Use ISO Numbers That Are Multiples of 160 When Shooting DSLR Video

Technicolor just released a new Picture Profile for Canon DSLRs, and recommended that ISO be used in multiples of 160. Andrew Schär decided to test this using his Canon 60D, and found that in terms of the amount of noise present in the footage, ISO numbers that are multiples of 160 are best (i.e. least noise), followed by multiples of 100, and finally multiples of 125 being worst.

It clearly illustrates that best ISO’s to use for video, starting from lowest noise level to highest are as follows:

160, 320, 640, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1250, 125, 250, 500, 1000, 1600, 2500, 2000, 3200, 4000, 5000, 6400.

Of course, if you’re shooting low-light and you need a high ISO, the best ones to go for would be: 1600, 2500, 3200 & 5000.

If there’s plenty light, keep things on ISO 160. [#]

Regarding why this is so, commenter Martin Zahuta writes,

Basically, the camera has several native ISO settings, in most cameras these are 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600 etc. The thing with the values in the middle (125, 160, 250, 320) is that they are simulated! This is very important to understand.

If you set the ISO at 125, there will be more noise than at ISO 100 because the camera sets the ISO at 100 and than simulates the higher ISO (125) by applying GAIN.

Similarly, when set at ISO 160, the camera actually already goes for ISO 200 and applies NEGATIVE GAIN, making the image darker and thus hiding a lot of the noise.

Here’s the video showing Schär’s test:

Testing Canon’s ISO noise in Video mode on the 60D (via Gizmodo via Photography Bay)

  • paul moleiro

    Does this only apply to canon cameras or is this all dslr cameras?

  • Mike Fitton

    Another question: Is this applicable only to video footage, or still images as well?

  • Ryan Foong

    It would be great if we can know whether this apply to images as well. How about for Nikon cameras?

  • Paul Kagawa

    I did a similar test a few weeks ago and found that these numbers only apply to video and jpg files, NOT to raw files. The explanation that was given to me in the Planet 5D forum was that the raw files bypass the internal camera processor but the jpg and video files are processed internally. So, if you’re shooting raw use the ISO best suited to the shot. If jpg or video, use multiples of 160.

  • Mike Fitton

    I appreciate the information and link Paul!

  • Martin Zahuta

     Hey, thanks for citing me!

  • Michael Zhang

     You’re welcome =)

  • Nathaniel

    what is the deal with multiples of 100 being more “dynamic”?

  • Nathaniel

    what is the deal with multiples of 100 being more “dynamic”?

  • Sami

    I am using Canon 600D and the option available are ISO 100, 200, 400, etc. WIth ISO 100 I encounter some noise in high frequency areas of the image even in shallow Depth of Field. Any suggested solution?
    Lens used Canon 50mm 1.4

  • MJ

    shooting in multiples of 160 gives you less noise, but also less dynamic range. If you shoot at iso 160 your hilights are going to clip where they would at 200 ISO, but are digitally darkened, thus losing some dynamic range in the highlights. Therefore, the native iso values will have more dynamic range.