Canon 7D Tips: In-Camera Noise Reduction Settings

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Noise reduction — everyone has an opinion.  Some photographers want to see a clean smooth image while others prefer a natural grain.  Whichever camp you fall into, the Canon 7D is flexible enough to accommodate.

The Canon 7D has 4-different levels of in-camera Noise Reduction.  If you are like most people, you probably have left the setting at the factory default “Standard”. But, I was curious about the effects of the other settings.  Would there really be that big a difference?

I took a series of photos using the 7D and 17-55mm EF-S lens at 24mm.  To be sure that I had sufficient digital noise, I used ISO6400.  The camera was mounted on a tripod and the focus did not change throughout the series.  Each image was shot as 18meg Raw file and processed in Canon’s DPP using the camera’s settings.  All photos were taken with f/4.0 and 1/125 shutter with available light.  The only variable was the Noise Reduction settings.  I used the area indicated above in red for comparison as full-sized crops.


The Noise Reduction setting is just another tag in the Raw file. The Raw file is written without regard to the 7D’s noise reduction setting.  I confirmed this with Canon.  As a result, you can change the setting in DPP with no impact on the original Raw file.

Purist may prefer the Noise Reduction set to Off so that they can fuss with it in post.  However, the Standard setting is actually very good. It seems to be a variable setting based on camera settings and the available light.  I have made my choice.

Next up – comparing how Capture One 5 Pro and Lightroom 3 Beta 2 handle the same images.  The results will surprise you … they sure surprised me!


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15 Replies to “Canon 7D Tips: In-Camera Noise Reduction Settings”

  1. The one glaring omission to this article… What do the various settings do to the frame rate? How long does the camera pause between shots to apply the noise reduction? That’s the primary reason I kept the NR turned off on previous cameras. What’s the verdict on the 7D?


  2. Sorry, but no glaring omission. As I said in the article, the Noise Reduction level is just another tag in the Raw file. It has no impact on the speed rate of the 7D writing Raw files.

    I will continue to record Raw files using the Standard setting. Even at that, it can be changed in DPP with no impact on the image quality. A tag is just a tag.

  3. So……I wonder where this puts the Canon 7D camera compared to other cameras. I wonder if the Canon 7D, without the dual Digic4 processors or DPP, captures the same amount of high ISO noise as any other 18 megapixel 1.6 crop camera…

  4. But do you see my point? I have heard that the Canon 7D’s low light performance is pretty good for a 1.6 crop with a high pixel count.

    I was just wondering if that is all from software noise reduction – either Digic2 software when processing a JPEG or DPP when processing a RAW.

    Whereas on the other hand, a 5DMKII achieves it in hardware using a larger sensor.

    The only reason that matters to me is software noise reduction, although very good, always seems to soften the image. And I am ok with this. For the money though, it would be nice to see a little bit of low light performance come from some type of hardware in the 7D. (But I would never expect as much as for the 5DMKII)

    I haven’t played around with my 7D enough to be able to compare the low light performance to my old 20D yet. I was surprised to see how well the 20D was rated by DSO labs for low light. I really can’t understand how they can compare 2 cameras with different resolution, but that’s another whole thread.

  5. Sure. Do you know what the Canon 7D’s code name was? Try the “Lord of Darkness”. Canon knew they were on to something and the 1D Mark IV also benefited from the technology that went into the 7D. Both have Dual Digic 4 chips. (Of course, the images from the 1D Mark IV look incredible even at ISO6400 and higher. They had to do something that would justify the extra $2000 🙂

    Based on my own personal experience, the 7D has excellent low-light capabilities up to ISO3200. Beyond that, there is noticeable digital noise. Since the beginning, I have been using the factory default “Standard” setting for noise reduction. Did you see my Noise Test Series and my Night Noise Test with Long Exposure? I hope that you have also followed the series that started with Raw or JPG – Digital Noise with the Canon 7D at 3200 ISO. I have been doing these tests fro a very long time.

    I also have the Canon 20D as well as the Canon 40D. The Canon 7D is truly generations ahead of those cameras. As for those independent lab tests, if they are using Adobe Camera Raw 5.7 or less to process the 7D Raw files, they are going to find noise. I keep repeating that this is a problem with Adobe Camera Raw and NOT with the 7D. That was the reason I created the series comparing the in-camera 7D generated JPGs with the Raw files processed through Camera Raw, DPP, Capture One 5 Pro and Lightroom 2/3. If the in-camera generated JPGs look so good as well as the Raw files processed through Canon’s DPP, the Adobe product must be missing something. And, Adobe finally addressed it with the latest beta of Lightroom 3 and ACR 6.

  6. Well now I am really looking forward to playing with the 7D in low light. Only have had one chance so far and I didn’t realize I could drive the ISO up so far. I too have a 20D, it was my other (and first) camera. I was using the 7D like it was the 20D. So as I said, I am looking forward to cranking the ISO way past what I would on the 20D – woo hoo!

    And yes, I have seen your really great articles on the Adobe 2 and 3 and Raw 5.7 and 6.0 . Really great stuff. Without that it is really difficult to know how to process the images, which s/w to use and how to use the camera. But, with your articles I feel like I have jumped WAY ahead in the knowledge curve. Thanks very much!!

    I haven’t missed a posting since I found your website!

    Also, thanks for the article on the focus points. I had the same experience with fuzzy pictures. After I read your article on the 7D focus I realized that all of the really close stuff in my landscapes was in great focus while everything else was fuzzy. Right away after reading your posting I changed my focus settings and vowed to use the more centralized ones. Again, that jumped me way ahead of solving the problem! So thanks again!

  7. Thank you for posting such a wonderful comment! I try to write about things that matter to me and possibly others. It’s great to hear that the time that I put in to this blog is really appreciated. I am also on Twitter and Facebook. Hope to see you there too!

  8. As it is written in the 7D manual, if set on strong noise reduction setting, it affects the speed of the frame rate. I set mine at standard and I had quite impressive images up to 2000 ISO. Love this camera!

  9. I just checked the PDF of the 7D Manual and I see the section that you refer to. But, based on my test, the Noise Reduction setting is just another tag in the Raw file. I also confirmed that with Canon. A “Strong” noise reduction setting may delay the image display on the 7D’s LCD screen, but it is only a tag to the Raw file.

    Since the image must be processed in order to be saved as a JPG, it would make sense that a Strong noise reduction setting would delay the 7D’s performance when the image is saved as an in-camera generated JPG. But, a Raw file is not processed before it is saved. The settings are just stored as tags in the Raw file data.

  10. I’ve just discovered your blog.
    I’m noticing what I feel is a lot of noise in my 7D Raw images – even at lower ISO. Just wondering how I can accurately asses the images to see if the noise is acceptable. Am I looking for more than what the camera can deliver? Is there someone who can evaluate the images and tell me if noise levels are excessive?

  11. The best way to test the camera is to shoot a series of JPG+RAW photos. The in-camera JPGs are the best the camera can produce. Take a look at the noise level there. Then, compare that JPG to the image processed from the Raw file. How is the noise level there? I should be at least as good, possibly better. If not, the program processing the Raw file is at fault. I have a series of tests on my blog which shows Adobe Camera Raw 5.5, 5.6 & 5.7 (in CS4) does a terrible job processing Canon 7D Raw files. However, Adobe Camera Raw 6/6.1 in CS5 and Lightroom 3 does a fantastic job! Canon’s DPP also does a wonderful job at processing Canon 7D Raw files. Just be sure to update to the latest version.

  12. hiAs it is written in the 7D manual, if set on strong noise reduction setting, it affects the speed of the frame rate. I set mine at standard and I had quite impressive images up to 2000 ISO. Love this camera!

  13. The Noise Reduction setting only affects the frame rate speed when the photo is saved as a JPG. When the photo is saved as a RAW file, the Noise Reduction setting is just another tag in the RAW file which can be changed in DPP/ACR. And, I agree that the Standard setting is the best setting for just about any subject and environment.

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