Low-light performance, not the best side of the Sony A77

September 27, 2011

Sony alpha logoDpreview has just added some lab-test sample images of the Sony A77 SLT camera, so you can compare the image quality against other cameras. When I examined the images, I could clearly see that the Sony A77 is noisier than other DSLR cameras, like the Canon 7D, Nikon D7000 and Sony NEX-5N.  Even in Raw, you can see noise kicking in in ISO200. There 24.3MP resolution of the sensor certainly didn’t help to the camera’s high-ISO performance.  Some people have raised a good question: “Why Sony didn’t use the same 16MP sensor like on the NEX-5N?”.

Honestly, I don’t who needs such a high resolution. After all, this camera is aimed towards the enthusiast or serious photographer’s market, not the professional market.  We can clearly see that Sony applies very strong noise processing in ISO3200 and above. This studio comparison certainly shows that maybe Sony went away just to far here. Using a 24.3MP on an APS-C sensor is too much. I mean, even with full frame cameras, some photographers will prefer having better low-light capabilities than shooting higher resolution photos.

I tried to hunt some positive comments from forums and blog comments, but nadda. It looks like many people aren’t happy with that performance. Some of those people who wrote those comments have been looking towards buying the Sony A77. However, after watching those photographs and inspecting the high-ISO performance in JPEG and RAW, they just don’t want to get it. Other people mentioned that the Sony NEX-5N has a one stop advantage over the A77. While that certainly can be true, we can’t deny the fact that SLR cameras loses about half-stop of light due to the semi-transparent mirror. So when considering both, it doesn’t make the A77 such a great low-light performer and can certainly hurt it sells. By the way, this is also true for the Sony NEX-7, which utilizes the same sensor.

Many people will certainly compare the Sony A77 vs Nikon D7000, Sony A77 vs Canon 7D and even for some Olympus PEN cameras. I think that I’ve never seen so many negative opinion towards a camera’s sensor. I think that it just shown the disappointment that people experiencing with the A77. The expectations were very high, and that causes many photographers so express their opinion.

Having said that, we certainly need to look at the bright side of this sensor (maybe bright is not the right word 🙂 ). The Sony A77 certainly can capture more details and the color reproduction is excellent.  As the argue about the A77 continues to flourish on the web, let’s look at the camera as a whole. Even if it doesn’t have the low-light performance of the 5N, it’s still a very interesting camera with many advanced and unique features: very fast AF during movies and burst, very fast continuous shooting speed, much improved EVF, etc.

What do you think about the new sensor and the low-light performance?

visit dpreview studio compare tool to see how the A77 compared to other cameras in terms of image quality (JPEG and RAW)

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