Sony A7s - The noise MP size equation

All images - Sony A7 - Sony 28-70mm lens 
ISO 3200 - OOC jpg. Downsized to 12MP.
 I can perfectly understand how the A7s would leave a lot of enthusiast photographers unimpressed. 4K video is a bit of an indulgent luxury and the ability to shoot clean high ISO stills isn't that important when your pictures are shot for yourself and your friends and family to look at. But when you have to make money from those pictures a whole other set of criteria for selecting a camera come into play.

No matter who we sell to, as professional photographers we know that our clients want the best technical quality in the images that we provide them with, no matter what kind of photography we are offering. There really is little enthusiasm for noise, a 'grainy look' and very limited depth of field from picture editors and those who commission photography, including wedding clients, portrait clients and every kind of commercial and advertising client you could imagine. There is also not that much emphasis put on the file size either. The quality of the image is at least as important, if not more so, than how big it is.

And that is where a camera like the A7s will really score. Better performance at high ISO's means faster shutter speeds, narrower apertures and cleaner, sharper images. The photographer is also freed from the constraints of tripods, flash and lighting rigs in many instances. 

There are more possibilities available to both client and photographer. That night time city streets fashion shoot suddenly got a whole lot easier for example. And 12MP is certainly enough for most publishing requirements. The Nikon D3 was THE camera for a whole host of photographic jobs not so long ago and that was 'only' 12MP and with a high ISO performance I'd be surprised that the A7s couldn't better with ease. And no Sony doesn't have a great lens range, but between the a-mount and e-mount options and of course the reinvigorated Sigma, there are enough good ones to get any job satisfactorily completed. 

It's not just press and sports photographers who can benefit from better high ISO performance. My initial reaction to the A7s was - It's not for me. When am I ever going to need ISO 409,600? But that's the extreme and the whole thing works it's way down. I've been enthusing recently about the Fuji X system and how with that sensor ISO 400 is now my base ISO, even in bright light. Whereas with m4/3 I still need to shoot at ISO 125 with my Panasonics to get the files to look how I want them to. Now imagine that with the A7s this 'base ISO' that I use goes up to ISO 800 even 1600. It is perfectly possible that I will still be getting super sharp, super clean images at ISO levels where, for example, m4/3 images start looking very nasty. It's not all about low light, it's about using the 'sweet' apertures on my lenses, using zooms in less than ideal conditions instead of fast primes and the resulting gain in terms of DOF. And in the case of what I shoot mostly, that is very much a gain. And it's not just me. Wedding photographers should now be able to take clean, low noise hand held images in dark churches. The flash gun will get used a lot less, the lighting rigs in portrait studios will need less power and just imagine what the benefits are for wildlife photographers with their long lenses.

The more I think about it the more useful the whole thing becomes. Like my previous post I've put some downsized images at the top of the page, this time taken with my A7. These are at ISO 3200. You can see by my processing them at 12MP instead of 24MP they come out a whole lot cleaner and less noisy. With the extra large pixel size that the A7s is going to produce this will improve on that significantly I'm sure and I can see ISO 1600 becoming a really usable everyday good light setting for my kind of photography. The point about this is not to let some knee-jerk reaction blind us to the advantages that can be gained here. There are other things that can offer us more flexibility than just the ability to produce images in semi-darkness. 

All of this is of course before we think about the size of the A7s. Sure some of those advantages are nullified when lenses are taken into consideration. But in many situations there will no longer be a need to use big, heavy fast lenses. It was interesting to see that in one of the Sony promotional videos the woman with the camera was seen taking pictures with a zoom in a candlelit interior. So pretty obvious how Sony think this sensor will perform. We can therefore add lighter smaller outfit size to the benefits already outlined. 

I think that the people who have taken it upon themselves to rubbish the camera are missing out here on what might just be a hint about where camera sensor tech. will go in the future. The ever increasing pixel counts aren't really producing images that we can all agree are 'better'. However, sensors that improve dynamic range and allow us to document the non-sunlit world with clarity and definition is surely something we should applaud and encourage as photographers. The A7s won't be perfect, nothing is and I doubt anything ever will be, but it opens up more of the world for us to capture in our two-dimensional rectangles and the images we produce may surprise us with what they let us see more clearly than before. I would point out that I've not even touched on the video aspects of what this camera can do and my thoughts are all about still photography. 

I would be surprised if I don't get one and yes I am aware that this is only an announcement and there is a lot more to check out first. But I'm actually more excited about this camera than I thought I would be and certainly the video footage and the admittedly small image samples Sony have provided, make me want to see more. And to just dismiss the A7s, for what I can see as no good reason, is a self-imposed restriction of creative possibilities that I personally have no intention of shackling myself with. Some however obviously don't feel the same.

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