Ah, the night sky. It contains a multitude of heavenly bodies....
Lest you we thinking that old sensors are as good as new, those aren't actually stars. That's shadow noise.
With the Nikon D750 dispatched back to LensRentals from whence it came, and the sun out, I enlisted Butters to help with a high-SBR trial. (SBR is "subject brightness range," which should be pretty self-explanatory.) He likes lying in the sunlight, and he's essentially white. About the highest natural SBR you'll encounter in the wild (with "lit" subjects, not counting pictures with light sources or reflections in the frame), is dappled sunlight on the ground in the woods, but this has got to come close. That top shot is the Sony A900's shadow noise at 200%.
More recent sensors generally do much better.
This is the same shot HDR'd to the max in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR). I don't normally use true HDR so I don't know any particular tricks as to how aficionados would do it. What I did was peg the Highlights slider, then increase the Exposure until the highlights looked okay. Then I pegged the Shadows slider, then added Noise Reduction until the "night sky" effect went away in the shadows, then added a little Clarity. Quick, crude, and dirty...
...But I was impressed. If I were printing this I'd back off till the HDR look went away, but I must say I'm impressed with what ACR can do with A900 files now. Detail isn't softened much despite the high NR, and the shadows open up well...not as well as a modern sensor would do, but then this is an extreme situation. As Geoff Wittig wrote in his comment to the previous post, "I've recently gone back to some of my older digital images captured more than 12 years back with the original Canon EOS-1Ds. Yes, anything above ISO 200 shows pretty dreadful noise. But it's amazing how well the files actually stand up with some careful processing. And it's remarkable how much better Photoshop CC is for 'developing' these files than the release I was using back then. No question I can print a lot larger with new images shot at 50 mp, but it's the whole imaging chain that matters in the end...."
Sensors have definitely improved, but, as with Geoff's 1Ds, modern processing tools actually make the older Sony A900 into a better camera than it used to be.
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Featured Comments from:
Sal: "Mike, can you explain what you mean by 'pegging' a slider?"
Mike replies: Pushing it all the way. (Sorry for not explaining.) A physical meter needle is said to "peg" when it hits a predetermined point in its range, particularly the limit...originally because there was often a physical peg that prevented the needle from moving past it.