Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Canon 5D versus Canon 5D Mark II Noise Comparison at 1600 and 3200 ISO

4-5 months ago, I did a comparison of the noise in the images from my Canon 5D at 1600 and 3200 ISO against those from a Canon 5D Mark II, also at 1600 and 3200 ISO. I found the differences to be negligible.

As you can imagine, this annoyed some photographers (especially, I assume, those who had purchased a 5D Mark II) and they said my tests were flawed...especially, since my test images had some blur from camera shake. I actually thought that the camera shake might help to force people to look purely at image noise instead of image detail.

I've come to agree that loss of image detail is in fact related to image noise, because image noise can obliterate image detail.

So, I finally got a hold of the Canon 5D Mark II again and re-did the tests. I braced the camera on the back of a chair and used a Canon 50 f/1.4 lens at an aperture setting of f/2.8 (because I did the test in relatively low light--which is normally when one uses ISOs of 1600 and 3200). I did 100% magnification crops from both cameras at their highest resolutions in RAW image format. I used Canon Digital Photo Professional software to create the jpegs directly from the RAW files. (Note: the point of focus was right between the 3 strawberries at the top of the image for all images.)

Here are the test images:

Canon 5D, 1600 ISO, 100% magnification

Canon 5D Mark II, 1600 ISO, 100% magnification

Canon 5D, 3200 ISO, 100% magnification

Canon 5D Mark II, 3200 ISO, 100% magnification

Am I seeing any huge differences now? I wouldn't call them "huge", but I *am* seeing some noise improvements in the 5D Mark II images versus the 5D images. Are they enough to justify paying twice as much for a 5D Mark II versus a lightly used 5D? In my opinion, these differences alone would *not* justify paying so much more for the Mark II.

That said, if you really need to be able to shoot at 6400 ISO and maybe (occasionally) at 12,800 ISO, need the higher megapixel count of the Mark II (21 mp versus 12.8 mp for the 5D), and could really use the video recording capabilities of the Mark II, then the 5D Mark II may indeed be a worthwhile purchase.

I decided not to purchase the 5D Mark II in 2009 and I don't regret my decision. The 5D Mark II still has the antiquated 9-point AF system that the 5D and Canon's 1.6 crop factor DSLRs have and it's not really very usable above 6400 ISO.

Recently, however, Canon came out with the 7D, which finally goes beyond that 9-point AF system. And the announcement of the 1D Mark IV (due to start shipping in December) has created a *huge* temptation for me. ISOs up to 102,400 (seemingly quite usable up to 51,200 ISO) with the best auto-focusing system on any DSLR Canon builds.

Now, if I can just dig up the $5000 I need to purchase it...:p.

Michael Grace-Martin is a professional wedding, portrait, event, stock, and fine art photographer based in Upstate New York. He is also the author of this blog. All images and text are (c) Michael Grace-Martin Photography.His main website is:

No comments:

Post a Comment