5D2 vs 40D High ISO Surprise

Started Feb 27, 2009 | Discussions thread
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5D2 vs 40D High ISO Surprise

[Cross posted from another forum]

Hi guys, I thought instead of complaining and trolling on DPreview like I usually do (unintentionally), I thought I would do an objective comparison that nobody seems to have really done so far. This is my first attempt at a technical comparison, hope it is helpful though:

Given how many people are considering an upgrade from a 40D to a 5D2, I thought this would be of use for those who are concerned with High ISO noise (I know I was as I photograph 99% of my photos at ISO 1600)

I've seen a lot of silly claims about how the 5D2 is "3 stops better" than the 40D, so I thought I'd test them out. I was HIGHLY sceptical before I purchased this camera, and I think my scepticism was well founded now that I have the camera, though that doesn't mean I don't like the 5D2, I like it very much. I just think we shouldn't overhype things

The 5D2 is great, but it's not "3 stops better" in my opinion. In terms of high ISO of RAW files, from my tests, it looks like there is very little, if anything, separating the 40D from the 5D2 at the pixel level...I'd say the 5D2 is at most 1/3 to 2/3 stops better, but please draw your own conclusions.

Because the 40D is of higher pixel density, this suggests that Canon really has made little if any progress on noise suppression since the 40D


  • Please note the 5D2 crops look slightly smaller because I cropped roughly the same area. The 40D has a larger pixel density, so that same area has more pixels associated with it ("more pixels per duck"). Rest assured these are 100% crops though

  • WB: 3800K, My house is lit by Tungsten light. Any differences in WB are due to tonal and colour differences between the Cameras's "standard" picture style.

  • Cameras on M, each additional stop of ISO is coupled with 3 clicks to increase the shutter speed to maintain same exposure. The camera metering showed the base exposure to be +1 overexposed (I compensated for the whites in the scene). Both 40D and 5D2 metered in the exact same way, though I used Manual and disregarded metering. Any differences in exposure are due to tonal and colour differences between the Cameras's "standard" picture style.

  • RAW Conversions, DPP, Picture Style = Standard, Sharpening = 0, NR = 0, Quality Setting 9, Cropped in Photoshop and saved at Quality setting 11 (out of 12):

This is what the full frame photo looks like:



Here are the 100% Crops:

One thing I will say about the 5D2 is that it is a lot sharper than the 40D. When the 5D2 first came out we saw photos from Vincent Laforet and from here: http://www.prophotonut.com/2008/09/20/canon-5d-mk2-high-iso-pictures/ that were really, really soft, and this scared many people including me. But rest assured the 5D2 is very sharp when you don't use the smearing "standard" NR of the in camera JPG engine, or excessive DPP noise reduction.

Below are two 100% crop comparions, at ISO 1600 at f/4 using a 85mm f/1.2L II USM lens, with zero sharpening and zero Noise Reduction. MF with 10X Magnification was used, and I suspect f/4 would cover up any minute error that may exist even when using 10X magnification. Those who have used the 85L II know that not much can touch it for sharpness at f/4 and that any limitation would be due to the sensor/AA filter. I don't believe my 85L II is a "soft copy" because it is as sharp, if not sharper than my 70-200 f/4L IS, 35mm f/1.4L, 100mm Macro and 50mm f/1.8 II. Remember these have zero sharpening.

Mods, please forgive me for this large photo:

I suspect either a "stronger" AA filter on the 40D, or more on chip noise reduction from the 40D. It is for this reason that I think ISO 6400 is usable on the 5D2, but marginal for the 40D (when pushed 2 stops from ISO 1600) because the 5D2 ISO 6400 files, whilst noisy, retains detail and sharpness, whilst the 40D, whilst only slightly noisier, loses all details and sharpness and becomes a smeared, blurry mess.

[Continued in the next post...]

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