Select Page

SonyAlpha a7s Shooting High ISO in Available Light

Real World Results Shooting High ISO in Available Light with the a7s

When the #SonyAlpha a7s first hit the market I was stoked with the camera specs. But specs are specs and for me, they don’t prove out until I can see the results with my own eyes. I need to test the gear out myself and photograph in low light situations. Real world images are proof. Changing lighting conditions, shooting in unpredictable mixed lighting scenarios, photographing in real time. Not staged static still objects with the same boring light. These are real world images photographed under harsh lighting and lack of lighting conditions as an event unfolds in real time.
I recently had a chance to put the high ISO prowess of the #SonyAlpha α7s to the test in a real world setting. A paid gig. Special Olympics Southern California {SOSC} hire me to photograph their annual Gala. Which successfully raised over $314,000 in one evening due to the generosity of many, many people at the event. The SOSC is an amazing organization that give a voice to athletes with disabilities. Having witnessed the spirit of the SOSC, met many SOSC athletes and US Olympiads many times I can tell you first hand what the SOSC does is beyond words and truly moving. Seeing the spirit of human beings shine as they do what they love and perform to their highest abilities is life changing.
The Technical Stuff: Having used my α7s for several months now, I knew what it was capable of and was very comfortable with the menu system. I set my camera to Auto ISO and used AV mode. My auto ISO is set to the range of ISO 100 – ISO 51,200. I primarily used the FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS, but also had the Sonnar T* FE 55 f/1.8 ZA, FE 24-70mm f/4 Z OSS, FE 24-70mm f/4 Z OSS with me in case they were needed. Unless otherwise noted all images in this post are photographed with the FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS. I occasionally bumped the f/stop to 5.6 for a bit more sharpness. What blew me away when chimping and upon downloading the images and running them through Adobe LR5, is at ISO 51,200 with absolutely only available light these images are 100% usable for print and web. In LR I output them at 10″x 10″ at 300 DPI and they are amazing. Yes in some cases there is digital noise aka grain. But remember this is ISO 51,200 (not a typo). In some cases noise reduction was applied in LR but sparingly. When the exposures are spot on there is little noise. When the exposures are off a bit, more noise is present….however the results are still pleasing and staggering. Its amazing to me how far digital photography ISO has come in 10 years. I remember starting out with the EOS 1D about 10 years ago. ISO 800 was barely usable….ISO 400 was okay. Quick math proves that the high ISO capabilities that the #SonyAlpha α7s makes possible is 128 times better than 400 ISO where we started from. And my assertion that the α7s high ISO capabilities are twice as good as what some of the top dog camera makers sensors are capable of.

Photographed at ISO 51,200. No retouching and no noise reduction applied. FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS @ f/5.6

2015_Special Olympics_Gala_0162

Congratulations to Tony “The Tiger” Briones as he receives the Betty Belden Palmer Award. ISO 4000

sony a7s high iso images_0012

PBS Anchor and event Emcee Mr. Ed Arnold donating his time to the SOSC on a regular basis. ISO 10,000

sony a7s high iso images_0013

The light form a slideshow about 30 feet away, illuminates faces at a table. ISO 51,200

sony a7s high iso images_0014

ISO 51,200

sony a7s high iso images_0015

ISO 51,200

sony a7s high iso images_0016

ISO 51,200

sony a7s high iso images_0017

ISO 51,200. Noise reduction applied in LR.

sony a7s high iso images_0018

ISO 2,500

sony a7s high iso images_0019

ISO 10,000

sony a7s high iso images_0020

ISO 8000

sony a7s high iso images_0021

ISO 32,000

sony a7s high iso images_0022

ISO 16,000

sony a7s high iso images_0023

Patrick McClenland CEO of the 2015 Special Olympic World Games. ISO 6,400

sony a7s high iso images_0024

ISO 40,000

sony a7s high iso images_0025

ISO 5000

sony a7s high iso images_0026

ISO 51,200

sony a7s high iso images_0027

ISO 25,600

sony a7s high iso images_0029

ISO 16,000

sony a7s high iso images_0030

ISO 3200

sony a7s high iso images_0031

Rafer Johnson, Olympic Gold Medalist – Decathlon, Actor and Humanitarian. 1960 Olympic gold medalist, after getting a silver in 1956 and a gold in the 1955 Pan American Games. ISO 51,200

sony a7s high iso images_0032

Scott Yamashiro pianist. ISO 20,000. That’s not sensor dust but dust floating in the air illuminated by the spot light behind Scott.

sony a7s high iso images_0033

Left- ISO 16,000. Right – ISO 40,000

sony a7s high iso images_0034

Jay White singer. ISO 16,000

sony a7s high iso images_0035

ISO 4000

sony a7s high iso images_0036

ISO 25,600

sony a7s high iso images_0037

ISO 51,200