Canon D-SLR

ISO comparison – Canon 5D mkII, 5D mk III, Canon 6D, Canon 1Dx, Nikon D4, Nikon D600

I had a number of people ask about more details about the Canon 6D and whether I would recommend the Canon 6D (B&H), or Canon 5D Mark III (B&H). It’s tough enough to give advice at best of times, since the decision to buy a top-notch camera is a nuanced one. There are so many factors that come into play – your budget, weight of the camera; ergonomics; features & specification. Everyone has a different requirement of their camera gear.

So when I was able now to get my hands on a broad enough selection of Canon cameras (Canon 5D mark II /Canon 5D Mark III  / Canon 6D / Canon 1Dx (B&H) simultaneously, I decided to also add the Nikon D4 (B&H), and Nikon D600 (B&H) into the mix. One would expect that the Canon 1Dx would beat the Canon 5D mark II hands-down since there is a generation difference in technology as well as a massive difference in price. Similarly, one would expect the Canon 1Dx (B&H), and Nikon D4 (B&H) to compare favorably to each other.

Now, as I said, the choice between cameras depend on a number of factors – but one of them that becomes important in certain areas of photography, is high-ISO performance. Instead of relying on my say-so, and a few 100% crops, I decided it might be interesting if everyone does a bit of homework for themselves, and scrutinize the relevant RAW files. This would help in making the decision a personal one.

Download the RAW files from here. Right-Click and Save-As to your computer. They have been renamed in an self-evident way. (The last 4 digits are from the original file-name.) Be prepared though that this might hit your bandwidth limits with your internet service provider, since these files are quite large!

I shot sequences of images (of the same castle), with all 6 cameras, starting at 400 ISO all the way to 6400 ISO, in full-stop increments. The cameras were on a tripod. I used the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L II (B&H)  and the Nikon 24-70mm f2.8G (B&H) on the respective bodies. I tried to keep the framing as exact as I could. In terms of camera settings, I changed the shutter speed in full-stop increments as I changed the ISO. I kept the aperture at a constant f/8 and do keep in mind this isn’t a lens test.

I purposely photographed the shadow side of this castle, so you can see how the high-ISO noise looks like in the darker shadow areas. There is also enough detail in the image so you can figure out how the higher ISO settings affect image detail.

You will notice that for some images, I changed the shutter speed by 1/3 stop lower. This is because despite me working as fast as possible, the light did change subtly in the 3 or 4 minutes in which I shot the initial sequences for each camera. So I repeated several sequences. Therefore, the images you see here, are images that to my eye looked to have the same brightness. In other words, I tried to compensate for the slight change in light levels as I shot the sequences. I know, I know, it’s not scientific, but this is as fair as I could make the comparison.

Also, be aware that I shot with Shade WB, and this differs quite a bit between how Canon and Nikon interprets that. So for your own comparison, change the images to some specific Kelvin setting. (The beauty of RAW files – these parameters aren’t fixed.)

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using the Canon EOS 6D in movie mode (model: Anastasia)

To test the Canon EOS 6D  camera (B&H) and the Canon 24-70mm f4.0L IS lens (B&H), I met up with Anastasia Z in New York. She had such presence and confidence, that while shooting stills of her earlier in the day, I had an idea of a video sequence we could do. And with that, here is an overview of how well the Canon 6D fares as a video camera.

So when the light levels starting falling this afternoon, we went to Times Square, which is always insanely lit up by the numerous billboards. An ever-changing flood of light from every direction.

This 30 second clip is an edit from about 12 clips I shot of her. We had to work fast since it was freezingly cold, especially with the wind blowing. We’d work out a sequence while she had her warm jacket on, and then she’d hand it over to my friend, Peter Salo, who assisted us. Then we’d shoot a sequence quickly, before she popped the thicker jacket on again, and tried to warm up a little bit again.

Even with having to shoot fast, and only being able to shoot limited sequences, I am very happy with the results. It definitely shows what an energetic and sensational model, Anastasia Z is. (If you’re a New York photographer, check her out on Model Mayhem.)

More techie info about the video clip, and about the Canon 6D …

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Using back-button focus (BBF) on your Canon camera

There are two ways to initiate (and lock) focus on your Canon DSLR
- using the shutter button, and / or
- using the AF-ON button on the back of the camera, near your thumb.

The AF-ON button can be set to be the only way to initiate focus, disallowing the shutter button from doing so. Depending on how you program your camera, the AF-ON button could allow you to trip your camera’s shutter independently of your focusing. Whether this is useful to you, (or perhaps even cause problems for you), depends on:
- your style of shooting, and
- the focusing mode that you use on your camera.

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even with high ISO settings, you still need great light

Still having fun with the new Canon 5D Mark III (B&H), I met up with Elmira again in New York. Elmira is the model I used in my initial tests of the Canon 5D Mark III high-ISO performance. Being a delightful model to work with, I decided to use her again as a subject.

New York was cold on this day, so shooting indoors just seemed a lot more attractive. We went to Grand Central Station – a grandiose building, but with light levels quite low. Low enough that I was glad that I brought the Canon EF 35mm f1.4L (B&H) along.

camera settings: 1/100 @ f/2 @ 3200 ISO
Even with a high ISO like that, I had to use a fast aperture.

An approach that I strongly believe in though, is that “using the available light” is not random decision. It needs consideration of what your light is actually like, and whether it is flattering. What I did here was to pull Elmira towards a light source, so that the light would come in from an angle over her shoulder …

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initial impressions: Canon EOS 5D Mark III – high-ISO noise performance

I have to confess something first – whenever an important camera is announced, I have just a cursory interest in the specification sheet. The difference between 40 AF sensors and 70 AF sensors … you know, that’s just a number on the paper. It never really tells you how the camera performs. And with the announcement of the details of the Canon 5D Mark III (B&H), there were a number of websites eager to list the detailed specs. Yay! Well, not really.

There might be some interest in the nomenclature, but what does it really mean that the 5D Mark II has the DIGIC 4 proce­ssor, but there’s a new DIGIC 5+ on the 5D Mark III. Those are just names to me. I can’t get excited about it, or even feign interest in the actual name. I’m much more interested in how the camera will actually perform. You can name it anything you want … but does the camera deliver?

Details for the photo at the top:
camera settings:  1/160 @ f2.8 @ 6400 ISO
Canon 5D Mark III (B&H);  Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II (B&H)  at 170mm

There is real excitement about the Canon 5D Mark III (B&H), since everyone is curious if it is that much of an improvement over the 5D Mark II. I have to say, I really think it is. It’s a massive improvement. The AF is more responsive. The camera *feels* better in my hands. The controls are better laid out … although the right forefinger still does too much work, stretching here and there, all over the top plate.

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the Best Camera in the World ..

.. will be the one where the camera manufacturers allow me some input into the matter.  If only Nikon and Canon (and Pentax and Fuji and everyone else) would just gather around a table and listen to me.  If only …

When I get to handle a new camera, I often wonder why the manufacturers designed a camera the specific way they did.  It might be the strange placement of a button or control; or the omission of a feature, or even the deliberate hampering of features in the non-pro bodies.  Sometimes I just wish they would bring in a feature that I love on another camera.

Here are the gear-head musings on what I would insist the Best Camera in the World would be like, if I had any say in it.  (Sorry, but that means this posting will have a lot of words and no images this time around.)

Firstly, the Best Camera in the World would have to be a modern full-frame digital SLR camera (D-SLR)  for the combination of accessibility, versatility and image quality.

I recently moved from using Canon 1D mkIII bodies to using Nikon D3 bodies.  Personally, I think the Nikon D3 is the best camera that has ever been made to date.   But there are a number of pros and cons, and not everything falls in favor of the Nikon D3.  Therefore most of this post is a comparison between these two cameras, and which things from either camera I would want to see in the Best Camera in the World.

But before we even get there, I have to touch on something - Exposure Modes.  Both these cameras fall down sorely when it comes to how the exposure modes are accessed.  Pentax’s ingenuity here towers over them in this regard.

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One of the advances that the Canon EOS-1 D Mark III  bodies made over the previous generation 1-series D-SLRS, is in an easier menu system – especially the ‘My Menu settings’.  So while the menu system of the mk3 makes it easier to adjust settings, My Menu settings allow you to change a few of them on-the-run without having to delve into different parts of the mk3 menu.

Here is how I had my cameras set up:

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