Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Sony A7 Mark II vs A7: High ISO Noise

Sony A7 Mark II with Sonnar T* FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA

This is a quick look at high ISO performance between the Sony A7 Mark II and its predecessor. When camera body updates are issued, they invariably come with improved noise performance... at least in JPEG rendering. The camera buying public is conditioned to expect continual improvement; this is a camera that would have been competent even without a sensor update, but the market moves on.

Note: The full review is available here.

The following is an ad hoc demonstration of the camera's JPEG output quality through the ISO range, as compared to the original A7. The settings were:

  • High ISO NR off
  • Electronic first shutter curtain on
  • JPEG output set at extra fine
  • Dynamic range optimizer off
  • Crops taken from the center of each image

Pay attention to the legibility of the soda bottles for detail retention (or lack thereof) as the ISO value rises, speckling in the broad colour patches for overall image noise, as well as the harshness of the reflections and shadows as dynamic range decreases. These samples are not directly comparable to similar samples found elsewhere in this blog because of variable ambient lighting conditions. Click on images for 100% crop view.

ISO 3200
ISO 6400
ISO 12800

Overall, there isn't much to see. There does appear to be some hardware-level upgrade to the 24mp sensor between the generations (and that you would also see in RAW), but you can bet that a portion of the noise performance improvement is also due to changes in the camera firmware. A similar situation occurred between the Nikon D610 and D750; the D750 looks cleaner above ISO 6400 due to a combination of firmware and hardware upgrades. There's not much meaningful difference, but the default A7 Mark II tone curve seems to be a tad bit brighter, and there is less chroma noise in the shadows.

Of course, high ISO is less of a concern when you have in body image stabilization.....

With thanks to Broadway Camera

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