Sony a9 Dynamic Range Tested, Compared to Canon 1D X Mark II and Nikon D5

Sony a9 Dynamic Range Tested, Compared to Canon 1D X Mark II and Nikon D5

The Sony a9 might be the most hotly anticipated camera in quite some time, as it's the first time a mirrorless camera has taken such direct aim at the flagship DSLR bodies. While a lot of the excitement has been about its shooting speed and autofocus capabilities, another important characteristic is dynamic range, which you can now see measured and compared to those other bodies. 

Photons to Photos put together this great chart showing the dynamic range at varying ISO settings of the new Sony a9, Nikon D5, and the Canon 1D X Mark II. Sony's sensors are generally lauded for their dynamic range, so it's good to see how their latest model compares. Check out this chart comparing the three cameras (the a9 appears with and without the electronic shutter). Click to enlarge the chart.

There appear to be a few important takeaways. At ISO 100, the a9 and 1D X Mark II are essentially equal, with the D5 trailing noticeably. The a9 holds the advantage from about ISO 640 to ISO 3200, when the D5 overtakes it slightly, but for all intents and purposes, the three cameras are essentially neck and neck as one moves into high-ISO territory. Further good news is that there appears to be little-to-no penalty for using the electronic shutter. 

On the other hand, the a9 does show a definite drop in dynamic range from the a7R II, as you can see here:

So, while it's not Sony's best in terms of dynamic range, it does compete handily with the giants of the DSLR world, which is of course exactly what Sony set out to do. Time will tell if other specs can keep up in real world usage.

To see the full interactive chart, click here.

[via Photo Rumors]

Alex Cooke's picture

Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

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Thanks a lot for the article! Well the results pretty look neck to neck as you say :) It is kind of weird to compare the A7RII with the A9, wouldn't it be better to compare it with the A7II?

As a Canon shooter this is exciting since it will push Canon, Nikon Pentax, Fuji, Panasonic and Olympus to put more resources to compete with Sony, it is a win-win for everybody shooting any other brand too.

I just chose to compare it with that simply to say there are better Sony sensors in terms of DR and provide an example. But yes, I was surprised at how neck and neck they are! Competition is good! :)

I curiously added the Nikon D810, D750, and Pentax K-1 to see how they processed the data from the 24 and 36-meg Sony sensors, and the 3 have surprisingly high low end dynamic range compared to any of those cameras, up to around ISO 400, 800 for the D750. While the Pentax suffers from a weak AF system, The D810 and D750 are still well rounded cameras within the reach of the common photographer. I added the Canon Mk IV and 5DS out of curiosity, but Canon still has a lot of work to do with their sensor technology, as they were sub-par in comparison.

I agree, tested against even D600 the new MK IV falls behind. It sure is better then it comes to AF and arguably ergonomics [I still like Nikon's layout better, but that's personal opinion]. I am glad we have tools like these to test cameras and sensor, so that we can buy something tested, not only some specs from manufacturer.