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Sony A7Rii

More Comparisons and Discussion

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Tim Parkin

Tim Parkin

Amateur Photographer who plays with big cameras and film when in between digital photographs.

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Well yesterday’s dynamic range test was controversial if nothing else (click here to read the article) I’ll stand by the result though as today I spent a good part of the morning testing the A7Rii using imatest and also trying to find out just what the visual quality range of the camera is.

Of all of the discussion, there was one dominant theme and that was the problem with different exposure settings for the tests and pointing out that the Sony A7Rii had a longer shutter speed than the Canon or the A7R. I don’t have an exact record of the light for each of the tests (I should have used an external light meter) but I can say that for each individual test the lighting didn’t change significantly. I did have a frame with the same exposure settings for each camera but the light levels were definitely at least a stop different (we checked the histograms using rawdigger to confirm it wasn't just a camera histogram thing).[Rawdigger is a great tool for seeing just what the histogram of your camera is before it’s been demosaiced. I would love it if the camera manufacturers would show a histogram like this as an option on their cameras without recourse to UniWB]

However I thought it common sense to show a photo where the exposure settings were the same, even if it does disadvantage the Sony A7Rii by a small amount. Here’s a shot taken nearby the original. In this case the Sony exposure is a ⅓ of a stop darker than the Canon exposure. Here’s the full frame at approximately the same exposure level as our previous test (1/1000 at f/8 on the Sigma 24mm Art lens).


and here’s the comparison of a shadow area on the Canon 5DSr first and then the Sony A7Rii.


5DSr - 1/1000s


A7Rii - 1/1000s

Here we can see the Canon shadows breaking down but they're nowhere near as bad as the examples shown yesterday which were extreme underexposure. Even this example is three stops below the optmum exposure.

And hence I thought I'd show that optimum. Here is an exposure where we were only just clipping the clouds on the horizon. In this case the Sony had a 1/160s and the Canon a 1/100s (1/80s was probably a better choice for the Sony but I’d only be accused being biased again!).


5DSr - just clipping sky


A7Rii - just clipping sky

You can see here that when you expose a difficult subject the Canon actually looks pretty good and very close to the Sony. Yes it's clipped the shadows but this doesn't really affect the aesthetics of the shot. The Sony holds some tone in the shadows which is nice but not arguably essential.

Analysing Dynamic Range in Controlled Conditions

However, I was still a little suspicious about just what the dynamic range of the Sony A7Rii would be when compared with the A7R and first of all I tried the Imatest step target tests. This process entails taking a photograph of a Kodak step target at 4 different exposure 3 stops apart and processing them in Imatest.

I've just run the Imatest four times now and for the 100 ISO value I get average values of 10.9 stops for the Canon 5DS, 12.2 stops for the Sony A7R and 12.5 stops for the Sony A7Rii. Imatest was quite variable from run to run but these averages seems sensible when I compare the test with checking clipping in rawdigger and looking at the tones in the deep shadows. Have a look at the bottom of the page for the change in dynamic range at higher ISOs.

Well it’s one thing to score well in a luminosity for Imatest but it’s another to get good colour rendition and from what I’ve seen so far the Sony A7Rii has a lot better colour rendition in the shadows straight out of camera. i.e. if you just play with the exposure and shadow tool you'll see the A7Rii looking better.

However, if you’re willing to play around with the A7R files in Photoshop, tweaking away the magenta cast in the shadows and setting a good black point, then they start to look at least as good as, if not better than the A7Rii. More below..

Controlled Photographic Test

So I thought it good to test where we could control the conditions. Here is a test shot of a copy of Ag magazine (a sadly out of print classic photography magazine).

Below I've included an image which shows the differences between basic adjustments and detailed adjustments (on a -6 stop exposure at ISO 100). On the left we have the results of boosting exposure straight out of lightroom (i.e. just using exposure) and on the right we have the results when we carefully tweak the colour curves to get the best results (using Photoshop but you could use lightroom for this).



So it's a lot easier to get good shadow detail out of the A7Rii but if you spend time, the A7R catches up. In fact the A7R not only catches up, it seems to surpass the A7RII.

Even though the A7R has less resolution, it seems to be holding fine detail together well at low exposure levels. Here’s a detail of the above test, the A7R crop shows a little less noise than the A7Rii and the edges of the text holding together better. People will be interested in how the 5DSr fared here as well so I’ve included it at the top.

I set the exposure by working out the clipping point in Rawdigger and then exposing 9 stops below (or approx six stops below a mid-tone)


Now I don’t know why the A7Rii would have a slightly softer edges at high ISO as it doesn’t show that soft edge at normal exposure. I've run this particular test about 6 times and even put the cameras in the fridge wrapped in saran to ensure I wasn't seeing heat effects.

Real World Resolution Example

Here’s a set of crops from a photo of Keswick from Latrigg. First of all the full frame. Not the best conditions but enough to show what most people see in the UK on a regular basis.

Sigma 50mm f/8

Sigma 50mm f/8

Here are the set of scaled crops (5DSr at approx 100%, others scaled to match). The hotel shown is at the bottom just to the right of the middle.

Sigma 50mm f/8

Sigma 50mm f/8

The Canon 5DSr shows a clear advantage in fine detail here - we’ll see some more from that in the next section where we have some more detail crops comparing these tomorrow.

In the meantime if you want to download the raw files from this test (the view over Keswick and Derwent Water) please do so here.

5DSr (61Mb)

A7R (36Mb)

A7Rii (42Mb)

UPDATE 1: Here's the higher ISO report for the A7R, A7Rii and 5DS


The A7Rii keeps it's advantage over the 5DS at higher ISOs by the looks of things.

Read the other articles in this series:

  • Tim

    I shot the 5dsr besides my medium format and found the raw converter to be the biggest factor: http://www.valentino-photography.com/comparison-medium-format-hasselblad-vs-canon-5dsr/

    • hvdr

      I must be doing something wrong. when I open the RAW files I find the Sony file to be two stops darker and much sharper compared to the Canon. Much sharper also as the example you show. I opened all three shots in LR. what is going on here?

  • Tim

    Thx for sharing this information! I downloaded the 5dsr raw file to see how it looks in c1.not good. it is probably also not a good time of the day to make a comparison with all the haze.

  • Quintin Lake

    Hi Tim,
    Really insightful testing thanks. A slightly tangental question but can moire from 5dsr be removed in post to match the 5ds i.e. is it only about saving time in post or does it create a fundamentally different file. From what I’ve read the 5dsr seams a better camera for landscape but I’m also wanting it to do double duty for architecture where moire can be more prevalent – what are your thoughts?

    • Tim Parkin

      Hi Quintin – I would say that the 5DS prevents moire that would be unremovable in the 5DSr. A classic recent subject that has caused problems for people is feathers on birds (google ‘5DSr feather moire’). There is an element of colour moire but underneath this is luminosity moire that is impossible to remove. The 5DS doesn’t get rid of it completely but does reduce it significantly.

      • Quintin Lake

        Ok Thanks Tim

  • Robert

    There’s definitely something wrong with those RAW files Tim, unless the A7RII is really THAT bad. It looks extremely blurred and soft. Is there some sort of NR baked into the RAW files, perhaps a camera setting? The 5DSr file is also not very good. The files I have downloaded from other sites, viewed in Capture One are astonishing.

    • Tim Parkin

      Not sure what the problem is Robert – they seem to look OK here. Bear in mind that this is f/11 and with low contrast subject matter. I can guarantee that the images were taken with care (I had Mark Littlejohn as an assistant!) and multiple frames were taken. All on a Gitzo tripod and Arca Cube head. What other raw files are you looking at?

      • Tim Parkin

        p.s. See sample below showing a crop from Capture one. Make sure you get rid of sharpness threshold, remove noise reduction and moire reduction. I think the presets may be different from different cameras.

    • Tim Parkin

      The Canon raw file looks fine but a shot taken later one with the Sony file cleared up so I wonder if the ‘open’ sensor on the Sony picked up some condensation during swapping lenses in very damp conditions? (we were very careful to clean the lens). I’m uploading the second Sony file as we speak). I’ve got a couple of frames from later in the day that are ‘clearer’ in that respect and i’m uploading them now. Perhaps that is an advantage of having a ‘hidden’ sensor – less dust and moisture on it!

  • How much do you think the lens is coming into play here? Are you using native mount or adapters?

  • torger

    Concerning the DR issue as far as I can see the 5Ds has finally got rid of the “banding” noise that Canon had before, that’s a large gain. It’s still behind the Sonys, but I’m not sure it’s a meaningful difference. The thing is that the Sony gains DR by reduced electronic noise, not capturing more photons, so we still suffer poor color separation, there’s just too few photons captured.

    I haven’t had the opportuninty to test myself but I’ve seen others report that the range where the Sony is superior is still so low quality that you’d rather not push that hard.

    What are your thoughts about that?

  • Esstee

    Holy crap batman what a mess those RAW files are…
    Having looked them over, I can’t see a single relative point to compare between them – exposure, contrast, lighting etc. are all in complete disarray.

  • Omesh Singh

    I’d love to see an astrophotography comparison as well. (e.g. 24mm: 20s at f/2.8 ISO 1600)

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