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

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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  • Wesley Fink - Monday, October 27, 2008 - link

    We plan to begin using another target in our full-frame DSLR roundup to come when th 5D Mk II is finally shipping. There is already a huge database of "component boxes" test shots and it makes more sense to make a change when you can provide a group using the new setup.

    Cameras that are reviewed do not stay in our possesion forever, so it really isn't always possible to reshoot models that were tested in earlier reviews. At present we buy all the models reviewed on the open market and resell them soon after the review is completed.
  • haplo602 - Monday, October 27, 2008 - link

    Actualy they can't because they want to be different. there's a reason why you find NR/high ISO test done on a color checker chart on the other sites, while you get a 3 color (ok black, white and green) on AT.

    Using a color checker chart would be too mainstream it seems ...

  • xsilver - Monday, October 27, 2008 - link

    odd also that more wasnt mentioned about the actual revolutionary things about the a900

    1) dual bionz chip allowing 24mp images at 5fps

    2) in body IS for a FF sensor (first)
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, October 27, 2008 - link

    We chose not to republish our preview as part of the final review as some other sites do. However the hands-on preview is linked in the first sentence of the review. The points you make are covered in detail earlier in that article. We also mention both points in this review but we did not go into detail about them again.

    If enough readers want it we can include the preview information again in the final review. Some important cameras, like the A900, tend to generate a series of articles exploring different aspects of the camera.
  • xsilver - Tuesday, October 28, 2008 - link

    I think a field test of the IS system would be good
    eg. 70-200mm canon USM IS vs sony 70-200mm with body IS

    which is better? how many stops exactly.

    maybe also a test with something wide like a 35/50mm

    I think just repeating what they are is not much of a test.
    For the fps test, you could run it through some different memory cards and see if the write speed is affected.

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