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Sony A850 versus Sony A7

The Sony Alpha A850 and the Sony Alpha A7 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in August 2009 and October 2013. The A850 is a DSLR, while the A7 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. Both cameras are equipped with a full frame sensor. The A850 has a resolution of 24.4 megapixel, whereas the A7 provides 24 MP.

Body comparison

The physical size and weight of the Sony A850 and the Sony A7 are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear 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).

Sony A850 vs Sony A7 front
A850 versus A7 top view
A850 and A7 rear side
Body view (A850 on the left)

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony A7 is considerably smaller (35 percent) than the Sony A850. Moreover, the A7 is substantially lighter (47 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.

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 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 A850 (⇒ rgt) 156 mm 117 mm 82 mm 895 g 880 YES 2009 1,999discont. check
Sony A7 (⇒ lft) 127 mm 94 mm 48 mm 474 g 340 YES 2013 1,699discont. check
Nikon D610 (⇒ lft | rgt) 141 mm 113 mm 82 mm 850 g 900 YES 2013 1,999 latest check
Olympus E-M1 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 134 mm 91 mm 67 mm 574 g 440 YES 2016 1,999 latest check
Panasonic GH5 (⇒ lft | rgt) 139 mm 98 mm 87 mm 725 g 410 YES 2017 1,999 latest check
Panasonic GH4 (⇒ lft | rgt) 133 mm 93 mm 84 mm 560 g 500 YES 2014 1,499discont. check
Sony A9 (⇒ lft | rgt) 127 mm 96 mm 63 mm 673 g 650 YES 2017 4,499 latest check
Sony A99 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 143 mm 104 mm 76 mm 849 g 490 YES 2016 3,199 latest 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 1,999 latest check
Sony A7S (⇒ lft | rgt) 127 mm 94 mm 48 mm 489 g 380 YES 2014 2,499discont. check
Sony A7R (⇒ lft | rgt) 127 mm 94 mm 48 mm 465 g 340 YES 2013 2,299discont. check
Sony A99 (⇒ lft | rgt) 147 mm 111 mm 78 mm 812 g 500 YES 2012 2,799discont. check
Sony A77 (⇒ lft | rgt) 143 mm 104 mm 81 mm 732 g 470 YES 2011 1,999discont. check
Sony A900 (⇒ lft | rgt) 156 mm 117 mm 82 mm 895 g 880 YES 2008 2,999discont. check

The listed prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The A7 was launched at a somewhat lower price (by 15 percent) than the A850, which makes it more attractive for photographers on a tight budget. 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

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants 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 associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.

Both cameras under consideration feature a full frame sensor, but their sensors differ slightly in size. The sensor area in the A7 is 1 percent smaller. 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 A850 and Sony A7 sensor measures
Sensor size

With 24.4MP, the A850 offers a slightly higher resolution than the A7 (24MP), but the A850 has marginally smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.94μm versus 5.97μm for the A7). Moreover, the A7 is a somewhat more recent model (by 4 years and 1 month) than the A850, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels.

A850 versus A7 MP
Sensor resolution

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. Of the two cameras under consideration, the A7 offers substantially better image quality than the A850 (overall score 11 points higher). The advantage is based on 1 bits higher color depth, 2 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 A850 (⇒ rgt) Full Frame 24.4 6048 4032 no 23.8 12.2 1415 79
Sony A7 (⇒ lft) Full Frame 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 24.8 14.2 2248 90
Nikon D610 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 24.2 6016 4016 1080/30p 25.1 14.4 2925 94
Olympus E-M1 II (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 20.2 5184 3888 4K/30p 23.7 12.8 1312 80
Panasonic GH5 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 20.2 5184 3888 4K/60p 23.9 13.0 807 77
Panasonic GH4 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 15.9 4608 3456 4K/30p 23.2 12.8 791 74
Sony A9 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 24.0 6000 4000 4K/30p 24.9 13.3 3517 92
Sony A99 II (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 42.2 7952 5304 4K/30p 25.4 13.4 2317 92
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 A7R (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 36.2 7360 4912 1080/60p 25.6 14.1 2746 95
Sony A99 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 25.0 14.0 1555 89
Sony A77 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 24 13.2 801 78
Sony A900 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 24.4 6048 4032 no 23.7 12.3 1431 79

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. The A7 indeed provides for movie recording, while the A850 does not. The highest resolution format that the A7 can use is 1080/60p.

Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. For example, the A7 has an electronic viewfinder (2400k 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 Sony A7, 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 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 A850 (⇒ rgt) optical YES 3.0 922 fixed no 8000 3.0 no YES
Sony A7 (⇒ lft) 2400 no 3.0 1230 tilting no 8000 5.0 no no
Nikon D610 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 921 fixed no 4000 6.0 12 no
Olympus E-M1 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 2360 no 3.0 1037 swivel YES 8000 18.0 no YES
Panasonic GH5 (⇒ lft | rgt) 3680 no 3.2 1620 swivel YES 8000 12.0 no YES
Panasonic GH4 (⇒ lft | rgt) 2359 no 3.0 1036 swivel YES 8000 12.0 17 no
Sony A9 (⇒ lft | rgt) 3686 no 3.0 1440 tilting YES 8000 20.0 no YES
Sony A99 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 2400 YES 3.0 1229 tilting no 8000 12.0 no YES
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 A7R (⇒ lft | rgt) 2400 no 3.0 1230 tilting no 8000 4.0 no no
Sony A99 (⇒ lft | rgt) 2359 YES 3.0 1229 full-flex no 8000 6.0 no YES
Sony A77 (⇒ lft | rgt) 2359 YES 3.0 921 full-flex no 8000 12.0 12 YES
Sony A900 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 922 fixed no 8000 5.0 no YES

Both the A850 and the A7 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on ebay. The A7 was replaced by the Sony A7 II, while the A850 does not have a direct successor.

Summary

So how do things add up? Is the Sony A850 better than the Sony A7 or vice versa? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.


Arguments in favor of the Sony Alpha A850:

  • Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
  • Easier setting verification: Has an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (880 versus 340) on a single battery charge.
  • Sharper images: Has hand-shake reducing image stabilization build-in.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in August 2009).

Reasons to prefer the Sony Alpha A7:

  • Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (11 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (2 EV of extra DR).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (0.7 stops ISO advantage).
  • Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 1080/60p video.
  • More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1230k vs 922k 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 156x117mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 421g or 47 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • More legacy lens friendly: Can use many non-native lenses via adapters.
  • More affordable: Was released into a lower priced segment (15 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 4 years and 1 month of technical progress since the A850 launch.

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the A7 is the clear winner of the contest (13 : 5 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.

A850 05:13 A7

In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the handling experience and imaging performance when actually working with the A850 or the A7. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased. This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The table below summarizes the assessments of some of the best known 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
dp
review
ephoto
zine
imaging
resource
photography
blog
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Sony A850 (⇒ rgt) - 75/100 - 4/5 4.5/5 2009 1,999discont. check
Sony A7 (⇒ lft) HiRec 80/100 Silver 5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2013 1,699discont. check
Nikon D610 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 87/100 Gold 4.5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2013 1,999 latest check
Olympus E-M1 II (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 85/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2016 1,999 latest check
Panasonic GH5 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 85/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2017 1,999 latest check
Panasonic GH4 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 85/100 Gold 5/5 5/5 5/5 2014 1,499discont. check
Sony A9 (⇒ lft | rgt) .. 89/100 Gold 5/5 5/5 5/5 2017 4,499 latest check
Sony A99 II (⇒ lft | rgt) - 85/100 Silver 4.5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2016 3,199 latest 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 1,999 latest check
Sony A7S (⇒ lft | rgt) - 86/100 Gold 4.5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2014 2,499discont. check
Sony A7R (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 82/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2013 2,299discont. check
Sony A99 (⇒ lft | rgt) - 84/100 Gold 4.5/5 reviewed 4.5/5 2012 2,799discont. check
Sony A77 (⇒ lft | rgt) 91/100 81/100 Silver - 4.5/5 5/5 2011 1,999discont. check
Sony A900 (⇒ lft | rgt) 90/100 HiRec HiRec 4.5/5 4/5 5/5 2008 2,999discont. check

The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, 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 comparisons

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 you cannot find the camera you are interested in, kindly get in touch, and I will try to update the database with the necessary infos.

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