Star Eater – UPDATED. Why I No Longer Recommend Sony Cameras for Astrophotography: An Open Letter to Sony

star-eater-why-i-no-longer-recommend-sony-cameras-for-astrophotography

Sony makes excellent cameras. In the last few years, they launched a completely new full frame camera system that has pushed the bounds of digital photography. I switched entirely to Sony gear after first seeing the tremendous low-light capability of their a7S and have enjoyed many outings shooting astrophotography on many different Sony camera bodies since. I have previously recommended Sony gear to countless numbers of fellow photographers looking for the best landscape astrophotography cameras. That is no longer the case. If you want to shoot landscape astrophotography, don’t buy a Sony. If you already have a Sony camera, don’t update the firmware.

Here’s why I no longer recommend Sony cameras and how the latest firmware update made Sony’s a7RII and a7SII terrible for astrophotography.

UPDATE, May 4, 2017: Rob Shelley of Sony Pro Services has responded with the following message:

Ian, your Star Eater post was forwarded to me by a reader. Great insight that I will pass along to Engineers for developmental consideration.

As you noted, replies from Sony are not frequent but are often heard. Feel free to, if you have other comments, forward them along to me and I will get them to the appropriate departments and individuals.
Contact me any time by phone or email.

All the best.
Rob Shelley
Pro Services Support Manager Southwest
Sony North America

UPDATE, May 4, 2017: I received the following reply from Trung Vu of Sony Alpha Pro Support:

We have forwarded your concern to our sustaining engineering group.

Trung Vu
Senior Product Specialist
Sony Alpha Pro Support

UPDATE, May 5, 2017: I spoke with Rob Shelley of Sony Pro Services on the phone. He has informed me that he will try to contact the relevant parties in engineering about the concern. That said, it seems as if he was never previously aware of this issue and is not fully sure of what needs to happen next for a fix. I hoping that he will take this matter seriously and find the right people in order to forward our collective concern. 

UPDATE May 6, 2017: I and several others have received the following generic reply from [email protected]:

We’re sorry to hear that. To best assist you regarding this concern, please call our alpha support team.

Sony support hotline: (800) 222-7669
Sony alpha technical team: 1-239-245-6360
Business Hours:
Monday – Friday 8:00 AM to 12:00 AM ET (Midnight).
Saturday – Sunday 9:00 AM to 8:00 PM ET.

We look forward to your continuous support to Sony products.

Regards,
Anthony
Sony Social Media Team

UPDATE: May 30, 2017: The Sony a9 does it.

UPDATE: June 8, 2017: Sony has released a new firmware update (4.00 for the a7RII and 3.00 for the a7SII) that purportedly provides a fix for the Star Eater Issue. The firmware update notes mention the change “Improves image quality when Long Exposure NR setting is OFF.” The change presumably allows users to now disable the Star Eater algorithm as long as the Long Exposure NR setting is set to OFF. Previously, the Star Eater spatial filtering was enabled even if the Long Exposure NR setting was set to OFF. User navmannz on the Fred Miranda and DPReview forums is claiming that 4s – 30s is fixed but I have not confirmed this myself. 

UPDATE: June 10, 2017:  I am still evaluating the new firmware with the help of others. 

UPDATE: June 13, 2017: I can confirm now that the latest firmware updates (4.00 for the a7RII and 3.00 for the a7SII) do not change the behavior of the cameras in any significant way. Jim Kasson did a great technical analysis of the issue with the latest firmware. So basically, this update was a false alarm. I received help from several of you to come to this conclusion, thanks for sending me your RAW files. I’m going to be relaying the latest to Sony Pro Support and hoping that they can help continue to get the message to the right people to see a fix through. 

UPDATE: July 28, 2017:

PLEASE SIGN OUR PETITION TO SONY TO HAVE THIS ISSUE FIXED.

Thanks everyone who has been trying to contact Sony. Keep calling. This isn’t fixed yet. –Ian

–Original Article Below–

In August of 2016, Sony made firmware changes to their two flagship a7 series cameras (the a7RII and a7SII). The update (3.30 on the a7RII and 2.10 on the a7SII) was supposed to include improvements for radio controlled lighting and overall camera stability and temperature control. But hidden in these improvements is a change that affects the image quality when shooting long exposures, particularly astrophotos. The problem has been dubbed “Star Eater” by others in the astro community.

sony-alpha-star-eater-comparison

Full resolution examples of the “Star Eater” issue are available for download here (.zip, 8.4MB).

The “Star Eater” problem is a form of software spatial filtering designed to reduce noise in photos, particularly hot pixels. Unfortunately, the rather rudimentary filtering algorithm that Sony is using easily mistakes sharp pinpoint stars for noise, deleting them from the image or greatly reducing their brightness. The result is an astrophoto with less stars and the appearance of diminished resolution. Sony a7RII and a7SII cameras with the latest firmware exhibit this problem for all exposure times longer than 3.2″. Furthermore, the “Star Eater” issue affects RAW images (whether uncompressed or not) and cannot be disabled by any means. To top it off, it’s impossible to downgrade your firmware to a previous version.

sony-alpha-star-eater-demo

Comparison of an unaffected exposure with a “Star Eater” exposure at 100% crop.

The firmware change was introduced months ago but is only now starting to be noticed as more and more astrophotographers update the firmware of their cameras. I have confirmed the issue myself and it has been discussed and analyzed many times on other places around the online photography community, particularly on the DPReview forums, Cloudy Nights, Jim Kasson’s Last Word, and more recently on Sony Alpha Rumors.

Bad spatial filtering isn’t new to Sony’s Alpha cameras. Even with the older firmware, all recent Sony alpha mirrorless cameras including the a6000, a6300, a6500, a7S, a7R, a7, a7II, a7SII and a7RII exhibit the “Star Eater” issue when using the Bulb exposure mode. Untracked landscape astrophotography rarely requires exposures longer than 30″ so I never found that the issue affected my photography. Now, with the latest firmware updates on the a7RII and a7SII, what was once a problem that only affected the niche case of Bulb exposures now affects all reasonable untracked astrophotography exposure times for common focal lengths. And on their flagship mirrorless cameras to boot.

I’ll admit that it is a problem that requires a fair bit of pixel peeping. Some photographers might never even notice the issue. But as our community shifts more and more towards the enthusiast, to the photographer who really cares about the finest capability of their equipment, an issue like this is tremendously disappointing to many of us.

Personally, learning of this change (and verifying the issue for myself) has led me to question my desire for future Sony camera bodies (it is still unconfirmed if the new Sony a9 is affected).  It has certainly made me very skeptical of future firmware updates from Sony. Mostly, I hate the thought of having recommending a camera to so many people only to learn that something has changed that would have me question my original recommendation. These aren’t cheap tools.

sony-fe-16mm-f35-sel057fec-astrophotography-review-5

It is with great disappointment that I no longer recommend Sony cameras

So, it is with great disappointment that I will no longer recommend Sony cameras, particularly the a7RII and a7SII with the latest firmware, until we see a fix. If you’ve shared the same love of Sony cameras as I have in the past, and you own one of these cameras, help us reach out to Sony directly by calling Sony at:

Sony support hotline: (800) 222-7669
Sony alpha technical team: 1-239-245-6360

Please reference this article at: lonelyspeck.com/stareater

They introduced the problem with firmware. They can fix it with firmware. If enough of us call, maybe we can get them to issue a fix.

 I have already started reaching out to Sony directly as well as writing to several of my contacts close to Sony to see if we can get some action. So far, Sony has not responded to my initial emails and many other photographers have experienced the same lack of response. I think that the only way to get a fix is to keep trying to contact Sony. If you have contacts at Sony, any help reaching out to them would be greatly appreciated by me and many others.
I will update this blog post accordingly if I see any significant progress.
My open letter to Sony is a re-writing of this blog post and is published below:

Hello Sony, 

I am writing with great concern about the so-called “Star Eater” problem affecting Sony Alpha cameras. 

Most of the latest Sony Alpha cameras employ a spatial filtering noise reduction algorithm when using Bulb mode. This noise reduction targets hot pixels. It affects RAW files and cannot be turned off, even when using Uncompressed RAW. The primary issue with the spatial filtering is that it greatly affects astrophotography: dimmer stars that occupy only a few pixels are erased, essentially “mistaken” for noise by the filtering algorithm. The result is an astrophoto with greatly reduced visibility of dim stars and an overall appearance of reduced resolution. 

This issue affects all recent Sony alpha mirrorless cameras including the a6000, a6300, a6500, a7S, a7R, a7, a7II, a7SII and a7RII. It likely affects more models, too. The issue has been thoroughly discussed and analyzed by others in the community, particularly on the DPReview forums and on Jim Kasson’s Last Word blog. References are at the bottom of this email. 

My blog, lonelyspeck.com, focuses specifically on accessible landscape astrophotography for beginners and I’ve personally been a big fan of Sony cameras up until now. While the spatial filtering on Sony Alpha cameras has been documented for a long time, it didn’t really affect the simpler forms of astrophotography that do not require shutter times longer than 30s. If we used these cameras in M mode and let the camera time the exposure up to 30s long, the camera would not apply the problematic spatial filtering. For most cases in landscape astrophotography, night sky exposures almost never exceed 30s in order to reduce star trailing. 

But I’ve recently learned, particularly through some emailing with readers, Sony Alpha Rumors, as well as the DPReview forums and Jim Kasson’s blog, that Sony has issued firmware updates to at least the a7RII and a7SII (3.30 and 2.10, respectively) that now forces the same “Star Eater” spatial filtering on all exposures that exceed 3.2s in shutter time, even when not in Bulb mode. What was once a problem that only affected the niche case of Bulb exposures now affects ALL reasonable untracked astrophotography exposure times for common focal lengths. 

Personally, learning of this change (and verifying the issue for myself) has led me to question my desire for future Sony camera bodies and has made me very skeptical of future firmware updates. I hate the thought of having recommending a camera to someone only to learn that something has changed that would have me question my original recommendation. These aren’t cheap tools. As a result, I’m no longer recommending and will be forced to discourage the use of current and future Sony cameras on my blog, unless we see a fix. 

I’m reaching out because I believe Sony has the capability to fix this issue to win back the support of so many loyal fans. We have already seen Sony make improvements and fixes to the a7 series when DPReview published about the original issues with Sony’s compressed RAW artifact problems. As a result, Sony issued firmware updates for the a7II, a7SII, and a7RII that enabled uncompressed RAW.  It was a fix that was favorably commended by many in the photography community. Now, we need another fix.

Sony, please fix the “Star Eater” spatial filtering issue via a firmware update… the problem was introduced/exacerbated with firmware so it’s obvious it can be fixed with firmware. At the very least, make it a selectable option in the menu such that it can be disabled when desired. Adding the option to disable it for Bulb mode would just be icing on the cake.

This letter is available publicly as a blog post on lonelyspeck.com, documenting the issue for my readers. I’ve recommended the a7SII and a7RII to so many people for landscape astrophotography and it would feel disingenuous to not tell them about this issue. 

For reference, here are a number of online sources that discuss the “Star Eater” problem:

DPReview:

https://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/58709160
https://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/55841466

Cloudy Nights:

https://www.cloudynights.com/topic/498339-sony-a7s-star-eater-algorithm/
https://www.cloudynights.com/topic/505754-another-real-world-example-of-sonys-star-eater-problem/
https://www.cloudynights.com/topic/558230-star-eater-in-action-sony-a7rii/

SAR:

http://www.sonyalpharumors.com/specific-a7sii-astrophotography-fix-request/#disqus_thread

Sony Community: 

https://community.sony.com/t5/Alpha-NEX-Cameras/Star-eater-in-bulb-mode/td-p/508740

From Jim Kasson: 

http://blog.kasson.com/the-last-word/spacial-filtering-of-raw-images-by-sony-a7s-a7ii/
http://blog.kasson.com/the-last-word/sony-a7rii-long-exposure-spatial-filtering-with-fw-3-30/
http://blog.kasson.com/the-last-word/16486/
http://blog.kasson.com/the-last-word/lenr-and-sony-a7rii-fw-3-30-lowpass-filteering/
http://blog.kasson.com/the-last-word/reverse-engineering-the-sony-a7rii-long-exposure-spatial-filtering/
http://blog.kasson.com/the-last-word/sony-a7rii-bulb-spatial-filtering/

Sincerely, 

Ian Norman
[email protected]
lonelyspeck.com

224 Responses

  1. Sam September 16, 2017 / 12:22 pm

    I can’t see any confirmation on the impact (if any) for A7, A7r (which I have), or original A7s. For exposures up to 30s is there any star eater behaviour for these cameras?

  2. Daniel J. September 11, 2017 / 11:33 am

    In the latest email I’ve received from Sony…their alpha Universe Newsletter includes a section on night sky photography. Here’s a link to the article: https://alphauniverse.com/stories/starry-starry-night/?rid=1&cid=eml-na-1233&CRMID=6012236165&XID=E:78555:S7L1ALPHAUDISCOVER

    The author, Andrew Eggers, doesn’t mention which firmware his A7Rii had, but does suggest the camera is perfect for this purpose. Star Eater? Not mentioned. Given this fact, what are we to believe with regard to how Sony considers this issue? Fake news brought up by photographic zealots?

    To be frank, while I have asked Sony to look into the Star Eater issue, my own testing “seems” to show no issue with my A7Rii…which has firmware version 3.3. I say “seems” because I claim no technical expertise. I compared shots of the Milky Way taken at 3.2 secs and 15 secs. No difference I can see. Compare shots taken with my Sony versus my Olympus OMD EM5…again, no difference in terms of the number of stars. Off topic, but I love the Olympus 8mm FE. I believe it outperforms the Sigma 15mm FE which I use with my Sony.

    Of course, my results are with my specific camera. Maybe your Sony camera gives you obvious star eater effects. Maybe the reason Sony has yet to address the issue is the lack of reproducibility across the production line. IOW, take 100 A7Rii with firmware 3.3 and star eater shows up in 50. What? How that would happen beats me…but something weird is going on.

  3. Stephen Hemenway August 30, 2017 / 1:17 pm

    Any update on this issue? Has anyone had any Sony response about an upcoming change, or a way to downgrade or anything?

    Important topic here!

  4. Christoffer Eriksson August 24, 2017 / 1:12 am

    I’m a bit confused, I have an A7RII that I bought when I cancelled my order for the Canon 6D MkII and I did some tests for the stareater problem and is this really an issue with FW version 4.00?? I cannot see any difference in these 2 images when they’re exposure compensated.
    [URL=http://s33.photobucket.com/user/Raiderviking/media/Mixed/3s%20vs%206s_zpsj4nyv7yj.jpg.html]

  5. Ralf August 15, 2017 / 1:56 am

    Does someone know until which firmware version the Star Eater problem does not appear? So I might buy a new A7s with an old but proper firmware.

  6. Ralf August 15, 2017 / 1:56 am

    I was going to buy a A7s. Mainly for astrophotography of course. By accident I got to this site. After I read about that problem I contacted the sony europe service by email. The answer was they know about this problem and are analysing it to change it by another software. But they can’t say when the software will be brought out.

  7. Flo August 5, 2017 / 6:54 am

    Any news yet?
    Are there some tricks to do overcome the problem on the a6300?

  8. Harry M July 26, 2017 / 1:15 pm

    Welp – guess I can cross the A6000 off my list.

  9. Jeff A July 21, 2017 / 7:18 pm

    Sony could care less about our trivial community. The more I research, the more I learn about Sony’s DEPLORABLE customer service and camera service horror stories. No more Sony’s for me. At least I can find comfort in the fact that I did not update the FW in my a7s – it’s still good for <30" tripod stuff which is mostly why I bought it anyway -Good Luck

    • Kiril Karaatanassov August 12, 2017 / 5:06 am

      As a matter of fact Sony did fix many similar issues. I had A700 that had RAW noise reduction that could not be turned off and was widely criticized. They issues FW4 that fixed it. NEX-5 and NEX-7 cameras had many ergonomic problems at launch that Sony fixed in Firmware. A6000 camera received many updates including a new video codec that vastly improved video recording quality. Most recently A7 second generation cameras received some of the A6300 ergonomic updates like improved focus point selection….

      It is not as good as Fuji but Sony is among the best camera manufacturers regarding support of their products.

    • Luis Aviles August 25, 2017 / 4:15 pm

      Can you post the FW of your Sony A7S please?
      I bought the same same camera model recently and I’d like to confirm if I’ll have the same issue.
      Thanks in advance.

  10. Heather July 20, 2017 / 2:26 pm

    My husband and I do a lot of camping where we travel to our sites by hiking or canoe and I recently picked up an A5000 for these trips because I wanted a much smaller camera as I only take one back pack on these trips.

    Is the A5000 also effected by this issue?

    I was very disappointed to learn of this problem and to see how slowly Sony is responding.

    • Kiril Karaatanassov August 12, 2017 / 5:07 am

      As A5000 is a bit older model I would guess only bulb exposures of more than 30 seconds are affected. Of course you can test with 3.2, 4 second and 30 second exposure and see if the quantity of stars that appear in your photo changes suddenly….

  11. Bruce Tennant July 20, 2017 / 1:56 am

    Hi, Ian….

    I have a Sony A6000 with its original firmware; I never updated it. Am I good for astrophotography as far as this “star eater” issues goes? Thanks much

  12. Yuri July 19, 2017 / 8:00 pm

    Hey Ian,

    Any update on this debacle?
    The last one seems to have been on June 13…
    The internet is a mixed bag, and some reviews say that 4.0 fixed the A7RII, others not.

    Love your blog btw – my favorite astro resource!

    • Kenny Le July 20, 2017 / 5:51 am

      Everyone who has been on this issue for more than a month pretty much agrees the issue is not fixed. It’s just the people who dropped in recently and haven’t followed it for years that think it’s been fixed.

    • Yuri July 20, 2017 / 7:41 pm

      Dammit.
      Thanks Kenny… Fingers crossed they fix it in the not too distant future.
      Fortunately weather is crap here for the foreseeable future, so I wont be getting any clear sky for a bit.
      :/

  13. val July 16, 2017 / 8:35 pm

    I am planning to buy either a6500 or a6300.

    Does the star eater issue happen only in bulb mode for those models? Bulb mode or not as long as 3.2″ or longer?

  14. Rakshith July 10, 2017 / 6:19 am

    Do guys think, someone can hack into this and rectify just the noise reduction algorithm??

    Like how the Nikon was hacked??
    Is it possible….??
    Can some brilliant person manage this miracle?

  15. Shine July 8, 2017 / 7:09 pm

    I wonder if the Japanese astrophotographers are talking about this and petitioning Sony about this too? Somehow I have a feeling this would be more effective..

    • akmtshun July 8, 2017 / 8:40 pm

      The “Star Eater” issue has been brought to the attention of Japanese astrophotographers at http://reflexions.jp/blog/ed_tenmon/archives/453. One of the readers of the website has verified and has reported the test results to the community. At http://reflexions.jp/blog/ed_tenmon/archives/514, the author “ed_tenmon” has then published the test results and said that he/she has contracted the support team of Sony and summarised their responses as follows:
      1. (Sony Japan) is not aware of the issue.
      2. Regarding the information (available) on forums on the Internet, Sony is not in a position to respond.

    • Woj July 28, 2017 / 7:40 am

      I think they got hit with the a9 overheating/banding issue and whether it was true or not, they’ll probably be quiet about public embarrassment. Hopefully, they’ll issue another firmware update.

  16. Dan Gallo July 8, 2017 / 11:56 am

    I called Sony about this issue today on the following number: 239-245-6360, and discussed the issue (I have an a7RII).
    The person I spoke to was well aware of the “star eater” issue, and confirmed my 3.30 firmware was affected.
    He offered me the phone number for their service center – he said I could send the camera to them in order to downgrade the firmware to a version that would resolve this issue.
    But he also mentioned they are working on a fix, but there’s no timeline on when it would be available in a new firmware release.
    I’m going to hold off on sending my camera body to the service center for now, but for those that are interested in downgrading their firmware, the phone number for the service center is 860-272-2100.

  17. Stephen Hemenway July 6, 2017 / 9:44 pm

    Any news at all recently? I’m actually quite ticked cause I bought an a7sii and an a6300 and then saw this article a week and a half later.. I checked the versions and both are newest firmware and have the issue… I tested it… I rented an a7sii and loved the results and saw what it could do with the stars… now I actually bought one and it can’t do nice astro photos anymore -.-

    Yah, I’m pissed. That was a lot of money I tossed at a dream… If I knew I wouldn’t have been able to do decent astrophotos with Sony, I would have gotten 2 gh4’s, saved money and just stuck to my video… since that’s my job.

  18. Francesco July 6, 2017 / 6:32 am

    i’ve just purchased a sony a7II. its firmware is 3.10.. so do you reccomend the new 4.0 firmware or not? thanks

  19. Dave July 6, 2017 / 1:48 am

    hey Ian,
    Out of curiosity… Have you pulled the tiff file out one of the raw files yet?
    It would be interesting to see if the “data tiff” inside the raw file is ok and its stars haven’t been eaten. That file should be bare-boned with no exif or settings embedded. In other words, it would show if Sony is truly writing a true, untouched raw file or not.

    I believe in theory the inner tiff should be uneaten and the eater is in the data setting files inside the raw container. If they’re fine it’d be great but you’d lose the exif data (as a workaround) but still could add some back but at least you could still use the photos.

    • Don July 12, 2017 / 10:07 am

      How is that done? I would absolutely do that.

    • Ian Norman July 12, 2017 / 8:34 pm

      I don’t think that is a thing. There is an embedded jpeg preview but not a tiff. All testing done on Sony files affected by star-eater seem to indicated spatial filtering is being applied.

    • dave July 13, 2017 / 11:10 am

      @don… I use a program called file juicer… just drop a file on it and it spits out all the parts

      @Ian, I can pull them out of my sony files(nikon and canon too), I just don’t have any astro shots from my older sony.
      from the wiki page
      “Many raw file formats, including IIQ (Phase One), 3FR (Hasselblad), DCR, K25, KDC (Kodak), CR2 (Canon), ERF (Epson), MEF (Mamiya), MOS (Leaf), NEF (Nikon), ORF (Olympus), PEF (Pentax), RW2 (Panasonic) and ARW, SRF, SR2 (Sony), are based on the TIFF file format”

      “Sony files affected by star-eater seem to indicated spatial filtering is being applied.”
      The question is… is it being applied to the actual raw image (tiff) or is it doing it in the header or data file in the raw package.

      it’s worth checking, you have my email if you want to send me a raw. I’ll send you back the parts.

    • Kenny Le July 14, 2017 / 8:04 am

      I noticed that File Juicer is a Mac-only program. Do you know of a Windows equivalent? I don’t know which OS Ian uses, but since he’s from an engineering background, it’s very likely he’s more familiar with Windows since practically all engineering programs are Windows-only affairs.

    • dave July 14, 2017 / 5:26 pm

      KENNY LE, I have no idea, I haven’t owned a windows machine in about 16 years.

    • Rakshith July 16, 2017 / 12:07 am

      @kennylee
      I think there’s something similar to filejuicer

      It’s called Bitmap rip

      Was reading it sometime back…

      Let us all know if you guys reach a conclusion on this!! Please 🙂

  20. Stephen Agnew June 23, 2017 / 2:37 pm

    Ian, it looks like a new firmware has been released for Sony’s mirrorless Alpha cameras. Can you verify that this firmware update (v3.0) solves the star eater problem on the Sony A7SII?

    • J June 24, 2017 / 11:29 pm

      V3.0 and V4.0 does NOT fix the star eater issue.

    • Ian Norman July 4, 2017 / 10:46 am

      Unfortunately, little if anything has changed in regards to star-eater problems in the v3.0 (a7SII) and v4.0 (a7RII) firmware versions.

  21. Matt June 20, 2017 / 4:53 pm

    Does anyone know if this “star eater” fiasco is inherent in the A7 mk 2 model affecting it in bulb mode only or is now affected with a 4 seconds or greater exposure with the new firmware?

    • Ian Norman July 4, 2017 / 10:48 am

      In the latest firmware, it is now inherent for all exposures 4 seconds or longer, even when not using bulb.

    • Damian July 6, 2017 / 7:19 am

      Are you sure this is also true for the A7II (not SII / RII)?

  22. Geoff Sharpe June 19, 2017 / 1:20 am

    Hi Ian, Can you tell me if the Sony a99ii camera is effected by the star eater firmware problem?
    Thanks,
    Geoff.

  23. Geoff Sharpe June 19, 2017 / 1:18 am

    Hi Ian, Do you know if the star eater problem effects the Sony a99ii camera?

  24. Lee Wei June 14, 2017 / 8:19 am

    I hope this is fixed over the coming weeks.

    Apparently, the update does show a tiny bit of improvement, but the overall result isn’t different in any significant way.

    I remember Nikon getting some flak for the same thing some time ago. Hopefully Sony learns from that and their act of releasing an update that allows users to save uncompressed RAW files due to community feedback. I personally love their camera hardware and capabilities, which makes it even more of a shame that a portion of software is hindering one of its capabilities.

    • elpres June 14, 2017 / 12:12 pm

      Thanks for your work on this. I today called Sony at the number for the Alpha Technical Team contained in your article and they assured me that engineers are working on a solution. I couldn’t get them to give me any estimate as to when it would be done. I assume that if enough of us are squeaky wheels, they will attend to it expeditiously.

  25. Colin Surprenant June 12, 2017 / 8:01 am

    What concerns me the most is the total lack of any “official” acknowledgement and openness from Sony for the issue and their plan moving forward. I own both A7R2 and A7S and recently had an opportunity to “upgrade” to the A7S2 but will definitely not proceed as I use my A7S a lot for astro.

  26. Mark Shelley June 11, 2017 / 11:03 pm

    My analysis is that with the new A7Rii firmware (v4.0) the “star eater” spatial filtering works exactly as it always did in the red and blue channels. There has been a definite improvement in the green channel for any star that falls across more than one green pixel. So the green pixels of a typical tiny star will survive but the red and green components will be deleted.

  27. steve June 11, 2017 / 1:51 pm

    Bulb mode is not fixed with the new FW on a7r2 or atsii. The manual shutter settings it does seemed to be fixed for…..so if after more than 30 seconds you are stuffed

  28. Matt June 11, 2017 / 8:07 am

    Hi Ian et al,

    Regarding this issue I just grabbed an a7s (mark I not mark ii). Was star eater an issue for a7s or just a7sii? I noticed a7s isn’t addressed in 4.0 firmware, only mark ii. I have firmware 3.20. Does my camera have star water issues? Thanks!

    • Kenny June 11, 2017 / 1:27 pm

      From what I’ve read, the “star eater” is a problem for the a7s only in Bulb mode. I have the original a7s as well and I use it for untracked astrophotography which means my maximum exposure time tends to be 30 seconds (non-Bulb). Anything requiring a longer exposure (which requires going into Bulb mode) means I break out the Nikon D810 and D7200.

  29. Eric June 9, 2017 / 2:08 pm

    IAN Norman have you had a chance to test and confirm this new update has fixed the problem no also no new problems have occurred?

  30. Anthony R June 8, 2017 / 10:59 am

    How dirty of Sony to leave the mark I models out of the mix.

    • Jeff Anderson June 8, 2017 / 6:55 pm

      I’d be very surprised if our antique cameras are addressed – fingers crossed anyway, come on Sony, give a little !

    • Jeff Anderson June 8, 2017 / 7:48 pm

      It is being reported on FM that the stated firmware update DOES NOT fix the Star Eater problem – Sorry folks. Awaiting details –

  31. Tom June 8, 2017 / 10:41 am

    nothing new for a6000… 🙁

  32. Anthony R June 8, 2017 / 9:08 am

    Has anyone attempted to use Bulb Mode yet to see if the problem is fixed??

  33. Attila June 8, 2017 / 2:45 am

    Why was not patch made for A7 mk2? The bug was there too?

    • Ky June 8, 2017 / 10:29 am

      Yeah I have a 7II and am left wondering if I’m still screwed…

    • Stevo June 8, 2017 / 12:13 pm

      I also have the a7ii, and am also concerned.
      Up here in Sweden the night sky is too light for me to test myself at the moment.
      Can anyone confirm if the a7ii was actually affected or if Sony have just ignored fixing our model?

    • BillG June 8, 2017 / 2:44 am

      Yay! 🙂

  34. Gergely Papp June 7, 2017 / 2:22 pm

    I just got another confirmation from the Sony Alpha Technical Team Representative to a specialized team working on the “Star Eater” case, to find the solution. He also told me to they been trying to downgrade the firmware previously but created new issues what he did not discuss.
    Share this issue on your Facebook or other Social Media Page and on your Photography group site. Then more user realizes this problem and contact with Sony.
    1-239-245-6360 Sony Alpha Technical Team

    • Sony4ever June 7, 2017 / 3:17 pm

      Thank you very much. This was encouraging to hear. However, it raised new concerns about these “new issues “…

    • sean June 8, 2017 / 12:33 am

      So I take it the new firmware that dropped today doesn’t eliminate the issue?

  35. Jeff Anderson June 3, 2017 / 5:01 pm

    “I’m just hoping that we can get Sony’s attention so they can issue a firmware fix.”

    And I thank you for that. We have been trying to do that for what seems like a couple years at least to no avail. At least my a7S can do 3o” exposures – thank God I did not do the latest firmware update! Obviously for tripod mounted landscape images it’s a non issue and a LOT can be done with a big stack of 30″ exposures from my GEM mounted camera, it’s just a ton of data. Looks like you still cant beat the 6D esp since it is actually supported mt MaxIm DL and other astroimaging software unlike Sony.

    • Kenny June 3, 2017 / 6:42 pm

      It’s much understanding that the a7s has the star eater phenomenon only in Bulb mode no matter which firmware version you use. It does not have it in any other exposure time. The a7sII, however, does have the star eater in Bulb and starting from 4 seconds on up. In this regard, the a7s is far superior to its replacement, the a7sII, for astrophotography. That’s the main reason I have not replaced my a7s with a newer model a7sII. I hope Sony hears that loud and clear. Some people are NOT buying the newer cameras specifically because Sony is intentionally degrading their performance. An easy sale for Sony has gone out the window.

  36. Harris Hassan June 2, 2017 / 3:22 pm

    Hi Ian,

    I was considering buying A7RII or A7S but after reading your article i am not sure if i should buy the Sony. Can you recommend any other setup good for astro? Do you think the new cameras would still have an older firmware and i just dont have to update to the latest?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Kenny June 2, 2017 / 8:33 pm

      If you limit your exposures to non-Bulb mode, then you won’t encounter the star eating issue using an a7s (not the newer a7sII; I’m specifically not upgrading to that model because of these astro shenanigans) with any version of the firmware. I use that setup adapted to a Nikon F-Mount Tamron 15-30mm VC f/2.8 and it’s great; it doesn’t get much better than that setup for wide-angle landscape astrophotography. The star eating issue doesn’t kick in on the original a7s until you use Bulb mode. However, if you have to go beyond 30 seconds and need to use the Bulb mode (for, say, deep sky objects), then people really seem to really like the Nikon and Canon full frame cameras. I have a Nikon D810 and D7200 for anything beyond 30 seconds which requires Bulb mode. It’s a serious hassle to carry around that many cameras for a night of astrophotography, but until Sony gets its house into order, that’s what we’re working with.

    • Carl June 2, 2017 / 9:25 pm

      I just messaged Sony on their facebook message page and referenced Ian’s article, let’s see if they message back 😉

    • Harris June 3, 2017 / 8:55 am

      Thanks Kenny. I was thinking about using my Tokina 11-20mm f2.8 with whichever sony camera I get. I will keep an eye out for A7s. I don’t think I would go beyond 30sec for milkyway photos. Does A7sII exhibit this star eating even when its not in bulb mode on the new firmware?

    • Kenny June 4, 2017 / 9:14 am

      Harris,

      As I understand it, the a7sII behaved like the a7s with older firmware. That is, the star eater kicked in only during Bulb mode. However, the more recent firmware had the star eater kick in after 4 seconds even when you weren’t in Bulb mode on the a7sII. Since just about all astrophotography requires exposurs longer than 4 seconds, this “enhancement” to the a7sII makes the a7s the clear winner when comparing the two strictly for astrophotography. As a result, I’m holding off on buying any newer bodies and Sony-branded lenses since the lenses themselves sometimes require firmware updates to the camera in order to work properly.

    • Harris June 4, 2017 / 10:58 am

      I was hoping to get a used A7RII but I read this article just in time. Maybe I will find A7rII with an older firmware somewhere. Even the older A7s costs a lot. Its a shame sony hasn’t done anything so far to fix this issue.

  37. Alex June 2, 2017 / 8:27 am

    Contact me any time by phone or email.

    All the best.
    Rob Shelley

    Would you like to call Rob?

  38. Sony4ever June 2, 2017 / 6:38 am

    Sony doesn’t answer us, Sony doesn’t react, Sony doesn’t communicate with us, and it seems they do nothing to this star eater algorithm…

    I think it’s time to make a massive social media blow now!

    We should hit sony twitter and facebook sites and post all these links. It did work with uncompressed RAW case some time ago!

    • Mundhir Suhail Ali Al Shaibani June 2, 2017 / 3:34 pm

      I agree, we should start massive social media attention & action against Sony. It’s time to step up. I suggest Ian Norman to start a petition in Change.org , and post the link in this blog so everyone can sign, not only Sony A7 owners, but friends & Families can also support. This will seriously get Sony attention. I remember I had Macbook Pro 2011 with graphics issues, and Apple refused to repair, this was Global issue, someone then started a petition in Change.org, it took a while like more than 500 days and nights, Apple finally admits its quality defect and announces: MacBook Pro Repair Extension Program for Video Issues. You can still check mbp2011.com

    • Roger June 3, 2017 / 9:23 am

      I think there is a possible bigger picture approach possible here. As a pro photographer, I am very interested in the new A9. Sony really appears to be trying to go after the Canon/Nikon pro camera market. That said, as a pro, it bothers me that their raw files are not truly raw as evidenced by Star Eater. As a pro, it bothers me that their response to this issue has been to worsen it with recent firmware updates. Is their handling of this issue on par with how they plan to handle others issues that may impact pro photographers? The Tree here is Star Eater. The Forrest is poorly baked raw files and response times to critical issues. If there is a “social media blow” it needs to be about the pro market vs. what could appear to be a niche market.

  39. steve May 31, 2017 / 8:14 pm

    whats the latest on this ?

    Is there any new info…or words from Sony…….the silence is deafening from them

  40. Johannes Leber May 30, 2017 / 2:20 am

    Curse you, Sony!

    Perfect conditions last saturday, and all i had with me was this 3.500 € brick of a camera (when it comes to nightscapes)… oh, those eaten stars! Never should have switched from a camera to a walkman. Fortunately, it doesn’t eat shooting stars as well 😉

    https://500px.com/photo/213923521/the-milky-way-and-the-meteor-by-johannes-leber

    Hope they get it done before the next new moon.

  41. Sony4ever May 29, 2017 / 7:13 am

    Okey, now this is also Sony A9’s “issue”:

    http://blog.kasson.com/the-last-word/sony-a9-eats-stars/

    ….What do you think? Do you think that Sony will update firmwares regarding this matter, or let it be as it is (What would be a big mistake if you ask me)..?

  42. spoutnicko May 29, 2017 / 3:14 am

    i made a comparison between my star eater a7s2, and my first digital camera, the venerable canon digital rebel xt, that was released in 2005

    you can see the animated gif here:
    animated gif: https://www.dropbox.com/s/cdrd76yyjhmn8zq/comparison.gif?dl=0

    as someone said, it is not impossible to make astrophoto with star eater, but PEOPLE MUST REALIZED THAT WITH STAR EATER, THE QUALITY IS WORSE THAN WITH A 10 YEARS OLD CAMERA BODY !!

    and you can also download the raw files to see by yourself:
    https://www.dropbox.com/s/doybbyagp8z4lgf/comparison%20sony%20a7s2%20vs%20canon%20rebel%20XT.zip?dl=0

    • JH June 1, 2017 / 2:41 pm

      Absolutely ridiculous! If I wouldn’t lose such a substantial amount of money I would sell my A7Rii right now and go back to Canon whom I should’ve never left! I bought the thing new in March for $3000 and you can’t sell these things for $2100 used in brand new condition. After seller fees and shipping it’d be well over a $1000 mistake.

  43. Tom Moehn May 25, 2017 / 10:42 am

    I spoke with Sony support today 5/25/17. They have gotten the message!!!! They are working on a new firmware update to resolve the “Star eater” defect. The customer service rep I spoke to, did not have a ETA when the new update would be released, but it is being currently worked on by the Sony engineers.

    • Mundhir May 25, 2017 / 1:02 pm

      I hope they are working for First generation models as well, A7,A7S &R.

    • Sony4ever May 25, 2017 / 1:52 pm

      That would be a great surprise, Mundhir! …But quite possible actually. At least not technically impossible. I so hope that Sony will do this right this time! …They would get a lot of consumer forgiveness, IF they do that right…

    • Kenny May 26, 2017 / 3:24 pm

      This issue first came to light over 2 years ago and the same platitudes were heard back then. Further below in this comment thread, a commenter stated the same thing you stated. Furthermore, he said that Sony would have a fix out in 5 to 10 business days. That was back on May 8. 10 business days ago was the end of business this past Monday. Today is Friday and there has been no word from Sony or any kind of update. I’m not saying Sony definitely won’t come up with a solution, I’m just saying that the past is usually a strong indicator of what their future action would be. Assuming that is the case, Sony is going to make you buy a new camera with this “feature”. Again, I hope Sony does something, but they’ve been in no hurry to do anything about this so far and have, in fact, made it worse. Aside from the platitudes to get you off the phone, was there anything the Sony support rep said that made you think this time was any different than every other time it was brought up by other people for more than 2 years?

  44. Rick May 24, 2017 / 8:37 pm

    I need to rent a 6300 for a trip? Does anyone know what version of software to avoid for this model? My experience has been that Lens Rentals does not frequently update the rental camera firmware. A 6500 is also available but I suspect it is so new that it may already have the star eater software.

  45. Rick May 24, 2017 / 8:33 pm

    Ian,

    I need to do a sony alpha 6300 rental for a trip. I also would like to use the camera for night sky work as it is in a very dark sky area. Do you know what version of software I need to avoid on this particular camera? They also have the 6500 available to rent but I suspect it will already have the updated version of this software as it is rather new.

  46. Daniel J. May 24, 2017 / 11:44 am

    Called the Sony Alpha technical number just now. They answered immediately, and once I told them the purpose of my call, were completely aware of the “stareater” issue. I mentioned that I had just started to delve into this type of night sky “astrophotography”, and that I also have Olympus cameras. They were interested in a comparison between the two! Actually, I can do that…next time I have a clear night. I live at elevation in a rural location where light pollution is not a problem. It’s not a long trip to my back deck. Yeah, there’s nothing particularly interesting for the foreground subject, but the sky is the sky. I don’t have one of those Rokinon lens, but I can compare the 16-35mm Sony Zeiss zoom to the Olympus 12-40mm. I also have a Sigma 15mm fisheye adapted to the Sony and the Olympus 8mm fisheye.

    As for any new information from them…all they had to say was the issue was being looked into and if they came up with a solution, they would notify us.

    • Daniel J. May 24, 2017 / 11:47 am

      Oh…forgot to mention, but I have a Sony A7rii. The Sony rep did ask me to check the firmware version…it is 3.30. I didn’t buy the camera for Astrophotography, but I live in a pretty good location for it.

    • Carl May 24, 2017 / 2:06 pm

      After surfing the internet for Sony A7s stareater, this issue isn’t even remotely new, look back to June 2015, a full 2 years ago this issue was reported, scary since I own 2 A7s’s full spectrum cameras. I’m looking into the 6d H-alpha modification to see what that produce, I’d rather keep the Sony’s but will see what they can do about the “fix.”

  47. Ron West May 23, 2017 / 3:08 am

    I sent an email to Sony in which I was referred to my “regions” Sony representative. After finding it difficult to find the email for Sony cameras I placed my complaint on Sony’s Facebook page along with Ian’s less than complementary article on their recent firmware upgrade.

    This is their response ………. We’ve recently been made aware of this issue.

    Good news! Our engineers are aware of this issue as well and are currently working on a resolution 🙂
    Once a fix is ready/available, we’ll be certain to let you and others know.

    Hope this helps for the moment and thank you for taking the time to let us know of your frustrations. It’s with this feedback, we’ve been able to bring innovation to our cameras.

    • Sony4ever May 23, 2017 / 6:22 am

      Thank you Ron,

      This was an encouraging message. Maybe sony is really doing something … Just interest: what area of the Sony Facebook page you mean?

  48. Marty Knapp May 22, 2017 / 2:11 pm

    A quick update:
    Last week Sony asked me to provide them with test shots I made with my Sony A7S (FW 3.20 factory installed in a brand new camera.) I shot stars testing both 15 and 30 second exposures both with camera-selected time and bulb-selected time. I sent out-of-the-camera, unprocessed Sony ARW files. To my eyes, I can see a softening and diminishment of detail and resolution in the bulb files compared to the camera-selected ones. I now await Sony’s technical department to comment and will post their comments here when I get them.

    • Sony4ever May 23, 2017 / 12:28 am

      This is ridiculous… You have to provide the test images to Sony? Aargh, like they don’t have any idea how their own cameras work?…Now I think it is not worth to wait for miracles, this will be a long process….

  49. Mike May 21, 2017 / 5:21 pm

    Sony is a Japanese company and in my dealings with them their culture cannot admit to or understand what a mistake is. They will resolve the issue but will call it an ‘improvement’ and if you keep pestering them about their mistake – which we all know this is – they will not be as receptive than if you ‘encourage’ them to make an ‘improvement’ to satisfy the many people who have the product.

    I once had a broadcast deck that would not work with certain tapes – seems they had an improper sensor for measuring tape tension. The deck simply did not work with certain tapes which was a serious issue. They fixed it and issued a bulletin that they called an ‘enhancement’ which I felt was very funny. They never admitted their error – it’s just their culture.

    Good luck.

    • John May 23, 2017 / 8:06 am

      Thanks for your feedback, I think it’s the most sensible comment so far and probably one of the reason the many previous complains never found a favorable issue.
      I had a similar experience with Corean people; someone had written a terrible report, full of English mistakes, albeit claiming to be fluent. I made the worst mistake, though, sending the report back with all the errors highlighted..and her chief in copy. I believe there was a reward placed on my head after that.
      Dealing with other cultures is complicated, really.

  50. photosteve 13 May 18, 2017 / 11:47 am

    I just read the “Stareater” article, and called Sony support as recommended. I have a A7Sii, software 2.10,. The Sony rep said that 2.10 does NOT have the stareater issue, but ver 2.20 does. he did not recommend updating until ver 2.30 is out there.

  51. Adam Sarasin May 18, 2017 / 10:19 am

    I’m on hold with the support team now. This is ridiculous. Everyone call and pester them!

    • Bo May 18, 2017 / 11:32 am

      What was their response this week?

    • Adam May 19, 2017 / 1:38 pm

      It won’t let me reply directly to you, but their response was that it doesn’t affect my models (a6000, a7II). I explained that it is being reported that these models ARE affected when in bulb mode and they assured me it wasn’t. Let’s just say I don’t believe them. I will be heading out to Joshua tree next weekend so I will do some testing myself. I will probably just stick with 30 or 20 second exposures though. It is a shame because I would like to do some exposures at 25 seconds with the a6000+rokinon 12mm f2, but I suppose I will just bump up the ISO and shoot at 20.

  52. David May 18, 2017 / 6:15 am

    Is the original A7R v1 affected?
    If so, starting with which firmware version?

  53. Angela May 16, 2017 / 7:40 pm

    Hi I have the A7Rii and it is V 3.30 and have the A6500 V 1.10 so will that be ok for the stars.

    • Peter May 19, 2017 / 12:33 am

      No, version 3.30 has the problem beyond 4 seconds, but I cannot tell you about the A6500

  54. Marty Knapp May 13, 2017 / 6:51 pm

    The following links are to examples from a test I made with a brand new Sony A7s, firmware 3.20, camera. The screen shot in Lightroom compares the resolution and detail of identically-timed exposures, one set with camera, the other timed with Bulb.
    Here’s the comparison in a 1:1 view: http://martyknapp.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/sony-test-1-to-1.png and here’s the link to the 2:1 view: http://martyknapp.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/sony-test-2-to-1.png. These are from raw files, straight out of the camera, with no development adjustments.
    It’s clear to see so many fewer stars and a softening of resolution in the bulb exposure as compared to the menu-selected exposure. Sony says there are no problems, even with bulb in the original A7s. They’re dead wrong and I will send these test files to their technical department as evidence. More information about my discussion with a Sony tech rep is on my webpage here: http://martyknapp.com/sony-a7s-star-eater-test/

    • Matthew May 16, 2017 / 9:55 am

      Marty, I’m done. This seals the deal for me and also the fact that we’ve heard nothing from Sony in over a week after invest thousands of dollars in their equipment? It’s an insult. I’m abandoning their line completely since I really don’t have the time or money to invest to wait for a multi-million dollar company to get around to us astro-photographers. I spend hours out under the stars and this is a complete waste of time. I’m jumping ship while I can get good money out of this equipment and convert back to canon gear. In fact, I will save a little money doing so since Sony’s stuff seems to cary a premium at times. Wow. Those examples are staggering. Thanks for sharing. I’m not going to hold my breath. This corporations done give a rip to what we think.

  55. Alex May 12, 2017 / 8:18 am

    About a week since last update. Any news from Sony?

    • Matthew May 16, 2017 / 9:56 am

      Don’t hold your breath. I’m cutting bait and my loses while I can. Canon here I come. :/

  56. Stephen Agnew May 11, 2017 / 1:57 pm

    I have an A7SII and wondered why my astro photos looked dimmer than I imagined, so a week ago I checked my firmware and it’s the latest firmware with the star eating. I am so mad. I called Sony Alpha Support and the reassured me that they are well aware of the problem and are actively working on a fix for it.

  57. David J McGeachie May 10, 2017 / 2:33 am

    Hi All

    Just had a phone call from Sony Support UK, advising me to send them a Video file regarding Star Eater issue on Bulb Mode on my Sony a6000.

    Davy

    • Matthew May 16, 2017 / 10:00 am

      Did they say WHEN they would have a fix for the a6000?

  58. Chris May 9, 2017 / 11:09 pm

    Does this issue effect the RX100 range?

    • Spy Black May 13, 2017 / 3:24 pm

      I’m not aware of any firmware updates ever for the 100 series. Usually the “updates” are a whole new camera, so if the star eater noise algorithm was imposed in a 100 series camera you’d have to look at it from a camera version to camera version perspective.

  59. Steve May 9, 2017 / 4:55 pm

    I called Sony help line for New Zealand which does go to philipines.

    The guy was helpful. They are well aware of issue and is escalated to Japan and being worked on.(true or not hard too say)

    He said they Know its a software issue but need to do proper testing before can release. (understandable) He could not answer whether

    1) they have and know what the issue is and have the fix and are testing
    2) ETA on this

    They took my details like email……I said do you want serial number of unit he said NO as they know its an issue and he has taken a few calls and passed it on.(progress…hard to say)

  60. Rakshith Appaiah H S May 9, 2017 / 8:40 am

    Omg!! Right when I was about to buy the A7R2….
    But anyways, I shall wait it out till Sony rectifies this because they anyways have a brilliant setup….

  61. Farid May 9, 2017 / 3:35 am

    Hey Ian,

    My biggest concern is astrophotography.
    I bought the A7RII a week ago and just find out about this issue, this is really bad.
    The A7RII came with the latest update. It’s a big disappointment that we can’t go back to previous versions. I didn’t test it yet to see the pictures on my A7RII.
    I really hope Sony will fix this.

    And big thanks to you Ian for your great work at lonelyspeck!

    • Spy Black May 13, 2017 / 3:25 pm

      If you bought it with the intent of doing astro work primarily, I would return it while you still can.

  62. Luis May 8, 2017 / 2:12 pm

    hi, anyone with a6000 having thi problem?

    • David J McGeachie May 8, 2017 / 2:41 pm

      Hi

      I have a Sony a6000, however it looks like we only have the problem in bulb mode, awaiting response from Sony.

      Davy

    • David J McGeachie May 8, 2017 / 2:42 pm

      By the way my firmware version is 3.20

  63. Marty Knapp May 8, 2017 / 10:50 am

    I have just gotten off the phone with a representative of Sony technical support line. Concerning the star eater problem with Sony cameras. Since I have the original models:Sony A7R and A7S, I asked if they were aware of this problem when using Bulb (B). She claimed that there is no problem at all with these models, “including bulb.” However, she said Sony was aware of and working on the known problem with A7RM2 and A7SM2. She documented my call and gave me a case number, even so.

    I will have to re-read the technical data that Jim Kasson and others have posted, as I really thought my original Sony A7 models were good when choosing times from the menu, but would exhibit the problem if I used Bulb? After checking with her engineering dept., she was adamant that there was no problem, including Bulb on my models. I told her I would post her comments online for all to read.

    If anyone out there has conflicting information about issues with the original A7R and S models, please post it here online. I can also be reached via my linked website above in the “Marty Knapp contact and about” area.

    • Ari May 8, 2017 / 2:20 pm

      Hi Marty,

      Thank you for this comment. As A7RII owner, I’m really happy to hear that this “issue” will be solved, at least we obviously have a good chance for that. ..4sec limit is unbearable with A7RM2 and A7SM2 at the moment (firmware v.3.30).

      Ari

    • Mark Shelley May 9, 2017 / 11:20 am

      The Sony A7S was the camera on which the bulb mode star eater issue was first identified. My A7S is running firmware 3.10 and definitely has the problem in bulb mode. An update to firmware 3.20 is available but there is no way I’m installing it. I can’t take that risk because it is my dedicated astrophotography camera.

      Mark (aka sharkmelley)

  64. BillG May 8, 2017 / 8:57 am

    Called Sony (US) support today and added my two bodies to the list. (A7SM2 and A7RM2). Explained the problem to the support technician and interestingly enough she provided me with the category for the issue. “Are you interested in astrophotography?” yes. “We call that issue the star eater and we are aware of the problem and are working to have a solution.” I asked if I could revert the firmware and after checking with tier II support she said that I could not.
    Another interesting point was that she said this was the first complaint that they had heard for the A7SM2.
    She did close by saying that they are actively working the issue and that I should have a solution within 5 to 10 business days – which would be totally awesome. I am going to hold my breath and count… I hope they come through! Looks like your rant (and all the responses from others) is making a difference.

    Cheers,
    -bill

    • Kenny May 22, 2017 / 6:40 am

      At the close of business today, it will have been 10 full business days since your posting (not counting the day you actually posted your comment). it is my hope that new firmware magically appears on their website, but I don’t think anyone is holding their breath. I am really hoping I’m wrong, but if the past is any indicator, we’ll have to buy new cameras or an app for this “enhancement”. Sony needed tremendous badgering to fix it’s compressed RAW issue from a couple years ago. I just don’t see that level of “encouragement” from Sony this time around. Until I hear otherwise, I’m sticking to Nikon for my long astro and the various a6xxx and a7s for anything nto involving BULB mode.

  65. David J McGeachie May 8, 2017 / 2:44 am

    HI Ian

    Have contacted Sony Support in the UK – +44 020 7365 2810, raised a firmware Fault request regarding Star Eater, Ref No – 15700487, I directed them to your article Lonleyspeck.com/stareater, they will escalete the problem and contact me within 24 – 48hrs, Hope this Helps.

    Davy

  66. David J McGeachie May 8, 2017 / 1:58 am

    Hi Ian

    Do you have a number for the UK? and I will try contacting Sony at our part of the Globe, also have you thought of raising it on Social media as this avenue seems to get results when poeple complain.

    Davy

  67. Drew Cole May 7, 2017 / 6:11 pm

    I downloaded the sample images… Am I crazy or can I see more stars on the picture titled “sony-star-eater”? Is this a mistake or am I missing something?

  68. BillG May 7, 2017 / 5:37 pm

    Ian,

    I believe somewhere in this thread you mentioned that the issue is not found in the A7s (the under 3s issue not the bulb). Is that firmware version specific? My local shop has a used A7s for sale and I may pick that up in the mean time. Not giving up on Sony though – I like the bodies too much. Hoping that they will come out with an update or at least an installer that will let us revert to the previous unaffected version.

    Thanks.
    -bill

  69. Steve May 7, 2017 / 5:22 pm

    Hi Ian,

    Great news on Sony actually paying attention.

    I am in new Zealand and emailed sony base don the email link and got the standard reply back that is noted in your update……could you ask Sony from your end…..

    What phone numbers can we ring on from other parts of the world….

    As my Brand new a7r2 I cant use and my a6000 with latest firmware is basically the same…..
    I want to make sure they know this needs fixing

    • John May 8, 2017 / 12:56 am

      In NZ you need to call 0800 7669 69, although it will take you to a call centre in the Phillipines. I’ve opened a case with them, and have forwarded example raw image files for their engineers to check out, but have yet to hear a verdict, or an indication of what remedial action they will offer

  70. Bryan Hansel May 7, 2017 / 3:44 pm

    Ugh. I just picked up a Sony A7II and a A7RII and a truckload of lenses to use on remote commercial shoots and for magazine articles covering expeditions and adventures. Astro images are a must on these trips.

    It’s back to Nikon again.

    P.s. the Fuji XT-2 also eats stars when compared to Nikons. I’m not sure if it is a similar process, but it looks the same as your “star eater” picture, albeit not as bad.

  71. Caleb White May 7, 2017 / 1:57 pm

    I’ll be calling them shortly. In the meantime, I have an a6300 with firmware V1.10…this doesn’t affect me right?

  72. Anna Nguyen May 7, 2017 / 9:10 am

    I’ve received the same generic response as well! Let’s keep trying!

  73. Victor May 7, 2017 / 4:18 am

    I can confirm that I also received the same generic response, which ended with a note of thanks for my “continued support for Sony products”.

    Well, until Sony pledges to fix this problem, they won’t get it.

  74. Ross May 6, 2017 / 5:40 am

    Would it make sense to reach out to Ziess about this? After all their Batis 18mm lens was marketed for astrophotography purposes among others. I suspect Zeiss must have some pull with Sony.
    I have also sent an email to Sony.
    Thanks for the article.

  75. David Finley May 5, 2017 / 8:04 pm

    Hello Ian.

    I’ve read a number of your posts but none hit home like this Star Eater article. As an amateur photographer and owner of both an A7II and A7S, I emailed Sony in relation to this issue just yesterday (5/4/2017) and to my surprise, they emailed back in less than 24 hours asking that I phone them to discuss the issue further!!! Any recommendations as to what I should reply with, outside of the obvious?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Bo May 5, 2017 / 9:48 pm

      I also got a reply from them (much to my surprise) to phone their support. Took them a little over 24 hours. I am happy to phone and talk to them about the issue if we think that will help / keep the pressure on.

    • Lrson May 6, 2017 / 4:18 pm

      Make them fix the bracket mode also while they’re at it. So the user don’t have to press the shutter on every shot. Other brands it makes all the exposures with one click.

      People have been writing them on this topic for a number of years all the way back to the Sony NEX days. Haven’t fixed it yet.

  76. Pedro May 5, 2017 / 4:01 pm

    The first reports about the filtering is about 2 years old. It should never have been implemented even in bulb mode. People have talked about it for 2 years, and instead of fixing it, they made it worse.. so do you really think they’ll change anything.
    The answer will probably be something like “don’t worry, it will all be fixed in the new mark3 model, when it comes out”.

    Sorry for being a pessimist. Lol.

  77. Bill Wood May 5, 2017 / 12:25 pm

    Hi Ian,

    So I can get this straight in my mind. I have an A7SII with version 2.2 and an A7RII with version 3.2. I have never used BULB. My exposures range from 20sec down to 8 sec. Are my images effected?
    I got into Sony in large part because of your recommendation. And I have Rokinon 14mm and 24mm ditto. I in no way feel that you harbor any responsibility for these changes to their software that Sony has made.
    I am sure that Sony will fix the problem if enough of us contact them. they seem hell-bent on being the biggest and best camera company out there, and dark sky photography seems to be growing at leaps and bounds. I am sure that they do not want to lose that market.
    Please tell me I am OK with the software versions I have!

    • Catherine May 16, 2017 / 3:34 pm

      Ian,

      Will this affect timelapse photos in bulb mode? I am disappointed after reading your article and will be sure to email Sony for a fix. I just updated my firmware of my A7sii a few months ago too…so bummed!

  78. Yuri Mohan May 5, 2017 / 10:37 am

    Hello, Ian, this is Yuri I read your article so what you are saying that all the Sony camera’s that have interchangeable Camera lens they aren’t good for astrophotography or just landscaping photo’s or is it just for night landscape photo’s at night with high ISO or low ISO your saying or is it just Sony camera’s in general after reading the really good article.

    Sincerely, Yuri Mohan

    • Matthew May 5, 2017 / 2:59 pm

      Hey Ben,
      Would love to hear what equipment you used to captured this shot and what other specs were used. (I.e. Flat frames, darks, stacking, etc.). I get what you’re saying. I’ve captured several great shots with my Sony a6000. (www.capturingthecosmos.smugmug.com). But wouldn’t we want the most pixels and data since we are investing so much time and money? Especially when this issue is totally avoidable and was needlessly created by Sony? My thought is, bulb mode should be completely RAW and untouched. Most likely, if someone is using bulb mode, they are a pro and know what they’re doing.

    • Ben May 6, 2017 / 1:14 am

      @Matthew

      “But wouldn’t we want the most pixels and data since we are investing so much time and money? Especially when this issue is totally avoidable and was needlessly created by Sony? My thought is, bulb mode should be completely RAW and untouched. Most likely, if someone is using bulb mode, they are a pro and know what they’re doing.”

      I completely agree with you. I already signed online petitions, wrote to sony, and completely support the nature of Ian’s open letter. Just wanted to put some perpective on black and white headlines.

      See https://www.reddit.com/r/astrophotography/comments/66oeuo/ic_1396/ for technical details. Thanks for your interest.

    • Star surfing May 9, 2017 / 2:56 am

      Hi Ben, when you stack images the problem almost go away but it is not the same with single exposure.

  79. Alex May 5, 2017 / 7:59 am

    Ian, coud you share raw files of examples?
    Jpg is useless in this situation.

  80. Star surfing May 5, 2017 / 4:30 am

    Ian thank you for letting others know about this problem. I have little hope that Sony will do something about it. They know this problem for at least two years and they have done nothing. Back then astrophotographers asked to disable this star eater effect to the bulb mode and sony did what? They made a firmware that introduce the problem even in 4″sec exposure. My opinion is that they just dont care. Astrophotographers are a small piece of the pie. They fix problems for videographers that is the main audience of a7s and that is all.

  81. Tuomas Mutanen May 4, 2017 / 10:30 pm

    For those who haven’t yet invested into some expensive full frame system, luckily some great alternatives exist. Because of the star-eater issue, I would currently recommend the Nikon FX system and especially D750. Let’s just hope Nikon does not introduce a stupid algorithm like this any time soom!

  82. Yh May 4, 2017 / 7:23 pm

    I doubt Sony will do anything, especially on the A7s series, as they’re touted to be extremely sensitive and delivers noisefree images under subdued lighting conditions. Who knows, even if star eater function is disabled, their A7s maybe far noisier than the A7(r), and they can no longer market?

    • Carl Devendorf May 4, 2017 / 7:28 pm

      Its probably just built in obsolescence

    • Ian Norman May 4, 2017 / 7:51 pm

      I disagree with this. The camera is still spectacular at low-light in the instances where the Star Eater algorithm does not apply. There are several well known alternative methods for hot pixel reduction that are employed on numerous other cameras on the market. Sony is just using one of the poorest methods of noise reduction and should change it. Disabling the spatial filtering entirely will have nearly no detrimental effects on the image quality of the camera.

  83. Carl Devendorf May 4, 2017 / 7:16 pm

    So I have a RX100 3, a7s, and a7r2, rokinon 14mm and 24 mm , sony 16-35, and 24-240 based on your advice. Also have some nice pictures. What do I do. Is there a work around like setting the iso to 3600. I replaced my a7s with the r2 what version of a7s firmware is less affected?

    • Ian Norman May 4, 2017 / 7:52 pm

      The best thing we can do right now is to reach out to Sony and demand a firmware fix.

  84. Stephen van Vuuren May 4, 2017 / 5:07 pm

    Ian,

    We need some organized method of contacting Sony. Any suggestions from ambassadorson a polite, effective method of letting Sony know from their customer base.

    Thankfully I did my massive astrophotography project in August 2015 when a brand spanking new A7rii, A7s and A7 and not shot much since but have a fall shoot planned and like to see new firmware release by summer.

    • Ian Norman May 4, 2017 / 7:54 pm

      I have received some initial contact from Sony Pro Support but no official word from higher up or if a fix will be made. I think the best we can do at the moment is to continue to email [email protected]

  85. Marty Knapp May 4, 2017 / 3:00 pm

    Re my previous post. I errantly stated that the new Sony A7S I just purchased had firmware 3.30 installed. Not so! It came with ver 3.20, which according to Sony was released in July 2016. I wonder if this 3.20 version has the same destructive quality (i.e.. star destruction when any exposure over 3.2 secs or bulb is utilized) as the 3.30 ver. for the A7R M2 and the 2.10 ver. for A7S M2. I believe those versions were released the same time, July 2016.

    I am now holding back on return of this camera until I can ascertain if this firmware upgrade is as destructive as the well-known problems we’ve heard about the upgrades on the A7R m2 and A7S m2. Anyone out there no the answer?

    • Ian Norman May 4, 2017 / 7:56 pm

      I have firmware 3.20 on my a7S and it does not exhibit Star Eater in normal camera timed exposures in M and S modes. Your OK on that camera up to 30s.

      However, switching to Bulb exposures on the a7S activates the Star Eater filtering. If you’re not planning to use Bulb, sticking with exposure times of 30s or less should be OK.

  86. Isaac Stocks May 4, 2017 / 2:51 pm

    I have an A7ii. It has the latest firmware update. Does that mean it’s affected in all modes (bulb and normal shutter speed choices) above the 3.2 second threshold? I’m a little confused as to what models/firmwares are affected.

    • Ian Norman May 4, 2017 / 7:58 pm

      I am actually not sure how severely the a7II is affected. I have seen confirmation that it affects the a7RII and a7SII but I’m not sure about the a7II at the moment.

  87. unlo May 4, 2017 / 2:36 pm

    A louder cry for ‘open source’ / SDK / API / community level support hasn’t been heard before now…. this is a grave mistake by the sony Software team. Unfortunately, Sony has been incredibly lame at providing viable updates, and now we have updates that break features (anyone ever have a ps3 with linux on it?)

    I couldn’t agree with you more on how disappoint this is.

    Maybe Sony can save some face and include the community in future development. Make the software open source, provide us an SDK / API to work with. We all know the possibilities of our cameras aren’t fully realized by the software they provide. Custom firmware would be extend the life of our bodies!

    • Bo May 4, 2017 / 3:30 pm

      There already is an Open Source SDK & API for installing firmware & apps and things on Sony cameras. Here is the main link to it: https://github.com/ma1co/Sony-PMCA-RE

      Also here is an app that can be installed that opens up the 15k settings in the camera. I have put in a request to find the one that turns on this idiotic filter and allow us to disable it. https://github.com/ma1co/OpenMemories-Tweak

      BIG WARNING: Do not use this stuff unless you know what you are doing. You can brick your camera. Also note the setting hasn’t been found yet.

  88. David J McGeachie May 4, 2017 / 2:29 pm

    Hi Ian

    Thanks for posting your update on the Star Eater issue, I was in the process of changing from Nikon to Sony, but will now await the outcome before buying another Camera Body for Astrophotography.

    • Ian Norman May 4, 2017 / 8:00 pm

      Thanks David. I’m hoping for the best from Sony on this issue and hope to update this article if they issue a fix. Let’s hope it’s soon.

    • David J McGeachie May 8, 2017 / 1:57 am

      Hi Ian

      Do you have a number for the UK? and I will try contacting Sony at our part of the Globe, also have you thought of raising it on Social media as this avenue seems to get results when poeple complain.

      Davy

  89. Stuart Hume May 4, 2017 / 2:16 pm

    Hello Ian,

    I was saving up for a Sony after getting hooked on astrophotography in nothern Europe this last Christmas using my Fuji x100t to the best of its abilities.

    I’ve Should I now just go with something that is familiar and get a x-T2? Or bite the bullet and venture once again into the DSLR space and get a Nikon (sold my d7000 and gear) with the trade off of the size.

    Thanks,

    Stu

  90. Marty Knapp May 4, 2017 / 12:25 pm

    I just received a brand new Sony A7S and I’m dismayed after reading your email, Norman. The software version installed from the factory is the 3.30 version. I am unclear if you are saying the 3.30 version is only affecting the A7S II as far as camera exposures longer than 3.2 secs on bulb, or if this version is also affecting the A7S and my A7R which also has the 3.30 firmware installed?

    Perhaps I could live with only choosing the camera-based time options instead of bulb, but what about work done with an intervalometer that is choosing other shutter time options?

    I am ready to send this camera back to B&H, but will hold off a little until I’m clear of the limits of this new A7S as far as star-eating goes. I take it you never upgraded your firmware on your A7S, right?

    Thanks,
    Marty

    • Matthew May 4, 2017 / 12:42 pm

      Send back ASAP. It also affects the A7S. I’m in the process of dumping all of my sony gear for this. At these prices and investment, this is absolutely unacceptable. Years ago I was bit by Sony and said I would never give them another chance. However, in recent years, they seemed to be producing great equipment. Sadly, their own developers now get in the way and hobble otherwise amazing gear with algorithms that crippled the performance. I personally would send that back as fast as you can and stay far away until these idiots make a change permanently. This is unacceptable and we as consumers need to make them hear us – with our dollars.

    • Rafaelinux May 5, 2017 / 11:45 am

      Does not affect the original A7s.
      This camera always had this issue in bulb mode, but not in any other.
      Check out my Instagram for a long exposure made with the A7s latest software.

  91. Xavier May 4, 2017 / 11:41 am

    I understand that the original a7S is only affected in Bulb mode. But, if I update the firmware?…

    • Ian Norman May 4, 2017 / 8:26 pm

      As far as I know, the latest a7S firmware 3.20 does not change the behavior of Star Eater. It DOES affect Bulb still but does not affect timed exposures up to 30s in M and S modes.

  92. José Andrade May 4, 2017 / 11:05 am

    Like someone else mentioned before, I think that, although this is a very serious issue, your recommendations still apply, of course within a certain limit now. We are all hoping to see this situation fixed and we all know the sensors they use are probably the best ones in low-light performance and are amazing for landscape astrophotography. This is definitely a set-back for sony and I understand if you would start to consider to go away from sony bodies because of this reason (I myself own an a6000, and have been on the lookout for the next sony FF line (I was hoping for a camera like the a7II, but built like the a7SII and a7RII, with the better moisture and dust resistance, and the improved sensor, which would not be with 12MP, so around 24 MP, but all the goodies of the a7RII and a7SII)).

    Maybe this was not your intention, but as I read your post, towards the end, I had this feeling of outrage and betrayal, and while it’s true that any person that has bought one for this particular purpose, this is a betrayal of our needs, you did not know this before, you took amazing landscapes and astrophotos and this was not an issue for your type of photography (previously). And at the moment you are aware of the issue and you did the right thing in reaching out to all the community you built to try to get even a greater response and movement to make sony acknowledge (and excuse my language now, but I really wanna say it) they f*cked up and that they will work on a fix. However, in your shoes, although this is of course a personal website, you don’t need to bind to those rules, I’d have liked to see a kind of more neutral and diplomatic post. The users here, can rant, show how they hate sony for this, etc. but for me, the image I have of you, as a kind of a leader, in this kind of matter I would just like to see a description of the problem (you did that), that you yourself, like many others are disappointed at the moment (did that), and that we should all team together to voice our disappointment (you did that as well), but not hate the fact that you recommended these cameras before, it was sony’s fault, not yours, and that you don’t want to endorse their bodies (although you specifically stated “…until we see a fix”) or firmware updates (specially if it is going to be through a firmware update that we will get this issue fixed). The feeling I got was more (and again, I guess, from all the posts and videos of you I read and watched that this was not your intention) that you really despised the idea of getting a sony camera with the newest firmware. It’s understandable, but I think somewhere in the lines of “These are still great cameras in low-light, etc. but if you were looking into buying one with astrophotography in mind, please be aware that there is a very serious issue with the way the image is processed and this might be very detrimental to your end results, and there is no foreseeable fix to this issue at the moment. If you need to buy a new body now, with good astrophotography capabilities, refrain from buying a sony body. If this is not an urgent matter, just seat tight for some time and cross your fingers that sony will give us the fix to this problem in a timely manner…”
    This way you show also hope that there will be a fix and that you still keep your faith that in the future these bodies will still kick-ass in astro.
    And although sony really made a big mistake, sometimes these are not intentional, and may be harder to fix than we think. It really is a big mess right now, specially being that this was already included in the BULB mode before and now it extended to such low exposures.

    Like I said, I was looking into sony bodies for the future, specially me liking astro so much, also wanting to do some tracked exposures, but with objectives (wide-field), not with telescopes, and if this issue is not fixed until that time comes, I will have to go for something else…which is a pity because i have been investing in lenses and gear specifically thinking that I would not move from sony.

    Sorry for the long post, with a rant about a rant, I will also send them an email, with all my thoughts and views.

    In the meantime, as this is my first post here, thank you so much for all the time and passion you put into this. It’s a great website, and great youtube videos.

    All the best and good luck, we all have lots of hope on you!

    • Ian Norman May 4, 2017 / 8:29 pm

      Thanks José. This post is certainly one of disappointment but also one of hope and a call to action for Sony. I haven’t sold off all my Sony equipment yet or told anyone else to do so. I merely want to prompt a swift response and fix by Sony.

  93. Matthew May 4, 2017 / 9:01 am

    A couple of questions based on this article:

    1. I have a Sony a6000 and a6300 largely because of the amazing work here at this site and the reviews about those two models. I used the a6000 (modified by Spencer’s Camera) for astrophotography work (bulb mode – i.e. longer than 30 second exposures). Have I wasted my money and time? Do I need to just completely “cut bait” on the Sony route and get a modified canon dslr for long-exposure astrophoto work with my telescope?

    2. I use the Sony a6300 for wide-field work with a Rokinon 12mm and 24mm lens. These exposures stay under the 30 sec. mark. Am I losing quality with this camera since most of my subs are longer than 3.2 sec.?

    Thanks. This can begin to get confusing so I appreciate any help since my budget is limited and this spring and summer I don’t want to be wasting more time and money in this if Sony such crapped the wagon with stupid firmware decisions.

    • Ian Norman May 4, 2017 / 8:31 pm

      As far as I know, the a6000 and a6300 are affected in Bulb mode only. For wide-field work, you should be OK up to 30s exposures.

  94. Ethan Nelson May 4, 2017 / 8:53 am

    I find this very sad because I was seriously thinking about buying a soney A6000 for a compact SLR that was great at low light and astrophotography but now I am not sure. Are the cameras still good at taking other types of pictures they are capable of? Are they still good at low light and night photography? or is it only just bad for stars now?

    • Lee Wei June 14, 2017 / 8:25 am

      I use an a6000 running firmware 3.20.

      I’m not much of an astrophotographer, but the a6000 seems to only be affected when in BULB mode. Outside of it, it seems to not be affected.

      General low-light photography is unaffected. The NR only affects exposures longer than 4 seconds in the case of the A7RII and A7SII at least.

  95. Herb May 4, 2017 / 8:49 am

    Hi Ian,
    Does this issue affect all exposure times greater than 3.2s on the a7ii, or does it only affect bulb mode?
    I use a7ii with firmware version 3.30 for astrophotography, and would really like to know the answer to this question. Thanks!

    • Isaac Stocks May 4, 2017 / 2:53 pm

      I am in the exact same boat. Any info would help!

    • Herb May 4, 2017 / 7:15 pm

      I shot a black background to experiment with the noise reduction system yesterday, there does seem to be a reduction in noise when the exposure is greater than 3.2s. I managed to turn this off in the settings(Long Exposure NR and High ISO NR in tab 6 of general photography settings), and this does seem to really increase the level of noise.

    • Ian Norman May 4, 2017 / 8:33 pm

      I am actually not sure the exact behavior of the a7II and whether it suffers the same issue as the a7SII or a7RII when using exposures longer than 3.2″. I do, however, know that the a7II is affected when using Bulb exposures.

  96. Tom May 4, 2017 / 8:07 am

    Ian,

    Thanks so much for taking the time to write this up. I switched to a Sony a6000 and I have and A7RII on layaway. I traded in my Nikon D800. I’m wondering what you suggest would be a good alternative instead of Sony? I would like to stay with mirrorless for weight savings. Do you recommened Fuji or something else?

    Thanks!

    Tom

    • Ian Norman May 4, 2017 / 8:34 pm

      Thanks Tom.

      I’m not giving up on Sony just yet but I’m certainly recommending people interested in astro to hold off until we can prompt a fix from Sony. I’m hopeful we’ll see a fix soon.

  97. Kenny X. Le May 4, 2017 / 7:29 am

    I learned of this a couple years ago via DPReview and they were referring to it as a known problem back then. As a result, Sony has DEFINITELY known that it’s been a problem for the astro community for at least as long (since a few of the posters mentioned they had tried to contact Sony with varying levels of success). Sony, in the handful of years it’s known about the issue has not addressed it despite numerous firmware updates to any number of cameras. Therefore, I don’t think Sony will address it especially in older models. They might, but since past performance is a strong indicator of future performance, it’s unlikely. Again, I’m not saying Sony won’t, I’m just saying they’ve had plenty of time and just has not been a priority or they don’t feel it’s affecting them enough to devote resources (however meager that might be) to satisfying the niche astro community. At one time I was considering replacing my a7s with the a7sII, but as soon as I found out about the 3.2″ second “star eater” phenomenon, I put those plans on hold. Furthermore, I also planned to buy a used a7rII, but since I don’t want to go through the hassle of meeting a bunch of people from craigslist and cancelling a transaction if the firmware version isn’t right, I’ve put that on hold as well. As it stands, I use my a6000, a6300, a6500, and a7s only if I have the lenses that allow for up to 30″ of astro landscape. For anything else, I use my Nikon D810 and D7200 for tracked work. I’m glad you broached this topic so at least others are made more aware of it. Some people will ask how people are harmed if they don’t know about it. The fact is that ignorance is bliss, but once you find out, you regret because you wonder if the picture could have been even better. That’s especially true since getting to the conditions that allow for really good astro work involve significant travel, time, and expense for the majority of us. Nobody wants to feel like they went through all that and it was the equipment that limited them.

    P.S. For anyone interested, a number of YouTube photography personalities were flown out to New York recently to try out the new Sony a9. For the most part, they raved about it about as much as they raved about the a7rII at its introduction. I frequent a number of those YouTube sites and NONE of them have mentioned the “star eater” phenomenon in relation to the a9, though some have previously mentioned it with older model Sony cameras so I know they’re aware of the issue. Since none of them had mentioned it, I asked one of the YouTube personalities who also frequents SonyRumors and was flown out by Sony to New York for the a9 unveiling pointedly (and politely) whether or not he knew or if Sony had mentioned the “star eater” phenomenon or if anyone even asked about it. This YouTube personality (whom I think very highly of) never answered my question despite answering a number of other questions from other commenters.

  98. Andre Gerhardt May 4, 2017 / 4:00 am

    I too jumped on the Sony bandwagon (paid a pretty penny for an A7SII) just to later find out that all online reviews managed to have somehow overlooked something so obvious… A couple of companies even sell COOLED (which obviously is designed to be used in BULB mode
    ) A7s online! Really?!? Do these guys even check what they sell/recommend? Never trust online reviews anymore…

    • Catherine May 4, 2017 / 12:50 pm

      yes I am the same way…I have the A7Sii. So disappointed.

  99. tms May 4, 2017 / 12:55 am

    guys, join us on FB, ‘Sony star eater community’ group, where we are discussing strategies on how to solve this issue.

  100. Jon Reade May 3, 2017 / 11:16 pm

    Thank you for posting this Ian, I’ll definitely not be updating my A7S firmware. If Sony had any sense, they’d code the NR to be an option that can be turned on/off through the menus, instead of it being an irreversible default.

    If they don’t fix this problem, I’m sure that come next camera refresh, for a lot of enthusiasts – the very people who often recommend a camera to the much more numerous non-enthusiast masses – they’ll be automatically excluded from the list, which is going to cost them a lot of custom.

    Swapping back to a Canon/Nikon body won’t be an issue for those of us use Sony bodies with our Canon/Nikon lens kits, but I do feel for those who’ve spent a lot of money on Sony lenses.

  101. Adam Graham May 3, 2017 / 10:03 pm

    I noticed a dip in quality in my Astrophotography shots on my a5100 after 3.0… Now I know why…

    • Adam Graham May 3, 2017 / 10:05 pm

      Also the fact that Sony now makes it mandatory on shots over 1 second to have long exposure noise reduction on the a5100…

    • miz May 4, 2017 / 2:15 am

      There’s a homebrew app that at least disables long exposure NR on the 5100.

    • Adam Graham May 7, 2017 / 2:21 pm

      Miz, do you know where I can get this app?

  102. thomas feldman May 3, 2017 / 9:15 pm

    How can I tell if my a6000 will have this issue in Bulb mode (or is it guaranteed?)

    • Ian Norman May 3, 2017 / 10:29 pm

      Hi Thomas, As far as I know, the a6000 definitely has the issue in Bulb mode, regardless of firmware version. You can verify this with testing: try a timed exposure in M mode where the camera shoots an exposure (maybe try 5 seconds) of the stars, then switch to Bulb and manually shoot a 5 second Bulb exposure. Compare the photos directly in post processing and verify the results.

  103. Ramon Borquez May 3, 2017 / 8:59 pm

    Hi!
    I was thinking that if we contact a Sony ambassador maybe you could speed up the solution. I reviewed the page of the ambassadors and there are examples of astrophotography; for example Kwon O-Chul apparently only makes this kind of photography.
    https://imagingambassadors.sony.net/ambassadors/kwon-o-chul

    • Ian Norman May 3, 2017 / 10:30 pm

      I have reached out to several of my friends who are Sony Ambassadors. The latest word as of a few hours ago is that Sony is aware of the problem. We’re just waiting for a reply I suppose. I’ll update this post if I hear more.

  104. Gareth Churchill May 3, 2017 / 7:34 pm

    “I hate the thought of having recommending a camera to so many people only to learn that something has changed that would have me question my original recommendation. ”

    Please don’t question your original recommendation. At the time, based on the information you had, it was correct. I am still going to buy an original A7s based on your experiences, recommendation, and quality or your work!!! *

    It is my understanding that in the A7s Mark 1 the star eater issue only occurs in bulb mode after 30 second exposures. Someone correct me if I’m wrong please, because if I am, and these changes affect the older A7s * then I’ll have to re evaluate my desion.
    That being said yes it is an issue. I will not be looking at buying any of Sonys newest bodies until this issue is corrected.

    Keep up the smashing work, and I look forward to your future images and articles!

    Gareth

    • Ian Norman May 3, 2017 / 8:35 pm

      Thanks Gareth.

      Yes, you are correct, the original a7S is only affected in Bulb mode. Normal timed exposures in M and S mode are OK.

      I’m certainly hoping that Sony will address the issue at the very least for the a7RII and a7SII when using exposures longer than 3.2″.

  105. Wei-Hao Wang May 3, 2017 / 7:11 pm

    Thank you for for blog post. More astrophotographers deserve to know this, and Sony should realize this is a big problem.

  106. Lucas May 3, 2017 / 4:13 pm

    That’s very disappointing! I’ve recently bought A7SII and A7RII.
    What camera are you thinking now for astrophotography?
    Regards,

    • Ian Norman May 3, 2017 / 9:01 pm

      Well I’m hoping very much that Sony will be able to submit a fix for all of us. If they do, I’ll be amending my article and will recommend Sony again. In the meanwhile, most of the other full-frame DSLR options are good comparable considerations. Personally, I’m interested in trying the Penetax K-1 for its astrotracer functionality.

    • Jia May 4, 2017 / 12:57 pm

      As Ian pointed out, Pentax K1 is a very interesting option. The Astrotracer is especially useful with not so wide lenses. I was able to get ~1min exposure with a 50mm lens at ISO 800, with no star trail at all. Pretty amazing!

  107. ian sempowski May 3, 2017 / 3:49 pm

    how is the d5 for astro. it seems good to me but i am astro beginner and dont have a comparison point
    Ian S

  108. Yusuf May 3, 2017 / 2:47 pm

    What is the top of the tree now for AstroPhotos? As Milky way season is upon us.

  109. Matthew Saville May 3, 2017 / 2:27 pm

    Hey Ian,

    Are you SURE that this issue affects both compressed and uncompressed raw files? I only saw it mentioned once, and the test photos are only a two-image comparison, and I’d love to see a 3-way comparison that shows both pre-firmware, and post-firmware with compression on/off.

    I do believe you, though, I just wonder about that one last nail in the coffin.

    The good news is, Sony DOES listen, as is proven by the fact that they updated the A7R II with uncompressed raw at all. So they may very well have a fix for this issue (at least an on/off switch) in the works.

    The bad news is, even though Sony CAN listen, they don’t always listen WELL. (The uncompressed raw update should have been lossless compressed, like Canon and Nikon both offer, and the likelihood of THAT issue ever getting fixed is near-zero…)

    • Ian Norman May 3, 2017 / 8:40 pm

      Yes, I am sure that it affects both compressed and uncompressed raw. I have faith that Sony will come through on this issue and I’m hoping for the best. I just think that it’s important that everyone know about the issue so that we can push for a fix.

  110. Dmitri May 3, 2017 / 2:04 pm

    I wonder if my A99II is affected by this

    • Ian Norman May 3, 2017 / 2:24 pm

      I wonder this as well…

  111. PAUL HEPNER May 3, 2017 / 1:43 pm

    are prior versions of firmware available to revert back ?

    • Ian Norman May 3, 2017 / 1:48 pm

      Hi Paul, as far as I know, they are not.

      Sony says specifically on their firmware update page: “WARNING: This Digital Camera System Software Update and any changes incurred by it are permanent. It is not possible to return to a previous firmware version after updating this firmware. By continuing this update process, downloading and updating this firmware, you acknowledge that you are aware and understand that this update cannot be reversed.”

    • Matthew Saville May 3, 2017 / 2:29 pm

      Honestly? I’d strongly consider selling my camera and buying a mint older version, if I was that bent on using Sony for astro work. (they ARE otherwise phenomenal cameras / sensors, to be fair) You could ask the seller to send you a cell phone pic of the firmware screen, just to verify that you’ve found an un-updated camera.

    • Ian Norman May 3, 2017 / 11:01 pm

      Matthew,

      I’m just hoping that we can get Sony’s attention so they can issue a firmware fix.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *