Pixel Shift on Sony A7R III – Is it worth the extra work and time?


Pixel Shift on Sony A7R III – Is it worth the extra work and time?

First thing first when I got the Sony A7R III in for tests was to check how Pixel Shift technology  really works and what results do we get out of it.

What is Pixel Shift first of all?

The concept behind this is that better resolution and dynamic range can be obtained by taking the same shot in 4 different exposures, each separated by a 1 pixel wide moving of the camera’s sensor, using it’s IBIS system (In Body Image Stabilisation).

A normal shot looks like this (images taken from Sony’s presentation movie)

Sony A7R III Pixel Shift

The camera should not move at all (good tripod required) and also subject shouldn’t move at all. I’ll talk about this later. 4 shots are taken with minimum 1 second interval (so any vibration of the camera would stop).

This way, the entire image is covered with all independent RGB photodiodes of the sensor. So we have the complete scene shot with all red sensitive diodes, blue ones and twice the green ones (as in normal Bayern pattern green is double in numbers).

In a dedicated software all 4 shots are combined into a single ARQ image (RAW equivalent of this Pixel Shift method). As of the writing of this article only Sony’s own imaging software suite called Imaging Edge is capable of doing this, and also a more difficult to use RAWTherapee ver. 5.3 (for the geeks).

Sony A7R III Pixel Shift 4 shots

So, in theory we get 4 times more information, an approx 169.6 Million Pixel data. Still a 42 Mpx image, but with more information for better sharpness, less moire and more dynamic range.

So let’s see Pixel Shift in action

As I already said, you need a good tripod so no movement happens between these 4 frames needed for Pixel Shift. It’s actually so crucial not to get any movement because the shift is only one pixel so every little movement will off-set your shooting by a larger margin. Sony says this technique is also dedicated to landscape photographers but after using this outside, I might disagree. For sure there’s going to be a branch moving in the frame, or a bird passing, or clouds moving. Else, you need a perfectly frozen nature, which is hard to find in many cases.

Out of curiosity, I’ve taken the same shot (or at least similar framing) with both A9 and A7R III, the last in normal shooting and with Pixel Shift.

Sony A9 vs Sony A7R III

Both cameras on 35mm: the Sony Zeiss Distagon 35mm f/1.4 and the Sony Zeiss Vario-Tessar 16-35mm f/4 because I’m holding to my project of 2018 and that means to shoot only OneLens. (or at lease one focal when it comes to multiple cameras in tests).

So no further talk, these are the results

First, this is the general shot for the dynamic range observation. The different framing is due to Capture’s One algorithm to reduce distortions in lenses it knows, so it applies the profile for the lens in use, resulting smaller sizes for the final image (both tall and wide).

Left is normal, right is Pixel Shift

Then, let’s look at two different 100% crops from the previous images. I didn’t choose extremes, because we’re not looking here for the lens performance frame-wise, but I wanted to check how normal shot and Pixel Shift one compares one-to-another.

Here is crop 1

Left is normal, right is Pixel Shift

Here is crop 1

Left is normal, right is Pixel Shift

What amazes me is this: while going through the images I’ve created for this article, I wasn’t so impressed about Pixel Shift. I’ve zoomed on the big file, watched for details, and my mind was convinced it’s just a minor advantage to Pixel Shift images. But watching the above crops, one near to the other I’m just blown away by the sheer amount of details this method gives us. Not to mention the increased DR, colours and contrast.

Here are all 3 shots (Sony A7R III Normal, Sony A7R III Pixel Shift and Sony A9)

You can download for your own evaluation the full-res jpegs. Please do not post them somewhere else, use a link to this article instead. Thanks!

Download archive – Password is 360339

I’ll let you with more A7R III Normal and Pixel Shift examples below.

Left is normal, right is Pixel Shift

Crop 100%. Look at the lack of Moire in the ventilation grid on the Pixel Shift crop.

Left is normal, right is Pixel Shift

Also, this is why nothing should move in the photos, because you’ll get ugly artefacts. See the water and the leafs

Here is another one

Left is normal, right is Pixel Shift

Crop 100%.

Left is normal, right is Pixel Shift

Crop 100%.

Left is normal, right is Pixel Shift

The time I had the A7R III in for tests, weather was so bad that hardly anything could be considered a photograph, but for testing purposes and to check for results in all conditions, I think you can get an idea if this feature is for you and if it’s worth the extra work.

I’ll print large one of these sets and be back to you with the results, by updating this article, so please do come back from time to time 🙂

It takes a lot of time to create this side-by-side compares and to prepare the files for the article, so this will be the last example, with 3 crops.

Left is normal, right is Pixel Shift
Left is normal, right is Pixel Shift
Left is normal, right is Pixel Shift
Left is normal, right is Pixel Shift

Author: Alin Popescu

Inginer ca formare, grafician ca meserie, fotograf ca mod de viata, Alin este pasionat de tot ce inseamna tehnologie si scrie articole detaliate pe intelesul tuturor.

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1 Comment

  1. Great article, thanks! Pixel shifting seems a great weapon for shooting trees or stuffs with very fine details. The difference is amazing in your photos.

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