Canon 7D versus 50D - High ISO Shootout

I've been pretty happy with the high ISO performance of my Canon 50D but after upgrading to a Canon 7D I was curious to compare the two. Bookshelf pictures are one of the classic test shots, so I did just that in my office - please excuse the mess!

Note that the 7D's sensor is 18MP versus the 50D's 15MP, so the crops are per pixel (versus per image) noise comparison. See notes below on the exact camera setup/configuration and Javascript is used to "flip" the images so might take a few seconds the first time as the browser caches the image. After that, you can click back-n-forth to quickly compare.

Simply click on the link below of the camera you would like to see the image from, which ISO, how shot, and which view. Choose Camera: 7D - 50D     (see conclusions below)
Choose ISO: 100 - 200 - 400 - 800 - 1600 - 3200 - 6400 - 12800
Choose How Shot/Processed: RAW w/ACR - RAW w/DPP sharpen=0 or sharpen=3 - JPEG w/no NR - JPEG w/std NR
Choose View: original resized or actual pixels cropped from center or cropped by clock

Canon 7D at ISO 3200 - RAW processed with DPP 3.7 NO Sharpening - original resized

Some Initial Observations/Conclusions
  1. It does appear the 7D has slightly less noise per pixel and it has a finer, more grainier appearance.
  2. Banding is much better controlled with the 7D versus the 50D as seen in the high ISO images.
  3. The ACR Profile for the 7D was Beta - has a ways to go - compare to DPP/as-shot and then versus the 50D.
  4. Aperture/Shutter Speed/ISO were exactly the same and while it's possible the lighting (left on and not moved) changed slightly, the exposures of the 7D are slightly darker than the 50D.
  5. While the 7D has 20% more pixels than the 50D, I was surprised how much softer the later shots looked in comparison, especially because I've taken what I thought were some darn sharp pictures with the 10-22 on that camera. I reshot a number of pictures (using 10X Live View Manual Focus!) and this behavior was consistent, plus at F/5.6, there should be plenty of DOF. Yes, the extra pixels help, but perhaps there is a different AA filter design on the 7D that contributes to crisper images.
  6. When you pixel peep and can easily flip between similarly shot/processed pictures, there is a surprising difference! ;-)
The combination of less noise/pixel and more pixels means that Canon 7D images will be less noisy than the 50D

The cameras were tripod mounted and I tried to get the same view; that is easier said than done when you are pixel peeping! A Canon 10-22 lens was used from about 5 feet away, with aperture of F/5.6 - i.e. depth of field is decent, but not so much that defraction sets in. Manual exposure and white balance were set to 3000K. Auto Lighting Optimizer was turned off but I left Peripheral illumination on, although probably little effect at F/5.6. The remote camera control utility was used to change settings and trigger the shutter while in Live View to minimize shake. Raw images were processed with DPP3.7 and CS4/ACR5.5. For the 50D, I changed the "as-shot" temperature and tint from 3100K/+16 to 3000K/+10 and use the Adobe Standard Profile which seemed to match better with the For the 7D, I changed the "as-shot" temperature and tint from +2950K/+23 to 2700K/+30 and use the Beta Profile (all that is available) but again, the image is a bit darker. For both ACR and DPP, I moved the noise reduction sliders to zero ... and for DPP, I show default sharpening (level 3) and also level 0. Note that the "obscuring" of the LED clock red digits at higher ISO's is due to faster shutter speeds, not noise reduction.

Yes, I'm a bit of a gearhead ... check out the Canon 40D versus XTi high ISO shootout plus Canon 7D Black Frames.
BTW, the Canon 50D can shoot fine pictures and did an excellent job in Antarctica, Falklands & South Georgia Islands!
south georgia

This self portrait (note wireless remote in my left hand) was taken with an "obsolete" 40D! ;-)

alek penguins

I welcome any comments/suggestion on all this - back to the main Canon 7D versus 50D page