Following the release of Adobe Camera Raw 6.1 and 6.2, the new ’2010 Process’ has replaced the ’2003 Process’ in conversions (you can select either option). The 2010 Process used with manual adjustment of the Noise Reduction controls can produce really exceptional ISO 6400 results.
This changes any previous conclusions about the usefulness of Alpha 550 high ISO settings, and indeed brings them into line with the results we have seen from NEX – which of course defaults to the 2010 process, and can not be processed using earlier Adobe Camera Raw versions.
Here is the old process, top, seen at a reduced scale of a 100% view at ISO 6400:
Click the Process 2003 image above to open the original 100% size screen shot.
Below is the new 2010 process, which is more than just a minor tweak – it’s an entirely different way of getting the data out of the raw file.
Click this image to see the Adobe Process 2010 result full size. All the settings were identical for these two conversions. The improvement is on such a level that ANY test reports on the Alpha 550 produced in 2009 using CS4 and Adobe Camera Raw 5.x are invalid.
The NR can be moderated to produce more detail on the 2010 process midtones at the expense of more visible grain (but it’s nothing like the 2003 pattern – it remains mainly a fine luminance pattern). I have used a setting which produced a clear comparison. Entirely different NR settings are actually better, with the two processes, but no matter how you adjust the ‘2003’ version it never looks anything like as fine as the 2010 one.
Should dPreview and others update their RAW sample images because the old process was so badly matched to the .ARW format? Nothing like the same difference is made for example to Nikon raw files, 2010 is better, but 2003 didn’t mess up the higher ISOs in the way it always did for Minolta/Sony raws.
Please note that if you don’t want to get CS5, you can still get the benefit of this new conversion with Adobe Photoshop Elements 8.
– David Kilpatrick