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Thread started 10 Sep 2009 (Thursday) 12:58
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The 5D2 has strong pattern noise at ISO 100

 
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Daniel ­ Browning
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Sep 10, 2009 12:58 |  #1

The Canon 5D2 Mark II has strong pattern noise at ISO 100. Most people do not notice it because they only use 5-8 stops of dynamic range. If you would like to use 9, 10, or more stops of dynamic range, the pattern noise will stop you in your tracks.

The following example image was developed to use 11.5 stops of dynamic range (click for full size):

IMAGE: http://thebrownings.name/photo/camera/5d2/pattern-noise/img_4379/IMG_4379-take2-1024.jpg
IMAGE LINK: http://thebrownings.na​me …9/IMG_4379-take2-full.jpg  (external link)

Here is the red channel isolated:

IMAGE: http://thebrownings.name/photo/camera/5d2/pattern-noise/img_4379/IMG_4379-red-1024.jpg
IMAGE LINK: http://thebrownings.na​me …379/IMG_4379-red-full.jpg  (external link)

And it's not just an artifact of the raw conversion or post processing either. Here is the raw data itself, red channel, before demosaic, with a +8 linear push and sRGB gamma curve applied in Rawnalyze:

IMAGE: http://thebrownings.name/photo/camera/5d2/pattern-noise/img_4379/IMG_4379-raw_red_plus_8.png

And this is the composite view in Rawnalyze at +6:

IMAGE: http://thebrownings.name/photo/camera/5d2/pattern-noise/img_4379/IMG_4379-raw_plus_6.png

And here is the raw file so you can download it and see for yourself:

IMG_4379.CR2 (external link)

I welcome other conversions for comparison. A typical converter will clip almost everything to black, because they default to only 5-8 stops of dynamic range. That does not mean it is underexposed, of course: the highlights are less than 1/3 stop from clipping in the raw data. What it means is that it was exposed to use a full 11.5 stops and not just 6 or 7 like most photos.

This pattern noise occurs in every single 5D2 ISO 100 raw file with deep shadows. Whether you see it or not depends on one thing: do you ever shoot scenes with high dynamic range? If you just do the typical 5-7 stops, with an occasional 8 or 9, then you'll rarely see pattern noise.

On the other hand, if you would like to be able to shoot things that the A900 and D3X manage easily, or at use 12 bits of data, or try to use just 11.5 out of the 14 stops that you had on film, then you will see the pattern noise.

Even digicams such as the LX3 don't have pattern noise. Look at how it is totally random at 10.6 stops:

IMAGE: http://theory.uchicago.edu/%7Eejm/pix/20d/tests/cameras/G10readnoise.png
IMAGE LINK: http://www.naturescape​s.net …141021&p=142805​3#p1428053  (external link)

The closest competition to the 5D2 is the A900 and A850. It does the same dynamic range with no pattern noise to speak of. Furthermore, the Canon 7D has much less pattern noise as well. Less even than the 1D series.

There are some people who dispute these facts. Here are the responses that can be expected from them:

I don't see it, therefore it does not exist

The reason they don't see the problem is because they only use 5-8 stops of dynamic range. Maybe it has been so long since they shot print film that they forgot what it was like to have 14 stops. Or maybe they don't know how to post process an image for 10 stops.

Maybe they are content to limit themselves to over one hundred times less dynamic range than film. If the scene they are shooting has more than 8 stops, and they can't use split ND or exposure blending to get the dynamic range down, they just pack up and go home.

It's similar to how some people will never shoot low light, so they ridicule people who compare cameras at ISO 6400. Luckily, most people can realize that it's valid for ISO 6400 to be important to some photographers, even if they don't use it themselves.

Unfortunately, those same people will turn around and say that 8 stops DR is enough for anyone, and it's invalid to compare cameras at more than 8 stops.

You are pushing the files too hard

This is just another variation of the above. People think that since they are happy with 7 stops of dynamic range, that everyone else should be too.

You lightened the shadows too much

Again, some people have a very hard time imagining a valid use for 9 or more stops of dynamic range, so any time someone goes above 8 or 9, they get criticized.

The scene is too harsh

Another variation on the idea that one should not shoot for too much dynamic range. Whatever they use (7 stops? 8? 9 maybe?) should be enough for everyone.

You should have used grad ND, multi-exposure HDR, fill flash, etc.

These types of responses side-step the problem by saying that you should have used some sort of technique to fit the harsh, high contrast scene into a small window of dynamic range (e.g. 7 stops). But sometimes I am unwilling or unable to use workarounds such as graduated ND, multi-exposure HDR, or fill flash. I would like the option of using 12 stops of dynamic range without pattern noise, like the A850.

You're expecting too much from digital

This response acknowledges that film could do 13-14 stops of DR no problem, but digital is limited to 7-9. The only problem is that other digital cameras do not have this problem. D3X is getting into 13 stops, and the A900 does 12, and the 7D does 12 with far less pattern noise. The 5D2 can't manage even 10 without pattern noise, but it looks like Canon finally addressed this problem in sub-$4,000 cameras with the 7D.

All cameras have noise

This post is not about random noise. All cameras have that. This is about pattern noise.

The other cameras have this problem too

The $2,000 A850 doesn't, nor does the $1700 7D.

http://www.photography​blog.com/reviews_sony_​a900_3.php (external link)

http://img.photography​blog.com …e_images/sony_a​900_03.arw (external link)

The other cameras are only better because of Noise Reduction

That's incorrect. If there is any NR on A900 files, it does not remove pattern noise. I have yet to find any NR software that can remove the 5D2 pattern noise, so if you find any that really works without smothering all the detail, send it my way. Most NR makes it worse through edge preservation by removing the random noise and leaving the patterns.

So what if Canon has this problem - Canon is still best at XYZ

This is when people acknowledge that the 5D2 has worse ISO 100 pattern noise than other cameras (e.g. A900), but they change the subject by saying that Canon has better lens selection. Or better noise at high ISO. Or better movie features. Whatever it is, it does not change the fact that Canon is inferior in this one way.

Your camera is early production. Recent ones don't have this.

I wish this were so. My 5D2 is from December 2008, and I checked one from a colleague that got it in April 2009. Again, no one can find any 5D2 raw file with 11+ dynamic range and no pattern noise.

Your photography stinks anyway

If you post an image demonstrating the noise problem, you will get responses criticizing the subject, composition, etc.

It's a problem with your post processing

This one is easily refuted by posting the raw files and literal interpolations such as those from Rawnalyze, dcraw, libraw, IRIS, etc.

Try bias frame subtraction

That does help to remove a little bit of the fixed pattern noise, but the far majority of it is variable and cannot be removed with bias frame subtraction.

Try printing smaller or re-sizing

Unfortunately, the banding often gets worse at smaller print sizes. It's visible even in a 4x6.

You didn't expose correctly

This is just another way of saying that you used too much dynamic range. What they mean by "correct exposure" is exposure for 7-8 stops of dynamic range (maybe 9). The more dynamic range you need, the more they think you are "underexposing".

DPReview says the problem doesn't exist.

Some will quote the 5D2 review at DPReview.com to prove the problem doesn't exist. But their measurement of dynamic range is highly flawed in many ways. Even if they did measure it correctly (they don't) and found 11 stops of dynamic range, it would show the pattern noise.

Your camera is broken

All 5D2 cameras have this problem. I have seen hundreds of files from different 5D2 cameras, but I have never seen a single one with 11+ stops of dynamic range and no pattern noise. Either it has little dynamic range and no pattern noise, or it has lots of dynamic range and lots of pattern noise.

Your lens, flash, or something else is wrong

I'm told that RF interference from some lens AF motors, flashes, and other environmental sources can cause pattern noise. This can make the pattern noise even worse than most cameras, but given the fact that all 5D2 cameras have strong pattern noise, it cannot account for every case.

Canon rules, the other camera drools

There are invariably a wide variety of fanboi responses.

I like to know and discuss the problems and limitations of the gear that I own.

Daniel

  
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timnosenzo
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Sep 10, 2009 13:18 |  #2

Obviously there is no need to respond to this post, because you've already written down all of the possible responses and your rebuttals.

I must fall into the "don't see the problem is because they only use 5-8 stops of dynamic range" category. It seems I've never needed more than 5 - 8 stop of DR, because I haven't needed it with past cameras either.

I guess I just wonder why if this issue is so important to you, why not switch bodies? You say that other Canon bodies don't do this... so you don't even need to switch brands.


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jacobsen1
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Sep 10, 2009 13:19 |  #3

Wow, thanks for the more detailed post. While I still think that particular scene is asking a whole lot of ANY DSLR... I do see the banding w/o a doubt. Thanks to your posts in the 5Dii wishlist thread and the links to this article:
http://diglloyd.com …shingTheBlacks/​index.html (external link)

I finally realized what the noise was in my 5Dii 100 files. I've since switched to a D700, not just because of this, but this was a factor.

but yeah, I'd love to see that church shot with a D3x or a900 to see if they could actually pull it off either. They're certainly better, but enough better to save that? And yeah, that shots does beg for an HDR or exposure blending... But I won't make any excuses for the 5Dii.


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Sep 10, 2009 13:20 |  #4

You know what the pattern reminds me of? Remember very cheap LCD displays that if a pixel was lit up, you could see a drain in the intersecting LCD lines all the way in one or the other directions, or sometimes both. It almost looks like the sensor grid is doing something similar? Is that possible?


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gjl711
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Sep 10, 2009 13:21 |  #5

Add the 50D to the list as well. I see patern noise in my 50D files all the time. One of the reasons I'm looking seriously at the 7D.


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Sep 10, 2009 13:23 as a reply to  @ TeamSpeed's post |  #6

The average user and average POTN member will take a look at this post and think, as did I, WHAT?

This is way more information than most of us will ever use and will ever care about...


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Sep 10, 2009 13:23 |  #7

gjl711 wrote in post #8619412 (external link)
Add the 50D to the list as well. I see patern noise in my 50D files all the time. One of the reasons I'm looking seriously at the 7D.

+1 I don't remember seeing the same in the 40D, but it may have been there and I don't remember it. If the 40D didn't have the same issue, this may be the reason why the 50D doesn't seem to be the ISO juggernaut it was advertised to be when it was first released.


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Sep 10, 2009 13:28 |  #8

TeamSpeed wrote in post #8619424 (external link)
+1 I don't remember seeing the same in the 40D, but it may have been there and I don't remember it.

40D had it. 5D had it at high ISOs, maybe at lows too but certainly not as bad as the 5Dii. I've owned all 3 and have seen it in my own files. Hell, the D700 even has it if you REALLLLLLY lean on it's RAW files. ;) (nikoncafe has some examples somewhere with a pool table).

Daniel, how can you be so sure the 7D doesn't at this point?


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Sep 10, 2009 13:30 as a reply to  @ gjl711's post |  #9

You didn't expose correctly

This is just another way of saying that you used too much dynamic range. What they mean by "correct exposure" is exposure for 7-8 stops of dynamic range (maybe 9). The more dynamic range you need, the more they think you are "underexposing".

Exactly what I was thinking the problem was when I read the post, and what I still think. In similar situations I shoot two images and blend the exposures. Yup, thats underexposed and then pushed too hard.


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Daniel ­ Browning
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Sep 10, 2009 13:33 |  #10

timnosenzo wrote in post #8619387 (external link)
I guess I just wonder why if this issue is so important to you, why not switch bodies?

That's beside the point. If you are sharing constructive criticism with a friend, it's always best to first point out all of the good things and positive traits before sharing the negative. Otherwise you might hurt their feelings.

But the 5D2 does not have feelings. If I want to point out a flaw, problem, or limitation, I don't need to couch it between a bunch of positive statements extolling its many virtues. Nor should I address whether it's still superior to the other camera bodies despite the limitations.

But since you asked, the reason why I don't switch bodies is because the other bodies are worse for my needs and budget:

  • The 7D sensor is too small (I would need a 15mm f/0.9 to match the DOF of the shots I'm getting with the 24mm f/1.4 on a 5D2).
  • The 1Ds3 high gain read noise is too high. I'm not willing to sacrifice noise at ISO 1600 for dynamic range at ISO 100. Of course, that would only be if I could afford it, which I can't.
  • The Sony A850 and A900 have all sorts of problems. I wont even consider a camera without live view, which is vital to me now for anything that needs critical focus (even handheld, with the right shoulder mount equipment).
  • The D3X is too expensive, doesn't work with my existing lenses, and doesn't have the fast wide primes I need (e.g. 24mm f/1.4 AF).
  • Digicams like the LX3 don't have a sensor large enough for the low light and thin DOF I like to do.
HTH HAND.

jacobsen1 wrote in post #8619459 (external link)
Daniel, how can you be so sure the 7D doesn't at this point?

True; it is a bit premature, given that the only raw files I've seen are from preproduction models, and the production units might be different.

Lowner wrote in post #8619464 (external link)
In similar situations I shoot two images and blend the exposures. Yup, thats underexposed and then pushed too hard.

I'm glad that you never need or want more than 8 stops of dynamic range. I find myself shooting many scenes with far too much movement for that (even if I was up for the extra post processing work). For example, I did a fast-paced wedding shoot recently where some of the ISO 100 shots were two stops underexposed by accident. It would have been nice to have the latitude (another benefit of dynamic range) without the pattern noise.


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voka_gsw
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Sep 10, 2009 13:36 |  #11

Daniel Browning wrote in post #8619272 (external link)
The Canon 5D2 Mark II has strong pattern noise at ISO 100.

The pattern noise is just as bad at high ISO. And you dont even have to push the file to make it show it's ugly face..




  
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jacobsen1
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Sep 10, 2009 13:37 |  #12

Daniel Browning wrote in post #8619484 (external link)
  • The D3X is too expensive, doesn't work with my existing lenses, and doesn't have the fast wide primes I need (e.g. 24mm f/1.4 AF).

the sigma 24mm isn't half bad. It even has a closer MFD. And since you list liveview so high, sounds like you're MFing anyway (the siggy AFs slower than the 24L). But you'd either have to settle for 12mp or wait out a D700x (you didn't mention needed 21mp?).


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voka_gsw
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Sep 10, 2009 13:39 |  #13

jacobsen1 wrote in post #8619459 (external link)
Hell, the D700 even has it if you REALLLLLLY lean on it's RAW files. ;)

The D700 can show banding even without leaning on the RAW files. Blown highlights at high ISO will produce banding fairly easily.




  
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jacobsen1
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Sep 10, 2009 13:41 |  #14

voka_gsw wrote in post #8619519 (external link)
The D700 can show banding even without leaning on the RAW files. Blown highlights at high ISO will produce banding fairly easily.

isn't that considered "different" banding though? More like blooming?


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wrangler
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Sep 10, 2009 13:46 |  #15

Daniel,

I would hope that since you have taken all the time and effort to post this information, that you have also forwarded it off to Canon for their engineers to address.


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The 5D2 has strong pattern noise at ISO 100
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