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In Program mode, Shutter Priority mode, and Aperture Priority mode, your D800 can automatically select shutter speeds and apertures that are appropriate for the lighting in your scene. You can also configure the camera to automatically select ISO. This gives the camera a third parameter to work with. In Program mode, that means it's going to stand a much better chance of being able to keep your shutter speed up to something that's appropriate for handheld shooting. In Priority modes, it will help you stand a better chance of keeping a good exposure with your chosen parameter.
By default, Auto ISO is off. To turn it on, just go to your menu. In the Shooting menu, if you scroll way down-- you can see my scrollbar is way down here-- you're going to see something called ISO sensitivity settings. I'm going to pop that open, and I get a couple of things. First of all, ISO sensitivity, this simply lets me set the ISO that I want. This is no different than using the ISO button. I also have a control for turning on Auto ISO sensitivity. I'm going to turn that ON, and now when I come out here, my status display shows ISO Auto.
In my viewfinder I'm going to see a similar icon in my status display. This indicates that I'm now in Auto ISO mode. When I meter, if the camera decides that I need an ISO that's different from the one that I've dialed in, then it will show me what that ISO is and flash the ISO Auto icon to let me know that it's chosen something different. This is to be sure that it doesn't make an ISO change that I'm not aware of. The reason I might not want the camera sneaking around making ISO changes is of course because as ISO increases, so does noise.
So it's making very certain that I know that it is made an ISO change so that I can keep track of whether I think my image might get too noisy. I have some other controls though, for keeping Auto ISO reined in a little bit. Maximum sensitivity, right now Auto ISO is allowed to go up to ISO 6400. But maybe I've done some ISO tests and decided that 6400 yields far more noise than I'm comfortable with. I can go in here and dial this back. So maybe I've decided that I find ISO 3200 on this camera acceptable. I can choose that and now Auto ISO will never pick an ISO above 3200.
The good news is, high ISO performance on this camera is very good. I have no problem with leaving it set to 6400. I can also choose a minimum shutter speed. Right now it's set to Auto, so here's how this works. If you're familiar with the handheld shutter speed rule, you know that there is a guideline that says if I am at a focal length of, say, 100 mm, then my shutter speed should never dip below 1/100th of a second.
That is, one over my focal length. If it does, then I will risk camera shake when I'm shooting. If I zoom into 200 mm, then I don't want my shutter speed to drop below 1/200th of a second. That's the same calculation that Auto uses here. It will not let shutter speed go below one over your focal length. But I can bias that if I want to. Let's say I'm shooting at, say, 200 mm. That means Auto ISO is not going to choose a shutter speed slower than 1/200th of a second, but maybe I'm shooting sports. Maybe I'm shooting a race car or something and I want a faster shutter speed.
I can say actually, I want my Minimum shutter speed to be a little bit faster than what the handheld shutter speed rule would normally indicate. Or I can slow it down. If I want, I can simply choose an explicit shutter speed that the camera should not go below. So again, maybe I'm shooting sports and I know I just don't want it to drop below 1000th of a second. Now it won't. It will increase ISO, never going above 6400, but never letting my shutter speed drop below 1/1000th.
Auto ISO is a great tool for times where you're having to shoot quickly in changing situations and you want that extra comfort of an ISO adjustment to ensure that your shutter speed stays high, or you're shooting in a Priority mode and you don't want the fact that your lens won't open past F4 to lead you to something like an underexposed shot. Having the camera just automatically adjust ISO can let you shoot in those situations much more quickly.
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