X100 – better than the 5DMarkII in low light?

Confessions of a Canon DSLR user…

One of my frustrations with P&S cameras over the years, and why I didn’t really use them much was that it was only really in good light that I felt the image quality was any good.

So my comparison is to the Canon 5DMarkII. Why? Well because that has been the camera I use in low light until now. I get the impression that an awful lot of people who are buying the X100 are current users of either the 5DMarkII or Nikon D700. Looking, like me, for a small high quality camera that they can use for personal work and carry everywhere when they don’t want to lug around the DSLR kit.

I live in London and for my “carry-everywhere” camera I find that I am often shooting in very low light: winter darkness, on the London Underground, indoors with some natural light, etc. In most conditions I don’t use flash. Two reasons: firstly because the 5D2 doesn’t have a built-in flash and the 580EX is – well let us say not exactly inconspicuous, secondly flash is often inappropriate for in-public photography.

So I have just had to live with the extra weight and bulk of the 5D2 + 50 f1.4. I got rid of the 50 f1.2 chiefly to save 300g on the carry weight, well and because I never could get consistent focus results, but I digress.

I didn’t expect the X100 to be as good obviously as a 5D2 and 50 1.4 lens in low light. But is it “good enough”? The answer I think is yes, and maybe even better than I was expecting.

For A4 prints I find the 1/FL rule to be generally adequate on my 5D2, but larger print sizes need 1/2xFL.

So what about the X100? Well 1/60 is fine. And I’m finding 1/30 pretty good too, and even 1/15s! Perhaps we get a stop advantage from the lack of mirror slap. But certainly 1/30 is in the right ballpark. Also the lens is fine at f2 for most purposes. Certainly I don’t hesitate to shoot people at that aperture.

The chief point of uncertainty at the moment is my assumption that the 5D2 imaging pipeline has only a 1 stop advantage over the X100. This seems about right from what I’m seeing, but without ACR support it’s only a guess from the JPG output, it could be more or less, but I’d be surprised if it was very much different. Also of course I’m comparing a 50mm FL to a 35 equivalent.

So with the 5D2 I was getting handheld results (50mm lens) I was reasonably happy with down to about EV=2. (ISO6400, f2, 1/60s) with a 35mm lens that can go down to 1/30s => EV=1.

What about the X100? I think at a similar level of IQ I can get EV = 2. (ISO3200, f2, 1/30s)

So overall then for A4-ish prints I would be happy shooting the Canon down to around EV=1 with a 35mm lens – but I only have a 50mm, so that means EV=2. I am happy with the X100 down to around EV=2, add into the mix that the X100 has a handy little flash for close-up work and I suppose I have to declare it a tie, or even slight advantage to the X100!

So there you have my convoluted conclusion. For low-light shooting I am just as happy with the X100 as my 5D2 + 50mm f1.4. This is indeed a welcome surprise!

Tada! *bows*

Disclaimer: My world is not your world, there are so many variables here that my conclusions will probably not apply to you.

3 thoughts on “X100 – better than the 5DMarkII in low light?

  1. Craig, great write-up, thanks. Like you, I am a 5DmkII and X100 user. But its actually focal lengths I want to ask you about. You only mention the 50mm prime on the 5D, do you use a 35mm on that camera or have you had to adapt your shooting on the X100. The reason I ask is that I never truly got on with a 50mm prime on the 5D, but love the 35mm equivalent on the X100.


    • @Mark

      I’ve always been a 50mm shooter, it’s always seemed the most natural focal length for me on 35mm.

      I was a little worried before I got the X100 that I would find it a bit too wide, but actually it’s been very easy and natural adjusting.

      Curses, I may have to get a 35 Biogon for my ZI. 🙂

  2. Craig, that’s really interesting that the 50mm to 35mm transition was so easy. That’s the trouble with photography, there’s always the next piece of kit you fancy (and of course, it’s never cheap). Kind regards, Mark.

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