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Sony A850 versus Panasonic GH5

The Sony Alpha A850 and the Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in August 2009 and January 2017. The A850 is a DSLR, while the GH5 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. The cameras are based on a full frame (A850) and a Four Thirds (GH5) sensor. The Sony has a resolution of 24.4 megapixel, whereas the Panasonic provides 20.2 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 Panasonic GH5

The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Sony A850 and the Panasonic GH5. 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 width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter. You can also toggle the display 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 A850 – represents 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Compare Sony A850 vs Panasonic GH5
Compare A850 versus GH5 top
Compare A850 and GH5 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Panasonic GH5 is notably smaller (25 percent) than the Sony A850. Moreover, the GH5 is markedly lighter (19 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 GH5 can take 410 images on a single charge of its DMW-BLF19 power pack.

The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. 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
Panasonic GH5« 5.5 in 3.9 in 3.4 in 25.6 oz 410 Y Jan 2017 1,999 i i Panasonic GH5
Nikon D500« » 5.8 in 4.5 in 3.2 in 30.3 oz 1240 Y Jan 2016 1,999 i i Nikon D500
Nikon D750« » 5.6 in 4.4 in 3.1 in 26.5 oz 1230 Y Sep 2014 2,299 i i Nikon D750
Olympus E-M1 II« » 5.3 in 3.6 in 2.6 in 20.2 oz 440 Y Sep 2016 1,999 i i Olympus E-M1 II
Panasonic G9« » 5.4 in 3.8 in 3.6 in 23.2 oz 400 Y Nov 2017 1,699 i i Panasonic G9
Panasonic G85« » 5.0 in 3.5 in 2.9 in 17.8 oz 330 Y Sep 2016 899 i i Panasonic G85
Panasonic GH4« » 5.2 in 3.7 in 3.3 in 19.8 oz 500 Y Feb 2014 1,499- i Panasonic GH4
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 retail prices at the time of the camera’s release place the model in the market relative to other models in the producer’s line-up and the competition. The two cameras under review were launched at the same price and fall into the same market segment. Normally, street prices remain initially close to the MSRP, but after a couple of months, the first discounts appear. 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 Panasonic GH5

The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors of image quality. A large sensor will tend to have larger individual pixels that provide better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixel-units 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 more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Sony A850 features a full frame sensor and the Panasonic GH5 a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the GH5 is 74 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.0 and 2.0. The sensor in the A850 has a native 3:2 aspect ratio, while the one in the GH5 offers a 4:3 aspect.

In terms of underlying technology, both cameras are build around CMOS sensors.

Sony A850 and Panasonic GH5 sensor measures

With 24.4MP, the A850 offers a higher resolution than the GH5 (20.2MP), but the A850 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.94μm versus 3.34μm for the GH5) due to its larger sensor. However, the GH5 is a somewhat more recent model (by 7 years and 4 months) than the A850, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the GH5 has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.

A850 versus GH5 MP

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. 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. The Overall DXO ratings for the two cameras under consideration are close, suggesting that they provide similar image quality. 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
Panasonic GH5« Four Thirds 20.2 5184 38884K/60p23.913.080777Panasonic GH5
Nikon D500« » APS-C 20.7 5568 37124K/30p24.014.0132483Nikon D500
Nikon D750« » Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/60p24.814.5295693Nikon D750
Olympus E-M1 II« » Four Thirds 20.2 5184 38884K/30p23.712.8131280Olympus E-M1 II
Panasonic G9« » Four Thirds 20.2 5184 38884K/60p----Panasonic G9
Panasonic G85« » Four Thirds 15.8 4592 34484K/30p22.812.565671Panasonic G85
Panasonic GH4« » Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34564K/30p23.212.879174Panasonic GH4
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 GH5 indeed provides for movie recording, while the A850 does not. The highest resolution format that the GH5 can use is 4K/60p.

 

Feature comparison: Sony A850 vs Panasonic GH5

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. For example, the GH5 has an electronic viewfinder (3680k dots), while the A850 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 A850, the Panasonic GH5, and comparable cameras. If you need more detail on the specs, you can find comprehensive listings, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.

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
Panasonic GH5«3680 n 3.2 1620 swivel Y 8000 12.0 n Y Panasonic GH5
Nikon D500« »optical Y 3.2 2359 tilting Y 8000 10.0 n n Nikon D500
Nikon D750« »optical Y 3.2 1229 tilting n 4000 6.0 Y n Nikon D750
Olympus E-M1 II« »2360 n 3.0 1037 swivel Y 8000 18.0 n Y Olympus E-M1 II
Panasonic G9« »3680 Y 3.0 1040 swivel Y 8000 20.0 n Y Panasonic G9
Panasonic G85« »2360 n 3.0 1040 swivel Y 4000 9.0 Y Y Panasonic G85
Panasonic GH4« »2359 n 3.0 1036 swivel Y 8000 12.0 Y n Panasonic GH4
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 is present on the A850, but is missing on the GH5 is 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.

The reported shutter speed and shutter burst refer to the use of the mechanical shutter. In addition, the GH5 features an electronic shutter, which makes completely silent shooting possible. However, this mode is less suitable for photographing moving objects (rolling shutter) or shooting under artificial light sources (flickering).

The A850 writes its imaging data to Compact Flash or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards, while the GH5 uses SDXC 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
Panasonic GH5«YstereomonoYYfull3.1Y-YPanasonic GH5
Nikon D500« »YstereomonoYYmini3.0YYYNikon D500
Nikon D750« »YstereomonoYYmini2.0Y--Nikon D750
Olympus E-M1 II« »YstereomonoYYmicro3.0Y--Olympus E-M1 II
Panasonic G9« »YstereomonoYYfull3.0Y-YPanasonic G9
Panasonic G85« »YstereomonoY-micro2.0Y--Panasonic G85
Panasonic GH4« »YstereomonoYYmicro2.0YY-Panasonic GH4
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

The GH5 is a current model that online retailers, such as amazon, will have in stock. In contrast, the A850 has been discontinued (but it can be found pre-owned on eBay). There has not been a direct replacement model for the A850 from Sony.

Review summary: Sony A850 vs Panasonic GH5

So what conclusions can be drawn? Which of the two cameras – the Sony A850 or the Panasonic GH5 – has the upper hand? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.

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Reasons to prefer the Sony Alpha A850:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (24.4 vs 20.2MP) with a 12% higher linear resolution.
  • Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (0.8 stops ISO advantage).
  • Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
  • Easier setting verification: Features an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (880 versus 410) on a single battery charge.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in August 2009).

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Arguments in favor of the Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5:

  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (0.8 EV of extra DR).
  • Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 4K/60p video.
  • More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
  • 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 (1620k vs 922k dots).
  • More flexible LCD: Has swivel screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
  • Fewer buttons to press: Has a touchscreen to facilitate handling and shooting adjustments.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (12 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Less disturbing: Has an electronic shutter option for completely silent shooting.
  • More compact: Is smaller (139x98mm vs 156x117mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 170g or 19 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • More legacy lens friendly: Can use many non-native lenses via adapters.
  • Faster data transfer: Supports a more advanced USB protocol (3.1 vs 2.0).
  • Easier file upload: Has wifi build in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
  • Easier wireless transfer: Supports Bluetooth for image sharing without cables.
  • More modern: Reflects 7 years and 4 months of technical progress since the A850 launch.

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the GH5 is the clear winner of the contest (17 : 7 points). However, the relevance of individual strengths will vary across photographers, so that you might want to apply your own weighing scheme to the summary points when reflecting and deciding on a new camera.

A850 07:17 GH5

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 GH5. 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). The full reviews are available 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
Panasonic GH5«HiRec85/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2017 1,999 i i Panasonic GH5
Nikon D500« »HiRec91/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2016 1,999 i i Nikon D500
Nikon D750« »HiRec90/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2014 2,299 i i Nikon D750
Olympus E-M1 II« »HiRec85/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2016 1,999 i i Olympus E-M1 II
Panasonic G9« »HiRec85/1005/5-5/5 Nov 2017 1,699 i i Panasonic G9
Panasonic G85« »HiRec84/1005/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2016 899 i i Panasonic G85
Panasonic GH4« »HiRec85/1005/55/55/5 Feb 2014 1,499- i Panasonic GH4
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

The above review scores should be interpreted 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 comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.

 

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 make your choice using the following search menu. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored. If the camera you are interested in is not available, please contact me, and I will try to add information on that model to the database.

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