Canon’s EOS 5D Mark IV is a considerable jump over its mark III predecessor, with a fresh sensor, 4K video and a revamped AF system heading a long list of changes. The same, however, could be said for Sony’s A99 II, which appears to target a very similar user. So, when you look at the main specs, how do they compare?
Design and ergonomics
The two models share the same kind of idea for their top plates, with a mode dial centred by a release button on one side and a top-plate LCD with a collection of buttons on the other.
Canon’s approach sees a larger LCD screen and slightly smaller buttons arranged in a row, and some could argue this makes better use of space here. Most of these controls also have dual functions, with the front command dial controlling one and the rear control wheel controlling the other.
Sony’s design has slightly larger buttons, however, and with the power control around the shutter-release button, you can conveniently turn the camera on and take an image using just one hand, which is useful for more spontaneous captures. On the EOS 5D Mark IV the power control is on the other side of the top plate, behind the mode dial, which is only really practical to thumb with the left hand.
The A99 II’s grip is more defined and sculpted than the relatively flat grip on the EOS 5D Mark IV. The latter is perhaps a safer option with regards to pleasing many different users with differently sized hands, although some people will no doubt prefer the way in which the A99 II’s grip allows for their fingers fit around it.
Both rear plates have much in common, with video-record buttons in the same place and joystick-type controls for AF point movement. The most significant difference here is that the EOS 5D Mark IV’s screen is fixed in place, while the A99 II’s screen can be adjusted to all kinds of angles. The EOS 5D Mark IV’s screen, however, has the advantage of a touch-sensitive panel, and is slightly larger at 3.2 inches.
The heavy concentration of physical controls on the right-hand side of the A99 II’s body makes it convenient to access most of this collection with just the thumb, although the fact that the menu button is on the other side means you’ll often be needing both hands. Canon’s decision to line the left-hand side of the LCD with buttons perhaps makes more sense here, particularly as the majority of these concern image playback, at which point you’ll likely be holding the camera in a way that makes both thumbs easily available.
Both cameras use full-frame sensors, with Canon’s offering 30.4MP and Sony’s upping this to 42.4MP. Sony’s sensor is also based on a back-illuminated construction for better light-gathering capabilities, and the fact that’s been designed without an optical low-pass filter makes it even more capable of recording finer detail, though potentially at the expense of aliasing artefacts.
Although both cameras work with image-stabilised lenses, the A99 II has image stabilisation built into it too. This allows for correction over five axes and has the advantage of working an exhaustive range of unstabilised lenses.
Normally on such a model, lens-based IS systems have the advantage of showing the stabilisation effect through the viewfinder, which is a great help when composing images. However, the fact that the A99 II employs an EVF rather than an optical viewfinder means that it can show this too, regardless of whether stabilisation occurs in the lens or at the sensor.
The main thing that splits the two models is Sony’s SLT design, which keep the internal mirror in place and allows for seamless switching between the LCD and EVF, with the same focusing performance for each display. This also means that the EVF can show real-time changes in white balance, exposure and so on, which the optical viewfinder in the EOS 5D Mark IV obviously cannot do.
The A99 II also has a 79-point AF system with 15 cross type points that works with a sensor-based 399-point system. Canon’s more conventional 61-point system, meanwhile, contains 41 cross-type points, but in live view and video shooting you also benefit from the Dual Pixel CMOS AF system, which sees phase-detect pixels across 80% of the sensor’s surface area, and this system is capable of tracking subjects as they move around the scene.
This technology is also behind the Dual Pixel Raw feature that lets you tweak the point of best sharpness among other things post capture, something that’s not possible on the A99 II.
Both cameras are capable of recording 4K video, but there are significant differences between the two systems.
Another difference is that 4K footage on the EOS 5D Mark IV is subject to a 1.74x crop factor, which makes it harder to shoot with wide angles. The A99 II meanwhile, does not apply crop factor as standard, although it can be set to a Super 35mm crop mode if desired.
The EOS 5D Mark IV’s touchscreen is also a key advantage for video, as this works with the Dual Pixel CMOS AF system for smooth focus pulling during recording.
The EOS 5D Mark IV is a significant upgrade over the previous Mark III version, and it belongs to an established line that’s filed with many lens choices. For many Canon users this will probably be enough to keep them with the system. The fact that it offers an optical viewfinder will be a deal-breaker for many, particularly as this allows it to start up a little faster.
The A99 II does have a number of advantages, however, that should see it win over those not tied to any system. From its sensor and built-in image stabilisation to its faster burst rate and more densely populated AF system, and with a more flexible video option on top of all this, the camera is likely to appeal to a particularly broad range of different users. Yet, it belongs to a system that a lot of people had assumed was slowly on its way out. Furthermore, many people with this kind of money to spend will no doubt be tempted by the wider selection of models and greater activity in Sony’s own A7 line.