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Panasonic S1R, not the droid you are looking for.

The Panasonic S1 sensor is awesome, I suspect in part as it uses the same Sony sensor the A7III uses. There is not a lot difference between the tested results for these cameras.

The S1R is, well, different. The first sign there is no shared sensor with any Sony camera is the MP count. Sitting at 47.3 it is quite unique in the 40MP+ space.

So how does it compare in the 40MP plus space? Well I’m not going to lie, It’s not as good as the competition. Canon still performs the worst, and assuming the S1R is not doing any in camera NR it is better than the GFX-50S at 1 second, however at 30 seconds the GFX is better.

At 5 minutes (300 seconds) the noise reduction kicks in which is clearly visible. It looks very similar to the Fuji and Olympus cameras and their NR algorithm. The noise mean drops below the 1 second results at 5 minutes and the noise colour profile changes significantly.

There is no point me comparing it to all the other models in the 40MP+ space as all are better for low light / long exposure work based on my basic test, at least from a noise perspective. In fact older models such as the A7RII seem to perform better. However, how the camera performs in regards to dynamic range I can not say.

What I will say is this camera is a classic example of why I do these tests. Dx0 has this camera equal or above most models for overall image quality. While this may be true for standard exposure times under relatively normal lighting, it is not true for extremely low light and long exposures. For Astro Photography or any other long exposure work the field is nowhere near as close.

So for long exposure work, this is probably not the droid you are looking for.

Sony A7 III sensor testing.

There has been a lot chatter about the A7 mark 3. Both the previous models were excellent low light performers, although there was some discussion in the Astro community they were eating stars. With the introduction of a BSI sensor could this be the camera for you?

Having recently tested the Panasonic S1 I was very interested to see how the A7 III performs, as most people are saying it’s currently a 2 horse race between these two cameras.

Well I happy to say the A7 performs very well, It’s clear that the BSI sensor is much more uniform than previous models and it has significantly less noise.

When comparing it to it’s competition it stacks up very well. It performs very close to the S1, and surprisingly at 5 minutes there is almost nothing in it. The EOS R is the worst of the pack and the A7III is significantly better right across the exposures tested.

I am not sure if the Z6 and the A7III share the same sensor. Getting 100% confirmation on this is very hard, some articles are saying they are the same, while in others the number of raw pixels is slightly different, so maybe they are not. If they are then the 5 minute exposure time could show aggressive NR from Sony. However there have reports that the A7III is not suffering from the star eating problem that previous models had, well not completely it depends on what you read, but it’s better. So you can draw your own conclusions about the Z6 and the A7III sharing the same sensor.

It would be more consistent to conclude the S1 and A7III share the same sensor than the Z6. With many saying this is the case less with only the phase detection pixels removed in the S1. The difference in noise could easily come down to RAW images algorithms, and sensor production variation. It will be interesting to see how the A7RIII and S1R compare.

In my opinion if you currently own Sony gear the upgrade path is a no brainer, the A7III. if you don’t other factors such as cost, lens availability and other camera features are more likely to be a factor if you are leaning to the S1.

It’s also worth noting that ensuring testing temperature is very difficult and this or a future firmware upgrade could easily tip the scales to either the A7III or the S1 or even the Z6. What can be done with a firmware upgrade is amazing. Either way both the A7III and the S1 are excellent long exposure performers and should perform very well.

If you would like to find out more about the Sensor DBclick here.


Sensor DB Upgrade.

It has been a while since the Sensor Database has been upgraded, and it was time with the recent additions of some never sensors.

New features include a better layout with less clutter for comparing models. I have also added pop-up images to allow users to see a true 1:1 view of the sensor noise, rather than a 50% browser rescale. These new features will allow for better comparisons as sensors continue to improve.

To view the new Sensor DB, click here

Panasonic Lumix S1, #TogUpgrade?

A friend of mine recently purchased an S1, so it was time to test. I must say I’m pretty impressed. The low light sensitivity is generally one par with the Nikon Z6 for what most would consider “Sport” low light photography. Even Dx0 only shows a 4 point (0.011%) improvement on the Z6. Depending on the body you get it could easily fall either way.

So whats so impressive about this camera I hear you say? well, when you start to push this camera to exposures in excess of 1 second at ISO 3200 something very interesting starts to happen. The S1 does not seem to deteriorate any where near as quickly as the competition. At 300 seconds the noise is only slightly worse than the Z6 is at 30 seconds.

The S1 at 300 seconds performs better than the Canon RP at 1 second. Ouch, thats got to hurt Canon. Panasonic have clearly overshot the moon with their new Venus Engine processor and sensor.

S1 v the competition.

The noise profile looks to be “normal”, and I does not look like there is any aggressive NR filtering being performed before additional “in menu” options are enabled, unlike some some cameras like Fuji and Olympus. It would be great to see some real world shots, preferably of stars etc. Even the Sony A7 series is know to eat a few stars.

If you are after possibly the best low light camera at around 24MP this could possibly be it. I’d personally wait to see some astro pictures from this camera, and see what the astrophotographers say. If it’s not eating stars or not very aggressively Panasonic have a real winner here, at least from a long exposure point of view.

I’m very keen to get my hands on a S1R now, as this could be a real cat amongst the pidgins in the 45MP+ range.

If you would like to compare the S1 to more models, or learn more about the sensor database click here.

Upper Antelope Canyon.

Recently while in the US I had the opportunity to shoot the Upper Antelope Canyon. I was with my wife, who did not have s DSLR at the time, so this ruled out a ‘photography’ tour, as a DSLR + Tripod were required by all those who took the tour. Ditching my wife was not really an option 😉

But to be honest I think the general tour worked out well, sure it was rushed, and you needed to be on your ‘A’ game with a good low light camera to shoot with no tripod, but I think I pulled it off. I managed to snap lots of great shots. I almost felt sorry for the photography group forced to line up their cameras to all catch the exact same shot, often recreating ‘famous’ shots. I was also glad my gear was not sitting on a tripod as the fine sand fell.

The tour guides had a well oiled machine, pushing as many people through the canyon they could. Knowing that I would be moving quite fast with no tripod I had to get the settings roughly right, as there would be little time to play around.

“The Flame”

I decided to just let the camera deal with the ISO so I could at least ensure sharp shots without a tripod. Some of the shots were as high as 12800 ISO and 1/30th @ f4. I had decided that the f4 16-35mm would be the best choice from my kit not having an f2.8 equivalent. The 16-35 was also the best option as I wanted to also use a polariser, as the rock is known to be highly reflective, and this would have been a problem with some of the more wider lenses. Of course the polariser added to the problem, subtracting from what little precious light there was.

Back button focus was a must for quick focus and framing, there was simply not enough time to move the AF point a lot of the time. Occasional exposure compensation adjustment up to -3EV was also used at times. I wanted to retain a lot of the highlights, so underexposure was more important than over, I trusted the D750 and it’s low light power. It also helped to keep the shutter speed to acceptable hand held levels.

Overall the I think the outcome was very good, I was a little dubious when looking at the shots on the camera, but once I pushed the RAW images into Lightroom and corrected to daylight colour they really started to pop.

Maybe, just maybe there is another million dollar shot in the mix. Then again it’s hard to take a bad picture of the Canyon.

“The Sniff”

If you would like to see more of the shots I have uploaded them to flickr.

The Flame, Upper Antelope Canyon, Navajo land.

Canon Consistent with EOS-R & RP

Canon have improved the sensors in the EOS R and RP. The R sensor is based on the same sensor we see in the 5D mark 4, and the RP is based on the same sensor in the 6Dm2 and Canon have managed to squeeze a little more out of both for some good results.

EOS-RP v’s 6D mark II

As you can see the EOS-RP sensor performs much better than the 6Dm2 sensor over the whole range of long exposure times. Canon have possibly continued to improve the manufacturing process or the new DIGIC processing is really working some extra magic. The RP is where I expected the 6Dm2 sensor to be after the fantastic long exposure performance of the original mark I. Better late then never.

EOS-R v’s 5D Mark IV

The EOS-R is also better than the 5D mark IV. It’s not the same jump in sensor improvement as the RP, but it’s still a big improvement of almost 20% less noise at 1 second. Again there is consistent gains over the long exposure testing range.

So it’s a good gain for Canon, but I do feel disappointed again, just like I did when testing the 6D mark II. Canon are making consistent gains with each new model, but the long exposure sensor noise is where the competition was years ago.

Mirrorless, Nikon and Canon

When comparing the R and RP to the Z6 and Z7 based on long exposure base noise alone It would be difficult to recommend Canon, especially if you are not gear biased. The R/RP may do better for extreme long exposures of 5 mins or more, but how these models would compare with dark frames added to remove noise for extreme long exposure I don’t know.

Conclusion:
If you are currently using Canon then the R and RP are a good step up from the 5D mark 4 and 6D mark 2 in regards to sensor noise. If your thinking of upgrading to mirrorless I think both these would perform well and give good results. It’s possibly the most sensible path to go down if you have a lot of EF glass and just want to expand your kit.

The EOS-R has the best long exposure low noise sensor from Canon over 20MP, so if you are after Canon, this is the one to buy. The EOS-RP is also very respectable and not far behind. Will they be the cleanest images money can buy for long exposure?, No I expect not.

If you would like to compare the EOS-R and EOS-RP to more models, or learn more about the sensor database click here.

Again, a big thanks for Alex @Stallards in Hobart for access to these cameras for testing.

Fuji X-T3. Third time lucky?

I’m always in two minds when it comes to the fuji sensors. and like Olympus they seem to be doing noise reduction and low level sensor data manipulation even when it’s disabled in camera. It could be the “grain effects” that make Fuji unique, but it does make it hard to compare their sensors to other bodies.

Having said that the new X-T3 performs much better than the X-T2, even with a few more MP. At 1 and 30 seconds the sensor is much better than it’s predecessor. Noise does build up quicker with longer exposures and at five minutes the results are worse (noise mean), but with less standard deviation.

X-T2 vs X-T3

Compared it to the Nikon Z6, currently the leader for long exposure noise the X-T3 appears to do very well. However as mentioned above this in my mind only shows one thing, that Fuji are seriously processing the RAW data. Keep in mind that the X-T3 is a crop body, where as the Z6 is not.

Thats some serious low noise?

When compared to a crop body like the Nikon D7500 you start to get an idea of what is going on:

Nikon D7500 vs X-T3, whats the story here?

Conclusion:
There is no doubt that the X-T3 is a big improvement on the previous model, the noise has been greatly reduced. However I am really not sure how this camera will perform in a real world low light situation. Either Fuji have a crop sensor that is performing better than any full frame sensor, or they are performing noise reduction. I think the latter is more likely, and how this impacts on some subject matter like stars I guess time will tell. Some real world astrophotography samples would be great to see.

If you would like to compare the X-T3 to more models, or learn more about the sensor database click here.

Again, a big thanks for Alex @Stallards in Hobart for access to the X-T3.

Nikon Z6 & Z7 King of the Hill

Nikon’s last low light monster, the D750 has finally been knocked off the hill. The new Z6 and Z7 with their new BSI sensors have overtaken the D750 to hold positions 1 and 2 for low light performance, at least for exposure times below 30 seconds. Our testing showed at 300 seconds (5 mins) the Z6 and Z7 were significantly worse than the D750, as well as many other models. At what point the sensor introduced the noise is yet undetermined, I expect well above 30 seconds.

So for any application below or at a few minutes the Z6 is going to be better than anything currently available in the market. There is no evidence of star eating, and NR off in camera appears to be “off” unlike some other bodies that add grain or manipulate the RAW data even when set to “NR Off”.

How does the D750 compare to the new Z6 and Z7

The Z7 is still great at 1 second, but starts to fall away when compared to the D750 @ 30 seconds. Keep in mind this is a 46 v’s 24 mega pixel race. So the Z7 performs exceptionally well for its pixel count. At 30 seconds I expect you would be getting wonderfully clean images in low light.

The Z7 seems to perform slightly better at 300 seconds compared to the Z6, which was a bit of a surprise, and it was also out performing the 5DSR and GFX-50S. It was about the same as the A7RmII (I do not have the mIII sample as yet).

If you are looking for exposures in minutes, then I’d maybe consider other bodies. But keep in mind the new Z mount may see some faster glass in the future, which would allow a reduction in ISO, and possibly a more cleaner image, and it is 46MP after all.

Overall it’s a very impressive result, and continues to show that Nikon are working hard with Sony to produce sensors that give exceptional results in low light / long exposure situations.

To compare more models, or see further details, check out the Sensor Database.

A big thanks for Alex @Stallards in Hobart for access to the Z6 and Z7 for testing.

Nikon D7500 Long Exposure Monster.

I’m impressed, the Nikon D7500 is the best crop body I have tested so far for long exposure. It out performs all previous models by quite a margin, taking even the title form the D500. At 1 second it out performs the new Canon 6D Mark II which is full frame, and is is only slightly worse at 30 seconds. Check out the results and compare models here.

 

Colours, Hobart, Sunset, Tasmania

The Canon 6D mark II and long exposure.

When the first sample shots from the 6D mark II started showing up in the usual places, I must admit I was not all that impressed. It looked like Canon had taken a step backward and failed to advance their sensor in terms of noise. Having now had the chance to test the 6D mark II, I’m happy to report it’s an OK result for the price of the camera. I personally think you can still get better value for the money, but it’s an OK upgrade for those in the Canon camp looking at long exposure work while gaining some much need features and AF improvements.

Most long exposure Aurora work is around the 30 second mark, so as shown from the results below the new model is only slightly worse at 30 seconds than the original, which when combined with the megapixel upgrade and no doubt better noise reduction options in camera, would most likely put the new model in front. Results for the 5 minute exposures are also slightly down, but with slightly better standard deviation, again making the two cameras very similar.

However, looking at 1 second results, they seems to be more in line with what others are reporting, which is maybe a step backwards in noise, especially if your looking at sports photography.

So if your looking to upgrade from the 6D to the 6D Mark 2 I don’t expect the pictures are going to look any worse, maybe a slight improvement for long exposure work. Is it worth the upgrade? I will leave that up to you to decide.

If you would like to look at the results in more detail, you can do so here.

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