Higher ISO or underexpose then corrected in PP?

Started Mar 24, 2012 | Discussions thread
nkarasev Senior Member • Posts: 1,499
Re: Higher ISO or underexpose then corrected in PP?

I had same questions and did lots of testing "in the fields" with my D300 and D700 I borrowed. I had some questions posted here and had plenty of (sometimes conflicting) opinions form folks.

The finding is basically two things:

  • it depends on camera and software you use for PP. In my case I used CS5 (which basically means any software that uses ACR)

  • in some cases I preferred underexposure in others higher ISO

What this means for you is only you can experiment and find out what is the best setting for you (your preferences, you equipment, your software)

In case of underexposure you have your computer software do the lifting. In case of ISO setting it is built-in-camera software, but essentially this is software either way, just different in each case. The sensor gets the same amount of light and virtually you have identical RAW data in either case. No one knows for sure whether Nikon's (or Sony's) sensors actually have any ability to amplify the signal via electrical means. Most likely sensors are not doing that.

For myself it was like this - using underexposure with lifting the exposure in post, I get more saturated images, same grain size which means about same noise level.

With proper exposure (high ISO setting) I get more neutral look, same grain and same noise. The differences are small, but notable.

Overall I would prefer to get ISO dialed to proper setting rather than underexpose because I have more control over the color saturation level in post in this case (I couldn't really get the saturation down to where I liked it when I try to use underexposure and the lifting in post)


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