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Sony colors off? Color match film simulations across Sony cameras with this trio.

Have you ever tried a film simulation, started taking photos, and then noticed they don’t look like the sample? The reason for this is that the film simulations aren't color calibrated across cameras. Different cameras = different colors a.k.a the colors of the film simulations will slightly shift. It's like a baking a cake - you follow the same recipe, use the same ingredients, and yet, the final product can turn out differently depending on the oven you use.


The oven - a.k.a the camera - affects the final result. This is why the same film simulation can produce varying colors on different cameras, making it essential to understand how to adjust and fine-tune your settings to achieve your desired look.


That's what I want to tackle today - I'll explain my process of color matching film simulations between various cameras. However, this is also super useful for color correcting Sony colors using the Picture Profile menu.


Although there is a steep learning curve, it gets a lot easier when you understand the basics of color. I also wrote an article a while back in which I showcased how to color match all your cameras.


This will be a lengthy response, so grab a cup of coffee. I will simulate the workflow using Capture One, as it's much easier than testing everything outside. This is the exact workflow I've been following when color matching. ⬇️


Temperature & tint - they key to troubleshooting the problem


To explain this as easily as I can, I will ask you to focus on 2 characteristics of color, temperature (cool, warm) and tint (green, magenta). This will simplify everything and help us see the problem in our image, and understand where to push our settings to counterbalance the colors.


Here is a color wheel. It encompasses the full spectrum of colors seen by the human eye.




We can categorize all these as warm colors, and cold colors. Let me cut the wheel in two so it's easier to see.



If your colors fall in either part more than the other, it means it's either predominantly warm or predominantly cold. By knowing this, we can understand and determine in which direction we need to push colors to get the type of colors we need.


As your camera shift through the whole temperature range (2500K - 9900K), your colors will be shifted towards either colder, or warmer colors. Like in these reference images. ⬇️


kelvin color temperature

Notice how colors start moving from the colder half towards the warmer end as the temperature rises. This causes color to shift.


If your blues are accurate or shifted towards teal, greens are shifted towards teal, yellows shifted towards green, and reds towards pink or magenta, it means your image is on the cold side. (Image 1)


If your blues are rather magenta, greens are olive and yellow reds are rather orange, it means your image is predominantly warm. (Image 3)


This color chart might also help you pin point the differences in hues. ⬇️


how to match film simulations on different cameras

Whenever I want to match different cameras or create a film simulation, there are 4 colors I always check first. Reds, yellows, greens, and blues. I compare these colors from the reference and in my image, with the purpose of understanding what is the color cast of my own sensor compared to the reference.


How to color calibrate film simulations across cameras using color filter, phase, and temperature


When matching film simulations on different cameras, you need to look for differences in all these colors to understand where your colors are situated in the spectrum, and understand how to balance them out with the help of the temperature, color filter, and color phase.

 

When creating or matching film simulations, here are 2 questions which I ask myself all the time:

Are the colors too cold or too warm compared to the reference?

What is the tint of the image? Is it too magenta or green?

This helps figure out how I need to push the settings to get to the desired look.

 

I'll show you a practical example. Let's take this image as a reference for our film simulations. Since it has fairly accurate colors, comparing it to an 'uncalibrated' image will make it easier to understand the technique.


sony colors
Reference Image

The following image is an example of the one coming straight out of camera, the one we want to analyze, and color correct in-camera.

sony colors

Let's compare them.


Compare the images


Look at the Reds, yellows, greens, blues and see if you find any differences.

How are the colors compared to the reference? Are they colder or warmer?


If you look overall you will notice there is a blue predominance over the whole image, and if we check the color scopes, you will notice the reds are shifted towards pink, yellows towards green, greens towards teal and blues are rather accurate, so as a final conclusion the image is rather cold.


That is because all the colors are shifted to the colder half rather than the warmer half. A warmer image would have had reds and yellows shifted towards orange, blues to magenta and greens shifted towards olive.


Fix the Kelvin temperature


Now that we know our sensor is colder than the reference, we can raise the temperature by a couple steps 'till we hit the sweet spot.


sony colors
Reference Image

Fixed Kelvin

improve sony colors

Shift the Color Phase


It looks better, but now the blues are a bit shifted towards magenta compared to the reference. This might be a particular tendency of the sensor. Each camera has a different color science, so colors will be mapped differently even at the same settings or temperature. So what can we do to fix this?


Go into the Picture Profile menu and use the Color Phase to shift colors clockwise, or counterclockwise.


sony color phase

I raised the color phase to positive values to shift the blues from magenta towards teal. But keep in mind, the Color Phase will shift all the colors in the chosen direction.


In this example, I raised the color phase to a positive value to shift the blues - I took them from magenta towards teal. But keep in mind, the Color Phase will affect and shift all the colors in the chosen direction. Adjusting it it's a bit like changing the lighting bulb in a room.



Adjust the Color Filter


Alright, let's get back to our image. Now the colors are a bit too magenta. To balance out the magenta tones in the image, we need to adjust the color filter to incorporate complementary colors. In this case, we're looking at blue-green to counteract the effects of the positive color phase.


The positive color phase shifts reds towards pink and greens towards olive. To counteract this, we need to introduce blue-green to bring the colors back into balance. This will help to neutralize the magenta tones and create a more natural color palette.

sony color filter

It's better, but now the image is a bit colder, so I'll raise the temperature by 200 Kelvin.


Final results ⬇️

And that is my workflow in matching colors between cameras.


As you can see in this example, I went all they way in finely matching all the colors as well as I could. However, the final few adjustments make such small changes that you might not even see them. Plus, sometimes cameras models are just too different to match colors exactly. So don’t stress about getting a perfect match. It's important to get similar look, with great colors and have fun while creating!

 

Some caveats


While this workflow helps in matching the overall colors and getting similar looks, cameras that are 5 years apart will have individual color differences which cannot be matched.

By using this technique you might get all the colors closely matching, but one of them might be heavily shifted and you won't be able to fix that! It might be the reds, or the yellows or blues. There might be one color that no matter what you do, it will be different from other cameras.  


This is the case between the Sony a7III and the newer cameras like the Sony a6700. The reds usually don't match, or if they do, then the blues don't match. Most of the time, there will be one color that doesn't match. And that is because Sony's color science has evolved so much over the past couple years. In my perspective, perfection is not as important as getting overall the same vibe and colors.


I noticed even if I get my older a7III to overall match to the a6700, the reds on the a7III will still be very shifted towards pink. Adjusting such color differences would require a individual hue adjustment tool, which are only present in editing software like Davinci Resolve, Adobe Premiere and so on. So we need to understand, while in-camera color matching can give us great results, there are limitations and there will always be differences between models.


Understand the unique color profiles of Sony cameras with Extreme Point Color Shifting


Now before you go, there is an interesting thing I call extreme point color shifting, which basically means each sensor will have different color mapping at extreme temperature points, like 2500K or 9900K.


Examples


Sony RX100 VI - 2500K

Sony A7III - 2500K

Some cameras will be teal, others blue or even magenta. Same at 9900Kelvin, cameras will have different color mapping and that is because Sony, just like every camera brand, keeps improving their color science with each new release.


From my experience, at 2500K the a7III will be Magenta, on the RX100 VI Blues will be Teal, while the Sony a6700 will be well-balanced in the middle.


Generally speaking, I noticed older cameras have a magenta predominance in the lower end, and a yellowish cast in the higher end. This can be fixed by lifting the color phase to positive values by +2 or +4.


To fix color casts, use the color phase to shift color clockwise or counterclockwise, and match your Sony colors to the reference. Additionally, use the Kelvin and the Color filter to push colors in specific directions.


To match all cameras to the a6700 at 2500K, as it's the most balanced one, on the a7III I will raise the color phase to positive values, while on the RX100 VI I will lower the color phase to negative values. This will help me bring all cameras in the middle in terms of color hue.


Use this trio to color match your simulations 💪


When creating or adjusting film recipes, I am constantly going back and forth between these 3 tools to finely push and pull color in different directions.


It really is an iterative process similar to fine-tuning a piano. You make a minor adjustment on one control and observe how it impacts the others, then tweak those accordingly until everything is perfectly calibrated. Practice makes perfect - in time, you'll learn how to get the colors exactly where you want them.


I hope this tutorial helped you gain insight on how to match colors on multiple cameras. If you have more questions, leave them in the comments below.


You can purchase Sony film simulation recipes by following the link below


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I take photos at intersections with traffic lights. That's how I check for the accuracy of green, yellow and red. I include a patch of sky in the photo to check the blue. So far Classic cinema is very accurate.

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