Highest recommended ISO using the D800

Started Jun 10, 2013 | Discussions thread
Jack Hogan
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Highest recommended ISO using the D800 = 1600
In reply to mmmmmmmm, Jun 13, 2013

mmmmmmmm wrote:

Last weekend I shot a wedding with the D800 and 70-200VRII lens. I notice a lot of noise in the files using ISO3200. I was shooting at f2.8. Any suggestions?

Hello David,

Unless you need your images to look 'properly' bright SOOC, there is no point raising ISO beyond 1600, in fact by doing so you are giving up highlight headroom in exchange for virtually no improvement in IQ.

This is the raw histogram of the green channel of an 'e' at various ISOs (the D800 is similar).  Note how at ISO 800 every raw value is present, while at 1600 a few values are missing, at 3200 every other value is missing, and at 6400 every three out of four values are missing?

D800e Green Channel Raw Histogram at Various ISOs

It's because the camera stops amplifying analogically the signal out of the sensor just before ISO1600, and simply multiplies digitally the integer output of the ADC by a factor thereafter.  For instance, ISO 3200 is effectively ISO1600ish times two.  ISO6400 is ISO1600ish times four.  You get exactly the same result by doing the digital multiplication later in your raw converter (+EC) with the advantage of keeping the additional highlight headroom in the Raw file which otherwise gets clipped stop for stop as you raise ISO.

So unless you don't PP at all and/or need the image to look 'properly bright' SOOC, you are best off limiting ISO to 1600.  In fact you are not giving up much limiting it to ISO 400-500.

Jack

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