The Canon Rebel T1i and Nikon D5000 are the two new consumer-level DSLRs from the leading brands in the business right now. Over the past month or so, I’ve shot extensively, almost exclusively, with these new DSLRs. While there are a number of features that make these cameras stand out, the one that I keep coming back to is their ability to manage noise, even at higher ISOs.
Both cameras do something new in the entry-level category by turning up the sensitivity. The Canon Rebel T1i tops out at ISO 12800, while the Nikon D5000 pushes its sensitivity one-stop lower to ISO 6400. In my day-to-day shooting, I would have no problem shooting with either camera at ISO 3200 for snapshots that will make my wife or mom happy to have in the family photo album. Truth be told, they probably wouldn’t notice the difference between ISO 3200 and ISO 6400 in either camera. The Rebel T1i’s spec of ISO 12800 may be a bit much for most applications; however, in a bind, you can likely get some decent black and whites at that level.
In Part I of the Canon Rebel T1i and Nikon D5000 ISO Comparison, I took some quick, hand held images (almost straight out of the box) comparing these two cameras. While I think that comparison is perfectly valid, it’s always nice to see what happens when you get really dark with some long exposures on a tripod.
Below, I have put together a comparison of the same scene shot outdoors at night under tungsten light. For the sake of comparison to see where the consumer grade cameras stood, I shot the scene with a Canon Rebel T1i, a Nikon D5000, a Canon 5D Mark II and a Nikon D700. I used the following settings on each camera:
- Aperture Priority Mode (set to f/8)
- Auto White Balance
- Evaluative Metering
- Center Focus Point (in one-shot mode)
- Quality set to JPEG Fine
- Factory default settings for noise reduction, highlight tone priority, auto lighting optimizer, etc.
Each camera was mounted on a Manfrotto 190XB w/ 804RC2 head for its series of shots.
The Rebel T1i and Nikon D5000 remained equipped with their kit lenses zoomed to 35mm and 40mm, respectively (I was eyeballing it in the dark of night). The Canon 5D Mark II had the EF 50mm f/1.4 USM attached, while the Nikon D700 was equipped with the Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D lens. Note that the Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D lens will not autofocus with the Nikon D5000, which led me to the decision to use the kit lenses on the entry-level combos and get in the ball bark of the angle of view (admittedly, I ended up a bit off). However, the main concern is a 100px x 600px section of the images near the center of the frame.
For those of you who would like a closer inspection of the full files from each of the 100% crop samples, links are below each ISO sample to the respective original JPEG files. Simply right click the link and choose “Save as…” Please note that some of the full image files approach the 20MB mark. These images are provided for personal inspection only and may not be republished elsewhere without prior written consent, which may be obtained via email correspondence. If you want to republish the images, use the contact form to get in touch.
ISO 100 Reference Shot from Canon Rebel T1i
100% Crop Samples at ISO 100
ISO 200 Reference Shot from Nikon D5000
100% Crop Samples at ISO 200
ISO 400 Reference Shot from Canon Rebel T1i
100% Crop Samples at ISO 400
ISO 800 Reference Shot from Canon Rebel T1i
100% Crop Samples at ISO 800
ISO 1600 Reference Shot from Nikon D5000
100% Crop Samples at ISO 1600
ISO 3200 Reference Shot from Canon Rebel T1i
100% Crop Samples at ISO 3200
ISO 6400 Reference Shot from Nikon D5000
100% Crop Samples at ISO 6400
ISO 12800 Reference Shot from Canon Rebel T1i
100% Crop Samples at ISO 12800
ISO 25600 Reference Shot from Nikon D700
100% Crop Samples at ISO 25600
Canon Rebel T1i vs. Nikon D5000 – ISO and Noise Conclusions
There is a lot of hoopla surrounding the ever-increasing ISO specs put in modern DSLRs (and point and shoot cameras for that matter). While professional sports photographers drool over such specifications, you may wonder if it will ever really matter to you as the purchaser of an entry-level DSLR. Does it matter at soccer games, birthday parties, or just chasing the kids around the house? In the Rebel T1i and Nikon D5000, I think it finally does matter. I think these are two DSLRs that finally bring the levels of noise at higher ISOs down to a level where it will make a difference in your daily shooting. How so?
Instead of using the popup flash and produce a shiny-faced subject in your snapshots, you bump the ISO to 3200 and shoot under the available light indoors, or you can capture those action shots of you soccer star at dusk or under lights by doing the same. The other advantage is that you don’t draw as much attention in those public places where flash photography is prohibited, or at least embarrassing to your significant other (can I see a show of hands?).
While these cameras may not garner the low-noise power of their $3000 counterparts (the Canon 5D Mark II and Nikon D700), the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree in this case. In terms of overall image quality and noise suppression, the Canon Rebel T1i and Nikon D5000 are two of the best bang-for-buck cameras on the market today.
What conclusions do you draw on the noise performance of these cameras?
What about metering and exposure issues?
Share your thoughts in the comments below.