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Friday, February 8, 2013

Sony a99 Dynamic Range is good but is it really like HDR?

When the a99 reviews first came out, a lot of people mentioned about the Sony's great dynamic range, with many saying that it has a HDR-like quality. Looking at several image samples I have to say that I agreed with the opinion. This got me very excited to test out the camera myself.

I enjoy doing HDR photography, and like the look and extra pop it brings to the photos. The thing I do not enjoy though is the extra work and storage it brings. Instead of taking just one RAW photo and processing it in Camera Raw, I have to take at least 3 photos, the post-processing then takes a lot longer and is more demanding on the computer, I then have to save the finished HDR photo as yet another file. If the Sony a99 dynamic range is really good enough then I can get all the benefits of doing HDR but with the ease of just taking a single photo.

Certainly there are some situations where the traditional HDR practices will still need to be used, like when the exposure range of +/-2 or 3 is required, for example the photos I took on New Year's Eve in Bangkok.

But often I just use the bracketing function to take handheld shots with exposure ranges of +/- 0.7 to get that extra "pop" in post-processing, for example the photos I took in Samui Island. This is where the a99 improved dynamic range can really come in handy.

So during my recent trip to Singapore I got the chance to put the a99 to the test.

Sony a99 HDR shot Singapore's Philatelic Museum

Sony a99 Regular shot Singapore's Philatelic Museum

Arriving at Singapore's Philatelic museum I found the perfect situation for the test. I wanted to get a shot of the front of the museum, but with the bright sky and Sun directly behind it this was the usual situation for me to do a bit of "multi-exposures".

The top picture is an HDR image made from three shots with exposures of +-0.7 EV and the bottom picture was processed from just a single shot.

I have got to say, I am really impressed. Certainly the regular shot does not have as much of an impact as the HDR image, but it still has that "pop" I am looking for, and it also looks a lot more realistic without any of the lines around edges of objects. From the result, I can definitely say that I will be doing a lot less HDR in the near future.

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