Canon T3i vs Sony A850
The Canon EOS Rebel T3i (called Canon 600D in some regions) and the Sony Alpha A850 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in February 2011 and August 2009. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on an APS-C (T3i) 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.
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Canon EOS Rebel T3i 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.
An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Canon T3i and the Sony A850 is provided 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.
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 (37 percent) than the Canon T3i. Moreover, the A850 is substantially heavier (57 percent) than the T3i. It is noteworthy in this context that the A850 is splash and dust-proof, while the T3i does not feature any corresponding weather-sealing.
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 adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. 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 T3i||133 mm||100 mm||80 mm||570 g||440||n||Feb 2011||599|
|2.||Sony A850||156 mm||117 mm||82 mm||895 g||880||Y||Aug 2009||1,999|
|3.||Canon SL2||122 mm||93 mm||70 mm||453 g||650||n||Jun 2017||549|
|4.||Canon T6s||132 mm||101 mm||78 mm||565 g||440||n||Feb 2015||649|
|5.||Canon T5||130 mm||100 mm||78 mm||480 g||500||n||Feb 2014||449|
|6.||Canon SL1||117 mm||91 mm||69 mm||407 g||380||n||Mar 2013||549|
|7.||Canon T5i||133 mm||100 mm||79 mm||580 g||440||n||Mar 2013||649|
|8.||Canon M||109 mm||66 mm||32 mm||298 g||230||n||Jul 2012||599|
|9.||Canon T4i||133 mm||100 mm||79 mm||575 g||440||n||Jun 2012||849|
|10.||Canon T3||130 mm||100 mm||78 mm||495 g||700||n||Feb 2011||449|
|11.||Canon T2i||129 mm||98 mm||62 mm||530 g||440||n||Feb 2010||699|
|12.||Canon T1i||129 mm||98 mm||62 mm||520 g||400||n||Mar 2009||799|
|13.||Nikon D750||141 mm||113 mm||78 mm||750 g||1230||Y||Sep 2014||2,299|
|14.||Sony A7C||124 mm||71 mm||60 mm||509 g||740||Y||Sep 2020||1,799|
|15.||Sony A7 III||127 mm||96 mm||74 mm||650 g||610||Y||Feb 2018||1,999|
|16.||Sony A99||147 mm||111 mm||78 mm||812 g||500||Y||Sep 2012||2,799|
|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 listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The T3i was launched at a markedly lower price (by 70 percent) than the A850, 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.
The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors of image quality. A large sensor will tend to have larger individual pixels that provide better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixel-units 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 are more costly to manufacture and tend to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Canon T3i 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.
With 24.4MP, the A850 offers a higher resolution than the T3i (17.9MP), but the A850 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.94μm versus 4.31μm for the T3i) due to its larger sensor. However, the T3i is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year and 5 months) than the A850, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that 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 T3i 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 Rebel T3i 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.
Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. This service assesses and scores the color depth ("DXO Portrait"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports") of camera sensors, and also publishes an overall camera score. Of the two cameras under consideration, the A850 offers substantially better image quality than the T3i (overall score 14 points higher). The advantage is based on 1.7 bits higher color depth, 0.7 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.8 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.
|2.||Sony A850||Full Frame||24.4||6048||4032||none||23.8||12.2||1415||79|
|13.||Nikon D750||Full Frame||24.2||6016||4016||1080/60p||24.8||14.5||2956||93|
|14.||Sony A7C||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||4K/30p||25.0||14.7||3407||95|
|15.||Sony A7 III||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||4K/30p||25.0||14.7||3730||96|
|16.||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 can also record movies. The T3i indeed provides movie recording capabilities, while the A850 does not. The highest resolution format that the T3i can use is 1080/30p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The T3i 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 T3i (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 0.53x), 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 T3i, the Sony A850, and comparable cameras.
|1.||Canon T3i||optical||n||3.0 / 1040||swivel||n||1/4000s||3.7||Y||n|
|2.||Sony A850||optical||Y||3.0 / 922||fixed||n||1/8000s||3.0||n||Y|
|3.||Canon SL2||optical||n||3.0 / 1040||swivel||Y||1/4000s||5.0||Y||n|
|4.||Canon T6s||optical||Y||3.0 / 1040||swivel||Y||1/4000s||5.0||Y||n|
|5.||Canon T5||optical||n||3.0 / 460||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.0||Y||n|
|6.||Canon SL1||optical||n||3.0 / 1040||fixed||Y||1/4000s||4.9||Y||n|
|7.||Canon T5i||optical||n||3.0 / 1040||swivel||Y||1/4000s||5.0||Y||n|
|8.||Canon M||none||n||3.0 / 1040||fixed||Y||1/4000s||4.3||n||n|
|9.||Canon T4i||optical||n||3.0 / 1040||swivel||Y||1/4000s||5.0||Y||n|
|10.||Canon T3||optical||n||2.7 / 230||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.0||Y||n|
|11.||Canon T2i||optical||n||3.0 / 1040||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.7||Y||n|
|12.||Canon T1i||optical||n||3.0 / 920||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.4||Y||n|
|13.||Nikon D750||optical||Y||3.2 / 1229||tilting||n||1/4000s||6.0||Y||n|
|14.||Sony A7C||2360||n||3.0 / 922||swivel||Y||1/4000s||10.0||n||Y|
|15.||Sony A7 III||2359||n||3.0 / 922||tilting||Y||1/8000s||10.0||n||Y|
|16.||Sony A99||2359||Y||3.0 / 1229||full-flex||n||1/8000s||6.0||n||Y|
|17.||Sony A900||optical||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 T3i has one, while the A850 does not. While the built-in flash of the T3i is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.The T3i has an articulated LCD that can be turned to be front-facing. This characteristic will be appreciated by vloggers and photographers who are interested in snapping selfies. In contrast, the A850 does not have a selfie-screen.
The T3i writes its imaging data to SDXC 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 T3i 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 Rebel T3i 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 T3i||Y||mono / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|2.||Sony A850||Y||- / -||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|3.||Canon SL2||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||Y||Y||Y|
|4.||Canon T6s||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|5.||Canon T5||Y||mono / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|6.||Canon SL1||Y||mono / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|7.||Canon T5i||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|8.||Canon M||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|9.||Canon T4i||Y||stereo / mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|10.||Canon T3||Y||stereo / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|11.||Canon T2i||Y||stereo / -||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|12.||Canon T1i||Y||mono / mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|13.||Nikon D750||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||mini||2.0||Y||-||-|
|14.||Sony A7C||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||micro||3.2||Y||Y||Y|
|15.||Sony A7 III||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||micro||3.1||Y||Y||Y|
|16.||Sony A99||Y||stereo / mono||Y||Y||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
|17.||Sony A900||Y||- / -||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
Studio photographers will appreciate that the Sony A850 (unlike the T3i) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.
Both the T3i and the A850 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The T3i was replaced by the Canon T4i, 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 how do things add up? Is the Canon T3i 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 Rebel T3i:
- Broader imaging potential: Can record not only still images but also 1080/30p movies.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1040k vs 922k dots).
- More flexible LCD: Has a swivel screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
- More selfie-friendly: Has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (3.7 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- More compact: Is smaller (133x100mm vs 156x117mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
- Less heavy: Is lighter (by 325g or 36 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
- Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (70 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Is somewhat more recent (announced 1 year and 5 months after the A850).
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 (14 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (1.7 bits more color depth).
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (0.7 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (0.8 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 0.53x).
- Easier setting verification: Features a control panel on top to check shooting parameters.
- Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/4000s) to freeze action.
- Longer lasting: Gets more shots (880 versus 440) out of a single battery charge.
- Better sealing: Is splash and dust sealed for shooting in inclement weather conditions.
- Sharper images: Has stabilization technology built-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
- Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
- Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
- More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in August 2009).
If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the A850 is the clear winner of the contest (15 : 10 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 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 T3i 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 technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the T3i and the A850 in practical situations. 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 hands-on reviews by experts are important. The table below provides a synthesis of the camera assessments of some of the best known photo-gear 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 T3i||3/5||o||..||77/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2011||599|
|2.||Sony A850||3/5||..||..||75/100||..||4.5/5||Aug 2009||1,999|
|3.||Canon SL2||4/5||+ +||4/5||78/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jun 2017||549|
|4.||Canon T6s||5/5||+||..||77/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2015||649|
|5.||Canon T5||3/5||+||..||..||4/5||4.5/5||Feb 2014||449|
|6.||Canon SL1||4/5||+||..||78/100||4/5||4/5||Mar 2013||549|
|7.||Canon T5i||..||..||..||76/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Mar 2013||649|
|8.||Canon M||3/5||+||..||..||4/5||4/5||Jul 2012||599|
|9.||Canon T4i||4/5||+ +||..||77/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jun 2012||849|
|10.||Canon T3||..||80/100||..||69/100||4/5||4.5/5||Feb 2011||449|
|11.||Canon T2i||..||+ +||..||77/100||4/5||4.5/5||Feb 2010||699|
|12.||Canon T1i||..||+ +||..||74/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Mar 2009||799|
|13.||Nikon D750||5/5||+ +||4/5||90/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2014||2,299|
|14.||Sony A7C||3.5/5||..||3.5/5||86/100||4/5||4/5||Sep 2020||1,799|
|15.||Sony A7 III||..||+ +||4.5/5||89/100||5/5||5/5||Feb 2018||1,999|
|16.||Sony A99||5/5||..||..||84/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||2,799|
|17.||Sony A900||..||+ +||..||+ +||4.5/5||5/5||Sep 2008||2,999|
|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. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. 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 your choice using the following search menu. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored.
Specifications: Canon T3i 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 T3i||Sony A850|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Canon EF mount lenses||Sony A mount lenses|
|Launch Date||February 2011||August 2009|
|Launch Price||USD 599||USD 1,999|
|Sensor Specs||Canon T3i||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||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||BIONZ|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||65||79|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||22.1||23.8|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||11.5||12.2|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||793||1415|
|Screen Specs||Canon T3i||Sony A850|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||95%||98%|
|Top-Level Screen||no Top Display||Control Panel|
|LCD Framing||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.0inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||1040k dots||922k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Swivel screen||Fixed screen|
|Shooting Specs||Canon T3i||Sony A850|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Continuous Shooting||3.7 shutter flaps/s||3 shutter flaps/s|
|Image Stabilization||Lens stabilization only||In-body stabilization|
|Fill Flash||Built-in Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDXC cards||CF or MS cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Dual card slots|
|Connectivity Specs||Canon T3i||Sony A850|
|Studio Flash||no PC Sync||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 T3i||Sony A850|
|Environmental Sealing||not weather sealed||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||440 shots per charge||880 shots per charge|
133 x 100 x 80 mm
(5.2 x 3.9 x 3.1 in)
156 x 117 x 82 mm
(6.1 x 4.6 x 3.2 in)
|Camera Weight||570 g (20.1 oz)||895 g (31.6 oz)|
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