7D Sharpness at Higher ISO’s?

American Robin
American Robin, Peace Park, Columbia, Mo. | Canon 7D and 300mm f/4L lens; exposed 1/200 sec. @ f/4, ISO 1600

I have owned the Canon EOS 7D for a few months now; I purchased one in November 2009.  One of the concerns I had with the 7D, at least initially, was that the files simply did not seem sharp “enough” at higher ISO’s because of the noise degrading the image quality.  And I do believe that, in the case of basketball arenas and other dark situations where, frankly, “exposing to the right” to get a good histogram (and a good exposure) means cranking up the ISO to 4000, the quality certainly does go down.  However, that’s true even of the oft-touted Nikon D3.  And I don’t necessarily give the camera its fairest chance in those situations, because I prefer to use f/4 telephotos.  Why?  They’re smaller, they’re lighter, and they cost less.  They cost less now, and they will cost me less in the future because I won’t need an artificial shoulder or knees like some of my colleagues when we all grow older.

This past Saturday, I found myself crawling around Peace Park with the 7D and the 300 in order to make this series of a Robin spitting out a berry.  One of the things that pleased me greatly was that, as the light got dimmer and I resorted to higher ISO’s, the detail was held solidly from my ISO 1600 frames.  How well?  Below is a 100% crop of the head and bill detail:

100% Detail
100% Pixel Detail. No noise reduction or sharpening applied.

Note that this is before processing the image with any noise reduction plugins, such as Noiseware or Noise Ninja.  Neither has this sample been sharpened!  Not bad.  Not bad at all…

For outdoors use, the 7D should prove to be a very capable camera indeed.

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