Lately I have been discussing the fact that digital noise from the new Canon EOS 5D Mark IV DSLR camera is practically non-existent up to ISO 2000. So now I am going to prove it.
This is actually quite an extraordinary technological advancement from Canon, considering that the older 5D Mark II used to start showing visible evidence of noise above ISO 400 and that the 5D Mark III was the same after about ISO 800. Now the envelope has been stretched another 1 to 1.5 stops higher — excellent for people who often shoot events, and in other low-light situations, like myself.
Before I go any further, though, let me just say that this issue occurs mainly from the high frequency pitch of sensors on digital cameras in low light situations and usually is only visible in a real world situation when you are looking at either high-res images zoomed in to 100% resolution on your computer screen, or when you are making large sized prints.
If you are shooting at a high ISO setting to increase shutter speeds, are getting a bit of noise and digital grainyness, but will only use the images for low-res web applications or small print output in a magazine or newspaper, then it isn’t so much of a concern. But still, having virtually noise-free images to start with is really the ideal.
The other advantage of the 5D Mark IV is the fact that the native capture resolution is now 30MP. For most applications, even a double page spread printed in a magazine, you can easily print a nice image from a file half that resolution. So even if your images from the 5D Mark IV do ever have a bit of noise, then one solution is to down-res the image size by 30% before outputting it. This will cause the pixels to tighten up as they move closer together. Then, suddenly, a lot or all of the noise will disappear — something we couldn’t do so easily before when we were starting with only a 16MP or 22MP output resolution from the camera. So when people ask me why I need so many pixels in a digital camera, this is one great reason.
Following is a series of handheld images I snapped yesterday in the Singapore airport while on my way to the MRT terminal. They were all shot with the Canon 50mm F/1.8 lens, which is an inexpensive lens that sells for only US$125. It is a great walk-around prime lens for travel or street photography which is one reason I took it along on this trip. Another is that it saves a lot on weight and space in my bag.
If you consider that most high quality Canon lenses sell for 10-20 times the price, the results below are pretty amazing, especially given the fact that the glass used to capture these images was not even what most would consider to be of professional quality. There is a bit of ghosting that can be seen on the people who are moving in the first 2 images, due to the slow shutter speed I used. Colors are also not so brilliant, but part of that has to do with the fact that the main light source was natural diffused light passing through green tinted glass roof panels, which added a bit of a green color cast. Overall though, the images look startlingly sharp for such budget priced glass. If you click on any of the images they will become enlarged on your screen.
When people think of noise at high ISO they believe it only will occur in the areas of heavy shadow. Although it might be more pronounced in the darker areas of a photo, noise can occur in all areas at high ISO from the sensor running at a higher signal frequency. In fact, it is often in the brighter areas that the noise is more bothersome, as the darker areas stand out less and are less of a focal point when viewing a photo.
When I processed the images from the RAW files, I used a slight bit of noise filtering in Adobe Camera Raw. Following are the noise reduction settings used:
If you would like to download the RAW files for the above images to see them at full resolution, you can download all the RAW files in a Zip file here. I converted them all to the DNG RAW file format to make it easy to open them in any version of Adobe Camera Raw. Otherwise, the Canon 5D Mark IV native RAW files can only be opened in the latest version of Adobe Camera Raw, which is Version 9.7.
The 5D and Nikon’s D810 are fairly similar in this context, so your article addresses a wide audience, Marc.
I shoot Nikon and have been dealing with this issue for some time. I am fond of taking available light shots – often, at night – and have to crank up the film speed. Even with an F/1.f lens, 100 ISO is way too low for a lot of these shots – and stretching shutter speeds provides a poor choice, too.
That said – I can’t say I’ve found noise a particularly serious issue. Yes we need to address it. And as your article shows, there’s plenty of help available in normal post processing software.
Having grown up in the analogue era, I think of “noise” as being much the same as “grain”, and I don’t particularly mind a certain amount of it, anyway. I’d rather have the shot, with some “noise”, than miss out in the interests of orthodoxy. The occasional touch of heresy can enhance a lot of shots 🙂
Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this Richard. Much appreciated.