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The Unbearable Lightness of Mystic "Exposure" Triangle

We should begin by saying that the point of all of this is not just to criticize one of the most repeated photographic myths out there – that's just a tool, because an incorrect understanding of the way that exposure and ISO work, as well as their roles during the shooting process, leads to a falloff in the quality of shots that photographers get.

So our goal is to show how, by rejecting this myth, you (the now-enlightened user) will be able to more fully utilize the capabilities that your camera has, as well as to improve the quality of your photographs.

Barnum Quote vs Exposure Triangle

ISO is Seldom just a Digital Gain

RawDigger. Raw histogram. Digital ISO 25600

Some say, "exactly like dragging exposure slider in Lightroom, ISO ... is just digital gain".

With a few exceptions, this is less than a half-truth.

Though it is often the case that at higher ISO settings digital "gain" is applied (or a converter, using a metadata tag, is instructed to apply it), analog gain still acts first, before "digital gain" (the better word would be "multiplication", not gain, as in electronics "gain" most often pertains to analog domain).

The giveaway for multiplication is deep and regular gaps in the raw histogram that become wider with each increase of ISO setting.

A Curious Case of ISO Bracketing with Fujifilm X-series

Time for Standards, stockbakery

A few days ago, a FastRawViewer user turned to us with a question:

"I took a series of photos with ISO bracketing, but FastRawViewer shows them all in the same way on the main window, even though the JPEG previews are different. I think you have a bug!"

In answering him, we suggested several reasons as to why this is happening, among which was the option that "It's possible that your camera doesn't even do anything when the ISO is changed".

The user sent us the files, and the result was...exactly that; the automatic change of the ISO setting while bracketing didn't affect the RAW data at all.


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