Until today I’d known my Sony A7II could handle the shadow world, but I could never bring myself to push it. Mainly out of fear, no actually entirely from fear of losing the image. Recently I had the absolute pleasure of working at Rebecca Bathory’s place I decided to test the range once and for all.
I wanted to keep shooting at f/8 and above as well as 1/60 but still below ISO400 (the Sony really starts to break down past ISO400 in sharpness from my experience). Now if you’ve ever tried shooting those settings inside, you’ll realise that it’s pretty much a black screen except for direct light sources. I wanted to work out for myself the following question: Is it better to shoot the camera at sharper settings (higher shutter speed, higher aperture, low ISO) and let CaptureOne do the heavy lifting for the lack of exposure? OR Shoot with wider Aperture, lower shutter speed (1/30 but rested on a table) and high as balls ISO (1200).
As it turns out, much to my surprise actually, shooting HUGELY under exposed (we’re talking 4-5 stops here) and sticking to the settings I would shoot during ideal situations I found that when bringing the information back in post, I was left speechless. For medium format shooters out there you’ll hardly be surprised, but for the one’s out there still on 35mm film / cropped sensors I think this will come off as a bit of a “holy marshmallows”.
Nikon users may not be impressed as heavily, though that’s because they are already using Sony sensors ;)
Here’s a direct comparison of the RAW exposure vs the 3 stop push.
Now I don’t know about you, but that’s pretty frickin insane.
To get an idea about the noise, here is a close up of a selection with both dark and bright areas. Yeah there is a fair bit of noise, but it looks pretty pleasant compared to the multicoloured noise you can expect from other sensors. It looks really “natural” so to speak, (but still not a scratch on ISO50 Medium Format *drools*).
Here are some more examples:
And now, here’s the killer. This image was underexposed by 5 stops and while the end results is pretty much unusable, take into consideration just how much information that 35mm sensor is capturing beyond what you’re seeing on the LCD. It’s insane! The signal to noise ratio considering it’s 5 full stops underexposed is just absurd to me.
So what was the value of this post to you guys? Was it to sell you a Sony (here if you wondered) or was it to show you how awesome technology has come along? NOW with that said Medium format has been doing this for about 10 years, so to have this level of signal in images so underexposed within a 35mm sensor, I think that’s pretty awesome. A friend of mine recently joked “So you’re trying to tell me that Sony has made the first usable 35mm sensor?” haha! In some ways I think we can see the truth in that statement even if it is heavily loaded ;)
To finish off I wanted to add in a tripod mounted shot difference between shooting at ISO 800 and ISO100 then bringing the underexposed shot up in post and comparing the noise / clarity. The settings for each are as follows:
ISO 100 @ f/8 – 1/200 (4 stops underexposed)
ISO 100 @ f/8 – 1/30 (2 stops underexposed)
ISO 400 @ f/8 – 1/30 (0 stops underexposed)
ISO 800 @ f/8 – 1/60 (0 stops underexposed)
Here’s 4 stops underexposed at ISO 100 vs a well exposed ISO800
We can CLEARLY see here that underexposing by 4-stops warrants a far less usable image than shooting at a higher ISO800.
Here’s ISO100 (2 stops underexposed) vs ISO 800 as before.
From this I deduce that the ISO100 looks better by having more detail and similar levels of noise to the ISO800.
As you can see shooting at ISO100 and letting the post do the work you actually end up with a better image than shooting it “right” in camera (as long as it’s within 2 stops underexposure). That’s an approach not many people actually do on purpose and with intent for a better end shot.
It was requested to show the Sony at ISO6400 and 10000 so you can see those below, though I’m not entirely sure why you’d want to shoot a camera that’s sensor is specifically designed to be shot at ISO100 for it’s maximum dynamic range outside of that?
Regardless further reasons to not shoot the Sony past ISO800 (and stick to ISO 100 if you can).