I recently bought a Nikon D5200. For several of the photos taken the ISO setting I have used has been high — in the range of 1000 to 4000 (most of them were in poor light, without flash and in manual mode). All of them have been JPEGs. When I view the photos through any viewer (including the one supplied with the camera) I see a lot of grains when I zoom in, and a lot of clarity of the photo is gone. Given that it'ss a 24 MP camera, is it natural to see grainy pics on zooming in?

What would be the maximum ISO I should use if I need to take say a 4x6 print or an A4 size print of the pictures?

BTW, this is my first DSLR. I have used analog SLRs earlier.

  • What editor are you using? You can and should use noise reduction in your post processing.
    – Unapiedra
    Jul 31, 2013 at 19:15
  • It would be interesting to see what do you have to do to get visible noise in 4x6" prints. Or then we are not talking about measures in inches but feet. Jul 31, 2013 at 20:56
  • @Unapiedra, ViewNX2 that came with the camera.
    – user132797
    Aug 1, 2013 at 4:07
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    @Esa Paulasto, you are right, maybe I should not have mentioned 4x6 in my question, I was talking inches :-) In the ViewNX2 editor, I would see grains & reduction in clarity when I did a x0.5.
    – user132797
    Aug 1, 2013 at 4:08
  • Have you tried printing a 6x4 or A4 print to see how the noise appears on output? You'll likely find that it's much less than you think when compared to noise you see when pixel peeping.
    – John
    Aug 1, 2013 at 7:26

4 Answers 4


First, do not zoom in beyond 100% when viewing your photographs.

Next, use RAW file format and learn the basics of RAW processing.

Last, expose correctly or a little bit over.

It is better to use low ISO values, but the resulting noise is not so very much depending on the ISO number than what happens after the image is captured. If you need to pull up the dark shadows in your photos you will introduce more noise in the photo than what you would have if you set better exposure values to begin with. When you need noiseless indoors photos, use a flash.


This is indeed completely normal. To take your film knowledge, think, roughly, of zooming in on your image on screen as printing a 35mm film frame at 62"×42" (twice the size of A0, or "2A0") and looking at it from the same distance you are from your monitor.

So, seeing noise (which is different from film grain, but similar in effect) is completely normal. Your pickiness level will indicate exactly what amount you can tolerate, but my guess is that the ISO 1000 noise is virtually gone at 4×6 or A4 print sizes, and that 4000 looks pretty decent too.

  • How did you come up with the 65"x43" analogy? That is interesting so I'm curious for more explanation.
    – dpollitt
    Jul 31, 2013 at 19:51
  • @dpollitt I'm assuming a 96dpi screen, with the 6000×4000 files. That's a bit simplistic, of course.
    – mattdm
    Jul 31, 2013 at 20:27
  • Also I apparently miscalculated somehow (92 instead of 96?) making it off by a couple of inches; I'll fix that.
    – mattdm
    Jul 31, 2013 at 20:28

Anytime you increase the magnification of an image (as you do when you zoom in on your computer monitor) you will increase the perception of noise. You will also notice details that are ever so slightly out of focus, even though they are within the depth of field (DoF) for a given focal length, aperture, sensor/film size, print size, and viewing distance. In general, DoF is figured based on an 8X10 viewing size at 10" (25cm) by a person with 20/20 vision. Noise works similarly.

One way to reduce the noise in your images when using high ISO is to save the images as RAW files and adjust the Noise Reduction (NR) settings when converting the images to JPEG on your computer. This gives you much more control over the relationship between noise and detail sharpness in each image. When you save your in-camera files as JPEGs, you allow the camera to use a "one size fits all" approach for that particular ISO. This may or may not be the optimal amount of NR for that particular image.

Based on several independent reviews of the D5200 and comparing the scores from the same reviewers for the cameras I use, I would say somewhere around ISO 3200 should give you excellent low noise performance for producing 4X6 prints. By ISO 6400 at one stop faster, when viewing the prints you will probably be able to detect some noise in dark areas that are not totally black.


You should be shooting at 100 or 200, not up in the thousands. Get more light. Turn on whatever lights are in the room, or use a strobe/flash.

You should also try shooting RAW and using the denoise capability of a post processing program such as Lightroom, Aperture, Photoshop, Gimp, etc.

The Strobist blog has a huge amount of very accessible information on using inexpensive strobes to take great photos. Read their 101 series for beginners. http://strobist.blogspot.com/2006/03/lighting-101.html

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    Pat, I'm not seeing how this answers the question as posted.
    – Joanne C
    Aug 1, 2013 at 0:38

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