Sony FX9 vs Canon C500 Mark II: Which is the Best Camera for Video and Filmmaking?

Both the Sony FX9 and Canon C500 Mark II are proven swiss army knives in the world of solo shooter filmmaking. The original Canon C300 was a spectacular success for Canon, and the FS7 was a spectacular success for Sony.

Who will win this round?

In this article we’ll look at all the important specifications relevant to video and see which camera is the better investment for the next 2-3 years for the owner operator.

The basics

CameraPrice of CameraLens Mount
Sony FX9$10,998E
Canon C500 Mark II$15,999EF

The Canon C500 Mark II is definitely more expensive on paper. The standard EF mount is non-locking. You need to pay $2,199 extra for a locking EF mount (called EF-C) from Canon.

Should you opt for a locking mount?

It depends on the lenses you are going to use it with. If you’re using cine lenses or heavier zoom lenses then definitely yes. If you’re just using Canon still lenses then probably not. Canon sells the following two adapters, both with shim kits:

  1. EF locking (CM-V1)
  2. EF to PL mount (PM-V1)
  3. B4 mount adapter

Since we are comparing both cameras for the solo shooter or owner operator, I’ll assume you are okay with the standard EF mount for this comparison.

The Sony FX9 has a locking E mount. This is more rugged than the standard E mount on Sony alpha mirrorless cameras. Again, this is only relevant if you’re purchasing heavier lenses like the Sony 28-135mm f/4 G lens.

Of course, the big question is: Is the Canon C500 Mark II worth the extra $5,000?

Let’s find out!

Usability and Workflow

Cameras in this price bracket come with a certain level of image quality. And both Canon and Sony have decades of experience and trust in the broadcast space.

For a lot of professionals, in this price point, usability is as critical as image quality. If money were no object, for the best image quality, one can always opt for the Arri Amira or Red Monstro. These are the cameras used in high end television and documentaries.

Those who are purchasing the Sony FX9 and Canon C500 Mark II are mainly into documentaries, corporate videos, commercials, high-end weddings and maybe the occasional short or feature work.

In short, these are money-making tools.

If you can’t use the cameras quickly and efficiently to maximize image quality when you (and your clients) need it, they will cost you more money than any savings you might have made during purchase.

Buttons and dials

The general position of important buttons and dials is usually similar for all cameras. Most of the controls reside on the left, the operator’s side, for quick access.

Even though it seems Sony has more buttons the reality is Canon’s are completely customizable; and, they are easier to see and press in the field under tough run-and-gun situations.

What I’ve seen in practice is, this is more of a muscle-memory thing. You can make both cameras work, and it’s ultimately down to personal preference. You can always get used to either camera, and you will find good and bad things on both, so there are no deal breakers here.

Personally, in case you are interested, I prefer Canon’s layout. The buttons can also be illuminated in the dark.

It is important to draw attention to Canon’s non-operator side. There are dials there to be used by the non-operator. Also, there is the question of the placement of audio controls.

Audio

In the C500 Mark II the audio functions are on the right:

This is an important distinction, because it makes clear that if the camera is on your shoulder, or if you are forced to pick a side due to space constraints (about half the time), then you won’t be able to ride the audio gain or headphone levels during a shot without using the customizable buttons.

The Canon 300 Mark II or the original C500 both had audio modules separate. The C200 has them at the back but to the left, so you could still access it if you were standing on the operator’s side.

Important!

It is pretty clear that the design goals of the Canon C500 Mark II lean more towards a two-person operation while the Sony FX9 leans firmly towards a one-person operation. Both can be used by a single shooter, but the FX9 is more friendly for all kinds of video work when you are a one-person operation.

As far as audio specs are concerned, here are the features:

CameraSpecsInputs*Headphone
Sony FX94-Channel 24-Bit 48 kHz LPCM3-Pin XLR x 23.5mm
Canon C500 Mark II2-Channel 24-Bit 48 kHz LPCM3-Pin XLR x 2, 3.5mm x 13.5mm

*XLR inputs are phantom powered, both mic and line level.

The FX9 can control all four channels quickly and independently. It also has a hot shoe mount on top for additional audio modules if necessary:

  1. Sony XLR-K1M
  2. Sony XLR-K2M
  3. Sony XLR-K3M

These give you an additional two channels of XLR audio and the kit comes with a shotgun microphone as well. The ability to record multiple channels and control them individually is important, especially for run-and-gun interview situations. You could wire up a couple of interviewees, the interviewer and a backup and you’ll already be down four ports.

Of course, the same functionality can be added to the C500 Mark II as well, but at an added expense with the Canon EU-V2 Expansion Unit:

This gives you two audio controls on the operator’s side as well as two additional channels to record audio.

Timecode and Genlock

CameraTimecodeGenlockHeadphone
Sony FX9BNC, Input and OutputBNC, Input3.5mm
Canon C500 Mark IIBNC, Input and OutputAdditional purchase3.5mm

To really equate both cameras, you need to add the additional Canon EU-V1 or Canon EU-V2 Expansion Unit which gives you:

  • Genlock
  • Additional XLR inputs (only V2)
  • Remote control
  • Ethernet control
  • V-mount plate with P-tap output (only V2)
  • DC output to other devices (only V2)
  • Lens control for certain supported lenses (only V2)

It is clear if you need the Canon C500 Mark II for any sort of regular broadcast work you will have to purchase the EU-V2 expansion unit. Also, if you have multiple accessories it’s a good way to power them as well. For this comparison though, it’s not really an easy decision. If your work is broadcast oriented, with multiple accessories, and you find yourself part of a multi-camera shoot most often, and genlock is important, the choice is a no brainer.

To be fair to the Sony FX9, it already has genlock built in. To make it a fair fight I’ll need to add the price of the Canon EU-V1 to this comparison. But, then, the Sony won’t have ethernet. So either we add modules to both cameras, or to neither.

With the Sony, you get the XDCA-FX9 Extension Unit:

This puts both cameras on an even keel. To summarize:

CameraModulePrice
Sony FX9XDCA-FX9$2,498
Canon C500 Mark IIEU-V2$1,599

Wireless

This is where Sony has the upper hand. You need to add a separate wireless transmitter with the C500 Mark II.

With the Sony FX9, you have wireless built in, and then some with the XDCA expansion module. What you get:

  • 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
  • 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz (the latter only in supported countries)
  • NFC
  • Cellular connection with the XDCA-FX9
  • Live streaming with the XDCA-FX9
  • Control the camera through the Sony app for tablets/smartphones

Built-in ND Filter

Both cameras have built-in ND filters, but they operate very differently.

CameraModuleType
Sony FX92 to 7 stops and Auto^Electronic Optical
Canon C500 Mark II2, 4, 6, 8, 10 stops*Manual filters

^You can move in increments between 2 to 7 or dial in any ND range from 1/4 (2 stops) to 1/128 (7 stops). To know how ND numbers relate to stops, read the complete guide to in-camera filters. If you select Auto the camera automatically controls exposure through the right ND setting. Sony’s videos have been impressive, but I feel the technology is only if you’re desperate. It’s not as seamless or elegant as riding the iris, for example.

*8 and 10 through using two NDs at the same time (6+2) and (6+4).

To be honest, both settings get the job done. I prefer the Canon system, as each glass is separate. Even if you damage one, the others will still work. Sony has just one glass, and it is controlled by one mechanism. With modern cameras and their great ISO range you can really manage with discrete levels of ND.

Top handle

Both the Sony FX9 and Canon C500 Mark II ship with a top handle. Whether or not you’ll be using a cage or third-party top handle is a different question.

Viewfinder and LCD

Both the Sony FX9 and Canon C500 Mark II ship with an LCD.

This difference also tells an important story. The FX9 has a smaller 3.5″ (2.76 million dot) LCD with a loupe positioned for shoulder mounted filming. Sony believes will mostly be using the camera handheld. Hence the single grip and viewfinder.

The C500 Mark II has a lower resolution 4.3″ (1.23 million dot) touchscreen LCD. The lower resolution doesn’t really matter if it’s used like an LCD. At the time of this writing Canon hasn’t published the nits rating.

The C500 Mark II is for multiple kinds of filmmaking and videography, and you have to pick and choose what kind of viewfinder you need. You have three choices:

  1. Canon EVF-V50 OLED (1.77 million dots) – tiltable.
  2. Canon EVF-V70 OLED (2 million dots) – four buttons, false color and zebra, right position for shoulder mount, joystick and self-illuminating.
  3. Third-party viewfinders like a Zacuto Gratical (1.3 million dots) with an EVF mount.

I really don’t see the point of the V50. It’s ergonomically very limited, but it’s also cheap. I think most people would prefer the third-party viewfinder.

Autofocus

The Canon C500 Mark II has Dual Pixel AF with support for Touch AF and Face Detection AF. Canon is the class leader here, and with Canon’s range of cinema lenses there’s nothing left to say.

What is dual pixel AF? According to Canon:

For DAF, each pixel in the camera’s CMOS sensor is configured with two photodiodes. Two independent image signals can then be detected at each photosite and compared using phase-difference to provide autofocus with compatible lenses. DAF can survey the scene and recognizes not only whether the subject is in focus or not, but in which direction (near or far), and by how much.

Canon USA

Now, about Sony. The the only camera manufacturer that has AF competing anywhere near the level of Canon is Sony. But so far…only in the mirrorless camera space. The Sony FX9 is the first major video camera from Sony that brings that level of AF to video:

Developed by Sony’s ? camera engineers, enhanced Fast Hybrid AF combines phase detection AF for fast, accurate subject tracking with contrast AF for exceptional focus accuracy. In addition, Face Detection intelligently recognises and locks on to human faces.

Sony Pro

It goes without saying AF for video works best and most reliably only with native lenses. That means Canon EF for the C500 Mark Ii and Sony E for the FX9.

Image Stabilization

According to Canon:

The EOS C500 Mark II is the first Canon Cinema EOS camera to feature built-in five-axis electronic IS that works with almost any lens including anamorphic.

Canon USA

From Sony:

…meta data generated by FX9’s built-in gyro allows you to creatively choose the balance between the level of shake-compensation and the resolution of trimmed 4K imagery. This feature is also compatible with any E-mount lens and allows for far faster processing than conventional NLE stabilisation (sic) workflows…

…handheld footage can be transformed with Sony Catalyst Browse/Catalyst Prepare software* in post-production to look as smooth as if it were shot with a gimbal.

* Catalyst Browse/Catalyst Prepare Ver.2019.2 is required.

Sony Pro

The Sony workaround is not really practical. I’m not sure who would take the time out to work with Catalyst Prepare just to stabilize shots. With Canon EF lenses, though, you can combine electronic IS (note, it’s not mechanical IBIS like Sony alpha mirrorless cameras) with IS on the lenses, so I’d be more inclined to give this one to Canon.

Let’s stop here.

There are other ergonomic considerations as well, though I feel they are more of a personal preference. E.g., some people like the top handle of the C500 Mark II, others hate it. Some like the rosette and single shoulder mount system and others don’t care much for it. It all depends on your shooting style and needs.

What you need to understand is both form factors have been around for a long time, and both work. The only way you can know is if you use it yourself for a while.

Comparison of video features

Now let’s get into the camera video specifications:

Sensor

CameraSizeISO RangeNative ISO
Sony FX935.7 x 18.8mm-3 to 18 dB*800/4000* in S-Log3
Canon C500 Mark II38.1 x 20.1mm160-25600800 in C-Log2^

*Dual Native ISO. 18 dB is about 51,200 ISO.

^C-Log 2 has the highest dynamic range. With C-Log 3 you get 14 stops (still great!).

Both cameras claim 15 stops of dynamic range, and if past performance is any indicator I believe the images will get close! Here are the official videos from the respective companies.

In RAW

CameraMax. ResolutionBit Depth
Sony FX94096 x 2160*16-bit^
Canon C500 Mark II5952 x 314010/12-bit^

*Currently it can only go to 3840 × 2160. DCI 4K is a future firmware update.

^Sony RAW is via a future firmware update an only possible through the XDCA-FX9 extension unit. Canon RAW is actually Canon RAW Lite, written internally, at about 1/3 to 1/5th data rates.

I definitely pick the Canon C500 Mark II here. For these solid reasons:

  1. You can record RAW internally.
  2. Data rates are manageable.
  3. Canon RAW is read by every important NLE directly.
  4. 6K at 60 fps!!

In 10-bit 4:2:2 internally

CameraMax. ResolutionData RateFormat
Sony FX94096 x 2160*240-600 Mbps^XAVC-I/L
Canon C500 Mark II4096 x 2160160-810 MbpsXF-AVC

*Currently it can only go to 3840 × 2160. DCI 4K is a future firmware update.

^Depending on the frame rate. In Intraframe mode. Interframe bit rates are too low. Note: Sony writes the data rates as MBps which is incorrect. It should be Mbps. MBps or MB/s is 8 times Mbps!

For the average shooter, the data rates on the Sony FX9 are more manageable. We’ll take a closer look at media card rates below. I also don’t understand why 4K DCI is a special firmware update. I mean, after all these years, why is it still even a thing?

For me the Canon C500 Mark II strikes a great balance here. The data rates are on par with Prores HQ, and the codec edits great, similar to XAVC-I.

Both cameras can record HD proxies simultaneously.

What about frame rates?

CameraMax fps at 4KMax fps at 1080p
Sony FX960 fps*180 fps*
Canon C500 Mark II60 fps120 fps^

*60 fps is with a crop, in Super 35mm mode. 180 fps is currently not available, it’s a future firmware update.

The Canon C500 Mark II can record 120 fps in 2K, so is slightly better off in resolution. Overall, the FX9 is better, even though I feel strongly against Sony’s policy of putting off features as firmware updates when they should be ready on day one.

Tip

You can’t wait around hoping for the firmware to drop, or you might as well just wait for all of the firmware to be updated prior to buying the FX9. By then the price will have dropped a bit too!

Super 35mm and anamorphic modes

Both cameras are full frame, which means they also have Super35 mm modes.

The FX9 can do DCI 4K at up to 60 fps in Super 35mm mode, but in a future firmware update. The C500 Mark II can do that now.

The Canon C500 Mark II also does anamorphic internally. All this means is you can desqueeze the image internally instead of having to use an external monitor. What it tells us though, is the C500 Mark II is also definitely a cinema camera.

For true anamorphic, the sensor needs to span at least 21.95mm x 18.6mm. As we have seen before, both cameras meet these specifications, but with the C500 Mark II having the upper hand because it outputs 6K, so even ‘chopped off’ anamorphic will deliver true 4K.

Inputs and Outputs for Video

Both cameras have important SDI ports and the obligatory HDMI port:

Camera12G-SDI3G-SDIHDMI
Sony FX911Type A
Canon C500 Mark II11Type A

Atomos have announced 16-bit Prores RAW from the FX9, but only with the extension unit. You need the newer and more expensive Neon range. To be honest I don’t know how practical this is.

Media Cards

Media card costs are an important percentage of ownership:

CameraDual card slots#Price per GB^
Sony FX9Yes, XQD + SD$1.8/GB
Canon C500 Mark IIYes, CFexpress + SD$1.56

^Sony XQD G cards 240 GB. Sandisk CFexpress 256 GB. CFexpress is a newer version of XQD, and the form factors are interchangeable. But XQD does limit the maximum data rate in camera so you’ll never get internal RAW with XQD.

#The SD card is useful to record proxies for faster editing. The proxies are 8-bit 4:2:0.

If you compare apples to apples (4K to 4K), the data rates of the Sony FX9 and Canon C500 Mark II are about equal. The C500 Mark II can also record in Canon RAW lite. The data rate might max out at 25o MB/s in 12-bit Canon RAW Lite, but it’s better to wait for the real world tests first.

One important thing to note is you get a free 512 GB CFexpress card and reader with the C500 Mark II. That’s a $650 dollar value right there.

Battery life and Power

Here are the official numbers:

CameraPower DrawBattery life*Battery Voltage
Sony FX935.2 W127 minutes14.4V
Canon C500 Mark IIn/a75 minutes14.4V

*See below for which battery. For the C500 Mark II I’m just making an educated guess.

CameraBatteryCost*Cost of 4 hours of operation
Sony FX9BP-U90 85Wh$399$754
Canon C500 Mark IIBP-A60 90Wh$429$1,374

*As of this writing. Original batteries only, from B&H. You can always buy cheaper batteries, but the same applies to both cameras.

It is to be noted that the C500 Mark II ships with the larger A60 battery while the FX9 ships with a smaller (and newer) U35 battery. That’s a difference of $200 or so. So you can actually knock $1,000 off the price difference!

On the other hand, the C500 Mark II is bound to be more power hungry than the FX9. If you use dual pixel AF, LUTs, etc., the consumption will be higher.

Which is the better camera for video?

Here’s a summary of each round, and the “winner”:

FeatureWinner – Solo ShooterWinner – Cinema
ErgonomicsSony FX9Canon C500 Mark II
Native lensesCanon C500 Mark IITie
Third-party lensesSony FX9Tie
Video featuresTieCanon C500 Mark II
Image qualityNeed to testNeed to test
AF for videoCanon C500 Mark IICanon C500 Mark II
Image stabilizationCanon C500 Mark IITie
Media cardsTieTie
Battery lifeSony FX9Tie

I know a lot of people will be comparing these two cameras. But it should be blatantly obvious by now that the Sony FX9 and Canon C500 Mark II are meant for two different markets.

Are you a solo shooter on a tight budget?

If yes, then the Sony FX9 is the right investment for you. Factor in everything and the C500 Mark II is still a few thousand dollars more expensive. And what you get are:

  1. 6K
  2. RAW internally

Both of these features are good to have, but don’t really contribute to food on the table. Not many clients pay extra for 6K or RAW workflows. Not only does it add to the cost of the camera, but also the time to work with RAW and the cost of additional storage and processing power.

Are you working on high-end videos and low budget films?

Then pick the Canon C500 Mark II. Those extra benefits that didn’t contribute directly to income in the low budget space take on importance here.

Clients do pay extra for color grading or DI, and there are decent enough budgets for:

  • Assistants
  • Storage for RAW
  • Proper monitoring, LUT creation, etc.
  • Putting together a camera package in a modular system

You will be working with enough margins to recoup the additional cost in just a matter of months. It’s a no-brainer, really.

What’s the bottom line?

If I had to pick just one winner, I’d pick the Canon C500 Mark II. It’s the camera that excites me the most.

What do you think?

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15 Comments

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  1. Thank you for a very thorough comparison! I am still very much in doubt which camera Im going to buy. I am leaning on the Sony because of price and it soothes my needs the best. But there are a lot of things that will come in a future update which i dont like. Essentially it´s a bit hard to know what camera you are buying. Im excited for the c500ii, but i dont know if i can justify the price and im not sure if i need internal raw. Though, it would be fun to play around with the c500ii, shooting raw and make my own videos, but thats not what pays the bills. I would really like to download som test footage from both of the cameras, ungraded. S-log3 and c-log2. That would make me see what kind of image im able to pull out of the cameras. God! Hard to decide. My heart says canon, my brain says sony. maybe, i dont know. If im only thinking profit I wouldn´t buy any of these, would I? I could just buy a used fs7 and use that for a few years.

    1. Very good point! A used FS7, or possibly an URSA Mini (with shoulder rig + Vmount battery), would suffice for quality production.

  2. They are both very good cameras, but meant for different users with different needs.
    I am a Sony a7III shooter and own 3 GM zooms and soon a few GM primes as well and I love the fact that I could use all these lenses with the FX9 as well, cause it has the same mount and flange distance. If you are a Canon user owning a EOS R with the newest RF glass, than you cant use these with the new C500 Mark II. Yes, the Canon is alot more exciting, but for me, Sony still is a better option. I would rarely use the 6K at 2.1 MBps, cause it takes the 512GB card in 31 minutes, but surely there are people, who wouldn’t have problems with that, cause they have different needs. I think Full Frame cinema cameras at these price points are very welcome in the industy.

  3. Many thanks Sareesh for doing this comparison. You were quick off the mark with great analysis, and you always seem know what the solo independent filmmaker/documentarian is looking out for. I’m also looking forward to you actually testing both, especially for low-light work and image stabilisation.

  4. I am a Sony shooter, and have to say, the C500 M2 has exited me so much, I many switch systems. Other than dual ISO, it ticks about every box. My experience, as a documentary filmmaker, has tought me the the more external recorders and frankenrig stuff that is needed to make a camera work, the more points of failure, and the less functional a camera becomes in the field. Having to put that extra piece on the back of the Sony just to get SDI out is a deal-breaker for me, and a mis-step in my opinion… The modularity of the C500 M2, while maintaining the best image quality, is HUGE. To be able to go low-profile on the street with just the little EVF at the back and some Canon glass, or pop the little camera on a gimbal, with it’s blazing fast autofocus, or build up a shoulder rig with large V-Mount batteries at the back to balance the camera- it’s what we have been waiting for- a flexible tool for the owner-operator. If the image quality compares to the footage shot by Russel Carpenter on Canon’s C700 promotional film ( whose sensor it shares ), I may very well invest in this system. Advantage Canon…

  5. Like other websites
    i wish we could edit our comment after posting since I made 2 spelling mistakes noticed on a re-read
    thanks

  6. How about discussing the menus and their ease of use…Canon vs Sony.
    And take a guess on durability and servic-ability of each camera considering past models since these are knew

    Another great review and insight
    Thanks
    +++

  7. I personally think that the FX9 is the more exciting camera. I may be slightly biased since I’m already a Sony shooter (although I do really enjoy using Canon cameras). I don’t think that the autofocus in the C500 II will outperform the FX9. I’ve seen several tests that show the A9 outperforming dual-pixel autofocus cameras in many respects. I also think that the FX9 will be the superior performer in low-light, which wasn’t covered here. They’re both stellar cameras. And even though the FX9 is less expensive, I think they’re both great values for the money. I’m sure the image on the C500 II will be beautiful, but the FX9 is basically my dream camera.

    Thank you for the comparison! I can’t wait to see your tests.

  8. Did You test Sony AF on this camera? Everyone says DPAF is so great but I would love to see real world comparision. If it’s as good as on a9 or a6400/6600 than it can be much better than dpaf.