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Thread: ISO question

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    JPS's Avatar
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    ISO question

    Hi all,
    Just a simple question from me about ISO.
    I have always been taught to keep my ISO setting as low as possible; but up it when needed, to achieve the picture I'm trying to capture.
    Can anyone tell me in what situation you would use a ISO setting of 25,600; which is possible if you extend the range on a Canon 5D Mkll?

    Is the noise acceptable on camera's capable of this high level of ISO?

    Surely using noise reduction software is not necessary every time these high levels of ISO are used; that's if there is any actual reason to use such a setting and they are not just a marketing gimmick.

    I understand the use of ISO and have read the tutorials here on CiC, but would grateful if you could help with the above questions.

    Basic question, but I would like know what the more experienced members have to say on this subject.

    Many thanks
    John

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    Re: ISO question

    Hi John,

    Basically, ISO gives you options.

    For any photo, we only have 3 things that we can change to balance the exposure; Aperture, shutterspeed, and ISO, and all three "have consequences".

    Aperture has an effect on depth of field - so using too wide an aperture may result in an unsatisfactory image due to insufficient DoF.

    Shutterspeed has an effect on motion - so using too low a shutterspeed may result in an unsatisfactory image due to camera shake or subject motion

    ISO has an effect on noise - so too high an ISO may result in an unsatisfactory image due to noise.

    Generally, noise has by far the lowest impact on the quality of an image compared to motion blur or insufficient DoF.

    So there's really no "right or wrong" answer to your question -- it's just another tool to be used or abused as the photographer sees fit. As a rule of thumb we would normally use the lowest ISO once we had the ideal minimum values for aperture and shutterspeed, but after that, it's a case of "up the ISO" or miss the shot. In some cases the photographer may choose to miss the shot because they know that it's not going to be worth it, but in other cases it may be VERY worth it - eg if I needed to use ISO 25,600 to take a hand-held photo of a criminal breaking into my car in the middle of the night then I'd use it without hesitation if that's my best option. If it were a night landscape I'd probably use ISO 100 and stick the camera on a tripod and wait 45 minutes for the exposure to complete.

    So yes - ISO 25,600 is very "usable" for some situations.

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    Re: ISO question

    In addition to Colin's excellent answer, one other point to ponder. Your camera's dynamic range, tonal range and colour sensitivity are all highest at the base ISO and drop off as you increase ISO.

    Take a look at the data the DxOMark publishes on your camera to gain a bit more insight into sensor performance.

    http://www.dxomark.com/index.php/Cam...EOS-5D-Mark-II

    Your role as the photographer is to make the right choice, based on all of the variables to get the best image. I tend to shoot as low as ISO as I can get away with; but that means I still want the image to be sharp, so that means I often have to shoot faster than the base ISO.

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    Re: ISO question

    Here's a quick idea of how I work with ISO...

    First, being an old film guy, I have not gotten used to using auto ISO. Although auto ISO is a very viable technique; I tend to prefer to select my ISO.

    Obviously, since I shoot with a 1.6x Canon 7D, I don't have the capability of shooting at ISO 25,600. However this image was shot at ISO 12,800. Since the 5D Mk-ii is reported to have better high ISO capability than my 7D, I would suspect that shooting with ISO 25,600 on the 5D Mk-ii would produce as good or better results.

    ISO question

    I can live with the quality of the above image if I needed to...

    I used NIK Software Dnoise filter to reduce the noise on this image and worked on it with Viveza. I also finally sharpened it a bit using the NIK output sharpener at a setting reduced from the default. I reduced the image to 12 inches wide at 240 pixels per inch and saved it as a JPEG. I then uploaded the image to smugmug and linked to it...

    As an old film guy who thought that ASA (now ISO) 400 was a super fast film, ISO capabilities in the multi-thousands totally blow my mind.

    I will shoot with as low ISO as I can get away with and primarily will use ISO 160 outdoors in bright conditions and ISO 320 outside in less bright conditions or when I want a faster shutter speed such as in shooting sports.

    I will also add light (such as bounced flash) to my shot whenever possible and when it is appropriate.

    However, I don't have any fears of raising my ISO drastically when needed. I would rather have a sharp image with some noise than a noiseless fuzzy image because the shutter speed was too low or because I couldn't achieve sufficient DOF when shooting wide open.

    At the risk of pirating this thread, Canon cameras require going into the menu and activating high ISO capability to achieve 12,800 ISO. Otherwise, ISO 6,400 is the highest I can go.

    I have never understood the rationale behind this extra step in achieving the highest ISO. I have a suspicion this is to keep people from unwittingly selecting the highest ISO and I wonder if there are any problems in keeping the high ISO capability active at all times and then just selecting it when I want it.

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    Re: ISO question

    Quote Originally Posted by GrumpyDiver View Post
    Your role as the photographer is to make the right choice, based on all of the variables to get the best image.
    Or put another way, "sometimes we don't have any other choice".

    This image is a good example ... Aperture is F1.2 (can't go any wider!) - shutterspeed is 1/20th (really don't want to go any lower for an aeroplane doing 100 MPH reasonably close to me) - you you can bet your last dollar that I'm going to be using a high ISO - what other choice to I have? (in this case the ISO was 3200 - the highest that camera was capable of) (I'f I'd had my 1D X at the time I would have used a higher ISO).

    ISO question

    Whereas with this image, I was able to "only" use ISO 800

    ISO question

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    Re: ISO question

    Colin / Manfred,
    Many thanks for your reply's.
    I think I will continue to live without such a high ISO range & hope my car is not being broken into during the night and then regret this decision.

    Seriously, I really appreciate your feedback.
    Cheers
    John

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    Re: ISO question

    Colin,
    The shot of the plane really brings the possible need for such high ISO setting home to me.
    Even though you used 3200 and said if you had your other camera with you, you would have gone even higher, I would guess you wouldn't have pushed it as high as 25,600. But as you say it's always worth trying.
    Thanks for the example shots, very helpful.

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    Re: ISO question

    Richard,
    Many thanks for your reply.
    Again your explanation makes perfect sense to me and shows 'we'; Photographers should not be afraid to up the ISO to whatever is needed to capture the best shot possible.
    I just thought a setting such as 25,600 would be totally unacceptable to produce any picture worth keeping. Now I understand it depends on the circumstances and what I am happy to accept as the Photographer.
    Thank you for taking the time to reply.
    John

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    Re: ISO question

    Quote Originally Posted by JPS View Post
    I would like know what the more experienced members have to say on this subject.

    It is often thought, implied and sometimes even stated, (though not here at CiC), that the need for higher ISO, comes with "low light shooting": and then we immediately think of “night time” or “inside a dark room” or “inside a Church” etc.

    So I want to underscore the point of the value of High ISO to allow attaining the necessary shutter speed.

    I often shoot at ISO1600, in daytime, outside – and sometimes even at ISO3200 in the same conditions: consider Filed Hockey, in the afternoon on a cloudy day the light is at about EV = 11.
    - The fastest (longer) telephoto lenses are F/2.8
    - I need 1/1600s to freeze action at “State Level” competition.
    - Using F/4: I will be at 1/1600s

    Here's the kicker - If I am framing tight and in Landscape Orientation (i.e. just fitting in the frame a player standing) the DoF at F/4 is less than 4ft (about 1 meter) (for a 135 Format Camera).

    If I rotate the lens to Portrait Orientation and frame the shot just to fit in a player standing - I have about ONLY 1'6" DoF, (less than ˝ meter).

    So realistically, for most tight framing of sports shots (using a 135 Format Camera) F/4 is about the limit of Aperture we can use safely.


    If there are pockets of darker light, for example caused by the Grandstands, I sometimes need two more stops and then be at F/2.8 @ ISO3200.


    The same examples apply for any "winter" outdoor Field Sport.


    ***

    Quote Originally Posted by JPS View Post
    Can anyone tell me in what situation you would use a ISO setting of 25,600; which is possible if you extend the range on a Canon 5D Mkll?
    Another fact worth mentioning is:

    It is now relatively cheaper to buy a digital camera with high ISO performance than a telephoto lens as fast as F/2.8

    This fact then brings within the reach of many enthusiasts the capability to for example, shoot their kids playing winter sports or sports under lights at night time, with prosumer telephoto or telephoto zoom lenses; many having a maximum aperture of F/5.6.


    As another example, for the ‘super enthusiast’:

    A night-time soccer game could be managed without taking out a personal loan to buy the EF 400 F/2.8L MkII – by the Photographer using the EF 400/5.6L and the EOS5DMkII . . . using the fantastic IQ and response of that excellent lens and the good quality high end ISO capacity of the 5DMkII.

    WW

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    Re: ISO question

    Thanks Bill,
    A very informative post and answers my question perfectly.
    Kind regards
    John

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    Re: ISO question

    Quote Originally Posted by William W View Post
    It is often thought, implied and sometimes even stated, (though not here at CiC), that the need for higher ISO, comes with "low light shooting": and then we immediately think of “night time” or “inside a dark room” or “inside a Church” etc.

    So I want to underscore the point of the value of High ISO to allow attaining the necessary shutter speed.

    I often shoot at ISO1600, in daytime, outside – and sometimes even at ISO3200 in the same conditions: consider Filed Hockey, in the afternoon on a cloudy day the light is at about EV = 11.
    - The fastest (longer) telephoto lenses are F/2.8
    - I need 1/1600s to freeze action at “State Level” competition.
    - Using F/4: I will be at 1/1600s

    Here's the kicker - If I am framing tight and in Landscape Orientation (i.e. just fitting in the frame a player standing) the DoF at F/4 is less than 4ft (about 1 meter) (for a 135 Format Camera).

    If I rotate the lens to Portrait Orientation and frame the shot just to fit in a player standing - I have about ONLY 1'6" DoF, (less than ˝ meter).

    So realistically, for most tight framing of sports shots (using a 135 Format Camera) F/4 is about the limit of Aperture we can use safely.


    If there are pockets of darker light, for example caused by the Grandstands, I sometimes need two more stops and then be at F/2.8 @ ISO3200.


    The same examples apply for any "winter" outdoor Field Sport.


    ***



    Another fact worth mentioning is:

    It is now relatively cheaper to buy a digital camera with high ISO performance than a telephoto lens as fast as F/2.8

    This fact then brings within the reach of many enthusiasts the capability to for example, shoot their kids playing winter sports or sports under lights at night time, with prosumer telephoto or telephoto zoom lenses; many having a maximum aperture of F/5.6.


    As another example, for the ‘super enthusiast’:

    A night-time soccer game could be managed without taking out a personal loan to buy the EF 400 F/2.8L MkII – by the Photographer using the EF 400/5.6L and the EOS5DMkII . . . using the fantastic IQ and response of that excellent lens and the good quality high end ISO capacity of the 5DMkII.

    WW
    Attn: Christina. Aside from sports, I believe this will also apply to your BIF/wildlife shots.

    ( also for snapshooters like me who can't afford "f/1.0 - 2.8 lenses" )

    Thanks

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    Re: ISO question

    Quote Originally Posted by nimitzbenedicto View Post
    Attn: Christina. Aside from sports, I believe this will also apply to your BIF/wildlife shots.

    ( also for snapshooters like me who can't afford "f/1.0 - 2.8 lenses" )

    Thanks
    yes indeed - 'Birds in Flight' are just playing soccer in the air. . . same if one is a racing car or bike enthusiast - or likes show jumping . . . etc.

    WW

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    Re: ISO question

    Quote Originally Posted by JPS View Post
    Even though you used 3200 and said if you had your other camera with you, you would have gone even higher, I would guess you wouldn't have pushed it as high as 25,600.
    25,600 is only 3 stops higher than 3200 -- on a camera that's 5 years later technology - so you betcha I would have used it! (the camera will go all the way up to ISO 204,800).

    Keep in mind that ISO noise is still very small noise - overall the image still looks just fine at normal magnifications when the noise gets sampled out (or other noise reduction can be applied). The biggest issue is the fact that as the ISO increases, the dynamic range that the sensor can handle is decreased -- which presents it's own set of problems to deal with.

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    Re: ISO question

    Quote Originally Posted by William W View Post
    'Birds in Flight' are just playing soccer in the air. . . same if one is a racing car or bike enthusiast - or likes show jumping . . . etc.

    WW
    So does that mean I ought to up my ISO when I am taking my "speedshots" at motor racing.
    I have always had it set at 200, panning hand held, and speed at around 80-125.

    If I up the ISO, might I get more usable shots.

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    Re: ISO question

    Colin, in that superb shot of the plane, I am struggling to see how the plane can be so sharp at such a slow speed. I am assuming that is a function of the high ISO.

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    Re: ISO question

    Interesting that Canon have continued to push ISO higher, but have they done anything about giving a lower ISO than 100? I think that I want an ISO of 50 or 25 more often than I want a higher ISO.

    I realise that a ND filter will do the same job, but there is a limit to the amount of gear i want to carry around.

    Val

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    Re: ISO question

    Quote Originally Posted by rawill View Post
    So does that mean I ought to up my ISO when I am taking my "speedshots" at motor racing.
    I have always had it set at 200, panning hand held, and speed at around 80-125.

    If I up the ISO, might I get more usable shots.
    No.

    Provided that:

    - you are happy with the panning camera blur that those shutter seeds provide
    - there is enough DoF with the apertures that you are using

    then you will not get better "panning shots" as a matter of course, just by you increasing the ISO.


    The main function of the shutter speed in a panning shots is NOT to arrest Subject Motion within the scope of a static scene.

    Please re-read through the whole of my post #9: (which predicted the second comment in my post #12 which you quoted).

    The sentence in bold in post #9 explains the specific subject matter upon which I was commenting viz:

    "So I want to underscore the point of the value of High ISO to allow attaining the necessary shutter speed." . . . and then

    "- I need 1/1600s to freeze action at “State Level” competition."

    So what I was mentioning was the freezing of action to a static moment - like freezing the ball in mid air just before it smashes the Goal Keeper - eg:

    ISO question


    ***

    When one is making a panning shot: the necessary shutter speed which is to be attained will be at a much slower shutter speed than that which would be required to arrest Subject Motion in a static scene.

    The selection of the shutter speed in a panning shot's main predicate is: for the Shutter Speed to be SLOW enough - such as to allow the necessary CAMERA MOVEMENT BLUR.

    However, you may find that, for example, if you run out of Aperture in late afternoon light, you will need to bump the ISO maybe one two or even three stops to keep the Shutter Speed at the 1/80s to 1/125s Shutter Speed that you require for the panning shot you want.

    On the other hand if you want to make a shot of a car banked on only two wheels, in failing light and light rain travelling through a through a chicane and you want it as crisp as possible, then you might consider that a panning shot might not be the best option - in this case a very high ISO might be very useful, for all the reasons I have outlined, above.

    WW

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    Re: ISO question

    Quote Originally Posted by Val Mansfield View Post
    Interesting that Canon have continued to push ISO higher, but have they done anything about giving a lower ISO than 100? I think that I want an ISO of 50 or 25 more often than I want a higher ISO.

    I realise that a ND filter will do the same job, but there is a limit to the amount of gear i want to carry around.

    Val
    Hi Val,

    Canon do an ISO 50 mode by "skull duggery", but going even lower makes life hard because at that stage you have to mess with desensitising the sensor itself, and that's an area no manufacturer wants to tread into.

    Think of buckets. ISO 200 is like saying "work out what the level of water in a variety of buckets would be if 1/2 full represents the maximum" whereas ISO 25 would be like saying "work out what was in the bucket if some of them have been filled to overflowing 4 times over".

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    Re: ISO question

    Quote Originally Posted by rawill View Post
    Colin, in that superb shot of the plane, I am struggling to see how the plane can be so sharp at such a slow speed. I am assuming that is a function of the high ISO.
    Hi Robin,

    The camera was on a tripod, but I was panning it whilst firing a continual burst ... this is the 3rd shot in the burst (the movement in the runway lights gives it away)

    In reality the plane is pretty noisy at 100% magnification, but as I keep saying to people, "who cares" -- only photographers look at images at 100%

    If you REALLY want to get tricky, figure out how I did this one (be sure to view full size)

    ISO question

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    Re: ISO question

    Quote Originally Posted by rawill View Post
    So does that mean I ought to up my ISO when I am taking my "speedshots" at motor racing.
    I have always had it set at 200, panning hand held, and speed at around 80-125.

    If I up the ISO, might I get more usable shots.
    It can depend on if you are photographing the cars coming at you or close past you or it you are panning with the car and possibily the key point how sensitive are you or your viewers to noise along with how big an image you are showing. I once so far took a series of shots at 6400 and my reaction was up to 50% on the monitor was acceptable above that no thankyou

    I would expect as well if you are shooting Formula One you have less tolerance than Le Mans where there are less 'fiddly bits' on the cars. Colin's plane demonstrates that, when the object is coming towards you or going away the displacement in frame during the exposure is less than if the object is crossing the frame. Not only is the plane largely a single mass but it is going away.

    I would suggest you follow this up and the guy's comments about how he does it Air Show Photography

    Awhile back I posted a number of sports shots where of neccessity the shutter speed was slow ... shooting with a bridge camera I only used 100 ISO. The point was I restricted myself to action where a fast shutter speed was not required and anticipated when it would occur. It was just a couple of exercises to see what I could do since I am not interested in any sport. For fun with this one I finished the job in editing.
    ISO question
    Last edited by jcuknz; 27th August 2013 at 05:53 AM.

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