Here's an experiment in extracting as much usable dynamic range as possible in raw conversion. DXO Optics Pro 9 has a new noise reduction mode that uses some image reconstruction wizardry to, as they claim, add 1 stop of useable shadow detail. Here is an image shot for highlights - let's see what we can extract from this with the new whiz bang algorithm.
Here is the uncorrected image, with basic settings for the corrected versions.
Next, tonal corrections without noise reduction - keep in mind that these images have all been reduced in size and have, in effect, had some of the noise averaged out of them in doing so:
Next, the "normal" NR, with luminosity NR set at about 60% of full scale.
Finally, the Prime NR result, set with luminosity at 60% of full scale.
Huge difference not only in the appearance of noise, but tone and color is vastly improved without all of that noise shifting and killing the shadows. Look at the tablecloth in the lower left of the frame, the underside of the bananas, the red figurine, the wall in the background, etc. Detail is preserved even with the level of noise reduction achieved.
Here is the PRIME NR image with an inset at 100% resolution, for comparison - mind you, this area is not the worst of the noisy areas, but contains detail and shadow tones, etc.:
This luxury comes at a cost - processing time. The normal quality NR takes about 18 seconds for a 5DII raw file. The PRIME NR takes about 8 minutes. However, one is usable, the other is not. So, if you really need to push your shooting conditions, this NR looks promising. I'm going to play with it some more and see how far it can go before it breaks down.EDIT - Here is a link to the raw file if you want to try it yourself with your various raw converters, etc.: https://www.dropbox.com …huqq5p6hs4jw/_MG_0005.CR2