ISO 800+ -- high noise

Started 2 months ago | Discussions thread
petrochemist Senior Member • Posts: 2,185
Re: ISO 800+ -- high noise

Bigger sensors will give less noise than small ones of an equivalent generation, but there's a lot more to noise than just this. A modern camera phone with a tiny sensor will be less prone to noise than a 10 year old APSC camera. Technology has improved a lot!

In addition underexposing a shot will increase the noise at any ISO. For the best possible noise result you want the brightest part of the photo to be just under the maximum brightness the sensor can record (sometimes even pushing small irrelevant areas over into the region where their brightness is clipped. Maximising the signal like this will reduce the effect of random 'shot noise', but unfortunately can have severe side effects, the DOF can be inadequate if you end up having too wide an aperture, and subject/camera movement can cause bluring if the shutter speed is too long. In low light conditions it's often necessary to try alternative settings to find just how far these parameters can be pushed while still giving the result you want. I often find putting up with more noise than I'd like is better than pushing the other parameters as far as they'd need to go for a clean shot.

On Saturday night the event I was at ended up with some 'fire dancing'. Shooting wide open at ISO 3200 & deliberately underexposing by ~ 2 stops still sometimes gave me speeds as slow as 1/4s. But the lighting was very variable & at least some of them are perfectly usable. If this had been the only part of the event I'd have taken a different camera, but for the bulk of the day fast burst rates & AF was more important than low light performance.

Here's one of the better lit examples (only 1/500s needed)


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