Comparing the Canon R5 With the Sony a1 for Sports, Portraits and Wildlife (and What About Nikon?)

While the Canon EOS R5 and the Sony Alpha 1 may represent different classes of cameras in their respective company hierarchies, there's a lot more that's similar about the two than initially meets the eye. It's with that in mind that Tony and Chelsea Northrup put the two cameras through the gauntlet to see how they compare on the big stuff.

As a Canon EOS R user who been previously impressed with the R system's eye-detection capabilities, I wasn't surprised to see both Tony and Chelsea both agree that, at least by the seat-of-the-pants measure, the autofocus on the Canon EOS R5 was more reliable and useful overall, though the Sony a1 wasn't a slouch by any means. Part of that, at least in these tests, seemed attributable to the more current lens attached to the Canon, but still, even compared to other manufacturers I've tried, such as Fuji, Canon's implementation of this crucial advancement in autofocus seems to be the best, if not the first. On a 45-50 megapixel camera, that lens advantage can really become crucial to eke the most detail out of an image. Both cameras seemed to do decently well with humans and wildlife, though Canon's camera has the added bonus of being able to track insects fairly effectively.

One of the points that Tony seems to hammer home about the Sony a1 is that its framerate is 10 fps higher than the Canon EOS R5, at 30 fps versus 20 for the Canon. This, in theory, should allow for more chances to catch that definitive moment, especially for sports, though at that speed, autofocus can get a bit dicey. It should also be noted that the Canon EOS R5 is $3900 compared to the a1's $6500 price tag, and while the 10 extra fps is nice, it's an open question as to whether that advantage is worth the extra $2600.

While the focus (pun intended) of this video is on the Sony a1 and the Canon EOS R5, there's one line at the end that really caught me by surprise, where Tony says that Canon and Sony are "so far ahead" of everybody else, including Nikon (not surprised to see Olympus, Pentax, Fuji, and Leica on that list, though).

The Nikon Z 7II is out there, pushing almost as many megapixels, but at half the frame rate for almost as much money. It's almost enough to make Nikon shooters wonder what their company's answer is to these two beasts from Canon and Sony.

That said, while we're waiting for that answer, there are plenty of other tests in the video that Tony and Chelsea put the cameras through, so check it out above.

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21 Comments
Charles Delano's picture

FIRST. I think the Canon is a phenomenal camera with exceptional tracking and features. I just think people comparing the $6500 A1 price tag with the Canon $3800 price tag have forgotten about how much it will cost in GLASS. With Canon's lens selection it is a matter of the buying the razor and blades. Canon made a decision to release RF f/1.2 lenses for primes instead of f/1.4 the first go around. To buy a 35 f/1.2 ($2.7k), 50 f/1.2 ($2.3k) and 85 f/1.2 ($3k) with the R5 ($3.8k) = $11, 800. Sony 35 f/1.4 GM (delayed $1.4k), Zeiss 50 f/1.4 ($1.5k), Sigma 85 f/1.4 ($1.2k) with A1 ($6.5k) = $10,600. Now, BEFORE STARTING ARGUMENTS. This comparison is not apples to apples. MY POINT is that if I wanted to buy an R5 bundle with quality prime lenses, I would have NO 3RD PARTY options and NO f/1.4 options. I would be forced to purchase the $11,800 bundle. For the Sony A1 I would have some options for quality GLASS at f/1.4 which would suit my needs at $10,600. YES. the f/1.2 lenses are far superior but I don't want those and I do not want STM f/1.8 lenses. Canon is currently forcing RF shooters who want prime lenses into the more expensive f/1.2. It is understandable because they need more money to put into R & D to produce a wider selection of lenses. All this hype on YouTube and commenters attacking one another because one camera is better than the other or one is a better value than the other is nonsense. EVERYONE HAS DIFFERENT needs. If the R5 and f/1.2 primes meets your needs and you have the money, buy it. If you want to go with a lower quality lens with the R5, do that. If you like the features of the A1 and you are already invested in lenses and have the money, buy that. These comparisons frustrate me to no end. I say to everyone, do your homework, look at the camera features you need, look at the lens selection, look at the warranty and the after sales support, look to see if you have a local dealer. Ugh. Stop with the comparisons. Thank you for listening to my rant.

sam dasso's picture

Not just R5 vs Alpha 1, but whole bunch of articles on Fstoppers that try to tell what hardware is a better deal. There is no such a thing. I have 25-30K in e-mount lenses. Will I ever consider R5 even if it given to me for free? Same goes for Canon users. If they have whole bunch of Canon lenses they will never consider Sony. And for a first time camera buyer either brand top of the line is overkill. Both R5 and Alpha 1 are top of a line and click bait from Northrups should be ignored. There are whole bunch of real reviews for each of the cameras from very respectable reviewers who actually can use the features of these cameras and do know how to shoot extreme situations.

Wasim Ahmad's picture

I mean, for a lot of people, who are still in DSLR world, mirrorless provides the chance for a clean slate to start with lenses and such - I think it's very relevant information.

J. H.'s picture

Interesting expression: clean start. But I wonder, what it really means because I cannot find any reason to get rid of all your older gear (camera an lenses) an there is no danger to mix them up. - And we have to wait a little longer for a video of those two true experts which really has some relevant information. Would be a premiere.

Dan Jefferies's picture

Goes on comparison rant to say "no more comparisons"?... priceless....

Alex Armitage's picture

Or you could just use the $99 RF>EF Adapter and have endless lens choices, no?

Rayann Elzein's picture

You seem to not be aware that Canon has a very capable RF-EF adapter and you can use all the EF lenses that are extremely sharp and a wide range of focal lengths and f stops. Well, the adapter is sold out everywhere, but I assume this is just a temporary situation...

Ziggy Stardust's picture

Nikon doesn't claim that the Z7 is a pro camera.

Carlos Dacosta's picture

Ive seen the TN (Tony Northrup) video and was not impressed by his competence. He does not appear to be a real photographer, and was unable to properly setup the Sony camera to see what its capable of. He seems to know the R5 as he uses it regularly but I even question this as I believe he may be shortchanging its full capabilities. I've also watched other very detailed videos about the A1 by real photographers, some were Sony Ambassadors and some not affiliated to Sony, and they tell a different story. The same goes for R5 reviews. It appears that if you want to know the real story about the A1 or even the R5, you have to see these more professional reviews for each camera. Then you can compare and make up your own mind. As for TN, i stopped visiting his clickbait, money making, propoganda, unprofessional, incompetent You Tube site. I have no time for his BS

Edison Wrzosek's picture

Couldn’t have said it better myself!!!

David Pavlich's picture

Bottom line as Charles makes note of in the first post; A1-$6500, R5-$3800. Apples and oranges all over. From the reviews I've read and viewed, the A1 makes the R5 look really good and in relative terms, a bargain. And the fact that the EF/RF adapter works seamlessly, it makes it an even more inviting camera.

David Ray's picture

You've been reading some backward reviews, because these cameras are in total different leagues!

List of A1 Advantages: (Tip of the iceberg)

1. Full size HDMI
2. 2x faster USB at 10Gb/s!
3. Ethernet port
4. Micro USB control port
5. Digital hot shoe (Cordless microphone!)
6. Simultaneous recording (to even different media types).
7. 6x Much longer 8k recording (infinite when using dummy battery)
8. Better heat dissipation design (on TOP of more compact body size)
9. Blazingly fast cool down vs. Unusable R5 after first heat warning (basically).
10. Negligible rolling shutter vs. Extreme R5 Jello.
11.1/400s master sync speed vs. 1/250 for R5.
12. 1/32000 to 30sec. shutter vs. 1/8000 to 30sec. for R5.

The list goes on... (except when reviewed by the Northrups)

...and I'm NOT shooting down the R5, this is to be expected because they are in different price ranges and leagues.

Hint: Lookup "Mark Galer" for proper review.

David Pavlich's picture

If I was concerned about video, you'd have a point, but I've used my cameras to record maybe 10 minutes of stuff since I got serious about photography. Besides, I have yet to pick up a Sony camera that actually feels like it would be fun to shoot with. Subjective for sure, but a deal breaker for me.

You did mention the most important factor and that's the one about the A1 costing about $2600 more than the R5. Different camera, different league. We'll talk again when the R1 comes out to see what Canon came up with for their mirrorless flagship.

I would also say that 'proper review' is subjective since personalities tend to skew one's viewpoint of their reviews. Not right or wrong, just an opinion.

David Ray's picture

Well then I accept your acknowledgement of my point, since it was concerning the superiority of the A1 and not its suitability for you specifically?

I don't see how in the world someone could think shooting with an R5 could be "Fun", since there is a labyrinth of limitations to navigate... But hey, you say you don't use yours much - maybe I can see that.

Re: subjectivity, you have a point. Then again, its impossible for a human being to assert anything and have it be objective? :-)

David Pavlich's picture

I pretty much always make the 'subjectivity' known. You are correct that an assertion is an opinion, however, I've found that my dislike of Sony's in hand feel seems to offend some, so I do my best to assure Sony users that the way it feels in my hand is just me and even then I'll get the 'you'll get used to it'. Horses for courses, I guess.

David Ray's picture

"In hand"? That's funny when I think about it. Sony in hand's gotta be better than 3rd degree burns with the R5, no? (Being facetious... partially...)

Anyway, if you prefer the R5 or Canon in general, then that's what you prefer... I was a Panasonic user, but switched to Sony because they actually "listen" to their patrons; while Canon has no integrity and holds their Patrons in contempt. (Releasing cameras with misaligned sensors, overheating issues and dumbing down of features, like they hold their patrons in contempt).

You do you...etc.

David Pavlich's picture

Of course, Sony has never released a camera that had any problems. ;-) But you're right. We like what we like.

Michael Newsom's picture

What did I learn from this comparison? Chelsea is an athlete.

Keith Jones's picture

Is Tony an investor of this site or something? Seems to always have his stuff posted here

Edison Wrzosek's picture

No, most of the articles that Fstoppers posts here are sheer click bait, so TN fits in perfectly for their persona...

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

Quite a few Youtubers are featured on here, not just them.