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Comparing ISO on different cameras

 
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ISO values don't mean the same on all cameras. Case in point: ISO 12800 on the Canon C300 looks actually darker than ISO 6400 (+24db) on an FS100. So I downloaded the very excellent Philip Bloom's Christmas 2011 shotout, loaded the "low light tests" into the editor, and looked at the waveform monitor. Below you can see a vertical crop of such waveform (corresponding to the area where the guy's face is) for each camera and sensitivity setting.

Bear in mind that this is not a fully scientific test, and it may very well not mean much. For example: using my Flaat_4 picture style on my T2i (550D), shadows are pushed up, but highlights are mostly unaffected, and ISO is not altered: it's just a different gamma curve, but the guy's face would appear much higher in the waveform monitor. A side effect of this is that results will depend on the shape of that curve and the point where I concentrate my analysis: maybe I'd have gotten different results if I looked at a brighter part of the image (e.g. the Christmas tree in the background). Also, some cameras clip at IRE 100% but others reach IRE 109%, and I didn't take that into acount. Even more, maybe one camera delivers clean images where stuff appearing at 10% IRE is perfectly useful (it can be pushed up and will remain noise-free), and another one shows unbearable noise in stuff that's recorded at 30% IRE. So, watch the shootout and draw your own conclusions (maybe the most useful test would be to push up all the images to match the brightest one, and judge from the noise there which ones are useful and which ones are useless; I don't have the original footage, so I can't do that).

As expected, the C300 falls clearly on the dark side of things. The 5D2 not only allows for higher clean ISO values than its APS-C little brothers, but it's also brighter at each ISO (in the relevant range for these: 1600 and 800). Sony (F3, FS100, 5N) is usually on the bright side, and specifically the 5N is a lot brighter than the ISO value would make me think. And the GH2 has a very steep curve: it's on the dark side at low ISO, but on the bright side at high ISO.



please visit my equipment recommendations



 
 

GH2
12800

C300
20000

FS100
24db

C300
12800

GH2
6400

F3
6400

7D
6400

5D2
6400

5N
3200

C300
6400

FS100
12db

F3
3200

7D
3200

GH2
3200

5D2
3200

5N
1600

AF100
3200

FS100
6db

C300
3200

5D2
1600

F3
1600

5N
800

7D
1600

FS100
0db

AF100
1600

C300
1600

GH2
1600

F3
800

5D2
800

7D
800

GH2
800

AF100
800



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