High ISO performance with the 5D Mark II

Last night I was experimenting with the higher range of ISO’s on the 5D Mark II.  As a previous owner of the original 5D, I can say that the improvement in sensitivity versus noise is significant.  It’s still not a Nikon D3, but it’s very useful.  ISO 3200 is very usable, and I’ve made a few images at ISO 6400 that are not objectionable, but do lack some detail.  From my experience over the past month and a half, I think ISO 4000 represents the best compromise in terms of high ISO and preservation of detail.

Below is a photograph captured with the 85mm f/1.8, exposed 1/200 sec. @ f/1.8, ISO 4000

Candy neck tie, McNally's Irish Pub, 22 Feb. 2009, Columbia, Mo.
Watching darts with a candy neck tie, McNally's Irish Pub, 22 Feb. 2009, Columbia, Mo.

And for the pixel peepers, a 100% crop from her face (after the jump)

100% crop
100% crop

Naturally, images captured at higher ISO’s seem to lack the “tack sharp” quality found at the lower range (esp. ISO 100-800).  And while I am, personally, most concerned about sharpness–except when making intentional blurs–I think that this level of definition is more than adequate for the purpose of the photograph.  If the young woman’s face was any less defined, and I would consider it objectionable.  And stopped down, or with a better lens, the results will only improve.

Like I said, it ain’t a D3, but it doesn’t cost as much as one, either, and the 5D Mark II gives 21mp files.  Note also that according to other reports about ISO among the leading contenders in the 20+ megapixel lineup, the Sony Alpha 900 lags behind significantly.  Only the $8,000.00 Nikon D3x is showing better ISO performance at this resolution.  (And for that much money, shouldn’t it?!)

Now, if only Canon had included a nicer grip, and an viewfinder shutter…..

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