Film speed is the measure of a photographic films sensitivity to light, determined by sensitometry and measured on various numerical scales, the most recent being the ISO system. A closely related ISO system is used to measure the sensitivity of digital imaging systems, highly sensitive films are correspondingly termed fast films. In both digital and film photography, the reduction of exposure corresponding to use of higher sensitivities generally leads to reduced image quality, in short, the higher the sensitivity, the grainier the image will be. Ultimately sensitivity is limited by the efficiency of the film or sensor. The speed of the emulsion was then expressed in degrees Warnerke corresponding with the last number visible on the plate after development. Each number represented an increase of 1/3 in speed, typical speeds were between 10° and 25° Warnerke at the time. The concept, however, was built upon in 1900 by Henry Chapman Jones in the development of his plate tester. In their system, speed numbers were inversely proportional to the exposure required, for example, an emulsion rated at 250 H&D would require ten times the exposure of an emulsion rated at 2500 H&D. The methods to determine the sensitivity were later modified in 1925, the H&D system was officially accepted as a standard in the former Soviet Union from 1928 until September 1951, when it was superseded by GOST 2817-50. The Scheinergrade system was devised by the German astronomer Julius Scheiner in 1894 originally as a method of comparing the speeds of plates used for astronomical photography, Scheiners system rated the speed of a plate by the least exposure to produce a visible darkening upon development. ≈2 The system was extended to cover larger ranges and some of its practical shortcomings were addressed by the Austrian scientist Josef Maria Eder. Scheiners system was abandoned in Germany, when the standardized DIN system was introduced in 1934. In various forms, it continued to be in use in other countries for some time. The DIN system, officially DIN standard 4512 by Deutsches Institut für Normung, was published in January 1934, International Congress of Photography held in Dresden from August 3 to 8,1931. The DIN system was inspired by Scheiners system, but the sensitivities were represented as the base 10 logarithm of the sensitivity multiplied by 10, similar to decibels. Thus an increase of 20° represented an increase in sensitivity. ≈3 /10 As in the Scheiner system, speeds were expressed in degrees, originally the sensitivity was written as a fraction with tenths, where the resultant value 1.8 represented the relative base 10 logarithm of the speed. Tenths were later abandoned with DIN4512, 1957-11, and the example above would be written as 18° DIN, the degree symbol was finally dropped with DIN4512, 1961-10
This film container denotes its speed as ISO 100/21°, including both arithmetic (100 ASA) and logarithmic (21 DIN) components. The second is often dropped, making (e.g.) "ISO 100" effectively equivalent to the older ASA speed. (As is common, the "100" in the film name alludes to its ISO rating).
Classic camera Tessina with exposure guide, late 1950s