Clear Image Zoom vs Scaling Up in Post on the Sony a7S III and FX3

Clear Image Zoom is one of those options buried in Sony’s camera menus that isn’t widely publicized. Some people who found a use for it tend to love it though. It’s essentially a smarter digital zoom that does some processing using the actual sensor data to potentially deliver a better result than you may get in post. There is an advantage for sure for doing it in camera, but is the quality actually better than a good scale up during the edit?

Filmmaker Carlos Quintero took a closer look at this feature and whether it did compare favorably to scaling in post.

Today, the tests are focusing on the a7S III and FX3. This actually might make a difference, since Clear Image Zoom with high-resolution cameras can benefit from having all those extra pixels and data. The a7S III and FX3 are going to rely a lot more heavily on processing to get the punch in done.

The baseline footage is the a7S III with a 55mm lens set to f/2.8. Good example for making sure we are picking up a good amount of detail. Compared to Clear Image Zoom, there is not a noticeable loss in detail. The next step is Sony’s regular Digital Zoom. You can start to see some quality loss in the shadows or with fine detail. It’s got a purpose if you keep in mind the potential pain points.

Image Credit: Carlos Quintero

Going back to the original footage you can then take it and scale it up in post. What you are actually getting is a more artificial looking sharpening when scaled up. Carlos points out that for skin tones and people the more natural softening with the in-camera zoom options might actually be beneficial compared to sharper scaling in post.

If you are planning to scale your image – and you know before you are going to hit record – then you will likely benefit from doing it in camera. Simplifies your workflow and has a more natural look. Plus, it’s not like you can’t add some sharpening in post if you want.

Do you have any experience with Sony’s digital zoom features?

[source: Carlos Quintero]

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