The advances in sensor technology in recent years have opened up incredible opportunities for low-light photography. And when you’re doing travel photography, being able to shoot in low light is a must. The quality you can get out of ISO 3200 in today’s cameras, for example, is leaps and bounds better than what it was just 5 years ago. But that doesn’t mean that every ISO setting on a camera is equal.
There’s always some cost. The best all-round image quality is generally around a camera’s lowest native ISO setting. As you go higher up the scale, you lose dynamic, gain noise (or mottling), and can end up with color shifts. Those issues become particularly pronounced as you get up to the top end of the ISO settings. Those are often in what’s known as an “extended” range, where software takes over from the native limits of the sensor hardware to push things that bit further. These extended numbers can make for good marketing copy, but it’s not always clear how useful they really are.
The question then becomes: how steep is the cost? Do the downsides become too much to make shooting at the high ISO settings worth the reductions in image quality? The answer varies camera to camera; some cameras have much better high-ISO performance than others. The answer can also vary shot to shot and is an entirely subjective judgment from photographer to photographer. You might be more willing to overlook noise and color shifts in an urban street scene at night than you would with a portrait session at dusk, for example. One photographer might tolerate quite a lot of image noise, while another (or a stock agency) will reject any visible noise.
There’s a lot to like about the Fujifilm X-T2, and it’s an excellent all-round choice for travel photography (and lots of other types of photography, for that matter). But I wanted to take a closer look specifically at its high-ISO performance in order to see how it performs in low-light situations.
The Fujifilm X-T2 has a native ISO range from 200 through 12800, but when you’re shooting still images it also has some extended options at the high end of 25600 and 51200. I’ve previously posted some sample images shot throughout the X-T2’s ISO range, but here I’m focusing only on the top end, from 6400 up to 51200. I’m sharing them here in case someone else is interested to see some real-world examples of the X-T2’s high-ISO performance.
I shot these all in RAW. Other settings were image size (L / 3:2), grain effect (off), film simulation (Provia/Standard), dynamic range (100), white balance (auto), colorspace (AdobeRGB), and processing options such as shadow town, color, sharpness, and noise reduction all at 0. Normally, I’d do some processing in Lightroom, but the versions you can see embedded in the page here are essentially untouched. If you’d like a closer look, there are two options. You can click on each image to open a full-size JPG version. You can also use the link in each caption to download the original RAW (.arf) file (be warned that they’re approx. 50 MB each).
Examples of the Native High ISO of the Fujifilm X-T2
ISO 6400 – ISO 10000
Examples of the Extended High ISO of the Fujifilm X-T2
I’ve found the performance is really impressive throughout the X-T2’s native ISO range, including 12800. Once you step beyond that, as you’d expect the quality starts to drop off markedly. ISO 25600 is also quite usable, but by 51200 things are heading downhill fast, and it’s not a setting I’d use in everyday shooting. Converting the black and white can hide some of the flaws, but even then it’s more a break-glass-in-emergency type setting. But that you can get very good quality even up to ISO 12800 is itself impressive.
Find Them At
The Fujifilm X-T2 is available from B&H Photo in several configurations, including body only, with a kit lens, and bundled with some accessories. You can find them all here.