ISO Performance at low ISOs (ISO 100-800)
Here is the full image, showing which area of the image I cropped below:
Let’s take a look at how the Nikon D800 performs at low ISOs. Here are some crops at ISO 100, 200, 400 and 800:
The images look very nice with no noticeable noise between ISO 100 and ISO 800 when down-sampled. The only exception is the 4th DVD from the top in blue that seems to lose the striped color marks on it.
High ISO Performance (ISO 1600-6400)
High ISO performance is a very important measure of DSLR sensor quality for low-light photography. Here is how the Nikon D800 performs at high ISO levels between ISO 1600 and 6400:
Every step up in ISO adds a slight amount of grain. Shadow areas start to get impacted at ISO 3200 and quite a bit of noise is added at ISO 6400. Getting rid of noise at very high ISO levels would require a more selective noise reduction algorithm, so software like Noise Ninja or Nik Software Dfine would have to be used for best results. See my “Photo Noise Reduction Tutorial” for examples of selective noise reduction.
High ISO Performance “Boost” (ISO 12800-25600)
Nikon D800 has two extra ISO “boost” levels – ISO 12800 and ISO 25600 for extreme situations. Take a look at these:
ISO 12,800 adds quite a bit of noise compared to ISO 6,400, but thanks to down-sampling, the detail level is still pretty high. Even at noisy ISO 25,600 there is still plenty of details to work with, although the shadows look pretty bad to me with large grains and artifacts all over the image.
ISO Performance Summary
The Nikon D800 yields very impressive results at all ISO levels, even at boosted ISO 12,800 and 25,600. Given how little noise there is, I would not hesitate to use it at ISO 3,200 and could even push it as high as ISO 6,400. Now bear in mind that these are down-sampled images at 12 MP – I had to normalize the output in order to compare the camera to the D700 and D3s.
It is hard to judge the performance of the Nikon D800 without direct comparison against other professional cameras, which is why you should definitely check out the below comparisons as well.
Table of Contents