The Nikon D500 has an in-spec ISO range of 100-51,200. Let’s see how these images look across the ISO range from my production camera, which I received yesterday.
Nikon D500 ISO Test Images
I performed a quick test using a production Nikon D500 and the 35mmm f.1/8 AFS G Nikkor lens in aperture-priority mode at f/5.6. I disabled all in-camera noise reduction so you can get a “worst case” scenario. Obviously, if you shoot RAW and know how to properly apply sharpening and noise reduction, you can probably get even better quality. If you wish to download my original RAW files, there’s a link at the bottom of this page.
Observations & Conclusions
Color fidelity is quite good throughout most of the in-spec ISO range. Things really don’t start looking too different in terms of color until you get to the top ISO of 51,200. At Hi-1 (102,400), colors shift dramatically. From a luminance noise (grain) perspective, I can detect a little bit of grain starting around ISO 400, but it really isn’t noticeable until you get higher up on the scale. What I noticed was a definite “break point” at ISO 6400. Above 3200, you can definitely notice grain in the images, especially in out of focus areas. Nevertheless, that noise is very tight and relatively easy to manage in post. Above 6400, you can really start to see the grain dominate the images, but the color is still fairly good.
What these results mean for me is that I’d be perfectly happy to use just about any of the in-spec ISO settings with the D500. For the best results, keep the ISO at 6400 or lower. With the higher settings, you’ll need to clean up the luminance noise, which isn’t too hard if you are shooting in RAW. Frankly, I’m impressed that a DX-format camera can deliver image quality this good. Looking back, I remember trying to stay at ISO 400 or lower with my first Nikon DSLR, the D2x. Given that my main use of the D500 is for birding, most of the time I’ll be below ISO 6400 and I’m totally happy with that.