Which is the Best Camera for Stills, the Sony a7R IV or Canon R5?

If it's a full frame camera with a high-resolution sensor you're after, you've now got quite the selection. Two of the titans in that competition are pitted against one another to see which is the best for stills photography.

There might be no one left in the industry who isn't familiar with Canon's 2020 flagship mirrorless body, the R5. While a lot of the fuss made (both for and against it) revolved around the 8K video capabilities, it is an incredible stills photography camera, with few like-for-like rivals. One potential contender comes from the back-end of 2019: the Sony a7R IV.

Now, with stills photography as the goal, the comparison evens out a little. The Sony has a 62.5 megapixel sensor and the Canon has a 47.1 megapixel sensor. The Sony has a slightly higher maximum resolution, but a marginally smaller sensor. In most other metrics of image quality (or potential image quality I ought to say,) they are evenly matched. So, when they are put next to each other and take the same image at the same focal length, and with the same settings, which appears better?

This isn't a scientific test, and I'm fine with that for the most part. In fact, it's often more useful in visualizing your future results than a controlled studio environment that resembles a maniacal opticians. However, there is a potentially important difference in the setups used: the glass. The Canon's lens is a 2020 release and an f/1.2, whereas the Sony 50mm is nearly five years old and f/1.4. So with both lenses setup at f/2.2 and equal camera settings, I'd expect the Canon to have the edge in the finest lines of detail.

Which do you think is the best full frame stills camera currently on the market?

Rob Baggs's picture

Robert K Baggs is a professional portrait and commercial photographer, educator, and consultant from England. Robert has a First-Class degree in Philosophy and a Master's by Research. In 2015 Robert's work on plagiarism in photography was published as part of several universities' photography degree syllabuses.

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The "best" camera is going to completely depend on the situation and needs of the individual photographer. If I shoot a ton of video, maybe a mirrorless is the way to go, but if I'm primarily a stills shooter, maybe I'm better off sticking with my Nikon D850, especially considering I'm heavily invested in the system, optics-wise. Even then, there are some situations where I wouldn't mind having a crop-sensor D500 on hand. (In fairness, you did specify full-frame in your question) I think your question defies any easy answer.

The best camera isn't the latest and greatest as youtubers constantly effuse. This is just marketing nonsense. I was taking incredible images before the new canon or sonys were introduced, question is why aren't they? They were, but that doesn't sell new cameras.

Best camera is the one in your hands.

Move along. Nothing of note to see here.

It’s a D850.... ask anyone who actually uses a camera...
Your article has no foundations, it’s click bait and you should know better.
You have chosen two cameras that ‘internet photographers’ and wannabe’s salivate over, clubbed together some words and put it online.... to boost your profile.

Go shoot some better work for your web/portfolio and also edit down some of your work out there....

Finally, over the Christmas holiday ask yourself this...’Am I a photographer or a journalist..?’

I'm in the school of thought that if you want a video camera, you buy a video camera... They are actually designed for the job (cooling, ergonomics etc.)

Equally, if you want a stills camera, buy a stills camera. Or if you want an astro camera..... Etc

The best camera for me is the one that firstly I can work with all day, producing fabulous quality photos. that means plenty of other considerations... Ergonomics, build quality, weather sealing, robustness, battery life, speed to change settings, ease of use in bright sun light and pitch darkness...

Example, my big hands don't suit diddy Sony cameras, I actually prefer the size and balance of a d5 or gripped d850, both of which shoot fabulous stills

Pixel peeping is for people that don't shoot.

Funny how an archaic Nikon is being defended that is so outclassed in virtually every metric. And half the defenses are clichés and none provide any rational for choosing an archaic Nikon except one saying they are invested in archaic Niokn glass which is a very good reason to stay stuck in the past.
It is no where the best option today starting out but if stuck in old tech. Is a decent place to be stuck.

It's bonkers to think a d850 is "archaic", or old tech.

Shooters buy cameras to shoot with.
Obsessing over spec sheets, newness, or "what could be" is for armchair photographers.

I want a camera that can cope with what I throw at it day in day out, without blinking, I need it to pay for itself, and make me a living.

The d5/d500/d850's we currently shoot with do this perfectly, with no battery changes, without blinking.

The lenses available for them are excellent too.

The gentleman doth protest too much, methinks. I suspect Mr Huber is desperately trying to justify his mirrorless purchase, knowing he made a grave mistake. The only metric the D850 is outclassed on is weight.

Funny why so many Canon rubes knock Nikon as well as this click bait site which continuously fauns over and promotes the latest Canon baubles...Real photographers know better...

Geez, John. Just because one member considers the D850 old hat doesn't mean all shooters do. I use a 5DIV and am in the group that says that the D850 is the best DSLR on the market.

Lawrence (the OP) makes some good points, but ruins it by calling the D850 "archaic". Having shot and owned all three cameras under consideration, I see little difference in raw IQ between the three. Thus, if you have any of these cameras, there is nothing holding you back from producing amazing pictures. Where they differ is the ease that it takes to achieve these results. I shoot a lot of action, and I enjoy the way the Canon just gets out of the way of my obtaining great results. But it's not massively better than either of the other two. Moreover, if I shot primarily portraiture and/or landscapes, there would is little to distinguish among this trio. I do find the the RF lens selections alluring--the compact weight and size of the RF 70-200 is an absolute joy to shoot with, and the new 100-500--which maintains the size of a 100-400 while adding an extra 100mm--truly revolutionizes wildlife shooting but reaching 500mm is an incredibly compact form factor. Of course, Nikon goes in a different direction by offering a compact 500mm prime, with phenomenal IQ. You may have picked up that I value compactness. YMMV

But setting size, ease of use and lens choice aside, any of the three cameras provide great options. As many have stated, a "best" camera depends on individual preferences.

Better for what, exactly?

I bought an R5 because I shoot Canon. I shoot Canon because I bought the 10D many years ago when it was the best choice for a cost effective digital camera. I liked it well enough and the IQ was excellent but I was a long time Minolta, Nikon and Leica user and never warmed to the Canon in the way I did to my other brands.

The R5 is finally the camera I always wanted. A camera with the smoothness of a Leica but with the speed and IQ of a modern digital camera. Other brands are excellent but I was anchored by my investment and the cost benefit ratio was a poor business decision.

I have exactly one RF lens but the Canon adapters make the necessity of upgrading moot. Thus I now have a system that makes great business sense and gives me real pleasure to use. Of course now that I am retiring on Dec 31 that means this will be my last camera.

Nikon Z 7ii thats all i have to say

so you are happy because you kept your old tech while better tech was available, OK.

Yes I am happy.

I haven't hit a wall yet with the current gear, that the new gear fixes.

Some say better, I say just different

Its a pointless exercise to continuously change gear to the new shiny thing. And it throws up huge issues too, that really screw with a professionals life.

-Software compatibility - no point buying a camera that disrupts my work flow, or my Raw converter won't open
- Ancillary compatibility, no point in wasting time solving issues with flash triggers, and things we use to trigger cameras remotely
-buying yet more expensive memory cards.. It was compact flash, then SD, then faster SD, then bigger faster SD, Then XQD ETC.. We use enough memory cards to shoot flat out for days, the bill when we upgrade is huge
- ditto batteries, which are near impossible to import into Cyprus.

Let's pretend that all of the above are insignificant, then there is the cost. Continuing to change gear is a business expense that comes straight off the bottom line. Sensible businesses plan for this, and are not driven by release dates. The cost is not just financial, it takes up time.

Then there is the investment in lenses to consider.

Constantly replacing to the latest and greatest is irrational, expensive and gets in the way of actually doing the job

Show me an image, from a regular shoot, that was shot on a new shiny thing, that is so much better than what we can already shoot on the fabulous cameras we already use. FYI

Yet people replace their phone frequently, its not irrational, keeping outdated tech is the illogical choice. Ok sometimes its not worth the upgrade. In your case, it seems like Canon took a long time before switching to mirrorless. Was it a logical choice to wait in your particular situation, maybe. But I would not write an article about it.

If we are talking about stills only, and with a recent reduction in price, isn't Nikon D850 the best?

I was lucky enough to visit Irving Penn’s (look him up, he did ok) studio in NYC not long before he passed away, MF digital was in full swing and amazing, yet he still shot 4x5 sheet film, his lights where old.

His work, right up until the end was still good enough for Vogue and many massive world wide ad campaigns...

The D850 is still best in terms of (dynamic range,quality (try one at iso64),
focus, number of lenses,etc)... oh but wait...it can’t be... because it’s so old now... and don’t even get me started on the D810... I mean... shooting with that old timer at iso 64 with a cheap 50mm 1.8G I mean.. can anybody see an image through all the cobwebs and sensor noise...?

Camera size (mirrorless) doesn’t make it better, looking at your image through a tiny tv screen doesn’t make it better, those are just personal preferences.

Yesterday I dug out an image shot in 2004 from a fashion shoot, shot on a 22mp Hasselblad back on an H2 with the standard 80mm lens.
I was astounded by the crispness and quality of the clean image (iso 100), so I printed it A2 on Canson Baryta photographique through an Epson 9880 (also archaic).

Blew me away, the quality is that good.

The old saying of ‘it’s not what you’ve got it’s what you do with it that counts’ never rang more true..

The best camera is the camera you can afford and which solves your photography problems.

"and the Canon has a 47.1 megapixel sensor." Crazy decision indeed... I thought the Canon R5 was 45 Megapixels per Canon's spec sheet. Now, they have a 45 and a 47.1 megapixel sensor... 2 cameras in one! Awesome!