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Base-iso noise

Discussion in 'Olympus Cameras' started by Neftun, Jul 11, 2013.

  1. Neftun

    Neftun Mu-43 Veteran

    408
    Jul 15, 2012
    Norway
    Patrick Kristiansen
    I have noticed something on both my ep1 and em5. There is a noticeable amount of grain in the slightly shadowy parts of my pics at even base iso.

    I don´t mind grain at all at higher iso, infact I like it if it has that filmlike feel, but at base iso I want clean, sleek files. I cannot see the same amount of grain on the files from my last camera, nikon d300. Yes, it has some, but it feels like less...

    I usually shoot raw, little or no noisereduction, simple processing in aperture.

    Anyone else made this observation? Any postprocess tips maybe? Or have I become a pixlepeeper? :eek:

    I can scrounge up a sample or two if anyone is curious. Not by the same subject, unfortunately, since I sold the d300.
     
  2. entropicremnants

    entropicremnants Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jul 16, 2012
    John Griggs
    Two questions: one, are you using automatic shadow lifting? I don't remember what it's called. But it causes the shadows to be boosted when the jpg is made.

    Which leads me to the second question: are you shooting jpg?

    And the secret third question, lol: do you use expose to the right to maximize your use of the sensor? If your shots are dark and you raise the brightness shadow noise becomes more apparent.

    That said, shadow noise gets higher as pixels get smaller. My D7000 had more noise in the shadows at base ISO than my D200 did.

    Personally, I have used the E-M5, the E-P5 and currently have a bunch of Panasonic cams and I find the low iso noise fine. I generally print at 16x20 inches and I can't see it when I do my job -- which is maximizing the exposure and then adjusting the look in post.

    Have you shot RAW to see what you get?

    And yes you ARE a pixel peeper, lol. But what is your goal? As I said I want to print -- but if you want to 100% enlargements and stare at them you need different cameras, lol.
     
  3. LowriderS10

    LowriderS10 Monkey with a camera.

    May 19, 2013
    Canada
    The trick is to not underexpose. I got into the habit of shooting for the highlights and then pushing the shadows in post with my Canons (because they had more limited DR), and they could easily take the punishment. (Basically, underexpose on purpose to keep as much highlight detail as possible).

    I've noticed with my OM-D that if I do that, I get grain. If I expose more conservatively (ie: not underexpose) and don't push the shadows so much then the low ISO noise disappears. It's going to take a little bit of getting used to, but oh well...thankfully the OM-D has better DR...
     
  4. Neftun

    Neftun Mu-43 Veteran

    408
    Jul 15, 2012
    Norway
    Patrick Kristiansen
    Dang! I knew it. When did that happen?!?

    I do shoot raw, either flat curve or supressing the shadows slightly, "normal" graduation, and usually 0,7 ev overexposure. Hence the confusion. I was hung up on this since I felt a couple of my shots had that "digital" feel to them, with rough colourtransitions and the occasional artifact.

    I figured newer sensor=less noise=better. But my 6mp d70 at base iso was superclean when exposure was spot on and not too much contrast in the frame. Maybe I should give my dads aging, dustgathering d80 a run for its money?

    Or I could as you say, not stare at my pics at 100%. I never do with anyone else's:)
     
  5. entropicremnants

    entropicremnants Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jul 16, 2012
    John Griggs
    Well, it is a balance. You should have achievable, reasonable quality goals for sure and not settle for poor quality. Seeking to achieve better quality is a good idea but it can get silly at times, lol.

    If you cannot meet you goals for video or stills by all means get a bigger sensor camera -- that is what they are good for. You can even go medium format, lol.

    But it does amaze me that folks who never post full res on the internet, and never print really large, get so concerned about it. My largest print is from my E-M5 I used to have and it is 24x36 inches and it looks great on the wall.

    What do you actually do, how do you present it, and does the slight noise matter?

    You have to answer that for yourself. I've made my choice and it works for me.
     
  6. LowriderS10

    LowriderS10 Monkey with a camera.

    May 19, 2013
    Canada
    Entropicremnants makes some excellent points.

    I switched from a 5D Mark II to the OM-D. Sometimes, even viewed at 100% I'm blown away by the OM-D...every bit as good as the 5D2. Other times...I'm a little disappointed. Then I remember that I'm pixel peeping and that the actual image (when viewed normally) is excellent, and I'm saving a TON in size/weight. I travel a lot (backpacking/hostels/etc), so size/weight is of utmost importance to me...sure the OM-D comes with a few compromises...but they're well worth it, and they're mostly invisible (unless you're in a dark room staring at pixels, which I think many of us - including myself - sometimes do too much).
     
  7. tweggs

    tweggs Mu-43 Rookie

    13
    Oct 18, 2012
    Seattle, WA. USA
    Hello just my 2cents. I find that orv3 will do the best job of processing the files. It is just very slow! I also use cs6 acr7.4 it just doesn't have the output of the Olympus software.
     
  8. stratokaster

    stratokaster Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 4, 2011
    Kyiv, Ukraine
    Pavel
    This (noticeable noise at the lowest ISO) is my biggest pet peeve with Micro 4/3. It is not helped by the fact that the newest cameras don't have ISO 100 at all.

    In fact, I have a feeling that the venerable Panasonic G2 had the cleanest low-ISO files of all Micro 4/3 cameras.
     
  9. Neftun

    Neftun Mu-43 Veteran

    408
    Jul 15, 2012
    Norway
    Patrick Kristiansen
    I do not understand this. Why not include a supa-clean/sleek/amaaaazing iso 100 or even iso50? All the film-makers did and to an extent still do. Ektar 100 and so on. I'd trade that for the silly high-iso values every camera has these days. Who shoots iso 25600 anyway?!?

    An observstion that may answer my own question: mainstream selling-point.

    After a decade or so selling consumer electronics, I have noticed mainstream consumers crave a number to latch on to to help them chose a product. In the nineties, early naughties, it was watts in stereo. More the better. Never mind how it sounds.
    Naughties: megapixels in digicams. Heck, I used to say to a customer, If they are printing no larger than 8* 6" they could safely buy a 2 mp camera. Now this has reached a silly level, a compact is frowned upon of it has less than 16mp....
    Naughties/early tens it has been all about contrastnumber in flatscreen tv's, up until this reached its own level of sillyness. A JVC with a sober contrast of 800:1 had an excellent picture, certainly when compared to the 1000000:1 (no kidding!!) samsung.

    Now it seems iso is the latest number that HAS to be as freakkin high as physically possible. And maybe thats why base-iso suffers. Extreme high-iso, and not low-iso(du-uh) is what the marked wants.
     
  10. agentlossing

    agentlossing Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jun 26, 2013
    Andrew Lossing
    Those older Nikon DSLRs had much different sensors. CCD, for one, and low mp count for aps-c sensor. The d300, I can't remember specs for, so pardon me if I'm shooting in the dark there.

    I wonder whether the absence of really low iso is more about sensor tweaking than mass market appeal. Knowing as little as I do about camera sensors I can easily make wild assertions, but can a sensor be made which handles iso 50 and 6400 equally well? I'd be surprised.

    I've always gravitated to faster primes, so high iso for me is really just for handheld shots in real low light. But I appreciate it being there. I've never needed iso 50, and while initially the base iso noise surprised me, I don't really mind it, super smooth digital photos look a bit weird as well. Aggressive noise reduction is the only trend I despise with a terrible passion, but I set the nr to its lowest setting and just live my life after that point.
     
  11. darosk

    darosk Mu-43 Top Veteran

    705
    Apr 17, 2013
    Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
    Daros
    There's a limit to what you can expect out of an m43 sensor. IMO it's already amazing for what it is, even at base ISOs. If you need super clean noise-free files in your daily shooting then I have to say m43 is not the format - definitely wouldn't be the format I would pick if I needed that.

    As much as I love the m43 format, there are compromises and sacrifices you make compared to using larger sensor cameras, of that there is no denying. I made my choice based on the portability I needed, and it's a choice I stand by.
     
  12. Hagane

    Hagane Mu-43 Regular

    88
    May 31, 2013
    Limburg, Netherlands
    In the DPreview forums I had a small discussion with someone about the base ISO of the OM-D (and cameras which share the same sensor).
    It seems that the base ISO of the sensor is around 107 and the ISO which is used for metering is 200 (as stated in the menu).
    In short this means that with ETTR (expose to the right) you should be able to get less noise but at the cost of extra post processing time...
     
  13. Neftun

    Neftun Mu-43 Veteran

    408
    Jul 15, 2012
    Norway
    Patrick Kristiansen
    I have seem that statement in several venues, dxo claims this as well. I'm not the one to challenge a highly regarded lab such as them, but it still doesn't make sense to me. A quick test with the em5 and d700 with spotmetering, at iso 400, similar optics(respective nifty-fifties) on a static, uniformly lit white cupboard in my store rendered exactly the same exposure values...

    But yes, I think you are right. As quite a few suggest, exposure to the right seems to be the way to go with m43. There is certainly plenty of headroom on the 16mp sony sensor:)
     
  14. entropicremnants

    entropicremnants Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jul 16, 2012
    John Griggs
    I have been surprised by the old GH1 I recently bought. I did a shot at dusk where I had to do considerable shadow adjustment and it did better than anything else mu-43 I've shot including the E-M5. This is a single shot and not HDR. You can't see it necessarily at this size, but the noise in the shadows was surprisingly low. It was shot at base ISO for the GH1.

    9228335984_cef32ace6e_b.
    The Loner by Entropic Remnants, on Flickr
     
  15. Brian G

    Brian G Mu-43 Veteran

    222
    Nov 16, 2010
    Victoria, BC
    I concur . . .

    Having recently had an EM-5, and now a GH3, there certainly is a fine luminance noise on images at base ISO, and not just in the shadows, and not solely related to pulling up exposure levels. (If I recall correctly, you also see similar noise on cameras with sensors featuring relatively high pixel densities, e.g. Nex-7, if you're looking for it.)

    It seems to me that whether this is an issue that you need to deal with, or can happily ignore, is somewhat related to how you edit images, and/or how large you may wish to print. I do fairly extensive editing typically involving multiple steps, and I find that I get cleaner, overall better results by using light noise reduction immediately after RAW development (I use Topaz Denoise, not the noise reduction in Lightroom.) This just works for me, but many people wouldn't need to worry much about the noise.

    If you do HDR processing, you may want to consider some form of noise reduction before importing the files to your HDR merge software, it reduces the potential for noise to be treated as image detail by the HDR software.

    Films had visible grain, to varying degrees.

    Brian
     
  16. entropicremnants

    entropicremnants Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jul 16, 2012
    John Griggs
    Excellent point on the HDR in particular. HDR is really quite sensitive to pre-merge processing and since I use a one with primitive controls to begin with ("Enfuse LR" or "LR Enfuse") I tune my results by the pre-processing I do.

    Like you, I print and base my approach on what size I'm printing and what the material's "needs" are. It is indeed not "cookie cutter", lol.
     
  17. Ulfric M Douglas

    Ulfric M Douglas Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Mar 6, 2010
    Northumberland
    Without a douby the venerable e-P1 has noisy shadows, the surprise is seeing it from the e-M5 ...
     
  18. pdk42

    pdk42 One of the "Eh?" team

    Jan 11, 2013
    Leamington Spa, UK
    Like Lowrider, I traded up/down/sideways from a 5dii to an OMD. At the start of this journey, I too found situations where the Oly measured right up to the Canon's IQ whilst at other times I was slightly disappointed. I eventually realised that it's mainly a question of exposure (as others on this thread have pointed out). ETTR is essential to get the base ISO noise fully under control on the Oly.

    Unlike the Canon, the Oly handles slight overexposure very well and in fact, I've now set a permanent +0.5 Ev comp into the camera's metering config. I personally feel that I can live with the base ISO noise - it's there but not intrusive (unless pixel peeping). In fact, I've yet to see it on a print - even at 16x20, so if I'm honest, it's really not an issue at all.
     
  19. Neftun

    Neftun Mu-43 Veteran

    408
    Jul 15, 2012
    Norway
    Patrick Kristiansen
    There has been some good points and advice here. Thanks!

    It seems I need to take exposure a bit more seriously, and dismiss my current attitude that "everything" can be fixed in pp, and if not, I need better gear. And certainly slap the growing GAS in its ugly face;)
    I'll consider the issue a challenge, both in mastering current gear, and in focusing on what matters; the image and not some miniscule graining.

    Thanks again!
     
  20. Brian G

    Brian G Mu-43 Veteran

    222
    Nov 16, 2010
    Victoria, BC
    Interestingly, Trey Ratcliffe, who has recently switched his main camera use from a Nikon D800 to a Sony Nex-7, made this comment in his blog this morning:

    "I’m getting re-used to APS-C sensors! Man, you really gotta keep that ISO at 100 to keep the noise to an absolute minimum. The noise is barely visible at 100, but it is definitely there. A little nudge of the Noise Reduction slider in Lightroom will take care of it though. Easy Peazy!
    But, if you crank the ISO up to 400 or higher, there may indeed be too much noise for LR to fix for you."

    Although not an m43-related comment, it certainly supports the notion that some luminance noise at base ISO is not unique to m43; although with a file resolution of 24 megapixels, you have a bit of extra wiggle room if you elect to reduce file size, which would make noise less visible. Also, you're a bit less limited in print size.

    For my preferences, I'd still be using noise reduction as a first step, as a matter of general practice.

    Brian