Which is Better? The Full Canon M5 vs. Sony A7 Comparison

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Today’s consumer has many options when it comes to selecting a new digital camera system.  The most popular camera system on the market today is mirror-less camera systems that feature interchangeable lenses.  These systems are popular because the bodies are small and light compared to traditional DSLR cameras, yet still offer the ability to change lenses. They also feature excellent image quality, at a very competitive price point.  Many consumers are opting to upgrade from traditional point and shoot cameras to these systems, which are often perceived as an alternative to traditional DSLR systems.  Two of the biggest players in this market are Canon, which introduced the M5 in late 2016 and Sony, which introduced the A7 in 2013.

The Similarities of the Canon M5 vs. Sony A7

The Canon M5 and Sony A7 share a number of similarities with the most significant being that they are both mirror-less cameras, meaning that neither has an optical viewfinder.  In traditional DSLR cameras, there is a mirror in the camera that redirects the image of the subject into the optical viewfinder.  When the shutter is released, the mirror is raised exposing the image onto the camera’s sensor.  These systems are heavy, bulky and noisy as it is a mechanical system with moving parts.

In a mirror-less system, such as the Canon M5 and the Sony A7, the image is electronically projected into the camera’s electronic viewfinder or onto the rear LCD screen using “live view”, both of which provides 100% coverage.  This means that what is shown in the viewfinders and rear LCD screen of the M5 and A7 is exactly what is exposed onto the camera’s sensor when the shutter is released. Since the viewfinders are electronic and not optical, mirror-less cameras such as the M5 and A7 are significantly lighter, less bulky and pretty much silent.

As one would expect, both the Canon M5 and the Sony A7 offer the traditional exposure modes including program, shutter priority, aperture priority and manual.  In addition, both cameras feature a number or scene and creative exposure modes, which are both useful and fun to use.  These scene and creative exposure modes include landscape, sunset, sports, and portrait, as well as many others.

Another feature that the two cameras share is their ability to shoot HD video with a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080, as well as other formats.  Frame rates range from 24-60 frames per second depending upon the format.  Interestingly, Canon elected to not include 4K video in the M5, which is somewhat surprising since the M5 is less than a year old.  In both cameras, the video quality is very good and is easy to shoot since both cameras feature a tilt rear LCD screen, which really makes capturing images at unusual perspectives easy.

Other similarities include the ability of both cameras to shoot in RAW and JPEG files, as well as well as the inclusion of a single card slot that will accept either SD, SDHC or SDXC memory cards.  While neither camera has a built in GPS system, but both do have built in WIFI function.  In addition, both cameras feature customized settings, which allow the photographer to customize, store and recall their favorite settings.

The Differences

There are a number of significant differences between the Canon M5 and Sony A7 with the format and sensor type being the most significant.  The M5 uses the APS-C format, which uses a smaller CMOS sensor that measures 22.3mm x 14.9mm, while the Sony A7 uses the full frame format, which uses a larger CMOS sensor, which measures 23.9mm x 35.8mm.

While both cameras feature tilt rear LCD screens, the rear LCD on the Canon M5 is a touch screen and measures 3.2”.  The touch-screen is very useful as it allows the menu to be quickly navigated, as well as the ability to select where the camera will auto focus by simply touching the screen.  The Sony A7 does not feature a touch screen and is slightly smaller at 3.0”.

Another significant difference between the two cameras is in the native ISO range.  In, the case of the Canon M5, the range is 100 – 6,400, with the ability of the camera to expand the ISO range to 25,600.   In contrast, the native ISO range on the Sony A7 is 50 – 25,600, however, the camera does not have the ability to expand beyond 25,600.  As with most cameras, image quality tends to suffer when extremely high ISO settings are used, as the camera’s noise reduction software tends to remove image detail as it removes noise.

Surprisingly, Canon has a relatively slow shutter in the M5, with a range of 1/4,000 – 30 seconds, while the Sony A-7 uses a shutter with a range of 1/8,000 – 30 seconds.  Somewhat related to this is the frame rate of the two cameras, with the M5 shooting at 7 frames per second compared to 5 frames per second in the A7. Photographers, who shoot sports and action, generally prefer a fast camera with a fast shutter and a high frame rate.  In the case of the Canon M5 and Sony A7, they both have limitations in this area, which will impact their usefulness for serious sports and action photography.

Another difference in the two cameras is in their autofocus systems and the number of available autofocus points.  The M5 has up to 49 available auto-focus points, while the A7 has up to 117 autofocus points.  The autofocus points in both cameras are evenly distributed in the camera’s viewfinders and are accurate in locking and holding focus.

The Sony A7 is slightly larger and heavier measuring 5.0” x 3.7” x 1.9” and weighing in at 14,67 ounces.  In contrast, the Sony M5 measures 4.6” x 3.5” x 2.4” and weighs in at 13.4 ounces.   The difference in weight is mainly due to the use of a magnesium alloy shell in the A7 compared to a mainly plastic body in the M5.

Other differences include a shorter battery life in the A7, which Sony claims will capture up to 360 still frames compared to the M5, which Canon claims will capture up to 420 still images.  In addition, the M5 features a built in flash, while the A7 does not have a built in flash.

The Pros and Cons

As with all cameras, the Canon M5 and the Sony A7 both have positive and negative characteristics, with the significance of these “pros” and “cons” depending on the individual photographer and the type of photography that they engage in.  Ultimately the photographer is going to need to weigh the significance of these “pros” and “cons” before selecting either the Canon M5 or the Sony A7.

In the case of the Canon M5, the biggest “pro” or positive characteristic of the camera is that it is a relatively new camera that offers the latest in technology.  The Sony A7 is almost four years old now and there have been significant advancements in digital camera technology since it was introduced.  Since the M5 is less than a year old, most of the newest technology has been incorporated into the body by Canon.

The biggest negative or “con” of the Canon M5 is the slow shutter speed of the camera.  While most will find the range of 1/4,000 – 30 seconds acceptable, those that shoot sports and action would prefer a faster shutter with a range of 1/8,000 – 30 seconds.  This is a significant issue for those looking for the M5 system to be a replacement for a traditional DSLR kit.

The most positive or “pro” feature of the Sony A7 is the full frame sensor, which is almost unheard of in cameras at this price point.   While APS-C sensors, like the one found in the Canon M5 are excellent, most photographers would prefer full frame if given the choice mainly due to low light performance of the larger sensor at lower ISO settings.

The biggest negative or “con” of the Sony A7 is Sony’s line up of E mount lenses.  While Sony has made significant progress in expanding their “E-Mount” line, it is still lacking somewhat compared to Canon, which is very well known for their excellent optics.

Just the Facts, A Side-By-Side Comparison

While most serious photographers look at image quality over technical specifications, many feel that the specifications are equally important.  The Canon M5 and the Sony A7 both have excellent image quality, as well as technical specifications, which are shown in the table below.

Item Canon M5 Sony A7
Year Introduced 2016 2013
Format APS-C Full Frame
Megapixels 24.2 24.3
Sensor Type CMOS CMOS
Processor DIGIC 7 BIONX X
Image Format JPEG & RAW JPEG & RAW
Sensor Size 22.3mm x 14.9mm 23.9mm x 35.8mm
Sensor Cleaner Yes Yes
Auto-focus Points Up To 49 Up To 117
Scene Modes Yes Yes
Creative Exposure Modes Yes Yes
Modes Program AE, Shutter Priority AE, Aperture Priority AE, Manual Exposure Programmed AE (P), Shutter Priority (S), Aperture Priority (A), Manual (M),
Metering Evaluative 1200 – Zone Evaluative
View Finder Type Electronic Electronic
View Finder Coverage 100% 100%
Live View Yes Yes
Frames Per Second Up To 7 Up To 5
ISO 100 – 6,400 50-25,600
Lowest Expandable ISO N/A N/A
Highest Expandable ISO 25,600 N/A
Shutter Speed Range 1/4,000 – 30 Seconds 1/8,000 – 30 Seconds
Built In Flash Yes No
Card Slots 1 1
Card Type SD, SDHC, SDXC SD, SDHC, SDXC, Sony Memory Sticks
LCD Size 3.2” 3.0”
LCD Fixed, Swivel or Tilt Tilt Tilt
Video Yes Yes
Video Type Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 Frame Size) As Well As Other Formats At Speeds Ranging From 24-60 Frames Per Second Full HD (1,920 x 1,080 Frame Size) As Well As Other Formats At Speeds Ranging From 24-60 Frames Per Second
Video Format MP4, MPEG-4 AVC AVCHD, MPEG-4 AVC
Internal Autofocus Motor No No
GPS No No
Wireless Yes Yes
WIFI Yes Yes
Battery LP-E17 NP-FW50
Battery Life Approximately 420 Still Images Up To 340 Still Images

 

Body Construction Polycarbonate Plastic Magnesium Alloy
Unique Features 5-Axis Digital Image Stabilization For Video Recording; Touch Screen; Touch & Drag Autofocus; Direct Printing; Customized Dials; C1 & C2 Instant Recall Settings Uses Sony E Mount Lenses, Moisture & Dust Sealing, Small Size, Light Weight, Magnesium Alloy Body, Customized Settings
Size Without Lens 4.6” x 3.5” x 2.4” 5.0” x 3.7” x 1.9”
Weight Without Lens 13.4 Ounces 14.67 Ounces
Manufactured In Japan Thailand
Body Only or with Kit Lens Both As Body Only & With Various Kit Lenses Both As Body Only & With 28-70mm Lens With Kit
Included Accessories EF-M 18-150mm f/3.5-6.3 IS STM Lens, LP-E17 Battery Pack, LC-E17 Battery Charger, EM-300DB Neck Strap, IFC-600PCU USB Cable AC-UB10 AC Adapter, Accessory Shoe Cap, Body Cap, Eyepiece Cup, Micro USB Cable, Power Cord, NP-FW50 Rechargeable Battery, Shoulder Strap.
Cost, Body Only $979.00

Check out the latest prices here.
$999.99

Check out the latest prices here.
Cost With Kit Lens 1,479.00 $1,199.99
  • Information from Canon & Sony websites, including pricing.

My Overall Recommendation

Ultimately, the consumer in the market for an interchangeable lens mirror-less camera system should take a look at both the Canon M5 and Sony A7 and select the one that feels the best to handle and has the specifications that match their photography style the best.  In my case, I prefer the older Sony A7 to the newer M5.  The main reason for this preference is the full frame sensor found in the Sony A7, as well as the higher native ISO range.

While the difference between full-framed sensors and APS-C sensors is hardly noticeable, I prefer the performance of full frame sensors in low light situations. In addition, I rarely shoot at really high ISO settings, but the ability to shoot up to ISO 25,600 is appealing, as I never seem to carry an external flash and the A7 does not have a built in flash.   That being said, both the Canon M5 and Sony A7 are both excellent cameras capable of producing excellent results.  You cannot go wrong with either camera!

Robert Alexander
 

A camera geek and freelance photographer, Robert (Aka "Rob" or "Bob") spends way too much time examining the finer points of cameras.

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