Sony A77 vs Sony NEX-5n Low ISO Comparison
Both cameras perform equally well at ISO 100.
ISO 200 is a tad cleaner on the NEX-5n.
The same is true for ISO 400.
At ISO 800, the NEX-5n definitely appears cleaner throughout the image.
Sony A77 vs Sony NEX-5n High ISO Comparison
Let’s see what happens at higher ISOs:
Sony A77 is definitely much noisier at ISO 1600 than the NEX-5n, mostly due to the size of the grain.
At ISO 3200 the Sony A77 loses most details in the shadows and the grain appears to be about twice bigger in size when compared to NEX-5n.
There seems to be at least a full stop of difference between the cameras at these high ISO levels. ISO 6400 and higher are unusable for my taste at 100% view.
Sony A77 vs Sony NEX-5n High ISO Comparison (Down-Sampled)
Now let’s see what happens when the Sony A77 images are down-sampled to match the NEX-5n resolution. Please note that although the below images say Sony A65, the sensor performance is actually the same, because both cameras use exactly the same sensor and image processing pipeline.
ISO 800 looks very clean on both cameras.
The same is true for ISO 1600 – both look about the same.
Again, ISO 3200 is comparable between the two, with a slight advantage of NEX-5n.
At ISO 6400, the Sony A77 has noticeable loss of colors and lots of chroma noise in comparison.
Sony A77 vs Sony NEX-5n Summary
While the low ISO performance of both cameras is very impressive (with Sony A77 having the lead due to more megapixels), the smaller resolution sensor on the NEX-5n clearly shows superior performance at ISO 1600 and above, when viewed at pixel level (100%). The difference in ISO performance increases at higher ISO levels to NEX-5n advantage and reaches over 1 stop of difference at ISO 6400. However, when Sony A77 is down-sampled to NEX-5n resolution, things definitely get more balanced out and there is very little difference between the two at ISO 800, 1600 and 3200. Images at ISO 6400 and higher are unusable on the A77 and there is lots of color loss, so the NEX-5n still has an advantage there (although I would never shoot at such high ISOs on either camera).
One other thing to note here, is that the NEX-5n sensor receives more light than the A77, because it has no mirror that blocks any of the light. Sony had to boost the ISO performance of the A77 further, because it needed to compensate for the light loss (which is roughly 2/3 to 1/2 of light loss). That’s why the NEX-7 that has exactly the same 24 MP sensor performs better than the A77.
Sony A77 vs Nikon D700 Low ISO Comparison
While the below comparison is not fair due to sensor size difference (full-frame D700 vs 1.5x crop factor A77), the resolution of the Nikon D700 is much lower, so you might find down-sampled comparisons pretty interesting to look at.
As expected, the Nikon D700 looks very clean, thanks to its much bigger sensor and pixels.
There is already some noticeable difference at ISO 200.
ISO 400 on the D700 continues to look noise-free, while A77 has some visible noise in comparison.
As we increase ISO to 800, the difference is even bigger.
Sony A77 vs Nikon D700 High ISO Comparison
Nikon D700 completely destroys the A77 at IS levels above ISO 800 (pixel level performance).
I would say there are about two full stops of difference between the Sony A77 and the Nikon D700.
Sony A77 vs Nikon D700 High ISO Comparison (Down-Sampled)
Now don’t forget that the above images are shown at 100% view, meaning pixel level performance. That’s not really a fair comparison, because the Sony A77 has a lot more resolution and its images can be down-sampled to 12 MP to significantly reduce noise. Let’s now take a look at what happens when we do exactly that:
ISO 800 performance is comparable between the two, with a slight advantage on behalf of Nikon D700.
The same is true for ISO 1600 – both look somewhat comparable, with a cleaner image on the D700.
Plenty of details on both images at ISO 3200, with a cleaner image from the D700.
And the Nikon D700 performs much better at ISO 6400 and higher levels, mostly due to heavy detail and color loss on the A77.
Sony A77 vs Nikon D700 Summary
The above comparison is very interesting to look at. As expected, the Sony A77 sensor is no match to Nikon D700’s legendary full-frame sensor when the image is viewed at 100% (pixel level). But let’s not forget that the Sony A77 has a lot more resolution than the Nikon D700, so 100% pixel performance is not a fair comparison. A more balanced and fair comparison would be to down-sample the 24 MP image from the Sony A77 to 12 MP and then compare the two. As can be seen from such a comparison above, the Sony A77 performs very well at 12 MP between ISO 800 and ISO 3200. The Nikon D700 still looks cleaner, especially at higher ISO levels, but that’s expected from a full-frame sensor. The Sony A77 images at ISO 6400 have too much chroma noise and heavy loss of colors.
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