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Old 12-02-2012, 11:17 PM   #16
zackiedawg
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CJstarr, I'll give you some very basic advice for whatever it's worth...don't worry about the brand; worry about features, price, ergonomics, lens availability, speed...there are just so many things more important than the brand. The old stereotype of Sony being behind on high ISO performance is long gone - in fact, all of these cameras are no more than roughly 1/2 stop apart from eachother in performance, given the same sensor size and resolution - 16-18MP APS-C sensors from Nikon, Sony, Canon, & Pentax are all rated so closely that virtually noone could tell one from the other at each given ISO level (and given that Sony, Nikon, & Pentax are all using the very same sensors, this is not a surprise). The newer Sony 'SLT' cameras have somewhere from 1/3 to 1/2 of a stop lower ISO performance due to their translucent mirrors, which offer some advantages to offset the disadvantages (such as continuous autofocus during video, fast 10fps shooting, and live view). Sensor ratings might mean the threshhold where noise becomes intrusive on, say, a Nikon using the same 16 MP sensor might be ISO3200, and on the Sony SLT camera using the same sensor, it might be ISO2500. Still very high, way above your old A100, and small enough that in normal use most people wouldn't tell the difference. Not to mention, very few people shoot regularly in the ISO1600+ range - I'd venture a guess that most folks have less than 5% of all their shots at these ISO levels, so it's odd how the smallest performance differences at that range are so important...the overall performance and features should be much more important factors to weigh. And believe me, I know, because I'm one of those rare folks who actually DO shoot more than 5% of my shots over ISO1600!
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Old 12-03-2012, 12:28 PM   #17
havoc315
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Originally Posted by zackiedawg View Post
CJstarr, I'll give you some very basic advice for whatever it's worth...don't worry about the brand; worry about features, price, ergonomics, lens availability, speed...there are just so many things more important than the brand. The old stereotype of Sony being behind on high ISO performance is long gone - in fact, all of these cameras are no more than roughly 1/2 stop apart from eachother in performance, given the same sensor size and resolution - 16-18MP APS-C sensors from Nikon, Sony, Canon, & Pentax are all rated so closely that virtually noone could tell one from the other at each given ISO level (and given that Sony, Nikon, & Pentax are all using the very same sensors, this is not a surprise). The newer Sony 'SLT' cameras have somewhere from 1/3 to 1/2 of a stop lower ISO performance due to their translucent mirrors, which offer some advantages to offset the disadvantages (such as continuous autofocus during video, fast 10fps shooting, and live view). Sensor ratings might mean the threshhold where noise becomes intrusive on, say, a Nikon using the same 16 MP sensor might be ISO3200, and on the Sony SLT camera using the same sensor, it might be ISO2500. Still very high, way above your old A100, and small enough that in normal use most people wouldn't tell the difference. Not to mention, very few people shoot regularly in the ISO1600+ range - I'd venture a guess that most folks have less than 5% of all their shots at these ISO levels, so it's odd how the smallest performance differences at that range are so important...the overall performance and features should be much more important factors to weigh. And believe me, I know, because I'm one of those rare folks who actually DO shoot more than 5% of my shots over ISO1600!
Having recently upgraded from the A100 myself, this post is spot on.
The translucent mirror in the new Sony SLTs may impair noise performance a bit compared to other SLRs. But it is still a vast improvement over the A100 (where total ISO topped out at 1600).
I notice on the A55 -- Shooting RAW, noise free up to 800. At 1600, you start to get a bit of noise. Still usually useable, and easily removed in post processing. At 3200, you need to do a little post processing to get it to a good level. Above 3200, you really need to start to make sacrifices for full size images. (Though still useable, especially at smaller sizes).
If shooting jpeg straight out of the camera, and letting the camera processor remove the noise, then you are basically noise free up to 3200 or even 6400, though the image will start to soften. And finally, in jpeg, you can use the high-ISO feature which combines images for higher ISO performance, and effectively shoot at 6400-12800, with very low noise. (Though this only works with stationary images).

I don't have much experience with other brands, but from what I have seen and read, newer Nikons seem to handle RAW noise better by about 1 f-stop.

And yes, the translucent mirror does indeed offer some advantages, including the high quality live view, a smaller and lighter camera, and the near-professional-grade shooting speed. (The shooting speed at 10+ fps is indeed professional level, but it is impaired by the lack of an optical viewfinder -- The live view can't refresh fast enough, so it's not very easy to pan with the action, as a real professional camera would).
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