Recently “Camera Mags” have been extolling the virtues of cameras with the capabilities of high ISO settings. It makes good reading and generally leaves one with the feeling that perhaps we are missing out on something. That we all need these high speeds. That they offer the ability to shoot in the dark. Or simply that this offers the excuse for us to upgrade.
Seriously though, what does it offer? This question popped into my head the other day when visiting the cellars of an old building while on a day out. The cellar itself was lit by a couple of shrouded light bulbs. Even to the naked eye things were pretty dark. I guess it was just one of those moments when something pops into your mind. I decided there and then that I would check out the ability of my latest acquisition (D800) and wound the ISO up to the max ISO 25600.
I was most impressed and couldn’t wait to get home and have a look on the “big screen”. You will notice the shrouding over the light source and the burnt out glare. Believe me though it was anything but a glare in reality. Yes it is very grainy, but unless you want to enlarge the image it would seem to be acceptable under the conditions.
To add a little more content to this post I thought I would add an extra couple of trial shots for comparison. These were shot looking into a storeroom with minimal natural light from a door set ajar slightly.
Keeping ISO to 640 with a fast f stop I could only manage 1/6 sec. Result blur caused by hand shake. Easily overcome if a tripod had been used. So now back to max setting for the comparison.
As you can see from the settings I was able to get back to a reasonable speed.
My conclusion from this very simplistic trial is that there is a time and place for high ISO BUT you also need high specifications in other aspects of your camera. One obvious answer is to use a flash when you require more light. However, for those times when you are banned from using them or don’t have a gun with you high ISO works.
I will be interested in any comments you may have on this subject.