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Do we really need ISO 6400?
Old 04-02-2012   #1
BobYIL
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Do we really need ISO 6400?

Having witnessed how the "standard" for pro photographers had evolved from ASA 400 to ISO 6400 in 50 years, I believe we do.

Even today anything ISO 1600 or above is regarded as the stratosphere of film photography. Push your Tri-X or TMAX two stops and start to embrace swollen grains and compressed gradations. Hand your Portra 800 to the lab and pray that they would not screw it if you asked them to push it to 1600. Developing skills for handheld shots down to a quarter of a second did not work for the majority of the cases, especially for the subjects moving. Lots of cases f1.4 apertures didn't do, centimeter-deep DOF's didn't do, shorter than 1/125sec didn't do.. shots lost..

I think one of the major contributions digital accomplished was to extend the boundaries limiting us so far and one of them is the low-light capability. Today ISO 6400 is defining a sort of standard for good IQ involving acceptable dynamic range as well, and fortunately within the capabilities of the APS-C sensors too, like the one on the X-Pro1 for instance.

Yesterday I was looking at the pictures in the following sites, the pictures in the second one are handheld at night!. Although I have never worked as a professional, I was thinking of how many hundreds of shots I would not be missing if this technology had been available some 20 years ago. Enjoy:

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/re...ssage=41079922

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/re...ssage=41085415
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Old 04-02-2012   #2
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Yes, things have certainly come a long way in the digital world. I regularly shoot cleanly at ISO 3,200 - ISO 6,400 with my Sony Alphas; (A500 and A550) can print ISO 6,400 at 8X12 with excellent results. When I purchased my first DSLR, a lowly A200 back in 2008, I did not dare attempt anything higher than ISO 400. But these newer high-ISO capable sensors have indeed opened up a whole new world of opportunity. A few short years ago I couldn't even dream of capturing quality images, handheld, in near total darkness. As an experiment, I recently photographed my newly decorated home one night at ISO 6,400; the only source of light (for entire living room/kitchen/dining room/foyer) coming from a television and portable halogen heater; the result being an outstanding, virtually noise-free photograph. Now, if I could just get results like that from my Zorki!

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Old 04-02-2012   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BobYIL View Post
Having witnessed how the "standard" for pro photographers had evolved from ASA 400 to ISO 6400 in 50 years, I believe we do.
you'll get no argument out of me and I can safely say that while I can live without a digital camera I could not live without a film one.

it's another tool. I don't have much use for it, but I will not begrudge those who do something that helps them do their job/hobby better.
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Old 04-02-2012   #4
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Needed it for this image.



ISO 6400, 20-35mm lens at f/2.8, 1/25th.

Only light source was a street lamp.
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Old 04-02-2012   #5
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By and large I find high-ISO pictures look a lot better downscaled on the Web than printed, however.
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Old 04-02-2012   #6
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When the highest ISO in a generation of cameras doubles, this doesn't mean that the manufacturers merely add the extra sensitivity as a separate add-on, and all else remains the same. Instead, it's because the total image chain is improved, that they dare to add an extra notch on the ISO dial. The lower ISO values benefit just as much.

That's why we need 6400 or higher ISO, not necessarily to shoot at, but because it pushes image technology forward for lower ISOs as well.
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Old 04-02-2012   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pvdhaar View Post
When the highest ISO in a generation of cameras doubles, this doesn't mean that the manufacturers merely add the extra sensitivity as a separate add-on, and all else remains the same. Instead, it's because the total image chain is improved, that they dare to add an extra notch on the ISO dial. The lower ISO values benefit just as much.

That's why we need 6400 or higher ISO, not necessarily to shoot at, but because it pushes image technology forward for lower ISOs as well.
The base ISO of the sensor increases, too. The base ISO of an M8 is 160, meaning that you can't shoot at lower ISOs without either loss of dynamic range or an ND filter. The 5D's base ISO is 100, and while it has an ISO 50 mode for people with old studio flashes, you have to enable it and it's purposely not labeled "50" because you lose dynamic range.

This is not necessarily a benefit - in the studio, or when you want to shoot at slow shutter speeds without diffraction, or when you want to shoot at wide apertures, or when you want to use fill-in flash. You end up needing an ND filter more often.
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Old 04-02-2012   #8
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Thom Hogan has some useful comments on this subject http://www.bythom.com/ (see Still Lots of Confusion I, 02 April)
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Old 04-02-2012   #9
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ISO 6400 is certainly not the 'new standard' for pro photographers. I know no photographer who would shoot at ISO6400 in good light.
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Old 04-03-2012   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jamie123 View Post
ISO 6400 is certainly not the 'new standard' for pro photographers. I know no photographer who would shoot at ISO6400 in good light.
Certainly not as the "standard" they shoot all the time but the standard they look for the capability to turn out acceptable IQ when they choose a camera.
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Old 04-03-2012   #11
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High ISO opens up new possibilities regarding shutter speed and aperture use... makes the camera more versatile without getting in the way. How can it be a bad thing?
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Old 04-03-2012   #12
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Do we NEED it? No.

But it certainly never hurts to have it as an option. One thing I don't get about this super-duper-low-light 6400+ ISO cameras is that they make night look like...well, day. When it's dark out, it should LOOK dark, in my opinion.
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Old 04-03-2012   #13
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Indeed. Extremely useful on rare occasions (for me).

6400 opens up opportunities that would have been missed and when it matters, it matters.

Ask a 'natural light' wedding photographer.... Shooting this way only became possible (no flash) because of the performance of new DSLRs! Disco, bar, gloomy rooms, no problem. If you are limited to 400, forget it. Even 1600 is not nearly good enough and thats with f1.4 lenses.
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Old 04-03-2012   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BobYIL View Post
Certainly not as the "standard" they shoot all the time but the standard they look for the capability to turn out acceptable IQ when they choose a camera.
People adjust their expectations in relation to what is available on the market. If there are some cameras that produce acceptable files at ISO6400 and some others that don't then, obviously, the people who require high ISO will go for the former. But it was the same with any other high ISO number in the past few years. Nothing special about ISO 6400.

For what it's worth, I don't think ISO 6400 on my Canon 5DII is anywhere near acceptable, especially not for color work.
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Old 04-03-2012   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by boomguy57 View Post
One thing I don't get about this super-duper-low-light 6400+ ISO cameras is that they make night look like...well, day. When it's dark out, it should LOOK dark, in my opinion.
They don't have to look like day... that's the way people handle exposure and PP that makes them look like day time.
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Old 04-03-2012   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by boomguy57 View Post
Do we NEED it? No.

But it certainly never hurts to have it as an option. One thing I don't get about this super-duper-low-light 6400+ ISO cameras is that they make night look like...well, day. When it's dark out, it should LOOK dark, in my opinion.

That's more to do with people not understanding metering ... no fault of the camera IMO!
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Old 04-03-2012   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by boomguy57 View Post
Do we NEED it? No.

But it certainly never hurts to have it as an option. One thing I don't get about this super-duper-low-light 6400+ ISO cameras is that they make night look like...well, day. When it's dark out, it should LOOK dark, in my opinion.
Do the pictures look like "day" in the second URL in my first post?

Hi-ISO capability is not to be confused with the night vision image intensifiers. It helps us somewhat the same way as staying in dark long enough to allow eyes to adjust. It's rather a means to record as close to what eye sees in darker situations with correct metering. The point is "being able to reproduce as it is", rather than "to exaggerate" and make it look artificial unless we really intend for it.

For me high-ISO like 6400 is the comfort of enjoying great DOF, small apertures and high shutter speeds, not only indoors but also outdoors under inconvenient lighting conditions.

(FYI, I used to shoot Velvia 50 full open with a 24/2.8 for at least 5 minutes to get something similar to the night pictures in that URL, let alone handheld... Reciprocity failure included..)
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Old 04-03-2012   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BobYIL View Post
the pictures in the second one are handheld at night!
... but would the composition have benefited even more from a tripod? The difference between 400 and 6400 is not the difference between possible and impossible, but between handheld and tripod. And if you ask me, there is too much handheld photography around these days.
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Old 04-03-2012   #19
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I push film to 6400 regularly. As soon as i get a MF camera I'll be shooting 12500 and 25000. Wooo!
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Old 04-03-2012   #20
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No I don't really need ISO 6400, but its good to have at certain cases..
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Old 04-03-2012   #21
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Maybe not for good light, but I shoot high school basketball for our weekly newspaper. 6400 certainly makes that job easier, even with a 1.4 lens. Do we need it - no. Is it wonderful for these subjects - yes.
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Old 04-03-2012   #22
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I don't. But some do. What I want is ISO 25 on my M9.
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Old 04-03-2012   #23
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I rarely shoot with high ISO's.

My brother, however, needs high ISO's. His option in many cases is either bulky Night Vision or no picture. Each model of digital camera has reduced the number of cases where he has to make that decision. He is currently testing the 1Dx and at 50,000 its shadow noise was less than the 5d Mk2 at 6400. He was showing me the side by side photos and the difference was amazing.

For people who need these high ISO sensors, these advances are changing the way they work. And for them its a huge step forward. For those who do not, they are benefiting from improved sensors and image processors. I think it is a win for everyone.
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Old 04-03-2012   #24
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It's the single biggest improvement in photography, if you think about it from the image standpoint.

All other digital advances are processing/Tx/display related; image quality has struggled to prove itself a match of film, but low-light is turning out to be an advantage to digital and it should only get better.

Now, if only a manufacturer would add a dedicated ISO dial to go with dedicated speed and aperture dials, so that you can check at a glance the setting.

(Not keen on tiny plastic whiz wheels or buried menus with flower, underwater and cat icons.)
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Old 04-03-2012   #25
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Quote:
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Now, if only a manufacturer would add a dedicated ISO dial to go with dedicated speed and aperture dials, so that you can check at a glance the setting.

+1 there. The M9 method isn't bad, but I'd MUCH prefer a dial.
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Old 04-03-2012   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wafflecakee View Post
I push film to 6400 regularly. As soon as i get a MF camera I'll be shooting 12500 and 25000. Wooo!
Some of us actually like a bit of shadow detail. Indoor basketball at f/2.8 and 1/500 often forces me to use ISO 6400. No, a tripod won't do because I need to freeze motion.
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Old 04-03-2012   #27
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I agree on the ISO Dial. Someone should do it.
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Old 04-03-2012   #28
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Those two street scenes at ISO 6400 on DP Review look good, but the shots with people look a little strange to me.
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High Signal To Noise = High Dynamic Range
Old 04-03-2012   #29
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High Signal To Noise = High Dynamic Range

The reason everyone needs ISO 6400 is: if the IQ does not come mostly from in-camera noise filtering, then the camera has a high signal-to-noise ratio. This means the dynamic range is high. Less bits are digitized as noise and more bits are digitized as signal. The increase in signal bits means the dynamic range is improved.

In data measurements (which is all digital imaging amounts to) nothing beats signal-to-noise ratio when it comes to data quality. Of course if there is an abundance of signal (say EV 12-16), then the signal-to-noise ratio and dynamic range is high even for cameras like the D200 I used where I avoided color above ISO 400. Otherwise, the dynamic range will be better when the signal-to-noise ratio is higher. You don't have to be down at EV 4-6 to realize the advantages of increased dynamic range.

This is quite different than film. With film the SNR really does not apply. Film dye granules just get larger in order to interact with more photons when the shutter is open. Of course some film dye molecules are more sensitive than others, but The uncertainty does not come from low amounts of signal. The uncertainty comes from a lack of spatial resolution due to the large granual size and the image becomes grainy. If you scan the negative, then the SNR and dynamic range of the scanner become the limiting factors. You are using a digital camera in the end. Shadow areas in the film have a low SNR and the errors can appear as blocked up regions or they may exhibit a high level of color noise which is just uncertainty in the scanner sensor-site photon counts.
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Old 04-03-2012   #30
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I walk around Philly at night and shoot at either f/2.8 or f/2, 1/30 sec, ISO800. I rarely go above 800 just because I don't like the post processing. Yes I can definitely use 1600 on the M9 but I don't need to.

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