If you're upgrading to a full-frame camera should you 'stick' with tradition and settle on the somewhat antiquated design of a DSLR, or 'twist' with a more revolutionary mirrorless compact system camera?
Chances are you'll need to buy at least a couple of new lenses as well, so there's the added temptation of switching to a different brand, or even to a completely different type of camera altogether. We investigate in our Canon EOS 5D Mark II vs Sony A7 II comparison.
There are highly attractive 'all-rounders' in both camps: cameras that don't go overboard on megapixel count, yet aim to take everything from portraiture to landscape photography in their stride.
Two of our current favourites are the Canon 5D Mk III SLR, and the mirrorless Sony A7 II from Sony's 'ILC' (interchangeable-lens camera) stable.
A major factor in choosing any 'system' camera is the depth and breadth of the system itself. You're spoiled for choice when it comes to lenses and other accessories for the long-established line of Canon SLRs.
Sony's mirrorless cameras are a much newer proposition, especially when it comes to full-frame models, but the range of compatible E-mount lenses has grown over the last couple of years, and an adaptor is also available for fitting A-mount lenses.
5 things photographers will learn switching from DSLR to mirrorless
DSLR vs Mirrorless: understanding the key differences
Canon EOS 5D Mark II vs Sony A7 II: Features
Billed by Canon as a professional-grade camera, the 5D Mk III has an exotic feature set. Highlights include a 61-point autofocus module with 41 cross-type points and five double-cross points, 63-zone metering, and a working range of -2EV to 18EV.
The 22.3 megapixel-count of the image sensor is modest by the latest standards, but it helps to enable an enormous sensitivity range of ISO 100-25,600 (50-102,400 expanded).
The viewfinder is a high-quality pentaprism unit that gives a bright and super-sharp display, with 100% frame coverage.
For its part, the Sony has a hybrid phase/contrast autofocus system with 117 active points on the image sensor. Without a reflex mirror, there's no facility for having a separate autofocus module.
Sensor-based autofocus systems can be slow, but Sony claims a 30% increase in autofocus speed for its hybrid system over the original A7, and a 50% improvement in AF tracking performance.
The sensitivity range for autofocus is -1EV to 20EV, so it loses out for extremely low-light focusing to the Canon. There's a 1,200-zone metering system, again taken directly from the image sensor rather than the separate module featured in SLR cameras. The sensitivity range is generous at ISO 50-25,600, but lacks the Canon's expanded range.
With no reflex mirror, the Sony naturally can't have an optical viewfinder but, while some CSCs (compact system cameras) omit a viewfinder altogether, the Sony has a built-in EVF (electronic viewfinder). This boasts a huge image resolution of 2,359,000 dots and, like the Canon's optical unit, gives 100% frame coverage.
One feature that's always welcome for handheld photography is image stabilisation. Canon has never produced a full-frame SLR with built-in, sensor-shift stabilisation, and the 5D Mk III is no exception. If you want stabilisation, you have to fit a lens that includes an optical stabiliser.
Canon makes many of these, as do Sigma and Tamron. Taking the opposite path, the A7 II was the world's first full-frame camera to feature sensor-shift stabilisation. It's a highly advanced five-axis design that features correction not only in the X and Y planes, but also for pitch, yaw and roll.
The A7 II is well connected with Wi-Fi and NFC (Near Field Communication) built in, while the 5D Mk III has neither. Strangely the A7 II lacks a standalone battery charger. Instead, you have to connect to the whole camera to the charger via its USB socket.