Hand Held Cameras, Part 6
High ISO Speed and Noise

Hand held Cameras are often shot at high ISOs, and this can cause ugly noise in pictures.


San Luis Valley, CO, WildflowersThis article continues my thoughts about hand-holding cameras for increased shooting flexibility and creativity that have been the subjects of the five previous articles. Go to the first part of the hand-holding series.

The two images on this page were both shot in the San Luis valley on day one of my long photo shoot trip. Both are close to the flower image in the previous post.

In this previous post we were talking about raising the camera's ISO speed to 800 so we could use a small aperture like f-22 while still using a high exposure speed like 1/250. I explained that this is a great way to get much better depth of field and much better sharpness throughout the picture.

Sounds great, right? Not always, there is a downside to using higher ISO's; the higher they are the more noise you add to a picture. In the case of the Rebel, I'm lucky, it's a very good camera and there is not much noise added even at ISO 800. There definitely is some though; however if the picture is not sharpened, almost all of this noise can be removed later in Photoshop and it will never be noticed unless the picture is printed to billboard dimensions.

This is not true on all cameras though. Many cameras will fill a picture with lots of nasty noise at ISO 800. I once had a five megapixel Nikon that was really bad at this. Before you try shooting at high ISO's, test your camera at these high ISO speeds.

At the other end of the spectrum, a lot of professional cameras can be shot at 800 or 1000 or even 1600 ISO without producing any noise at all, or very little anyway. But, like everything else in photography, there is always a trade off; these great cameras come a very high prices. My Canon 1Ds Mark II can shoot at very high ISO's with no noise at all, but it cost $8000.00. And, it is too heavy to carry on a strap around my neck, use on backpacking trips or to use as casually and creatively as I use my new Rebel.

San Luis Valley, Colorado, WildflowersOne quickly learns that in photography, there is no free lunch; everything is a trade off, everything has a price in dollars, or weight, or time, or lower image quality, or something.

If you want a little more info about getting good depth of field using smaller point and shoot cameras, see my article on depth of field.

Go to the seventh part of the hand held Camera series