Structural under exposure and yellow smearing
The first thing I noticed when switch to Sony A7 II couple of years ago is the picture underexposed usually at normal exposure. When develop raw files in the Lightroom, I have to crank most of the them up +0.5 to +1.5 exposure steps, therefore suspect Sony body intentionally reduces the exposure than normal to cheat high ISO performance. Because Sony sensor has wide dynamic range, increasing brightness in Lightroom works OK anyway but uncomfortable with this trick …
Another complaint is the yellow color casting on skin tone. More precisely, it is not only yellow but green color which is too much saturated thus change faint green into strong green always.
That is in overall, the color palette of Sony is not balanced and tend to boost saturation abruptly on specific colors.
This kind of ‘color boost’ may work for Instagram where users view small screen of the mobile phone & draw attention immediately with ‘pop up’ color. But with Full HD or 4K computer screen, it looks too rough & fake obviously. Also fatigue viewer’s eyes quickly.
I really don’t like Sony color palette but stay on it because it is the best platform for old manual lenses. Solution was, dumped out entire Sony color settings and generated own color preset based on Adobe palette.
Canon 85/1.2 + Sony A7R II color test
Now, I have Canon 85/1.2 and upgrade body to A7R II, test Sony color again and found it has been improved. I am not sure whether the color of the A7R II body has changed or Canon glass influence to the color, it does not pollute skin tone as before. However problem is not complete gone yet….
1st round shooting, f1.2 & -0.3 exposure stop
This picture was taken in -0.3 stop exposure setting in camera. The amount of light is relatively low so it is adjusted + 0.8 step in Lighroom Develop module. As you see in the side-by-side comparison, Adobe Standard and Camera Standard render skin tone differently. Sony color shows distinctively yellow shift. Of course, Asian people has yellowish skin tone as Mongolian, but Sony’s yellow is not Asian’s skin tone, rather it is Jaundice skin tone.
Two points noticed in this shooting round. Firstly, when the light is not sufficient (=under exposed), tend to exaggerate skin tone to yellow more often. Secondly, it does not change white to yellow, it only exaggarate faint yellow to strong yellow due to unbalanced color processing.
Big surprise for me, ‘yellow smearing’ problem does not happen consistently as before I tested ‘Sony A7 II + Sony lenses’. It makes difficult to describe problem clearly, and also following analysis or containment actions.
No problem at all, sometimes
‘No problem’ does not mean no color casting. It is within acceptable range as natural skin tone.
In this case too, comparing Adobe & Camera color reveals very small difference in yellow casting, not easily detectable at face but visible around shoulder & chest area. However, the difference is tiny & negligible. Because Camera standard color remains in natural tone, it should be considered as normal rendition respectively.
Adobe color is somewhat lighter and pale, basically less saturated. There is no objective answer which color is better than others. It is just a matter of personal taste and choice. In this specific example, I like to say that I prefer Camera standard to Adobe standard. This is surprising and unexpected result for me, since I dislike Sony’s Jaundice skin tone so much so far…
2nd round, f1.4 + 0.3 exposure
I took all shots in f1.2 & -0.3 stop setting during first round, so tried f1.4 and +0.3 stop exposure to see if any improvement in the image quality and color.
For Caucasian skin, I think, Sony standard color is more acceptable in general. As mentioned, it does not add yellow color where not exist, rather it exaggerate faint yellow to strong-yellow. Sony’s extra-yellow therapy add warm and vivid tone on Caucasian skin while Adobe color renders too pale and cold tone.
Even though 2 colors are different (esp wig color), both skin tone are well acceptable.
I could not found an yellow smearing skin tone at 2nd round. I like to resever firm conclusion later though…..
But is there any chance that Canon glass influence the situation, not Sony body?
I don’t know yet, I use single lens & single setting throughout both session. Next time, I will bring another lens for comaprision.
Preparation 3rd round, +0.7 exposure
I have a long time experience using Kodak DCS models (once I collected all of Kodak DCS models bigger than 6MB size). Kodak image processing demands ample amount of light for the sensor and translate signals to pleasing & well balanced color (no over-saturation) and outstanding details in dark area.
This method hampers high ISO performance though, and shows pebble size noise when exposed in poor lighting. But once it exposed with enlough lighting, Kodak DCS brings unparalleled pleasing color and details.
Now I agree that Sony sensor dynamic range is much wider than old sensors. At next round, I will try shooting at +0.7 or +1.0 exposure, and adjust brightness in LR to see if shadow details enhanced without highlight burning out.
Nowadays digital cameras technology drives high ISO performance to get ‘usable image’ with as little light as possible. It is the good way to sell more camera in shrinking market but risk to lose shadow details in muddy grey…
Third round will take place on next weekend (12 Aug), let’s see we have better image rendition in Portrait with this method. I post one extra examplesfrom 1st and 2nd round below & continue at Part 3.
(To be continued)