A7R III: Pixel-Shift - is it worth the hassle for landscape shooting?

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joger
joger Veteran Member • Posts: 4,900
A7R III: Pixel-Shift - is it worth the hassle for landscape shooting?
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Finally - before my weekend tour to Switzerland I managed to update my A7R III to firmware 1.10 which enables 0.5 s pause for the pixel-shift row of four images. Before it was minimum 2 s - so a great deal for all landscape photographers since you can potentially finish your image in less than 3 s instead of roughly 9 s before.

The likelihood to have less clouds movement and/or leaves and trees moving in the wind is much higher at ⅓ of the time (dependent on the exposure time you finally have).

So I thought I'd give it a try in the Aare Canyon in Switzerland - beware of tourists if you plan to go there. Make sure you're finished before 11 AM at least - otherwise you're unable to take a single shot without selfie-stick tourists and kids running up and down the wooden pathways making every try to have a non vibrating floor "torments of Tantalus".

I've selected some images and combined them with SonyPixelShift2DNG and treated a single image of the row of four identically to the combined Pixel-Shifted DNG in LG 6.14 including sharpening, contrast and color adaptation as I would treat the files normally to see if there is any difference and in case yes - is it worth the hassle to shoot 4 times the amount of images and rework them in the areas where you get artifacts like moving leaves, running water or moving people (in case you're unlucky to be in a crowded space)

Below you'll find my 4:1 enlarged results for your close examination and a verdict from me at the end. Make sure you view in 100%. Hope you like this short summary of some examples. Feedback is extremely welcome!

GM 85 manually focussed

GM 85 manually focussed

GM 85 manually focussed

G 12-24 manually focussed

G 12-24 manually focussed

G 12-24 manually focussed

This is what I have learned out of this initial try using Pixel Shift for landscape photography:

  1. The difference between Pixel-Shift and normal single shot is minor and only visible in very large enlargements and pre dominantly in critical areas where a slightly better definitions gives headroom for more pushing shadows and/or colors
  2. The difference is so small for me that the hassle of masking and recombining manually in PS is by far exceeding the perceived quality gain for landscape shots for me => I will keep on shooting single shots in the future for landscapes - for architecture this is a different story
  3. It looks like the GM 85 exhibits more visible differences than the G 12-24 and it looks like you need very fine glass to begin with to see differences.
  4. f/2.8 shows more differences than f/5.6 or even f/11 - looks like the diffraction limits the results in pixel shift. In other words - in case you want to maximum output of Pixel shift you have to make sure that you're shooting at larger apertures and with top notch lenses

For me that was a very interesting experience and it turns out that the 0.5 s are a great help to have a shorter total exposure time and it limits the movement of parts in your image. Once you have water flowing or people moving you'll have to manually mark areas with single shots to correct the area.

I've done one image with the water flowing down and manually stitched the Aare river in - the result is really nice IMHO but it takes some 2-3 minutes extra time for a debatable gain in perceivable quality.

Whether it makes sense for you is a question of your available time for optimization and patience doing so. For me it is a no-brainer to continue with single shots for landscape and use pixel-shift for architecture and table top or reproduction images.

Hope you liked my comparison - feedback and comments are very welcome!

here's one end result with Pixel-Shift plus manually masked water area

G 12-24 @ 12 mm f/11 and 2 ½ seconds exposure time and optimization in LR 6.14

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A7R III - one camera to rule them all
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 joger's gear list:joger's gear list
Leica APO-Telyt-M 135mm f/3.4 ASPH Zeiss Loxia 21mm F2.8 Sony FE 85mm F1.4 GM Sony FE 50mm F1.4 ZA Sony FE 12-24mm F4 +8 more
Sony a7R III Sony FE 12-24mm F4 Sony FE 85mm F1.4 GM
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