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Is Better Lens/Camera Worth it? Aperture, ISO and Shutter Speed Compared
Scene used for comparison. Lighted with two sources, one warm and one cold. Full scene metering, No White Balance. Results compared with histogram, camera Nikon D300.

Source Image

How to read the table:

Shutter speed tells you how usefull your lens and camera is when shooting moving objects. Remember you need at least 1/640 to shoot slow running people, 1/160 to shoot walking people and 1/60 or better to shoot candid photos of people (usual moves) to make photos sharp. This is something where no VR will help you and where good lens pays for it self.

Aperture wider aperture (lower F) less sharp image is lower is also field of focus. Ability to shoot at higher F numbers gives You ability to shoot sharp images where most of the image is in focus. Lower F numbers allows you to hide background and remove disturbing surroundings for portrait photography. Since every lens have at least F11, quality of lens is given by widest aperture. High quality lenses places less stops on your creativity.

ISO sensitivity tells you how sensitive the sensor is to incomming light. Lower ISO number, means lower sensitivity but also less noise. Sweet spot is different for each camera and you need to read reviews or simply try it which is ISO is still acceptable on your camera. Better cameras gives you ability to shoot at higher speeds with same aperture thanks to higher usefull ISO sensitivity.

Finding lens for given scene Table also shows you what lens or sensitivity you need to use for given scene. Example: you need to shoot on street in cloudy evening, amount of light is similar as on our scene. People usually slowly walking so you need at least 1/160 shutter speed to capture them sharp. With kit lens and aperture of 3.5, you will need ISO 1600 and if zoomed to the long end 55mm and aperture 5.6, at least ISO 3200 will be needed. That is already a lot for many DSLR cameras. On bright side, with prime lens 50mm and aperture 1.8 you will have nice and sharp images around ISO 400.
Of course precise table is valid only for this particular scene, but the calculations are valid overall and also mostly comparable with different cameras, lenses and so on. Easy to remember is, that half ISO value doubles the time needed to shoot. Each F stop lower (for example 4.5 to 3.5) gives you ability to shoot about twice so fast or use half ISO sensitivity.
Aperture (F)ISO SensitivityShutter Speed
F1.82001/100
F1.84001/200
F1.88001/400
F1.816001/800
F1.832001/1600
F1.864001/3200
F2.82001/40
F2.84001/80
F2.88001/160
F2.816001/320
F2.832001/640
F2.864001/1250
F3.52001/30
F3.54001/50
F3.58001/100
F3.516001/200
F3.532001/400
F3.564001/800
F4.52001/15
F4.54001/30
F4.58001/60
F4.516001/125
F4.532001/250
F4.564001/500
F5.62001/13
F5.64001/20
F5.68001/40
F5.616001/80
F5.632001/160
F5.664001/320
F6.32001/10
F6.34001/15
F6.38001/30
F6.316001/60
F6.332001/125
F6.364001/250
F82001/6
F84001/10
F88001/20
F816001/40
F832001/80
F864001/160
F112001/3
F114001/5
F118001/10
F1116001/20
F1132001/40
F1164001/80
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Posted on 22 Feb 2008 by fkh
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€¢ Is Better Lens/Camera Worth it? Aperture, ISO and Shutter Speed Compared
Scene used for comparison. Lighted with two sources, one warm and one cold. Full scene metering, No White Balance. Results compared with histogram, camera Nikon D300.

Source Image

How to read the table:

Shutter speed tells you how usefull your lens and camera is when shooting moving objects. Remember you need at least 1/640 to shoot slow running people, 1/160 to shoot walking people and 1/60 or better to shoot candid photos of people (usual moves) to make photos sharp. This is something where no VR will help you and where good lens pays for it self.

Aperture wider aperture (lower F) less sharp image is lower is also field of focus. Ability to shoot at higher F numbers gives You ability to shoot sharp images where most of the image is in focus. Lower F numbers allows you to hide background and remove disturbing surroundings for portrait photography. Since every lens have at least F11, quality of lens is given by widest aperture. High quality lenses places less stops on your creativity.

ISO sensitivity tells you how sensitive the sensor is to incomming light. Lower ISO number, means lower sensitivity but also less noise. Sweet spot is different for each camera and you need to read reviews or simply try it which is ISO is still acceptable on your camera. Better cameras gives you ability to shoot at higher speeds with same aperture thanks to higher usefull ISO sensitivity.

Finding lens for given scene Table also shows you what lens or sensitivity you need to use for given scene. Example: you need to shoot on street in cloudy evening, amount of light is similar as on our scene. People usually slowly walking so you need at least 1/160 shutter speed to capture them sharp. With kit lens and aperture of 3.5, you will need ISO 1600 and if zoomed to the long end 55mm and aperture 5.6, at least ISO 3200 will be needed. That is already a lot for many DSLR cameras. On bright side, with prime lens 50mm and aperture 1.8 you will have nice and sharp images around ISO 400.
Of course precise table is valid only for this particular scene, but the calculations are valid overall and also mostly comparable with different cameras, lenses and so on. Easy to remember is, that half ISO value doubles the time needed to shoot. Each F stop lower (for example 4.5 to 3.5) gives you ability to shoot about twice so fast or use half ISO sensitivity.
Aperture (F)ISO SensitivityShutter Speed
F1.82001/100
F1.84001/200
F1.88001/400
F1.816001/800
F1.832001/1600
F1.864001/3200
F2.82001/40
F2.84001/80
F2.88001/160
F2.816001/320
F2.832001/640
F2.864001/1250
F3.52001/30
F3.54001/50
F3.58001/100
F3.516001/200
F3.532001/400
F3.564001/800
F4.52001/15
F4.54001/30
F4.58001/60
F4.516001/125
F4.532001/250
F4.564001/500
F5.62001/13
F5.64001/20
F5.68001/40
F5.616001/80
F5.632001/160
F5.664001/320
F6.32001/10
F6.34001/15
F6.38001/30
F6.316001/60
F6.332001/125
F6.364001/250
F82001/6
F84001/10
F88001/20
F816001/40
F832001/80
F864001/160
F112001/3
F114001/5
F118001/10
F1116001/20
F1132001/40
F1164001/80
Posted on 22 Feb 2008



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