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Sony A850 versus Canon 1D Mark IV

The Sony Alpha A850 and the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV are two professional cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in August 2009 and October 2009. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on a full frame (A850) and an APS-H (1D Mark IV) sensor. The Sony has a resolution of 24.4 megapixel, whereas the Canon provides 16 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 A850 vs Canon 1D Mark IV

The physical size and weight of the Sony A850 and the Canon 1D Mark IV are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All size 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 A850 – represents the basis or 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Compare Sony A850 vs Canon 1D Mark IV
Compare A850 versus 1D Mark IV top
Compare A850 and 1D Mark IV rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Canon 1D Mark IV is notably larger (34 percent) than the Sony A850. Moreover, the 1D Mark IV is substantially heavier (37 percent) than the A850. 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. Hence, you might want to study the specifications of available lenses in order to get the full picture of the size and weight of the two camera systems.

Concerning battery life, the A850 gets 880 shots out of its NP-FM500H battery, while the 1D Mark IV can take 1500 images on a single charge of its LP-E4 power pack. As can be seen in the images above, the 1D Mark IV has a battery grip build in. This facilitates image-taking in portrait orientation and gives it additional battery power. In order to provide similar functionality for the A850, Sony provides the VG-C90AM vertical grip as an optional accessory (see here on eBay).

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)
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
Canon 1D Mark IV« 6.1 in 6.2 in 3.1 in 43.4 oz 1500 Y Oct 2009 4,999- i Canon 1D Mark IV
Canon 1D X Mark II« » 6.2 in 6.6 in 3.3 in 54.0 oz 1210 Y Feb 2016 5,999 i i Canon 1D X Mark II
Canon 5D Mark II« » 6.0 in 4.5 in 3.0 in 30.0 oz 850 Y Sep 2008 3,499- i Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 1D Mark III« » 6.1 in 6.2 in 3.1 in 40.7 oz 2200 Y Feb 2007 4,499- i Canon 1D Mark III
Canon 1D Mark II« » 6.1 in 6.2 in 3.1 in 54.1 oz 1200 Y Jan 2004 4,499- i Canon 1D Mark II
Canon 1Ds Mark II« » 6.1 in 6.2 in 3.1 in 42.9 oz 1200 Y Sep 2004 7,999- i Canon 1Ds Mark II
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 1,999- 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 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 A850 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 60 percent) than the 1D Mark IV, 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.

 

Sensor comparison: Sony A850 vs Canon 1D Mark IV

The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant 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. 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 Sony A850 features a full frame sensor and the Canon 1D Mark IV an APS-H sensor. The sensor area in the 1D Mark IV is 40 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.0 and 1.3. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Sony A850 and Canon 1D Mark IV sensor measures

With 24.4MP, the A850 offers a higher resolution than the 1D Mark IV (16MP), but the A850 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.94μm versus 5.70μm for the 1D Mark IV) due to its larger sensor. It is noteworthy in this context that the two cameras were released in close succession, so that their sensors are from the same technological generation.

A850 versus 1D Mark IV MP

For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. 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 A850 has a notably higher overall DXO score than the 1D Mark IV (overall score 5 points higher), which gives it an advantage in terms of imaging quality. This advantage is based on 1 bits higher color depth, 0.2 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.1 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
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
Canon 1D Mark IV« APS-H 16.0 4896 32641080/30p22.812.0132074Canon 1D Mark IV
Canon 1D X Mark II« » Full Frame 20.0 5472 36484K/60p24.113.5320788Canon 1D X Mark II
Canon 5D Mark II« » Full Frame 21.0 5616 37441080/30p23.711.9181579Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 1D Mark III« » APS-H 10.1 3888 2592-22.711.7107871Canon 1D Mark III
Canon 1D Mark II« » APS-H 8.2 3504 2336-22.311.1100366Canon 1D Mark II
Canon 1Ds Mark II« » Full Frame 16.6 4992 3328-23.311.3148074Canon 1Ds Mark II
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

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. The 1D Mark IV indeed provides for movie recording, while the A850 does not. The highest resolution format that the 1D Mark IV can use is 1080/30p.

 

Feature comparison: Sony A850 vs Canon 1D Mark IV

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The A850 and the 1D Mark IV 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 table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Sony A850 and Canon 1D Mark IV 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
Model
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
Camera
Model
Sony A850»optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 8000 3.0 n Y Sony A850
Canon 1D Mark IV«optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 8000 10.0 n n Canon 1D Mark IV
Canon 1D X Mark II« »optical Y 3.2 1620 fixed Y 8000 16.0 n n Canon 1D X Mark II
Canon 5D Mark II« »optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 8000 3.9 n n Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 1D Mark III« »optical Y 3.0 230 fixed n 8000 10.0 n n Canon 1D Mark III
Canon 1D Mark II« »optical Y 2.0 230 fixed n 8000 8.3 n n Canon 1D Mark II
Canon 1Ds Mark II« »optical Y 2.0 230 fixed n 8000 4.0 n n Canon 1Ds Mark II
Nikon D750« »optical Y 3.2 1229 tilting n 4000 6.0 Y n Nikon D750
Pentax K-1« »optical Y 3.2 1037 full-flex n 8000 4.4 n Y Pentax K-1
Sony A7 III« »2359 n 3.0 922 tilting Y 8000 10.0 n Y Sony A7 III
Sony A9« »3686 n 3.0 1440 tilting Y 8000 20.0 n Y Sony A9
Sony A99 II« »2400 Y 3.0 1229 full-flex n 8000 12.0 n Y Sony A99 II
Sony A7 II« »2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 8000 5.0 n Y Sony A7 II
Sony A7« »2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 8000 5.0 n n Sony A7
Sony A99« »2359 Y 3.0 1229 full-flex n 8000 6.0 n Y Sony A99
Sony A77« »2359 Y 3.0 921 full-flex n 8000 12.0 Y Y Sony A77
Sony A900« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 8000 5.0 n Y Sony A900

One feature that differentiates the A850 and the 1D Mark IV is in-body image stabilization (IBIS). The A850 reduces the risk of handshake-induced blur with all attached lenses, while the 1D Mark IV has to rely on optical image stabilization in OIS-equipped lenses to achieve the same effect.

The A850 writes its imaging data to Compact Flash or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards, while the 1D Mark IV uses Compact Flash cards. Both cameras feature dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails.

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 A850»Y----mini2.0---Sony A850
Canon 1D Mark IV«Ystereo-Y-mini2.0---Canon 1D Mark IV
Canon 1D X Mark II« »YmonomonoYYmini3.0---Canon 1D X Mark II
Canon 5D Mark II« »YmonomonoY-mini2.0---Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 1D Mark III« »Y-----2.0---Canon 1D Mark III
Canon 1D Mark II« »Y-----1.1---Canon 1D Mark II
Canon 1Ds Mark II« »Y-----2.0---Canon 1Ds Mark II
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

Both the A850 and the 1D Mark IV have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. Neither of the two has a direct successor, so they represent the end of the respective camera lines from Sony and Canon.

Review summary: Sony A850 vs Canon 1D Mark IV

So how do things add up? Is the Sony A850 better than the Canon 1D Mark IV or vice versa? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.

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Reasons to prefer the Sony Alpha A850:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (24.4 vs 16MP) with a 24% higher linear resolution.
  • Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (5 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
  • More compact: Is smaller (156x117mm vs 156x157mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 335g or 27 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
  • Sharper images: Has hand-shake reducing image stabilization build-in.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (60 percent cheaper at launch).

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Arguments in favor of the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV:

  • Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 1080/30p video.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (10 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More portrait friendly: Features an integrated vertical grip for easier portrait shooting.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (1500 versus 880) out of a single battery charge.

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the A850 emerges as the winner of the contest (6 : 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.

A850 06:04 1D Mark IV

In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the handling experience and imaging performance when actually working with the A850 or the 1D Mark IV. 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 following table reports the overall rankings of the cameras as published by some of the major 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
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
Canon 1D Mark IV«-89/100-5/5- Oct 2009 4,999- i Canon 1D Mark IV
Canon 1D X Mark II« »-89/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Feb 2016 5,999 i i Canon 1D X Mark II
Canon 5D Mark II« »91/10079/1004/55/5- Sep 2008 3,499- i Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 1D Mark III« »---rev- Feb 2007 4,499- i Canon 1D Mark III
Canon 1D Mark II« »-HiRec-rev- Jan 2004 4,499- i Canon 1D Mark II
Canon 1Ds Mark II« »-HiRec--- Sep 2004 7,999- i Canon 1Ds Mark II
Nikon D750« »HiRec90/1004.5/55/54.5/5 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« »HiRec89/1005/55/55/5 Feb 2018 1,999 i i Sony A7 III
Sony A9« »HiRec89/1005/55/55/5 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« »Rec82/1004.5/55/55/5 Nov 2014 1,999- i Sony A7 II
Sony A7« »HiRec80/1005/54.5/55/5 Oct 2013 1,699- i Sony A7
Sony A99« »-84/1004.5/5rev4.5/5 Sep 2012 2,799- i Sony A99
Sony A77« »91/10081/100-4.5/55/5 Aug 2011 1,999- i Sony A77
Sony A900« »HiRecHiRec4.5/54/55/5 Sep 2008 2,999- i Sony A900

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings are only valid when referring 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 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 use the search menu below. An an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool. If the camera you are interested in is not available, kindly get in touch, and I will try to locate and add the respective data to the application.

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