First Look: Canon 5D Mark IIby Wesley Fink on December 4, 2008 3:00 AM EST
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- Digital Camera
Canon 5D Mark II vs. Canon 5D
The Canon 5D is something of an imaging legend, so any examination of the 5D Mark II update has to begin with a comparison to the current 5D. Our comparisons are based on a similar technique used in our review of the Sony A900. Namely, we did same size 150x250 actual pixel crops as one means to compare to the 5D. However, the area covered with the 5D2 21.1MP sensor is about 65% greater than the 12.8MP sensor in the 5D.
Any who have printed large images from a digital file will immediately understand that a larger noisy image when printed smaller often looks like it has much lower noise. This is why we often say the noise level would be good enough for small prints but not for big enlargements. The noise becomes more apparent as the image size is increased. To better compare noise in the same image area, we ran a second set of crops that attempt to cover the same image area. With the metrics of the 5D and 5D Mark II that means a crop of 190x317 pixels for the "same image" comparison, which is then downsized to 150x250
That is the reason for the two crops for the Canon 5D Mark II. The regular view is a pixel-level 150x250 crop, while the 0.6x view is about 65% more pixels adjusted for the same image area as the 12.8MP crop form the 5D. We will leave it to you to decide which is the more relevant of the two crops for the 5D/5D2 comparison, and of course you can also view the original images by clicking on any crop.
All images are captured using a 2-second shutter delay on a tripod in the same location. The manufacturer's 50mm f/1.4 prime lens is used in all cases at an aperture priority setting of f/4.0, some three stops down from their rated speed. All images are processed with the in-camera JPEG processing with high ISO noise reduction set to the low setting. Light is provided by a 100W tungsten bulb, and white balance on all cameras is manually set to tungsten.
The base range of the original 5D is 100 to 1600 ISO with expansion to 3200. Canon appears to have succeeded very well in matching and surpassing the low noise and superb resolution of the original 5D. In fact the 5D2, with a base range of 100 to 3200, is every bit as good in that range as the 5D in its 100-1600 range. Most will have no real problem shooting in the 50-3200 ISO range without much regard to noise. That range is a justified option in the Auto setting on the 5D2.
The 6400 and 12800 ISO options are certainly usable in most circumstances, but the noise increases as you go up from ISO 3200. By 25600 the Canon 5D2 is still producing amazingly sharp images, but noise has reached a point where output should be limited to smaller prints. Further noise reduction processing could improve the image but there is usually a trade in image softness for the reduced noise.
Finally, this is a first look so tests are limited to in-camera JPEG images. We plan to do further comparisons shooting RAW with post-processing as we look more closely at the 5D Mark II.
We will leave to you whether the actual pixels or actual image areas are the better comparison for resolution and noise, but certainly the results are a bit different. Regardless of how you look at it, though, the comparisons to the 5D are truly exciting. Canon seems to have achieved their goal in improved image quality and extended ISO range in comparison to the original 5D. We next compared the 5D2 to the other two full-frame DSLRs in its class.