High ISO BIF Test

This article features a selection of handheld photographs from a high ISO BIF test that I did a couple of days ago at Biggar Lagoon Wetlands in Grimsby.

High ISO is a relative term and defined differently by many photographers. Since I often shoot my E-M1X up to ISO-6400, I consider ‘high ISO’ as values of ISO-8000 and above. The test images in this article range from ISO-10000 through to ISO-20000.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/4000, ISO-10000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3600 pixels on the width, subject distance 16.7 metres

To put this article in context, the objective is not to suggest that owners of small sensor cameras should regularly shoot at high ISO values. Nor is there any intention to suggest that small sensor cameras can compete head-to-head with full frame gear in low light conditions. The objective was simply to conduct a high ISO BIF test to see what would happen.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/4000, ISO-10000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 2235 pixels on the width, subject distance 16.7 metres

The new OM-1 camera has a new stacked BSI M4/3 sensor which is supposed to provide better low light performance than the previous sensor used in the E-M1X and other cameras. Since I have no access to the OM-1, nor will I be buying one in the future, readers need to keep that in mind as they review the high ISO test images in this article. It is certainly possible that the OM-1 would perform better than my E-M1X in this type of high ISO BIF test.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/4000, ISO-10000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 2934 pixels on the width, subject distance 16.7 metres

I used my standard approach in post to process RAW files to create the jpegs featured in this posting. I did spend some time upfront to tweak things a bit to come up with an overall post processing game plan to deal with these high ISO images. Once that was done I didn’t agonize over the individual photographs, spending my typical 3-4 minutes on each image in post.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/4000, ISO-10000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3036 pixels on the width, subject distance 16.6 metres

As could be expected, there was a loss of details and some ‘smoothing’ due to the application of noise reduction technology with these high ISO BIF test images. As regular readers know, I like to push myself and my camera gear when doing field tests so I can better understand limitations.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/4000, ISO-10000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3380 pixels on the width, subject distance 16.6 metres

All of the images in this article were captured using the M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS zoom fully extended and fitted with the M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter. This was an overall focal length of 560 mm, or an equivalent field-of-view of 1120 mm. An aperture of f/9 was used.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/4000, ISO-10000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3232 pixels on the width, subject distance 16.7 metres

All photographs were captured using Pro Capture H at 60 frames-per-second with Pre-Shutter Frames and Frame Limiter both set to 15. Most of the images were cropped fairly aggressively. It is possible that less severe crops could have helped retain more fine details.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/4000, ISO-10000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3370 pixels on the width, subject distance 16.7 metres

As you can see from the images already displayed thus far in this article, I began my high ISO BIF test at ISO-10000. I then captured a few images at ISO-12800 and ISO-16000, before moving on to ISO-20000. Let’s have a quick look at a few ISO-12800 and ISO-16000 sample photographs.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/5000, ISO-12800, Pro Capture H, cropped to 2848 pixels on the width, subject distance 16.6 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/5000, ISO-12800, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3479 pixels on the width, subject distance 16.8 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/4000, ISO-16000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 2901 pixels on the width, subject distance 16.5 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/4000, ISO-16000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3506 pixels on the width, subject distance 16.6 metres

When I first thought about doing this high ISO BIF test, what I really intrigued me was pushing my gear to ISO-20000. Using an efov of 1120 mm with a 1.4X teleconverter at f/9 at this high ISO value with a M4/3 sensor camera definitely fell into the “push gear” category. I wasn’t sure what results I would get. Let’s have a look at some ISO-20000 images.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/5000, ISO-20000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3174 pixels on the width, subject distance 16.6 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/5000, ISO-20000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3581 pixels on the width, subject distance 16.6 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/5000, ISO-20000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3370 pixels on the width, subject distance 16.5 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/5000, ISO-20000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3317 pixels on the width, subject distance 16.6 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/5000, ISO-20000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3057 pixels on the width, subject distance 16.6 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/5000, ISO-20000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3683 pixels on the width, subject distance 16.6 metres

Photographers will need to decide on their ISO limitations when photographing BIF… based on the anticipated use of their images and their personal preferences. My skills in post are inadequate when compared to many other photographers. I will need to work on my post processing skills to see what I can do to improve on these initial high ISO BIF test results shared in this article.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/4000, ISO-10000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3076 pixels on the width, subject distance 16.6 metres

I would likely feel comfortable shooting BIF up to ISO-10000, especially if I can use ETTR (expose to the right) technique to help limit noise. I would also want to get in tighter to subject birds so I could avoid aggressive crops at these high ISO levels.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/5000, ISO-16000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 2234 pixels on the width, subject distance 16.8 metres

Something that we often overlook when capturing images at high ISO values is that the resulting photographs could be good candidates for conversion into photo art, even if the original image isn’t all that usable from a straight photographic perspective.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/5000, ISO-16000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 2234 pixels on the width, subject distance 16.8 metres

I appreciate that producing these types of alternate interpretations of a photograph isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I quite enjoy the challenge and creativity involved.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/4000, ISO-16000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 2401 pixels on the width, subject distance 16.4 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/4000, ISO-16000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 2401 pixels on the width, subject distance 16.4 metres
OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/4000, ISO-16000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 2401 pixels on the width, subject distance 16.4 metres

Regardless of the camera gear that you own I’d suggest doing your own high ISO BIF test. It’s a great way to push yourself and your camera gear to learn if there is some additional latitude available that you have yet to harness.

Technical Note:

Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced primarily from RAW files using my standard approach in post. Photographs were resized for web use. This is the 1,172 article published on this website since its original inception in 2015.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 560 mm, efov 1120 mm, f/9, 1/5000, ISO-20000, Pro Capture H, cropped to 3253 pixels on the width, subject distance 16.6 metres

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8 thoughts on “High ISO BIF Test”

  1. Hi Thomas,

    Sorry to bother you again, but I cannot find this information, can you help ?

    Rgds / Roland

  2. Hi Thomas,
    Very interesting as usual, how do you figure out the actual subject distance ?
    Take care / Roland

    1. Hi Roland,

      My E-M1X estimates the distance and it is shown in the EXIF data. I store my files in Windows Explorer. After I’ve finished processing a file I right click on a completed jpeg, then left click on Properties, then left click on Details and the distance is noted.

      Tom

      1. Hi Tom,

        Many thanks for your feedback, I have an E-M1 Mark III, do you know if that feature is available for mine as well, never heard about it before ?

        Take care / Roland

  3. Thanks for all your interesting and educational posts. Andy Rouse has been doing some high ISO photography along with processing with OM Workspace and getting good results..

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHa486mxhWU

    unless I made a typing error. Couldn’t copy and past it. I don’t know if your website doesn’t allow it or youtube doesn’t allow it.

    1. Hi Allen,

      Thanks for mentioning Andy Rouse. He does some wonderful work and is worth following. I fixed a typo in your link so it would operate on this website.

      Tom

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