I have Aperture and Shutter Priority but where’s my ISO Priority?

November 1, 2008

The post you are looking for can now be found here.

My photography posts were getting lost among my technology and other content.  It made more sense to move them across to a dedicated website, particularly as I plan to post a lot more on photography, initially majoring on the issues around sorting out a practical workflow for digital photography.

That is how the exposures website came about.

Do please visit it.  If you are a bona fide photography blogger yourself and would care to link to exposures I will be delighted to reciprocate.

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  1. You’re correct, as sensors become better at working in low light situations, the extra flexibility that ISO shift could bring would be nice. Maybe a bracketing mode where the camera is given you min/max ISO allowed and will shift in that range to achieve an exposed shot?

    Good food for thought.

  2. I think the auto ISO idea only works for cameras with a wide enough usable ISO range, such as the fairly recent Nikon D700 and D3. And Nikon do offer auto ISO on those models.

    My complaint is that even on those cameras ISO is treated as the poor relation of aperture & shutter, for legacy “familiarity” reasons, even though there is no longer any reason to do so.

    I agree that auto ISO can say produce unwanted noise if left to its own devices in the wrong circumstances, as in the wedding situation you mentioned. But you can get the wrong result with auto aperture (eg important stuff not covered by depth of field) if used in the wrong circumstances, or with auto shutter (horrible camera shake) if used unwisely. I don’t think ISO is intrinsically more in need of special clamping down on than the others.

    You would only use auto ISO if (i) your camera can turn in low noise images at a decent range of ISOs and (ii) you need to control shutter such as in action photography and (iii) you need to fix your aperture for depth of field reasons, maybe to blur the background.

  3. You bring up an interesting thought, however I worry at giving the camera that much control over the ISO of my camera. To me, the ISO is the least flexible thing to adjust because the added noise at higher ISO can compromise the usefulness of an entire shot.

    DSLRs already treat every manual mode as a kind of ‘ISO priority’ mode in that setting the ISO always determines how the other attributes will be set.

    Imagine ISO did freely adjust, I agree that it provides more flexibility, but if I’m shooting a wedding at ISO 800 and the camera decides it is dark and bumps my ISO to 3200, I could be left with a shot that, while exposed, is too grainy to use. For me having to hit 1 button to adjust my ISO isn’t too much to ask.

    I do agree that the overall layout of SLRs is the same and that different form-factors may indeed provide a different and possibly better experience for photographers in the future.

    I put up some more info about ISO values here:

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