Canon 50D – Raw Noise Reduction

I’ve been asked all sorts of questions about the “potential” noise levels exhibited by the Canon 50D since I updated my Comparing the Canon 40D and Canon 50D post several weeks ago. Many of the questions had to do with the “usability” of RAW images taken at high ISO levels (since the camera’s High ISO Noise Reduction settings only affect JPEG images) and the “effectiveness” of noise reduction software to correct this problem.

Last weekend I shot several hundred images with the new 50D at ISO levels from 100 to 800 (my usual range for nature photography) and in my opinion all of the images at ISO 400 and below look just as good in terms of noise as similar shots taken with my 40D. In fact, running the images through PictureCode’s Noise Ninja shows noise levels unchanged from the 40D.

However, images taken with the 50D above ISO 400 do seem to exhibit more noise than similar shots taken with the 40D. I think this is a fact that those of us shooting RAW with the Canon 50D will just have to live with. Having said that, I’ve also found that this can be overcome by using noise reduction software such as PictureCode’s Noise Ninja, Nik’s Dfine or even the noise reduction settings found in Adobe Lightroom 2.

The images below illustrate my point. The first is a 100% crop (click on the image for a larger version) of an image taken at ISO 640 and it shows both luminance and chrominance noise. At this resolution you can also see the moire pattern in the background.

ISO 640 No Noise Reduction

The second image shows the reduction in noise that Lightroom’s noise reduction settings can achieve without softening the image too much.

ISO 640 Lightroom's Noise Reduction

The third shows the reduction that Noise Ninja can achieve with it’s default settings.

ISO 640 Noise Ninja's Noise Reduction

Remember, these are 100% crops of a 15.1 megapixel image so the noise they show is highly exaggerated. Even at this resolution, the noise found in images taken with the new Canon 50D can be easily controlled using noise reduction software. The bottom line is that the new Canon EOS 50D can create great looking images, even at higher ISO settings. The inherent noise level may be higher than the 40D but the image quality is still excellent!

So quit worrying what those technical reviews and pixel peepers have to say and go out and make some great exposures with your 50D!

5 thoughts on “Canon 50D – Raw Noise Reduction

  1. hi Jeff,

    Just thinking about getting a 50D. Have spent a whole afternoon reading about bloody pixels, banding and noise to the point of going deaf…and then I read the last quote on your post.

    Thanks for waking me up to the fact that instead of reading all those tekki-pixel-chasing reviews I should be out there taking better pics.


  2. I love what noise Ninja did to the image. Not that impressed with the PS results. Actually I am surprise to see this much noise at 640 iso with the Digic 4 chip. I might be seeing the difference between the 21 and 15 mp images at 100. I am not a true pixel peeper so some of this gets by me.

    • Hey Matt,

      I was a little disappointed in the 50D’s noise above ISO 400 as well but Noise Ninja seems to handle it just fine. This is why I shoot with the 40D in low light situations and use the 50D for wildlife mostly. I think the sensor in your 5D MKII just offers much larger pixels and a lower pixel density which provides the wonderful tonal quality and high ISO capabilities you see.

      I’m just curious. Do you ever get back to Texas?


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