Four Cameras Capable of Making Pleasing, Big Prints at Higher ISOs

One of the problems with digital photography for years has been high ISO output. While it’s become much better when you look at the photos on a screen, it’s still not perfect when it comes to printing. With film, you can tell that you’re looking at film grain when you enlarge and print a photo at something like 17×22 paper. But with digital, you’re bound to find digital looking noise; and it’s very apparent in the color noise, etc. But in the past few years, a few cameras have come around that produce fantastic results at higher ISOs. Here are some of our favorites.

Leica M10

The Leica M10 has a 24MP full frame sensor that is very special. It’s designed to be pushed and also designed to have fantastic high ISO output. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised. As I sit here in my office typing this, I’ve got a beautiful 17×22 inch print in my living room made from a photo shot at ISO 6400 using Red River paper and the Canon Prograf 1000. By far, it’s one of the best high ISO digital image prints I’ve ever seen.

In our review we state:

“The dynamic range and high ISO output from this camera are both very good. But where I find it lacking a bit is with color depth. To be fair, Leica’s colors are pretty decent right out of the camera; but I’m so used to Fujifilm and Sony files where the colors can be manipulated pretty heavily. You’re surely not getting that here. The color depth is better than what I’ve been finding available with Micro Four Thirds, but Canon, Nikon, Sony, and Fujifilm are all taking the cake here otherwise.”

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Sony a9

The latest Sony flagship camera is designed to deliver 24MP full frame images at high ISOs with clean results for sports photographers. While it can’t quite go into the nuclear ranges of the Sony a7s series of cameras, the balance of more detail and good high ISO output make it pretty ideal for larger prints.

At the moment of publishing this article, we’re still in the process of reviewing the A9. But great prints came from using the Canon Prograf 1000 and Epson Fine Art paper with Capture One.

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Fujifilm GFX 50S

This 50MP monster medium format camera has some incredibly clean high ISO output. Generally speaking though, I wouldn’t really go above ISO 6400 when it comes to the high ISO output and printing large. We printed using the Epson P800 using their Legacy paper and really fell in love with the photos.

In our review we state:

“The Fujifilm GFX 50s can output some fantastic RAW files; let’s get that out of the way. They are very, very good with great color depth, great dynamic range capabilities, and pretty amazing high ISO output. Indeed, this sensor can be a great workhorse for so many photographers who need it. The professional portrait photographer can be very confident that in almost any situation, they’ll be able to save their digital files. Couple this with all the other great stuff about the camera and you’ve got something that rocks.”

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Pentax K-1

The Pentax K-1 has a 36MP sensor that really amazed me. In our extended tests, we found that the camera delivers incredibly clean high ISO output at up to 6400. But generally, that’s the limit of how high you’d want to make a big print and even then when using both the Prograf 1000 and the Epson P800I wouldn’t go larger than 11×17.

In our review we state:

“At ISO 3200, the camera tends to keep the high ISO noise down quite a bit. At 204,800 the files are unusable except if you convert to black and white and avoid the color noise. ISO 25,600 is more usable but even then you start to see a bit of color noise creep into the image.

ISO 12,800 is totally usable! Pair the camera with a fast aperture lens and I highly doubt you’ll need to ever go above that.”

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Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.