High ISO with Nikon D40

Here are a couple of shots taken in the late afternoon of what had been a bright, sunny day.

The occasion was a parade that was not greeted with universal approval. In the first shot, notice the stationary bus sideways on across the street, used to block off traffic.

The fact is that at some point later in the late afternoon I messed up and set the camera to ISO3200 by mistake. It is all down to my not being able to see the ISO setting unless I am wearing my glasses, because I am long sighted. The rear LCD is just a blur without them. And unlike the D200, the ISO does not show in the viewfinder.

I can see the ISO in the viewfinder of the D200 without glasses, which if for no other reason, is why for serious work I would use the D200 rather than the D40. But the D40 is a light, carry it anywhere camera, so it has its place.

I have worked out a way to set the ISO on the D4O without putting on my glasses but on this occasion the method failed me.

To operate ISO on the D40 by feel:
The first step is to set or assign the ‘Function’ (Fn) to ‘ISO’ in Set-Up in the menus. Then when you want to change ISO, press Fn and the rear LCD will light up. Spin the rear wheel to the left a few times. That will bottom-out ISO at its lowest ISO, which is 200. Then move the wheel to the right one click at a time. That wil move IS0 to 400 800 1600 and Hi1 with each succeeding click. So for example two clicks is 800. That is the theory – but there were too many clicks yesterday.

The problem with Hi1 is not that it is incapable of making a reasonably clean image; it is that there is no room for exposure errors. Any under-exposure punishes the image badly. The shot of the crowd was taken in a street flanked by trees and buildings that cut down the available light, so the metering worked. The shots of the two hotel employees had a lot of light pouring in from the sky and it under-exposed the shadow areas of the shot.

This shot of the bike with the bus in the background was shot at ISO1600 1/1600 at f5.6.

This crowd scene was shot at ISO3200 1/125sec at f7.1

a shot at 3200ISO with a lot of noise reduction applied


The Dome of the Rock

The Dome of the Rock sits on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The First Temple, built by Solomon, stood on more or less the same spot, on high ground which sloped southward down the valley.

After the destruction of the First Temple by the Babylonians, the Jewish population were exiled to Babylon, where the Babylonians were themselves conquered by the Persians, who allowed the Jews to return home some 70 years after their exile.

The temple was reconstructed and there then followed a number of invasions and conquests culminating in the rebuilding of the temple (the Second Temple) on a larger scale by Herod, at which time the Temple Mount was constructed as a broad plaza over a series of arches, surrounded by supporting retaining walls. The Western Wall at which Jews pray, is the western retaining wall of this plaza.

From the south and east it is clear to see that the plaza stands high and level above the surrounding land.

The Second Temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 C.E., and the Jews exiled. The Romans built a temple on the site and subsequently a Christian church. When Islam became the dominant religion in the region, the Dome of the Rock was constructed to mark the spot where Mohammed ascended in a dream to heaven.

During the crusades the building became the focal point for the Knights Templar until Jerusalem was regained by the Moslems.

The organization of the plaza and of the buildings on it, is now run by the Waqf, who have built an extension to the Al Aqsa mosque (which sits at the southern end of the plaza) and have another in the planning stage. The mosques attract large congregations on Fridays.

The Dome of the Rock

Nikon D200 with 12-24mm lens at 24mm. Layer blended over scanned sheet of art paper previously soaked in coffee.


Covered Walkway in Jerusalem

This is a view looking up towards the Temple Mount from inside the covered walkway that leads up from the area in front of the Western Wall.

The walkway is a temporary structure, built to replace the stone ramp that suffered damage during an earthquake some years ago. The rebuilding of the stone ramp is under way at present and has been the cause of some friction between the Jewish and Moslem communities.


Adobe Media Gallery

On 26th May, in a review of CS3, I wrote:
“How long will Photoshop/Bridge and Lightroom remain two separate programs though? The stated philosophy was that some photographers wanted to process and batch process images and did not need the capabilities of Photoshop. That may be so now, but I cannot help but think that CS4 will surely incorporate everything Lightroom can do”

I did not imagine when I wrote it, that the convergence would be as quick as it has proved to be. But on 10th June, Adobe released Adobe Media Gallery, which adds Web Gallery creation to CSe in html and Flash.

Adobe Media Gallery is free for CS3 and includes both the plug-in and templates, all of the Adobe Photoshop Lightroom default templates, as well as the Lightroom HTML Gallery.

With it, users can create galleries and export them via FTP.

The link is here


Panorama Crops

I have started to like making panoramas just by cropping an image, like so:


Nikon D40 high ISO test

Introduction and ConclusionThe purpose of this test was to see what degredation of the image would be caused by using high ISO settings on the camera. My conclusion is that even the highest ISO settings are useable, and certainly 800ISO can be used as a matter of course, without worrying about degradation of the image.

My long-time experience is that plenty of light thrown on the subject also helps – so very low light shots may well still show chroma and luminance noise in deep shadows.

Which begs the question of why use high ISO if there is plenty of light about? The answer is that higher ISO enables higher speeds to be used, which is great for moving subjects; and a high ISO sharp shot is always better than a low ISO clean file, but blurred, shot.

A note on ISO
For those not familiar with the term ‘ISO’, it is a measurement of the camera’s sensor sensitivity to light. The higher the number, the greater the sensitivity. The term is a holdover from film cameras. Each film is made with a specific sensitivity.

As there is a relationship between the sensitivity of the film, the shutter speed and the aperture that can be used in a given situation, photographers are always looking for the optimum combination that will give them the best image quality. With film, the greater the sensitivity, the higher the shutter speed that can be used, as less light is needed to burn the image into the film.

But higher sensitivity comes at a cost and the cost is the increasing appearance of grain in the image. The particles or (or dye clouds in the case of colour film) become more visible, the greater the sensitivity of the film.

But what about digital cameras, which have no film? Surely they always have the same sensitivity, after all there is no film and it is always the same camera? Well, increasing the ISO in a digital camera is apparently a matter of increasing the sensitivity of the the chip/circuitry. But as with film there is a downside, which is that in the ratio of the signal to noise, there is more noise (the digital equivalent to grain) compared to the signal.

Or rather, in this fast-moving digital world, the downside is becoming less of an issue as time goes on. For the detailed results – read on.

The Results
I shot these images in RAW and opened them in Photoshop CS2 with my default RAW conversion set-up, which has no sharpening, luminance smoothing, or colour noise reduction. Each image was then Saved-For-Web with no sharpening or colour correction.

The photographs were shot with the 18-55mm kit lens with the focal length set, according to the EXIF data, at 48mm.

The shots shown here are crops of a few hundred pixels from near the centre of the image. I set up a standard crop size for the crop tool in Photoshop and cropped each of the shots to the same number of pixels.

For comparison purposes, the first shot is taken with a Nikon D200 with a 50mm lens and set at 100ISO.

CLICK on any of the photos for a larger view.

D200 at 100ISO

D40 at 200ISO (the lowest ISO setting for this camera)

D40 at 400ISO

D40 at 800ISO

D40 at 1600ISO

D40 at Hi-1 (3200ISO equivalent)

There is more detail in the shot from the D200, but that is to be expected given that it has a larger sensor and that the 50mm lens is probably sharper than the 18-55mm kit lens on the D40. Nonetheless I think it is clear from the shots that even the highest ISO is useable.

Of course, I want to know whether whatever differences there are between the shots, would be visible in a print. I read somewhere that looking at an on-screen shot at 25% gives a good approximation of what can – and cannot – be seen in a print. If that is so, then these crops are certainly a stringent enough test.

I have not printed these images. Some time ago though, I printed a portrait I took at 800ISO shot on the D200 with 105mm f2 DC lens (a very sharp lens) to 20×30 inches (45x150cm) and it looks as smooth as one would want. Or rather, it has an ever so slightly sketch-like look if one looks very close; which is how I have found that the D200 tends to render images at high ISO. For portraits it is very appealing.