Best ISO values for Nikon cameras

In a previous article I explained in detail what ISO does in the camera and what, in general, is the best ISO value to use for astrophotography.
It all comes down to finding the ISO value that is the best mix of read noise and dynamic range. Some might wonder about unity gain as well, but you can read here why you shouldn’t worry about unity gain.
Basically it comes down to finding the ISO value from which the upstream read noise will swamp the downstream read noise. Any ISO value beyond this one has no additional benefit and only decreases Dynamic Range. Remember; ISO does not increase the sensitivity of the camera, increasing it doesn’t capture more light while decreasing dynamic range will hurt our images for instance in star color.
I stated that you can go to sensorgen.info and look at the read noise chart for your camera. These charts are not always really clear and there is a better way to show which ISO value you want to use; graph the dynamic range versus the ISO values (on logarithmic scale).
You can check the graph and look for the point in the curve where the linear trend starts. This indicates the point at which the upstream noise swamps the downstream noise and all we do is amplify the signal and the noise, hurting our dynamic range. These are the noise values where we call a sensor ‘ISO-less’. A lot of Nikon cameras are basically ISOless and therefor will show a linear graph right from the first ISO values.

You can find the list for Canon and Sony models here:
Suggested ISO values for Canon
Suggest ISO values for Sony

Suggested ISO values

I want to emphasise that the listed ISO values is the suggested value based on the available Sensorgen data. You should always check this data for your specific model and test it to see if it is right. For some models it might be less clear what the right value is than for others. Furthermore it is possible that there are differences per camera of the same model. You should take this value as a starting point for your own test.
Furthermore it is important to note that there is no benefit in increasing ISO higher than the suggested ISOs, however in some cases you might want to use a lower ISO value for even more Dynamic Range. This could be the case for instance when you expose long enough and the read noise is swamped by the background shot noise and you get the histogram to 1/3 from the right.

Please let me know in the comments below if you think a suggested ISO value is incorrect!




Best ISO values for Nikon cameras

DSLR modelSuggested ISODynamic rangeGraph
Nikon D310016009.6best-iso-for-nikon-d3100
Nikon D320020011.7best-iso-for-nikon-d3200
Nikon D330080010.6best-iso-for-nikon-d3300
Nikon D5000400 (try 800 as well)11.8best-iso-for-nikon-d5000
Nikon D5100200 12.5best-iso-for-nikon-d5100
Nikon D520080011.2best-iso-for-nikon-d5200
Nikon D5300200 (try 400 as well)12.6best-iso-for-nikon-d5300
Nikon D5500100 - Experiment suggest 200. 14.0best-iso-for-nikon-d5500
Nikon D7000100 - But check 200. I get reports saying Nikon ISO100 is 'funny' 13.6best-iso-for-nikon-d7000
Nikon D7100200 (try 400 as well)12.9best-iso-for-nikon-d7100
Nikon D600200 (check 800 as well since read noise graph seems to suggest this)13.1best-iso-for-nikon-d600
Nikon D610200 - 40013.2best-iso-for-nikon-d610
Nikon D700800 or 1600 (graph is unclear)11.2best-iso-for-nikon-d700
Nikon D750100 (But check 200. I get reports saying Nikon ISO100 is 'funny' )13.9best-iso-for-nikon-d750
Nikon D800200 (check 400 as well)12.8best-iso-for-nikon-d800
Nikon D810(a)20013.4best-iso-for-nikon-d810

COMMENTS

  • eugene

    D3200 is definitely off. I’ve read a ton of forum posts, and the consensus is to keep it at iso800. its a hard graph to read for d3200, being straight throughout. But I have yet to see a single person at ISO100 with their d3200.

    • chrisvdberge

      Thanks for the comment. I’ll look into it in detail to see what’s going on there. The data/graph seems to indicate ISO100, so there must be some specific reason if this is not right.
      Do you have any specific link for tests with the d3200 to give me a head start?

      Update: Seems to me the ISO 100 is correct for the D3200

      • Eugene

        All I can say is that I remember seeing an astro forum 50 pages long dealing specifically with D3200. Lots of different analysis, and tests, and the consensus was iso800.

        Some say Sensorgen (DXO) data has errors in it, Bill Claff has similar data he produces using photonstophotos.net/Charts/PDR.htm and there his data points to iso200 more.

        But in the end, the main problem is that most Nikons correct raw data, so blacks are not true 0, and its hard to compute standard deviation.

        • chrisvdberge

          It might be because it is close to unity gain and under sampling theoretically could mean less sensitivity for the faintest of signals (those where you only get a few photons per exposure). But I think in reality this is well compensated by the increase in noise and decrease in DR. However, I’m still researching to see if I can give that a definitive answer 🙂

          • Eugene

            yes, both graphs suggest a lower iso than 800. Also, it is known than Nikons prefer lower ISOs to begin with, so I’m not doubting, just looking for answers my self! thanks for the blog!

  • Luca

    Interesting read. A curiosity, D5100 and D7000 have the same sensor. How do you explain the difference? Better FEE fore the D7000 or the so-called black point clipping of the D5100?

    • chrisvdberge

      Good observation!
      2 things are worth noting in my opinion:
      first of all, I suspect these differences are probably within the margin of error of the measurements. ISO100 is the one giving the biggest difference in value between the two.
      secondly; I don’t know if having the same sensor also means all electronics would be the same. So it could also be a difference in ‘implementation’ of the sensor.

      Looking at the data though I think it’s most likely just margin of error of the measurements

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