What a clean ISO 6,400 can do

A Woman at the Bar, Hole in the Wall - Austin, Texas

A Woman at the Bar, Hole in the Wall – Austin, Texas

I occasionally read camera reviews where they say anything over ISO 3200 isn’t necessary. That no one really needs this kind of high ISO performance. I’m here to tell you that, that’s bull. This is what you can do when you have a clean ISO 6,400. Even at 100%, there is only a slight bit of graininess. Viewed on a 27″ monitor at full size, it looks lovely.

I shot this at a place called the Hole in the Wall on Guadalupe Street next to the University of Texas campus. I was there listening to a band with my friend Mike when I saw her dreaming by the bar. This place was dark, really dark. Not only was this shot at ISO 6,400 but I was using a 35mm lens at f2 with a 1/30 second shutter speed. The bluish light on her face and stools was coming from the doorway and windows at the front of the bar. A delicious mix of ambient light, both natural and man-made.

Moody and dark, kind of like the big city in the evening — it’s the kind of imagery that makes me happy. Shot with the Canon 6D, this is why I got a full frame camera, to make these kinds of high ISO shots. As much as I love the Olympus Pens — and while their high ISO performance has improved markedly — they struggle to do this and with this kind of clarity. The shallow depth of field from a full frame also gives it a different kind of feel compared to a camera with a smaller sensor.

I really don’t enjoy using the DSLR as much, on so many levels but I do like a full frame’s high ISO performance. I still shoot the Olympus mirrorless for fun and travel, but when I need to kick it up a notch in the ISO department, I bring out the Canon 6D.

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5 thoughts on “What a clean ISO 6,400 can do

  1. Your picture looks like “The Boulevard of Broken Dreams.” Very moody. It almost looks like a painting. This weekend was a lesson in why a clean high ISO can be the difference between usable pictures and not. The poster of that picture is on my dining room wall. I’d hang your picture too 🙂

    Both the P3 and PM2 handle high ISO pretty well. I could use one more fast lens. Hopefully money will appear someday soon!

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