Would you photograph at 40 000 ISO?

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The air temperature was 5 degrees C. The tidal pool water temperature was 12 degrees C. So we went for a swim, as one does. :-/


It was my daughter’s 18th birthday and her choice of a morning celebration was to go for a tidal pool swim at our favourite pool in False Bay. Cape Town is experiencing, and enjoying some may say, a proper Cape winter. We have experienced huge amounts of rain, wind and it has been cold. On this Tuesday although it was super cold it was a beautiful, cloudless morning. My daughter invited some of her friends to join her in celebrating. I’m not sure if they are still friends after jumping into that frigid water. 🙂


Why am I telling you about my daughter’s birthday and an early morning swim? What has this got to do with photography? Well, this was the first time I had ever taken a photograph at 40 000 ISO. This is not a typo – I really did take a photo at an ISO of forty thousand. Whaaaaat? And after some editing in Lightroom, it actually came out really well.

Here’s the pic. 

Canon EOS R with 50mm f1.8 lens shot at 40 000 ISO


With the new mirrorless cameras and the new AI technology built into Adobe Lightroom, our capabilities are endless. Keep in mind it was way before sunrise and so the only illumination was from a few street lights. 

I edited the exposure and other basic settings in Lightroom Classic and then applied the new Denoise option within LR. This is a new AI feature recently included in the updated versions of LR. 

Here’s some further info on ISO, camera sensors and Lightroom.

When it comes to low-light photography, one of the biggest challenges is getting a sharp and noise-free image. This is where high ISO comes into play. By increasing the ISO, you can capture more light and get a brighter exposure, but this also comes at the cost of increased noise in the image. Fortunately, Canon mirrorless cameras have excellent high ISO performance, and when combined with Lightroom’s denoise feature, you can get stunning results even in challenging lighting conditions.

Understanding High ISO

ISO is a measure of a camera’s sensitivity to light. More specifically the camera’s sensor’s sensitivity. The higher the ISO, the more sensitive the sensor is to light, and the brighter the image will be. However, as you increase the ISO, the image will become noisier, which can result in a loss of detail and sharpness.

One of the benefits of using a Canon mirrorless camera is that they have excellent high ISO performance. This means that you can use higher ISO settings without worrying too much about noise in your images. 

Using Lightroom’s Denoise Feature

While Canon mirrorless cameras have great high ISO performance, you may still notice some noise in your images when shooting in low light. This is where Lightroom’s denoise feature comes in. Lightroom’s denoise feature can help reduce noise in your images while preserving detail and sharpness.

To use Lightroom’s denoise feature, simply open your image in Lightroom and go to the Develop module. At present, this needs to be a RAW file. Under the Detail panel, you will find the Denoise feature. This is one of Lightroom’s new AI features and is brilliant.

Using high ISO on Canon mirrorless cameras combined with Lightroom’s denoise feature can help you get stunning low light images with minimal noise. Remember to find a balance between noise reduction and detail preservation when using the denoise feature, and experiment with different ISO settings to find the best balance between exposure and noise in your images. With a little practice, you’ll be able to capture beautiful low light images with your mirrorless camera and Lightroom’s denoise feature.

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