Monday, August 17, 2009

Comparisons (updated)

Canon Ixus 860, 8MP, tiny sensor
Panasonic G1, 12MP, "4/3" sensor
Canon 500D, 15MP, "APS-C" sensor
Canon 5D-II, 21MP, full frame sensor

All of them had their respective "standard" zoom, set to 28mm equivalent.
All of them set to around F:5.6 or F:8, and 800 ISO, which I find to be representative. Except the IXUS, which I let use its auto-ISO setting which selected 400, wisely since such small sensors suck above that.

Full scene:

Crop from Ixus:

Crop from G1:

Crop from 500D (T1i):

Crop from 5D mark II:

(Big pic when click.)

Update: it's coincicental that the megapixel sizes in my cameras follow the sensor sizes neatly. You might well have a tiny sensor with 14MP and a full frame sensor with 12MP.
At the top is a neat diagram I found which, except for being slightly bigger than real life, perfectly illustrates the four sensor sizes above (two of them even mentioning the same cameras!). (The EP-1 is "4/3" like the G1.) (Don't try to find meaning in monikers like "4/3" and "1/8", they are complete gibberish with no relation to anything real.)

Update: the Canon 5D mark 1 was the king of high-ISO performance for two years. It was impressive that you could get usable pictures at 1600 ISO, albeit rather noisy. No other camera came close for a long time.
But the 5D Mark II kicks it all across the field. At 1600 ISO I don't see any noise at all! In fact I basically can't see any quality difference going from 800 to 1600. And they did that at the same time as almost doubling the resolution! That is f***ing impressive.

Update: even more so 6400 ISO, which I had kind of dismissed, but shouldn't have. At default setting, it's good. But it gets even better if you turn off high-ISO noise suppression (custom settings) and handle noise in the computer. (And this is from JPG, I haven't tried RAW yet.)
I thought only Nikon D3 could do this, and the D3 has only nigh half the pixel count.

Frankly, this goes beyond my expectations. When they boosted the resolution that much, I was sure they'd blown the chance for really good high-ISO performance.

Note: for a long while, I thought that noise was the only penalty for using the high ISO settings. But there are other issues too. Most importantly, you loose sharpness/resolution/detail, and that can't be recovered. The dynamic range also suffers some, and colors may lose some clarity, though with the new generations it seems to be minimal.

posted by Eolake Stobblehouse @ Monday, August 17, 2009   36 comments links to this post


At 17 Aug 2009, 19:24:00, Blogger Alex said...

Apart from the color cast the G1 and 500D seem to be comparable. What's the difference between 3/4 and APS? I see it's 2MP, but that isn't much.

I also got motion sick going between images as they rotated.

At 17 Aug 2009, 19:40:00, Blogger eolake said...

APS-C is about 2/3 of 35mm full frame. "4/3" size is about half. This is *linear* measurements, not area.

In practice such a difference is rarely noticed, it's true.

At 18 Aug 2009, 00:12:00, Blogger Bronislaus Janulis said...

I guess it matters what you print; as I rarely do billboards, the smallest would be fine, but for the lack of manual controls, and external flash. The G1 is most appealing, sans recession.

At 18 Aug 2009, 03:04:00, Anonymous Walter said...

Good idea, Eolake, to show the same objects with different cams who have different sensorsizes!
But why do you picture through a closed window? So you give away sharpness you can show?
By the other hand you give us two pictures in one: It seems you show a statuette like Victor Issa's 'Inviting-Joy'-Statuette inside ... I like it ;-)

Have a nice day!

At 18 Aug 2009, 08:15:00, Blogger eolake said...

Yes, that's the statuette.

Just for fun, I have tested it, and apart from reflections, I could not seen any quality difference when shooting through a window.

At 18 Aug 2009, 11:43:00, Anonymous Walter said...

Thanks for your test-happening, Eolake!
So what do I/you learn from this? A glassfilter named 'window' close to the lens and nearly parallel to the optical axis is not so harmful for the center of pictures! If the window-distance is a little greater, the things come with there own little show!
What do you learn? You need not to clean your window ... this week or so ;-)

Nice day go on !

At 18 Aug 2009, 12:19:00, Blogger eolake said...

Me, I learned that while pocket cameras makes amazing quality pictures up magazine-double-spread size, in really big sizes, bigger sensors does make their mark.

And that the bulk and price of the 5D2 and "L" (high-end) zoom lens (24-105mm) really does justify itself in resolution when you need that.

At 18 Aug 2009, 19:28:00, Anonymous Patrick said...

Note the 5D2 image, clean as a whistle.

At 18 Aug 2009, 19:55:00, Blogger eolake said...

Yes, I must admit I was positively surprised by that. Impressive.

... And I just updated the post... 1600 ISO is clean as a whistle too. Noise? What noise?

At 18 Aug 2009, 20:10:00, Blogger Alex said...

No noise! That's terrible, what's the point of 1600 emulation if it's not all grainy!

At 18 Aug 2009, 20:19:00, Blogger eolake said...

Well, you can always use 6400.
Or I think it can even be pushed to 25,000.

At 18 Aug 2009, 20:21:00, Blogger Alex said...

That is just crazy!

At 18 Aug 2009, 20:28:00, Blogger eolake said...

Yep. Nutty as squirrel poop.

At 18 Aug 2009, 21:57:00, Anonymous Philocalist said...

And that the bulk and price of the 5D2 and "L" (high-end) zoom lens (24-105mm) really does justify itself in resolution when you need that.

So to chuck a cat amongst the pigeons ... I've a bagful of 'L' series lenses and have been pondering on whether to buy the 50D or really upset the bank account and splash out on 5D? Seriously wondering whether or not I'm likely to see any real difference in the end result, assuming that I do my bit properly?

At 18 Aug 2009, 22:06:00, Blogger eolake said...

With L lenses, I think you'll be very pleased with the 5D2.

At 18 Aug 2009, 22:08:00, Blogger eolake said...

(I have about 4 L lenses, which was one of the reasons I finally went for the 5D2.)

At 18 Aug 2009, 22:55:00, Blogger eolake said...

Updated again, with 6400 test. Well, paint me green and call me lazy Hulk.

At 19 Aug 2009, 03:54:00, Anonymous Philocalist said...

With L lenses, I think you'll be very pleased with the 5D2.

Tend to agree with you ... but a new baby boy bouncing around the place makes it very easy to feel guilty / over-extravagant where things like this are concerned :-)

The really crazy part of all this is when I try to put it into perspective ... I 'retired' (early, I hasten to add!) a few years ago after working self-employed as a photographer since the mid-80's ... during which time, out of all the photographs I produced, substantially less than 1% were ever needed / enlarged above a 10" x 8" print ... and the vast majority were from 35mm film stock, not roll-film!

At 19 Aug 2009, 04:45:00, Blogger eolake said...

There is that. You need a lot larger prints to see the difference.

At 19 Aug 2009, 04:46:00, Blogger eolake said...

Consider the 500D (T1i) instead of the 50D then. I have it too, great cam, same image quality, only more compact.

At 19 Aug 2009, 15:02:00, Anonymous jim said...

If I'd known that the 500D was in the works, complete with video, I would have waited instead of buying the new 50D in October '08, but that's the technology gamble. The next move is definitely toward full frame, 5D2. The 50D has enabled some low light shots that would have been impossible with the old 450D, the last of my consumer DSLRs. The extra pixels are a big plus if I want to crop out a section of a photo to use.

At 20 Aug 2009, 18:58:00, Blogger Jimbo said...

That looks like a nice, cozy little apartment. In London it would probably cost about five hundred thousand pounds.

At 20 Aug 2009, 19:27:00, Blogger eolake said...

I was so lucky with that. I bought it in 2002, and at that time, for some reason this small area was behind the price explosion. I bought it cash for £34.000! Now it's over 70k.
It has everything I need, and it's a five minute walk to town, and the neighborhood is not bad.

At 21 Aug 2009, 19:28:00, Blogger eolake said...

Note: I thought things photographed with wide-angle tended to look bigger, but it seems to have the opposite effect here. The room is bigger than it looks on the picture. It's not a coffee table, it's a big, solid dining table seating six people.

At 23 Aug 2009, 13:16:00, Blogger Jimbo said...

Well, it couldn't be called a coffee table because it's too high, you've got chairs there. It's way too big to be a coffee table! ;-)

At 23 Aug 2009, 15:26:00, Blogger eolake said...

Yes, but there's a sofa too, and I *do* drink my coffee there. As well as use it for a quick photo studio surface. So I guess it's a multi-purpose table.

Which I really love by the way. The clean, simple, heavy, strong form. The legs are flush with the surface both vertically and horizontally. There's not one line in it for the purpose of making it beautiful, but because it's quality and simple, it *is*. Or at least to my taste.
I often keep it bare because it is so nice on it's own.
(I would need a bigger space to make a photo of it which shows it well, though.)

At 24 Aug 2009, 12:14:00, Anonymous jimbo said...

You're definitely not using it as a coffee table then, I mean aren't you supposed to have a bunch of pretentious art coffeetable books and magazines like The Times Literary Supplement, the New Yorker, etc., sitting out to impress your many visitors? ;-)

At 24 Aug 2009, 17:34:00, Blogger eolake said...

My usual kind of visitor is more impressed that I'm not trying to impress.

But for others, I have a variety of spreads to select from, from Perfect 10 to Non-Illustrated Science (with the articles in the original languages).

At 27 Aug 2009, 08:16:00, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Four Thirds is the ratio width to height of the sensor and lenses behave like twice the focal length because of the small size has half the diagonal.

Under the same logic 35mm would be called three halfs (doubt that will happen).

At 27 Aug 2009, 09:06:00, Blogger eolake said...

I thought I remembered some reference to obsolete video tubes widths. Found this on wikipedia here:

"The name of the system comes from the aspect ratio of the image sensor used in the cameras, which is commonly referred to as a 4/3" type or 4/3 type sensor. The common inch-based sizing system is derived from vacuum image-sensing video camera tubes, which are now obsolete. The imaging area of a Four Thirds sensor is equal to that of a video camera tube of 4/3" diameter."

... So I'm guessing the video tube naming tradition is the origin, and the aspect ratio fit is a nice bonus.

Notice how big the tube had to be (34mm) to fit a 22mm diagonal imaging area.

At 28 Aug 2009, 13:24:00, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't seem to find a magazine with the name "Non Illustrated Science."

At 29 Aug 2009, 13:09:00, Blogger Jimbo said...

I was joking.

At 31 Aug 2009, 18:25:00, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Try SRAW1 when at 6400 ISO, it's even more impressive. This is one of my 5D² tips that you can find here.

At 31 Aug 2009, 18:29:00, Blogger eolake said...

Thanks for the tip, I'll take a look.

What is "SRAW1"?

At 31 Aug 2009, 18:42:00, Anonymous Xavier said...

sRAW1 is the reduced RAW (10 MPix), more info following my link...


At 19 Sep 2009, 19:05:00, Blogger Adam said...

Actually, 4/3rds does not specify an aspect ratio, just the sensor diagonal. This is why the GH1 is actually in-spec for Micro-4/3rds despite using a multi-aspect sensor which delivers the same ~21mm diagonal in 3:2, 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios.


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