How to Test your Camera ISO

In this video I show you how to test your camera ISO. If you use an ISO that’s too high, you will get a lot of digital NOISE in your photos. Sometimes this looks like pixelation or grain. But it’s noise caused by using a very high ISO.

If you shoot sports, action or in low light you will sometimes need to use super high ISO. You’ll need to do some tests on our own camera, to see when that noise will compromise the quality of your images.


If you’ve been receiving my free photo lessons, you probably remember Lesson 3 where I cover ISO. In this video I show you exactly how to do the ISO test.

Why do you need to do an ISO test?

  • Keeping the ISO as low as possible will give you the best results in image quality. But it’s not always possible to use low ISO.
  • ISO testing is really important if you shoot in low light.
  • ISO testing is also important if you shoot shoot sports and action photos.
  • If you make large prints of your photos or sell them to clients, you want the best quality possible.
  • ISO tolerance limits are personal, and also depend on your camera.

How to test your camera ISO

Take photos of the same scene using all your ISO settings. Start at your lowest ISO, and double each time.

  • 100
  • 200
  • 400
  • 800
  • 1600
  • 3200
  • 6400
  • 12800
  • 25600

Analyze your results

When viewing your photos up really close (100% magnification) on your computer, at some ISO, the noise is going to be really noticeable. Noise shows up mostly in the shadows (dark) areas of your photos.

  • You need to ask yourself, at what point does the noise really bug you?
  • That point will vary with each camera model, and your own tolerance to ISO will vary as well.

Whatever ISO that is, remember it for future reference, as any photos you take at that setting may not be acceptable quality in your eyes.

Having said that, if your child is skating in a dimly lit arena and you need to capture the moment, you may well have to use 1600+ ISO to get a decent shot. In that case, getting the photo is more important than the noise quality. This is especially true for personal photos.

Have you tested your ISO tolerance? What did you find out?

For my own ISO tests on the Lumix G9, I chose 3200 ISO as the highest ISO I’d use.

Full image at 3200 ISO

ISO Lumix G9

Cropped image at 3200 ISO. I can live with this amount of noise.


If it’s a personal photo and I have no choice but to go higher, I will. But I know I won’t be 100% happy with the photos.