I have been thinking about switching to a mirrorless camera system in the near future. I have heard and read so many good things about them lately. There are many great reviews out there with glowing reports on the autofocus abilities of both the Canon and Sony systems. But nobody ever tests these cameras on their abilities to do long exposures in the heat.
As you may recall, I switched to Nikon a few years back because my Canon cameras produced horrible color noise in the shadows when I did long exposures. I like to use my 15 stop neutral density filter to take 4 min (or longer) exposures in the daytime, to record the streaking motion of the clouds. Whenever I did this with my Canon cameras and it was warm out, I had the problems. I wrote about my decision to switch here, and you can find out all the details in that blog post. You also may want to check out a second blog post on using the Nikons for long exposures found here.
I also use my cameras to take long exposures when doing my night images. With the star tracker I am shooting 2- 4 minute exposures of the stars. Most of the year it is so cold at night in the areas I am shooting that color noise is not an issue. So, I figured the R5 would do well in my night photography.
And yes you can use long exposure noise reduction to correct this in the Canon cameras , but it means waiting 4 minutes to write each image to the card if you take a 4 minute exposure, thus really limited the amount of images you can take. This is a big deal at sunset, where you would be limited to just one shot. The Nikon gets clean images without needing this.
So, I borrowed a Canon R5 and two lenses, the RF 100-500mm (to test out the great wildlife uses) and the new RF 15-35 to test out the long exposures and night images.
Here is what I found.
I went out the Canon R5 on the river with the new Canon 100-500 RF lens. The camera was great for wildlife. The eye focus was a game changer. You can focus on an animal/bird, lock on the eye focus, and move the camera all around to recompose and the focus stays on the eye. It was even able to lock on the eye of the rabbit below, focusing right through the grass!
Here are a few images.
It picked out the eye of the rabbit through the grasses!
The camera locks onto the eye.
It even stayed on the eye when it was in the shade.
No matter where the egret moved, the focus stayed right on the eye.
And then I tested it for long exposures during high heat – using my 15 stop ND filter to take a 4 min exposure. And once again the Canon sensor is nowhere near as good as the Sony sensor in my Nikon D850.
Here is an enlargement of the Nikon D850 64 ISO (Nikon’s Base ISO)
Nikon D850; 258 sec; f/5.6; ISO 64; 24mm; 15 stop ND (Click to enlarge)
And here is the Canon R5 100 ISO (Canon’s base ISO)
Canon R5; 257 sec; f/8; ISO 100; 24mm; 15 stop ND (Click on image to enlarge)
Here is a 400% enleagement of the Nikon image above. (Click on image to enlarge)
And here is a 400% enlargement of the Canon image above. (Click on image to enlarge)
As you can see it looks like it is snowing in the R5 version. I checked this out with Adobe products and with Canon’s DPP software got the same results. Based on a tip from Canon Explorer of Light, Adam Jones, I tried it in DXO software, and it was able to remove the noise. But that is more a testament of the software than a function of the sensor!
I also took it out for a night photo shoot and found that when doing my background image at an exposure of 137 sec and an ISO of 500, it was full of color noise. This does not happen on my Nikon. I also found the sensor was not as color sensitive as my Nikon rendering nebula in the Milky Way white instead of red, and most of the blue stars also came out white.
Here is a detail of my foreground image. Note the color noise. 137 sec; f/3.5; ISO 500
So, while I loved the camera for wildlife images, it falls way short for doing my creative long exposures during the day and my star images. Again, the noise could be removed using DXO software, but I dislike that the camera sensor was creating the noise.
I don't think I'll be buying a new camera just yet!