ISO - high,low or in between?

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by jeff_wright|2, Dec 9, 2010.

  1. HI all,
    I shot film for so long it's my natural inclination to use a super low ISO so the picture would have small or no appreciable grain.
    On the digital side it's a little different. So, I'm curious what do most people use for a base ISO? I know it depends on the camera, lens, etc. and some cameras even have auto-ISO but are most of you shooting at something other than the lowest setting on your cameras?
  2. I prefer ISO 100 and only use higher ISO if absolutely necessary. After ISO 800 I need to use a NR plugin so it's another step in PP and a little less detail and color clarity. I want prints to look good. If you only print 8x10 or smaller, you can be a looser. I want my 13x19 and larger prints to be smooth and crisp.
    Of course I wouldn't hesitate using ISO 1600-12800 if that was the only way I could get the shot.
  3. Hi Jeff,
    I too come from "a long line of film shooting," and with digital up to this point, I still set to the lowest ISO of 100 on my 50d and do wish it even had an ISO of 25 or even 50!
    I have only recently started more "experimenting" with uping the ISO and doing some comparisons but still find the higher ISO's produce noise. I think noise is what they call grain these digital days!
  4. I use a standard baseline of 200 ISO on 1Ds MkIII and 5D MkII bodies. It give me a extra stop of either aperture or film speed with no downside. After some really careful pixel peeping tests of detail, shadows, highlights, noise, etc. I could see no discernible difference at all between 100 and 200. At 400 I started seeing some slight degradation, but still, with properly exposed RAW files, the quality is astonishing compared to 400 ISO film.
    I go down to ISO 100 and then start using ND filters if I want longer shutter speeds or wider apertures.
  5. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    It depends on what you have to do. If you're shooting handheld, there are a lot of situations in which low ISO won't provide a fast enough shutter speed, especially if you stop down. If you are shooting flash over a period of time, your batteries will deplete a lot faster at low ISO. The only times I use low ISO is if I'm shooting in the studio. I figure it's better to decide based on the circumstances far more than the camera or lens you mention.
  6. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    I'm curious what do most people use for a base ISO?​
    My Bases: Inside = 800. Outside = 100.
    I know it depends on the camera, lens, etc. and some cameras even have auto-ISO but are most of you shooting at something other than the lowest setting on your cameras?​
    For me it actually depends most on the shooting scenario in which I typically find myself.
    As I shoot a lot of people and the people are generally moving and often I am inside and I rarely employ Flash: then the Tv usually becomes my first consideration, even when outside.
    A suitable Tv having been selected, my Av is firstly limited by my lens.
    If there is enough light for a good range of Av (DoF available), then ISO will also have more range and I will consider it more closely: but often I don’t have that luxury, so I will often be shooting above my “base” ISO, but still as low as possible.
    In summary I will mostly consider Tv and Av before ISO as usually I want "static" and "in focus" (reasonable DoF) and I am prepared to make the sacrifice of a little grain (Noise).
    OTOH – with a tripod, cable release and a static scene, ISO would be as low as possible.
  7. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    "I figure it's better to decide based on the circumstances far more than the camera or lens you mention."​
    . . . well I guess we were writing at the same time.
  8. My rule of thumb
    sunny: 100 iso
    shade: 200 iso
    heavy overcast, gloomy: 400 iso
    bright interior 800 iso
    dimmer interior 1600 iso and up.
    For handheld near-macro (things a few inches big) double the iso.
    For handheld macro (things an inch big or less) quadruple the iso.
  9. It sort of depends on what you are shooting, but for most of my work I start out assuming that I'll use ISO 100. However, on my 5D2 I cannot really see any difference between 100 and 200, so I'll go to 200 without thinking twice about it. For wildlife with long lenses on this camera I'll go to 400 or even 800, and I've shot certain other subjects (concerts, for example) hand held at up to 3200.
  10. I had heard somewhere that the base ISO for the 7D was 160. So I choose that instead when there's enough light to otherwise select 100. As far as I can tell (informally only), noise performance is the same as 100, but I have 2/3 stop extra speed. It was simpler, though, when I used whole stop ISO. Fewer clicks on the wheel, and also fewer decision points as I scroll through the abundance of available settings. ;)
  11. I also come from decades with film. Flexibility with ISO depends on the camera. Some do much better with high ISOs than others. I shoot a 50D, which is bit less tolerant of high ISOs than the 7D. I often use 100 in bright light, but I also often leave the camera set at 200 outdoors for the extra stop because the difference in noise between 100 and 200 is slight. Indoors with flash, my base is 400, which is noticeably noisier if blown up but still fine. I rarely go over that unless there is some pressing need to.
  12. I remember my Photography 101 professor saying "Grain isn't evil, it's just grain." I didn't believe it for a minute. :) With 35mm film I'd only use ISO 100 or slower, and preferred medium format or 4x5. Even with a bigger format I maxed out at ISO 400. When I switched to digital I kept that mindset for a while, but as I started making prints it was obvious that the noise from my DSLRs shooting raw was significantly cleaner looking than the film grain I was used to. As I hung more and more prints from higher ISO digital next to similar sized prints from medium format Tmax 100 my doubts about high ISOs vanished. I began trying higher and higher ISOs, and now I will crank it up to ISO 1600 and 3200 with no qualms if the situation calls for it. The prints look amazingly clean to me. I still use as low an ISO as I can, but particularly when shooting hand held I'd much rather have a bit of noise, which I know won't show in my prints, than even a bit of camera shake. My default setting in Adobe Camera Raw is 25 color noise reduction, but other than that I rarely use additional noise reduction. Don't pixel peep, make prints.
  13. Inside in artifical light-whatever is required often 3200, outside base 200 up to 800 (5D MkII).
  14. Thanks for all the info, it's been very helpful.
  15. [[So, I'm curious what do most people use for a base ISO?]]
    The joy of digital photography is that you do not have to have a "base" ISO just like you don't have a "base" aperture or a "base" shutter speed. It is a decision that can (and should) change with the light and subject matter. The ISO you choose should be tied to your intended output, not necessarily 100% views in Photoshop.
    I embrace the ability to change ISO and have no problems using 100-6400 depending on the situation.
  16. When shooting events indoors, I use the M-mode and set everything - ISO, aperture and speed. With my primes (35mmL, 85mmL), I rarely go above ISO 1600 on my 5DII.
  17. With my 5D, I use 50 ISO in the studio. 100-200 when I'm doing biker shoots since they are mostly outside. If I have to hit a bar or two during the run, I go to 200-400 and a flash. I try not to go higher unless I really have to. The biker shots end up as B&W and color. The B&W I sell and the color ones go to a biker magazine.
  18. I rarely go over ISO 400
  19. I range from ISO 100 to ISO 6400 with my Canon 5D MkII.
    Remember that the sensor behaves very differently from film. Using +EV as you raise the ISO is great tool for minimzing noise. Shoot in RAW and use a good RAW converter, like DxO's Optics Pro 6.5.1 to minimize noise. It's not the same as grain on film because noise on a digital image can be "fixed" to a degree in processing.
    I shoot birds and wildlife with my 7D, where I'm routinely at ISO 400, unless the shutter speed pushes up over 1/2000, then I'll bring the ISO down. When I've got the tripod and a slow moving subject, I might shoot ISO 200 in the shade and use a slow shutter speed (like 1/100) even with my 500mm, but that's seldom the case. Again, the key is to expose to the right, using +EV to maxize the dynamic range of the sensor, just guarding not to blow out highlights.
  20. Back in the film days, I tried to use the slowest film that would give me the shutter speed and/or aperture I needed. Of course, there were some other considerations. Kodak Portra 160VC, for instance, might be a better choice for people pictures than Agfa Ultra 50, even if there's enough light for either. I may have to be prepared for a variety of lighting levels (I'm an amateur who is usually taking pictures of what I see where I go, rather than going where I think there will be pictures to be taken) and it's not reasonable for me to carry an entire film store's variety of film speeds. Also, having to rewind and swap films any time I wanted to change ISOs discouraged doing so too often.
    When I switched to digital with a 20D, of course, I could change ISO as often as I wanted, with no need to plan ahead which ISOs to buy or how much room I'd need to carry a collection of ISOs with me, and no need to remove and reinsert anything to make the change. But I still tried to use the lowest ISO that would give me the shutter speed and/or aperture I needed. After all, while the 20D's noise compared well to film's grain at equal ISOs, there was still clearly an increase in grain/noise as the ISO went higher.
    My 7D shows an improvement in high-ISO noise performance compared to the 20D, so I'm less hesitant about increasing the ISO, but I still use the same philosophy, because again, the underlying truth remains: higher ISOs produce noisier images than lower ISOs.
  21. I go as low as ISO 100 for special cases, but I confess that most of the time, I find that ISO 400 with my cameras gives me images with little noise and that 'crystal clarity' that I like so much about digital.
    However, I shot with film for over fifty years, mostly on Kodachrome of ISO (née ASA) 25* and 64, but also with films like High Speed Ektachrome and (ta, ta) GAF 500 (in a 50-year anniversary issue reminiscence in Popular Photography, once described as "the worst slide film ever").
    In those days, we tolerated grainy films in order to get the picture. Often there would have been no picture at all if we hadn't been able to shoot GAF 500 at EI 1000.
    So I have a hard time sympathizing with shooters who can't put up with the noise on a 5D at ISO 3200. Getting the picture is the first thing, then worry about 'noise'. IMHO, of course.
    *If I could get Kodachrome 25, I'd still be shooting with it alongside my digital shooting.
  22. Tomorrow I will shoot a two day 600 person swimming meet at Boston University. I will use ISO 1600 and when I have to shoot 3200 I will use a 5D as that works better with it than with my 1.6 crop. The place has horrendous backlight behind incoming swimmers to the finish line. This year I have enlisted an EF 85 1.8 to help cope with the dark faces into that backlight.
  23. Outdoor I usually set to ISO200 then check the aperture setting and speed. Indoor when the source of lights is dark enough, I try ISO400 then open up the aperture setting then take a sample shot if it is okay. I would rather take a little under expose then work on it during processing. I really have a hard time setting over ISO1000 due to noise. Not to mention the flash.
  24. Hi, i don't think there is anything to consider about the ISO setting: just use the lowest possible ISO that will get the job done without any blurry pics.
    From my experience, as an amateur sports photographer and experienced wedding photographer i can tell you that you can clean noise up, but you can't clean a blurry picture (motion).
    That is, instead of being a noise-freak, and get blurry or badly exposed pics (or with too low deph of field, that can cause focus errors or lost background), you should use a higher ISO setting (are you shooting for stock ? you're not, are you) in order to get everything sharply and correctly exposed.
    There is nothing worst than a blurry picture, a severely underexposed or overexposed picture, or a picture ruind by improper flash usage.
    I usually print up to 30x45 cm and have no problem using ISO 200 in sunlight and up to ISO4000-6400 in poorly lit locations (usually 3200) on my D700.
    Another discussion is weather you should compensate the lack of light with flash, rather than ISO, but this is entirely up to the look of the picture you are trying to get.
    Some like :the dear in the headlights: kind of look, for maximum contrast and separation, and others prefer digital grain for a nicely exposed ambient.
  25. My default is 400. I'll drop it to 100 in brilliant sunlight, if I happen to think of it, will bump to 800 low light, and if really desperate go to 1600.
  26. Being a one from the days of film also, I tend to gravitate to the lower ISO levels when I can. I will try to shoot ISO 100 as much as possible. However since I am using a 5dMkII, I have faith in my higher ISO levels also. Therefore I would say your ISO level should be as low as possible, given the subject matter and lighting conditions. My subject matter tends to vary. One day I can be shooting a low light event and the next day I am shooting jets at 500mph. I am surprised by the level of noise in both cases.
    When I shoot fast moving jets, I will use an ISO of 200 or 400 even in bright light. Why? Because I tend to use a Canon 100-400 f4-5.6L IS. At the longer end of the focal length I prefer to shoot around f8, and since I want a very fast shutter speed I use the slightly higher ISO. Now, even at 100, 200, or 400, I notice noise when the plane is pictured against a pure blue sky. In such cases I will still run a noise reduction plug-in with emphasis on the low-frequency noise. Now, ISO 400, 800, 1600 used outdoors in a detailed rich setting will produce hardly any noticeable noise because it is hidden in the details of the photo.
    Now in stark contrast to the above situation, I have also shot a dimly lit dinner with guest speakers at ISO 6400 using a 24-70f2.8L and a 70-200f2.8L. I was able to shoot at 1/160 of a second and hand held. I was terrified by what the image may look like. The 5dMkII delivered a surprisingly clean image even at ISO 6400. Sure I had to run it through a noise reduction plug in but it handled it wonderfully and held the details.
    The moral of my story is that you simply can't select a blanketed ISO level. The amount of noise you see will depend on not only the available light but also the contents of the subject and background.
  27. I'd use as low as you can to get the picture. The sensors in the camera give the best dynamic range at the base ISO for the camera. When you increase the ISO you sacrifice dynamic range which makes your pictures look "flat" and/or washed out.
  28. A lot depends on the camera. On my old D200, ISO 800 was barely usable. With the D700 and the 5D Mark II, ISO 3200 gives very good results (the 5D2 will require noise reduction) and 6400 is usable when optimal quality is not critical and there's no other way to get the shot.
    That said, the lower the better. I would follow William W's suggestion of ISO 100 or 200 if you're using a tripod and subject movement is not an issue. ISO 800 for flash shots in dimly lit indoor spaces. And whatever ISO is necessary if you need a fast shutter speed to freeze motion.
  29. It depends where I am, what I am shooting and what I am trying to achieve with the shot, what lens I am using (fast lens or slow lens) is my subject moving or stationary. Out doors in bright day ISO 100, indoors, night, low light band photography, ISO 400 all the way to ISO 3200. Higher ISO in low light with no flash can produce some interesting shots. There are some cases where you can not capture the lighting, mood and action without high ISO.
    Some people don't want any noise, but some noise may be acceptable depending on the artistic taste of the photographer and what he is trying to create or produce.
    It is digital, get out there and experiment, you are not wasting film, if you don't like it, delete it. Shoot some low light stuff, drop the ISO as low as you can and while still getting clear, no motion blur of you subjects. I have found good results in low light with no real aide except a mono pod using high ISO in some situations. The more you do this, the more experience you gain, you will get a feel for what works for you.
    Then work with these shots on your computer, try some noise reduction, play with setting and exposure. One of the reasons I love shooting in RAW is you have so much control. You will also find different software will give different noise reduction results.
    It is up to you what ISO to shoot at, but generally drop as low as you can while getting the results you want and don't be affraid to push it to the high end for some shots, you may be pleasantly suprised.

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