Exposure Latitude

In this test we look to see how tolerant of pushing exposure the D7200's Raw files are. D7100 owners, in particular, might be particularly curious to know if the D7200 overcomes the banding issues pushed shadows from the D7100 revealed (it does).

We test exposure latitude by exposing our scene with increasingly lower exposures, then pushing them back to the correct brightness using Adobe Camera Raw. Examining what happens in the shadows allows you to assess the exposure latitude (essentially the dynamic range) of the Raw files. Here we compare images given the same f-number and shutter speed, to make the results comparable.

Compare these images to any of its APS-C peers and it should be apparent that the D7200 does extremely well in this test. To be blunt, it's class-leading in this regard. The D7200 demonstrates possibly a slight improvement over the already well-performing Nikon D5500 after a 5EV push. It's a touch ahead of the Samsung NX1 after a 6EV push, though the purple tinge (possibly a result of Adobe Camera Raw profiling), makes this a little hard to judge.

Importantly, the sensor in the D7200 is free of the banding issues that plagued the D7100 which, despite having a higher measured dynamic range than some of its peers, was limited in its shadow pushing ability by pattern noise.

Real-world Raw Dynamic Range

This Raw dynamic range mean it's perfectly possible to pull shadow detail into your images without paying too high a noise cost. For instance, in this wide dynamic range scene, it has been possible to lift the darker regions of the image to something more closely approximating what the scene actually looked like. This shot wasn't perfect exposed-to-the-right, so the shadow regions aren't quite as clean as they could be, but the noise is far from objectionable.

Raw file processed in Adobe Camera Raw
Exposure +1.30, Highlights -84, Shadows 100, tone curve adjustment to add some mid-tone contrast
Out-of-camera JPEG
ISO 100, F6.3, 1/1000th sec

ISO Invariance

It's not just high dynamic range scenes that benefit from a camera with the high (base ISO) dynamic range that comes from having a low noise floor: it can also reduce the need to amplify the sensor's signal to keep it above that noise floor at higher ISOs.

Here we've used the same aperture and shutter speed at different ISO settings to see how much difference there is between shooting at a particular ISO setting (and using hardware amplification) or digitally correcting the brightness, later.

The ISO 100 shot pushed by 5EV is essentially indistinguishable from the native ISO 3200 shot, even down to the darkest tones in the image. This is very impressive performance: the D7200 is probably the closest to being a truly ISO Invariant camera that we've seen. This means that you could reduce ISO (and the hardware amplification that goes with it) by 5EV in order to retain 5EV of highlight detail, then adjust the brightness afterwards with no additional noise cost.

Because the D7200 gets rid of the banding issues seen in the D7100, it easily outperforms it with respect to ISO invariance (results between the cameras do even out by ISO 400, though). Compare with the Nikon D5500 and the D7200 is doing better here as well. The D5500 seems to show a hint of extra noise after a 4EV push and it's looking even more obvious after a 5EV push. The D7200's performance is very similar to the Samsung NX1, showing almost no difference between natively shooting at ISO 3200 and shooting ISO 100 and brightening.

This also tells us a lot about the sensor. Using the same exposure means that all the images were created from the same amount of total light (so have the same shot noise). This means that any differences in noise must be the result of read noise added by the camera. Or, in this case, an apparent lack of it. This option to use less hardware amplification and hence retain up to 5EV of highlight information isn't universal, though. Some of the Nikon's peers add too much electronic noise to let you shoot this way.