Pro Capture ISO-12800 Test

This article shares a small collection of images captured as part of a Pro Capture ISO-12800 test. The intent of my test was simply to find out if I could capture any images that were usable to any degree, at this high ISO value. The photographs in this article definitely fall into the “I wonder what would happen if?” category.

All of the photographs in this article were captured by shooting through my kitchen window. The subjects are sparrows that were visiting my backyard pond. We keep this running 7/24 all year round to provide birds with drinking water and a place to bathe.

I used my standard small bird Pro Capture H settings. Even though I used ISO-12800 many of the photographs were somewhat underexposed. This was caused by the combination of a number of factors. It was a heavily overcast day. My pond is in shade all day long during winter months. And, I used a shutter speed of 1/2500.

Obviously these are not shooting conditions that I would recommend to get good results. Again, the objective was simply to use these difficult conditions to see what would happen.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/7.1, 1/2500, ISO-12800, subject distance 6.5 metres, Pro Capture H

As could be expected we can see a loss of detail in the image above due to noise reduction at ISO-12800. When working with underexposed images at this high ISO I found that lifting the exposure caused issues with colour shifts. I chose to reduce the saturation of red in the images in this article.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/6.3, 1/2500, ISO-12800, subject distance 6.7 metres, cropped to 4337 pixels on the width, Pro Capture H

I also did some spot burning on some of the images to help tone down some of the background. I did this to bring more attention to the bird-in-flight in the foreground. More time was spent in post than I typically allow (i.e. 3-4 minutes per image including processing time). Folks with more patience and better post processing skills may get better results than I was able to achieve under these shooting conditions.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/7.1, 1/2500, ISO-12800, subject distance 6.3 metres, cropped to 4195 pixels on the width, Pro Capture H

Using electronic shutter with most cameras comes with some risks of rolling shutter effect. When using my typical small bird Pro Capture H settings I haven’t experienced any significant issues with rolling shutter effect in the past when shooting up to ISO-5000.

When using Pro Capture at ISO-12800 I did notice more pronounced rolling shutter effect. This was intermittent. It was most noticeable when a sparrow was launching into flight while also changing direction in mid-air. Under this scenario one of its wings would have had a faster down stroke than the other. Perhaps this was a contributing factor. I have not noticed any problems when shooting with Pro Capture H at lower ISO values with this same type of bird movement. At any rate I advised the folks at OM Digital about the issue.

OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko 100-400 mm f/5-6.3 IS @ 400 mm, efov 800 mm, f/7.1, 1/2500, ISO-12800, subject distance 6.5 metres, cropped to 4622 pixels on the width, Pro Capture H

The above image was my favourite from the limited number that I processed in post. Some Pro Capture H ISO-12800 images may be usable for online postings or perhaps small sized prints.

All things considered, I personally wouldn’t choose to regularly use ISO-12800 when shooting with Pro Capture H. If I was facing a unique situation such as photographing a rare bird taking flight… then I may resort to this high ISO value.

At ISO-12800 the risks of rolling shutter effects increase when using Pro Capture H, and the time needed in post is more than I would typically want to dedicate to an image. I will be doing more Pro Capture H testing at slightly lower ISO values to learn more.

Technical Note

Photographs were captured hand-held using camera gear and technology as noted in the EXIF data. Images were produced from RAW files using my standard process. Crops are noted as appropriate.

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