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Chapter 7. Technical information > Selecting the correct ISO setting

Selecting the correct ISO setting

When digital cameras first hit the consumer market in the 1990s, manufacturers borrowed a bunch of terms from traditional film photography to help potential buyers relate to the new technology. Unfortunately, some of these terms were far from accurate when comparing film exposure to digital capture. One of the greatest offenders is the use of the term ISO to describe a digital camera's sensitivity to light. While the ISO value for film is a straightforward concept, understanding how ISO affects your digital camera can be confusing. Selecting the appropriate ISO setting when shooting with your digital camera is crucial for reducing pixel noise and maintaining image quality.

Understanding ISO

The acronym ISO stands for International Organization of Standards, a non-governmental collection of worldwide standards agencies that attempts to develop international trade by developing standards. What does this have to do with photography? Well, the ISO has a set of standards for many aspects of photography, the most prevalent of which is the system of using ISO standards to rate film speed. Those of us who still remember film (just kidding) know that you can buy film in a variety of film speeds, such as ISO 100, ISO 200, etc. The lower the number, the less sensitive the film is to light. Therefore, a film rated ISO 800 is much more sensitive to light than an ISO 100 film.


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