[Video] Canon 5DMkIII, 5DMkII, and Nikon D800 Low-Light Video Test -- Take 2

You may remember a while ago when we posted a candlelight video test by Joe Marine over at NoFilmSchool.com. After seeing feedback from the video, Joe sent me a new one (thanks!). The beginning is almost the same, but adjusted since Nikon and Canon handle ISO differently. But later on in the video, Joe got some interesting results when adding noise reduction and color correcting...

Now, I'm not trying to play on the Nikon/Canon camps, here. Canon sure has it in the bag for raw video when compared to the ridiculous 36MP D800. But I have to say, it's quite impressive what a little color correcting and noise reduction can do. I can't wait to hear your comments on this one. What do you guys think?

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John Olinda's picture

Wow, the 5D MkIII looks great straight out of the camera all the way up to 12,800. If I were a videographer starting from scratch I would definitely have to go that way, or with the Panasonic AF101. I love my D7000, but it can't compete with any of these contenders.

at the begging of the video I was like f**K Nikon, they can't handle low light anymore, then after I read on screen "Noise Reduction and Color Correction" I was like holy crap Nikon all the way .. XD

still not better than Canon though, but considering the details you get from D800 and the final result after noise reduction and color correction, Nikon is the winner. That is just my opinion.

After color correction and noise reduction all three cameras are doing a great job, but I think the D800 is only usable up to ISO 1250 SOOC. Canon wins this battle with both cameras. This is the reason why Dave Dugdale chose the 5DMkIII over the D800. I think the Canons are a must have for every low light shooter, but if you use it mainly for landscapes and similar stuff you have to decide if you need more megapixels or higher ISOs. I'm pretty happy with my cheap purchase of a good but used Canon 5DMkII. Nonetheless Nikon did a great job with the D800!

guys, does the ISO performance differ when you are shooting videos and shooting photos ?
Ex. 5D mark iii has better ISO when shooting video but Nikon has better ISO when shooting photos.


Adam's picture

Sort of. Both are going to handle it a little differently because of different processes used before recording image and video files to the card. But one of the biggest differences between video and photo ISO will be because of megapixel count.

Where Canon has their roughly 20MP cameras, Nikon's 36MP D800 will hypothetically exhibit more noise at 100% magnification in comparison to a 100% magnified 20MP image. But at the same print size (assuming you're printing somewhat smaller), you just won't see as much noise on the 36MP image because it just isn't that enlarged compared to the full file size, where the 20MP image would have to be enlarged more relatively to its native size to print the same size.

All of this is moot as a comparison to video, since those are all 2MP images (1080p is roughly 2MP) stacked together -- max.  And for that, this video shows the effects quite well. That certainly wasn't the best way to explain that, but hopefully it made sense in the short time this took...

thank you Adam that was really helpful.

Canon wins again in video. Not a shock at all.

Jens Marklund's picture

D800 - Better sharpness, better dynamic range at the lower ISOs, annoying green tint
5D III - A lot better ISO performance, better tones/colors, less sharp, better dynamic range at high ISOs

Pixyst's picture

The Nikon is being shot at a lower ISO but the  gain is still not balanced. To be equal to the Canon's the ISO would have to be reduced further. I am using the color bar as a reference point and the Nikon frames are still brighter across the board. Also, looking at the left side of the frame . It appears the images are not framed identically so more of the bright candle is captured in the Nikon frame (so it appears). Finally, the Nikon footage benefits significantly more from noise reduction which confirms a well known fact about Canon who apply noise reduction even at default (non-NR) settings. 

awerllow's picture

I've seen quite a few of these comparison tests between these two cameras. In my opinion, Canon takes the crown when it comes to low-light, high ISO performance in both stills and video. Nikon is the clear winner (in my opinion) when it comes to dynamic range, high detail (because of the gazillion MP), Nikon trumps Canon hands down.... I've been a Canon user since I started getting into photography and this is the only time I briefly considered switching to Nikon. But then I thought naaaah.

Does this mean that Canons actually take better video, or spit out video files that have already been noise reduced?

Adam's picture

I'm not as much of an expert at the specifics of how Canon and Nikon apply or don't apply noise reduction in the files they spit out, but I'd find it extremely hard to believe that Canon's videos stay that noise free without any sort of reduction in-camera. That said, it should be better than the D800 anyway in terms of noise, just theoretically speaking. But that much better, I'm not convinced...

 The 5D3 obviously make use of heavy noise reduction. Notice how the footage from the 5D3 gets this very soft look..almost plastic like at high ISO's.
I see that look all the time when working with noise reduction plugins.

Boohoo at Canon for making close to zero sensor improvements in the 4 years since the 5D2 came out.

Morgan Moller's picture

What software did they use for the color correction and noise reduction? Any ideas?

Very interesting. I'm no expert at all, but he dramatic improvement in the D800 file with NR suggests that Canon has already done the same in camera. The D800 is clearly sharper across the board and seems to exhibit slightly better DR. The 5D3 is better out of camera, but after some NR the D800 file looks better to me.

Nikon wins! Canon has no dynamic range and definition. iso does better because already comes from the factory with noise reduction inside the camera.
Even with noise reduction, Nikon set out and large dynamic range!