One thing I love about my Canon 7D is its ability to shoot in low-light situations. I upgraded from a Nikon D200 which at its highest ISO could only go to 1600, but with my 7D I can go all the way up to ISO 12,800 (only if I want to … I rarely push it that far). With my D200 I felt very handicapped when I was trying to shoot and the sun would go down. I remember one time just this past summer when I was out with some friends at a rodeo and it came to a point where I actually had to stop shooting because it was just too dark (even w/ my 70-200 f/2.8) … meanwhile they were still shooting away using a D700 and 5dMkii. That was kinda depressing.
Now, I’m not saying that you have to have a top-of-the line camera to get great photos. I made thousands of dollars (literally) with my D200 but got to a point where I really needed an upgrade. Before I purchased the 7D my mentor Scott Bourne told me that most people aren’t being held back with their equipment but the equipment I had was holding me back. That’s when I knew it was time to upgrade. (Thanks, Scott!) :)
I photographed this image on Sunday at a church concert event; the performer is Andrew Webb and he’s made his way through Utah a few times in the past year. The lighting was really low in the room so I had to push my ISO to its max of 6400 (not including the High level). I used a 70-200 f/4L IS lens to compress and add a nice blur to the background. It’s edited in Adobe Lightroom 2 and Nik Silver Efex Pro … the grain is pretty true to what it was in-camera but I honestly thing it’s beautiful. Yes … sometimes noise is a good thing!
So, in a nutshell don’t be afraid to push your ISO up to a level beyond what you’re comfortable with. I used to brainwash myself into thinking that I should shoot everything at ISO 100 since I do my best to keep my images very neat and clean to license them on iStock. But now when I’m doing my own personal work I tend to not care as much—I’d much rather get the shot with a little (or a lot) of noise than miss it altogether.