How did we ever manage without ISO 6400?






To begin with a pair of quotes from recent threads I have contributed to:

"I see it in real life everyday, my own results. See my above thread, 6400ISO pic, prints out at 11x14 with excellent results. No 4/3rds camera can beat that, not yet anyway."

"12 months ago if someone had suggested a manual focus lens I would have instantly dismissed it, the fact is now that the only thing stopping me buying a Nikon adapter for my GF1 and using all my primes as MF lenses is that the MF assist has to be activated manually which (I may be wrong) seems like a faff too far for me."

I'm no luddite, I'm a 21st. century techno nerdy, "If its got more knobs its better", person. But these two comments made me think how far things have come in just a few years. They also made me wonder about the assumptions that photographers make about their equipment & how these have changed.

The first quote is one of those "my cameras better than yours" "no its not" "yes it is" exchanges that so enhance! internet forums. But reading it I thought what a startling statement this was. 6400ISO!!! As someone who spent 20 years shooting film at ISO 25, 50, 100 & 200 & in an emergency ISO 400 I wondered what had happened.
Anyone remember Scotch 1000 film? An ultra grainy colour film from the 1980's. It was truly terrible, though it had its fans. This was about the fastest that you could get. Neopan 1600 was a faster B/W film & that was about it - if you actually wanted to recognise anything in your image. Now we have the Nikon D3S - ISO 102,400 !!! Apparently takes pictures of things you can't see with your eyes. Remarkable.

The second quote is just unbelievable. It was part of a whole discussion about manual focus on a Lumix GF1. It seems some "photographers" just can't be bothered to manually focus a lens. "A faff too far?" This from a camera system that makes MF easier than it ever was with 35mm cameras & film & to someone who had no alternative but to manually focus lenses, is a godsend.

So how did we ever manage without the benefits of modern technology? Well just look at the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson, Ansel Adams, Richard Avedon, O Winston Link, Man Ray, David Bailey etc. etc. etc..........

I use high ISO's and Auto Focus all the time, but the idea that without these you are unable to function photographically is nonsense. The notion of deciding to reject a camera system because it doesn't have ISO 6400 is.... strange (being polite here!)

The two things that crop up again and again in discussions about cameras are noise & AF speed. You could easily assume that these are the two most important factors in influencing the purchasing decision. So are all these people, sports & news photographers? No of course they aren't.

I have recently started photographing weddings. The high ISO quality of my Canon 5DMKII is incredible, but I use it sparingly. My preference is to use fast lenses, 28mm, 50mm, 85mm primes, all F/1.8. This means I can use lower ISO settings for a better quality image. I also use a tripod (Strange 3-legged metal thing for putting cameras on) and a flash gun.

So the answer is we managed fine, and we will continue to manage.

All the images in this post were shot in low light at ISO 100 with manual focus.