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  • Fitri Aiyub

Full-Frame Low Light Battle : Sony A7Siii VS Panasonic S1H VS Nikon Z9

After getting to know the major differences each camera mentioned in this little experiment, it turns out all three ultimately weigh its own character in the way image qualities sometimes break apart when pushed to their limits. Albeit, the Nikon Z9 being the biggest of the bunch of course, with a 47MP stacked CMOS sensor. So going into these tests might have felt a little unequal at first, but knowing big sensors might not exactly be what you want in low light situations as shown in the video below.

But where equal grounds may not align, the Sony A7S iii still holds its own, by being the lowest megapixel count with only a 12.1MP sensor. So technically speaking, it should be the best performer considering how more light gets captured even in almost-dark rooms. Evidently this was shown at the end of this story and it definitely surprised some expectations. But we'll get to that part at the end of this article.

If you're looking at the screenshot example below, it surely looks as though the S1H made more of a recovery in retaining shadows even at +5 stops. Compared to the other two where there's still remnants of some visibility in the Z9, the A7S iii struggled in retaining highlights. +5 stops above exposure got way too high at the bottom of the frame and darker parts were far noisier than the S1H and Z9.

Although clarity still goes to the Nikon – keeping most of the words on the building seemingly more detailed. But that could also be thanks to its 45.7MP sensor. Either way, the S1H shows the best results at retaining the most shadows and is a clear winner for this example.

This next shot was supposedly made to test how colours might drift away such as the reds in the example. While the S1H somehow just struggled in retaining any vibrance, it should still be an easy fix in post. The A7S iii on the other hand, started showing more warmth than normal and also started showing some noise.

The Nikon Z9 clearly had the best results in retaining both detail and colour. Overall exposure as well retains a true-toned look and still very usable footage even when overexposed. Nikon's colour science has always been the most consistent so far throughout these tests and might justify some people who might prioritise that most.

Ultimately, this test was going to end with something much more demanding for the sensors to truly get to work. Dynamic range might have an upper hand for the Z9 but surprisingly was showing more detail in the S1H. While the Sony again, still struggled in keeping the whiter parts of the image intact.

It was truly a close call for this one as the Nikon Z9 and Lumix S1H were very close, the LUMIX S1H still manages to keep most of the detail of the structures in the frame. Darker parts were also much less noisier but again, colours are still better in the Z9. If there had to be a winner, it'd go the LUMIX S1H.

But before we wrap things up, what would happen if you cranked everything to ISO 51,200 in a nearly dark room? Well, the little Sony A7S iii still had a fight to win and it surely did. Colours somehow stayed more vibrant at ISO 12,800 and still remained those colours +5 stops above exposure.

It goes without saying how each camera performed quite equally in terms of being stronger for different situations despite the sensor size inequality going from a 12MP of the Sony A7Siii to the 24.2MP of the Panasonic S1H, to the Nikon Z9. While some had an upper hand at clarity, and some at retaining shadows, ultimately it just boils down to know which camera suits your environment.

I know up to this point, I have yet to have any mention of this test as it were a personal preference, albeit a sensitive topic in the first place for putting up against cameras that aren't even in the same class. But maybe for once, price and calibre doesn't have to justify which camera is the best at anything, while image qualities can vary when you push things to its limits in post. It's fair enough to say that Panasonic cameras are very much an underdog that doesn't get much credit while the more popular brands still makes a better all-rounder. Maybe I'm just rooting for the little guy amongst the herd. If I sound like I am, maybe it wouldn't hurt checking them out if you aren't.


Written by Fitri Aiyub

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