Auto ISO or Fixed ISO-- Opinions needed


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Sep 16, 2012
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kentucky hills
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I have for a long time kept my ISO at a low and fixed setting, Most edits I find myself correcting for noise. Looking for opinions on best way to use ISO settings. Thank you any and all that respond. Ed
Nikon D610
I use the iso that is needed to get the settings I want for the shot

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Correcting for noise on a d610?

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Fixed ISO or some cameras allow you to set a max ISO
Sometimes auto ISO
Sometimes fixed ISO
Sometimes set an ISO 'ceiling' (which is really 'auto' really)

I've never used auto-ISO, but that may be from how long I shot film. You load a roll of film, its sensitivity doesn't change to suit the light. It seems "wrong" to me to have the camera do so. :)

If I did use auto-ISO, I'd set the max no more than two stops my desired starting point. In other words, if I started with 400, I'd set the max at 1600. If the light changes that much I need to be adjusting elsewhere anyway, to my way of thinking.
Ed. I/we shoot a lot of bird shots, and other moving critters. Under those circumstances I shoot Manual set the speed and aperture and Auto ISO. Far fewer lost shots, and in truth many times they are better. Main thing is that you almost always get a shot that is at the minimum decent. One thing though is to set your maximum ISO setting to your highest just acceptable level, and not try to 'shoot the moon'. Static subjects are a different bowl of beans. You can control more precisely with your eye. As you have demonstrated time and again with your flower and landscape shots.
When/if we ever get intelligent auto-ISO that doesn't crank up to maximum in dim light when you are using flash I might use auto but for the time being since auto-ISO is so dumb I'll stick with the manual ISO mode.
As said above, if you want a particular aperture and shutter speed, manual with auto I so works great. If you just want a particular aperture but shutter speed does not matter or vice versa, use aperture priority or shutter priority with lowest iso for best results
I think the question should be,why is a d610 producing noise at a low fixed iso setting.
Multiple answers:

1. I too almost always use a fixed ISO. Usually low (as low as I can get it for what I'm shooting). For instance, it's usually on ISO 100. If my meter tells me the shutter exposure is to slow than I'll ratchet it up and up doing a trial shot or reading before I settle on something.

2. I too am puzzled why you're setting a low ISO on a D610 and getting a lot of noise. I personally think that an auto ISO would lead to more noise problems (as it would jack up to ISO 64,000 when you zoom in on the dark corner in the room using only ambient light). But I don't shoot with a 610 and don't use auto ISO so maybe I'm clueless on that and my thinking is wrong.

3. Like a couple of other posts have said, I think that an auto ISO would be best in a very dynamic situation where you don't have time/skill to do a lot of adjusting. As a photojournalist, shooting birds or other fast moving wildlife in a lot of light and shadow, shooting sports with mixed lighting, a concert or stage where you have a lot of artificial light/bright areas/dim areas. All of those instances would just scream out for auto ISO in my opinion.

Quick summary: I don't think auto ISO is going to help you with your noise issue. I do think it makes sense for some shooting situations. But you can set up an experiment with some high dynamic range, shoot it with fixed ISO and then set to auto and go back in and repeat the shots and compare. Not that difficult to do. Make sure you have some dark areas with indoor artificial light (like fluorescent or incandescent) and some natural ambient (outdoors but heavy shadow in addition to sunlight). Do identical shots. And then compare noise levels.
...on further reflection and reading the comments concerning your noise issue I would wonder if maybe your exposures are running on the dark side. If so a simple raising of the EC would probably take care of the problem, Try two or three shots with increasing EC and compare after processing. The noise is in the dark areas and so even at low ISO a dark picture will show considerably more noise. Especially noticeable in post. This is one of the factors that drive the argument for 'Shooting to the right'. High key areas have very low noise, but still carry all the information. Therefor when you lower the exposure a bit and sharpen there is no noise sharpened as well.
On my D600 with ISO ... it depends.

Anything in studio it's fixed at 200.
Anything with a flash I fix it
Most shots where I have time to adjust I probably use manual ISO.
Any sports (or birds, etc) it's on AUTO ISO with a MAX of 6400 (for d600, for d7000 max 1600 ISO) whether indoor or outdoors.

I also always shoot in Manual, setting the Aperture and Shutter to the SETTINGS I want, So I never use Aperture nor Shutter priority. Of the fews times I've experimented with them they don't set the Aperture or Shutter values that I would prefer.

Last Friday, due to inconsistent lighting indoors and the fast action back and forth my ISO would range from 1600 to 6400 within a few seconds at f/2.8.

In outdoor sports a few years ago on my d7000 I used manual ISO and I worked that dial like crazy to keep a good exposure with fast action. And this was outdoors, on a bright day, with rolling clouds. Since then I use AUTO ISO with a max.

I used to do film (not very well though), and when I got my d7000 I used to stick to ISO 100/200. But since then I've learned that ISO control can be your friend and initially slowly increased the ISO until I found the max that I prefer, and since then just set things to AUTO ISO with a MAX ISO.

I've also learned that if you don't properly expose images, and use the DynamicRange to pull exposures up, you can introduce noise. So it's better to get the exposure correct in camera, rather than pull it out in post.
I agree with others that if you using the lowest native ISO setting and having to globally correct image noise - you are likely under exposing those photographs.

Note however that the way digital image exposure works areas of a photo that are dark have little image signal/information and in those areas image noise will be more problematic than in brighter parts of the scene. (note 12-bits = 4096
. . . if a camera uses 12 bits to encode the capture into 4,096 levels, then level 2,048 represents half the number of photons recorded at level 4,096 . . .
. . . If a camera captures six stops of dynamic range, half of the 4,096 levels are devoted to the brightest stop, half of the remainder (1,024 levels) are devoted to the next stop, half of the remainder (512 levels) are devoted to the next stop, and so on. The darkest stop, the extreme shadows, is represented by only 64 levels . . .

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