Which One: Sony a99 II vs Canon 5D Mk IV vs Nikon D810 vs Pentax K-1

Canon, Nikon, and Sony have always been at each others’ throats when it comes to full frame DSLRs; but only recently did Pentax also finally step into the game. The Canon 5D Mk IV, Pentax K-1, Nikon D810, and Sony a99 II are all fantastic cameras. They perform well on their own accord and we tried to figure out which one is the best of the bunch.

Take a look at our comparison review testing the Sony a99 II, Canon 5D Mk IV, Pentax K-1, andNikon D810.

Tech Specs

Canon 5D Mk IV

Take from our review

  • New 30.4 Megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor for versatile shooting in nearly any light, with ISO range 100–32,000; expandable up to 50–102,400.
  • 4K Motion JPEG video (DCI cinema-type 4096 x 2160) at 30p or 24p; in-camera still frame grab* of 4K 8.8-Megapixel images; multiple video options include Full HD up to 60p, and HD up to 120p.
  • Superb Dual Pixel CMOS AF for responsive and smooth AF during video or Live View shooting; LCD monitor has full touch-screen interface, including selection of AF area.
  • Excellent performance — up to 7.0 fps** continuous shooting speed with high performance DIGIC 6+ Image Processor for improved speed and excellent image quality.
  • 61 AF points with expanded vertical coverage with 41 cross-points, and AF possible at all 61 AF points with many lens + extender combinations effective at f/8.
  • 150,000-pixel RGB+IR metering sensor helps provide precise exposure metering, helps detect flickering lights and allows for enhanced scene recognition and face detection capabilities.
  • Dual Pixel RAW***, in-camera Digital Lens Optimizer during JPEG shooting and Diffraction Correction technologies.
  • Built-in Wi-Fi®1 and NFC2 connectivity provide easy sharing to compatible smart devices, select social media sites and the Canon Connect Station CS100 device.
  • Built-in GPS3 provides geotag information including auto time syncing with Universal Time Code (UTC) via satellites.

Extra Notes From Our Meeting

  • Full touch screen LCD screen
  • EOS ITR: facial data and color recognition data tracking
  • Autofocus abilities EV -3 AF and -4 in Live view
  • built in digital lens optimizer while shooting
  • Built in WiFi NFC and GPS. The camera also has FTP and FTPS built into it in case you need more advanced network
  • Built in bulb and intervalometer for time lapse shooting
  • 4K video at 30p, 25p, 24p and 29.98. The user can also do 4K still frame grabs
  • Dust and weather resistance are now equal to the 7D Mk II
  • Some controls have been moved
  • New AF area select button
  • HDR movies, same as in the 80D 1080 30p
  • 120p video at 720
  • 7 fps still shooting
  • Intelligent viewfinder II
  • Upgraded mirror vibration control. This is just like what you’ll find in the Canon 5Ds that will help prevent the effects of subtle camera shake on the final image because there are so many pixels on the sensor.
  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF and Servo focusing in live view at 3 and 3.4 fps
  • Memory card: CF and SD

Sony A99 II

Taken from our review

  • Ultra-Fast 4D FOCUS with 79 hybrid cross AF points
  • 12 fps continuous shooting
  • High Resolution 42.4 MP Exmor R CMOS sensor
  • 5-axis in-body image stabilization and more
  • Without Lens
  • Full Frame Camera
  • GPS
  • 12.0 fps continuous shooting
  • 4K

Nikon D810

Taken from our review

Specs taken from the Adorama listing of the product.

Lens Mount Nikon F
Camera Format Full-Frame (1.0x Crop Factor)
Pixels Actual: 36.8MP
Effective: 37.09MP
Max Resolution 7360 x 4912
Aspect Ratio 3:2
Sensor Type / Size CMOS, 35.9 x 24.0 mm
File Formats Still Images: JPEG, RAW, TIFF
Movies: MOV, MPEG-4 AVC/H.264
Audio: Linear PCM
Bit Depth 14-bit
Dust Reduction System Yes
Memory Card Type CompactFlash
SD
SDHC
SDXC
Focus Type Auto & Manual
Focus Mode Continuous-servo AF (C), Manual Focus (M), Single-servo AF (S)
Autofocus Points 51, 15 cross-type
Viewfinder Type Pentaprism
Viewfinder Eye Point 17.00 mm
Viewfinder Coverage 100%
Viewfinder Magnification Approx. 0.70x
Diopter Adjustment – 3 to +1 m
Display Screen 3.2″ Rear Screen LCD (1,229,000)
Screen Coverage 100%
Diagonal Angle of View 170.0deg.
Exposure Control: ISO Sensitivity Auto, 64-12800 (High Sensitivity Mode: 32-51200)
Shutter Type: Electronic & Mechanical
Speed: 30 – 1/8000 seconds
Mirror Lock-Up Yes
Metering Method 3D Color Matrix Metering, Center-weighted average metering, Spot metering, Highlight Weighted
Exposure Modes Modes: Aperture Priority, Manual, Programmed Auto, Shutter Priority
Metering Range: EV 0.0 – EV 20.0
Compensation: -5 EV to +5 EV (in 1/3, 1/2 or 1 EV steps)
White Balance Modes Auto, Cloudy, Color Temperature, Direct Sunlight, Flash, Fluorescent, Fluorescent (Cool White), Fluorescent (Day White), Fluorescent (Daylight), Fluorescent (Natural White), Fluorescent (Warm White), Fluorescent (White), Incandescent, Preset Manual, Shade
Flash Modes 1st Curtain Sync
Auto
Off
Rear Curtain/Slow Sync
Rear Sync
Red-eye Reduction
Slow Sync
Slow Sync/Red-eye Reduction
Built-in Flash Yes
Maximum Effective Flash Range Up To 39′ (11.89 m)
Guide No. 39′ (11.89 m) ISO100
Max Sync Speed 1 / 250 sec
Flash Compensation -3 EV to +1 EV (in 1/3, 1/2 or 1 EV steps)
Dedicated Flash System iTTL
External Flash Connection Hot Shoe, PC Terminal, Wireless
Video Recording Yes, NTSC
File Size 1920 x 1080p (Full HD)
1280 x 720p (HD)
Frame Rate at 1920 x 1080: 60 fps, 30 fps, 24 fps, 50 fps, 25 fps
at 1280 x 720: 60 fps, 50 fps
Exposure Control Auto: Shutter Speed, Aperture, ISO
Manual: Shutter Speed, Aperture, ISO
AV Recording: ISO Sensitivity 64 – 12800, Expandable to 51200
Focus Auto
Manual
Continuous Auto
Video Clip Length 1920 x 1080
at 60 fps: 20 min.
1920 x 1080
at 50 fps: 20 min.
1920 x 1080
at 30 fps: 29 min. 59 sec.
1920 x 1080
at 25 fps: 29 min. 59 sec.
1920 x 1080
at 24 fps: 29 min. 59 sec.
1280 x 720
at 60 fps: 29 min. 59 sec.
1280 x 720
at 50 fps: 29 min. 59 sec.
Audio Recording Built-in Mic: With Video, Stereo
Continuous Shooting Up to 5 fps
Start-up Time 0.12 Seconds
Shutter Lag 0.052 Seconds
Self Timer 2 sec, 5 sec, 10 sec, 20 sec
Custom: 1-20 sec at 0.5, 1.0, 2.0, 3.0 sec intervals
Number of Shots: 1-9
Interval Recording Yes
Connectivity 1/8″ Headphone, 1/8″ Microphone, HDMI C (Mini), USB 3.0
Battery 1x EN-EL15 Rechargeable Lithium-Ion Battery Pack, 7.0VDC, 1900mAh
Operating/Storage Temperature Operating: 32 to 104deg.F (0 to 40deg.C)
Humidity: 0 – 85%
Dimensions (W x H x D) 5.70 x 4.80 x 3.20″ (14.47 x 12.19 x 8.12cm)
Weight 31.04oz (879.96g)

Pentax K-1

Taken from our review

Specs taken from the Pentax K-1 listing on the official website.

SENSOR Primary color filter, CMOS, Size: 35.9 x 24.0mm, Effective pixels: 36.40 MP, Total pixels: 36.77 MP
Recorded resolution photo: [35mm Full Frame] JPG: L (36M): 7360×4912, M (22M): 5760×3840, S (12M): 4224×2816, XS (2M): 1920×1280
RAW: (36M): 7360×4912
Recorded resolution photo: [APS-C size] JPG: L (15M): 4800×3200, M (12M): 4224×2816), S (8M): 3456×2304, XS (2M): 1920×1280
RAW: (15M): 4800×3200
Movie (resolution/FPS):
Full HD (1920×1080) @ 60i/50i/30p/25p/24p, HD (1280×720) @ 60p/50p
Quality levels: Best, Better, Good, RAW (14-bit) PEF, DNG, RAW + JPEG
LENS MOUNT Type/construction: PENTAX KAF2 bayonet mount (AF coupler, lens info contacts, K-mount w/ power contacts). Usable lens series: KAF3, KAF2 (power zoom compatible), KAF, KA mount lens
FOCUS SYSTEM Type: TTL: Phase-matching autofocus
Focus Sensor: SAFOX 12, 33 point (25 cross type focus points in the center)
Brightness Range: EV -3 to 18 (ISO100 @ normal temperature)
AF mode: Single AF (AF.S), Continuous (AF, C)
AF point selection: Spot, Select, Expanded Area (S, M, L), Zone select, Auto (33AF Points)
AF assist light: dedicated LED AF assist light
VIEWFINDER Type: Pentaprism finder
Coverage (field of view): 100%
Magnification: approx. 0.70X (50mm F1.4 at infinity)
Eye relief length: approx. 20.6mm (from the view window), Approx 21.7 mm (from the center of lens)
Focusing screen: Natural-Bright-Matte III focusing screen
Diopter adjustment: approx. -3.5m to +1.2m-1
Viewfinder overlay: AF Points, Grid Display, Electronic Level, AF Frame, Spot Metering
Frame, Crop
LCD MONITOR Type: wide viewing angle TFT color LCD, Air-gapless glass, Flexible tilt
Size: 3.2 inch (3:2 Aspect)
Resolution: 1037K dots
Adjustment: brightness, saturation and colors adjustable
Outdoor View Setting: adjustable ±2 step
LIVE VIEW Type: TTL method using image sensor
Focusing mechanism: Contrast detection (Face Detection, Tracking, Multiple AF points, Select,
Spot), Focus peaking : On/Off
Display: field of view approx 100%, magnified view (up to 16x), grid display (4×4 grid, golden
section, scale display, square 1, square 2, grid color: black/white), histogram, bright area
warning, composition adjustment
BUILT-IN GPS Satellites: GPS, QZSS, SBAS (WAAS/EGNOS/GAGAN/MSAS)
Reception frequency: L1 1575.42MHz
Recorded information: latitude, longitude, altitude, time (UTC), direction
Geodesics: World Geodetic System (WGS84)
GPS logging: KML format, logging interval 5/10/15/30 sec./1min., logging duration: 1
24hr (Up to 9 hrs at logging Interval 5 sec, up to 18 hrs. at logging interval 10 sec.)
EXTERNAL FLASH Flash modes: auto flash discharge, auto flash + red-eye reduction, flash on, flash on
+ red-eye reduction, slow speed sync, slow-speed sync + red-eye, P-TTL, trailing
curtain sync, contrast-control sync*, high-speed sync*, wireless sync
*Contrast-control-sync and high-speed sync requires 2 or more dedicated external flashes
Sync speed: 1/200 sec., flash exposure compensation: -2.0~+1.0 EV
STORAGE MEDIA Internal memory: n/a
Dual card slot: sequential use, save to both, separate RAW/JPG, image copy between
slots possible
Removable memory: SD, SDHC and SDXC memory card (conforms to USH-I standards)
INTERFACES Connection port: USB 2.0 (Micro B), external power supply terminal, external cable switch
terminal, X-sync socket, HDMI output terminal (Type D), stereo microphone input terminal,
headphone terminal
USB Connection: MSC/PTP
WIRELESS LAN Standard: IEEE 802.11 b/g/n
Security: authentication, WPA2, Encryption: AES
POWER SUPPLY Battery type: rechargeable lithium-ion battery D-LI90
AC Adapter: AC adapter kit K-AC132 (optional)
Battery life: number of recordable images: approx 760, playback time approx 390 min.
* With a fully-recharged rechargeable lithium-ion battery, tested in compliance with CIPA standard.
Actual results may vary depending on the shooting condition.
PHYSICAL SPECIFICATIONS Body dimensions approx. 5.37” (W) x 4.33”(H) x 3.37”(D) (excluding protrusions)
Body Weight: 32.6oz (body only), 35.6oz (with battery and 1x SD card)
Construction material(s): magnesium alloy shell over metal chassis
Weather resistant: yes (87 special sealing parts)
Operating temperature: 14-104°F (-10 to 40°C)
LANGUAGE SUPPORT English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Dutch, Danish, Swedish,
Finnish, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Turkish, Greek, Russian
IMAGE STABILIZATION Type: sensor-shift shake reduction (SRII), 5-axis electronic level function: displayed in VF/LCD (Horizontal and vertical)
Horizon correction: SR on: correction up to 1˚, SR off: correction up to 2˚
METERING SYSTEM Type: TTL open aperture metering using 86K pixel RGB sensor, multi-segment, center weighted and spot metering
Range: EV-3 to 20 (ISO100 at 50mm F1.4)
Exposure Mode: Scene Analyze Auto, Program, Sensitivity Priority, Shutter Priority,
Aperture Priority, Shutter & Aperture Priority, Manual, Bulb, Flash X-sync Speed,
USER1, USER2, USER3, USER4, USER5
EV compensation: ±5EV (1/2EV steps or 1/3EV steps can be selected)
AE lock: button type (timer type: two times the meter operating time set in custom
setting); continuous as long as the shutter button is halfway pressed
ISO SENSITIVITY ISO AUTO/100 to 204800 (EV steps can be set to 1EV, 1/2EV or 1/3EV)
WHITE BALANCE AUTO WB, Multi Auto WB, Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Fluorescent Light (D: Daylight Color, N: Daylight White, W: Cool White, L: Warm White), Tungsten Light, CTE, Manual WB (up to 3 settings), Color Temperature Configuration (up to 3 settings), copying the white balance setting of a captured image
Fine Adjustment: Adjustable ±7 steps on A-B axis or G-M axis
SHUTTER Electronically controlled vertical-run focal plane shutter (electronic w/ Pixel Shift Resolution)
Shutter speed: auto: 1/8000 to 30 sec., manual: 1/8000 to 30 sec. (1/3 or 1/2EV steps), Bulb
CAPTURE MODES Custom image: Auto Select, Bright, Natural, Portrait, Landscape, Vibrant, Radiant,
Muted, Flat, Bleach Bypass, Reversal Film, Monochrome, Cross Processing
Cross Process: Random, Preset 1-3, Favorite 1-3
Digital filter: Extract Color, Replace Color, Toy Camera, Retro, High Contrast, Shading,
Invert Color, Unicolor Bold, Bold Monochrome
Clarity: adjustable ±4 steps
Skin tone: Type 1/Type 2
HDR: Auto, HDR1, HDR2, HDR3, Advanced HDR, Exposure bracket value adjustable,
Automatic composition correction function
Lens Correction: distortion correction, peripheral illumin. correction, lateral correction,
aberration correction, diffraction correction
D-RANGE compensation: highlight correction, shadow correction
Composition adjust: ±1.5mm up, down, left or right (1mm when rotated); 1 degree of range
DRIVE MODES Mode selection
Still image: single frame, continuous (H, M, L), self-timer (12s, 2s, continuous), remote control (0s., 3s., continuous), bracketing (2, 3 or 5 frames), mirror-up (possible to use with remote ctrl), multi-exposure (possible to use with continuous, self-timer or remote ctrl), interval shooting, interval composite, interval movie record, star stream
Movie: remote control *bracketing, interval shooting, interval composite, interval movie record and star stream are possible to use with self-timer/remote control.
Continuous shooting (approximates)
[35mmFull Frame] Max. 4.4 fps, JPEG ( L: ★★★ at Continuous H): up to 70 fr., RAW: up to. 17 fr.
Max. 3.0 fps, JPEG L: ★★★ at Continuous M): up to 100 fr., RAW: up to 20 fr.
Max. 0.7 fps, JPEG ( L: ★★★ at Continuous L): up to 100 fr., RAW: up to 100 fr.
[APS-C size] Max. 6.5 fps, JPEG ( L: ★★★ at Continuous H): up to 100 fr., RAW: up to approx. 50 fr.
Max. 3.0 fps, JPEG L: ★★★ at Continuous M): up to 100 fr., RAW: up to 70 fr.
Max. 1.0 fps, JPEG ( L: ★★★ at Continuous L): up to 100 fr., RAW: up to 100 fr.
*ISO100
Multi-exposure: composite mode (additive/average/bright) # of shots(2 to 2000 images)
Interval shooting:
[Interval shooting] interval: 2s. to 24h./ standby interval: 1sec. to 24hrs., number of images: 2 to 2000, start interval: now/self-timer/remote control/set time
[Interval composite] interval: 2sec. to 24hrs./ standby interval: 1sec. to 24hrs., number of images: 2 to 2000, start interval: now/self-timer/remote control/set time, composite mode: additive/average/bright, save process: on/off
[Interval movie] recorded pixels: 4K/FullHD/HD, file format: motion JPEG (AVI), interval:2sec. to 24hrs./standby interval: 1sec. to 24hrs., number of shots: 8 to 2000 images (8 to 500 images at 4K), start interval: now/self-timer/remote control/set time
[Star stream] recorded pixels: 4K/FullHD/HD, file format: motion JPEG (AVI), interval:2sec. to 24hrs./ standby interval: 1sec. to 24hrs., number of shots: 8 to 2000 images (8 to 500 images at 4K), start interval: now/self-timer/remote control/set time, fade-out: off/low/medium/high
PLAYBACK MODES Single frame, multi-image display (6,12, 20, 35, 80 segmentation), display magnification (up to 16, 100% display and quick magnification available), grid display (4×4 grid, golden section, scale display, square 1, square 2, grid color: black/white ), rotating, histogram (Y histogram, RGB histogram), bright area warning, auto image rotation, detailed information, copyright information (photographer, copyright holder), GPS information (latitude, longitude, altitude, coordinated universal time) , orientation, folder display, calendar filmstrip display, slide show
FILE FORMATS Still: RAW (PEF, DNG), JPG (EXIF 2.30), DCF 2.0 compliant
Movie: MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 (MOV) – JPEG(AVI) for internal movie record
CUSTOM FUNCTIONS Functions available: 26
COMPUTER SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS For device connectivity. Bundled software requirements may vary.
Windows: Windows 10/Windows 8.1 (32 bit/64 bit) / Windows 8 (32 bit/64 bit) / Windows 7 (32 bit/64 bit) / Windows Vista (32 bit/64bit). Mac: Mac OS X 10.10 / 10.9 / 10.8 / 10.7

Ergonomics

All three cameras have a great design. When you pick them up, they truly feel like modern cameras. But of course, some things are just nicer than others. The Nikon D810 is great for its ability to really separate where its controls are. The Canon 5D Mk IV feels a lot like the Mk II–which I personally really loved a whole lot more. The a99 II feels nice in the hands as well and I’d personally reach for this due to my failing eyes and the EVF working so well. But I think I’d be happiest if the Canon 5D Mk IV had an EVF.

Then there’s the Pentax K-1 which also feels incredible and is easy to use. But I personally can’t see myself using it for a really long time partially due to the screen design.

When holding each camera, I tend to gravitate more towards the Canon’s ergonomics. This could be due to the fact that I’ve been a Canon user for a really long time. But if anything, I’d also just go to the Sony.

Winner: Canon

Build Quality

All of these cameras are said to have weather protection with Sony saying they have dustproof and splashproofing. Sony’s lenses are designed very well though–as are Canon’s and Nikon’s. But nothing is on the par of the Pentax K-1’s weather sealing. They’re the only company that gave us the permission to do the test in the video.

Winner: Pentax

Ease of Use

Of any of these cameras, the Sony a99 II is by far the most difficult to use. This statement doesn’t really have to do with its design, but more with the fact that Sony packed so much technology into it. The simple act of taking a photo is pretty straight forward, but menus are deeper than anything I’ve seen on the market with the exception of maybe Olympus.

So that leaves us with the other three. To begin, Nikon has a great menu system. They always have, but it’s also just starting to become a bit too jam packed. They may need to break it down a bit more.

Pentax’s menu system seems antiquated in some ways. Is it simple to use? For most things yes. But you need to do some major digging around and it’s a slow process.

This is where Canon once again is winning my heart. I’ve been very critical of Canon for years but now they’ve got a great system with their menus. Part of this has to do with touch navigation on the screen. You can easily touch a menu then go directly into another page to get to where you need to. It means less shuffling around overall if you know the camera.

Winner: Canon

Autofocus

You can sit here and say over and over again that Canon and Nikon have the absolute best autofocus system, but I’d have to disagree with you. I’ve seen the Sony a99 II track dancers moving around in a scene when shooting with a 50mm f1.4 wide open. Nikon’s D810 has been able to focus in very dark places and Canon’s 5D Mk IV can do so too but takes a while longer.

And Pentax? Well, it’s good; but I’ve seen better.

Pixel for pixel, during my entire time with the Sony a99 II it missed its focusing maybe twice.

Winner: Sony

Image Quality

Here’s where I’ve been getting really curious in the past few weeks while working with Capture One Pro 10. The program has the ability to put camera profiles from one camera to another with ease. So when taking this one photo with the Sony A99 II, I applied profiles from each competing camera to the image. Here are the results:

Sony a99 II

Nikon D810

Pentax K-1

Canon 5D Mk IV

I’m inclined to like Canon and Nikon’s results a bit more. Canon has this magic when it comes to working with skin tones and a common complaint about most Sony cameras is the colors not seeming natural at all. Sometimes I agree with that; it will take the most work to get everything out of a Sony file, but they’re also the most versatile in my opinion. Canon files take the least work to me.

Here you can also see very subtle things like the dynamic range. Though they’re all looking very similar, Pentax and Sony seem to be getting more details from the highlights. When you’re talking about the shadows though most cameras perform about the same.

Just for fun, here are a bunch of different camera renderings from Capture One 10.

5D Mk II

Canon 6D

Sony a7

Sony a900

Nikon D700

Olympus E510

Olympus EP2

Phase One IQ3 100MP Portrait

Minolta Maxxum 5D

Fujifilm X Pro 1

Comparatively speaking here, Pentax isn’t bad if you prefer a certain look–but that’s not a look that I like. In fact, none of these are bad at all. But my personal favorite output comes from the old Kodak sensors and the Canon 5D Mk II.

But now let’s get back into this comparison. The following photos were shot at high ISOs. They’re not direct comparisons but they’re close enough to give you an idea.

Canon 5D Mk IV: ISO 2000

Nikon D810: ISO 3200

Pentax K-1 ISO 3200

a99 II: ISO 1600

In every photo here you’re not going to see a whole lot of noise when looking at the images on a screen. But if you print the photos then you’ll get a different story. On prints, the Canon 5D Mk IV and the Nikon D810 pretty much have a tie when it comes to my judgement. None of these cameras produce image noise that looks like film though–and therefore it isn’t spectacular, but it’s pleasing enough in most situations.

Winner: All of them

Conclusions

So when you sit there trying to figure all this out, you’ll notice that Canon, Nikon, Sony, and Pentax all have great image quality. You can’t complain much about the files or their capabilities. They all also have nice ergonomics, though personally I’d want to reach for the Canon for many reasons including ease of use. If you’re in a very tough environment then you can rely on Pentax to be the most reliable camera you can get your hands on. And as for autofocus: Nikon and Sony do very well.

So is there a clear winner? No. But we’ve got recommendations:

  • Photojournalism: Canon and Nikon
  • Studio portraits: Sony and Canon
  • Wildlife/Sports/Action: Nikon, Sony and Pentax
  • Weddings: Canon and Nikon
  • Events: Nikon

These findings not only have to do with what the cameras can do, but also with the system. Consider the lenses and flash systems available in addition to how well they work with the system.

But if you’re wanting a camera just for the fun of it, then go with whatever you want.

Canon 5D Mk IV:  $3,299.00

Nikon D810: $2,796.95

Sony a99 II:  $3,198.00

Pentax K-1: $1,819