Canon 5D3 vs Nikon 800E noise tests

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kymarto
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Canon 5D3 vs Nikon 800E noise tests
4 months ago

Hi folks,
Vis-a-vis the endless debate about these two cameras: I am privileged to use both regularly, one for myself (Nikon) and the other for work (Canon). I was reading again as the opposing fanboys went at each other. I actually like both. The Canon feels better in my hand, but I like the Nikon layout much more. On the other hand the Canon has (to my mind) a more sensible menu layout, and the bracketing controls are much better, allowing more than 1 EV between shots. Advantages and disadvantages both ways...

But for me the main point is image quality. I was very interested to see how the two cameras compare in terms of noise. I had read that the Canon was noisy in the shadows at base ISO, but performed better than the Nikon at high ISOs. So yesterday I took the Canon home and performed two head-to-head tests.

First I wanted to compare shadow noise. I shot two frames (raw) each, at 100 and 800 ISO, underexposed by 3 EV. I then imported them into ACR and brought them up 3 stops, and performed some minor tweaks to get the contrast presentable and the the color balance similar between the two cameras.
The shots are all at 24mm @ f5.6, the Nikon with the 14-24 and the Canon with the 16-35 II. Nikon shooters, be glad, the Canon lens can't hold a candle to the Nikon in the corners
Anyway I then cropped out similar areas in the four shots and lined them up. If you look at the file I uploaded at original size, the image magnification is at 150%
The second image is done the same way, but shooting both cameras at 6400 and 12800 ISO (no exposure compensation).
My impressions are these: as to the underexposure noise test, I was shocked. The Nikon at 100 is very clean, but the Canon is pretty miserable, especially in terms of shadow noise (both luma and chroma). The Nikon at 800 is almost comparable to the Canon at 100, actually noisier in the mids and highs, but cleaner in the shadows.
The high ISO test also surprised me (second image). I kept hearing that the Canon was clearly superior to the Nikon in terms of high ISO noise, but that is not my impression from my test. Perhaps Canon has better noise reduction algorithms in the processor for jpgs, but this was a head-to-head test with CR2 and NEF. To my eye the Nikon is actually slightly better than the Canon at both ISOs, especially in the shadows. Have a look and see what you think.

Tests at -3 EV underexposure

High ISO tests (no exposure compensation)

Canon EOS 5D Mark III Nikon D800E
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