Peka Peka Sunset
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Blog  2 April 2013

Sony A99  High  ISO  Bird  Images  in  Very  Low  Light


Hello, I am a photographer from New Zealand, and I enjoy sharing my blogs and photographs with other enthusiasts. The above sunset was taken at Peka Peka, which is located on the Kapiti Coast in the North Island of New Zealand.

In keeping with the conventional blog tradition, the blogs on this site are presented in date order and include, for example, random thoughts and projects, and references to discussions on photographic forums that I have found to be very interesting. These blogs are quite informal and thus differ from the style of my more comprehensive articles that are listed  here.

The images below were captured with the excellent full frame Sony SLT-A99, using the Carl Zeiss 24mm-70mm lens. The Sony A99 was announced in September 2012, and has 24.3 megapixels, and is the replacement for the 24.6 megapixel full frame Sony A900. Click  here  to see a comparison of the image size, pixel density, and pixel size of the full frame Sony A99 with the APS-C Sony A77.

Note:  To obtain the best appreciation of the quality of the images on this site, they should be displayed at a relatively small size, because each image has been reduced in size to a maximum width of only 870 pixels, from the original width of at least 4900 pixels (or 6000 pixels from my full frame cameras). In addition, the images have been saved at a low quality setting.

How  the  Images  Displayed  Below  Were  Captured

The images below were captured in the nocturnal house at  The Nga Manu Nature Reserve, which is located in Waikanae, New Zealand. The reserve features a mix of bushwalks, open areas, observation points, walk-in and protected aviaries and a nocturnal house which includes kiwis and moreporks. When you first enter the nocturnal house, the light is so dark that it takes a minute or two before your eyes adjust to the darkness.

To capture the images, the camera had to be held firmly against the glass that encloses the bird areas. Because I had very limited time in which to take the images, I did not set up a tripod. Therefore, because the images were hand-held, the ISO settings needed to be very high so that reasonable shutter speeds could be obtained. Because of the glass enclosure, it was not suitable for flash photography. In addition, manual focusing was used and, with focus peaking enabled, I was able to get reasonably sharp images.

The images displayed below are JPEGs which, with the exception of sharpening, have not been modified in any other way in an imaging program. Crops of the images have been provided to give you a better appreciation of the detail captured.

I also captured the images in RAW, which I will use to do some more comprehensive post-processing later, particularly to remove the green cast evident in the pictures shown below. It is probable that this colour cast was caused by the type of lighting used in the nocturnal house, because other very high ISO images that I have taken with the A99 (under various different lighting conditions) show little evidence of major colour casts.

Morepork  at  Nga  Manu  Nature  Reserve

The image of the morepork was captured hand-held at 1/50 second, F/2.8, ISO 20,000, with a focal length of 70mm. The original image size was 6000 pixels x 4000 pixels, but this has been reduced for web viewing purposes to just 870 pixels x 580 pixels.

Morepork Ninox novaeseelandiae 

New Zealand's native owl hunts at night for its food and is nocturnal.


Below is a crop from the above image:


Morepork Ninox novaeseelandiae



Kiwi  at  Nga  Manu  Nature  Reserve


The image below of the Brown Kiwi was captured hand-held at 1/15 second, F/2.8, ISO 16,000, with a focal length of 45mm. The green overall cast can be corrected with suitable post-processing.


Brown Kiwi at Nga Manu Reserve


Below is a crop from the above image:


Brown Kiwi at Nga Manu Nature Reserve




Overall, I am very surprised that the A99 is capable of producing these pictures in near darkness. The A99 is an excellent low-light camera and is capable of producing images that exhibit a reasonably low amount of noise, even when the human eye finds difficulty in seeing the detail and colours in the items being photographed!


Click  here  to see further images taken at Nga Manu Nature Reserve.


Click  here  to go the index of blogs on this site.