Testing the Canon 5D Mark II's Low Light Capabilities

When the White House puts out a photo of President Obama, it's frequently taken using a Canon 5D Mark II (Example: this iconic image). It's the same camera that Jerry Ghionis uses. It's one of the gold standards of DSLR cameras these days, in terms of image quality.

I recently acquired a Canon 5D Mark II after the unit went on sale at Best Buy. There are many reasons to own one, but the two primary ones for me were the fact that it sports a full-frame sensor (allowing me to take full advantage of my EF lenses), and the fact that it gets amazing low light performance.

Last night, I decided to put the latter to the test. I spent some time with my friend Rachell, during which I shot a few photos at ISOs 2500 and 3200:



On the way home, I shot a local band, Cradle to the Grave, who were performing at the Plough & Stars bar in Central Square. All of these photos were shot using ISO 3200 or ISO 4000:



My thoughts? The low light performance is spectacular. It is, in fact, so good that I'm pretty irritated I have not been using this camera all along. With my Canon 7D, I top out at ISO 1600 before the images become unusable, noise-wise, for any professional context. Yet with the 5D Mark II, even the ISO 4000 images are theoretically possible to use (realistically I probably wouldn't go higher than 3200, but it depends on the situation. We don't always get to choose our optimal ISO levels). And as you hopefully can see above, this makes possible images that I could only dream of prior to this point.

How many images have I missed out on because I did not have this camera before now? I shudder to think on it. But I'm glad this camera and I are finally together.

[Thanks to Alex Billington for hooking me up with the 50mm f/1.4 lens used in all these images. Extremely handy for producing sharp images in very dark situations!]

2 comments :: Testing the Canon 5D Mark II's Low Light Capabilities

  1. I just shot a proposal in the dark at 6400 -- and while extremely grainy - the emotion comes through just fine...just sayin. ;)

  2. Wow. Those shots are incredible. And the high ISO actually give a nice layer of noise that looks a lot like film grain. Beautiful.

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