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M9 high iso


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#1 KevinA

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Posted 13 April 2010 - 11:29

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I'm sure it's a topic that has been done to death but how does the M9 at 1250 iso compare with Nik/Cans at 1600/3200 iso in difficult lighting, like nighttime street lights in colour and not b&w conversions? I reckon the Leica should have a stop advantage with their lenses and no mirror. Does it perform at high'ish iso without jumping through Photoshop hoops.
I've had three jobs requiring max aperture and 3200 iso in the past 6 months (shot on a 1DsmkIII), I have wondered if it would of been better or worse with the M9 + a f1.4 or even a Nocti.

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#2 Jamie Roberts

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Posted 13 April 2010 - 14:44

Depends what you're trying to do, in all honesty. Here's a 35 Lux shot that might give you some idea.

This is the 35 Lux ASPH @ f5 @ ISO 2500 @ 1/45s, and I wouldn't even try a shot like this with the M8.

Given that I could have shot the Lux at f1.4 it gives you an idea of the amazing latitude you really do have with this camera. ISO 1250 is even better, but I was trying to push the M9.

Processing: this was an uncompressed RAW file saved through C1 as a 16bit TIFF.

I adjusted the colour saturation in PS (and it's a sloppy job, actually, just trying it out) for the tungsten light in the foreground because it was too saturated for the natural light colour I wanted in the after-sunset sky (and yes, the star rising).

Default noise reduction from C1 and that's it; resized for JPEG and saved with EXIF intact.

Attached File  L1057078.jpg   90.91KB   1036 downloads

Compared with my D3 there's definitely more noise, but you wouldn't see it in print IMO. There's at least as much usable DR and better colour too, and the 35 ASPH Lux is definitely sharper than anything Nikkor has in that range :) It's plenty sharp enough to do light noise reduction where necessary without losing detail.

I haven't tried making this really big (like 30 * 40), only about 13 * 19 so far. Results look great.

So all in all I'm delighted with this. Is it ISO 102,000? No. Do I care? No--for my work this will rock :)

DISCLAIMER: this is the web, and so if you don't have the luminance of your monitor (among other things) set the same as mine (to the blackpoint, in essence, of my print workflow), you're likely to see all kinds of stuff I'd never print and that my customers would never see. Also, saving this as a JPEG @ 70% has also induced artifacts that, believe me, are not in the 90+ MB TIFF file :)) YMMV.

#3 KevinA

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Posted 13 April 2010 - 15:06

Thanks James,
The blotchy sky is that just web compression?

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#4 JMacD

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Posted 13 April 2010 - 15:18

Kevin, yeah it's compression. Try one of yours and you will see what happens, but still not sure how to avoid it.

#5 Alnitak

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Posted 13 April 2010 - 15:34

Well, why not buy faster Canon glass? The ONLY lens that Leica has that's faster than Canon's is the 21/1.4 Summilux. Otherwise you can get a Canon 50/0.95 for a lot less than a Noctilux, and below 21mm, there are more fast options for the Canon than the Leica M. Same with above 50mm, more faster options with Canon than the M.

Having used Canons for years, I can tell you that the current Canon top-end cameras have about two stops of advantage on the high ISO end. Given that you can get glass that's just as fast on the Canon side, if not faster, I wouldn't be looking at an M9. High-ISO is not where it shines.

Jeff

#6 Luke_Miller

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Posted 13 April 2010 - 15:39

Sean Reid at Reid Reviews has an excellent review of the M9 which includes a detailed ISO noise comparison with the M8 and Canon 5D MkII. If you are not a subscriber it might be worth the subscription fee before deciding.

www.reidreviews.com

My experience with the M8.2 versus my D3/D700 is that the Leica fast lenses and ability to handhold at slower shutter speeds will allow me to "buy" a couple of stops of ISO. However, that is only effective when I have static subjects and don't need extensive depth of field. I shoot mainly social events so I will be using flash with my M8.2 where I would still be shooting available light with my Nikons. Not a criticism of the M8.2 - that is what I grab for my personal shooting. And I love the images I get from it with my Leica glass. That makes it worth having to bring my own light on occasion. :)

#7 KevinA

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Posted 13 April 2010 - 15:57

Well, why not buy faster Canon glass? The ONLY lens that Leica has that's faster than Canon's is the 21/1.4 Summilux. Otherwise you can get a Canon 50/0.95 for a lot less than a Noctilux, and below 21mm, there are more fast options for the Canon than the Leica M. Same with above 50mm, more faster options with Canon than the M.

Having used Canons for years, I can tell you that the current Canon top-end cameras have about two stops of advantage on the high ISO end. Given that you can get glass that's just as fast on the Canon side, if not faster, I wouldn't be looking at an M9. High-ISO is not where it shines.

Jeff


I have both 35 f1.4 (fantastic lens) and 24 mm mkII f1.4, they really need a stop down or more and getting them to focus after Sunset can be tricky, I also wondered if the Leica glass had less vignetting (not that tha Canons are bad) which induces noise in the corners if you try to correct it. Also the M9 is minus a flapping mirror.
Kevin.
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#8 Jamie Roberts

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Posted 13 April 2010 - 16:00

Yep--it's compression artifacts from the JPEG and the forum post. The blue sky is as near a gradient as you get in nature; almost anything messes it up...

The following shows this a little better, but remember you're still looking at

1) M9 "worst case" at ISO 2500--"underexposed" (on purpose for the sky and silhouette):
2) JPEGs of a 16bit TIFF file, so they're still lossy :)
3) No sharpening
4) Default C1 noise reduction (which is really light),

So here we go--these are not small, and they're being loaded from my server, so the forum shouldn't be re-compressing them. But it's still the web and all caveats are still there:

100% sky section 1:

Posted Image

100% section 2
Posted Image

100% section 3
Posted Image

Is there noise here? You betcha... but I can remove it pretty easily without losing much sharpness in print.

Again, for me this is worst case, and so not bad at all.

There may be some very very slight banding. It's interesting, but nothing I couldn't deal with.

Edited by Jamie Roberts, 13 April 2010 - 16:21.


#9 KevinA

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Posted 13 April 2010 - 16:45

Thanks James I can't think my Canon would be much better. It's amazing when you get to these light levels how little extra light can make a huge difference. Light changes hardly perceptible to the eye can be make or break for this kind of picture. Even if the overall exposure stays the same a tiny bit of fill in ambient can be all the difference between hardly any noise and huge clumps. 2500 iso is more than I would of thought the M9 could handle.
I'm done with night shooting for this time of year, come November I'll give the M9 a look.
Does anyone know how the Noctilux performs wide open in the dark, does it darken much in the corners wide open?

Kevin.
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#10 Jamie Roberts

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Posted 13 April 2010 - 17:13

Kevin, yeah, it's true that there's always a trade-off between noise and detail too, so while my D3 is definitely less noisy it doesn't have the resolution and there isn't a 35mm lens currently that will resolve fine detail like the Lux (though I know that's a controversial statement).

All of this means, though, that with careful capture I can't see any reason not to shoot the M9 regularly in very low light at ISO 1250, 1600 or, more sparingly perhaps, at 2000 or 2500.

It also suggest, though I can't say for sure, that Leica could have further optimization in firmware at very high ISOs. In ok light without the kind of gradient you see here (which is tough for any digicam), I've been playing with pushing ISO 1600 to effective ISO 5000 in post and the results are totally printable... and I found that kind of shocking, actually, myself. I didn't expect it to be so good.

On the Nocti, yes, it currently vignettes quite a lot with the M9, and for high ISO shots that's gotta be a problem, partially due to lack of DR in the vignette but also if you want to "get rid of it" you're already a stop down in the corners (so at ISO 2500 you're exposing for an effective 5000)... if you try to bring that back I think it'll be a mess.

OTH, the vignette wide open and flare rejection is one reason you use a Nocti--so that's part of the look :) If I wanted something different I'd use the 50 Lux ASPH (or 75 Lux if you want to keep a Nocti low-contrast feel), which don't vignette as much and won't cause the same issues.

#11 scjohn

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Posted 13 April 2010 - 18:11

I actually see significantly more noise from my M9 at high ISO's than I see from my Nikon D3. But it is different noise... almost film like. If that is a look I am comfortable with I use the M9... and I am comfortable with it most of the time.

#12 faraz

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Posted 13 April 2010 - 18:50

Canon 5dII with 100mm macro lens handheld at 6400 iso.

I don't like the colorful noise from canons but I printed this image and the noise was negligible or barely noticeable,

Attached Files



#13 Alnitak

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Posted 13 April 2010 - 19:32

I have both 35 f1.4 (fantastic lens) and 24 mm mkII f1.4, they really need a stop down or more and getting them to focus after Sunset can be tricky, I also wondered if the Leica glass had less vignetting (not that tha Canons are bad) which induces noise in the corners if you try to correct it. Also the M9 is minus a flapping mirror.
Kevin.


Well, the 35 'Lux is better than the 35L, but not by much. Vignetting is pretty similar in my experience. As for the 24 'Lux, I have to say that the 24L II is sharper and has better contrast in the center of the image wide open; however, the L is softer in the corners and has a bit more CA. So it's a trade-off.

My point remains, which is that almost every focal length, you can get glass for the Canon that is as fast if not faster, plus you have the additional advantage of a camera that already has 1.5-2 stops lower noise at higher ISO's. So, mirror or not, you are going to be better off with the Canon in low light. Most people will argue that you can get maybe 2 stops from the lack of mirror. In my experience, it's more like one stop.

Look, I love my M9. A lot. So much so that I have sold all of my Canon gear and gone totally Leica. That said, the M9, even with the fastest glass and the best technique, just can't match what my Canons could do at high ISO. In my case, I don't necessarily care, although I sure would like it if the M9 could do better.

As for vignetting. Yes, the Noctilux vignettes a LOT on an M9. And due to the close distance between the sensor and the lens in the M-mount, its much more difficult to recover that in post-processing, as the fall off is very steep and the light is already hitting those sensors at a very oblique angle. I wouldn't recommend trying to recover corners too much at high ISO with the M9.

Can the M9 produce very good results at high ISO's? Yes, it can. I am personally very comfortable using the M9 up to and including ISO 1600. However, it drops off quickly there, whereas the Canon and Nikon offerings go for another couple of stops. There are a ton of great reasons to have and use an M9, the most important being the fact that its the smallest full-frame digital camera you can buy, and the Leica glass is some of the best in the world--but I wouldn't put low-light high-ISO performance out there as something that the M9 excels at.

Jeff

#14 KevinA

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Posted 13 April 2010 - 19:39

Kevin, yeah, it's true that there's always a trade-off between noise and detail too, so while my D3 is definitely less noisy it doesn't have the resolution and there isn't a 35mm lens currently that will resolve fine detail like the Lux (though I know that's a controversial statement).


It would be interesting to see it against my Canon 35mm f1.4, I find that very sharp and detailed. I get quit a bit of moire with it, something I had never seen on a Canon before. Even the 24mm mkII moire's on occaisons.
My other reason for eyeing the M9 was that Tri lens wide job they do 16 - 21 mm I think, if there is one area I am not happy with regarding DSL's it's the super wide stuff. I would quit happily run the two systems side by side.
Jono has offered me a M9 to fondle over a pint, well not actually over a pint that would be just silly, but one or two would be close by.

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#15 Jamie Roberts

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Posted 13 April 2010 - 20:01

Well, the 35 'Lux is better than the 35L, but not by much. Vignetting is pretty similar in my experience.{snipped}

There are a ton of great reasons to have and use an M9, the most important being the fact that its the smallest full-frame digital camera you can buy, and the Leica glass is some of the best in the world--but I wouldn't put low-light high-ISO performance out there as something that the M9 excels at.
Jeff


Hey Jeff--I was CPS for years :)

I've owned the 35 1.4L along with other great Canon primes, and, with respect, the 35 Lux ASPH is in a totally different league, in my opinion.

Sharpness as we know is a bit weird. Some people with the 35 Lux experience a lot of focus issues. Historically I haven't, so my 35 Lux has always out-performed the 35L there.

The 35L on the other hand, focuses more closely than the 35 Lux, which can be important.

Vignetting is one thing. Distortion is another, and there's no comparison with the nasty distortion on the 35 1.4L and the 35 Lux (same, btw, goes for the Canon 24 IMO).

Flare rejection is also not to be compared on the two lenses. The 35 Lux, once more, retains contrast and colour in areas the Canon doesn't.

Don't get me wrong; I think the 35 1.4L is a very nice prime. If I was shooting Canon, I'd have it, and Nikon has nothing to compare with it right now.

But I'll stick with the Leica, thanks :)

As for low-light higher ISO performance, no, as I've said, the M9 is no D3 (and the D3 is much better than the Canons in this regard; trust me :))

But you accept smearing and loss of DR in the noise reduction you get with the D3 and 5d2. You also accept approximately 1/3 stop less light sensitivity (than my M8; haven't measured the M9 yet).

So let me put it another way: you shouldn't NOT do low-light higher ISO photography with an M9 because you think a Canon body is better. There's absolutely nothing wrong with the M9 results in this area, IMO, as long as you're not expecting ISO 6400 :)

#16 KevinA

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Posted 13 April 2010 - 20:31

Just to give you all some idea of what I am shooting click on the Gallery Night here MobileMe Gallery
The night video under movies was when I borrowed a 5D to shoot stills, I was told press this button if you want to shoot some video. After the job was finished I gave it a go, I did not adjust anything, the camera tried to make it look like daylight, those fields which look green at the time were just black holes no colour or detail visible. If shooting for real I would of knocked a couple of stops off. It goes to show what these cameras can see. Hand held at over 100mph.
Needles to say the pictures look soft and grainy on the web, but make very nice 30x40 inch prints.

Kevin.

Edited by KevinA, 13 April 2010 - 20:34.

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#17 wparsonsgisnet

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Posted 13 April 2010 - 20:41

Sean is pretty clear in his analysis of high iso on the M8/M9.

Essentially he says there's more to the equation than just noise. I find I can get rid of noise pretty easily, in my case with neat Image.
Bill Parsons (wparsons@gis.net), Boston, Leica user since 1970

#18 Alnitak

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Posted 13 April 2010 - 20:43

Hey Jeff--I was CPS for years :)

I've owned the 35 1.4L along with other great Canon primes, and, with respect, the 35 Lux ASPH is in a totally different league, in my opinion.

Sharpness as we know is a bit weird. Some people with the 35 Lux experience a lot of focus issues. Historically I haven't, so my 35 Lux has always out-performed the 35L there.

The 35L on the other hand, focuses more closely than the 35 Lux, which can be important.


I think that's the crux of it: opinion. I just don't find the difference between the 35L and 35 'Lux to be all that great, especially in print. Your opinion obviously differs. And for the record, my 35 'Lux is dead on wide open, and only shifts after stopping down, so it's not focus shift effecting my opinion of the Lux. I just don't think its all that much better than the 35L. The closer focus was nice at times, but that's also when the distortion would kick in, especially perspective distortion, so I didn't use it that way very often.


Vignetting is one thing. Distortion is another, and there's no comparison with the nasty distortion on the 35 1.4L and the 35 Lux (same, btw, goes for the Canon 24 IMO).

Flare rejection is also not to be compared on the two lenses. The 35 Lux, once more, retains contrast and colour in areas the Canon doesn't.

Don't get me wrong; I think the 35 1.4L is a very nice prime. If I was shooting Canon, I'd have it, and Nikon has nothing to compare with it right now.


I've never seen anyone call the distortion on the 35L nasty before. Again, this is where personal opinion comes into play. If I recall correctly, the measured barrel distortion of the 35L is very mild. I never experienced significant distortion using the lens. The 24L also has mild barrel distortion, but to be honest, it was far easier to deal with than the more complex "moustache" distortion of the 24 'Lux.

The 35 'Lux is definitely better in flare rejection. In my experience, the 24L II and 24 'Lux are pretty similar in this area. BTW, if you never used the 24L II, then you should check it out if you still have Canon gear. It's a remarkable improvement over the original, which was OK, but pretty soft and lacking contrast wide open.

But I'll stick with the Leica, thanks

As for low-light higher ISO performance, no, as I've said, the M9 is no D3 (and the D3 is much better than the Canons in this regard; trust me

But you accept smearing and loss of DR in the noise reduction you get with the D3 and 5d2. You also accept approximately 1/3 stop less light sensitivity (than my M8; haven't measured the M9 yet).

So let me put it another way: you shouldn't NOT do low-light higher ISO photography with an M9 because you think a Canon body is better. There's absolutely nothing wrong with the M9 results in this area, IMO, as long as you're not expecting ISO 6400 :)


Look, I obviously sticking with the Leica as well. I think I made it clear I had sold my entire Canon kit and gone all Leica. However, that said, the OP had been inquiring with the thought that perhaps the Leica could be *better* and worth picking up for that reason. I think if you are completely honest with yourself, you have to say no. For example, the question about mixed street light at night. That's a scenario where the M9 just doesn't shine if you want to shoot color. The WB is not quite right, and one can only hope Leica will improve it in future firmware releases. I'm not the only that says this--just look at this forum for plenty of others with the same opinion and experiences. Combine that with high ISO noise and his original question of "Does it perform at high'ish iso without jumping through Photoshop hoops." Well, I could say yes--if you don't use Photoshop. :D Otherwise, no, it will require some processing hoops, especially if you want to shoot in color in those conditions.

His final question was: "I have wondered if it would of been better or worse with the M9 + a f1.4 or even a Nocti." I am trying to make the point that I am highly skeptical it would have been better, and yes, there are some reasons it would potentially be worse. At best, it's a draw, and then you have to ask if there are other reasons to make the rather expensive purchase. For the price of the M9 and Noctilux alone, he could buy every single Canon f/1.2-f/1.4 L lens, plus the wonderful 135/2L and have plenty of money left over for a second body, or for a used 50/0.95L. I made the decision to buy all of that kit, and eventually to sell all of my Canon gear, but in my case the decision was driven by size and weight. I'm skeptical that any one who does a reasoned analysis would make that change driven by a need to shoot in low light.

But hey, that's me. :D

Jeff

#19 Jamie Roberts

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Posted 13 April 2010 - 21:00

Jeff--you're arguing with me at cross purposes. :)

I wouldn't give up my small set of Leica lenses for shooting at night. That's the advantage, if there is any, pure and simple. Not that I would buy either, but a Canon 50/0.95 is not a Nocti ASPH .95 :) I also wouldn't compare, in terms of optical performance, my 50 Lux ASPH with Canon's 50 1.2L--much as I love that 50 1.2L for other reasons.

I can't speak to the 24 1.4L but the 24 2.8 ASPH is outstanding. As for distortion, my 35L was such I wouldn't put a person on the side of the frame. Not the case with the 35 Lux.

All the other reasons I mentioned are still good to me.

Is the M9 better than a 1ds3? As I keep saying, probably not in terms of noise, but it'll hold up in terms of detail for longer than people think, is all. They hear "oh the M9 isn't good at high ISOs" and they think the shutter won't work at ISO 2000 :)

And if you want great low light colour--well, seriously good, luck without Photoshop regardless of the camera you're using. Again, the M9 is as good (and here a bit better IMO) than a lot of stuff out there. It has a well-controlled color response in low light.

But without a ton of Photoshop the M9 will give you reasonable results, as I've tried to show.

As for white balance--you're kidding right? Yes, Canon's average white balance is, and always will be--better than Leica's I'm sure. But since I'm shooting raw and adjusting WB manually in capture or in post that's not a point for the Canon, IMO.

So I offered up the images and the 100% crops to show what the M9 does at ISOs where people have written it off.

They shouldn't write it off, is all. Like I said (repeatedly), my D3 is better for noise and therefore handholding. But a Noctilux in low light looks like a Noctilux; if you want that you don't have many choices out there :) If you don't like that look, then that's fine, too.

YMMV.

Edited by Jamie Roberts, 13 April 2010 - 21:36.


#20 Alnitak

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Posted 13 April 2010 - 21:40

Jamie,

I'm not arguing with you; I'm trying to answer the OP's questions, which are quite different from individual opinions. Nowhere have I said that you can't use the M9 at high ISO settings. To repeat, I am answering the OP's questions.

As for AWB, yes, of course I'm serious. The Canons may not be perfect, but the M9 has problems, and it's worse than the M8 in that respect. Let's see, try the search button on this forum and there are multiple threads with titles like "Possible serious issue with M9 & AWB" or "M9 Auto White Balance-work in progress?" or "AWB 1.002 is really bad."

I agree with you that a Noctilux is going to give a look that you can't get elsewhere, but that's not what the OP was asking. I would also put forth that much of what makes the Noctilux so great isn't necessarily visible in night time shots like the OP was showing us. In fact, it would be a bad choice for his helicopter shots as it has pretty severe coma in the corners wide open because its designed with a curved plane of focus. Its part of what gives it the great look, but those point sources of light would look pretty lousy. A much better lens for that work would be the 50 Summilux or the 35 Summilux.

Let's stick to answering the OP's questions as that's the point of this thread.

Jeff


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