The Nikon D800 has a native ISO range from ISO 100 to ISO 6400. You can go a little lower and higher than that into what’s known as extended ISO, which goes beyond the native capabilities of the sensor hardware to ranges boosted by software. In the extended range, you can go down to the equivalent of ISO 50 (LO-1) and up to ISO 25,600 (HI+2).
All of the photos here are focusing on the high end of the ISO range. “High ISO” is, of course, subjective. For the purposes here, I’m treating it as ISO 6400 and above.
I shot all of these in RAW. I’ve processed them in Lightroom, but I haven’t applied any of Lightroom’s noise reduction tools (or applied other noise reduction apps, for that matter). And because these are processed from the RAW files, they don’t use any of the camera’s built-in noise reduction algorithms that are applied to JPG images straight out of the camera.
It’s worth noting that I haven’t applied any external noise reduction to these, either. There are specialized image editing apps available that can do pretty remarkable things in cleaning up image noise at high ISOs (eg. DxO’s DeepPrime and Topaz Labs’ DeNoise AI are good places to start; and if you’re shooting RAW, DxO’s PureRAW works a bit differently and isn’t only focused on image noise, but it can yield impressive results).
Sample Images Taken at High ISOs with the Nikon D800
I’ve included the ISO for each image in its caption.
Fixing Image Quality Problems in Editing
The general rule of thumb in photography is that it’s better to get the shot right at the time of capture rather than trying to fix it later. That’s a great aspiration, but it’s not always possible to do if you’re shooting in especially challenging conditions or bumping up against limitations or flaws in gear, conditions, or technique.
But it’s worth mentioning that there are some excellent tools available to help address common image quality issues with digital images. And they’re getting better and better all the time as the power of AI ramps up. They can deal remarkably well with anything from sensor issues like high-ISO image noise to lens issues like distortion, softness, vignetting, and chromatic aberration. (Note: I’m focusing here on corrections related to image quality, not image enhancement tools—that’s a different kettle of fish.)
All-round image processing apps like Lightroom Classic and Capture One have solid tools built in that are very good places to start. But it’s also possible to take it much further with more specialized tools. If you shoot in challenging conditions regularly and find room for improvement in the image quality coming out of the camera, these might well be worth a look (and they have free trials). Some are stand-alone apps; some integrate into image editing suites such as Lightroom Classic.
UPDATE: In April 2023, Adobe released an update to Lightroom Classic that added new AI-powered noise reduction for RAW files. It’s a powerful tool that rivals some of the dedicated apps below. If you’re already using Lightroom Classic for your image editing and organization, it’s well worth trying out—look for the Denoise tool under the Detail panel.
Fixing Image Noise & High ISO Artifacts
- DxO PureRAW 3. Like Lightroom Classic’s Denoise tool, it only works on RAW files. But since was updated to version 3, it has become my go-to app for this kind of thing. I’m consistently amazed at how it can rescue photos with otherwise dodgy image quality from noise. It can also help with lens distortion, lens vignetting, and lens softness.
- DxO DeepPrime. This is the noise-only offering using the same denoising technology as PureRAW.
- Topaz Labs’ DeNoise AI. This is another excellent option for specialized denoising. It works alongside Lightroom or as a standalone app.
Fixing Lens-Related Optical Issues
- DxO PureRAW. Again offers an impressive suite of automatic fixes that are applied before you start editing the images.
- DxO ViewPoint. Correcting for lens distortion and geometry skews. Lightroom Classic and Capture One also have excellent built-in tools for this.
- Topaz Labs Sharpen AI. In addition to standard unsharp tools, it includes focus correction and shake reduction.
Price & Availability of the Nikon D800 DSLR
The D800 has been discontinued and has become harder to find new. But it’s relatively easy to find used copies in good condition. My first stop for used gear is KEH; you can find their D800s in stock here, which is where I often buy when I’m looking for used gear.
The D800 was replaced by the D810. While that model has also been replaced (by the D850), it’s easier to find D810 cameras new or refurbished.