5D Mark II/5D Mark II low-light/high ISO lab tests with full image downloads

Started Apr 8, 2012 | Discussions thread
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Tony Northrup
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5D Mark II/5D Mark II low-light/high ISO lab tests with full image downloads
Apr 8, 2012

This got lost in another thread:

Here are some controlled comparisons shot in dim incandescent lit in a room with no natural light, 70-200 mk2 lens mounted to a tripod, delayed shutter, white balance set manually to 2000, matching exposures.

Just to account for any bias you might have, look at each image and see if you can tell a difference. If you can, make note of which you think looks better. The answer key and a link to download the full images is at the bottom.

First, for laughs, the entire scene at 102,400. I pushed the 5D2's H2 exposure two stops just to see what it would look like.

These are each cropped to 1:1

And here are the original files (92MB):
http://s3.amazonaws.com/dslr-raw/lab-test.zip

The answer key:
ISO 800: 3/2
ISO 3200: 2/3
ISO 12000: 3/2
ISO 51200: 3/2
ISO 102400: 3/2

How'd you do? Which camera looked best at which ISOs? Does the difference matter?

My own interpretation: The 5D Mark III wins by a nose. Raw images have a tiny bit less noise at high ISOs. Unless you need to shoot above ISO 51,000, which the Mk2 doesn't natively support, I can't imagine that image quality would drive you to upgrade.

Note that the Mk3 images seem to use a higher black point. Often the shadows seem brighter, washed out a bit on the Mk2, and that goes away by raising the black point in Lightroom. I noticed that during the original video test. In practice, it doesn't make a difference, since adjusting the black point is something I always do anyway, but it's important to note when comparing raw images from the camera.

BTW, my co-photographer Chelsea took the blind test. She also does my photo editing, and she's the one who has to manually clean up any noise in images before we sell them commercially, so she's adept at spotting noise and understands the cost of noise better than anyone. She couldn't see a difference at 800. She actually picked the Mk2 for 3200 and 12000. Obviously she picked the Mk3 for the higher ISOs.

Most importantly, she noticed that the Mark II stops picking up yellow at high ISO (which explains why it turned a green to blue and yellow to white), whereas the Mark III does still pick up the yellow. The Mark III also gave a yellow tint to white areas of the picture at higher ISOs. She is looking at the full images on my computer.

In case you somehow missed it, here's a comparison video I did. The description includes links to more non-lab sample files from both cameras:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D3Ums46kKsE

Canon EOS 5D Mark II Canon EOS 5D Mark III
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