High ISO Crops

This article features high ISO crops of some handheld photographs I originally captured back in June 2019 shortly after I acquired my Olympus gear. I shoot my E-M1X up to ISO-6400 when required but seldom use ISO values above that. So, most of these photographs fall firmly in the test category.

Back in June 2019 I wrote an article about using my E-M1X at high ISO values. I thought it may be interesting to revisit some of my old test photographs as things have changed. My process in post was adjusted in the fall of 2020 to a dual noise reduction regimen. I now use DxO DeepPRIME in the first stage of my process, and usually finish my files with Topaz Denoise AI.

I should mention that I occasionally use Topaz Sharpen AI at the end of my process instead of Topaz Denoise AI. Overall I use Topaz Sharpen AI somewhat more than I have in the past as the software updates have been positive. None of the images in this article were adjusted with Topaz Sharpen AI as my focus was on processing high ISO images with my dual noise reduction approach.

Most photographs are displayed as full frame captures. These are followed by 100% crops. All images have been resized for web use.

The photographs in this article range from ISO-6400 to ISO-25600, with emphasis at the higher end of the range. All images were captured handheld with an OM-D E-M1X fitted with an M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 zoom and M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter.

Let’s begin by looking at three photographs, each captured at ISO-6400.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 210 mm, efov 420 mm, f/4.5, 1/250, ISO-6400, subject distance 1.3 metres
E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 210 mm, efov 420 mm, f/4.5, 1/250, ISO-6400, subject distance 1.3 metres, 100% crop
E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 210 mm, efov 420 mm, f/5.6, 1/160, ISO-6400, subject distance 2.6 metres
E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 210 mm, efov 420 mm, f/5.6, 1/160, ISO-6400, subject distance 2.6 metres, 100% crop
E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 210 mm, efov 420 mm, f/5.6, 1/500, ISO-6400, subject distance 2.2 metres
E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 210 mm, efov 420 mm, f/5.6, 1/500, ISO-6400, subject distance 2.2 metres, 100% crop

Our next four photographs step up in ISO value from ISO-10000, then ISO-12800, and finally ISO-16000.

E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 155 mm, efov 310 mm, f/4, 1/250, ISO-10000, subject distance 1.4 metres
E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 155 mm, efov 310 mm, f/4, 1/250, ISO-10000, subject distance 1.4 metres, 100% crop
E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 210 mm, efov 420 mm, f/4.5, 1/400, ISO-12800, subject distance 1.4 metres
E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 210 mm, efov 420 mm, f/4.5, 1/400, ISO-12800, subject distance 1.4 metres, 100% crop
E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 102 mm, efov 204 mm, f/5, 1/160, ISO-16000, cropped to 4704 pixels on the width, subject distance 1.7 metres
E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 102 mm, efov 204 mm, f/5, 1/160, ISO-16000, cropped to 4704 pixels on the width, subject distance 1.7 metres, 100% crop
E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 210 mm, efov 420 mm, f/5, 1/400, ISO-16000, subject distance 2.3 metres
E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 210 mm, efov 420 mm, f/5, 1/400, ISO-16000, subject distance 2.3 metres, 100% crop

The final two images in this article were both captured at ISO-25,600. Obviously this is not something that I would recommend people do with a small sensor camera. The high ISO performance of the newly introduced OM-1 is claimed to be improved by about 2 stops. This may result in OM-1 owners pushing their camera further than I do with my E-M1X.

E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 210 mm, efov 420 mm, f/4.5, 1/800, ISO-25600, subject distance 1.2 metres
E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 210 mm, efov 420 mm, f/4.5, 1/800, ISO-25600, subject distance 1.2 metres, 100% crop
E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 210 mm, efov 420 mm, f/5.6, 1/30, ISO-25600, subject distance 1.9 metres
E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 40-150 mm f/2.8 with M.Zuiko MC-14 teleconverter @ 210 mm, efov 420 mm, f/5.6, 1/30, ISO-25600, subject distance 1.9 metres, 100% crop

Regardless of the camera gear that we own, doing some high ISO crops can help us establish our ‘comfort zone’ when pushing our equipment under low light conditions.

Every photographer will make their own evaluation as to what constitutes acceptable high ISO image quality.

Technical Note:

Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard process.  I used DxO DeepPRIME with Luminance setting of 15. Topaz Denoise AI was used with either the Severe Noise or Clear settings in Auto. Topaz Denoise AI settings were then adjusted as necessary.

Crops are indicated. Photographs were resized for web use. This is the 1,136 article published on this website since its original inception in 2015.

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9 thoughts on “High ISO Crops”

  1. With my EM1X, I am quite comfortable going up to 6400. I printed 8x10s of each ISO from 200 to 25600. The image started to get a little noisy at 6400,and then at 12800 noise was apparent. Of course, extreme ISOs can be used artfully in black and white 🙂
    V/r
    Randy

  2. Hey Tom,

    Great stuff, I never thought of using one then the other for processing. Just worked on a dove I shot the other day, and the results are pretty amazing. I used deep prime then topaz denoise.

    V/r

    Randy

    1. Hi Randy,

      It’s great to hear that the approach is working for you. Western culture is rather strange in that almost everything seems to be a competition or a ‘battle’ with a winner declared. When it comes to post processing I’ve found that taking an ‘and’ approach usually produces better results than an ‘either/or’ approach.

      Tom

  3. Tom
    My experience has been more like Carol mentioned above but I do note that you were using the 40-150 f/2.8 lens with the 1.4 TC which in my opinion is much better with noise than the 100-400 which I normally also shoot with the 1.4 TC. But I dont normally have any problems cleaning the noise up using Topaz DeNoise.

    1. Hi Joel,

      These images were some of the very first ones that I ever captured with an E-M1X… may have even been with the original Olympus Loaner Program gear. I’ve never compared the noise levels between the two lenses… interesting observation.

      Good to hear that Topaz Denoise AI is doing a good job for you. I think the software producers have upped their games the past few years.

      Tom

  4. Hi Thomas,
    Perhaps would you like to try DeNoise AI as follows,

    Low Light mode ON
    Remove Noise value set to 1
    Enhance Sharpness set to taste

    I unexpectedly found out that bringing “Remove noise” slider even back to 0, was keeping the noise reduction practically unchanged while bringing detail back, BUT ONLY when “Enhance Sharpness” one is NOT also set to 0 .
    One only of these two sliders may apparently be 0 otherwise the noise jumps back at once – a bug perhaps, but I like this one.

    Low Light mode also has the added advantage (to my eyes) to create much less artefacts as it seems to apply an overall algorithm to the entire picture, when Standard mode (never use the other ones) seems to separate subject and background, and sometimes produces strange results on areas where its AI “finds” some structure.

    My present workflow, direct on DxO DeepPrime dngs (also Lum at 15) includes some eventual light-light brush strokes of NIK Collection Output Sharpener on 3 separate Photoshop layer masks, each derived from “Focus area” selection from “Subject” selection – which prevents me from creating artefacts myself, aaargh …
    1. focus, 2. local contrast and 3. structure, each one at full 100%, brush set at 8-16%, for instance, on the eyes, brows, bill, some feathers details, talons, for instance
    DeNoise AI might come at the final stage, or not, depending on picture and mood.
    Enjoy your outings

  5. Amazing. I don’t get as good as that at 1600 iso with M1X and 150-400. Are these straight conversions or have the been run through Topaz or DXO or similar. Lovely images.

    1. Hi Carol,

      All of the images were produced from RAW files. As mentioned under the technical note part of the article, I use both DxO DeepPRIME and Topaz Denoise AI with all of the images. I find this combination is more effective than only using one of the programs.

      Tom

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