D800 + 16-35 f4 VR high ISO noise banding issue and a reasonable solution

Started Jan 27, 2014 | Discussions thread
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Nick 2004 Regular Member • Posts: 478
D800 + 16-35 f4 VR high ISO noise banding issue and a reasonable solution
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I am posting this in the hope it gives some 'post production' relief to those that have previously reported this issue. From searching there are a number of threads on the issue:

http://www.dpreview.com/forums/thread/3249668
http://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/42441013
http://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/50047743 etc

I shoot a lot of night stuff and this problem has been bothering me for some time now.

I seem to have the issue come to the fore during any sort of contrast/clarity/saturation/shadows tweaking in LR from the RAW file. Before tweaking it can be seen but only if you're looking very closely.

I'm talking ISO's over 1600 (although I normally do not shoot night stuff beyond 3200).

I decided to do some 'dark frame' tests at my oft-used settings of ISO 3200 f4 30 secs. There were a number of factors taken into account and changing these factors did not change the problem. ALL tests were done with the lens cap on, viewfinder curtain closed and focus set manually at infinity. The variable factors included: dark closet/not dark closet, VR on/off, MA/A switch on/off, various combinations of the VR and MA/A buttons on and off together, wrapping entire camera in black jacket/not wrapping.

I also tried the in camera noise reduction (long exposure auto dark frame subtraction) on and off. I normally have this on during shooting (I don't do star stacks etc). On the note of this particular setting the problem was slightly reduced with it set to on.

All combinations of variables, excepting the slight reduction with long exposure NR on/off, produced the same result.

Here is a dark frame, Long exp NR off, at 30sec ISO 3200 f4 with the exposure increased +3.69 stops in Lightroom to show you the noise pattern. This pattern is consistent in each test. (White balance set to temp 3700, tint -1 which is about the WB I often use for night shooting)

ISO 3200 f4 30 secs, Nikon 16-35 f4 VR lens - exposure increased 3.69 stops in LR

This problem did not manifest itself with any of the other three lenses I tested. Here is the exact same settings (in camera and in LR) result taken with my Nikon 24-70 2.8:

ISO 3200 f4 30 secs, Nikon 24-70 f2.8 lens - exposure increased 3.69 stops in LR

Now I don't know what is causing this problem. It is definitely the lens (as demonstrated), and it is definitely not an external light leak (as I stated above I tried it in all sorts of lit/completely black situations).

I have found a solution that nearly eliminates the problem. I followed the instructions here http://photo.net/learn/dark_noise/ and found it to work very well. It is annoying to have to do it but at least I know my photos can be rescued. The very well written article by Jeff Medkeff is now 10 years old but it seems to be even more relevant today considering the trend to shoot at higher ISOs (I know I wouldn't have bothered on my old D70 10 years ago).
I hope this helps people like me that have been having this issue.

Nikon AF-S Nikkor 16-35mm F4G ED VR Nikon D70 Nikon D800
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