There’s been a lot internet chatter lately about the so-called “star-eater” issue with Sony cameras. If you haven’t heard of this, last August Sony issued a firmware update for the Mark II versions of all its full-frame E-mount cameras (a7 II, a7s II, and a7r II), and many people have reported that since then these Sony models have been making smaller stars disappear in nighttime photographs. It seems that the new firmware included some kind of noise-reduction algorithm (even with Raw files) that blurred or eliminated those smaller stars. And, unfortunately, there’s no way to revert these cameras to the previous firmware version. In June of this year Sony released new firmware updates for these models, but some initial reports indicated that this new firmware didn’t fix the “star-eater” issue.
I heard about all this before the June firmware update, and naturally I was concerned, since my main camera is the Sony a7r II, and I make many nighttime images with it. I was also puzzled, since I hadn’t seen any noticeable difference in my star photos since the firmware update last August. I went through my star photographs made with the “star-eater” firmware (Version 3.3 on my a7r II), and found plenty of small stars in all of them. But it was impossible to make any kind of side-by-side comparison, since there was no way to revert to the previous firmware version.
The inability to revert to a previous firmware version also made me wonder about how people had made their tests that seemed to confirm this star-eater issue. Did they have two copies of the same model camera, one with the older firmware, and one with the “star-eater” firmware issued last August?
I don’t know the answer to this, since most reviewers haven’t spelled out their exact testing methods. But the noise-reduction algorithm apparently kicks in with exposures longer than 3.2 seconds, and most of the tests I saw seemed to compare exposures above and below that threshold – that is, 3 seconds vs. 4 seconds. While those comparisons seemed to clearly show a problem, they weren’t, in my view, real-world situations. I don’t make star exposures at 4 seconds. I typically make star exposures at 15 to 30 seconds, and I think most people who photograph nighttime landscapes with stars also use exposures in that range.
So when the new firmware was released in June, I decided to do some of my own tests with my a7R II, comparing different exposure times, and comparing this new firmware (v4.0 on the a7R II) with the previous version (v3.3 on the a7R II) that caused so much controversy. This was pretty easy to do, since I’m lucky to live in a place where I can step out into my driveway on a moonless night and see dark skies with plenty of stars.
The test images shown below were all made with the same camera (a7R II) on a single night. I made exposures of 3 seconds, 4 seconds, and 20 seconds with the Version 3.3 firmware (the “star-eater” firmware issued last August), then updated the firmware to the latest version (Version 4.0, issued this June), and repeated the same exposure times (3, 4, and 20 seconds). I chose those shutter speeds because the “star-eater” noise-reduction algorithm seems to kick in with exposures longer than 3.2 seconds, so the easiest way to see the effect was to compare 3- and 4-second exposures. But since I (and most photographers) typically use longer shutter speeds at night (like 15 to 30 seconds), I included 20-second exposures in my tests to be able to compare the 3- and 4-second images with more typical, real-world photographs.
A few more things: First, some reports had mentioned that on older Sony models (a7, a7r, a7s) the “star-eater” effect only kicked in with Bulb Mode. Just in case, I tested my a7r II both ways, with a 20-second exposure set through the shutter-speed dial, and timing a 20-second exposure with the camera set to Bulb. I couldn’t see any difference with either firmware version.
Second, Sony released some rather confusing wording with the latest firmware updates. With the a7r II, they said, “Improves image quality when Long Exposure NR setting is OFF.” With the a7s II, they said, “Improves image quality when Long Exposure NR setting is ON.” So, just in case long-exposure noise reduction mattered, I tried 20-second exposures both ways, and again the photos were identical, both with the old (3.3) and new (4.0) firmware versions.
Third, I used Uncompressed Raw for all these tests, and turned off e-Front Curtain Shutter, to make sure the camera was producing the highest image quality possible. (I also compared photos made with Compressed and Uncompressed Raw, and with and without e-Front Curtain Shutter, and could see no differences.)
And lastly, I used Adobe’s default sharpening and noise-reduction settings in Lightroom for the screen shots shown below. And processing was minimal: I started with my typical default settings (Exposure at -1.00, Contrast at -33), and then moved the white point a little to brighten the stars. That’s it.
Test Results with the Version 3.3 Firmware
So with that out of the way, let’s delve into the results. Using the Version 3.3 firmware issued last August for my a7R II (the “star-eater” firmware), I made exposures of 3 seconds at 20,000 ISO, and 4 seconds at 16,000 ISO (both with an aperture of f/1.8 on my Rokinon 20mm lens). In this test it was pretty easy to see the star-eater effect. Here is a 100% (1:1) screen shot, with the 3-second exposure on the left, and the 4-second exposure on the right (click on the image to view at 100%):
The initial impression is that there are fewer stars on the right, in the 4-second exposure. But if you look closely (again, click on the image to really view it at 100%), you’ll see that everything has been blurred slightly in that right-hand photo, so those tiny stars are less visible, but most of them are actually still there. This is significant, because with a longer exposure those tiny stars will become short streaks, and become more visible (more on that shortly). However, this comparison does show clear evidence of the star-eater issue. Though it doesn’t really make those tiny stars disappear completely, it does make them less visible, which amounts to the same thing.
Something else you’ll notice is that the right-hand photo is less noisy then the left-hand photo – a much bigger difference than you’d expect to see from just changing the ISO by a third of a stop. So there clearly seems to be some noise-reduction algorithm kicking in with exposures of 4 seconds or longer that softens the image, reducing the visibility of stars. (Though there is an upside to this: less noise.)
Again, though, I don’t typically shoot stars at 4 seconds. So here’s a comparison of the same 3-second exposure (at 20,000 ISO and f/1.8) to a 20-second exposure (at 5,000 ISO and f/2.5):
There’s considerably less noise in the right-hand photo, as you would expect when reducing the ISO from 20,000 to 5,000. But there’s also a certain softening effect, which I attribute to the camera’s noise-reduction algorithm. And, of course, the longer exposure has turned the stars into short streaks. That’s normal for star photographs like this; the stars may look like streaks at 100%, but in any normal print size they look like points. (Most people use the 600 or 500 rule for this, but I use the 400 rule, which is a bit more strict. You divide the focal length – in this case 20mm – into 400, and the result is the maximum number of seconds you can use before the stars become streaks in a normal-size print – like, say 20×30. For a 20mm lens, 400 divided by 20 is 20, so the maximum length of the exposure is 20 seconds.)
More importantly, if you look closely (again, click on the image to see it at 100%), it’s pretty hard to find any missing stars. Since those tiny stars have turned into short streaks, they’re larger, and therefore more visible in the 20-second exposure than in the 4-second exposure. In most cases, the small stars are actually more visible in the 20-second exposure than in the 3-second exposure – despite the “star-eater” noise reduction taking place.
And here’s another very important point about all this: With a 100% view of files from a 42-megapixel camera, we’re looking at an extreme enlargement. In any normal-size print those tiniest stars wouldn’t be visible anyway, with or without the “star-eater” noise reduction algorithm.
There are a couple of factors that might have affected these tests. First, it’s possible that stopping down the aperture from f/1.8 to f/2.5 might have increased sharpness, and the visibility of tiny stars. Perhaps, but these screen shots were all taken from near the center of the image, where this lens is quite sharp even at f/1.8, so I don’t think that’s a factor.
Also, reducing the ISO from 20,000 to 5,000 decreased noise, and noise can obscure fine details (like tiny stars). So everything else being equal, a photo made at a lower ISO would be more likely to show small stars, and that might explain why the 20-second exposure reveals as many (or more) tiny stars than the 3-second exposure, despite the “star-eater” algorithm. Unfortunately I don’t know any way to compare photos of stars made at 3 seconds vs. 20 seconds without changing the aperture and ISO. The only way to make a true apples-to-apples comparison would be to revert the camera back to an older firmware version (prior to v3.3) and use the identical shutter speed, aperture, and ISO for comparison photos made with different versions of the firmware. Since I can’t do that, there’s no way to know for sure how much of a difference the change in ISO contributes to these comparisons.
We can see, however, that a 20-second exposure at ISO 5,000 shows lots of tiny, faint stars, even with the “star-eater” (v3.3) firmware. And again, when comparing the 3-second exposure to the 4-second exposure, with identical apertures and a minimal change in ISO, we can see that the 4-second exposure shows nearly all the tiny stars visible in the 3-second exposure, so we could expect to see those tiny stars become even more visible as they start to streak during a longer, 20-second exposure.
Test Results with the Version 4.0 Firmware
After upgrading the a7R II’s firmware to the version released in June (4.0), I did the same tests. Here’s a comparison of a 3-second exposure (at f/1.8, 20,000 ISO), and a 4-second exposure (at f/1.8, 16,000 ISO):
The right-hand photo looks a little better here – not quite as soft as the 4-second exposure with the Version 3.3 firmware, and the tiniest stars look a little sharper. You can still find a few stars in the left-hand photo that aren’t visible in the right-hand photo, but not many. So the latest firmware does seem to be a bit better.
Next, here’s a comparison between a 3-second exposure (f/1.8, 20,000 ISO) with a 20-second exposure (f/2.5, 5000 ISO):
Here, again, I think the results on the right are a little better than they were with a 20-second exposure using the previous firmware (v3.3). The stars aren’t quite as soft, and I can’t find any stars that are visible on the left that aren’t visible on the right. Again, the slight streaking makes the tiniest stars more visible, and, in fact, there are many stars that are almost invisible on the left that are clearly visible on the right.
(Note that the stars had moved during the time it took to upgrade the firmware. I tried to adjust my screen capture to show the same group of stars with the firmware Version 4.0 tests as with the firmware Version 3.3 tests, but the stars rotated slightly.)
As I said above, I didn’t see any noticeable difference in my star photos after upgrading to the “star-eater” firmware last August. I found plenty of small stars in my nighttime images. These test images seem to show why: even with that “star-eater” firmware (v3.3 on my a7R II), very few stars were actually lost in a normal, 20-second exposure. With the new firmware (v4.0 on my a7R II), this is even less of a problem. So with this camera, the a7r II, I have no concerns about the “star-eater” issue.
However, most of the complaints I’ve heard about the “star-eater” issue have come from owners of the a7s II, so it may be a more significant problem with that camera. The a7S II is a very popular camera for night photography because of its low-light capabilities. It only has 12 megapixels, which is part of what makes its low-light performance so strong, because each photo site on the sensor can be much bigger, gathering more light, and reducing noise. But because each pixel on this camera is larger, a tiny star may only cover one pixel, rather than several, and could be more easily erased with the softening created by Sony’s noise-reduction algorithm. Plus, this camera’s lower resolution means that each pixel has to be enlarged much more for a given size of print (compared with the 42-megapixel a7r II), so any loss of stars (when viewed at 100%) would be more apparent in a print. I don’t own an a7S II, but I’d like to see some real-world tests with this camera that include exposures of stars between 15 and 30 seconds, and compare the old and new firmware. (For the a7S II, the “star-eater” firmware issued last August is Version 2.2, while the latest version as of this writing, issued this past June, is Version 3.0.)
I do think Sony went too far in trying to reduce noise in the firmware issued last August. The latest firmware issued in June is better, at least with the a7R II, but there’s still room for improvement. And maybe they could give us choices about whether to use this noise reduction or not, or better yet, adjust the strength of it. But again, having said all that, I have no real concerns about photographing stars with the a7r II. It’s a great camera for star photography.
— Michael Frye
P.S. The star-eater issue may be a more serious problem with true astrophotography – done with telescopes, and a star-tracking device (equatorial mount). Tracking stars means they will remain small points, rather than becoming streaks, even with long exposures (that’s the whole point of the tracking equipment). So it’s possible the star-easter issue would be more of a problem when using a star-tracking device. I don’t have star-tracking equipment, but I’d like to see some tests from someone who does.
Related Posts: Death Valley under the Moon and Stars; Nighttime Reflections
Michael Frye is a professional photographer specializing in landscapes and nature. He is the author or principal photographer of The Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite, Yosemite Meditations, Yosemite Meditations for Women, Yosemite Meditations for Adventurers, and Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Great Masters. He has also written three eBooks: Light & Land: Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom, Exposure for Outdoor Photography, and Landscapes in Lightroom: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide. Michael has written numerous magazine articles on the art and technique of photography, and his images have been published in over thirty countries around the world. Michael has lived either in or near Yosemite National Park since 1983, currently residing just outside the park in Mariposa, California.
Thank you for this very informative article. I also saw lots of reference but it never was explained as well as here.
BTW, just signed a petition on change.org earlier today asking Sony to add a menu item to allow the user to control the application or not of this “noise-reduction / star eater” algorithm on pictures.
You’re welcome Marc, and thanks for pointing out that petition.
Great article. Thanks for testing. that said, I will take the image on the left every time.
Thanks Bill. I’d agree with you about the 3-second vs. 4-second comparisons. I’m not so sure I’d agree about the 3-second vs. 20-second comparisons, especially with the 4.0 firmware. In my experience, stars that become short streaks are more visible in prints than stars that are actual pinpoints, so the short streaks give the print more of the feeling of a sky full of stars.
Nice article Michael…thanks for publishing it. Regarding the star streaks, are you saying that something in the camera is causing them? If I’m not mistaken, I think those are simply caused by not using a tracking mount. It’s a common problem for astrophotographers.
Thanks Patrick. No, I’m not saying that something in the camera causes star streaks. I’m well aware that the streaks are caused by the stars “moving” (actually the earth rotating) during a long exposure. The “star-eater” issue is something else, something that is caused by the camera, where small stars disappear because of the camera’s noise-reduction algorithm.
Hi Michael. Thanks so much for your research into this issue and your superbly written and detailed article. As a A7RII user who is trying to come to grips with this issue, your article shed a lot of light on a difficult topic. I agree that Sony should give us the option on NR. Thanks again.
Thanks CK – I’m glad you found this helpful.
I think your test is somewhat flawed. You should have used the same ISO value on all of those shots and stack 3s exposures until you get the same exposure. The “star eater” filtering doesn’t only remove the faint stars, it also changes the colors of them.
And If you really want to compare how the star eater algorithm affects photos, take the same shots with Canon or Nikon full frame cameras.
This is unfortunate reason why I have to leave my A7RII home, when I take astrophotographs.
Hopefully Sony fixes the star eater filtering and gives us option for unfiltered RAWs sooner than later.
My methods may be flawed Jesse. But they do show that the a7R II records lots of small stars, especially with longer exposures and the new firmware. And in my tests and the samples shown here, I see no difference in the color of the stars. Comparing the Sony with Nikon or Canon models would actually be a great idea, and maybe I’ll try that someday, but that’s time consuming and expensive, since I’d have to rent a bunch of cameras.
While I haven’t made that direct comparison, I have looked at a lot of night-photography image files from student’s cameras during workshops. And despite the “star-eater” issue, I’m hard-pressed to think of another camera I’d rather use for night photography than the a7R II. I just completed a nighttime workshop where several of the students had Canon cameras. We a 5D Mark II, Mark III, and Mark IV, along with a 5DSR. The only one of these that I would use for night photography is the 5D Mark IV, because all the others had serious issues with color noise. If you try to lighten the shadows of high-ISO images with the 5D2, 5D3, or 5DSR, even a little bit (like enabling a profile correction to correct for vignetting in the corners), you often get a red color cast in those shadows that is very difficult to correct. The 5D4 was excellent, very clean at high ISOs, and better control of color noise, but at 30 megapixels has considerably less resolution than the 42 megapixel a7R II. I think part of the reason for the red color cast when you try to lighten shadows is that Canon uses some kind of Raw file compression. It would help if Canon gave users a choice of using uncompressed Raw, like Sony. Why does no one talk about this?
The Nikon D800 and D810 have excellent sensor performance for night photography, but poor live-view performance in low light, making it hard to focus on stars. The original Sony a7R has the same sensor as the D800 and D810, does not have the “star-eater” algorithm, and has much better live view performance in low light. So I’d choose the a7R or over the D800 or D810 for night photography. But I own an a7R, as well as the a7R II, and I would (and do) choose the a7R II over the a7R for night photography because it controls noise better. Even if I’m losing a few stars (and I don’t think I really am), the lower noise more than makes up for that.
So I understand why you, and others, are disturbed by the whole “star-eater” issue. No one wants to think that their night photos aren’t displaying as many stars as they could. But every camera has plusses and minuses and limitations. When choosing a camera for night photography, you have to decide which limitations you’re most willing to live with, and which limitations will actually make a visible difference in a print. I wrote this post to give people more information when making those decisions.
Hi! I’m a former astronomy photographer and can tell you the Canon’s RAWs are compressed, yes (so are Nikon’s, Pentax’s, Sony’s… RAWs) but the compression is lossless. The red cast on the noise of the background is due to the fact the Canon’s sensors are quite sensitive in the red channel.
The petition we issued to Sony doe not ask them to remove the Star Eater filter, but to let the photographer choose by himself to use it or not in the menu. A RAW file shall be raw unless you don’t want to.
Here is the link to the petition :
Next is the 400 to 600 rule. This rule is quite obsolete now and, as you said, shall be tested with figures ranging from 300 to 600 depending on your camera and lens. The NPF rule gives more reliable results and is now used with success by some photographers like Aaron D. Priest, or François Eudier. Give it a try 😉
Thanks for the information on the Canon Raw files Fred. I’ll take your word for it, since I don’t know where the red cast comes from. But whatever causes it, it’s a big issue for nighttime landscapes with Canon cameras (other than the 5D Mark IV).
I signed the petition. As I said in this post, I’d like Sony to give us that choice – whether to use the spatial filter or not.
I Googled NPF Rule, and I have to say – too complicated for me! I don’t need stars to be perfect points when viewed at 100%. I just need them to look close to points in a print. (And BTW, if you’re going to get that precise about it, don’t you have to account for the direction the camera is pointed? You’ll get less streaking when the camera is pointed toward the north or south poles then other directions.)
I know this article is old but I wanted to point out that on sensors other than Canon there is no analog gain added past 640 ISO. There should be little discernible noise difference in the final RAW image between increasing the ISO past 640 in camera or increasing the Exposure in Lightroom.
Obviously there is a big difference when viewing the files in the camera and there may be some extra NR when using the higher ISO in camera.
I’m currently using Canon so I can’t test this myself but in researching Sony bodies that is what I have learned.
Well not that old – less than a year! 🙂 Anyway, thanks for reading the article Travis, and for pointing out the lack of analog gain with Sony sensors (otherwise known as ISO invariance). The noise-reduction algorithm that Sony uses that creates the “star-eater” effect doesn’t seem to be related to ISO, and is apparently only triggered by the length of the exposure.
I agree that stacking exposures is a good way to do this comparison.
Taking 5 x 3 second photos (which will be so underexposed they will look black) and then stacking them with Photoshop extended or an astrophotography software package, will give a good comparison to a 15 second single shot at the same ISO.
I find that stacking exposures is where the star eater issue has the most impact. When an astrophotographer wants 20 x 20 second exposures and stacks them to reveal colors, details, and reduce noise – this is when star eater interferes with the process of detecting stars, removing hot pixels, and using statistical methods to keep the stars and remove noise.
There is no comparison between stacked 5×3 sec. subs and a 1×15 sec. sub. Stacked is not additive, it is an averaging process.
I’ve used an A7R, A7S and A7R II for wide-field nightscape / astrophotography as well as astro-imaging with many different telescopes from 400mm to 2000mm focal length.
I’m aware several people have seen the so called “star eater” problem; however, I can’t say I’ve ever seen it in the hundreds of pix I’ve taken and processed. But then again I’m neither a pixel peeper nor have I purposely gone looking for the problem. I’m quite happy with the results I’m getting off all the above cameras and highly recommend them.
Thanks Brian – I’m glad you’re getting good results with your cameras.
Thanks Michael – very informative article and I think it underlines what a shame it is that you can’t step firmware versions backwards like you can with the Metabones adaptor that many of us use with the Sony. I’m only just getting into astrophotography but will certainly try comparing my A7RII with my Canon 5DSR using your methodology.
Thank you for doing the research on this subject. I was on the verge of ordering a new Sony a7rII when I read the infamous Star Eater blog. Nice to see it placed in perspective.
That said, it would be nice if Sony would give us star shooters the option of avoiding the degradation of our astro images.
Glad you found this helpful Howard. Yes, it would be great if Sony gave us more options!
Do you still recommend the Sony A7s to others? I’m highly considering, til I found out about the infamous “star eating” issue. Even with the “star eater” issue how much does it actually take away? On a wide angle lens, do you even notice, unless your pixel peeping? Thanks!
As I said I the post, I haven’t tested the a7S II. If you’re asking about the original a7S, from what I can gather it only has the “star-eater” algorithm in Bulb mode.
I’m sorry if I missed something, but the star eater issue only appeared with the introduction of firmware version 3.3, which is what you are using.
You need to compare it with an earlier firmware version of the A7rII.
Well I would love to make a comparison with older firmware, but as I said here, you can’t revert a camera to a previous firmware version, and it’s almost impossible to find any cameras with firmware more than a year old. I certainly don’t have access to one. So I did the best I could with what I had available.
I personally prefer a little noisier image compared to a soften/noise-reduced image anyway. They should ease up on the noise reduction. People get too worked up over noise anyway. I’ll take a more detailed but more noisy image over a softened noise-reduced image any day.
I’m with you on noise. I much prefer as close to a true raw image as possible. Just capture the data and let me do the post processing; not expecting the camera to do the work and screwing it up!
Are we not yet passed the time when these top of the line cameras are doing “hidden” auto changes to our raw file? What is Sony thinking? Let the photographer have the raw file pristine, so that we know what we are getting and have total control of the final image. (See Andreas Feininger’s classic book, Total Picture Control).
I definitely agree with you in principle James. But I’m not an engineer, and don’t know what factors went into this decision by Sony. I’m not sure that any manufacturer gives us “pristine” raw files. I think they all manipulate the raw files in some way, and maybe there’s a reason for that. Again, I’m not an engineer, so I can’t talk about that with any authority.
I am paying loads of money to have a camera with a big sensor and where I can have control over the image parameters, and I hope that this would include unprocessed raw files. However, what can you do?
Simply get out there and shoot your subs. The A7S is a great astro-imaging camera!
There is no such thing as an unprocessed raw file. Every manufacturer processes their raw files in one way or another. You can avoid the “star-eater” issue by using continuous shooting mode, but that makes the files 12-bit instead of 14-bit.
Have you ever used the Pentax K-3II and used the astro settings? Is it any good? Sony a7r any better / worse?
No, I’ve never used the Pentax, so I can’t comment on it or compare it to the Sony.
I believe it’s less of an issue with the A7rii than with the a7sii due to resolution. Check https://www.lonelyspeck.com/how-to-fix-sony-star-eater-on-the-a7sii-and-a7rii-continuous-shutter-mode-workaround/ for updates and test methods.
Thanks for sharing the link Joe. An interesting workaround, though not a perfect solution. Indeed, it makes sense that the star-eater issue is more problematic with the lower-resolution a7S II. I think I pointed that out here, didn’t I? 🙂
I commented on lonelyspeck after trying the workaround. I like it. Oh, and if you zoom to 400%, you’ll see lots of missing stars when comparing same shutter speed and ISO, but with single shot vs continuous mode shutter settings. Yeah, it’s pixel peeping, but very, very obvious at that resolution on the A7Rii.
My point, if you think you’re not really losing the small stars because of stareater,,,you’re wrong. Lots of tiny stars are wiped clean…with slightly bigger stars made blurry.
Thanks for commenting Dan. 100% is pixel peeping. 400% is way beyond that! Even at 100% you’re looking at differences that won’t be noticeable on a print unless you’re making a 100-inch wide print and putting your nose up to it.
Well, I do agree that 400% is actual pixel peeping. Stareater wipes out the 1-2 pixel stars, but also tends to blur the rest some. I’ll guess if you actually made a 100 inch wide print, you’d be able to see the 1 pixel stars. You’d have to put your nose up to the print, but they would be there.
For any normal size print…the 1-2 pixel stars won’t show. Still, there is a subtle difference in a big print…and a big monitor. I’ll continue to use my A7Rii in continuous mode when doing astrophotography.
have you tried to detect the issue on anything other than starry sky texture?
I noticed quite strong impact on fine details like sand, rocks, distant foliage, etc.
Here’s an example:
The above picture was taken with fw3.3, perhaps with fw.4.0 the effect would have been less dramatic…
No, I haven’t tried that, but maybe I will.
Are you still using an adapted Canon 70-200 f4 with your Sony? I ask because I am considering that setup, but it’s a difficult choice when Sony has their own native f4 . Thank you and fantastic work 😉
I have both the Sony FE 70-200 f/4 and the Canon 70-200 f/2.8, and have used them with a Sony A7S, A7 II and A7R II. I prefer the Canon lens with a Metabones adapter. I just seem to get better image quality out of the Canon zoom.
As a result my Sony FE 70-200 is currently listed for sale on Canada Buy-Sell…
Yes, I’m still using the Canon 70-200 f/4, because I have a great copy of that lens. I can’t vouch for other copies.
Great article Michael. I have been doing tracked and guided astrophotography since 2006 and while I am far from a master, I have been around the block a few times. I find this whole thing a bit exaggerated. I do wish it was not an issue but at the same time it is no show stopper. I purchased my a7s for landscape astrophotos tripod mounted or on my barndoor tracker and it does a great job! I normally image with a high quality CCD camera on my GEM so if I need scientific level images, I use a scientific equipment. Nobody will ever miss the eaten stars in a pretty landscape photo shot with a wide angle lens – ha!
Thanks for your comments Jeff. It’s nice to hear from an experienced astrophotographer with an a7S, and I agree that this issue has been overblown. It would still be great to have the option of turning off the noise-reduction algorithm, but as you say, it’s not a show-stopper. At least not for me.
Hi Michael, and thanks for a great article. I have an A7R2 and a 24-70 2.8 GM, and am considering the need for an astro-specific lens.
Any feedback would be appreciated please.
I use a full spectrum A7S and a stock A7R II and A7 III for astrophotography. I like the Samyang 14, 35 and 135mm lenses for wide-field astro. I’ve also used their 24, 50 and 85mm lenses but prefer the former.
Thanks for your feedback Brian. So you’re positive about the A7R2’s capability in the astro field then?
In my opinion the A7S, A7R II and now the A7 III are in the top few low light cameras with the A7 III and A7S being #1 and #2 with the A7R II being in #6 spot.
I’ve included a link to my A7 III testing website. It’s a winner all the way up to ~ISO 51,200. The first three images were shot with 2.5 sec. subs at ISO 32,000-40,000. The results actually amazed me, even after using a full spectrum A7S for many years and a stock A7R II since it was released.
A little late to comment, but I find your test results speak loudest to this point. The A7R II’s pixels are small enough for the star eater algorithm to not be as big of a deal as A7 II and A7S II, as you mentioned.
As a lot of astrophotographers move to using a star tracker, I find ALL Sony cameras less than desirable, but perfectly capable at the same time.
John Rutter (on youtube and has a website) is an Australian astrophotographer and he takes AMAZING milky way panoramas with a modded A7R II. The v4.00 firmware is WAY better than previous versions, INCLUDING v1.00 for those of us who use a star tracker and must be in BULB mode. V1.0 didn’t have star eater UNLESS in bulb mode. The V4 firmware is much better than v1 firmware in bulb mode. The benefit of using a tracker for 2 to 5 minutes sky exposures far outweighs the v4.00 algorithm. Still, my testing SO FAR with my A7R II I got off ebay recently seems to result in weirdly colored stars when compared to my Canon 6D.
That said, a modded Canon 6D has replaced my a6300 and A7S as my main astrophotography camera. lol yes, a 10 year old canon DSLR has become my favorite astro camera. I’m sure the R6 would be better, but it’s also $2200+ vs $400-$450 used for a 6D.
A7S for timelapse, A7R II for literally everything else and MAYBE astro timelapse if the noise proves to be low enough.
I kinda think Nikon DSLR and the new Z mirroless are probably ‘best’ for landscape astro, as they’re Sony sensors implemented better than Sony does haha
I’ll mention again (I think I mentioned this before in this thread) that you can turn off the “star-eating” noise-reduction algorithm by using continuous shooting mode. Seems counterintuitive, but it works. And I think Sony makes the best prime lenses for night photography around. The 20mm f/1.8 and 14mm f/1.8 are the best wide-angle prime lenses for night work that I’ve tested (and I’ve tested almost everything). Maybe lens quality isn’t as important if you’re using a tracker, but for a lot of the images I make tracking won’t work, as I’m looking for clouds or mist. In those situations being able to get sharp, coma-free corners wide open at f/1.8 is really valuable.