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Sony A7 versus Canon 5D

The Sony Alpha A7 and the Canon EOS 5D are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in October 2013 and August 2005. The A7 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, while the 5D is a DSLR. Both cameras are equipped with a full frame sensor. The Sony has a resolution of 24 megapixel, whereas the Canon provides 12.7 MP. Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their size, their sensors, their features, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison: Sony A7 vs Canon 5D

The physical size and weight of the Sony A7 and the Canon 5D are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are presented. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter. If you prefer, you can also use the toggle button to switch to a comparison in percentage terms (in this case, the camera on the left – the A7 – represents 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Compare Sony A7 vs Canon 5D
A7 versus 5D top view
A7 and 5D rear side

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Canon 5D is considerably larger (44 percent) than the Sony A7. Moreover, the 5D is substantially heavier (89 percent) than the A7. 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 Sony FE Lens Catalog (A7) and the Canon EF Lens Catalog (5D). Mirrorless cameras, such as the Sony A7, have moreover the advantage that they have a relatively short flange to focal plane distance and can thus use many lenses from other systems via adapters.

Concerning battery life, the A7 gets 340 shots out of its NP-FW50 battery, while the 5D can take 400 images on a single charge of its BP-511A power pack.

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 camera comparisons there.

Camera Body Specifications
Camera Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(y/n)
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Sony A7 (⇒ rgt) 127 mm 94 mm 48 mm 474 g 340 YES 2013 1,699discont. check
Canon 5D (⇒ lft) 152 mm 113 mm 75 mm 895 g 400 YES 2005 3,299discont. check
Canon 5DS R (⇒ lft | rgt) 152 mm 116 mm 76 mm 930 g 700 YES 2015 3,699 latest check
Canon 6D (⇒ lft | rgt) 145 mm 111 mm 71 mm 770 g 1090 YES 2012 2,099discont. check
Canon 5D Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt) 152 mm 116 mm 76 mm 950 g 950 YES 2012 3,499discont. check
Canon 5D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) 152 mm 114 mm 75 mm 850 g 850 YES 2008 3,499discont. check
Canon 1D Mark II N (⇒ lft | rgt) 156 mm 158 mm 80 mm 1565 g 1200 YES 2005 3,999discont. 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 1,499discont. check
Sony A6300 (⇒ lft | rgt) 120 mm 67 mm 49 mm 404 g 400 YES 2016 999discont. check
Sony A6500 (⇒ lft | rgt) 120 mm 67 mm 53 mm 453 g 350 YES 2016 1,399 latest check
Sony A7 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 127 mm 96 mm 60 mm 599 g 350 YES 2014 1,999discont. check
Sony A7S (⇒ lft | rgt) 127 mm 94 mm 48 mm 489 g 380 YES 2014 2,499discont. check
Sony A5100 (⇒ lft | rgt) 110 mm 63 mm 36 mm 283 g 400 no 2014 549 latest check
Sony A7R (⇒ lft | rgt) 127 mm 94 mm 48 mm 465 g 340 YES 2013 2,299discont. check
Sony RX1R (⇒ lft | rgt) 113 mm 65 mm 70 mm 482 g 270 no 2013 2,799discont. check
Sony RX1 (⇒ lft | rgt) 113 mm 65 mm 70 mm 482 g 270 no 2012 2,799discont. check

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The listed launch 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 48 percent) than the 5D, 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.


Sensor comparison: Sony A7 vs Canon 5D

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 are more costly to manufacture and tend 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 5D is 1 percent bigger. 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.

Sony A7 and Canon 5D sensor measures

Despite having a slightly smaller sensor, the Sony A7 offers a higher resolution of 24 megapixel, compared with 12.7 MP of the Canon 5D. 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 8.25μm for the 5D). However, it should be noted that the A7 is much more recent (by 8 years and 2 months) than the 5D, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that make it possible to gather light more efficiently.

A7 versus 5D MP

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for most 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 review, the A7 provides substantially higher image quality than the 5D, with an overall score that is 19 points higher. This advantage is based on 1.9 bits higher color depth, 3.1 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.7 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.

Sensor Characteristics
Camera Sensor
Class
Resolution
(Megapixel)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Sony A7 (⇒ rgt) Full Frame 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 24.8 14.2 2248 90
Canon 5D (⇒ lft) Full Frame 12.7 4368 2912 no 22.9 11.1 1368 71
Canon 5DS R (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 50.3 8688 5792 1080/60p 24.6 12.4 2308 86
Canon 6D (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 20.0 5472 3648 1080/30p 23.8 12.1 2340 82
Canon 5D Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 22.1 5760 3840 1080/30p 24 11.7 2293 81
Canon 5D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 21.0 5616 3744 1080/30p 23.7 11.9 1815 79
Canon 1D Mark II N (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-H 8.2 3504 2336 no 22.3 11.2 975 66
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 A6300 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 24.0 6000 4000 4K/30p 24.4 13.7 1437 85
Sony A6500 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 24.0 6000 4000 4K/30p 24.5 13.7 1405 85
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 A5100 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 23.8 12.7 1347 80
Sony A7R (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 36.2 7360 4912 1080/60p 25.6 14.1 2746 95
Sony RX1R (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 25.0 13.6 2537 91
Sony RX1 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 25.1 14.3 2534 93

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The A7 indeed provides movie recording capabilities, while the 5D does not. The highest resolution format that the A7 can use is 1080/60p.

Feature comparison: Sony A7 vs Canon 5D

Beyond 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 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 following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Sony A7, the Canon 5D, and comparable cameras. The full specs-sheets can be found in the camera manual or, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.

Core Features
Camera Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(Y/n)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(Y/n)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(GN)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Sony A7 (⇒ rgt) 2400 no 3.0 1230 tilting no 8000 5.0 no no
Canon 5D (⇒ lft) optical YES 2.5 230 fixed no 8000 3.0 no no
Canon 5DS R (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 1040 fixed no 8000 5.0 no no
Canon 6D (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 1040 fixed no 4000 4.5 no no
Canon 5D Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 1040 fixed no 8000 6.0 no no
Canon 5D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 920 fixed no 8000 3.9 no no
Canon 1D Mark II N (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 2.5 230 fixed no 8000 8.5 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 A6300 (⇒ lft | rgt) 2300 no 3.0 922 tilting no 4000 11.0 6 no
Sony A6500 (⇒ lft | rgt) 2300 no 3.0 922 tilting YES 4000 11.0 6 YES
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 A5100 (⇒ lft | rgt) no no 3.0 922 tilting YES 4000 6.0 4 no
Sony A7R (⇒ lft | rgt) 2400 no 3.0 1230 tilting no 8000 4.0 no no
Sony RX1R (⇒ lft | rgt) no no 3.0 1229 fixed no 4000 5.0 6 no
Sony RX1 (⇒ lft | rgt) no no 3.0 1229 fixed no 4000 5.0 6 no

Both the A7 and the 5D have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The 5D was replaced by the Canon 5D Mark II, while the A7 was followed by the Sony A7 II.

Review summary: Sony A7 vs Canon 5D

So how do things add up? Is the Sony A7 better than the Canon 5D or vice versa? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.


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Arguments in favor of the Sony Alpha A7:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (24 vs 12.7MP) with a 37% higher linear resolution.
  • Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (19 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
  • Richer colors: Generates images with noticeably better colors (1.9 bits more color depth).
  • More dynamic range: Captures a larger spectrum of light and dark details (3.1 EV of extra DR).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (0.7 stops ISO advantage).
  • Broader imaging potential: Can record not only still images but also 1080/60p movies.
  • More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 2.5") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1230k vs 230k dots).
  • More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (5 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More compact: Is smaller (127x94mm vs 152x113mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 421g or 47 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
  • More legacy lens friendly: Can take a broad range of non-native lenses via adapters.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (48 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 8 years and 2 months of technical progress since the 5D launch.

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Reasons to prefer the Canon EOS 5D:

  • Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
  • Easier setting verification: Has a control panel on top to check shooting parameters.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (400 versus 340) out of a single battery charge.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in August 2005).

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the A7 is the clear winner of the match-up (16 : 4 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.

A7 16:04 5D

In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it says nothing about, for example, the handling, responsiveness, and overall imaging quality of the A7 and the 5D 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 hands-on reviews by experts are important. The following table reports the overall rankings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites. The full reviews are available, respectively, at cameralabs.com, dpreview.com, ephotozine.com, imaging-resource.com, and photographyblog.com.

Review scores
Camera camera
labs
.com
dp
review
.com
ephoto
zine
.com
imaging
resource
.com
photography
blog
.com
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Sony A7 (⇒ rgt) HiRec 80/100 Silver 5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2013 1,699discont. check
Canon 5D (⇒ lft) 88/100 HiRec reviewed reviewed - 2005 3,299discont. check
Canon 5DS R (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec 83/100 Silver 5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2015 3,699 latest check
Canon 6D (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 83/100 Silver 4.5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2012 2,099discont. check
Canon 5D Mark III (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 82/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2012 3,499discont. check
Canon 5D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt) 91/100 79/100 HiRec 4/5 5/5 - 2008 3,499discont. check
Canon 1D Mark II N (⇒ lft | rgt) - - - - - 2005 3,999discont. 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 1,499discont. check
Sony A6300 (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec 85/100 Gold 5/5 5/5 5/5 2016 999discont. check
Sony A6500 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 85/100 Silver 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2016 1,399 latest check
Sony A7 II (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec 82/100 Silver 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2014 1,999discont. check
Sony A7S (⇒ lft | rgt) - 86/100 Gold 4.5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2014 2,499discont. check
Sony A5100 (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec - 4.5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2014 549 latest check
Sony A7R (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 82/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2013 2,299discont. check
Sony RX1R (⇒ lft | rgt) - - 4/5 reviewed 4.5/5 2013 2,799discont. check
Sony RX1 (⇒ lft | rgt) - 79/100 Gold 4/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2012 2,799discont. check

The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings are only valid when refering to cameras in the same category and of the same age. 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, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.


Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make your choice using the following search menu. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting. If the camera you are interested in is not available, please send me an email, and I will try to add information on that model to the database.

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