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how to pull off 3200 iso on d300

Discussion in 'Nikon DX DSLR Forum' started by lovD300, Aug 27, 2008.

  1. lovD300


    Feb 25, 2008
    So what is the best settings in-camera & PP for being able to use iso 3200 shots on a D300? What software to clean up noise?
  2. GKR1


    Apr 19, 2007
    San Diego
    Good question. Here is my take on shooting iso 3200 with d300 and NX

    1. Nail the exposeuer.
    2. Camera Hish ISO noise reduction set to low.
    3. D2X mode1 for people and d2x mode 3 for everything else.
    4. Turn OFF ADL it adds noise.
    5. Shoot Raw
    6. Turn sharpening OFF
    7. Process in NX. Set levels and Curves
    8. Slection Noise reduction if needed in gray areas, play with with Chroma and lumi with overlay 80/20. Also change camera setting for Color Moier to Medium and better quality for noise reduction.
    9. Selective Sharpening with 10, 35, 5.

    Also, each image is different so you've to play around a little.

    Lastly, you need to know how big you are going to print. Most of the noise will not show up unless you are pixel peeping.

    I hope this will help you out. I'm sure more folks will add more steps. I'll be follwoing and try refine my process.
  3. Bill,

    For me, it really does not take anything special to get a good ISO 3200 image out of a D300. Higher ISO images have less dynamic range, softening by noise reduction and "noise" if it is not removed. They are not as sharp and detailed as images shot at lower ISO settings.

    I use auto-iso and let it go up to 3200 and set the minimum shutter speed threshold to 1 / 2 * focal length.

    For JPG set the in-camera High ISO Noise Reduction on low. You get better detail with more graininess than normal or high. For RAW Capture NX2 seems to do a very good job. Turn off High ISO Noise Reduction and your JPG's will have better detail.

    While being able to shoot at high ISO's is nice when it is the only way to get an image, the problem with using such high ISO's is that when you need it the light is not usually very good. Unless you are going for the classic face lit by a single candle.

    Warm regards,
  4. Panopeeper

    Panopeeper Guest

    The unbeatable setting for ISO 3200 is ISO 1600. There is no ISO 3200 on the D300. Stick with 1600 and increase the intensity in raw processing; this way highlights (bright spots) can be preserved better.

    However, if you record JPEG in-camera, then use ISO 3200 if youe need it.
  5. cleoent


    Dec 21, 2007
    San Jose, Ca
  6. Panopeeper

    Panopeeper Guest

  7. cleoent


    Dec 21, 2007
    San Jose, Ca
    no, i have no idea what you said.

    It sounds like you're saying d300 doesn't have iso 3200, it does.

    I have no idea what ur trying to say.
  8. Panopeeper

    Panopeeper Guest

    No, it does not. It offers a selection of ISO 3200, but there is no ISO gain associated with it.

    Let's review only in briefly, what higher ISO means, with very primitive examples.

    Let's assume, that the pixel values with ISO 100 are 10, 11, 12, 20, 21, and some with 2040, 2048, 4090, 4095 (the max value with 12bit depth). There can be many pixels for example with the value 11, even though they are not completely identical. This is particularly important in the dark areas (low pixel values).

    Now, when the ISO gets increased to 200, finer distinction can be made; so some of the pixels with the value 10 will be 20, other 21; those with originally 11 will be 22, some others 23. Those with the value 12 at ISO 100 will become either 24 or 25. This means, that further details can be extracted. On the other hand, the pixel with the very high value get truncated. 2040 becomed 4080 or 4081, that's ok, but 2048 becomes 4096 - that is over the numerical range, it gets clipped. Everything higher appears as blown.

    So, increasing the ISO means the gain of some details and the loss of one full stop in the highlights.

    However, the gain is not "perfect". When increasing the ISO further and further, the distinctions become mushy, until the noise obliterates any gain.

    The D300 offers some (tiny) gain from ISO 800 to 1600, but Nikon decided, that there is no more juice there to press out. If the affordable exposure does not yield enough captured photons for ISO 1600, then the shot has to be simply underexposed. The pixel values become doubled without any finer gradations.

    When recording raw data, the underexposure can be made up for in the raw conversion, as it is normal with an underexposed shot at any ISO. However, JPEGlers need the correction immediately, i.e. in the camera. ISO 3200 means just that: the camera adjusts the intensity before the raw->JPEG conversion, so that the image does not appear underexposed.

    However, this comes at a prize: the highlights (the top stop) becomes clipped. One might think that this is a non-issue in settings, when anyway there is not enough light, but this is not so. Even in a very dark setting, like a concert, or on the street, often there are bright spots, like a window with light in the room, the area directly under a street lamp, etc. So, the clipping can be real.

    Thus doing the correction in-camera brings nothing positive for the raw data, but it does bring the loss of one stop of the dynamic range.

    There is nothing new on this, almost all DSLRs are acting so. The D3/D700 goes up to 6400, but 12800 and 25600 are fake. The Canon 40D too goes up to 1600, and it fakes 3200, as does the Sony A700. Others with not as good ISO performance do not go even that high; for example the Sony A200 goes only up to ISO 400, even though one can select ISO 1600.

  9. Gabor,

    Could you please compare your statements with the Dpreview.Com review of the D300. Specifically page 18


    On page 1 they list the ISO range as "ISO 200 - 3200 (6400 with boost) "


    It seems that Nikon was scrupulous in not listing 6400 as a an absolute ISO setting and published it as HI-1. Dpreview measured it as ISO 6400.

    Here is a quick set of test shots (using a dreadful cluttered office corner for a test shot) of ISO 1600, ISO 3200 and HI-1 I took a few minutes ago. They were all shot in RAW, manual exposure, imported into Lightroom 2 using standard settings with no manipulation and uploaded to a non-published test gallery on my Smugmug account

    ISO 1600 1/250 f/8 D300
    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    ISO 3200 1/500 f/8 D300
    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    HI-1 1/1000 f/8 D300
    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    Link to Gallery
  10. KDann


    Mar 11, 2008
    I've taken pictures on my d300 at ISO 3200, and turn high iso noise reduction to high, sharpening at low. Get the exposure correct...and very little noise.

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)

    I understand that picture inst displayed at full size, but even when viewed at it's regular size, there is hardly any noise visible, only when cropped.
  11. Panopeeper

    Panopeeper Guest

    I know that, Bill. DPReview repeated the Nikon specifications.

    ISO with digital sensors has always been a tool of manipulation and misleading by the manufacturers:

    • You can find in DPReview the "ISO corrections", for the manufacturers adulterate the nominal ISO values (I don't know if there is any exception). Typically, if the sensor's native (basis) ISO is for example 80 or 140, it gets simply renamed as 100 - or sometimes 200, making the camera appear with a higher ISO performance.

    • Some sensors (most MFDBs) operate at a fixed ISO. The ISO selection means simply a note in the metadata of the raw file, that the intensity has to be boosted by one, two or three stops. (This is the best solution; I am waiting for this implemented in DSLRs.)

    • Some models need to be "tuned up" to look better beside the competition. I don't know which one started with that, but this appears now to be the norm. Even in cases, where the fake ISO is called "expansion" it is never explained, what that exactly means.

      For example the Sony A200 is listed with "normal" ISO max. 1600 and "extention" 3200. As I noted above, the reality is very far from that.

    • The truth behind the ISO gain is even more complicated. Is is easy to demonstrate, when an ISO step is completely faked. However, in those cases, where there is some ISO gain associated with the particular ISO setting, like a gain between ISO 200 and ISO 400, how much is that gain really? Do you believe it is one stop? Never. The real gain is much lower; for example when going to ISO 400 from 200 with the D300, only a small fraction of a stop "opens up" in the shadows. This means, that even this increase is close to the same as a boost of the intensity in raw conversion.

    All in all, the ISO setting has to be seen as a means to adjust the interpretation of the raw data to different exposures (no matter if you record raw or JPEG in camera): a "boost", which is sometimes accompanied with some extra gain from the sensor, sometimes not.

    Anyway, let's see some facts.

    First, three sets of raw histograms from ISO 200, ISO 1600 and ISO 3200 shots with the D300. Note: these are really *raw* histograms, not demosaiced, not white balanced, linear, i.e. not mapped ("gamma"), etc.

    The data is in 14bit depth, the values are in the range 0-16383 (the range of greens is somewhat smaller, but that's not relevant here).

    The white marking under the histograms is in stops (calculated from the right edge). The shots depict the same scenery, the exposure is always one stop lower with every stop increase in the ISO. All shots have been one stop lower exposed than it would have been possible (though this does not necessarily mean one stop underexposure). Exception: ISO 100 - and that is, because ISO 100 has been created from ISO 200, i.e. it is one stop higher exposed than it is "supposed to be".

    (Note, that the difference between ISO 200 and ISO 100 is only 2/3 stop. This indicates, that the real base ISO is not 200 but perhaps 250; Nikon rounded it down.)

    This is only for orientation.

    ISO100 ISO200 ISO1600 ISO3200 ISO6400

    The above histograms are quite "coarse": the 16384 values have been compressed in 512 columns (bars), i.e. each color column represents 32 successive pixel values.

    Now let's see a finer version of the histogram. Each color column represents here a single pixel value (the first 512 values are shown here). The white markings under the histograms are 51 pixel value apart. A "gap" in the histogram (a black column) indicates, that there is no pixel with that particular value.

    ISO 200 and 1600 look pretty much the same (100 is not different either, there is no point to post it here): about every sixth pixel value of the reds and blues is "spare", meaning that the red and blue is "stretched"; in other words, there are no 16384 different levels, only about 13600 - still plenty. Anyway, this is not relevant here.

    However, ISO 3200 looks very different: instead of five out of six pixel values, only about 20 out of 43 are represented by actual pixels. ISO 6400 is thinned out even more: only 15 out of 65 pixel vales occur in the data, which is half as many as with ISO 3200.

    In other words: these ISO settings cause the stretching (multiplication) of the pixel values generated by the lower ISO gain.

    However, the very same effect can be achieved in the raw conversion without the loss of one stop in the highlights - the drawback is only that the preview (in-camera and embedded in raw) looks one stop iunderexposed (two stops in case of 6400), reflecting the truth.




  12. Panopeeper

    Panopeeper Guest

    This is of little value regarding the ISO characteristics of the camera. It is a good example for the misuse of higher ISO: the highlights are blown, totally unnecessarily. This shot is simply overexposed, or more accurately, overISOd. It should have been shot at ISO 800 with the same exposure.

    The true advantage of higher ISO is visible only in the dark areas. There is nothing interesting on having little or no noise in well-exposed areas.
  13. kiwi


    Jan 1, 2008
    Auckland, NZ
    Thanks Gabor, you are providing very interesting analysis
  14. Panopeeper

    Panopeeper Guest

    Welcome Darren. It is good to see photographers ready to rethink their beliefs. There are many, who regard such an analysis as an attack on their favourite equipment.

    I have no interest on bashing any maker or model. I am currently shooting with a Canon 40D, which does not behave differently either. I never use ISO 3200 (which is fake), not even 1600, because the gain between 800 and 1600 is really tiny, but the loss in the highlights is always a full stop.
  15. Thanks Gabor for the analysis. This is very valuable information.
  16. kiwi


    Jan 1, 2008
    Auckland, NZ
    I am very happy with my football shots at ISO1600 (and through to "2000" or so OK) actually -well exposed and turning NR, ADL, etc off in camera. I have found the miost important element to get right is the WB and not to underexpose. The WB especially makes a big difference. I have little choice to go high to maintain a high enough SS to stop motion blur.
  17. So, to summarize....I think.....

    With the D300 it's okay to crank it up to ISO to 1600 but stop there. If you need more then stay at 1600, underexpose, and make up for it in post. What you gain by doing that is better highlights (fewer clipped highlights) and what you lose is a very slight amount of shadow detail.

    So what about noise.....same either way or ??
  18. My apologies to the original poster. This thread has been taken to depths of detail that may well be beyond what was expected.


    Thank you for your detailed and thoughtful explanation of the vagaries of ISO standards observed by camera manufacturers. It seems that the higher "ISO" settings might be more correctly termed E.I. for exposure index.

    If I am getting this right, you are saying that when the sensor is not actually boosting its signal output to achieve higher exposure indexes, the file created by the camera is being boosted by the processing software in the camera. And that the result is an image with less detail than if the sensor had actually been able to generate the raw data at the proper level.


    From a practical every day picture taking standpoint. I let my D300 go to "ISO-3200" when I want an image that I could not get otherwise. ISO 1600 produces very good images and of course 800 down to 200 are even better.

    Now a few years ago when shooting film, I would be looking for the Rodinol and Kodak 2475 recording film when I needed those kinds of exposure indices. Trust me, the grain and dynamic range was a lot worse than the D300 :biggrin:

    Warm regards,
  19. cwilt


    Apr 24, 2005
    Denver, CO
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 15, 2017
  20. mood


    Jun 27, 2007
    So Fla
    wow- great stuff
    feel like I just passed a college course

    my question..
    how does this apply to the Lo or "ISO 100" setting, if its base ISO is 200 ?
    or doesn't it at all...?
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