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Sony Alpha DSLR-A580 High ISO Noise preview

What follows is a preview page from our forthcoming review of the Sony Alpha DSLR-A580.

All samples taken with final production cameras. Check back soon for our review which will include RAW comparisons!

Sony Alpha DSLR-A580 vs Nikon D7000 High ISO Noise (JPEGs using default settings)

 
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To compare noise levels under real-life conditions we shot this scene with the Sony Alpha DSLR-A50 and Nikon D7000 within a few moments of each other using their best-quality JPEG settings and at each of their ISO settings. See our upcoming review for RAW results.

Each camera was fitted with its respective kit lens, the Sony DT 18-55mm SAM and Nikkor DX 18-105mm VR, both set to f8, adjusted to deliver the same field of view, and focused using Live View at the highest magnification.


Noise Reduction was set to the default options on each camera, although we disabled any automatic contrast-enhancing modes as these can artificially introduce noise. As such, the A580's Dynamic Range Optimizer and the D7000's Active D-Lighting were both disabled. The image above was taken with the Sony Alpha DSLR-A580 at 100 ISO with an exposure of 1 second and the lens set to 28mm f8; the original Large Fine JPEG measured 4.18MB. The crops below are taken from the area marked with a red square and presented here at 100%.

The Nikon D7000 metered a slightly longer exposure by default, so we applied -0.3EV of compensation to match the exposure of the Sony. So the D7000 sequence below also starts at 100 ISO with a exposure of 1 second at f8. Therefore any difference in brightness on the crops is due to image processing or signal amplification. Once again the exposures below were identical.

While the D7000 is a considerably more expensive camera than the A580, they make an interesting comparison as we believe they share the same 16 Megapixel sensor. As such, any differences seen below illustrate each company's implementation of this sensor, along with their respective image processing strategies - and of course the impact of their kit lenses.

The sequence below starts at 100 ISO and the most obvious difference is brightness, with the D7000 image looking noticeably lighter despite sharing the exact same exposure as the A580. As seen in our other results though, the A580 applies considerably higher contrast using its default settings, and this has certainly contributed to the darker appearance of its crops below. Interestingly, the colours on the D7000 also appear a little more saturated and consumer-friendly. But look beyond these minor differences in brightness and colour balance and you'll see both cameras are recording roughly the same amount of real-life detail - unsurprising given we believe they share the same sensor.

Both cameras deliver very clean results at their lowest sensitivities, with only a hint of noise at 400 ISO. At 800 ISO, both cameras begin to exhibit more noticeable noise artefacts with minor speckling and a little softness, but it's really nothing to worry about at this point.

There's a bigger drop in quality at 1600 ISO though, with a noticeable increase in speckles and softening, not to mention a slight loss in saturation. Despite differences in image processing though, both models remain pretty much neck-in-neck.

The story's much the same at 3200 ISO, with similar degrees of real-life detail versus noise artefacts. The Sony A580 appears to suffer from worse noise at this point, but that's only because the lighter image delivered by the D7000 at the same exposure manages to hide some of the speckling.

At 6400 ISO, we'd give the D7000's image processing the edge at retrieving the maximum detail, but to be honest both cameras are looking ropey at this point, and you'd only want to use this sensitivity for emergencies.

Interestingly the only point where the pricier D7000 takes an obvious lead is at the A580's maximum sensitivity of 12800 ISO. Neither look great, but the D7000's image is definitely preferred. Sony sensibly bows out at this point, leaving Nikon to bravely offer a 25600 ISO option. At this point the noise has become very obtrusive, but it may get you out of a tight spot.

So despite a minor advantage to the Nikon at the very highest sensitivities, we'd rank the Sony A580 and Nikon D7000 pretty much neck-in-neck here. Tweaking their default settings or working with RAW files allow you to closely match their output, and the choice between their in-camera JPEGs is entirely personal. So a good result here for the A580 considering its lower price.

While this is the end of the story for the D7000 and most conventional DSLRs though, Sony has an additional trick up its sleeve. The A580, like other recent Sony cameras, can actually fire-off six frames in quick succession and automatically combine them in-camera in an attempt to lower noise levels. This was firsat seen in the company's Handheld Twilight mode, with the only disadvantage being the automatic selection of exposure and ISO. Now the A580 offers an additional Multi-frame Noise Reduction option, which allows the camera to perform the same compositing trick, but at the sensitivity and exposure mode of your choice.

To see this in action, check out our Sony Alpha DSLR-A580 Multi-frame Noise Reduction results page. Alternatively, check out a selection of videos in our Sony Alpha DSLR-A580 Movie Mode samples page.


Sony Alpha DSLR-A580 (JPEG using in-camera defaults)
with Sony DT 18-55mm SAM
 
Nikon D7000 (JPEG using in-camera defaults)
with Nikkor DX 18-105mm VR
100 ISO
100 ISO
     
200 ISO
200 ISO
     
400 ISO
400 ISO
     
800 ISO
800 ISO
     
1600 ISO
1600 ISO
     
3200 ISO
3200 ISO
     
6400 ISO
6400 ISO
     
12800 ISO
H1.0 (12800 ISO)
     
25600 ISO not available
H2.0 (25600 ISO)


See how the noise levels compare in our Sony Alpha DSLR-A580 Multi-frame Noise reduction page.

We also have a selection of 1080i HD clips on our Sony Alpha DSLR-A580 HD video samples page.

Check back soon for our review! Discuss this page and the A580 in the Cameralabs forums!

 


 

All words, images, videos and layout, copyright 2005-2014 Gordon Laing. May not be used without permission.

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