My problems with Sony colors

Started Mar 3, 2019 | Discussions thread
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GrapeJam Senior Member • Posts: 3,555
My problems with Sony colors

Note: This is for the A7III/A7R3, the colors rendition for videos are actually a bit different and I think they're fine.  Maybe Sony's fixed most of these with the A9 with the upcoming firmware update, maybe not, I'm not sure. They sure had fixed these with the Venice thought.

And yeah, yeah, I know this is all subjective, but anyway while Sony's improved the colors alot of 3rd gen Sony there're still a few big problems remain, and yes I'm going to make comparisons with Canon (specifically 6D/5D3, which imo still has the best color rendition of the Canons) and Nikon (D750):

First, the problem isn't the actual color tone itself but rather, but rather, the gamma curve:

  • The transition between mid tone and high light is not smooth, highlight roll off is really harsh, highlight in general is just a mess with blobs/spots of overexposed highlight constantly leaking into the skin when you try to expose for the skin. Coupled with that Sony's skin tone is more saturated and underexposed than both Canon and Nikon, in poor lightning condition (like, mid day) this can results in photos that look very obnoxious because of harsh, clearly defined overexposed highlight, very evident when shooting people.

By comparison, both Canon and Nikon reins in the highlight much better, despite actually having less details in the highlight, the highlight doesn't feel as harsh, the rolloff is much smoother.

This is true for the Jpegs and RAWs imported into Lightroom/ACR, in Capture 1 Sony files have a much smoother highlight roll off and tonality in general is just much smoother. In video also find the highligh roll off and tonality quite a bit smoother, and imo looks great.

Turning on DRO up to level 3 helps abit with Jpegs, but that also makes the black less crushed, makes the photos feel even flatter, and talk about the black.

Second, the black:

  • The black never feel crushed enough, or crushed well, this leads to the Jpegs looking rather "flat" and "clinical".

This one I have to give it to Canon, out of all the manufacturers they're are the best at knowing how to crush the black, smoothly, beautifully and just right when and where, the jpegs look more "cinematic. This however, is only true for stills, I find in video the "Canon black" is way too much and too over the top making it really distracting obnoxious. While "Sony blacks" is just right in video.

Third, skin texture:

  • Sony skin rendition has waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too much micro contrast on the skin that is not only unflattering (because every pore, wrinkle, pimples,etc...showing up clearly) but also sometimes gives the skin a "plasticky" look. Shows up very clearly when the subject's skin gets oily. Sony's underexposed skin tone only makes it worse

Neither Canon or Nikon has this problem. I tested the R today and despite the R having much less vibrant skin color than the A7III (like seriously, I find the R's colors just dead and mute), the result actually end up looking more organic because it didn't have so much micro contrast on the skin.

IMO, these problems can all be fixed with firmware updates, looking at the A9's beach volley ball gallery, it seems that both highlight roll off and tonality have become much much smoother, at least for Jpegs.

And yes, I know you can fix all of these problems in post, but there're people who shoot Jpegs, I also sometimes shoot Jpegs for fun.

And yes, I know this is all subjective.

 GrapeJam's gear list:GrapeJam's gear list
Canon EOS R Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM Canon EF 85mm F1.2L II USM Canon EF 24-70mm F2.8L II USM
Sony a9
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