Do photos at ISO 3,276,800 look as horrible as they sound?

Perusing the stats for Nikon’s latest flagship camera, the D5, you may be struck by one number: ISO 3,276,800. That’s right, the camera has an ISO of well over three million.

When you change your ISO setting, you’re adjusting your camera’s sensitivity to light. Standard settings range from 24 to 3,200 (or higher), and these numbers have a direct relationship with the device’s sensitivity, so a lower setting makes it less sensitive and a high setting makes it more so. Finding the right balance between ISO, shutter speed, and aperture is key to getting the perfect shot. And an ISO into the millions offers more potential for photographers. Lots more. Lots and lots.

The number and capability in itself is amazing, but I hesitate to push my smaller D7200 over ISO 3,200, leaving me with one big question: What does ISO 3,276,800 even look like?

With the camera now officially shipping, we have the answer from Jared Polin of FroKnowsPhoto:

Not so great, unless you are trying to create a pointillism painting with your camera.

While that top ISO probably won’t be worth much, the camera does show quite a bit of promise for pushing well past the ISO 3,200 that was the maximum on most digital cameras just a few years ago.

ISO 25600
ISO 25,600 Image by Jared Polin

While the definition of a “usable” image is flexible, the images are surprisingly detailed even at those extreme ISOs. Add in some decent noise reduction software and the D5 could have some pretty interesting capability in low light.

Interestingly enough, the D5 actually scored lower than the older D4S on the DxOMark test for low light ISO. The camera had better color sensitivity at ISO 100, similar performance at ISO 800 but lagged about a stop behind the D4 from ISO 800 to 12,800.

While professionals won’t be using the D5 at ISO 3,276,800 anytime soon, the improvement in noise reduction at ISOs closer to the tens of thousands holds some promise for low light shooting. And with the improvement from just a few years ago, perhaps someday an ISO in the millions won’t look like a bunch of dots trying to recreate an object.

Photography

Olympus’ latest teaser shares glimpse of new OM-D camera geared toward sports

Is Olympus about to release a new mirrorless camera geared toward sports photographers? The latest teaser offers a glimpse of an upcoming OM-D camera set to launch on January 24, and by the looks of the teasers, it's geared toward sports.
Mobile

We tried all the latest and greatest smartphones to find the best of 2019

Smartphones are perhaps the most important and personal piece of tech on the planet. That’s why it’s important to pick the best phone for your individual needs. Here are the best smartphones you can buy.
Photography

The best mirrorless cameras pack all the power of a DSLR, minus the bulk

Mirrorless cameras offer a lot of photography firepower, inside a compact body. Explore the best mirrorless cameras, from the pro-level to the beginner-friendly shooters, in this guide.
Photography

Starting your very own vlog? Here are the best cameras to buy

Any camera that shoots video can be used to vlog, but a few models stand out from the crowd thanks to superior image quality, ergonomics, and usability. When it comes to putting your life on YouTube, here are the best cameras for the job.
Photography

What to look for and what to avoid when buying a camera

Looking to buy a new camera? Our comprehensive camera guide for 2016 has answers to any camera or photography questions you might ask, whether in regards to pricing, image quality, or weatherproofing.
Photography

Lexar’s latest SDXC card keeps you shooting with 1 TB of storage

Shoot large files at high capacity? Lexar's latest SDXC memory card will fit a terabyte of storage inside your camera. The Lexar SD card is part of the company's Professional 633x series. That higher capacity will come at a cost, however.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: heat-powered watches, phone cases with reflexes

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Photography

See ya, CFast: 1TB CFexpress card transfers photos at 1,400MB per second

The latest trend in professional removable storage media is fast approaching. At CES 2019, ProgradeDigital revealed its first CFexpress card, featuring a 1-terabyte capacity and bewildering 1,400 megabyte-per-second transfer rate.
Photography

From 11K to just OK: The biggest photo gear announcements at CES 2019

From 11K cameras to 1 TB media cards, CES 2019 brought a peek at new gear for photographers and videographers. But what photography gear grabbed our attention the most? Here are the biggest photo gear announcements from CES 2019.
Social Media

No yolk! A photo of an egg has become the most-liked post on Instagram

Until this weekend, the most-liked post on Instagram was of Kylie Jenner's baby daughter, which has around 18 million likes. It's now been knocked off the top spot not by a stunning sunset or even a cute cat, but by an egg.
Photography

Going somewhere? Capture more than your phone can with the best travel cams

Hitting the road or doing some globetrotting this year? Bring along the right camera to capture those once-in-a-lifetime vacation memories. Here's a list of some of our current favorites.
Photography

From 4K powerhouses to tiny action cams, here are the best video cameras

Although not as popular as they once were, dedicated video cameras still have their benefits. From travel vlogging to home movies to recording your kid's little league game, here are the best video cameras you can buy right now.
Photography

Authentic, holistic, retro photography is in: Here are 2019’s predicted trends

What types of imagery are we most drawn to? According to recent stock photography data from Adobe, StoryBlocks, and Shutterstock, authentic, holistic, and humanitarian content will be in high demand in 2019.