Features (continued)

Anti Motion Blur / Hand-held Twilight modes

Anti Motion Blur and Hand-held Twilight are two nearly identical features which allow you to capture usable photos in challenging situations, namely low light. Both work by taking six exposures in a row, and then combining them into a single photo with - in theory - less noise and blurring than you'd get otherwise.

The difference between the two features is that Anti Motion Blur will generally use faster shutter speeds (and therefore higher ISO sensitivities) in order to freeze moving subjects. If the camera detects subject motion, it will isolate that object from just one of the images, in order to prevent ghosting or blur.

To test Hand-held Twilight mode, we took the photo you see below at two settings. First, in Program mode at ISO 12800, which at a focal length of ~45mm equivalent, allowed for a fast enough shutter speed for acceptable sharpness using the stabilized power zoom lens. The second shot was taken with Hand-held Twilight mode, which is a totally point-and-shoot experience.

Hand-held Twilight
(1/13 sec, f/5.0)
Conventional capture (program mode)
(1/20 sec; f/5.0; ISO 12800)
100% crop - high-contrast detail 100% crop - high-contrast detail
100% crop - low-contrast area 100% crop - low-contrast area

The photograph taken in Hand-held Twilight mode is sharper, and has less noise in both high and low contrast areas. The photograph's metadata shows an ISO sensitivity of 6400, although this is not necessarily meaningful when it comes to multiple exposure modes. From our shooting, we'd say that images taken in Anti Motion Blur and Hand-held Twilight modes have roughly the same amount of detail as ISO 3200-6400 shots taken on a tripod, making them usable for all but the largest print sizes. Do note, however, that you cannot shoot RAW images when using either of these features.

JPEG Noise-reduction, including Multi-shot NR

There are two high ISO noise reduction settings on the NEX-6: low and standard. In addition, you can purchase the Multi-Shot NR app from the PlayMemories App Store, which layers six exposures into one, and promises to reduce noise without reducing detail. Essentially multi-shot NR works by 'averaging out' random high ISO noise across the six frames.

From the photographer's point of view it works in much the same way as the Hand-held Twilight and Anti Motion Blur features, capturing the six exposures very rapidly and automatically aligning them. Obviously then, this is a mode best used when shooting relatively static subjects. In the table below, we shot everything using a tripod to get a consistent comparison, but in the 'real world', multi-shot NR is most useful when shooting hand-held (because it avoids you having to either use long exposures to avoid high ISO noise).

For this example, we're comparing standard JPEG high-ISO noise reduction against low and multi-shot NR at ISO 6400, 12800 and 25600. This scene was shot on a tripod, under low tungsten light.

To see the original images, click the magnifying glass icon on the 100% crops, below.
ISO 6400
ISO 12800
ISO 25600
Low NR, 100% crop Low NR, 100% crop Low NR, 100% crop
Standard NR, 100% crop Standard NR, 100% crop Standard NR, 100% crop
Multi-shot NR, 100% crop Multi-shot NR, 100% crop Multi-shot NR, 100% crop

While the difference between Low and Standard NR is small at ISO 6400, it becomes more visible at the two higher sensitivities, which is especially apparent in the crop taken from the playing card. Multi-shot NR is definitely worth the $5, as it produces sharper photos with more detail than conventionally-captured JPEGs. You may not notice it at smaller print sizes, but it's worth using at high sensitivities assuming that your subject (and camera) are relatively static. We wish Sony would've built this feature into the camera, rather than making it an optional extra.

JPEG, ISO 12800, Standard NR, 100% crop RAW, ACR 7.4 RC, ISO 12800, 100% crop

Multi-shot NR isn't the only way to extract more detail from high ISO images. You can also shoot using the RAW format, and process the images until you've found the right balance of detail and noise. Above we've processed the ISO 12800 image to 'taste', and have improved color saturation and shadow brightness as well as recovering some more natural-looking detail.

Built-in Flash

The NEX-6 offers a built-in flash, something that is missing from the NEX-5R (but is now becoming more common in the NEX-series as it matures). Like all mirrorless cameras, the NEX-6's built-in flash won't win any awards for power. With a guide number of 6 meters at ISO 100, the flash is best suited for shooting subjects in the immediate vicinity.

For close-range portraits like this, the NEX-6's built-in flash gives decent coverage, and flash exposures are nicely balanced, too. In this image, our subject's skin is nice and natural, without the 'burnt out' appearance of some flash-lit portraits.

The flash provides good coverage across the frame in all of our portrait test shots, and skin tones stayed true to the original, with a nice balance of flash and ambient light. Redeye was not a common occurrence in our testing.