NP101: Long Exposure Noise Performance of the Canon 6D

I love capturing beautiful nightscape photography, and I’m always happy to share what I know and what I learn. I’m keen to inspire others to head outside and look up at the sky, and to photograph the sky.

So I’ve started a series of posts with the theme ‘Nightscape Photography 101‘ – sharing tips and tricks to help you take better nightscape photos.

In this seventh article in the series, I’m going to share some results from a long-exposure night test of the Canon 6D.

Whenever Canon or Nikon bring out a new camera, for nightscapes photographers, the question is always – What’s it like at night?

Which means, what’s the low-light sensitivity like? What’s the High ISO performance like? What’s the noise like after long exposures?

What's the long exposure noise performance like in the Canon 6D?

What’s the long exposure noise performance like in the Canon 6D?

I’m not trying to answer all of those questions at once with this post, but hopefully I can answer one of them for you – What’s the noise like after long exposures?

At the IISAC2013 star party, I captured a 30 minute exposure with the Canon 6D, and for those interested, I’ve uploaded the full-frame unedited shot (just saved as 100% quality jpeg) as well as a 100% crop.


  • Camera: Canon 6D
  • Lens: Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens
  • Focal Length: 70mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/5.6
  • ISO: 640
  • Exposure time: 30 minutes
  • In-Camera Noise Reduction: OFF
  • High ISO Noise Reduction: OFF
  • Dark frame subtraction: NONE
  • Ambient temperature: Approx 16° C

Click the image to download the full-res jpeg (11mb).

Unedited 30 minute exposure. Click to download full res jpeg. (11mb)

Unedited 30 minute exposure. Click to download full res jpeg. (11mb)

I’ve also attached a 100% crop of part of the image.

100% crop of a 30 minute exposure

100% crop of a 30 minute exposure. Click image for larger.

I’ll let you make your own judgement, but I was very impressed with the lack of noise in the image. If I’d tried a 30 minute exposure with my Canon 20D or 40D, it would’ve been filled with noise, hotpixels, and amp glow.

Even though some noise is present after a 30 minute exposure, it cleans up very nicely using a good noise reduction plugin. Personally, I use Topaz De-Noise for Photoshop. Some hot pixels still remain, but in most cases you can clone them out if they bother you.

Below is the final image after processing. I should’ve cloned out the hot pixels in the foreground! :)

Thanks for looking. Comments are welcome, and if you’d like any other tests with the Canon 6D, please just get in touch or comment below.

I hope this post about Long Exposure Noise Performance of the Canon 6D helps you decide whether you’ll purchase a 6D or how you’ll use it! In the coming posts, we’ll talk about everything you ever wanted to know about nightscapes, including:

  • capture techniques for the different types of nightscapes
  • processing tips and tricks
  • focusing at night
  • noise reduction techniques
  • my thoughts about what makes a good nightscape photographer

and much more.

Please feel free to ask questions in the comments section below. Let me know your challenges and frustrations and questions about nightscape photography, and I’ll add them to the list of topics I’ll cover!

Make sure you don’t miss any posts in this Nightscape Photography 101 series!

I hope you will enjoy this series and your feedback and comments will always be welcome. Please share with your friends too!


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14 responses to “NP101: Long Exposure Noise Performance of the Canon 6D”

  1. Suman says:

    Great article Mike. Saw many good reviews of 6D on it’s good low light capability. I was wondering how well will it compare with 5D Mark (II/III) in terms of noise, handing and performance.

    • Mike Salway says:

      Hi Suman

      The 6D definitely edges out my 5D Mk2, and from tests I’ve seen the 5D Mk3 as well in terms of both noise (lack of) and low-light sensitivity at High ISO (3200 and 6400). I’m amazed by what it can pick up!

  2. Neil says:

    Nice work Mike, having also purchased the 6D recently I am keen to get involved in similar astrophotography. I have had one night out near Barrington Tops but was a little dissapointed in my outcomes, esp when the sky was so full of stars. I also live on the central ocast – maybe i’ll run into you one day …. cheers Neil

    • Mike Salway says:

      Hi Neil
      Thanks for your feedback and for taking the time to comment. What lens were you using? I’m keen to get up to Barrington Tops one day.

      • Neil says:

        Hi Mike,
        thanks for the reply. I used a Canon 24-105L f4 at f5.6 auto iso for 20 seconds, the picture was almost pitch black but after playingh with it in lightroom I did get a decent amount of stars appear without too much noise, but nothing compared to the pics i have seen around the web. Maybe next time I will play with iso setting rather than leasving it on auto … then I would love to try ehat you have been succesful with above :)

        cheers Neil

  3. M.Suarez says:

    Hi Mike:
    First to congratulate him on his work.
    It would be possible test with her 6D and the samyang 14mm 2.8 of the Milky Way.
    I believe that there are many persons with interest in this combination.
    * Iso3200 – 30s. – f2.8
    * iso6400 – 30s. – f2.8
    Thank you very much Mike.

  4. […] me, but it has some excellent features (level indicator, WiFi etc) and it’s unbeatable on noise and high ISO performance. I can easily do ISO6400 for 30 seconds, with very little noise. What […]

  5. […] Long Exposure Noise Performance of the Canon 6D […]

  6. […] often looking for information about how it performs at the extremes – whether that’s long exposures, or High […]

  7. Aurelien says:

    Hi Mike

    I’ve been reading your blog for quite some time and I think it’s all pretty nice.
    I think this post illustrates one of my biggest question: “Post processing”.
    I would love to read more about this and especially how you bring back the colors (like in the final image).

    Thanks a lot

  8. Karen says:

    HI Mike

    6400 or really 640 ISO?
    the 550D is well noisy by the way.

    • aureq says:

      Hi Karen

      I pretty sure Mike shoots most of his photos at 6400 (not 640).
      It’s at night, the Australian sky is really dark, so 640 seems a bit “low”.

  9. Julián says:

    Hi, I have a brand new 6D and i’m consern about hot pixels/noise (don’t uderstand which one of the is it). I made some photos with de lens cap on, no noise reduction. iso 1600 and above, 30 seconds exposure i find a lot of hot pixels, most of the are with, iso 12800 there are red ones also. Is that normal or my camera must be fixed? Sorry for my english, i’m from argentina.

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