How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Auto ISO

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

My friend Mark Toal is a big fan of using the Auto ISO setting found on most DSLRs and mirrorless cameras but up until recently I was not. I even wrote a post about why I didn’t like this feature for my main blog. The main reason I didn’t like Auto ISO is because most of the programs that were used by cameras favored higher ISOs (and higher noise) than I thought was really necessary. But since that time I’ve changed my mind.

Over the last several months, I’ve been doing a lot of low light and nighttime photography, while testing fast f/1.4 and f/2.8 lenses for Shutterbug as in the image at left that was shot with a Sigma 85mm f/1.4 lens. Exposure with a Canon EOS 5D was 1/15 sec at f/1.4 and ISO 1600.

It quickly became clear to me that when shooting under this kind of iffy lighting where you don’t have time to put the camera on a tripod or have to work fast and get the shot, Auto ISO removes one piece of the exposure puzzle. Such as when shooting in the cloudy light at a Cars & Coffee event…

Case in point was a previous Cars & Coffee event at the Vehicle Vault in Parker, Colorado: It was 27 degrees and overcast with a light breeze that made the most popular vehicle at the event the Coffee Wagon, not the Maserati Levante SUV that had me transfixed.

How I made this shot: Camera was an Olympus E-M10 Mark I with Oly’s 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II R lens (at 31mm.) Exposure was 1/100 sec at f/5.6 and ISO 200, selected by Auto ISO.

Did Mark did convince me that I was wrong about Auto ISO? I would say ‘yes’ because there’s nothing better than the school of hard knocks to make a photographer have a reality check. So now, I’m a fan of Auto ISO and I’m not going back to my old ways when shooting in questionable and changeable lighting conditions but when the weather is bright and shiny, I still prefer to pick my own (lower) ISO setting


Along with photographer Barry Staver, Joe is co-author of Better Available Light Digital Photography that’s now out-of-print but new copies are available from Amazon for $21.88 and used copies at giveaway price, starting at four bucks as I write this.