Sony A900 Full Frame vs. Canon 5D

The Canon 5D was the first "popular" priced full-frame DSLR introduced at the $3500 price for body only about three years ago. It is interesting that during the last couple of months Nikon and now Sony also offer $3000 or less full-frame cameras. The Canon 5D features a 12.8MP sensor, which is about half the resolution of the Sony A900 24.6MP sensor.


Again, the Canon 5D is compared to both same pixel size crops, and 0.5x crops which represent the same area of the image in each capture. The same pixel crops are 150x250 actual pixels captured from both images. The 0.5x crops are twice the number of pixels in a 212x353 capture that has been adjusted from the standard 350dpi to 248dpi so the crop you are viewing is approximately the same size as the crop from the 12.8MP camera.

ISO Comparison - Sony A900 vs. Canon 5D vs. Sony A900 0.5x
ISO Sony A900 Canon 5D 0.5x Sony A900
100
200
400
800
1600
3200
6400  

Click on any of the above image crops for the full image.
Note: Full size images are between 4.1MB and 10.4MB!

It is very interesting that the Canon 5D internal processing is just as sharp at ISO 100-400 as the Sony A900. Beginning at ISO 800, however, you can clearly see that noise is being minimized by increasingly softening the image. By ISO 3200 the difference between noise-reduction approaches of the Sony and Canon are very obvious. The A900 output is sharper and much higher resolution. It also extends to ISO 6400 where the three year old Canon 5D stops at ISO 3200. However, in fairness the noise or grain on the A900 is so obtrusive at ISO 6400 that it hardly matters, except for small prints.

It should be clear by now that the A900 shows three distinct noise ranges in these tests. At ISO 100-400 nothing comes close to the combination of the incredible detail combined with low noise. ISO 800-1600 output is also excellent, though noise is certainly starting to impact the captured image. We would not hesitate to shoot anything up to ISO 1600. However, at ISO 3200 and 6400 noise has become a problem. Those settings are good for capturing something when you have no choice as the resolution detail is still pretty amazing, but noise is degrading the image to the point where images are only useful for smaller prints.

The announced (but not yet shipping) Canon 5D Mark II will be a very interesting camera to compare to the Sony A900 when it finally starts shipping in late November. A more detailed comparison of the Sony A900, Canon 5D Mark II, and Nikon D700/D3 is planned when the Canon full-frame update is available.

Sony A900 vs. Nikon D700 Sony A900 Full Frame vs. Sony A700 APS-C
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  • LTG - Monday, October 27, 2008 - link

    Ok I'll eat a shoe then :).

    I know it's not unlikely that opinions can be similar looking at the same product (if a car is 0-60 in 30 seconds is any reviewer not going to say it's slow?).

    But I just kept getting deja vu while reading it. Maybe they read your preview article.

    Thanks for the article in any case, I did read it after all :).
    Reply
  • TechLuster - Monday, October 27, 2008 - link

    Wesley, I think the ISO 12800 and 25600 crops on page 3 are just repeats of the ISO 6400 crops (they don't seem to match what's in their respective full-size images). Reply
  • JarredWalton - Monday, October 27, 2008 - link

    Sorry - that was my error when I put together the HTML code for the tables. Lots of copy/paste in there, and the linked images were correct but had the 6400 thumbnail still. (Had to change 64 to 128 and 256 after pasting.) The correct crops are now in place, which show that ISO 25600 on the D600 is about the same as the 6400 on the A900. Reply
  • Heidfirst - Monday, October 27, 2008 - link

    Sony's JPEG engine still isn't the best, you really need to shoot RAW & convert (& again ACR still isn't very good with Sonys).
    http://www.photoclubalpha.com/2008/10/23/the-alpha...">http://www.photoclubalpha.com/2008/10/23/the-alpha... is worth a read.
    Reply
  • twistedlogic - Monday, October 27, 2008 - link

    We get your point, no need to triple post. Just playing, :).

    I really don't see the point of buying a $3000 body and then shooting in JPEG. Unless your doing studio work, newspaper work(overkill), or just snapshots.

    I do like its low light capabilities coming close to the D3, I just hate Sony as a company for its lackluster customer service and shady business practices. Competition is good though.

    Reply
  • Heidfirst - Monday, October 27, 2008 - link

    Sony's JPEG engine still isn't the best, you really need to shoot RAW & convert (& again ACR still isn't very good with Sonys).
    http://www.photoclubalpha.com/2008/10/23/the-alpha...">http://www.photoclubalpha.com/2008/10/23/the-alpha... is worth a read.
    Reply
  • Heidfirst - Monday, October 27, 2008 - link

    Sony's JPEG engine still isn't the best, you really need to shoot RAW & convert (& again ACR still isn't very good with Sonys).
    http://www.photoclubalpha.com/2008/10/23/the-alpha...">http://www.photoclubalpha.com/2008/10/23/the-alpha... is worth a read.
    Reply
  • araczynski - Monday, October 27, 2008 - link

    is it my untrained eye or were all shots but the 2 ducks just fuzzy as all get go? is that a benefit of an oversensitive camera? or the photographer? Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, October 27, 2008 - link

    Please pixel-peep on the large image. The ducks themselves are sharp and a small crop from the larger image. With a full-frame and high resolution the depth of field is shallow and the background and foreground are less sharp in this image.

    The lens that was used for this photo also looks like it could benefit from a micro-adjust for focus, which is a feature available on the A900.
    Reply
  • wheel - Monday, October 27, 2008 - link

    Good to see the DSLR camera reviews on AT are slowly getting better :)

    But, can't you find something more interesting to test other than just the one picture of an SLI logo on a nVidia box? For instance, something that shows fine detail (in addition to flat areas of solid color)
    Reply

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