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  1. #1
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    Digital Noise issues in low light - body or lens issue

    Hi,
    I am a beginner photographer. I currently own the Olympus e420. In general, I like it, but I am unhappy with the amount of digital noise I get. I don't dare use an ISO higher than 400.

    I'm confused as to whether this is an issue with my lens or the camera itself. I know that Olympus uses the 4/3 system and so the sensor is smaller than Canon and Nikon. But neither of my lenses have an aperture bigger than 3.5, either. I suspect they are both to blame.

    I'm wondering if I should just switch over to Canon or Nikon and start from scratch or if I should just invest in some nicer Oly lenses. At this point, I haven't invested much in my Olympus. I only have the kit lens and one other used lens that I bought for cheap.

    Any advice?

  2. #2
    n8
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    Re: Digital Noise issues in low light - body or lens issue

    My take is that the level of noise is going to come from the body. The lens simply focuses the incoming light, while the body, and most importantly the sensor decides what to do with that light just like a roll of film would. So, back in the day noise basically dependent on the film, whereas with today's digitals, it depends on the sensor and essentially the body they're in.
    With that said, if you have a slow lens, then you either need a slower shutter speed or a higher iso, the latter being the culprit for increased noise. A faster lens would help to a degree.
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  3. #3
    Formerly Michael Fanelli, mwfanelli, mfa mwfanelli2's Avatar
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    Re: Digital Noise issues in low light - body or lens issue

    The smaller sensor in 4/3 cameras is known for noise at higher ISO. Have you tried noise reduction yet? The software for this has gotten much better over the last couple of years.

    But, in general, the bigger the sensor, the less the noise. But it also depends upon other things. You would have to borrow or rent a different size and take the same photographs to see if there is enough difference to justify switching systems.
    “Men never do evil so cheerfully and completely as when they do so from religious conviction.” — Blaise Pascal

  4. #4
    Senior Member Anbesol's Avatar
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    Re: Digital Noise issues in low light - body or lens issue

    The faster lens can help noise though, in the sense that you can use faster shutter speeds to get those better ISO's. The E420 that bad at 800?

    *edit - scratch that, I looked up IR's iso 800 image sample for the E-420. Which can be seen here. - http://www.imaging-resource.com/PROD...20hSLI0800.HTM

    It also has a pretty nice looking 6400 grain.

    "Low light" also sort of calls for fast lens, certainly faster than f/3.5-5.6 variable zooms

  5. #5
    Nikonowhore zerodog's Avatar
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    Re: Digital Noise issues in low light - body or lens issue

    Noise is not lens dependent. It has everything to do with the sensor and the camera and ISO. A faster lens, like a 1.8 only gives you a wider aperture/ bigger hole for light to come in. This allows for lower ISO and possibly faster shutter speed depending on how you look at it. It also gives a shallower depth of field which can be great or terrible depending on what you are doing.

    Noise will also creep in from other things. As you near the edge of your cameras ISO reality, exposure and white balance become super important. If you are off, noise will show up in post processing. Shooting RAW gives you a little more latitude with this, but it is still really important to get as close to perfect in the camera.

    So in the end some cameras are better than others for noise. Depending on what you shoot it can be a problem or something that just doesn't matter. Noise reduction software can really help. LR3 is pretty good. But there are some really cheap or even free software that is even better. Neat Image, and Noise Ninja are 2 popular pics for NR. Try one out. You will be surprised at what you can tune up.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Anbesol's Avatar
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    Re: Digital Noise issues in low light - body or lens issue

    "Noise is not lens dependent."

    Well, yes it is, being that a faster lens gives you lower ISO leverage. The very fastest shutter speed of an f/5.6 maximum aperture lens can be done twice as fast in an f/4 lens, and twice further in an f/2.8, and again twice further at f/1.4. So, with that flexibility, lower ISO's, and finer image grain and color - are granted by the f-stop flexibility. So the very BEST "noise reduction" is a faster lens. The two best solutions to 'noise' I can think of are - A) Faster lens, B) Tripod. Not a newer camera with barely slightly better noise performance. *edit - whoops, I meant f/2, not 1.4, that's twice as fast as 2.8, 1.4 is 4 times as fast as 2.8.

    The point is that the E-420 has good noise performance, and if he's wanting less noise in low light his best option is a fast lens. Fast lens ALSO benefit in low light by being able to focus significantly faster, or, in really low light, focus at all.

    I only say this because I don't want to encourage this idea that switching to a different brand is the best solution for him, that I certainly think it is not. When I am confronted with low light, my most common inclination is to grab a fast prime.
    Last edited by Anbesol; 01-09-2011 at 11:06 AM.

  7. #7
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    Re: Digital Noise issues in low light - body or lens issue

    To the OP. Noise is sensor dependent. You get the same noise at ISO 100, 200, 800, 3200 etc no matter what lens in on the body. This is one of the reasons Canon and Nikon are the big two in the DSLR field. They are constantly competing with one another in the low noise sensor field and they lead the field in this area. They also offer the largest systems to choose from.

    Fast glass can allow for setting that will let you lower you ISO down thereby improving the noise issue. At some point you run out of lens options. Apparently in your case relatively fast glass at quite a cost. My Canon 85mm f1.2L at $1,970.00 was cheaper than the fastest glass Olympus offers.

    ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 14-35mm F2.0 =Price: $2299.99
    ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 35-100mm F2.0 = Price: $2499.99
    ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 90-250mm F2.8 = Price: $5999.99
    ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 150mm F2.0 = Price: $2499.99
    ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 300mm F2.8 (Built to Order) = Price: $6999.99

    I see no faster primes what so ever in the Olympus lens listing on their web site.

    As for whether you switch or not is totally up to you. I have professed from day one that any system, no matter the maker is the right one for you if it does the job you want it to. Only you can decide. Photography is always going to have compromise built into it, even with the very best system. Good luck.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Anbesol's Avatar
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    Re: Digital Noise issues in low light - body or lens issue

    might mention the fact that f/2 is extremely fast for a zoom lens.

    Yet, the op hasn't returned anyway, probably a moot issue I suppose.

  9. #9
    Member gryphonslair99's Avatar
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    Re: Digital Noise issues in low light - body or lens issue

    At those prices Some of those lenses should be f1.4 or even f1.2.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Anbesol's Avatar
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    Re: Digital Noise issues in low light - body or lens issue

    I did some looking into it, I guess olympus has many fewer fast primes than I thought. I think the best option might be getting some OM-mount manual focus primes and the OM adapter.

    lol, no less, I'm betting the original poster is not returning, so I think we are just talking to each other :arf:

  11. #11
    KmH
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    Re: Digital Noise issues in low light - body or lens issue

    Quote Originally Posted by deedubs
    Hi,
    I am a beginner photographer. I currently own the Olympus e420. In general, I like it, but I am unhappy with the amount of digital noise I get. I don't dare use an ISO higher than 400.

    I'm confused as to whether this is an issue with my lens or the camera itself. I know that Olympus uses the 4/3 system and so the sensor is smaller than Canon and Nikon. But neither of my lenses have an aperture bigger than 3.5, either. I suspect they are both to blame.

    I'm wondering if I should just switch over to Canon or Nikon and start from scratch or if I should just invest in some nicer Oly lenses. At this point, I haven't invested much in my Olympus. I only have the kit lens and one other used lens that I bought for cheap.

    Any advice?
    Yes. I have some advice - Be sure and nail your exposure when working at your camera's high ISO settings (regardless of brand).

    Image noise is the result of a poor SNR (signal to noise ratio) and/or poor amplifier performance.

    The smaller an image sensor is, the smaller the pixels are and smaller pixels cannot gather as much light thus having a smaller signal relative to shot or amplifier noise.
    Keith

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  12. #12
    Senior Member Anbesol's Avatar
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    Re: Digital Noise issues in low light - body or lens issue

    Hes gone, he did his one post and dashed, no "thank you" for the plethora of informational responses he got or anything.

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