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Old Sep 22, 2010, 12:33 PM   #1
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Default ISO on dslr vs. 35mm

I can't get past the old 35mm days when I would shoot with ISO 100, 200 or 400. The pictures taken with 35mm ISO 400 have grain to them, even at 4"x6".

I have limited my k-x for ISO's 200-400, but that is always forcing my aperture to wide open and a very slow shutter speed. I see a lot of pictures posted where people are using f8, 1/500 or faster shutter and the pictures look great!

Am I being too cautious with ISO?

I plan on doing a test where all factors are the same, but I change ISO for the entire range, then I will print and see the differences. But I'm coming to the conclusion that dlsr ISO and film ISO aren't really a direct comparison.

Is that really the case? Are dlsr ISO and film ISO different with respect to grain/noise? Is film ISO 400 equal with grain/noise to dlsr ISO 1600?

Thanks,
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Old Sep 22, 2010, 12:43 PM   #2
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the usable ISO range really depends on the dslr and the sensor. You are correct to say film grain and digital ISO are two different ball games.

Film grain can be a more pleasing effect to the eyewhile ISO without noise reduction that may be pushed a little too far to the limit will appear more as pixelation. I cant give a comparison to film ISO and digital ISO because like I said each camera handles ISO differently.

For instance, my K *ist (older 6mp) seems to handle ISO better than my K20D (14mp replaced by K7 flagship)

My K20D I am hard pressed to set the ISO up to 800, and only if NEEDED, because thats where the noise starts lookin really ugly to my eyes.

Now I hear many people can shoot the KX respectively at 1600 and 3600 without any problems and with a little noise reduction in the right places, the images turn out pretty well.

If you are going for the film grain look, Id say its better to shoot in lower ISO and add a film grain effect in PP rather than just dealing with digital noise


the same is applied to sound engineering/recording where the analog tape effect is hard to replicate and digital recording can not effectively replicate it without sounding distorted and poppy, however sound plugins can add in tape like effects without ruining the audio signal.
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Old Sep 22, 2010, 12:44 PM   #3
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Film grain and digital noise have a much different look to them so it's not easy to compare. You're right about 400 speed film being grainy. Try scanning a negative and seeing the results and you'll be stunned by how much is there. I can't speak for Pentax but I use 800 on my Olympus gear regularly with decent results. With Topaz Denoise5 you can make just about any ISO setting look good, sometimes even great. It also depends on what you shoot. For macro work the lower the ISO the better so I try to use nothing over 200, 100 if I can. For my birding I use 400-800 as the base and 1600 if i really have to though it takes a bit to clean it up.

Also depends on the lens you use. a really sharp lens will record more detail under the ISO noise for Topaz or other noise removal software to recover.

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Old Sep 22, 2010, 1:24 PM   #4
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I've got the Samsung GX-10 and find very little noise up to ISO 400. If I need to go to 800 I always end up using some kind of noise reduction in PP.

Looking back to my film/slide days boosting to 800 was an act of desperation. Not only were the results often not very good, but you had to find a lab that was willing to process at that speed.
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Old Sep 22, 2010, 5:47 PM   #5
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If I understand everyone right, the actual results are about the same. You get noise at around ISO 400 with a dslr, like we started getting grain at ISO 400 with film.


However the "crystal clear" shots I'm seeing posted are often cleaned up in post production. Not that there's anything wrong with that. :-) Would this be an accurate assessment?
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Old Sep 22, 2010, 6:55 PM   #6
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Others who know much more than me will chime in eventually, but the best answer is "it depends". a p&s at iso400 may be noisy. a dslr at 1600 may be fine. Lighting, content, in-camera NR and other stuff I don't know about will play their parts. I guess the best advice I could give would be to select the aperture and shutter speed you need and let the iso go where it needs. if you like blurry rather than noisy, fine. most don't.
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Old Sep 23, 2010, 8:19 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Osnap65 View Post
If I understand everyone right, the actual results are about the same. You get noise at around ISO 400 with a dslr, like we started getting grain at ISO 400 with film.


However the "crystal clear" shots I'm seeing posted are often cleaned up in post production. Not that there's anything wrong with that. :-) Would this be an accurate assessment?
Not quite, at least, not from my experience.

What I meant to say was that ISO 400 on my dSLR is better than on my old film Pentax. And I sometimes find that different subjects show different levels of noise.

However, my poor old GX-10 is now something like 3 years old, positively ancient for a dSLR. Some of the newer cameras seem to produce impressive results at very high ISOs. IF only I had more money and less items on my want-list ...
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Old Sep 23, 2010, 1:42 PM   #8
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There's one other difference between the high speed film and the high ISO of a DSLR and that is that w/digital you get virtually the same properties at all ISO settings whereas w/film the higher the speed the more contrast you lost. Not only was 800 really noisy but it was also really flat.

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