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Canon 5D Mark III digital camera image
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Canon 5D Mark III

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Canon 5D Mark III Raw Image Quality

We used to convert raw files used for comparison crops with dcraw, an excellent freeware raw converter. Unfortunately, dcraw's author has not been providing timely updates lately, so we have switched to using Adobe Camera Raw with its noise reduction and sharpening sliders set to zero. We've found conversions made with ACR to be almost identical to dcraw, when dcraw's demosaicing option is set to match ACR's method.

Below are crops from Canon 5D Mark III raw files compared to raw files from other high-resolution full-frame SLRs:

Canon 5D Mark III
versus
Canon 5D Mark II, Nikon D800, and Sony A99
Raw, no Noise Reduction, no Sharpening,
Simulated Daylight
Canon
5D Mark III
Canon 5D
Mark II
Nikon
D800
Sony
Alpha A99
I
S
O

1
0
0
I
S
O

2
0
0
I
S
O

4
0
0
I
S
O

8
0
0
I
S
O

1
6
0
0
I
S
O

3
2
0
0
I
S
O

6
4
0
0
I
S
O

1
2
8
0
0
I
S
O

2
5
6
0
0
I
S
O

5
1
2
0
0
N/A,
ISO 51,200 not
supported.
N/A,
ISO 51,200 not
supported.
N/A,
ISO 51,200 not
supported.
I
S
O

1
0
2
4
0
0
N/A,
ISO 102,400 not
supported.
N/A,
ISO 102,400 not
supported.
N/A,
ISO 102,400 not
supported.
Canon
5D Mark III
Canon
5D Mark II
Nikon
D800
Sony
A99

Here, we can raw noise performance has been improved compared to the 5D Mark II, but not by as much as you'd think by just looking at in-camera JPEGs. The 5D Mark III's JPEG processing has improved as well. The Canon 5D Mark III appears to do well against the Nikon D800 at the pixel level, but keep in mind the D800's significantly higher resolution means that when printed at the same size, the D800 does better giving the Nikon the edge in high ISO performance. The Canon 5D Mark III performs better than the Sony A99, with the latter likely handicapped by its translucent mirror in the optical path.

Overall, an impressive performance from the Canon 5D Mark III. Noise is higher in very deep shadows, though, which is why dynamic range scores aren't as good as the Nikon or Sony's.