Auto ISO: I’ve Changed My Mind, Somewhat

by | Jun 22, 2021

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

I have never been a fan of Auto ISO because, based on my experience, the camera’s program seems to favor higher ISO settings with accompanying more noise in order to provide higher and more handholdable shutter speeds. I guess in my mature years I’ve become even more of a control freak but I hate noise, as much as I used to love film grain.—Joe Farace

Proving that a leopard can indeed change it’s spots and you can teach an old dog new tricks and any other cliché you want to toss in there… I have now learned to stop working and (more or less) love ISO. Especially when I’m shooting video.

I am still lost in the wilderness when it comes to shooting and editing video (sorry, I can’t help myself.) While some of my cameras like my newest—the Panasonic Lumix G9—shoot pretty good video, I’m stuck with using a seven year-old version of iMovie on a seven year-old 5K iMac for editing the occasional vlogs I shoot for this and my car photography blog. And all of my recent videos, and I mean all of them, have been shot using Auto ISO. Most of the times that works just fine, with the occasional snafu like the one that was shot in my home studio; it was just too noisy for me, so I’m not going to link it. (Sleuthy reader can probably find it but prepare to be disappointed.)

However, and you might have seen this coming, I tend not to use Auto ISO for every still image that I shoot. But when the light gets low and I’m hand holding—I seldom use a tripod these day*—I’m going to, most times, use the Auto ISO settings. But there are exceptions, depending on the camera I’m shooting…

How I Made this Shot: Streaky car lights produced by long exposures are always fun to shoot but I’ve never tried doing that while hand holding a camera; a tripod was always required. This street view in downtown Orlando was shot with the M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-100mm f/4 IS PRO lens (at 12mm) with  a hand held exposure of 0.5 seconds at f/11 and ISO 200. I deliberately chose a low ISO setting to see how far I could push the hand-held capabilities of the remarkable Olympus E-M1X. Confession time: This has always been a dream camera for me and I would love to own one, especially now that the price is lower ($1799) but perhaps I will wait until a used one at even lower prices turns up on KEH Camera.

Finally, let me quote myself further on this subject: When these personal preferences—and that’s all these really are—are combined with a slower more deliberate shooting pace that lets me handhold slower shutter speeds, sometimes aided and abetted by in-body image stabilization, I prefer to make more and more exposure decisions myself. And yes, in case you wondered, I use Manual exposure mode much more often than I did in the past too.

*I always use a tripod when shooting infrared using on-lens filters.

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