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Very high iso thread
  
 
workerdrone
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p.1 #1 · Very high iso thread


Hopefully I'm not duplicating a popular thread here - but I had a chance recently to shoot with a Nikon D4 and it piqued my interest in state-of-the-art for low light shooting. I personally think its an exciting time for photographers because there are so many digital choices that are very, very good and one of the primary reasons for parting with your hard earned $ for upgrades is the increasingly high iso capabilities more than anything else.

Interested in seeing your personal favorites for pushing the envelope in high iso, with some details on equipment and processing.

Tips on noise reduction or software discussion welcome!

Will start with this image, handheld with a D4 and 300f4 + 1.4 TC combo. f5.6 @ 1/1000th, iso10,000. I'm a PP grade-schooler and used basically default settings in DxO 8 and then some tweaks to taste in Lightroom 5. Chilly early morning shot of a pair of swans floating in the thin ice.







Edited on Dec 21, 2013 at 12:58 PM · View previous versions



Dec 20, 2013 at 10:55 PM
Ian.Dobinson
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p.1 #2 · Very high iso thread


its funny , I was going thru my LR cat today and was veiwing images taken with my 1st DSLR a pentax istD . it was an indoors sports event and they were soooo noisy as to be horrible, and im quite forgiving of noise if the shot is ok. (cant post at the moment as im not at my LR machine) . I had to look what ISO they were at and it was iso 3200 . made me think just how far things have come .


Dec 20, 2013 at 11:23 PM
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p.1 #3 · Very high iso thread


I typically don't go below 6,400 and really even at that point, I'd much rather whip out the tripod and bring it back up to like 400 or something.

Out of nearly 110,000 photographs 62 are at ISO 6,400 and two are at ISO 10,000. There are 16 at 12,800 but I'm pretty sure those were either mistakes or camera tests. The overwhelming majority of my shots are between 100 and 640 ISO.

The GH2 shoots OK at high ISO (nearly identical to the OM-D) but ya can't really do anything with the files. As soon as I adjust anything the noise jumps up so high that removing it means losing more detail than I'm willing to. In images where there is no fine detail that's ok but on nearly 100,000 occasions such a scene has only presented itself about 50 times - so it's not really something I think about much.

But yeah, cameras sure have gotten a lot better in the past 8 years or so. I remember when 400 looked just terrible! Then it was 800 ya never wanted to see, then 1,600, then 3,200 and now 10,000 to 12,800 look pretty OK-ish on a lot of models! Nice!








Dec 21, 2013 at 01:04 AM
workerdrone
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p.1 #4 · Very high iso thread


Well, I don't normally venture often into high iso's either but having the D4 in my hands for a bit had me thinking differently - as in, what if I just let auto iso do its thing and just shoot, pretty much forgetting about iso in most situations. Kind of liberating. I'm all for letting a camera make decisions and speeding up / simplifying my work as long as it's not the sort of decision that I deeply disapprove of.

And I frequently use a solid tripod and head but I'll be the first to admit I'd love not to need to.

I know virtually nothing about PP NR so I was pretty amazed at shots like the one above.



Dec 21, 2013 at 01:25 AM
cwebster
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p.1 #5 · Very high iso thread



ISO 10,000, I'm seriously impressed!

<Chas>



Dec 21, 2013 at 02:25 AM
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p.1 #6 · Very high iso thread


workerdrone wrote:
Well, I don't normally venture often into high iso's either but having the D4 in my hands for a bit had me thinking differently - as in, what if I just let auto iso do its thing and just shoot, pretty much forgetting about iso in most situations. Kind of liberating. I'm all for letting a camera make decisions and speeding up / simplifying my work as long as it's not the sort of decision that I deeply disapprove of.

And I frequently use a solid tripod and head but I'll be the first to admit I'd love not to need
...Show more


You've certainly got the right camera for that sort of "simplification", that's for sure!

I guess most cameras don't even have an option where the stutter and aperture are manually selected and the ISO is automatic. Mine doesn't for sure.




Dec 21, 2013 at 07:07 AM
workerdrone
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p.1 #7 · Very high iso thread


Can't remember if my Canons did, but my current Nikon D800 and D7100 do, and so did my D7000's. I have auto iso on my custom menu so I can easily turn it off and on, and then "easy iso" on all the time - so I can have the camera up to my eye and if I want a little more shutter speed, it's just a roll of the thumb wheel. Or dial it down for quality if I have plenty of shutter speed. Am usually in A or M modes.

It'll go by the focal length attached and you can set it to be conservative or daring depending on how steady your hands are.



Dec 21, 2013 at 01:03 PM
OntheRez
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p.1 #8 · Very high iso thread


Due to the horrible light in most of the venues in which I shoot sports, I'm almost always at ISO 6400 to keep shutter speed at 1/640 to 1/800. (I'd kill to get down to 3200 or to be able to use a f/2.8 zoom.) I'm also forced to shoot fast primes with my aperture averaging between f/1.8 and f/2.4. Given that shooting motion in the dark is one of the most challenging things one can do with a camera, I have no other way to do this. Flash is banned in the league so that won't help.

Outside in any sort of natural light and in any situation in which I can use a tripod I shoot between 200 - 800 depending on light and conditions. I can't imagine a situation in which I would choose to shoot at a higher ISO than necessary because while noise control and processing has certainly improved at the higher settings nothing beats being able to work at say ISO 200.

I only shoot manual and frankly find auto-ISO to be an irritant. Certainly everyone can approach the picture from whatever direction they choose, but I'm arrogant enough to think that my direct intervention and choices about how the pix will be created are better than any built in algorithm. Obviously millions of people disagree with me as I see so much shooting done with the "green dot" on. One of the joys of photography is there are very few "right" ways of doing things.

Robert



Dec 21, 2013 at 04:24 PM
sbeme
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p.1 #9 · Very high iso thread


converted to BW for two reasons: chroma noise and general aesthetic choice
a bit of noise reduction in LR
but, not bad for ISO 25,600?

Canon 5D MkII Canon 24-105@96, 1/90, f5.6
Scott







Dec 22, 2013 at 11:56 AM
arbitrage
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p.1 #10 · Very high iso thread


Here is one from the 1DX. This was just a mistake shot where I had forgot to switch my setting so ISO Safety shift sent the ISO skyrocketing to save my exposure. I thought it ended up coming out not too bad considering it is ISO 20,000. I just ran a bit of NR in LR5 and adjusted exposure.




  Canon EOS-1D X    EF600mm f/4L IS II USM +1.4x III lens    840mm    f/6.3    1/800s    20000 ISO    +0.7 EV  




Dec 22, 2013 at 01:12 PM
 

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workerdrone
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p.1 #11 · Very high iso thread


Not too bad at all! Pity about the foreground branch

The first couple times I tried auto iso I didn't like it, but after learning how to customize its behavior better I'm more amenable. When I'm shooting for fun and not for a client, it's one more level of convenience added, sort of like going from full manual to aperture or shutter priority.



Dec 22, 2013 at 01:16 PM
boingyman
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p.1 #12 · Very high iso thread


I've used up to ISO 12,800 for HS football and up to ISO 10,000 for a wedding both on my 5DIII. I just used LR4 NR on them since I don't have time to do more extensive NR techniques on batch processing work. Outside of pixel peeping and having to print real big I'm impressed with the outcomes.


Dec 23, 2013 at 08:06 PM
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p.1 #13 · Very high iso thread


Hehehe… Big cheaters…

What are we showing so far here, about 8% scales or less? I realize this thread is probably more about PP than it is what the state of the hardware is but golly, my GH2 at it's highest ISO looks awesome with "a little NR added" and reduced below 10%. And at 100% or even 50% the same image is downright repulsive.

A few things I've noticed about high ISO shooting…

  1. If high ISO settings are used only for speed and not really to defeat low light & dark shadows it can look pretty good and not need too much processing. Of the cameras I've used there's a DRASTIC difference between using ISO to shoot inside a closet at 1/60s and using the same ISO setting to freeze motion on an overcast day at 1/4000s.

  2. Down-scaling an image drastically reduces how much noise seems to affect detail, color, and gradient tones. There must be a mathematical formula for this but I dunno what it is and I don't recall ever seeing one posted or discussed. From what I've noticed around about a 25% scale seems to have about half the noise as the 100% image. I think it's not linear tho because a 12.5% scale seems to have half the noise as the 25% scale. Further, I guess a lot will depend on the size of the noise grains your particular camera produces too.

  3. Since all ink-jet printers dither (no matter what) I've discovered that printing an image which looks WAY too noisy on screen, turns out good on paper! Even at relatively large sizes. A 16 megapixel image at 12,800 (my camera's highest setting) printed on A4 looks every bit as good as a 3,200 ISO image "fit" onto a 24" LCD - for example. BTW, "fitting" a portrait oriented image on a 24" LCD is very near to a 1:1 ratio (size of LCD image : size of A4 paper).

  4. And of course NR software which can selectively act on an image is a great way to improve otherwise bad results. I'm into Topaz DeNoise myself - it automatically selects areas of dark and light and then allows individual adjustment for each. Of course DeNoise can also act on PS Selections and/or can be history brushed as well and layer masked in. From my tests Topaz DeNoise has the best NR to Detail preservation ratio.

I think there are three areas of discussion which are of interest when focusing on high ISO photography. One is of course the state of art of the hardware we use. Two are the in-camera and in-computer processing methods used to reduce or eliminate ISO noise. And three is the printing of high ISO images. I think all three are dependent on each other too - I guess that's common sense tho.




Dec 24, 2013 at 05:22 AM
Alan321
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p.1 #14 · Very high iso thread


Here are some comments on different aspects of noise.

Camera:
If the dynamic range of a scene being photographed at high ISO fits the "usable" DR of the camera at that then there is little or nothing in the way of downside to using high ISO. If you want to capture details at both ends of a high DR scene then high ISO is best avoided because no one exposure can ever do justice to it. i.e. there is no "correct exposure" whether exposing to the right or not, but if you find yourself in this situation often enough then it will pay to have an appropriate up-market camera that offers greater DR at the required ISO (greater DR at low ISO is no help) and/or plenty of extra pixels to facilitate downsampling.

Some cameras are better than others when it comes to handling poor lighting. Apart from greater DR, some will let you set the shutter speed you need for adequately freezing subject motion and the aperture you need for adequate DOF, and still give you autoexposure by controlling the ISO. I'm not sure about the latest Canon models but Nikon has generally done better in this regard. Using fully manual exposure control also works but is less often convenient and almost certainly increases the risk of not making an appropriate adjustment when a lower ISO would have worked better in a subsequent shot. I guess the ultimate solution is to maintain your own concentration on what you are doing and why you are doing it.

Check out the relative performance of camera sensors by viewing the charts at www.DxOMark.com . That is, use the charts and not the single-number scores. In effect the charts show DR at different ISOs, but it may be labelled differently. e.g. it could be the number of bits needed to count the number of separate colours or tonal levels that can be displayed. Bigger is better. A line above another line represents a camera sensor doing a better job that another camera sensor. Sometimes, however, the lines cross and a sensor that is better than another at low ISO may well be worse than the other one at high ISO. The single-value scores assigned to each sensor do not reflect this. Also, a camera sensor may have more DR than another at a particular ISO but can show fewer distinct tonal levels or colours within that DR. This too is info that is only gleaned from the charts.

Exposure:
At any ISO there is a limit to how much detail you can pull out of the dark areas of an image. Beyond that limit the noise intrudes greatly on the image details. You can only avoid this by exposing that area more, but of course you then risk burning out bright details at the other end of the histogram. I have found that in general it is better to correctly expose at high ISO than to underexpose at low ISO and try to recover in processing. Different cameras offer more leeway but in general this guide seems to apply - especially in situations that are the equivalent of needing very high ISOs to make a good exposure. Go too far with underexposure and you get thermal noise areas that are dominated by a single colour, on top of the usual distributed noise.

Of course, to state the obvious, we might be able to use a tripod to facilitate using a slower shutter speed or we might be able to supplement the available light with our own. Both generally involve carrying extra equipment with us and so have their downsides. In other cases they are simply not viable solutions to the problem due to excessive subject motion or distance to the subject(s).

Less obvious is that DR is actually subjective and varies person to person because the dark end of the DR is defined by an "unacceptably high" amount of noise amongst the dark subject details. What is acceptable to you may well be unacceptable to me. Most reviews that measure DR work on the definition of the bottom end being where noise level = signal level because it can be measured easily, but at the stage where noise = signal the signal is getting pretty hard to see in amongst the snow and would hardly be acceptable to anyone. It's more likely some of us want the signal to be two or three or four stops above the noise level even in the darkest areas. That's where the variability comes in.

Temperature:
Most noise increases with the temperature of the sensor. You might have the opportunity to accumulate multiple short exposures instead of taking one longer exposure. This could be beneficial in hot weather, particularly if you can rest the camera between shots. Not all scenes allow this to work satisfactorily. Also, it might help to not have the rear screen on during the exposure as it can get warm and is very close to the sensor. There's little point in reviewing shots on the LCD screen while resting the sensor if your aim is to keep the temperature down. At the very least you could reduce the screen brightness.

Downsampling:
This definitely helps to reduce the visible impact of high-ISO noise but it affects small image details too. If you are trying to print larger then you will reach a point where a better camera was clearly the best solution because the print is just not working. Since it's now too late for that you'll just have to put up with the noise or make the print smaller or make the viewing distance longer. Also, I find that the nature of the noise changes as the ISO increases - it becomes more clumpy instead of being pretty much uniformly distributed single-pixel anomalies. Those clumps don't disappear so easily even with downsizing.

Personally I prefer high DR to downsampling because I mostly use Lr and downsampling undermines the benefits of working with raw image files and the psuedo edit commands that don't alter the original file. To downsample an image I would have to create a new physical file for Lr to manage and it would be either tif (big) or jpg. Neither has the benefits of a raw file. In particular, if I add a change to the raw file edit list then that change will not be reflected in any downsampled image file that was produced previously.

NR Software:
It seems that Topaz DeNoise can handle noise differently at different scene brightness levels, which is a good feature. Years ago I used Noise Ninja and it would divide the noise into three different physical size bands and allow me to treat each one differently. At the time NN was very highly regarded because it managed to retain nearly all of the desired image detail while maximising NR.

Nowadays I have all the time in the world and still run out of it, so I tend to stick with the Lr noise reduction. Later on I'll re-post my Lr NR technique to help you get the best of Lr with practically any image. I've yet to find a better Lr technique as most boil down to suck it and see trial and error tweaking that doesn't really have any method in their madness.

As with downsampling, using external NR software with Lr generally results in a new physical image file.

Try again:
It may be worth keeping an excessively noisy image as a reminder to go back and get another later on, with more appropriate gear or at a better time of day. You could just throw it away because it doesn't exceed your minimum acceptable standard but then you would be far less likely to benefit from it. Use the EXIF data to check the exposure settings and assess whether or not you simply messed up by not choosing a lower ISO. Sometimes I've ended up with a high ISO shot of a static subject at fast shutter speed. That can happen because the subject is usually moving but had paused, or because of brain fade between shots. You can see from the image whether or not flash could have been used to supplement shadow detail, or whether a tripod could have been used. You can put all this together to make a shooting plan for the next time you go to that scene. Or you could throw it away and forget about it and get caught out again later on.

Focus:
Above all, keep in mind that a noisy photo of a well focused subject is nearly always superior to a clean photo of a poorly focused subject. Don't be afraid of noise when there is no other option. It's either that, or else don't bother taking the shot.

- Alan



Dec 24, 2013 at 03:17 PM
workerdrone
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p.1 #15 · Very high iso thread


^Thanks, yes would be curious to get some LR NR tips, I'm never eager to spend on additional software and I already have LR5. I bought the DxO 8 as well mostly for real estate (distortion correction)


Dec 24, 2013 at 04:48 PM
sjms
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p.1 #16 · Very high iso thread


I have all NR zero'd out in camera to begin with. I do it all in post.
for the most part my use of NR at high ISO has been between 3 products.
I use DxO v9 and previously 8 which has excellent NR built in at the RAW level. not perfect but I like it for most work.
for those others that don't do well under the DxO treatment I revert to using Noise Ninja which is part of Photo Ninja now. then there is my old tried and true
Neat Image Pro.
no one product works perfectly for all occasions regretfully

my type of shooting tends to be a bit more forgiving to noise as in its what's happening more then anything. its news gathering.
if I can make the shot look better everyone's happy.

in the shot below I could have brought up more texture in the sky but then it unfortunately would turn a little to ugly so I dialed it back to kill off some of the noise that none of the programs could resolve to my satisfaction







Skytree in the evening handheld

  NIKON D610    24.0-120.0 mm f/4.0 lens    30mm    1/60s    12800 ISO    0.0 EV  




Jan 11, 2014 at 01:51 AM
RustyBug
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p.1 #17 · Very high iso thread


I'd play but my camera only goes to ISO 800 and I rarely shoot it above 320 (base @ 160) ... but it does go down to ISO 6.


Jan 11, 2014 at 03:47 AM
15Bit
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p.1 #18 · Very high iso thread


RustyBug wrote:
I'd play but my camera only goes to ISO 800 and I rarely shoot it above 320 (base @ 160) ... but it does go down to ISO 6.


My 5D only gets to ISO 3200, so i similarly can't play. Just to show how technology moves, it isn't all that long since ISO 3200 was "crazy high ISO".



Jan 11, 2014 at 11:02 AM
codyconway
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p.1 #19 · Very high iso thread



1/200s f/1.4 at 50.0mm iso12800

I'm guilty of enjoying high ISO capabilities. Primarily being a wildlife photographer, I'm constantly having to push my ISO limits to get enough shutter speed on long lenses in poor lighting conditions (I shoot primarily in rainforest), I've come to conclude my own minimum shutter on a tripod with a 700mm focal on FF is 1/25 (even down to 1/25 handheld if I'm not too hyper from the experience). Knowing this pushing my ISO too high to try and get the fastest shutter possible, is my enemy with static subjects. With moving subjects though, it's unavoidable since 1/25 just will not work. Sometimes it does - like this Ochre-breasted Antpitta shot in the lower canopy of the rainforest on a very early morning. This was with a 70D where 2000 ISO is comfortable, probably should've went up to 3200 to get away from my minimum shutter of 1/25 . . .

1/25s f7.1 at 700mm ISO 2000



Jan 12, 2014 at 07:01 PM
Trey Neal
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p.1 #20 · Very high iso thread


This is a shot inside an indoor arena, at ISO 32,000 with the D4. Light pass of Nik Dfine noise reduction. I am routinely willing to push the ISO of this camera - sometimes with great results. And yes I intentionally cut off the rider as I was wanting to just capture the action of the horse.






D4, Nikkor 200-400, f/4.0 ISO 32,000, 1/500



Jan 13, 2014 at 05:05 AM
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