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Sony A850 vs A900

The Sony Alpha A850 and the Sony Alpha A900 are two professional cameras that were announced, respectively, in August 2009 and September 2008. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with a full frame sensor. Both cameras offer a resolution of 24.4 megapixels.

Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.

Headline Specifications
Sony A850 versus Sony A900
Sony A850 Sony A900
Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
Sony A mount lenses Sony A mount lenses
24.4 MP, Full Frame Sensor 24.4 MP, Full Frame Sensor
no Video no Video
ISO 200-3,200 (100 - 6,400) ISO 200-3,200 (100 - 6,400)
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
3.0 LCD, 922k dots 3.0 LCD, 922k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
3 shutter flaps per second 5 shutter flaps per second
In-body stabilizationIn-body stabilization
Weathersealed bodyWeathersealed body
880 shots per battery charge880 shots per battery charge
156 x 117 x 82 mm, 895 g 156 x 117 x 82 mm, 895 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Sony Alpha A850 and the Sony Alpha A900? Which one should you buy? Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their imaging sensors, their shooting features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison

The physical size and weight of the Sony A850 and the Sony A900 are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

Size Sony A850 vs Sony A900
Compare A850 versus A900 top
Comparison A850 or A900 rear

In this particular case, the Sony A850 and the Sony A900 have exactly the same width and height, and, thus, have identically-sized bodies. Moreover, the two cameras also share the same weight. 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 and compare 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. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, just click on the right or left arrow next to the camera that you would like to inspect. Alternatively, you can also use the CAM-parator to select your camera combination among a larger number of options.

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Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life 1
Weather
Sealing
Camera
Launch 2
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
 
Sony A850 156 mm 117 mm 82 mm 895 g 880 Y Aug 2009 1,999i
 
Sony A900 156 mm 117 mm 82 mm 895 g 880 Y Sep 2008 2,999i
 
Canon 6D Mark II 144 mm 111 mm 75 mm 765 g 1200 Y Jun 2017 1,999 i
 
Canon 5D Mark II 152 mm 114 mm 75 mm 850 g 850 Y Sep 2008 3,499i
 
Nikon D500 147 mm 115 mm 81 mm 860 g 1240 Y Jan 2016 1,999 i
 
Olympus E-M1 II 134 mm 91 mm 67 mm 574 g 440 Y Sep 2016 1,999 i
 
Panasonic S1 149 mm 110 mm 97 mm 1017 g 400 Y Feb 2019 2,499 i
 
Panasonic GH5 139 mm 98 mm 87 mm 725 g 410 Y Jan 2017 1,999 i
 
Sony A7 III 127 mm 96 mm 74 mm 650 g 610 Y Feb 2018 1,999 i
 
Sony A99 II 143 mm 104 mm 76 mm 849 g 490 Y Sep 2016 3,199 i
 
Sony A7 II 127 mm 96 mm 60 mm 599 g 350 Y Nov 2014 1,999i
 
Sony A99 147 mm 111 mm 78 mm 812 g 500 Y Sep 2012 2,799i
 
Sony A77 143 mm 104 mm 81 mm 732 g 470 Y Aug 2011 1,399i
Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.
(1) Number of images that can be taken on a full battery charge according to the CIPA-standard; (2) Official announcement.

Any camera decision will obviously take relative prices into account. 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 A850 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 33 percent) than the A900, which puts it into a different 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

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 are more costly to manufacture and tend to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Both cameras under consideration feature a full frame sensor and have a format factor (sometimes also referred to as "crop factor") of 1.0. Within the spectrum of camera sensors, this places the review cameras among the large-sensor cameras that aim for top notch image quality. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Sony A850 and Sony A900 sensor measures

The two cameras under review do not only share the same sensor size, but also offer an identical resolution of 24.4 megapixels. This similarity in sensor specs implies that both the A850 and the A900 have the same pixel density, as well as the same pixel size. It should, however, be noted that the A850 is a somewhat more recent model (by 11 months) than the A900, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time.

The Sony Alpha A850 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 200 to ISO 3200, which can be extended to ISO 100-6400. The Sony Alpha A900 offers exactly the same ISO settings.

A850 versus A900 MP

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. 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"). The Overall DXO ratings for the two cameras under consideration are close, suggesting that they provide similar imaging performance. The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.

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Sensor Characteristics
  Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
 
Sony A850 Full Frame 24.4 6048 4032none23.812.2141579
 
Sony A900 Full Frame 24.4 6048 4032none23.712.3143179
 
Canon 6D Mark II Full Frame 26.0 6240 41601080/60p24.411.9286285
 
Canon 5D Mark II Full Frame 21.0 5616 37441080/30p23.711.9181579
 
Nikon D500 APS-C 20.7 5568 37124K/30p24.014.0132483
 
Olympus E-M1 II Four Thirds 20.2 5184 38884K/30p23.712.8131280
 
Panasonic S1 Full Frame 24.0 6000 40004K/60p25.214.5333395
 
Panasonic GH5 Four Thirds 20.2 5184 38884K/60p23.913.080777
 
Sony A7 III Full Frame 24.0 6000 40004K/30p25.014.7373096
 
Sony A99 II Full Frame 42.2 7952 53044K/30p25.413.4231792
 
Sony A7 II Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.913.6244990
 
Sony A99 Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p25.014.0155589
 
Sony A77 APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.013.280178
Neither the A850 nor the A900 offer Live View, so that they cannot project the live image that the sensor receives onto the rear screen. Moreover, both cameras are still-image focused and cannot record videos.

Feature comparison

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The A850 and the A900 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 viewfinders of both cameras offer the same magnification (0.74x), but the one in the A900 has a wider field of view (100%) than the finder in the A850 (98%), so that a larger proportion of the captured image is visible. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Sony A850 and Sony A900 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras.

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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
 
Sony A850optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 3.0 n Y
 
Sony A900optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 n Y
 
Canon 6D Mark IIoptical Y 3.0 1040 swivel Y 1/4000s 6.5 n n
 
Canon 5D Mark IIoptical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 1/8000s 3.9 n n
 
Nikon D500optical Y 3.2 2359 tilting Y 1/8000s 10.0 n n
 
Olympus E-M1 II2360 n 3.0 1037 swivel Y 1/8000s 18.0 n Y
 
Panasonic S15760 Y 3.2 2100 full-flex Y 1/8000s 9.0 n Y
 
Panasonic GH53680 n 3.2 1620 swivel Y 1/8000s 12.0 n Y
 
Sony A7 III2359 n 3.0 922 tilting Y 1/8000s 10.0 n Y
 
Sony A99 II2400 Y 3.0 1229 full-flex n 1/8000s 12.0 n Y
 
Sony A7 II2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 1/8000s 5.0 n Y
 
Sony A992359 Y 3.0 1229 full-flex n 1/8000s 6.0 n Y
 
Sony A772359 Y 3.0 921 full-flex n 1/8000s 12.0 Y Y

Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the A850 and the A900 write their files to Compact Flash or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards. Both cameras feature dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails.

Connectivity 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 Sony Alpha A900 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.

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Input-Output Connections
  Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Port
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
 
Sony A850Y----mini2.0---
 
Sony A900Y----mini2.0---
 
Canon 6D Mark IIYstereomonoY-mini2.0YYY
 
Canon 5D Mark IIYmonomonoY-mini2.0---
 
Nikon D500YstereomonoYYmini3.0YYY
 
Olympus E-M1 IIYstereomonoYYmicro3.0Y--
 
Panasonic S1YstereomonoYYfull3.1Y-Y
 
Panasonic GH5YstereomonoYYfull3.1Y-Y
 
Sony A7 IIIYstereomonoYYmicro3.1YYY
 
Sony A99 IIYstereomonoYYmicro2.0YYY
 
Sony A7 IIYstereomonoYYmicro2.0YY-
 
Sony A99YstereomonoYYmini2.0---
 
Sony A77YstereomonoY-mini2.0---

Both cameras feature a PC Sync terminal to control professional strobe lights, which will be appreciated by studio photographers.

Both the A850 and the A900 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The A900 was replaced by the Sony A99, while the A850 does not have a direct successor. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Sony website.

Review summary

So what is the bottom line? Is there a clear favorite between the Sony A850 and the Sony A900? Which camera is better? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.


Advantages of the Sony Alpha A850:

  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (33 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Is somewhat more recent (announced 11 months after the A900).


Reasons to prefer the Sony Alpha A900:

  • More complete view: Has a viewfinder with a larger field of view (100% vs 98%).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (5 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in September 2008).

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the A900 emerges as the winner of the match-up (4 : 2 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. A professional sports photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a street photog, and a person interested in family portraits has distinct needs from a landscape shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.

A850 02:04 A900

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Sony A850 and the Sony A900 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera listing whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras can be instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the A850 or the A900 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.

Expert reviews

This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The table below provides a synthesis of the camera assessments of some of the best known photo-gear review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, and photographyblog). As can be seen, the professional reviewers agree in many cases on the quality of different cameras, but sometimes their assessments diverge, reinforcing the earlier point that a camera decision is often a very personal choice.

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Review Scores
  Camera
Model
camera
  labs  
dp
review  
ephoto
  zine  
imaging
resource
photography
  blog  
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
 
Sony A850..75/100..4/54.5/5 Aug 2009 1,999i
 
Sony A900+ ++ +4.5/54/55/5 Sep 2008 2,999i
 
Canon 6D Mark II+80/1004.5/54/54/5 Jun 2017 1,999 i
 
Canon 5D Mark II91/10079/1004/55/5.. Sep 2008 3,499i
 
Nikon D500+ +91/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2016 1,999 i
 
Olympus E-M1 II+ +85/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2016 1,999 i
 
Panasonic S1+ +88/1004.5/5..4/5 Feb 2019 2,499 i
 
Panasonic GH5+ +85/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2017 1,999 i
 
Sony A7 III+ +89/1005/55/55/5 Feb 2018 1,999 i
 
Sony A99 II..85/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2016 3,199 i
 
Sony A7 II+82/1004.5/55/55/5 Nov 2014 1,999i
 
Sony A99..84/1004.5/5o4.5/5 Sep 2012 2,799i
 
Sony A7791/10081/100..4.5/55/5 Aug 2011 1,399i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

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. 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. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.

Sony A850:
Check Ebay offers
Sony A900:
Check Ebay offers

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. As an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool.

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    Specifications: Sony A850 vs Sony A900

    Below is a side-by-side comparison of the specs of the two cameras to facilitate a quick review of their differences and common features.

    Camera Specifications
    Camera Model Sony A850 Sony A900
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Sony A mount lenses Sony A mount lenses
    Launch Date August 2009 September 2008
    Launch Price USD 1,999 USD 2,999
    Sensor Specs Sony A850 Sony A900
    Sensor Technology CMOS CMOS
    Sensor Format Full Frame Sensor Full Frame Sensor
    Sensor Size 35.9 x 24.0 mm 35.9 x 24.0 mm
    Sensor Area 861.6 mm2 861.6 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 43.2 mm 43.2 mm
    Crop Factor 1.0x 1.0x
    Sensor Resolution 24.4 Megapixels 24.4 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 6048 x 4032 pixels 6048 x 4032 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 5.94 μm 5.94 μm
    Pixel Density 2.83 MP/cm2 2.83 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability no Video no Video
    ISO Setting 200 - 3,200 ISO 200 - 3,200 ISO
    ISO Boost 100 - 6,400 ISO 100 - 6,400 ISO
    Image Processor BIONZ BIONZ
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 79 79
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 23.8 23.7
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 12.2 12.3
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 1415 1431
    Screen Specs Sony A850 Sony A900
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 98% 100%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.74x 0.74x
    Top-Level Screen Control Panel Control Panel
    Rear LCD Size 3.0inch 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution 922k dots 922k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Sony A850 Sony A900
    Focus System Phase-detect AF Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 3 shutter flaps/s 5 shutter flaps/s
    Image StabilizationIn-body stabilizationIn-body stabilization
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash no On-Board Flash
    Storage Medium CF or MS cards CF or MS cards
    Second Storage Option Dual card slots Dual card slots
    Connectivity Specs Sony A850 Sony A900
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    Studio Flash PC Sync socket PC Sync socket
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port mini HDMI mini HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Sony A850 Sony A900
    Environmental SealingWeathersealed bodyWeathersealed body
    Battery Type NP-FM500H NP-FM500H
    Battery Life (CIPA)880 shots per charge880 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 156 x 117 x 82 mm
    (6.1 x 4.6 x 3.2 in)
    156 x 117 x 82 mm
    (6.1 x 4.6 x 3.2 in)
    Camera Weight 895 g (31.6 oz) 895 g (31.6 oz)

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