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Tuesday, 13 October 2009

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Oh lordy here we go...

I guess the end of optical viewfinders can't be far away. At some point it will be possible to take pictures under conditions where we literally can't see anything without artificial assistance. How will you know where to point the camera? How will you judge focus? I predict lots of tilted and blurry pictures of black bears in coal mines...

Best,
Adam

...and we'll see the first photo of a black hole

If it isn't scary enough to encounter a black CAT in a coal mine now we have to watch out for black bears?

Or put another way.

One of those cheap 500mm f8 stovepipe lenses would enjoy a 5 stop boost over ISO 3200. Lets see, if the meter indicated 1/30 @ f8 @ ISO 3200 then with this camera you could use 1/1000 at the top boosted ISO. Or at 5 stops that lens is like a f1.4!

The capability is great, but it's becoming more and more obvious (to me, anyway) that Nikon really needs to (a) shrink the size of the camera and (b) produce fully professional-level constant-f4 zooms. The F2.8 zooms are fine, but they're just too big, and combined with the big camera, are too much to carry, especially when traveling, and you also have to carry a backup body, charger, extra batteries, laptop, etc. The next D700 version of this thing (if there is one) should be the size of the Pentax K7 and should have 3 f4 zooms -- 17-35, 35-70 and 70-200, with a dedicated 2x extender. With this kind of high ISO capability, the one-stop penalty of going to f4 is not significant. And people who want to shoot isolation portraits with fast lenses should probably be using the D3x anyway; or a fast prime lens made for portraits, rather than the zoom.

JC

Who cares about situations where we can't usually see...these cameras bring us closer to being able to take high-quality photos of all the things we CAN see.

There's a lot of great action to be captured in low-light (I don't mean darkness...that's more of a niche subject), but unless we can have highly sensitive sensors that render high-resolution images with minimal noise or other artefacts, we will never be where we need to be.

I thought that was a black cat in that coal mine. I may need a more sensitive camera.

Ctein - I'm sure that, as you say, there isn't enough precision here to distinguish between ISO 12800 and ISO 13000, but I'm not sure this speaks in favor of labeling things with the latter - many of us have relatively quick recognition of various powers of 2, and so can read ‘12800’ as ‘two stops past 3200’ or ‘seven stops above 100’ nearly instantaneously. If I did see an ISO rating of 13000, my process for forming an intuitive sense of what that meant, in exposure terms, would involve groping about for the nearest power of 2, which would make things take slightly longer to think through. I'm all for presenting things of in nice round numbers and not fretting about details that get lost in the noise, but, for me at least, in this context, 12800 is more of a ‘nice round number’ than ‘13000’.

Gotta admire Nikon for playing their own strengths rather than succumbing to pixelmania.

But ISO 12,800, without boost even? I thought having usable 6400 on my D700 bodies was overdoing it!

Reading the forums you'd think that Nikon had betrayed and abandoned the faithful everywhere. The hue and cry! How could they be so callous as to not introduce a high-pixel-count model in a D700 size body at a D700 price?! Even the normally sanguine Thom Hogan sort of jumped into the "where the heck are Nikon?" scrum. Admittedly they keep their own pace, and there are a few holes that need patching in the lineup, but generally they do seem to introduce products based on rational assessment of real-world photographic needs and available technology rather than simply diving in with the latest fad.

Now it'll be interesting to see to what extent the D3s will be welcomed and adopted by serious photographers, and how much it'll be panned on the forums for not having enough pixels.

I think this requires independent confirmation by another reader, but I just did a quick calculation on a moonlight exposure. A bright full moon at ISO 100,000 works out to about EV6. So this camera will shoot 1/30 with my 35/1.4 by full moonlight??

The mind boggles, indeed.

Ctein,

92.432731% of us actually love meaningless precision---so take your significant figures elsewhere...

(It's a pet peeve of mine, too).

Jim

Re precision: Back in the days of 5-1/4 inch floppy disks, I often wondered at how people insisted on specifying that quarter inch, even in casual conversation. At first, I assumed that there must be a 5.0 inch or 5-and-some-other-fraction-of-an-inch disk format that people were being careful not to confuse with the "and-a-quarter" disk, but I never encountered such an animal, and I'm pretty sure it never existed.

Why don't they just make a movie camera with a "full frame" sensor instead of burdening still camera's with all this movie stuff? The idea of a (consumer?) digital movie camera, with genuine selective focus, sounds exciting (I've been watching too many 50s and 60s films), but what has this to do with still photography? Isn't the 135 format, anyway, larger than 35mm film? And how is DOF effected by anamorphic lenses?

Kent wrote: Reading the forums you'd think that Nikon had betrayed and abandoned the faithful everywhere. The hue and cry! How could they be so callous as to not introduce a high-pixel-count model in a D700 size body at a D700 price?!

Now imagine how many Pentaxians feel. :-D

Re. the D3s: Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy... But does it come in neon pink with a green grip?

"IOS (sic) range of 200 to 12,800, plus three further boost [up to] 102,400"

So that really means an ISO 200 sensor that's quiet enough take 36db of amplification before hitting some arbitrary "looks sucky" barrier, but the knob on the amp goes up to 11, or maybe 12?

With regard to people complaining about these developments: give me a break. Nikon mastered low light sensors with the D3/D700, and they took it further. Enough people have been really happy with 12MP, and I imagine are glad to see the resolution remain and the sensitivity pushing further. I'm glad Nikon is playing to its strengths. The 6400 on my D700 sees alot of action, and I adore the camera for it.

I'd agree that Nikon's lens lineup is what needs the most work. More AF-S primes, some of them faster than the AF-D line, would be welcome. Constant f/4.0 zooms would be great. Those 14-24, 24-70, and 70-200 f/2.8s are just too rich for my blood. But I prefer primes anyway.

As for artificial precision, I offer this data point. When I encountered the specification of this camera, and saw 102400 ISO, I had to think for a second about what that number was. When I first heard of 12800 ISO, I immediately understood it. Interestingly, when I saw Ctein's post mentioning 13000, I had to think about that. 25600 also came naturally, by the way. I have yet to encounter 51200 in the wild, and I don't know if that or 50000/51000 would make more sense to my brain.

I wonder if it wouldn't make more sense to drop two digits and think in terms of ISO 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512, and 1024. My mind grasps that right away. It leaves some tricky spots, like ISO 0.5 or 3.2, but it avoids six-digit numbers.

Ctein, I agree about meaningless precision, for instance, how many 70-300 zooms really get to 300mm exactly ? Does it matter ?

But ISO affects exposure and we calculate exposure in stops. If I want decrease my shutter speed by 1/4, I multiply my ISO by 4. 100, 200, 400, ... 12800. With barely a second thought, you know 12800 is three stops faster than 1600. What's 13000 ? 6500, 3250, oh, must be 3 stops faster than 1600. Or is it 1500 ? Where should we lose the precision ?

I suppose we could model it after shutter speed & aperture. 1/60s, 1/125s ... 1/1000s (not 1/960s). f/5.6 ... f/11.

Maybe it's because I'm doing hexadecimal arithmetic every day at work that I kind of like the precision.

Money, money, money, money, for research, development, marketing and finally for purchasing.

The end of development of these computers
meant to resemble cameras is far from over.

May those who are able to afford these devices enjoy them, for they as much as their owners will be history, over time.

Hmmmm.....

Canon goes ballistic on pixels.

Nikon goes ballistic on ISO.

Is anyone wondering when will we see better lenses?

After all, none of the above are worth a dime if the lenses are barely matching what one can do with a m4/3 setup!

No: software correction of CA is NOT the answer I'm looking for!

With the development of ever more sensitive cameras, ISO ratings accumulate ever more digits. They become ponderous (if impressive)to write or say, and lead to the temptation of meaningless precision. It might be time to revert to the old, logarithmic DIN scale previously used alongside ASA ratings. Indeed, the current ISO system does define both an arithmetic and a logarithmic scale equivalent to DIN (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Film_speed), but the latter seems rarely or never to be used. It is scaled as log base 10, so that a doubling of speed corresponds (near enough) to an increment of 3. For example, ISO (ASA) 100 = 21; ISO 200 = 24; ISO 1000 = 31; and ISO 100,000 = 51. Much simpler!

Dear Rick,

My back of envelope says 1/45th second at f/1.4 for full moonlight at ISO 100K. Better bracket for safety's sake [vbg].

pax / Ctein

"Indeed, the current ISO system does define both an arithmetic and a logarithmic scale equivalent to DIN (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Film_speed), but the latter seems rarely or never to be used. It is scaled as log base 10, so that a doubling of speed corresponds (near enough) to an increment of 3. For example, ISO (ASA) 100 = 21; ISO 200 = 24; ISO 1000 = 31; and ISO 100,000 = 51. Much simpler!"

I agree. To many non-scientific types, I'm sure the difference between 50 and 100 isn't that big a deal, but the difference between 6400 and 12,800 seems radical and impressive. Make a stop back into a stop, and you'd get rid of some of the impetus to funnel product development into meaninglessly high ISOs. I've never even used 6400 for a real picture (and 3200 almost never), much less pined for 102,400.

Mike

Oh rats! I've just got to weigh in on 'meaningless precision'.

But, in the other direction. When all this digital stuff started it drove me crazy that the sensor size, height X width in millimeters wasn't given in camera specifications. I simply don't care what old TV camera image tube they are based on. Even less on the now defunct APS film system for used on DSLR's. Why won't the manufactures just list the size! What are they trying to hide! And while I'm on my soapbox, why won't Olympus divulge the 'precise' back focus, lens flange to sensor distance, of both the regular 4:3 and micro 4:3? About 40mm and about 20mm doesn't cut it.

This remorseless quest for ever-higher usable speeds - are Nikonistas prone to nervous twitching (or worse) at the moment of release?

I can't believe it's already been two years since the D3. I'm still waiting for Canon to answer the original one (the 5D MKII didn't really do it for me).

"....I wonder if it wouldn't make more sense to drop two digits and think in terms of ISO 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512, and 1024..."

ISTR the DIN equivalents of ASA were all smaller figures

Paul Mc Cann

"sanguine" and "Thom Hogan" don't quite seem to match.

Also, I like software corrected CA. Brings new life to old lenses.

Now I know where all the photographers have gone. They are sneaking around at night and have left their tripods at home.

Does anyone else take pictures in the daytime anymore?

Just because they can?

Last time I saw somebody shooting a big Nikon, I thought "that is a camera with legs! Ultimate japanese biomechanical technology, not foreseen in Bland Runner"*!

Then I realized that there was somebody behind the camera.

*No, it is not a typo. "Bland Runner" and "Seven" are the only movies I get asleep with.

To respond to Ctein featured comment, and following Ian and Mike : it's now time to switch again to the logarithmic DIN scale (and moreover it will be more sustainable not to write down all these zeroes : think of all the ink and paper in brochures, and of all the internet bandwidth in forum catfights that this measure will save in the long time...).

Alltogether : Deutschland, Deutschland über alles...

Ctein: I see your point, but there is no need to comfort the prevalent innumeracy. Let's take advantage of the fact that so many scales are defined in powers of 2. The dumbing-down of breaking the exposure progression below 1/16 s (1/30, 1/60, 1/125 , etc., instead of 1/32, 1/64, 1/128 , etc.) repulsed me as a kid. I found it equally revulsive to every intelligent child who learns the basics of photography. The ASA scale is becoming unwieldy? OK, so let's use powers, logarithms and f-stop ratios. There is a beauty in numbers, just as there is in nature.

The mind does boggle.

It would appear that photography no longer requires light. Should we change the name of the art to simply "graphy?"

Base iso 100; +1,+2,+3,......stops.

As soon as I read this item I went into the darkroom, with my digital SLR. With the safelight on, at 6,400 ASA I got one second at f/2.8. At 102,400 of course that is 1/15th at f/2.8.

At these ambient levels, the back light on the top plate LCD turns the camera into a usable, but rather heavy and expensive torch. ["Flashlight," in American. --Ed.]

A picture of the light leak under the door looks right at 169 seconds at f/2.8, at 6400 ASA. Not a problem when printing.

White balance was a bit of a problem.

noons: Actually, one useful side effect of the megapixel/full frame wars is that lenses are getting better. The Nikon 14-24 is a good example - or the upcoming 70-200 replacement. So many previously 'good' lenses show their faults on a D3x, 5dmkII, or A900 that they've had to improve the glass.
And in M4/3s, the newest Panasonic/Leica 20mm is a response to the disappointing Olympus 17.

And I'm rather curious what glass the monster 40-60+ MP sensors will demand; the new digital large-format glass is scary better than what's on my Linhoff.
----

Even the current D3/D700 can comfortably take pictures lit by a laptop backlight. If you push it you can light things with your iPhone. I suspect in a few years you won't even need that.

I find 3200 useful at the zoo, and sometimes as high as 12800. Sometimes flash would be a better choice, for something like the otters, but when it's crowded I feel like I'm imposing on others spreading flash heads around clamped to railings.

When photographing musicians at a late-night party, it tends to be 6400 and up.

I hear that highschool sports tend not to be that brightly lit much of the time, and that they sometimes don't allow you to set up batches of flashes. Photographing fast action in marginal light really needs some speed.

I'm saddened by the push for f/4 constant zooms, though. f/2.8 zooms are slow already, darn it all! The last thing I want is anything slower. I need something faster than I have around 135mm already (I sold a manual focus 135/2 a few years back, before I got the D700 and found myself back in full-frame land unexpectedly).

I'm sure this will be a great camera, just like the D3 and D3X are, but is it too much to ask for Nikon to throw us guys that don't like HUGE cameras a bone? Nikon currently has 11 DSLR's and not one small pro-grade camera. Why won't they make a digital FM2 for those of us that don't need 6+ FPS and every wiz-bang feature under the sun? I want a nice 100% view finder, and full frame sensor in a small-ish package, that's it. Surely I can't be the only one. Guess I need to donate a kidney to fund a Leica M9.

Mike J. wrote: I've never even used 6400 for a real picture (and 3200 almost never), much less pined for 102,400.

Mike, some us do need high ISO for "real" pictures. Just this Saturday I went on my photo stroll and had to use all sorts of ISO, but it so happens my favourite shot (#1 in this post) was at ISO 1600. Had my camera been able to do 3200, I would have used that to up my shutter speed (so thank the Japanese gods for Pentax's in-body SR).

The ISO I used on the images linked above were:

1600
1250
1600
800
1600
320
100

So only 2 of the 7 were below 800, and 3 were at my camera's ISO ceiling. Remember, Mike, we're not all tripod-toting nature photographers :-)

I think it's great Nikon is trying to cater to different user groups by offering different chips on the same camera. Maybe the next step will be making the sensors interchangeable; am I the only one this makes sense to?.

Oh, and the D3s is already available for preorder at Amazon.com for $5,200. At least they didn't pull a D3x this time. I'm sure Hitler appreciates it.

"Who cares about situations where we can't usually see...these cameras bring us closer to being able to take high-quality photos of all the things we CAN see.

There's a lot of great action to be captured in low-light (I don't mean darkness...that's more of a niche subject), but unless we can have highly sensitive sensors that render high-resolution images with minimal noise or other artefacts, we will never be where we need to be."

Right on! Even if I never go up to ISO 100,000 (or whatever) if it helps make my ISO800 better than so be it. Also, even if -you- don't need more sensitivity that isn't to say that someone else doesn't find it desirable.

on my oppinion,
12.8 k, 25k, 50k and 100k Iso work better.

Sorry, folks! didn't mean to hijack the thread with a bit of minutiae (sp?).

FWIW, I agree with everyone who said just switching back to DIN would make more sense. I coulda thought of that... If I'd been cleverer [g].

I still wanna see PHOTOS!!!!

pax / Ctein

It's a shame that Nikon can't be convinced to provide a lower ISO setting. ISO 200 is far too fast for some applications.

But, alas, low ISO specifications aren't very marketable and the marketing folks obviously aren't real photographers so that ain't going to happen.

Photographing last week inside a pub in London, I was stuck at f/1.8 and 1/20 to get shots like this. Keeping the colour was out of the question, given the warmth of the light, unless I wanted bright orange faces; with the colour "corrected", there was just too much noise, even with my slowly learned (thanks, Mike) appreciation of digital noise.

So let's say I'd wanted to photograph that evening at a faster shutter speed, for more keepers, and with a smaller aperture for more depth of field. To achieve 1/60 and f/4, I'd be up at around ISO 6,000 already. And to shoot a close group portrait of a whole party of Christmas revellers in December with some depth of field and maybe even a chance of retaining colour? If we say f/8 and 1/60, I'm up at around ISO 15,000 already—that's past the D3s's regular range already. These new ISO ratings, which will continue to increase, are not about shooting in the dark or about cats in coal mines - they're about freedom to shoot without needing to sacrifice sharpness or depth of field and without needing to carry a flashgun. Not that I dislike the black and white or the shallow depth of field in this case—just that I'd rather choose to use it than be forced to. Life shouldn't stop for ambient light photographers at ten past six in the evening on an October night in London. I'll just be waiting till that extra zero is available in a nice, lightweight body…

I hated the DIN scale.

When I bought Ilford, it was labeled:
ASA 200/DIN 24
ASA 400/DIN 27

Which would you rather have to make quick calculations? Everything else related to exposure was simple arithmetic. Why throw in a completely different scale for one parameter?

And yes, I can use other scales. I made my bread and butter like Meatyard: as an optician, and have a related degree.

"I've never even used 6400 for a real picture (and 3200 almost never), much less pined for 102,400."

But Mike, at 3200 your slow zoom becomes usable if the noise levels are acceptable. Plus you get a choice of apertures, you can freeze motion etc - bring on 102,400 and beyond.

Nikon is now only three stops away from ISO 819,200...which is pretty close in real stops of light to a million. How long ago did we think that ISO 6,400 or 12,800 was absurd?

Anyone want to bet on the first company to reach ISO 1,000,000 or better?

Wow.

It's really too bad that we settled on the linear ASA standard rather than the logarithmic DIN standard for ISO. The Germans had it right. The big numbers are hard to manipulate and hard to convert to stops/EV's. Stupid stupid stupid.

Ctein. I like the relative precision. Nothing irritates me more than when I'm not getting what I though I was. I wish that when you buy a new hard drive that it advertised the correct ammount of volume not an accepted scale. I want my 500GB hard drive to be that, not 465GB, which is what I get now. And I want to know the actual specifications for my cameras. If we start rounding, who's to say that Nikon and Canon won't start rounding numbers differently. How are we supposed to make accurate judgments when we compare cameras if we don't have accurate figures to compare?

Gordon

@Gordon: "I like the relative precision. ":

Precision is not accuracy, and if you take a look at the DxO results for sensor ISO, ratings there's not 1/25 of a stop of rounding error; it's routinely a full stop, or more! That last digit (or two) is, far too too often, a lie: it makes an implicit claim about accuracy that does not -- and in many cases cannot -- be true.

92.432731% of us actually love meaningless precision---so take your significant figures elsewhere...

93.7% of all statistics are made up.

> How are we supposed to make accurate judgments when we compare cameras if we don't have accurate figures to compare?

So few manufacturers respect the ISO12232 (see www.dxomark.com) than the 'advertised' ISO values are often more than half a stop off this ISO standard (guess in which direction?).
That may make the difference between 100k and 102400 unsignificant...

But the beauty of a log scale seem really more meaningful to me, as it's simply DIN51.

Ooops, I typed a bit too fast in my previous comment :

- instead of "don't respect ISO12232" I should have written "don't use the only precise way of measuring sensitivity according to ISO12232 when using raw files (which is the saturation method)".
Sorry for that : in other words, the ISO12232 standard does allow the manufacturers cheating with ISO. ;~)

- And last but not least...
Breaking news!
According to wikipedia the ISO standards do have both an arithmetic scale (the current measurement inherited from ASA, that wastyes zeroes) AND a logarithmic scale (inherited from DIN), so it seems perfectly valid to write 'ISO51°' (note the ° degree symbol) instead of 'ISO102400'.
See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Film_speed

Wonderful to have such possibilities and capabilities but do serious photographers (whoever they are) really need anything like iso 1M. Sorry, forgot about the paps in the cupboard...

Oh great, now we can shoot in color in light levels where the human eye perceives only monochrome. Available light photography will change with masses of shadow detail possible with the right technique. Me, I prefer ye old available darkness photography, largely murk with an occasional highlight patch, usually a face or some detail suggestive of setting.

We should not be too much impressed with the ISO 102400 figure. My experience with Nikon DSLRs is that all these H1, H2 and now H3 boosts look well in theory, but are of little if any value if one likes to make quality pictures.

My rule of thumb after having used the the D700 for a full year now is the following: identical results in the 200-800 ISO range, some degradation at 1600 ISO (but still very high quality), sometimes useable at 3200 ISO (especially for B/W conversions), and never to be used above 3200. (I understand some photographers have better post-processing techniques and/or lower quality requirements and will happily be using higher ISO values with a D3/D700.) For me the D3s' real achievement should be a one stop improvement in image quality when using ISO values higher than 800, as well as pushing the upper limit to 6400 ISO.

What we need now is the same technology in smaller bodies, smaller indeed than the D700. John Camp has written well concerning that. I would add a 24-105/4 lens to his wish list.

As an old "techie" who's done photography and computer programming for about 50 years, I love to follow the new developments in digital photography. The comments on lenses are interesting, as what is in the pipeline for lens development is less in the lenses and more in the camera firmware. I'm not talking about vibration/shake reduction in cameras or lenses either. Some cameras now correct for distortion or chromatic aberration after taking the photo - even perspective correction. All process images to reduce the visible effects of noise, a big issue in the new "high ISO" Nikons. Digital image processing offers the promise of correcting for most image problems caused by optics, enhancing or allowing selective focus, even using high ISO to allow making lenses smaller and lighter but still having better performance. As you see the new technology move to lens design, look up in the sky at that spy satellite you can't see that's watching you and say "thanks!"
PS: An old friend helped develop a 64K CCD a couple of decades ago on a budget of $8millionUS!

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