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EM1 usable hight ISO

Discussion in 'Olympus Cameras' started by RenaudVL, Jul 13, 2014.

  1. RenaudVL

    RenaudVL Mu-43 Veteran Subscribing Member

    Mar 21, 2011
    Hello everyone,

    Planning a trip to Affrica.
    I want to be prepare to shoot in not ideal situation, light wise.... I know Africa should be pretty much sunny.
    I have been experimenting on my own up to ISO 2000 and I am not sure if if I like the result, not bad but not great.
    I understand that many factor can and wil influence my results...

    EM1 user, what's your experience at hight ISO?

    Thank for sharing

  2. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
  3. brandonsarkis

    brandonsarkis Mu-43 Rookie

    Apr 29, 2012
    I agree. I'm okay with up to 6400 for the right picture. I've printed 3200 at 16x20 and rather enjoyed the film like noise. If ultimate clarity is your goal (maybe m43 isn't for you) id keep it under 1600. It's staggeringly good at 200 and under and only diminishes slightly as you get to 800. For reference, I shoot w/pl25, 75, 12-40 natively.
  4. tomO2013

    tomO2013 Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Oct 28, 2013
    I have some shots at 6400 and would have no problems shooting large. I was at an expo in March where a professional Irish photographer was showing his work. He had a standout image of a robin taken in very low light at ISO6400 from an EM5 and printed very large to approx A3 if not slightly bigger. It looked great and very clear.
    The 'noise' at higher ISO's on modern 4/3 sensors tends to be extremely fine and random in nature (not like the old banding problems from older 1d's, or older Olympus cameras). As another OP said, it can often look somewhat film like.

    At higher ISO's I feel that a lot will come down to your glass believe it or not. For example shots from my Pan 100-300 at the long end do not hold up anywhere near as good at ISO6400 as shots from the Oly 75 or Pan 25. Largely because the lens itself is already fairly soft at the long end so any noise will emphasise the imperfections.

    Consider applications such as DXO for de-noising your very noisey photos - Note that you cannot see the result in preview and can only see the processed image on export as it is time consuming (approx 2 minutes per image on my older laptop). However it gives almost a full stop better noise control (if not more) compared to other applications that I've tried (Nik, Lightroom etc..). Other good de-noising apps such as Topaz Denoise do a great job.

    Finally irrespective of camera brand and sensor size, ironically sometimes the best way to handle 'noise' is to actually add grain digitally back into the image in post. Lightroom has a grain slider to simulate film grain, I'm not particulary enamored with LR's version of this, but if you play with the grain size slider too, you can get a nice effect that holds up really well in print. This has the effect of giving the image texture, less of a digital feel and losing the 'overly clean smudged' look that I see in many 'clean' high ISO shots. This is personal opinion though and noise VS grain at the image level is subjective. There are many who hate film, hated the older film stock grains (even the very fine film stocks such as APX125!) and just want a 100% clean image. Funnily enough the 'noise' at the image level on modern 4/3 and APS-C sensors at high ISO tends to be cleaner than even some of the very low ISO film stocks from yesteryear!!
    Finally, in print you will probably find that at normal viewing distances and even the print process itself will tend to be very forgiving on any noise in your images.

    You should have no problems. Just choose your glass wisely for low light shooting irrespective of m43, aps-c, small format :) 

    Edit: to add Ray's link from another thread : http://www.imaging-resource.com/news...-8x10-showdown. Note that this was done with SOOC jpeg. Manually tuned NR on a Raw file should yield much better results...
  5. AussiePhil

    AussiePhil Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jun 1, 2014
    Canberra, ACT, Aust
    I too like the film like noise you get at the higher ISO settings, it's far more evident in broad areas of colour and far less obvious in the detail.

    the image linked was shot at 4000 ISO and has film grain type noise in the out of focus water. Interestingly i've printed some other images with the same or greater noise and the noise just disappears at A4 size, haven't yet printed larger as a test yet.


    I've found that anything underexposed is an issue as you just raised the noise along with the exposure in post, you do need to nail the exposure to minimise the noise and this is were the better glass will help, not saying i have any fancy glass though :) 

    Personally for trips i would limit the ISO to 1600 and then bump up when and only when you need the shutter speed increase. I have my Auto ISO limited to 6400.

    • Like Like x 1
  6. EarthQuake

    EarthQuake Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 30, 2013
    Really depends on what you want to do with the final image. For web viewing, up to 12800 is usable. For small prints, up to 6400 easily. For medium sized prints, I would stick to 3200 and below, large prints probably 1600 and below.
  7. Lindsay D

    Lindsay D Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 2, 2013
    West Sussex, England
    I agree with what the others have said. I will also add that ISO tolerance can be a very personal thing and commonly the least tolerant have probably never shot film. I also agree with the previous comment stating that the characteristics of the noise is equally as important as the amount of noise.

    There is a resounding belief that you will always get less noise shooting a full frame system - actually, you won't much of the time. For example if your subjects are aren't moving too much then you can rely on the excellent Olympus IBIS which enables you to gain sharp images at extremely slow shutter speeds - far slower than you could even hope to shoot at on FF. This can save you a good couple of stops on ISO, negating the perceived advantage of FF. Similarly, when shooting full frame ultra-thin depth of field is likely to be very undesirable in many if not most circumstances, particularly if you need to render more than one subject (person) sharply or when shooting environmental themes or landscapes - because you have some additional depth of field with Micro 4/3 you won't need to stop down, again saving you the ISO advantage. Most of my FF lenses require stopping down a bit anyway because they're not particularly sharp wide open, which again whittles away many of the FF advantages which are so often blindly clung to via test charts and datasheets.

    I appreciate you refer only to ISO, but there are other image quality parameters that are worth considering, such as colour accuracy - an area where Olympus excels.

    What matters the most is whether or not a camera system has the performance attributes you need - speed and focus accuracy being crucial, and of course stabilisation is significant when the light starts to fall. There are countless other features you need to consider. I hear endlessly from people who've bought into the latest and greatest sensor only to find out that their new system doesn't suit their needs. I still have my top of the range full frame DSLR kit and luxury lenses, but in the last year and a half these have been used entirely by my assistant or trainees, because in the field during real-world usage there are relatively few circumstances where you will see any appreciable difference.
    • Like Like x 4
  8. RenaudVL

    RenaudVL Mu-43 Veteran Subscribing Member

    Mar 21, 2011
    Thanks everyone,

    This give my a good direction to do my own testing.
    I am also OK with background noise (film like, from the days I started to do photography) one of my main concern is details lost on a bird for example.
    I use my photos for web, slide show on TV for family and friend, I do also like to make large print.

    My signature will tell you what glass I will be taking..
  9. Swandy

    Swandy Mu-43 Veteran

    Dec 15, 2009
    This should be a MAJOR deciding factor for you. Everyone's "tolerance" is totally different - even taking into account the final output of the photo. My background was film and compared to older "high" ISO (oops I mean ASA) films, today's camera outputs are amazing. (Try finding some old Kodak Tri-X 400 shots if you want to see noise (oops again, I mean "grain").
    I have the EM10 (same processor as the EM1 and same sensor as the EM5) and am very happy leaving my Auto ISO setting maxed out at 3200, but I have gone higher when necessary.
    • Like Like x 1
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