Testing ISO to boost dynamic range with the Olympus OM-D EM-5

Shot at 12800 ISO on the OM-D During mid day by Grant

So my Fuji X100 does this thing where it has a dynamic range boost function in a scale of 100% 200% or 400%... it only works on JPEGS and the percentage of boosted dynamic range (I think?? its a confusing little feature that I don't really use) only works above a certain ISO.

This got me thinking... maybe if I took the same image at higher ISO, the sensor would be more sensitive to light and therefore boost my shadow detail.. Let's find out.

I used an Olympus OM-D EM-5 and the Panasonic Leica 25mm f1.4 lens and picked a rather contrasty scene: bright light on travertine tiles with a dim pool table in the shade behind. Lot's of shadows and highlights.
I didn't use a tripod because frankly I am lazy and all the shutter speeds are well above needing something steady.

I set the camera to P (program) mode and adjusted the ISO for each shot and here is what I got:

 ISO 200

 ISO 800

ISO 1600 

ISO 3200

 ISO 6400

ISO 12800

ISO 25600

So what first comes to mind is that yes, higher ISOs bring more shadow depth into the images while the highlights stay the same. They also bring more noise in the shadows but also the highlights.

What always amazes me about the Olympus OM-D is how much of a high ISO champ it is. ISO 12800 and 25600 are what my Canon 60D looked like at ISO 1600 and my 1DS at ISO 200. It has a really cool personality in the highlights too in terms of grain and subdues colour. Grant has a few images to share at the bottom of this post in regards to daylight high ISO shooting.

Comparing ISO 200 to ISO 3200 the cabinet and the curtain are a tad lighter but they have also lost a little bit of colour saturation. Not much, but just enough to be noticed at 100% viewing which is really something we all ought to stop.

And look at that ISO 6400 image! The noise is there yes but it still looks great. Although I'm used to grain in film being everywhere in ISO 200 and 400 film so I guess it is a subjective preference towards grain. I don't like to remove too much grain as I feel it provides a bit of honesty to how dark a situation it was.

As a general rule I tend to shoot as ISO 400 for a smidgeon of shadow strength to reduce the amount of sliders I need to push in ACR but this has shown me that even 6400 will work during the day too and not look as bad as I feared. Leave a comment on how you feel about daylight high ISO.

A few more high 12800 ISO daytime images bellow: