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Sony A850 Comparison Review

The Sony Alpha A850 is a DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) camera that was revealed to the public in August 2009 and is equipped with a full frame sensor. It offers a resolution of 24.4 megapixel.

camera

The Sony A850 has a Camera Elo of 1805. This rating puts the A850 among the top 50 percent of all digital single lens reflex cameras. In terms of its sensor size category (full frame cameras), the A850 falls below average. Based on its within category standings, the camera earns a 3-star performance rating.

Headline Specifications
Sony A850
Digital single lens reflex
Sony A mount lenses
24.4 MP, Full Frame Sensor
no Video
ISO 200-3200 (100-6400)
Optical viewfinder
3.0" LCD, 922k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
3 shutter flaps per second
In-body stabilization
Weathersealed body
880 shots per battery charge
156 x 117 x 82 mm, 895 g


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Read on to find out more about the camera's size, sensor, features, reception by expert reviewers, and how it compares to other digital cameras.

Body comparison with a credit card

An illustration of the physical dimensions of the Sony A850 vis-à-vis a credit card is provided in the side-by-side display below. 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.

Sony A850 vs credit card front
A850 versus credit card top view
A850 and credit card rear side

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the Sony A850 alongside a set of comparators. If you want to review a camera pair side-by-side, just select a right-side 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 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)
Camera
Model
 
Sony A850 6.1 in 4.6 in 3.2 in 31.6 oz 880 Y Aug 2009 1,999- i Sony A850
 
Nikon D750« » 5.6 in 4.4 in 3.1 in 26.5 oz 1230 Y Sep 2014 2,299 i i Nikon D750
 
Pentax K-1« » 5.4 in 4.3 in 3.4 in 35.6 oz 760 Y Feb 2016 1,799- i Pentax K-1
 
Sony A7 III« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.9 in 22.9 oz 610 Y Feb 2018 1,999 i i Sony A7 III
 
Sony A9« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.5 in 23.7 oz 650 Y Apr 2017 4,499 i i Sony A9
 
Sony A99 II« » 5.6 in 4.1 in 3.0 in 29.9 oz 490 Y Sep 2016 3,199 i i Sony A99 II
 
Sony A7 II« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.4 in 21.1 oz 350 Y Nov 2014 1,999- i Sony A7 II
 
Sony A7« » 5.0 in 3.7 in 1.9 in 16.7 oz 340 Y Oct 2013 1,699- i Sony A7
 
Sony A99« » 5.8 in 4.4 in 3.1 in 28.6 oz 500 Y Sep 2012 2,799- i Sony A99
 
Sony A77« » 5.6 in 4.1 in 3.2 in 25.8 oz 470 Y Aug 2011 1,399- i Sony A77
 
Sony A900« » 6.1 in 4.6 in 3.2 in 31.6 oz 880 Y Sep 2008 2,999- i Sony A900

The listed prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The Sony A850 was launched in the US market at a price of $1,999. 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.

Sony A850:
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Sensor comparison with a 35mm slide

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 associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.

The Sony A850 features a full frame sensor and has a format factor (sometimes also referred to as "crop factor") of 1.0. Within the spectrum of camera sensors, this places the Sony A850 among the large-sensor cameras that aim for top notch image quality.

Sony A850 sensor measures

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"). 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
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Camera
Model
 
Sony A850 Full Frame 24.4 6048 4032-23.812.2141579Sony A850
 
Nikon D750« » Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/60p24.814.5295693Nikon D750
 
Pentax K-1« » Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/60i25.414.6328096Pentax K-1
 
Sony A7 III« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40004K/30p25.014.7373096Sony A7 III
 
Sony A9« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40004K/30p24.913.3351792Sony A9
 
Sony A99 II« » Full Frame 42.2 7952 53044K/30p25.413.4231792Sony A99 II
 
Sony A7 II« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.913.6244990Sony A7 II
 
Sony A7« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.814.2224890Sony A7
 
Sony A99« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p25.014.0155589Sony A99
 
Sony A77« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.013.280178Sony A77
 
Sony A900« » Full Frame 24.4 6048 4032-23.712.3143179Sony A900

It should be noted that unlike many modern cameras, the A850 does not provide the possibility to capture videos.

Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. For example, the A850 has an optical viewfinder that provides a field of view of 98% and a magnification of 0.74x. The adjacent tables list some of the other core features of the Sony A850 along with similar information for a selection of comparators.

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
Camera
Model
 
Sony A850optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 3.0 n Y Sony A850
 
Nikon D750« »optical Y 3.2 1229 tilting n 1/4000s 6.0 Y n Nikon D750
 
Pentax K-1« »optical Y 3.2 1037 full-flex n 1/8000s 4.4 n Y Pentax K-1
 
Sony A7 III« »2359 n 3.0 922 tilting Y 1/8000s 10.0 n Y Sony A7 III
 
Sony A9« »3686 n 3.0 1440 tilting Y 1/8000s 20.0 n Y Sony A9
 
Sony A99 II« »2400 Y 3.0 1229 full-flex n 1/8000s 12.0 n Y Sony A99 II
 
Sony A7 II« »2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 1/8000s 5.0 n Y Sony A7 II
 
Sony A7« »2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 1/8000s 5.0 n n Sony A7
 
Sony A99« »2359 Y 3.0 1229 full-flex n 1/8000s 6.0 n Y Sony A99
 
Sony A77« »2359 Y 3.0 921 full-flex n 1/8000s 12.0 Y Y Sony A77
 
Sony A900« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 n Y Sony A900

One useful feature of the A850 is a presence of a top-level LCD. While being, of course, smaller than the rear screen, the control panel conveys some of the essential shooting information and can be convenient for quick and easy settings verification.

 

Connection 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 Sony Alpha A850 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.

Input-Output Connections
  Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Type
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
Camera
Model
 
Sony A850Y----mini2.0---Sony A850
 
Nikon D750« »YstereomonoYYmini2.0Y--Nikon D750
 
Pentax K-1« »YstereomonoYYmicro2.0Y--Pentax K-1
 
Sony A7 III« »YstereomonoYYmicro3.1YYYSony A7 III
 
Sony A9« »YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YYYSony A9
 
Sony A99 II« »YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YYYSony A99 II
 
Sony A7 II« »YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YY-Sony A7 II
 
Sony A7« »YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YY-Sony A7
 
Sony A99« »YstereomonoYYmini2.0---Sony A99
 
Sony A77« »YstereomonoY-mini2.0---Sony A77
 
Sony A900« »Y----mini2.0---Sony A900
 

Expert reviews

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 A850 handle or perform in practice. 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 expert reviews are important. The table below summarizes the assessments of some of the best known camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog).

Review Scores
  Camera
Model
cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
 
Sony A850-75/100-4/54.5/5 Aug 2009 1,999- i Sony A850
 
Nikon D750« »++90/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2014 2,299 i i Nikon D750
 
Pentax K-1« »-84/1005/54.5/55/5 Feb 2016 1,799- i Pentax K-1
 
Sony A7 III« »++89/1005/55/55/5 Feb 2018 1,999 i i Sony A7 III
 
Sony A9« »++89/1005/55/55/5 Apr 2017 4,499 i i Sony A9
 
Sony A99 II« »-85/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2016 3,199 i i Sony A99 II
 
Sony A7 II« »+82/1004.5/55/55/5 Nov 2014 1,999- i Sony A7 II
 
Sony A7« »++80/1005/54.5/55/5 Oct 2013 1,699- i Sony A7
 
Sony A99« »-84/1004.5/5o4.5/5 Sep 2012 2,799- i Sony A99
 
Sony A77« »91/10081/100-4.5/55/5 Aug 2011 1,399- i Sony A77
 
Sony A900« »++++4.5/54/55/5 Sep 2008 2,999- i Sony A900
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.

Sony A850 FAQ

Below are some additional questions and answers concerning some particular features of the A850.

What technology is the imaging sensor in the A850 based on?

The camera features a CMOS (Complementary Metal–Oxide–Semiconductor) sensor.

Which image processing chip is used to convert the raw signal into an image file and perform noise reduction and image sharpening?

Sony equipped the A850 with the BIONZ image processor.

What is the ISO sensitivity range of the A850?

The camera has a native sensitivity range from ISO 200 to ISO 3200, which can be extended to ISO 100-6400.

What is the life expectancy of the shutter in the Sony Alpha A850?

Sony does not publish a shutter rating for the A850. Yet, shutters in comparable cameras from other manufacturers are said to be good for at least 150 000 actuations. It should be noted, though, that this number represents a Mean Time before Failure. The shutter might fail earlier, or it might last longer. Anyway, in order to exhaust an expected shutter life of 150 000 shots over, say, three years, one would have to take about 150 pictures each and every day.

How do I find the shutter count on my Sony A850?

Sony embeds the number of shutter actuations in image metadata. You can check the number of shots that your A850 has taken up to now by uploading a recent image to the online shutter count app.

Does the Sony A850 feature an autofocus assist light?

Yes, the camera has a lamp built-in that can illuminate the subject and improve autofocus in low-light settings.

What is the fastest shutter speed that can be used with flash?

The A850's flash sync speed is 1/250 sec.

Which battery does the A850 use?

The camera gets its power from the NP-FM500H (here at amazon), which is a rechargeable Lithium-Ion power pack.

Is there a vertical grip available for the A850?

Yes, Sony offers the VG-C90AM as an optional accessory to facilitate shooting in portrait orientation and to provide additional battery power.

Camera to camera comparisons

In case you are interested in seeing how this camera compares to another one, just make your choice using the following search menu. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.

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    Specifications Summary
    Camera Model Sony A850
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Sony A mount lenses
    Launch Date August 2009
    Launch Price USD 1999
    Sensor Specs
    Sensor Technology CMOS
    Sensor Format Full Frame Sensor
    Sensor Size 35.9 x 24.0 mm
    Sensor Area 861.6 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 43.2 mm
    Crop Factor 1.0x
    Sensor Resolution 24.4 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 6048 x 4032 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 5.94 μm
    Pixel Density 2.83 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability no Video
    ISO Setting 200-3200 ISO
    ISO Boost 100-6400 ISO
    Image Processor BIONZ
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 79
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 23.8
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 12.2
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 1415
    Screen Specs
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 98%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.74x
    Top-Level Screen Control Panel
    Rear LCD Size 3.0 inch
    LCD Resolution 922k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs
    Autofocus System Phase-detect AF
    Manual Focusing AidNo Peaking Feature
    Maximum Shutter Speed 1/8000s
    Continuous Shooting 3 shutter flaps/s
    Shutter Life Expectancy150 000 actuations
    Silent Shootingno E-Shutter
    Time Lapse Photographyno Intervalometer
    Image StabilizationIn-body stabilization
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash
    Storage Medium CF or MS cards
    Second Storage Option Dual card slots
    Connectivity Specs
    External Flash Hotshoe
    Studio Flash PC Sync socket
    USB Connector USB 2.0
    HDMI Port mini HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi
    Body Specs
    Environmental SealingWeathersealed body
    Battery Type NP-FM500H power pack
    Battery Life (CIPA)880 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 156 x 117 x 82 mm
    (6.1 x 4.6 x 3.2 in)
    Camera Weight 895 g (31.6 oz)

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