Canon 5D Mark III Dynamic Range

Canon 5D Mark III Dynamic Range

Canon 5D Mark III Dynamic Range

I could care less about the Nikon vs. Canon argument, specifically the D800 vs the 5D Mark III. The ONLY reason I bought a 5D III is that I already have a bunch of Canon lenses, and the 5D seemed like a pretty good camera. The D800 seems like a pretty good camera too, and if I had a bunch of Nikon lenses, I’d have bought that instead. So why write a post in defense of Canon dynamic range? I want to show that it’s possible to get good shadow recovery from the Canon 5D Mark III if you know what you’re doing.

Let’s start with the numbers. The new Canon 5D Mark III camera has been labeled as having less dynamic range “DR” than than both the new Nikon D800 AND the older 5D Mark II. DxO performs it’s own independent tests of camera sensors, and they rated the new 5D Mark III as having 11.7 EVs worth of dynamic range. By comparison, the 5D Mark II came in at 11.9, and the Nikon D800 came in at a whopping 14.

Photography is really all about pictures, so let’s get to it.

Image as edited to bring out max DR:

Shadows Recovered

There are some blogs out there which state otherwise, but in my opinion the fact that I can blow an exposure that bad and still have something to work with is really something. In digital photography today, there really is no excuse for blowing the exposure the way I did (intentionally) in the original image. On board camera meters these days are incredibly accurate and in any of the auto modes (shutter priority, aperture priority, full auto) you can be fairly confident of a decent exposure under all but the worst conditions. And when you do encounter those worst-case conditions, check the histogram, adjust the exposure, and if possible, reshoot. If you can’t reshoot, use it as a learning experience for next time.

To blow the exposure that bad, I intentionally underexposed by 2 stops in what already was a demanding scene. In other words, I allowed the camera to gather just one quarter the amount of light that I should have, yet the image was still somewhat usable. That’s pretty good. And if you really truly need more shadow recovery than that, might I humbly suggest learning to create an adequate exposure to begin with!

For any practical purpose, the Canon 5D Mark III has plenty of room to manipulate the shadows.

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Comments ( 7 )

  • sp

    let’s see a full sized image. the noise and banding will bash you in the face.

    • PL

      Agree completely with SP above. Would love to see the 100% full size image to check the lifted shadows.

      I’ve been continually disappointed with Canon’s DSLR performance ever since I got my 7D, which has this pattern/banding noise issue at low ISOs. I had hoped my 5dmk3 wouldn’t have it yet it still does. Even my Rebel XT (350D) performed better. Nikon DSLRs handle RAW file exposure recovery incredibly when relatively speaking. I’m not trying to start a fanboy war either. It is possible some of us got bad units but I’m just stating what I and many others have experienced. Like you, I bought Canon cameras because that is what my lenses will fit to and will most likely continue to buy Canon stuff. What I’m upset with is all the fanboy defense of Canon, when this problem really does exist and continues to. The D800 is a much better value if you ask me. Canon CAN do better with their sensors as proven with their cinema cameras like the C300, which don’t have this ugly shadow noise problem…but they aren’t fixing this issue.

      • Ed Graham

        The fanboy defense just doesn’t work; all I care about are results. I’ll post the image if I can find it but I’ll tell you right now it’s noisy as hell when viewed at the pixel level. Still, I posted it as an example for what can be done – just LOOK at the first image. It’s nearly all solid black in the bottom yet the 5D III was able to capture recoverable details.

        Let’s face it – who in their right mind would blow an exposure that badly, then want to blow up their terrible picture to a 20×30″ print and view it from 12 inches away?

        Mostly though, I thought the 5DIII was taking an unnecessary beating last year when it was released, and wanted to show it’s not all about DXO’s numbers.

        • Mikko Löppönen

          First of all, the original image is shot correctly if the aim is to keep the highlights. You could’ve increased the exposure but then the hightlights would’ve been annihilated. So the only thing to is to either do HDR or just capture the hightlights and hope that the shadows can be lifted. There are even more dynamically demanding scenes in real life and the D800 just does amazing job with those scenes. The 5dmarkIII not as well.

          • Ed Graham

            You’re right, increasing the exposure might have blown out the highlights and HDR would really be the best way to approach that scene. I don’t need to defend the 5D – it’s just a camera after all, but lots of the criticism last year was from people who had never even shot with the thing so I thought I’d show an example.

  • Xyz ffred

    I’m having big issues with the mk-2 dynamic range shooting mountains = no shadows or no sky

    • Sebastian

      if you mostly shoot landscapes then you are an unaware nikon guy lol
      but first of all, are you shooting in RAW format? if not, well you’re missing plenty of the capabilities. if you really need to take jpgs set the picture style to neutral or faithfull, landscape mode has too much contrast and is killing the shadows. in neutral the image will look flat, but you should edit that in post.

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