Well, your just plain wrong about the DR. Your using IR's "total DR" number, which is irrelevant,
It is the ONLY relevant number. The definition of DR is not up for debate.
How hard you can push shadows due to noise (i.e. grain) is LATITUDE.
I'm debating your definition of DR. You cannot simply shut that down at will. Your definition is flat out wrong. Simple as that.
The debate is raised, the burden of proof is now on you to clearly demonstrate how Photographic DR is more appropriate or more accurate. (In my experience, "Photographic DR" is far more arbitrary, as everyone seems to define it or calculate it in a different way...there is no consistency, therefor it is near impossible to gauge it's accuracy or even relevance. Besides...the industry itself uses a different but consistent definition for dynamic range, one that is repeatable and consistent and comparable.)
Increased native dynamic range in the RAW file CAN ALLOW FOR increased editing latitude. It isn't guaranteed to, but it can. Specifically, an increase in dynamic range that is gained by reducing read noise can significantly increase editing latitude. A simple reduction in noise, however, say by an increase in Q.E., is not going to offer as much of an increase in editing latitude.
Even IR's results where they don't completely ignore noise even jive, and IR ALSO gets approximately a two-stop difference between Canon sensors and Exmors.
Guess what would happen if you fed Imatest or DxO the D800 and 5D3+NR file you posted? They would report nearly identical DR. But applying NR to the D800 will not reveal any more detail or bump its score the same, at least not with Imatest. (DxO thinks blacker blacks with no detail still = more DR, so maybe their score would go up. But it would also be useless.)
Picking an arbitrary noise/processing threshold and arguing about it is worthless for this very reason.
Not from what I understand about what IR is doing. They are feeding Imatest processed images...images that have had NR applied. Therefor, they are not actually calculating the real DR, they are calculating one potential amount of DR assuming a given amount of NR has been applied.
Regarding the noise threshold, it is not arbitrary. It is very well defined: It's the read noise of the whole system. Every sensor has a given read noise, and that read noise is usually dependent on the ISO setting. At ISO 100, the Canon 1D X has 38e- RN, the 5D III has 35e-, the 7D has 8e-, the 70D has 13.5e- while the Nikon D4 has 18e-, the D800 has 3e-, the D810 has 4.5e-. These values are fixed. That's the read noise of those cameras at ISO 100. That is also the noise threshold for each of those cameras. Those cameras also have a saturation point or full well capacity at ISO 100: 1DX 90367e-, 5D III 67531e-, 7D 20187e-, 70D 26726e-, and the D4 has 117813e-, the D800 has 44972e-, the D810 has 49601e-.
You compute DR the exact same way for every one of those cameras: 20*log(FWC/RN)/6. That formula results in the following DR for each camera:
This isn't rocket science. It isn't arbitrary. This is what the INDUSTRY uses to compute dynamic range. Measured read noise values may vary slightly from documented read noise values, so DR numbers computed from measurements are usually going to deviate from DR numbers computed from official documentation for any given sensor...but overall, as you can see, Canon cameras over around 11 stops, Nikon cameras hover between 13-14 stops. There is nothing DXO-esque here....I'm not doing anything "extra", I'm not claiming that the hardware itself is capable of doing more than what it's really capable of because I chose some arbitrary downsampling point. This is simple, strait forward, industry standard dynamic range.
You are correct that some careful NR can close the gap. Thing is, if you actually look at my sample images I recently posted, there is still a gap.
Yes. You might even spot it on a 36" print with the D800 print sitting next to it
The real kicker is the gap is growing.
No it's not. It's about the same today as it was when the D7000 came out against the 7D. Both sensor series have improved over time by small increments.
Again, your basing that on invalid information. Canon sensors have not changed since before the 7D. Nikon, Pentax, and a number of other cameras have changed dramatically over the same timeframe. Now, it was understandable that the 1D X and 5D III improved in other areas. Canon's customers asked them to improve in those areas.
However it's been about two years now. Canon's customers have been demanding they improve in a different area, in the area of sensor IQ. If these 7D II specs are real, they herald an era of...no change for Canon sensor IQ.
I don't think we'll be stuck with 14-bit ADC units for long...technology is moving far too fast for that.
Someone has to be able to fabricate a sensor that can produce useful bits >14 first. If someone does that at Photokina while Canon ships a 70D sensor variant, then Canon has a problem. But even Sony's 12 MP FF sensor isn't doing that yet so I kind of doubt it.
Sony's sensors are getting very close to the limits allowed by 14-bit ADC. If what their BionzX chip in the A7s can do is real, they are feeding a 16-bit image processing pipeline 14-bit data, and that 14-bit data has extremely low noise. If Sony continues to make progress at the same rate they have been (and, if they stop gimping their own technology with a wickedly crappy RAW image format), the will be capable of using 15-bits very soon.
I've also been getting more and more into astrophotography equipment...Some of these things are RADICALLY superior to what Canon has to offer.
But these are also niche tools, are they not? In terms of general purpose cameras, I'll grant that a Sony Exmor is a better choice for astro, but it's not like you can't do good astro with a 5D2/3 or 6D. Flickr is full of those shots.
I use a 5D III for astro. In my experience, it's actually worse than the 7D. By a lot, really. The read noise on the 5D III is ~35e- ISO 100, whereas it is 8e- ISO 100 on the 7D. At ISO 400 (the ideal ISO setting for Canon cameras for astro), the 5D III still has 4.4e-, where as the 7D has about 3e-. Chroma noise on the 5D III is FAR worse than on the 7D. It is so bad that it actually makes it very difficult to get good results.
Now, the 6D is a different story. I don't know why Canon did not do with the 5D III whatever they did with the 6D, but the 6D has some of the lowest and cleanest high ISO noise I've ever seen. It's quickly becoming a popular astro modded DSLR for those not willing to spend $4-5k for a proper cooled CCD.
The benefits of the 6D are still having to compete with Exmor based cameras, though. Those things have a flat read noise curve. It's ~3e- at every ISO setting. The 6D has a slight advantage at very high ISO, however you lose so much DR at those ISO settings that stars clip. Now that someone has cracked the Nikon/Sony black point clipping problem (which used to be the reason those cameras were called "star eaters"), Nikon cameras are rapidly growing in popularity as not only viable options for astro, but better options. They can be used at ISO 100 instead of ISO 400, which gives you even more headroom to avoid clipping stars, which gives you even more room within which to stretch and otherwise process the images.
When it comes to astrophotography in general, it's a booming hobby. Thousands more people are able to do it today than used to. Most are using modded Canon DSLRs, usually T3s and T3is, although newer models, including the 60D/Da, and now the 6D, are also often used. However the DSLR is only one part of the story. You still need to guide. The thousands of people who are now able to do astrophotography because equipment and software for it is cheaper and more accessible, they are buying guide cameras. Those include guide cameras that make use of Aptina and Sony sensors. Many of those beginners go on to use Atik CCD cameras, which are cheaper than the likes of SBIG, QSI, FLI. The most popular Atik cameras are the ones that use ultra high sensitivity Sony sensors.
Planetary, lunar, and solar imagers are also picking up high speed video cameras, like my QHY5L-II, or similar cameras from ASI or Starlight Xpress. Planetary imaging is probably even more popular than DSO imaging, as it's easier to do, doesn't require as accurate of tracking, and can often be done when seeing is too terrible for DSO imaging because of the use of superresolution and lucky imaging in planetary/
It may have been an extremely niche market, however these days it is a growing market. A rapidly growing market. And who has a vice-like grip on that market? Canon? No. Actually, their grip on that market from the DSLR front is waning...again, because their sensors are no longer competitive. Sony and Aptina in particular have the best sensors on the market for astro right now. Nikon cameras with Exmors are becoming more popular, largely thanks to the recent work of Nikon hackers to remove the black point clipping.
I've also had the opportunity to work with some stacked image data from people who use Nikon Exmor cameras and even Sony CCD cameras, who needed help with image processing. Their data was without question superior to my own that I gathered with the 5D III. My 7D data was about as good...however most of my 7D data was gathered when average outdoor temperatures were -8°C.
That is TWENTY FREAKIN STOPS!! The thing has a 20-bit readout mode to fully support that many stops as well.
But we don't see that in any general purpose, high resolution ILC gear. So what's the trade off? If it doesn't arrive in our cameras for two years, and Canon does the same thing at the same time or shortly after Sony (for example), then they're not way behind. They would be way behind if Sony's current FF sensors had 20 stops.
If Sony released a sensor with 20 stops, I truly don't believe Canon would be competing. Not any time soon. It could be another thing like with the 7D...where it takes five years total for them to actually get something onto the market that can compete on the same level. I don't suspect Sony will release a 20-stop sensor. Not within the next couple of years. Not in a larger form factor anyway (they already have sensors that top 16 stops for the astro stuff.) However, I could see Sony kicking out a new Exmor II with on-die 16-bit CP-ADC very soon.
So, the 70D? It doesn't sell because of it's sensor.
The 70D has an excellent sensor that is competitive now. If Sony brings out a 20 stop ISO 25,600 APS-C monster tomorrow, that will change. But you're reading about all this new stuff that no one has yet in a general purpose ILC line. Which means there is a trade off...maybe as simple as fab yields...that everyone is experiencing.
Again, this boils down to your rather arbitrary definition of dynamic range. This is the definition of dynamic range that the entire market for sensors uses to compute dynamic range in decibels:
And to get stops:
By this definition, Canon is behind by two stops of DR, or about 12dB.
What happens when Sony drops a LITERAL 16-stop sensor on the market?
Canon will respond. Even if it means buying the sensor from Sony, if their market is threatened they will respond. But my guess is that 16-stop sensor is not coming as soon as you imagine, nor is Canon's that far behind. Plus, I see a lot of patents coming from Canon for RGB multilayer sensors. Foveon shot themselves in the foot by overstating the advantage, but the advantage is significant. Anyone else doing any R&D here?
WILL THEY RESPOND? I mean, that's the question here. If these specs are true, and given the preliminaries last time around when they released the 1D X, 5D III, and 6D....I highly suspect they are...then Canon hasn't responded yet to the competition. And not just Sony. Toshiba is up there now as well, making APS-C sensors with nearly 13 stops of DR.
Regarding Canon patents. We've been seeing patents and prototypes out of Canon since before the 1D IV. I am pretty darn sure Canon already has a CP-ADC patent capable of reading 120mp out at 9.5fps. We've been seeing multi-layered sensor patents out of Canon for years. Those technologies haven't made their way into any cameras yet. Why? Well...if Canon is still using a 500nm process...that's why. They can't pack so much electronics into each pixel with transistors that large, and still have good noise quality. Their sensor fill factor has to be plummeting with the layered sensors (they say as much themselves in a couple of the older layered sensor patents, and one of them seems dedicated to improving sensitivity because photodiode area for each color is so small.) If Canon released a layered sensor in their next camera with a 500nm process, I highly doubt it would be as good as Foveon, let alone Exmor.
Canon desperately needs a process shrink.
To get control of their noise problems, they are going to have to stop manufacturing ADCs they way they have been manufacturing ADCs for over a decade now...
When it affects their market share I'm sure they will. They're still #1, and the smart company pockets profits but has tech ready to go when they need it. I know that sucks when you want to see rapid innovation, but it's typical behavior. If you're the underdog you innovate wildly...and often lose money...trying to get at the top dog. If you're the top dog, you protect your position.
Sure, they are still #1...at the moment. But that's also what worries me. How many companies that were #1 throughout the last three decades or so, who just sat and rode the waves of their past success without competing head-to-head with their rivals in a highly competitive market...are still around, or if they are around, are they still relevant in new modern markets? Kodak was king. Kodak was king for decades. Kodak even had a portfolio of patents for CCD and CMOS sensor technology....they just never implemented it. Kodak had to sell it's patent library, and they are a shadow of their former selves. They tried to ride the film wave too long, and sat on all their digital technology (or simply didn't know how to employ it properly.) Microsoft? They still dominate the desktop...but they are practically irrelevant in the new computing markets: Phones, Phablets, Tablets. Mobile computing. I still love Microsoft products, I think they are excellent...but it was too little too late. They now face a massive, steeply uphill, and extremely expensive battle to gain market share from the more agile and competitive companies that actually employed the technology in their patents. There are plenty of other technology companies that either stuck with failing technology and refused to switch to successful ones and died, did not innovate at all and died, or was too slow to respond to heavy competition and died.
There are a lot of parallels that can be drawn between Canon and many of these companies. I'm not saying Canon IS these companies yet...just that there are a lot of similarities. From a competitive standpoint, Canon shouldn't just be working their past success to continue selling mildly improved camera models year after year. It's going to rapidly turn around and bite them in the proverbial rear end at some point...if they don't have a game changer already in the works when that happens, their #1 spot could instantly become #3, then #5, then #10. Sony is improving their game on other fronts as well. While the reviewer called it "new technology", it is pretty much the same thing as Canon's 61pt AF system, but Sony now has a high end, high density reticulated AF system that can compete head-to-head with Canon and Nikon AF systems. At some point, they are going to start pushing the frame rate envelope, and if they stick with electronic shutters (and better, global shutters), they could race right past Canon's 12/14fps (not that that is necessarily a good thing...there is a point of diminishing returns there, and possibly even negative returns once you end up with far too many frames for a short one-two second burst...but still, it's another front of competition.)
The world isn't standing still. If Canon does stand still...