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The Canon 5D Mark II and ISO 1600

Richard Charpentier Canon Cameras, Notes from Rich, Photography, RLC Design Leave a Comment

Yesterday I read a comment on a blog I follow regarding the 5D Mark II and ISO 1600. The comment was to the effect that ISO 200 and ISO 1600 on the camera are close in noise level.

In other words, even shooting at such a high ISO you’re just not going to get a huge degree of noise.

Now, in my personal shooting with my 5D I have been impressed with the high ISO shooting. I mean, in comparison to my 40D there’s no comparison……

But 200 being as noise free as 1600? Really? I have to check this out…….  Experimentation time!

So, here’s how it lays out.  I took two photographs here in the gallery.  I borrowed Gary Persello’s “Twilight Brother” as my model.  I dig Gary’s stuff in a big way, so I figured why not use a favorite bronze.

The camera was set to Aperture Priority mode, I set it to f/2.8 (using the 24-70mm L series), and the camera suggested 1/50th of a second.  The shot was snapped and I changed settings quickly.  The first shot was done at ISO 200.  The second shot was setup at ISO 1600.  I kept the camera at f/2.8, and the camera suggested 1/400th of a second.  Shot number 2 was snapped, and here’s what we’ve got…….

Canon 5D Mark II, ISO 200, f/2.8, 1/50th

Canon 5D Mark II, ISO 1600, f/2.8, 1/400th

As you can see, the two images are pretty darned sharp when you look at them overall on the web.  We haven’t zoomed in yet, but an initial look says to me, “Yup, 1600 is pretty clean!”

But is it super clean?  Let’s zoom in a touch, shall we?

Canon 5D Mark II, ISO 200, f/2.8, 1/50th. Very clean

Canon 5D Mark II, ISO 1600, f/2.8, 1/400th. A little noise in the background, but workable

What I found this morning was pretty simple.  Even at ISO 1600 the 5D Mark II does produce a sharp image.  Heck, it picked up some cobwebs on the bronze (I’ve dusted it since).  There is perceptible noise though when zooming in at 100% on Photoshop.  It is not distracting or severe noise, and you can easily deal with it in Photoshop, Lightroom, or your favorite noise processing plugin.  You won’t need to do much.

If you’re shooting for web, and for smaller resolution images online the noise isn’t a worry.  If you’re shooting for large format prints (like I do) you’ll need to do slight clean up at 1600.  The difference between 200 and 1600 is perceptible, but not a show stopper.

Frankly, I’m extremely impressed by the image quality at such a high ISO.  I’ll tell you, my 40D couldn’t produce similar results.  As I don’t have that camera with me today, I can’s show you a comparison.  But if you’d like I’d be more than happy to do the same experiment with the 40D.  Leave your comments if you’d like to see that!

By the way, I’ve also seen high ISO shooting from the D700 (Nikon).  My friend Josh has one.  You know what?  The D700 does an amazing job at high ISOs, and definitely outperforms in that department compared to my Canon.  Sorry all, it has to be said.  Still, I’m impressed with the gear I use, and that’s why I use it!

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