I have read about digital noise and I understand that some will always be there. To compensate I usually shoot at ISO200. However, at around 5:30 EST I was shooting my kids swinging in the backyard and needed a shutter speed of 250 due to the action, This meant I had to raise the ISO to 800 to compensate. The shots looked pretty good on the camera, but after I uploaded and started examining them closely; way too much noise in the dark areas. Yuck!!! I even used a tool to reduce the noise and it still was unacceptable. So, here are my questions.
What are some recommendations when shooting at an ISO of 400 or higher to minimize noise?
What good is it to have ISO settings above 400 if the noise is so prevalent you really can’t “use” the images?
Any help is much appreciated.
#1. "RE: Noise at High ISO" | In response to Reply # 0Jonathan Registered since 10th Feb 2003Sat 13-Mar-04 06:56 PM
The noise you get at high ISO is due to fundamental laws of physics. There are two parts: photon-counting noise (also called shot noise) and thermal noise (aka Johnson noise) in the amplifiers the camera uses to increase the effective ISO.
There are ways to design a camera to reduce these sources of noise (use a larger sensor to reduce shot noise and cool the amplifiers with liquid nitrogen to reduce Johnson noise), but so long as you're using a DSLR, you can't get around these very well. It's worth understanding that shot noise will affect film just as much as digital, so you would not get appreciably lower shot noise if you shot with film at 800 ISO.
Film is not susceptible to Johnson noise, though, so that would not be an issue with film.
The options to go as high as ISO 6400 with the D100 are there so you can choose how you like to trade off noise against shutter speed. If you see a once-in-a-lifetime shot (e.g., wildlife or photojournalism) and need high speed, it's great to have ISO 6400. If you're shooting for art's sake, and want sharp images with low noise and saturated colors, you probably want to work hard to keep the ISO at 200. The nice thing about the camera is that it puts the choice in your hands and makes it a lot easier than getting a lab to push film to high ISO.
The most practical solutions to your problems are to increase amount of light getting onto the sensor, so you can shoot at 400 ISO or less. You can do this by buying a lens with a larger aperture or by using artificial illumination (flash, floodlights, etc.).
You may also want to experiment with settings on your camera. If you're shooting NEF files, you can generally increase the exposure by up to +2 EV in postprocessing without losing too much quality. I often like to shoot at ISO 200 with a -2 EV exposure compensation (2 stops underexposed) rather than boosting the ISO to 800. This isn't always the case---it depends on what the scene looks like. Try out different combinations of ISO and exposure compensation and see what you like the best.
You may also want to think about making the best of the constraints you face---if it's getting dark and the kids are running around, consider how you could use motion blur artistically.
If you do boost the ISO, it's very important to get the exposure correct because the extra electronic noise gives you much less latitude than you get at ISO 200. A picture that's one stop underexposed at ISO 200 is no big deal. You can boost the exposure in postprocessing without losing any useful detail. But a shot that's one stop underexposed at ISO 800 has a lot of electronic noise in the shadows, so you won't be able to recover it as cleanly in postprocessing.
There are a bunch of Photoshop plug-ins on the market that attempt to remove noise from digital images, but I haven't tried them so I can't comment on how well they work.
I hope some of this is helpful to you.
Not to take pictures of one's children, particularly when they are small, is a sign of parental indifference --- Susan Sontag
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#5. "RE: Noise at High ISO" | In response to Reply # 1Pegleg Registered since 28th May 2003Wed 16-Jan-08 12:08 PM
This is the first attempt to use the D100 at a higher ISO than 800. I had to kick it up a notch in order to get a fast enough shutter speed and I must say I'm impressed with the results from the camera.
I had an 8x10 printed at shutterfly.com and was very pleased at the lack of noise. I could see only small traces from viewing the enlargement from about 10 inches away and when I stood back at about 18 inches the noise virtually disappeared
50mm f/1.8d lens
1/250 @ f/2.5
Color Mode I
Custom Curve: jt_all-in-1Curve
Attachment#1 (jpg file)
#2. "RE: Noise at High ISO" | In response to Reply # 0
I agree with the expert advice you are getting on this thread Joe. There is an excellent noise reduction tool called 'NeatImage' which is well worth a try. I downloaded the trial a few months ago and it sat on the desktop for sometime before I gave it a go. It is brilliant and has made using the higher ISO settings a better proposition now. Give it a try.
#4. "RE: Noise at High ISO" | In response to Reply # 34runner Registered since 28th Dec 2003Mon 15-Mar-04 04:08 PM
Thanks for the replies. I'm using something from Fred Miranda (ISOx Pro) to reduce noise and it does work. Seems like I do mbest to avoid "dark" areas when using a ISO over 400. I will keep working with it.