Progressive ISO Test

Regardless of the brand or format of camera that you may own, you may want to do a progressive ISO test with it. This allows a photographer to compare the performance of a particular camera and lens throughout its ISO range.

The basic approach is to mount your camera on a tripod, then capture a series of images at increasingly higher ISO values… then compare jpeg output.

Let’s have a look at a series of out of camera jpegs captured with an Olympus OM-D E-M1X from ISO-200 through to ISO-25600.

NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-40 f/2.8 @ 30 mm, efov 60 mm, f/2.8, 0.62, ISO-200, out of camera jpeg
Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-40 f/2.8 @ 30 mm, efov 60 mm, f/2.8, 0.5, ISO-400, out of camera jpeg
Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-40 f/2.8 @ 30 mm, efov 60 mm, f/2.8, 1/5, ISO-800, out of camera jpeg
Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-40 f/2.8 @ 30 mm, efov 60 mm, f/2.8, 1/10, ISO-1600, out of camera jpeg
Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-40 f/2.8 @ 30 mm, efov 60 mm, f/2.8, 1/20, ISO-3200, out of camera jpeg
Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-40 f/2.8 @ 30 mm, efov 60 mm, f/2.8, 1/40, ISO-6400, out of camera jpeg
Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-40 f/2.8 @ 30 mm, efov 60 mm, f/2.8, 1/80, ISO-12800, out of camera jpeg
Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-40 f/2.8 @ 30 mm, efov 60 mm, f/2.8, 1/160, ISO-25600, out of camera jpeg

Examining the jpeg output from their specific camera gives a photographer a good idea of where their ISO limit is for the image quality they require.

Since I do not use jpegs very often I prefer to do a progressive ISO test using RAW files. I typically start with a RAW file at base ISO. Then, I make some standard adjustments in post to arrive at a pleasing image. I keep these same adjustments for post processing for the balance of my progressive ISO test.

Our next series of images were created from RAW files captured from ISO-200 through to ISO-25600. The same adjustments in post were made to each image.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-40 f/2.8 @ 30 mm, efov 60 mm, f/2.8, 0.62, ISO-200, produced from RAW file
Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-40 f/2.8 @ 30 mm, efov 60 mm, f/2.8, 0.5, ISO-400, produced from RAW file
Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-40 f/2.8 @ 30 mm, efov 60 mm, f/2.8, 1/5, ISO-800, produced from RAW file
Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-40 f/2.8 @ 30 mm, efov 60 mm, f/2.8, 1/10, ISO-1600, produced from RAW file
Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-40 f/2.8 @ 30 mm, efov 60 mm, f/2.8, 1/20, ISO-3200, produced from RAW file
Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-40 f/2.8 @ 30 mm, efov 60 mm, f/2.8, 1/40, ISO-6400, produced from RAW file
Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-40 f/2.8 @ 30 mm, efov 60 mm, f/2.8, 1/80, ISO-12800, produced from RAW file
Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-40 f/2.8 @ 30 mm, efov 60 mm, f/2.8, 1/160, ISO-25600, produced from RAW file

Examining the RAW files that have had identical work done to them in post enables a photographer to identify their ISO limits.

It can also be helpful to experiment with changes in post processing as higher ISO values are used.

Just for fun, let’s compare some ISO-25600 images. The first is an out of camera jpeg. The second was produced from a RAW file using standard adjustments in post as per the other images in this article. The final image had some additional adjustments done in post… which to my eye came out better than I had expected.

Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-40 f/2.8 @ 30 mm, efov 60 mm, f/2.8, 1/160, ISO-25600, out of camera jpeg
Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-40 f/2.8 @ 30 mm, efov 60 mm, f/2.8, 1/160, ISO-25600, produced from RAW file
Olympus OM-D E-M1X + M.Zuiko PRO 12-40 f/2.8 @ 30 mm, efov 60 mm, f/2.8, 1/160, ISO-25600, produced from RAW file, additional adjustments done in post

Taking some time to do a progressive ISO test with your camera can help you determine how to get the best performance from it.

Technical Note:
Photographs were captured handheld using camera gear as noted in the EXIF data. Some images are out of camera jpegs while others were produced from RAW files using my standard process.

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2 thoughts on “Progressive ISO Test”

  1. Thank you for this Thomas. I am waiting for my Mk iii to be delivered. I presume you used no, or a standard setting for PRIME noise removal in DxO for the RAW series. This is definitely another “little camera that can”!

    My best,
    Glen

    1. Hi Glen,

      I used one of my existing E-M1X custom presets in DxO PhotoLab 2. That preset does include an ‘auto’ PRIME noise correction. The E-M1X is absolutely a ‘camera that can’!

      Tom

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