The High ISO Challenge – David Yeoman

Many of us look at images taken in low light, and admire the photographic techniques used, and wish we could take shots like that.

Digital cameras react to light, each pixel on the sensor is effectively a well, and as the shutter opens, the well fills with light (if it makes it easier think of beer being poured into a glass!). In low light if the shutter is only open for a relatively short time, then only a little bit of light gets in.

Increasing the ISO artificially increases the amount of light in the well by applying gain.  Doubling the ISO multiplies the amount of light (or beer poured!) by two. This gain increase unfortunately doesn’t come for free, the multiplication function isn’t perfect and it’s action introduces noise (the digital equivalent of film grain).

In the early day’s of the digital camera, manufacturers really struggled to keep the amount of noise under control, but as sensor technology improved, the impact of the noise has been reduced. It’s still present though, but today’s cameras are way better in lower light.

There are some laws of physics to be applied here, the bigger the opening to the well, the better the noise is controlled. Going back to the beer example, imagine 4 pint glasses in a line and a large jug of beer, if you try to pour the beer in a fixed time (say 5 seconds) across the line of glasses in order to get the same amount in each glass, it’s a lot easier and a lot less messy than if you tried the same with 8 half pint glasses!

So lower pixel density sensors are better at higher ISO. Now actually that’s not quite true, it should read lower density sensors of the same comparable technology and physical size will be better in lower light. The latest high pixel density sensor often works better than previous generation lower density sensors.

The noise manifests itself as Luminance (brightness) and Chroma (colour) noise, and this noise has both magnitude and a spatial frequency. This noise is what we try to clean up to make our images acceptable.

Understanding how to set the camera up, to minimise the resultant image noise is the key to getting good results from High ISO shooting. This then presents less ‘noise’ that we have to clean up in post processing (or the camera processing has to clean up if shooting JPGs). These techniques are applicable to any Fuji X camera, and the use of them will result in cleaner images.

The latest Fuji X-Trans3 sensors were a significant step forward in shooting high ISO images, although the initial reviews suggested only a small gain in High ISO capability, the way that the noise manifests itself in real world situations, means that there is a significant improvement in the final result.

Shooting at High ISO is one of methods we will use on the Fujiholics Low Light Techniques Workshop, the first of which will be held in Liverpool on 21st April 2018. The workshop will be hosted by David Yeoman. David has over 25 years digital camera experience in an industrial imaging environment where he designs and implements automated inspection systems for clients. His vast technical knowledge allows him to explain in easy to understand terms the operation of camera. He has over 5 years experience with X series cameras and currently shooting the X-T2 and X100F.

To view David's work please click this link:

Manchester Urbanscapes with David Yeoman

Also

Liverpool Dusk into Night with David Yeoman


Some thoughts on the Fujifilm 16mm 1.4 WR

A modern masterpiece.

I'm just gonna come right out and say it. This lens is a modern masterpiece. I adore this lens and would probably go so far as to say it's my favourite of all the Fujifilm lenses. I won't go into technical figures and talk about the way the lens is constructed blah blah blah because the only thing I'm ever interested in is the final image there are plenty of sites where you can look at this type of information if that's what floats your boat. I've used this lens primarily for landscape photography but it has also saved my ass a few times when I've shot portraits and had very little space and light to work with. All the images featured in this blog were shot using the Fujifilm 16mm 1.4.

This shot in particular was  for a local musician who wanted some shots for her album cover. It was literally a case of turn up to a venue and do the best that I could. The first venue let us down and we didn't even get through the door. I think the person who was supposed to be letting us in got drunk the night before and couldn't get out of bed. Then we had to make our way across Bristol to the second venue but the girls manager managed to lose his ticket for the car park. That delayed us for an hour until we could get hold of somebody to pay the fine for losing the ticket and lift the barrier. Arriving at the venue it was clear that I had my work cut out and only an hour and 30 minutes until we lost the use of the room. It was tiny and poorly lit so the 16mm 1.4 was my only option. It didn't let me down and this shot was used for the album cover.

When I shot with a full frame system, I always favoured the 24mm focal length and the lens I always turned to was the Nikon 24mm 1.4. One of my main concerns when changing to the Fujifilm system was being able to replace this lens. When I got my hands on the 16mm 1.4 all those concerns vanished and I quickly fell in love with the sheer perfection of this lens.

What makes this lens great?

It's super, super sharp, focuses super close and has the least amount of visible distortion of any wide angle lens that I have used. Add to that an aperture of f1.4 that produces super creamy bokeh and allows you to shoot in very low light and it makes for a hard lens to beat at any price. I use it for portraits, street photography and landscape photography and never fail to be impressed with the way in which it performs. It's weather sealed as well so shooting in wet or dusty conditions isn't a problem either.

I first used this lens with my X-Pro1 and made this photo. It's still one of my favourite photos made with this lens and what started my love affair with it. It also cemented my decision to sell my Full Frame gear and move to the X-series cameras. I could even go as far as to say that if Fujifilm didn't make this lens, I may not have made the switch.

The 16mm 1.4 performs really well in low light. I don't use flash and prefer to use available light. This means pushing the ISO up so the larger the aperture that I have to work with the better. The shot below was made at the 2017 Bristol Balloon fiesta and was shot wide open at f1.4 at an ISO of 6400. The only available light was that from the balloons and the torch light from a phone behind me that lit up the young boys face.

Portrait photography is traditionally shot using a longer focal length like the 56mm 1.2 or 90mm f2. This isn't to say you can't use this lens for portrait photography though. Due to the lack of distortion it can make a great environmental portrait lens as proven above and as you can see in the example below if you get in really close you can get creative as well.

If you have been thinking about buying the 16mm 1.4 I would simply say stop thinking about it and buy it. This lens that will be sure to put a smile on your face when it is attached to your camera and may just be the most versatile lens that you ever buy.

Matt.

www.shootprocessrepeat.com

 


Warren's Weekend

So this weekend saw my Fuji X gear get a good hammering. Friday Night I was at The Brindley Arts centre in Runcorn for Jenny Colquitt’s EP launch gig. Jenny is an amazing singer song writer from my home town Widnes who I have got to know very well through my work at “The Studio” a small but great music venue again in Widnes where I am the in house photographer. Read more