Nikon D800 High ISO Sample Images

The Nikon D800 and sister model the D800E were announced to much fanfare.  It looks like a winner but like all gadgets it is not perfect.  One of the first thing people ask is if it’s as good as the D700 when shooting at high ISO.  The rule of thumb is that as pixel density increases, and thus physical pixel size decreases, the noise in an image will increase.  There is more to this, but as a general rule that holds true.  The 12mp sensors in the D700, D3, and D3s have shown that shooting in available light at high ISO values is possible and can produce stunning results.

Here are the pixel sizes for several of Nikon’s cameras:

D700: 8.45µm

D3s: 8.45µm

D3x: 5.94µm

D7000: 4.78 µm

D4: 7.3µm

D800: 4.88µm

As you can see, the D800 pixels are significantly smaller than a D3s and D4 and about the same size as the D7000.  However, the physical sensor size is the same among all the FX cameras so the number of photons hitting the sensor is also the same.  Noise performance when viewing images at 100% will be better on a D700 than a D800, however to make the test fair you need to downsample (resize) the image to the same resolution.  When you do that, quality improves and noise is reduced.  To be objective, you need to shoot the D700 and D800 side by side, in the same light at the same time.  However, the image samples below do show that the D800 will be a capable performer, likely as good or better than the D700.

The images below are form ferra.ru.  Their site was painfully slow when viewing the images and I wanted to post some samples that were processed a bit to show the difference.  First, the images as they came from the camera.  All jpeg, no post production (according to the source), shot with the 50mm f/1.8G lens.  They have been resized to 1920×1281 to view online (click to view at that size).

Nikon D800, ISO 800, 50mm f1.8G

Nikon D800, ISO 800, 50mm f1.8G

Nikon D800, ISO 3200, 50mm f1.8G

Nikon D800, ISO 3200, 50mm f1.8G

Nikon D800, ISO 6400, 50mm f1.8G

Nikon D800, ISO 6400, 50mm f1.8G

Nikon D800, ISO 25600, 50mm f1.8G

Nikon D800, ISO 25600, 50mm f1.8G

 

At the small sizes viewed on the web, all of these images can be considered acceptable.  The samples up to ISO 6400 are all quite good and even the ISO 25,600 is usable.  At 100% resolution though problems are visible.

Nikon D800, ISO 800, 50mm f1.8G, CROP

Nikon D800, ISO 800, 50mm f1.8G, CROP

Nikon D800, ISO 25600, 50mm f1.8G, CROP

Nikon D800, ISO 25600, 50mm f1.8G, CROP

 

ISO 800, not bad actually.  25,600, ouch.  However, if we do some post processing to clean things up the situation does get better.

Nikon D800, ISO 800, 50mm f1.8G, Edit

Nikon D800, ISO 800, 50mm f1.8G, Edit

Nikon D800, ISO 800, 50mm f1.8G, Edit, CROP

Nikon D800, ISO 800, 50mm f1.8G, Edit, CROP

 

And at ISO 6400 it still holds up well.

Nikon D800, ISO 6400, 50mm f1.8G, Edit

Nikon D800, ISO 6400, 50mm f1.8G, Edit

Before and after editing.  Note that I just did some quick adjustments in Lightroom 4 and used Noiseware to clean up the noise.  Overall, the result is quite promising.

Nikon D800, ISO 6400, 50mm f1.8G, CROP

Nikon D800, ISO 6400, 50mm f1.8G, CROP

Nikon D800, ISO 6400, 50mm f1.8G, Edit, CROP

Nikon D800, ISO 6400, 50mm f1.8G, Edit, CROP

 

Even the ISO 25,600 can be cleaned up.  While a stretch to say this is ‘good’, it may be useful for a blog or facebook.

Nikon D800, ISO 25600, 50mm f1.8G, Edit

Nikon D800, ISO 25600, 50mm f1.8G, Edit

Nikon D800, ISO 25600, 50mm f1.8G, Edit, CROP

Nikon D800, ISO 25600, 50mm f1.8G, Edit, CROP

I’m not sure if the technique used to capture the image was ideal and I’m sure you can do even better if you have the RAW files (.NEF) so I’m hopeful that this will be a very good camera in low light.