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Thread started 14 Aug 2014 (Thursday) 20:48
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Exmor vs DualISO

 
raptor3x
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Aug 14, 2014 20:48 |  #1

Note: This was a two particle article that I merged together so I may have missed some things and there may be sections where the writing doesn't flow properly.

I've already posted this on another website but thought people here might be intersted as well. I've noticed there's a feeling that MagicLantern's DualISO for the 5D3 is nothing more than a gimmick and that it's too flawed to actual be useful.I've been using it for over a year now and while there were some major tradeoffs to using it in the beginning, the MagicLantern guys (i.e. mostly A1ex) have made enormous steps towards making it a genuinely useful tool for high dynamic range shooting on Canon DSLRs.

When the A7R was first released I bought one because I wanted to see what it was like shooting on the same sensor as the D800E, but after a couple days I returned it because I just could not get over the terrible ergonomics and poor battery life of the camera. I did do some very rough comparisons between DualISO and the A7R at the time so I had some sense then of how they compared. Anway, fast forward to a couple weeks ago; like always happen someone was complaining that their 5D3 didn't give enough dynamic range, so I recommended DualISO and then a bunch of people started claiming that you lose half your resolution, get horrible aliasing and artifacts, it was completely unsuitable for printing, and still didn't get rid of the pattern noise or bring the DR anywhere close to an Exmor sensor camera. I wanted to create some kind of controlled experiment to compare a DualISO 5D3 with an Exmor sensor, as I hadn't seen anything like that online, so I bought an A7 and EF adapter to perform the test.

The first shot shows the two shots pictures with no post-processing exposure adjustments (Note: Please forgive the terrible picture, I was cleaning up my bike while I was doing this.) Exposure was set so that the sky was as exposed as possible without clipping and I turned off all the lights in my garage so that the interior was much darker. Focus is on the rectangular object in the lower left corner, which is a Risk box, and is ~5 stops underexposed. Both pictures were taken with a 70-200ii.

IMAGE: http://i.imgur.com/2AKkFhHh.jpg

The second shot shows the result of a 5-stop push in LR to the entire exposure for each shot. The 5D3 shot was scaled to match the resolution of the A7 so there was no obvious difference due to resolution. Also, for these shots there's no luminance noise reduction applied but I did apply +25 of chrominance noise reduction; I'll show a shot with zero noise reduction in the full writeup.

IMAGE: http://i.imgur.com/vGG80jFh.jpg

Finally the meat of what I wanted to know, in a severely underexposed area of the frame where I pushed the shadows an ungodly amount how well does the 5D3 with DualISO compare.

IMAGE: http://i.imgur.com/yNClqunh.jpg

The 5D3, left, shows a bit more noise and less detail but actually maintains more accurate colors than the A7 which seems to desaturate the shadows significantly. But compared to the difference between a vanilla 5D3 and the A7 and this becomes a pretty amazing result.

For reference, here's the vanilla 5D3 and the 1Ds3 for comparison.

IMAGE: http://i.imgur.com/RUWzOO9h.jpg

Also, the X-T1 compared against the A7 (from a different day).

IMAGE: http://i.imgur.com/ZtYVTGsh.jpg

Bodies: X-T1, E-M1, E-M1ii Lenses: µ.Z 7-14 2.8, µ.Z 12-40 2.8, µ.Z 25 1.2, X 18-55 2.8-4, µ.Z 40-150 2.8, µ.Z 45 1.2, µ.Z 60 2.8, µ.Z 75 1.8, Z 150 2.0, µ.Z 300 4.0

  
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raptor3x
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Aug 14, 2014 20:49 |  #2

I then took both cameras hiking to get some more real world type pictures as well as to show one of the weaknesses that I know still exists with DualISO. For all of the following pictures I metered so that the highlights were just clipping (based on the A7 zebras) and then dialed it down 1/3rd a stop. ISO, aperture, and shutter speed are identical for each scene, although the light was changing quite a bit so not all shots are exposed identically but I'd say they're all within 1/3rd stop. For the first shot I was using a 40mm STM on the 5D3 and a 16-35 F4 IS on the A7 (made the weight distribution fairly even and meant I didn't have to constantly swap lenses), while on the last shot I used the 16-35 at 16mm for both cameras. Both shots were done at ISO 100 while the secondary ISO for the DualISO shots was 1600 for the first shot and 3200 for the last shot were I wanted to show a specific type of artifacting that can occur.

The first is a tree that had a nice dark shadow down the middle from a branch hanging just right with a bright blue sky in the background.

IMAGE: http://i.imgur.com/YSDXNvXh.jpg

Zooming in we can see that the shadow from the branch is almost completely black near the branch and then gradually lightens a bit.

IMAGE: http://i.imgur.com/olGOKQVh.jpg

First, comparing the vanilla 5D3 and A7 I pushed the exposure by 2 stops and set the shadows slider to +100 in Lightroom.

IMAGE: http://i.imgur.com/1cccrUxh.jpg

We can already see that the vanilla 5D3 is falling apart in the shadows with tons of color noise and mush for detail in the particularly dark regions while the A7 still looks fine. This was were the overall exposure looked fine but I decided to push two more stops just to see how the A7 did.

IMAGE: http://i.imgur.com/5kSC6gQh.jpg

By this point the 5D3 shadows are unuseable garbage but the A7 is still looking respectable, very impressive and this is the primary reason why landscape photographers have been ditching Canon for Nikon over the past two years. Well that and the 14-24. And 36MP, but I digress.

So now that we've shown the A7 rules and vanilla 5D3 drools, how did magic lantern do? Again, we start off with +2 stop exposure and +100 shadows.

IMAGE: http://i.imgur.com/eFjyzXgh.jpg

Whoa, huge difference compared to the vanilla 5D3. At this point I'll say the DualISO 5D3 and A7 are doing equally well, but what happens if we push another stop?

IMAGE: http://i.imgur.com/c9aaLWbh.jpg

The two are still very close but I think the noise in the A7 has a slightly higher quality to it, still extremely close but I'll give it to the A7 at this point. How about one more stop.

IMAGE: http://i.imgur.com/4b1cedXh.jpg

Again, still close but I think the A7 is starting to pull away from the DualISO 5D3 now. The 5D3 seems a bit more exposed than the A7, probably from the changing light conditions, and the interpolation scheme seems to be showing some flaws at the edges of where the bark becomes washed out. Conveniently, Lightroom's CA removal tool works extremely well to get rid of these, but they can still show up if you push the files very hard. A win for the A7, but not by a large margin. Below, I'm showing the dualISO 5D3 next to the vanilla 5D3 to show what an insane difference dualISO makes for the 5D3.

IMAGE: http://i.imgur.com/dgpT65eh.jpg

Bodies: X-T1, E-M1, E-M1ii Lenses: µ.Z 7-14 2.8, µ.Z 12-40 2.8, µ.Z 25 1.2, X 18-55 2.8-4, µ.Z 40-150 2.8, µ.Z 45 1.2, µ.Z 60 2.8, µ.Z 75 1.8, Z 150 2.0, µ.Z 300 4.0

  
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raptor3x
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Aug 14, 2014 20:49 |  #3

The last thing I want to show is that there is another type of artifacting that can occur in situations where you push the secondary ISO very high, for this example 3200, and you have thin lines (i.e. small branches or wires) running almost parallel to the sensor rows. On the left hand side of the frame in the shots below you can see a tree with some bare branches sticking out.

IMAGE: http://i.imgur.com/uj44YAmh.jpg

If we zoom in, we can see some places where the tree branches seem to vanish and reappear. This can happen in a very specific scenario where you are :

  • Using a very high secondary ISO. This usually only happens over ISO 3200, and MagicLantern will warn you about using these settings.
  • You have a very thin object. Thin as in less than ~2 pixel in width.
  • That thin object is at an angle of less than ~15 degrees to the horizontal row of pixels.


IMAGE: http://i.imgur.com/e0kLtoqh.jpg

If you run into this scenario you will probably see this issue. Whether or not you'll see it in a print is another issue entirely. I made 13x19 prints of all the shots shown here and I'd be surprised if anyone was able to tell the difference between the two without resorting to a loupe, even the issue with the branches is very hard to see in the prints. In addition, most scenes don't require the secondary ISO to be set any higher than ISO 800 as you really get diminishing returns for each additional stop of secondary ISO, but in cases where you absolutely need to push higher then be careful.

So who wins? Clearly the A7. It's simply the better tool for this kind of shooting. The workflow is way easier, you don't have to fiddle with installing MagicLantern, turning on DualISO, fiddling with the secondary ISO, or worrying about factors that might leading to artifacting. Plus it retains resolution better when pushed. That said, unlike with the vanilla 5D3 where the difference in image quality in these types of adverse situations is enormous, we're really nitpicking minor differences here. The fact that the guys from MagicLantern have extracted so much extra dynamic range from the Canon sensor is pretty amazing. Additionally, there's a yet to be released update for magic lantern that adds ~0.8 stops of highlight headroom for the 5D3 just using some of the pixel capacity that Canon decided to keep in reserve for whatever reason (i.e. when the 5D3 sensors clips to white, it's not actually clipped. There's at least another 0.8 stops available before it really clips.)

So is DualISO great for people who only shoot landscapes and run into DR issues all the time? I'd call it good but not great, if you're this kind of shooter you're crazy for not moving to Nikon or at least picking up an A7R. Is it great for people who normally shoot lower contrast scenes but get frustrated when they occasionally do run into a DR limited scenario? Definitely, this is pretty much the category that I fall into and DualISO has pretty much satisfied all of my DR issues (not that I wouldn't love a 5D4 with better low ISO performance).

As an aside, I like the A7 a bit more than I had expected but good lord are the ergonomics horrible. This is literally the least comfortable camera I've ever held. My wife shoots with a Fuji X-T1 and has much smaller hands so the grip doesn't bother her as much, but for me it's like Sony put an absolutely wonderful sensor inside of a torture device for my right hand. That said, the reason I went with Canon when I got my first DSLR was because the Canon models that I tried out fit my hand much better than any of the Nikons that I tried, so this issue probably won't be true for everyone.

Bodies: X-T1, E-M1, E-M1ii Lenses: µ.Z 7-14 2.8, µ.Z 12-40 2.8, µ.Z 25 1.2, X 18-55 2.8-4, µ.Z 40-150 2.8, µ.Z 45 1.2, µ.Z 60 2.8, µ.Z 75 1.8, Z 150 2.0, µ.Z 300 4.0

  
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Aug 14, 2014 21:03 |  #4

Awesome write-up! Might have to dust off the 5D3 that's been sitting in my pelican case and try it out


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Charlie
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Aug 14, 2014 21:43 |  #5

wait, so does dual iso lose resolution or not?


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raptor3x
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Aug 14, 2014 21:46 |  #6

With the new interpolation algorithms you don't lose much resolution at all if you keep the secondary ISO under 1600. If you look at the small text on the Risk box at near the beginning, that's the degree of resolution loss you can expect.


Bodies: X-T1, E-M1, E-M1ii Lenses: µ.Z 7-14 2.8, µ.Z 12-40 2.8, µ.Z 25 1.2, X 18-55 2.8-4, µ.Z 40-150 2.8, µ.Z 45 1.2, µ.Z 60 2.8, µ.Z 75 1.8, Z 150 2.0, µ.Z 300 4.0

  
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Aug 14, 2014 22:16 as a reply to  @ raptor3x's post |  #7

Another thanks for the comparison.

Re: resolution loss, the side by side comparison of the tree trunk at the bottom of post 2 is a pretty good example of difference in resolution


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Aug 14, 2014 22:32 |  #8

I have absolutely no idea how to use the dual iso thing in magic lantern. I tried and I couldn't get nothing but wierd crap all over the images. is that just playback or what.

I need to relook at this. I need linkage to help me out. any ideas?


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raptor3x
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Aug 14, 2014 22:37 |  #9

When you look at the images on the camera LCD they'll look screwy. It's only after you've run them through CR2HDR that they look normal. This is part of the workflow problem that I mentioned. If you use Lightroom then I highly recommend the LR plugin that some of the MagicLantern community members put together, makes things much easier.


Bodies: X-T1, E-M1, E-M1ii Lenses: µ.Z 7-14 2.8, µ.Z 12-40 2.8, µ.Z 25 1.2, X 18-55 2.8-4, µ.Z 40-150 2.8, µ.Z 45 1.2, µ.Z 60 2.8, µ.Z 75 1.8, Z 150 2.0, µ.Z 300 4.0

  
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eelnoraa
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Aug 14, 2014 22:42 |  #10

wow nice comparion. Kudos to magin lanten. And shame to Canon of falling behind in sensor But 5D3 isn't new, let's hope Canon get their act together and produce some good sensor again


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Aug 15, 2014 09:12 |  #11

Or maybe Sony will get their act together and make a camera that's more ergonomic and conserves battery life. Oh, and has a better viewfinder. And a superior lens system. Canon has done that already, so why is Sony so far behind?

I hope I don't have to put a flag here that says <tongue in cheek>.


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Aug 15, 2014 09:22 |  #12

eelnoraa wrote in post #17097070 (external link)
wow nice comparion. Kudos to magin lanten. And shame to Canon of falling behind in sensor But 5D3 isn't new, let's hope Canon get their act together and produce some good sensor again

To be fair, the last 3 offerings from Canon has really shown improvement over past models, both in noise performance and noise quality. These differences shown in this thread, however illuminating they are between the differences of sensors and firmware, are not going to be realized by the vast majority of folks. Definitely landscape and architectural shooters are going to follow this, but the typical portrait, sports, wildlife, etc aren't going to be all that concerned by such a wide DR and how different cameras compare. For those more inferior cameras, you still have HDR capability with great software out there, so you can still do bracketed shots and quickly run them through the software to produce a wider DR result, so there is a workaround.

Speaking of that, raptor, have you tried the HDR mode of the 5D3 to see what result you get with that mode? It might be worth testing that next to dual ISO and vanilla 5D3 shots.


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Aug 15, 2014 09:35 |  #13

GregDunn wrote in post #17097718 (external link)
Or maybe Sony will get their act together and make a camera that's more ergonomic and conserves battery life. Oh, and has a better viewfinder. And a superior lens system. Canon has done that already, so why is Sony so far behind?

I hope I don't have to put a flag here that says <tongue in cheek>.

it's a full time live view camera, it has it's pros and cons. The EVF is outright amazing, 90% of the time, I will prefer it. In really really low light, it's not fast enough to keep up with action and you may have timing problems due to sluggish reaction.


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Aug 15, 2014 10:14 |  #14

TeamSpeed wrote in post #17097741 (external link)
Speaking of that, raptor, have you tried the HDR mode of the 5D3 to see what result you get with that mode? It might be worth testing that next to dual ISO and vanilla 5D3 shots.

HDR mode brackets exposure and shoots 3 shots. I use it a lot for outdoor photography, but since it's a continous shoot, you'd get registration issues in certain scenes with movement. The 5D records three RAWs and composites one jpeg image. I always trash the jpeg and just work with the RAWs: which because they're different exposures are effectively increasing the dynamic range. Dual ISO is improving shadows, but not recovering blown highlights.


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eelnoraa
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Aug 15, 2014 11:43 |  #15

TeamSpeed wrote in post #17097741 (external link)
To be fair, the last 3 offerings from Canon has really shown improvement over past models, both in noise performance and noise quality. These differences shown in this thread, however illuminating they are between the differences of sensors and firmware, are not going to be realized by the vast majority of folks. Definitely landscape and architectural shooters are going to follow this, but the typical portrait, sports, wildlife, etc aren't going to be all that concerned by such a wide DR and how different cameras compare. For those more inferior cameras, you still have HDR capability with great software out there, so you can still do bracketed shots and quickly run them through the software to produce a wider DR result, so there is a workaround.
shots.

We are talking about two angles here. One, I really don't think the improvement in ISO will bring a vast improvemet in image quality from the eyes of general viewer. Most people won't even be able to tell looking at output on screen, internet or prints. Only for photographers (maybe) who like to analyse thing at 100%, the difference is appeaant. So in practice, I don't think there are much difference.

Now, as Canon user, supporter for so many years, I am not happy to see how slow Canon is advancing their product compare to other company. Canon was making, comparatively, better sensor back in the days (5D classis). This was also true for SLR video. Sensor performance, measureably, has been falling behind competitors. Video also seems to fall behind. I am hoping Canon will make a change.


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