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Old Sep 2, 2008, 9:24 PM   #1
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I have a Canon Rebel Xti and it seems to have a LOT of noise at high ISO speeds (400+). Can someone recommend a good camera that does not?

I want to be able to shoot in low light and still have clear shots.

Thanks.


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Old Sep 2, 2008, 9:43 PM   #2
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How much money can you spend? ;-)

Your model is really not too bad, unless you're doing something that is impacting noise levels. For example, if your photos are underexposed, that's going to increase noise (so, just expose brighter to begin with using a +EV setting with Exposure Compensation).

Also, if you brighten an underexposed image later using software, you'll get more noise, just as if you used a higher ISO speed to begin with and exposed properly. Other camera settings will also impact it (for example, sharpening, saturation and contrast settings).

I'd suspect a setting or exposure issue of some kind if you're seeing a "lot" of noise at ISO 400 or so, unless you're examining shadow areas at 100% viewing size where it wouldn't be visible at typical viewing and print sizes anyway, or cropping your images way too much (which would do the same thing).

Improvements in noise levels are going to be somewhat incremental (i.e., you're usually not going to improve by "leaps and bounds" going to the next model in the lineup).

As a general rule, the larger the photosite size, the lower the noise levels (but, there are many other factors that impact it, too). For example, going to a EOS-5D in the Canon lineup would help out, or going to a D700 or D3 in the Nikon lineup would help out.

In the Canon lineup, the new 50D should offer some improvement, despite the smaller photosite size from stuffing more pixels in, because of sensor technology improvements (although the Nikon D3 and D700 models will probably have it beat in that area).

Can you post a sample of a photo you're having issues with, leaving the EXIF intact?

Have you tried running the problem images through noice reduction software to help out?

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Old Sep 2, 2008, 10:16 PM   #3
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I would like to see some examples of what you're referring to. They would have to be 100% crops or the process of reducing them for posting here would dilute the noise, defeating the purpose.

If it comes down to it, you can get a lens with alarger maximumaperture to give you better exposure in available light.
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Old Sep 3, 2008, 8:18 AM   #4
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Keep in mind that I am a newbie. I mean, I have been taking photos for several years, but not consistently.

I would love to find out that it is something that I am doing so I can fix it rather than spending money on a different camera.

This was taken at 1/640 of a second, f/6.3 at ISO 400.


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Old Sep 3, 2008, 9:07 AM   #5
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Was that shot post processed in any way? If so, what does a crop from the original look like?

Again, if you use an editor to boost any areas of an image (via curves, exposure sliders, etc.), you're going to get much higher noise levels, just as if you'd used a higher ISO speed to begin with.

Frankly, that shot looks a bit overexposed with blown highlights, unless you boosted it that much with an editor. So, you can sometimes get the opposite effect exposing too bright, with noise that would normally be hidden in the shadows becoming more prominent.

So, there may be a way to solve it via technique or settings versus using an editor.

Also, if you're cropping an image a lot, you're going to see more noise/grain that would not normally be noticeable at typical print and viewing sizes. IOW, that noise is not going to be as noticeable at most typical sizes. If you are cropping a lot, you may find a longer lens is a better solution compared to a new camera body (although I see you're already using a 400mm now and anything too much longer is going to get pricey).

I'd also make sure to try noise reduction software on your images. If you haven't tried any yet, there are some free solutions available you can download. For example, the "Community Edition" of Noiseware is free (not just a trial). Scroll down on this download page and you'll find it:

http://www.imagenomic.com/download.aspx

The Neat Image Trial version is also free for home use and doesn't expire:

http://www.neatimage.com/download.html

These don't have all of the functionality of their other versions. For example, they don't have all of the customization of the other versions available, and they don't retain your camera settings in the output files. But, they should get you started and do a good job in many cases. Keep the settings for noise reduction as light as possible for the desired viewing/print sizes (as noise reduction software can reduce detail if you go too heavy). You can also get the plugin versions of these in the non-free versions, so you can apply Noise Reduction to the desired areas only using an editor like Photoshop (for example, the background and not the brighter subject in that type of photo).

You may also want to try shooting raw and using more sophisticated noise reduction. For example, Bibble Pro already has basic Noise Ninja built in, and you can upgrade the built in Noise Ninja for more functionality.

http://bibblelabs.com/

Are your photos mostly wildlife type shots like that? If so, then a full frame solution (i.e., Canon EOS-5D, Nikon D700) may not be as practical, because of the wider angle of view you'd have without additional cropping.

You would probably get some improvement moving up to a newer body like the 50D in the Canon lineup if you decide you need a better camera. But, I'd wait for some reviews with controlled conditions noise tests to get a better feel for how much improvement and if it's worth it to you.

If you don't have a huge investment in lenses, that would open up the options more. For example, the Nikon D300 or Sony A700 would also be options. They're 12MP Sensor is relatively clean at ISO 400 (unless you're trying to boost areas too much using an editor, or these camera bodies' built in features that do the same thing like Dynamic Range Optimization in the Sony or D Lighting in the Nikon). We'll need to wait and see how the new Canon models compare.

What kind of budget are you looking at if you do decide to upgrade (camera/lenses). What lenses are you using now?

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Old Sep 3, 2008, 9:42 AM   #6
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Hi Jim. For the sample shot, I just opened that photo in photoshop and cropped out a piece and added it to the message. BUT, before I went on my trip to Michigan, I did ask some people on another forum for suggestions about how to set my picture style settings on the camera, so I had the picture style set up higher than the middle setting for sharpness, contrast and saturation. If I am understanding what you are saying, that may have added noise from the gitgo.

My laptop broke before the trip so I was not able to take photos, look at them, and see what they looked like and then adjust the settings. For someone trying to learn, this was quite a hindrance. I think MOST of the photos look "blown out" as you describe it.

I've ALWAYS thought there was something wrong with my camera and lens, but it is most likely me. I did send the camera and lens in to Canon TWICE and they worked on them for no charge both times so they might have found something wrong but you would THINK they would have corrected it by now.

I used to be able to shoot fairly good photos back in the film days, but have never gotten what I would consider excellent shots since I have gone digital. Nothing looks really, really sharp no matter what settings I use, nor does the contrast look right to me.

Here are more photos from the trip, although I doubt that you want to wade through them. http://www.backyarder1.smugmug.com/g.../5869546_hxhgv

I'll print out your message and try some of the noise reduction techniques that you suggested.

Thanks so much for your help.

Betsy


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Old Sep 3, 2008, 9:59 AM   #7
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My guess is that your picture style settings are likely part of the problem.

Some wildlife shooters use a flash with a Better Beamer for Wildlife to help out with exposure, which will also reduce noise if your subject is in shadows. So, that would be something else to consider.

What lens were you using for that photo? I see it was taken at 400mm at f/6.3. Most lenses are not going to be as sharp at their zoom extremes, and most tend to be a bit softer at wide open apertures, too.

But, if you stop down the aperture (for example, use f/8 or f/11 versus f/6.3), then you can run into shutter speed issues if you're not using a tripod or monopod. So, a better lens that's sharper at wider apertures and longer focal lengths may be something to consider. Trying to make up lens softness and lack of contrast with more sharpening and contrast in camera (or in Post Processing) is going to amplify noise related issues.



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Old Sep 3, 2008, 10:09 AM   #8
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My lens is a 100-400 mm, 4.5-5.6. I'm thinking of getting rid of it and buying a different lens, since most of the time I keep the lens on the 400mm setting and everyone says that will make the images soft. If I don't need the zoom, it makes more sense to buy a plain 400 mm lens.

However, I'm pretty sure I got some pretty noisey shots with my other lens, an 18-55mm.

I'll set my picture style settings back to the default settings and see if that makes a difference.


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Old Sep 3, 2008, 10:18 AM   #9
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Is that a Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM? It actually appears to do quite nicely at it's 400mm end (not much loss of quality at all, like you'd see with many zooms on their longer end).

http://www.photozone.de/canon-eos/20...review?start=1

But, you may be getting softer images from Camera Shake at it's longer end if you're not careful (or using a monopod or tripod for them), although the IS should help some if that's the lens you have. Your Depth of Field at wider apertures is also going to be pretty shallow for smaller subjects. So, AF accuracy is going to be critical if you don't have enough light to stop down the aperture some from wide open.


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Old Sep 3, 2008, 10:29 AM   #10
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Yes, it is the IS USM lens. The lens is so heavy, I don't think I can ever hold it steady, no matter how fast I am shooting. And my tripod isn't the greatest.

I think a lot of my problem is that I just need to practice. A good teacher would help. I'm sure it would be cheaper to hire and pay a knowledgeable photographer to teach me some stuff than it would be to keep pouring money into more equipment.


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