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Sony A7S versus Canon 5D Mark III

The Sony Alpha A7S and the Canon EOS 5D Mark III are two professional cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in April 2014 and March 2012. The A7S is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, while the 5D Mark III is a DSLR. Both cameras are equipped with a full frame sensor. The Sony has a resolution of 12 megapixel, whereas the Canon provides 22.1 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 A7S vs Canon 5D Mark III

The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Sony A7S and the Canon 5D Mark III. 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. You can also use the toggle button to switch to a percentage comparison if you prefer that the measures are being expressed in relative terms (in this case, the camera on the left – the A7S – represents the basis or 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Snapsort Sony A7S vs Canon 5D Mark III
Compare A7S versus 5D Mark III top
Compare A7S and 5D Mark III rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Canon 5D Mark III is considerably larger (48 percent) than the Sony A7S. Moreover, the 5D Mark III is substantially heavier (94 percent) than the A7S. 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 (A7S) and the Canon EF Lens Catalog (5D Mark III). Mirrorless cameras, such as the Sony A7S, 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 A7S gets 380 shots out of its NP-FW50 battery, while the 5D Mark III can take 950 images on a single charge of its LP-E6 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
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(yes/no)
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Sony A7S» 5.0 in 3.7 in 1.9 in 17.2 oz 380 Y Apr 2014 2,499- i
Canon 5D Mark III« 6.0 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 33.5 oz 950 Y Mar 2012 3,499- i
Canon 5D Mark IV« » 5.9 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 31.4 oz 900 Y Aug 2016 3,499 i i
Canon 5DS R« » 6.0 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 32.8 oz 700 Y Feb 2015 3,699 i i
Canon 5DS« » 6.0 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 32.8 oz 700 Y Feb 2015 3,699 i i
Canon 6D« » 5.7 in 4.4 in 2.8 in 27.2 oz 1090 Y Sep 2012 2,099- i
Canon 5D Mark II« » 6.0 in 4.5 in 3.0 in 30.0 oz 850 Y Sep 2008 3,499- i
Nikon D750« » 5.6 in 4.4 in 3.1 in 26.5 oz 1230 Y Sep 2014 2,299 i i
Nikon Df« » 5.7 in 4.3 in 2.6 in 26.8 oz 1400 Y Nov 2013 2,749 i i
Nikon D700« » 5.8 in 4.8 in 3.0 in 37.9 oz 1000 Y Jul 2008 2,999- i
Sony A6300« » 4.7 in 2.6 in 1.9 in 14.3 oz 400 Y Feb 2016 999- i
Sony A7R II« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.4 in 22.0 oz 290 Y Jun 2015 3,199- i
Sony A7S II« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.4 in 22.1 oz 370 Y Sep 2015 2,999 i i
Sony A7 II« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.4 in 21.1 oz 350 Y Nov 2014 1,999- i
Sony A7« » 5.0 in 3.7 in 1.9 in 16.7 oz 340 Y Oct 2013 1,699- i
Sony A7R« » 5.0 in 3.7 in 1.9 in 16.4 oz 340 Y Oct 2013 2,299- i
Sony RX1R« » 4.4 in 2.6 in 2.8 in 17.0 oz 270 n Jun 2013 2,799- i

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 A7S was launched at a markedly lower price (by 29 percent) than the 5D Mark III, 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 A7S vs Canon 5D Mark III

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. 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.

Both cameras under consideration feature a full frame sensor, but their sensors differ slightly in size. The sensor area in the 5D Mark III 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 A7S and Canon 5D Mark III sensor measures

With 22.1MP, the 5D Mark III offers a higher resolution than the A7S (12MP), but the 5D Mark III has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 6.25μm versus 8.45μm for the A7S). Yet, the A7S is a much more recent model (by 2 years and 1 month) than the 5D Mark III, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units.

A7S versus 5D Mark III MP

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. 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 review, the A7S has a notably higher overall DXO score than the 5D Mark III (overall score 6 points higher), which gives it an advantage in terms of imaging quality. This advantage is based on 0.1 bits lower color depth, 1.5 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.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Sony A7S» Full Frame 12.0 4240 28321080/60p23.913.2370287
Canon 5D Mark III« Full Frame 22.1 5760 38401080/30p24.011.7229381
Canon 5D Mark IV« » Full Frame 30.1 6720 44804K/30p24.813.6299591
Canon 5DS R« » Full Frame 50.3 8688 57921080/60p24.612.4230886
Canon 5DS« » Full Frame 50.3 8688 57921080/60p24.712.4238187
Canon 6D« » Full Frame 20.0 5472 36481080/30p23.812.1234082
Canon 5D Mark II« » Full Frame 21.0 5616 37441080/30p23.711.9181579
Nikon D750« » Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/60p24.814.5295693
Nikon Df« » Full Frame 16.2 4928 3280-24.613.1327989
Nikon D700« » Full Frame 12.1 4256 2832-23.512.2230380
Sony A6300« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40004K/30p24.413.7143785
Sony A7R II« » Full Frame 42.2 7952 53044K/30p26.013.9343498
Sony A7S II« » Full Frame 12.0 4240 28324K/30p23.613.3299385
Sony A7 II« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.913.6244990
Sony A7« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.814.2224890
Sony A7R« » Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/60p25.614.1274695
Sony RX1R« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p25.013.6253791

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. Both cameras under consideration are equipped with sensors that have a sufficiently high read-out speed for moving images, but the A7S provides a higher frame rate than the 5D Mark III. It can shoot video footage at 1080/60p, while the Canon is limited to 1080/30p.

 

Feature comparison: Sony A7S vs Canon 5D Mark III

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the A7S has an electronic viewfinder (2400k dots), while the 5D Mark III 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 table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Sony A7S and Canon 5D Mark III in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras. If needed, the dpreview camera hub, for example, contains further detail on the cameras' specs.

Core Features
  Camera Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Sony A7S»2400 n 3.0 921 tilting n 8000 5.0 n n
Canon 5D Mark III«optical Y 3.2 1040 fixed n 8000 6.0 n n
Canon 5D Mark IV« »optical Y 3.2 1620 fixed Y 8000 7.0 n n
Canon 5DS R« »optical Y 3.2 1040 fixed n 8000 5.0 n n
Canon 5DS« »optical Y 3.2 1040 fixed n 8000 5.0 n n
Canon 6D« »optical Y 3.0 1040 fixed n 4000 4.5 n n
Canon 5D Mark II« »optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 8000 3.9 n n
Nikon D750« »optical Y 3.2 1229 tilting n 4000 6.0 Y n
Nikon Df« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 4000 5.5 n n
Nikon D700« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 8000 8.0 Y n
Sony A6300« »2300 n 3.0 922 tilting n 4000 11.0 Y n
Sony A7R II« »2400 n 3.0 1229 tilting n 8000 5.0 n Y
Sony A7S II« »2400 n 3.0 1229 tilting n 8000 5.0 n Y
Sony A7 II« »2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 8000 5.0 n Y
Sony A7« »2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 8000 5.0 n n
Sony A7R« »2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 8000 4.0 n n
Sony RX1R« »- n 3.0 1229 fixed n 4000 5.0 Y n

Both the A7S and the 5D Mark III have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The 5D Mark III was replaced by the Canon 5D Mark IV, while the A7S was followed by the Sony A7S II.

Review summary: Sony A7S vs Canon 5D Mark III

So what conclusions can be drawn? Is the Sony A7S better than the Canon 5D Mark III or vice versa? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.

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Reasons to prefer the Sony Alpha A7S:

  • Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (6 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
  • More dynamic range: Captures a larger spectrum of light and dark details (1.5 EV of extra DR).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (0.7 stops ISO advantage).
  • Better video: Provides higher movie framerates (1080/60p versus 1080/30p).
  • More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
  • More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
  • More compact: Is smaller (127x94mm vs 152x116mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 461g or 49 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 (29 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 2 years and 1 month of technical progress since the 5D Mark III launch.

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Advantages of the Canon EOS 5D Mark III:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (22.1 vs 12MP), which boosts linear resolution by 36%.
  • Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
  • Easier setting verification: Has a control panel on top to check shooting parameters.
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.2" vs 3.0") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1040k vs 921k dots).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (6 vs 5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (950 versus 380) out of a single battery charge.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in March 2012).

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the A7S emerges as the winner of the contest (11 : 8 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.

A7S 11:08 5D Mark III

In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it says nothing about, for example, the handling, responsiveness, and overall imaging quality of the A7S and the 5D Mark III 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 expert reviews are important. The adjacent table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). You can find the full text of the reviews by clicking on the site logo in the table header.

Review scores
  Camera cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Sony A7S»-86/1004.5/54.5/55/5 Apr 2014 2,499- i
Canon 5D Mark III«HiRec82/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Mar 2012 3,499- i
Canon 5D Mark IV« »HiRec87/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Aug 2016 3,499 i i
Canon 5DS R« »Rec83/1005/55/54.5/5 Feb 2015 3,699 i i
Canon 5DS« »Rec83/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Feb 2015 3,699 i i
Canon 6D« »HiRec83/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 2,099- i
Canon 5D Mark II« »91/10079/1004/55/5- Sep 2008 3,499- i
Nikon D750« »HiRec90/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2014 2,299 i i
Nikon Df« »-81/1004/54/54/5 Nov 2013 2,749 i i
Nikon D700« »89/100HiRec4.5/55/54.5/5 Jul 2008 2,999- i
Sony A6300« »Rec85/1005/55/55/5 Feb 2016 999- i
Sony A7R II« »HiRec90/1005/54.5/55/5 Jun 2015 3,199- i
Sony A7S II« »Rec-4.5/55/55/5 Sep 2015 2,999 i i
Sony A7 II« »Rec82/1004.5/55/55/5 Nov 2014 1,999- i
Sony A7« »HiRec80/1005/54.5/55/5 Oct 2013 1,699- i
Sony A7R« »HiRec82/1004.5/55/55/5 Oct 2013 2,299- i
Sony RX1R« »--4/5rev4.5/5 Jun 2013 2,799- i

The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. 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. 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 make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting. If you cannot find the camera you are interested in, please contact me, and I will try to add information on that model to the database.

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