What is the Equivalent of Film Speed in Digital Cameras?

Hey, this is Mehmood from Camlense, and today I am going to be talking about one of the most aspects when it comes to both digital and film photography and that is ISO or film speed.

So, before starting, let me tell you that will be discussing film speed alternative in digital cameras and its affects on photos. So, stay with us till the end.

What is the Equivalent of Film Speed in Digital Cameras?

In Digital Cameras, the Equivalent of Film Speed is ISO which indicates the sensitivity of the sensor to light. The ISO values come in numbers like 100, 200, 400 and go up to 3200 and with increasing the number, pictures will get brighter.

Importance of ISO of Film Speed

ISO is one of the most important factors when it comes to determining proper exposure for your photograph. The ISO, shutter speed, and aperture are the three main components to be mastered if you want to be a professional photographer.

ISO is the equivalent of film speed in digital cameras which control the sensitivity of the sensor to CCD and CMOS light. The ISO numbers, 100, 200, 400 indicate the sensitivity. Increasing ISO will result in brighter pictures if shutter speed and aperture are kept the same.

Related Post

We have discussed in detail, shutter speed, aperture, and ISO. If you want to master the core of the photography trio, be sure to VISIT that page.

What is Film Speed or ISO?

As we discussed earlier, ISO is another name for Film Speed, but we just refer to ISO more in today’s world with digital cameras. ISO and film speed are equivalent to each other, but we use film speed for older cameras and ISO for digital ones.

Normally, when you buy a film, you look for a certain number on it like 50, 100, 200, etc. These numbers actually mean something. It represents the sensitivity of light to the grain that is on the film.

If you have a lower-end number, you are going to get less sensitive to light but also less visible grain but if you go to 3200, you are going to have very visible grain but extremely sensitive to light. There are different situations for which you use those different film speeds.

On a sunny day, you will shoot at normal 50. Similarly, you can use 3200 at night but with that type of effect in that sensitive film grain, you get really grainy looking shots, and it gives a little bit more of a grunge kind of look. If that’s the look that you would like to go for, cool.

Difference Between Digital Noise and Film Grain

Digital Noise defers from film grain because in digital noise you get all of the different colors and it kind of looks bad as it starts to muddy up all the dark parts of the image. Typically, if you are trying to shoot at a really high ISO, in a dark scene, you are going to see a lot of different speckles and seems distracting.

Film Grain, on the other hand, I don’t mind. I think it looks cool. It is kind of a sketchy overlay on the photos.

Advantages of ISO Over Film Speed

Now, will look at some of the advantages of today’s day ISO over yesterday’s film speed.

Normally with film, especially if a camera is having a standard 35mm film, you have to pick only one film speed and use that for the entire roll. So, it means that you will have to you the same ISO for all 36 exposures. But with today’s digital camera, you can change your ISO on the fly depending on the type of situation you are in.

If you are out on a sunny day, don’t use anything higher than a 200. For a 100 ISO, the image should be perfectly sharp, and you won’t have to worry about noise. Likewise, if you are in a dark situation, you can crank the ISO with just one click but if we keep going higher, it’s going to look very bad.

How Digital Noise or Increasing Affects photos?

As a demonstration of how digital noise affects our photos with different ISO settings, I will show you a couple of photos taken by the Canon 81 from the Canon 60D, just so you can see.


So, if we start off with the first image, we have very low noise. The image is very clean as there’s no visible grain whatsoever and as we go up from 100 to 200, you can see that grain starts to appear and exposure should be adjusted because, if shutter speed and aperture is kept the same, the photo might be brighter.

In image 2, ISO is kept at 400. You can see the brightness when comparing it to the 1st. So, as you keep increasing the ISO, brightness will increase.

Now, look at 3 in which we jump to ISO 1600. You can see in the dark shadow that there is a lot of digital noise, and it doesn’t look good for the picture overall.

Expert Advice About Choosing Film

If you’re shooting a film, always be sure of whatever situation you are going into when you are picking speed. If you are not sure where you’re going, just pick up the 400 because it is great. It is good for the sensitivity of daylight and also, if you are in a dark situation, it gives enough grain but not too much grain that the photo gets distraction.

All in all, if you get the proper principles of film speed and ISO, you can make some really cool pictures and give them a really cool feel depending on what look you are for.

Final Verdict

Now, I think it’s time to conclude our post. Summarizing what we discussed, the equivalent of film speed in digital cameras is ISO which indicates the sensitivity of the camera to light. Professional photographers use ISO to manipulate aperture and shutter speed and make some really cool pictures by using this trio.

Now, I want to thank you guys for staying this long and reading the whole post. If you still have any questions, be sure to leave them in the comments below and our team will try our best to answer. Good day!

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