Sony A850 Review

 
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Sony A850 High ISO Image Quality

The Sony A850 offers four high-ISO noise-reduction settings, allowing you quite a bit of flexibility in choosing how you want to make the trade-off between subject detail and noise levels. Sony tells us that the "OFF" setting eliminates all inter-pixel NR processing, but the per-pixel NR that occurs on the sensor itself is always active. (See the Sony A900 Noise Reduction tab of this review for a detailed discussion of the two types of noise reduction processing.) We won't be able to independently confirm that the OFF setting really does turn off the High-ISO NR in the A850's RAW files until third-party RAW processing software is available that can process these files.

See for yourself how the noise reduction works under daylight lighting. Click on any of the crops below to see the corresponding full-sized image. Note that the A850 only starts applying High ISO NR at ISO 1,600, but we have included crops from lower ISOs as a reference.

Sony A850 ISO Noise Comparison
Simulated Daylight
(Note that High ISO Noise Reduction does not apply to this range)
ISO 100
ISO 200
ISO 400
ISO 800

The above table shows noise and detail levels at ISO 100 through 800, where the Sony A850 does not apply any High ISO Noise Reduction.

 

Sony A850 High ISO Noise Reduction Comparison
Simulated Daylight
High ISO Noise Reduction Setting
HINR=Off
HINR=Low
HINR=Normal
HINR=High
I
S
O

1
6
0
0
HINR=Off
HINR=Low
HINR=Normal
HINR=High
I
S
O

3
2
0
0
HINR=Off
HINR=Low
HINR=Normal
HINR=High
I
S
O

6
4
0
0

The above crops show the effects of the four levels of High ISO Noise Reduction available on the Sony A850. Discussions with Sony engineers suggest that the "OFF" setting for High ISO NR does in fact disable all inter-pixel NR processing. As discussed on the Sony A900 Noise Reduction tab, the per-pixel NR processing is still applied.

Sony A850 High ISO compared to Canon 5D Mark II
Simulated Daylight
Sony A850
Canon 5D Mark II
High ISO Noise Reduction Setting
HINR=Off
HINR=Normal
HINR=Off
HINR=Normal
I
S
O

8
0
0
n/a - no High ISO NR applied
n/a - no High ISO NR applied
n/a - no High ISO NR applied
Sony A850
Canon 5D Mark II
HINR=Off
HINR=Normal
HINR=Off
HINR=Normal
I
S
O

1
6
0
0
Sony A850
Canon 5D Mark II
HINR=Off
HINR=Normal
HINR=Off
HINR=Normal
I
S
O

3
2
0
0
Sony A850
Canon 5D Mark II
HINR=Off
HINR=Normal
HINR=Off
HINR=Normal
I
S
O

6
4
0
0

The crops above compare the Sony A850's JPEG High ISO performance (ISO 800 through 6,400) to that of the Canon EOS 5D Mark II, the A850's closest rival. The Sony A850 may have bested it in terms of number of pixels, and seems to maintain an edge at low ISOs, but it's clear that the 5D Mark II clearly leads when it comes to high ISO performance. (Note that the Sony A850 doesn't offer ISOs 12,800 or 25,600, as does the 5D Mark II, hence no comparisons at those ISO levels.)

 

Sony A850

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