Twilight Plaid by Terry Schmidbauer
Twilight Plaid, a photo by Terry Schmidbauer on Flickr.

Via Flickr:
This is an ISO 3200 image taken during the twilight hour. I took this to add to a forum discussion thread on DPReview about comparing ISO capabilities. The requirements were to post jpegs that were right out of the camera. That’s why the noise is a little ugly in this image. Even though I had my camera set for Extra Fine, there are still some jpeg artifacts. I normally would shoot this in RAW and then use the noise reduction tool in Lightroom.

I really like the noise structure on the Sony cameras because it reminds a lot of film grain. I’ve noticed that most high end video cameras have a certain amount of noise that resembles film grain and most of those cameras are Sony. A while ago cinema people discovered that it was really hard for people to watch super smooth images. So they added film grain to make the images more acceptable to the human eye. But in the end, I really think it’s the character of the sensor so you just have to work with it.

For the most part the biggest problem I have with sensor noise is in the dark areas. The light speckles in the dark areas just don’t look natural and the eye is really drawn to these speckles. The noise in the lighter areas takes on a film grain appearance and as long as this film grain effect stays subtle, it can be very pleasing. I’ve found that it’s really important to underexpose this type of image because the light meter will want to over expose the image and that creates more noise in the shadows.

Although I had to post this image on DPReview without any alteration, I did a certain amount of processing in the image to make it work.