Thanks to all the camera and lens releases earlier this year, I now have too much gear in my hands and too little time to review it all. Instead of making our readers wait for full, in-depth reviews (which take me a while to put together), I will be publishing some bits and pieces from the reviews with my initial impressions. In this case, I would like to show you the ISO noise performance of the new Sony A7 mirrorless camera and the Nikon D600/D610 DLSRs. I have just received the A7 and A7R cameras along with two Sony lenses (the 35mm f/2.8 Zeiss prime and the 28-70mm Sony zoom), so I have not been able to use them extensively to provide a detailed analysis and opinion. From my two days of using the two, I am pretty impressed by what I see so far.
Let’s take a look at how the Sony A7 compares to the Nikon D600 in low and high ISO performance. Here is the boosted ISO 50 for your viewing pleasure:
Right off the bat, we can already see a difference between the two – the Sony A7 shows a brighter image. Since the lighting setup was exactly the same and all exposure values were also set the same way (with NR, DR and other settings turned off), it is pretty clear that Sony is rendering images about 1/3 of a stop brighter.
The same thing can be seen at all other ISO levels. Noise characteristics are very similar between the sensors, which is expected given that both feature 24 MP sensors with similar resolution and pixel size.
Starting from ISO 800 and 1600 we start seeing more noise patterns on the A7, which are a little more visible in the shadows. But the difference is very small…
And at ISO 3200, it is now getting pretty clear that the Nikon D600 is better – take a look at the shadow red area under the ship and you will see that the D600 not only maintains noise levels better, but it also retains more colors:
And that difference is even more noticeable at ISO 6400:
And at ISO 12800, the differences are very obvious:
ISO 25600 looks like garbage on both. The Nikon D600 still has smaller grain and does a better job at keeping the detail levels – look at the red squares on the ship.
Seems like Nikon still has the upper hand when it comes to ISO performance over Sony cameras. Although the differences are small, they are still there, as demonstrated by the above image samples. Please keep in mind that all of the above images are 100% crops and represent pixel-level performance. When I added +3 EV in Lightroom to see how much data can be recovered, the D600 also seemed to provide a little more details in the shadows, which translates to slightly higher dynamic range.
Coming up: Sony A7R vs Nikon D800E ISO Performance comparison.