Handheld Twilight vs Straight ISO - Tests

Started Apr 12, 2010 | Discussions
zackiedawg
zackiedawg Forum Pro • Posts: 27,899
Handheld Twilight vs Straight ISO - Tests

Since this topic seems quite hot right now, with many considering the HX5V, I figured it would be a good idea to show some direct comparisons between twilight mode, handheld, and high ISO, handheld, on the Exmor-R sensor cameras. There have been a few attempts to show the differences, to varying levels of success - hopefully this will prove helpful or illuminating, or both.

All of my samples are taken with the TX1, but would apply equally to the HX1, TX5, TX7, HX5V...or any other Sony Exmor R backlit sensor camera using the same 1/2.4" 10MP chip. All shots are straight from camera, either resized or 100% crops as noted, no processing performed.

OK...first, here's a shot taken at ISO3200 of a well-lit subject, no twilight mode, handheld. This will always give the best possible results for a high ISO shot, when shooting in good light. I tried to find a light and dark object I could place together, and some wording for detail:

Now, here's another ISO3200 shot, but this time using Hand-Held Twilight mode:

Noise is significantly cleaned up, and I dare say that is fairly usable result for ISO3200 straight from the camera. It isn't DSLR standards, but it is significantly better than anything I have seen from other compact cameras, even those with larger sensors.

Here's a much more challenging scene for high ISO - there's only a single light to the right, and tons of shadow area requiring shadow detail. Focus point is on the three candles. Here's the full shot, resized, at ISO3200, no twilight mode:

And here's the full shot, resized, taken at ISO1600 with no twilight mode, just to show some variance - since ISO3200 is really pushing it, but ISO1600 might be more realistic for someone attempting to actually use it on a compact camera:

Now, I switched to Twilight mode, for which the camera chose ISO2500 - right in between the two above ISOs:

Let's look a little closer at those three. Here's the 100% crops, straight from camera, for each of the above shots -

ISO3200, no twilight:

As expected...watercolor!

ISO16000, no twilight:

Better...how could it not be? But still nothing in the way of detail.

ISO2500 using Hand-held Twilight mode:

Not DSLR caliber...but you can actually tell the bricks are bricks, and there's some detail there. Resized, or printed small, this becomes usable, especially with a little unsharp mask.

Another advantage I've discovered with twilight mode, especially on cameras with less manual controllability as some of these are...when in auto-ISO, it's actually smarter and more accurate, choosing lower ISOs and keeping enough depth in the shadows while letting the stacking do the work with detail and keeping noise down. Auto ISO in standard shooting modes seems to sometimes jump to higher ISOs too quickly even when they're not needed - which is why I almost always set my ISO manually in P shooting mode. For example, with this shot I was in P mode, and auto ISO, and no twilight mode. The camera picked ISO2000, but that actually overexposed more than needed which ended up flattening the shot, losing contrast and detail, as well as the resultant noise. Again, this is a 100% crop:

Using twilight mode, the Auto ISO more appropriately picked a lower ISO1250, all that was needed to get a proper exposure of the scene roughly as it looked to the eye...and with better contrast, depth, and detail plus less noise:

Higher ISOs are used when not in twilight mode to try to avoid shadows, as that is where the noise is the worst - the camera seems to want to choose an overexposed ISO2500 rather than a properly exposed ISO1250, because at ISO1250 there would be lots of shadow area with tons of noise reduction smearing - overexposing the shot lets the detail show through a little better for the camera's algorithms to work on and keep some detail. HHT solves that issue with stacking in the shadows, to increase shadow detail and keeping destructive noise down.

Any questions or comments welcome!

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DavePlugh Senior Member • Posts: 1,421
Nice to see again in this forum

Nice comparison Zackiedawg. You really showed the results of the in camera stacking to reduce the noise.

These newer Sony's with the Exmor chip, like the HX5, seem to have been bought by quite a number of folks. And perhaps many are new to cameras where with a lot of operating options available. Its stuff like your examples that help gets minds wondering - hmmmmm, I wonder what happens if I select this option.

Again, nice stuff.

Dave

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E R A 2 0 0 0
E R A 2 0 0 0 Contributing Member • Posts: 718
Re: Handheld Twilight vs Straight ISO - Tests

Excellent demonstration!
I will use twilight mode when I have my TX7 hopefully this week.
Thanx a lot!
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E R A
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khoss Veteran Member • Posts: 4,946
What - science :-)

OMG, someone actually noted where the focus point was in a test, annnddd .. used shots that demonstrated the point. AND .. explained the conditions. Well done, Justin. You just did what none of the reviews convincingly conveyed. You should be writing the copy for Sony.
Regards,
Kurt
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zackiedawg
OP zackiedawg Forum Pro • Posts: 27,899
Re: Nice to see again in this forum

Thank you Dave...I figured when I posted some early samples on the TX1, the HX5 hadn't hit big yet - all the noise was on the TX7 at the time. But the same sensor and same twilight mode is something I wanted to give a right proper test to, so this was a good opportunity.

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zackiedawg
OP zackiedawg Forum Pro • Posts: 27,899
Thanks and you're welcome...

Do indeed - these modes are very useful, and really should be pointed out so much more in the reviews as a selling point of the camera and a feature which makes them quite adept at a wide range of ISOs that most compacts dare not tread.

I've got a DSLR that shoots pretty clean to ISO12800, so I'm not under any illusions over what to expect from a compact. Still, twilight mode results actually surprise me in low light!

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zackiedawg
OP zackiedawg Forum Pro • Posts: 27,899
Kurt...

I certainly won't say anyone's tests have been right or wrong - everyone has been showing different things and trying different methods. I just felt like the type of test I wanted to see hadn't been done yet, so I figured there might be others out there who wanted to see such a test too. I did the same types of tests back with the 717, H1 and H5...so it seemed only right to give it a go with the TX1 too under somewhat controlled procedure (as much as is reasonably possible with a camera that has no manual controls!!).

Glad to know it might prove useful or informative for some.

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zchymalaga Forum Member • Posts: 96
More useful than

Many thanks! It´s really nice. Better job than most professional reviewers do it. In another web page, with not good relationship with dpreview, ...., you can read a really complete comparision TZ10 Vs Hx5v videos performance, it´s made for "MikesMultimedia", is a authentic work of LAB with the CAMERA. It´s also amazing.

And now, one important question, Are you happy with your Sony Camera? Qulaity of photos? videos?

Again many thanks, it´s really good post.

chupame Regular Member • Posts: 453
Re: More useful than

nicely done, i always have to laugh when i see a review in high ISO in a bright setting.

sure the picture does not look so bad at all, but there is no need for high ISO when it is bright.
Your real test is when it is dark and the shadows are much more prominent.

like this

against this

or this

against this

more here:
http://hx1-insider.blogspot.com/2009/08/on-nightshift.html

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zackiedawg
OP zackiedawg Forum Pro • Posts: 27,899
Zchymalaga,

zchymalaga wrote:

Many thanks! It´s really nice. Better job than most professional reviewers do it. In another web page, with not good relationship with dpreview, ...., you can read a really complete comparision TZ10 Vs Hx5v videos performance, it´s made for "MikesMultimedia", is a authentic work of LAB with the CAMERA. It´s also amazing.

Thank you.

And now, one important question, Are you happy with your Sony Camera? Qulaity of photos? videos?

I am. Though I'll be clear about a few things so there are no confusions...first, my TX1 serves as a backup camera and go-anywhere camera for when I'm not wanting to use my DSLR. Since I use my DSLR a lot, that means I don't use my compact as often. Those needing a compact camera as their only camera may have a higher need than I do, in versatility and image quality. That said, I do still want my compact to be capable of capturing a scene the way I see it, and want to be able to make reasonably large prints of decent quality. From my early tests, no problem there at all - I've printed 8.5x11 on photo paper from the TX1 and the results were quite nice. The spare resolution gives some latitude for basic cleanup, USM, or minor tweaks to make the shot really pop, if need be. And the size and convenience even compared with my T100 compact (which was an excellent little camera) are astounding on the TX1 - which is ridiculously small for carrying anywhere.

Second point - I don't use the video function. I have a video camera which I don't even use much - I'm very much more a fan of still photography than of video - I like watching video and film when it's good made by others, but just no real interest in making any of my own. I suppose I may someday find a reason to use video on the cam - if I saw a tornado touch down on the beach, or Tom Cruise standing on a fountain at the local mall preaching Scientology or something...but otherwise, video is something I have no input on!

In general, the quality of the photos is decent, but not the best out there. Nor really should it be for the price, size of the sensor, and packaging. A larger sensor, a DSLR, really big, well-made lens, larger camera with bigger optics, all should be better than these tiny sensor compacts...and they generally are. But the incredible convenience and size are unmatched, the design is beautiful, and there are a few tricks up the sleeve of these things which allow them to occasionally leapfrog the 'better' and 'bigger' competition - such as the Twilight mode, and on the newer cams, the HDR modes. And to a lesser degree the anti-blur mode which does help use high ISOs with moving subjects and not seeing blur and streaks. When in twilight mode, there is no question in my mind these cameras are a step above any compact competition, even with larger sensors. The tests and samples seen from some very nice cameras seem to bear that out, as they just don't compare with the twilight stacking at ISOs over 400.

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zackiedawg
OP zackiedawg Forum Pro • Posts: 27,899
Re: More useful than

Indeed - definitely the low light is the bigger challenge, and much more telling about the stacking's advantages. Nice examples too!

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zchymalaga Forum Member • Posts: 96
Re: More useful than

Thanks a lot for your opinion. I think the best reviews come from a EXPERIENCED users, trusty, with more time to discover the real potential of the product.

I had a Canon S3is, really nice videos, sound, impressive zoom, but not the most brilliant stills during the day, and very poor over 200 ISO, and a bit bulky. I would like to buy something like HX5V and your opinion definitely leaning me to it.

Thanks it is nice to learn, and share opinions with people who know about Photography .

zackiedawg
OP zackiedawg Forum Pro • Posts: 27,899
Re: More useful than

zchymalaga wrote:

Thanks a lot for your opinion. I think the best reviews come from a EXPERIENCED users, trusty, with more time to discover the real potential of the product.

I had a Canon S3is, really nice videos, sound, impressive zoom, but not the most brilliant stills during the day, and very poor over 200 ISO, and a bit bulky. I would like to buy something like HX5V and your opinion definitely leaning me to it.

If you get the chance, I'd say try it out first. I think the S3IS may actually be either the same or slightly better in very good light - while I do think the HX5 will hold a large advantage at higher ISOs, especially with HHT. And much less bulky for sure. Less lens range of course - more at the wide end, not as much telephoto. And a few nice features thrown in like better video resolution, pano mode, HDR mode, and GPS.

Thanks it is nice to learn, and share opinions with people who know about Photography .

You're welcome, and ditto!

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John Miles
John Miles Veteran Member • Posts: 6,909
Re: Handheld Twilight vs Straight ISO - Tests

Superb thread - No questions - Just better informed now. Thanks.

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zackiedawg
OP zackiedawg Forum Pro • Posts: 27,899
Re: Handheld Twilight vs Straight ISO - Tests

Thank you...glad it could help.

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CSZ_Fan Junior Member • Posts: 38
Re: Handheld Twilight vs Straight ISO - Tests

Nice work, thanks for posting it.

I just received my HX5v today, and within 2 minutes of getting home, left for my son's football practice. Didn't even have a memory card with me, so I took six pics: 3 zoomed, 3 close. Performance was OK. As we all know, kinda soft/NR'd.

Then I got home, did some more general life stuff, and got it back out to play with it in the hallway, only lit by light coming out of my office door - no lights on in the hall. In these circumstances my prior P&S (Fujifilm E550) would be completely useless.

The HX5v was OUTSTANDING. I was expecting decent/usable results, but WOW. It takes about 2/3 of a second to take the six pics, you can actually hear each one, and see them on the LCD. Then when it finishes it displays the final product on the LCD.

That mode alone makes this camera a great buy. I really only need 2 improvements over my E550: bigger zoom and better low light. BOY did I ever get those.

Anyway, back to the thread topic: HHT KICKS BUTT, and is VERY easy to use. Just turn the mode control knob to HHT (pic of a crescent moon and a hand), and press the shutter release.

John Miles
John Miles Veteran Member • Posts: 6,909
Re: Handheld Twilight vs Straight ISO - Tests

Hey Justin I've just thought of something that might be useful to know:

What is the threshhold ISO value for changing from single to layered shooting? I suppose the amount of zoom would play a significant part in that decision as wel. But it has to be a trigger point anyone would need to know off AUTO.

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bill pohlman
bill pohlman Contributing Member • Posts: 897
Re: Handheld Twilight vs Straight ISO - Tests

Well Done!
About a month ago Jerry Stevens commented on a pix I took with my HX1...He had

mentioned that the hht mode could be used in bright light or at least outdoors...

Of course, I didn't believe him so didn't even try--After your demonstration I certainly will....Sorry about not believing you Jerry.
BP

zackiedawg
OP zackiedawg Forum Pro • Posts: 27,899
HHT in bright sunlight - example

Absolutely you can. In fact, I'd say if the shot were something in which the greatest amount of detail was desired or necessary, and the subject is not moving, HHT would be the preferred mode to use. If there's enough light, it will use the lowest ISO while still achieving handheld shutter speeds, and the stacking of images does the same routine of increasing detail and reducing noise. Even the slight blue-channel sky noise very common with these cameras (and many over-MP'd cameras today) is well handled with the stacking. Here's a broad afternoon, bright light shot taken with HHT:

ISO125 was chosen, F4.5 and 1/640 shutter speed. The tree bark has more detail than a snapshot without HHT, and the blue sky is much cleaner.

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zackiedawg
OP zackiedawg Forum Pro • Posts: 27,899
Indeed - glad to hear it! [nt]
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