Understanding ISO And Why It Causes Digital Noise

Nov 12, 2014

Tiffany Mueller

Tiffany Mueller is a photographer and content strategist based in Hawi, Hawaii. Her work has been shared by top publications like The New York Times, Adobe, and others.

Understanding ISO And Why It Causes Digital Noise

Nov 12, 2014

Tiffany Mueller

Tiffany Mueller is a photographer and content strategist based in Hawi, Hawaii. Her work has been shared by top publications like The New York Times, Adobe, and others.

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Introducing (2)
The kind folks over at Panvista Productions put together a great informational video aimed at helping us better understand ISO. Most of us already know that we can adjust exposure through ISO, but for many that’s about the extent of what we know about the subject. Panvista’s  9 1/2 minute long clip, however, goes far beyond the basics of ISO we learn in the beginning of our careers. The video gets right down to the nitty gritty as it shows us exactly what’s going on inside our DSLR or micro four thirds camera every time we adjust the ISO setting. This of course leads us into the topic of digital noise (ugh) and why it occurs (interesting). Overall, it’s a well rounded video that’s delivered in a way which is easy to understand and engaging.

Take a look at the clip, below, if not to learn about ISO and noise, then at least to admire the fun color graphs and bar charts the presenter whips up for us during the show.

http://youtu.be/BSMDdpPtOqo

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Tiffany Mueller

Tiffany Mueller

Tiffany Mueller is a photographer and content strategist based in Hawi, Hawaii. Her work has been shared by top publications like The New York Times, Adobe, and others.

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9 responses to “Understanding ISO And Why It Causes Digital Noise”

  1. joe_average Avatar
    joe_average

    wow, severely disappointed. spreading misinformation! noise does certainly NOT come from the wires in a camera. it is an inherent thermal property of the physical sensor semiconductor material (Johnson–Nyquist noise). lower noise can only happen if you cool the sensor (peltier cooler or liquid nitrogen, etc.). ISO is ‘gain,’ also know mathematically as the digital multiplier of the pixel values. noise is the random fluctuations of the sensor digitizing photons to electrons.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Film_speed
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnson%E2%80%93Nyquist_noise
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermoelectric_cooling

    1. Franck Avatar
      Franck

      I agree, there are many errors and/or approximations. Although most of the noise in a camera come from photonic noise (and can’t be reduced by sensor cooling)
      Source for ISO :
      http://www.dxomark.com/About/In-depth-measurements/Measurements/ISO-sensitivity

      For Noise :
      http://www.dxomark.com/Reviews/Noise-characterization

  2. Not Again Tiffany Avatar
    Not Again Tiffany

    Tiffany, it’s NOT a “great informational video” The fellow does NOT even understand the source of digital noise. So much of the video is either over-simplified, wrong or both. You should check with an expert you trust and verify the value of articles before recommending them just because the source knows how to draw graphs. There is no relationship between a person’s ability to create a video and having a clue about the subject. (The same could be said of writing articles.) Don’t pass on misinformation!

  3. Owen Avatar
    Owen

    Electrical cables?…… how do you explain old film cameras?

    I beleive Its about photons and how on a high iso, you are only collecting a low number of photons worth of information, and boosting their value. Same as night vision with the glowy sparkles effect, those are photons hitting the sensor.

    Someone, feel free to correct me, but I think thats right.

    1. Amaryllis Avatar
      Amaryllis

      I heard that the noise in digital cameras is because of the receptors getting more sensitive to possible heat sources and thus creating pixels that shouldn’t be there. I also heard that in film cameras, the noise comes from how powerful the photosensitive surface is. I might be wrong because I was mostly sleeping during the class in which the teacher talked about ISO, but I think that’s what it is. Then again I’m also willing to get corrected if I’m wrong.

      1. Arthur_P_Dent Avatar
        Arthur_P_Dent

        In film cameras, it’s not called noise; it’s grain, and it’s the result of larger silver halide crystals in the faster film.

        1. Amaryllis Avatar
          Amaryllis

          Riiight, I knew about what it’s called, just forgot it for a moment. Thanks for the correction.

        2. Ralph Hightower Avatar
          Ralph Hightower

          Yea, I shot Kodak TMax 3200 at a rock concert and pushed it two stops to 12800 and had it push processed at the lab; it maxed the ISO of my Canon A-1. The grain exploded, there were some useable images that were grainy. I just had to accept the grain as part of the process.

  4. Emmanuel Orain Avatar
    Emmanuel Orain

    This is terrible, as “informational” videos go … I seriously doubt that someone who has no prior understanding of the noise issues will know anything useful at the end (which would be the whole point of an “informational” video, I believe)