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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

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.

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.

Sony A7R II Long Exposure Tests.

A7R II is the buzz word at the moment in the photography circles, with most reviews holding it in extremely high regard. So naturally I had to test the sensor for long exposure noise.

The results can be seen on the long exposure sensor testing page, and here are my thoughts:

There is no doubt, the A7RII is very impressive, considering the size of the sensor it’s delivering much better results than the D810 or the 5Ds(r). It’s performance is generally much better than the older model (A7R) and it’s results are almost identical to the Canon 6D, keeping in mind the 6D is only 20MP one can’t but help be impressed.

One of the reasons I started my long exposure testing was because no one was doing long exposures at high ISO. All the low light tests performed I could find were at best a second, and in most cases much shorter than a second, in some cases as fast as the body could shoot (1/8000th). But sensor behaviour for longer exposures is not consistent, and in some cases it’s not very linear. What is good for sport is not good for astrophotography.

The A7RII’s sensor behaviour is a very clear example of why this test is important. There is no doubt for general low light work or sport this camera is going to be a killer, but what about longer exposures? At 30 seconds the A7RII is holding it’s own, but starting to loose the edge it had at 1 second, and by 5 minutes significant noise has been introduced into the shot, and it looses it edge to many other models. There is no doubt that Long exposure NR enabled would fix some of this, but not all.

So my conclusion is, it’s going to be an awesome camera killing other models for shorter long exposures (1-10 secs), it is going to match the high end models in the 10-30sec range having the benefit of more MP, but for longer exposures other models start to win out including the 5Ds(r), I’ll be very interested to see how this one goes in the field and I think there is the possibility of further testing to understand the ISO to time relationship, for example higher ISO’s for shorter periods could yield better results than lower ISO for longer periods.

Please keep in mind my tests do not take into consideration other factors such as dynamic range (DR) or how linear the ISO relationship is (ISO-less or not). I am purely interested in the noise (floor) and what you will have to deal with in post.

Canon 7D Mark II Sensor Test.

Hi All,

Recently Adobe released Camera RAW 8.7 with support for the new Canon 7D mark II. I’d already taken the shots a few weeks ago, but could not process them through my workflow. Now; I can, and I have uploaded the results to the sensor test page.

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