skip to Main Content

More EOS 5D Mark III ISO performance tests and comparisons (NEX 7, D800)

Canon’s EOS 5D Mark III has such an amazing high ISO performance that I want to report more about this. It is, together with the advanced AF system and the fast burst rate, one of the features that make the 5D Mark III so much superior to its competitors (say…Nikon D800?). Ok ok, this is my opinion. :-)

Canon did the right thing when it did not put a high-res sensor in its new, year 2012, full-frame camera. Sailing upwind against the waves, Canon decided to keep a conservative resolution (22MP), to re-engineer the sensor and to update each and any system component. The result was a rock-solid performing camera, with (among other feats and tweaks) extended dynamic range, fast burst shooting, an advanced AF system, and an above-the-average ISO performance. I don’t think the 5D Mark III can be seen as a mere upgrade of the Mark II. It’s a new camera. Starting by the sensor, which got the gapless microlens technology of the EOS 1D X and has bigger photodiodes (more light) than its predecessor. Moreover, each photodiode has its own immediate noise processing of the transmitted signal. It’s the edge of imaging sensor technology, and Canon has always been one of the biggest innovators in this domain. Even Nikon knows this simple fact, that’s why they used a 5D Mark II to shot the D800 promo (click here). ;-)

Sony’s NEX 7 is not really in the same league as the EOS 5D Mark III, nevertheless I think a comparison of ISO performance is interesting. The NEX 7 is a great cam and we are curious to see how it performs compared to other new cameras, even if they have different sensor sizes (the NEX7 has an APS-C sized sensor). Mike Kobal did a extreme low-light (using candles!), high ISO test: 200-25600 on the 5D Mark III and up to 3200 on the NEX 7. How does the NEX 7 compare to Canon’s new EOS? See for yourself…

I know what some of you will say: not scientific, not fair. Well, I love not scientific tests :-) and its not about fairness, its about comparison. The EOS 5D Mark III has an exceptionally good high ISO performance. Period. The 5D Mark III can take pictures and video in candlelight and the NEX 7 cannot. Period.

Let me cite Mike:

The most challenging part during this test was keeping focus on the eyes, Cineroid EVF attached to the Canon 5D3 with Kit lens, shot at 105mm at f4, wide open, a vintage Minolta 35-70mm f4 wide open on the Sony Nex 7 (via LA EA2 adapter). Ungraded footage, Color style, Neutral, Color tone -4, Saturation -4, contrast -4, sharpening 0, no adjustments in post – footage looks even better at 50mbps, highest output for H264 in pp, however, the result would be a +1GB file. I am really impressed with the level of detail all the way up to 25.6k and the lack of noticeable color shift up to ISO 20k, only at 25.6k reds turn magenta! I can’t wait to start shooting with this camera!

At the same ISO setting, the 5D Mark III shows all the power its full-frame sensor. I have four crops (credits: Mike Kobal) for you to compare, shot at ISO 1600 and 3200. First crop from the NEX 7 footage, second one from 5D Mark III’s, we start with ISO 1600.

ISO 1600 is one stop before the highest ISO on the NEX 7, noise already visible in the NEX7 crop. Next, the two crops shot with ISO 3200.

Shot at candlelight, don’t forget. In this extreme settings the NEX 7 can no longer compete with the EOS 5D Mark III. Read Mike’s post clicking here (more samples provided).

Next let’s see how ISO performance is on the Nikon D800. Nikon put a 36MP sensor in its new full-frame flagship and we all want to know how it compares to the 5D Mark III (click here for a previous posts about this issue). quesabesde reviewed the 5D Mark III and did a quick comparison with the D800 (Google translated). I want to focus on ISO performance, so I do not discuss the review (which comes with lots of samples, RAW included). Fortunately, they also provide samples for comparing ISO performance of the two cams. As usual, anyone has to judge by itself but I want you to have a look at this comparison chart. To me ISO performance looks generally better in the 5D Mark III pics and becomes visibly superior with ISO 25600. There are more samples, scroll down the post on quesabesde to see them.

I found another comparison, this time between the 5D Mark III, and Nikon’s D4 and D800. Check carefully from ISO 1600 upwards – The 5D Mark III has better ISO performance.

There are for sure applications where the high-res sensor of the Nikon D800 gives you an advantage, e.g. studio settings. The EOS 5D Mark III, on the other hand, is a true multi-purpose camera, which adapts to many different situations. ISO performance, the advanced AF system, 6 fps, and the great video performance, give more advantages than having a 36Mp sensor. That’s probably one of the reasons wedding photographers like the 5D Mark III so much. Ok, it costs around 15% more, but for me the overall performance costs that come with the high-res sensor are more incisive. But this are just my two cents. :-)

Automatic EOS 5D Mark III price check: Amazon USA, B&H Photo, Digitalrev, eBay, Adorama, Canon USA

Sample pics and eBay deals live-ticker click here.

World-wide order and price check:

Australia: Amazon, Adorama, B&H Photo, Digitalrev, eBay Australia, Alibaba
Canada: Amazon Canada, DigitalRev, Adorama, B&H Photo, eBay Canada, Canon Canada
France: Amazon FR, DigitalRev, eBay FR, Canon France
Germany: Amazon DE, DigitalRev, eBay DE, Wex Photographie, Canon Deutschland
Italy: Amazon IT, DigitalRev, eBay IT, Canon Italia
United Kingdom: Amazon UK, Park Cameras, Warehouseexpress, DigitalRev,, Canon UK
USA: Amazon USA, B&H Photo, Digitalrev, eBay, Adorama, Canon USA


  • Eduardo

    Your attempt to justify this camera by comparing it to the NEX 7 is looking rather pathetic. The NEX 7 is a APS-C size sensor costing $1200 VS 5DMIII costing $3600.

    I am a5DMII user and would rather see comparisons to the 5DMIII. To see if it is worth the price to upgrade. These lame comparisons with other cameras makes me think it is not.

    • Frank

      I am clearly stating that the NEX 7 has a different sensor size. And that these two cams are in different leagues. Nevertheless I think the comparison is interesting. A lot of people shows strong interests for both the 5D3 and the NEX 7. Comparison of the cams is not done to blame one and praise the other – it’s done to show differences and strengths.
      Your comments and opinions are welcome but please maintain a polite and fair tone when writing.
      For a comparison 5d3 vs 5d2 have a look here:

      Another 5d2 vs 5d3 comparison is in work. Stay tuned and have a nice day.

    • Mike Kobal

      Hey Eduardo, i should probably clarify my approach to make a little more sense, i test the gear i use for personal and professional work because just looking at sensor data and mtf charts wont show me how it really effects a challenging photo or video situation, i need to know how far my cameras can be pushed and how good the results are relative to much more expensive gear, because i often use cameras like the nex 7 on jobs.

  • ShakyA77

    I am with Frank here, and as a Sony shooter I am very much interested how the Nex 7 compares to something like the latest pro Canon

  • Sean

    Always use multiples of 160 shooting video… For 5DII and I assume 5DIII, the best ISO’s (in order) are…

    160, 320, 640, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1250, 125, 250, 500, 1000, 1600, 2500, 2000, 3200, 4000, 5000, 6400

  • Peter

    i dont care a sh*t about video i want improvments in stills…. unfortunately the D800 seems to deliver more at low iso.

    i don´t shoot in a tunnel.. i shoot in the studio or at iso 100 landscapes with a tripod.

    i hope canon will think the next time more about photographer then cinematographer…..

  • Expert

    UPS – surprising for me.

    It Looks like the d800 is the winner, more Details at eyery iso step!?

    • Frank

      Do not agree. I see a strong increase in noise while the details are vanishing.

Back To Top