Shooting at ISO 409,600 with the Sony A7SII.

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Shooting at ISO 409,600 with the Sony A7SII

By Steve Huff

NOTE: THIS IS NOT MY A7SII REVIEW! Just an EXTREME High ISO demonstration. My review will be up within 2 weeks as I will be traveling to Key West next week to do more testing with the camera. 

You can order the A7SII at B&H Photo HERE or at Amazon HERE.  ISO range 50 – 409,600 

I have been shooting with the Sony A7SII for about a week now and I am again in love. Ever since the Sony A7II, then A7RII I have really been enjoying my Sony cameras. The A7RII is VERY hard to beat for a high res monster camera, and I have put many snaps on the RII I have here. It’s my daily shooter. Now that Sony sent me an A7SII to review I am just amazed at what can be accomplished in ANY light, at ANY time and yes, even up to the max ISO of 409,600. Now, of course there will be lots of noise at ISO 409,600 but I have NEVER seen ANY camera, film or digital, that can do what the AS7II does in low light or even darkness.

A7SII

Using the 16-35 or 35 1.4 Sony the A7SII focuses lightning fast, even in darkness WITHOUT an AF assist lamp. Oh, it has one, but I turn it off as it doesn’t need it.

I recently was at the state fair shooting and then went off to San Diego this past weekend to see how far I could push the limits of high ISO with the new A7SII. I pushed the limits with the original A7S in the past, and have a post up about that HERE.  Only thing is now that I look back, I did not go past 102,000 ISO with the original A7S. This time I wanted to go to the MAX or ISO 409,600 with the new A7SII just to see if it would be usable AT ALL. What I found was that while shooting in the DARK with no light source besides the moon the A7SII was giving me results that I actually liked at ISO 409,600. I would not use that on a regular basis but if you are in a situation without light, in the dark and want a camera that can actually get a shot in this situation, the only one that will do it is the A7SII.

Using Native lenses with AF, the A7SII never once failed to lock focus quickly, even in 90% DARKNESS. Using Manual M mount lenses was a breeze and gave me color and pop that reminded me so much of the Leica M9. Imagine Leica M9 output but with capability to ISO 409,600. At 409,600 the Sony A7sII looks like the Leica M9 at ISO 2500. Technology has evolved GREATLY.

Below I will show you some EXTREME ISO examples, all the way up to ISO 409,600 but shot in near darkness. Again, shooting color at 409,600 would not be advisable but shooting B&W is quite nice. With color I stop at 256,000 ISO with the A7SII. Think about that. Remember the old Canon 1Ds, the 1st one? At ISO 640 it was very noisy. Now we have a camera that is a fraction of the cost, same size sensor, can use almost any lens made and shoots up to ISO 409,600 while giving Auto Focus performance in crazy low light situations that no other camera made can do. Insane how far the digital camera world has come.

All I know is now I want the A7SII for those very low light scenarios. I also shot some video at ISO 256,000 and it was STUNNING, again, in virtually NO light. This camera will be able to break down barriers as you can shoot it in ANY light, period. In good light, as I said, it is very M9-ish…

Two shots below..click them to see better versions. These are not crazy high ISO but show the color and pop that reminds me of  the M9. 1st Shot was the 35 1.4 Sony, 2nd the 35 1.7 Voigtlander M mount. 

debbym9ish

This one is at IS) 4000 and with this camera I consider that low ISO 😉 

iso4000autumndebby

If you clicked on the above images and are on a large screen you will see the depth and pop of the files from this camera at lower ISO’s. You can see more HERE if you missed my post last week.

ULTRA LOW LIGHT AND EXTREME HIGH ISO UP TO 409,600

So this is what this post is about, take a look at some extreme high ISO samples from the A7SII. All are OOC JPEGS, ZERO NR (turned OFF in camera so no noise reduction).

This 1st shot at 10,000 ISO  – well, it was 90% dark. My iPhone would have caught this as a black scene as would my GoPro I had. The A7SII cranked to 10,000 ISO without any Noise Reduction lit up the scene dramatically. It did NOT look anything like this in reality. It was dark. The lights in the BG were not lighting up the cemetery. The darker the scene, the harder it is for any camera to get a noise free image, but at 10,000 ISO and zero NR, no camera could match this under these shooting situations. 

iso10k

25600beach

iso102k

ISO128I1

256kdebby

ISO409000I1

All images above should be clicked on to see them correctly. But the only light source on the beach was the moon. In person my GoPro would see nothing but blackness. No other camera would be able to see anything unless you had a tripod and a  long exposure. A friend of mine was shooting his A7RII at max ISO and it was looking good as well but the A7SII takes it further with capability to 409,600. With an ISO range from 50 to 409,600…just wow. Thats all I got.

You can order the A7S Mark II at B&H Photo HERE or Amazon HERE.

MORE TO COME IN THE NEXT 1-2 MONTHS:

Sony A7SII review

Sony RX1R II review

Leica SL Review

and more..

 

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62 Comments

  1. I love the output of the voigtlander ultron 1.7 on that a7s2! Which one lens did you use, the older version, or the newer one (approx $1000)?

  2. Does anyone know how to get rid of the purple violet halos or flares that is shows on the left side of the picture when recording video or shooting pictures at a high ISO in the dark and I mean almost pitch black? I do theme park updates and stuff for my YouTube/Blog anyways the violet flares aren’t as bright with the flares by a little bit if you just set the ISO to the the exact amount you want such as a the max but when you set the ISO to auto (I have it set for the minimum to 100 ISO and the max to 409,6000) and also when taking photos its not noticeable really until you press down the button to focus the camera but I was filming a POV of Space Mountain or what is now Hyperspace Mountain for Star Wars The Force Awakens or you notice the flares when the lens cap is on too anyways it captures the stars and everything great as other cameras do not and just shows black. I did this today and at first when recording video I though maybe it was just the LCD screen causing that but when playing back the video on my computer they are still there. It doesn’t however show up when there is more lighting and the flares aren’t as bad the lower the ISO you get. I guess when video editing I can stretch the video and crop out that side but its already kind of narrow video recording. (I probably need to get a different lens for more of a wide angle video? If so what is the best lens to get? If possible i’m talking like GoPro wide angle as I just got the cheapest lens which was another 1,000 bucks and you can’t even zoom in and out with that lens and just have a normal filter lens on it to protect the actual camera lens.) But the violet flares are a little annoying.

  3. Wow…just wow…
    Thanks for these impressive jaw-dropping photos. I can’t believe they’re taken with such high ISO…
    So tempted to get the 7Sii instead of getting a 7Rii now for the extreme ISO performance although I don’t do any video shooting.
    Imagine I can just leave my tripod for many dim light or dark situations.
    But will it lose too much details because of the lower resolution compare with the 7Rii?

    • “But will it lose too much details because of the lower resolution compare with the 7Rii?”

      The A7rII has approximately twice the resolution of the A7sII. So the difference is significant.

      However, consider this: are you selling your photos? If you are, for what? Are you selling them for huge billboards for Tiffany’s? If so, get the A7rII or the A7II. If not, get the A7sII. 🙂

  4. Thanks for the review. I am still having questions regarding Sony’s customer service, support and reliability. If you have discussed these issues before can you point me to these discussions.
    Thanks,

    Howard

  5. Hi Steve, I would like to know what is your opinion about the AF performance of this camera and the a7Rii compared with the a7ii. I find the a7ii to be quick and accurate under good lighting situations, but hunts back and forth under moderate low light situations, causing me to lose important moments. Is upgrading to the rII / sII going to solve the issue? Which one of them is better?

    • As always the A7s series will have the fastest AF and will AF in super low light without an issue. It is faster than the RII or II for Af, especially in low light. All are good though, the A7s series is a bit better. The RII and II AF about the same IMO.

  6. Thanks luc- you have expressed what I am seeing better than I did in my previous post. I am seeing images from photographers which look like strange out of context daylight images. Then the photographer tells me something like ” I shot that late evening by the river or at the park!

    The park looks strangely deserted and you can see the street lights are on. The lighting is bright and totally even and very strange ? Is this planet Earth ? Anyway I know that high ISO can be brilliant and Steve is right when he says not many have the camera and are probably using it at extremes and being amazed and want to amaze their friends as well. No doubt it shoots great at lower ISO as well. I imagine I would use it shooting Jazz gigs at 2500 max.

    No doubt there are beautiful images and videos being done and there is no doubt that new horizons will be opened. I do think you have nevertheless made a good point when you say darkness and shades should remain what it is /they are.

  7. Insane, overkill! a camera should be able to capture what the photographer observes.I prefer dynamic range any time over super high ISO capacities, darkness/shades should remain what it is/ they are

    • So basicly the a7sii at lower iso’s? Having a higher iso POSSIBILITY does not mean you cannot use the lower iso’s for more dynamic range. People always have to complain huh?

      This camera probably has better dr at iso 1600 than a dslr from 2005 would have at iso 100. So still, what is your problem?

  8. Hi Steve, thanks for a very interesting post. I shoot mostly with film these days but it’s always nice to see how far the technology has come.
    My big disappointment is that judging from the images fellow photographers are showing me -it seems from my experience that hardly anybody is producing new or interesting images with these new advances?
    Photographers seem to have forgotten the “quality of light versus the quantity of light dynamic”and how it affects their images.
    There is a new world of late evening images -early morning images and even night club images waiting to be done!
    Low light photography require you to understand more about lighting and lighting is an art form in itself. So photographers get out there and start shooting some cool images and post them here-prove me wrong !

    • Problem is this is new tech..and in the grand scheme of things not many have this camera or even the previous one as it is considered a “Niche” camera. But the A7S and SII excel in ANY light. The SII has slightly different IQ than the original (more M9 like somehow) due to the new processing, etc. These were just snaps, to show noise levels, nothing more. But I have seen some images from a few who use the S series for some beautiful low light videos and stills. I shoot video wth the SII at ISO 204,000 and its amazing. Images can be, in the right context… and a few are out there doing it but will take some time to see more of it.

  9. Thanks Steve as always, I really enjoy your short first impressions that just give a teaser taste of whats new. I’ve also taken note of your non-USA links for Amazon so I can help keep this invaluable resource going for all us keen photographers.

    Can you please tell me – for the A7RII and A7SII – what do you find the best AF settings are on the camera? Particularly for action and now for this low-light capability?

  10. Very interesting camera. I’m always much more interested in the IQ at normal ISO’s. Even shooting at night in Chicago, I’ve never needed anything beyond ISO 3200. At night on a beach somewhere… maybe it would help. But if it’s pitch black on a beach, i’m either having a great time, or running for my life. Either way, i’m not taking a picture.

  11. Imagine using this camera with a macro and a 400mm lens in the Amazon Rainforest. It’d be like seeing in the dark.

    • ..No: you’d need all the processor circuitry too, and the programming, and the instructions to tell the rear screen how to display your 12mpxl images instead of the M9’s 18mpxl images ..and a whole lot of other modifications. ..And you might want new profiles – the ones stored inside the M9 – for the various Leica lenses, so that the Sony sensor’s output might be corrected for various lens’ vignetting, etc.

  12. as an A7 user, I’d be interested to know if the colour / pop is any different in the A7II – a comparison would be great ! 🙂 N

    • Yes, the A7SII has a different color signature than the A7II. It’s just a slightly different signature. Seems to be more “Medium Format” looking..

  13. Steve: First, I know this is kind of a dumb question but I still have it! Are you shooting B&W based on an in-camera setting (Creative Style setting I assume), or transforming to B&W in something like Photoshop later on? Mainly I’d like to know why you pick one approach (in-camera or software-adjustment) over the other. Seems like this camera is a perfect match for the B&W sensibility.

  14. have you tried a monopod in full darkness moon light Steve? Or tried to capture scenes with fill-led light of your iphone? Milky way handheld at 1.4, would that work. Looks like the perfect night vision camera.

    • Depends on the max ISO you want to use. If a lower ISO you would need a tripod or monopod. I only shot these at 409,000 to show extremes, the limits. If I were shooting here for real I would have chosen maybe 128,000 ISO which would have given me less noise and still enough shutter speed with the 5 Axis IS inside.

  15. Could it be the result of some sort of dynamic range optimisation? Regardless it appears to be easy to clean up.

  16. Hey Steve – love these “first impression” snippets. I see you’ve got some international Amazon links so will start using them to help keep your work going for us followers!

    Can you tell me what AF camera settings you find best on the A7RII & A7SII, particularly in these low light situations?

    • For any camera I use, even if it was a Canon or Nikon, I use center point only. 90% of the time if using multi point the cameras never focus on what I want to focus on, so I like to be in control of where focus goes. So I use center point only. Thats it.

  17. The comparison to the M9 is right on the money. Out of all of the A7 cameras this one shares that pop and a bit of the color of the M9. It’s tugging at might heart strings a bit to be honest.

    I hope your review includes some M lenses (50 lux??) on the A7SII to pay a bit of homage to the M9’s true successor 🙂

  18. Wow that is just amazing the black whites look like film again absolutely love the 3 black and whites
    Thanks Steve

  19. I don’t apply NR either – or rather, I don’t apply luminance NR. In the RAW converter, I always apply chrominance NR, as chrominance noise is ugly and you lose nothing by getting rid of it.

    Sorry if this has been asked before (I’m sure it has), but do you notice any quality problems when you use the purely electronic shutter? Some of the older NEXes had obvious CA issues when using the electronic first curtain.

  20. Quite impressive. Any sense if I down sampled A7R2 images (taken below 50K ISO) to 12 MP how much better the A7S2 would be compared to the down sampled A7R2 images at the same ISO? Or would it be roughly on par (again, at anything below a stratospherically high ISO)?
    (And, obviously, I’m ignoring what should be the value of Slog3 in asking about this.)

  21. I think it would be interesting to compare the low light capabilities between the A7S II and the A7R II with the latter’s pictures downsampled to 12 MP.

    • Here’s a shot – scroll down to the bottom here: http://www.edituk.com/Skyros_2015.html – taken with the original A7S at 102,400 – by moonlight.

      The sky was completely invisible, except for the faint glimmer of two stars in the sky.

      The woman in the photo is holding up, and is lit by, an iPad which is showing a map of the night sky above her.

      1/3rd of a second, handheld, with a Leica 16mm lens at f4. To a human eye, everything was black, except her face.

  22. Fantastic !! This camera is really pushing the limits. Great pictures Steve. Can’t wait for your full review.

  23. That A7SII is simply amazing!!!
    I just compared your ISO 256,000 Sony shot to my 645Z (with zero noise reduction, OOC Jpeg), and Im really impressed with A7SII, it comes really close to the Z. Although the Z still is the king in noise and details when downsized to the A7SII, its pretty close, and in 8×10 prints youd be hard pressed to tell the difference. Sony really is pulling out some magic with this camera. (if I wasnt already invested in my Z and Oly cameras Id really be looking at Sony).

  24. Steve: Thanks. This is great to see how your experience with the A7Sii unfolds. Really looking forward to the full review, but it’s also great to get these shorter to-the-point entries about your experience with this new camera.

  25. Is it just me or does the ISO10’000 picture of the white cross show more color noise than expected from this “low-light beast”?

    • Remember, I have all Noise Reduction 100% OFF. Mostly EVERY test online of any cameras ISO, they never turn off NR and they have a light source. If it was on, you would see much much less of that, but details would be obscured as well. I never use NR. This camera beats any other camera on the market today for low light ISO, and remember there was no light here. It was DARK. The more dark the scene, the more noise, with any camera. Try shooting any Nikon or Canon in 90% darkness to where you can almost not see your subject, crank it up to 10,000 and see what you get with no NR 😉

    • Looks bad. Never understood the hype around the A7S and low light shooting. Nice camera with silent shutter and fat pixels for a different look, but low light shots look as good or bad as any other modern FF camera.

      • Not true, again, show me an ISO 409,000 shot with NR off from another camera..even pit the A7S or SII at 128,000 ISO with any other camera..or better yet ISO 25,600. All NR off. No camera will match it, none. I’d love to see someone try though (I have).

        • It sure is ridiculously high ISO, its still a complete waste for most people though. I was curious about the camera but I dont feel at all impressed after seeing the samples, like all other cameras the image quality is shit at high iso. I never go over iso 6400, but I only do photo. What’s good for video I have no clue about.

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