I am quite interested in how the camera manufactures are treating the ISO setting on your cameras. If you keep up with the technology of the changes to cameras, you will notice that one thing that the camera manufactures are doing, is to make the photo look better, sharper than ever with the higher ISO setting.
In the old film world, we had different films you would have to buy to get the ISO to work for you. Such as, for print film, the best film was the 100ISO. Kodachrome slide film was an amazing film because it had an ISO rating of 25 or 64. Clearly an outdoor film. And then the film manufactures were inventing the super high ISO print films with a rating of 1600. Those who shot that film were somewhat disappointed, at first, because of the grain that showed up in your photos. And that was the problem of high-speed films. They did revise and improve on those films as technology improved with the grain structures.
And now we have the digital age. The one thing that you face now with shooting high ISO on your camera, is almost the same problem we had with film. The photos look grainy, or just not sharp. If you notice the chart above, the problem is, of course not the grain, but, the “signal to noise” ratio. And that translates into a “grainy” looking photo.

However, the camera manufactures have been working on that constantly since digital cameras came out.  The ability to use a higher ISO today is amazing.

photo by Howard Ignatius, ISO 6400

Notice the detail you can get with a high ISO setting today.  And the sharpness is improving tremendously all the time.  And the camera manufactures know that as well.  For example, the new Sony DSLR camera, just introduced, the model A7r IV has an ISO rating from 100 iso to 32,000 ISO!  That amazes me.  I tried my Canon camera at 3200 a few times with amazing results.  I am almost thinking that if I shot my digital camera at 32,000 ISO (which it cannot do), that all my pictures would be awful.  The thing to learn with Sony, Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Panasonic, all putting this kind of setting in their cameras now, is that shooting at 8000 iso, for example, the photos would be very acceptable.  Why would we need flash anymore?  Well, there are still reasons to use flash, but using natural light in most of your photos is an amazing feature, now that this is available.

Keep in mind that the newer cameras are the ones that have improved the sharpness of the ISO photos.  I have a Canon camera that is 4 years old.  With that, I

can shoot up to 3200 ISO is all.  And the pictures are not really that good.  But technology has improved this since then. But that won’t help me because my camera is older, and the technology isn’t in this camera.  I would have to buy a new camera to get the newer results.

Since 4 years ago, the manufactures of cameras are having this interesting battle.  The manufactures of cameras today, obviously have some amazing scientists and engineers who have figured out how to make higher ISO settings look more amazing, and “noise free” than ever.  There have been numerous articles written lately, praising the camera manufactures for making the pictures look so much better at the higher ISO settings.  Because they have been working on this problem of “noise” on the pictures we take using a high ISO, they have felt that they can make the ISO settings of the pro version of cameras even higher.  It was just a few years ago that when I shot at 3200 ISO, that it was not very good photos.  If I were to buy a new Nikon, Canon, Sony, Pentax, or Panasonic today, shooting at 3200 would look amazing.  So, now you can experiment on shooting even with a higher ISO, say 12,000 ISO and see if you like it.  I have not yet tried it, but I expect that with some cameras, it would not be so bad.  We are getting to the point that we will not need a flash so much anymore.

            Nikon has done something to help the photographer use the best ISO for what type of photography they are doing.  They call it: “Auto ISO”.  Here is how it works:

“What is Auto ISO?

Auto ISO was introduced into digital cameras several years ago to help photographers manage noise balance. Turning on that feature allows the camera to push the ISO up when it decides the shutter speed is getting too low for a good picture. Even better, newer Nikon cameras have added “ISO Sensitivity Auto Control” to the menu choices. This takes Auto ISO and lets you have some say about what happens. Using it, you set the limit for how high it can go (800? 3200?) and at what shutter speed it should start raising the ISO (1/125? 1/30?). The amount of control this feature allows means more photographers will start taking advantage of it.

A solid understanding of ISO will help you make smart decisions about how to set your camera. And that, in turn, will lead to better pictures.”

          I still think, that as you take photos, using the higher ISO, that you will need to still be careful of the “digital noise” that could occur.  Experiment with it to see what you think is your acceptable level of “noise”.

What now is the decision we must make as photographers, as the camera manufactures are making it look so good to shoot with a higher ISO?  As long as I have been doing instruction for photographers, I have constantly told new photographers as they get started, is to figure out what type of photographer they want to be.  Do they want to be a “wildlife Photographer”, or a “sports photographer”, or a photographer that takes a lot of “low light” photos?  When you decide that, then, it only makes sense that they look to buying one of these new cameras that will help them with their low light. 

A Pexel Photo by photographers for photographers

Low light photography is still going to make the photographer do things that they will not like all the time but will need to do it to make their skills work well.  Like they will have to take a tripod with them all the time.  And some will think they have nerves of steel as they go to take the pictures and find that the shutter speed is at ¼ of second.  That is never a good idea to shoot pictures at that shutter speed.  So, will raising the ISO help?  Of course.  Then you can start shooting at a higher shutter speed, and not worry so much about taking blurry photos.  But isn’t our goal as photographers, to produce the sharpest photos you possibly can?  Of course.  So, with the newer cameras, when you must make that decision to use a higher ISO, say of 12,000, and you can use faster shutter speeds, then you will not have to worry quite so much.  This is a great new feature that is helping this type of photographer a lot.   We welcome the new “low light” photographer of 2021!

A free Pexel photo for photographers, by photographers
Photo by Lanny Cottrell taken at 8pm at night, and using just natural light from the street lamps.

Article written by Lanny Cottrell, in an article posted in: THE BIGGER PICTURE MAGAZINE!

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