PIX 2015
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Dynamic Range (contd.)

RAW headroom

The second part of the dynamic range story is of course the additional headroom available in RAW files. Experience has told us that there is typically around 1 EV (one stop) of extra information available at the highlight end in RAW files and that a negative digital exposure compensation when converting such files can recover detail lost to over-exposure. Much experimentation lead us to eventually use Adobe Camera RAW for conversion with the settings show below to retrieve the maximum dynamic range from our test shots.

It would appear that the EOS 5D's RAW files contain just over one stop of extra highlight detail, although interestingly this was pretty much unavailable in any Canon RAW converter because of their conservative approach to potentially incorrect data. At the shadow end it is possible to lift shadow detail however this also increases the visibility of noise. Another interesting artifact here was that using the default ACR conversion we lost a tiny bit of highlight range and about a stop of shadow range, it appears that ACR's default 'Medium' tone curve is a little more contrasty than the camera curve and also that ACR is doing less noise supression in shadows (hence it hit our lowest acceptable SNR earlier than in-camera JPEG).

  • ACR Default: Exp. 0.0 EV, Shadows 5, Bright. 50, Contrast 25, Curve Medium (Default)
  • ACR Best: Exp. -1.25 EV, Shadows 0, Bright. 50, Contrast 0, Curve Linear

The issue with highlight data above the normal 'clip' point is that the RAW converter can not be sure that it is 100% color correct, it appears as though rather than risk false color the Canon converters simply discard it. Adobe Camera RAW (and some other third party RAW converters) however do attempt to reproduce as much extra detail as possible and where a single channel is completely clipped they instead produce a gray of the correct luminance (seen below).

Real life example

Step wedge shots are great for analyzing the optimum response from a camera but nothing beats a real life example to get some idea what all this means. Below left you can see an example of an EOS 5D image with a large area of over-exposure. Using Adobe Camera RAW we produced two additional versions of this shot, the first with the 'optimum' -1.25 EV compensation and the second with a -2.00 EV compensation. While initially the -2.00 EV shot looks better a closer look shows that where ACR could not correctly calculate the color of a pixel it instead turns it gray (with the correct luminance), some of the brickwork has its correct color, other bricks are gray. The -1.25 EV shot shows no less detail it's just about optimum for the amount of additional information available in this RAW shot.

Default conversion (original) -1.25 EV, lower contrast -2.00 EV, lower contrast

Different RAW converters

Lastly it's worth comparing a couple of other RAW converters. In these cases we used -2.00 EV, despite the fact that it's more than the available headroom to explore how each converter deals with the lack of complete (accurate) data for some pixels. As you can see Adobe Camera RAW produces the most natural looking image with the best 'guess' for the value of pixels with inaccurate color data, RawShooter comes in second and Canons DPP takes the conservative approach, if it can't be sure of the pixel color then it just leaves it white / gray.

Adobe Camera RAW, -2.00 EV RawShooter, -2.00 EV Canon DPP, -2.00 EV
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Total comments: 16

Still worthy 10 years on because you can shoot it at any selectable ISO in RAW and it`ll be excellent, doesn`t ever get noisy (about half a stop or less noisier than the D700 or D3S in Capture one at ISO3200) , even the DR is good - JPG engine is both dated and limited but as a RAW only camera, it stands up .. Pixel level sharpness (therefore resolution of fine details) is better the D700 or D3 due to a weaker AA filter .

Focus is fast enough , though really best seen as a centre focus only system due to the lack of cross sensors anywhere else , excellent on batteries too.


Totally agree, except for the focus part, it can be improved for that value.

Hai Ching Lee


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...!!


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.

Pascal Parvex

Well, that is a great deal. I would do it.


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.

frosty 7

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


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


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


Since you have invested in Canon lenses, I think the Canon 6D is what you are looking for, if you are still looking.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.

Pascal Parvex

I don't know what you mean. I own the 5D since 2006 and have cleaned the sensor only once.

Total comments: 16