Tuesday, March 27, 2012

5D Mark III Shadow Pushing

Can you push the shadows on the 5D Mark III farther than the 5D Mark II?  Thats one of the burning questions a lot of upgraders have and its something I wanted to test.  Technically speaking how far you can push the shadows at base ISO is largely a function of the noise floor and thus is drive by how much read noise there is.  The latest generation of Sony EXMOR sensors have exceptionally low read noise at base ISO and many were hoping that the latest Canon sensors could deliver the same.

I captured the above scene with the intention of pushing the file in post so that the menu on the black board was readable.  The closeup above is a view of actual pixels. 

If I push the exposure by 3 stops, you get the image above, now lets take a look at how much noise there is in those shadows.  First lets take a look at images with no noise reduction applied at all.

5D2 with no noise reduction
5D3 with no noise reduction
Now lets see what happens if we apply some color noise reduction (about 35 on Adobe Camera Raw):

5D2 with color noise reduction
5D3 with color noise reduction
And finally lets add some luminance noise reduction as well since if were doing this to an actual image thats probably what we would do to try and get the cleanest image possible:

5D2 with color and luminance noise reduction
5D3 with color and luminance noise reduction
The way it looks to my eyes is that the 5D Mark III has a little less structure to the noise and noise amount appears to be slightly less (very slightly).  Though even with noise reduction, we are left with large color blotches which aren't as appealing.  I don't see this affecting my photography since it hasn't affected me with the 5D Mark II, however I know this is a big deal for some photographers out there.  In short if you were hoping for a dramatic improvement in this area with the 5D Mark III, you are going to be disappointed. 


Anonymous said...

3.5 years of sensor technology advances

0 improvement


Looks like we have hit a limit

Aravind Krishnaswamy said...

I think for specifically Canon has hit a limit. If you take a look at what Sony is able to do with their EXMOR sensor (which is in the Nikon D800, D700, Sony NEX 5N, etc...) its considerably better than Canon in this regard.

Anonymous said...

Compared to my Hasselblad H4d 50 the 5DMk2 is a joke in shadow noise.
I cant believe I wasted so much time on the Canon.

John said...

Thanks for posting this real-world comparison of the 2 sensor platforms. I believe this result is Canon's push to more megapixels rather than image quality, dynamic range, and lower noise levels. However, while I do appreciate Canon's less use of on-chip NR that kills detail in the raw files, if given a choice who wouldn't want the latter over the former? Megapixels are useless without quality being the dominant factor at this price range.

Aravind Krishnaswamy said...

Not sure that the lack of DR improvement can be attributed to more MP. The Sony 24 and 36mp 35mm sensors both have more megapixels and considerably better dynamic range.