Sony A77 II Image Quality Comparison

Below are crops from our laboratory Still Life target comparing the Sony A77 II against the Sony A77, Canon 70D, Fujifilm X-T1, Nikon D7100 and Pentax K-3. All of these models sit at relatively similar price points and/or categories in their respective product lineups. The only exception might be the Canon 70D, which sits below Canon's current flagship APS-C DSLR, the 7D. We chose the 70D in this comparison, however, due to its newer, high-resolution sensor and updated image processor.

These comparisons were somewhat tricky to write, as the cameras vary a great deal in resolution, so bear that in mind as you're reading and drawing your own conclusions. (We generally try to match cameras in these comparisons based on price, given that most of us work to a budget, rather than setting out to buy a given number of megapixels.)

NOTE: These images are best quality JPEGs straight out of the camera, at default settings including noise reduction and using the camera's actual base ISO (not extended ISO settings). All cameras in this comparison were shot with our very sharp reference lenses. Clicking any crop will take you to a carrier page where you can click once again to access the full resolution image as delivered straight from the camera. For those interested in working with the RAW files involved: click these links to visit each camera's respective sample image thumbnail page: Sony A77 II, Sony A77, Canon 70D, Fujifilm X-T1, Nikon D7100 and Pentax K-3 -- links to the RAW files appear beneath those for the JPEG images, wherever we have them. And remember, you can always go to our world-renowned Comparometer to compare the Sony A77 II to any camera we've ever tested.

Sony A77 II versus Sony A77 at Base ISO

Sony A77 II at ISO 100
Sony A77 at ISO 100

Despite the same 24MP resolution, the new sensor and BIONZ X image processor of the A77 II manage to noticeably outdo the predecessor with outstanding image quality at base ISO: finer, crisper details in all three crops. The A77 II really shows its chops with the mosaic and fabric swatches.

Sony A77 II versus Canon 70D at Base ISO

Sony A77 II at ISO 100
Canon 70D at ISO 100

Again, the Sony A77 II easily bests its competitor in this comparison. The Sony shows noticeably more fine detail, especially in the mosaic and fabric crops. While the Canon 70D certainly does well here, the Sony A77 II is impressive with its ability to capture fine, crisp detail, despite the translucent mirror in the light path. The fabric swatches, especially the lower pink one, really showcase the marked difference in fine detail.

Sony A77 II versus Fujifilm X-T1 at Base ISO

Sony A77 II at ISO 100
Fujifilm X-T1 at ISO 200

While there is quite a bit of difference in resolution -- 24MP vs. 16 -- both cameras do extraordinarily well for their respective number of megapixels. Both are great with fine detail, especially in the mosaic crop (hard to pick a definite winner there given the difference in resolution). However, in the fabric crop, the Fuji does especially well with the red fabric, rendering the fine, low-contrast leaf pattern more clearly than the Sony, while the Sony itself does noticeably better with the pink fabric.

Sony A77 II versus Nikon D7100 at Base ISO

Sony A77 II at ISO 100
Nikon D7100 at ISO 100

With both cameras here sporting 24 megapixels, both are able to produce clean, high-resolution images at ISO 100. Despite the fact that the D7100 lacks an optical low-pass filter, the A77 II still manages to out-resolve it in some areas. The Nikon D7100 does better with very fine detail in the red fabric, while the Sony A77 II is noticeably better with the mosaic and pink fabric swatches.

Sony A77 II versus Pentax K-3 at Base ISO

Sony A77 II at ISO 100
Pentax K-3 at ISO 100

A very tough comparison here between two 24MP cameras, one SLT with a translucent mirror and one SLR without an OLPF. Both manage to do very well with fine detail, but the A77 II slightly edges out the Pentax K-3 in the mosaic crop -- it's just a hair crisper. The Sony also takes the prize for the pink fabric, while the K3 wins with the red fabric.

Most digital SLRs and CSCs will produce an excellent ISO 100 shot, so we like to push them and see what they can do compared to other cameras at ISO 1600, 3200, and 6400. Recent advances in sensor technology have made ISO 1600 look a lot more like ISO 100, but there are still cameras whose quality starts to fall apart at this setting. We also choose 1600 because we like to be able to shoot at least at this level when indoors and at night.

Sony A77 II versus Sony A77 at ISO 1600

Sony A77 II at ISO 1600
Sony A77 at ISO 1600

The new BIONZ X image processor of the A77 II is showing its performance compared to the original A77 at ISO 1600. The new model easily bests its predecessor in all three areas, with the A77 showing some heavier artifacting from its default noise reduction processing.

Sony A77 II versus Canon 70D at ISO 1600

Sony A77 II at ISO 1600
Canon 70D at ISO 1600

While the Canon 70D shows a bit of luminance noise in the shadows (compared to a relatively clean Sony A77 II), both cameras here are fairly evenly matched. The slight difference in resolution makes it tough to call one or the other in the mosaic comparison; the 70D actually looks a bit better in the red fabric's leaf pattern, while the A77 II gets the edge in the pink fabric.

Sony A77 II versus Fujifilm X-T1 at ISO 1600

Sony A77 II at ISO 1600
Fujifilm X-T1 at ISO 1600

Barring the big resolution disparity here, the Fuji shows slightly more grain, but overall an impressive amount of fine detail and more contrast. The Fuji especially does much better with the fabric swatches over the Sony, and most notably the red leaf pattern.

Sony A77 II versus Nikon D7100 at ISO 1600

Sony A77 II at ISO 1600
Nikon D7100 at ISO 1600

Another tough comparison. The Nikon shows a bit more luminance noise, while the Sony's default noise reduction is a bit more aggressive. As such, fine detail reproduction is slightly different. While they both look nearly identical in the fine detail of the mosaic crop, the Nikon is able to handle the red and pink fabric swatches better.

Sony A77 II versus Pentax K-3 at ISO 1600

Sony A77 II at ISO 1600
Pentax K-3 at ISO 1600

The default noise reduction processing of both cameras do well to reduce noise, with the Sony's being slightly cleaner and the Pentax showing a bit of luminance noise. Interestingly, the mosaic crop from the Pentax is the winner here with ever-so-slightly crisper detail. However, the Sony is the clear winner in the fabric swatches, as the Pentax's red fabric is very smeared.

Today's ISO 3200 is yesterday's ISO 1600 (well, almost), so below are the same crops at ISO 3200.

Sony A77 II versus Sony A77 at ISO 3200

Sony A77 II at ISO 3200
Sony A77 at ISO 3200

Like we saw at ISO 1600, the A77 II's new sensor and processing power clearly out-perform the older A77 with much better noise reduction and fine detail reproduction at ISO 3200 in all three comparison crops.

Sony A77 II versus Canon 70D at ISO 3200

Sony A77 II at ISO 3200
Canon 70D at ISO 3200

Here's another comparison where you can see the more aggressive noise reduction processing of the A77 II. The Sony does great at lessening noise at the expense of some fine detail. The Canon, however, does show more noise in the shadows while still maintaining a lot of fine detail. The mosaic crop, in fact, looks slightly better from the Canon, while both struggle with the fabric swatches.

Sony A77 II versus Fujifilm X-T1 at ISO 3200

Sony A77 II at ISO 3200
Fujifilm X-T1 at ISO 3200

The high ISO performance of the Fujifilm X-T1 is impressive, with ISO 3200 images looking extremely close to ISO 1600. At ISO 3200, the Fuji crops remain crisper and with a light, even grain in the shadows. By comparison, the Sony A77 II crops show some heavy-handed NR processing that impacts fine detail.

Sony A77 II versus Nikon D7100 at ISO 3200

Sony A77 II at ISO 3200
Nikon D7100 at ISO 3200

While the Nikon displays noticeably more noise in the shadows, other areas of the image remain highly detailed, especially in the mosaic tile pattern. And while far from perfect, the Nikon also does better with producing a more accurate representation of the leaf pattern in the red fabric.

Sony A77 II versus Pentax K-3 at ISO 3200

Sony A77 II at ISO 3200
Pentax K-3 at ISO 3200

Similar to the previous comparison above, the Pentax shows more noise, particularly in the shadows, but has the edge in fine detail over the Sony -- at least with the mosaic crop. The Sony clearly takes the prize in the fabric crops, as the Pentax struggles with the red fabric, producing practically zero detail here at ISO 3200.

Detail: Sony A77 II vs. Sony A77, Canon 70D, Fujifilm X-T1, Nikon D7100 and Pentax K-3

Sony A77 II
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400

Sony A77
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400

Canon 70D
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Fujifilm X-T1
ISO 200
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Nikon D7100
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Pentax K3
ISO 100
ISO 3200
ISO 6400
Detail comparison. This lettering allows us to really examine fine, high-contrast detail. At base ISO, all cameras do an excellent job, though the original Sony A77 is noticeably the weakest performer, followed by the Nikon D7100. The Sony A77 II shows nice detail, with crisp edges and excellent contrast. As the ISO rises, the Sony A77 II continues to do well, especially compared to its predecessor. Other cameras like the D7100 and K-3 hold up nicely through higher ISO levels, but the Sony A77 II stays ahead with clean, crisp fine detail.


Sony A77 II Print Quality

Overall, impressively large 36 x 48 inch prints at ISOs 50 and 100; ISO 1600 is capable of a nice 16 x 20; ISO 6400 prints an acceptable 8 x 10.

ISO 50 and 100 images produce impressive prints at 36 x 48 inches, with accurate colors and excellent fine detail, which is very impressive from a 24MP APS-C sensor. Better yet, the Sony A77 II is easily able to print as large as 40 x 60 inches for wall display, and while those will show some minor pixelation upon close inspection (and the 36 x 48 prints, as well, to a lesser extent), at normal, comfortable viewing distances these prints look very crisp and detailed.

ISO 200 prints are quite close to ISO 50/100 with only a slight drop in fine detail, making still-large 30 x 40 inch prints look great. With crisp detail and great colors, 36 x 48 inch prints would also be usable for wall-mounted display.

ISO 400 images make great 24 x 36 inch prints with very crisp, clean detail and nice colors, and practically zero visible noise.

ISO 800 yields a nice 20 x 30 inch print. Colors still look accurate, and while there's still a lot of fine detail, you can start to see the effects of noise reduction processing in the shadow areas (very low noise, if any, is visible, though). Troublesome, low-contrast areas like the red fabric of our test Still Life image begin to show lower detail at this ISO.

ISO 1600 is capable of a good 16 x 20 inch print. The troublesome red fabric swatch in our test target loses more fine detail, and noise reduction processing is even more apparent, but there's very little visible noise in the entire image -- even in the shadows. Nevertheless, there's still a lot of fine detail and accurate color rendition.

ISO 3200 prints are good at 11 x 14 inches, with some noticeable softness in the shadows due to the heavy default noise reduction. Colors still look vibrant and fine detail, especially high-contrast detail, like in the "Pure" bottle of our test image, is still impressive.

ISO 6400 produces an acceptable 8 x 10 inch print. While colors still remain pleasing to the eye, noise reduction processing is taking its toll on fine detail.

ISO 12,800 prints are acceptable at 4 x 6 inches, and although colors look fine, noise reduction is producing some splotchiness as it tries to combat the high ISO noise.

ISO 25,600 does not produce a usable print and is best avoided.

The updated Sony A77 II is an impressive camera when it comes to print quality and resolution, especially at lower ISOs. At expanded ISO 50 and base ISO 100, the A77 II's 24.3MP APS-C sensor is able to produce prints all the way up to 36 x 48 inches and wall-mountable at 40 x 60. With a very high amount of fine detail and fantastic color reproduction, the prints at these low ISOs are excellent. Even at mid-range higher ISOs, like 1600, the A77 II produces a very good 16 x 20, and while the default level of noise reduction is quite strong and visible primarily in the shadow areas, it works very well as removing noise, while leaving most of the fine detail intact, especially high-contrast fine detail. It's only at very high ISOs levels that noise and heavy NR take their toll on fine detail, making ISO 12,800 the maximum sensitivity with an acceptable print at 4 x 6 inches.

About our print-quality testing: Our "Reference Printer"

Testing hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 printer, which we named our "Printer of the Year" in our 2015 COTY awards.

The Canon PRO-1000 has a lot of characteristics that make it a natural to use for our "reference printer." When it comes to judging how well a camera's photos print, resolution and precise rendering are paramount. The PRO-1000's more than 18,000 individual nozzles combine with an air feeding system that provides exceptional droplet-placement accuracy. Its 11-color LUCIA PRO ink system delivers a wide color gamut and dense blacks, giving us a true sense of the cameras' image quality. To best see fine details, we've always printed on glossy paper, so the PRO-1000's "Chroma Optimizer" overcoat that minimizes "bronzing" or gloss differential is important to us. (Prior to the PRO-1000, we've always used dye-based printers, in part to avoid the bronzing problems with pigment-based inks.) Finally, we just don't have time to deal with clogged inkjet heads, and the PRO-1000 does better in that respect than any printer we've ever used. If you don't run them every day or two, inkjet printers tend to clog. Canon's thermal-inkjet technology is inherently less clog-prone than other approaches, but the PRO-1000 takes this a step further, with sensors that monitor every inkjet nozzle. If one clogs, it will assign another to take over its duties. In exchange for a tiny amount of print speed, this lets you defer cleaning cycles, which translates into significant ink savings. In our normal workflow, we'll often crank out a hundred or more letter-size prints in a session, but then leave the printer to sit for anywhere from days to weeks before the next camera comes along. In over a year of use, we've never had to run a nozzle-cleaning cycle on our PRO-1000.

See our Canon PRO-1000 review for a full overview of the printer from the viewpoint of a fine-art photographer.

*Disclosure: Canon provided us with the PRO-1000 and a supply of ink to use in our testing, and we receive advertising consideration for including this mention when we talk about camera print quality. Our decision to use the PRO-1000 was driven by the printer itself, though, prior to any discussion with Canon on the topic. (We'd actually been using an old Pixma PRO 9500II dye-based printer for years previously, and paying for our own ink, until we decided that the PRO-1000 was the next-generation printer we'd been waiting for.)


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