The topic of image noise often surfaces when we talk about shooting at high ISOs with compact cameras. Usually the conversation veers in the direction of trying to prevent the noise and devising workarounds toward that goal. But, is image noise always bad?
When I was a film shooter, one of the reasons why I liked TRI-X B&W film was because of its grain pattern. I would often use this film in situations where I thought the grain would add an artistic element to the composition.
Now, when I'm out and about, I'm carrying a Canon G9 as my pocket camera. In the beginning I was dead set at keeping the ISO at 200 or less. But as I'm experimenting more with this camera, I'm cutting loose with the ISO dial and having fun with the images captured in low light. Take this shot for example. It was twilight and I had just a few seconds at the intersection to roll down my window and grab the shot. (Cars behind you don't like you composing the perfect shot while the light is green.)
Because the light was low, I had to up the ISO to 800 to prevent camera shake. Even at 800, the exposure was made at 1/50th @ f-2.8 while holding the camera in one hand. I knew there would be grain, and I'm OK with it here. When I return home, I'll make a couple big prints to help me better evaluate the image. But my first impression? Image noise isn't always bad.
"Twilight Intersection" Photo by Derrick Story with Canon G9.