Sony a9 vs. Canon 1D X Mark II vs. Nikon D5

April 20, 2017

With the introduction of Sony’s a9, photographers who have the need for speed have three fast-paced, full frame bodies to choose from. We’ve reviewed the Nikon D5 and the 1D X Mark II but have yet to get our hands on Sony’s new hero. Still, it makes sense to see how the three heavy-hitters stack up.


Canon 1D X Mark II: 20.2-megapixel CMOS

Nikon D5: 20.8-megapixel CMOS sensor

Sony a9: 24-megapixel, back-illuminated CMOS sensor

Native ISO

Canon 1D X Mark II: 100-51,200

Nikon D5: 100-102,400

Sony a9: 100-51,200

AF Points

Canon 1D X Mark II: 61 points; 41 cross-type points all supported to f/8

Nikon D5: 153 points, including 99 cross-type and 15 supported to f/8

Sony a9: 635 phase-detect points and 25 contrast detect covering 93 percent of the frame

Continuous Shooting Speed

Canon 1D X Mark II: 14 fps w/ AF tracking; 16 fps w/ mirror up to unlimited JPEGs, 173 RAW files

Nikon D5: 12 fps w/ AF tracking; 14 fps with w/ mirror up to 200 JPEGs

Sony a9: 20 fps w/ AF tracking up to 233 RAW + JPEGs

AF Metering

Canon 1D X Mark II: -3EV

Nikon D5: -4EV

Sony a9: -3 EV


Canon 1D X Mark II: 4K (4096 x 2160) at 60p; full HD at 120p; 1.3x crop during 4K

Nikon D5: 4K (3840 x 2160) at 30p; full HD to 60p; 1.5x crop during 4K

Sony a9: 4K (3840 x 2160) at 30p; full HD up to 120 fps; full sensor readout.

Battery Life

Canon 1D X Mark II: 1,210

Nikon D5: 3,780

Sony a9: 450 shots

Size & Weight

Canon 1D X Mark II: 54 ounces

Nikon D5: 49 ounces

Sony a9: 24 ounces


Canon 1D X Mark II: $5,999

Nikon D5: $6,500

Sony a9: $4,500


The D5 is the superior camera for low-light/high-ISO performance, while the Canon 1D X Mark II can deliver better burst and slightly higher video quality. We can’t yet vouch for the Sony, but if it delivers S-Log (a9 color profiles were not yet published by Sony), it’s already got a leg-up on its rivals in the video department. It looks, on paper, to be faster but it’s too early to say if it’s more accurate, despite having vastly more AF points.

Unsurprisingly, the a9 is a distant third when it comes to battery life, even if it is a marked improvement over the a7 R II. The price for the a9, however, is quite attractive relatively to the D5 and 1D X Mark II.