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June 28, 2012

Canon T4i vs Nikon D5100 vs Sony A57!! Which Camera is the Best Bang for the Buck?? – Updated with Poll!!

Sony A57 - SLT-A57

In this article I will compare the Canon T4i vs Nikon D5100 vs Sony Alpha A57!! I actually just reviewed the A57 and you can check it out Here: Sony Alpha A57 Review >>.

All these cameras are around the same price point and offer very similar features as a whole. They go for $850, $750, and $700, respectively before any current rebates kick in, and these are all semi-pro quality cameras in my opinion.

Currently Nikon is offering a $200 dollar rebate on the D5100 which brings it down to ~$550; Nikon fan or not, that is a killer deal!! Sony is also offering a $50 dollar rebate on the A57 dropping it to $650; Also a killer deal in my opinion ;) The Canon T4i is the high-priced camera in this club at a whopping $850 for the camera body only!!

Breakdown

So what is the deal here? Which DSLR do you Buy and Why?

Canon T4iWell, it depends as usual, but as it stands now the Sony A57 is a no brainer in my opinion for the feature set, quality, and cost. The Nikon D5100 however, is a really great deal, with the $200 rebate!!

The Canon T4i however is packing a newHybrid CMOS‘ sensor that now includes pixels dedicated to phase detection autofocus. That is pretty amazing and should help drastically with AF while recording video and when using live view. It basically assists the CDAF system to make it faster.

The Sony A57 is way more powerful in the Auto focus during video department thanks to the translucent mirror technology. The Nikon uses CDAF which works similar to the Nex cameras and resides on the sensor itself. So, the mirror locks up basically and you’re not using the phase detection auto focus any more. On the Sony, it always works!!

Fact is, the CDAF works pretty good overall on the Nikon D5100, but it’s not as accurate or fast as the Sony A57′s PDAF (Phase detection Auto Focus) System, or the New Canon Hybrid system. PDAF is far superior for auto focus while recording video in good lighting conditions, or in live view for that matter!

We shall see how well the Canon T4i’s new hybrid design stacks up. I believe they did this with the Nikon J1 as well to get better AF performance and I guess they have to clone out the whole in the sensor made by the AF sensor. Pretty interesting how it assists the CDAF in determining where the subject it, it then hands off to the CDAF and it fine tunes the focus, but often with a better starting point.

Nikon D5100What about image quality? Isn’t this ultimately what matters in a camera?

Image quality is a tough one to judge for real. They all have excellent image quality, and depending on the glass mounted, they can all take stellar images with the right person behind the wheel. Sensors are all about the same physical size, but the canon has a 2mp advantage with an 18mp sensor over the Sony and Nikon’s 16mp sensor. Not really that much of a difference, but it is useful in portrait work to have an extra few MP’s for editing the details etc..

If they all have excellent image quality, how can we really judge which is best?

Well, that again is a tough call, but we do have one helpful answer!! DXOMark scores sensors based on a number of factors. These factors determine the sensors potential pretty much, but it is not a real world test by any means. They have measurable results with a few different categories for easy comparison between sensors.

DXOMark Sensor Scores

Note: The T4i has not be tested yet and should score higher than the T3i. I just used it as a base line.

Click for a larger version!!

canon t4i vs sony a57 vs nikon d5100

Canon t3i vs sony a57 vs nikon d5100 – DXOMark Sensor scores

 

Canon T4i - BackBased on DXOMark’s testing the Nikon D5100 wins out over both the Sony A57 and Canon T3i , with an overall score of 80 and a Low-Light score of 1183!!!! Sony is the runner-up with a respectable overall score of 75, and the Canon T3i is last with a significant drop in score to 65. DXOMark has not rated the T4i yet, but it should do better than this as it has an updated Digic 5 Processor and new hybrid sensor. I would estimate around a 70 overall score, but will have to wait for the official score.

What we can we really discern from this Score?

The SLT costs the A57 about 5 points in the overall score as it’s the same sensor as the Nikon has. Not bad if you ask me, as it’s a semi-translucent mirror is directly in front of the sensor!! The advantages to this technology totally out way the 5 point disadvantage in my opinion. However, Low light High ISO photography will be a significantly better with the Nikon D5100 than the competition. Other than that, differences in image quality will be hardly noticeable if anything on a large print between the Sony and the Nikon. The Canon has the slight resolution advantage, but lower score, so it may be noticeable on the print with a magnifying glass ;)

What about features?

Nikon D5100 - BackFeatures wise, the Sony A57 wins hands down as it just offers so much more than both the Canon and the Nikon. I can list all the features, but trust me!! The main advantage to the Sony is the true live view display that actually shows you your exposure comp, white balance, etc.. live, thanks to the translucent mirror. It’s a huge advantage that comes along with an Electronic viewfinder as opposed to the optical viewfinder found on the Canon and Nikon. The EVF can also display tons of extra info, because it’s basically a little version of the screen on the back.

They all have great Phase detection Auto focus systems for sports shooting!! The Canon T4i has a 9-Point All Cross-Type AF System and can shoot 5fps. The Sony A57 has 15-Point with 3 Cross-Type AF System and can shoot 12fps. The Nikon has 11 points and can shoot 4fps. Not sure if any are the Cross-Type as it does not say on the site.

All of these cameras cane be used in the Studio Environment as well!!

What about build quality?

Build quality goes to the Sony and Canon with the Nikon looking and feeling the “least pro like” out of the three cameras in my opinion. They are all really well made however, and all have nice swivel screens for multi-angle viewing.

Bottom Line

http://static.bhphoto.com/images/multiple_images/item_images/IMG_244428.jpgThe Nikon D5100 is the best bang for the buck currently with the $200 rebate if you’re looking for your first DSLR for Photography. You just can’t beat that deal of $550 for the camera body only and the excellent image quality it offers. Once the rebate runs out (June 30th!!), the Sony A57 will be the only logical choice in my opinion. Especially if its your first DSLR!!

I personally would still spend the extra cash and get the Sony A57 though over the D5100, even with the rebate, as it offers much better video quality (PDAF), and all the advanced SLT technology advantages it offers. Not to mention the huge feature set that just trounces the competition.

As for the Canon T4i? Well, it’s just to expensive for what you get in my opinion, but does offer a kick a$$ 9-point all Cross-Type AF system that is ideal for sports shooting. It also has the new hybrid sensor which includes a PDAF sensor on the actual image sensor!!  Perhaps Canon will offer a rebate soon ;)

 

Which Camera would you buy out of these three??

View Results

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Closing Remarks

I hope this Article helps some of you out that might be on the fence or was just curious what the competition was currently up to. Please keep in mind this is just my opinion, and in the end all of these cameras are capable of taking fantastic top quality photos; remember that!!

Please feel free to ask questions or hammer me if I made some mistakes or you don’t agree with my analysis. I would love to hear your thoughts as it just seems like people don’t get how good the Sony Alpha Cameras really are, and we need to get the word out!!

“Hey Photogs, there is a better bang for the buck camera out there called Sony!!” Spread the word!!

Jay

Compare Prices:

 


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Thanks,
Jay

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About the Author

Jay
Hello, I'm the owner and operator of SonyAlphaLab.com. Please check out the About page for a full background on myself and the Lab ;) Google+ | Twitter | RSS-feed | Email Updates!!




24 Comments


  1. Hey I really appreciate your comparison here, but I think its too early to write off the 650D with no comprehensive reviews done yet. The sample shots from 650D on DPreview look really clean even at high ISOs, the earlier rebels were all crappy at high ISOs, which is clearly seen in the Dxo scores. Also the 650D’s 9 cross af should do better than A57′s 3 cross. Plus the Digic5 over the Digic4 on 600D or 60D and the promises of new STM lenses. I am keeping my fingers crossed here. Waiting for a full review of 650D! But as you said the price is really a let down, lets see if Canon drops it a bit.


    • Jay

      Raghav,

      Thanks for the comments and sharing your insight!! That is a great point about the T4i and your correct that it should perform much better in low light now with the updated processor!!

      I updated the article a bit to reflect this and added info on the new “Hybrid Sensor” with built in PDAF Canon is now using!! ;)

      Thanks again for the info and comments!

      Jay


  2. Karina

    Hi!
    I’m going to study photo and I don’t know anything about cameras so, please help me, which of this cameras con you suggest me?


  3. Jim

    I would surely go for Nikon D5100, advantage being the range of lens and accessories which are cheaply available anywere in the world. Moreover, the long feature list is just agimmick which a serious enthusiast or a beginner would actually use. Nikon is a pro when it comes to image quality and yes most importantly i would save the moeny and invest in buying good lens!! and with that addtional $200 i can buy a variety of exllent good nikon glass.
    Sony is no doubt great for video but a DSLRs main purpose is still photography, i would rather buy a handycam than use DSLRs video mode for serious videography. canon in my opinion is extremely overpriced and its just not worth the money.


    • Jay

      Hey Jim,

      Good points and thank you very much for sharing your thoughts here!! One point I would make here though is that the feature list of the Sony’s is not all gimmick as they actually do work. Would a Pro use a lot of then, No. However, the AF Points, Image Quality, Dynamic Range, FPS, killer video, are all really good for the Money. The Nikon 5100 really is a great deal though, no question.

      Thanks again for sharing,
      Jay


  4. TIm

    Would you prefer
    Nikon D5100 16.2 Megapixel Digital Camera W/ Nikon 18-55mm VR Lens at 540 price
    or
    Canon EOS Rebel Digital T4i 18.0 MP Camera W/ 18-55mm IS II Lens at 680 price ?

    I just want to talk about the price of this two package. please give me your opinion.


    • Jay

      Hey Tim,

      Having used only Canon’s and Sony’s for my personal use for reference; I would go with the Nikon Killer Deal The Canon deal is not worth the extra money in my opinion.

      Jay


  5. Dan

    Jay,

    I recieved a Canon T4i for Christmas! I’m less than a novice photographer but I’d like to get into it. I have the option of returning the camera (sale priced at $749 with 18-55 lens) and getting what I want. I plan on taking as much video as stills. One of my pet peeves, though, is AF noise. I understand Canon has the 135 “quiet” lens but what does Sony have? Thanks.


    • Jay

      Dan,

      Thanks for the questions and Congrates on the new Canon T4i! A great camera for sure ;) Sony does offer very quite lenses for the exact reason you are talking about. The Sony 18-135mm kit lens for example has a SAM focus motor which is very quite, and smooth making it excellent for video!!

      Sony’s official pitch below:

      The Auto Focus drive in the SAL is smooth and quiet thanks to its SAM (Smooth Autofocus Motor), which also helps improves AF response when shooting moving subjects. Reductions in drive noise also make the SAL-18135 quieter than other entry-level model lenses in the line-up.

      Now, you do have a few options out there as far as Alpha Cameras go that I would recommend. Did you have one in mind?

      If you were to return the Canon T4i kit you could get the Sony A37 w/ 18-135mm kit ~$598 or the A57 w/ 18-135mm kit lens ~748.00

      I hope that helps Dan,
      Jay


      • Dan

        Thanks, Jay. It does. I’m very interested in learning about the A57. I must admit, though, I’m very impressed with the T4i and I have it right here with me. Decisions, Decisions!! Which one shoots better in low light? One thing I hardly see anyone talk about is battery life. I believe Sony’s last quite a bit longer, too.


      • Jay

        Dan,

        The Canon T4i has better High ISO abilities due to no translucent mirror. Battery life I will have compare as I don’t know what the t4i is rated for.

        Overall I would still go with the A57 as it’s way better for video, but you can’t go wrong with the t4i either ;)

        Best,
        Jay


      • Dan

        Jay, is the 18-135 as quiet (essentlally silent) as the T4i lense of the same size?


      • Jay

        Yes, it is just as quiet;)


      • Dan

        What kind of price would I be looking at for the A57 w/18-135 and a 75-300 zoom? What about memory cards?


      • Jay

        Dan,

        Well the Sony A57 goes for $748 w/ the 18-135mm kit lens. You add to that the standard Sony 75-300mm lens @ $248 and your looking at ~$996 + tax.

        Memory cards are pretty cheap! I would recommend atleast two 16gb cards of medium to high quality. Check out my Memory cards Guide for more info on cards ;)

        Jay


  6. Dan

    Well, after a lot of research and chatting with a few people, including this website conversation, I returned the Canon and went for the A57 with the 135mm lens. The 75-300 mm lens was on sale with purchase of the camera with the 18-135 kit lens. It was $900 total at a local camera shop. Of course I bought a few other items including memory cards, which I regret after seeing how much cheaper they are online or at Best Buy. I’ll return those. Do you recommend a service plan? This is my first expensive camera. They have a three yr policy for $129 which is essentially a no questions asked repair or replace. It also includes two free cleanings. What is your opinion on that?


    • Jay

      Awesome Dan and Congratulations!! I never buy the warranty polices personally except for my Mac Book Pro that is ;) I can’t really say one way or the other, sorry. It is a good idea to get your gear cleaned, although I have never done that either!!

      Can’t wait to see some photos Dan!!

      Jay


  7. Dan

    I got it up and running today, but I have what I hope isn’t a major mistake on my part! Some Pro Master Microfilm screen protectors were included with my purchase. I cut out the size I needed and went to adhere it to the screen. It ‘grabbed’ the screen before I was ready to adhere and had to pull it off to adjust. When I did that it left a large smudge or film on it that I can’t get off with the cleaner I was given. I can’t feel anything on the screen so I’m wondering if I damaged the coating or whatever is on there. It looks horrible! What should I do?


    • Jay

      Dan,

      Interesting conundrum you have here. Trying to put a protection screen on you accidentally ms-aligned the sticky protection screen. So that adhesive is left on the lcd or no?

      Is it sticky at all? Did you try cleaning it with a lens cleaner or anything?

      Jay


  8. Suhana

    I’m looking to invest on a DSLR and I’ve been trying to decide on whether or not I should get the t4i or the d5100 for at least a month now, and still no luck. I don’t really care about the video features, I’m just confused about which one has better image quality and ease of use.


    • Jay

      Hello Suhana,

      Out of the Nikon and Canon I would go with the Nikon. It has the much better Sony sensor inside which makes the image quality significantly better. Check out the DXOMark Score for image quality!! Other features are about the same as well as lens options. Nikon D5100 @ Amazon >>

      Jay


  9. Doug

    I have just purchased the Sony a57 and will probably never look back, I think it’s a great camera. Just one thing I’m not sure about. When the camera’s mode dial is set to Movie, the AF is turned on and the lens cap is on the lens keep moving in and out on its own. It stops as soon as I take off the lens cap. Is this natural or is there something wrong with the camera?


    • Jay

      Hi Doug,

      Sorry for the very delayed reply!! I’ve been really busy at my 9-5pm job, and trying to get the HX300 review done. I’m up to the sample video finally!!

      In any event as it relates to your slt-a57. I never tried that, but it seems like it could happen although should not happen!! If that were to happen in your camera bag, the lens could break. Basically what is happening is the AF is trying to focus, but can’t see because the lens cap is on. Therefore it’s hunting back and forth for contrast.

      Are you at the latest firmware release?? If not, try updating that first. If that does not work, I would give Sony Tech support a call. I honestly don’t know for sure as I don’t have the camera anymore, but I don’t think it should do that with the lens cap on. Although from an AF perspective it does make sense what it’s doing.

      I hope that helps Doug,
      Jay



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