Canon mirrorless versus Sony?

Now that we have near-Biden levels of free cash to spend (rent in Florida is cheaper than property tax plus lawn mowing in Maskachusetts and our neighborhood has a lot more to offer, especially for kids, than where we used to live), it is time to upgrade the household camera bodies. I have a few Sony lenses, both for full-frame and APS-C. I have lots of Canon EOS lenses, but they’re for the traditional SLRs, not for the new RF mount (which can use the old lenses via an adapter, e.g., when it is time to take pictures of birds).

Sony’s sensors were so much better than Canon’s for so long that I stopped using Canon, but DXOMARK says that the EOS R5 is competitive with Sony (14.6 stops of dynamic range, compare to 13.6 for the EOS 5D IV (2016), 11.7 for the EOS 5D III (2012), and 14.5 for the Sony A1).

Tony and Chelsea Northrup found that the Canon delivered a higher percentage of usable images of moving subjects than the Sony A1, which has a faster frame rate and costs more. The test might not have been fair, though, because of differences in lenses used, adapters, etc.

A friend loves his Nikon Z system (#SonySensorsInside), but I don’t have any Nikon lenses or bodies, so I’d like to stick with Sony or Canon.

Anyone here played around with the Canon R5 or the Sony A1? I’m leaning toward the Canon because it is cheaper, will let me use the legacy specialized lenses, and I never made peace with the Sony interface and software. On the other hand, Sony seems to be a lot more devoted to this market than Canon, which can’t even be bothered to ship a conventional SLR body with a decent sensor (last upgrade to the EOS 5D was five years ago!). I don’t see how, in the long run, the market can be big enough for more than one company and Sony’s annual revenues are $81 billion versus only about $30 billion for Canon. Combine the difference in financial resources with Sony’s demonstrated passion to take the market away from Canon and I think Sony is the better long-term bet.


13 thoughts on “Canon mirrorless versus Sony?

  1. First, stunned and honored to see our video in my rss. I’ve followed you since the early days of

    Re: the Sony a1 performance, yesterday Sony launched a newer 70-200 which drastically improved the focusing performance, thus improving the frames per second. We tested it here:

    Personally, long-term, I think the market will be able to support only two mainstream camera companies: Canon and Sony. We’ll be back to the duopology of old times, but Sony has pushed out Nikon. Most in the industry consider me a pessimist, but I’m more optimistic than you :D.

    • Thanks, Tony! And thanks for posting these videos.

      What do you think for someone in my situation? I have all of those non-RF EOS lenses and a lot of experience with the Canon interface. For travel photography, kids’ sports, etc., will I be happier with the R5 or the Sony?

    • Phil, I made the move from Nikon DSLR to Nikon Z7, and had lots of the old (F mount) glass. The newer lenses (S mount) will be a lot better and easier to use. The adaptor on Nikon works well, but still a total PITA and I am slowly replacing old lenses with the S mount lenses when available and as I need them. Hard to go wrong IMHO with either Sony or Canon, but I would not let legacy lenses be a deciding factor.

  2. Interchangeable lens cameras are so rarely used nowadays, a cheap EOS RP is good enough. Sony vs Canon bodies don’t matter as long as the lenses are for mirrors. Naturally, they’re phasing out mirrored lenses as fast as possible. Sony alpha is the official camera of gootube stars, but Sony gives those to the gootube stars for free.

  3. Phil – I’ve shot professionally for over 20 years. Our studio now has several R5 and R6 bodies. We almost switched to Sony a few years ago after having being loaned a case full of gear for a few weeks by the local Sony rep. The equipment was fantastic except for the bizarre menu system designed by engineers rather than for real-world use by someone actually making a photo. It also annoyed me that the bodies were too segmented and we would have had to purchase 2 different bodies to accommodate our work. Also, no way to lower RAW file sizes if you don’t need 50-60mp.

    Pros of the R5:
    -45mp – lots of detail and room for cropping.
    -Allows for smaller RAW size if needed.
    -Menu is very intuitive.
    -EF lenses work better on this body than previous DSLRs. Seriously. Have a 50mm 1.2 that you actually want to shoot at 1.2 and have it in focus? We held on to a handful of EF lenses – 50mm 1.2, 11-24mm, etc.
    -Fully articulating flip screen. I didn’t think I would use this but it’s been great in tight spots or when you’d rather not lie on the ground. Also great for the kids who fancy themselves the next famous Youtuber.
    -The new RF lenses are measurably better: closer focusing, smaller, lighter, better contrast/color, and faster to focus.
    -Love that you can program your camera, save your settings, and then apply those settings to another body. A great time saver for when you get a new body or have to send one in for repair.

    It really feels like a do it all camera – portraits, landscapes, sports. If you’re coming from a DSLR it feels like a whole new world with how it focuses. The hit rate is extremely impressive and close to 100%. After you get one and set it up, the first thing you should do is have your kid or dog run at you at full speed.

    • Marc: Thank you for sharing “your truth” 🙂 You’re definitely inspiring me in the Canon direction. I’ve used the tilt-up screens on various Sony mirrorless cameras also for capturing low angle pictures without back strain.

  4. My apologies if I am jumping topic too much, but this is somewhat photo related:

    Any recommendations for paper, if I want to print at home using a color laser printer?

    An amazon search for “photo paper color laser printer” returns plenty of results, but all of them seem to be photo paper for inkjet.

    Any paper that works for laser printer using toner?

  5. Not a professional, but enjoying my Canon R6. Image quality and the focus system are all excellent.

    Long time Nikon DSLR user so the different interface took some getting use to, but that hasn’t distracted me from good results.

    I use the Canon for people, landscapes, travel, etc. Keeping my Nikon D500 for wildlife and/or times I need to worry about battery life.

    • Thanks, Brian. Why did you get a Canon mirrorless rather than a Nikon Z body? You’re already an expert on the Nikon interface, you have some lenses that can be used with a Nikon body, and Nikon’s incorporate the awesome Sony sensors.

    • My ‘legacy’ nikon kit is a D70 + a few older lenses, so not a lot of existing gear driving the decision.

      The tipping point for me between the Canon RF and Nikon Z was the two SD card slots in the R6, vs. one CFe slot in the Z6/7. The Z6/7 II models were not available at the time I bought the Canon.

      I picked up the used D500 and 80-400 on a whim a month after I bought the R6 to compare a more modern DSLR with a mirrorless, and ended up liking them both for their different use cases.

  6. I have a Sony A7iii (not an A1). I’m pretty happy with the image quality and the shooting experience. What sucks is the software: none of the fancy wireless transfer features work usably, trying to hook it up to an HDMI capture port transfers an image with unremovable HUD data (no, I don’t want the guy I’m Zooming to see my F-stop!), the deep menus are a mess.

    My friend with a R5 says he has none of these problems.

  7. The idea of using old lenses with an adapter sounds great, but the actual experience is less rewarding. Autofocus is never as good through the adapter (Canon adapter for the Canon, Sigma adapter for Canon to Sony) as native, and as Tony’s videos show even the older mirrorless lenses can’t keep up with new ones. I wouldn’t base your choice on ability to use lenses you will end up wanting to replace.

    I chose a Sony 6400 APS because the best camera is the one you have with you, and it was easiest to travel with. I may get a Sony full frame as a second camera.

    Sony is unique in having well supported APS and full frame bodies that can interchange lenses.

    The other big advantage of Sony is that they have an open mount specification which has led to lots more third party lens development than for Canon or Nikon. Tamron and Sigma both have lots of interesting lenses.

    Sony’s biggest drawback has been the poor menus, but that’s much improved on the new models. The A1 is great and there should be a new A7 out by December if the Bidon shortages don’t steal Christmas.

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