Sony A9 versus Canon 5D Mark III
The Sony Alpha A9 and the Canon EOS 5D Mark III are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in April 2017 and March 2012. The A9 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, while the 5D Mark III is a DSLR. Both cameras are equipped with a full frame sensor. The Sony has a resolution of 24 megapixel, whereas the Canon provides 22.1 MP.
The physical size and weight of the Sony A9 and the Canon 5D Mark III are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are presented. All width, height and depth measures 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 A9 – represents 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Canon 5D Mark III is considerably larger (45 percent) than the Sony A9. Moreover, the 5D Mark III is substantially heavier (41 percent) than the A9. Cameras that are aimed at professionals or semi-pros tend to be a bit bulkier in order to give them the necessary environmental and shock resistance. 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. Both cameras have similarly sized sensors, but DSLRs have a larger flange-to-focal plane distance than mirrorless cameras, which imposes contraints on the optical engineering process and generally leads to bigger and heavier lenses. You can find an overview of optics for the two cameras in the Sony FE Lens Catalog (A9) and the Canon EF Lens Catalog (5D Mark III). Mirrorless cameras, such as the Sony A9, have moreover the advantage that they have a relatively short flange to focal plane distance and can thus use many lenses from other systems via adapters.
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
|Sony A9 (⇒ rgt)||5.0 in||3.8 in||2.5 in||23.7 oz||650||YES||2017||4,499||latest||check|
|Canon 5D Mark III (⇒ lft)||6.0 in||4.6 in||3.0 in||33.5 oz||950||YES||2012||3,499||discont.||check|
|Canon 5D Mark IV (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.9 in||4.6 in||3.0 in||31.4 oz||900||YES||2016||3,499||latest||check|
|Canon 5DS R (⇒ lft | rgt)||6.0 in||4.6 in||3.0 in||32.8 oz||700||YES||2015||3,699||latest||check|
|Canon 5DS (⇒ lft | rgt)||6.0 in||4.6 in||3.0 in||32.8 oz||700||YES||2015||3,699||latest||check|
|Canon 6D (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.7 in||4.4 in||2.8 in||27.2 oz||1090||YES||2012||2,099||discont.||check|
|Canon 5D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt)||6.0 in||4.5 in||3.0 in||30.0 oz||850||YES||2008||3,499||discont.||check|
|Olympus E-M1 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.3 in||3.6 in||2.6 in||20.2 oz||440||YES||2016||1,999||latest||check|
|Panasonic GH5 (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.5 in||3.9 in||3.4 in||25.6 oz||410||YES||2017||1,999||latest||check|
|Sony A99 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.6 in||4.1 in||3.0 in||29.9 oz||490||YES||2016||3,199||latest||check|
|Sony A6300 (⇒ lft | rgt)||4.7 in||2.6 in||1.9 in||14.3 oz||400||YES||2016||999||discont.||check|
|Sony A6500 (⇒ lft | rgt)||4.7 in||2.6 in||2.1 in||16.0 oz||350||YES||2016||1,399||latest||check|
|Sony A7R II (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.0 in||3.8 in||2.4 in||22.0 oz||290||YES||2015||3,199||discont.||check|
|Sony A7S II (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.0 in||3.8 in||2.4 in||22.1 oz||370||YES||2015||2,999||latest||check|
|Sony A7 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.0 in||3.8 in||2.4 in||21.1 oz||350||YES||2014||1,999||latest||check|
|Sony A7 (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.0 in||3.7 in||1.9 in||16.7 oz||340||YES||2013||1,699||discont.||check|
|Sony A99 (⇒ lft | rgt)||5.8 in||4.4 in||3.1 in||28.6 oz||500||YES||2012||2,799||discont.||check|
The listed prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The 5D Mark III was launched at a somewhat lower price (by 22 percent) than the A9, 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.
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 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 more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.
Both cameras under consideration feature a full frame sensor, but their sensors differ slightly in size. The sensor area in the 5D Mark III is 2 percent bigger. 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.
Despite having a slightly smaller sensor, the Sony A9 offers a higher resolution of 24 megapixel, compared with 22.1 MP of the Canon 5D Mark III. This megapixel advantage comes at the cost of a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 5.93μm versus 6.25μm for the 5D Mark III). However, it should be noted that the A9 is much more recent (by 5 years and 1 month) than the 5D Mark III, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that make it possible to gather light more efficiently.
Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. 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"). Of the two cameras under review, the A9 provides substantially higher image quality than the 5D Mark III, with an overall score that is 11 points higher. This advantage is based on 0.9 bits higher color depth, 1.6 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.6 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.
|Sony A9 (⇒ rgt)||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||4K/30p||24.9||13.3||3517||92|
|Canon 5D Mark III (⇒ lft)||Full Frame||22.1||5760||3840||1080/30p||24||11.7||2293||81|
|Canon 5D Mark IV (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||30.1||6720||4480||4K/30p||24.8||13.6||2995||91|
|Canon 5DS R (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||50.3||8688||5792||1080/60p||24.6||12.4||2308||86|
|Canon 5DS (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||50.3||8688||5792||1080/60p||24.7||12.4||2381||87|
|Canon 6D (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||20.0||5472||3648||1080/30p||23.8||12.1||2340||82|
|Canon 5D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||21.0||5616||3744||1080/30p||23.7||11.9||1815||79|
|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|
|Sony A99 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||42.2||7952||5304||4K/30p||25.4||13.4||2317||92|
|Sony A6300 (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||24.0||6000||4000||4K/30p||24.4||13.7||1437||85|
|Sony A6500 (⇒ lft | rgt)||APS-C||24.0||6000||4000||4K/30p||24.5||13.7||1405||85|
|Sony A7R II (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||42.2||7952||5304||4K/30p||26.0||13.9||3434||98|
|Sony A7S II (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||12.0||4240||2832||4K/30p||23.6||13.3||2993||85|
|Sony A7 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||24.9||13.6||2449||90|
|Sony A7 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||24.8||14.2||2248||90|
|Sony A99 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||25.0||14.0||1555||89|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. Both cameras under consideration have a sensor with sufficiently fast read-out times for moving pictures, but the A9 provides a higher video resolution than the 5D Mark III. It can shoot video footage at 4K/30p, while the Canon is limited to 1080/30p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. For example, the A9 has an electronic viewfinder (3686k dots), while the 5D Mark III 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 table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Sony A9 and Canon 5D Mark III 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.
|Sony A9 (⇒ rgt)||3686||no||3.0||1440||tilting||YES||8000||20.0||no||YES|
|Canon 5D Mark III (⇒ lft)||optical||YES||3.2||1040||fixed||no||8000||6.0||no||no|
|Canon 5D Mark IV (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.2||1620||fixed||YES||8000||7.0||no||no|
|Canon 5DS R (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.2||1040||fixed||no||8000||5.0||no||no|
|Canon 5DS (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.2||1040||fixed||no||8000||5.0||no||no|
|Canon 6D (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.0||1040||fixed||no||4000||4.5||no||no|
|Canon 5D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt)||optical||YES||3.0||920||fixed||no||8000||3.9||no||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|
|Sony A99 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||2400||YES||3.0||1229||tilting||no||8000||12.0||no||YES|
|Sony A6300 (⇒ lft | rgt)||2300||no||3.0||922||tilting||no||4000||11.0||6||no|
|Sony A6500 (⇒ lft | rgt)||2300||no||3.0||922||tilting||YES||4000||11.0||6||YES|
|Sony A7R II (⇒ lft | rgt)||2400||no||3.0||1229||tilting||no||8000||5.0||no||YES|
|Sony A7S II (⇒ lft | rgt)||2400||no||3.0||1229||tilting||no||8000||5.0||no||YES|
|Sony A7 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||2400||no||3.0||1230||tilting||no||8000||5.0||no||YES|
|Sony A7 (⇒ lft | rgt)||2400||no||3.0||1230||tilting||no||8000||5.0||no||no|
|Sony A99 (⇒ lft | rgt)||2359||YES||3.0||1229||full-flex||no||8000||6.0||no||YES|
The A9 is a current model that online retailers, such as amazon, will have in stock. In contrast, the 5D Mark III has been discontinued (but it can be found pre-owned on ebay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the 5D Mark III was succeeded by the Canon 5D Mark IV.
So what is the bottom line? Is the Sony A9 better than the Canon 5D Mark III or vice versa? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.
Advantages of the Sony Alpha A9:
- Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (11 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
- More dynamic range: Captures a larger spectrum of light and dark details (1.6 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (0.6 stops ISO advantage).
- Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (4K/30p vs 1080/30p).
- More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1440k vs 1040k dots).
- More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
- Fewer buttons to press: Is equipped with a touch-sensitive rear screen to facilitate handling.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (20 vs 6 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- More compact: Is smaller (127x96mm vs 152x116mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
- Less heavy: Is lighter (by 277g or 29 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
- More legacy lens friendly: Can take a broad range of non-native lenses via adapters.
- Sharper images: Has hand-shake reducing image stabilization build-in.
- More modern: Reflects 5 years and 1 month of technical progress since the 5D Mark III launch.
Reasons to prefer the Canon EOS 5D Mark III:
- Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
- Easier setting verification: Has a control panel on top to check shooting parameters.
- Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.2" vs 3.0") for image review and settings control.
- Longer lasting: Gets more shots (950 versus 650) out of a single battery charge.
- More affordable: Was released into a lower priced segment (22 percent cheaper at launch).
- More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in March 2012).
If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the A9 is the clear winner of the match-up (14 : 6 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.
In any case, 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 A9 or the 5D Mark III handle or perform in practice. 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. The full reviews are available, respectively, at cameralabs.com, dpreview.com, ephotozine.com, imaging-resource.com, and photographyblog.com.
|Sony A9 (⇒ rgt)||..||89/100 Gold||5/5||5/5||5/5||2017||4,499||latest||check|
|Canon 5D Mark III (⇒ lft)||HiRec||82/100 Gold||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||2012||3,499||discont.||check|
|Canon 5D Mark IV (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||87/100 Gold||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||2016||3,499||latest||check|
|Canon 5DS R (⇒ lft | rgt)||Rec||83/100 Silver||5/5||5/5||4.5/5||2015||3,699||latest||check|
|Canon 5DS (⇒ lft | rgt)||Rec||83/100 Silver||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||2015||3,699||latest||check|
|Canon 6D (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||83/100 Silver||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||2012||2,099||discont.||check|
|Canon 5D Mark II (⇒ lft | rgt)||91/100||79/100 HiRec||4/5||5/5||-||2008||3,499||discont.||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|
|Sony A99 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||85/100 Silver||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||2016||3,199||latest||check|
|Sony A6300 (⇒ lft | rgt)||Rec||85/100 Gold||5/5||5/5||5/5||2016||999||discont.||check|
|Sony A6500 (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||85/100 Silver||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||2016||1,399||latest||check|
|Sony A7R II (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||90/100 Gold||5/5||4.5/5||5/5||2015||3,199||discont.||check|
|Sony A7S II (⇒ lft | rgt)||Rec||-||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||2015||2,999||latest||check|
|Sony A7 II (⇒ lft | rgt)||Rec||82/100 Silver||4.5/5||5/5||5/5||2014||1,999||latest||check|
|Sony A7 (⇒ lft | rgt)||HiRec||80/100 Silver||5/5||4.5/5||5/5||2013||1,699||discont.||check|
|Sony A99 (⇒ lft | rgt)||-||84/100 Gold||4.5/5||reviewed||4.5/5||2012||2,799||discont.||check|
The above review scores should be interpreted 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. 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, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.
In case you would like to check on the differences and similarities of other camera models, just use the search menu below. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting. If you cannot find the camera you are interested in, please send me an email, and I will try to locate and add the respective data to the application.
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