Does the D500 lose detail at high ISO?

After my Nikon D500 ISO post yesterday, seems as though people didn’t agree with my assessment that the Nikon D500 handles noise very well through ISO 6400. In particular, several people were pointing out that the D500 obliterates fine details at higher ISOs.

My findings: Not true, Unless you are shooting JPEGs with High-ISO NR enabled, that is. In that case, the in-camera NR is definitely smearing out details.

Here’s an  as-shot JPEG from my D500, ISO 7200, with High ISO NR set to Normal:

Nikon D500 JPEG image captured at ISO 7200 with in-camera NR turned on (Normal).
Nikon D500 JPEG image captured at ISO 7200 with in-camera NR turned on (Normal). Click on the image to see a larger version.

Here’s the same shot, processed in Adobe Lightroom from the RAW (NEF) file:

Nikon D500 image processed in Lightroom from RAW. Click on the image to see a larger version.
Nikon D500 image processed in Lightroom from RAW. Click on the image to see a larger version.

My recommendations:

  1. Shoot RAW. This let’s you override any as-shot settings in post and apply noise reduction in a way that’s appropriate for your subject, regardless of camera settings.
  2. Disable high-ISO NR in your camera. If you shoot RAW, it won’t matter, but it will make a difference on your LCD screen when you are reviewing images for sharpness. That’s because every Nikon camera embeds a JPEG preview in your RAW file that uses the in-camera settings. That’s what you’re actually seeing on the LCD. If you do shoot JPEG, I’d still disable this feature, as you’ll likely want to apply NR on an image by image basis.

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