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Canon EOS 5D Mark II Gordon Laing, December 2008 / updated June 2009
 

Canon EOS 5D Mark II results : Real-life resolution / Studio resolution / 5D Mk II vs A900 vs 5D Noise / Noise Reduction

 
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Canon EOS 5D Mark II vs Sony A900 vs EOS 5D High ISO Noise

To compare noise levels under real-life conditions we shot this scene with the Canon EOS 5D Mark II, EOS 5D and Sony Alpha A900 within a few moments of each other using each of their ISO settings.

We tested both Canon bodies with the same EF 24-105mm f4.0L IS lens, and the Sony A900 with the Carl Zeiss 24-70mm f2.8 set to same focal length and f8 aperture for optimum sharpness. We hope to add direct comparisons against the Nikon D700 in the future, but in the meantime, visit this page for an earlier comparison which includes samples taken at the same location.


The 5D Mark II's High ISO Noise Reduction was set to its default Standard, but the Auto Lighting Optimizer was Disabled for this test since it can artificially increase noise levels. You can see examples of the different noise reduction settings on the following page. Similarly, the Sony A900 had its High ISO Noise Reduction set to Normal, but its Dynamic Range Optimizer disabled for this test.

The image above was taken with the Canon EOS 5D Mark II at a sensitivity of 100 ISO, using the EF 24-105mm f4.0L IS lens at 24mm f8; the original Large Fine JPEG file measured 5.20MB. The crops are taken from the centre and presented at 100%. The 5D crops show a larger area due to its lower resolution.

The images seen below for the 5D Mark II and Sony A900 were as each metered the scene, without any compensation applied, although the A900's exposure was consistently 0.3EV quicker than the new Canon. Since the brightness measured in Photoshop was the same though, the A900 appears to be approximately one third of a stop more sensitive than the 5D Mark II. The original 5D required -0.3EV compensation to match both the exposure and brightness of the new model.

At their lowest extended sensitivities of 50 ISO, both Canon's are unsurprisingly delivering very clean, detailed results, although interestingly the original 5D’s sample looks a little sharper; we’ve seen this effect before on previous images taken with the 5D at 50 ISO.

At 100 and 200 ISO, both Canon's again deliver very clean, noise-free results, although at 200 ISO, the Sony A900 is already exhibiting very faint evidence of chroma noise - albeit nothing to be too concerned about. Increased to 400 ISO, pixel-peepers will notice a very fine texture appearing in the background of the original 5D’s images – hardly anything to worry about at this point, but it’s not present on the 5D Mark II’s JPEGs. The A900's chroma noise has however become more apparent at this point.

With the sensitivity increased to 800 ISO, this texture on the original 5D and Sony A900 images becomes more obvious, with greater evidence of chroma noise. Alongside, the new 5D Mark II still looks smooth and clean, although there’s a very faint texture appearing in flat areas.

At 1600 ISO, the original 5D’s chroma noise is now becoming quite apparent when viewed at 100%, and the A900's noise has become quite blotchy. The new 5D Mark II is also exhibiting some noise textures now, but it remains a cleaner, preferable result. The Sony's really beginning to suffer at this point.

At 3200 ISO, the upper limit for the original 5D, the old model is suffering from quite visible chroma noise, which the new 5D Mark II is managing to avoid. There may be increased noise and softening on the 5D Mark II sample, but few would prefer the original 5D’s version. Meanwhile the Sony A900 is having problems: the chroma noise has become very blotchy with a noticeable loss of detail and there's also red hot pixels in darker areas of the image which the Mark II is managing to avoid.

Increased to its maximum normal sensitivity of 6400 ISO, the 5D Mark II becomes visibly noisier, but there’s still a fair amount of detail which would look fine on smaller prints or emailed images. In contrast, the Sony A900's image looks pretty bad at its maximum sensitivity, with lots of visible noise artefacts. From this point on, the 5D Mark II is on its own.

The extended sensitivity of 12800 ISO suffers from another big increase in noise and is only really usable for much smaller prints or greatly reduced screen images. To be fair though, there were no hot pixels in this image and no visible banding even with the Levels adjusted.

The maximum extended sensitivity of 25600 ISO is clearly suffering from greatly reduced quality viewed at 100% or even lower magnifications. It’s really not particularly useful other than the novelty of grabbing a shot under very dim conditions, but again it should be noted there’s only a handful of hot pixels and very faint banding. We have another example in our Sample Images Gallery.

So while the top two sensitivities are of limited use, the results here are still impressive overall. Judging from the samples below, the Mark II enjoys around a one-stop advantage over the original 5D when viewed at 100%, along with less of the chroma noise which often plagued high ISO 5D images. The icing on the cake is we’re comparing samples viewed at 100% here – if you were to print images from both cameras at the same size, the 5D Mark II’s higher resolution would mean any artefacts would be less visible.

As for the A900, we'd say the Mark II's in-camera JPEGs enjoy at least a one stop advantage over the Sony at lower sensitivities, and closer to two stops at higher sensitivities. Judging from the exposures and measured brightness, the Sony may work out about 0.3EV more sensitive than the 5D Mark II at any ISO setting, but the new Canon is clearly out-performing it in terms of noise levels on in-camera JPEGs.

As for the Nikon D700, we hope to publish direct comparisons against the 5D Mark II in the future, but in the meantime, you may want to compare the page from our Sony A900 review which includes in-camera JPEGs from it, the Sony A900 and Canon’s flagship EOS 1Ds Mark III. Obviously these were taken on different days, but comparing the noise levels in the background and the detail on the images, we’d say while the Nikon D700 is clearly applying lower noise reduction, it doesn’t take a decisive lead over the new Canon.

So an impressive result here for the new EOS 5D Mark II against both its predecessor and current rivals. Now see how different noise reduction settings affect the 5D Mark II in our Canon 5D Mark II Noise Reduction page, or head over to our Canon 5D Mark II Gallery for additional sample images.

 


Canon EOS 5D Mark II
with Canon EF 24-105mm IS
Sony Alpha DSLR-A900
with Sony Carl Zeiss 24-70mm
Canon EOS 5D
with Canon EF 24-105mm IS
  This sensitivity not available   Canon EOS 5D at 50 ISO
L (50 ISO)
50 ISO not available
L (50 ISO)
         
    Canon EOS 5D at 100 ISO
100 ISO
100 ISO
100 ISO
         
    Canon EOS 5D at 200 ISO
200 ISO
200 ISO
200 ISO
         
    Canon EOS 5D at 400 ISO
400 ISO
400 ISO
400 ISO
         
    Canon EOS 5D at 800 ISO
800 ISO
800 ISO
800 ISO
         
    Canon EOS 5D at 1600 ISO
1600 ISO
1600 ISO
1600 ISO
         
    Canon EOS 5D at 3200 ISO
3200 ISO
3200 ISO
Hi (3200 ISO)
         
    This sensitivity not available
6400 ISO
6400 ISO
6400 ISO not available
         
  This sensitivity not available   This sensitivity not available
H1 (12800 ISO)
12800 ISO not available
12800 ISO not available
         
  This sensitivity not available   This sensitivity not available
H2 (25600 ISO)
25600 ISO not available
25600 ISO not available



Canon EOS 5D Mark II results continued...

Real-life resolution / Studio resolution / 5D Mk II vs A900 vs 5D Noise
/ Noise Reduction

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