Nikon D4S boasts 409,600 ISO


I don’t know when I’d need this?

Super closed F-stop to get starburst effects on the lights at a concert?

bout all I got besides possibly looking into the darkness of Dick Cheney’s soul…


Remember when they used to brag about, ‘Used by NASA’ as a way to sound cutting edge? Now maybe it would be like, “These are the same sensors and lenses used by the NSA to get photos of Glenn Greenwald at night in his house in Brazil!”


Can someone explain what this means?

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Far better than I came up with.


Nikon claiming such low light sensitivity as to nearly obviate the need for light.


ISO is the acronym for Intense Sunlight Orientation and it measures just how little sunlight, or light, the camera needs to take a photo. The higher the ISO the less light needed. So with an ISO of 409,600 means that it can be 409,600 times darker than high noon in Greenwich during the Vernal equinox and still take a photo of a bunny.


It is an impressive number, but not so outrageous when you consider that photographic sensitivity is measured on geometric scales.

Given the same shutter speed, you need to double your ISO for each full F-stop down you take. So, the progression my camera maxes out at 3,200 ISO. The Nikon is 7 stops more sensitive in its extended range:

6,400; 12,800; 25,600; 51,200; 102,400; 204,800; 409,600


Sweet. Saved $3 with Amazon Prime!


ISO is what used to be commonly referred to as “film speed.” for comparison’s sake, iso 100 was for sunny outdoor photos, 400 was recommended for indoor, and 1600 used to be the the fastest you could commonly find at your local drugstore. my current (digital) camera goes that high, the only thing I haven’t been able to get it to pick up is the light from fireflies at night, no matter how long I leave the shutter open. 409,600 must be for super scientific type stuff. but photography attracts a certain type of consumer with too much dough on their hands that will buy whatever is top-of-the-line for absolutely no reason. no doubt this is the target market for this camera.


Watching fireflies, or snapping a pic of them, doesn’t have to be super scientificy.

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i didn’t mean to imply that. I meant that at 1600, fireflies are just barely out of reach, but that 409,600 is probably massive overkill


Like Skeptic noted, it’s a logarithmic scale. So if you wanted to use a short exposure in dim light (fireflies, handheld in moonlight, stars, etc.) it doesn’t seem like overkill at all.

Is 409,600 sensitive enough to capture Spinal Tap’s album cover?

(And the answer is none. None more black.)


so I take it you bought one?

No, but I’ve tinkered with high ISO settings (12800) on a Canon EOS 700D (Rebel T5i). There is quite a bit of ‘extra’ noise in these high ISO modes, probably due to tricks used in reading the sensor to achieve the sensitivity.


There’s really no tricks. It just reads the sensor in the same way it would for, say, ISO 6400, but then multiply it by 64. That raises noise by 64×, but the technology is getting so good that the result is… within reach of reasonable.


This makes sense. But the multiplication needs to happen before it is discretized, or in the discretization stage, and I wonder how this is done and what shortcuts need to be used.

Manufacturers should report something like effective dynamic range for these high ISO settings.

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that’s dismaying, but I can’t say I’m surprised. I mean, I knew about the noise at high ISO on my Canon G10, and the increased grain of the chemical-process film, but I thought that the pricier cameras advertising high ISOs would have better processors or sensors to get smoother shots by now.

Ah well, I’m getting all the shots I need with what I’ve got. Well, no fireflies, but I do ok with 1600 for astronomy shots, even handheld. this the moon, Jupiter, and Uranus Venus over Atlanta’s midtown. Probably a second or two exposure. Not awesome, and I had to reduce the file size to post, but it serves my purposes.


With a fast (wide aperture) lens, at a “normal” slow film speed like ISO 100, you can take a normally-bright photograph lit by a quarter moon with a shutter left open for about a minute. At this ISO setting, you could get the same brightness in about ¹⁄₁₀₀th of a second. That lets you (give or take) freeze any motion that happens to be in the scene, including camera movement (so you don’t necessarily need a tripod). The cost is that the amplification results in a lot of noise. And some of that noise can’t be overcome by technology — we’re at the point where the actual number of photons is so low that the count isn’t reliable no matter how good the sensor is at counting.