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Firmware v4 for Alpha 700 – high ISO NR ‘OFF’

Sony has released – without announcement – a new firmware version for the Alpha 700 which includes an OFF function for high ISO. This is presumed to be in advance of tomorrow’s press conference, where the Alpha 900 will be revealed. Journalists could be expected to ask questions about the NR, and the lack of firmware upgrades to the Alpha 700, and they have acted just in time for this launch and photokina to remedy the situation. Article with image samples and download links:

Here is a sample at ISO 3200, taken at dusk – a 100 per cent clip. Adobe Camera Raw 4.5 final release, zero sharpening, 25 Luminance NR, 50 Chroma NR (the defaults). The structure and detail are both easily a match for Nikon D300 shots:

1/60th at f6.3, 75mm, on Carl Zeiss 16-80mm hand held (crop from 12 megapixels, at 100%)

From comparison, here is a shot taken on Saturday 6th, using firmware v3, at 3200 with NR set to Low, processed from raw with the same parameters:

And here is the first shot I took with v4 loaded (both are of course 100 per cent small clips) and High ISO NR now set to OFF:

The disappearance of the ‘watercolour’ effect and the appearance of a tight, film-like grain even when processed using Adobe Camera Raw are exactly what the Alpha 700 community has been asking for – for almost a year.

Examination of the few shots I’ve taken at 800-6400 reveals that NR OFF works well for JPEGs too, and ISO 800 is hard to distinguish from ISO 200 now. It remains to be seen whether this is just a matter of swiching NR off. I think that in the next few days, users and going to be reporting sharper and cleaner low ISO images too. I think the firmware may have improved all round image quality. We’ll to wait to see what Sony says it does.

The firmware was first found by Maurizio, posting on dPreview:

//forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1037&message=29242400

The downloads have now (update Sept 9) been removed from the Sony site. Here is a direct link to copy in Mac .zip archive format, which can be used by any platform – Mac, PC or Unix etc. Just auto unzip the archive, to extract the file DSCA700.APP:

//www.photoclubalpha.com/DSCA700v04.zip

Use your control-click or right click option to download and save this file, do not click to open directly unless you are configured to extract zip files automatically.

Thanks to Olaf Ulrich for flagging this up on the Sony Alpha 100-700-? forum here on Sept 8!

To perform the update, format a CF card in your camera, then copy the extracted .APP file on to the card using a card reader (ideally). Then insert the card in your camera, and turn the camera on (with a full or nearly full battery inserted) while holding the MENU button down. This will bring up a Yes/No choice to upgrade, which you can select. The update then takes about a minute, after which the camera will automatically reboot.

The upgrade adds new auto bracketing options of a 2-stop either way 3 bracket option designed for HDR shooting, and a wider choice of 1/2 and 1/3rd stop bracket sets, but no 1 stop bracket interval. It adds OFF to the High ISO NR choices. I’ve checked every single menu option and can not find any other changes at a glance, but there may be hidden changed behaviours which those who use the AEL button, flash with manual exposure, or wireless flash with the new HVL-F42AM and HVL-F58AM may uncover.

Update just after midnight on the 9th (off to the Sony press do twelve hours from now!): I have done some checking of A700v4 versus Nikon D300 raws. The D300 files – which probably have NR enabled – sometimes seem to have finer grain, then in other cases seem to have much less detail, or more blue noise versus more red etc. I do not have enough examples but it would be hard, now, to tell the two cameras apart on identical subject matter.

Adjusting a Sony raw conversion to the same (crushed) shadow density as a Nikon conversion with ACR 4.5, it’s neck and neck:

Nikon D300, above, ISO 1600 with no sharpening, no NR in ACR 4.5.

Sony A700 v4 file processed using exactly the same setting, ISO 1600, to match the density of the Nikon in the foliageshadows and the rendering of the building against the statue stone. The best I can do to find two images right now with similar tone values at the same ISO!

See also our Photoclubalpha Forums main thread on this topic.

– DK


14 comments to Firmware v4 for Alpha 700 – high ISO NR ‘OFF’

  • Sony, as promised, has presented the official firmware ver. 4 for the A700 and it’s the same as the leaked version:
    sha1sum
    883adec1c73ff9ad5697af09777da7980f410335 Leaked DSCA700.APP
    883adec1c73ff9ad5697af09777da7980f410335 Official DSCA700.APP

    There is also a new “Sony Image Data Suite”, with these improvements:

    Image Data Converter SR Ver.3.0
    Improvement of operability
    Higher speed of display
    Addition of the peripheral illumination compensation function
    Addition/Improvement of the D-range optimizer, etc.

    Image Data Lightbox SR Ver.2.0
    Higher speed of display
    Enhanced filtering function

    Remote Camera Control Ver.2.0
    Addition of the “interval timer shooting function”* (for Windows only)

    What I wonder is if the “Improvement of the D-range optimizer” in IDC could match the Apical chip on the A700.

  • Dr.Harout

    like no other

  • Sony official reply about the firmware update( //news.sel.sony.com/electronicsblog/?p=30 ):

    “Hello again from Mark Weir, in Sony’s Digital Imaging group.

    Since yesterday, we’ve seen a number of comments in this and other forums regarding new firmware for α700. Although the news of this development didn’t happen quite the way we had intended, we can acknowledge that we’ll soon make available a firmware upgrade for α700 on Sony’s eSupport website.

    We are always listening to your feedback, and we are aware of the concern expressed for α700 Noise Reduction and EV bracketing. Borrowing from some of the development for α900, we’ve developed new α700 firmware with expanded EV bracketing (±2EV/3shots) for High Dynamic Range composting, as well as Noise Reduction “off” for those who prefer the control of post processing NR. We will make these updates (and some others) officially available on Sep 16th at //esupport.sony.com.

    We’ll have more news available as we approach Sep 16th, and we appreciate your patience!”

    The “and some others” part is interesting.

  • jcbenten

    I hope that this will trickle down to the A350, at least the 2 stop bracketing.

  • I was longing for this possibility to turn off NR as well as the extended bracketing – now you should be able to do HDRs even without tripod! So thanks for the hint!

    To avoid having the numbering sequence of the images start at 1 after the upgrade, I did the following:
    * upgrade the firmware
    * shoot one picture
    * put the card in the computer and rename the image file in place to the desired one and carefully write the changes to disk (“remove safely” in the OS of your choice
    * put the card back and shoot some more

    By this procedure I achieved a seamless continuation of the image numbering.

    Markus

  • wenetu

    Thanks for the quote, David.

    Maurizio

  • Great upgrade indeed.
    Feels like a new camera.
    Another bracketing option is also worth mentioning: you can now bracket 3 x 2exp. Perfect for aggressive HDR (one that I like 😉
    novak
    //www.supernovak.com

  • Wowza…have a look at these convincing comparison images!

    //forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1037&message=29244275

    Great job, Sony.

    -Sonolta

  • No, that is not new, auto ISO works that way on V3.

    First high ISO tests are in and it looks like Sony has finally listened! According to these early shots, watercolor blotching has indeed left the building!

    -Sonolta

  • braeside

    I checked the manual, my memory was not good, it was always ISO 1600.

  • braeside

    I see ISO Auto goes to 1600, is that new, I can’t recall?

  • braeside

    Wow! – this is really good news – I am downloading it now!

  • It sounds like the end of the a700 watercolor era is finally here!!! I have not installed the new firmware yet, but early reports are the bogus NR blotching is now gone! Woohooo…and 2EV bracketing to boot! Take that….Nikon D300. 😉

    -Sonolta

    //www.rockriverfootball.com
    //www.sonolta.com
    //www.illinoisphoto.com