How ISO works

Digital Camera World - - CAMERA COLLEGE -

It doesn’t make the sen­sor more sen­si­tive, but boosts the elec­tri­cal sig­nal from the sen­sor

Strong sig­nal

Strong light cre­ates more sig­nal from the sen­sor, so less am­pli­fi­ca­tion or ‘gain’ is needed.

Low light

The ISO con­trol acts like the gain con­trol on an am­pli­fier: the cam­era con­verts the light hit­ting the pix­els on the imag­ing sen­sor into an elec­tri­cal sig­nal, which is then boosted ac­cord­ing to the ISO.

Weak sig­nal

Less light means less elec­tri­cal cur­rent from the sen­sor. To avoid pictures be­ing un­der­ex­posed, the sig­nal can be boosted.

Lit­tle grain

The less the sig­nal is am­pli­fied by the gain cir­cuitry, the cleaner the pic­ture will be, with less grain in the im­age.

Strong g(r)ain

The more the sig­nal is am­pli­fied, the nois­ier the pic­ture will be. At very high ISO set­tings, im­age de­tail will be ob­scured by coloured dots.

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