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Digital Cameras - Sony DSC-D770 Test Images

(Original test posting: 1/10/2000)

We've begun including links in our reviews to a Thumber-generated index page for our test shots. The Thumber data includes a host of information on the images, including shutter speed, ISO setting, compression setting, etc. Rather than clutter the page below with *all* that detail, we're posting the Thumber index so only those interested in the information need wade through it! ;)

Outdoor portrait: (657k) This is a tough shot for many digicams, due to the extreme tonal range. (Which is why we set it up this way!). The trick is to hold highlight and shadow detail without producing a "flat" picture with muddy colors. We shot this image using the automatic (671k), daylight (662k) and manual (657k) (or Hold) white balance settings. We found the auto white balance setting to be just slightly too cool. The "Hold" and daylight settings produced very similar results with the daylight just a shade too warm. Therefore, we chose the manual "Hold" setting for our main shot (657k). It was interesting that we wound up adjusting the exposure compensation to +0.75 EV to accommodate the shadow areas. The shadow areas have great detail with about an average amount of noise. The D770 did a good job with the blues in the model's flowers and pants, only showing a very slight tinge of purple (most digicams have a pretty tough time getting these blues just right). Sharpness and detail are also very good, noticeable in the model's hair and the leaves against her shirt. The table below shows the exposure compensation series (from 0 to +1.3 EV) we shot using the manual or "Hold" white balance setting.

Exposure Variations:
0 EV
Shutter: 1/512
Aperture: F6.6
(638k)
+0.3 EV
Shutter: 1/512
Aperture: F6.1
(650k)
+0.5 EV
Shutter: 1/430
Aperture: F6.1
(650k)
+0.8 EV
Shutter: 1/430
Aperture: F5.6
(657k)
+1.0 EV
Shutter: 1/362
Aperture: F5.6
(663k)
+1.3 EV
Shutter: 1/362
Aperture: F5.2
(660k)


 
Closer portrait: (650k) The DSC-D770 does a nice job with this "portrait" shot, thanks to its zoom lens. (Shorter focal length lenses tend to distort facial features in close-up shots like this: The availability of longer focal lengths is a key feature if you're going to be shooting close-in people shots like this.) This closer version of the above shot actually required more exposure compensation, up to a +1.5 EV adjustment, for our main shot (650k). Resolution and detail seem a little better in this shot, noticeable in the individual strands of hair. The table below shows the series of EV adjustments in the manual "Hold" white balance setting.

Exposure Variations:
0 EV
Shutter: 1/608
Aperture: F7.2
(630k)
+0.3 EV
Shutter: 1/608
Aperture: F6.6
(630k)
+0.5 EV
Shutter: 1/512
Aperture: F6.6
(637k)
+0.8 EV
Shutter: 1/512
Aperture: F6.1
(635k)
+1.0 EV
Shutter: 1/430
Aperture: F6.1
(635k)
+1.3 EV
Shutter: 1/430
Aperture: F5.6
(650k)


 
Indoor portrait, flash: (641k) This shot is always tricky because of the potential differences between the color balance of the flash and the bright room lighting. Many cameras produce odd bluish highlights here, but the DSC-D770 didn't fall prey completely to that trap. It did produce a barely noticeable magenta tinge in the highlight areas though, very possibly due to the bright incandescent lighting. The default flash exposure setting (641k) did the best job of illuminating both foreground and background without over-blowing the highlights. We took one shot with the 0.5 EV setting, producing this (700k) image, which exposed the model correctly but lost some color in the background to a minutely cool color cast. We also snapped one shot with the +0.5 EV setting, resulting in this (647k) image which correctly exposed the background but blew the highlights on the model's shirt and flowers. An exceptionally nice feature of the DSC-D770 is the capability to use the on-board flash with the manual exposure mode for more even results. We achieved better color balance on the model (although the background turned out a bit warm) by combining a 1/13 second shutter speed and F/4.8 aperture with the flash for this (685k) shot. The DSC-D770 also allows you to connect an external flash, which we did. We used a low-end SunPak flash and shot at 1/60 seconds and F/4.4 to get this (683k) image, which produced the best exposure overall.

 
Indoor portrait, no flash: (677k) This shot is a very tough test of a camera's white balance capabilities, thanks to the strong yellowish cast of the household incandescent lighting it's shot under. The DSC-D770 did remarkably well with this difficult light source, although the best results were again achieved in manual white balance mode (677k) (or "Hold" mode, as Sony calls it). The auto white balance setting (687k) produced a warmer result, not too much different than the incandescent white balance option (685k), which appears to be balanced for professional tungsten lighting and thus left a rather warm cast in the resulting image. We also tried shots with low sensitivity (661k) and high sensitivity (730k) settings. The high sensitivity (ISO 400) version produced a slightly sharper image, with a slight hint of warmth, but at the usual cost of increased noise. Alternatively, the low sensitivity setting (ISO 50) produced a less noisy image, as you'd expect, but resulted in magenta tinges in the highlight areas. Overall, we felt that the ISO 100 (690k) setting produced the most accurate results in this test, with barely any noise.

The table below shows the results of various exposure-compensation settings, in normal (ISO 100) sensitivity exposure mode. (The main shot was taken with an exposure compensation of +1.0EV units.)

Exposure Series, Normal Sensitivity:
0 EV
Shutter: 1/32
Aperture: F2.6
(676k)
+0.3 EV
Shutter: 1/26
Aperture: F2.6
(684k)
+0.5 EV
Shutter: 1/22
Aperture: F2.6
(692k)
+0.8 EV
Shutter: 1/19
Aperture: F2.6
(680k)
+1.0 EV
Shutter: 1/16
Aperture: F2.6
(677k)
+1.3 EV
Shutter: 1/13
Aperture: F2.6
(677k)
+1.5 EV
Shutter: 1/11
Aperture: F2.6
(685k)


 
House shot: (728k) NOTE that this is the "new" house shot, a much higher-resolution poster than we first used in our tests. To compare the image of the DSC-D770 with previously-tested cameras, here's a shot of the original house poster (732k).

Details in the leaves and foliage seems to be accentuated along the horizontal and vertical axes. This produced a slightly odd texture in the leaves, but resulted in a much sharper rendition in the bricks and other structural elements of the house. The default in-camera sharpening seems to be just right. Noise level in the shingles seems to be about average or slightly below.

Resolution/Quality series:
Large/Uncompressed
(4046k)
Note: TIFF format - download and view in imaging program
Large/Fine
Shutter: 1/90
Aperture: F3
(728k)
Large/Normal
Shutter: 1/90
Aperture: F3
(374k)
Large/Economy
Shutter: 1/90
Aperture: F3
(184k)
Small/Uncompressed
(4046k)
Note: TIFF format - download and view in imaging program
Small/Fine
Shutter: 1/90
Aperture: F3
(231k)
Small/Normal
Shutter: 1/90
Aperture: F3
(125k)
Small/Economy
Shutter: 1/90
Aperture: F3
(62k)


We experimented with the DSC-D770's white balance options on this shot, and found that the "hold" (manual) white balance option again won out, although the "auto" setting did quite well also with just a slightly warmer tone. The table below shows the results of various white balance settings.

White Balance Variations:
Auto
Shutter: 1/90
Aperture: F3
(230k)
Daylight
Shutter: 1/90
Aperture: F3
(233k)
"Hold" (Manual)
Shutter: 1/90
Aperture: F3
(231k)


We also experimented with the DSC-D770's sharpening options on this shot, as shown in the table below. The default sharpening did pretty well, although we were able to do slightly better using Photoshop's unsharp masking applied to the "soft" version of the image.

Sharpness Variations:
Soft
Shutter: 1/90
Aperture: F3
(717k)
Normal
Shutter: 1/90
Aperture: F3
(728k)
Hard
Shutter: 1/90
Aperture: F3
(734k)
Soft/Photoshop
(791k)


 
 
Far-Field shot: (723k) This image is shot at infinity to test far-field lens performance. NOTE that this image cannot be directly compared to the other "house" shot, which is a poster, shot in the studio. The rendering of detail in the poster will be very different than in this shot, and color values (and even the presence or absence of leaves on the trees!) will vary in this subject as the seasons progress. In general though, you can evaluate detail in the bricks, shingles, and window detail, and in the tree branches against the sky. Compression artifacts are most likely to show in the trim along the edge of the roof, in the bricks, or in the relatively "flat" areas in the windows

Good detail, although again the best results are obtained by shooting in "Soft" sharpness mode and then applying unsharp masking after the fact in Photoshop(tm). As noted above though, the lens is equally sharp across its field, so the QV-2000 actually does better in the corners than some cameras that may be rated as sharper in the center of the frame. We didn't shoot a range of white balance variations here, but simply used the manual option for our standard resolution/quality series, which appears in the table below.

Resolution/Quality series:
Large/Uncompressed
(4046k)
Note: TIFF format - download and view in imaging program
Large/Fine
Shutter: 1/380
Aperture: F5
(710k)
Large/Normal
Shutter: 1/389
Aperture: F5
(425k)
Large/Economy
Shutter: 1/389
Aperture: F5
(425k)
Small/Uncompressed
(4046k)
Note: TIFF format - download and view in imaging program
Small/Fine
Shutter: 1/389
Aperture: F5
(150k)
Small/Normal
Shutter: 1/389
Aperture: F5
(115k)
Small/Economy
Shutter: 1/389
Aperture: F5
(425k)


We also experimented with the DSC-D770's sharpening options on this shot, as shown in the table below. The default sharpening did pretty well, although we were able to do slightly better using Photoshop's unsharp masking applied to the "soft" version of the image.

Sharpness Variations:
Soft
Shutter: 1/608
Aperture: F7.2
(711k)
Normal
Shutter: 1/608
Aperture: F7.2
(723k)
Hard
Shutter: 1/608
Aperture: F7.2
(725k)
Soft/Photoshop
(710k)


 
Lens Zoom Range (new): We've received a number of requests from readers to take shots showing the lens focal length range of those cameras with zoom lenses. Thus, we're happy to present you here with the following series of shots, showing the field of view with respectively, the lens at full wide-angle, the lens at full telephoto, and the lens at full telephoto with 2x "digital telephoto" enabled. The D770's excellent 5x optical zoom lens is one of is stand-out features, and this test shows the wide range of focal lengths it covers. - Kudos to Sony, we wish more digicam manufacturers would provide longer-ratio zooms!

Wide
(712k)
Shutter: 1/512
Aperture: 6.6
Tele
(683k)
Shutter: 1/724
Aperture: F7.8
Digital Tele 2x
(210k)
Shutter: 1/724
Aperture: F7.8


"Musicians" poster: (706k) We shot samples of this using auto (226k) and daylight (226k) white balance options as well, but found them both very similar and a little on the warm side. We felt the "hold" (manual) setting again was the most accurate, although it seemed just slightly cool. Color saturation on this one looked a bit low, but the skin tones seem about right. Resolution is better than average as evidenced in the detail of the bird?s wings on the Oriental model?s robe and the fine silver threads. The table below carries links to our standard resolution/quality series.

Resolution/Quality series:
Large/Uncompressed
(4046k)
Note: TIFF format - download and view in imaging program
Large/Fine
Shutter: 1/90
Aperture: F2.8
(706k)
Large/Normal
Shutter: 1/90
Aperture: F2.8
(389k)
Large/Economy
Shutter: 1/90
Aperture: F2.8
(184k)
Small/Uncompressed
(4046k)
Note: TIFF format - download and view in imaging program
Small/Fine
Shutter: 1/90
Aperture: F2.8
(226k)
Small/Normal
Shutter: 1/90
Aperture: F2.8
(125k)
Small/Economy
Shutter: 1/90
Aperture: F2.8
(62k)


We again ran a range of sharpness variations on this shot, with the results shown in the table below. On this shot, we found by far the biggest difference between the soft and normal settings. The hard setting didn?t seem altogether too much sharper.

Sharpness Variations:
Soft
Shutter: 1/90
Aperture: F2.8
(677k)
Normal
Shutter: 1/90
Aperture: F2.8
(706k)
Hard
Shutter: 1/90
Aperture: F2.8
(700k)


 
Macro shot: (673k) The DSC-D770 performs quite well in the macro category, with a minimum area of only 2.3 x 3.1 inches (59.5 x 78.1 mm). Good detail, sharpness, and color, although the detail on the brooch seems a little softer, possibly due to a limited depth of field or that the raised brooch may be just slightly out of the focus range. The DSC-D770?s flash did a good job of throttling down, producing this (696k) somewhat dark image. (It actually throttled-down a bit too much, in response to the bright reflection from the coin). The digital tele works well up close, as seen in this 2x (207k) image, a useful feature for those wanting lower-resolution ultra close-ups for web applications.

 
"Davebox" test target: (631k) The DSC-D770 produced overall excellent color and tonal results, better than most we've tested to date (December 1999). The only minor criticism we have is that the yellow and cyan seem just a slight bit weak. But other than that, we have no other complaints. In this shot, the daylight (209k) white balance setting produced a very warm cast and the auto (207k) came out just slightly warm, leading us to choose the "hold" (manual) option (631k) for our main shot. The table below shows the usual range of resolution/quality settings.

Resolution/Quality series:
Large/Uncompressed
(4046k)
Note: TIFF format - download and view in imaging program
Large/Fine
Shutter: 1/107
Aperture: F3.3
(631k)
Large/Normal
Shutter: 1/107
Aperture: F3.3
(372k)
Large/Economy
Shutter: 1/107
Aperture: F3.3
(175k)
Small/Uncompressed
(4046k)
Note: TIFF format - download and view in imaging program
Small/Fine
Shutter: 1/107
Aperture: F3.3
(206k)
Small/Normal
Shutter: 1/107
Aperture: F3.3
(124k)
Small/Economy
Shutter: 1/107
Aperture: F3.3
(62k)


We again ran a range of sharpness variations on this shot, with the results shown in the table below. As usual, the "soft" setting appears to simply correspond to no sharpening being applied to the raw image, while the "hard" version is pretty heavy-handed.

Sharpness Variations:
Soft
Shutter: 1/107
Aperture: F3.3
(681k)
Normal
Shutter: 1/107
Aperture: F3.3
(631k)
Hard
Shutter: 1/107
Aperture: F3.3
(646k)


 
 
Low-Light Tests 
Although it's specifications suggested that the D770 should be capable of good low-light performance, we were truly amazed by the results we obtained in our low-light tests! It's not uncommon these days for high-end digicams to sport long time-exposure settings. Combining these with a wide-open aperture and boosted ISO sensitivity should in theory produce usable images at very low light levels. In practice though, the technology is rarely up to the task, with most cameras completely running out of steam somewhere around 0.5 foot-candles (~5 lux) of ambient lighting.

In the case of the D770, it's raw specs of ISO 400, f/2.0 lens, and 4 second maximum exposure time suggest that it should be capable of capturing images in light levels as low as 0.065 foot-candles (0.7 lux). While the camera can capture images that low (an absolutely amazing feat in and of itself), the resulting images show fairly large amounts of noise. We did feel though, that the camera did an excellent job down to about 0.25 foot-candles (~3 lux), and with a little work in Photoshop(tm) or other image editor, results at light levels of half that are amazingly good. Overall, we have to say that the D770 has the best low-light performance of any camera we've tested to date! (January, 2000)

So what's the catch, if there is one? Well, actually there are a couple. First, the camera only autofocuses accurately down to light levels of about 1 foot-candle: Below that level you'll have to use the manual focus, and depth of field is quite shallow when the lens is at it's f/2.0 maximum aperture. This autofocus performance is adequate for most scenes inhabited and navigated by humans, but a limitation in darker surroundings. Secondly, and more of an issue for practical use of the camera, is that all auto-exposure modes (Program, Aperture Priority, and Shutter Priority) have a 1/30 second limit for the slowest shutter speed. (?!) Thus, the only way you'll get decent low-light performance is to go into full manual mode. We really don't understand the reason for this, unless it's that the exposure is computed via the CCD, and there's not enough signal for it to work reliably that low. In real-world shooting situations, this is a significant nuisance.

The table below holds the results of a number of shots we took, organized by ISO value, processing applied, and light level: Evaluating low-light imagery is so much a matter of personal preferences (as to how much of what sort of noise is acceptable) that we simply encourage you to look at the images and make up your own mind. We tested the camera using both ISO 100 and 400 sensitivity settings. The ISO 400 setting produces noticeable noise at any illumination level, but it doesn't increase as rapidly or to the extent that we'd have expected, as you move to progressively longer exposure times. The result is moderately noisy but usable images all the way down to the camera's "official" limit of 0.065 foot-candles (0.7 lux), and positively bright images down to levels of 0.25 foot-candles (3 lux). In ISO 100 mode, we were again surprised by how far we could push things. We did note that the ISO 100 images picked up a noticeably warm cast as the exposure time lengthened to multiple seconds, but the noise stayed well-controlled, and usable image information could be found all the way down to the 0.065 foot-candle limit of our test. These extreme low-light images required significant adjustment in Photoshop(tm), using the "levels" controls, but the final results were amazingly good. In the table below, we show results from ISO 100 and 400 settings, and selected images shot at ISO 100 and subsequently processed in Photoshop. Incredible!

8fc 10EV
ISO 100
Shutter: 1/8
Aperture: F2.5
(680k)
4fc 9EV
ISO 100
Shutter: 1/4
Aperture: F2.5
(686k)
2fc 8EV
ISO 100
Shutter: 1/2
Aperture: F2.5
(685k)
1fc 7EV
ISO 100
Shutter: 1/1
Aperture: F2.5
(682k)
0.5fc 6EV
ISO 100
Shutter: 2.8
Aperture: F2.5
(681k)
0.25fc 5EV
ISO 100
Shutter: 4
Aperture: F2.5
(675k)
0.13fc 4EV
ISO 100
Shutter: 4
Aperture: F2.5
(684k)
.065fc 3EV
ISO 100
Shutter: 4
Aperture: F2.5
(682k)
0.5fc 6EV
ISO 100
PhotoShop

(377k)
0.25fc 5EV
ISO 100
PhotoShop

(467k)
0.13fc 4EV
ISO 100
PhotoShop

(507k)
.065fc 3EV
ISO 100
PhotoShop

(642k)
8fc 10EV
ISO 400
Shutter: 1/32
Aperture: F2.5
(741k)
4fc 9EV
ISO 400
Shutter: 1/16
Aperture: F2.5
(743k)
2fc 8EV
ISO 400
Shutter: 1/8
Aperture: F2.5
(731k)
1fc 7EV
ISO 400
Shutter: 1/4
Aperture: F2.5
(741k)
0.5fc 6EV
ISO 400
Shutter: 1/1
Aperture: F2.5
(740k)
0.25fc 5EV
ISO 400
Shutter: 2.3
Aperture: F2.5
(739k)
0.13fc 4EV
ISO 400
Shutter: 2.8
Aperture: F2.5
(737k)
.065fc 3EV
ISO 400
Shutter: 4
Aperture: F2.5
(739k)


 
Flash Range Test (New)
(This test was added in August 1999, so cameras tested before that time won't have comparison pictures available. As we go forward though, all the new models will have similar tests available). Sony rates the DSC-D770's flash out to a maximum of approximately 8.2 feet (2.5m). We found that it was still relatively effective as far out as 14 feet, although color balance tended to get cooler from about 11feet on. The table below shows results obtained at a range of distances from eight to 14 feet.

Flash Range/Distance: 
8 ft
Shutter: 1/152
Aperture: F3.8
(374k)
9 ft
Shutter: 1/128
Aperture: F3.8
(374k)
10 ft
Shutter: 1/128
Aperture: F3.8
(374k)
11 ft
Shutter: 1/128
Aperture: F3.8
(372k)
12 ft
Shutter: 1/128
Aperture: F3.8
(373k)
13 ft
Shutter: 1/128
Aperture: F3.8
(373k)
14 ft
Shutter: 1/107
Aperture: F3.8
(369k)


ISO 12233 ("WG-18") resolution target: (674k) The D770's resolution is very much on a par with other 1.5 megapixel digicams, offering between 650 and 700 lines per picture height horizontally, and 600-650 lines vertically. Images shot in low-resolution mode are also crisp and "clean", with no major artifacts (not always a given with dual-resolution digicams). Color aliasing in areas of very fine detail is very well controlled, something that's also not always a given. The tables below carry links to our standard resolution/quality series, for both wide-angle and telephoto zoom settings.

Resolution/Quality series, Wide Angle:
Large/Uncompressed
(4046k)
Note: TIFF format - download and view in imaging program
Large/Fine
Shutter: 1/128
Aperture: F3.5
(674k)
Large/Normal
Shutter: 1/128
Aperture: F3.5
(372k)
Large/Economy
Shutter: 1/128
Aperture: F3.5
(181k)
Small/Uncompressed
(4046k)
Note: TIFF format - download and view in imaging program
Small/Fine
Shutter: 1/128
Aperture: F3.5
(150k)
Small/Normal
Shutter: 1/128
Aperture: F3.5
(115k)
Small/Economy
Shutter: 1/128
Aperture: F3.5
(62k)


Resolution/Quality series, Telephoto:
Large/Uncompressed
(4046k)
Note: TIFF format - download and view in imaging program
Large/Fine
Shutter: 1/152
Aperture: F3.5
(670k)
Large/Normal
Shutter: 1/152
Aperture: F3.5
(370k)
Large/Economy
Shutter: 1/152
Aperture: F3.5
(181k)
Small/Uncompressed
(4046k)
Note: TIFF format - download and view in imaging program
Small/Fine
Shutter: 1/152
Aperture: F3.5
(209k)
Small/Normal
Shutter: 1/152
Aperture: F3.5
(123k)
Small/Economy
Shutter: 1/152
Aperture: F3.5
(62k)


We again ran a range of sharpness variations on this shot, with the results shown in the table below. As usual, the "soft" setting appears to simply correspond to no sharpening being applied to the raw image, while the "hard" version is pretty heavy-handed. We again felt we did slightly better in Photoshop, applying unsharp masking to the "soft" version of the image. In this case though, we couldn't apply nearly as much unsharp masking without it appearing to be too much: The wisdom of Sony's choice for the default in-camera sharpening became more evident in this test.

Sharpness Variations:
Soft
Shutter: 1/128
Aperture: F3.5
(650k)
Normal
Shutter: 1/128
Aperture: F3.5
(674k)
Hard
Shutter: 1/128
Aperture: F3.5
(372k)
Soft/Photoshop
(527k)


 
Viewfinder accuracy/flash uniformity target: The D770's viewfinder systems (optical and LCD) are unusual in the degree to which they agree with each other, although this is perhaps to be expected, since the optical viewfinder is a through-the-lens or single-lens reflex (SLR) design. The optical viewfinder showed an accuracy of 93.3% in wide angle (176k), and 91.4% in telephoto (180k). The LCD finder was 95.5% at wide angle (176k) and 95.9% (essentially identical) at telephoto (180k). In digital telephoto mode, accuracy was 96.3% All these figures are better than average, although we still prefer for LCD viewfinders to show exactly 100% of the final image. The D770's optical viewfinder accuracy is noticeably better than most consumer digicams, which average around 85% of the final view.

Flash uniformity was excellent in telephoto mode, and fairly good in wide angle, apart from one glaring problem: With the lens set to its widest angle focal length, the lens itself actually casts a shadow at the bottom center of the image, extending upward roughly 8% into the field of view! This is unfortunate, in that the flash uniformity is otherwise quite good. Of course, the ability of the D770 to sync with external flash units completely eliminates this problem in "serious" photographic settings. Still, we were surprised to see such an obvious, if minor design flaw.

Geometric distortion is a bit higher than average at the wide angle end of the lens' focal length range, showing 1.05% barrel distortion. At the telephoto end, this changes to an almost imperceptible 0.3% pincushion distortion.

Chromatic aberration and coma are both excellent, with only the tiniest amount of chromatic aberration visible in wide angle mode as slight colored fringes on the resolution target elements at the extreme corners of the field of view. (Estimated at 1/3 of a pixel, or about 0.02%. In telephoto mode, there is no chromatic aberration visible at all. Likewise, we saw virtually no evidence of coma at either telephoto or wide angle focal lengths.
 

 

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