11.12.2014

I know what the tests say but what is my high ISO limit with APS-C? Oh golly, another "real world" look.


When I photographed by friend, Fadya, last month I was captivated with the idea of using HMI lights to do the lighting. In retrospect it was well founded excitement. I am very happy with the way the lights work, their color balance is pleasing and the continuous light source leverages portrait shooting with EVF cameras in a very satisfying way. But the shot above wasn't done with an EVF camera, it was done with a traditional DSLR, the Nikon D7100. I wanted to use the camera to see how it compared with the Olympus and Panasonic cameras I had been using. According to the folks at DXO (DXOmark.com) who test camera sensors the APS-C sensor in the 7100 is the highest rated sensor in it's class and, according to their scale, is a good ten points ahead of the OMD EM-1 or Panasonic GH4 sensors in the various parameters that DXO uses for their evaluations.

This image was shot at ISO 3200 with the camera set at 1/640th of a second and the 85mm 1.8 G lens set at f2.8. I zoomed into 100% and did some pixel peeping and I was pretty impressed by the low noise and the high amount of detail present. It's a bit ahead of both the GH4 and the Samsung NX30 cameras (which I also own and use) but the difference in noise only shows up at 3200 and above so it's hardly a deal killer unless you only shoot in low light.

Here is a "100%" crop from the image with noise reduction in Lightroom set to zero. You can see some noise in the shadow areas but it's also important to know that the original file is 24 megapixels...


I'm always curious how this stuff all works but I'm pretty sure that if you expose well you can get away with a lot of craziness at high ISOs. I am also interested in how this sensor does so I have a baseline of comparison when evaluating the Samsung NX-1. It should be an interesting comparison of sensor with two very different design technologies...

More to come.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think in the end sensors are at a stage like computer chips were in the late 90's. Computing power more or less doubled every year.

Now CPUs have more or less stabilized

Sony announced a new non-Bayer sensor today. Like the BSI chips, they'll first show up in phones and then cameras.

And they aren't the only ones beavering away at silicon

We'll all be goo-gahing at the latest in 2016, me too.

I think that for me, for now, it's about the particular visual feel that a particular lens/sensor combo gives you. It's also why film will never die.

I think the tech for sensors hasn't begun to 7fly yet though. Some of it will be eye-poping.

Anonymous said...

As you mentioned, noise in good light is very different problem that noise in low light. ISO3200 is perfectly usable in daylight with high shutter speeds, while the same ISO in low light (1/60s and less) makes a very different story.
Arbuz.

Jean Marc Schwartz said...

Hi Kirk, i read this article by bob dinatale on the luminouslandscape web site. I read, i tried, it works to reduce the signal noise at high iso

luminous-landscape.com/whatsnew/

cheers

Jean Marc Schwartz said...

here the good link

http://www.luminous-landscape.com/essays/the_optimum_digital_exposure.shtml

ODL Designs said...

Personally I have always liked grain in my images... For some reason it makes the photo feel more real.

That Nikon has some good looking noise!

Dirk Laakman said...

I thought the Sony A6000 has the highest rated APS-C sensor currently. And yes. Properly exposed I can get great looking shots even at 6400 iso or more.Particular high-key shots.

Kirk Tuck said...

Hi Dirk, DXO lists the a6000 at 78 while the D7100 is rated at 83. The D7100 and D5300 are the reigning APS-C low light champs according to them...

Brad Calkins said...

I agree, this is an example of a situation where you could easily shoot at iso800. My experience is also that "real" low light conditions tend to produce different results due to longer shutter speeds (both longer from a noise perspective AND blurring from motion). Noise reduction also looks a lot different on a detailed, sharp image versus a very slightly blurred one. Not that this isn't an example of impressive high iso these days, but I find i'm less impressed at times when i truly need the high ISO...