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Sony a7R III Pixel Shift lifts a veil off your landscapes

by on Nov.12, 2017, under Reviews


Sony’s replacement of its popular a7R II comes packed with new features, most of them aimed at performance, ergonomic and autofocus improvements. But there are image quality improvements as well, like more dynamic range, but also a new Pixel Shift feature that hasn’t yet been talked about much.

Cameras with sensor-shift mechanisms are increasingly offering these pixel shift modes by precisely moving the sensor in one pixel increments to sample each color at every position, thereby overcoming the downsides of the Bayer filter array. And getting you sharper images with less moiré, with potentially less noise thanks to multi-sampling and less math required to figure out the R, G and B colors at each pixel. How does this look in the real-world? Explore our Pixel Shift vs. non-Pixel Shift Raw comparison below (Raws processed using Sony Imaging Edge with all sharpening and noise reduction settings zeroed out, and only tonal adjustments applied to deal with the high scene contrast):

$(document).ready(function() { ImageComparisonWidget({“containerId”:”reviewImageComparisonWidget-16466122″,”widgetId”:566,”initialStateId”:null}) })

Move around the image and you’ll see a marked increase in clarity almost everywhere. The buildings’ windows are sharper and clearer, all the foliage far more defined… these Pixel Shift results are frankly astounding for static scenes. It’s like a veil has been lifted off your scene: something landscape photographers will simply love. All details are clearer, crisper, and there is no hint of moiré anywhere. The last time I saw this jump in clarity was going from a Rebel with kit lens to a 5D with L-series lens, to put this in perspective.

Last time I saw this jump in clarity was going from a kit lens on a Rebel to an L-lens on a 5D

And it’s not because of extra sharpening (which would come at the cost of more noise, which we don’t see), but because of the extra sampling. We’d also expect a decrease in noise, but we can’t quite tell here because of the non-standard workflow and because – to the credit of the a7R III’s dynamic range – this sunset scene still doesn’t have enough dynamic range to challenge the a7R III and make shadows visibly noisy.* That’s saying a lot.

This sunset scene doesn’t have enough dynamic range to challenge the a7R III. That says a lot.

What’s more: Sony’s recent lenses have enough resolving power to take advantage of this mode. You see the resolution increase at least partly because the lenses have enough resolving power to take advantage of the extra pixel-level sampling (theoretically, increasing the resolution of any part of the imaging chain has the potential to increase sharpness, but your lens needs to resolve enough to begin with to see the dramatic differences we’re seeing here). You can’t always take that for granted (see the limited increase in resolution of Pixel Shift modes on Micro Four Thirds cameras in our studio scene, for example).

Studio Scene Comparison

We know you’re itching to compare these results to all our other cameras, including those with their own Pixel Shift modes. Well, here you have it (Phase One 100MP camera is included as a benchmark so you know what the details are actually supposed to look like in our scene):

$(document).ready(function() { ImageComparisonWidget({“containerId”:”reviewImageComparisonWidget-13890098″,”widgetId”:565,”initialStateId”:null}) })

The first thing you might notice is the lack of moire in our saturated color wheels, something even the Phase One 100MP sensor fails at. The Pentax K-1 offers a similar performance here: sampling three primaries at each pixel position helps overcome the color aliasing typically associated with Bayer filters.

Pixel Shift removes color aliasing in the newspaper print$(document).ready(function() { $(“#icl-3794–1566952198”).click(function() { ImageComparisonWidgetLink(3794); }); }) as well (check back above). It also produces less moire in the black and white text$(document).ready(function() { $(“#icl-3798-785963340”).click(function() { ImageComparisonWidgetLink(3798); }); }) of our scene. The lack of moire and increased resolution allows you to read down to the last line with ease – something the a7R II can’t claim.

You can even start to see the texture in our color wheel$(document).ready(function() { $(“#icl-3795-1120823446”).click(function() { ImageComparisonWidgetLink(3795); }); }) that not even the Pentax in Pixel Shift mode (much less the original a7R II) can resolve. The Phase One and Pentax medium format cameras are the only other cameras sharing that honor.

Traditional cameras with Bayer arrays particularly resolve less in saturated colors, where the lower resolution of the red or blue pixels really starts to show. So take a look at the massive increase in resolution in our saturated threads$(document).ready(function() { $(“#icl-3796–2100605088”).click(function() { ImageComparisonWidgetLink(3796); }); }). You can resolve individual strands the a7R II – or a7R III without Pixel Shift – don’t show. The K-1 does well here too, but remember the a7R III images are processed through Sony ‘Imaging Edge’, and we expect things to improve once Adobe provides support (which, to our understanding, it will).

Just generally speaking there’s more detail throughout our scene: take a look at our Beatles patch$(document).ready(function() { $(“#icl-3797–29172716”).click(function() { ImageComparisonWidgetLink(3797); }); }). You can make out individual threads otherwise only visible to the Phase One. The increased resolution of the a7R III over the K-1 probably helps resolve more threads, though the incredibly sharp Sony FE 85/1.8 may have some role to play here as well.

If you’re curious how well the 50MP Canon 5DS R compares: not so well. Individual threads are not well resolved$(document).ready(function() { $(“#icl-3800–1236522308”).click(function() { ImageComparisonWidgetLink(3800); }); }) (if not noisy, particularly in the reds), and color aliasing$(document).ready(function() { $(“#icl-3801–202191445”).click(function() { ImageComparisonWidgetLink(3801); }); }) can be an issue.

Are we impressed?

How could we not be? Landscape, cityscape and architecture photographers will absolutely love this new feature paired with the already excellent sensor in the a7R III – as long as they steer clear of (or clone out) moving objects in the scene. The increase in resolution and decrease in aliasing Pixel Shift brings is obvious in both our studio scene and real world result. It’s frankly dramatic in the latter.

Are we impressed? How could we not be? Landscape, cityscape and architecture photographers will love this

There can be obvious artifacts in anything moving though, so that’s a potentially significant (albeit expected) caveat for landscapes with motion (water, fast clouds), telephoto shots prone to movement from wind and vibrations, etc. You’ll want to use a sturdy tripod with a remote release or self-timer. Furthermore, for now, using Sony’s ‘Imaging Edge’ software is clunky, but once Adobe incorporates support, we can’t wait to start shooting landscapes and perhaps tougher subjects in this mode to see how well it copes.


* That said, this was still a high dynamic range scene that we exposed for the highlights and tone-mapped in post using Sony’s ‘Imaging Edge’ software (the only option for processing Pixel Shift files at the moment). So shadows have been lifted many stops – yet remain noise free. You’ll have to excuse the somewhat flat result, as we didn’t have access to the tools we’re used to to tonemap HDR images while retaining proper local contrast. More to come…



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Photo story of the week: Sunrise in Burren National Park

by on Nov.11, 2017, under Reviews


The warm colors of a sunrise or sunset in a wide open landscape, the foreground gently touched by the orange hues, and the sun throwing a nice aperture star—that is what the romanticizing cliché of landscape photography looks like in the heads of many people these days I reckon. Rightfully so, since it is one of the most atmospheric times of day to shoot: the light is soft, and partial illumination of the foreground is desirable for tonal separation and visual flow.

Almost every landscape photographer has at some point of his or her creative journey chased the intensity that comes with the golden hour. Still, even after all these years of shooting mainly landscapes, going after the elusive sunset and sunrise light is one of my favorite things to do while out in the field. One of the reasons is simply because depending on where you live it can be a rare sight—it is not an everyday sight for most of us.

For all who don’t do this already I would highly recommend using satellite and radar data to scout your location ahead of time

Whenever I am out on a road trip or hiking trip I keep a constant eye on the satellite data—if I have cell reception—to check the cloud coverage in order to find spots right at the edge of a field of clouds to get good conditions for a sunrise or sunset shot. To take this shot, I took a look at the radar over the western parts of Ireland—over the Burren National Park to be exact—and monitored the satellite forecast before I was catching some shuteye.

The predictions for the following morning showed the clouds would most likely pass in the next couple of hours, being carried further north, leaving only a field of scattered patches behind. Furthermore, there would be no clouds at the eastern horizon blocking the sunlight. It is not hard to do these sorts of things if you know the sources for reliable weather data in the area you’re in, but it can be the difference between getting a good shot or none at all. So, for all who don’t do this already I would highly recommend using satellite and radar data to scout your location ahead of time.

When I woke up next morning it was still dark as I made my way out to the karst landscape of the national park grounds which are dominated by limestone ground speckled with shrubs and grass. I had scouted the lake before while I was preparing for my trip by looking at hiking maps of the area, and knew the sun was at the right angle to rise next to one of the limestone hills I had hiked to a day before. With this in mind, I was spending much of the blue hour finding different foreground compositions for the moment the clouds would light up and sun would make its way past the horizon line.

It seemed like the country had saved the best light for last

Originally, I intended to include a bigger patch of the lake in my image, but ultimately scrapped the idea for the shrubs and stones for three reasons: A) because the unique feature of the landscape is not the lake but rather the limestone, B) because the clouds were almost entirely gone by the time the sun rose and only covered a narrow strip of the sky, logically much of the reflection would have been just empty sky, and C) the morning light on the shrubs made for a warm and cold color palette with the rocks still in the shade.

I tried to balance out the double sun star in the upper right corner by placing some of the little bushes near the lower left corner of the frame. Due to the perspective, the gaps in between the shrubs appear to becoming shorter the further away they are from the camera, creating a visual flow and implicitly drawing the viewer into the image towards the sun, much like the curvature of the shoreline and the slim layer of mist above the lake. To me the leading lines were appealing in their subtlety, not being too obvious, yet present.

After I walked back to my sleeping bag I was very content, feeling like I did the landscape and the sunrise justice. This was also one of the last shots I took on my two week road trip through Ireland and it seemed like the country had saved the best light for last.

Pure bliss for a landscape photographer

Now I have another cheesy sunset in my portfolio. And sure, for some it may be nothing more than a cliché, but for me it represents a morning alone in Burren National Park, one of the most beautiful areas of Ireland, sitting in the warm morning light and enjoying these sights and taking a couple of shots while eating breakfast—pure bliss for a landscape photographer.

EXIF: Nikon D800 – Nikkor AF-S 20 mm 1:1,8 G ED | FLM CB-48FTR & CP30-M4S | 20mm | 4 Exposures for DRI | f/13 | ISO 100


Nicolas Alexander Otto is a semi-professional landscape photographer based out of North-Rhine Westphalia, Germany. He writes for different online and print media, teaches workshops for several agencies, sells prints and calendars and offers post processing sessions. You can find more of his work on his website, Facebook and Instagram.



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Bokeh Market site tracks used camera market value, offers alerts on price changes

by on Nov.10, 2017, under Reviews


A new website called Bokeh Market aims to take some of the work out of buying and selling used camera gear by providing users with real-time market value info. The website, which is free to use, provides a graph showing an item’s value over time, its individual seller rating and, when possible, its trusted seller value. The site also culls active listings for the item from various online destinations, including eBay and B&H Photo.

The website is search-based, meaning users search for the gear they’re interested in. Though an account isn’t necessary to use the Bokeh Market, registering one allows users to create their own gear list, making it easier to see its value. Additionally, accounts can be used to get price alerts for specific items and to create bundles of items, the value of which is provided based on Bokeh Market’s data.

Via: PetaPixel



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