i
 
Canon M10......o4/5 Oct 2015 499i
 
Canon T6i..75/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Feb 2015 749i
 
Canon T6s+77/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Feb 2015 649i
 
Canon G7 X+ +77/1004.5/53.5/54.5/5 Sep 2014 699i
 
Canon M+..4/53.5/54/5 Jul 2012 599i
 
Sony A5000+..4.5/5o4.5/5 Jan 2014 449i
 
Sony A6000+80/1004.5/55/55/5 Feb 2014 599i
 
Sony A3000+..4/54.5/54/5 Aug 2013 329i
 
Sony NEX-3N....4.5/54/54.5/5 Feb 2013 499i
 
Sony NEX-3..70/1004.5/55/54/5 May 2010 599i
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 rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.

Canon M3:
Check Ebay offers
Sony A5100:
Check Amazon price

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 use the search menu below. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored.

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    Specifications: Canon M3 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 Specifications
    Camera Model Canon M3 Sony A5100
    Camera Type Mirrorless system camera Mirrorless system camera
    Camera Lens Canon EF-M mount lenses Sony E mount lenses
    Launch Date February 2015 August 2014
    Launch Price USD 679 USD 549
    Sensor Specs Canon M3 Sony A5100
    Sensor Technology CMOS CMOS
    Sensor Format APS-C Sensor APS-C Sensor
    Sensor Size 22.3 x 14.9 mm 23.5 x 15.6 mm
    Sensor Area 332.27 mm2 366.6 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 26.8 mm 28.2 mm
    Crop Factor 1.6x 1.5x
    Sensor Resolution 24 Megapixels 24 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 6000 x 4000 pixels 6000 x 4000 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 3.72 μm 3.91 μm
    Pixel Density 7.22 MP/cm2 6.55 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability 1080/30p Video 1080/60p Video
    ISO Setting 100 - 12,800 ISO 100 - 25,600 ISO
    ISO Boost 100 - 25,600 ISO no Enhancement
    Image Processor DIGIC 6 BIONZ X
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 72 80
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 22.8 23.8
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 11.8 12.7
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 1169 1347
    Screen Specs Canon M3 Sony A5100
    Viewfinder Type Viewfinder optional no viewfinder
    Viewfinder Magnification
    LCD Framing Live View Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.0inch 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution 1040k dots 922k dots
    LCD Attachment Tilting screen Tilting screen
    Touch Input Touchscreen Touchscreen
    Shooting Specs Canon M3 Sony A5100
    Focus System On-Sensor Phase-detect On-Sensor Phase-detect
    Manual Focusing AidFocus PeakingFocus Peaking
    Max Shutter Speed (mechanical) 1/4000s 1/4000s
    Continuous Shooting 4.2 shutter flaps/s 6 shutter flaps/s
    Fill Flash Build-in Flash Build-in Flash
    Storage Medium SDXC cards MS or SDXC cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Single card slot
    UHS card support UHS-I UHS-I
    Connectivity Specs Canon M3 Sony A5100
    External Flash Hotshoe no Hotshoe
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port mini HDMI micro HDMI
    Microphone Port External MIC port no MIC socket
    Wifi Support Wifi built-in Wifi built-in
    Near-Field Communication NFC built-in NFC built-in
    Body Specs Canon M3 Sony A5100
    Battery Type LP-E17 NP-FW50
    Battery Life (CIPA)250 shots per charge400 shots per charge
    In-Camera Charging no USB charging USB charging
    Body Dimensions 111 x 68 x 44 mm
    (4.4 x 2.7 x 1.7 in)
    110 x 63 x 36 mm
    (4.3 x 2.5 x 1.4 in)
    Camera Weight 366 g (12.9 oz) 283 g (10.0 oz)

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