4
Jan
2013

How to Use Extended ISO

 photo asd_zpsa628e317.jpg

X-T1 body only ($1,299): USA: AmazonUS / BHphoto / Adorama / Pictureline / EU: wexDE / wexUK / PCHstore /
X-T1 with 18-55 ($1,699): USA: AmazonUS / BHphoto / Adorama / Pictureline / EU: wexDE / wexUK / PCHstore /

The body is finally in stock at AmazonUS here (sold directly by AmazonUS). The kit is in stock at AmazonUS, BHphoto and Adorama.

_ _ _

by Rico Pfirstinger

The X-Pro1 and X-E1 offer a so-called Expanded or Extended ISO range with values of ISO 12800 and ISO 25600, but there’s a catch: These ISO settings are only available in JPEG mode, so you won’t be able to save these images as RAW files. So these options are only available when the RAW shooting is disabled and your camera is set to JPEG Only mode. As you may expect, the results of these very high ISO settings are typically accompanied by visible image noise and some loss of detail.

What’s hiding behind the Extended ISO range? At these two ISO settings, the X-Pro1 and X-E1 record RAW images at ISO 6400, hence underexposing them by one or two exposure values (EV) and then boost up the exposure again when the image data is converted to a JPEG. This means that you can achieve the same results by setting your camera to ISO 6400 (with RAW mode enabled) while turning the compensation dial to –1 EV or –2 EV, and then using the internal or an external RAW converter to push the image one or two exposure values in order to compensate for this underexposure.

Employing these Extended ISO values results in an unavoidable loss of quality, so you should only use them in emergencies. You actually retain more flexibility if you underexpose your image while shooting with ISO 6400 in FINE+RAW (or RAW Only) and then plan on adjusting the exposure manually during the RAW conversion.

Here’s how it looks (click on the images for high-res versions):

ISO 12800

ISO 25600

These two examples illustrate shooting in Extended ISO 12800 (above) and 25600 (below). When you click on these images to open them in Flickr for a full-size view, you will find visible noise and loss of detail, which is owed to a large amount of analog and digital image data amplification.

Let’s add another example: One of the following images was shot with Extended ISO 12800, the other with ISO 6400 RAW and then pushed 1 EV in the internal RAW converter of my X-E1. Both images were shot at f5.6 and 1/30s in manual mode.

It’s hard to tell which one is which, isn’t it? With higher magnification levels or in a 100% view, you would see differences related to noise reduction. The camera is of course optimizing its noise reduction for its Extended ISO settings 12800 and 25600. On the other hand, pushing an ISO 6400 image in the internal converter will leave you with NR processing optimized for ISO 6400.

By the way, here’s the ISO 6400 RAW developed and pushed by 1 EV with Silkypix 5:

Why ISO 100 is not good for you

The Extended ISO range also includes the option of shooting at ISO 100, which is again only available if you are shooting exclusively in JPEGs. Here the process is inverted: the camera captures an image at its native ISO 200 and overexposes the RAW data by one exposure value (1 EV) in the process. Then, during the RAW conversion, it brings the exposure down again by 1 EV. This process—the counterpart of “pushing” an exposure—is called pull development.

This method produces images with good contrast, very little noise and a high degree of detail, particularly in the shadow areas, which comes at the expense of the high end of the dynamic range. The highlights, or bright tones, suffer dramatically, making ISO 100 also an “emergency setting” for images that don’t feature high contrast or important highlight details.

Again, you can manually simulate Extended ISO 100 by enabling RAW, shooting in native ISO 200 and overexposing your image by 1 EV while doing so. When you process this image in the camera’s internal or with an external RAW converter, you have to correct for this by using the Pull option or the exposure slider.

Does this process sound familiar? It’s indeed pretty much the same as using classical ETTR aka classical Expose To The Right. In Extended ISO 100, the camera works the entire process (shooting the image overexposed and developing it underexposed) automatically. However, Extended ISO 100 will only get you JPEGs, no RAW files. And it only makes sense with subjects that exhibit low dynamic range, as this method tends to blow the highlights of your subject.

Have a look at this example (click on the images for high-res versions):

ISO 200

The image above shows our test subject in standard ISO 200. The full dynamic range is preserved.

ISO 100

This example shows the same image in Extended ISO 100. As you can see, it shows more contrast and highlights are blown.

To illustrate the difference more clearly, here are both images in Apple Aperture. The red areas show exposure warnings indicating blown (missing) highlights:

ISO 200 - Highlights Clipping Warning

ISO 100 - Highlights Clipping Warning

As you can see, there’s a very visible difference between ISO 200 (above) and Extended ISO 100 (below).

Let’s summarize: We should only stray beyond the standard range of ISO 200-6400 when there’s no other option. Extended ISO 100 results in a reduced dynamic range for highlights, whereas ISO 12800 and ISO 25600 lead to very visible interference and a loss of detail. Moreover, these three “extended ISO range” settings are available only when your camera is set to save JPEGs only—writing RAW files with these settings is not an option.

Here’s the poll for next week’s column. With Extended ISO gone and little interest in tips for updating the camera and lens firmware, let’s add two new options:

X-PERT CORNER POLL

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Till next week!

Rico Pfirstinger studied communications and has been working as journalist, publicist, and photographer since the mid-80s. He has written a number of books on topics as diverse as Adobe PageMaker and sled dogs, and produced a beautiful book of photographs titled Huskies in Action (German version). He has spent time working as the head of a department with the German Burda-Publishing Company and served as chief editor for a winter sports website. After eight years as a freelance film critic and entertainment writer in Los Angeles, Rico now lives in Germany and devotes his time to digital photography and compact camera systems. His book “Mastering the FUJIFILM X-Pro1” (Kindle Edition) (Apple iBook Store) (German version) is available on Amazon.

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  • jean pierre

    Hello Rico
    Thank you for the note with ISO 100. I can confirm this, too.
    The under-exposure at ISO 6400 is unusable, also to the hole ISO range.
    A underexposure is always still more noise and the colors are incorrect.
    The correction in the image editing software cannot help, only Ettr (exposure to the right) is at all ISO levels usable.
    This is my result of my tests!

    • http://www.lets-ride.de Rico Pfirstinger

      I have added two examples to the article that illustrate that there’s no tonal difference between an Extended ISO 12800 JPEG shot and the same image shot at ISO 6400 RAW and then pushed +1 EV in the internal RAW converter.

  • Starred

    Thanks, very clear again!

  • http://www.lets-ride.de Rico Pfirstinger

    I don’t consider shooting classical ETTR at any ISO level other than the basic (non-amplified) level. Anything else doesn’t make much sense, as you could always choose a lower ISO setting in such situations instead of shifting up exposure – while retaining the same exposure parameters (aperture, shutter speed).

    As for the real-world utility/usability of classical ETTR, well, somebody already posted a link to a 2009 column by Sandy of Chromasoft fame.

    On the other hand, non-classical ETTR is a basic shooting method. Practically, it often leads to a exposure correction to the LEFT, not to the right, as saving critical highlights should always have priority. In my previous column, I have outlined a shooting profile that can be helpful shooting RAW Only ETTR using the live view histogram.

    Don’t confuse Expose To The Right with Shift your Exposure To The Right. ;)

    • jean pierre

      Hi Rico
      Thanks for the correction.
      I use ETTR only with histogramm and only for RAW!
      I agree with you by much hightlights (example landscape) it could be better to change to ETTL.
      And certainly, it is important to know, if I will shoot only JPEG or only RAW, or both! With both I do have to give the priority to RAW!

      For a better result I recommend to do two shots. One to adapt the setting for JPEG and two settings for RAW, which is better for the Post-Processing!

      For example DR100, DR200, DR400, which work very good for JPEG, but not for RAW! and so on …..

  • Martin

    Thank you for this article. I was wondering what the high iso and low iso options meant. For me it is not clear, why there is no “real” ISO 100 mode. The noise should be even better and longer exposures without using ND filters would be possible (e.g. ISO 50 or even ISO 25).

    • http://www.lets-ride.de Rico Pfirstinger

      In order to have real ISO 100, the camera would need a different, less sensitive sensor. Users of the X100, X-Pro1 and X-E1 are usually very happy with a sensor that has a native base sensitivity of 200. If you need less sensitivity, using ND filters is indeed a viable option.

  • M.*

    I have a feeling that im gonna love these columns ! Very clear, well explained and detailed, yet simple enough (at least for people like me who don’t consider themselves experts). I find those even more useful then anticipated (wasn’t sure this week’s subject was going to captivate me…but i find myself happily proven wrong :) ).

    So thank you Rico for helping me improve my knowledge and dedicating the time every week to share yours with us guys…impressive

    Oh, and also a big THANKS to you Patrick for your great site that I’ve been eagerly checkin on a daily basis for quite few weeks now…but never took the time to drop an encouraging and thankful line yet…shame on me !

    • patrick

      oh thanks!

  • http://www.lets-ride.de Rico Pfirstinger

    You are all welcome. I have just added another version of the ISO 6400 RAW that was exposed like ISO 12800 (aka underexposed by -1 EV) and then developed and pushed by +1 EV in Silkypix 5.

  • Stav

    Does you suggestion of not shooting at ISO100 also apply when shooting in JPEG mode, or only when shooting RAW?

    • http://www.lets-ride.de Rico Pfirstinger

      You can’t shoot RAW in Extended ISO.

  • http://www.noelb.com Noelb

    Hi Rico,
    Thanks for all the info on the X-Pro1. It has been really interesting to read. I ordered your book from Amazon back in early December as it sounded as though it was exactly what was needed to get the best out of the camera without doing all the work to find out for oneself.
    Do you know when it will actually be available and shipping from Amazon? Initially they said December 28 and still it is not shipping. This is not a criticism of you, in fact you should take it as a compliment, as I now want to read the entire book more, having read the extract and the posts here on X-pert corner.

    • http://www.lets-ride.de Rico Pfirstinger

      Hi Noel,

      I’m happy to hear that you appreciate my efforts and that you are waiting to receive the English version of my book. I had already asked my American publisher to submit an updated delivery timeline to Fujirumors. Maybe that information got lost in the current storm of rumors, I’m not sure. Anyway, speaking of storms, my information is that there was a delay due to hurricane Sandy, which resulted in a backlog of cargo clearances in New York.

      That said, I expect delivery (at least to Amazon and other resellers) later this week, but if you really want to know first-hand, you may want to directly contact the publisher, Rocky Nook in Santa Barbara. Their website is http://www.rockynook.com/

      Thank you for your patience.

      rp

      • Matthias

        Dear FujiRumors Readers,

        We are the publisher of Rico Pfirstinger’s forthcoming book Mastering the Fujifilm X-Pro 1.

        Here is an update:

        The books are a expected to arrive at the port in NYC any moment.

        After customs (1-2 days) the books will get trucked to our warehouse in Chambersburg, PA (1-2 days).

        The books will get stocked and send to customers asap.

        We expect the books showing in stock on Amazon by the weekend/latest Monday.

        Due to the holidays as well as the storm Sandy we had a delay.

        We apologize for the inconvenience, and thank you for choosing Rocky Nook books.

        Best wishes,

        Joan Dixon
        Managing Editor
        Rocky Nook, Inc.

  • Noelb

    Great news. Thanks. Looking forward to delivery and an afternoon or two spent reading.
    Cheers from Downunder.
    Noelb

  • Gertrude

    I have used ISO100 in the odd situation where I want a very wide aperture like f/1.4, but there’s too much light even at 1/4000 – I know a filter would be an option, but if I don’t have one, is using ISO100 for this a valid strategy? (I only shoot in JPG)

    Thanks,
    Gertrude

    • http://www.lets-ride.de Rico Pfirstinger

      Better get a filter, dim the light or stop down the aperture a bit.

  • Secula

    I don’t get it. How does this reflect when you’re shooting in M mode? Let’s say I have 75-300 IS on Canon 500D. Lens is at 300 mm (effectively 480 mm) and at largest aperture f/5.6. Since you have three stops of IS, that gets you to SS=1/60 at best. Maximum hardware ISO is 3200, and that’s not good enough for the theater. (One could go with 70- 200 mm f/4 or f/2.8 tele lens, but that’s the other story). So, what you’re suggesting is not to set camera to extended ISO (6400) but to push it in ACR +1 EV? That should give better results?