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Dalsgaard’s Mini Corner

Camera Settings: ISO

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For completions sake I thought I would post the text about ISO, that I already added to the Wiki (plus pictures).

ISO is the level of sensitivity of your camera to available light. The higher the ISO number the more sensitive the camera is to light, but higher light sensitivity also increases image grain/noise. In combination with aperture and shutter speed, ISO is one of the most important settings when photographing miniatures.

On most digital cameras the lowest ISO number is 100, while the highest number varies greatly depending on your camera, but is often 3200 or more. ISO numbers follow a geometric progression, typically doubling for each step (100, 200, 400, 800, etc.) For each step the light sensitivity of the camera doubles (and thereby halves the shutter time), while it varies a lot from camera to camera how much noise is added.

When taking pictures of miniatures (and of anything else for that matter), you will want to set the ISO as low as possible, to avoid grain in your final image, however depending on your set-up, that is not always possible. If there isn’t enough light and you do not have a tripod or stable surface to support your camera, you can raise the ISO to get a faster shutter speed and avoid camera shake. As it is different how well cameras handle ISO noise, you will need to try different settings, to see how much noise your camera adds at higher ISOs.

The pictures below show the increasing amount of noise with higher ISO settings. The photos were shot with a Canon 600D/T3i DSLR camera with a 50mm lens. Aperture was set to f/5 and they are shown at a 1:1 pixel ratio. I skipped ISO 3200 to keep it down to six examples. Notice how the shutter speed is halved for every doubling of ISO.


The Canon 600D is fairly good at limiting noise at medium ISO settings, but depending on the make and model, you will get very different results with your own camera.

Updated 13-02-2014 at 03:23 PM by S_Dalsgaard