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Mamiya DM33, LEICA M9, Canon 5D Mark II, Nikon D3 and Canon S90 High ISO Comparison
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March 2010


Reviews:   Mamiya DM33      LEICA M9       Canon 5D Mk II      Nikon D3       Canon S90

Skip to: Minimum ISO     ISO 200    ISO 800


Introduction         top

Let's compare the state-of-the art in point-and-shoot, 35mm DSLR, rangefinder and medium-format digital cameras.

I shot a Mamiya DM33, LEICA M9, Canon 5D Mk II, Nikon D3 and a Canon S90 at their minimum ISO, ISO 200 and ISO 800.

Each of these crops is from the equivalent of a 50 x 80" (4 x 6 feet or 125 x 200 cm) print. This is looking very closely.

Each was shot with a 50mm lens, except that the DM33 medium-format camera was shot with an 80mm lens, the same thing on its larger format. All were shot at f/5.6.

I guessed wrong and had the S90 zoomed-in a little too far, to 15mm, which is the equivalent of 70mm on the 35mm cameras. No big deal, but that's why the monkey is bigger in the S90 snaps.


MINIMUM ISO    Minimum ISO     ISO 200    ISO 800     top





5D Mk II


The LEICA M9's minimum ISO is ISO 160, while ISO 80 is a trick. I showed both.

The Mamiya looks cleanest to me, and sharpest. Whoo hoo!


ISO 200    Minimum ISO     ISO 200    ISO 800     top




5D Mk II


The S90 looks crappiest, but we expect that. Otherwise, the D3 looks softest, but it also has resolution only on par with the S90.

Otherwise, I see more variation in exposure and color than I do in detail or noise among these at ISO 200.


ISO 800    Minimum ISO     ISO 200    ISO 800     top




5D Mk II



The S90 looks crappiest, but we expect that.

Otherwise, the Mamiya looks the noisiest at first glance, but wait: It's also by far the sharpest. It has so much more resolution that we can see a lot more grain than we can in the others.

A fat lady once had a sign on her desk that read: "I may be fat, but you're ugly, and I can diet."

Likewise, with the DM33's image, we easily can apply our choice of noise reduction, and get whatever we want in terms of noise.

If I apply NIK Dfine 2.0 and dial in about 70% opacity as a layer in Photoshop, it looks about the same as the 5D Mark II., and better than everything else.


Analysis         top

Remember to look at details as well as noise. Low noise with no detail is worse then more noise and more detail.

The S90 is worst, but for a pocket camera, it's great.

The D3 isn't that exciting at these print sizes because Nikon can't compete as of early 2010 in the high-resolution environment, since they have nothing with more than 12MP in the under-$8,000 arena.

The Canon 5D Mark II is a little better at ISO 800 than the LEICA M9, while I still prefer the DM33 at ISO 800. I'd much rather a sharp, slightly grainy image to softer one.

Considering that the Mamiya salesmen warned me that if I wanted high ISOs I'd want to look elsewhere, I find that the Mamiya DM33 looks at least as good as any 35mm-based DSLR at ISO 800.

The DM33 only goes to ISO 800, which is plenty for me.

You can push the DM33 to much higher ISOs than ISO 800. The reason it doesn't have settings for more than ISO 800 is that the people who buy DM33s buy them to make quality images. The higher ISOs of 35mm DSLRs just look crappier than the DM33 at ISO 800. In other words, 35mm DSLRs go above ISO 800, but look worse than a DM33. The DM33 draws the line at quality. Let's face it: the people who use DM33s work with plenty of light.


Technik         top

I shot each in raw, since that's the only way the Mamiya shoots.

Each was opened in ACR in Photoshop CS4 at defaults.

Each was resized to 4,992 pixels tall; the same size as the largest file, so that the resulting images all print at the same size. (I had the zoom set wrong on the S90, sorry, Canon.)

I cropped a 786 x 400 pixel sample of each and present it here.


Help me help you         top

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