Sony A7r and Fuji X-E2 - jpgs. compared - How the A7r changes workflow.


I've been writing in the last few posts about how good the OOC jpgs. are from the A7r and how they are better than the Fuji X-E2. Fuji is known for the quality of its jpgs. but they are no longer the best I've used. I've been writing (as well as Imaging Resource*) that the Sony A7r files have the best jpg. rendition currently available. The example below will show why I am arguing that. 

(* Just to repeat the quote from the above link from Imaging Resource from my previous post - http://soundimageplus.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/sony-a7r-nikon-85mm-f18g-best-jpgs-of.html.

'Sony seems to have finally gotten a handle on their in-camera JPEG processing, to the extent that they now lead the field, in our estimation. Thanks to their new BIONZ X processor and the more extensive image processing it enables, they've managed to suppress noise while maintaining great subject detail. Equally significantly, they've really refined their sharpening algorithms. Most camera's sharpening leaves visible "halos" or "outlines" around strong contrast edges. As a result, we've long preferred in our own shooting to dial down the in-camera sharpening, and apply strong/tight unsharp masking in Photoshop after the fact. (Try it - start with an unsharpened or lightly-sharpened image, use an 0.3 pixel radius and high percentages; 200%, 300%, or even higher.) With the Sony A7R, though, we've finally found a camera that applies sharpening the way we would ourselves, making the images much crisper, while maintaining delicate detail.')

Please note that I made sure that settings were identical on the two cameras. I also used the same lens - Nikon 50mm f/1.4 for both - ISO 200 for both - and the same aperture and manually focused on the same part of the plant. The fine white hairs on the left stem.


As you can see there is a significant difference and the reason that I'm so enthusiastic about what the A7r produces is that these files aren't what I expect out of camera jpgs. to look like. Imaging Resource made the point in the above link, that Sony A7r jpgs. look much more like raw files very carefully sharpened with a small radius point. IR said that they use a radius of 0.3 pixel and an amount of 200-300%. I use much the same - 0.5 pixel and an amount of 200% for the majority of my images. The crazy thing is I'm really having problems getting my raw file conversions from the A7r to look as good as these OOC jpgs. I can get the sharpness but at the expense of more noise. I reduce the noise and the biting sharpness disappears. As I indicated, with all this in mind I see little point in not using the jpgs. from this camera.

Now I've never taken much notice of processing engines and pretty much ignored all the Sony stuff about the Bionz processor improvements. Usually when I read a blurb from any manufacturer about this I don't really see much difference in the files, but in this case there is obviously an observable and significant improvement on what is usually the case with jpg, rendering. And while everybody goes on about the 35mm / 'Full-frame' sensor, arguably this jpg. rendition is the most revolutionary thing about the A7r. Sony users will obviously be hoping that this is now going to be the same on all future camera releases and we can only hope that other manufacturers will become aware of this and change their in camera jpg, processing accordingly. Because it's just so useful. It saves time and the closer what comes out of the camera to what we are intending to end up with, the better. 

I've obviously got my jpg. settings set up for how I like them. On both cameras I use the Vivid setting with +2 on the sharpening and +2 on the colour saturation. That is very much in line with how I like my images to look and the market I'm selling in. Others may want different settings. I certainly wouldn't use these settings for a portrait session, for example, but for my 'Scenics' they work just fine.

This is another example of how the A7r is changing my perceptions of what a camera can produce and also how it's changing my workflow. I did think about how processing my Nikon D800E raw files took longer than other cameras and I was resigned to the fact that I would be doing the same with the Sony. However because of this excellent jpg. rendering I have actually achieved a faster workflow with the A7r as compared to other cameras. And that's a real bonus. 

I've always thought of Sony as being a company who talks and listens to photographers and acts on that feedback. I've written several times about how myself and my nephew were interviewed at length by Sony reps. at one of the Focus on Imaging shows and how what we were saying ended up in cameras that appeared. And that's not to say that it was down to us, it wasn't, but because what we were saying was obviously echoed by thousands of other photographers all over the world. 

I don't know about you, but I often get the impression that as a photographer I'm the last to get consulted about what works and doesn't in a camera by many of the manufacturers. I remember a forum conversation with someone who worked for Minolta before they went bankrupt, who pretty much confirmed that. He asserted that Minolta never consulted photographers or people who bought cameras (there is a difference!!) but just got in touch with dealers about what was selling. Now this is a pretty negative approach. Something might sell well because it's the best that's available and it has an attractive price point. However the notion that companies should be satisfied with that isn't the way it should go surely. Why not try to find out what people actually want and give them that? Wouldn't that make for even better sales. After all not everyone is Apple, who for a number of years have adopted the 'This is what we've come up with, it's great you WILL like it' approach. And even their success rate seems to be on the wane. It seems more people like Samsung smartphones than the iPhone these days.

Now Sony aren't perfect. Who among us is? But they do seem to respond quicker than other companies to what the internet chatter should be telling them. Did they have the A7 / A7r in mind when they released the RX1? Personally, I have my doubts. Though they may well have decided to 'dip their toe in the water' with that camera and see what kind of response it created. As we all know, the clamour was for an interchangeable lens version and that is what we have got. Though it has to be said that in the UK currently lens, rather than the plural, is the operative word. You can only buy the 28-70mm zoom as part of the A7 kit here currently. Even the 35mm f2.8 hasn't arrived yet. So in many ways the A7's have arrived pretty quickly and with an incomplete system. However as far as I'm concerned the A7r plus my adapted Nikons is better than having to wait for a more complete lens range. Having bought the camera on impulse, I'm really glad I did and I'm reaping benefits that I had no idea would be available. And foremost amongst them are these quality jpgs. 

There are some A7r jpgs. (and raw files) available for download HERE.

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