How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love Auto ISO

by | Mar 10, 2020

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

My friend Mark Toal is a big fan of using the Auto ISO setting that’s 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 used by cameras seem to favor higher ISOs (and higher noise) than I thought was really necessary. But since that time I’ve changed my mind, mostly because of the way modern camera handle noise.

How I made this shot: 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 my other blog as well as Shutterbug such the image of the O’Brien Park gazebo at left that was shot with a Sigma 85mm f/1.4 lens. Exposure with a Canon EOS 5D Mark I was 1/15 sec at f/1.4 and ISO 1600.

Over time, it 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 dark, moody lighting found in the Gallery of  Vehicle Vault in Parker, Colorado (below.)


How I made this shot: Camera was a Nikon D780 and VR 24-120mm f/4.0 G lens at 70mm, with an exposure of 1/50 sec at f/11 and ISO 8000. This SOOC image was cropped slightly, but no manipulation of any kind was made; so maybe its not purely SOOC? (You can read my review of the camera on Shutterbug’s website.)

Did my friend 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 around four bucks as I write this.