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My Sony Alpha QX1, via the interface running on the separate smart phone, has shooting modes "P" and two others with icons only in different colors, and zero explanation other than that they are automatic.

My Sony alpha 6000 has the same modes, and the instructions are remarkably non-informative. One is "Intelligent Auto" and the other is "Superior Intelligent Auto", and the "P" mode is described as intelligent and automatic but called simply Program mode.

There is no explanation of what they do or do differently, other than that (all of them) choose settings automatically. If they improved the algorithm, why do they still have the old one instead of just the current better one? Why have a choice if we have no idea why one would choose one over the other?

In Canon cameras, the green rectangle is different from the normal "P" in that it prevents any overrides or advanced features including RAW files. But that's not the case here, as I found RAW was still enabled and I could use program-shift even in the icon-bearing modes.

So what's the point?

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According to Gary Fong (Sony's Intelligent Auto And Superior Auto Modes), the main difference is that Superior Auto can use multiple exposures (in-camera HDR), while Intelligent Auto just uses a single image.

This is confirmed by Sony's documentation:

What is the difference between [Superior Auto] mode and [Intelligent Auto] mode?

In [Superior Auto] mode, the camera shoots burst images based on the recognized scene, then creates a composite of the burst images (Overlay shooting). The camera automatically corrects the backlight and reduces the noise by overlaying images, so a higher-quality image results than in [Intelligent Auto] mode.

  • But in-camera HDR and adaptive dynamic range features are unavailable when shooting RAW files. I suppose that means they are equivilent? – JDługosz May 22 '15 at 5:14
  • Interesting too that you found that in a guide for a low-end tier camera, and it's present in the alpha 6000 "help guide" (but not the user manual) but shooting modes are not in the table of contents and it's hard to find just surfing through it. Maybe they figure the intended audience doesn't care about that? – JDługosz May 22 '15 at 9:07

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