Generally, the "prosumer" camera is considered the minimum class of camera that any professional photographer should use.  Less expensive, mid-range cameras can certainly be used for those starting out in the business, but a prosumer camera will give you better resolution, a full-frame sensor, more manual options, and much quicker load times.  There are essentially three cameras that fit within this class--the Canon 5D Mark II, the Nikon D700, and the Sony Alpha 900.  Sony also has an Alpha 850, which is essentially the same as the 900 but with a few less advanced features and a much smaller price tag.  Read on to see how the Canon 5D Mark II and the Sony Alpha 900 stack up next to each other. 

Price Comparison

Canon 5D Mark II: $2,799

Sony Alpha 900: $2,699

The price difference between these two cameras is negligible when you are spending this much for a camera body.  However, it is important to note that the Sony Alpha 850 retails for only $1,999, significantly less than these other two cameras. 

Note: In the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami in March of 2011, production of the Canon 5D Mark II and other professional cameras was halted.  More than likely, there will be a shortage of Mark IIs available, and a purchase of this camera on the secondary market may be more expensive than the suggested retail price.

The Winner: Sony Alpha 900

Output Comparison

Canon 5D Mark II: 21.1 Megapixel Full-Frame Sensor

Sony Alpha 900: 24.6 Megapixel Full-Frame Sensor

There is no doubt that both cameras have the hardware to create fabulous photographs.  A full-frame sensor included in each body means that you will be able to better utilize the available lenses and quite simply just take better quality photographs.  Obviously, strictly as the numbers play out, the A900 has slightly more firepower than the Mark II.  Although trained photographers might notice this difference in resolution on a print, this difference is probably not significant enough to effect photo enlargements. 

Obviously, if you are in need of the best resolution on a camera that you can buy, then the Alpha 900 should be yours.  But, the differences are so minimal that you should not be scared away by the slightly less powerful Canon. 

The Winner: Sony Alpha 900


Continuous Shooting RateCanon 5D Mark II

Canon 5D Mark II: 3.9 fps

Sony Alpha 900: 5 fps

The maximum continuous frame rate on a camera is most helpful when photographing wildlife, sports, or concerts.  The more shots you can fire off in a second, the greater the likelihood that you will capture a great photograph (some professionals do not like this in digital cameras because they think it makes people lazy).  Portrait photography for weddings, high school seniors, and families does not necessitate the need for a high continuous frame rate in your camera. 

The Winner: Sony Alpha 900


Low-light performance

Canon 5D Mark II: ISO 50 to ISO 25600

Sony Alpha 900: ISO 100 to ISO 6400

 The Canon has the greater available ISO range, but, more importantly, the Mark II has significantly less noise at higher ISOs.  The Sony begins to show traces of noise at ISO 400 and it starts to become more distracting as the ISO increases.  If you are photographing indoors (like for a wedding ceremony or reception), the Mark II will give you a much clearer final photograph. 

The Winner: Canon 5D Mark II


Auto Focus System

Canon 5D Mark II: 9-Point AF Sensor Array

Sony Alpha 900: 9-point AF and 10 outside assist points

The specs for the autofocus systems on both cameras are very similar, but tests have shown that the focusing system on the Sony can perform slower than the competition.  On this alone, the Canon gets the slight edge.

The Winner: Canon 5D Mark II



Canon 5D Mark II: 1920 x 1080 at 30fps (High Definition Video)

Sony Alpha 900: n/a

Currently, the Mark II is the only prosumer camera with available video functionality.  Although the video is not as good as a professional grade video camera, the Mark II takes gorgeous, high quality movies. 

The Winner: Canon 5D Mark II


Live View

Only the Canon can live view available.  This is by no means a must-have feature on a professional grade camera, but it does certainly have its applications.

The Winner: Canon 5D Mark II


Image Stabilization

Canon 5D Mark II: Available on select lenses

Sony Alpha 900: In camera

Image stabilization is available on many Canon and other third-party lenses, but the addition of image stabilization on a lens will sometimes add hundreds of dollars.  The Sony, however, does not have this problem since image stabilization is built right into the camera. 

The Winner: Sony Alpha 900

Sony Alpha 900Dust and Water Resistant

The Sony and Canon cameras are dust and weather resistant allowing photographers to get into the outdoors without worrying (too much) about the weather.  It is worth noting that the Mark II does have a self-cleaning sensor unit and the Sony has a dust reduction mechanism.  By their name alone, it would seem as if the Canon works slightly better at reducing the possible dust on the camera sensor. 


Final Word

I currently own a Canon 5D Mark II for my portrait and wedding photography business.  I absolutely love it.  I most heavily considered the purchase of the Sony Alpha 900 for obvious reasons.  It has the highest resolution in its class and the in-camera image stabilization is a fabulous feature.  However, I wound up choosing the Mark II because I felt Canon has a full commitment to professional photographers.  The Mark II is not the best camera that Canon has to offer, but the Alpha 900 is Sony’s best offering with no announced replacement or upgrade. 

Other Prosumer Options

The Nikon D700 is the only other prosumer camera on the market that is considered in the same class as the Canon 5D Mark II and Sony Alpha 900.  If you are interested as to how the 5D Mark II and D700 compare, please read this article.  Also, be sure to read the following article comparing all three prosumer cameras: