Crazy Car Crash

I was biking home when I saw the aftermath of a car accident which had left a small car standing perfectly on its side. I happened to have my brand new Canon 50D digital SLR in my bag and decided to grab a quick night shot to test out exactly how vastly improved the low-light high-ISO performance is compared with my antiquated 300D. The visual quality is not fantastic, with a fair amount of noise and much loss of fine detail due to noise reduction, but keep in mind that these photos were taken at ISO 12,800. Even at such an extreme ISO, the noise levels are approximately the same as what my old camera got at ISO 1600, and with far, far higher resolution, more accurate auto-focus, faster performance, etc.

So, I thought I would just get an amusing photo of the car on its side (note: the occupants didn’t look to be badly hurt, so it’s ok to laugh) but then it got a lot more amusing when the police pushed the car over back onto its wheels, and one got in and drove it away.

[Update: Link to Flickr page so you can find full resolution images.]

[Update 2: Here is an example of a super high ISO file with no noise reduction. Not very usable.]

19 thoughts on “Crazy Car Crash”

  1. ISO _12,800_?? That is nuts. Would you mind linking to a full-size pic so we can see the grain? Looks like you used the zoom a bit too. Pretty decent quality. Clean up the grain and noise in Photoshop or the Gimp and it would look even more impressive. I’m almost tempted to buy a decent still camera (I’m generally more concerned about portability than performance).

  2. I added a link to the Flickr page so you can see full res images. I should also have mentioned that I was using the EFS 17-85 IS lens. I use DXO for RAW file conversion, and it does an excellent job of noise removal, but I think it’s taken out about as much as you can and still have a usable photo. The un-processed images have a LOT of noise. I’ll post an example without noise reduction in a few minutes.

    ISO 12,800 is pretty ridiculous and pretty awesome, but it comes with serious compromises. 6400 is of course somewhat better albeit still very noisy, and 3200 is surprisingly respectable. Combining ISO 6400 or 12800 with my 1.8F lens I can get amazingly clear shot in amazingly little light.

  3. Wow, there was a lot of noise on the original. Reminds me of why I stopped using high ISO film and started using tripods (back in the day when it WAS film). Anyway, you did a pretty good job of filtering it out. Shit, just read a reiew of the 5D, which goes up to 25,600….

  4. That’s the 5D-Mark 2 actually. The original 5D is significantly less sensitive than my new 50D, and the new 5D is significantly more sensitive. It doesn’t just go up one stop higher, but also has less noise at each stop, due to having a much larger sensor. Of course, that big sensor is the reason it costs ~2.5 times as much.

  5. BTW, I didn’t do anything in particular to filter it out. It’s just the “high ISO” preset in DXO, which is an excellent piece of software.

  6. Though the best thing about high ISO and digital cameras is that you can change whenever you like. I used to have to find excuses to take lots of night shots when I used high ISO film – another reason to stop.

  7. If I’m not mistaken, the highest ISO color film ever produced for 35mm cameras was around 1000, which isn’t remotely impressive compared to the sensitivity of a modern consumer level digital SLR sensor.

  8. I have used 1600 35mm film stock, e.g. shooting Kobe at night from Venus Bridge. But it was certainly way lower than 12,800, and even then grain was an issue. Although with digital, are we getting a genuine equivalent or is it being digitally enhanced? These extremes make me think of the “100x zoom!” that cheap camcorders offer to entice people in and them diddle them with digital rather than optical zooms. However I am not even sure of how the scale of ISO goes up – linear, logarithmic, or what?

  9. The ISO film speed number is a linear scale, with the traditional speeds each being a doubling of the sensitivity of the previous one. I don’t think there is any technical reason why an electronic image sensor couldn’t be tuned to any arbitrary degree, but more precise ISO settings are only moderately useful so digital cameras only provide options for full stops, half stops, and sometimes 1/3 stops (I think).

    Even in a digital camera, the actual sensor is still an analog device in which individual circuits are excited by photons, and the output of which is then converted to digital and processed into an image file. Higher ISO is basically amplifying the analog signal to increase sensitivity in low light conditions. This raises apparent brightness, but of course as more amplification is needed the signal/noise ratio worsens. So in short, high ISO is “real” in the sense that it is ratcheting up the gain/sensitivity of the analog input, and not merely digital processing.

    Was that 1600 film color? I’ve only seen B&W that high.

  10. That ISO was definitely colour.

    “Higher ISO is basically amplifying the analog signal to increase sensitivity in low light conditions. This raises apparent brightness, but of course as more amplification is needed the signal/noise ratio worsens.”

    So it’s really a bit of a mix.

    If each is a doubling then is that really linear?
    2-3-8-16-32-64-128-264-512-1024 etc….
    Anyway, not a problem that can’t be solved with Wikipedia. Ouch. Except it’s full of maths.

  11. I was just taking some indoor pictures without flash, and getting quite frustrated that I can’t go over ISO 400 without losing massive resolution. (I can get OK snaps at 800, but I wanted something better).

    But this is a Lumix TZ4, not a new SLR. At least I’ve got the 28-280 zoom….

  12. Was anyone hurt in the accident? Also, drove it away just like that? How long after the crash? I hope they collected enough evidence for the drivers’ insurance.

    Richard CC:

    It is the Daihatsu “Miragino”

    The tiny Japanese cars (known as K-cars in English, some non-Japanese makers produce them as well) are cute and cheap (not a lot of cars in Japan that can be had for under 1 million yen), plus they are well-suited to the narrow Japanese roads, but they can be quite dangerous in a crash, and are therefore banned for sale in the US and I assume some other jurisdictions.

    A 2007 NYT story has more on this:
    “The Wagon R [a Suzuki model] weighs about 1,800 pounds and does not have the safety gear it would need to pass American crash tests, the main reason Kei cars are not exported to the United States. Adding safety equipment would add weight, meaning the chassis would have to be strengthened and the engine size increased to pull the heavier car. That, of course, would reduce the great gas mileage the cars get in Japan. ”

    Wikipedia has an interesting history of how they developed:
    “They are designed to exploit local tax and insurance relaxations, and in more rural areas are exempted from the requirement to certify that adequate parking is available for the vehicle.[1][2] These standards originated in the times following the end of the Second World War, when most Japanese could not afford a full-sized car yet had enough to buy a motorcycle. To promote the growth of the car industry, as well as to offer an alternative delivery method to small business and shop owners, kei car standards were created.”

  13. There was an ambulance, but I’m pretty sure the person they took away in it was at least able to stand up without too much help so it couldn’t have been too bad. I didn’t see any other car that looked like it was involved in the accident, so I have no idea how the car actually ended up on its side like that. The cop actually drove it to the side of the rode to get it out of the way, and I didn’t stick around to see how long it stayed there before they really drove it away, or got it towed, or whatever. They also left a huge pile of shatters window glass, but let traffic resume, and people kept driving over little pieces of bumper and making popping noises.

  14. The US is usually a little over the top when it comes to safety equipment, or rather a bit of an outlier in some of its demands – they famously demanded that Lamborghini stick a 5mph bumper on the Countach, for example. I believe that the ‘big bumper’ 911s (1980s, basically) were also changed to fit the US legislation on bumpers.

    It is important to note that K-car restrictions were revised recently, allowing a bit more leeway, since the older ones are deathtraps even in Japan. Modern kei-cars are much safer, and roomier inside. Incidentally, the Smart comes in two versions in Japan – a normal car and a Kei-car. The engine is the same. It’s just that the first version was a hair too wide to be allowed to be a kei (never mind that it more than made up for that by being so short) so they developed a model with thinner tyres, and that passed as a kei. Insane. The engine size has been allowed to creep up over the decades since the kei was first introduced: the first ones were about 300 or 400 cc (think ‘tentomushi’, the Subaru 360), then it was 550, and now 660.

    I’m not remotely surprised he was able to drive the car. It would not be in good condition and I wouldn’t take it too far myself, but contrary to Hollywood, cars don’t self-destruct when they roll.

  15. I like the quirky British spellings, just on an aesthetic level. The Royal post of “Master of the Queen’s Musick” was only changed to “Music” in 1975….

  16. Thanks. He didn’t actually drive it away, just a little bit down the block where he could park it safely so traffic could resume. This is a pretty major intersection after all (Imadegawa/Karasuma).

Comments are closed.