Canon EOS 5D Mark III vs EOS-1D X, Low Light / High ISO

{Note: Sorry about the bug in the commenting earlier.  It’s been fixed!}

I just unboxed my Canon EOS-1D X, and wanted to do a quick-n-dirty high ISO comparison.  In the process, I also discovered how very different the colors appear at the same white balance in Adobe Lightroom, and I thought I’d share the results with you.

The following test was conducted at sunset.  This is the reason for the white balance setting, which on my 5d3 most closely approximated the warm tone of the light.  Both files were dialed in at 8000k, +15 magenta.  Both use the exact same lens, and were shot within 1 minute of each other.  Both files are DNG 7.1, process version PV2012, and use the camera calibration setting “Camera Neutral.”  All other settings including sharpening, noise reduction, tone curve, etc are all zero’d out for consistency.  I’m using the latest version of Adobe Photoshop Lightroom available as of this writing, which is 4.1.

The camera settings on both the 1D X and the 5D Mark III are: ISO 25,600, f2.2, 1/6400s.  Click the image to see it full resolution.

Comparing the Canon 5D Mark III and 1D X at ISO 25,600.
Click for full resolution.

I’m quite pleased with the improved image quality, especially in the shadow areas.  Consider the black cowling on the side-view mirrors, which show a huge improvement in noise and detail.  Also consider the sharpness of the molding on the side of the doors.

This was a great test, but I wanted to get a more realistic representation of what a file might look like that I would actually deliver to a client.  For this version, I took the exact same files and applied some sharpening and noise reduction.  While I realize this isn’t how everyone would deliver files, my clients are absolutely thrilled when I get results, hand-held, under candle light.  They’re willing to pay for this, even if it means sacrificing a little detail to the NR demons.  The settings on this are identical to the previous, except:  Sharpening – Amount 60, Radius 1.0, Detail 15, Masking 45 and: Noise Reduction: Luminance 45, Color 25.  The numeric values are identical for both the 5d3 and the 1Dx so that you can make an effective comparison.  As always, click to enlarge.

Comparing the Canon 5D Mark III and 1D X at ISO 25,600 with Lightroom noise reduction.
Click for full resolution.

What do you think?  Do you work under such extremely low light that this would benefit you?  Or are you a tripod shooter?  What do you think of the difference in color between the two cameras?  Comments and questions welcome!

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