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 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 JPEG 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 achieve 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.

The NEX-6's 100 ISO crop looks clean crisp, and noise free, which is exactly what you'd expect. You could say the same thing about the 200 ISO crop and the 400 one as well, there's actually very little difference between them. This will come as no surprise to owners of older NEX models with the 16 Megapixel sensor, the NEX-C3 and 5N, both of which provided virtually flawless results in the low to mid ISO sensitivity range. If you look very closely, particularly at the text, you can in fact see a slight increase in noise, but unless you're pixel peeping, you're unlikely to notice any quality difference between the base 100 ISO sensitivity and 400 ISO.

At 800 ISO the noise visibly increases so that the finer detail is a little fuzzier and there's some texture beginning to appear in flat areas of colour, but you still need to be pixel peeping to notice it. It's fair to say that you could could use any of the sensitivity settings up to 800 ISO on the NEX-6 without giving a second thought to the consequences for noise or image quality.

At 1600 ISO there's quite a significant hike in the noise, bigger than the jump from 400 to 800 ISO. Now, the noise isn't something even a casual observer would miss, but the overall image quality is still pretty good. Yes, the finer details are beginning to go and edges are softening up, but you can still read the text in the memorial panel and you might even get away with a full sized print from this.

At 3200 ISO the noise is now everywhere and meduim sized image detail is beginning to break up. This image still looks very good at smaller sizes though, the contrast, saturation and colour balance are all holding up well. And while the noise levels from 6400 to 25600 ISO look extreme in these 100 percent crops, on a laptop screen they actually look OK. Certainly good enough to try for those must-have low-light shots.

The Panasonic Lumix G5, compares very favourably with the NEX-6. The G5's Four Thirds sensor is slightly smaller then the APS-C sized sensor in the NEX-6 but its 160 base ISO setting, compared here alongside the NEX-6's 100 ISO crop, looks every bit as good. What's more, the G5 manages the NEX-6's trick of keeping the noise at bay as you progress up the sensitivity range. Except that it can't quite keep up and by 800 ISO it's looking just a bit noisier. Despite that, it doesn't lose any more ground and remains close, if a little behind the NEX-6 right through to its maximum 12800 ISO setting. But in addition to a further 25,600 ISO setting, the NEX-6 can boast a Hand-held Twilight composite mode plus, if you're willing to pay a little extra, the more versatile Multi Frame Noise Reducton app.

The final crop shows what the NEX-6 can do in its composite Hand-held Twilight composite scene mode in which it fires a short burst of images and creates a low-noise composite. Or rather, it shows one of the shortcomings of this mode, which is that you can't select the sensitivity or control the exposure. Whilst the result may be less noisy than the single exposure at an equivalent sensitivity setting, it's so dark it's hard to tell. But if you're willing to part with a few dollars, you can install the Multi Frame Noise Reduction App. See the Multi Frame Noise Reduction results to find out how it compares.

To find out how much of a role processing plays in keeping noise at bay in these crops take a look at my NEX-6 RAW noise results page to see just how much noise is present behind the scenes. Or head over to my NEX-6 sample images to see some more real-life shots in a variety of conditions.

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
Handheld Twilight 1000 ISO

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

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