High ISO - Not such a good deal 

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High ISO or even super high ISO is touted by many manufacturers but you are not given the full information on this.

First off, this page is not about trying to tell you not to use high ISO. This is about giving you a fair warning of the two major problems created.

The first one is known to all as "Noise" albeit with a twist.

The second is about the dynamic range. This is largely unmentioned simply because few are aware of it.

A third problem was mentioned during a forum discussion. It concerns very high ISO (above 50k): The color balance is thrown out of whack. Since I have not verified that yet I cannot confirm this part at the moment.  I put the information here because if true this is another important reason not to push the ISO to extremes.

When you read the specifications of a camera you see the dynamic range of a camera as a fixed number when in reality this is a variable number that tends to go down quickly as soon as you crank up the ISO. This is one of the causes for the higher noise by the way*.

While some will dismiss this page as they have no choice in the camera format selection others, who use JPG as a choice, will react with something akin to "who cares, I am limited anyway". Either way you should care. Your JPG is influenced more than you realize. To create a JPG a camera uses the sensor capture. In other words, the raw data the manufacturer does not want you to have (for those who have no capture format choice) is used to create a JPG. The sensor, whatever it is has a dynamic range that will vary. The result is that a JPG camera produced is more deteriorated than a raw capture.

Once again, this is not about putting you off high ISO. You should still use it, just with the full knowledge of what takes place at the sensor level and the influences it has on your initial capture, whatever the format.


* Noise is always present, even when using the optimal status, it is just less visible. Noise is also always present in the highlights. When you use high ISO weak functioning pixels on the sensor start failing, enhancing the noise. This additional noise is not random by the way but always at the same place so can be corrected -needs to be confirmed-. For the few who are starting to wonder if I am looking at 'red noise', I am not. Red noise is created by long exposure time, overheated failing pixels, not high ISO. Red pixels are corrected with 'black frames' in post processing.

Last page update: 01/14/2016

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This site is created on my experience, past and present.

It introduces opinions that are not shared by many but reflect what I think is fair and informative.