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Nikon D850: ISO 31 vs ISO 64 and vs D810

See my Nikon wish list and get Nikon D850 at B&H Photo.

Sometimes a simple thing is harder to show than I’d like, that is, I like robust examples not just good enough crops. Yesterday I shot some ISO 31 vs ISO 64 examples on the Nikon D850 and found that there are clear gains to be had with ISO 31 under some circumstances, but what about side effects? ISO 31 is not a real ISO.

The Nikon D810 offers a base ISO of 60 with a “Lo” (not a real ISO) of 50.

The D850 maintains that base ISO of 64, but goes to a “Lo” of pseudo-ISO 31.

There are at least two interesting noise and sharpness questions that come to mind:

  • Does the Nikon D850 at ISO 31/64 outperform the Nikon D810 at ISO 50/64?
  • Does the Nikon D810 at ISO 50 outperform the Nikon D850 at ISO 64?
  • Is sharpness lost at ISO “Lo”? (I have seen this with some cameras).

To do this right means using underexposure, but I’d rather show a real-world shot than simply shoot a patch of something and underexpose it, that is, I’d like to learn and show whether Nikon D850 ISO 31 represents a new quality standard when one wishes to reach deep into the shadows and record usable detail.

Doing it right also means using RawDigger, and not assuming that the “same” exposure value is really the same, which is frequently is not. To validate “better”, the sensor must be exploited to its maximum possible dynamic range, without blowing out highlights. Whether that is actually done requires RawDigger to prove it, not the shooter’s assumptions.

I’m working on this comparison today. I’ve shot material and I’m analyzing it. ISO 64 is already so good on the D810 that ferreting out gains or losses on the D850 is no easy challenge.

Update, late Monday: I’ve got the shots I need. I’ll be comparing D850 noise to D810 noise and also ISO 64 to ISO 31 for noise and other behaviors.

I’m doing all the work right here at 11800' elevation. Yes, I mean right here inside this van working on my dual-screens and publishing via AT&T personal hotspot.

Lloyd’s Mercedes Sprinter photography adventure van at 11,800', view to White Mountain Peak
f6.3 @ 1/15 sec, ISO 31; 2017-10-09 16:54:45
NIKON D850 + Sigma 135mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art

[low-res image for bot]

All my computer gear works fine up here: 2015 iMac 5K and my NEC PA302W wide gamut display.

The road getting here is in the worst shape in 50 years—have a real spare tire or it will be $1000 or more to get yerself outa here. That’s why I went with BF Goodrich K02 all-terrain tires with their triple-ply sidewalls and anti-bruise compound.

Altitude above Patriarch Grove
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