I recently noticed a difference in the photos my Rebel XS was taking compared with a friend's Canon 70D. While my photos tend to be very dull, his are rather "vibrant" for lack of a better word.

Take a look at the following 2 pictures. They were both taken within seconds of each other. Same lens (50mm f/1.8), ISO (100), shutter speed (1/200), aperture (1.8), white balance. (7000K which is specified as the "Shade" option on both cameras.) Yet for some reason there is a significant color difference in the two.

First the Rebel and it's EXIF data:

enter image description here

Canon Rebel XS

And then the 70D:

enter image description here

Canon 70D

Why is this happening?

  • can't say i know the answer but... do they have the same ISO settings too? – ppp May 30 '14 at 0:45
  • yes. Forgot about that. I'll update the question. – codedude May 30 '14 at 0:51
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    What do you mean by "(7000K which is specified as the "Shade" option on both cameras.)"? The XS can't do Kelvins, only the presets; was the 70D also set to Shade, or to 7000K? this DLC article says that Shade is somewhere between 7000K and 8000K. – inkista May 30 '14 at 0:57
  • shade is stated to be approx. 7000K on both cameras. This is the relevent screen on the Reblel: support-au.canon.com.au/img/G0029148.jpg – codedude May 30 '14 at 0:59
  • can we have the full EXIF data on both photos? – ppp May 30 '14 at 1:02

I wouldn't call the difference between these two photos "dull" vs. "vibrant". The difference is "cool" vs. "warm", in terms of color balance or "color temperature". The first image is cool, the second image is warm. Which of these you prefer really, ultimately, boils down to a matter of personal preference. This is why many specific cameras, such as the Canon 1D line, have many raving "color fans". Certain individuals really, really, really like the native unmodified color that comes out of certain cameras.

There are many reasons why these two cameras may perform differently. For one, your comparing a Rebel XS with a 70D. These two cameras are generations apart, not only that they are a good decade apart. There could be a multitude of hardware and firmware differences that lead to the differences in color balance that your seeing in these two images. Differences in the tone curves for built-in picture styles to differences in the natural response curve of the silicon used in the sensor can account for these differences.

I think the most obvious conclusion is that the two cameras had different picture styles selected. I don't see "Picture Style" in the list of EXIF data. It's probably a Canon custom EXIF property, so it may not be exported by default. If the two cameras had different picture styles chosen, then the in-camera JPEG output of both cameras will differ, even if you configure them otherwise as identically as possible. Canon cameras usually have around five built-in picture styles, from standard and neutral to faithful, landscape, and portrait. I'd be willing to bet that one camera is on a standard style, and the other is on faithful or portrait (both of which tend to warm and saturate a bit more). If either was on landscape, I'd expect the greens to be much more vibrant.

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    I just double checked and both are on standard style. I'm guessing it boils down to the generation difference. There's a reason the 70D is some$600 more expensive. :/ – codedude May 30 '14 at 5:02
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    @codedude: yes, but not for the reasons noticeable on these photos. If you shot raw, you could easily manipulate one image to look more like another. – Slartibartfast May 30 '14 at 6:43
  • Agreed. The reasons the 70D is more expensive have less to do with the physical characteristics of the sensor or firmware, and more to do with it's capabilities and modern age. You can normalize the results with RAW in post, that is easy enough. If you insist on OOC JPEG, then you can still tweak the styles a little bit with the XS to get a result more similar to the 70D. I also recommend trying both cameras with the Neutral picture style, which should reduce any differences as the point is to minimize what the camera does to the image. – jrista May 30 '14 at 15:59
  • Good answer as always! Both cameras have a different sensor (slightly different size) and different image processor DIGIC III as oppose to DIGIC 5+. I personally notice a difference between my 2 bodies, 60D which uses DIGIC 4 and 6D with DIGIC 5. White balance aside I also find the 60D images somehow "dull" compared to the 6D - always preffererin the newer to the older. – Jakub Sisak GeoGraphics May 30 '14 at 17:28
  • Five years = a decade? The Rebel XS was introduced in Q3 of 2008, the 70D in Q3 of 2013. – Michael C May 31 '14 at 1:16

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