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Using high ISO

ARI Avatar
ARI 20 602 1 United Kingdom
23 Nov 2019 2:39PM
I'm old school having learned photography on slide film where high ISO was equated with unaccecptable grain. Lower the ISO setting meant finer grain, so better. The arrival of digital opened a new world but I had not moved from my old mindset as there was no encouragement to do so. The furthest I had ventured was ISO 1000, but rarely strayed beyond ISO 800.

I watched a video clip of a talk given to a travel industry convention on nature photography and examples of pictures taken at ISO 20000 and higher was discussed. Today's camera can do this and higher, yet the subject is hardly discussed. Is it that we are so tied to tradition? Have a look:

ARI Avatar
ARI 20 602 1 United Kingdom
23 Nov 2019 2:47PM
I forgot to add that the main reasons for the high ISO was to obtain high shutter speeds. Noise was secondary... It was a matter of getting the picture or not. Off course getting the picture won.

justin c Avatar
justin c 19 5.2k 36 England
23 Nov 2019 5:28PM
With regards to wildlife photography it certainly does make you wonder how we used to manage with Fuji Velvia at iso 50. We are certainly so much better off nowadays with the high ISO capabilities of modern cameras. Not to mention the excellent noise reduction software available.
For fun, I've taken several near identical shots at ISO 100 and ISO 6400 on the original Canon 5D, printed both at A3+ and I would challenge anyone to hold the prints at arms length and tell which was which.
peterjones Avatar
peterjones 21 5.2k 1 United Kingdom
23 Nov 2019 6:11PM
I routinely set my ISO anything up to 4000 if necessary when photographing nature, if I should suffer from noise modern software does a brilliant job of removing it, some of the new software with AI is outstanding at removing noise.
ARI Avatar
ARI 20 602 1 United Kingdom
23 Nov 2019 6:15PM
My passion is wildlife photography. From ingrained habit, I kept to old 'film' habits until I watched that clip. This will now minimise if not banish camera shake. As they say, live and learn.
Dave_Canon Avatar
Dave_Canon 17 2.2k United Kingdom
23 Nov 2019 7:56PM
Where there is no need for high ISO, I stick to 200 ISO. However, in low light situations, I can comfortably use up to 3200 ISO with my 5D4 but would go higher if necessary. I did once use my Bridge Camera at 1600 ISO at a premiere Rugby match at night (they did not allow DSLR's unless press) and the results were very noisy and I could not remove the noise sufficiently without softening the images. However, I recently re processed the images using Topaz DeNoise AI and the images are certainly now useable (probably not an A3 print though). So the post processing also needs to be considered.

JackAllTog Avatar
JackAllTog Plus
14 6.4k 58 United Kingdom
23 Nov 2019 11:19PM
High ISO is great and i'll go high when needed, i'm less impressed with the Noise reduction i get with Lightroom 5 as it just leaves some pics looking squishy. What this ISO also shows is how good AF needs to be in darker conditions. this is why i love the -6ev offerings of some lens body combinations - it will be even better when i can afford to buy them.
JJGEE Avatar
JJGEE 18 8.1k 18 England
24 Nov 2019 3:17PM
I have a mental blockage with using high'ish ISO but it is something I have tried now and again but as has been mentioned cameras & software have improved in recent in recent years so maybe something for my New Year's resolution 2020.... use higher ISO ?
LenShepherd Avatar
LenShepherd 15 4.7k United Kingdom
24 Nov 2019 7:56PM
This question is next exactly straightforward - as the higher the ISO the lower the dynamic range.

While if I had to I would shoot wildlife at 6400 - but not for gannets in flight with a mix of bright white and black feathers. For gannets I prefer to keep to 2000 ISO or lower.
Chris_L Avatar
Chris_L 9 5.5k United Kingdom
24 Nov 2019 9:25PM
The numbers are meaningless as sensor pixel density and sensor design means that what would be a noisy level on one camera will be clean on another. You can see in the dark using a 12mp full frame camera like this - these are now fairly cheap if you fancy ultra-high 102400 ISO sensitivity.

On some brands you can set AutoISO even in Manual mode - that means picking the shutter speed and aperture that really suit your subject and letting your camera increase ISO if needed. Often you can set upper and lower limits.

Software is constantly evolving, I revisit old raw images with newer software and often the revised noise reduction algorithms breathe new life into old pictures.

I wonder how many of you know that recent versions of Ps have an amazing shake-reduction feature which calculates a blur trace and tries to reverse the damage of camera shake. Wow, when it works, it is amazing.
Dave_Canon Avatar
Dave_Canon 17 2.2k United Kingdom
24 Nov 2019 10:37PM
I have used the shake reduction on PS and it is impressive. A few years ago I took a photo of a motor cycle crash at a hill climb; the rider was not hurt. I was just packing up my kit when this happened so had to take a grab shot but found the movement ruined the final image. I tried methods available then which improved it but not enough. More recently I ran it through PS again and was amazed at the result.

On the other issue mentioned, yes the DR will be lower at higher ISO. For this reason I almost always capture bracketed exposures, when feasible, for high ISO (e.g. Churches, night street scenes) though this will not help for sport or birds in flight.

ARI Avatar
ARI 20 602 1 United Kingdom
27 Nov 2019 3:17PM
I too have a mental black on using high ISO, from film. Have routinely used Av mode set on f8, 600mm plus 1.4 extender with full frame or 1.6 crop for wildlife pics and find taht on occassion that shutter speed has been at 1/60. The camera and lens resting on a bean bag, betting accecptable pis. ISO rarely was more than 800. Using higher ISO had not even crossed my mind until recently. Here is another link of high ISO, this time 20000, used on safari.
peterjones Avatar
peterjones 21 5.2k 1 United Kingdom
29 Nov 2019 11:05AM
I have no mental block on using any process including extraordinary ISO ... I get the picture .... I may analyse, regret or celebrate later or not dependant on my image quality.
altitude50 Avatar
altitude50 19 23.9k United Kingdom
29 Nov 2019 3:02PM
After being a very active film photographer I very rarely think about the ISO on my digital cameras. I know that it can be changed, I know that it should be changed........... Unless I am some place very dark, then I might ramp it up to 800.
I think that I am more concentrated on focusing and framing than anything else. If I am in a dark church for example without a tripod (normal!) I am more likely to be looking for a solid perch or wall for the camera.
I also tend to forget to change any high ISO back to my usual 200 or 100. (Note:- But I am old..................)

On my infrared cameras I do not think that I have ever changed from 100, but then I am most active outside in sunny weather and I know the effect that I want!
Dave_Canon Avatar
Dave_Canon 17 2.2k United Kingdom
29 Nov 2019 4:54PM
Many are regularly using Auto ISO now which leaves the camera to decide depending on the EV and other settings. I have not yet used this but do not rule it out. Normally, in tricky exposure situations, I prefer to use manual and remain in control. Looking at my most recent cathedral shots indoors they were all taken using ISO 1600 at f8 so the shutter speeds were down to 1/10 Sec. However, I was using a tripod so could have gone lower in speed. In all cases I took 3 exposures 2 stops apart. The 1600 ISO would have cost me a couple of stops of DR but the multiple exposures more than makes up. I calculated that the overall scene DR was greater than 14 stops so multiple exposures would still have been necessary even at 100 ISO. Noise does not appear to be noticeable.

I notice I have taken a few shots at 6400 ISO which in all cases the shots were taken indoors in poor light and no tripod or artificial lighting allowed. The all need some noise reduction but nothing that Topaz could not handle.

For my infrared camera, I do tend to keep the ISO down because it is much older and thus lower DR. I checked that 90% of shots were at 100 ISO but with a few going up to 400 ISO. I also take most IR shots in outside sunny weather.



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