The very high ISO blindness

Started May 29, 2012 | Discussions thread
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Nordstjernen
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The very high ISO blindness
May 29, 2012

A lot of discussions on this forum is about high ISO noise, as if the differences found really should matter. But for real world photography it doesn’t, and here are nine reasons why:

1: Most people don’t use very high ISO settings.

2: When comparing cameras in the same league, differences are hardly visible. The size of the sensor is much more important than the number of pixels. This is the reason that an equally sized 16 and 24 Mp sensor performs pretty much the same at very high ISO settings. But the 16 Mp sensor can never reach the resolution of the higher Mp sensor at lower ISO settings.

3: Files has to be optimized. For those who care about image quality, who don’t process their files? For raw this means post processing, and for jpg files choosing proper camera settings. Then the photographer can decide if fine detail is more important than smoothed out noise. As a final step images have to be scaled to fit the need and use. Skills win over high ISO performance.

4: A difference of 0.5 stop in noise performance is considered to be serious. But for real world photography this is hardly visible. Make some large format prints, or post some images on the web, and then ask people to pick the less noisy images. Most will be guessing. Make a full stop difference, and most will still be guessing – many even if you are posting 100% crops. But hey, who is showing their images like this?

5: When looking at tests on the web, I am surprised how different the images are: Differences in brightness, tonal curve, contrast, color, image scale etc. Many examples even show differences in exposure! On top of this, many test sites are using default raw converter settings, as if this should be something neutral or true. How could one compare from such bad samples?

6: Digital noise is only a problem when there is not enough light for a decent exposure, like photographing action under less than ideal light conditions. For most photographers a very good bright lens would be much more helpful than a new camera with slightly better noise performance.

7: For sure, 0.5 or one full stop worse noise will never be the difference between a success and a complete failure!

8: Camera features like ergonomics and helpful tools for assisting the user is much more important for the end result than hardly visible differences in noise performance. So are lenses. And photographic skills.

9: Great photography is about content.

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