Get off my branch!

There seems to be more noise than I would have expected at this ISO and I also exposed to the right. Do I need specific noise reduction software or am I doing something wrong in the field. In general, I seem to have noisy shots, much more so than others on this forum who are shooting at higher ISOs. Any thoughts would be appreciated

Pertinent technical details or techniques:

Canon 7DII; Sigma 150-600 at 172 mm; 1/2000, f5.0, +1 EV; ISO 800.

You may only download this image to demonstrate post-processing techniques.

Hi Allen: I’m not really seeing any significant noise in this image. Maybe the original at a larger size is showing it, but for this one, I don’t see anything of concern.

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Hi Allen, You’ve captured great action here! I downloaded your photo to pixel peep since that’s what you’re asking about. I have the same lens and I notice the same loss of detail when I’m too far away from my subject. How far were you from the birds? And how much did you crop the photo for this composition?

Hi Jeanie. Thanks for commenting. I was probably about 30 feet away, using my car as a blind. I cropped about 50%. I probably should have zoomed in more (only 172mm out of 600), but was trying to get some in flight-hard to do at 600 mm.

Hi Allen, I went through some of my photos to pick out shots with similar lighting but varying distances. (I can tell distance based on where the birds were perched in relation to my back deck.) These were all taken at ISO 12800 on my Canon 5Diii with the Sigma 150-600 lens. To be clear, I’m not proposing that these are “usable” images, but I wanted to show worst-case scenario at the different distances. I resized the “10 feet” and “20 feet” images down to match the size of the 30 ft image - and these are crops at 100% after resizing.

Don’t compare the tops of the heads - I think I missed focus there. But if you look at the neck feathers, you should be able to see the detail dropping off as the distance increases. Hope this all makes sense!

Thanks, Jeanie, for going to the work of presenting this. Definitely better detail close up. I’ve heard that detail degrades some at the extreme telephoto range (600mm here) compared to shorter range (300 mm), but there is clearly a difference between 20 feet and 30 feet. Of course your camera will do better at a higher ISO than mine and your lack of noise at 10 feet at 12800 is impressive.

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Hi Allen. I am seeing noise in the darker areas of the swallows, though I don’t find it objectionable. I don’t think this is particularly a lens issue. Part of the problem that @Jeanie_Sumrall-Ajero is demonstrating is a simple matter of physics. The scale of the noise on your sensor is constant with relation to the sensor, but the fine details in the plumage get smaller with distance, so the noise starts having a larger impact when you try to recover plumage detail. We’re luck in some ways-at least we’re not shooting large wildlife at 100 yards and trying to show fur detail.

You’re also going to get more noise in the dark areas (noise is constant, signal is smaller (less photons), so the ratio goes up).

I do know people that use the Lightroom or Photoshop noise reduction and get great results, but I’ve never really figured out how to get good results from them, so I went with one of the after market plug-ins years ago and I’m still happy with the results.

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Allen, you captured some wonderful interaction here. The noise issue is indeed a problem with the Canon 7D II. I used it until recently as I loved the extra reach one gets with the crop factor. But I had to run virtually every image through Topaz DeNoise that was taken over ISO 500. I don’t know whether this is a problem with other crop factor cameras or not, but I did not experience the same noise at all with the full-frame Canon 5D IV.