ISO invariance understanding it - just checking something

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CESA Regular Member • Posts: 377
ISO invariance understanding it - just checking something

Hi all,

I am looking at the sony a73 and its ISO performance and read noise and would like to know something.

I want to assess what is the correlation when using the exposure/highlight/shadow slides with this plot and ISO setting. I don't know if I will make myself explain correctly but will try.

DN perfornace

If we look at that plot from any of them but in particular the A73, analysing from the ISO point of view it means that from ISO100 to ISO500 it is ISO invariant and the from ISO640 all the way up it is also ISO invariant?

If so, I have a couple of questions here:

1. How do we correlate the exposure slide and the highlights and shadow sliders with this in terms of noise? I will explain:

a) If I underexpose, by say 2 stops, a picture using ISO100 in post to get a correct exposure I would bring the exposure up by 2 stops without losing details and introducing noise?

b) This would be equivalent to have shot at ISO 400 if I had aimed to correct exposure using same shutter speed?

c) So by doing this one can protect highlights.

2. Now another scenario would be: I increase the ISO to say ISO400 in order to have an higher shutter speed, almost like shooting to the right of the right. This would still be in the first range of ISO invariant section (assuming that what I said above is correct).

a) So this means that in post I can bring down the exposure 2 stops (equivalent of have shot at ISO100) and get the correct exposure having protected the highlights? This would mean I would be introducing noise in the shadows right?

b. Again I guess that this would have been equivalent to have shot at ISO100 without losing quality and adding noise right?

3. Now in this scenario I Am curious to know. Say that you shot at ISO400 and have underexposed by 1 stop. So we are at the edge of that ISO invariant interval. Done this to increase a lot the shutter speed.

a) Now in post I would need to increase the exposure by 1 stop. Would this mean that we would jump to the next range of ISO invariant interval? Would we expect more noise? Probably a different colour artefacts only?

b) So would you also jump to the next interval if you had shot at ISO100 and increased the exposure by 3 stops?

4. I guess that looking at the plot we are better off shooting at ISO640 instead of ISO400 looking at the ISO performance no?

ISO performance

Now another question related to point 4 is. If we shoot at ISO640 and if we bring down the exposure to the correct place as long as we decrease it by 1 stop at least we are good because we will not end up on ISO400 which has a worst performance. Is this thought correct?

Another question is regarding the highlight and shadow recovery. I know these can add noise however how do they corralate with the ISO perforance and DN read? The same analysis in terms of increasing or decreasing the exposure and ISO invariance and dn read noise applies? Do you know what I mean?

Thanks in advance.

SigZero
SigZero Regular Member • Posts: 485
Re: ISO invariance understanding it - just checking something
1

Hi,

Here are some rules, not all exactly matching your scenarios, but I hope it will clear some things.

With every increase of ISO (1 EV) You are loosing around 1 EV in highlights. Overexposing to te limits of the sensor (Zebra at 109% is Your friend here) and then pushing exposure down and shadows up (which means leaving them at real exposure level) gives you the best highlight protection and shadow noise performance.

In case od dual gain sensors the key is to overexpose not more than the limit of dual-gain change. So If the limit is at 640 ISO, then overexpose ISO 100 no more than 2,5EV and overexpose ISO 400 no more than 0,5EV - of course if having best shadow noise performance is the key. In case you need to have better shutter speed and need to overexpose more then the limit, bump ISO to second gain settings (640 in Your case) and overexpose accordingly there - You will loose more highlights but get better shadow noise.

If the situation is the other way - if in order to keep highlights you need to make negative exposure compensation - if you need to cross dual-gain boundary it is better to underexpose more on lower ISO than underexposing on higher and crossing the dual gain level (is such case You will not saturate sensor to its full capacity).

Br, Pawel.

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OP CESA Regular Member • Posts: 377
Re: ISO invariance understanding it - just checking something

SigZero wrote:

Hi,

Here are some rules, not all exactly matching your scenarios, but I hope it will clear some things.

With every increase of ISO (1 EV) You are loosing around 1 EV in highlights. Overexposing to te limits of the sensor (Zebra at 109% is Your friend here) and then pushing exposure down and shadows up (which means leaving them at real exposure level) gives you the best highlight protection and shadow noise performance.

In case od dual gain sensors the key is to overexpose not more than the limit of dual-gain change. So If the limit is at 640 ISO, then overexpose ISO 100 no more than 2,5EV and overexpose ISO 400 no more than 0,5EV - of course if having best shadow noise performance is the key.

In case you need to have better shutter speed and need to overexpose more then the limit, bump ISO to second gain settings (640 in Your case) and overexpose accordingly there - You will loose more highlights but get better shadow noise.

If the situation is the other way - if in order to keep highlights you need to make negative exposure compensation - if you need to cross dual-gain boundary it is better to underexpose more on lower ISO than underexposing on higher and crossing the dual gain level (is such case You will not saturate sensor to its full capacity).

Br, Pawel.

Thank you for your comment. I think I understood. However what if I want to shoot back-lit to get some flares from the sun? I need to underexpose to preserve the highlights. So in this case because I have to underexpose it is best to go to the first gain stage, use ISO400 say and underexpose by 1 stop for example or 2 stops.

Now this means that when I recover the shadows I will be like stepping to the next gain stage? Equivalently in post? Do you know what I mean? When recovering?

Brian Kimball
Brian Kimball Regular Member • Posts: 485
Re: ISO invariance understanding it - just checking something
2

SigZero wrote:

With every increase of ISO (1 EV) You are loosing around 1 EV in highlights. Overexposing to te limits of the sensor (Zebra at 109% is Your friend here) and then pushing exposure down and shadows up (which means leaving them at real exposure level) gives you the best highlight protection and shadow noise performance.

In case od dual gain sensors the key is to overexpose not more than the limit of dual-gain change. So If the limit is at 640 ISO, then overexpose ISO 100 no more than 2,5EV and overexpose ISO 400 no more than 0,5EV - of course if having best shadow noise performance is the key.

You've got this backwards unfortunately. Dual conversion gain tech does not impact one's strategy when they are able to overexpose. More light at base ISO is always better and will result in higher SNR. The advice to "overexpose ISO 100 no more than 2,5EV" is very misleading. For purposes of ETTR, ISO 100 can be overexposed as much as the scene allows, and more will always be better as long as you're still meeting your needs WRT to clipping, DOF, and motion blur.

We've all been taught that when shooting dimly lit scenes with ISO invariant sensors (with no DCG) there's no practical difference in noise performance between shooting at, for example, ISO 1600, vs shooting at ISO 100 + raising the image lightness by 4 stops in post (assuming using the same aperture & shutter speed as you would have at ISO 1600). Why would one want to do this? To protect highlights, if you're worried about them clipping. Why would one NOT want to do this? Dark- to completely-black JPGs and unusable previews on the camera.

WIth DCG this becomes a little more tricky, but not by much. If your DOF & motion blur requirements don't allow changes in aperture & shutter speed, and your camera meter wants ISO 1600, then on the A7M3 you can drop to ISO 640 and eke out about a half stop more read noise performance than if you dropped further down to an ISO between 100-640.

Whether anyone actually cares about a half stop difference in read noise in the shadows is a separate question that individuals will have to decide for themselves.

In case you need to have better shutter speed and need to overexpose more then the limit, bump ISO to second gain settings (640 in Your case) and overexpose accordingly there - You will loose more highlights but get better shadow noise.

I think this is what you meant:

In case you need to have a [faster] shutter speed [that causes you] to [underexpose] more than [2.5 stops], bump ISO to second gain settings (640 in your case) and [expose] accordingly there - you will lose more highlights but get [around a half stop] better shadow noise.

If the situation is the other way - if in order to keep highlights you need to make negative exposure compensation - if you need to cross dual-gain boundary it is better to underexpose more on lower ISO than underexposing on higher and crossing the dual gain level (is such case You will not saturate sensor to its full capacity).

Yes, if ISO 640 and above clip, and you don't want clipping, it is fine to drop below 640 and raise your image lightness in post. Otherwise, might as well stay at 640 or above (assuming your chosen aperture and shutter speed require a high ISO).

Brian Kimball
Brian Kimball Regular Member • Posts: 485
Re: ISO invariance understanding it - just checking something

CESA wrote:

SigZero wrote:

Hi,

Here are some rules, not all exactly matching your scenarios, but I hope it will clear some things.

With every increase of ISO (1 EV) You are loosing around 1 EV in highlights. Overexposing to te limits of the sensor (Zebra at 109% is Your friend here) and then pushing exposure down and shadows up (which means leaving them at real exposure level) gives you the best highlight protection and shadow noise performance.

In case od dual gain sensors the key is to overexpose not more than the limit of dual-gain change. So If the limit is at 640 ISO, then overexpose ISO 100 no more than 2,5EV and overexpose ISO 400 no more than 0,5EV - of course if having best shadow noise performance is the key.

In case you need to have better shutter speed and need to overexpose more then the limit, bump ISO to second gain settings (640 in Your case) and overexpose accordingly there - You will loose more highlights but get better shadow noise.

If the situation is the other way - if in order to keep highlights you need to make negative exposure compensation - if you need to cross dual-gain boundary it is better to underexpose more on lower ISO than underexposing on higher and crossing the dual gain level (is such case You will not saturate sensor to its full capacity).

Br, Pawel.

Thank you for your comment. I think I understood. However what if I want to shoot back-lit to get some flares from the sun? I need to underexpose to preserve the highlights. So in this case because I have to underexpose it is best to go to the first gain stage, use ISO400 say and underexpose by 1 stop for example or 2 stops.

Assuming your aperture and shutter speed are letting in the most possible light that your DOF & motion blur requirement allow, if you want to preserve highlights then you just need to drop the ISO until clipping stops, whatever ISO that is.  If you're still clipping at base ISO and need to preserve highlights, then stop down or increase shutter speed.

Let's say you end up with an exposure of f/4 at 1/60.  To get your midtones where you want them you need ISO 1600, but that clips highlights.  To protect highlights you find you need to drop your ISO by 2 stops, to 400.  So far so good?

Now, should you stop down or increase shutter speed so you can get back up to ISO 640 with no blown highlights, all for that half stop of read noise improvement?  No.  By letting less light in you are affecting shot noise and decreasing your incoming SNR proportional to your exposure change.  You would be trading read noise for shot noise.  Not worth it.

Now this means that when I recover the shadows I will be like stepping to the next gain stage? Equivalently in post? Do you know what I mean? When recovering?

Read noise is captured at the time you snap your picture.  Playing with image lightness in post processing does not change, either literally or figuratively, which conversion gain was used during capture.

SigZero
SigZero Regular Member • Posts: 485
Re: ISO invariance understanding it - just checking something

Brian Kimball wrote:

SigZero wrote:

With every increase of ISO (1 EV) You are loosing around 1 EV in highlights. Overexposing to te limits of the sensor (Zebra at 109% is Your friend here) and then pushing exposure down and shadows up (which means leaving them at real exposure level) gives you the best highlight protection and shadow noise performance.

In case od dual gain sensors the key is to overexpose not more than the limit of dual-gain change. So If the limit is at 640 ISO, then overexpose ISO 100 no more than 2,5EV and overexpose ISO 400 no more than 0,5EV - of course if having best shadow noise performance is the key.

You've got this backwards unfortunately. Dual conversion gain tech does not impact one's strategy when they are able to overexpose. More light at base ISO is always better and will result in higher SNR. The advice to "overexpose ISO 100 no more than 2,5EV" is very misleading. For purposes of ETTR, ISO 100 can be overexposed as much as the scene allows, and more will always be better as long as you're still meeting your needs WRT to clipping, DOF, and motion blur.

Yep you are absolutely right. 
I've described it (unfortunately only in Polish) about year ago and now got it backward. You should use ISO 640 only when your exposure requires ISO 100 on -2,5 EV.  In the other direction there is no limit of course.

Thanks for correction.

Br, Pawel.

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Brian Kimball
Brian Kimball Regular Member • Posts: 485
Re: ISO invariance understanding it - just checking something

SigZero wrote:

Brian Kimball wrote:

SigZero wrote:

With every increase of ISO (1 EV) You are loosing around 1 EV in highlights. Overexposing to te limits of the sensor (Zebra at 109% is Your friend here) and then pushing exposure down and shadows up (which means leaving them at real exposure level) gives you the best highlight protection and shadow noise performance.

In case od dual gain sensors the key is to overexpose not more than the limit of dual-gain change. So If the limit is at 640 ISO, then overexpose ISO 100 no more than 2,5EV and overexpose ISO 400 no more than 0,5EV - of course if having best shadow noise performance is the key.

You've got this backwards unfortunately. Dual conversion gain tech does not impact one's strategy when they are able to overexpose. More light at base ISO is always better and will result in higher SNR. The advice to "overexpose ISO 100 no more than 2,5EV" is very misleading. For purposes of ETTR, ISO 100 can be overexposed as much as the scene allows, and more will always be better as long as you're still meeting your needs WRT to clipping, DOF, and motion blur.

Yep you are absolutely right.
I've described it (unfortunately only in Polish) about year ago and now got it backward. You should use ISO 640 only when your exposure requires ISO 100 on -2,5 EV. In the other direction there is no limit of course.

Ah, I now see what you originally meant-- "don't shoot at ISO 100 if you will have to lighten it in post more than 2.5EV.  Past that, better to have shot with ISO 640"

For what it's worth, "underexpose" and "overexpose" as used in English typically only apply to the camera's exposure settings at the time of capture, not any lightening or darkening done in post.  This is made much more confusing by post processing software that has an "exposure" slider!

Thanks for correction.

👍 Your English is way better than my (nonexistent) Polish!  

Brian Kimball
Brian Kimball Regular Member • Posts: 485
Re: ISO invariance understanding it - just checking something

CESA wrote:

DN perfornace

If we look at that plot from any of them but in particular the A73, analysing from the ISO point of view it means that from ISO100 to ISO500 it is ISO invariant and the from ISO640 all the way up it is also ISO invariant?

More or less.

If so, I have a couple of questions here:

1. How do we correlate the exposure slide and the highlights and shadow sliders with this in terms of noise? I will explain:

I'll go down this rabbit hole, with one huge caveat: understand that post processing sliders are not designed to recreate physics or mimic their physical namesakes.  They are designed to produce pleasing adjustments to images, period.  For example, ACR/LR's exposure slider is not linear and does not impact shadows & highlights in the same amount it impacts midtones.  There's a built-in curve there that you can't see or modify.  Also, ACR/LR's shadows and highlights are not blunt instruments- they are adaptive to the content of the image.  Thus they provide different results for the same slider positions on different images.  Also interesting to note that a certain amount of highlight recovery is automatically performed in ACR/LR, even if the highlights slider is at 0.

a) If I underexpose, by say 2 stops, a picture using ISO100 in post to get a correct exposure I would bring the exposure up by 2 stops without losing details and introducing noise?

Correct, but you ARE increasing noise.  Just no more noise than if you had shot at ISO 400 with the same aperture & shutter speed.

b) This would be equivalent to have shot at ISO 400 if I had aimed to correct exposure using same shutter speed?

I'm having trouble parsing the "aimed to correct exposure using same shutter speed" part- if you mean in all of these examples, aperture & shutter speed don't change, then yes, it would be roughly equivalent.

c) So by doing this one can protect highlights.

Yup.

2. Now another scenario would be: I increase the ISO to say ISO400 in order to have an higher shutter speed, almost like shooting to the right of the right.

Increasing shutter speed and increasing ISO proportionally cancel each other out with respect to image lightness, so this is not "shooting to the right of right."  This is shooting at your metered exposure.

This would still be in the first range of ISO invariant section (assuming that what I said above is correct).

a) So this means that in post I can bring down the exposure 2 stops (equivalent of have shot at ISO100) and get the correct exposure having protected the highlights?

Increasing ISO above your meter's recommendation does not protect highlights, it threatens them.

At a fixed aperture and shutter speed, if neither ISO 100 nor ISO 400 clip highlights, and it's ISO 100 that provides the correct image lightness, then just shoot ISO 100.  Shooting at ISO 400 and dropping image lightness by 2 stops in post gives you no benefit, gives you a source file with more read noise, and drastically overcomplicates things.

This would mean I would be introducing noise in the shadows right?

Shooting at an unnecessarily high ISO that results in an overexposed image requiring darkening in post increases noise in your captured source file.  Yes.  Decreasing the lightness of those shadows by 2 stops in post will make the noise less apparent in your final exported image, but that noise is unnecessarily & permanently recorded in your source file, for no benefit.

b. Again I guess that this would have been equivalent to have shot at ISO100 without losing quality and adding noise right?

No.

3. Now in this scenario I Am curious to know. Say that you shot at ISO400 and have underexposed by 1 stop. So we are at the edge of that ISO invariant interval. Done this to increase a lot the shutter speed.

a) Now in post I would need to increase the exposure by 1 stop. Would this mean that we would jump to the next range of ISO invariant interval?

If you mean, "I should have shot at ISO 640 and lightened my image by 1/3 of a stop in post, instead of shooting at 400 and lightening my image by a full stop in post"... yes, that's a reasonable conclusion if you're trying to eke out every last bit of performance.

Would we expect more noise? Probably a different colour artefacts only?

Numerically more noise in the ISO 400 shot lightened by 1 stop.  How that noise increase manifests visually is up for you to test.

b) So would you also jump to the next interval if you had shot at ISO100 and increased the exposure by 3 stops?

Yes.

4. I guess that looking at the plot we are better off shooting at ISO640 instead of ISO400 looking at the ISO performance no?

ISO performance

Technically, yes.

Now another question related to point 4 is. If we shoot at ISO640 and if we bring down the exposure to the correct place as long as we decrease it by 1 stop at least we are good because we will not end up on ISO400 which has a worst performance. Is this thought correct?

If I understand you correctly, you're looking at the above PDR graph and thinking "as long as I avoid the dip between 400 & 640, I'm good noise-wise, regardless of what I do in post."  That's not really a correct reading of the PDR graph, as it does not show the effect that lightening has on visible noise in post.  A graph of dynamic range vs ISO is effected by read noise, but is not in and of itself a graph of read noise performance.  It's also a graph of the inescapable downward trajectory of DR as increasing ISO raises the noise floor and pushes highlights past clipping.

To be more specific, you seem to be wanting to compare

  • noise at ISO 640
  • noise at ISO 400 + 2/3 stop of lightening in post
  • noise at ISO 320 + 1 stop of lightening in post

320 & 400 should be roughly equivalent.  640 should be (technically) better than both.

Another question is regarding the highlight and shadow recovery. I know these can add noise however how do they corralate with the ISO perforance and DN read? The same analysis in terms of increasing or decreasing the exposure and ISO invariance and dn read noise applies? Do you know what I mean?

You might want to take this question over to the PS&T forum.

Hope all this helps. 👍

bclaff Forum Pro • Posts: 10,490
Re: ISO invariance understanding it - just checking something
1

The best chart to gauge ISO Invariance is Photographic Dynamic Range (PDR) Shadow Improvement :

The more horizontal the region, the more ISO Invariant.

That said, don't use ISO Invariance as a crutch or safety net; exposure to gather the most light that conditions allow.

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SigZero
SigZero Regular Member • Posts: 485
Re: ISO invariance understanding it - just checking something

Brian Kimball wrote:

I'll go down this rabbit hole, with one huge caveat: understand that post processing sliders are not designed to recreate physics or mimic their physical namesakes. They are designed to produce pleasing adjustments to images, period. For example, ACR/LR's exposure slider is not linear and does not impact shadows & highlights in the same amount it impacts midtones. There's a built-in curve there that you can't see or modify. Also, ACR/LR's shadows and highlights are not blunt instruments- they are adaptive to the content of the image. Thus they provide different results for the same slider positions on different images. Also interesting to note that a certain amount of highlight recovery is automatically performed in ACR/LR, even if the highlights slider is at 0.

This is a very good point.

My experience with LR is that it is not coping very well with overexposed (from JPG point of view) images. It seems that shooting +2 EV and then reducing "exposure" slider in LR by -2 EV does not necessarily give you the same result as shooing with 0 EV correction.

When I'm using RawDigger to investigate some RAWs - it's embedded viewer gives much better results than LR initial view.

Still I'm trying to live with that, I'd like to leverage most of the sensor using ETTR with help of zebra. Such images require a bit more treatment from LR process flow.

Br, Pawel.

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OP CESA Regular Member • Posts: 377
Re: ISO invariance understanding it - just checking something

Thank you all for your reply. Very helpful.

I have another question. Is it true that using third stops of ISOs can create higher noise pictures?

bclaff Forum Pro • Posts: 10,490
Re: ISO invariance understanding it - just checking something

CESA wrote:

Thank you all for your reply. Very helpful.

I have another question. Is it true that using third stops of ISOs can create higher noise pictures?

If intermediate ISO settings are done by scaling the whole ISO values then it can appear that some intermediate settings are noisier. The differences, real or not, are small; so I wouldn't worry about it.

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OP CESA Regular Member • Posts: 377
Re: ISO invariance understanding it - just checking something

bclaff wrote:

CESA wrote:

Thank you all for your reply. Very helpful.

I have another question. Is it true that using third stops of ISOs can create higher noise pictures?

If intermediate ISO settings are done by scaling the whole ISO values then it can appear that some intermediate settings are noisier. The differences, real or not, are small; so I wouldn't worry about it.

Thanks for your reply Bill.

Was asking this because apparently the camera that I currently owe, a 6D isn't ISO invariant so one should be careful with the ISO options.

Does it make sense to select the ISO values even if they are third stops that present hight DR and/or less DN read? For example ISO160 has higher DR compared to ISO100. But probably the difference is negligible.

bclaff Forum Pro • Posts: 10,490
Re: ISO invariance understanding it - just checking something
1

CESA wrote:

bclaff wrote:

CESA wrote:

Thank you all for your reply. Very helpful.

I have another question. Is it true that using third stops of ISOs can create higher noise pictures?

If intermediate ISO settings are done by scaling the whole ISO values then it can appear that some intermediate settings are noisier. The differences, real or not, are small; so I wouldn't worry about it.

Thanks for your reply Bill.

Was asking this because apparently the camera that I currently owe, a 6D isn't ISO invariant so one should be careful with the ISO options.

Does it make sense to select the ISO values even if they are third stops that present hight DR and/or less DN read? For example ISO160 has higher DR compared to ISO100. But probably the difference is negligible.

I wouldn't agonize over it one way or the other.
If setting ISO I'd favor ISO 100.
If using ISO Auto I would not worry if the camera chooses an intermediate ISO.

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burning1rr Contributing Member • Posts: 556
Re: ISO invariance understanding it - just checking something
1

CESA wrote:

Thanks for your reply Bill.

Was asking this because apparently the camera that I currently owe, a 6D isn't ISO invariant so one should be careful with the ISO options.

In my experience, using the correct ISO in-camera produces more flattering results than scaling the image in post. I try to be cautious regardless of the invariance of the camera. Most of this is related to posterization, banding and the aesthetic properties of analog noise.

IMO, the main limit on the 6D is that your ability to underexpose the mids and shadows is somewhat more limited.

On an invariant camera with a high dynamic range, I'll frequently expose for the sky. That tends to push the midtones into the shadow range, but I can recover that in post. The 6D won't produce the same results.

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OP CESA Regular Member • Posts: 377
Re: ISO invariance understanding it - just checking something

burning1rr wrote:

CESA wrote:

Thanks for your reply Bill.

Was asking this because apparently the camera that I currently owe, a 6D isn't ISO invariant so one should be careful with the ISO options.

In my experience, using the correct ISO in-camera produces more flattering results than scaling the image in post. I try to be cautious regardless of the invariance of the camera. Most of this is related to posterization, banding and the aesthetic properties of analog noise.

IMO, the main limit on the 6D is that your ability to underexpose the mids and shadows is somewhat more limited.

On an invariant camera with a high dynamic range, I'll frequently expose for the sky. That tends to push the midtones into the shadow range, but I can recover that in post. The 6D won't produce the same results.

That's the limiting facto hence why I have started to look into these finer details. If you know the location you are shooting at different times.of the day you know which shutter speed is important to control motion blur you have to set your ISO accordingly provided you want a certain aperture to create the look and feel. The only way is to try to know by heart two or three ISO that grants you the shutter speed you want with maximum DR possible.

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