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Sony Nex 6 high ISO noise performance

I while ago I wrote a post about the low noise performance of the Pentax K-5 when used an high ISO and I thought it would be interesting to also look at the performance of my Sony Nex 6 when used in high ISO. It’s particularly interesting at the moment since this is the time of year when most days are murky and it’s quite common to be taking pictures using the high ISO setting on the camera.

All the pictures above were taken at an iso setting of at least 6400 as I walked home from work in a semi-dark Stevenage. The results are I think reasonably impressive in that I was able to take all these pictures hand held in what is almost dark with just street lighting. Obviously the dark parts of the images are quite grainy and the detail is quite mushy but by no means un-usable; you can see better detail by looking at the full size versions here.

However if I compare the results with pictures taken at similar iso on the Pentax K-5 I think there is a noticeable degradation in the sony pictures. Although this wouldn’t persuade me to carry all the weight of the Pentax around for normal shooting, I might use the DSLR if I was taking pictures in reduced lighting.

The lens used was a takumar 55mm f/1.8 fitted on a camdiox focal reducer which gives an effective max aperture of about f/1.2. The post processing was done in Lightroom 5 but only to remove some highlight over exposure and set the colour balance. I didn’t apply any noise reduction to the images at all – these are raw images converted in lightroom to jpeg with the noise reduction the camera applies only.


I’m a software developer by profession but I’ve been taking pictures since I was about 8 years old. In that time I’ve owned cameras of all types and sizes from 120 roll film thro’ 35mm to my current Pentax K-5, Ricoh GXR + P10/S10/A12 28mm/A12 50mm, Canon S95 and recently acquired Sony NEX 6.

  1. Very interesting topic and tests!
    By the way, the K5 is famous for its Sony branded sensor, the 16mplx of I remember well which has been (is?) the best sensor on the market. I’ve the same sensor on my Ricoh GR and the quality of the picture is stunning! I’m not even convinced that my K3 is capable to provide such good files!

    1. I seem to remember when I bought my Nex reading somewhere that it has the same sensor as the K5 but I’m not so sure now. For normal use it’s really good, and certainly not rubbish at high iso but I definitely think the K5 would be my choice in low light

      1. It’s good to know 🙂
        Thank you!

  2. andrew brown says:

    When I think back to using film, I would never use faster than 125ASA !! yet here we are being shown pictures taken at 6400ASA. They may not be ‘perfect’ in terms of grain ( I don’t mean that patronisingly) but they are impressive examples of what can be achieved on a murky evening to get hand held shots. Thanks very much for posting, and the blog as well.

    1. Thanks Andrew – don’t worry, I didn’t take your comment the wrong way. I’m always amazed at the sort of performance possible with modern digital cameras and yet still find a roll of film quite appealing. Thanks for the comment

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