Canon 5D Mark II High ISO Image Quality
The Canon 5D Mark II offers four high-ISO noise-reduction settings, allowing you quite a bit of flexibility in choosing how you want to make the trade-off between subject detail and noise levels. See for yourself how the noise reduction works under daylight lighting. Click on any of the crops below to see the corresponding full-sized image.
The above crops show the effects of the four levels of High ISO Noise Reduction available on the Canon 5D Mark II.
But how does the 5D Mark II compare to other compact, hi-resolution full-frame SLRs? See the comparison with the Sony A900 below.
The crops above compare the Canon 5D Mark II's JPEG High ISO performance (ISO 800 through 3,200) to that of the Sony A900, the current, full-frame resolution king (24.5-megapixels). The Sony A900 may have bested it in terms of number of pixels, but it's clear that the 5D Mark II holds a marked edge on high ISO performance. Note that the Sony A900 does not offer ISO's above 6,400.
Even though they aren't in the same price class, lots of folks no doubt wonder how 5D Mark II compares to the Nikon D3X. See the comparison below.
The crops above compare the Canon 5D Mark II's JPEG High ISO performance (ISO 800 through 6,400) to that of the Nikon D3X, Nikon's new flagship pro DSLR.
It's clear that both cameras are absolutely top performers. The crops above also show subtly different approaches to noise reduction and detail handling. Even with its High ISO NR disabled, it's clear that the Canon 5D Mark II is still applying a fair bit of luminance noise reduction, which generates cleaner-looking images, but at some cost to fine detail in areas of subtle contrast. (It still does very well with higher-contrast detail, as in the circular scale shown in the last set of crops at each ISO setting.) With High ISO NR off, the 5D Mark II also shows a bit more chroma noise than does the Nikon D3X at the same setting. Increasing the NR setting to "Normal" for both cameras reduces both chrominance and luminance noise in both. Nikon leaves a bit more (very fine-grained) luminance noise in the D3X's images, but also preserves subtle detail a bit better (as seen in the fabric swatches).
We also looked at the Canon EOS-5D Mark II's high-ISO image quality for images saved as RAW files. Rather than making this page longer yet, though, we've set up a separate page for samples of converted RAW images.