Author Topic: The BEST ISO for D700 Black & Whites  (Read 792 times)

BruceSD

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The BEST ISO for D700 Black & Whites
« on: August 23, 2022, 19:11:30 »
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Lately I've been having fun testing my new-to-me D700 body. 

First, I do not like its' colors at all.   I shoot many other cameras with color science that I prefer, so I've decided to exclusively shoot the D700 for black and white images.

I shoot RAW files.   Last night I took a series of photos with my D700 and my Zeiss ZF 135mm f/2 Milvus (a terrific combination).  I varied the ISO from 1000 to 6400.  I studied the results and here's what I found...

Overall, I like the noise in B&W images at high ISOs from the D700.  I would not call the noise "like film grain", but I do like the D700 high ISO noise character better than the high ISO noise produced by my other digital cameras.

ISO's under 2,000 ISO lacked noise, and looked a bit too digital and too smooth for my tastes.  Also, do you prefer to make your noise/grain in camera by using high ISO settings; or do you prefer to add your grain in post?

At ISO 5,000 and above I saw faint patterns of horizontal and vertical lines (see photo), primarily in darker areas of the images.  I did NOT have high ISO NR on.   This pattern noise is extremely distracting so shooting at ISO 5,000 and above with my D700 is a no go.

To my eye, the sweet spot was ISO 2,000 and 2,500 (see photo).   B&Ws from images taken at these ISOs are:  sharp, have nice looking noise/grain, and have enough grain to avoid looking digital or too smooth.

What are your favorite ISO settings for B&Ws you make from your D700 image files?  Also, do you prefer to make your noise/grain in camera by using higher ISO settings; or do you prefer to add your grain in post?
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David H. Hartman

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Re: The BEST ISO for D700 Black & Whites
« Reply #1 on: August 23, 2022, 19:28:07 »
The base ISO will give you the greatest dynamic range. The greater the dynamic range the more control you have over the images you can create.

Attractive B&W are typically created by suppressing, not eliminating, shadow and highlight contrast. This has been the norm in photography since the invention of the negative and the print.
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BruceSD

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Re: The BEST ISO for D700 Black & Whites
« Reply #2 on: August 23, 2022, 19:55:07 »
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David, thank you for the response.

Below is a crop from the OOF bokeh on one of my ISO 2000 D700 images.   While you may not be able to see much in this small jpg on the Internet, to my eye, the noise/grain in the full sized image is some of the best "digital grain" that I've seen. 

So, irregardless of dynamic range, I intend to shoot most of my wide-open bokeh B&W images with my D700 set at ISO 2,000.

Ian Watson

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Re: The BEST ISO for D700 Black & Whites
« Reply #3 on: August 23, 2022, 22:44:02 »
What are your favorite ISO settings for B&Ws you make from your D700 image files?  Also, do you prefer to make your noise/grain in camera by using high ISO settings; or do you prefer to add your grain in post?

I used to use a D3 which had the same sensor. It was set to change ISO by whole stops. My experience concurs with yours; ISO 3200 was my usual limit but ISO 6400 was handy in an emergency. Coming from black-and-white film, it blew my mind when I once obtained a useable image at Hi-1, which is roughly ISO 12,800.

Unlike you, I do not mind a lack of noise and so kept the ISO as low as practicable. This means that I have limited experience adding noise/grain in post-processing. It was only used to hide the overly smooth results of reducing the noise in very high ISO images. To my eye, "clinical" is usually the result of bad post-processing rather than a flaw of digital itself.

À chacun son goût! If you have found a sweet spot that you like then enjoy!


golunvolo

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Re: The BEST ISO for D700 Black & Whites
« Reply #4 on: August 24, 2022, 00:52:06 »
Interesting question. Just by chance I recently used a D300. I use to considered it limited but now, I love it at high iso in B&W. 1600 to 3200 and I prefer in camera noise compared to added noise, even if you have greater control and options with the later.


Akira

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Re: The BEST ISO for D700 Black & Whites
« Reply #5 on: August 24, 2022, 01:52:14 »
I think that the essential difference between the digital noise and the film grain is that the digital noise grain appears only in the shadow or poorly lit areas, whereas the film grain appears all over the frame, regardless of the amount of exposure.

Apparently, that applies to the reference image in the initial post.

If I would be allowed to be a bit of purist, I would think that the digital noise doesn't look like the film grain.

By the way, I was experimenting the stipple-like rendition utilizing the color noise of the digital image by raising ISO value of D2H I had then.  The result was rather a mass of ugly blotches than a Seurat-esuqe rendition.   :o :o :o
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BruceSD

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Re: The BEST ISO for D700 Black & Whites
« Reply #6 on: August 24, 2022, 03:11:43 »
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Great responses!  Thanks to all of you who shared.

I always learn so much from the great photographers who participate here on NikonGear.net.

Dogman

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Re: The BEST ISO for D700 Black & Whites
« Reply #7 on: August 26, 2022, 16:00:43 »
The D700 is my favorite camera.  I have newer with higher resolution but I sincerely love the D700 for many reasons.  One of them is that I shoot B&W almost 100%.  The range of grey tones from deepest black to glaring white are what get my heart to pumping, not brilliant colors.  Yes, I'm weird.  I admit it.

Anyway...I have all my D700s set for a default ISO of 400.  The same as Tri-X and HP5 when I shot film.  Those were my go-to films at the time and I'm happiest when I'm comfortable and I'm comfortable with 400.  I use Auto ISO and it tops out at 6400.  I turn off all NR in camera and lower contrast a notch.  I also use Auto ADL.  Like Helmut Newton said, "I let the camera do the work and I do the thinking."  I've found I'm fine with JPEGs.  I'm only shooting for myself and for making prints at home.  Shooting monochrome JPEGs means I'm locked into B&W out of the camera--no more deciding later whether to make a color or B&W photo because it's all B&W from the git-go.

ISO 400 is pretty grain-free in the D700 and this is okay with me.  I use Lightroom for processing the JPEGs and I'll add a little grain to the files later, however, at normal viewing size the grain is almost undetectable.  Even the noise grain of higher ISOs seem low to me so I'll add just a smidge of grain in processing.  I'm also happy with the dynamic range of the D700.  Most of the time, I'm just looking for a "normal" looking range of tones and detail but at others I like a more gnarly look.  Gnarly as in blacks with little detail and whites that are just this side of burnt out.  If the scene is normal, I want normal.  If the scene is stark, I want gnarly.

Here's a couple of photos done earlier this year.  Both shot on the same day, same D700 with the same 35/1.8G lens.  The first was ISO 450, the second at ISO 2800.  The lighting was flat and bright in the first photo while it was directional, diffuse and low in the second photo.  A bit of grain was added to both.

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BruceSD

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Re: The BEST ISO for D700 Black & Whites
« Reply #8 on: August 26, 2022, 16:36:45 »
The D700 is my favorite camera.  I have newer with higher resolution but I sincerely love the D700 for many reasons.  One of them is that I shoot B&W almost 100%.  The range of grey tones from deepest black to glaring white are what get my heart to pumping, not brilliant colors.  Yes, I'm weird.  I admit it.

Anyway...I have all my D700s set for a default ISO of 400.  The same as Tri-X and HP5 when I shot film.  Those were my go-to films at the time and I'm happiest when I'm comfortable and I'm comfortable with 400.  I use Auto ISO and it tops out at 6400.  I turn off all NR in camera and lower contrast a notch.  I also use Auto ADL.  Like Helmut Newton said, "I let the camera do the work and I do the thinking."  I've found I'm fine with JPEGs.  I'm only shooting for myself and for making prints at home.  Shooting monochrome JPEGs means I'm locked into B&W out of the camera--no more deciding later whether to make a color or B&W photo because it's all B&W from the git-go.

ISO 400 is pretty grain-free in the D700 and this is okay with me.  I use Lightroom for processing the JPEGs and I'll add a little grain to the files later, however, at normal viewing size the grain is almost undetectable.  Even the noise grain of higher ISOs seem low to me so I'll add just a smidge of grain in processing.  I'm also happy with the dynamic range of the D700.  Most of the time, I'm just looking for a "normal" looking range of tones and detail but at others I like a more gnarly look.  Gnarly as in blacks with little detail and whites that are just this side of burnt out.  If the scene is normal, I want normal.  If the scene is stark, I want gnarly.

Here's a couple of photos done earlier this year.  Both shot on the same day, same D700 with the same 35/1.8G lens.  The first was ISO 450, the second at ISO 2800.  The lighting was flat and bright in the first photo while it was directional, diffuse and low.  A bit of grain was added to both.

Thanks for sharing your tips and photos.    You make me want to go out and buy a second D700!   ;D

Dogman

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Re: The BEST ISO for D700 Black & Whites
« Reply #9 on: August 26, 2022, 20:01:20 »
Sorry to be an enabler. ;D
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Luc

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Re: The BEST ISO for D700 Black & Whites
« Reply #10 on: August 26, 2022, 22:52:03 »
Great images, Dogman!

Hugh_3170

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Re: The BEST ISO for D700 Black & Whites
« Reply #11 on: August 27, 2022, 01:52:27 »
Hugh Gunn

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Re: The BEST ISO for D700 Black & Whites
« Reply #12 on: August 27, 2022, 15:31:57 »
Luc, Hugh--thanks so much.
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golunvolo

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Re: The BEST ISO for D700 Black & Whites
« Reply #13 on: August 27, 2022, 17:34:49 »

BruceSD

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Re: The BEST ISO for D700 Black & Whites
« Reply #14 on: August 27, 2022, 18:26:57 »
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With lovely B&W images like these from D300 and D700, I see little need for a photographer like me saving up for a "monochrome" camera body.

Maybe that's why there are few monochrome camera bodies out there - because with good capture and post processing technique B&W images made from a color RAW files are good enough for many of us.

Obviously, the B&W images made with older DSLR Nikons are excellent.  Just wondering how you feel the B&W images from older, lower resolution DSLR compare with the B&W images made from the latest Nikon mirrorless bodies?   If you own both older/lower-res/DSLRs and newer/higher-res/mirrorless, which do you feel makes the best B&W images?