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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.

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.

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.

 

Better than sliced bread, the Nikon D700, Sensor DB Update.

When the Nikon D700 was introduced nearly 9 years ago it was the best thing since sliced bread. It was the camera to have for low light. It’s colour and tone output was nothing short of outstanding. In many respects it made it’s brother, the D3 look a bit underwhelming in regards to noise, and it wasn’t until the release of the D3s where we saw the big brother take back the trophy.

Morning Light (Nikon D700)

At the time it’s main competition was the Canon 5D mark 1, and yes it was a great camera in it’s day, but there was a lot of people jumping ship when they saw what the D700 could do. The features of the D700 9 years ago were well ahead of its time, and the rivals. Even the 5D mark 2 with it’s 21MP was not enough to put it in it’s place when it was announced later the same year.

Looking back now and viewing the sensor data I have built up over time it’s clear that the D700 was the winner when compared to any of it’s rivals at the time. But it’s also important not to get too nostalgic if your considering this camera for low light work today, especially long exposure. Sure it will work and give you pretty good results, but there are much better options.

The D700 by todays standards performs about the same as a Canon 6D at 30 seconds which is no slouch, but it is 20MP. At 300 seconds it falls somewhere around the D800 or 5Ds, 36MP and 50MP respectively.

If you would like to get nostalgic, or just to know how your D700 compares to some of the new models, it has been added to the Sensor Database.

Fuji X-T2 Added to Sensor Database.

I’ve had a few requests now to have the X-T2 added to the Sensor Database. Well without further adieu here it is. It’s worth noting that I still personally believe Fuji are heavily processing noise in camera, and again we see the noise mean reduce as the exposure time goes up (eh). Considering the X-T2 is using a crop 24MP sensor the results are pretty good, but again there is some processing going on.

 

Canon 5D Mark 4 (IV) Sensor Results.

…….Drum Roll…….

And the winner is…. Well not Canon, sorry but the 5D mark 4 is still behind a few of it’s peers. The results show that it is better than the 5D mark 3, the D610 and D810 as well as the 6D. But it’s still behind not only the 1Dx models, but numerous models from other companies such as the D750, K1, D4, Df and the A7S.

Considering the MP count and the fact that the sensor is dual pixel requiring a lot more wiring it’s probably a very good result. With this in mind there are possibly only two camera models than can currently rival it*, the Nikon D750 and the Pentax K1.

You can check out the results here.

*That I have tested to date.

More Models Tested: Canon 1300D, 760D & 80D. + Olympus PEN-F

We have added 4 more models to the Sensor DB today. Including the Canon 80D and Olympus PEN-F.

Some interesting results, and worth a look if you are considering one of these models for long exposure low light work.

Pushing to +5EV, Pentax K1 & PetaPixel

I have been working hard on the Sensor DB, add new features and models. As part of the process of adding newer and better models I have re-processed all of the samples to +2.5EV and +5EV. This allows the noise to be more visible in the samples for comparison. It was getting tougher to determine visually how samples were comparing. With this problem in mind I also added some statistical data to show the RGB noise characteristics and the mean, median and standard deviation are now shown.

New models added include bodies from Fuji, Nikon, Sony, and Pentax, including the new K1, along with the Fuji XPro2. I’m also hoping to add new search features soon to allow searching by sensor size. This will make it easer to compare common models.

I’d also like to thank Michael Zhang at PetaPixel for the great review of the Sensor Database on their site. Thanks for the write up, I’ve had a lot of positive feedback, and it certainly seems to have caused a lively debate.

 

Playing with the light. ND Filters.

Most good modern DSLR’s have a good amount of Dynamic Range (DR), DR is the measurement from the brightest to the darkest a sensor can capture in one image, beyond this range highlights will be blown and dark shadows will yield no detail. It is normally measured in Exposue Values (EV). A Good sensor will be at least 12, and maybe as high as 16.

But what do you do if the image you are trying to capture has more DR than my sensor can capture? Well there are a number of ways to deal with this, these are the most common:

  • Take multiple exposures to combine into one image, either as a composite merge or a high dynamic range shot (HDR), later models can do HDR in camera.
  • Add additional light to the scene.
  • Use filtering effects to modify the light being exposed.

BPD_1948HDR and adding light are fairly common, but using filters is not very common for night sky photography and Aurora’s. The reason it is not popular is that adding filters reduces the amount of light entering the camera, resulting in either having to use higher ISO settings or longer exposures.

However given the right circumstances using a filter can have great results. I like to use them for shooting Aurora’s provided the Aurora is very bright and it has minimal movement. If the Aurora is bright I don’t need to increase my ISO, and minimal movement like beams in the Aurora will mean I can increase the exposure time a little without blurring any details.

I have found that using a 0.9 (3 stop filter) helps significantly with exposure compensation, balancing out the light Aurora in the sky to darker foregrounds. Not only does it help with the balance and bringing out blacks, but it effectively gives your sensor a 3 stop advantage.

A sensor that can shoot 14 stops of DR is suddenly equivalent to 17.

Suddenly I’m no longer dealing with those horrible black dark areas where the noise hides.

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