Canon XSi vs Sony A850
The Canon EOS Rebel XSi (called Canon 450D in some regions) and the Sony Alpha A850 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in January 2008 and August 2009. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on an APS-C (XSi) and a full frame (A850) sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 12.2 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 XSi 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 XSi and the Sony A850. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear 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 considerably larger (44 percent) than the Canon XSi. Moreover, the A850 is substantially heavier (71 percent) than the XSi. It is noteworthy in this context that the A850 is splash and dust-proof, while the XSi 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 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, you can use the CAM-parator app to select your camera combination among a large number of options.
|1.||Canon XSi||129 mm||98 mm||62 mm||524 g||500||n||Jan 2008||799|
|2.||Sony A850||156 mm||117 mm||82 mm||895 g||880||Y||Aug 2009||1,999|
|3.||Canon T6i||132 mm||101 mm||78 mm||555 g||440||n||Feb 2015||749|
|4.||Canon T6s||132 mm||101 mm||78 mm||565 g||440||n||Feb 2015||649|
|5.||Canon T4i||133 mm||100 mm||79 mm||575 g||440||n||Jun 2012||849|
|6.||Canon T3||130 mm||100 mm||78 mm||495 g||700||n||Feb 2011||449|
|7.||Canon T2i||129 mm||98 mm||62 mm||530 g||440||n||Feb 2010||699|
|8.||Canon T1i||129 mm||98 mm||62 mm||520 g||400||n||Mar 2009||799|
|9.||Canon XS||126 mm||98 mm||65 mm||502 g||500||n||Jun 2008||449|
|10.||Canon 40D||146 mm||108 mm||74 mm||822 g||750||n||Aug 2007||1,299|
|11.||Canon XTi||127 mm||84 mm||65 mm||556 g||370||n||Aug 2006||799|
|12.||Canon XT||127 mm||94 mm||64 mm||540 g||400||n||Feb 2005||899|
|13.||Sony A99 II||143 mm||104 mm||76 mm||849 g||490||Y||Sep 2016||3,199|
|14.||Sony A7 II||127 mm||96 mm||60 mm||599 g||350||Y||Nov 2014||1,999|
|15.||Sony A99||147 mm||111 mm||78 mm||812 g||500||Y||Sep 2012||2,799|
|16.||Sony A77||143 mm||104 mm||81 mm||732 g||470||Y||Aug 2011||1,399|
|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.|
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 XSi was launched at a markedly lower price (by 60 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. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.
The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors 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 tend to be more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Canon XSi features an APS-C sensor and the Sony A850 a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the A850 is 162 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.
In terms of underlying technology, both cameras are build around CMOS sensors.
With 24.4MP, the A850 offers a higher resolution than the XSi (12.2MP), but the A850 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.94μm versus 5.19μm for the XSi) due to its larger sensor. Moreover, the A850 is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year and 7 months) than the XSi, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further 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 XSi are 21.4 x 14.2 inches or 54.3 x 36.2 cm for good quality, 17.1 x 11.4 inches or 43.4 x 28.9 cm for very good quality, and 14.2 x 9.5 inches or 36.2 x 24.1 cm for excellent quality prints.
The Canon EOS Rebel XSi has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 1600. 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.
For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. 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 XSi (overall score 18 points higher). The advantage is based on 1.9 bits higher color depth, 1.4 EV in additional dynamic range, and 1 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.
| DXO |
|2.||Sony A850||Full Frame||24.4||6048||4032||none||23.8||12.2||1415||79|
|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|
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The XSi 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 XSi (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 0.54x), 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 XSi and Sony A850 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras.
|13.||Sony A99 II||2400||Y||3.0||1229||full-flex||n||1/8000s||12.0||n||Y|
|14.||Sony A7 II||2400||n||3.0||1230||tilting||n||1/8000s||5.0||n||Y|
One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The XSi has one, while the A850 does not. While the built-in flash of the XSi is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.
The XSi writes its imaging data to SDHC 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 XSi 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 XSi and Sony Alpha A850 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
|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||-|
Studio photographers will appreciate that the Sony A850 (unlike the XSi) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.
Both the XSi and the A850 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The XSi was replaced by the Canon T1i, 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 what conclusions can be drawn? Is the Canon XSi better than the Sony A850 or vice versa? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.
Advantages of the Canon EOS Rebel XSi:
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (3.5 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- More compact: Is smaller (129x98mm vs 156x117mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
- Less heavy: Is lighter (by 371g or 41 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 (60 percent cheaper at launch).
- More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in January 2008).
Reasons to prefer the Sony Alpha A850:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (24.4 vs 12.2MP), which boosts linear resolution by 42%.
- Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (18 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (1.9 bits more color depth).
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (1.4 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (1 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 0.54x).
- Easier setting verification: Features a control panel on top to check shooting parameters.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (922k vs 230k dots).
- Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/4000s) to freeze action.
- Longer lasting: Gets more shots (880 versus 500) 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 modern: Was introduced somewhat (1 year and 7 months) more recently.
If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the A850 is the clear winner of the contest (16 : 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 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.
How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Canon XSi 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 remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the XSi or the A850 perform in practice. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased.
This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The following table reports the overall ratings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], 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 XSi||..||+ +||+ +||4/5||4.5/5||Jan 2008||799|
|2.||Sony A850||3/5||..||75/100||..||4.5/5||Aug 2009||1,999|
|3.||Canon T6i||5/5||..||75/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2015||749|
|4.||Canon T6s||5/5||+||77/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2015||649|
|5.||Canon T4i||4/5||+ +||77/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jun 2012||849|
|6.||Canon T3||..||80/100||69/100||4/5||4.5/5||Feb 2011||449|
|7.||Canon T2i||..||+ +||77/100||4/5||4.5/5||Feb 2010||699|
|8.||Canon T1i||..||+ +||74/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Mar 2009||799|
|9.||Canon XS||..||82/100||+ +||3.5/5||4.5/5||Jun 2008||449|
|10.||Canon 40D||..||+ +||+ +||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2007||1,299|
|11.||Canon XTi||..||+ +||+ +||o||4/5||Aug 2006||799|
|12.||Canon XT||..||80/100||+ +||o||..||Feb 2005||899|
|13.||Sony A99 II||..||..||85/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2016||3,199|
|14.||Sony A7 II||5/5||+||82/100||4.5/5||5/5||Nov 2014||1,999|
|15.||Sony A99||5/5||..||84/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||2,799|
|16.||Sony A77||5/5||91/100||81/100||..||5/5||Aug 2011||1,399|
|17.||Sony A900||..||+ +||+ +||4.5/5||5/5||Sep 2008||2,999|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time 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.
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.
Specifications: Canon XSi 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 XSi||Sony A850|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Canon EF mount lenses||Sony A mount lenses|
|Launch Date||January 2008||August 2009|
|Launch Price||USD 799||USD 1,999|
|Sensor Specs||Canon XSi||Sony A850|
|Sensor Format||APS-C Sensor||Full Frame Sensor|
|Sensor Size||22.2 x 14.8 mm||35.9 x 24.0 mm|
|Sensor Area||328.56 mm2||861.6 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||26.7 mm||43.2 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||12.2 Megapixels||24.4 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||4272 x 2848 pixels||6048 x 4032 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||5.19 μm||5.94 μm|
|Pixel Density||3.70 MP/cm2||2.83 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||no Video||no Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 1,600 ISO||200 - 3,200 ISO|
|ISO Boost||no Enhancement||100 - 6,400 ISO|
|Image Processor||DIGIC 3||BIONZ|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||61||79|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||21.9||23.8|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||10.8||12.2|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||692||1415|
|Screen Specs||Canon XSi||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||230k dots||922k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Fixed screen|
|Shooting Specs||Canon XSi||Sony A850|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Continuous Shooting||3.5 shutter flaps/s||3 shutter flaps/s|
|Image Stabilization||Lens stabilization only||In-body stabilization|
|Fill Flash||Build-in Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDHC cards||CF or MS cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Dual card slots|
|Connectivity Specs||Canon XSi||Sony A850|
|Studio Flash||no PC Sync||PC Sync socket|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Canon XSi||Sony A850|
|Environmental Sealing||not weather sealed||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||500 shots per charge||880 shots per charge|
129 x 98 x 62 mm
(5.1 x 3.9 x 2.4 in)
156 x 117 x 82 mm
(6.1 x 4.6 x 3.2 in)
|Camera Weight||524 g (18.5 oz)||895 g (31.6 oz)|
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