A77 IQ @ 400mm vs. A850/A900; my findings (pics)

Started Dec 31, 2011 | Discussions thread
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Alan_S
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A77 IQ @ 400mm vs. A850/A900; my findings (pics)
Dec 31, 2011

OK, I sort of hesitate to re-hash an old topic, but want to share what I have found relative to this topic, as this is a real game-changer for me. I was one of those that pre-ordered the a77, mainly in anticipation of using it as a 600mm equivalent wildlife lens (coupled with the 70-400G) as a companion to my a850 (+CZ24-70). My hope was that the a77 would gain me a second body that would produce resolution equal to the a850 at the 400mm FL , and provide that resolution at the 600mm equivalence with the APS-C crop factor.

Have had the a77 for 8 weeks now, it is great fun to use and produces great results for the price, especially if you process the RAW files. I have been very impressed with it; so impressed that I have actually been pondering the prospect of selling my a850 to fund a second a77! But before doing that I wanted to test it for the specific application I had in mind when I bought it, and finally have made the direct comparisons at the 400mm extreme, which is the application I hoped to benefit most from. Here is my result; not scientific; in fact, very subjective, as what I want to find out is what is the best   I can get out of the a77 at this extreme and how does it compare with the best   I can get out of the a850.

I simply set up a sturdy tripod in my back yard and focused on an electrical transformer on a pole about 50 yards away (trying to equate to focusing on a bear or elk in the wild at that distance). Using the a850 and a77 I took two 3-shot sets (at ISO 320 & ISO 1600) with the 70-400G, using 2 sec delay, the A setting wide open @ 5.6, and let the camera select the shutter speed. a77's electronic first curtain is "on." Each set consisted of two SSS-off, one SSS-on. Comparing the sets for sharpness I selected the "SSS-on" files as they showed equal sharpness to the "SSS-off" images. Next, I opened the selected RAW files in ACR default settings, tweaked sharpness and NR sliders to the best combination I could achieve and saved at highest quality jpg (yes, this is subjective, this is all about what is the best I can get in this very specific application , and is the a77 the right tool for me, for this application). Here are my results:

First , for perspective, screen shots of the uncropped test shots:

Next, 100% crops at ISO 320 :

...and 100% crops at ISO 1600 :

As hard as I tried, and much to my disappointment, I simply could not get the a77 files up to any equivalent measure with the a850 at this extreme. Look at the wood grain; I could not get the a77 files to look nearly as "real" as the a850 files. Even reducing the size (which defeats the purpose of my purchase) does not bring the wood grain back to life. (For the record, I shot RAW+JPG with the a77, and also compared the a77's OOC JPGs: ISO 320 were very similar to my best RAW conversions but ISO 1600 fell way short).

So, bottom line, I do not see the a77 fulfilling the particular role I was hoping it would. It has been a lot of fun to use; in most applications it probably serves just as well as FF for most users (plus all the added features are great!). But I simply cannot make it do what I purchased it for. As the images above show, the best I could get at this extreme simply falls short.

As I said, I was thinking about selling the a850 for a second a77... but after testing I'm thinking my second body should be another a850/a900. Has anyone else done similar (400mm side-by-side, best you can eek out of each) direct comparisons with different results?
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  • AlanS

 Alan_S's gear list:Alan_S's gear list
Sony SLT-A77 Sony SLT-A99 Sony 70-200mm F2.8 G Sony 16-35mm F2.8 ZA SSM Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* Sony 24-70mm F2.8 ZA SSM Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* +1 more
Sony Alpha DSLR-A850 Sony SLT-A77
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