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Low ISO noise: At ISO 1600 and below, the 50D has an excellent noise profile; only at ISO 1600 does a slight bit of softness start to creep in.
Updated: / Caption: CNET Reviews staff / Photo: CNET Labs
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High ISO noise: The 50D's top generally useful sensitivity--that at which scene content doesn't really matter--seems to be ISO 3200. Above that you can start to see detail degradation.
Updated: / Caption: CNET Reviews staff / Photo: CNET Labs
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Noise at ISO 12,800 is pretty bad, and that setting seems to be useful only under a small set of circumstances. There are tons of blank or solid red and blue pixels throughout the images, as well as blurring, which eliminates most small details beyond recognition.
Updated: / Caption: CNET Reviews staff / Photo: CNET Labs
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ISO 12,800 noise, the bad: Flat areas of both uniform and semiuniform color exhibit a lot of color noise.
Updated: / Caption: CNET Reviews staff / Photo: Lori Grunin
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ISO 12,800 noise, the ugly: Shadow areas and large swathes of somewhat uniform color--like walls--display a lot of color noise and significant banding that makes them unattractive, even for relatively small prints.
Updated: / Caption: CNET Reviews staff / Photo: Lori Grunin
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Noise reduction options: You can see the effect of the 50D's various noise-reduction options on this ISO 12,800 sample. Personally, I think standard (3), the default, sacrifices a bit too much sharpness.
Updated: / Caption: CNET Reviews staff / Photo: Lori Grunin
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ISO 12,800 compared: They're not in the same price class (we haven't yet completed our testing of the Nikon D700), but a comparison between the ISO 12,800 quality of the Nikon D3 and the 50D shows the difference between usable and not-so-usable.
Updated: / Caption: CNET Reviews staff / Photo: CNET Labs
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ISO 12,800 noise, the good: Areas like this don't look too bad when printed. The noise is obvious, but still better than not getting the shot at all.
Updated: / Caption: CNET Reviews staff / Photo: Lori Grunin
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Color: As long as you stick with the settings of the Faithful Picture Style, the colors are quite accurate.
Updated: / Caption: CNET Reviews staff / Photo: Lori Grunin
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Picture Styles: Canon's implementation is almost infuriating; I recommend you set sharpness to 3 (or more) with the rest of the Faithful parameters and never use anything else. Why? For one thing, because even though they're described differently in the manual, according to the camera, all of these have the same color settings (0 adjustments), so you've got no baseline to begin your adjustments from in the field. Second, as you can see, the other options really mess up your colors, beyond simply increasing saturation.
Updated: / Caption: CNET Reviews staff / Photo: Lori Grunin
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Sharpness: On the left is the Standard sharpness setting; on the right, it's bumped up to its maximum of 7. Overall, I find the 50D's photos soft, so I suggest cranking sharpness up a couple notches from the default.
Updated: / Caption: CNET Reviews staff / Photo: Lori Grunin
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