Whether you’re an aspiring photographer looking to purchase your first camera or an aficionado wanting to add to your collection, choosing the right camera is something to really think about.
Even with newer camera models out by Canon and Sony, we’re making comparisons between two oldies but goodies: the Canon 5D Mark IV vs. Sony a7R II.
To help you figure out which camera’s the best one for you, let’s compare and contrast the two cameras.
- A Look at Their Features
- Canon 5d Mark IV vs. Sony a7R II: A Side-by-Side Comparison
- Stand Out Features: Canon 5D Mark IV
- Stand Out Features: Sony a7R II
- Conclusion: Canon or Sony, Which Is the Better Camera?
A Look at Their Features
The Canon 5D Mark IV and the Sony a7R II are both digital cameras, but they possess fundamental differences.
The Canon 5D Mark IV is a DSLR, while the Sony α7R II is a mirrorless camera— mirrorless cameras used to automatically designate with amateurs. However, that’s no longer the case.
With the increasing number of technologies produced for mirrorless cameras, they’ve become as versatile and powerful as (or even more than) DSLR’s in much smaller and lighter bodies.
The Canon 5D Mark IV
Canon is well-known amongst photographers for having a particular pleasing image quality because of the Canon color science, or the way colors are recorded as information and data by their cameras.
This release replaced the Mark III— and besides sharing the typical Canon EOS color quality, the Canon 5D Mark IV boasts the following improved upon specs and features:
- 30.4 MP – Full-frame CMOS Sensor
- ISO 100 – 32000 (expands to 50-102400)
- Canon EF Mount
- 3.2″ Fixed Type Screen (LCD Touch Screen)
- On-screen live view
- Optical (pentaprism) viewfinder
- 7.0 fps continuous shooting
- Timelapse capability
- 4K (DCI) – 4096 x 2160 video resolution
- Battery life of 900 shots
- Built-in Wireless
- Built-in GPS
- Weather sealed body (with a size of 151 x 116 x 76 mm, weighing 890g)
- Flash sync port – While neither of the two cameras has a built-in flash, the Canon 5D Mark IV has off-camera flash connectivity capabilities, making it easier to work with.
- Touch screen – This feature makes the camera’s sensor as easy to use as your smartphone.
- Top LCD display – A top display gives you an easy way to check and change the current camera setting while shooting.
- 2 card slots – With an extra slot, there’s no need to worry about backup if one of your cards fails you won’t lose your precious photos. Or you can use it to get more memory space for your shoot.
- Heavier and bulkier body – More difficult and tiring to carry around (not including the accessories you’ll need).
- Costs more – While it’s not as costly as it was during its initial release and definitely more affordable than newer releases, it costs a lot more than Sony for just as many pros.
The Sony α7R II
The Sony Alpha 7R II is a mirrorless digital camera released in 2015— while it isn’t the latest of the Sony alpha (much less Sony’s α7R) series, it boasts the following specs and features:
- 42.4 MP – Full-frame BSI-CMOS Sensor
- ISO 100 – 25600 (expands to 50-102400)
- Sony E Mount
- 3″ LCD tilting screen
- On-screen live view
- 2359k dot electronic viewfinder
- 5.0fps continuous shooting
- Panorama capability
- 4K (UHD) – 3840 x 2160 video resolution
- Battery life of 290 shots
- Built-in Wireless
- In-camera image stabilization
- body (with a size of 127 x 96 x 60 mm, weighing 625g with battery and media)
- USB charging
The “R” stands for resolution, which is what this Sony alpha line promises to deliver in— and does, even with the older Sony a7R II.
In fact, the Sony a7R II has a better full-frame sensor than both the Canon 5D Mark III AND IV despite it coming out ~15 months earlier than the Canon Mark IV.
- Smaller and lighter body – This makes it easier to carry around on trips and gives you more space for other accessories, lenses, etc.
- Less expensive – Good value for a camera with just as many great qualities for a lot less money; you can save more for other accessories.
- Tilting screen – This gives you flexible ways to shoot however you might need to for various situations.
- In-camera image stabilization – There’s no need to worry about camera shaking when shooting photos or videos; it also makes it easier to edit in post-processing.
- Only 1 card slot – You’ll need to invest in a memory card with more space or carry around spares.
- Shorter battery life – You’ll need to carry around extra batteries, or this can hinder longer shoots.
A Difference in Viewfinders
Besides a fundamental difference between a Canon EOS camera body and a Sony a-series camera body, the kind of viewfinder each camera has can also make for a very different experience for photographers:
Canon 5D Mark IV Optical Viewfinder
- An optical viewfinder (OVF) allows a photographer to see a scene with no time lag as they shoot.
- A photographer can also look through the OVF before turning the camera on, taking time to compose their shot with no resolution limits between the lens clarity and the human eye.
- This also allows them to adjust the camera settings as needed before taking their shots, but the mechanisms of an OVF take up quite a bit of space in the camera body.
Sony α7R II Electronic Viewfinder
- An electronic viewfinder (EVF) means using up extra charge to power it up but also makes for a more compact body.
- An EVF can also show much more information and data, such as a live preview of white balance settings, a live histogram map, etc.
- Both electronic and optical viewfinder types have their pros and cons, so it will really all depend on the photographer’s preferences and needs.
The Common Points Between The Sony a7R II & Canon 5D Mark IV
These cameras also share many common points that keep them relevant even years after their initial release. Both are still great cameras that cost less now because of the following features:
- Good dynamic range and detail when shooting images on both cameras
- Neither the Canon nor Sony camera has an internal flash (but have a hot shoe for off-camera flash possibilities)
- Eye-level viewfinder for easy photo framing/composition
- Full frame sensor for improved flash, dynamic range, color depth, controlled depth of field, and better low-light performance
- On-sensor phase detect for live view and video autofocus
- Bulb shutter capabilities for longer exposures
- 4K video shoot capability
- Slow-motion video shooting
- External mic jack and headphone jack for improved sound recording and monitoring while shooting video
- HDMI out for video monitoring
Canon 5d Mark IV vs. Sony a7R II: A Side-by-Side Comparison
Now that we’ve got the specs out of the way let’s compare the actual shooting experience, RAW image/video quality, and DXOMARK sensor scores.
DxO Mark is an independent benchmark and service that scientifically assesses several image quality metrics:
- DXO Landscape (dynamic range)
- DXO Portrait (color depth)
- DXO Sports (low-light sensitivity)
1. Focus (Winner: Sony a7R II)
While the Canon 5D Mark IV features a dual-pixel autofocus and touch screen, the Sony a7R II features focus peaking and eye-tracking autofocus.
If we compare the focus system technologies, Sony wins just for its eye-tracking— something that wasn’t as common but should’ve been at the time.
However, Canon’s touch screen does make shooting much easier and faster for quick shots, making it good for sports photography.
Still, the eye-tracking autofocus makes the Sony a7R II more suitable for a wider variety of photography, such as shots for portrait and street/daily photography.
2. Dynamic Range (Winner: Sony a7R II)
In comparison to the Sony a7R II, the Canon 5D Mark IV tends to produce an overexposed image with pretty much nothing usable going a few steps above the standard exposure bracketing.
While the Sony a7R II has a higher DXO Mark dynamic range score, the Canon 5D Mark IV’s performance with higher exposure bracketing was disappointing.
It’s worth noting that when shooting RAW images, the difference in RAW files of the Canon 5D Mark IV vs. Sony a7R II is negligible, and you can use the cameras in the same way.
HOWEVER, the Sony a7R II had clear advantages in its dynamic range, especially when shooting video.
3. Speed (Winner: Canon 5D Mark IV)
For this category, Canon takes the number one spot for speed in pretty much all aspects.
The Canon 5D Mark IV has a much faster startup, autofocus system and shoots more frames per second than the Sony a7R II (7 fps vs. 5 fps).
The Canon’s speed is also notable when shooting JPEG, with a bigger JPEG buffer (unlimited vs. Sony’s 23 shots).
Burst mode is possible in both JPEG and RAW shooting.
4. Color (Winner: It’s a Tie)
While the color depth in Sony cameras tends to be much better technically (based on DXO Mark’s tests), this is a tie based on a matter of preference.
The Sony handles overexposure much better but will probably need a lot more color-correcting in post-processing.
On the other hand, the Canon photos still look really clean in underexposed settings.
Rather than color depth, fans of Canon EOS cameras will probably prefer that particular image quality of Canon and might find the white balance of the Sony a7R II off-putting.
5. Full Frame Sensor (Winner: Sony a7R II)
Despite the Canon 5D Mark IV has a larger sensor (and thus a correspondingly better low-light sensitivity), the dynamic range and color depth of the Sony a7R II sensor is much better.
Moreover, the smaller Sony sensor offers a higher resolution of 42.2 megapixels.
This is especially impressive if you consider the small difference in sensor size despite the Canon 5D having a bigger and heavier body.
This gives the Sony camera more flexibility when cropping and printing larger pictures than the Canon 5D Mark IV, despite the Canon sensor having higher pixel density and smaller individual pixels.
6. Overall Image Quality (Winner: Sony a7R II)
The Sony produces sharper images in comparison to the Canon with more flexibility.
The Sony Alpha cameras performed with a much better dynamic range even in low light, for a higher overall score on DXOMARK’s tests.
Sony had much less noise than the Canon at a higher ISO.
Besides the Canon 5D Mark IV having better color on the video shoot, the cameras performed equally, or the Sony performed better than the Canon 5D.
Another point of preference would be the anti-alias filter: the filter prevents the moiré effect from distorting your pictures. Unfortunately, it also lessens your photo’s sharpness.
Stand Out Features: Canon 5D Mark IV
- Canon color science – Although this is a matter of preference, no one can deny the unique atmosphere and quality of Canon’s signature photography colors.
- Top deck display – A top view comparison of the Sony and Canon cameras will show how much easier it is to check and change the current setting with the Canon top deck display.
- Higher resolution LCD screen – Along with the optical viewfinder, this makes both a video and photography shoot with the Canon an enjoyable experience.
- Touch screen – This feature makes it easy to interact with your camera and focus the way you can with smartphone cameras.
- Faster startup, JPEG shooting, RAW shooting, more FPS – So you can shoot even more fleeting moments.
- Phase-detect AF – Coupled with the touch screen and dual-pixel AF feature, autofocusing is done much faster.
- Longer battery life and dual card slots – These two features make it so you can stay out and shoot longer with your Canon without changing batteries or memory cards getting in the way.
- Built-in GPS – A fun feature that lets you geotag your photos, which works great in tandem with the Near Field Communication (NFC) capabilities.
- Timelapse and burst shot capabilities – These features allow various and creative ways to experiment and shoot different scenes.
- A larger selection of lenses – Remember that in most cases, the body is sold separately from the lenses; with more lenses to choose from, the possibilities are endless (albeit expensive).
Stand Out Features: Sony a7R II
- Light and compact body – The Sony packs a lot of technology in its smaller body, outperforming the Canon with better dynamic range and noise control at a higher ISO, without getting in the way of movement.
- Tiltable screen and EVF – So you have more control over how you shoot— this also sort of makes up for the lack of top deck display (but we have to admit the Canon touch screen is handy).
- More viewfinder magnification – The Sony has 0.78X magnification compared to the Canon’s 0.71X magnification, giving you a bigger view of the scene.
- Focus peaking and eye-tracking autofocus – It’s easy to check what’s in focus on the sensor to make sure you get good shots of people in both photo and video.
- On-sensor phase-detection – Along with the focus peaking and eye-tracking AF, all you have to do is trust in your camera to shoot with accuracy.
- In-camera image stabilization – Reduces camera shakes even at slower shutter speeds. Great for when shooting video.
- Higher effective ISO – Better noise control at higher ISO; shows more detail in different settings, even in comparison with more recent releases.
- 42.2 MP Sensor – Again, this sensor is much better than the Canon 5D releases (or any other releases) at that time. Even now, it’s got great resolution and specs, perfect for real-time video previews.
- In-camera panoramas – A fun feature that stitches multiple photos for you to create a panoramic shot.
- Less expensive – With the body being much more affordable than the Canon, you can save more or spend on other lenses and accessories
Conclusion: Canon or Sony, Which Is the Better Camera?
While the Canon 5D Mark IV is a marked improvement on its predecessor— the Canon 5D Mark III— the technology of the Sony a7R II is far more superior, holding its own against even recent releases.
Differences in focus systems and available lenses aside, BOTH the Canon and Sony are great. They will have their own quirks that every photographer eventually learns to enjoy and use to their advantage.
With so many comparisons available, it can be difficult to determine when to buy one over the other. However, don’t fret because these conditions will help you narrow down your options.
Get the Canon 5D Mark IV If…
- You’re looking for a camera that’s better for sports photography.
- You need a camera with faster focus capabilities.
- You want to produce a particular look when video shooting.
- You want the option of many different lenses.
- You’re a fan of the Canon color science.
- You don’t want to worry about carrying extra batteries and changing out memory cards.
Get the Sony a7R II If:
- You want a camera for street photography.
- You plan on using it for daily photography.
- You need to shoot and focus a video in low-light settings (lots of color and information is retained without the extra noise even when overexposed).
- You prefer a lighter camera body (a 250g difference is a lot more than you’d think!).
- You need a camera with more flexibility.
- You want more value for your money.
Let us know if you found our comparison helpful and which camera you’re interested in getting or prefer!