The High ISO Obsession

Started Aug 18, 2011 | Discussions
PDidd117w3n7y Regular Member • Posts: 432
Re: The High ISO Obsession

So High ISO is realllllllllllllly reallllllllllly important, but not that important huh?! figured as much most people who are "obsessed" like the OP says are very vocal but not willing to put their money where their mouth is to get the result they are looking for!
--
Patrick D.

Nicolas Isaksson
Nicolas Isaksson Contributing Member • Posts: 884
Re: The High ISO Obsession

Well not all casual amateur photographers like to shot in daylight. For example, I have an E-600 and while in a job trip I went out walking by night to take some photos of Cartagena (a beautiful city in Colombia) without a tripod and the kit lense.

There were some photos that I could take only using ISO 2000 or 3200. The truth is that the photos are not really pleasing to see and therefore could not keep an image of something I thought worth keeping . Had I had a Nikon or Canon at my disposal maybe the story would be different.

Don't get me wrong, I really like my camera, but am just pointing out that high-iso performance is something that is very useful.

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veroman Veteran Member • Posts: 4,862
There's nothing obsessive about it

I don't think there's any obsession at all.

What's happened is that Canon (more so than any other maker) opened the door to a style/type of shooting that was previously unavailable to most photographers. Not even ISO 800 film w/o flash can match what's now available in digital at ISO 1600-3200. In 2003, I was able to shoot at ISO 1600 with a Canon 10D. I was never able to do with before with any camera I ever owned.

This major step forward opened yet another door ... the door to a new kind of subject matter that so many photographers had never even tried. Low light photography on such a wide scale, with no tripod and no flash, is one of the best things that ever happened to photography and for photographers.

For me, I can't tell you how reassuring and satisfying it is to know I can shoot indoors at ISO 3200 (Canon 5D) and ISO 5000 (Canon 5D II) and not have to worry about the result. High ISO capability gets the shots I would have otherwise missed. There's nothing obsessive about it. It's a major, important criteria in camera selection for a great many photographers.

The E-5, as good a camera as it is, falls short of the competition when it comes to delivering quality high ISO shots. What a shame, for it's otherwise an amazing camera in so many ways.

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goblin
goblin Veteran Member • Posts: 3,528
Re: The High ISO Obsession

PDidd117w3n7y wrote:

So High ISO is realllllllllllllly reallllllllllly important, but not that important huh?! figured as much most people who are "obsessed" like the OP says are very vocal but not willing to put their money where their mouth is to get the result they are looking for!
--
Patrick D.

That's a defensive reaction if I've seen one

I personally put my money way further than my mouth, getting an E-5 instead of a way, way less expensive camera with way, way better high iso performance.

People would not be obsessed as long as the DIFFERENCE between the best and the worst stays stable.

If the worst stands still while the best are jumping ahead by leaps and bounds, you can expect a few reactions. Especially if the price of said gear is higher than anything from the competition in this range.

Don't want to start an iso war, but you might wanna restrain from pointing condescendent fingers if you didn't do your homework. Our gear is by no means inexpensive. Far from that. And reminding Olympus about it is not bashing, just good advice.

As mentioned above, some brands opened the path to a completely new type of photography, just by keeping things in motion. And it happened in an year or two.

FYI, my other camera used to be a EOS 1Ds Mk3, and I have NEVER been impressed by its high iso results. Other than the fact that they were very, very easy to improve in PP, they were not impressive at all.

That's a 3-4 year model, which makes me think that the big improvements came after that. Let's say the last two years. It's called progress.

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John Iversen
John Iversen Contributing Member • Posts: 817
Re: The High ISO Obsession

This whole thing reminds me irresistibly of the dim dark days of pushing the living bejeezus out of Tri-X and then dunking it in a slow bath of D76. Some things never change, no matter the hype.

Salskov

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d3xmeister Veteran Member • Posts: 3,380
Re: The High ISO Obsession

It's all about needs. But unfortunately very very very few people shop based on needs. High ISO is important if you needed, and I doubt everybody needs it. But for sure everybody wants it. My personal opinion is that 90% of them will produce the same crappy photos.

From 2006 to 2011 I never needed ISO higher than 800. That's right, never needed, believe it or not. From summer 2011 I need high ISO (my kid started to move a lot indoors). Sure I have fast and very fast lenses. If you shoot with the kit lens you may need ISO 50200.

There is the flash. I laugh when I see those flash haters saying that flash is bad. Flash is great and if you know bouncing techniques I love the results. But I take a lot of photos and I don't want to shoot the flash tens times a day in my kid's eyes.

I've ,,upgraded,, my indoor lights but it still wasn't enough. Also I wanted better video (resolution & low light). So I added a Nikon D5100 and a fast lens to my photo gear. Problem solved.

I don't like Nikons for my nature shots, and now I have the best of both worlds. Sure, it would have been nice if Olympus could keep up with the big boys.

goblin
goblin Veteran Member • Posts: 3,528
Re: The High ISO Obsession

d3xmeister wrote:

...If you shoot with the kit lens you may need ISO 50200.

This I believe sums it all (and opens a whole new can of worms :D)

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Rriley
Rriley Forum Pro • Posts: 21,846
Re: There's nothing obsessive about it

veroman wrote:

I don't think there's any obsession at all.

What's happened is that Canon (more so than any other maker) opened the door to a style/type of shooting that was previously unavailable to most photographers. Not even ISO 800 film w/o flash can match what's now available in digital at ISO 1600-3200. In 2003, I was able to shoot at ISO 1600 with a Canon 10D. I was never able to do with before with any camera I ever owned.

This major step forward opened yet another door ... the door to a new kind of subject matter that so many photographers had never even tried. Low light photography on such a wide scale, with no tripod and no flash, is one of the best things that ever happened to photography and for photographers.

For me, I can't tell you how reassuring and satisfying it is to know I can shoot indoors at ISO 3200 (Canon 5D) and ISO 5000 (Canon 5D II) and not have to worry about the result. High ISO capability gets the shots I would have otherwise missed. There's nothing obsessive about it. It's a major, important criteria in camera selection for a great many photographers.

The E-5, as good a camera as it is, falls short of the competition when it comes to delivering quality high ISO shots. What a shame, for it's otherwise an amazing camera in so many ways.

just a few points Steve, you must be doing something with your 5D that Im not, Ive never found mine to be very satisfying at all at 3200. But its fair to say E5 isnt a high ISO machine, but then they dont always need to operate like that. These are very different cameras with very different properties and they need to be used accordingly. Im betting you use f/11-f/16 always on a tripod, mix in HDR for the tough ones. (in which case check out Oloneo PhotoEngine)

I get few opportunities to try ambient light that but I have a few to offer. EXIF should be good (they dont look as sharp in here as they might, use the 'Open in new window' option). They are a bit experimental as I usually go through the vastly more painful process of shooting in the day time with on camera flash ;). This was to test a fall back position of shooting at night, if I had too, (all jpegs with probably 2 mins processing tops).

E5, 7mm f/4 1/6th sec, ISO200, handheld no flash

E5, 7mm f/4 1/5th sec, ISO200, handheld no flash

E5, 7mm f/4 1/8th sec, ISO200 handheld no flash

I guess its all a bit weird for you but
twas nice to see your gallery ... cheers

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SteveG
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Riley

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Great Bustard Forum Pro • Posts: 42,854
...is not mutulally exclusive to low ISO IQ

Pixnat2 wrote:

has replaced the Megapixel Obsession.

The Marketing Guys have done a great job, congrats : it seems that the "most important" criteria to evaluate a camera is it's High ISO performance.

The fun part is that 99% of users will likely shoot 99% of the time under 800 ISO.

Funny Consumer World

There are two factors that determine how much noise is in a photo:

  1. The total amount of light that falls on the sensor.

  2. The efficiency of the sensor.

The total amount of light that falls on the sensor is a function of:

  • The scene luminance

  • The aperture diameter of the lens

  • The shutter speed

The sensor efficiency is a function of:

  • The QE (Quantum Efficiency -- the proportion of light that falls on the sensor that gets recorded)

  • The Read Noise (additional noise added by the sensor and supporting hardware)

Of all this, the only factor that would result in high ISO performance coming at the expense of low ISO performance is if the read noise at lower ISOs was made higher in order to get the read noise at higher ISOs lower.

For example, the read noise of the E5 is 15.4 electrons at ISO 200 and 8.3 electrons at ISO 6400. So, unless the sensor could have been designed so that the read noise at the lower ISOs was lower by making the read noise at the higher ISOs higher (and why would anyone design the sensor in this fashion?), then high ISO performance is not at odds with low ISO performance.

Now, there is one other factor. The base ISO of the sensor in the E5 is 200. Why not 100? Or even 50? Yes, I suppose that would have been possible. But it would have resulted in higher read noise across the ISO range. It still would have given a cleaner photo at the lower ISOs, since the greater amount of light falling on the sensor would more than offset the higher read noise, but the higher ISOs would have suffered quite a bit.

Pixnat2
OP Pixnat2 Veteran Member • Posts: 5,666
Thank you Jeff, nicely done!

It shows that if you want High Quality pictures in low light, the best options are :

1. keep ISO as low as possible, no matter which brand you use
2. use a fast high quality lens
3. use a sturdy tripop, or Image Stabilization

Okay, that's nice to have good high iso performance, but it's absolutely not the essential thing to take high quality pictures, as the funny marketing guys are trying to say to customers.

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Pixnat2
OP Pixnat2 Veteran Member • Posts: 5,666
Don't fool yourself Nicolas,

Nicolas Isaksson wrote:

Well not all casual amateur photographers like to shot in daylight. For example, I have an E-600 and while in a job trip I went out walking by night to take some photos of Cartagena (a beautiful city in Colombia) without a tripod and the kit lense.

There were some photos that I could take only using ISO 2000 or 3200. The truth is that the photos are not really pleasing to see and therefore could not keep an image of something I thought worth keeping . Had I had a Nikon or Canon at my disposal maybe the story would be different.

The story would not have been diffrent, unless you had a Full Frame (5D MkII or D700) camera with fast and expensive IS lenses.

If you had a consumer Canon or Nikon with kit or consumer lens, you would have not done better than with your E-600, perhaps only a tad when looking your pictures at 100% on a computer screen.

Don't get me wrong, I really like my camera, but am just pointing out that high-iso performance is something that is very useful.

Of course it is! But is it the most important aspect of a camera system? That's the real question!

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OP Pixnat2 Veteran Member • Posts: 5,666
Re: There's nothing obsessive about it

Hi Steve,

veroman wrote:

I don't think there's any obsession at all.

What's happened is that Canon (more so than any other maker) opened the door to a style/type of shooting that was previously unavailable to most photographers. Not even ISO 800 film w/o flash can match what's now available in digital at ISO 1600-3200. In 2003, I was able to shoot at ISO 1600 with a Canon 10D. I was never able to do with before with any camera I ever owned.

This major step forward opened yet another door ... the door to a new kind of subject matter that so many photographers had never even tried. Low light photography on such a wide scale, with no tripod and no flash, is one of the best things that ever happened to photography and for photographers.

For me, I can't tell you how reassuring and satisfying it is to know I can shoot indoors at ISO 3200 (Canon 5D) and ISO 5000 (Canon 5D II) and not have to worry about the result. High ISO capability gets the shots I would have otherwise missed. There's nothing obsessive about it. It's a major, important criteria in camera selection for a great many photographers.

The E-5, as good a camera as it is, falls short of the competition when it comes to delivering quality high ISO shots. What a shame, for it's otherwise an amazing camera in so many ways.

That's a very sensitive post, and I could only agree more! It's absolutely wonderful to have the possibility to shoot ISO 3200 without worrying about the image quality.

I have the 5D and enjoy it.

I'm not critisizing the fact that cameras have made a lot of progress in that area.

I'm just amazed by how marketing strategies have pushed the masses to belive that : "to get good pictures, you have to buy a camera that have good high ISO performance".

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Pixnat2
OP Pixnat2 Veteran Member • Posts: 5,666
Intersting

Hi Great Bustard,

Great Bustard wrote:

There are two factors that determine how much noise is in a photo:

  1. The total amount of light that falls on the sensor.

  2. The efficiency of the sensor.

The total amount of light that falls on the sensor is a function of:

  • The scene luminance

  • The aperture diameter of the lens

  • The shutter speed

The sensor efficiency is a function of:

  • The QE (Quantum Efficiency -- the proportion of light that falls on the sensor that gets recorded)

  • The Read Noise (additional noise added by the sensor and supporting hardware)

Of all this, the only factor that would result in high ISO performance coming at the expense of low ISO performance is if the read noise at lower ISOs was made higher in order to get the read noise at higher ISOs lower.

For example, the read noise of the E5 is 15.4 electrons at ISO 200 and 8.3 electrons at ISO 6400. So, unless the sensor could have been designed so that the read noise at the lower ISOs was lower by making the read noise at the higher ISOs higher (and why would anyone design the sensor in this fashion?), then high ISO performance is not at odds with low ISO performance.

Now, there is one other factor. The base ISO of the sensor in the E5 is 200. Why not 100? Or even 50? Yes, I suppose that would have been possible. But it would have resulted in higher read noise across the ISO range. It still would have given a cleaner photo at the lower ISOs, since the greater amount of light falling on the sensor would more than offset the higher read noise, but the higher ISOs would have suffered quite a bit.

That's interesting. So maybe that's why some of the recent APS-C cameras that are so praised fore their high ISO capabilities are a bit decieving at low ISO... Maybe?
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Frederic
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Iain Harper
Iain Harper Contributing Member • Posts: 705
High ISO=greater range=greater images

Of course you want to have mega ISO with no noise or banding.

How many times have you been out with your camera shooting all day and on the way home when it gets to dusk and you see a fantastic picture and think "If I could have a clean shot at 3200, I'd take that?".

Not everyone carries a tripod everywhere!

I've just bought a Manfrotto with a liquid head, but it is so well constructed I can only see it being used for a planned shoot at ISO 800 and below. Over that and every Oly I've owned struggles.

If money was no object, I'd have a Nikon D3S (or D4 when it comes out soon) with some serious glass and be shooting night scenes hand held!

Iain.

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Great Bustard Forum Pro • Posts: 42,854
I'm afraid I don't follow.

Pixnat2 wrote:
Hi Great Bustard,

Great Bustard wrote:

There are two factors that determine how much noise is in a photo:

  1. The total amount of light that falls on the sensor.

  2. The efficiency of the sensor.

The total amount of light that falls on the sensor is a function of:

  • The scene luminance

  • The aperture diameter of the lens

  • The shutter speed

The sensor efficiency is a function of:

  • The QE (Quantum Efficiency -- the proportion of light that falls on the sensor that gets recorded)

  • The Read Noise (additional noise added by the sensor and supporting hardware)

Of all this, the only factor that would result in high ISO performance coming at the expense of low ISO performance is if the read noise at lower ISOs was made higher in order to get the read noise at higher ISOs lower.

For example, the read noise of the E5 is 15.4 electrons at ISO 200 and 8.3 electrons at ISO 6400. So, unless the sensor could have been designed so that the read noise at the lower ISOs was lower by making the read noise at the higher ISOs higher (and why would anyone design the sensor in this fashion?), then high ISO performance is not at odds with low ISO performance.

Now, there is one other factor. The base ISO of the sensor in the E5 is 200. Why not 100? Or even 50? Yes, I suppose that would have been possible. But it would have resulted in higher read noise across the ISO range. It still would have given a cleaner photo at the lower ISOs, since the greater amount of light falling on the sensor would more than offset the higher read noise, but the higher ISOs would have suffered quite a bit.

That's interesting. So maybe that's why some of the recent APS-C cameras that are so praised fore their high ISO capabilities are a bit decieving at low ISO... Maybe?

I don't know what you mean. The Nikon D7000 is praised for both it's low and high ISO capabilities, for example.

gkreth Veteran Member • Posts: 3,122
Cool! I'm in the 1%!

Pixnat2 wrote:

The fun part is that 99% of users will likely shoot 99% of the time under 800 ISO.

Cool! I'm in the top 1%! Or is that bottom 1%?

It depends on the subject, of course, but I would guess that, overall, between 70% and 80% of my pics are at ISO 800 or higher.

Eagerly looking forward to clean ISO 12800!

Greg

Pixnat2
OP Pixnat2 Veteran Member • Posts: 5,666
Re: I'm afraid I don't follow.

Great Bustard wrote:

Pixnat2 wrote:
Hi Great Bustard,

Great Bustard wrote:

There are two factors that determine how much noise is in a photo:

  1. The total amount of light that falls on the sensor.

  2. The efficiency of the sensor.

The total amount of light that falls on the sensor is a function of:

  • The scene luminance

  • The aperture diameter of the lens

  • The shutter speed

The sensor efficiency is a function of:

  • The QE (Quantum Efficiency -- the proportion of light that falls on the sensor that gets recorded)

  • The Read Noise (additional noise added by the sensor and supporting hardware)

Of all this, the only factor that would result in high ISO performance coming at the expense of low ISO performance is if the read noise at lower ISOs was made higher in order to get the read noise at higher ISOs lower.

For example, the read noise of the E5 is 15.4 electrons at ISO 200 and 8.3 electrons at ISO 6400. So, unless the sensor could have been designed so that the read noise at the lower ISOs was lower by making the read noise at the higher ISOs higher (and why would anyone design the sensor in this fashion?), then high ISO performance is not at odds with low ISO performance.

Now, there is one other factor. The base ISO of the sensor in the E5 is 200. Why not 100? Or even 50? Yes, I suppose that would have been possible. But it would have resulted in higher read noise across the ISO range. It still would have given a cleaner photo at the lower ISOs, since the greater amount of light falling on the sensor would more than offset the higher read noise, but the higher ISOs would have suffered quite a bit.

That's interesting. So maybe that's why some of the recent APS-C cameras that are so praised fore their high ISO capabilities are a bit decieving at low ISO... Maybe?

I don't know what you mean. The Nikon D7000 is praised for both it's low and high ISO capabilities, for example.

Well, not really unviersally praised. Many photo magazines and reviews pointed that the files at low ISO are flat, and that the tone curve is aligned to the highlights to preserve noise in the shadows. I work with some D7000 RAWs at ISO 800, and while they're good, they are noisier than my 5D files, and not a lot cleaner, but befinitely cleaner, than the E-5 files.

To get this good High Iso perf, the Nikon engineers had to make some compromise on low iso IQ, as you demonstrated.
--
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Frederic
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OP Pixnat2 Veteran Member • Posts: 5,666
Hey, you're in the elite!

Congrats!
--
Cheers,

Frederic
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Pixnat2
OP Pixnat2 Veteran Member • Posts: 5,666
Re: High ISO=greater range=greater images

Hi Iain,

Iain Harper wrote:

If money was no object, I'd have a Nikon D3S (or D4 when it comes out soon) with some serious glass and be shooting night scenes hand held!

Buy a used D700 or 5D instead. You'll have excellent high ISO performance, more portability and you'll save a lot of $$$ to buy fast lenses.

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Great Bustard Forum Pro • Posts: 42,854
Re: I'm afraid I don't follow.

Pixnat2 wrote:

That's interesting. So maybe that's why some of the recent APS-C cameras that are so praised fore their high ISO capabilities are a bit decieving at low ISO... Maybe?

I don't know what you mean. The Nikon D7000 is praised for both it's low and high ISO capabilities, for example.

Well, not really unviersally praised. Many photo magazines and reviews pointed that the files at low ISO are flat, and that the tone curve is aligned to the highlights to preserve noise in the shadows.

Then this is simply a matter of the tone curve applied (and, I'm pretty sure, we're talking about in-camera jpgs on default settings here). But in terms of the capability of the sensor, oh, no sir -- the sensor in the D7000 wipes the floor with the rest.

I work with some D7000 RAWs at ISO 800, and while they're good, they are noisier than my 5D files, and not a lot cleaner, but befinitely cleaner, than the E-5 files.

But, remember, the 5D sensor is 2.3x the area, and overcomes its serious deficit in capability by sheer size.

To get this good High Iso perf, the Nikon engineers had to make some compromise on low iso IQ, as you demonstrated.

Not true at all. In fact, the Sony sensor in the D7000 (and K5) is "ISOless", that is, the read noise is the same at any ISO:

http://www.sensorgen.info/NikonD7000.html

There are many ISOless sensors, by the way. What makes the Sony sensor in the D7000 so spectacular is not that the read noise is falt across the ISO range, but that it's so freakin' low (and the QE is so high).

Compare and contrast with the ISOless D2H:

http://www.sensorgen.info/NikonD2H.html

The D7000 sensor has 1.7 stops higher QE, and 2 stops lower read noise. Or, if you wish, we can compare to the Canon 5D:

http://www.sensorgen.info/CanonEOS_5D.html

The D7000 sensor has 1 stop higher QE, and lower read noise throughout the ISO range (but the 5D sensor is not ISOless, so how much lower read noise depends on the ISO).

In other words, the Sony sensor in the D7000 is nothing short of remarkable, and low ISO performance was not sacrificed for high ISO performance.

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