People pay great attention to image quality when making DSLR camera purchasing decisions. High ISO noise is one aspect of the image quality matrix. It is uncommon to see high ISO noise performance comparisons by shooting a scene with different cameras and compare the resulting images side-by-side at actual pixel resolution. Sounds simply enough, right? In reality, there are many complications.

Each camera has its own default settings. One may choose to perform more in-camera noise reduction (NR) than others by default. Some cameras have user controllable NR settings but others may only allow user control to certain degree. With NR, there is always a trade-off between noise level and image details.

Not only NR settings, sharpening, contrast, dynamic light optimizer or D-lighting settings can also affect noise levels.

The cameras may meter the scene quite differently and have exposure biases. Even if you choose the same ISO, aperture, and shutter speed, the images from one camera may appear darker or lighter compared to others. Exposure affects noise levels.

Cameras have different sensor sizes, sensor aspect ratios, and different pixel counts. Should the tester try to match the field of view or the magnification at 100% view (each image pixel is displayed as one pixel on a display)? Viewing an image at 100% magnification on a display is rarely useful for practical purposes. Typically the images are output to devices such as a display or a printer with a specific size. IMO, the comparison should be done with test shots matching the field of view in either horizontal or vertical direction. To make the comparison easy and fair, image from camera with higher resolution should be re-sized to match the magnification with lower resolution camera when viewed at actual pixels.

Bearing these complications in mind, here are some comparisons of Canon EOS Rebel T1i (500D) and Nikon D5000 high ISO noise performances by PhotographyBay.

Just recently, I also talked about the Canon EOS Rebel T1i (500D) vs. Nikon D5000 high ISO noise comparison done by Camera Labs. What is your conclusion after reading the above high ISO performance comparisons?

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