A better picture: International Standard gives photography a new exposure

Few minutes to read
By Elizabeth Gasiorowski-Denis
Tagged as Technologies
Published on

The new technology of the digital age has made photography easier, faster and less expensive and cameras on smartphones and other sophisticated devices have turned us all into happy snappers. The International Standard for photography ensures that we are all up to speed on image quality – whatever the weather. 

From photographs posted on the likes of Instagram of breakfast eggs “sunny side up” to chilling out on beaches in Thailand, digital technology has given us the ability to capture a moment in time. Never before has the minutiae of our lives been so well documented!

Young people today are the first generation to grow up in a digitized world and are becoming a creative force in photography. According to a Pew Research Center survey last year, 92 % of millennials own a smartphone – and the baby boomers are catching up.

But whether you want to see the world in black and white or full colour, all photographers expect the cameras on their increasingly sensitive devices to produce high-quality images. ISO 12232:2019Photography – Digital still cameras – Determination of exposure index, ISO speed ratings, standard output sensitivity, and recommended exposure index, helps to ensure just that.

ISO 12232 was developed by industry experts from a large number of international companies in the photographic industry, including Apple, Canon, Google, Nikon, Olympus and Sony.

Ken Parulski, Project Leader for ISO 12232 since the first edition (published in 1998) and Head of the US Technical Advisory Group to ISO technical committee ISO/TC 42, says the International Standard is used for setting the proper camera exposure, either manually or automatically, when taking pictures. The reported values are similar to ISO film speed values, which enable a film camera to properly expose images on photographic films having different light sensitivities. 

ISO 12232 is also used to record the camera exposure as metadata in the image files of almost all current smartphone and digital cameras. It provides a standard method for comparing the photographic sensitivity of different digital cameras and smartphone cameras.

So, as well as helping consumers make better purchasing decisions, the standard enables different products to operate seamlessly with one another and allows manufacturers of digital imaging equipment to introduce technology into products that conform to internationally agreed specifications.

Parulski sums up: “This revised version of ISO 12232 expands the ratings to include higher values, since cameras are becoming increasingly sensitive. Many are now able to capture high-quality photos at very low light levels. ISO 12232:2019 also simplifies and clarifies some of the processes and mathematical functions used to determine the reported values.”

ISO 12232 was developed by ISO technical committee ISO/TC 42, Photography, whose secretariat is held by ANSI, ISO’s member for the USA. It can be purchased from your national ISO member or through the ISO Store.

Elizabeth Gasiorowski-Denis
Elizabeth Gasiorowski-Denis

+41 22 749 03 25
Press contact


Journalist, blogger or editor?

Want to get the inside scoop on standards, or find out more about what we do? Get in touch with our team or check out our media kit.