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Canon's New Kid on the Block

Canon 5D Mark II w/box

So the long-awaited Canon 5D Mark II has finally hit the streets. Well, trickling to the streets is more like it. Despite having preordered at 4 different places, none of them came through for me. But luckily a tip on FM helped me snag one from a relatively unknown store in the city. A store which just happened to be across the street from where I used to work years ago.

Canon 5D Mark II w/24-70 lens

Won't delve too much into the hardware in this post but suffice to say, it's nice that the 5D body has finally been updated to match the rest of Canon's current lineup. I'm most happy with the high rez LCD and auto sensor cleaning. The new button layout I've seen since the 40D/50D so nothing new to me. The auto ISO functionality I think is a bit mysterious as I can't tell sometimes why it chooses the particular settings that it does but I guess it's a start. The AF is, as expected, about on par with its predecessor but does seem to be a bit more accurate in lower light conditions. Hard to really say since I haven't used the old 5D in awhile now. But what I was really interested in was the image quality. Namely, can I now shoot in the ISO 1600 to 6400 range on a regular basis without a second thought like I can with the Nikon D700.

Before I begin, a quick note on how these images were processed. Since I'm an Aperture user and Apple hasn't released an update to handle the 5DII's RAW files yet, I first converted the CR2 files into DNG using Adobe DNG Converter. Then I imported the DNGs into Aperture where I examined the ones I wanted and exported them back out as DNG to be processed in Adobe Photoshop CS4. I then opened up the file with no RAW processing whatsoever and saved directly to JPEG with image quality of 10. I then reopened the file with PS's default RAW settings (sharpen @ 25, color noise reduction at 25), ran the photo through Noise Ninja on auto-profile, before saving again as JPEG. And finally, I undid the Noise Ninja processing, resized the image down to my usual 1024x683 dimension for web use, re-ran Noise Ninja, and then saved as JPEG again. Oh, and I have the high noise reduction setting in the camera set to low and was using auto white balance in a pretty dim environment. And all shots were handheld. So, got all that? ;-p

Anyway, we'll start off with the two extreme high end stops: 12800 first.

ISO 12800 w/Noise Ninja
35mm, f/1.4, 1/250s
View full size: unprocessed / noise reduced

Next up is ISO 25600:

ISO 25600 w/Noise Ninja
35mm, f/1.4, 1/500s
View full size: unprocessed / noise reduced

So, thoughts on these two extremes? Full-sized with no processing they're obviously pretty ugly with lots of blocky noise and pretty noticeable banding in the 25600. However, I was pretty impressed to say the least with the job Noise Ninja did on them. Still ain't that great overall but better than no reduction. But shrunken down to my regular web size, it's quite usable. Keep in mind that I didn't bother to correct the exposure and color and all that so they'd probably look even better if I did my usual processing on them.

Now that that's out of the way, we'll shift down to the beginning of the range that I'm interested in: 1600.

ISO 1600 w/Noise Ninja
42mm, f/2.8, 1/50s
View full size: unprocessed / noise reduced

Suhweet, 1600 I expected to be good. Grain is obviously visible as is a bit of chroma noise but Noise Ninja takes care of that easily although at the expense of some detail which is to be expected. Shrunken down to web-size, probably can't tell from a lower ISO.

Next, 3200.

ISO 3200 w/Noise Ninja
35mm, f/3.2, 1/80s
View full size: unprocessed / noise reduced

Even more noise and grain now but still easily handled by Noise Ninja. Still pretty good overall I believe. And web-sized? Noise? What noise?

And finally, 6400.

ISO 6400 w/Noise Ninja
30mm, f/4, 1/80s
View full size: unprocessed / noise reduced

All right, so how does 6400 fare? Even more noise and grain obviously but not too shabby overall. And Noise Ninja brings it down to non-objectionable levels in my eyes at least. Web-sized, what ISO are we looking at again?

So, as far as I'm concerned, the 5DII does what I was looking for. I can pretty much get the same results as the D700 and with 9 more megapixels to work with. But with more post-processing. Out of the camera, the images aren't as noise-less as the D700 but I wasn't expecting it to due to the increased number of pixels. In this ISO range, the D700 shots also show grain but have much better controlled chroma noise. Plus I haven't down-rezzed the 5DII images to 12MP yet to do a direct comparison. And Noise Ninja does a great job of cleaning things up. Plus this is just with running it on auto. Imagine what it can do if I took the time to actually learn how to use the plug-in to its maximum potential.

I'm also satisfied with the sharpness of the images coming out of the camera. I was originally apprehensive because my experience with the 16MP Canon 50D was not very positive in this regard. The images that I was getting (even with a prime) seemed to be unusually soft. But for a 21MP camera, I have not found this to be as a big of an issue so far thankfully.

It's still unfortunate though that Canon decided not to update the AF system. I believe this post sums up the AF effectiveness well (even though he's talking about the original 5D there). Although he does fail to mention that the 5D with the center point on as well as the 6 assisting invisible points does work fairly well in AI Servo mode. Personally, I have not been too disappointed with the AF of the 5DII yet. Just don't expect miracles when targeting a low contrast subject in low light.

Anyways, following are a couple of more shots in the ISO 1600-6400 range that I've done a bit more post-processing with. Image quality is more than sufficient for my typical blog/Flickr use as I've said.

ISO 1600 w/Noise Ninja
ISO 1600, 65mm, f/2.8, 1/80s
ISO 2000 w/Noise Ninja
ISO 2000, 70mm, f/2.8, 1/60s.
ISO 3200 w/Noise Ninja
ISO 3200, 48mm, f/3.2, 1/80s.
ISO 6400 w/Noise Ninja
ISO 6400, 70mm, f/5, 1/80s.


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on December 4, 2008 9:00 AM.

The previous post in this blog was Fruity Kit Kat.

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