Canon EOS 6D High ISO Test

photo B&H

photo B&H

A common feature of todays full framed DSLR's is their ability to push the boundaries of assisted exposure through ISO. With the recent purchase of the Canon EOS 6D and some prying from colleges I decided to test its ISO limits in a comprehensive highly scientific real world review. I want to mention that I will be doing a full and more comprehensive review of the cameras features and that it will be posted in the near future. Until then I suppose you will just have to loose sleep due to the anticipation of its release, sorry. 

First of all, I want to mention that I used the Canon 17-40 f4 for all of these shots and that for the funky wallpaper images I used a tripod. 

The first test I performed was a low light hand help high ISO shot. I shot this image at f4 purposefully because noise rears its ugly head in the bokeh of digital imagery. I should also mention that I brought the shadows up slightly, to +30, because noise tends to be highlighted more in enhanced shadows. Other than that no editing was performed.

ISO 5000 f4 17mm 1/50

ISO 5000 f4 17mm 1/50

As you can see the noise is there not to terrible, what you have to remember is that this image was taken at 5000 ISO. Five years ago I would have printed this bad boy off my Nikon Coolpix and submitted it to Nat-Geo. So ya, all in all I was pretty impressed with how the 6D performed in this real life test.

The second thing I did was crop the image at 1:1 and do some pixel peeping. The results again, relative to the condition of the file, were pretty amazing! I chose to crop a portion of the image that was more exposed and displayed some highlights as highlights tend to display more noise in many cases. As you can see here the damage is minimal considering the image is cropped  at 1:1 and ISO 5000. Ok go buy one I'll wait...

1:1 crop without noise reduction 

1:1 crop without noise reduction 

The next test I performed with the 6D was in a more controlled environment. I took ten shots on a tripod using all the highlighted ISO settings on the menu. I also took one shot at ISO 50, thisbis an ISO that is only available when using the 6D's expanded ISO range. I thought a direct comparison to ISO 100 would be interesting because I have heard form other sources that this expanded ISO setting can do more harm than good due to it being only available while using the expanded ISO range. 

After taking the images an uploading them into lightroom I performed a blind test. When looking at ISO 50 I do believe that less noise was apparent but it did also appear that there was a slight detail loss in the image, it reminded me of comparing a jpeg file to that of a RAW file. I encourage anyone else with the 6D to give this test a try and let me know what your results brought. With regard to the max usable ISO in the 6D, it was not until ISO 6400 that I noticed a significant impact on image quality. Even then I believe with some proper noise reduction techniques these images would be very usable. I do believe although that this is where the 6D tops out. This in not a bad thing, not even a little bit. The fact that I can go out and shoot wildlife at 6400 ISO during the golden hour, or super low light events indoors is immensely reassuring. There are often times while shooting outdoors when I will resort to shooting auto ISO just so I can keep up with fast moving subjects and with a camera with these capabilities I firmly believe that I can breath easy knowing that any ISO under 6500 that the camera chooses will be acceptable. If high ISO low light capabilities is your main concern and you are in the market for a new full frame DSLR I would highly recommend putting this little beauty to work for you. With the test I performed and posted it is clear to me that the 6D boasts some serious low light performance. As for the other features that make up the Canon EOS 6D,  subscribe to my blog and a full review of the camera will be in your inbox sooner than later. 

Tyler WeberComment