I’ve been asked all sorts of questions about the “potential” noise levels exhibited by the Canon 50D since I updated my Comparing the Canon 40D and Canon 50D post several weeks ago. Many of the questions had to do with the “usability” of RAW images taken at high ISO levels (since the camera’s High ISO Noise Reduction settings only affect JPEG images) and the “effectiveness” of noise reduction software to correct this problem.
Last weekend I shot several hundred images with the new 50D at ISO levels from 100 to 800 (my usual range for nature photography) and in my opinion all of the images at ISO 400 and below look just as good in terms of noise as similar shots taken with my 40D. In fact, running the images through PictureCode’s Noise Ninja shows noise levels unchanged from the 40D.
However, images taken with the 50D above ISO 400 do seem to exhibit more noise than similar shots taken with the 40D. I think this is a fact that those of us shooting RAW with the Canon 50D will just have to live with. Having said that, I’ve also found that this can be overcome by using noise reduction software such as PictureCode’s Noise Ninja, Nik’s Dfine or even the noise reduction settings found in Adobe Lightroom 2.
The images below illustrate my point. The first is a 100% crop (click on the image for a larger version) of an image taken at ISO 640 and it shows both luminance and chrominance noise. At this resolution you can also see the moire pattern in the background.
The second image shows the reduction in noise that Lightroom’s noise reduction settings can achieve without softening the image too much.
The third shows the reduction that Noise Ninja can achieve with it’s default settings.
Remember, these are 100% crops of a 15.1 megapixel image so the noise they show is highly exaggerated. Even at this resolution, the noise found in images taken with the new Canon 50D can be easily controlled using noise reduction software. The bottom line is that the new Canon EOS 50D can create great looking images, even at higher ISO settings. The inherent noise level may be higher than the 40D but the image quality is still excellent!
So quit worrying what those technical reviews and pixel peepers have to say and go out and make some great exposures with your 50D!