I have set up a similar scene to before, used the same lens (50mm) and the tripod, and used the full range of ISOs available (excluding the extreme options) from ISO 100 to ISO 25600 (using one stop intervals each time).
Original full size image, at ISO 100
Zoom in on one area to compare noise levels:
First hint of noise.
Useable to this point (without any noise-reduction in post-processing).
Big jump in noise levels here
Incredibly noisy image! The colour seems to be slightly ‘off’ too.
Using this camera (Canon 5Dm3), noise levels are ‘acceptable’ up until about ISO 3200 (which was the maximum ISO possible with my previous camera (Canon 30D) – how the technology has changed in the last 6 years! I also had a play with noise reduction again, using the ‘noisiest image’.
ISO 25600 with noise reduction (left) and without (right).
This shows that there is a big improvement in the noise reduction – in fact this image is quite useable though possibly a little too smoothed (as would be expected). This gives me the confidence to use all the ISO’s possible with my camera (though obviously stick as low as possible) as it is possible to extract a ‘useable’ image from all the ISOs, at least for smaller prints.
I also read an article entitled ‘Everything is illuminated’ in the BJP Summer IPad issue. It also suggested that using up to ISO 3200 was acceptable with this camera, and that most of the noise was ‘luminance’ and thus possible to remove in post-processing. They even suggest that flash is obsolete with this camera and that you are better just upping the ISO, which is an interesting idea, though it was noted that in low light the colour tends to suffer – this is something I’ve noticed when taking photos at night inside my house (e.g. of family) – the colour looks a bit strange and is hard to remove with white balance processing. Something I need to learn more about in the future I think.
‘A typical day of mixed sun, shade and cloud cover is safe to shoot using a shutter-priority setting of 1/8000s and the ISO locked at 6400. In this sort of light level, 6400 is going to look as good as you once expected 400 to be.’ (BJP 2012)Wow, that’s amazing. I would never have pushed my previous camera that far (I don’t think I ever did push it to it’s maximum 3200) – so that means we can effectively use the camera at almost any ISO and get good results. Amazing.
Good to have repeated this exercise using my new camera, which has proven itself to be far superior in noise processing in camera, and also combined with the noise-reduction in Lightroom, essentially means that I can use any ISO I want to (when I improve my skills in post-processing) to get useable images!
British Journal of Photography (2012), BJP Article (Ipad App; Technology: Report ‘Everything is illuminated’ #4 Summer 2012)
Wallace, S (2012), Digital Photographic Practice Blog. Online, available at: http://digitalphotographyselina.blogspot.com.au/2012/05/exercise-your-tolerance-for-noise.html [Accessed 11/10/12]