Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Canon 5D ISO Test

image courtasy of www.dpreview.com

Last week I got my hands on Canon's newest full-frame SLR the 5Dmk II. There are several givens with a camera of this type. It is expected that the camera will have a HUGE viewfinder, solid construction and better ISO than it's competitors. I want to take a look at a few minor impressions prior to diving in to my ISO tests. The first thing I notice at un-boxing was a new battery.
image courtasy of www.dcresource.com

There are two new pins that offer better communication with the camera giving the user line-of-site to battery health and more accurately displays remaining battery capacity. Unfortunately, the previous generation battery will not fit in the mk II so toss any old batteries and place an order for new batteries. Not a huge deal, but something to be aware of. The second thing I noticed was the backlight key. If you look at the top of a 10D, 20D, 30D, 40D, 50D, 5D the button that turns on the backlight for the LCD on the top of the camera is the one closest to the hot-shoe. On the 5Dmk II the button has transposed to the position clossest to the shutter release. Kinda frustrating if you are used to button placement on your camera. Beyond that everything seemed in order. The menu has some additional features - most notably the ability to adjust the custome settings for the 430ex II and 580ex II flashes directly from the camera with decriptions. Not essential, but can be helpful.

I preformed my standard ISO test. Mountin the camera to a tripod and photographing a keyboard. I then crop the image at 100% and produce the image below in photoshop. No noise reduction is used, the images are large jpg files directly out of the camera. The camera is set in aperture priority at f/5.6 using the Canon 17-40mm USM L lens.

click on the image for full size image
As would be expted ISO preformance is superb on this camera. The full frame means that the pixels are less densly packed therefore they gather light more efectivly - this translates into greater ISO preformance simply due the physics of the device. Little difference can be seen from ISO 50 through ISO 800. A litle texture shows up once you hit ISO 16oo; however, I noticed little difference between 800 and 1600. ISO 6400 does show grain - but it is important to note that the noise is not overly visable in a print and can be easily removed in an application like Noise Ninja. ISO 6400 preformes better than the Canon 20D and 30D at ISO 800 which changes everything. The high ISO preformance if the camera is not quite as good as the Nikon D700; however, it is so close I don't know it is a substantial diferentiating factor. Other features like built in wireless flash control, or ergonomics would be better features to focus on.

One final note - the higher megapixels of the 5Dmk II do concearn me. I have no interest in 21 mega-pixels. The camera could have easily destroyed the D700 if Canon had used a lower megapixel sensor. Image to noise ratio is the key factor in image quality - not mega-pixels. I am not sure I am happy with Canon's decision to go the direction they are going. Only time and continued exposure to the camera will tell. I photographed a midnight relase of The Dark Kniht with the camera so look for images and commentary from that in the next few days.