When it comes to building mirrorless cameras, Sony and Canon are in something of a unique position. They’re the only manufacturers who produce cameras with both full-frame and APS-C sized sensors. Full-frame models such as the A7III and the EOS R, which were compared here, carry a larger price tag to match their larger sensors, but if you don’t have such deep pockets there’s still some tempting models on offer from both manufacturers. Sony’s APS-C ranks have been bolstered with the recent introduction of the A6400, while Canon has the established M50. We looked at them both to see which is the more sensible buy.
Design and build
While both cameras fall under the APS-C banner when it comes to sensor size, the physical dimensions of the respective CMOS units are different. The A6400’s 24.2 megapixels are housed on a sensor measuring 23.5 x 15.6mm, the M50’s 24.1 megapixels nestle on a sensor that’s 22.3 x 14.9mm. This means that although the resolutions are virtually identical, the Sony’s pixels will be marginally larger, which should mean superior results.
Externally, the two models are distinctly different. Both feature electronic viewfinders with 2.36 million dots, but Canon has gone for a more DSLR-style look with a faux pentaprism, while the Sony has an offset, rangefinder-style finder. Each viewfinder has its merits. If you’re moving from a DSLR, you’ll probably be more at home with the Canon, but the Sony’s finder means you’re not hiding behind your camera so much, which has its advantages when shooting portraits.
You’re more likely to be needing a back-up battery if you opt for the Canon. Based on CIPA standard testing, the M50’s battery will need a recharge after just 235 shots, while the A6400 should keep going for 360 shots. These numbers sound low, but the test does include using flash for 50% of the frames. The Canon does offer an Eco Mode that extends battery life to 370 shots by cutting down the time the rear LCD is left on during inactivity.
Modest grips are found on both cameras, while top-plate layouts are remarkably similar with the main dial in both instances being used to select exposure modes.
Sony claims that the autofocusing in the A6400 is the world’s fastest among interchangeable lens cameras with an APS-C sized sensor, with focusing achieved in as little as 0.02 seconds. The Canon’s Dual Pixel CMOS AF can’t match this speed, nor can it compete when it comes to the number of focusing points or the image area covered. The Sony offers 425 points covering 84% of the frame, the Canon has a maximum of 143 points, depending on the lens in use, and offers 80% frame coverage. One saving grace for the Canon is that it shares the Sony’s AF sensitivity down to EV-2 so low light performance should be comparable.
While we’re on the subject of low light, the Sony fares better than the Canon with a native ISO that tops out at 32,000 and can be expanded to 102,400, compared to the Canon’s 25,600 and 51,200 stats. Neither model has built in image stabilisation, so you’ll have to rely on lens-based systems from both manufacturers.
As it uses the popular E-mount, there are plenty of lens choices if you opt for the Sony. The company itself offers over 40 optics to choose from and there are independent options, too. Canon’s EF-M lens range is more modest by comparison; there are currently eight to choose from, just three of which are primes. You can, however, buy an adapter which then allows any EF or EF-S mount lens to be fitted, opening you up to a far larger range to choose from than the Sony. Sony A-mount owners can also buy an adapter to use them on the A6400.
Sony cameras have always been strong when it comes to video and so it proves to be the case here. The A6400 offers 4K capture at 30p and Full HD at 120p, while the Canon delivers 4K at 25p and Full HD at 60p. There are plenty more video-centric features on the Sony that don’t appear on the Canon, though, including S-Log and a microphone socket for external units, which really makes it more suitable who are keen to shoot both stills and video.
One area where the Canon does score, however, is in its rear LCD which is more versatile and has more dots. The Sony’s touchscreen monitor tilts up by 180° and down by 74° plus it uses 921,600 dots. The Canon’s vari-angle unit folds out to the side and uses 1.04 million dots so the viewing experience should be marginally improved.
Integral flash units are available in both models and while neither is going to offer coverage over huge distances, the Sony has the edge with a guide number of 6 compared to the Canon’s 5.
If you’re a social media fan, or simply want to share images quickly, the Sony’s suite of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and NFC wireless connectivity options are sure to appeal as is its new 1:1 aspect ratio option. The EOS M50 still offers Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, so it’s hardly a slouch in this department.
There’s more joy for the Sony when it comes to frame rates. The A6400 will allow you to capture up to 11 frames-per-second (fps), with AF and AE in between frames. The Canon tops out at 10fps, but that’s without AF and AE tracking. Select these and the rate drops below 8fps. Similarly, the maximum burst of frames is better on the Sony with 11fps possible for up to 116 JPEGs or 46 RAW files compared to 33 JPEGs or 10 RAWs on the Canon.
It seems like a resounding win for the Sony. The A6400 has the better of the M50 in almost every aspect of specification, plus it has a wider lens range and more accomplished video functionality. But it’s also worth noting that it’s almost twice the price of the Canon and that might make you think twice.
In isolation, the EOS M50 is a perfectly capable camera and it conforms to the key mirrorless benefits of being well featured yet small and lightweight. Even if you bought the optional EF-EOS M lens adapter to open up the wide world of EF and EF-S lenses, you’d still be spending less than the Sony body on its own. So if budget is a key consideration, don’t rule out the Canon completely.
|Sony A6400||Canon EOS M50|
|Resolution||24.2 megapixels||24.1 megapixels|
|Processor||BIONZ X||DIGIC 8|
|ISO range||100-32,000 (expandable to 102,400)||100-25,600 (expandable to 51,200)|
|Video||4K 30p/Full HD 120p||4K 25p/Full HD 60p|
|Rear LCD||3-inch, touchscreen, 921,600 dots||3-inch, touchscreen, 1.04 million dots|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC||Wi-Fi, Bluetooth|
|Weight (body with battery and card)||403g||387g|
|Dimensions (WxHxD)||120 x 66.9 x 59.7mm||116.3 x 88.1 x 58.7mm|