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!!
So what is the deal here? Which DSLR do you Buy and Why?
Well, 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 new ‘Hybrid 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.
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!!
Based 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?
Features 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.
The 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 😉
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!!
- Sony A57 (slt-a57) @ BHPhotoVideo, Amazon, Adorama
- Nikon D5100 @ BHPhotoVideo, Amazon, Adorama
- Canon T4i @ BHPhotoVideo, Amazon, Adorama
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