Let’s take a look at how the Nikon D850 performs at both low ISOs and high ISOs to see what the new BSI CMOS sensor can deliver. Please keep in mind that the below images are 100% crops and simply show the ISO performance of the camera. Detailed camera ISO comparisons, including dynamic range comparisons, can be found on the next page of the review.
ISO Performance at low ISOs (ISO 64-1600)
As expected, the camera performs admirably at such low ISOs. It is impossible to tell the difference between ISO 64, 100 and 200 in terms of noise, since it simply doesn’t exist. But what if ISO is increased to 400 and above?
At ISO 400 we are beginning to see slight hints of noise in the shadows. As ISO is increased to 800, we can definitely see some noise appear throughout the image, but it is still very minor. As expected, ISO 1600 doubles the amount of noise, however, the image still looks remarkably clean and all the details are preserved.
High ISO Performance (ISO 3,200-102,400)
As expected, ISO 3200 certainly shows much more grain. Still, given how small the pixels of the D850 are, it looks very good with no loss of details in the image. Things get much worse at ISO 6400 and now we see quite a big impact of noise throughout the image, especially in the shadows. However, the image is perfectly usable, especially when downsampled to lower resolution or slightly cleaned up in post via noise reduction techniques. ISO 12,800 would probably be the highest ISO I would deem acceptable in situations where there is not enough ambient light and I don’t mind losing shadow detail.
Anything higher than ISO 12800 looks pretty bad and that’s a given. Although one could heavily downsample images at ISO 25600, there is simply too much noise to deal with and there is not only loss of details throughout the image, but also quite a noticeable loss of colors. Shadow detail is heavily compromised. ISO 51200 and 102400 looks downright unacceptable to me.
While the above images might be useful to see how much noise one can expect from the Nikon D850, they are not very meaningful until they are compared to other cameras. Let’s now see how the D850 compares to its predecessor and a few other cameras.
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