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Topaz Labs' flagship app uses AI algorithms to make some complex image corrections really, really easy. But is there enough here to justify its rather steep price?
In this test we look to see how tolerant of pushing exposure the a9's Raw files are. We've done this by exposing our scene with increasingly lower exposures, then pushed them back to the correct brightness using Adobe Camera Raw. Examining what happens in the shadows allows you to assess the exposure latitude (essentially the dynamic range) of the Raw files.
Because the changes in this test noise are primarily caused by shot noise and this is mainly determined by the amount of light the camera has had access to, the results are only directly comparable between cameras of the same sensor size. However, this will also be the case in real-world shooting if you're limited by what shutter speed you can keep steady, so this test gives you an idea of the amount of processing latitude different formats give.
Compared to its peers, the a9 fares better than the Nikon D5, but falls slightly behind the Canon 1D X II and more so compared to the a7R II. There's an odd, almost horizontal pattern to the noise in the deepest shadows, while in Bill Claff corroborates in quantitative studies.this is less evident. In fact, in these areas, the a9 and 1D X II appear neck-to-neck, which
At smallerpushes, there's barely a difference between the cameras, but by you begin to notice a tiny bit of noise creeping into all cameras save for the a7R II. Progressively higher pushes of , , and really start to separate the cameras from one another, with the a7R II well ahead of the pack, with the D5 performing the worst.
Theat up to +3EV pushes, but +4EV or higher pushes from base ISO reveal a sort of patterned noise in shadows that may prove unacceptable to demanding users. Notably, this is an issue for all the high-end sports cameras presented here, likely due to constraints placed on sensors read out at high speeds. Our tests indicate the 1D X II fares the best amongst the current high-end sports cameras due its lack of patterned noise in the shadows. The (non-sports) a7R II, optimized for image quality, provides usable images even after a +6EV push at base ISO (at equivalent viewing size).
A camera with a very low noise floor is able to capture a large amount of dynamic range, since it adds very little noise to the detail captured in the shadow regions of the image. This has an interesting implication: it minimizes the need to amplify the sensor's signal in order to keep it above that noise floor (which is what ISO amplification conventionally does). This provides an alternate way of working in situations that would traditionally demand higher ISO settings.
Here we've done something that may seem counter-intuitive: we've used the same aperture and shutter speed at different ISO settings to see how much difference there is between shooting at a particular ISO setting (and using hardware amplification) vs. digitally correcting the brightness, later. This has the advantage that all the shots should exhibit the same shot noise and any differences must have been contributed by the camera's circuitry.
It's immediately obvious the a9 is not ISO-invariant (what is 'ISO-invariance'?). This means the camera is adding a fair amount of read noise that results in noisy shadows, limiting dynamic range at base ISO. That's why, for the same focal plane exposure, performing analog amplification by increasing ISO in-camera gets you a cleaner image than performing that amplification (or brightening) in post-processing.
It's not the typical performance we've come to expect from Sony cameras, but it's similar to most sports oriented cameras (). the 1D X II fares a bit better, the D5 somewhat worse. Meanwhile, the a7R II pulls well ahead of the pack. The a9's advantage over the D5 drops away at a push less than , and with as little as all the speed demons are performing similarly. Shooting natively at , all cameras even out in performance.
Ultimately, like its sporting peers, the a9 sensor is optimized for speed and the high readout speeds of its sensor leads to higher read noise levels. This limits low ISO dynamic range by adding noise to the lowest signals the sensor captures.
There is little to no difference in base ISO dynamic range in different drive modes. So the good news is that the drop to 12-bit in continuous drive comes at no cost. The not-so-good news? 14-bit Raws aren't any better than the 12-bit ones, they're just bigger.
Click here to load the above as an interactive widget.
As we published earlier, it's interesting to note that there's no visual change in shadow noise levels as you switch drive modes: single mechanical to continuous electronic all look the same. This is particularly interesting because all Single drive modes, including fully electronic, support full 14-bit Raw. The Continuous drive modes, however, switch the image pipeline into a 12-bit* mode which, by definition, means files with no more than ~12 stops of dynamic range.
This indicates that even the 14-bit Raws have at most ~12 EV of dynamic range at the pixel level, placing base ISO dynamic range nearly a full stop behind the a7R II at similar (normalized) viewing size. Indeed, this is what Bill Claff found when we sent him a9 files for analysis, with little to no difference in dynamic range across drive modes.
Notably, the a7R II's 14-bit Raws have significantly less noise compared to its 12-bit Raws. Given the striking similarity between 14-bit and 12-bit Raws from the a9, we wonder if the analog-to-digital converter (ADC) is always being run in 12-bit mode regardless of drive mode. If the ADC truly is being driven in 14-bit mode, there are enough other sources of read noise to make sampling at anything above 12 bits unnecessary, according to our (and Bill's) results.
In our ISO-invariance widget above, you may have noticed that noise dramatically increases as you go from ISO 800 to ISO 400 (how's that for sounding completely back-to-front?). Below you'll see this more clearly as we 'zoom in' to this ISO range: shadow noise dramatically clears up as you go from an ISO 500 image (with 3.7 EV push) to an ISO 640 image (with 3.3 EV push):
Things clean up at ISO 640 (as with the a7R II) because of the sensor's 'dual gain' architecture, where the camera increases the conversion gain (effectively in-pixel amplification) during readout, helping overcome the camera's relatively high (for a Sony design) read noise.
Above ISO 640, the camera is fairly ISO-invariant, since it's overcome most of its downstream read noise, but there's still some benefit to increasing ISO to keep noise levels low if your scene demands it. Below ISO 640, the lower conversion gain means that you'll start to see more (read) noise if you push shadows as opposed to having them pushed in-camera by increasing ISO gain.
The good news is that those worried about the camera dropping to 12-bit readout in continuous shooting needn't worry: there's no decrease in quality, since a 12 bit file can contain all its dynamic range.** The not-so-good news is that this is because the a9 doesn't appear to have more around 12 EV pixel-level dynamic range to begin with, putting its normalized base ISO dynamic range at least a stop behind that of the a7R II.
A more relevant comparison might be to the a9's direct peers: it performs neck-and-neck with the Canon 1D X II (and perhaps a bit better at ISOs above 640 thanks to its dual-gain design), and a full stop better than the Nikon D5 at base ISO. Note though that extremely pushed shadows from the a9 exhibit a visually-distracting horizontal pattern in dark tones that the other cameras compared here don't.
By high ISO, general image quality catches up across all cameras, as downstream read noise becomes less important and the a9's dual gain architecture gives its performance a boost.
Ultimately, the a9's lower ISO dynamic range limits the exposure latitude of its Raws, so you'll have some limited ability to expose high contrast scenes for the highlights, then tonemap*** (raise) shadows in post. For most sports photographers this won't matter much, but those shooting high contrast scenes may require workarounds other cameras - such as the a7R II - don't.
* We confirmed that continuous modes were 12-bit, while single shot modes were 14-bit, by comparing histograms of respective Raw files. The 14-bit single drive files have 14-bits of data compared to the 12-bit files (the histogram shows Raw values 1, 2, and 3 are vacant while the 14-bit files do have pixels with these values).
** Interestingly, this means there's little advantage to those large (47MB) uncompressed 14-bit Raw files, save for the lack of compression artifacts. In a perfect world, Sony would have offered a 12-bit Raw mode with an effectively lossless compression curve (without that second stage of localized compression that leads to edge artifacts) for smaller file sizes with no visual loss in quality.
*** There's a very specific reason I like to use the word 'tonemap' instead of 'raise the shadows'. We're forced to raise shadows of high contrast Raw files exposed for the highlights today because of the limited brightness of most current displays. Future displays capable of far higher brightnesses (perhaps even ten-fold) will need less shadow pushing, or tone-mapping, to make visible what you currently see as 'shadows' in such traditionally underexposed Raw files. For example, shadows you currently push +4 EV will likely be visible without any pushing at all on a 4,000 nit-capable display.
Feb 13, 2017
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Apr 22, 2020
Yep, we're doing it.
As it did for the a7R III, a7 III and a6400, Sony has added Animal Eye AF, interval shooting and more to the a9 via firmware update.
We've tested and re-scored the Sony a9 with a focus on the AF enhancements that firmware 5.0 brings, and it raises the score to 90%. This makes the a9 the highest-scoring camera in its class, out-ranking the Nikon D5 and Canon 1D X II.
We sat down recently with Yasuyuki Nagata, head of Sony's global interchangeable lens business, to discuss the company's two new telephoto lenses and Sony's approach to mirrorless product development.
Sony has released firmware version 5.0 for its flagship mirrorless camera, the a9. The update brings AI-driven autofocus modes, an improved menu structure and other updates.
Topaz Labs' flagship app uses AI algorithms to make some complex image corrections really, really easy. But is there enough here to justify its rather steep price?
Above $2500 cameras tend to become increasingly specialized, making it difficult to select a 'best' option. We case our eye over the options costing more than $2500 but less than $4000, to find the best all-rounder.
There are a lot of photo/video cameras that have found a role as B-cameras on professional film productions or even A-cameras for amateur and independent productions. We've combed through the options and selected our two favorite cameras in this class.
What’s the best camera for around $2000? These capable cameras should be solid and well-built, have both the speed and focus to capture fast action and offer professional-level image quality. In this buying guide we’ve rounded up all the current interchangeable lens cameras costing around $2000 and recommended the best.
Family moments are precious and sometimes you want to capture that time spent with loved ones or friends in better quality than your phone can manage. We've selected a group of cameras that are easy to keep with you, and that can adapt to take photos wherever and whenever something memorable happens.
What's the best camera for shooting sports and action? Fast continuous shooting, reliable autofocus and great battery life are just three of the most important factors. In this buying guide we've rounded-up several great cameras for shooting sports and action, and recommended the best.
|Bald Eagle and Handler-0432 by vbuhay|
from People Who Look Like Their Pets
|All the way up there ..beautiful view by Vishnu photoplorer|
from Tout Là Haut
|About to leave for Mexico City by Sv1|
from Civil Airliner Parked at an Airport, Surrounded by Baggage Trolleys and Other Equipment
|w756 by River Photography|
|Wild American Flamingos by Fotorequest|
from Flamingos Unlimited
While peak Milky Way season is on hiatus, there are other night sky wonders to focus on. We look at the Orion constellation and Northern Lights, which are prevalent during the winter months.
We've gone hands-on with Nikon's new 17-28mm F2.8 lens for its line of Z-mount cameras. Check out the sample gallery to see what kind of image quality it has to offer on a Nikon Z7 II.
The winning and finalist images from the annual Travel Photographer of the Year awards have been announced, showcasing incredible scenes from around the world. Check out the gallery to see which photographs took the top spots.
The rumor mill suggests the announcement will be a 50mm F1.4 DG DN lens for full-frame mirrorless camera systems.
The a7R V is the fifth iteration of Sony's high-end, high-res full-frame mirrorless camera. The new 60MP Mark IV, gains advanced AF, focus stacking and a new rear screen arrangement. We think it excels at stills.
Using affordable Sony NP-F batteries and the Power Junkie V2 accessory, you can conveniently power your camera and accessories, whether they're made by Sony or not.
According to Japanese financial publication Nikkei, Sony has moved nearly all of its camera production out of China and into Thailand, citing geopolitical tensions and supply chain diversification.
Got a new camera? Get started with your Canon EOS R7 by changing these critical settings.
A pro chimes in with his long-term impressions of DJI's Mavic 3. While there were ups and downs, filmmaker José Fransisco Salgado found that in his use of the drone, firmware updates have made it better with every passing month.
Landscape photography has a very different set of requirements from other types of photography. We pick the best options at three different price ranges.
AI is here to stay, so we must prepare ourselves for its many consequences. We can use AI to make our lives easier, but it's also possible to use AI technology for more nefarious purposes, such as making stealing photos a simple one-click endeavor.
This DIY project uses an Adafruit board and $40 worth of other components to create a light meter and metadata capture device for any film photography camera.
Scientists at the Green Bank Observatory in West Virginia have used a transmitter with 'less power than a microwave' to produce the highest resolution images of the moon ever captured from Earth.
The tiny cameras, which weigh just 1.4g, fit inside the padding of a driver's helmet, offering viewers at home an eye-level perspective as F1 cars race through the corners of the world's most exciting race tracks. In 2023, all drivers will be required to wear the cameras.
The announcement is believed to be the M.Zuiko Digital ED 90mm F3.5 Macro IS Pro lens, which was confirmed on the OM System roadmap last year.
The new ultrafast prime for Nikon Z-mount cameras is a re-worked version of Cosina's existing Voigtländer 50mm F1 Aspherical lens for Leica M-mount cameras.
There are plenty of hybrid cameras on the market, but often a user needs to choose between photo- or video-centric models in terms of features. Jason Hendardy explains why he would want to see shutter angle and 32-bit float audio as added features in cameras that highlight both photo and video functionalities.
SkyFi's new Earth Observation service is now fully operational, allowing users to order custom high-resolution satellite imagery of any location on Earth using a network of more than 80 satellites.
The firmware update adds eye-detection AF to video capture and improves autofocus performance in other modes.
In some parts of the world, winter brings picturesque icy and snowy scenes. However, your drone's performance will be compromised in cold weather. Here are some tips for performing safe flights during the chilliest time of the year.
The winners of the Ocean Art Photo Competition 2022 have been announced, showcasing incredible sea-neries (see what we did there?) from around the globe.
Venus Optics has announced a quartet of new anamorphic cine lenses for Super35 cameras, the Proteus 2x series. The 2x anamorphic lenses promise ease of use, accessibility and high-end performance for enthusiast and professional video applications.
We've shot the new Fujinon XF 56mm F1.2R WR lens against the original 56mm F1.2R, to check whether we should switch the lens we use for our studio test scene or maintain consistency.
Nature photographer Erez Marom continues his series about landscape composition by discussing the multifaceted role played by the sky in a landscape image.
Check out some of our full resolution Canon EOS R6 Mark II photos, captured over the holidays and in the mountains.
After weeks with a production Canon EOS R6 Mark II, Chris and Jordan get into more detail than they could in their initial review.
The NONS SL660 is an Instax Square instant camera with an interchangeable lens design. It's made of CNC-milled aluminum alloy, has an SLR-style viewfinder, and retails for a $600. We've gone hands-on to see what it's like to shoot with.
Recently, DJI made Waypoints available for their Mavic 3 series of drones, bringing a formerly high-end feature to the masses. We'll look at what this flight mode is and why you should use it.
Astrophotographer Bray Falls was asked to help verify the discovery of the Andromeda Oxygen arc. He describes his process for verification, the equipment he used and where astronomers should point their telescopes next.
OM Digital Solutions has released firmware updates for the following cameras to add compatibility support for its new M.Zuiko Digital ED 90mm F3.5 Macro IS PRO lens: OM-D E-M1 Mark II, E-M1 Mark III, E-M5 Mark III, E-M1X, and OM-5.