It’s the brash newcomer taking on the old school establishment as we compare Sony’s lightning fast A9 against Canon’s flagship DSLR, the 1DX MkII. Both cameras represent the pinnacle of current imaging technology, but which one is right for your photography?
Design and ergonomics: Design and build is where there is perhaps the greatest of differences between the two cameras and this alone could affect your buying decision. The Canon 1DX MkII is the more traditional build with a mirror design in front of a 20-megapixel full-frame sensor. The 24-megapixel A9 of course doesn’t have a mirror and this enables the body to be smaller and lighter. In fact, the Canon weighs in at 1340g, more than double the weight of the 673g A9, although both cameras are weather sealed. Being larger does have some advantages, as the 1DX MkII has a marginally bigger tochscreen LCD (3.2-inches over 3-inches) with slightly better resolution, although the A9’s screen can be tilted while the Canon’s is fixed. The 1DX MkII has a larger battery capacity and GPS, while both cameras feature built-in Wi-Fi.
While the Canon has a typically optical viewfinder, the Sony has a 3686k electronic viewfinder (EVF), which boasts no blackout during continuous shooting. The 1DX MkII features the EF lens mount, while the A9 takes Sony’s E-mount optics – all of which are stabilised thanks to Sony’s built-in five-axis sensor shift technology. Both cameras feature dual card slots – the Sony can take two SD cards (or a Memory Stick Pro) while the Canon takes one CF and one CFast card. Now let’s talk about speed, which is the priority with the sports and wildlife professionals who buy these sorts of cameras. The Sony has stolen the crown for outright speed; the A9 can fire a lightning fast 20 frames per second, while the Canon 1DX MkII top out at 16 frames per second. The A9 also has the edge on AF points with an 693 point system, while the Canon features 61-points.
Image quality: In terms of sensor, although both cameras are full-frame, the A9 has marginally more megapixels (24 to 20MP) although the 1DX MkII just has the edge on dynamic range. The A9 lacks an Anti Alias (low pass) filter which should result in sharper imagery, although this comes at the cost of an increased risk of Moire. The Sony has a top shutter speed of 1/32000, while the Canon tops out at 1/8000sec. In terms of ISO, the Canon can offer a much higher expandable figure, with a Max level of ISO 409600, while the Sony can only offer 204800.
Video: While photographers will buy both these cameras to shoot stills, they will also be of great interest to videographers as both cameras can record high-quality 4K footage. The Canon’s 4K is marginally higher resolution (4096 x 2160 to the Sony’s 3840 x 2160) and both cameras provide headphone and microphone jacks. However, while both cameras record 4K, only the Canon can record this high-quality footage at 60p. Both cameras can shoot Full HD at 120p for cool slow motion footage.
Extras and verdict: These cameras are tightly matched, though each has advantages over the over. Only the Canon 1DX MkII has built-in GPS, but the Sony can offer a Bluetooth connection and a a special Eye AF mode which is useful when shooting portraits. Some photographers may prefer the Canon thanks to the greater range of lenses available for this camera, plus the superior battery life and overall proven pedigree. Other photographers will favour the more compact dimensions and lighter weight of the Sony, which also offers more AF points and a higher burst rate. Both these cameras are flagship models at the forefront of imaging technology and capable of producing professional stills and video. In terms of price, there’s not that much in it, with the Canon 1DX Mk II currently retailing for £4,090, while the Sony A9 is priced at £3,599.