Canon 7D vs Sony A77

September 14, 2011

Canon 7D vs Sony A77 cameras

In this comparison article, I want to compare the Canon 7D versus Sony A77. As I browsed photography forums and read users comments and posts, I can see that many people DO consider buying the Sony Alpha SLT-A77 instead of a Canon Digital SLR camera. The 7D costs approximately $150 more than the A77, and for an enthusiast photographer who wants to invest in a good camera, that’s not a big barrier.

I must admit that before the announcement of the A77, I didn’t come across so many comments about people considering getting a mid-range or high-end Sony DSLR over a Canon one. After going over the specs of Sony’s latest SLT camera, it seems like a very good debate to raise on this blog. So here we go, a thought-through comparison between two upper mid-range cameras, the Sony A77 vs. Canon 7D – Let’s start!


Some Opening Words

The Canon EOS 7D was announced on September 1, 2009. It’s a camera that most probably will get its replacement pretty soon, as it finished its two-year shelf-life and deserved a replacement. Due to this fact, the Canon 7D is not an obvious pick when you plan to purchase a new DSLR or upgrade from your current setup. Canon photographer who has a bunch of lenses would probably want to hang on just a bit longer. After all, you’ve already invested your money in some high-quality glass, and for many of us, there isn’t an urge to sell all our Canon gear just to switch to Sony. The Sony Alpha A77 can be very attractive to new comers who buy their first DSLR camera, and those who have one or two low-cost lenses that they can sell pretty quickly.

Having said that, I also hear some Canon photographers who aren’t so happy with what’s going on on Canon’s camp. They see Sony continuously innovating and pushing itself forward, compared to Canon (arguably) slow paste when it comes to technology innovation. Lens selection is not an issue anymore, both have a large range of lenses, Canon with its EF-S and EF mount and Sony with its A-mount.

The Sony SLT-A77 gives birth for new kinds of high-performance cameras, taking advantage of the Translucent Mirror Technology. It’s 12 fps burst, 1080p60 video recording, excellent high-res EVF and articulating screen really give some photographers an urge to investigate Sony’s camp to see whether they should make a switch or buy themselves into a new vendor. Sony is certainly one company to keep an eye for. It starts to show its muscles both in the DSLR and Mirrorless market.

So with fewer obstacles on the way, Buying a Nikon or Canon camera is not the only way to go these days. We had already seen many reviews on Sony’s ILC cameras, and we’ve seen that they can produce amazing results. When it comes to features, technology innovation, image quality, lens selection and accessories, it looks like Sony has it all. It just a matter of giving yourself a positive enforcement to make this “brave” move and buy a Sony DSLR over a Canon one.

For those of you who are debating between the Sony A77 and the Nikon D7000, I recommend reading my comparison article which compares the Sony A77 vs Nikon D7000 head-to-head (with great findings, worth reading).

OK, not let’s get started with our comparison. As in our tradition, let me give you an introduction about the two cameras, because I assume that some of you don’t have any background information about both cameras, or you just need a little refreshment. We’ll start with the Canon EOS 7D.


Canon EOS 7D

Canon 7D camera

Canon EOS 7D DSLR Camera

Canon 7D is a direct competitor for the Nikon D300s. Both upper mid-range SLR cameras that are getting old and needs a replacement. Still, at this product life cycle, we can’t find the 7D at a relatively low price. The 7D is an amazing camera, and has already gotten a mouth-full of positive reviews. It’s not about whether the 7D is a good camera or not, it’s whether the Sony A77 is a better buy at the moment.

The Canon EOS 7D features a 18MP (effective) APS-C CMOS sensor with ISO 100-12,8000 sensitivity range. It comes with a 3-inch Fixed 920K-dots LCD, a large and bright optical viewfinder and boasts 8 fps in burst mode. The 7D allow photographers to record video clips at 1080p30/25/24 resolution, and the video quality..well, excellent in every way you look at it.

The build quality is second to none. Just hold this camera in your hand, and you’ll know what I am talking about. It’s water-resistant and dust-resistant, and it can endure some harsh weather conditions without hiccups. Both enthusiast and professional photographers have picked up the 7D to get one of the most praised APS-C cameras to date. Just put a good glass in front of it, and this camera won’t disappoint, even the most demanding photographer.

At this price range, it’s impossible to find a camera that can give the 7D a knockout. It’s a camera that many photographers have been waiting for, and the only way up is getting a Full Frame camera. Having said that. With new mid-range DSLR cameras entering this crowded market, there are some options to get a great camera without throwing a lot of money on the 7D. That’s where the D7000 comes into the picture. As a relatively new camera, its image quality and performance, in some way, can threat cameras like the 7D. Many enthusiast photographers do the math and decide to invest in a better glass rather than on a more expensive camera body.

The Canon EOS 7D still remains one of the strongest semi-pro cameras on the market, even over two years since it was announced. That just tells us how great this camera is.


Sony A77

Sony A77

Sony A77 SLT Camera

If we consider the birth date of the 7D and the A77, we might refer to the A77 as the great grandchild of the 7D, although they aren’t from the same family. The A77 replaces the A700, and by looking at the camera design and features, no wonder why Sony is so proud with this new camera.  The Alpha A77 features Sony’s latest technologies in the digital imaging business, including a brand new 24.3MP (effective res.) Exmor APS-C HD sensor. This sensor was designer for three cameras, the Sony NEX-7 (mirrorless camera), Sony A65 and the A77 that we are comparing right now.

The Sony A77 also utilizes a brand new 2359K-dot (XGA) OLED EVF. The first Electronic viewfinder that hosts the OLED technology for better response time, more accurate colors and much better resolution compared to EVf with LCD screen. That by itself is a huge jump over previous SLT cameras.

The Sony A77 supports the AVCHD 2.0 video format and can shoot videos at 1080p60, yes, 60 frames per second in progressive scan. First SLT camera that does that. It’s great if you want to slow down videos without problematic visual disturbances that are related to interlaced scan video files.

Another welcomed features is the new 3-inch 921K-dots articulating LCD, which is the most flexible one we’ve seen to date. You can fold the screen upwards and rotate it to face the front of the camera – great for group shots and or when you want to shoot videos of yourself and see how it looks.

Other than that, the Sony A77 comes with a built-in GPS and it’s protected against dust and moisture. One of the most attracting features is the ability of this camera to shoot stills at 12 fps in full resolution (watch the video).

Why this camera is so fast? – for the same reasons as the other SLT cameras. The mirror inside SLT cameras doesn’t fold up. It’s fixed in place. The translucent mirror passes 30% of the light to the AF sensor at the top of the camera, and the other 70% are transferred to the sensor. This allows the camera to shoot at very high speed and also allows for continuous AF in burst mode and while shooting videos. If you are a videographer, you already know how valuable AF during video is. No other DSLR camera is able to focus so fast in video at the same speed as SLT cameras.

The A77 is a really a beast on paper, a camera that packs some features that can only be found on high-end DSLR models.

OK, now that we got a bit familiar with the two cameras, it’s time go over a specs side by side comparison table. By observing the differences side by side, you’ll get a better understanding about the pros and cons of each camera. You might find a feature that you really need or want, and it exists on one camera and not the other. This can really ease the buying decision making.


Side by Side Comparison table

FeatureSony A77Canon 7DNotes
AnnouncedAugust 24, 2011September 1, 2009A77 Newer
Sensor24.3MP (effective)
(23.5 x 15.6 mm | 1.5×)
18.0MP (effective)
(22.3 x 14.9 mm | 1.6×)
A77 higher sensor resolution
ISO100-16000100-12800A77 higher ISO range
Image stabilizationYes
SteadyShot Inside
NoSony A77 comes with a sensor-shift image stabilization that works with every lens that you attach to the camera.
Focus points19
(11 points cross type)
(all cross-type)
921,600 dots

TFT Xtra Fine™ w/TruBlack™ technology
920,000 dots
The A77 LCD is an articulated one. Can tilt up 150° and down 180°, rotates 180° clockwise and 90° counterclockwise.

Great for shooting in difficult angles for both videos and still shots.
Eye-level viewfinderElectronic Viewfinder (EVF)
Coverage: 100%
Magnification: 1.09x

OLED microdisplay 0.50" XGA (2,359k dots) / made by Samsung
Optical Viewfinder (OVF)
Coverage: 100%
Magnification: 1.0x
The A77 EVF using OLED technology and provides much higher resolution, contrast (1.000.000:1) and details/resolution than previous models. Colors, resolution, brightness, every thing is better on the new Viewfinder. Many say that their isn't a noticeable difference between this Viewfinder and an optical one.
Shutter speed30 - 1/8000 sec30 - 1/8000 sec
Built-in flashYes (12 m)
(+Hot-shoe for external flash)
Yes (12 m)
(+Hot-shoe for external flash)
Continuous shooting
(Max. fps)
12 fps8 fpsSony A77 surpasses the burst rate of the 7D. That's due to the A77 translucent mirror technology, having the mirror fixed in its place. 12 fps in Continuous Priority AE mode, which locks the exposure and focus in the first frame.
Exposure compensation±5 EV (at 1/3 EV, 1/2 EV steps)±5 EV (at 1/3 EV, 1/2 EV steps)
Video recording
(max. resolution)

w/Stereo sound + ability to attach external stereo microphone.

w/Stereo sound + ability to attach external stereo microphone.
Sony A77 can record full HD movie clips at 60 progressive frames (AVCHD 2.0), but also in interlaces scan. For you it means better image quality when shooting in 60p, which is also great when slowing down videos using video editing software (no visual lines as with interlaced)
Memory card supportSD/SDHC/SDXC/Memory Stick Pro Duo/ Pro-HG DuoCompact Flash (Type I or II), UDMA, Microdrive cards
3D PhotosYesNo
in-camera HDRYesNo
Environmental sealingYes, dust and moisture resistantYes, water and dust resistantCanon EOS 7D has an better sealing.
In-camera GPSYesNoThat's nice of Sony giving us a GPS so the came can automatically geo-tag our images without us needing to do so manually later on. Saves a lot of time (and money, if you intended to purchase an external GPS receiver)
Batter Life (CIPA)530 shots800 shotsCertainly an advantage for the Canon 7D in the battery life section.
Weight w/batteries732 g (1.61 lb / 25.82 oz)860 g (1.90 lb / 30.34 oz)7D weights 128g more than the A77
Size142.6 x 104 x 80.9mm (5.63 x 4.09 x 3.19")148 x 111 x 74 mm (5.83 x 4.37 x 2.91")7D is a bit larger than the A77


The above comparison table draws a good view about the pros and cons of each camera when compared one versus the other. I want rewrite what I’ve already explain in the ‘notes’ column, but I will talk about the key differences.


Resolution and Image Quality

Exmor sensor, A77

Sony A77 24.3MP sensor

The most most obvious thing we can see is the difference in resolution. The Sony A77 utilizes a 24.3MP Exmor™ APS HD CMOS sensor, same sensor found on the Sony NEX-7 mirrorless digital camera. If you’ve read my Nikon D7000 vs Sony A77 comparison article, you saw that the image quality of the α77 is very good, but due to its high resolution it becomes less of a low-noise performer. We can see that it the resolution is lower, Sony’s sensors can produce very low-noise images at high-ISO. just view some of the Sony NEX-5N high-ISO photos to comprehend what I am talking about here.

Because it’s the same sensor, we expect to see the same image quality on both cameras. If you see yourself shooting at sensitivities lower than ISO6400, the A77 is a good performer overall.

I went to to check out the ‘Comparometer’, a web application that allows us to compare image quality of two digital cameras side by side. Every photo enlargement in a different frame on the page.

At ISO 3200 and ISO 6400 we can see that the SLT-α77 applies stronger NR (noise reduction) algorithms and that causes the image to lose some details and the noise patterns are mos smudgy and doesn’t have that dots patterns, which can be removes more easily than the smudgy one.  You can look at the heir of the doll and you can see that the Canon EOS 7D maintains more details, even with its lower resolution sensor.

However, the A77 images, although looked a bit on the soft side, still we can see that the A77 being able to pull out more details  where there is a good contrast (ie. shirt, eyelashes, necklace, etc.). This is especially true in lower ISO sensitivity levels.

Those of you who need the extra resolution and want to squeeze out every piece of details, the A77 is a good one. However, the difference in resolution is not that big. In fact, some will prefer having the Sony NEX-5N high ISO performance without getting that slight resolution advantage.

Canon 7D vs Sony A77 – Video Quality

For those of you who are interested to know how the video quality compared, here is a video I’ve hunted on YouTube.  Just make sure you watch it in 1080p and in full screen to be able to observe the differences, if there are any.


Sony A77 Advantages over Canon 7D

By looking at the specs sheet we can’t overlook some of the advantages that the SLT-A77 have over the 7D. Let’s mention the most attractive ones..

  • LCD – The LCD of the A77 is one of the best we’ve seen to date. It has an arm that allows the screen to flip while the front of the LCD faces the front of the camera. This allow for easy composition when shooting videos and shooting stills in low and high angles. The Canon 7D has a fixed LCD.
  • Continuous shooting – the amazing thing about the A77 is that it can capture images at a maximum burst of 12fps.  The 7D can capture 8 fps. The 12 fps is achievable in Continuous Priority AE mode, which locks the exposure and focus in the first frame.  It certainly makes this camera an ideal camera for sports and fast-action photography.  At this price range, there aren’t any DSLR cameras that will give you such speed. We need to thank Sony for utilizing the translucent-mirror technology that allows this ti be achieved without making the camera much more expensive.
  • Movie recording – The Canon EOS 7D offers 1080p/30,25,24 fps movie recording, the A77 1080p60,24 fps as awell as 1080i60. The 60p is an attractive option that captures 60 progressive frames. In 60i, the sensor output 30 frames per second, and the camera takes those frames and produce an interlaced video at 60 fps. For you, the videographer, it means better image quality and the ability to slow down the video with a video editing software, without seeing those interlaced fields.
  • GPS – Who needs an in-camera GPS receiver? – well, those of want the camera to automatically geo-tag their images (‘geotagging’). That means that every image that is taken with the A77 is tagged with a geographic location data (latitude and longitude). There are many software and online photo sharing services that recognize this the GPS metadata and knows how to display photos on a map. Great for sorting, managing and finding photos that were taken at specific geographical locations (ie. search by country, city, etc.).
Another important thing that you should know is that the Sony Alpha SLT-A77 can continuously AF while shooting videos and even in continuous shooting, and it does that better than any other camera on the market and much better than the Canon 7D.
Continuous AF in Video

You can AF on the 7D while shooting video, but the AF is slow. The A77 AF is lightning fast, quick and works beautifully when shooting moving subjects that moves across the frame. for you videographers out there, this is a dream come true. In fact, all Sony’s SLT cameras offer this and its an advantage that the A77 certainly has over the 7D when it comes to video shooting.

Checkout this video..




Sony's OLED EVF size

I’ve read many negative opinions about Sony’s older models and their EVF. That’s where Sony had to make a change and upgrade the EVF with higher resolution and better refresh rates.

The A77 OLED viewfinder is a whole new world compared to previous EVFs.  In fact, many of you won’t even notice that your are looking through an electronic viewfinder and not an optical one (although some will).
The EVF issue is not longer an issue and that shouldn’t prevent you from buying a SLT camera anymore. Dynamic range, image brightness, details, comfort of viewing – everything was improved. It’s still won’t give you the same viewing experience as in the newest DSLR cameras, but I think that in the next generation EVF and OVF will have no difference between them in terms of viewing experience.


So there you go. You’ve gotten to know both cameras and know their cons and pros. Considering the $150 marginal price difference and the A77 specs, it’s not that easy to choose between the two cameras.
I think that the A77 is a great contender for the 7D with its articulating screen, fast continuous AF in videos, in-camera GPS, 12 fps and 1080p60 video recording.
The ISO performance of the EOS 7D is better than the A77. We can’t argue about that. However, when looking at the whole package, and although the A77 isn’t as tough and sealed as the 7D, the A77 is really an attractive piece of equipment. For that asked price, you should put it at the top of your list.
I recommend going over the comparison table again and try to spot some features that you need and you have it on the A77 and not on the 7D (and vice versa). This will help you decidewhich should be your next camera.

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  • Emli

    Interesting compairision.
    However, you write that the Sony 12 fps burst rate is with focus locked on the first shot. That is not correct, in fact the major advantage with the SLT technology is that the phase detection AF works contuously, even during rapid framerate shooting and with intelligent focus tracking. Unlike the 7D that does lock the focus at first picture when shooting at 8 fps. Quite the opposite of what you say.

  • nicola

    Anche io sono fortemente orientato verso SONY A77 e le sue Innovazioni; ma quando vedo i colori che restituisce CONON EOS 7D, mi ricordo sempre che chi compra una fotocamera, deve fare prima di tutto fotografie.
    Nella sua definizione, dettagli, calore delle immagini, 7D non è seconda a nessuno, anzi; chi la insidia, a mia personale opinione, neanche NIKON D7000, forse, solo PENTAX K5, la insidia un pò.
    Forse i punteggi raggiunti dalle concorrenti sono superiori…… ma le fotografie …, quelle proprio no.

    Cosa ne pensate voi?
    saluti, nicola

  • David Brown

    Great review but no reference to buffers: as I understand it the A77 at 12fps fills its buffer in about 1.5 seconds. The 7D can shoot over 100 – this is all obviously jpegs (and using good fast memory cards) – so for sports action surely the 7D is still superior. I’ve been trying to decide what camera to get for about 2 months now and have realised no camera actually suits what I want to use it for. I suppose with any multifunction product there is always compromises. The best for stills at a great price is the D7000 (but again suffers from a small buffer). The best for action (in this price range) must still be the 7D with its combination of speed (focus and fps), buffer size and quality, and for video the A77. If only Sony had given the A77 a larger buffer……..or I had the money for camera and camcorder! I supose I could wait for the 7D MKii or the eventual D8000 but both are likely to be much dearer and out of my price range. I keep coming back to the A77 – the best compromise? Having held all 3 of these though, I keep remembering the quality ‘Tank’ feel to the 7D – its a no gimmik quality bit of kit, tried and tested – very hard to beat even at its current age! Also worth remembering that none of these cameras will guarantee you great shots – they just give you the tools to make them.

  • keith

    I’ve been using the Sony A77 for a while now and it is an awesome machine. I do wish Sony would build a tank like body like the Canon7D. The Sony is not perfect but it is quite a great tool for capturing great photos. If you can get over the A77 feeling a bit cheap and plasticky (compared to the Canon7D) then you willbe happy with the camera overall. The technology inside the Sony camera is blowing Canon out of the water. Plus, all of the lenses for the Minolta Maxxum fit the Sony A77. Minolta was ahead of their time back in the day and it now seems like Sony is continuing the tech advancement.