Thursday, November 3, 2011

ISO 3200 and beyond with the Sony A77

ISO 3200 and beyond with the Sony A77

ISO 3200, f7.1, Zeiss 2.8/24-70mm lens @ 26mm, 1/40 sec

You can push your Sony A700 to ISO 6400 (though the lines above and below the number in the menu seem to warn the user from doing so), but the Sony A77 goes all the way up to ISO 25,600 without any kind of warning! At that speed the camera takes 5-6 images and compresses them (with little "noise") into one smooth jpeg file. If you are in a dark church and want to photograph a figurine in the back of a small chapel, you can get a very nice shot with this feature.

ISO 3200, Zeiss 2.8/24-70mm lens @ 70mm, f7.1, 1/50 sec; AUTO ISO composite
But even one shot taken at ISO 3200 will be good enough to print once you have used your regular software to sharpen it and remove the noise. After extensive testing yesterday, I've learned a thing or two about high-ISO photography.

My pictures with the A700 were usually "noisy" because I'd try to achieve a faster shutter speed by setting the exposure compensation to -0.7 or even -1.0 and, since the pictures tended to be dark, I'd add dynamic range optimization to lighten up the shadows. This combination seems to be a real noise enhancer! The better solution would have been to shoot at +0.3, double the ISO and turn off the DRO. Got that? You can shoot at ISO 3200 outside during the day (as does Jay Maisel) and ensure fast shutter speeds while getting virtually no noise because the pictures probably won't be dark, and it's in the dark regions of a photograph that noise thrives.

ISO 3200, Minolta f2.8/28 mm lens @ f10, 1/60 sec. flash fired

Unfortunately, I cannot report - as I had hoped - that a new Zeiss lens costing €1800 did much better than an old  Minolta lens bought second-hand on ebay for €90. I don't see that much difference once the post-processing has been done.
Minolta f2.8/28 lens @ f7.1, ISO 3200, 1/30 sec.

So - enough of this boring post. Pictures from real life will follow soon!

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