Sunday, October 14, 2007

Sony A700's D-Range Optimizer

There are many new features and specs I was anxious to upgrade to with the new Sony A700, not the least of which was the D-Range Optimizer. The D-Range Optimizer automatically prevents loss of detail in dark shadow or bright highlight areas in strongly backlit or high contrast scenes. Although, somewhat skeptical of getting usable results with this feature, I believed it would be amazingly useful if it did work as intended. Imagine not having to dig out and work with filters or painstakingly have to rely on post-processing to save a picture whose exposure values were just too wide. After playing with the other various controls and features on the A700 (for a little bit), I decided to concentrate specifically on the D-Range Optimizer. As I'm sure most have figured out already, the D-Range stands for Dynamic Range and getting all the values properly exposed in certain photos with a large range has long been a pain for photographers. Let us see how the A700 handles such situations.


I chose a typical indoor scene which usually spells trouble for the camera trying to obtain proper exposure across the whole range. The scene has one standing in an interior shooting towards a window with bright sunlight. The view is wide enough to include much of the interior surrounding and in front of the window. Predictably, if we expose for the sunlight the rest of the scene goes very dark, as shown in the first shot above.

This was the first shot I took using the Optimizer and was meant to show how the scene would record using the camera's default value. Although, I thought this setting would be what the Sony labels (D-R) or the standard setting, somehow it wound up being (D-R+) or what Sony calls the Advanced Auto Setting.


Later on, I figured out how to change the setting to standard or (D-R), which was very easy to do actually. And this setting is represented above.


So then, for comparative purposes, I thought I would capture the scene using the camera's built-in flash and this is what we see here.



Now, on to the fun stuff. Sony's Advanced Level D-Range Optimization can be utilized through a five-step range, depending on the needs at the time.

Here is the scene recorded at Level 1.


Same scene at level 2.


Here is a Level 3 shot.


A shot at Level 4.


Here is Level 5, the highest setting.

I'll let everyone be their own judge here, as to the usefulness of this feature. It plainly did lighten up the shadows and expand the range of light values. Tell me what you think.


NOTE: To keep comparisons as accurate as possible, all shots in this post are presented with no post processing except to downsize them for web use. Notice even my typical copyright is not present.

^

8 comments:

Denny said...

The results are quite amazing --especially Level 5. I wonder how these would compare to RAW images processed in Photoshop, Lightroom or Aperture.

The Gamin said...

I have no experience with raw or these programs. Perhaps someone else can shed some light on this question.

DFW said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DFW said...

Gamin, thanks for making this experiment! My first experience with the Sony A700 is made in RAW (I always use RAW), and I wonder if the DRO adds anything. I guess it makes decisions on the darker areas of the picture that I prefer to make myself, even if that means I have to take time post-processing it all. You may want to see that on my blog: http://dfw-photo.blogspot.com. (And sorry for some typos in my previous attempt to react.)

The Gamin said...

Thanks for the comment DFW.

I have found with time that I, too, usually prefer to make these decisions even though I do not shoot in RAW.

Doug said...

How long does it take to draw a simple mask around the window area? How long does it take to brighten midtones within the inverse of that selection?

2 minutes. I've been fixing problems like this with Photoshop for 18 years and have yet to need "D-Range Optimizers". What a load of bunk.

Doug said...

How long does it take to draw a simple mask around the window area? How long does it take to brighten midtones within the inverse of that selection?

2 minutes. I've been fixing problems like this with Photoshop for 18 years and have yet to need "D-Range Optimizers". What a load of bunk.

chicob67 said...

Very useful exercise. The manual does not explain very well how this feature works; your photos made it clear. Since I mostly shoot JPEG's, this can be a real time saver. Thanks!