Camera comparison: Can the overpriced Sony a1 beat the Canon R5?

Apr 20, 2021

Jay P. Morgan

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

Camera comparison: Can the overpriced Sony a1 beat the Canon R5?

Apr 20, 2021

Jay P. Morgan

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

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The Sony a1 checks about every single box I could possibly want in a camera. In this video, we compare the Sony a1 camera vs the Canon R5. Does Sony leave the Canon R5 in the dust? And what about price? Is the Sony a1 Worth It? Or would you choose the Canon R5? Or maybe a different Sony camera? Who would pay this much and why? Let us know if you would choose one of these and why?

Today on The Slanted Lens, we have Madison Bird here with us and she’s going to help us take a look at the new Sony a1 and the Canon R5.


I have to say that for me the Sony a1 checks about every single box I could possibly want in a camera. It’s a mirrorless camera, it’s a full frame, it gives you a 51 megapixel sensor. It gives you great codecs, 8k, 4k  and image stabilization. I mean I don’t know where to stop. The autofocus is amazing. The rolling shutter is very low. When the a1 was released, I kind of felt like is the Canon R5 going to be left in the dust? But I do think the Canon R5 is still competitive, in some ways. Number one being price, it is $2500 cheaper, which is not nothing. That’s nearing almost 50% less expensive. And it’s still $4,000. It is such an expensive camera. The Canon R5 shoots a little faster. It shoots 12 frames per second, instead of 10 frames per second and the buffer lasts a little longer.

So we’re just going to get to it. We’re going to look at the dynamic range on these two cameras. We’ll take a look at the ISO comparison. We’re going to test the 8k and 4k and that 4.2.2 10 bit.

The Sony also doesn’t have a clip limit. It will run as long as you need it to, which is a huge advantage over the R5. So let’s just get to it and see where these two cameras are at and see what you like.


The first test we’re going to do is our classic picture quality portrait test. These are both $4,000 plus, so I imagine they’ll be pretty good either way.

First off, it’s really hard to look at these images and to not let the lenses get in the way. You know, how much of this is sensor and how much of it is the lens? Well, this 50 millimeter lens from Sony is not a great lens, we’ll try not to say that every time we look at something because it’s not a great lens.

And compared to the Canon RF lens, it’s just kind of night and day. I mean, if you Zoom in here on her eye, you’ll see it’s just not great. The Sony lens is just not super sharp. The color on these images look great. The Sony looks exactly what you would think. It’s a little more cool. The Canon is a little more warm. These images are right in line with what we’ve always seen with Sony and Canon. And I love the warmth of Canon color, but again, you can correct these and make them very similar to one another.


So this is Kenneth’s favorite test, the dynamic range test. I love dynamic range, I’m a geek for this. And this is a good situation because we’ve got Madison in the shade. There’s a little bit a highlight coming in the back in the sun. But we see that bright ground behind her and then the shadow on the side of the building and the highlight side is really bright. We did meter off of her face and so her face is properly exposed. In that proper exposure everything was held. Neither of these cameras were clipping anything. They performed really well. There’s a lot of flexibility in these images.

At minus three stops is usually where you start to see a little of the noise creep into the shadow. I feel like we’re not really seeing too much of that here. We’re holding even the darker parts of the image like down here by her arm.

Now at minus four stops you do start to see noise. Now we’re losing detail in her face like around her eye. See that grain coming in her cheek. Wow, you know this could be a lens thing again, but the Canon has the real clarity to it. The sharpness difference of those two, the Sony is definitely effected by the lens.

Minus 5 stops are still holding. The color hasn’t shifted that much. The Sony is becoming red and the Canon is getting a little bit of purple in the shadows like her hair. And the Sony is becoming really crunchy. You see it in her hair. You can see it’s kind of bit mapping through her hair. It is still very smooth on the Canon. Yeah, pretty amazing, really, really nice on the Canon.

Okay, here is plus one. We are seeing a little bit of clipping off the bat. The Canon is a little more so by that garage. That garage is definitely losing the side of it. A little bit in the ground you don’t know the tonality and the tans in the Canon like you do in the Sony. Sony’s holding up pretty well.

At plus two stops they’re both going a little more nuclear. The grounds is gone. The garage is gone. Canon is kind of gone. The color in her face is shifting pretty badly in the Canon too.

And then plus three stops the Canon is definitely clipped. The Sony is just starting to clip on her cheek.

Yeah, Sony is a little more in the middle, you’re getting a little bit above and a little bit below whereas Canon seems like it’s set where you’re getting below and not as much above. So in some ways, the way that Sony is set up is more desirable, as far as hitting your exposure. You can be above or below a little bit and you’re going to be okay. Very interesting though. Great cameras with regards to that dynamic range. It just gives you so much leeway or latitude when you’re shooting.


So we’re going to do our ISO test now. We’ve got just a window light coming in here on Madison. It really is a beautiful light on her face. But it lets our background go very dark.

We’re going to look at which one of these cameras really holds the detail in that black the best and compare them as we go up from 800 ISO and higher. Anything below 800 we know both these cameras are going to do very well with but let’s see 800 and higher. Let’s just see where they fall apart.

The Sony is usually darker and I should have mentioned that in the dynamic range test. I had to push the Sony images by three-fourths of a stop to match the Canon. At 800 ISO, I do feel like there is some texture interface. You can see it better in the Sony because it’s not quite so hot.

If we move to 1600 ISO they are still pretty clean. You do see some noise in the background starting to build just a little bit.

Even 3200 ISO is looking really, really nice. We still see some texture in her face along the bridge of her nose. The shadows are starting to break up just a little bit. Even the background looks pretty good at 3200 ISO.

Both these cameras are pretty darn amazing. I feel like in most scenarios, you’re not going to be shooting 3200 ISO. But there are some advantages to this, like Canon’s new 800mm f/11. Most wildlife photographers would kind of pan that because they have to shoot and lower light situations often. But if you can push your ISO to 3200 that gives you four stops.

At 6400 ISO I start to see noise in these chin lines and in the shadow transitions when you’re going from highlight into shadows. You start to see this kind of posterized look, and I definitely see that in here. It just starts to have an unreal kind of color look.

At 12,800 you definitely see it’s getting this flat sort of feeling to it. And it’s not just a noise issue. It’s like a tonality issue as you raise the ISO you’re actually losing dynamic range.

Here at 25,600 her face looks okay, but if you look off to the side in the shadow area it is really, really broken up.

I think for the low light both cameras did really fantastically. It would be hard to pick a clear winner there.


So we’re going to take a look at the autofocus on both of these cameras. These two cameras are very head to head when it comes to autofocus. We’re just going to see, on that high speed, if you can get every one of those images in focus and which one of these does the best. Let’s take a look at that.

So with the autofocus tests we did two different versions. One that was out in the sun where she’s backlit and a normal scenario and one that was in low light where she starts with some light on her but still pretty dark and then she moves into blackness basically. And with the normal autofocus test it seemed like both cameras were doing really great in the moment and I was like, wow, these are both awesome.

We pulled the images and the Canon was flawless. It is just amazingly sharp. Every single image tracked perfectly. With the Sony there was something wrong because she was soft. She was soft almost the whole time really. And we weren’t sure if it was the lens. But then it seemed like the focus was was leading her, like it was in front of her until she hit a certain point and then the focus followed her.

So we went and reshot just a quick focus test with ourselves with the Sony. We stopped down to f/2.8 to make sure it wasn’t the lens issue and it did better with the focus. The Sony held us better as we walked towards the camera.

It was much better. There was much more contrast. The scene was more brightly lit. So there was just more contrast in the scene that’s much easier for autofocus to hang on to and to hold that image. The cannon was good. It was spot on.

Canon had no problems whatsoever. The Sony was pretty good when we shot it this morning but didn’t do that well yesterday with a little lower light situation or a more flat situation. I think it was not a conclusive. It was conclusive that the Canon did really well but not so conclusive about the Sony. Sony did well with some and not with others. And so I think that could be the lens or the scenario.

And then in the low light test, the Sony actually performed a little better. We started at 400 ISO, and then gradually dropped the ISO. We’re in this dark situation. So she’s probably four or five stops under exposed. This is really dark. And the Sony did really well. When we got into the 100 ISO range there were a few images that were soft, but the Sony held her really well in that low light scenario. The Canon did really well up to a point at 100 ISO and the darkest moments it just said “sorry, I can’t”.

It was just done. So the Sony did a little bit better than the Canon in the low light situation. Which doesn’t make sense to me because of the other test the Sony did. I will say with the other test, in the camera it said it was on her eye the whole time. So when we pulled in the photos and they’re not quite sharp, it is a little disconcerting to me. Whereas the Canon at that one point it was like, “so sorry, I can’t focus”.


Here’s our video test. This is 8k. We’ve downscaled it to 4k when we went into color. And also this is C-log 1. I think they just released a C-log 3 update for this camera.

But we weren’t able to install that on the camera that we rented. So this is working on C-log 1 and you’ll see how that dynamic range is affected. Look at her forehead, it’s clipping a little bit. When you apply the lut it just doesn’t come out as nice as the Sony does.

She’s a little hot on her face, but the Sony doesn’t clip the way the Canon does. Look at her forehead, you don’t get that bright spot. It’s just a nice gradation and you can see it’s a highlight. And that’s just the advantage, S-log 3 has roughly 13 or 14 stops of dynamic range. Whereas  C-log 1 has 10 to 11.


What are we thinking about stabilization on those two? I think the stabilization on this Sony is kind of amazing. I’m looking at right now thinking it just kind of glides around. It’s very nice to see it move. You see a little bit of the jitteriness. The Canon is really good with the stabilization. But there is something to the motion here. When you move back, it kind of feels like it’s behind you. And if you make those quick adjustments at jitters. So I actually feel like the Sony stabilization is just a tiny bit better.

All right, that was the 8k footage. Now let’s look at the 4k 10 bit. So this is the HQ setting on the Canon. The footage looks really, really pretty. I think it looks a little better than the 8k because you have that 4.2.2. So much better. Look at that. Look at the gradation on her forehead. And the colors are very pretty. It’s funny because it’s still C-log 1. But you’re already getting more of that tonality. On the Sony there was a little bit of a crop for us when we were shooting 4k. I think when you’re shooting the 4.2.2, both cameras start to look really nice. And I imagine with the C-log 3 firmware update for the R5, it’ll kind of even out that image quality a bit, because you’re going to get more dynamic range in both cameras.

That being said, the functionality of the Canon is very lacking. Because you’re talking about overheating and the clip size of 29 minutes, those two things. Although you know what, most of us who have shot on Canons have kind of gotten past the clip size issue. If you’re on set and you’re slating, that’s a pain. But a lot of times people just do this kind of run and gun workflow and it’s so easy to sync everything up in audio. And it’s true, a lot of people aren’t going to be rolling for more than 20 minutes at a time. If you’re doing a lot of YouTube stuff or vlogging, 20 minutes might be plenty for you. So the overheating issue isn’t an issue.


Alright, so let’s wrap this up. Who are these cameras for who? Who picks the Canon versus who picks the Sony?

First off, across the board these cameras are going to be for people who are doing sports. They are great, you know, in a lot of high action types of situations or even high end fashion and stuff like

very high megapixel landscapes. If you put a great a 50mm on these cameras you can do that cylindrical landscape stitching. That would be fabulous. The truth is both cameras will do almost everything really well. Canon falls short when it comes to the video. And we’ve been saying this for the last year so we won’t belabor it, but again, if I’m on set and I’m shooting video the last thing I want to be thinking about is whether or not my camera is going to overheat. And for that reason alone, if I am primarily a video shooter, I would definitely look at the Sony a1. But then again if I’m just a video shooter I’m probably going to pick a video camera. That is where I feel like the Sony is kind of hard because it’s like you’re spending $6500 and it’s not a great video camera. I mean, if you’re going to spend that much money on video I would buy an actual video camera even if it’s the FX6.

So it just depends on how you work. I know a good friend of mine who runs and guns and shoots all over the world for an oil company. And he just wants everything in one camera because he wants to do stills and video. And he’s by himself. He’s not going to carry 2 cameras. He’s not going to do that. It just does not work.

Two great cameras head to head. That’s like two heavyweights. You still are spending $2,000 more for the Sony but you are getting a much more capable cinema type camera. And I think that’s really where it shows that that’s where your money goes. That being said maybe you could just spend $4,000 here and get a cinema camera on the side.

All right there you have it. Two great cameras. If you want to leave a comment, ring that bell and subscribe to The Slanted Lens on YouTube. Keep those cameras rollin’ and keep on clickin’!

About the Author

Jay P. Morgan is a commercial photographer, educator, and YouTube creator. You will find more of his work on The Slanted Lens, and you can follow him on InstagramFacebookTwitterYouTube,  and support his work through Patreon.  This article was also published here and shared with permission.

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7 responses to “Camera comparison: Can the overpriced Sony a1 beat the Canon R5?”

  1. Rik Trottier Avatar
    Rik Trottier

    If it beats the Canon, is it still overpriced? Or would you be getting what you paid for?

  2. andyoo Avatar

    A1 should be compare to R3.
    if R3 overheats on video…then there is a problem.
    for $2k less, I can almost get a second R6 as a backup.

  3. WW Avatar

    Sony Alpha’s are notorious for missed eye focus (aka eyelash focus), and missed focusing is mentioned again here with the A1. How much is that worth when you’re shooting with a f/1.2 prime?

  4. Raja Shekhar Avatar
    Raja Shekhar

    I can understand Sony did a fantastic job with the A1 when reviewers have nothing to talk against and instead complain about the price. Oh and the lens you chose for portraits, no professional will pair a top of the line A1 with a lens that’s not gonna keep up with the camera, its just not a good lens, its ages old and is not fit for a camera like the A1. 55 1.8 is miles better than the 50 1.8. You have to test the camera with a proper lens like the one you picked for the Canon, mainly the trio of pancake lenses that Sony launched a couple weeks ago. Again, a very poorly researched review tbh.

  5. Soso Melodies Avatar
    Soso Melodies

    The A1 is a high megapixel speed demon but it’s being paired with a mediocre lens. Sorry I can’t take this review seriously.

  6. Luke Szeflinski Avatar
    Luke Szeflinski

    Sony 50 1.2 gm should be on a1 for this test…then we can talk !

  7. BlueBomberTurbo Avatar

    Can the overpaid writer write a fair article?