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🌈Color Calibrating all your Sony cameras with in-camera tools - Ultimate Guide - Sony a7III, a7CII, a7SIII, a7RV, ZV-E1, a6700, RX100 VI

Sony has sent me multiple cameras to test out with the film simulations recipes. I think this is a great opportunity to see how different they are in color science and how do these differences translate when using Sony film simulation recipes.


Since each Sony camera has a different color science, I want to showcase:


  • the differences between each model at different temperatures

  • how different sensors react to underexposure and overexposure

  • the differences when using film simulations

  • how you can color calibrate your cameras using only in-camera tools.


 

A little caveat


We are not capable of individual color shifts inside the camera, so perfect color matching is not possible, but we can get much closer to a similar look if we adjust some of these settings. I am mainly going to work with Kelvin and Color Filter to fix the sensor white balance and color shift, then use the Color Phase tool to shift hues globally. Follow these steps to get a similar look between different Sony camera models.


I've also shot all cameras outdoors while using 2 recipes (Kodak Gold & Cinestill 800T), to compare the differences, and showcasing ways of matching them closer to the Sony a6700.


 

Table of contents



P.S 📢 - Some of these camera are 5 years apart, and Sony has improved their color science a lot over the past couple years, so it's impossible to match them perfectly without individual HSL tools. However, I'll show you how to overall match them only by using the in-camera tools.


For the final part I will be matching 2 film simulations in a real world environment, with my girlfriend as a model, so you can check real life results.

 

Cameras are always posted in order of the release date. Check your camera release date as a rule of thumb for these models.


Sony a7III April 2018

RX100 VI June 2018

a7SIII October 2020

a7RV December 2022

ZV-E1 May 2023

a6700 July 2023

a7CII September 2023

 

Color calibrating & matching Sony cameras at different Kelvin degrees


Picture Profile - Gamma Still with Still Color Mode. All the other settings untouched.


All cameras at 5500K

Since all film simulations are calibrated on the Sony a6700, I will use it as a comparison reference in all my tests.



Sony a7III color characteristics at 5500 k


The Sony a7III exhibits a heavy magenta cast over the entire image. The saturation is lower than in newer models, with a color science focusing on intense magentas and yellows.


Notable shifts include:


  • Blues towards magenta

  • Reds towards pink

  • Oranges towards amber

  • Accurate yellows - which explains the poor performance in skin tones.


Compared to newer models, the a7III's colors stretch between yellow and magenta, while newer models emphasize a teal and orange scheme.


Sony a7III color settings


Many of the problems on the a7III can be fixed by lifting the color phase to positive values (e.g. +4), and adding a color filter like A3-G1.


But most of the times reds cannot be completely corrected in camera for older cameras. Even with the added adjustments, the reds will almost always be too pink, and it's probably the biggest weakness of the a7III. You either sacrifice all other colors to get accurate reds, or you sacrifice the reds to get nice colors in all other parts. I would say the latter is a better choice. From all camera models I've tested, Sony a7III's colors are the hardest to work with. So beware when purchasing camera with similar sensors and color science.


Sony RX100 VI color characteristics at 5500 k


At 5500K, the RX100 VI has a cold-magenta cast and lower saturation compared to the a6700. Improvements are noticeable compared to the a7III, with corrected blues and yellows.


Older cameras often have less saturation than newer models, so when matching camera years apart, you might need to bump up the saturation on older models. Overall, the RX100 VI produces nice colors, closer to the a6700 - just a lot colder. This again, proves to me how amazing this little camera is. To match it with newer cameras, adjust the Kelvin or the color filter towards amber.


P.S - It's important to note that the RX100 series started improving its color science significantly starting with the Sony RX100 VI. Earlier models were closer to the a7III, in terms of color.


Sony a7SIII color characteristics at 5500 k


With the a7SIII, Sony made significant improvements in color science:


  • Corrected blues

  • Desaturated magentas

  • Adjusted yellows

  • Improved skin tones


However, reds remain somewhat pink, which is less desirable. The overall saturation is still lower than in newer models, so bring up saturation to correct the colors. While the a7SIII shows a substantial improvement, it still has a slight magenta cast compared to newer cameras.


Sony a7RV color characteristics at 5500 k


The a7RV shows great improvement in color, nearly identical to the a6700. The white balance is warmer than in older models, which typically had a strong magenta cast. The a7RV is only slightly magenta compared to the a6700,  but can be easily fixed if we push the color filter towards amber-green by a quarter stop(A0.25-G0.25). Differences might be invisible to the naked eye.


Sony ZV-E1 color characteristics at 5500 k


The ZV-E1 is very similar to the a6700 at 5500K, with a slight magenta cast. This can be easily corrected by adjusting the color filter slightly towards amber-green. Reds may shift towards crimson compared to the a6700, but differences are usually imperceptible.


Sony a6700


This is the reference model. Therefore, there's no adjustments required.


Sony a7CII color characteristics at 5500 k


Sony's a7CII's colors are virtually identical to the a6700. However, at the same settings (5500K) it seems colder on the white balance. Easily corrected by lifting the Kelvin by 100 or pushing the color filter towards amber.


All cameras at 2500K



Sony a7III color characteristics at 2500 Kelvin 


Again, we are seeing a heavy magenta cast. To fix the issue, bring the color phase up by 5 stops. Same with the saturation.


Sony RX100 VI color characteristics at 2500 Kelvin 


At 2500K, the RX100 VI has a cyan cast. To match with the a6700 we need to lower the Color phase by about 3-5 stops. Older models seem to be less saturated, so to match you'll also have to bring up the saturation level by approximately 9 levels.


Sony a7SIII color characteristics at 2500 Kelvin 


 Less saturated compared to newer models.


Sony a7RV color characteristics at 2500 Kelvin 


Virtually identical


Sony ZV-E1 color characteristics at 2500 Kelvin 


Virtually identical


Sony a6700 color characteristics at 2500 Kelvin 


Reference - no adjustments required.


Sony a7CII color characteristics at 2500 Kelvin 


Virtually identical


All cameras at 9900K




Matching colors on the higher extreme point might be harder as older cameras have high color differences, the most evident being between yellows and reds. Older cameras have very accurate yellows, and reds heavily shifted reds towards pink, while never cameras have yellows shifted towards amber-orange and reds are accurate. On older cameras many times the blues are shifted towards magenta, while on newer models this has been fixed.


The main problem with older cameras is that colors are all over the place. Yellows are very accurate, reds are pink, blues are magenta and greens are a little bit too olive, so overall these colors don't fit into any complementary color science. We can notice that with newer cameras, Sony adopted a focus on a Blue Amber color scheme.


Because of the significant differences in reds and yellows between older and newer models, it is often necessary to sacrifice one color to match the others. Usually it will be the reds.


Sony a7III color characteristics at 2500 Kelvin 


Overall, there is a magenta cast over the entire image. The yellows are very accurate compared to the a6700, and the skin tones are quite amber-green. Again, the saturation is lower than on newer cameras.


To fix the blues, greens, yellows, and skin tones, increase the color phase by a couple of stops (+1, +2, or maybe +3). This will shift all the colors clockwise and correct all colors except the reds. Unfortunately, the reds cannot be completely fixed and will shift further towards magenta-pink. Additionally, push the color filter towards amber-green (A2-G1) to correct the cold magenta cast; this should also help calibrate the reds slightly towards orange.


Sony RX100 VI color characteristics at 2500 Kelvin 


Yellows, skin tones, and blues look much better compared to the a7III, but the reds are still shifted towards crimson red.


To calibrate colors, you should apply the same treatment as you'd do with the a7III - increase the color phase by a couple of levels and push the color filter towards amber-green to fix the slight magenta color cast and remap the colors clockwise. Reds will be sacrificed to ensure that blues, greens, yellows, and skin tones are in the correct position for pleasing colors.


Sony a7SIII  color characteristics at 2500 Kelvin 


Similar to the RX100VI, but with improved blues and brighter, more saturated yellows and greens. There is less of a magenta cast than in previous models, and seems warmer in white balance with the same settings.


Sony a7RV color characteristics at 2500 Kelvin 


Starting with the a7RV, the reds and yellows have been corrected. Reds no longer shift towards crimson or pink but rather towards orange, resulting in more pleasing skin tones. Additionally, blues are no longer magenta but are accurately blue, even at the warmer end of the temperature spectrum.


Sony ZV-E1 color characteristics at 2500 Kelvin  


Virtually identical


Sony a6700 color characteristics at 2500 Kelvin 


Reference - no adjustments required.


Sony a7CII color characteristics at 2500 Kelvin 

Virtually identical.


All cameras overexposed at 5500K - color shift



When using digital cameras (as opposed to film) - I believe it's always better to slightly underexpose than overexpose. That's because digital sensors are not that good at handling overexposure and details are lost. It leads to some weird color shifts - which will affect all colors and, most importantly skin tones.


The typical color shifts for each channel when they max out are as follows:


  • Blues shift towards cyan.

  • Cyan shifts towards green.

  • Yellow and orange shift towards green, which is terrible news for skin tones as they will primarily be affected.


While red, magenta, and pure green don’t experience major shifts. But the greens you are seeing in real life, in foliage, are truly closer to olive and those will have a yellow shift. Unfortunately, the most important colors are actually the ones having the color shifts in overexposure, representing skin tones (yellow, orange), and the blues which will result in unpleasant colors when overexposed.


Pro Tip - Use the Color Depth setting to deepen colors and avoid color clipping in highlights. This will produce richer, film-like colors.


All cameras at 5500K underexposed - color shift



Just like overexposure, I was curious if there is any color shift going on when underexposed. When watching comparison videos in the past, I've noticed Sony cameras can have a slight magenta cast when underexposed, and a green-yellow cast when over exposed. This can also be seen in my overexposure test. But what about underexposure?


In my tests with underexposure, there is little to no color shifting towards magenta, at least not noticeable while checking the vector scopes with the naked eye.


But when correcting white balance with the color picker, Davinci Resolve notices there is a slight shift in color between the correctly exposed one, and the underexposed one. The difference between the two is around 5 levels on the Tint slider, which is very small, so it most probably won't be noticed with the naked eye. Maybe it's more noticeable when testing in an outdoor environment?


Test conclusions


The older Sony cameras had quite a challenging color science to work with, but Sony has improved over the past few years, making them even more enjoyable to use.


Newer cameras now offer the ability to achieve accurate white balance with very little color cast and improved color rendition.


The RX100VI, despite being released only a couple of months before the a7III, has a noticeably better color science, making it easier to work with in my experience, maybe even better than the a7SIII. On the other hand, the a7III, from my perspective, has the worst color science of the bunch. The a7RV is almost identical to the a6700, exhibiting an overall warmer, greener cast, and newer cameras are virtually identical to each other in terms of color science.


Despite the significant differences in release years and color science among some of these cameras, most of them are quite similar. And nooow - let me show ya how to make colors quite similar across different models.


Matching Film Simulations - change

Before starting the color matching, I'd like to explain my technique in simple steps.


Here's what I do when matching film simulations :


  1. First, check Reds, Yellows, Greens, and Blues. Decide if the image is too hot or warm, and whether is has a magenta or green cast.

  2. Then, use Kelvin to adjust the temperature and the Color Filter to adjust tint & maybe to bring some warmth or add some coolness to the image if needed.

  3. Finally, I use the Color Phase to shift all colors globally - clockwise or counter clockwise. This comes in handy when colors are not quite where they are supposed to be.


I go back and forth between these tools, tweaking them each time. With patience, the colors gradually come into alignment.


For example, if reds are pink, yellows turn green, and the greens & blues get shifted towards Cyan - it's a clear indication that most of the colors lean towards colder hues. And that the image likely needs more warmth. In this case, I'd raise the Kelvin.


If reds & yellows turn orange, greens appear more olive, while blues are magenta - I'd tone down the Kelvin to balance them out, to cool them down a bit.


After fixing the temperature, I go into the Color Filter to adjust my tint accordingly to the reference. If the reference is rather green I will start pushing my color filter towards green by 0.25 stops at a time, and so on until I finely match my colors.


This is just a quick explanation of the process.


If you want to read more, I have a full in depth article on how to color match film simulations across Sony cameras.



Color matching Cinestill 800T film recipe

A hands-on approach is always useful when learning new techniques - so here's how I match the Cinestill 800T film recipes across all these cameras.


Before adjustments


The biggest differences can be seen amongst the RX100 VI and the a7III.


a7III  Pushed the color filter towards Green from M1.25 to M0.75 to fix skin tones, which are quite magenta. Raised the Color Phase from +5 to +7 to fix the blues which are also more on the magenta side compared to the a6700. The yellows will be affected by this.


RX100 VI - compared to the a6700, the RX100 is slightly colder and more on the cyan side, so I lifted the kelvin by 200 to give it a little bit of warmth, and lowered the Color Phase from +5 to 0 to shift it towards blue.


a7SIII Yellows are shifted towards greens on the a7SIII, nevertheless, the other colors are very similar.


a7RV Virtually identical, no adjustments needed.


ZV-E1 Virtually identical, no adjustments needed.


a6700 Reference


a7CII Virtually identical, no adjustments needed.



After adjustments


Final thoughts - The a7III blues are still shifted towards magenta, and maybe I should've pushed the color filter slightly more towards Blue-Green to fix that, but the rest of them are very close.


Color Matching Kodak Gold film recipe

All these adjustments will be added on top of the current film recipe, to bring them closer to newer models.


Before


Adjustments


a7III Magenta cast. Skin tones and blues are too magenta, so I pushed the color filter from B3-M1.75 to B4 to counter balance the colors. This fixed the magenta skin tones and the magenta cast.


RX100 VI - Seemed darker on the EVF so I slightly overexposed it. Reds and Blues are accurate but Yellows are shifted towards Green, and the yellows are the main focus on this film simulations, so to fix this I raised the Kelvin by 500, lifted the color phase by +1, and I've set the color filter at M0.75.


a7SIII Similar to the a6700, with the difference of having the yellows shifted towards green, but we cannot fix that without altering the whole image, so no adjustments. If you want to fix the yellows, raise the Color Phase by 1 or 2 stops.


a7RV Virtually identical to a6700


ZV-E1   Yellows are subtly shifted towards Amber, which results into more golden tones, and Blues are shifted towards Cyan. This can be seen only if you compare side by side, so virtually identical. Maybe lower color phase from +6 to +5 to closely match the cameras.


a6700 Reference


a7CII - Similar to the ZV-E10 but I couldn't notice a difference from checking on the EVF, so no adjustments made in camera. Maybe lower color phase from +6 to +5 if you really want to match this recipe as closely as possible.


Results


P.S - After checking the image on the big screen, I realized I've pushed the temperature too much on the RX100 VI and it's more golden than other cameras. Should have pushed the Kelvin only by 200-300 and it would have been a good match.


Each camera EVF renders colors differently so it was quite tricky comparing and matching all images on the spot.


Live and learn. Anyhow, I am pretty happy with the results and quite grateful I managed to finish this experiment. It was quite a task.


Color matching can be a little bit complicated at first, as it requires a basic knowledge of color grading, and understanding on how to manipulate color to get to your desired look. With these type of articles I am hoping to clear out the how to's and give insight into my own thought process when matching or creating film recipes.


Final Thoughts

I was surprised to see how closely the cameras matched without adjustments, considering the huge gap in release years. We have cameras from 2018, 2020, 2022 and 2023, so this is a great showcase of Sony's evolution on color science over the past 5 years, and how a full range of cameras react to film simulations. If you want to check another color matching test showcasing Kodachrome 64 film simulation on RX100VI, a7III and the a6700, I have another article right here.


While it's true that different cameras have distinct color science, and even the most meticulous matching can't eliminate all differences, and the real goal is to achieve a similar aesthetic while enjoying the process of creating in the moment. Focus on capturing the colors that inspire you, and don't stress too much about perfection. Perfection is the death of the creative authentic flow.


In the end, it's normal to have differences between camera models, but luckily we can use in-camera tools to color calibrate between Sony cameras. I personally prefer Sony's Picture Profile menu over Sony Creative Looks because it provides more control in correcting or refining colors on my taste. Sony's Picture Profile menu has a couple more in depth controls than Fujifilm film simulations, so I highly recommend experimenting with it.


Sony cameras already have Color Depth, which offers great control for brightness adjustments on each color channel, and that enables the creation of complex picture profiles. It would be great to have the same option for Hue and Saturation. This would enable us to color grade in-camera and create even more complex film simulations than with any other brand. Hopefully Sony considers this feature in newer models.


With more people making their own films and increased demand for fast turnaround, there is a big need for customizing images right in the camera. The question is who will be the first to introduce these features into modern cameras? Or baking LUTs into JPEGs is the way to go?


Thank you for reading this article, I hope it helps you understand the basics of Sony color and how to match your cameras together when using film simulations and not only.


I want to thank Sony for sending these cameras in for testing! Much appreciated.


If you want to




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2 Comments


will try a7rV A0.25 and g0.25 for both kodak and also sonys own standard profile today shooting sports on a field. been having colour issues due to them being on a green surface see if that helps. I also have a request for fuji reala ace ;P are you still working on updating the capture one/LR presets?

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Great to hear Sony has provided you with the camera's. Im wondering whether they want to improve their firmware on the UX aspect. I love your profiles, but all these features are still hidden away in the menu's, and require some knowledge to use properly. I keep notes in my phone to know what settings correspond to which emulation. I am even experimenting with different SD-cards in combination with the memory-feature on the camera itself to create specific 'Film-stock' SD cards. I switch SD-cards to get different film-stock emulations.

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