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D50 User's Guide
NEW: Printable PDF verison of my Nikon D50 User's Guide. Sept 2010
This is how I use and set up a D50.
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I start off explaining things so simply my mom can understand, and get on to deciphering every menu item for advanced users at the bottom.
For more examples of why you'd want to change these settings and why, also see my Maui Photo Expedition page.
Many of these adjustments require you to be in be in the P, S, A or M exposure modes. You set that on the top dial. The cute preset modes often lock out some adjustments.
I leave most settings at their defaults and use the Program exposure mode. I never use the cute little preset icon modes because I prefer to set anything special myself.
ISO: I use 200. If the light gets dim and my images would get blurry from slower shutter speeds I increase the ISO to 400, 800 or 1,600. I never bother with in-between settings like 250 or 640. The D50 looks fine at ISO 1,600 if you need it. I'd much rather have a slightly grainy but sharp image than a less grainy but blurry one. Unlike film, the D50 looks great at high ISOs, so I use them anytime I need them.
I would love to use ISO AUTO, but usually don't because it also remains active in Manual exposure mode. This firmware defect defeats the purpose of the manual exposure mode. Using menus to deactivate AUTO ISO for manual exposure mode takes more time than AUTO ISO saves. Rats.
White Balance (WB): I'd use AUTO and an 81A glass warming filter on the lens. I prefer warmer (oranger) images. I explain white balance on my White Balance page and explain more about how to adjust it on the D50 later.
QUAL: I shoot JPG NORMAL. This is called NORM and L on the top LCD, which stands for NORMal JPG compression and Large (3,008 x 2,000) image size.
I've made 12 x 18" prints of the same shot made in BASIC, NORMAL, FINE and raw. I saw NO difference! Seriously, if you saw these prints you wouldn't be able to sort them out either. I can see only the slightest differences on my monitor enlarged to 100%, which is similar to a 20 x 30" print, and my digital LCD monitor has 100% MTF pixel-to-pixel, which prints don't. Don't worry: if you need space, shoot BASIC and no one will see the difference. The only way to tell is by looking at the file size.
I'll use BASIC for parties and sports when I'm shooting many hundreds and hundreds of images at once. In these cases I'm more concerned with time wasted for the files to transfer, copy and archive. Basic looks 99% the same as FINE, even blown up big.
I'll use FINE on rare occasions where I'm shooting just a few images and expect to peer at them very closely. In these cases the extra size isn't significant if I expect to be spending a lot of time analyzing each image.
I don't use raw, as you can read on my Raw vs. JPG page.
I avoid FINE JPG because NORM gives me the same results, with half the file size. If I shot FINE I might run out of room on a card and miss a shot. Missing a shot is a very visible defect, and I see no defects in NORM. Nikon knows what they're doing. That's why they call it Normal and that's why I normally use Normal JPG.
OPTIMIZE IMAGE: I prefer the vivid color I get from Fuji's Velvia 50 film, so I tweak a D50 to give color as vivid as I can get. To do this go to MENU > Shooting Menu (camera icon) > Optimize Image > Custom > (set Saturation to + and Color Mode to IIIa) > - - Done > OK. If you forget to select "- - Done" and hit OK it won't remember these settings! Details are on the Shooting Menu page.
For photos of people I either set the colors back to normal, or cheat and use the Portrait preset mode on the top dial.
Many lenses have no switches or settings. If so, don't worry.
More advanced lenses have focus mode settings, which will be either "M/A - A," or "A - M" on older lenses.
On older lenses I leave it at "A," which is Autofocus. "M" is manual focus. Sometimes you also have to move the switch on the camera, which is a pain.
If the switch says "M/A - A" then I use M/A. This gives autofocus, and if I grab the focus ring it instantly lets me make manual corrections. As soon as I tap the shutter button again I get autofocus. This M/A setting, if the lens has it, provides both kinds of focus without ever having to move any switches . It's the best.
Non-G lenses will have an aperture ring where the lens is attached to the camera. Set this this ring to the largest number, usually 22, if not 32 or 16. This number will be in orange on autofocus lenses. There usually is a lock to keep this ring set there, since if it comes off that setting you'll get an error message from the D50.
These are the basics. Keep reading for far more explicit details at the end.
If you find this as helpful as a book you might have had to buy, feel free to help me continue to write more with a donation. Thanks! Ken.
CONTROLS (I explain every button and knob)
FRONT (includes critical flash modes!) < < NEXT
MENUS (I cover every menu item in detail.)
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