I Must Stop Worrying About High ISO Settings

Ever since I changed from film to digital photography (around 2003), I’ve always worried about using high ISO settings. Perhaps it’s because the early digital cameras had a lot of limitations. Highlight and shadow clipping looked terrible and as soon as you moved away from the base ISO, your shots would look like they were taken in a snowstorm and confetti shower.

Fortunately, today’s digital cameras are much more forgiving. But despite this I always find myself shooting at the camera’s base ISO, especially when using the micro four-thirds format. I just can’t get it out of my mind that the image quality is being impaired in some way. But if I persist, I enjoy myself much more not bothering with a tripod.

This image is a good example.

Woods at Portmeirion, North Wales.

I shot several frames using the Panasonic G9 with the Leica 8-18 lens. All were shot handheld between ISO800 and ISO1600 (I still consider anything above the base of ISO200 to be high). Despite the higher ISO and low light conditions, I was pleasantly surprised to find lots of shadow detail and acceptable levels of noise.

Then, I decided to run the RAW file through DxO PureRAW and wow, what a difference. Everything sharpened up and the image was completely clean, with no noise anywhere. It also gave me the freedom to open some shadow areas further to emphasise the shape of the tree trunk. I absolutely love what the DxO DeepPRIME processing can do with the G9 RAW files.

This Week’s Video

For the Affinity Photo fans amongst you, you might find this week’s video interesting. It demonstrates how to combine some of the selection tools to easily create complex selections. You can watch it on my YouTube channel with this link (https://youtu.be/PUmwGYcWdk8).

I hope you like the image and video and have a great weekend.

9 thoughts on “I Must Stop Worrying About High ISO Settings

      1. I don’t mind shooting at high ISO when I have to but you do lose color and sharpness the higher you go as the signal to noise ratio goes down. Software can try to smooth it out, but I’d rather work with cleaner data.

      2. I agree that it’s always better to get the best quality shot but DeepPRIME is like witchcraft. If you haven’t tried DxO PureRAW I would really recommend downloading it. The results are nothing like traditional noise reduction.

    1. Yes, I tend to be 1/3 or 2/3 of a stop over for scenes like this but it’s not the dynamic range that worries me as much as the noise. I’m still pleasantly surprised by what the G9 can do, especially paired with DxO PureRAW.

  1. Yes, early DSLRs suffered immensely at higher ISO, my first camera was barely usable above ISO400, fortunately todays cameras are much, much better. And I agree DeepPrime is magical: I only just disovered it (as a demo version) and it works very well.

    1. Great to hear that you’ve discovered DeepPRIME. In case you weren’t aware, it’s available in two DxO Products. PhotoLab Elite and PureRAW. PureRAW is cheaper but intended to be used with other RAW converters like Lightroom. It’s the same great processing engine inside though.

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