For years now I've been impressed that I can even create an image at all at ISOs of 6400 and higher. It reminds me of the old talking dog story – it's not what he says so much as it is that he can talk at all. Lately, though, I find that I can make truly usable images at such stratospheric ISO settings.
Some of the work I do is event coverage and it often requires shooting under very low light conditions without strobes. Most often the images are for electronic use only – web viewing, internal company recaps and presentations, projected slideshows and PR related web placement. So for quite a while now I've realized that (in many cases) I can set my cameras to auto ISO (6400) and be comfortable that the images will hold up just fine for their intended use. For these such events I shoot RAW+JPG and only deal with the RAW files if the camera's JPG engine didn't do a good enough job – and I'm finding that the Fujis that I usually use for these events usually do a good enough job in that regard.
This Sunday morning I thought that I would, before starting my print work, play a little bit and compare the high ISO out of camera JPGs of my three newest cameras:
This is not so much of a test as it is a simple, very unscientific and non-rigorous comparison of the OOC JPG output of these three rather different photographic tools.
As for lenses, I used the Canon EF 50/1.4 on both the 6D and A7R (via the Metabones III adapter). On the Fuji I used the Fujinon 35/1.4. In both cases the aperture was set to f/8.
First off I used an external, incident light meter to determine exposure since each camera's built in meter came up with exposure. On one hand there is some value in comparing the cameras' exposure choices but what I wanted to compare was the amount and type of noise they produced – and in some cases the exposure difference was an entire stop. That might have made a difference as to how one camera better retained highlight or shadow detail however that's not the route I took.
Second, I turned off high ISO noise reduction for each camera (or set it to the lowest available setting). That's a personal choice, I guess, as I don't mind "grain like" noise – at least I prefer it infinitely over detail smearing noise reduction. White balance was set to auto.
Third, I re-sized all of the images to the pixel dimensions of the smallest camera's file size – the 16MP Fuji X-T1. I'm sure there are better ways to down sample the larger files that would be advantageous to the 20MP Canon or the 36MP Sony but again – this is not a robust scientific comparison.
Could the results from each camera have been improved by dealing with the RAW files instead of relying on the OOC JPGs? Almost certainly.
I'm offering this comparison because A) someone out there might find it useful or satisfy some curiosity they may have and B) I actually find this sort of thing interesting and, on some level, mildly entertaining. Sure I prefer to shoot "real" things whenever I can but I also find value in gaining a better understanding of the capabilities of my equipment in my down time.
Feel free to look at these images and draw whatever conclusions you may from them.
Here are a few things that I think I see:
Again, I'm dumbing down the Canon and Sony files for the purpose of this test. Unfair, sure.
I'd appreciate hearing anyone else's opinions and conclusions as well.
© PHIL BOND PHOTOGRAPHY