ISO 51,200

Towards the bottom of one of the spires of Antoni Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain it is dim to the point of almost pitch blackness. Tripods are not allowed. So I did the best I could, and shot handheld upwards with the heck boosted out of the ISO (ISO stands for sensitivity to light, and in days gone by would have been noted as film speed). The ISO scale on my D810 tops out at 51,200—almost inconceivably high compared to the camera’s “native” ISO of 64. Sure, there’s a bit of noise, but on the whole the image at this preposterous level of sensitivity to light has quite a bit of quality and resolution. The last few years have surely heralded a revolution in the ability of the current generation of cameras to record extreme low light conditions.

Inside the Sagrada Familia Spire © Harold Davis
Inside the Sagrada Familia Spire © Harold Davis

Here’s the complete exposure information: Nikon D810, 28-300mm Nikkor zoom lens at 122mm, 1/8 of a second using Vibration Reduction (VR) at f/16 and ISO 51,200, handheld. Note that I needed to stop the lens down (to f/16) to get enough depth-of-field to keep the spirals in focus, which is part of what compelled me to boost the ISO so maniacally.

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