Canon 5D Mk2 high ISO pictures

This shot was taken at ISO 1600 in the corridor at Canon.

This shot was taken at ISO 1600 in the corridor at Canon. Click on the picture for the full resolution file. The EXIF data is intact in the full size images.

Here they are. These are a selection of the 50 or so frames I shot on a ‘beta’ version of the Canon 5D Mk2 camera at Canon’s headquarters in the UK.

Update: Please remember these shots were taken with a beta release camera on launch day.  I took them on-the-fly whilst demonstrating the camera to press and distributors so yes the focus might be slightly out on one or two.  I’m happy with the look of these images which are consistent with my style.  I am not looking for absolute sharpness and so applied no additional sharpening to the images in production.  Please accept these images for what they are which is a demonstration of the new camera’s amazing high ISO performance and don’t try to read too much into pixel-level sharpness.  We all want to see what the camera can do with our normal RAW-based workflow but that will have to wait.

Canon supplied a model, Lisa, and I took pictures while demonstrating the camera’s capability to the hundred or so press and distributors who attended throughout the day. I only shot Jpegs as we had no way of processing the RAW files. So these pictures are only 8 bit and not 14 bit RAWs. I downloaded them into Lightroom and made a few tweaks before using Photoshop to do a bit of spot removal as per a normal jpeg workflow. I was careful to preserve the histogram where possible although some pulling about of the files was inevitable.

ISO 1600 too and in another corridor just outside my demonstration room.

ISO 1600 too, and in another corridor just outside my demonstration room. The lighting was from low wattage downlighters.

ISO 1600 - I like the look that Lisa and I came up with for this shot.

ISO 1600 - I like the look that Lisa and I came up with for this shot.

ISO 6400 with the exposure compensation maxed out at +2 stops

ISO 6400 with the exposure compensation maxed out at +2 stops

A little tighter still at ISO 6400

A little tighter still at ISO 6400

This frame is a little more normal with predominately neutral tones and no heavy backlight. It is the first of 3 frames to compare high ISO perfomances at different settings. ISO 6400

This frame is a little more normal with predominately neutral tones and no heavy backlight. It is the first of 3 frames to compare high ISO perfomances at different settings. ISO 6400

This frame is ISO 1600

This frame is ISO 1600.

And this frame is ISO 800

And this frame is ISO 800

ISO 1000

ISO 1000

ISO 1000

ISO 1000

And finally I give you this frame at ISO 1000 again.

And finally I give you this frame at ISO 1000 again.

Please feel free to leave comments. Please take into account that there is no science in my assessment just a bit of fun picture making. The EXIF data is intact in the full size images.

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  1. Hi! Fantastic shoots and i really thank you for posting these. The ISO800 shoot is simply amazing! The higher iso ones looks a bit soft tho?

    I would love to see some lower iso shoots if you took any? under ISO 400 would be great to see what kind of detail you could capture with the cam =)

    Big thanx and nice job!

  2. First I have to say that I’m not a wedding photographer.
    My impression is:
    1. The iso up tp 1600 for the 21Mpixel looks great!
    2. The noice level on 6400 is still OK.
    3. You have frequently used a slim dof – that is certainly the choice for portrait but makes the observation of the noice not so easy.

    Could you please add some frames with high contrast – e.g. dark (nearly black) background with very light subject. This is to observe the noice paterning in theblack areas.

    regards

    Jacek

  3. Nice shots. Although the shot’s I’d really like to see is high ISO with poor light. In extremer blue or red light, you’ll get a LOT more noise than in nice white light and to me it doesn’t make a lot of sense to shoot a portrait at ISO6400 and 1/1000th…

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  5. Thanks for the samples, it’s nice to see a few well exposed images that weren’t shot in a dark convention hall.

    Though the images were shot with a pre-release camera, I think this set is a very interesting look at what the camera can do in good light, as it is a very useful reference for optimal situations and less ideal conditions alike.

    The ISO 800 shot looks good. It should be interesting to see how RAW and a more custom workflow will affect image quality.

  6. Hi, fantastic photos!

    The ISO is ok but I don’t like how soft images are out of the camera. I suppose you havn’t sharpened it yet.

    Here is a 100% crop of your first image!

  7. Absolutely amazing. OK Nikon back to 2nd place once again! The images are not soft. They are perfect for further post work if needed. I MUCH rather have a wide range so called “soft” image out of the camera then over sharpened with loss of range and detail. Pre-ordered two of these beauties for our studio. Can’t wait to put them is real life use!

    Dan

  8. 1600 ISO images look fantastic. I just don’t like how soft they are and how they are not focused where they are suppose to be. Hopefully this camera doesn’t have any AF problems as 1DIII had/has

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  10. I agree with BlahhBlaah. Why would ISO 6400 at 1/1000th be a good indication of high ISO performance. Get it in a dark cathedral at ISO 6400 at 1/100th and f2.8 and correct for the WB under tungsten lights and see what happens – that’s the only real test otherwise why would you need ISO 6400?

  11. As others said, the samples are soft. Too much for me. Anyway, it can be due to jpeg. Is it possible to provide raw files ??

  12. There are some really disappointing comments here.

    The point of these shots is to show the camera’s capability in extremis, mainly high ISO. Not to shoot under typical portrait settings. The camera’s potential is obviously stunning, particularly in the hands of someone like Damien, who can actually use it.

    If memory serves me correctly the lens was a 70-200L f28 IS.

  13. “I only shot Jpegs as we had no way of processing the RAW files”
    “I downloaded them into Lightroom and made a few tweaks before using Photoshop to do a bit of spot removal as per a normal jpeg workflow.”

    If you have lightroom why can’t you process the RAW files?

  14. My version of Lightroom has yet to be updated for this camera. The RAW format is new and is smaller than most apparently. The camera will be out before Lightroom gets an update I’m sure. Even the technical guys at Canon could not process the RAW files as there was no DPP software supplied with the pre release camera.

  15. Thanks for the samples. Great work…beautiful model.
    I think this will be a very useable camera. I’m wondering how it will look with smaller file sizes in sraw or med jpeg, which I use a lot on the 5d. The only gripe I have is that there are very few shots where the focus locked on well. The iso 800 shot show how sharp this camera can be with proper focus. My main grip with the orig. 5d is lack of focus consistency from shot to shot.

  16. First of all, nice photos, nothing wrong with your skills.

    It is too bad the pictures weren’t take with a sharper (prime) lens, that would really show the performance of the 5D2. But then again, for you this probably simulates a real life shooting situation.

    I have a question: what noise reduction setting did you use? It looks like one of the higher settings, but I could be wrong.

  17. Thanks for the kind words. We all know that this camera wil produce amazing shots at low ISO on a tripod and at f8 but that’s not the real world at a wedding. I’ve shot with most DSLR’s – certainly with everything by Canon and Nikon and I can say I’ve not seen better quality under these circumstances. I think the RAWs will be interesting. I love the noise pattern of the D3 image at ISO 6400 but it is no sharper than the 5Dmk2. The sharpness is down to optics and image processing. I always use virtually no sharpening because I like my images to look more analogue and film like. I am sure my image style will disappoint the pixel peepers but the artists among you will love this camera.

  18. damien, “Canon could not process the RAW files as there was no DPP software supplied with the pre release”

    Gee Damien, how did they test their camera? I really think they didn’t provide the software so that no one was able to use raw. They have control if you have to use jpg.

  19. These are outstanding, outstanding samples. I’ve only gone as far as printing one or two at 8 x 12 on my Canon PIXMA iP4500, but I can’t for the life of me see any noise. More importantly, if you had told me those prints were from ISO 200 files, I would have believed you.

    Canon really set the bar with the 5D Mark II for high ISO image quality.

  20. I agree that a prime lens would have been better. I was demonstrating the real world features of the camera in front of an audience. I used a zoom because it is my normal kit. We had a Canon printer in the room printing up 40″ x 30″ prints straight from the camera files and they looked fab. They were produced at one print every 8 minutes or so and we had an impressive set at the end of the day.

    Noise reduction… I used a bit of chroma noise reduction on some of the pictures in Lightroom 2 and I probably used the default setting for luminance noise reduction.

    I missed the focus a few times and the moment was often more important than the critical technical quality.

    I will get a chance to really asses the camera in more controlled conditions over the coming weeks. The important thing for me is it frees up another two stops of ambient working light without resorting to using flash to illuminate.

  21. I agree, get this camera in a really dark cathedral with a prime lens where there is a lot of detail and it will blow your socks off.

    I was surprised that there were ‘no significant changes’ to the auto focus system given that it is going to be used in much darker surroundings. I might even end up using my STE2 just as a focus aid from time to time :-)

  22. Thank you for your posted images, these real world samples are priceless. My concern for the future is, the brides will just get us into ever more impossible situations.:) Oh…this is a beautiful hallway…I want a 30×40 bridal portrait…(Lucky I was shooting slides so I could retouch all the water stains and dusty plumbing in the underground parkade lit by fluorescent lighting mixed with some sodium this or that for perfect color balance.) :)Next will be a romantic ceremony lit by just two candles….
    Tony

  23. Hi David, The cameras were without manuals, packaging and software etc. I’m sure that Canon in Japan have the RAW format sorted and it maybe that it was just the PC in my room that needed an update. I expect that Adobe and Phase One are hard at work on getting their packages to work effectively in time for the camera hitting the shelves.

    Someone will post RAW files soon I’m sure.

  24. >Why would ISO 6400 at 1/1000th be a good indication of high ISO performance. Get it in a dark cathedral at ISO 6400 at 1/100th and f2.8 and correct for the WB under tungsten lights and see what happens – that’s the only real test otherwise why would you need ISO 6400?

    ISO 6400 is ISO 6400 and will have the same noise whether at 1/30th or 1/8000th shutter speed.

    >If you have lightroom why can’t you process the RAW files?

    The 5DII hasn’t even been released to the public yet..so Adobe/Apple and other third party raw developers can’t test and profile it. Canon hasn’t released their software either to convert the 5DII raw files.

  25. I’ve had a very good ride with my 5D for three years, I’m looking forward to adding this camera to my bag. Thanks for sharing Damien.

  26. Wow, thanks for sharing, the 5DMk2 looks quite impressive.

    The model, however, is absolutely stunning!!

  27. These are not very good examples. I agree with everyone else – they are soft and blurry but that could be because they are jpegs. I own three canon 5Ds and am looking to upgrade but I will wait for a raw converter for the 5DII first.

  28. Remember there is no sharpening applied and the image style was set to standard. If you sharpen your pictures even just a bit in Lightroom or Photoshop then I suggest you run these pics through your sharpening routine.

  29. >Why would ISO 6400 at 1/1000th be a good indication of high ISO performance. Get it in a dark cathedral at ISO 6400 at 1/100th and f2.8 and correct for the WB under tungsten lights and see what happens – that’s the only real test otherwise why would you need ISO 6400?

    ISO 6400 is ISO 6400 and will have the same noise whether at 1/30th or 1/8000th shutter speed.

    What I’m saying is that instead of adjusting aperture and shutter speed, adjust the light source to require the high ISO. You’ll find your camera gets a lot noisier. You can shoot ISO 6400 outside all day long, but take it inside under dim lighting conditions where this ISO is required, then you’ll see how it really performs, there IS a difference.

  30. I don’t know if RAW would make the image any sharper. The images are slightly out of focus. Except the one at ISO 800 which to me is just perfect.

    I think we just have to keep in mind that this is a BETA version with the final version not out till end of November. Although the photographer got his hands on this camera this month, they might have made this Beta version back in April or May, who knows. Also everything was set to standard, I usually have my sharpness bumped up a little in the C. FN.

    I think with the 1D MKIII debacle Canon will not let this camera out of the shop without making absolutely sure that it has a working auto focus.

  31. Correction I didn’t mean C. FN, I meant “detail setting” but I’m sure you all know what I meant.

    And the beta, I was just guessing April or May because I heard they were handed out back then to a few photographers in Europe. Could be a rumor.

  32. Damien, thanks for posting the pics. You have a good eye.

    Do you have any comment to make on the anti-aliasing filter? I noticed moire in the bridal veil, and was wondering if you thought it was any better or worse than other cameras?

  33. Why didn’t you take a picture in a setting between 1600 and 6400 ISO? The 1600 are good and usable, the results from 6400 makes me think useless if not in an emergency situation. Remember what ISO values that are available in between 1600 and 6400? I saw 1000 so I am guessing there might be a atleast two steps in between and taht would be really nice.

  34. Lots of negative comments about sharpness. Let me reassure you alI was not taking pictures for fine detail evaluation I was shooting hand held like I would do at a brides home etc. I was also delivering a presentation at the same time.

    I was expecting some of the review websites to publish tripod pictures of static scenes for pixel peeping purposes. I’m sure they will do so soon.

    For me, this camera is a great improvement on the current 5D in picture quality terms. Time will show it to be as much a classic as it’s predecessor.