Thursday, February 4, 2010

High ISO Madness

Have a look at this photograph I shot Sunday night.

Oh, wait. That's pretty boring, isn't it? That's because that's the photograph as it would have been shot on 100 speed film. (I'm not sure what Blogger did, but the picture is actually a little brighter on my blog than it is in my image editor.)

Let's try that again.

Maybe you'll like this one better?

Actually, that is sort of cool, but it's not really much of a photograph of the subject. (The subject, by the way, is an aspiring model who wanted some interesting pictures for a portfolio page.) That's what the image would have looked like shot on 800 speed film, which is about the fastest you can buy unless you're really hooked up.

But wait!

I actually shot this at ISO12,800 on a Rebel T1i. What did that look like?

That is with no exposure adjustment in post.

Holy Toledo.

Handheld, no flash, ambient lighting - and it was so dark that even with my human eyes, which are far more sensitive than any camera, I could barely see the model. (My eyes don't have such a good focal range but I have excellent night vision.) And this is the cheap model, with a slow lens - aperture was f5.6, the maximum aperture of the lens at this focal length. The newer high-end dSLR cameras will go up to four times faster than this. And even sticking with the T1i, I have a lens that has a maximum aperture two stops larger.

The US Army has as one of its mottoes, "We own the night." Digital photographers are about to start trespassing on the Army's territory. When I think of the amazing photographs I could have taken with this technology in my former studio, or at Goth clubs and fashion shows, it just about makes me want to cry.

True, this is a little noisy, but I could have gone down a stop on sensitivity and that would have gotten rid of a lot of it. With a faster lens I could have gotten two stops down in sensitivity, gotten the same exposure, and the noise would have been scarcely noticeable especially with a little post.

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