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Online reviews have indicated that NEX F3 is a superior device because it has a larger sensor, and therefore it would perform better under low light condition. However, today I tested both cameras. Surprisingly, the Nikon came out on top when it comes to image quality under low light condition. I believe I have almost the same setting on both cameras. I hope to keep the NEX F3, but given the performance Nikon 1 J1 gives, I get the impression that Nikon 1 J1 is superior. I'm new to digital photography, can you help me on what's going on? If F3 is superior why am I getting a more ideal image under low light condition with the Nikon? Is it because I do not have the F3 settings configured correctly? What can I do to make it shown that F3 images are indeed superior(superior meaning it's able to capture more detail under the same lighting condition)?

SONY NEX F3 (Intelligent Auto mode shutter speed:1/6 Aperture: 2.8 ISO:3200 lens:16mm color:sRGB DRO AUTO WB:Auto Then there's one that says: std

Nikon 1 J1 (Auto mode shutter speed:1/4 Aperture: 3.5 ISO:3200 lens:10mm WB:Auto Color:sRGB Then there are two icons i don't know what they're for: one of them says SD like these enter image description here)

Now under good lighting condition Nikon image seems more vibrant(in terms of colors) just ever so slightly... Nikon enter image description here

Sony enter image description here

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@mattdm If F3 is superior why am I getting a more ideal image under low light condition with the Nikon? Is it because I do not have the F3 settings configured correctly? What can I do to make it shown that F3 images are indeed superior? –  user133466 Jan 11 '13 at 17:05
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You really need to define what you mean by superior. My impression is that you mean brighter. Despite that, to me it looks like the F3 did better. It metered the scene to avoid blowing out so much highlights and if you look at the walls in the J1 image, there is a lot of color noise despite being brighter. –  Itai Jan 11 '13 at 17:14
    
Were these images taken on a tripod? This is particularly important if you're using sharpness / detail as a factor in "image quality", because even with image stabilization these are low shutter speeds. –  mattdm Jan 11 '13 at 17:16
    
Again with the outdoor examples, you can see that the Nikon blew out more sky. Take a look and there is more blue left in the Sony image. Colors are a lot more realistic. On my calibrated monitor, the Sony's grass looks the color of grass while the Nikon looks like plastic green. You can change that on both cameras either way, depending on what you prefer. The control is called Saturation. If you tone down the Nikon it will look more like the Sony and if you increase the Sony, it will look like the Nikon. You can also tweak considerably more and change color modes if you like a different look. –  Itai Jan 11 '13 at 17:42
    
In this case you are wrong. The Sony captured more details. Look at the blinds and look at the sky for the outdoor images. This is normal because smaller sensors have less dynamic range. In order to capture more details, the Sony had to choose a lower exposure. –  Itai Jan 11 '13 at 17:43

2 Answers 2

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The NEX F3 should be superior to the 1 J1 in low-light due to its larger sensors. Now you say, you see the opposite but have not mentioned how you determine superior.

The F3 has a much larger pixel count than the J1, so if you look at 100% view, it wont look as good as expect per-pixel. However if you display or print to the same size, the F3 would normally come out on top given the same image brightness.

In you example you have one image darker than the other. This of course makes noise stand out more on the darker image since noise appears as a signal-to-noise ratio. This means that the darker the image, the more noise is apparent.

The two icons are see are for Standard color rendition and Adaptive D-Lighting. This is Nikon's equivalent of Sony's Dynamic Range Optimizer (DRO). If you want the best quality, you need to turns this off on both cameras. What they do is boost the dark parts of the image to make them brighter, but this amplifies noise. Depending on which setting, you get different amplification. In my opinion it also makes most images look worse because it reduces contrast.

Of course letting more light in improves the image quality of any camera and so shooting with a larger aperture is better if that gives you the shot you need. If on one camera you can afford a lens with a brighter aperture that will influence your perception of results.

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no matter what i try, I cannot make the sony camera produce the kind of brightness nikon did. I turned off the DRO setting you mentioned. –  user133466 Jan 11 '13 at 16:58
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@user133466 In your example, the Sony metered the scene better and avoided blowing out the highlights in the blinds the way the J1 did. You can easily force it to do that by adding +1 (or a little less) of Exposure-Compensation. The whole image will be brighter. –  Itai Jan 11 '13 at 17:11

Your test is far from scientific, but given that you mention being a beginner and are able to get better results with the nikon...i'd forget theory and go for practical results.

Metering is bound to be different in both cameras, and get slightly different results. This explains your different exposures. For an accurate test, all exposure values should be equal, and in-camera software corrections should be turned off.

But that would not get you a correct assessment of what you can do with the camera. Why don't you try both cameras in several different common situations, and go from there?

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I just noticed that dpreview's conclusions on the NEX F3 note a preference for a darker exposure in the automatic program of that camera (the review inaccurately calls that "underexposure"). –  mattdm Jan 21 '13 at 7:54

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