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Sony A7R: Raw Files are Cooked (Orange Peek Texture)

Almost exactly a year ago when the Sony A7R arrived, my eyes immediately picked up an image quality issue that I described as an “orange peel texture”. Now a year later, there has been no change in this behavior (raw converters are all updated, and camera firmware is newer too).

The image used for this example looks terrific overall. And with areas of detail the texture merely overlays detail and is hard to spot. Areas of uniform tone are similarly unconcerned. It is for such reasons that most users will like Sony A7R image quality for most images.

But I find that Sony A7R image quality issues pop up in places never seen with Nikon D810/D800E, most recently in the field with an ugly tonal transition in a dusk image. This might be the Sony 11+7 bit lossy compression in part, but I now believe that Sony “cooks” the raw file, meaning there is some aggressive electronic preprocessing going on.

In this example, there are no smooth tonal transitions to be, and the orange peel texture overlays all. At ISO 80 with an ideal (perfect) exposure, I find it very surprising. Moreover, the noise pattern is such that sharpening is strictly circumscribed before ugly effects pop out: the image quality is “brittle”.

Sony A7R Pixel Quality: Orange Peel Noise (Yellow Blue Bike)

I strongly favor a Nikon D810 as a true workhorse over the A7R. With this kind of gritty noise at ISO 80, the shutter vibration, the 11+7 lossy compression, limited lens selection, the Sony platform has a long way to go before it makes me comfortable. Others of course have completely different metrics for weighing the matter (e.g. size/weight, EVF, cost, etc), and that is as it should be.

Sony A7R + Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS @ 35mm @ f/5.6

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