Dynamic range vs. price and brand

Dynamic range is what keeps skies blue while also capturing detail in the foreground. Without enough dynamic range, we’re forced to choose between a blue sky and dark foreground, or properly exposed foreground and white sky.

I’ve been using multiple exposure HDR techniques to increase the dynamic range I can capture, but multiple exposures don’t work well with moving subjects. A camera that can capture good dynamic range in one shot would be better than one that requires multiple shots to do the same.

I’ve been looking at camera options for a while now, this is just the latest angle for me. Still, compare the Canon EOS 700D/Rebel T5i’s dynamic range against other cameras you might consider (yes, this has as much to do with the JPEG processing engine as the sensor, but it’s the best indicator I can find of the sensor’s maximum dynamic range). Here are some comparators I might consider, ordered by ascending price (body-only):

$450 Sony NEX 5T

Sony Alpha NEX 5N

$600 Sony NEX 6

Sony Alpha NEX 6

$600 Canon EOS 700D/Rebel T5i

Canon EOS 700D (Rebel T5i)

$750 Panasonic Lumix GX7

Panasonic Lumix GX7

$900 Olympus OM-D E-M5

Olympus OM-D E-M5

$950 Canon EOS 70D

Canon EOS 70D

The charts come from the DPReview link above. DPReview doesn’t have an exact match for the NEX 5T, so I used their chart for a previous model, the 5N.

In their review of the Lumic GX7 they make it easy to compare the cameras with different dynamic range optimizations as well. Honestly, I wish I’d discovered that before doing the above, since I think these charts likely better represent the sensor’s dynamic range than the charts above. Still, here’s that set of charts in the same order:

Sony Alpha NEX 5N DRO

Sony Alpha NEX 6 DRO

Canon EOS 700D (Rebel T5i) DRO

Panasonic Lumix GX7 DRO

Olympus OM-D E-M5 DRO

Canon EOS 70D DRO

The Olympus’ dynamic range is simply astounding in this mode, though I’m not sure it would work well for timelapse photography, as the automatic gradation might shift between shots and cause flicker in the assembled video.

Two conclusions here, based on both the optimized and “normal” charts:

  1. Generally, dynamic range increases as price increases.
  2. Canon cameras seem to have the lowest dynamic range at a given price point compared to other brands.