Another Sensitivity Inquiry!

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by dxpx, Jun 3, 2008.

  1. dxpx macrumors member


    Mar 21, 2008
    the 405, OK
    So - I'm seriously considering purchasing a Nikon DSLR after much study through these forums and what have you. However, my most recent hang-up deals with the sensitivity capacity of certain models.

    Bare in mind, I'm a beginner photographer - but look forward to eliminating visual "noise" in low-light environments by acquiring a DSLR that is capable of high sensitive scenarios.

    Okay! The D40 lists levels ranging from "200 to 1600 (ISO equivalent) in steps of 1 EV with additional setting one step over 1600."

    My first question - is 1600 a high enough level for say street-light, candle-light, subway environments? Again, I'm a beginner and thus - not too familiar with the science of DSLR - but my Casio 5MP Exilim can be manually set to 1600 ISO, yet is worthless in these particular fields of view.

    2ndly, what does it mean "with additional setting one step over 1600?" So - the limit isnt 1600?

    Furthermore, the D60 lists a similar campaign "ISO 100 - 1,600 in steps of 1 EV. Can also be set to approx. 1 EV (ISO 3200 equivalent) above ISO 1600"

    I'm so confused as to how something can be set over a limitation. :confused:

    Of couse, the D3 would likely annihilate any predecessor; however, I unfortunately do not have 5 grand to spare.

    I think that covers it all! I appreciate any feedback!

  2. termina3 macrumors 65816

    Jul 16, 2007
    Nikon usually offers one step higher and lower on ISO (100 is Lo 1.0, and 1.0 steps below 200. 1600 -> 3200 (AKA ISO Hi 1.0) is one step).

    If you want the best "bang for your buck" on ISO, I'd suggest the D300. However, it's not a beginners camera.

    For low-lighting, noise is important, but so are the lenses ("glass") that you're using. A constant f/2.8 lens will give you more stops (vs. a consumer f/4.5-5.6 zoom) than a better body. Not to mention the longevity of lenses vs. digital bodies.
  3. Edge100 macrumors 68000

    May 14, 2002
    Where am I???
    AFAIK, when a camera has ISO 1600 as its highest sensitivity, but allows ISO 3200 in a custom setting, all it is doing is taking an ISO 1600 exposure and then pushing the exposure one stop afterward; that is, the gain setting of the sensor is the same as ISO 1600 and the extra "sensitivity" is just a software manipulation similar to what you might do in Aperture or Lightroom.

    This is what I've heard, though I have no way of knowing if it's true or not.

    Frankly, I think most consumer and prosumer DSLRs have their ISO 3200 setting (if available) hidden mainly to avoid people who don't realise that shooting at ISO 3200 all day will result in some pretty crap pictures.

    ISO 1600 is enough to shoot in most situations. The only time I've had to go to ISO 3200 is if the light is really dim (think a single 40 watt light bulb in a medium sized room, at night) or if I needed to achieve a particularly fast shutter speed in light that might otherwise have been ok for ISO 3200.

    This is why fast glass is so important if you think you'll be shooting in low light regularly. On most modern DSLRs, if you can stay at ISO 800 vs. ISO 1600 (the difference between f/2.8 and f/4), you'll be far better off. That said, I have only a single lens faster than f/4, and that's the 50/1.8 which I barely use.
  4. jake-g macrumors member

    Feb 28, 2008
    You can't toss ISO numbers out there and compare across multiple models and brands because each brand and model's ISO is unique. There is no standard like there was for film.
  5. Edge100 macrumors 68000

    May 14, 2002
    Where am I???

    ISO 3200 (and often above) is completely usable on many newer cameras. That said, I'd still shoot at the lowest ISO sensitivity possible in most cases. On my 10D (circa 2003), ISO 800 gives a bit of luminance noise, and chroma noise doesn't kick in until ISO 1600, and becomes unacceptable (w/o Noise Ninja or something similar) at ISO 3200. Luminance noise is akin to film grain, and I don't mind it at all; chroma noise is an entirely digital phenomenon, and looks awful.

    Bottom line: don't stress about noise performance. Even a 5 year-old DSLR (my 10D) is fine, and things have just gotten better since then.
  6. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    If you are interrested in low light photography the first thing to do is pick out one or more lenses that have some fast Apertures. The normal "kit" lens is not well suited to low light photography. So you might get a 35mm f/2.0 or the 50mm f/1.4 or one of the wide f/2.8 zooms but then you have to spend some "real money". If you are on a tight budget you will be wanting some fast "prime" lenses. Nikon has quite a collection of fast, wide primes. that you can buy eithr new or used. OK now that you've picked out the lenses you can shop for a body that fits. The Nikon D40/D60 would not be the best. The low-end Nikons lack an in-body focus motor and can't automaticaly focus any of Nikon's fast primes. You have to manually focus them. You'd have to go with the D80 or if you can't afford it, a used D50. The used D50 is actually better then the new D40. The D50 very good for low light work and you can find them for about $325 to $350

    It is not good to shop for a body first. had you bought the D60 then you would have been a bit upset to find that you could not use it with the lenses that are bestsuited to your subject.

    Just a bit of math: You get the same exposure with the kit f/5.6 lens at 1600 ISO as you do with a 50mm prime at f/1.4 and ISO 100.
    Or, going the other way buying an f/1.4 lens is like having a f/5.6 lens but with an ISO of 256,000.
    The difference between the lenses is dramatic and is MUCH more important then 1600 vs. 3200 ISO. Going from 1600 to 3200 is only in EV but f/5.6 to f/1.4 is 4 EV
  7. dxpx thread starter macrumors member


    Mar 21, 2008
    the 405, OK
    Thank you all - for the feedback!

    And, my gawd...

    Those numbers are staggering!
  8. Westside guy macrumors 603

    Westside guy

    Oct 15, 2003
    The soggy side of the Pacific NW
    Well, the problem is, the larger your aperture, the narrower your depth of field. So it's not like you can just dial larger apertures as the light levels drop and expect to get the same sorts of shots.

    VR (or a tripod, for that matter) is a different solution. It'll let you use a longer exposure, which means you can use a smaller aperture to get a better depth of field. But VR isn't so great when you have a moving subject. :D

    With higher ISO (as has already been mentioned) you can sometimes still get a decent shutter speed and aperture combination, and still capture the shot. But then there's the question of sensor noise...

    Basically there are trade-offs no matter which way you go.

    BTW my old D70 will go to ISO 1600, but it's seriously noisy if you do. So just because a camera has that option available doesn't mean you're going to be satisfied with the results.
  9. melchior macrumors 65816


    Nov 17, 2002
    Frankly, in my aesthetic opinion, a low-light hand-held shot is going to be better with a narrow depth of field anyway. Think about your shot a little and you will value the calories your brain burned on that thought.

    To return to the OP, being able to ramp up the ISO in DSLRs is great for quick and informal shots. Plenty of people like digital noise the same way people like film gain. But it doesn't mean you can stand in a subway and zoom in 10 metres away with your kit lens and expect a sharp shot of some characters face at 1/160. Your options include taking a wide shot, using a powerful strobe or getting up close and personal. All three are valid. Photography is an art and the image you create is your will and thus if you meant it to turn out that way, or you like the way it turned out, that's all there is to it. Don't get caught up in this greedy gear hunger people have, it won't help you to enjoy taking photos any more than with a disposable. My 2 cents.

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