How far can you push your camera? If you shoot with one of the higher end prosumer cameras, then you can probably go pretty far. But, do you know how much is too much? I was watching an online education video from a photographer I follow, and she started talking about this. It definitely wasn’t something I was willing to try before.

I always thought anything over 1200 iso will not look good, so don’t try it. For this reason I got really good at shooting as slow as 1/30 of a second. I know, that’s hard, but if you do it just right, and your subject doesn’t move, then you can get a great shot. So, today I decided to give it a try and push my camera as far as it goes… or as far as I took it. The ISO in my Sony a7 goes even higher, but I stopped at 16k. I figure it is very unlikely that I will ever have to go higher than that, but some day I will try it just for fun.

Here is what I shot, sorry they’re only silly self portraits, but it’s just to show you the difference in the grain. I did very basic editing to all of these, probably spent about 3 minutes on one and then did a copy and paste on the others in Lightroom.

That is the first test, they are in order of lowest to highest iso. The first one is what I would normally take, for any portrait. 640 to 800 iso, if I have a lot of light then I will step down to 400 iso. The Middle is 1000 iso, which I have taken portraits at that setting, but only by accident. The a7 has the iso by default in a weir place that gets easily moved by the palm of my hand, but I’m so used to it, that it would be a pain to relocate it.  The third one is shot at 1600 iso. I have to say, I would be completely happy with the amount of grain in any of these. I know that pretty much comes down to preference, but I don’t think it looks that bad.

Now, my second camera is a canon t3i and I shoot with that just as much as I shoot with the a7. I know, it is an old camera, but I like it and I haven’t had the need to upgrade, or maybe I’m just being lazy about it. But, the t3i looks like crap on anything over 1200 iso. Let me be clear though, this is not a comparison of the two cameras, this is just for me, and I guess you, to see how far the iso on the Sony a7 can go and still have a decent picture. Oh, and just in case you’re confused, I’m not talking about the new Sony a7s II or a7s or a7r. I’m talking about the Sony a7, a full frame mirrorless camera that is at least 5 years old. So, and old camera!

Ok, here are the rest, these are all 3200 iso or higher.


Now for these I edited in color and exported in both color and b&w. I’m pretty amazed at how well they look. I would try to avoid having to shoot with these settings, but it’s not as horrible as I was expecting. I’ll have to keep going and see the difference in the higher iso settings.

I shot all these with natural light, there were 3 windows with indirect sunlight camera right, and I’m standing next to a v-flat that I used as background and reflector.

What do you think?  How far would you push yours?