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Olympus OM-D E-M5 The first Micro Four Thirds camera from Olympus with an integrated Electronic Viewfinder

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Old 25th August 2016
Ricoh Ricoh is offline
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Maximum ISO before noise becomes an issue.

The query applies to all u4/3 16MP cameras, not the EM5 alone, just somewhere to hang the thread.

From your experience what is the maximum usable ISO before noise becomes an issue, if a) the exposure is optimum, not under exposed especially, and b) if the shot is under exposed by say a stop or possibly two?

Background to the question: I was on the street earlier this week, shooting 'f8 and be there with zone' (actually f5.6) at ISO 1600 to keep the shutter speed high enough to prevent motion blur, but noise is an unsightly issue in many of the shots where under exposure occurred and I've had to lift the shadows in PP. On the street it's happening so fast with light changing from one side of the street to the other that exposure can't always be optimum.

With film, we were taught to expose for the shadows and the highlights would take care of themselves. Digital upends this guidance, and highlights must be protected and the shadows have to take care of themselves. In the digital world most of the data is captured at the top end with ever decreasing amounts towards the bottom due to binary power of 2's. Protect the highlights and under exposure is a double edged sword unless the sensor and processing are up to the challenge.
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Old 25th August 2016
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Re: Maximum ISO before noise becomes an issue.

Hi, I have shot with ISO's upto 6,400 ISO with no noise issues prints A3+ size with plenty sharp detail and noise you would have to look at it very close or with magnifying glass to see it, at hand held not quite arms length you would not see any noise, if you shoot at higher ISO than iso1800 and under expose of -1 stop or more you will see noise, the higher the ISO the more critical your exposure needs to be. No matter what camera you use, if the exposure is wrong noise will appear, ever at base ISO, that applies to flu frame cameras too.

I have shot at ISO 25600 with minimal noise but that varied with conditions.

Back in the film days grain starts to appear from ISO 800, back then grain was excepted as normal.
I use the EM 5 MRK 1
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Old 26th August 2016
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Re: Maximum ISO before noise becomes an issue.

I find it depends a lot on the image style you're trying for, and the character of your particular image.

I really don't mind grit in most of my B&W street images, and my natural style for that genre has quite dark shadows anyway for both colour and mono - I suppose I like a long dark-tone tail to the output histogram. Hence I just don't do much lifting of the shadows.

I tend to shoot street these days at 800 or 1600 ASA and I do like contrasty lighting (so I do lose a proportion of images through burnt-out highlights, but I am getting better at guessing what correction to dial in on the fly, and even if I get it wrong the image is sometimes quite nice processed as a high-key monochrome). I don't go above 2000 on the M1 or 5.

In my view the great majority of slightly unsharp street images are useless while the great majority of even quite grainy ones are absolutely fine.

Almost none of this applies to my landscape/travel and general photography, of course, but I assume you weren't talking about that.
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Old 27th August 2016
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Re: Maximum ISO before noise becomes an issue.

As others have said it depends on the subject and the lighting. For landscapes I wouldn't want to go beyond ISO 200!! For street (what little I do!), I'd be happy up to 1600. For portraits, maybe 800. For gigs etc, probably 6400 and live with the noise!

I hope the E-M1ii improves things a lot!
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Old 27th August 2016
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Re: Maximum ISO before noise becomes an issue.

Thanks for the relies.
Like Mark said, a noisy image is far preferable to one which is blurry due to movement, so shutter speed is the prime variable, and set to 1/1000 in my case. I also have ISO limited to 3200.

I've also been experimenting with exposure compensation using intuition and a measure of guess work, for instance with hip shooting and with the lens pointing slightly upwards, I'm finding +1/2 or +1 provides a better histogram and thus a less noisy images. But if the lighting permits and I can find an interesting individual to compliment the situation, I also like contrast and dark shadows. Get the exposure correct and there's no need for shadow recovery.
General photography for me is street photography and it's extremely rare for me to point the camera at inanimate objects without people.
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