NP101: High ISO 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 eight article in the series, I’m going to share some results from a High ISO Test of the Canon 6D.

High ISO Noise Performance of the Canon 6D

High ISO Noise Performance of the Canon 6D

While the Canon 6D is still quite new, people are often looking for information about how it performs at the extremes – whether that’s long exposures, or High ISO.

In this article, I’m going to to show you how it performs at High ISO (ISO12800), before and after noise reduction, so hopefully you can draw some conclusions about how it will perform in your circumstances and how you plan to use it.

At the IISAC2013 star party, I captured some images at ISO12800 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. I’ve also used two noise reduction methods to show you how well it cleans up – Lightroom Noise Reduction, as well as Topaz De-Noise plugin for Photoshop.


  • Camera: Canon 6D
  • Lens: Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens (nifty fifty)
  • Focal Length: 50mm
  • Focal Ratio: f/2.2
  • ISO: 12800
  • Exposure time: 10 seconds
  • In-Camera Noise Reduction: OFF
  • High ISO Noise Reduction: OFF
  • Dark frame subtraction: NONE
  • Ambient temperature: Approx 16° C

The exposure time was intentionally kept at only 10 seconds because I was after pin-point stars, not star trails. I could’ve used a shorter exposure but I wanted as much light as possible.

The image below is showing 100% 1:1 crops of the unedited image. Keep reading below the image for more explanation and for the raw jpeg file.

ISO12800 Comparison before and after noise reduction

ISO12800 Comparison before and after noise reduction

On the left third, you can see the 100% crop of the original RAW file, noise/grain and all. The middle third is after applying a +30 Noise Reduction in Lightroom. The right third is after additional applying Topaz De-Noise Med-Raw in Photoshop (in addition to the LR +30).

You can download the full frame of the original unedited image here (16mb jpeg). Feel free to play with it and process it yourself if you wish.

The next image presents the same data, as 100% crops again, but with the same portion of image below each other.

ISO12800 RAW image + noise reduction

ISO12800 RAW image + noise reduction

I’ll let you make your own judgement, but I was very impressed with how well the image cleans up and is very workable after noise reduction. Imaging at ISO12800 is certainly not something I’d recommend (or do myself) for all of my nightscapes, but it’s nice to know the option is there if you need it.

Below is the final image after processing (it’s a 5-image vertical panorama). I hope you’ll agree the 6D is more than capable if you’re in a pinch and need to use such a High ISO.

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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 the High ISO Noise Performance of the Canon 6D helps you make some decisions about how you’ll use your 6D or whether you’ll purchase one! 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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