Some low light / high ISO photos

I was thinking about my last lens purchase lately. 135mm with a maximum aperture of 1:2.8 is very nice to have on a film camera, but on my Olympus Micro Four Thirds with its crop factor of 2 you’ll have an angle of view like the one from a 270mm lens used with a film camera. A bit long, especially indoors. The 75mm/1.8 prime (single focal length lens) for Micro Four Thirds would be nice to have. To experiment with a focal length of about 75mm, I took my 40-150mm/4-5.6 zoom at that setting.

Angle of view: 76mm – very nice. Maximum aperture at that setting: 1:4.7 – not so nice. I got some nice and blurry photos of Tuna, not so much because of camera shake (IBIS works well, and the background was sharp in some of those photos), but because a moving and breathing subject simply can’t hold still this long. So you have three choices:

– more light (didn’t want to use flash this time)
– wider aperture (couldn’t do that with my zoom lens), or
– higher ISO (for sharper but more “grainy” / noisy photos)

So for today I set the maximum “auto” ISO of my camera to ISO 6400 – normally I have this on 1600. The camera instantly made use of it, tho the following photo was also taken with a -1EV correction (the metering was confused because of Mitchie’s black bag, and wanted to make the image too bright because of it):


Tuna the cat, November 2017

This is with noise reduction switched off, and without any noise reduction applied in post processing. In web resolutions like here (1600×1200 pixel) this is certainly nice enough, but looking at the photo in its full resolution shows that a Micro Four Thirds camera cannot compete with those which have larger sensors (“full frame”, or Fuji APS-C for instance). On the other hand, none of these cameras except Sony have IBIS, so you have to use much higher ISO settings to avoid camera shake, so the “full frame advantage” isn’t as big as you might think. At the same settings, it might be about 2 stops, so an ISO 6400 photo would look like my normal ISO 1600 ones.

Anyway. After testing that 75mm focal length I asked Mitchie to lend me her 20mm/1.7 Panasonic prime – haven’t used that since a while, and I love that focal length. But since it got darker, I let the camera at its settings, and so I’ve got some more low light / high ISO photos, like the following ones:


Tuna the cat, in twilight, November 2017 (ISO 3200)


Zuleikha on her piano, November 2017 (ISO 5000)


Tuna the cat, being teased by Mitchie, November 2017 (ISO 3200)

Like I said – for the web with its reduced resolutions, these are certainly more than good enough. For prints? I don’t know; haven’t tried printing something big which was taken at such a high ISO setting.

Mitchie liked the “twilight” photo of Tuna with its blue shade from daylight (and yellow from the indoor artificial light) – but pictures as these are impossible to correct of course, which makes them ideal candidates for a black and white conversion.

But which one? Here are three different ones, shown beside each other:


Tuna the cat, November 2017 – Three different black and white conversions of a low light / high ISO image (ISO 3200)

These photos have captions, but again, here’s what I did:

– left: Olympus out-of-camera or OV3 conversion

– center: Silver Efex Pro2 019 “Fine Art” preset

– right: Silver Efex Pro2 000 neutral with Ilford Delta 3200 film simulation, 50% contrast reduced (like on a low grad paper)

This is a reduced 90% quality jpg for storage on Flickr – remember, one single photo has 16MP, so three of them make 48MP or ca. 50MB. As stored, the photo has its original dimensions, but a file size of about 12MB. But I have the original uncompressed images of course, and my choice would be the middle one, with the 019 Fine Art preset of Silver Efex Pro2. Couldn’t make it much better myself. Your choice might be different of course.

Again, and like always: thanks for viewing / reading.

Update/comment about the low light performance of other cameras, from Sunday morning:

Of course they’re better, all of them, maybe with the exception of Sony. Look here for an example. The Sony A7Mk2 – as much as I love the idea of adapting my old manual Olympus OM lenses to one of these – is clearly beaten by even an APS-C-sized Fuji camera, let alone other “full framers” like Nikon or Canon. See here for an example of the cheapest offerings in current “full frame” cameras. I don’t know about you, but I’d take a D610 or even a 6D – as long as they’re around – any day above all others. Yep; they’re dinosaurs compared with mirrorless, but as long as you’re after image quality, dinos beat those others big time still.

Again, thanks for reading.