Digital SLR Gotchas: Auto ISO

Auto ISO is a great feature, but use it wisely. Here’s when NOT to set your DSLR to “Auto”:

  1. When using a tripod: you want low ISO then.
  2. When shooting in a studio setting: same, low ISO
  3. When using flash at events: dfoit yourself and select 400 or 800 as your starting point (and go higher if you need)
  4. When shooting sports: your camera will go to a low ISO: you should go to 1,600 ISO instead.

My most expensive camera does not have auto ISO – you do not need it. I like having it, but I can live without it.

My starting points: 200 ISO outdoors, 400 indoors, and 800 in tough light (sports, museums). And then vary from there.

0 thoughts on “Digital SLR Gotchas: Auto ISO

  1. On 8th May you wrote an article about manual and all its meanings. Yet in this article you talk about auto ISO without defining which mode the camera is shooting in. On a 7D you can shoot auto ISO in program mode, shutter priority, aperture priority and manual exposure.
    I shoot mainly sports and have recently experimented with shooting using manual exposure settings to control both the depth of field via fixed aperture and the shutter speed to stop the action whilst letting the camera compensate for the changing light conditions by use of auto ISO. This has proved to be more successful than shooting in aperture priority as I previously did where in some shots the shutter speed became too low. I shoot sports in a location where the light conditions can give a 3 stop variation in one sequence of play through some areas being in shade and some in bright sunlight. I prefer a high ISO shot to a blurred shot through lack of shutter speed. I have not tried shooting using shutter priority as I prefer to control my depth of field.

  2. Correct – same on my 1D Mark IV.

    And for sure, sometimes it is OK to see manual as “Aperture AND shutter priority” – in other words, you get to set BOTH the important things.

    One thing. though, is to be careful: you can both get unintentionally and unnecessarily grainy pictures. Also, you can run out of ISO. And finally, you have no exposure compensation on canon camera when doing this (on Nikon bodies, you do).

    Typically, pros will want to be in control of ISO. But I quite agree, there is certainly room for auto ISO in the situation you describe. It’s a great tool, to be used carefully.

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