Noise on DSLRs. Is it overblown ?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by johnw63, Oct 6, 2009.

  1. I haven't moved to digital, yet. I have done a lot of reading, in this forum, for years, however. If it's not debates on the number of stops of dynamic range, or the benefits of megapixels, or the sensor size AND the number of pixels, eventually , it comes down to noise. From my knowledge of film stuff, the idea was always to try and use the lowest ISO you could for the situation, to keep from getting grain. If you were REALLY stuck, you might go to 800 speed film, just to get the shot, but you KNEW that it was going to get grain.
    I just read a long thread about unacceptable noise at 3200 speed. ISO 3200 ! Am I so far out of touch that having "some" noticeable noise, if you zoom in, at 1600 or 3200 is truly a problem ? At what ISO does noise REALLY become noticeable and you have to run that shot through some magic noise reduction software ?
    Is this all overblown ? Do I have less noise shooting slides than a good quality DSLR will give me ? You guys keep coming up with complaints that keep me in the film side of the fence.
     
  2. Yeah, some people's standards have really changed. No question, you can get a lower noise high ISO image with a newer DSLR than with very fast film. The acceptable ISO varies a lot, depending on camera and lighting situation. I often shoot at 3200 and get pretty good results. As for slow slide film (or T-Max 100 or Ektar for that matter) vs. low ISO DSLR - I can't find the noise in either so there doesn't seem to me to be much point in trying to figure out which has less.
     
  3. My oldest DSLR has noise comparable to ISO 100 slide film when set to ISO 400. It's a little better actually. The newest models are comparable at ISO 800 or even 1600 for the very best performers like the Nikon D700 or Canon 5D mkII.
    People nitpick and argue about noise, among other things, all the time, but that doesn't mean it's worse than with film. DSLRs were ahead of 35mm film on noise from just about day one. If you've been staying away from digital because of nerd arguments and nitpicks on the Internet, you have really been missing out!
     
  4. I joined the "digital world" about three years ago (I own a D200) and have discovered that some of the old "truisms" and rules of thumb that applied in the 35mm days don't apply anymore. For example, when I shot my n90s, I rarely shot above 400, unless I specifically sought a high-grain look (for that, I'd go w/ tmax 3200). New doors have opened up with good digital cameras on this subject. It's now possible, with a camera like a D700, to obtain great depth of field in low light situations because of its outstanding high iso capability. You really can get a sharp, clean image at 1600 with that camera. 3200 ain't bad either.
    Re "At what ISO does noise REALLY become noticeable and you have to run that shot through some magic noise reduction software ?" - this totally depends on your camera. My D200 is pretty lousy beyond iso 800 (even this is questionable). A D90, D300, D700, etc are much superior in this area.
    One other point: the look of noise, in my opinion, is significantly less appealing than the look of grain. So, for me, my willingness to accept a noisy high iso digital shot is much less than what I would have accepted with a grainy, high iso 35mm shot. But this is subjective.
    Hope this helps.
     
  5. Noise varies with the model of camera, but mostly correlates with the size of the pixels (NOT the resolution). The D3/D700 has 8.5 (approx.) micron pixels, which are very large by DSLR standards. A full frame DSLR with a higher resolution (e.g., 25 MP) would have to have much smaller pixels. More noise. A 12 MP APS-sized sensor DSLR would have more noise, too.

    The reason why this is so important is that with a DSLR you can never change the "film" that came with the camera. If you get a camera that, in effect, can't shoot Tri-X, then it will never shoot Tri-X.

    Whether you need a camera with big pixels depends on the kind of shooting you do and the degree of enlargement. Recently, I shot at 300mm at a zoo, inside, which required ISO 6400. (Lens was wide open and shutter speed was already too slow at something like 1/80.) If I didn't have a D700, I would have just put the camera away and enjoyed the birds.

    If you're shooting outdoors, or with flash, you don't need ISO 6400, or even 3200, or even 1200. So you don't need those big pixels.

    These "complaints" really are just talk about one DSLR vs. another, or about advances in technology. For most photographers these days (most, not all), the digital vs. film consideration has long gone by the wayside.

    --Marc
     
  6. Yes, the standards have changed. I looked through some 50 year old slides this weekend in preparation of having them scanned. Lots of grain, which you could see almost with your bare eyes. Quite acceptable 50 years ago.
    I even looked at some photos in a 25 year old edition of National Geographic the other day. Lots of grain there as well, and for 25 years ago, you would not blink an eye....
     
  7. This is a hard question to answer. With film, grain has lots of variation from one emulsion to another. Kodachrome 200 was grainy, but had lots of fans. Digital noise has character variation as well. I have one camera that gets really ugly noise in the shadows at base ISO. My other camera produces noise that looks like grain at all ISO levels that I use. I like the look of the second camera a lot, but a few folks on this forum have been complaining about it. What you see is what you get I guess. To me, the images with grain look sharper and deeper.
     
  8. My problem with digital noise isn't the quantity of it, but the quality of it. I much prefer film grain.
     
  9. It's way overblown. Of course there's always room to improve and applications that would benefit from better high ISO performance, but in reality we are far better off right now than 10 years ago with regards to noise.
     
  10. he idea was always to try and use the lowest ISO you could for the situation, to keep from getting grain​
    Wrong. High ISO films were often used in particular cases, where grain can be a style element. The ISO noise in a digital camera is completely different from such film grain, though. I do believe, though, that for most cameras, the noise issue is highly exaggerated. It has become so much better during the past 3 years, in particular with the newer camera models and better or bigger sensors.
    I work with a Nikon D700 since half a year, and even with high ISO rates, the noise can easily be eliminated without major loss in ACR already, and before that, with my EOS 30D, I've never really felt that noise was a problem for me.
     
  11. ShunCheung

    ShunCheung Administrator

    The bar has certainly been raised.
    5 years ago I shot an indoor wedding with ISO 800 film and I was very unhappy with the grain, and I was also unhappy with the "high" ISO 800 results from the D100 at that same wedding. Today people complain if ISO 1600 results are not excellent, although still much much better than what I got from ISO 800 film or digital from 5 years ago.
    I see absolutely no reason why those complaints should prevent you from entering the digital world.
     
  12. The issue of noise at high ISO is real. The solution is also very real as there are many excellent software programs that allow noise reduction and noise elimination while maintaining exceptional detail. Those who complain may not be well versed in post processing techniques or may just like to complain a lot.
    FWIW, there are also software programs that can add film grain into digital images and you can even choose which type of film grain to add.
     
  13. Over the years, I shot a lot of higher-ISO films- particularly in 35mm- trying to strike the best balance bewteen speed and grainieness. Then, I got a pair of Nikon D100s, which immediately produced somewhat less grainy/less noisy high-ISO proof-sized prints and enlargements than any piece of 35mm film I'd ever used. This, despite the D100 having a smaller-than-full-frame sensor and only being a 6 megapixel camera.
    Another added benefit of DSLRs is, of course, white balancing. When I'd shoot a wedding ceremony in mixed light with, say Fuji 800 or 1600 color negative film, I'd often have to have the printer at my store run three sets of prints to get to a decent color balance. Using the Auto White Balance feature on even the D100 gave me a good color balance on the first run of prints.
    With the D700, I'm able to shoot events with flash at ISO 800, giving me a much better ambient light level in images, even in relatively-dark rooms. I get prints that look like they were shot on ISO 100-200 color negative film.
    Also, with the D100 and D200, I'd run images shot at ISO 800 through Neat Image to lessen noise. With the D700, the images are so noiseless, I notice no difference at ISO 800 running the images through Neat Image.
     
  14. Noise is such an issue in digital cameras because when it shows up, it looks terrible. The "Quality of noise" argument is really the core of it. There is "grain" on film, but there is always some detail behind it. A little grain doesn't ruin a picture on film. When you see noise on your digital images, however, it just turns them to garbage. There is no detail in the noisy areas at all. I think it makes them look cheap. This is why so much research and development has gone into reducing the noise in digital cameras. This is also why people have been so intolerant of any noise whatsoever in their digital images, and why people are obsessing over noise reduction software. Even though a digital image at ISO 1600 may have less noise than ISO 1600 film has grain, it won't look as good unless that noise is removed completely.
    On a digital camera, you always were best to avoid the hghest ISO setting. If the camera went to 1600, you didn't want to exceed 800. On the newest generations cameras, however, they are pushing usually 2 High ISO settings that look terrible, even though the ISO range is hgher. So if you have a newer camera that goes to 6400, you really want to avoid 6400 and 3200, but you should expect great results up to 1600. It's the most advanced cameras that go to 12800 that are giving great results at 3200.
    This means that the newest digital cameras are 1-2 stops better than previous generations. So while 15 years ago you would have pulled out your ISO 1600 film to shoot something and knew you would get usable results with a quality asthetic, it wasn't until recently that digital cameras have been on the same par. I think it was this latest generation of cameras (2008-09) that finally managed to exceed the quality of film for the same applications.
     
  15. I've seen so many images (print and web) from enough DLSR's shot at high ISO's that most people complain give "terrible" results to conclude that much of the "terrible" is exposure and post processing competance...not all of it...but a lot.
     
  16. Digital has changed what is able to be done in low light and we also have a load of people who I suspect have never shot much with film, who look at 100% crops and whine they spent $x on their camera there is visible noise in their handheld shots in the dark. A lot of what you see at 100% you will not see in prints and sometimes you do need a tripod!
    A huge number of high iso pictures just don't get processed properly. Sticking your camera on jpg with in camera noise reduction will never get the best out of the camera. I have found the exposure is also key to getting the best high iso performance, I have iso 3200 shots that look like ones at 800 that were underexposed. Also the goal is noise reduction not noise removal, so many pictures are plastic looking with the NR software having removed detail.
    Here is an example from my D700 at 1600 with no processing or sharpening:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    3200 has a bit more noise but very usable.
     
  17. This is an aesthetic issue which won't be solved by asking other people. Go to flickr, do some searches on various ISO values and the DSLR you are interested in, find some pictures which are available full size, and judge for yourself. Tip: there is definitely a difference between APS-C and full frame sensors, at higher ISOs.
    I find digital noise more objectionable than film grain, but there's less of it, so it's an aesthetic call. The ability of a full frame sensor, like the D700, shown above is really amazing, compared to film.
    What's often lost in these discussions is that neither is "better." They just look different. Which you prefer is a matter of taste.
    Also, you can buy a DSLR online, test it, and send it back for a refund if you don't like it. Be careful, DSLRs are both expensive and as addictive as crack, as there is always a new one coming out. :)
     
  18. The arguments about noise are not the thing holding me back. It's the cost of the cameras that still have people complaining about the noise that are holding me back.
    If it was as simple as, "Those entry level cameras have too much noise , but the better ones are great. " it would be easy. It's when the $1500 cameras are being complained about, and the posts start saying you need to spend $2500 on a D700 or equivalent, to reduce the noise to acceptable levels, that I just say the HECK with saving up for one. The thought of dropping $1500 and then being disappointed in what I see, and worrying about get exact exposure so as to NOT induce more noise and THEN still running every shot through some third party software, to get it they way I want it just seems nuts to me. What other products do we purchase that we KNOW will not be good enough, out of the box, and we will need to spend money on third party things to make them right ? On top of that, do we expect to become obsolete in 2 or 3 years. All of that does not instill confidence in purchasing a DSLR. At least on my part.
    Perhaps this is the big question. If I don't shoot beyond ISO 800, will digital noise ever be an issue ? Can I ignore the debate, if I have the expectations I have with film and avoid really high ISO ?
     
  19. Noise is such an issue in digital cameras because when it shows up, it looks terrible.​
    except all sensors/processors are not created equal. i can see this just from looking at high-ISO images from my d80 (10mp CCD) and d300 (12mp CMOS). without question, the d300 is better at high iSOs. in particular, the grain it produces is often quite acceptable, which allows me to confidently shoot at ISO 1600-2500. i've blown up 16x20 prints under these conditions which look very "filmy."
    OTOH, P&S cameras are really bad at high ISOs. and the d80 can sometimes handle ISO 1600, sometimes not. a lot of it has to do with background lighting, contrast, saturation, etc.
    in the end i would say all that really matters is one's own aesthetic.
     
  20. If it was as simple as, "Those entry level cameras have too much noise , but the better ones are great. " it would be easy. It's when the $1500 cameras are being complained about, and the posts start saying you need to spend $2500 on a D700 or equivalent, to reduce the noise to acceptable levels, that I just say the HECK with saving up for one.
    ANY DSLR you buy today will out perform 35mm film on noise by 3 stops or more. Including the cheapest entry level models. You are paying too much attention to people who spend more time nitpicking, pixel peeping, and arguing on the Internet than they do actually shooting photographs.
    If I don't shoot beyond ISO 800, will digital noise ever be an issue ?
    No. In print current DSLRs set to ISO 800 will look like ISO 100 slide film. When set to ISO 100 their prints will have the smooth clean look of medium format.
     
  21. Noise is such an issue in digital cameras because when it shows up, it looks terrible. The "Quality of noise" argument is really the core of it. There is "grain" on film, but there is always some detail behind it. A little grain doesn't ruin a picture on film. When you see noise on your digital images, however, it just turns them to garbage. There is no detail in the noisy areas at all.
    This is not true. 35mm film grain does more to obscure detail than digital noise, except perhaps at the very highest ISOs for digital (i.e. 6400). There's nothing to recover once grain has destroyed fine detail, though in print grain can be mistaken for fine detail, so sometimes you get lucky. In the digital realm noise reduction software can often reduce noise will retaining or enhancing detail.
    For some reason in color photography noise is very disturbing to the viewer such that neither film grain nor digital noise are pleasing. Though small amounts are acceptable in print, the goal is always the lowest possible level. But in B&W it often isn't disturbing or even contributes to the look. This is a color vs. B&W issue, not a digital vs. film issue. I've purposely shot very high ISO digital images knowing they would be converted to B&W and after the conversion and other adjustments, the noise would be similar to grain in high ISO B&W film. They look terrible in color, fine in B&W.
    Even though a digital image at ISO 1600 may have less noise than ISO 1600 film has grain, it won't look as good unless that noise is removed completely.
    ISO 1600 from the latest DSLRs looks better than ISO 400 35mm. You don't have to make any great efforts to reduce or eliminate the noise. The images look just fine in print.
    If you want to know the #1 reason why digital noise is "an issue", it's because Photoshop lets people pixel peep all day long.
     
  22. the idea was always to try and use the lowest ISO you could for the situation, to keep from getting grain​
    still very true. I shoot digital long since and almost all of my photos are shot at ISO 100 same as I did/do on film. All for a very good reason. Most of what you read is just fetisjism.
     
  23. The moaning noises (quite separate from the image noise) usually came from people with unrealistic expectations. Yes, when I was shooting film, ISO 1600 was really pushing it and those out there who were tinkering with 3200 were the geeks. But thats all changed. Well the hype has changed it.
    In the film days, the best pro workhorse film camera, the Nikon F6 cost $5000 new. So a pro could get well outfillted for $10k, and that investment would last years because it was only the film that was getting updated, not the gear.
    Now, with digital, that investment is more like $20,000. But the cruncher is that half this investment is depreciating very fast as digital technology advances quickly. A good used D3 can be had on eBay for $3k.
    So we now have a whole generation of photographers who have a different expectation and that also covers things like "acceptable" noise. You and I are quite happy keeping below 1600, but young Joe Gizmo is not, and the camera companies are to blame, as really there is so little differentiation at the mid to top level that things like high ISO management becomes a major differentiator.
    For the most part, people still shoot in well lit situations. But we are seeing new professionals who have never learned to use flash creatively in wedding photography. And they complain about low light performance from their gear. I have little patience with them. Go buy a flash.
    Yes, my opinion is it's certainly overblown, but many people can't find anything else to talk about as a point of difference. Those who are realistic know the real world limits of their gear, especially if they have to make a living from it. And not many are playing in the 3200/6400 ISO territory. In fact they try to stay as low as possible to get the cleanest images they can. 200-400 is still where its at in the daytime real world.
     
  24. It all depends on the camera, the sensor, and the processing chips. I'm very happy with ISO 3200 on my D700. It's not completely "noise free," but the images look great. It looks like the grain of ISO 400 film.
    By contrast, the noise performance of the D200 is rather disappointing. I grabbed a few ambient light shots at a friend's wedding with the D200 at ISO 1600, and the images were so noisy that they're practically useless. ISO 1600 film would have looked considerably better.
     
  25. ISO 3200 example, Nikon D700
    (For pixel peepers, a higher resolution JPEG is visible on my website.)
    00Ugqk-178829584.jpg
     
  26. Perhaps this is the big question. If I don't shoot beyond ISO 800, will digital noise ever be an issue?​
    That's the wonderful thing about technological advances. Whatever is made available we'll find a use for. A few years ago, having 1TB hard drives on personal computers was almost unthinkable. Today, I'm sure that lots of us are loading up our 1TB drives with vast quantities of RAW and TIFF files.
    If you have a camera that shoots relatively clean images at high ISO values, you'll find uses for that feature very quickly. It doesn't mean that you're going to shoot at high ISO values all the time, but when you're in a low-light, hand-held situation, you're going to take shots that you once would have passed on, and some of those shots are going to look surprisingly good. Someday, when futuristic cameras make the D3 look like a noisy old relic, people will find uses for the powerful new features that those cameras offer. If they build it, we will shoot it. :)
     
  27. This obsession over noise sort of makes me chuckle. Here I am off shooting at ISO 12,800 in 35mm in order to get nice juicy golfball sized grain and I'm loving it. :)
     
  28. I wonder. Would we artistically embrace Robert Frank's "The Americans" today, with the grainy photographs replaced with analogously noisy digital images?
     
  29. I notice many say that the reason digital noise is bad is because it looks ugly compared to film noise, but that too is down to the photographer to more or less choose in selecting which RAW processor and processing to apply to an image. A RAW processor that allows all noise reduction to be switched off (unlike ACR, Lightroom and several own manufacturer's processing tools that come with the camera), noise tends to be more film-grain like and not blotches of colour that try removing it.
    Also, I can highly recommend adding noise to a photo in Photoshop to get nicer grain.
     
  30. Hakon, interesting tip. My raw converter has a film grain plugin (Andy Pro B/W plugin), so I'll give that ago tonight. Never applied that to a color image, wonder what the results will look like :) Would be interesting to also scan raw grain from film and apply that in post. Hmmm....
    Anyways, I'm glad to be an amateur with no wories about noise for submissions and clients. My d300 kicks ass at 1600, no qualms here.
    Alvin
     
  31. Chris Nielsen , Oct 08, 2009; 02:56 a.m. (edit | delete )
    This obsession over noise sort of makes me chuckle. Here I am off shooting at ISO 12,800 in 35mm in order to get nice juicy golfball sized grain and I'm loving it. :)

    Ditto. After routinely pushing ISO 400 films to 1600 and above and using films like Delta 3200 for the grain, it doesn't even occur to me to worry about luminance noise in my digital photos.
    OTOH, I dislike chroma noise and often use selective noise reduction to minimize the blotchy discoloration.
    But I'll occasionally use my dSLR at 1600 or higher even when it isn't necessary, just to try to mimic the look of pushed b&w film. The D2H at ISO 3200-6400 begins to produce a fluffy sort of luminance noise that resembles Delta 3200. The trick is mimicking the tonality in monochrome conversions. But at least with this camera the high ISO noise comes closer to resembling film grain than any of the effects applied during editing.
    If I need low noise or no noise, I use a lower ISO. Same as with film. I never expected Tri-X to resemble Plus-X grain and I don't expect my digital cameras to behave at ISO 400 as they do at ISO 100 or 200. The current generation of dSLRs offer remarkable high ISO performance, so I don't understand the angst. Mostly it seems like pixel peeping and operator error when I see the examples that some folks complain about.
     
  32. Noise in today's DSLR is very very low. The reason why people obsess over it is because if it shows on a print it is really ugly (same goes for noiseless pixels). That said, there is plenty space to avoid it if you know your equipment and your intended use.
    With film, grain is a mater of choice and taste. Some people like to see "I love you" carved with a stick in the sand.
    With digital, noise on a print needs to be avoided. No one likes to see "I love you" a on a noisy TV signal. That is the main difference.
     
  33. I regularly shoot live music at ISO 3200 with my 5D. The 8"x12" prints I make from that look as clean or cleaner than any 8"x12" print I made from 35mm Fuji NPH 400. I'm using Canon DSLRs that have already been discontinued, and every print comparison I've made encouraged me to go digital, particularly when it came to high ISO shooting. I had given up on high ISO 35mm many years before I tried digital. I thought my prints from high ISO 6x6 and 6x7 looked pretty good, until I hung those 5D prints next to them. My Hassy 500c/m and P67II were soon on the auction block.
    You can rent DSLRs and try it yourself, but the biggest quality variable is still the skill of the person doing the processing. You might look to find some large print, high ISO examples from someone who's been doing it for a while.
     
  34. To illustrate how grain could be pleasing (to some):
    Here is an example of a crop of a 20+ megapixel scan of pushed TMAX in just 35 mm in an effort to show grain.
    (Picking small-35mm and push film helps to illustrate grain - but TMAX it is so fine that makes it hard to show grain on a print even intentionally).
    00UgyI-178883684.jpg
     
  35. And her is a crop (corresponding -depending on your monitor- to about a 3 feet tall print):
    00UgyK-178883784.jpg
     
  36. You can see grain. Especially in the out of focus areas. But there is a structure, detail and tonality within it that can make it pleasing to some.
    It also has wicked dynamic range to a point it captures detail within specular reflections.
     
  37. Is this all overblown ? Do I have less noise shooting slides than a good quality DSLR will give me ?
    I think ISO 1600 on the D700/D3 is comparable with current ISO 100 slide film in overall image quality; ISO 3200 is comparable with ISO 400 C41 and ISO 6400 perhaps ISO 800 C41 film, give or take. So you're missing about 4 stops of sensitivity by shooting film. If you shoot still subjects it is not a problem, but for shooting people in existing light a DSLR is much better.
    Noise reduction software doesn't really help that much as it blurs details while reducing noise. The default settings of noise reduction in Capture NX2 are sufficient - going beyond that just throws away detail. Using ACR/LR results in more noisy images at high ISO but processing times are faster. Adobe isn't at all competitive in raw conversion algorithms (IMO) but their user interfaces are good. I used to use NeatImage for neg scans but I tend to prefer Nikon's code for those too (ICE4's GEM algorithm is very good) so there isn't any separate noise reduction software that I would want to use in practice.
     
  38. "I think ISO 1600 on the D700/D3 is comparable with current ISO 100 slide film in overall image quality; ISO 3200 is comparable with ISO 400 C41."

    Can you please post an example to show what you mean with overall image quality? Obviously you don;t mean resolution. If it is noise, not sure what definition would make 1600iso 12MP camera comparable to 35mm slide film.

    Also I don't understand what you mean with the C41 comparison. Do you think there is only one stop of noise worth of difference between 100iso slide and 400iso color neg? In my opinion there are at least 4 stops worth.
    If you can post an example of both that make you arrive to that conclusion it would help.
     
  39. i shot film slides for 32yrs. about 8 yrs ago i switched to digital. my conclusion about the noise in slrs vs dslrs is very simple- ANY dslr now has less noise than any of the film slides i used to shoot with. we noiw have computers and programs that can enlarge the image to 1000000% of the origianl size. how could anyone under those conditions not see anything wrong? the answer is they/you will see something to complain about now with any dslr made. and then the pixelpeepers complain about whatever that is. in other words they complain because they can. when i shot with film, we simply took the shots and worried about composition.
    as far as cost is concerned remember that once you get a supply of memory cards your film costs are zero. i have 2 dslrs. the older one is over 4 1/2yrs old and works great. if it ever breaks i'll worry about replacing it. in other words the dslr will last a long time with proper care.
    as far as noise at any iso, if the conditions of the shoot generate noise it is a simple matter to get a noise reduction program. these are simple to use, the cost is low, and can reduce the noise to ridiculously low amounts. far lower than any film you have ever used. in other words settle on the dslr based on your needs and wants and costs, any noise is going to be less than any film slr you have used. there is no rule that says you cannot use a noise reduction program on a entry level dslr to make the images as noise free as a triple the price dslr. even then the difference in noise in any real shooting condition is something that you measure in a lab, not on the prints.
    the noise issue is extremely overblown and is for pixelpeepers and people who like to argue about it.
     
  40. John, as a film shooter I just ordered my first DSLR after years of thinking, research, and more recently borrowing and testing. I was puzzled by the same online conversations as you as a nature photographer committed to things like ultra low ISO velvia slide films and such. My take after researching is that this and many similar issues are indeed overblown (that's being kind). The deal is that DSLRs have opened the door to genuine advantages but also to laziness. The ability to adjust the amplification of your sensor (ISO) is one such. Since we're stuck with the same sensor and can't change it out like we could film, I guess the engineers figured they better give us control over amplification, and of course that's useful (critical for pros, I'm sure, and game-changing for many technical applications), but it doesn't change the rules of picture taking for art. If you want good natural light imagery, stay in base ISO virtually all the time and adjust your picture taking, not your toy.

    And the laziness side has really grown in a way film just didn't permit. Why seek out optimal picture taking conditions when you can just crank up the amp to ISO 3200, get the shot WHEN you want it HOW you want it, then just complain on the backside that these damn multi $k cameras still can't deliver to expectations? The ultimate expression of this is that so many people calling themselves photographers on the web these days seem more interested in digital painting in photoshop to get the imaginary images they want than in actually seeking out real images of life on earth and capturing them.

    If, like me, you still want to do actual photography, rather than "image creation," you can I think do it better with a DSLR than with film. The ability to review and improve what you've done in real time is game changing, as is the ability to shoot virtually unlimited numbers of images of a scene. On a day trip to the everglades with film, the best mere mortals could do was say a half a roll of slides on each great subject, with of course a low hit rate. Today you could easily blaze through 300 images of that single great subject, and amazingly your actual hit rate would also be higher because of the real-time correction. Where before my 36 slides yielded 0 to 5 keepers, now those 300 digital images may actually be 1/3 or 1/2 (or more) keepers. Just astonishing. To me now, film (much as I had tons of fun with it) was an era of pain I'd rather forget.
     
  41. How does the noise reduction function in Photoshop compare with third-party noise reduction software?
     
  42. ANY DSLR you buy today will out perform 35mm film on noise by 3 stops or more. Including the cheapest entry level models.
    You're claiming that ISO 800 on an entry-level DSLR will have no more noise than Ektar 100 or Astia 100 film? And that ISO 3200 (if it exists) on an entry-level DSLR will have no more noise than Portra 400NC?
    I don't think it's true, even if you don't do any noise-reduction on the film scan. And why wouldn't you apply noise reduction to a film scan, if grain is something you don't like? It's comparing apples and oranges to look at film with no noise reduction versus DSLR with noise reduction. The film will certainly have enough resolution that it could afford to lose a bit to noise reduction while still matching the resolution of an entry-level DSLR.
     
  43. DSLRs have opened the door to genuine advantages but also to laziness. The ability to adjust the amplification of your sensor (ISO) is one such.
    (snip)
    If you want good natural light imagery, stay in base ISO virtually all the time and adjust your picture taking, not your toy.​
    Steve, you've made many interesting points, and I would agree with you partially on the "laziness" verdict. As an example, we have a new generation of photographers today who know very little about the color of light. Automatic White Balance and RAW converters make all of the decisions for them. They wouldn't know an 80A from and 81D.
    However, I have to differ with you on the ability to shoot at high ISO settings with limited noise the final image. There are a lot of places where one simply cannot use a tripod. The interiors of historic buildings and museums. A crowded church or theater. The sidelines of an athletic field. A bustling city sidewalk at rush hour. A hospital ward. A prison wing. The ability to capture images at ISO 1600 or 3200 that rival or exceed what film could do at ISO 400 opens up a universe of new possibilities. Digital cameras are not "toys" when they're used to capture images thoughtfully in extreme conditions.

    And the laziness side has really grown in a way film just didn't permit. Why seek out optimal picture taking conditions when you can just crank up the amp to ISO 3200, get the shot WHEN you want it HOW you want it, then just complain on the backside that these damn multi $k cameras still can't deliver to expectations?​
    Again, we're talking about two different situations. In "optimal conditions" I'm shooting at a low ISO value and probably on a tripod. I might even be using a FILM camera. That doesn't mean that I shouldn't take advantage of the incredible low-light capture ability that my D700 affords me. Today, I can make MORE images in MORE conditions, because I now have a more varied photographic toolkit.
    The ultimate expression of this is that so many people calling themselves photographers on the web these days seem more interested in digital painting in photoshop to get the imaginary images they want than in actually seeking out real images of life on earth and capturing them.​
    Different strokes for different folks, I suppose. I'm a "real light" guy, and I'm sure that lots of dedicated digital photographers are, too. Just because some people use Photoshop to add fake color to images doesn't make Photoshop a bad tool. Technology is just a tool that helps express the vision of each individual artist, the surrealists AND the realists.

    If, like me, you still want to do actual photography, rather than "image creation," you can I think do it better with a DSLR than with film.​
    Some folks might consider "actual photography" to consist of (a) developing and printing film in a wet darkroom according to the Zone System, and (b) shooting with a camera that has movements. But this is a matter or personal preference and gets away from our discussion of noise and ISO settings.
    The ability to review and improve what you've done in real time is game changing, as is the ability to shoot virtually unlimited numbers of images of a scene. On a day trip to the everglades with film, the best mere mortals could do was say a half a roll of slides on each great subject, with of course a low hit rate. Today you could easily blaze through 300 images of that single great subject, and amazingly your actual hit rate would also be higher because of the real-time correction. Where before my 36 slides yielded 0 to 5 keepers, now those 300 digital images may actually be 1/3 or 1/2 (or more) keepers. Just astonishing. To me now, film (much as I had tons of fun with it) was an era of pain I'd rather forget.​
    I've never viewed shooting film as a painful experience (except maybe when I was trying to load my Pentax 67 in cold weather-ugh!). I see film as an adventure. I still shoot film regularly for (a) the unique look that it provides, and (b) the challenge of getting the shot right without LCD screens and histograms. There's a genuine excitement in having to wait hours or days (or weeks) to see the images you've captured. It's like savoring a great mystery novel, except in this case your own skills will determine whether the last chapter is a page-turner or a dud.
    When I really nail a film image, I feel like I just hit a walk-off home run. As much as I love my DSLR's, I rarely get that kind of rush from a digital photo *EXCEPT* when the DSLR delivers the goods in a situation that I know that I could NEVER have captured on film. For instance, coming home with sharp, colorful photos of King's College Chapel shot handheld at ISO 3200 - that was VERY satisfying. Thanks again, Nikon! :)
     
  44. A lot of the noise about noise comes from the fact that people are realizing that there are other things besides megapixels to worry about. Now that megapixel levels are sufficient to give splendid large prints, we are looking at noise, dynamic range, etc. as the essential criteria to evaluate in new models of DSLRs.
    My first digital camera, the Olympus E-20 (circa 2001), had a lot of noise, especially in low light. It is amazing how far we have come on that front. I shoot Canon, but I am really astonished by what Nikon has accomplished regarding noise reduction at high ISOs.
    The current discussions over noise should not deter you from buying a DSLR. It is so much simpler to have the camera do the scan for you than to have to go through the arduous process of scanning and then cleaning up the scan--if you are digitizing your slides or negatives. Digital is so darned convenient, just as 35mm was so darned convenient compared to what had come before. I won't make any claims that the qualilty is better than film, but only because that debate bores me. I still have my film cameras but almost never use them. Digital is not always optimal (cf. medium format film, for example), but it is often good enough, and "good enough" is, well, good enough, depending on the application.
    I will venture to say that sometimes digital is downright superior. One area in which that is true is with noise--if you are shooting a really good DSLR. Look up the D700 on dpreview.com and find out what all the noise is about.
    --Lannie
     
  45. It would be interesting to know how many of those compaining about noise are professional photographers who rely on an commercially acceptable images to make their living. Or are a lot of them amateurs with have the luxury of spending time pixel-peeping instead of taking more pictures to earn money? The noise of a D700 is too high? Would the paying customer really notice the difference between a picture taken with a D700 and a camera three generations ago? In most cases I doubt it.
    In my (limited) experience I think if you use a digital camera in the same way you have used your film camera it is a no-brainer. Save time, save film, save processing and expand your horizons for image manipulation if you want to do that sort of thing. The advent of very-high ISO has opened new possibilities for any photogrpaher to take pictures in situations where in the past they would not have bothered to take the camera out of the bag (or even out of the house!) and this starts to give unrealistic expectations.
     
  46. Daniel Lee Taylor [​IMG], Oct 07, 2009; 01:23 a.m.
    DSLRs were ahead of 35mm film on noise from just about day one. If you've been staying away from digital because of nerd arguments and nitpicks on the Internet, you have really been missing out!
    Daniel, I agree.
    John, here's an idea.....
    Borrow a friend's digital camera, and do some side-by-side comparison shots.
    Better yet, borrow a few different digitals, do the same tests and see what's what for yourself.
    I think you'll be pleasantly surprised, and you'll be into digital by late next week.
    Bill P.
     
  47. You're claiming that ISO 800 on an entry-level DSLR will have no more noise than Ektar 100 or Astia 100 film? And that ISO 3200 (if it exists) on an entry-level DSLR will have no more noise than Portra 400NC?
    Yes on the digital 800/35mm 100 comparison. As for the 3200/400 comparison, I shouldn't say any current model. But for the better models it's certainly true. Head on over to Imaging Resource and spend some time with their 7D, 5D/5D2, and D3/D700 samples at 3200.
    And why wouldn't you apply noise reduction to a film scan, if grain is something you don't like?
    Nobody said you couldn't. The point is that John has been avoiding a DSLR thinking that noise is worse than with film. But in fact it's better.
     
  48. It would be interesting to know how many of those compaining about noise are professional photographers who rely on an commercially acceptable images to make their living. Or are a lot of them amateurs with have the luxury of spending time pixel-peeping instead of taking more pictures to earn money?​

    Bingo. Web discussion forums are dominated by amateurs, some serious, some dabblers, many total newbies who are confused by the bewildering contradictions they read online.
    The exceptions include sports photographers and photojournalists who tend to dominate two or three websites. They have a legitimate reason to absolutely need low noise, high ISO performance because the event can't wait.
    Another exception would be the serious amateur who must get the shot of a lifetime under less than ideal conditions. I can certainly understand why someone who has spent thousands of dollars for a photo safari or cruise would be disappointed if the usual EV 10-12 daylight didn't appear on the one day they had to visit. Better high ISO performance is essential for them.
    For the rest of us, it's a luxury. We'd like to believe we "need" better high ISO performance. But if we're honest with ourselves, we just crave it because the dominant culture of web discussions gives us a distorted view of photography: insatiable, often ill-informed, and lazy (we want the camera to do it all, so we don't have to fuss with editing).
     
  49. Lex (perpendicularity consultant) Jenkins [​IMG][​IMG][​IMG], Oct 09, 2009; 07:53 a.m.
    The exceptions include sports photographers and photojournalists who tend to dominate two or three websites. They have a legitimate reason to absolutely need low noise, high ISO performance because the event can't wait.
    Lex, I think it is worth mentioning that those shooters have much bigger budgets to work with than the typical serious amateur or they use "house" cameras of pretty high quality.
    Also, part of being a pro entails shooting all the time.
    They are around other photographers and that gives them the ability to exchange tips, tricks, etc.
    They also have access to more software and editing options, usually a department that handles that end for them.
    Bill P.
     
  50. There are so many myths about "Grain" and "Noise" both in film and digital that it would take Ludovico Technique conditioning to educate most photographers....
    There is a very good reason why digital "Noise" looks worse than Film Grain. Digital noise is a repeating pattern. Film Grain is a random pattern, and tends to blend into the background, or at least give a more pleasant appearance. Digital Noise makes the repeating RGB pattern of the bayer sensor array visible. So your brain recognizes the digital noise as a pattern and tries to make sense of it. Patterns are harder for the brain to "filter" out than random distributions. It's that simple and 100 years of Perceptual Psychological research backs it up.
    In the old days photographers understood that "grain" was a fact of life. Many people set about mixing their own developers and some photographers preferred "Acutance" developers like Rodinal to enhance sharpness while others preferred D-76 to reduce grain. But that was, and still is the trade off; fine grain vs acutance (or sharpness). When you do noise reduction on a digital image you are softening it. No way around that! In the end it breaks down to personal preference and one person's grain is another's atmosphere. The worst thing about digital, as someone here pointed out, is that photographers spend too much time looking at gigantic magnifications of their images on computer screens and NOT real PRINTS. Read up on "Dot Gain" and you'll understand that most of the noise you see onscreen will disappear on the print. That is if anybody still prints.....
     
  51. Noise is just one of many potential details that need to be managed. Digital or film.. it's still photography.
     
  52. It has just become a pissing contest for manufacturers now. Instead of consumers buying fast lenses, they stick a medium speed f2.8 lens on and crank it up. This is part of the reason why zooms are so popular. so with these ridiculously high iso's, and image stabalised lenses and bodies, it won't be too long before slr's are as good as rangefinders for low light shooting, although focusing will still be an issue. most people who think they need over 3200 iso probably need to upgrade their technique.
     
  53. I really missed out on some excellent photo opportunities on Thursday evening while it was still light out because I didn't have my D700 with me while strolling toward the light rail station on Mill Avenue. I only had my N80 with me, and that didn't get me what I wanted. I came back almost two hours later with my D700 and got some very good shots (at least in my mind).
    [​IMG]
    That shot was taken at 25,600 ISO. Not too bad, all things considering. I used my 85.1.8 at 1.8. I used a variety of ISO settings that night, going anywhere from 1250 or so (for a relatively long exposure at 1/20) to 25,600, probably using 6400/10,000 the most. I didn't use those settings just because I could, but because it was the only way to get good shots in near-darkness without using a distracting flash.
     
  54. That is if anybody still prints...
    Russ, how true. Something I've often wondered, and has the makings of a new discussion, now that everyone takes 300 shots instead of 36ish, do they still print ?, but I digress the discussion.... I have to add my tupence worth and say that this argument is a non-argument. There is no comparison to the awesome capabilities of high iso pictures from the current digital cameras such as D700/D3 etc to high iso films of the past. Don't forget that with high iso films of 400 onwards, it wasn't only the grain that increased, but the contrast dropped dramatically in proportion and you usually ended up with some pretty drab looking prints the higher you went. Not the case anymore.
     
  55. I think a camera with good high ISO performance is a luxury. But owning such a camera does make one lazy. If good tools are available and one can afford them, why not use them? Good tools improve one's work. Last Sunday I went to the local gardens to photograph hummingbirds. The day was overcast with poor light conditions. I normally use a D200 with my long lenses and teleconverters to maximize focal length. But this day the light was so poor, I used my D700 and left the teleconverters at home. I used a 300/2.8 lens. I used shutter priorty with an exposure time around 1/1250s which forced the aperture wide open. I let ISO vary. At this aperture and shutter speed ISO was between 2500 to 3200. The D200 body would have produced poor results at these settings. The D700 produced really surprising results in my opinion (see below). If I only had a D200, I would not have been able to capture a really good series of images. The image below is a camera jpg. The image is cropped not quite 1:1, but pretty close. A little sharpening and contrast enhancement, no other changes. D700, 300/2.8 lens, f/2.8, 1/1250s, ISO 2500, spot metered, shutter priorty.
    00UjGq-179859584.jpg
     
  56. Lovely shot Doug ! Another thing I really liked about my high iso D700 is that it made my crappy 70-300mm Sigma lens into an acceptable performer. On my F4/film set-up at the 300mm end, and usually wide open, the results were pretty crappy, unusable. I was going to get rid of it. On the D700 and higher iso's , the lens usually operates at f/11 or f/16'ish, and at higher shutter speeds, and instantly its like WOW !, totally acceptable results, is this the same lens ? If there is a tad more noise in the background, small price to pay. Needless to say, I'm not getting rid of it anymore.
     
  57. Nice shots, folks! Great examples of the D700's remarkable high-ISO performance!
     
  58. I bought a D70s a few years ago. Everyone said that the most impressive thing about it was the noise it made when you took a photo - real quality noise, very professional!!
     
  59. Although it goes against the grain to say: it I dont like the clean noise free look from digital black and white images!
    If i'm producing a bw print I add noise in PS to give texture to sky areas especially. I like the grainy look of old fashined high speed film.
    The wonderfull thing about digital is you can control the image noise to get virtualy any level size or style of grain you want depending on picture size.
    00UkDl-180341984.jpg
     

Share This Page