ISO Performance at low ISOs (ISO 100-800)
Let’s take a look at how the Nikon D4 performs at low ISOs. Here are some crops at ISO 100, 200, 400 and 800:
As expected, the Nikon D4 produces very clean images at low ISOs – there is no visible difference in noise between ISO 100 and 800.
High ISO Performance (ISO 1600-204800)
ISO 1600 introduces a hint of noise, but the image is still very clean. At ISO 3200, we see much more noise being added in the image, especially in the shadows. Both are perfectly usable, since there is no loss of color or details.
As we push to ISO 6400, things start to look much noisier. Shadow areas lose some details and the amount of noise easily doubles. ISO 12800 is where things start to get somewhat noisy though – the camera now adds some artifacts in the shadow areas.
Past the native ISO range, where the image is “boosted”, we get a heavy loss of shadow details and lots of artifacts appear all over the image. Chroma noise is visible throughout the image. ISO 51200 makes things look pretty bad and now the shadow areas look like utter mess with all the noise and artifacts. There is a heavy loss of color and details.
The last two boosted ISO values of 102400 and 204800 are only there as a marketing hype more than anything else. As you can see, both are completely unusable.
ISO Performance Summary
As expected from a high-quality 16 MP sensor, the pixel-level noise performance of the D4 is amazing. There is practically no visible noise between ISO 100 and 1600 and images are perfectly usable all the way to ISO 12800, especially once noise reduction is applied. Above ISO 12800 is where things look pretty bad, with a heavy loss of colors, details and dynamic range. The “boosted” ISO numbers are only somewhat usable below ISO 51200, if down-sampled and cleaned up. Anything higher than that is plain unusable. Personally, I would not hesitate to shoot from ISO 100 to 12800, but anything above that is outside of my comfort zone. When shooting with the D4, I usually have it set to either ISO 6400 or 12800 as “Maximum ISO sensitivity” under Auto ISO.
It is hard to judge the performance of the Nikon D4 without direct comparison against other cameras, which is why you should definitely check out the articles below.
Nikon D4 vs D3s vs D3 Comparison
Since I have already written an article that showed ISO performance between the Nikon D4, D3s and D3, I would recommend to see that article instead. In short, the Nikon D4 performs similarly to the D3s at most ISO levels, including very high ISO – the main difference between the two sensors is resolution.
Nikon D4 vs D600, D800E, Df and D4s
If you would like to see how the D4 compares to other cameras like D600, D800E, Df and the newer D4s, I have also previously provided a detailed article that shows noise performance differences between all these cameras.
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