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Author Topic: ISO and not I.S.O.  (Read 145 times)

Tronhard

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ISO and not I.S.O.
« on: June 04, 2021, 05:15:42 pm »

I continuously come across folks who spell the letters associated with sensor sensitivity and thought it was apropos in this forum to set the record straight.  How much it will come up in conversation varies a lot, but as an educator myself, I use it frequently: both in explanations and analysis of others' images.

Many people think that ISO is an acronym for a body called the International Standards Organization, and thus spell it out.  Actually, it is NOT an acronym, there is no such body named International Standards Organization, and it is a word that is supposed to be pronounced as a word.

So, let's find out what the actual derivation is.  Back in the 1940's, as global trade began to flourish again after WWII, national standard bodies such as the German DIN (Deutsches Institut für Normung), and ASA (American Standards Association) - in fact, 165 national standards organizations, formed an umbrella group, for which they had to find a name.  The intent of the group was to create documents that could assure consistency across the globe on measurements, values, and standards for process, products and protocols.  Because each country would likely create a different name for the group based on their language, it was decided to create a name that was short, and easy to pronounce.  The one they chose is based on the classical Greek word for 'same".

 To quote from the website Target Tech Website :

According to ISO, ISO is not an abbreviation. It is a word, derived from the Greek Isos, meaning "equal," which is the root for the prefix iso- that occurs in a host of terms, such as isometric (of equal measure or dimensions) and isonomy (equality of laws, or of people before the law). The name ISO is used around the world to denote the organization, thus avoiding the assortment of abbreviations that would result from the translation of "International Organization for Standardization" into the different national languages of members. Whatever the country, the short form of the organization's name is always ISO.

On film canisters it was common to see references to DIN, and ASA, and some were also given ISO references.  When digital came along, ISO was asked to provide international standards relating to the measurement and sensitivity of sensors and this is alone is seen in such references.  There are two such documents that I can find on a casual search:
ISO 12232:2019
Photography — Digital still cameras — Determination of exposure index:
https://www.iso.org/standard/73758.html
and
ISO 15739:2017
Photography — Electronic still-picture imaging — Noise measurements:
https://www.iso.org/standard/72361.html?browse=tc

What confuses many is that the word is capitalized.  This is because ISO is used frequently in long, technical documents and being able to identify ISO references is assisted by the fact they are capitalized - a feature in the printing industry known as SHRIEKING.  It makes the words stand out, but does lead to the temptation to mis-identify it as an acronym, or based on one.  It is also registered as a trade mark and copyright symbol. Furthermore, by capitalizing the word, it is separated from a colloquial use of the word that might be found in search engines or tools.   ISO are quite explicit and clear on this, as they say in their own web page,
ABOUT US: ISO: ABOUT US which I quote from below:

IT'S ALL IN THE NAME
Because 'International Organization for Standardization' would have different acronyms in different languages (IOS in English, OIN in French for Organisation internationale de normalisation), our founders decided to give it the short form ISO.

ISO is derived from the Greek 'isos', meaning equal. Whatever the country, whatever the language, we are always ISO.


Finally, what ever happened to DIN and ASA?  Well DIN is alive and well and still issuing standards.  ASA had to get renamed as it clashed with the acronym for the Audiology Society of America and became ANSI -the American National Standards Institute.

SO... to summarize:  ISO is a term based on a word and should be pronounced as such.

Doubtless, there will be many who are entrenched in their old use of spelling it out, and I doubt this will change their mind, but the derivation and intent is crystal clear and well documented!



« Last Edit: June 04, 2021, 11:27:30 pm by Tronhard »
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Eric Myrvaagnes

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Re: ISO and not I.S.O.
« Reply #1 on: June 04, 2021, 05:41:53 pm »

When I saw your topic heading, I was all ready to jump in and correct you.

But, having now read your elegantly put case, I must thank you for correcting this aging and set-in-his-ways photographer. When I  switched from ASA to ISO it was so easy to assume (without any evidence) that ISO stood for "International Standards Association," that I and many others have made that error for most of this century.

Again: Thank you for setting me straight. I hope everyone on LuLa will read your post.

-Eric M.
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Tronhard

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Re: ISO and not I.S.O.
« Reply #2 on: June 04, 2021, 05:52:30 pm »

Thank you Eric for you generous and positive response.  When I have tried to bring this up in other websites, I have had contradictions from those who didn't read past the first line to the explanations, decided it was all false news or acknowledged it and said they would never change in any case.

It's amazing how misconceptions gain hold and become the default assumption.  As one who has worked in the fields of both photography and standards for some time, and as an educator it is necessary for me to get these things right.  I would not criticise those who find it hard to change, but certainly they can't say they don't know the background now!  ;D
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"All the beauty of life is made up of light and shadow", Leo Tolstoy
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