The A700 provides four basic 'Creative Styles' (renamed from Color mode on the A100) as well as three user definable modes which provide the option to select a baseline Creative Style from one of no less than fourteen options. Each Creative Style modifies the color mapping and tonal appearance of the image (for A/B examples see Color in our Photographic tests). In the four basic Creative Style modes (Standard, Vivid, Neutral and Adobe RGB) you can adjust contrast, saturation and sharpness. Additionally in the three user definable modes you can also adjust brightness and zone. Sony has also improved the latitude of adjustment with seven levels for each setting (apart from zone which has four settings).
Image parameter adjustments
- Creative Style: Standard, Vivid, Neutral, Adobe RGB, User def. 1 - 3
- User def. modes: Standard, Vivid, Neutral,
Adobe RGB, Clear, Deep, Light, Portrait, Landscape,
Sunset, Night, Autumn, B/W, Sepia
- Image parameter adjustments
- Contrast: -3 to +3
- Saturation: -3 to +3
- Sharpness: -3 to +3
- Brightness: -3 to +3 (User def. only)
- Zone: -1 to +2 (User def. only)
Adjusting the tone alters the shape of the 'S curve' used to map the linear image data captured by the sensor into the correct gamma. A lower contrast setting maintains more of the original data's dynamic range but leads to a flatter looking image. A higher contrast setting stretches the grayscale (dark to light) of the image and could lead to clipping of both shadow detail and highlights. Kudos to Sony for expanding the range of adjustment, you now have three levels either side of 'normal'.
A brightness adjustment is fairly unusual, in fact I can think of only one or two other cameras which provide this option. Adjusting the brightness appears to shift the mapping of the 'black point' which could be useful for 'lifting' shadows on a bright day or delivering a more definite black in a studio situation.
The zone adjustment enables you to perform zone matching which effectively stretches or compresses the shadow or highlight areas of the grayscale. Use a negative setting to lift shadows for low-key shots or a positive setting to compress (and maintain) highlights for high-key shots. You can see this in effect in the histograms below.