Taking the ND from ISO 25 to 400

My normal shooting with film is at ISO 200. The film Fujicolor Super HQ (ISO 200) has always been my favorite. Having read stories that claimed shooting with anything faster then ISO 100 with the ND would result in "terrible" images, forced me to finally run my own real world comparison of the ISO settings on the ND. Frankly, the majority of shots were taken at ISO 100 for over six months and reconciling the film exposures at ISO 200 and the ND exposures at ISO 100 really put my head in a shooting bind. Shooting at different speeds sounds so simple, but when you are really use to (and love) shooting at a certain ISO for MOST of your shots, the importance of some consistency can not be discounted.

Last Sunday, I talked my model (daughter Heather) into letting me do some comparison shots. The Texas day was hot, and her patience was short. We had about 10 minutes to take a dozen shots. The first shots were in bright sunshine, next were shade shots, and finally some shots in the shade with fill flash.

Frankly, the daylight shots were unusable. Even with film, daylight shots can be contra sty and washed out.  Digital shooting has no real solution for this problem. The shots were taken with the Contax ND firmware of 1.7, which has a flatter contrast ratio. Still the shots were very, poor.

One example shot has been provided of this daylight contrast problem at ISO 25.

Heather at ISO 25

The shade shots were OK, but with strong backlighting, the skin tones were normal but overwhelmed by the background.

The fill flash shots, showed a nicely lit subject, but due to me incorrectly metering the background, the flash, even set at  EC -1.0 was not properly balanced to the daylight. However; I was after the noise and grain pattern impact of the ISO settings, so the images were still of value.

All the images were both printed as 5x7 images for me to review on an Epson 2200 and run through a web publishing program. The typical web shots were about 50K in size. This is a reduction of a 2 megapixel image originally shot in JPG mode.

No sharpening or noise reduction Adobe plug-in was applied to the images. But, standard contrast and brightness controls were used.  The original JPG was opened in Photoshop 7.0 and saved as a tiff after adjustments. The JPG's shown for your review were saved from the tiff file.


Regardless of ISO settings, an image shot for WEB publishing as files less then 100K showed no real variance. So much clarity is lost during the compression of the images, that the "detail" loss from higher ISO settings is not a factor.

Images printed as 5x7's were, based on there ISO from smooth and clear (ISO 25) to a softer, grainier image at ISO 400. Logical. The prints at ISO 200 were very usable, and at ISO 400 they were "OK". Not terrible, but just "OK". Similar to looking at a 5x7 printed from a negative with corresponding grain issues.

Photoshop and other image processing software has a "sharpening" feature which I would apply to most of my images before printing. This would have improved these prints.

Bottom line: For typical shooting, I would have no qualms shooting at my beloved ISO 200. However; if I know the shot is part of my "fine art" series, I would reduce the ISO to a minimum of 100, and even lower if the lighting is appropriate. This is one of the superb advantages of digital shooting ... being able to shift the ISO from frame to frame depending on lighting and subject factors!

Shade Shot Samples at both ISO 25 and ISO 400

Heather at ISO 25Heather at ISO 400

Fill Flash Samples at ISO 25 and ISO 400

Heather at ISO 25Heather at ISO 400


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