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ISO / Sensitivity accuracy

In a new addition to our reviews we are now measuring the actual sensitivity of each indicated ISO sensitivity. This is achieved using the same shots as are used to measure ISO noise levels, we simply compare the exposure for each shot to the metered light level (using Sekonic L-358), middle gray matched. We estimate the accuracy of these results to be +/- 1/6 EV.

As is typical of almost every Canon digital SLR the EOS 5D is about a third of a stop more sensitive than indicated, hence its ISO 100 is actually more like ISO 125. The Nikon D2X is (as with most Nikon digital SLR's) right on the spot, the Fujifilm S3 Pro turned out to be about a third (to a quarter) less sensitive.

Indicated
sensitivity
Canon EOS 5D / EOS 20D / EOS-1Ds Mk II
(actual sensitivity)
Nikon D2X

(actual sensitivity)
Fujifilm S3 Pro

(actual sensitivity)
ISO 50 ISO 64 n/a n/a
ISO 100 ISO 125 ISO 100 ISO 80
ISO 200 ISO 250 ISO 200 ISO 160
ISO 400 ISO 500 ISO 400 ISO 320
ISO 800 ISO 1000 ISO 800 ISO 640
ISO 1600 ISO 2000 ISO 1600 ISO 1250
ISO 3200 ISO 4000 ISO 3200 n/a

ISO Sensitivity / Noise levels

ISO equivalence on a digital camera is the ability to increase the sensitivity of the sensor. The works by turning up the "volume" (gain) on the sensor's signal amplifiers (remember the sensor is an analogue device). By amplifying the signal you also amplify the noise which becomes more visible at higher ISO's. Many modern cameras also employ noise reduction and / or sharpness reduction at higher sensitivities.

To measure noise levels we take a sequence of images of a GretagMacBeth ColorChecker chart (controlled artificial daylight lighting). The exposure is matched to the ISO (ie. ISO 200, 1/200 sec for consistency of exposure between cameras). The image sequence is run through our own proprietary noise measurement tool (version 1.4 in this review). Click here for more information. (Note that noise values indicated on the graphs here can not be compared to those in other reviews.)

Test notes

  • Shots taken at approximately 22°C (~72°F)
  • Lighting was simulated daylight measured as 10.1 EV (at ISO 100)

Canon EOS 5D vs. EOS-1Ds Mark II vs. Nikon D2X

  • Canon EOS 5D: Canon 50 mm F1.4 lens, Aperture Priority, Manual WB,
    Default Parameters (Standard), JPEG Large / Fine
     
  • Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II: Canon 50 mm F1.4 lens, Aperture Priority, Manual WB,
    Sharpness 1, JPEG Large / Fine
     
  • Nikon D2X: Nikkor 50 mm F1.4 lens, Aperture Priority, Manual WB,
    Default Parameters, High ISO Noise Reduction 'Normal', JPEG Large / Fine
Canon EOS 5D
ISO 50 (L)
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II
ISO 50 (L)
Nikon D2X
n/a
Canon EOS 5D
ISO 100
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II
ISO 100
Nikon D2X
ISO 100
Canon EOS 5D
ISO 200
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II
ISO 200
Nikon D2X
ISO 200
Canon EOS 5D
ISO 400
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II
ISO 400
Nikon D2X
ISO 400
Canon EOS 5D
ISO 800
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II
ISO 800
Nikon D2X
ISO 800
Canon EOS 5D
ISO 1600
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II
ISO 1600
Nikon D2X
ISO 1600
Canon EOS 5D
ISO 3200
Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II
ISO 3200
Nikon D2X
ISO 3200

The EOS 5D's performance up to ISO 800 is very similar to that of the EOS-1Ds Mark II, however there's a distinct difference at ISO 1600 and 3200 where the EOS-1Ds Mark II appears to utilize less noise reduction and hence maintains more detail (at the expense of visible noise). This would appear to be an example of the difference in the ethos behind Canon's professional EOS-1D series cameras and the rest of the range. The overall noise performance from the EOS 5D is very good and by our measurements almost identical to the EOS 20D.

Luminance noise graph

Indicated ISO sensitivity is on the horizontal axis of this graph, standard deviation of luminosity on the vertical axis. Gray refers to the middle gray patch, Black refers to the black patch.

Luminance noise graph (just Canon, zoomed)

This graph shows the same data as above but with the Nikon D2X removed and the standard deviation scale halved (to provide a clearer view of the differences).

Indicated ISO sensitivity is on the horizontal axis of this graph, standard deviation of luminosity on the vertical axis. Gray refers to the middle gray patch, Black refers to the black patch.

Chroma noise graph

The EOS 5D exhibited slightly lower chroma noise (colored speckles) than both the EOS-1Ds Mark II and EOS 20D, although couldn't match the D2X which has a more monochromatic appearance to noise.

Indicated ISO sensitivity is on the horizontal axis of this graph, standard deviation of chroma (from the gray patch) on the vertical axis.

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Comments

Total comments: 11
Hai Ching Lee
By Hai Ching Lee (4 months ago)

Hi...!

I bought one last month for Usd500 in super good and working condition but without any lens......
I bought an L Lens 24-105mm f4 for another Usd 500...... a 50mm f1.4 for Usd350.......
After much testings around, I noticed 5D is not good at Indoor unless with the help of a Flash......However , at Outdoor I must say it is a Super duper Good Full Frame machine even though it is around 8 years old........!!!

I still feel it is a Good Investment as far as dollars and cents counts......
An FX cameras from Nikon like the D700 body will cost Usd1.3k in Malaysia......

I also own a Nikon D90 with standard kit lens 18-105mm, 70-300mm Tel lens, a Fx 24-50mm f3.5-4 and 20mm f2.8 and others...
Recently I bought an Adapter for Nikon lens to Eos FX body like 5D..........It WORKS very well but have to Manually focus......So now I can have Nikon lens on 5D body which safe me a lot for a start....!!
Used 5D MK-II is selling here at around Usd1.6k which I am looking forward to...!!

0 upvotes
JSnees
By JSnees (5 months ago)

I am using a nikkon D 5100. Have the opportunity to purchase a cannon eos 5d in excellent condition for $500 with 50mm f1.8 lens. Any advantages to this camera vs what I currently have besides FF? Good investment? I currently do not own any pro lenses from nikkon.

0 upvotes
SculptedPhotography
By SculptedPhotography (10 months ago)

The 5D was and is my first digital camera. It has served me with spectacular results. It's main minus for me has been its inability to use the higher ISO's, as anything higher than 200 produces visible grain in images that I print very large on my epson 24" printer. I almost always shoot with a monopod to assure the results.
Technology has changed and improved and I am searching for a replacement. I am invested in excellent Canon lenses and want to stay with Canon. I also want a camera that is not as heavy as my 5D (I am old and am fatigued by the weight of the 5D which I affectionately call "my brick".) Price is an issue too.
Still casting about trying to find a replacement.

0 upvotes
frosty 7
By frosty 7 (6 months ago)

hi i jus bot a canon eos 5d from a friend am i able to record video with the camera ?
thanks

0 upvotes
Ugo78
By Ugo78 (5 months ago)

No, unfortunately you are not able to shot video, neither by installing Magic Lantern (because the camera is not equipped with live view).

0 upvotes
InfraOptic
By InfraOptic (4 months ago)

Easy answer: Buy a Sony A7 mirrorless and a metabones adapter to use all Canon AF lenses.

0 upvotes
KariIceland
By KariIceland (10 months ago)

I wish you guys would do a new comparison with the 5D, would love to see it vs the newer dslr's

2 upvotes
qianp2k
By qianp2k (10 months ago)

Agreed! In all cameras announced around that time, only EOS 5D still attracts many discussions in DPR forums. How many are still talking Nikon D200 that announced just three months later these days? If you don't print/view in very big size, EOS 5D actually withstands most today's FF cameras very well till ISO 800/1600 in IQ, no mention crop cameras.

0 upvotes
sh10453
By sh10453 (10 months ago)

I love my 5D.
Using the 5D with quality Canon L lenses produces images that I do not see a difference between them and those taken by a newer camera (5D II, 5D III).

If video is not needed or required, then finding a clean 5D would be prudent.
Some very well kept, used lightly by some hobbyists can be found at around a $1,000 or less.

I have no immediate plans to shell out $3,000 or more for a newer model that is not going to give me much over the 5D, in terms of image quality.

But for commercial photographers, that's a different situation.

0 upvotes
Macandts
By Macandts (10 months ago)

Ditto. I could not be happier with my 5D. I'm also disappointed that the set up for image comparison keeps changing. It makes it difficult to compare any older digital camera with anything contemporary.

0 upvotes
MFog
By MFog (2 months ago)

I just sold my trusty old 5D. I love the camera but I will not miss cleaning the sensor every other week and fixing dust spots in lightroom! That was always a royal pain in the neck. Still a great camera.

0 upvotes
Total comments: 11