Native ISO and Noise

ISO Settings In Your Camera

ISO settings can drastically affect your photos and you should know where to set the ISO in every circumstance.

Your goal as a photographer is to both get the shot and to have an acceptably low-noise photo as a result. High ISO levels result in higher noise levels in your photos. The best ISO level for the least amount of noise is your camera’s “native ISO.” Native ISO (also known as “Base ISO”) refers to the ISO level that is where the camera sensor’s “fullest” light level corresponds to the same level of fully exposed film. The details are unimportant, but it is important to know the following:

Rules for Native ISO

  1. Native ISO is usually 100 on Canon cameras and 200 on Nikon cameras.
  2. The native ISO achieves the best noise reduction and maintains the most dynamic range.
  3. There is only one native ISO for a camera.
  4. Maximum dynamic range is achieved on multiples of the native ISO settings (100 for Canon so 100, 200, 300, etc.).
  5. Reduced dynamic range, but increased noise reduction is achieved on the next higher ISO setting (multiples of 80 and 160 on Canons).
  6. Noise is increased on 125-multiple ISOs.
  7. Noise is increased on ISO values below the native ISO for your camera (like 80 on Canons).

So where should you set the ISO? I would recommend setting it at the native ISO always.

Also, if you have an auto-ISO setting for your camera, use it when the light is low, but limit the range of it to a maximum of 400-800. Many new cameras have this feature where you can limit the maximum ISO when it is on Auto, and if so, use it with the limit set at 400 or at most 800. More than 400 will give you noise, but that choice should be a manual one and not automatically chosen by your camera. If your camera is a good one and the noise is acceptable at 800, let it go up to 800. But, higher than that and you’re giving up a lot of clarity and filling your photo with a lot of noise.


Understanding the native ISO of your camera, and setting the proper ISO is essential to getting great low-noise shots!

Thank you for reading what I wrote – I hope you enjoyed it!