What’s the highest ISO I should use?

May 24, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

What’s the highest ISO setting you should use on your DSLR without losing image quality? Our head of testing gives you the answer… and it might surprise you.

Motorsport photography tips: manage your ISOCAN48.appren.appren55_1 d7b59ea93390438c998434b3df21fded

Back in the early days of digital SLRs, image noise became noticeable and the maximum available sensitivity was a modest ISO1600.

Today many SLRs offer standard sensitivity ranges of at least ISO100-6400, with up to ISO25600 or even more in their extended ranges.

Current sensors are typically designed so that each photosite can capture more light. This is despite featuring much higher resolutions, so the signal to noise ratio gets a boost.

With better quality available from the sensor, a powerful processing engine is able to deliver superb results, reducing image noise with less loss of fine detail.

For optimum image quality, we’d stick to sensitivity settings of up to ISO3200 in most SLRs. This should enable sufficiently fast shutter speeds to give sharp handheld results of static objects, even under dull indoor lighting.

The real challenge is when you need to freeze motion with fast shutter speeds, for example when shooting indoor sporting events. In this case, it’s best to push sensitivity to ISO6400 or higher.

A sharp shot that’s a bit noisy is better than a blurred picture. High-sensitivity quality is more of a challenge for compact cameras, because they have smaller image sensors.


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