What is the Dynamic Range of a Canon 5D Mark II?
The forthcoming RED EPIC and ARRI ALEXA cameras both claim 13+ stops of dynamic range, which is just about equal to that of 35mm film. To me, dynamic range is a more important metric than resolution (others would disagree). Regardless, for those of us who own a 5D Mark II, how does our DSLR fare when measured against these high-end cameras?
Not too bad. As measured by Art Adams at ProVideo Coalition, the 5D yields 10 stops of dynamic range -- a far cry from the 13.5 that ALEXA claims, but not terrible given the price discrepancy. Note that this is reduced-resolution, lossy video mode -- in still mode, the 5D gets 11.9 stops of DR. Considering how great of a still camera the 5D is, then, it's pretty amazing that EPIC and ALEXA are able to get more exposure range than an un-crippled full-frame still camera. Here's Art's chart of the 5D; depending on your monitor, you may or may not be able to discern the difference in blacks between the ninth and tenth stop:
All in all, not bad for a $3k still camera. On a related note, however, that ALEXA is looking pretty amazing.