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:

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.


Through The Swamp - Post Processing Workflow

I've been getting quite a few emails with questions about my post processing so I decided to start a new series on my blog in which I explain in detail how I edit my photographs that I publish regularly on Google+ and 500px .

My goal is to provide as much information as possible to make you use my workflow for your own pictures.

If I'm using plugins for a particular image like Nik's Silver Efex Pro, Color Efex Pro and Analog Efex Pro, I will include the settings I used in those plugins as downloadable presets that you can import back into the application if you're using those  plugins.

The photograph I want to start with is one of my favourites so far for this year. I named it "Through The Swamp" and shot it on March 1, 2013 at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary near Naples, FL.


Through The Swamp - Final Version

The RAW file that I shot that day is rather unspectacular and I tried to post process it a few days later but couldn't produce a final image that pleased me. I therefore let it sit on my disk for a few months until Google released its Analog Efex Pro (AEP) plugin last week. 

While I did most of the post-processing in Lightroom, AEP provided me with the needed inspiration with its powerful vignetting tool to produce the final image, although I ended up adding the vignette in LR.

I always start in Lightroom to do some basic RAW processing, then bring it either into a plugin or Photoshop and finally complete the final photograph back in Lightroom.

This is what I captured in-camera without any editing done:

RAW File

Step 1: RAW processing in Lightroom 

I did very little for this image. In fact, I only adjusted the Color temperature, added a bit of vibrance and did a square crop.

RAW processing in Adobe Lightroom 5

Step 2: Nik's Analog Efex Pro

Instead of telling you about all sliders I moved into which direction, you can simply download the Through The Swamp Preset I created for that particular picture and use it for your own pictures with Analog Efex Pro to see exactly what I did.

I'm a big fan of the "Light Streaks" feature but I will get into more detail in a later photograph as it is not as obvious in this picture.

Analog Efex Pro 

Step 3: Back in Lightroom for drama

Once I got the image back from AEP, I did some heavy retouching in Lightroom, especially with darkening the edges and boosting clarify and saturation because I wanted those greens to pop.

In the screenshot below you can see how I created the vignette. I didn't really on Lightroom's vignette feature but used the brush tool to darken the edges exactly where I wanted them dark.  


Lightroom 5 - Final Touches


I would really appreciate your feedback in the comments section below and I will use for future posting in this category.

I do NOT sell blog posts for hidden advertisement - never!

I don't know if this is becoming a trend but I've been getting several requests lately from "Marketing Firms" asking  about advertising placement on my website. I generally have no problems with putting ads on my blog but not hidden ads like this. 

I herewith guarantee you, the readers of my blog, to NEVER accept money - no matter how much - to publish "fake" blog posts with hidden advertisements in them. The only place on my blog for ads is over there to your right where it belongs -------------->

I don't know the legal aspect of that kind of advertisement but in my opinion, this should be banned.

Please share your opinion in the comment section below. 

Over and out.


The reason I replied to the first email, was because it sounded like they wanted to place a simple ad on my blog even though I suspected something like this but I was curious and asked for clarification.

Here the message I got initially: 

The Vermont State House - a great place for Photographers

When I visited Montpelier, VT last week I have to admit, I didn't even know it was the capital of the beautiful state of Vermont as it's a rather small town-like city in the middle of nowhere.

Once I got there, I quickly realized that this beautiful building must be the capitol and since it was a rainy, rather cold day in October, we had time to kill and decided to check if we can see the state house from the inside.

Having done a tour inside the US Capitol in DC, I assumed that I needed to leave my camera bag in the car as they anyway wouldn't allow big backpacks inside government buildings, boy I was wrong....

Not only do they allow photography inside the entire state house, they don't even bother about tripods which I didn't bring because I never in the world thought that they would let me use it. We joined a free tour with a very knowledgeable tour-guide who showed us the senate chamber, representatives' hall and the governor's office. Once the group moved to the next room I stayed inside the previous room and took my time to photograph it without anybody inside but me and the camera. All the guide was asking is that the last to leave the room put the rope back in place - I gladly took over that job.

So if you are ever near Montpelier, VT - make sure not to miss that tour inside the Vermont State House.


Vermont State House

Vermont State House Vertical

Representative's Hall inside Vermont's State House

Senate Chamber inside Vermont's State House

Governor's Office

A Multiple Exposure Tutorial

One Exposure is Not Enough

Those who follow me on Google+ will be very well aware that I've recently started testing a technique known as "Multiple Exposures" - new to me, not to the world of photography, of course.

It's actually pretty simple and has been used for a very long time. Back in the analog film days, the photographer simply exposed the same sheet of film multiple times by not  winding the film to the next frame.

In today's modern digital cameras, you often have a special feature called "Multiple Exposure" in which you can define the number of exposures to blend and the method to do so.

On my Canon EOS 5D Mark III I generally use either "Additive" or "Average" mode.

Additive mode

I usually choose additive mode, in low light situations as you can shoot with much shorter shutter speeds than in Average mode or for regular single exposures.

Additive is doing the exact same thing as you would do with an analog camera, it adds the exposure values of each individual frame which means you will have to underexpose your shots depending how many you're shooting. 

Here is an example:

1 Exposure = 0 EV
2 Exposures = -1 EV  
4 Exposures = -2 EV
8 Exposures = -3 EV
... and so on.

Can you see the pattern? It's actually really simple. Forget about the number of exposures for a minute and simply think in exposure time. When my camera meter suggests a shutter speed of 1/10th with an aperture of f/7.1 and ISO 100 to get a proper exposure and I shoot 2 exposures, I need to shoot each individual one at 1/20th to get a total exposure time of 1/10th. Got it?

So with 8 exposures, I had to shoot each frame at 1/80th of a second. Adding to those 8 frame together brings me back to a total exposure time of 1/10th. 

In order to get the desired effect, I focused on the center of the crane and placed it right into the middle, exactly where my center focus point is, I then turned the camera slightly clockwise until I completed all 8 frames. 

The great thing about the 5D Mark III is that you see the resulting image after every shot so in case you didn't underexpose enough, you can stop shooting after 6 or 7 to prevent an overexposed image. If you would be shooting in live-view mode, you can actually see the a ghost image version of the previous ones while composing the shot, this works much better in average mode but more to that later. 


The Crane Spiral - 8 exposures in Additive Mode


Average Mode

I'm shooting Average mode during the day when there is plenty of light. For this particular photograph, I focused on the tree and aligned it as equally as possible for each frame while walking around it, trying to keep the same distance. You will not get it perfectly aligned but that's exactly what makes those photographs interesting. 

I shot all 8 exposures with the exact same setting: 

1/400th at f/8 and ISO 100

8 Exposure image in Average Mode