A guide to changing the ISO on a Nikon D7500, including an explanation of the D7500's Auto ISO feature.
The Nikon D7500 has an ISO range of 100 through 51,200 in its basic settings, but there are extended settings at both ends. On the lower end, they go from Lo 0.3 to Lo 1 (Lo 1 is equivalent to ISO 32). On the faster end, there’s Hi 0.3 to Hi 5, with Hi 5 being equivalent to ISO 1,638,400.
The catch with ISO, of course, is that while the higher numbers are better for low light, they also bring the risk of noisy, grainy images. So having high numbers available doesn’t automatically translate to great low-light performance.
On the D7500, I’ve been very impressed with the results up to at least ISO 6400, and, in practice, even all the way up to an extreme setting like ISO 51,200 can result in surprisingly usable images in the right circumstances.
There are a couple of different ways to manually change the ISO on a Nikon D7500. One is better for quick changes while shooting. The other is slower, but it has alongside it a number of other settings you can choose to control how the Auto ISO feature works.
Here’s a quick rundown of how each works.
We’ll start with the quickest and easiest. It’s a simple combination of a button and a dial. Aside from its speed, an advantage of this method is that you can do it while looking through the viewfinder and watching the camera’s light meter reading.
The button is the ISO button on the top, just behind the shutter.
While you’re holding that button down with your right index finger, use your right thumb to rotate the dial on the back. You’ll see the ISO setting change both on the top screen and through the viewfinder (or the back screen if you’re using that).
Another way to do it is using the menu system. Most of the time, this isn’t as convenient while shooting, but it does open up some other related options. First, though, the basic ISO setting is found under the Photo Shooting Menu (camera icon) under ISO Sensitivity Settings.
When you drill down into that menu item (press the OK button or right side of the navigation dial), you’ll get more ISO-related setting. The top one, ISO Sensitivity, is the basic one to change the ISO setting.
Pressing OK (or right) on that will give you the list of available ISO settings.
That manual setting works well, but there’s also another way to do it that, in many cases, is going to be a better option. One of the features of modern digital cameras that I find pretty indispensable now is Auto ISO. It frees up the camera to change the ISO without messing with the other two sides of the exposure triangle: shutter speed and aperture.
The D7500 has a few different settings related to Auto ISO. The most basic is turning it on or off. For that, first proceed as above, through the Photo Shooting Menu (camera icon) and ISO Sensitivity Settings. Then choose Auto ISO Sensitivity Control. That’s a simple toggle on or off.
Below that is the option to set a maximum sensitivity. That imposes an upper ceiling on how high the ISO can go automatically (you can override it manually). If you want to use the full range of the camera’s ISO capabilities, you’d set this to Hi 5, which is the same as no limit. But a more useful place for this setting is in preventing the Auto ISO from using ISOs that you judge too grainy or noisy. If you’re looking for a place to start with this and are concerned about image noise, something like ISO 3200 or even ISO 6400 might be good places to start (or lower, of course, if you prefer).
Another setting you can specify is the minimum shutter speed. It sets a minimum shutter speed that it will go to before Auto ISO kicks in. You use this to reduce the risk of camera shake when you’re shooting hand-held. If the shutter speed is too slow when you’re shooting by hand (as opposed to using a tripod), you risk getting camera shake that makes the image blurry. There’s no magic answer as to what is too slow. Different photographers can naturally hold the camera more still than others, and if you’re shooting in cold or breezy conditions or some other kind of movement, then it’s even harder to hold the camera perfectly still. So even if you can get tack-sharp photos at 1/30 in some conditions, you might need to crank that up to 1/125 if you’re shooting with cold hands.
Another variable is the focal length of the lens you’re using. Camera shake is a more immediate problem when you’re using a telephoto lens because even the smallest movement becomes magnified. It becomes less of an issue with wide-angle lenses. So a long telephoto lens will need a faster shutter speed to be sharp than a wide-angle lens.
Because of that relationship between the focal length of the lens and the effective shutter speed to keep things sharp, there’s a neat trick up the D7500’s sleeve. The Minimum Shutter Speed setting can factor in the focal length of the lens when you use the Auto setting–that’s the one I’d recommend starting with. It uses the tried and true formula of matching the speed to the focal length along the lines of if your focal length is, say, 100mm, then at least 1/100 is a good target shutter speed. It’s not foolproof every time–as I said, there are a bunch of different factors that can come into play with camera shake–but it’s a good rule of thumb.
In the Auto mode, if you’re using a zoom lens, the D7500 is smart enough to adjust this minimum shutter speed based on how much you’ve zoomed in or out. One thing it can’t do, though, is adjust it based on whether or not you have vibration reduction (VR) available and active.
And you can specify even further by pushing the trigger point faster or slower. As an example, if you’re using a 100mm lens, the default in the Auto setting would be to use 1/100 sec as the minimum shutter. But you can push that higher or lower, so that it allows shutter speeds a little higher or a little lower than the standard. You set this with a basic slider that’s accessible under the Auto setting.
If you want to reduce the risk of camera shake or movement, you can move that right, towards the Faster end of the slider. If you’re less worried about movement but want to favor a lower ISO instead, you can move it to the left, towards the Slower side.
Finally, there’s an option to set a different maximum sensitivity when using a flash. Setting the shutter speed for flash is a rather complicated subject when you add high-speed sync capabilities into the mix, and that’s beyond the scope of this post, but if you’re shooting with flash, it’s worth knowing that the option is there.
It’s sold in a variety of configurations, from the body only to bundles with kit lenses and accessories.
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