Sony releases Firmware 3.0 for the A7R II and this is what you can expect with regards to long exposure noise

Earlier today, Sony released Firmware 3.0 for its Sony A7RII and announced following improvements compared to version 2.0 (Source: http://esupport.sony.com/)

Improvements over version 2.00:
  • Improves 4K movie recording time when using the vertical grip (VG-C2EM) or when the APS-C/Super35mm mode is activated
  • Improves picture quality

I haven't done any real-life tests but instead compared its behavior with long exposure noise (30 seconds) compared to the previous firmware and got some rather interesting results. The noise you see in below screenshots is only visible because I boosted the exposure by 5 stops and increased contrast, shadows, black and clarity to its maximum settings. 

Here is how I tested it:

  • I used the Sony FE 16-35mm F4 ZA OSS lens at 26mm
  • All shots were taken indoors at a temperature of about 70F
  • I set the camera to manual mode at 30 seconds, f/16 and ISO 100)
  • Lenscap was on
  • I shot two exposures with firmware 2.0 - compressed and uncompressed RAW
  • I shot two exposures with firmware 3.0 - compressed and uncompressed RAW
  • I imported it into Lightroom and made following adjustments to make the noise more visible

I first compared the compressed (Left) vs uncompressed (Right) RAW on the old Firmware 2.0

To my big surprise, the compressed version on the left shows much less color noise than the uncompressed RAW on the right. 

Next, I upgraded to firmware release 3.0 and did the same comparison - compressed vs uncompressed. Here is the result:

What's interesting here is that the uncompressed RAW suddenly shows much less noise - the way it should be. I assume Sony concentrated much more on improving the uncompressed RAW files 

Now here comes the but.... let's take a look at the better result (compressed RAW - left) from 2.0 with the better result (uncompressed RAW - right) from 3.0:

While the noise looks much sharper with firmware 3.0 (uncompressed) than the old version (compressed), the amount of noise is still much higher. It might be the case that the new uncompressed RAW files are much sharper but the higher amount of visible noise is rather bothersome.

I'm sure someone will publish real-life tests with the new firmware very soon and I'm hopeful that is shows more promising results than my noise test.

Please share your experience with the new firmware and let me know if you experienced similar results.