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Sony Alpha NEX 6 Ken McMahon, Jan 2013
 
 

Sony NEX-6 vs Panasonic Lumix G5 Noise JPEG

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  Sony Alpha NEX-6 results
1 Sony NEX-6 Quality JPEG
2 Sony NEX-6 Quality RAW
3 Sony NEX-6 Noise JPEG
4 Sony NEX-6 Noise RAW
5 Sony NEX-6 Multi Frame NR
6 Sony NEX-6 Sample images

To compare RAW noise levels under real-life conditions, I shot this scene with the Sony Alpha NEX-6 and the Panasonic Lumix G5, within a few moments of each other using their best quality settings and at each of their ISO sensitivity settings.

The 16-50mm f3.5-5.6 power zoom on the NEX-6 was zoomed in to 19mm to produce an equivalent vertical field of view with the 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 power zoom on the Lumix G5 and an equivalent focal length of 28mm for both lenses.

Image stabilisation was disabled for this tripod-mounted test and all other settings were left on the defaults.


The image above was taken with the Sony Alpha NEX-6 with the 16-50mm f3.5-5.6 power zoom.. The sensitivity was manually set to 100 ISO and the NEX-6 was set to Aperture priority exposure mode with the aperture set to f4. The metering selected an exposure that would have resulted in underexposure of the church interior, so to achive a better exposure more closely matched to the Lumix G5, I applied 1.3EV exposure compensation, resulting in a shutter speed of half a second.

I processed both sets of files in Adobe Camera RAW using identical settings: Sharpening at 70 / 0.5 / 36 / 10, Luminance and Colour Noise Reduction both set to zero, and the Process to 2012 with the Adobe Standard profile. To further reduce any distracting visual differences between the crops I also set custom white balance to 4500K and tint to 0. These settings were chosen to reveal the differences in sensor quality and isolate them from in-camera processing. The high degree of sharpening with a small radius enhances the finest details without causing undesirable artefacts, while the zero noise reduction unveils what's really going on behind the scenes - as such the visible noise levels at higher ISOs will be much greater than you're used to seeing in many of my comparisons, but again it's an approach that's designed to show the actual detail that's being recorded before you start work on processing and cleaning it up if desired.

These RAW files are further confirmation of the excellent noise performance of the NEX-6's sensor. As with the JPEGs on the previous page, the base 100 ISO crop shows very little evidence of noise but, in the absence of any noise reduction, straight away at 200 ISO there's a quite significant difference, with noise texture across the entire crop. Likewise at 400 ISO, there's another, broadly equivalent rise in noise levels. So, while the noise performance of the NEX sensor at these lower ISO sensitivity settings is very good indeed, the in-camera JPEGs are also getting help from the processing to keep things noise free.

At 800 ISO there appears to be a significant increase not just in overall noise levels, but the colour noise particuarly, and it's that combination that proves difficult to manage for the noise reduction algorithms used for the JPEGs. Despite increasing noise, though, even at 3200 ISO the detail is still there and the text is still readable.

Interestingly, the comparison with crops from the Panasonic Lumix G5 shows less of a difference than the JPEGs on the previous page. Certainly up to 800 ISO it's hard to say there's a difference in the overal noise levels. The Lumix G5 crops actually look to be sharper with more detail than those from the NEX-6. It's too close to call at 1600 ISO, but I think past that point the G5 crops look slightly noisier.

So, if you're processing RAW files, there's very little to recommend one over the other, but Hand-held Twilight mode and the option to add the Multi Frame Noise Reduction App put the NEX out in front when it comes to low-light performance. Speaking of which, check out my Sony NEX 6 Multi Frame Noise Reduction results, or if you've seen enough, head over to my Sony NEX-6 sample images to see some more real-life shots in a variety of conditions, or head straight for my Verdict.


Sony NEX-6
 
Panasonic Lumix G5
     
100 ISO
160 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
12800 ISO
     
25600 ISO
25600 ISO Not available


Sony Alpha NEX-6
results : Quality / RAW quality / Noise / RAW Noise


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