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Thread: A77 vs A900...vs MFDB

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    A77 vs A900...vs MFDB

    I did some quick comparisons between the A77 and my MFDB and was surprised to see noise at ISO100 (on the A77). I might not have appreciated it without something "pure" to compare to.

    Granted, it was JPG and DRO, so I need to redo it with RAW and perhaps ISO50.

    But I was wondering if anyone had done this with an A850/A900. I would expect results in-between? Anyone in Silicon Valley want to loan me their camera?

    At the same time, the noise was quite pleasing...as it is all the way up to ISO 3200. Analogously, the A77 is like shooting ISO200 C-41 vs the MFDB is like shooting ISO50 E-6.
    Last edited by gsking; 21st September 2012 at 11:21.

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    Re: A77 vs A900...vs MFDB

    The A77 will not match up to a digital back. Shoot raw, ISO 100 and ISO 320 on the A900 (ISO 100 = cleaner and more highlight headroom at the expense of shadows, ISO 320 = a little more noise, but not bad, much more shadow depth at the expense of highlights). Process the Sony files in Raw Photo Processor or Lightroom 4. Capture One is inconsistent, but much better on certain images.

    Shoot the back at ISO 50 or ISO 100 and process in its native application (C1 or Phocus). Rather than coming up with a test that works equally poorly for everything, process each camera optimally, then compare the prints. I can't imagine that the Sony would stand up to any digital back in ideal conditions. The question is which works best in what is real world conditions for you?

    EDIT: As a brief amendment, I have never compared the Sony to a digital back. However, I know how it stacks up against a Canon 5DII, Canon 1DsIII, Nikon D700, Aptus 7 (that was out of adjustment) and Phase P30+. If you want to compare resolution, there is not a ton of difference. If you want to compare color, tonality and ease of editing files, there is a big difference.
    Last edited by Bill_Green; 21st September 2012 at 10:49.

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    Re: A77 vs A900...vs MFDB

    Good info, Bill...thanks.

    Having done this before with older cameras, the MFDB seemed to handily win out in terms of sharpness even at similar resolutions. I attributed this to the lack of AA filter. No such difference was visible with the A77. I did get a HUGE amount of fringing with the 35 1.8, but that's a known shortcoming.

    I agree with all your comments. The MFDB delivers amazing results in ideal conditions...but quickly falters if not treated with respect. I have to underexpose religiously to avoid blown highlights. This doesn't add noise to the shadows, but does tend to lose some detail there. (But as you noted, it probably can be pulled back out with C1).

    I just need to keep reminding myself to not try to use the MFDB as I use my A77...like a P&S. Ironically, if I want to do that, I should be shooting film.

    Likewise, if I downsize and replace my MF equipment with the A900, it will be a hangar queen for special occasions. Just more of them than my MFDB.

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    Re: A77 vs A900...vs MFDB

    Quote Originally Posted by gsking View Post
    The MFDB delivers amazing results in ideal conditions...but quickly falters if not treated with respect.
    I suppose that is really what it comes down to: How much time do you spend shooting in ideal conditions and what cost are you willing to pay to get that little something extra in those conditions? The second part of the question is how much better does MFD need to be than DSLR to justify the cost and is that possible with your budget.

    This is where I am right now. Looking at how much better MFD needs to be an in what conditions and at what price. I keep looking at where I need DSLRs to be for the image quality I want, what exactly I am likely to be shooting over the next two years, and whether MFD can deliver the quality I want at a price I can afford.

    Aside from speed of use and high ISO, IMO the A900 is a better camera all the way around than the A77. But that quality comes at the expense of speed of use in a big way. There comes a point when you are shooting a DSLR like MFD where you have to wonder why not just shoot MFD? And if this is going to be a special use camera, might as well go all the way.

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    Re: A77 vs A900...vs MFDB

    Quote Originally Posted by gsking View Post
    I did some quick comparisons between the A77 and my MFDB and was surprised to see noise at ISO100 (on the A77). I might not have appreciated it without something "pure" to compare to.

    Granted, it was JPG and DRO, so I need to redo it with RAW and perhaps ISO50.

    But I was wondering if anyone had done this with an A850/A900. I would expect results in-between? Anyone in Silicon Valley want to loan me their camera?

    At the same time, the noise was quite pleasing...as it is all the way up to ISO 3200. Analogously, the A77 is like shooting ISO200 C-41 vs the MFDB is like shooting ISO50 E-6.
    Hi. You're going to have a hard time competing with an MFDB at base ISO in good light, but here are a few things to consider:

    - turn off DRO, even when shooting RAW. It'll influence camera metering, and you'll underexpose quite a bit. Not sure about the A77, but, with my NEX-7, the metering is very conservative, and I'm constantly adding exposure comp, and that's with DRO off.

    - The A77 does loose a little bit of light from the mirror, so that creates a slight disadvantage to start with.

    - In raw, all that ISO 50 on the A77 will do is change the exposure bias towards opening the shadows. There is no real advantage in raw to going to ISO 50.

    Either way, it's hard to beat that nice, large MFDB sensor at low ISO.

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    Re: A77 vs A900...vs MFDB

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill_Green View Post
    Aside from speed of use and high ISO, IMO the A900 is a better camera all the way around than the A77. But that quality comes at the expense of speed of use in a big way. There comes a point when you are shooting a DSLR like MFD where you have to wonder why not just shoot MFD? And if this is going to be a special use camera, might as well go all the way.
    I like your logic.

    My thinking for going "back" from MFDB to A-900 is basically consolidation. I have all the good glass, but it's not getting used on APS-C. As I wind down my desire to hassle with film, I could save time and money and stowage space to free myself from 645 and 67 lenses and bodies. I'd get 90% of the performance.

    But you're right, I still have that "why settle?" thinking, since I have the gear.

    I'd rent an A900 to try out, but $150 is too much for a science project.

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    Re: A77 vs A900...vs MFDB

    Well, I broke down and bought an A850. Guess I'll have to do a real test

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    Re: A77 vs A900...vs MFDB

    OK, one month w/ the 850! What's your verdict?

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    Re: A77 vs A900...vs MFDB

    Quote Originally Posted by Rand47 View Post
    OK, one month w/ the 850! What's your verdict?
    Well, it's not good so far. Shot all three cameras tonight for the play. Lowlight plus studio. Decided to use the A77 at ISO 50 and the MFDB at ISO 50 for the studio shots, and it's a tight race. See if you can tell which is which.

    The A850 got relegated to ISO320 work because it's neither here nor there. It doesn't do low ISO as well as either of the other two cameras, yet I'm not convinced it's really more useful in the 800-1600 range where it should beat out the A77.

    Plus, it just doesn't seem to be as punchy or sharp as the A77, even using primes like the 200mm stopped down. Perhaps it's because the A77 has a stronger JPG engine that either the A850 or (my skills at) A850 raw.

    Ironically, the AF on the 645 worked out better for me than the A77, though, even with 2 stops less DOF. The 50mm 1.4 was all over the f'ing map trying to focus. I knew that lens was a little hinky, but I always thought microadjust would fix it. Nope.

    I might have to sell both MFDB and A850...might have to get the A99 after all.

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    Re: A77 vs A900...vs MFDB

    Not sure what you are trying to determine here.

    Cute photos ... the parents must absolutely love them! BTW, if you want us to guess which is which, leave off the camera generated file format numbers

    I regularly use 35mm digital: (Sony A900s and Leica M9/MM ... before that a Nikon D3/D3X, before that a Canon 1D-III/1Ds-III) ... and MFD (either a S2 or a Hasselblad H:current H4D/60, before that H4D/40, before that ... etc. etc. ).

    Applications are weddings, portraits, posed and candid family stuff, conceptual environmental portraits, studio and indoor/outdoor ambient candids or posed. I'll leave out commercial table top product and food, and industrial/corporate and such for this discussion because it would weight it in favor of the MFD choices.

    I tried an A77 and took it back because the A900 beat it at every measure that meant anything for all the diverse work I have to accomplish. I see nothing from the A99 yet, that compels me to buy one. For me, A99 IQ will have to be a leap from Earth to Pluto to overcome being forced to look through a viewfinder that's been described as watching a 1950s TV screen (and that was from someone that liked the camera!) ... 10 hours at a wedding doing that is not an appealing prospect.

    I've taken myself OFF the gear/swap merry-go-round. I've used the A900s since they first became available, the H camera for almost a decade now, and the M camera for all of my adult life. I've become a believer that mastering the tool makes more of it than commonly believed. That pigeon-hole categories of shooting for certain formats are artificial barriers ... sometimes they are true, often they are not. That plays both ways between 35mm and MFD. Contrary to current trends, my objective is to eventually eliminate 35mm DSLRs from my gear box ... and I'm damed close.

    The point regarding MFD is that it can look as good as 35mm in areas that are deemed 35mm territory ... which would seem to argue in favor of 35mm ... until you factor in areas of use where the 35mm falls flat on its face.

    To follow up on your "guess which-is-which" ...here is a random selection of the daily work I do ... can you tell which is which? BTW, two of these shots would have been impossible to accomplish as well with ANY 35mm due to the forced ambient conditions I had to shoot in ... and a few were done in low ambient.

    -Marc

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    Re: A77 vs A900...vs MFDB

    Marc,

    Wait...you didn't read the thread to find out my goal, but you had to sneak a peek at the file names to figure out which was the $1500 camera, and which was the $30,000 camera? What's that tell us?

    As I said, I'm trying to thin my camera pile, and (for my uses) was hoping the A850 could displace medium format. As it is, it looks the A77 may displace it just as easily.

    Obviously, my needs are pretty much opposite of yours...I have to cajole my kids into letting me take a quick snapshot of them, or scramble to set up a studio in a gym and run kids through it between scenes a couple times a year. Then I have to run the photos through the LR wringer in a hour to get them published before showtime.

    So to me, ease of use trumps ultimate IQ. In this instance, your dreaded LV viewfinder was more pleasant for me to use than the optical VF of the 645AF. The A99 is reportedly even better.

    As you said, MFDB shines over 35mm (or APS-C, in this case) in those areas where the smaller format struggles. I'm just not sure I've found those areas. Low ISO seems to be a closer race than I'd expect, and we both know high ISO will always favor 35mm. And MFDB never rewards anyone in a rush.

    So while I think your shots are excellent, I'm not sure which ones couldn't be handled by 35mm...or even the A77. Granted, some noise might creep in, but at web resolution, it's never noticeable.

    To be fair, I have to shoot the A850 in the same conditions, and will do that tonight (with Cast #2). I'll can post it without file name if you prefer.

    But if it can't displace the MFDB for times that I want ultimate quality, or prove to be enough of an ISO improvement over the A77 to live with its slower handling, it may be the one that goes.

    I also shot all three formats for soccer this year, and I had similar results. While some of the A850 shots were nice, the hit ratio was much higher on the A77, and the wow factor was still higher on the MFDB.

    If only I could run out of 120 film, it would make the decision easier.

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    Re: A77 vs A900...vs MFDB

    Quote Originally Posted by gsking View Post
    Marc,

    Wait...you didn't read the thread to find out my goal, but you had to sneak a peek at the file names to figure out which was the $1500 camera, and which was the $30,000 camera? What's that tell us?

    As I said, I'm trying to thin my camera pile, and (for my uses) was hoping the A850 could displace medium format. As it is, it looks the A77 may displace it just as easily.

    Obviously, my needs are pretty much opposite of yours...I have to cajole my kids into letting me take a quick snapshot of them, or scramble to set up a studio in a gym and run kids through it between scenes a couple times a year. Then I have to run the photos through the LR wringer in a hour to get them published before showtime.

    So to me, ease of use trumps ultimate IQ. In this instance, your dreaded LV viewfinder was more pleasant for me to use than the optical VF of the 645AF. The A99 is reportedly even better.

    As you said, MFDB shines over 35mm (or APS-C, in this case) in those areas where the smaller format struggles. I'm just not sure I've found those areas. Low ISO seems to be a closer race than I'd expect, and we both know high ISO will always favor 35mm. And MFDB never rewards anyone in a rush.

    So while I think your shots are excellent, I'm not sure which ones couldn't be handled by 35mm...or even the A77. Granted, some noise might creep in, but at web resolution, it's never noticeable.

    To be fair, I have to shoot the A850 in the same conditions, and will do that tonight (with Cast #2). I'll can post it without file name if you prefer.

    But if it can't displace the MFDB for times that I want ultimate quality, or prove to be enough of an ISO improvement over the A77 to live with its slower handling, it may be the one that goes.

    I also shot all three formats for soccer this year, and I had similar results. While some of the A850 shots were nice, the hit ratio was much higher on the A77, and the wow factor was still higher on the MFDB.

    If only I could run out of 120 film, it would make the decision easier.
    I didn't have to sneek a peek ... when you open the preview, the file names are right there plain as day.

    All this tells us is ... once again ... proving something with sub 1 meg jpegs in sRGB color space is pretty close to useless ... which seems to be the point of your thread. But they are both nice pictures, so that's all that counts for images like that.

    I don't sell web photos ... every job I shoot goes to print in some form or another ... from 8 foot wide to 30 X 40 posters, to album spreads 18" wide ... often of cropped images. If the end purpose is web postings and facebook, then a A77, A900, A99 are over-kill ... IMO, A 10meg camera will do as good a job, just as easy and fast, and for a lot less money.

    FYI, all of the photos I posted above are all hand-held MFD ... and counter to your pronouncements, most were done in a rush ... weddings are not slow paced work. The point being that kids in motion or low-light up to ISO 1600 is a doable with modern MFD cameras ... even easy to do ... IF you keep the camera long enough to learn it, and then use it enough to get the most out of it.

    BTW, there two shots that 35mm focal plane cameras can't do in that mix ... because leaf-shutter high-speed sync was used ... one of them with full power studio strobes.

    From the stuff you describe, it sounds like you don't need much more than a A77 ... or less. Which begs the question of why you got involved with MFD in the first place, then go on-and-on about how an A77 gets the job you need done better than your Mamiya or what-ever MFD you use. ?

    Have a nice day,

    -Marc

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    Re: A77 vs A900...vs MFDB

    Well I don't know exactly what you're looking for but the A77 isn't exactly the best thing to use if low light and noise is a concern. Part of the limiting factor is the available fast glass unless you're going to invest in Zeiss or adapt Leica R lenses. I rarely use mine above ISO1600 personally and with the glass I have for my M it beats the A77 all day long. This is in varying light, low light and definitely daylight. It's one of the reasons I'm strongly considering parting with mine soon. I'd imagine in most situations with someone with a certain level of expertise (and equipment) that MF will beat the A77 as well in just about every regard.

    For your purposes though you may be well served by the Canon 5DmkII or 6D, Nikon D600 or D700, or something along those lines - or as Marc said a newer advanced point and shoot like a RX100. If your only focus is web photos then there's not much NEED for more than an advanced point and shoot but I understand the want of something more flexible.
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    Re: A77 vs A900...vs MFDB

    Quote Originally Posted by HiredArm View Post
    Well I don't know exactly what you're looking for but the A77 isn't exactly the best thing to use if low light and noise is a concern. Part of the limiting factor is the available fast glass unless you're going to invest in Zeiss or adapt Leica R lenses. I rarely use mine above ISO1600 personally and with the glass I have for my M it beats the A77 all day long. This is in varying light, low light and definitely daylight. It's one of the reasons I'm strongly considering parting with mine soon. I'd imagine in most situations with someone with a certain level of expertise (and equipment) that MF will beat the A77 as well in just about every regard.

    For your purposes though you may be well served by the Canon 5DmkII or 6D, Nikon D600 or D700, or something along those lines - or as Marc said a newer advanced point and shoot like a RX100. If your only focus is web photos then there's not much NEED for more than an advanced point and shoot but I understand the want of something more flexible.
    I wasn't even referencing a P&S ... I'm sure the OP would like more flexibility than that. Your suggestion of a Canon 5D-II is a good one since they are discounted like crazy right now. Personally, were it me with the same requirements, I'd hunt down a Nikon D700 ... that camera was terrific for the type of things the OP wants to do.

    I also agree regarding the A77 ... when I tested it against the A900, the higher ISO was worse, not better.

    -Marc

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    Re: A77 vs A900...vs MFDB

    Quote Originally Posted by fotografz View Post
    I wasn't even referencing a P&S ... I'm sure the OP would like more flexibility than that. Your suggestion of a Canon 5D-II is a good one since they are discounted like crazy right now. Personally, were it me with the same requirements, I'd hunt down a Nikon D700 ... that camera was terrific for the type of things the OP wants to do.

    I also agree regarding the A77 ... when I tested it against the A900, the higher ISO was worse, not better.

    -Marc
    I agree with you but if it's for web only the difference isn't as pronounced even if visible between a "semi-pro" or "pro" body.
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    Re: A77 vs A900...vs MFDB

    is there a middle path?

    revolving in the same spin cycle am wondering what difference would be seen in IQ shooting with a FF DSLR compared to a klutzy body like the old Horseman digiflex with a Canikon lens and a MFDB?

    I figure by the time my 33 MFDB sensor got cropped back due to the limited coverage of Canikon lenses the MP count would be about the same as with a FF DSLR, right. What significant difference if any would you expect to see in terms of other factors such as dynamic range, color, tonality, etc etc?

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    Re: A77 vs A900...vs MFDB

    Quote Originally Posted by lowep View Post
    is there a middle path?

    revolving in the same spin cycle am wondering what difference would be seen in IQ shooting with a FF DSLR compared to a klutzy body like the old Horseman digiflex with a Canikon lens and a MFDB?

    I figure by the time my 33 MFDB sensor got cropped back due to the limited coverage of Canikon lenses the MP count would be about the same as with a FF DSLR, right. What significant difference if any would you expect to see in terms of other factors such as dynamic range, color, tonality, etc etc?
    IMO slightly better color, better pixel sharpness, smoother tonal transitions with the digital back.
    If you come higher than 800 ISO less noise with the full frame dslr.
    I prefer the overall look I get with the Leica S over that I get with the Canon 5dIII, even though the 5dIII does pretty good IMO.

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    Re: A77 vs A900...vs MFDB

    better color, better pixel sharpness, smoother tonal transitions

    sounds promising

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