Using High ISO

Canada Geese in flight.
Shot using high ISO to keep the shutter speed up, using a 300mm zoom.

It is one thing to read all about the use of high ISO, but another to actually go and try it. These flying gees shots were taken at 3200 ISO with a Canon EOS 60D, f/6.3, 1/664s (from the EXIF). The lens used was a Sigma 70-300mm f/4 – 5.6 APO zoom at 238mm.

Put simply the shot is basically not useable. The black and white version is not too bad, but it took some heavy RAW processing to get the ISO noise out and make the picture barely presentable. Here’s the colour version.

On the face of it, this bears out the usual lessons about keeping ISO as low as possible.

In fact, this was deliberate on my part. Our local, very pretty, lake is in a position where trees and the ground block much of the golden hour. At this time of year that is exactly the time when the geese fly. So I took the chance, and the opportunity to push the limits on my camera gear, and grabbed the shot.

Action captured in kick boxing, using high ISO in artificial light, using a fast lens.

All good. Now look at this shot from my “Action – Kickboxing” post earlier in the year. Again this was taken at high ISO,  1600 to be exact, 1/250s, on the same camera. These photos were taken in a gymnasium under artificial light. The shutter speed was necessary to freeze most of the action but still allow some motion blur. There is nothing like the same issue with ISO noise. So what is the issue? in my view the step from 1600 ISO to 3200 ISO doesn’t explain it.

The answer, of course, lies largely in the lens. The kickboxing shot was taken with the notably sharp Sigma 17 – 50mm EX f/2.8 lens. In comparison the Sigma 70 – 300 performance drops off substantially after about 200mm. As it is not an image stabilised lens, a lower shutter speed, and possibly lower ISO was not an option. Arguably, a better quality lens, in this case, even a 70-200 EF L lens would have resulted in a more usable image.

On the other hand, I got the shot! The real lesson is to know and understand your camera gear as a system. High ISO with one of my lenses resulted in a set of interesting and useful pictures. With a different lens, I caught the action, but at poor quality. Something to note and remember next time! Work your equipment and learn from that!

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Rudolph says:

    Very nice post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wished to say that I’ve
    really enjoyed browsing your blog posts. After all I will be subscribing to your rss feed and I hope you write again soon!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.