Ah, a few thoughts about ISO-less

Started Jul 10, 2013 | Discussions thread
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Tan68 Veteran Member • Posts: 5,773
Ah, a few thoughts about ISO-less

In a recent thread asking for an explanation of the Exposure Triangle, the concept of ISO-less cameras and shooting appropriate for use of these cameras was introduced.

This is a link to the sub-thread here

There was a final note I wanted to add. The discussion was spirited and moved to 150 quickly! I generally think 'Part II' threads are amusing... I feel a bit strongly about this, though.

I want to add this note for any people learning about cameras. The ISO-less school of thought is not based on a basic concept. It is about as easy to understand as Expose To The Right. Probably less easy. Many people will live useful and productive photographic lives without understanding 'ISO-less'. This is a beginners' forum and ISO-less stuff is not for beginners.

This concept of ISO-less really only makes sense to people that already understand how a camera works. Without a good understanding of exposure (triangle or not), it can be confusing.

Going forward, I am setting aside the fact that 'partially ISO-ful' cameras exist. There are 'mostly ISO-less' cameras as well. While there really are some benefits to raising ISO to some degree for some cameras, I will say, for ease of argument, ISO-less cameras exist and are plentiful and raising ISO from the base level is never of any benefit.

Increasing ISO does not increase noise but that is the relationship most people see and there is nothing wrong with that relationship for the majority of people.

They see a relationship between increased ISO and increased noise because they, generally, use high ISO in dark shooting conditions. It is much easier for them to remember to use ISO 1600 in a dark room than to perform some of the tasks required by the ISO-less school of thought.

If I am an ISO-less shooter, I go into a dim room armed with ISO 100 and the f/3.5 max aperture of my consumer zoom. I am smart enough to ignore the metered recommendation of 1/2 second. I set a shutter that lets me get my shot and raise brightness later when I get home. Because I have a fairly good idea of the shutter I need and what to do with the dark image I captured, I end up with an okay picture of grandma holding baby Roscoe. I didn't use a flash because I want natural shadows.

If I am an average shooter, I will probably be using an auto mode. I remember I better use ISO 1600 for pictures indoors without a flash. A rule of thumb that generally works. Simple. I am done. Where's Roscoe?

If I am an average shooter trying out the ISO-less method, I will leave my camera at ISO 100. I will need to recognize my shutter is too slow for a handheld shot. I better switch out of Program and go for Manual. If I want to stay in an auto mode, I better choose Av Priority and use -EC until a useable shutter is reached... How intuitive is that ? When I am done, I better know how to PP that image so we can see grandma's smile.

There have been some arguments that the ISO-less method is simpler in that it frees the photographer from worrying with ISO at the time of capture. ISO isn't really a worry of mine and I don't think it is for most people that understand how their camera works. Considering the scenario in the above paragraph, I think the average shooter will end up with more than ISO to worry about...

Really, the average shooter isn't too far off from the implementation ISO-less train of thought. Not if ISO adjustment on this ISO-less camera is considered a form of meter bias..!

If this ISO-less camera meters always and forever at ISO 100, I get 1/2" at f/3.5 in that room with Roscoe. The experienced shooter knows what to do about that. The average shooter just dials in ISO 1600. They get the same 1/30" shutter I would have used. Both I, the advanced ISO-less shooter and the average shooter end up with the same exposure parameters...

Sure the average shooter sees more noise when they use high ISO and they associate that noise with high ISO. So what is the harm. They don't need to know using ISO 1600 basically told the camera to under expose 4 stops. They don't need to know that shortening shutter duration from 1/2" to 1/30" decreased captured light and that is the noise culprit.

If they continue to remember 'ISO causes noise' and 'use high ISO when lighting conditions are dim', they will reduce ISO when light gets better and the meter will no longer be biased to underexpose 4 stops for that 1/30" shutter for indoors baby pics. They will go outside to take pictures of Roscoe playing with the puppy. They will remember 'ISO 400 for action' and will get a little bump in shutter to catch Spot jumping.

Whether ISO-less camera 'needs' an ISO adjustment or not, I propose it is a lot easier for a beginner to remember 'ISO 1600 for indoors' or 'ISO 400 for action' than to learn the ISO-less shooting method and even easier than having to learn about traditional EC. Why should they have to do that for some baby pictures?

For an ISO-less camera, ISO 1600 is a form of EC that is easier the average photographer to learn and remember. ISO 1600 is certainly more commonly discussed than -4 EC.

Of course this presumes the average shooter isn't just fine and happy with scene modes and auto-ISO. When they are ready, if they ever care to be, they can learn more.

The ISO-less concept school of thought has its place. For an experienced user, its message is nothing new: maximize captured light within the constraints of the scene at hand and then fiddle with ISO or gain. For an average shooter, the introduction of this method is not appropriate.

This ISO-less school of thought is an advanced concept and proper implementation requires, at least, an understand of Exposure Compensation and PP image manipulation.

To introduce the concept to people who are learning and then take the higher road when they don't understand and tell them 'they seem to be getting it but aren't quite ready yet' is just not appreciated by some. It can be pretty discouraging to others. A few may even see this behavior as self-gratifying. A few of the 'here is how a camera works: ISO-less' threads I have seen have devolved to this type of 'encouragement'.

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