Dynamic Range Optimizer, Level 5

All Sony Alpha digital SLRs have a Dynamic Range Optimizer feature which helps to bring out details in shadows and highlights. The default settings are Off, DRO Standard and DRO Advanced.

However, on the A700, there are 5 more levels, for manual customization, and often, at Level 3, you get a stronger effect than with DRO Advanced.

Aperture Priority, 17mm F5.6 1/800s ISO200, DRO off.

Aperture Priority, 17mm F5.6 1/800s ISO200, DRO Level 5.

Aperture Priority, 17mm F8.0 1/250s ISO200, DRO off.

Aperture Priority, 17mm F8.0 1/250s ISO200, DRO Level 5.

What it does simply, is change the ISO for certain areas of the image, brightening it smarter than most Photoshopping can or will do. This saved me from hours of dodging and burning! (Though I enjoy that activity, heh!)

Of course, there are limitations – having DRO on slows down your burst shot framerate slightly as the camera has to process the pictures. Also, if you’re shooting at ISO1600, the darker spots that get brightened by say DRO Level 5 will have its noise become very, very obvious. However, DRO Level 5 is awesome in bright daylight and contrasty conditions.

10 thoughts on “Dynamic Range Optimizer, Level 5

  1. ShaolinTiger Post author

    Nice looks like a saver in situations where the dynamic range is too broad for the sensor to handle.

    Comes out like a mild form of HDR without the sci-fi look or halos.

    I haven’t had change to try D-lighting on the D300 yet, but I imagine on high setting it’d be something similar. Photoshop’s Shadow/Highlight tool achieves a look along those lines.

  2. Albert Ng Post author

    Nikon D300 Active D-Lighting samples:

    AD-L seems to take on the conservative boost similiar to the look Sony DRO Advanced Auto gives. This might explain why camera review sites take note of DRO at Level 5… noone else does a no-holds barred dodging. Probably the thing I appreciate most is how it brings greenery out and lifts shades without the HDR look.

  3. saifulrizan Post author

    Awesome! I tried the DRO Advanced in my friend A200 – and it does satisfy me.

    A700 got two more levels more! That’s super satisfaction. I guess I can cope with the grainy part.

  4. Albert Ng Post author

    Paul Tan: Yeah maaan.

    saifulrizan: Yeah, the grain is a minor thing at smaller sizes. Though, DRO Advanced is a ‘safer’ level, often not as extreme as Level 5 will take you.

  5. xj Post author

    I’d guess dro lvl 5 also exists due to the contrasty nature of most minolta lenses and certain properties of sony’s image processing that tend to blow out shadows quite a bit compared to other brands.

  6. ShaolinTiger Post author

    Yah after looking at the samples I’d agree, ADL much more like a gentle shadow/highlight where as DRO level 5 is quite extreme but still doesn’t have the HDR look which is nice.

  7. Albert Ng Post author

    XJ: Yeah man, I had a LOT of fun doing that, with layer masks and stuff. Most times DRO is off in case I need the 5 FPS, but when I have time to chimp and see the shot being too contrasty, I pop DRO Level 5 on.

    ShaolinTiger: This one goes to 11! 😀

  8. Albert Ng Post author

    What do you mean by Sony’s image processing blowing out shadows? As far as I know the Carl Zeiss lenses burn mids and brighten OOF highlights, but that’s a property of the lens. The Minoltas were a not more balanced in this respect.

    Though, I’d imagine the person who proposed DRO Level 5 just wanted shadows to be captured as apparent to humans.


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