Sony A77 Mark II Image Quality


Color

Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Slightly lower-than-average saturation levels, with good hue accuracy.

ISO Sensitivity
50
100
200
400
800
In the diagram above, the squares show the original color, and the circles show the color that the camera captured. More saturated colors are located toward the periphery of the graph. Hue changes as you travel around the center. Thus, hue-accurate, highly saturated colors appear as lines radiating from the center. Mouse over the links to compare ISOs and click on links for larger images.

Saturation. The Sony A77 II's mean default color saturation is oversaturated by 6.8% at base ISO, which is a little lower than average these days. Mean saturation increases slightly as ISOs rise up to 3200, then falls off as ISO is increased further to a minimum of 95.6% (undersaturated by 4.4%) at ISO 25,600. Reds and dark blues are boosted the most, but not as much as we often see. Most other colors are pushed just a bit or pretty close to ideal, though yellow, light green and cyan are slightly undersaturated at base ISO. However yellows and greens are quite muted at the highest ISOs. Most consumer digital cameras produce color that's more highly saturated (more intense) than found in the original subjects. This is simply because most people like their color a bit brighter than life.

Skin tones. The Sony A77 Mark II does fairly well with Caucasian skin tones when using Auto white balance in simulated daylight. Brighter flesh tones have a healthy pinkish tint, though darker areas are nudged toward orange. With Manual white balance, results are still good, though slightly more pinkish. Where oversaturation is most problematic is on Caucasian skin tones, as it's very easy for these "memory colors" to be seen as too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc.

Hue. Like many cameras, the Sony A77 Mark II shifts cyan toward blue, red toward orange, orange toward yellow and yellow toward green, however shifts are minor to fairly moderate. (The cyan to blue shift is very common among the digital cameras we test; we think it's a deliberate choice by camera engineers to produce better-looking sky colors.) With an average "delta-C" color error of 5.59 after correction for saturation at base ISO, overall hue accuracy is about average, with only minor fluctuations across the ISO range. Hue is "what color" the color is.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sensor

Exposure and White Balance

Indoors, incandescent lighting
Warm, reddish cast with Auto, but good color with Incandescent and Manual white balance. Average amount of exposure compensation required.

Auto White Balance
+0.3 EV
Incandescent White Balance
+0.3 EV
Manual White Balance
+0.3 EV

Indoors, under normal incandescent lighting, color balance was too warm and reddish with the Auto white balance setting. Results with the Incandescent setting were better but still a touch warm and yellow. The Manual setting was quite accurate, just slightly on the cool side. The Sony A77 Mark II required +0.3 EV positive exposure compensation here, about average for this shot. (Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulbs, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the U.S.)

Outdoors, daylight
Excellent results under harsh lighting, with good handling of contrast, color, along with above average exposure accuracy.

Auto White Balance,
+0.3 EV
Auto White Balance,
0 EV

Outdoors, the Sony A77 Mark II performed very well. +0.3 EV exposure compensation was required to keep the mannequin's face bright in our "Sunlit" Portrait shot, which is better than average among the cameras we've tested. (Most cameras require about +0.7 EV here.) Contrast is a little high as you might expect under such harsh lighting, but despite the bright appearance, only a few highlights were blown, even without the help of Dynamic Range Optimization (DRO -- see below). Both Auto and Manual white balance produced decent skin tones, but we preferred Auto for its slightly more realistic response. Default exposure is very good for our Far-field shot (above right), just a touch underexposed but with almost no highlights blown (just a few specular highlights) or shadows lost, again with DRO disabled. The Far-field shot with Auto white balance has very good color, just a touch on the cool side. Overall, excellent performance in harsh lighting, especially considering DRO was off for these shots.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Resolution
Very high resolution, ~2,800 to ~2,850 lines of strong detail from both JPEGs and RAW files.

Strong detail to
~2,850 lines horizontal
Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
~2,800 lines vertical
Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
~2,850 lines horizontal
ACR converted RAW
Strong detail to
~2,800 lines vertical
ACR converted RAW

In-camera JPEGs of our laboratory resolution chart reveal sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 2,850 lines per picture height in the horizontal direction, and to about 2,800 lines in the vertical direction. Some may argue for higher numbers, but aliasing artifacts and false colors start to interfere with definition at these resolutions. Complete extinction of the pattern doesn't occur until about 3,500 to 3,700 lines. Some color moiré is evident in JPEGs, though that's not uncommon. Adobe Camera Raw wasn't really able to extract more lines of resolution here from a matching RAW file, and it generated stronger color moiré (different colors as well), so the Sony A77 Mark II does a good job with high contrast detail at base ISO in its JPEGs. Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sharpness & Detail
Very good default sharpness, with minimal sharpening artifacts. Mild to moderate noise suppression visible in the shadows and areas of low contrast.

Very good definition of high-
contrast elements with low
sharpening artifacts.
Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression tends to blur
detail in areas of subtle contrast.

Sharpness. The Sony A77 Mark II captures sharp, crisp images at lower ISOs, with few visible edge enhancement artifacts. We often see some fairly bright or thick sharpening halos around high-contrast elements such as the lettering and lines in our bottle labels (above left), but the A77 Mark II's default sharpening is very good at making details pop without introducing strong sharpening artifacts. Very good results here, at least at low ISO. Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.

Detail. The crop above right shows mild to moderate noise suppression in the darker areas of the mannequin's hair. A number of low-contrast strands are smudged together, though higher contrast strands are still distinct. Overall, pretty good results here especially for a 24-megapixel APS-C sensor, though noise reduction takes its toll on fine low-contrast detail. Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears.

RAW vs In-Camera JPEGs
As noted above, the Sony A77 Mark II produces in-camera JPEGs with very good detail and few sharpening artifacts, at least at low ISOs. Additional detail can often be obtained from carefully processing RAW files with a good converter, though. Let's see how base ISO compares here:

Base ISO (100)
Camera JPEG, defaults
RAW via Adobe Camera Raw

In the table above, we compare a best quality in-camera JPEG taken at base ISO using default noise reduction and sharpening (on the left) to the matching RAW file converted with Adobe Camera Raw 9.0 using default noise reduction with some strong but tight unsharp masking applied in Photoshop (250%, radius of 0.3 pixels, and a threshold of 0).

Looking closely at the images, we can see that ACR extracts additional detail that isn't present in the JPEG from the camera, particularly in the red-leaf swatch where the fine thread pattern is likely treated as noise by the JPEG engine. Fine detail in the mosaic is also better and more refined looking, but as is often the case, more luminance noise can be seen in the bottle crop, though the in-camera JPEG shows more chroma noise in the shadows. You can of course apply stronger noise reduction (default ACR NR used here) to arrive at your ideal noise versus detail tradeoff.

That being said, the Sony A77 Mark II's in-camera JPEG processing (at least at low ISOs) is very good with generally excellent detail and very few sharpening artifacts.

ISO & Noise Performance
Good high ISO performance, though default noise reduction is heavy-handed at higher ISOs.

Default High ISO Noise Reduction
ISO 50 ISO 100 ISO 200
ISO 400 ISO 800 ISO 1600
ISO 3200 ISO 6400 ISO 12,800
ISO 25,600

Image quality is excellent at ISOs 50 through 400, with only a slight drop in fine detail at 400 where stronger noise reduction kicks in. (Note that ISO 50 is an extended low sensitivity and although we doubled exposure time compared to ISO 100, the image came out overly bright indicating actual sensitivity is higher than 50.) ISO 800 still shows very good detail, but default noise reduction becomes quite strong starting at ISO 1600. ISO 3200 has a fair amount of fine detail intact, but flatter areas start to take on a hammered look. Fine detail rapidly deteriorates from ISO 6400 on, though, with strong blurring and blotchy purple or yellow chroma noise. ISO 25,600 is also plagued with strong noise reduction and sharpening artifacts giving it an almost crystalline effect.

Overall, high ISO performance in JPEGs has improved over its predecessor though as mentioned, default noise reduction is a little heavy-handed and clumsy at higher ISOs. As always, see the Print Quality section below for maximum recommended print sizes at each ISO, as printed performance often doesn't correlate well to what's seen on-screen at 100%, and check out our Comparometer to see how the Sony A77 Mark II's JPEGs compare to other cameras we've tested.

A note about focus for this shot: We shoot this image at f/4, usually using one of our very sharp reference lenses. To insure that the hair detail we use for making critical judgements about camera noise processing and detail rendering is in sharp focus at the relatively wide aperture we're shooting at, the focus target at the center of the scene is on a movable stand. This lets us compensate for front- or back-focus by different camera bodies, even those that lack micro-focus adjustments. This does mean, though, that the focus target itself may appear soft or slightly out of focus for bodies that front- or back-focused with the reference lens. We know this; if you click to view the full-size image for one of these shots and notice that the focus target is fuzzy, you don't need to email and tell us. :-) The focus target position will have been adjusted to insure that the rest of the scene is focused properly.

Extremes: Sunlit, dynamic range and low light tests
Very high resolution with excellent highlight and shadow detail. Very good low-light performance, capable of focusing and capturing bright images in near darkness.

0 EV +0.3 EV +0.7 EV

Sunlight. The Sony A77 Mark II handled the deliberately harsh lighting in the test above very well. We preferred the +0.3 EV exposure here as the mannequin's face is bright while very few highlights were clipped in the white shirt. The default (0 EV) exposure is just a tad dim in the face, while the +0.7 EV exposure is definitely too bright. As mentioned previously, contrast is a little high, but both highlight and shadow detail is very good at +0.3 EV, though deep shadows do contain moderate amounts of chroma noise. Overall, very good results here.

For best results, be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown above; it's better to shoot in the shade when possible. See below for results with Dynamic Range Optimization and High Dynamic Range features enabled.

Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here. In actual shooting conditions, be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown here; it's better to shoot in open shade whenever possible.)

Outdoor Portrait DRO Comparison (0 EV)
DRO
Setting:


Auto
(Default)


Off

Level 1

Level 2

Level 3

Level 4

Level 5

Dynamic Range Optimization is Sony's name for their dynamic range enhancement technology. DRO divides the image into small areas, analyzes the range of brightness of each area, and adjusts the camera's tone curve and other processing parameters accordingly to make the best use of the available dynamic range. DRO does not boost ISO for the entire image like some systems, so increased noise is less of an issue, though existing noise may be more visible in raised shadows. Auto DRO is enabled by default on the Sony A77 Mark II. You can also set the level manually, from 1 ("weak") to 5 ("strong"), or turn it off. As one would expect, DRO is only applied to JPEG files however RAW files are tagged for similar processing by Sony's IDC software.

The above thumbnails and histograms show the effects of the available levels of DRO on our "Sunlit" Portrait shot with no exposure compensation. Mouse over the links to load the associated thumbnail and histogram, and click on the links to visit the full resolution image. As you can see from the thumbnails and histograms, DRO worked as expected, boosting shadows and mid-tones without blowing additional highlights, yielding more balance exposures. The Auto DRO setting did a good job here, and the five manual levels give quite a bit of control over the effect.

Far-field DRO Comparison (0 EV)
Off

Above, you can see the effects of DRO settings on our Far-field shot. The default Auto setting produced a nicely balanced exposure, despite the harsh lighting. A useful feature. (Apologies for the change in framing for the Off setting.)


Outdoor Portrait HDR Comparison (0 EV)
HDR
Setting:


Off
(Default)


Auto

1 EV

2 EV

3 EV

4 EV

5 EV

6 EV

High Dynamic Range. The Sony A77 Mark II's HDR mode takes three images in rapid succession, one nominally exposed , one underexposed, and one overexposed, then combines them into one high dynamic range JPEG automatically (RAW images are not supported). Lighter areas from the underexposed image are combined with darker areas from the overexposed image to produce an image with compressed tonal range. The camera then saves a single composite image, as well as the nominally exposed image. The overlaid images are micro-aligned by the camera, but it can only correct for so much movement. If it can't micro-align successfully, an icon indicating HDR capture failed will appear. For best results, the subject should not move or blink, so it's not really intended for portraits. There is also a manual mode where you can select 1 EV ("weak") to 6 EV ("strong") difference in exposures.

Mouse over the links to load the associated thumbnail and histogram, and click on the links to visit the full resolution image. As you can see, the Auto setting did a decent job boosting shadows and mid-tones while reigning back highlights, however we prefer the lower manual settings for this subject. The higher the manual setting, the more highlights are toned-down and shadows opened up, but higher settings can produce flat and unnatural results with this scene. Still, it's nice that Sony provides six manual levels, giving quite a bit of control over the effect.

Far-field HDR Comparison (0 EV)

Above, you can see the effects of HDR settings on our Far-field shot. Watch out for ghost images from movement within the scene during the capture sequence, though, as can be seen in some of the shots above. Oddly, noise is excessive at the 3 EV setting for which we have no explanation.

Sony has one of the more flexible in-camera HDR implementations we've seen making it a useful feature for those that don't want to bracket and combine images in post.

Dynamic Range Analysis (RAW mode)
While we once performed our own dynamic range measurements based on in-camera JPEGs as well as converted RAW images (when the camera was supported by Adobe Camera Raw), we've switched to using DxO Labs' results from their DxOMark website. As technology advanced, the dynamic range of modern high-end cameras in some cases exceeded the range of the Stouffer T4110 density scale that we used for our own measurements. DxO's approach based on RAW data before demosaicing is also more revealing, because it measures the fundamental dynamic range of the sensor, irrespective of whatever processing is applied to JPEGs, or to RAW data by off-the-shelf conversion software.

In the following, we use DxO's "Print" dynamic range results, which are scaled based on camera resolution. As the name suggests, this scaling corresponds to the situation in which you print at a given size, regardless of how many megapixels the camera might have. (In other words, if you've decided to make a 13x19 inch print, that's the size you're printing, whether the camera's resolution is 16 or 300 megapixels.) For the technically-minded, you can find a discussion of the reasoning behind this here on the DxOMark website. Also note that DxO Labs uses a signal-to-noise (SNR) threshold of 1 when defining the lower boundary of acceptable luminance noise in their dynamic range measurements, which corresponds to the "Low Quality" threshold of the Imatest software we used to use for this measurement.

Here, we decided to compare the Sony A77 Mark II's dynamic range to its predecessor, the A77 as well as to the Nikon D7100, a competing DSLR with a similar 24MP APS-C sensor. You can always compare other models on DxOMark.com.

As you can see from the above graph (click for a larger image), the Sony A77 Mark II does a little better than the A77 in terms of dynamic range, offering a maximum of 13.44 EV at the lowest ISO, versus 13.15 EV. And the A77 II does significantly better at higher ISOs as well, offering up to about 0.8 EV advantage at ISO 6400. The A77 Mark II does not do as well as the Nikon D7100 at most ISOs, though, with the Nikon producing about one stop better dynamic range at ISOs 200, 400 and 3200, though at very high ISOs, the two cameras perform similarly.

Overall, though, very good dynamic range performance from the Sony A77 Mark II. Click here to visit the DxOMark page for the Sony A77 Mark II for more of their test results and additional comparisons.

  1 fc
11 lux
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
1/16fc
No NR
ISO
100

2s, f2.8

30s, f2.8

30s, f2.8
ISO
3200

1/15s, f2.8

1s, f2.8

1s, f2.8
ISO
25600

1/125s, f2.8

1/8s, f2.8

1/8s, f2.8

Low Light. The Sony A77 Mark II was able to capture bright images down to the lowest light level we test at (1/16 foot-candle) even at base ISO. Noise is very low at base ISO and fairly well-controlled at ISO 3200, though as expected noise and noise reduction artifacts are quite high and objectional at the highest ISO setting of 25,600.

Auto white balance did a very good job here, producing a fairly neutral, just slightly cool color balance across ISOs and light levels.

We didn't detect any significant banding (pattern noise) or hot pixel issues, though some heat blooming can be seen emanating from the bottom of the frame at the highest ISO.

The Sony A77 Mark II's autofocus system was able to focus on our test subject down to below the 1/16 foot-candle light level unassisted with an f/2.8 lens, which is excellent. And the A77 II was able to focus in complete darkness with its flash-based focus assist feature enabled.

How bright is this? The one foot-candle light level that this test begins at roughly corresponds to the brightness of typical city street-lighting at night. Cameras performing well at that level should be able to snap good-looking photos of street-lit scenes.

NOTE: This low light test is conducted with a stationary subject, and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. Most digital cameras will fail miserably when faced with a moving subject in dim lighting. (For example, a child's ballet recital or a holiday pageant in a gymnasium.) Thanks to their larger pixels and in the case of the A77 Mark II, its Hybrid AF system, compact system cameras like the Sony A77 Mark II tend to do much better than point & shoots, but you still shouldn't expect a quick autofocus lock with moving subjects. (A useful trick is to just prop the camera on a convenient surface, and use its self-timer to release the shutter. This avoids any jiggling from your finger pressing the shutter button, and can work quite well when you don't have a tripod handy.)

Built-in Flash Test Results

Coverage and Range
A fairly powerful flash for a built-in, but with very narrow and uneven coverage. Our standard indoor portrait shot required less than average exposure compensation.

16mm

Coverage. Flash coverage is very narrow and uneven at wide angle (16mm), leaving very dark corners in our flash coverage test image. We no longer test at full telephoto is coverage is invariably better, making wide angle the worst case.


Normal Flash
+0.3 EV, 1/60s, f/4
Slow-Sync Flash
0 EV, 1/5s, f/4

Exposure. Our Indoor Portrait test scene came out well exposed with +0.3 EV flash exposure compensation at ISO 200. The average amount of flash exposure compensation required for this scene is +0.7 EV, so the A77 Mark II's built-in flash performed above average here. The camera's Slow-Sync flash mode produced very bright results with no flash exposure compensation, though with a strong orange cast from the ambient room lighting because of the slow shutter speed.


Manufacturer-Specified Flash Range

7.0 feet, ISO 100, f/5.6

Manufacturer Specified Flash Test. The Sony A77 Mark II's built-in flash is rated with a Guide Number of 12 meters or 39.4 feet at ISO 100. That works out to about 7.0 feet at f/5.6, the maximum aperture of the kit zoom lens at full telephoto. In the test shot above taken at the aforementioned distance and settings, the A77 Mark II's flash produced a bright (though slightly reddish) flash exposure, which indicates Sony's flash power rating is credible.

Our standard test method for flash range uses a fixed setting of ISO 200, to provide a fair basis of comparison between cameras. We also shoot two shots using the manufacturer-specified camera settings, at the range the company claims for the camera, to assess the validity of the specific claims.

Output Quality

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.

 

The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Sony Alpha ILCA-A77 II Photo Gallery .

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Sony Alpha ILCA-A77 II with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!



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