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"Native" ISO... is it real and does it make a difference

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Pinchers of Peril:
So my friend told me that it is better to use ISOs that are multiples of 160 since that is the camera's native ISO levels and the ISOs between those are just "pushed or pulled" digitally. Is this true?  Is there any real world difference in the native vs non native ISOs.  I've tried doing some research on it and have found conflicting information. I'm just trying to figure out if there are certain ISOs that I should use or avoid. -Thanks

'Native' ISO is the converse of 'expanded' - the former is achieved by analog gain, the latter by digital gain. So, a camera may have a native range of 100-12800 ISO (analog) with L, H1 and H2 expanded settings, for example.
The concept you're referring to is 'base ISO', and whether that matters depends on the camera. First off, not all sensors have 160 as a base - it's 100 for some, 200 for others. In many cameras, the analog gain is applied in full stops from the base, and the 'tweeners' are digitally pushed or pulled 1/3-stop. If that's the case, then the pushing adds a little noise and the pulling removes a little noise. In practical terms, it doesn't make much real difference.  In some cameras, the 1/3-stops are analog gain, too.

Regardless, a blanket statement to shoot at 1-stop multiples of ISO 160 is not universally applicable advice...

Knut Skywalker:
This applies only when you are in videomode, if my information are right. Please correct me if I'm wrong, I think i heard it in one of those DSLR-video-tutorials on Vimeo.

i do believe it does make a slight difference these days BUT unless you pixel peep alot, you're not going to notice it. Especially with the newer cameras, the lower ISOs all the way to 1600 are almost're better off not worrying about "base" ISO.

Maybe you are talking about the 7D's native ISO of 160?


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