Nikon dSLR

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I was recently conversing with one of my readers – a Nikon D5200 user who was putting the camera through its paces for professional-level video shooting. He has given the camera a thorough field test, so I asked him to put together a review and a tutorial of the camera in regards to its video performance. So for today’s guest post, I introduce:

by Steve MacDonald of 5dhdvideo
I have recently put the Nikon D5200 through its video capability paces, in a couple of different shooting scenarios.  Scenario one was a bright sunny outdoor situation with mixtures of heavy sunlight and shaded areas, and the second was an indoor, controlled lighting situation.

Scenario one was tested with a Nikon 17-55mm f2.8 making use of a Schneider 4×4 polarizer and Schneider 4×4 1.6 graduated ND filters. Mind you, these are probably the harshest video acquisition lighting conditions.

Nikon D5200 video dslr manual movie mode
Still from dSLR video taken with the Nikon D5200, by Steve MacDonald

One of the biggest challenges of shooting with any dSLR camera is setting critical focus. One camera feature that can help is a really decent LCD screen. I found the Nikon D5200 screen to be less the stellar, but I suppose that is to be expected from a mid-level consumer camera. Using a Hoodman loupe on the back of this unit, at first, I thought the inability to see a somewhat sharp image was the kit lens. But even with a very expensive Nikon 17-55mm f2.8 zoom lens, manually achieving critical focus was challenging. Using the cameras focus assist the image never really seemed all that sharp, so it’s was a guessing game of finding what would be the sharpest focus point. I quickly abandoned using the LCD for critical focusing and used the cameras viewfinder with a right-angle viewer by Seagull. This worked much better, but it’s something I’m not used to, having come from shooting with many Canon DSLR models.

I decided to give auto-focusing a try, since, a lot of my shots that day were stationary subjects – and that feature seemed to be dead on. The only downside to using this is that in certain lighting situation, the Nikon will throw a beam of light from the AF-Assist Illuminator. Not a big deal, untill you realize the AF-Assist Illuminator is eating into your battery faster than you can imagine.  (Note – you can turn off the Built-in AF-Assist Illuminator using Custom Setting a3.) The battery life of the EN EL14 has already been documented as being less than adequate, which I can confirm.

Nikon D5200 video dslr manual movie mode
Still from dSLR video taken with the Nikon D5200, by Steve MacDonald

Another quirk I found with this Nikon is discrepancies between metering in the viewfinder then switching back to live view. Many times after setting a dead zero meter in the viewfinder and not moving anything, switching back to live view, could at times , show an almost full stop difference. Switching metering methods didn’t seem to change the situation.

We’re all familiar with the nagging Nikon situation of having to come out of live view to change aperture settings, which is indeed a pain, but what I didn’t realize is if you keep the camera pointed at your subject, it will meter that subject in live view. This brings me to the subject of trying to run and gun with this camera: in two words, very difficult. The reason being is having to come out of live view to change the aperture, making a moving subject next to impossible to keep properly exposed. The way around this is to buy manual lenses with the aperture on the barrel and not controlled by the camera. Or, one would think that is a viable work around – not so. Nikon has further limited video functions on this camera by not offering any metering with a manual lens attached, which in my opinion renders this camera far less than ideal from a professional video acquisition standpoint. (Note: the Nikon D7100 and D7000 offers the ability to register non-CPU lenses in the camera, thus allowing access to additional functions including color-matrix metering – though they suggest you make use of Center-Weighted or Spot Metering in these situations.  The D7100 and D7000 also offer the ability to assign aperture selection to the aperture ring on lenses which have this ring, thus allowing aperture change while shooting video.)

Nikon D5200 video dslr manual movie mode
Still from dSLR video taken with the Nikon D5200, by Steve MacDonald

It goes without saying, for professional use an EVF (electronic viewfinder / monitor), such as the SmallHD DP4 EVF, is pretty much a must with any DSLR. False color, peaking, and many other features they offer make for a better user experience.  Sure, you could rely on an EVF to set proper exposure levels with a manual lens attached to the D5200, but you’re going to pay a grand for a good one.

The indoor shooting scenario was a two camera interview situation, with the other camera being a Canon T3i. One feature I really liked was Nikon’s ability to tweak the White Balance presets in movie mode, in order to dial in a match between the two cameras. The picture quality of the Nikon looks very good, and the ability to output a clean HDMI will no doubt attract many. Shooting the indoor scenario was much easier, although none of the issues mentioned above disappeared.

At the end of the day, my take on this camera is that it just isn’t full equipped for demanding or professional-level videography. It takes fantastic still images, since as with any of these dSLRs, that is their main function. While its video capabilities and performance may fulfill the needs of a casual video user, there are just too many roadblocks with this camera to make it a sensible choice when it comes to professional video work. One should instead consider the additional video capabilities of the D7000 or D7100, which both improve upon some of these video shortcomings of the D5200.

Nikon D5200 video dslr manual movie mode
Still from dSLR video taken with the Nikon D5200, by Steve MacDonald

Manual exposure and white balance for the videographer with the Nikon D5200

Although the Nikon D5200 has the quirk of having to come out of live view to change aperture, and the fact it won’t meter a manual lens, this section of the article focuses on methods to help you gain proper exposure for shooting video.

Recently, I purchased two Rokinon Cine Lenses for the D5200, knowing full well the camera would not meter these lenses. If you don’t know what that means, basically, the built in light meter of the D5200 will not give you a reading with these lenses or any manual lens. My main reasons for buying these manual lenses was to avoid having to come out of live view to change the aperture, not to mention, for the price, these are great prime lenses!

So my quest after buying these Rokinon’s was to find a way to get a proper exposure, without having to resort to buying a light meter. Don’t get me wrong, having a light meter is well worth having,  but I just spent a chunk on these lenses, so that’ll have to wait. What I did buy was a Photovision one-shot target.  Targets are used to set 18% gray level, but with this particular target, it also has a white and black section outside the middle gray, so in essence, it sets your highlight and black level as well. The target works by first lighting your scene, then setting the target in front of that scene and taking a photo of the target.  You’ll want to make sure the white side of the target is towards the key light of your scene, and that the entire target is filling your screen with the white, gray, and black columns in sharp focus.  You’ll also want to make sure your shutter speed and ISO are set for your video shoot at hand. Next, set your D5200 play back display options by accessing the menu, highlighting the display icon, top icon on the left, then making sure all those options have a check mark beside them. Now, hit your playback button and bring up that photo of the target.

By clicking on the bottom portion of the multi-selector you can scroll through the various information provided for that particular photo. What you’re looking for is the histogram display. This histogram display will show you three distinct spikes. The left most spike being the black level, the middle gray, and the far right spike is your highlight. It’s this highlight we want to set so that it’s not clipping.  Clipping would have the far right spike at or very near the far right side of the histogram. Now, by adjusting your f-stop (aperture setting) for subtle changes in exposure, and taking a photo of the target after each f-stop adjustment, you’ll be able to view that photo in playback and determine if that exposure gives you the proper histogram.

After determining which histogram suits your best exposure, you’ll want to set that target photo as a custom white balance within your D5200.  Note: although by default the camera sets the last photo you’ve taken as your white balance, I choose to select the photo just to make sure its definitely the right one. You’ve now not only set a proper white balance, but you’ve also set an exposure level. One thing to keep in mind is that you need to light your scene for proper levels because the target has no idea how light or dark your subject is, it only reflects what lights you’ve set up for a particular scene.

Now, with all that being said, this target wouldn’t work in a run and gun situation, it would just take way to much time. For these types of situations, you can still utilize the histogram feature of the D5200 to get a proper exposure. To do that, set your f-stop (aperture), take a photo of your scene, review that photo and look at your histogram. If the highlights are slammed against the right side, lower your f-stop (aperture), take another photo and review it’s histogram reading.  The advantage of using the histogram in this manner, is that you’ll soon recognize what’s over exposed just by viewing it in the LCD, because you’ve been in these situations enough times and have looked at enough histograms to know what’s over exposed just from viewing your scene from the LCD.Utilizing the one-shot target, as well as, learning to read your histograms will give you a big advantage in gaining proper exposures with your Nikon D5200.

Nikon D7100 Experience, my my recent Full Stop e book and the very first D7100 user’s guide, is now available! This e book goes beyond the manual to help you learn the features, settings, and controls of the powerful and highly customizable Nikon D7100. Plus most importantly it explains how, when, and why to use the functions, settings, menu options, and controls in your photography – including the sophisticated 51 Point autofocus system and the in-camera features such as Multiple Exposure, HDR, 1.3x crop mode, and Interval Timer Shooting.

Written in the clear, concise, and comprehensive style of all Full Stop guides, Nikon D7100 Experience will help you learn to use your D7100 quickly and competently, to consistently make the types of images you desire. This e-book is available in either PDF or EPUB format for reading on your computer, tablet, iPad, e-reader, etc.

Nikon D7100 book ebook manual field guide tutorial how to use learn tips tricks dummies

Learn more about it, view a preview, and purchase it here:

http://www.dojoklo.com/Full_Stop/Nikon_D7100_Experience.htm

Take control of your Nikon D7100, the image taking process, and the photos you create!

This guide is designed for Intermediate and Enthusiast dSLR Photographers who wish to:

  • Take fuller advantage of the capabilities of their camera to go beyond Auto and P modes and shoot competently in A, S, and M shooting modes.
  • Make full use of the complex 51 point autofocus system to capture sharp photos.
  • Learn how, when, and why to use and customize the controls, buttons, and features of the D7100.

It covers basic dSLR camera functions and exposure concepts for those learning digital SLR photography, and explains more advanced camera controls and operation such as using the various metering modes and exposure compensation for correct exposure of every image.

For experienced photographers upgrading to the D7100, this guide explains the new and advanced features to quickly get you taking advantage of them, including the 51 point AF system and its Autofocus Modes, AF-Area Modes, and Custom Settings. Plus it explains all the camera controls, the in-camera HDR, Multiple Exposure, and Interval Timer features, introduces the video capabilities, and guides you through all the Menus and Custom Settings, with recommended settings to help you set up the camera for your specific needs.

Nikon D7100 Experience focuses on still-photography with an introduction to the HD video settings. Sections include:

  • Setting Up Your D7100 – All the Custom Settings and Playback, Shooting, and Setup Menus, with explanations and recommended settings to customize the advanced features to work best for you.
  • Camera Controls – An explanation of the camera controls, buttons, and displays, plus customizing the controls to best fit your specific shooting needs.
  • Aperture Priority (A), Shutter Priority (S), and Manual (M) Modes – How and when to use them to create dramatic depth of field, freeze or express motion, or take full control of exposure settings.
  • Autofocus Modes, AF-Area Modes, and Release Modes – Learn the AF Modes, AF-Area Modes, and AF Custom Settings of the new 51 point AF system, how they differ, how and when to take advantage of the different modes to capture still and moving subjects.
  • Exposure Metering Modes – How and when to use and customize them for correct exposures in every situation.
  • Histograms, Exposure Compensation, Bracketing, and White Balance – Understanding and using these features for adjusting to the proper exposure in challenging lighting situations.
  • The Image Taking Process – Descriptive tutorials for capturing both still and moving subjects.
  • Introduction to Video Settings – Explanations of the settings and options to get you started.
  • Photography Accessories – Useful accessories for the D7100 and for dSLR photography.
  • Composition – Tips and techniques, including the creative use of depth of field.

This illustrated e-book guide to the Nikon D7100 goes beyond the manual to explain how, when, and why to use the features, settings, and controls of the D7100 to help you get the most from your camera.

As one reader has said about Full Stop guides, I don’t know how I could fully take advantage of all the features the camera has to offer without this publication! It’s well-organized, easy to understand, and succinct…while still containing a wealth of information to get the most out of your camera.”

Learn more about Nikon D7100 Experience, view a preview, and purchase it on my Full Stop website here:

http://www.dojoklo.com/Full_Stop/Nikon_D7100_Experience.htm

I’ve had some hands-on time with the new Nikon D7100 as I research and write my latest camera guide Nikon D7100 Experience, and just as with the recently introduced Nikon D600 this new model does not disappoint. In fact, much of what I’ve said about the D600 will apply to the D7100, as in many ways the D7100 is basically a D600 but with a DX sensor (rather than the full frame FX sensor of the D600). Of course there are some important differences (in addition to the image sensor size) such as the 51 point autofocus system and slightly faster 6 frames per second shooting speed of the D7100, but the feel, performance, features, menu system, and Custom Settings of the two cameras are quite similar.

Nikon D7100 unbox unboxing hands on review preview book ebook learn manual use dummies field guide tutorial instruction setup tip recommend
The Nikon D7100 Unboxing – shown here with a Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 lens attached, not the 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens.

The D7100 is a worthwhile and timely upgrade to the popular and well-respected D7000. The new model boasts an improved 24.1 megapixel DX format image sensor (vs. 16MP of the D7000), a sophisticated 51 point autofocus system with 15 centrally positioned cross-type points (vs. the older 39 point system with 9 cross-type points), the rapid 6 (or even 7) frames per second continuous shooting speed, and a larger and higher resolution 3.2″ rear LCD screen. All of these features make it particularly well-equipped for action and movement situations including sports, wildlife, and bird photography.

With this new image sensor, Nikon has done away with the optical low pass filter – a choice which promises to deliver higher image resolution (though at the risk of increased moiré when capturing fine pattern details). And its high ISO capability will result in decreased digital noise in low-light situations. The new, optional 1.3x crop mode of the D7100 will allow you to use a 15 megapixel portion of the sensor to “extend” the reach of your telephoto lenses in order to get closer to the action as well as fill the active frame with the 51 Focus Points – in order to more accurately track moving subjects across nearly the full width of the frame. And the continuous shooting speed even increases from 6 frames per second (fps) to 7 fps when working in this 1.3x crop mode. Plus when capturing video using the 1.3x crop Image Area, you can choose from the additional 1080 frame size at 60i or 50i frame rates.

Nikon D7100 autofocus viewfinder 1.3x crop af autofocus points
Simulated view of the Nikon D7100 viewfinder, showing the location of the 51 autofocus points, the optional grid, and the area of the 1.3x crop mode.

As with its predecessor, the Nikon D7100 is aimed at intermediate and dedicated enthusiast photographers (and dSLR beginners willing to learn!), not only with its price and build, but also with its features and accessible controls and menus. It is obviously not quite as fully-featured as the professional-level D800 or D4, yet it contains nearly every feature that the majority of “non-pro” or even semi-pro photographers will need. And its low light performance and image quality can certainly deliver professional results in most every shooting situation.

As the author of dSLR user guides, my primary interest when reviewing a camera is more with the controls, features, functions, and “real world” use – as opposed to the image quality/ sensor issues (resolution, dynamic range, noise, etc.), which I leave up to DP Review, DXOMark, and other sites to examine in depth. Although I will discuss and give examples of some of these factors in this post, I direct you these other sites to view samples/ comparison images and read detailed discussions of sensor and image quality results.

Body: Weight and Size: The D7100 is nearly identical in size and weight (765 g / 1.7 lb w/ battery) to the D7000. It is of course bigger and heavier than the mid-level D5200, but is an excellent size for the serious shooter – and pairs excellently with a wide range of lenses from a 50mm f/1.4 prime to the hefty 70-200mm f/2.8.

Body: Controls and Feel: The controls of the D7100 are very similar to the D7000, and even more similar to the D600. If you have not yet used either of those previous cameras you may be initially confused by the autofocus controls at the base of the lens, including the AF-Mode Button and the Focus-Mode Selector Switch. However, once learned you will quickly discover that they are a convenient, well thought-out set of controls for rapidly accessing and changing the various autofocus settings – even without taking your eye from the Viewfinder.

Nikon D7100 autofocus mode area af control button switch body button learn use setup tip recomment focusing focus
Detail of the front controls of the Nikon D7100, including the autofocus mode and area mode controls at the base of the lens.

Compared to the D7000, the D7100 adds an i Button to the rear of the camera, which is used to quickly access a variety of settings and options – which will vary based on if you are shooting stills, reviewing images, working in Live View, or in movie shooting. During shooting it allows you to access the Information Display screen where you can change a number of settings that you otherwise would have had to dig into the menus to find. This is similar during Live View and movie shooting, but accesses settings appropriate to those modes.  During image playback, the i Button quickly brings up the Retouch Menu for editing and processing image files.

The placement of the zoom-in and zoom-out buttons on the rear of the D7100 has been swapped compared to the D7000, which may drive you crazy until your muscle memory is retrained.  But the new rear Live View / Movie switch, the relocation of the video record button to the top of the camera near the Shutter Button, and the locking Mode Dial are welcome conveniences (which I prefer as there have been many times my Mode Dial was accidentally turned when pulling the camera out of its bag). Other than that, D7000 users should feel right at home with the controls such as the Release Mode Dial for selecting the frame rate and the Playback and Delete Buttons. And the consistency of layout between the D7100 and the D600 is a welcome move from Nikon – which hopefully continues into future models. The Multi Controller thumb-pad is responsive and precise, which is necessary when using it to select among the 51 autofocus points or to quickly navigate and change a menu settings. And the rubberized feel of the Command Dials is much nicer to the touch than the plastic feel of lower-end models.

Nikon D7100 body buttons controls dials use learn review hands on preview book ebook guide manual dummies
Some of the top and rear controls of the Nikon D7100, including the Release Mode and locking Shooting Mode Dials, and new i Button.

A few of the buttons along the left side of the camera perform additional functions when pressed and used in conjunction with the Command Dials.  These are handy to learn and use so that you can quickly change these settings on the fly, though you will likely need to glance at the buttons to recall which function it performs. (And I would prefer that the WB, QUAL, and ISO text be a bit closer and adjacent to the appropriate button, as you can see one needs to often take a second look to see of ISO applies to the button below or above.) So, for example, the QUAL Button is pressed as the rear Main Command Dial is turned to select the Image Quality (JPEG / RAW), and it is press as the front Sub-Command Dial is turned to select the JPEG Image Size (S, M, L).

In addition to the previous customization options for the controls as found on the D7000 and D600, the D7100 offers even more custom controls. For example during image playback, the OK Button can be set up to instantly zoom in on the image at the area of focus, and you can even set the magnification level for high, medium, or low. You can set the OK Button to perform other functions during shooting and Live View, though I recommend that it be used to quickly select the center AF Point. The Fn Button and Depth of Field Preview Button can be customized to perform different functions when just pressed and when pressed and used with a Command Dial.  For example, you can set one of these buttons for quick, temporary access to Spot Metering Mode or to display the Virtual Horizon in the Viewfinder. Or you can press the button as you turn the Command Dials to quickly change to 1.3x crop Image Area Mode or to activate HDR shooting and set the HDR Mode with one dial and HDR Strength with the other.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of conflicts between the just Press and the Press+Dial settings which allow you to actually use only one of the options, so you will likely only be able to set each button for one function. I suggest setting the AE-L/AF-L Button to lock focus, the Fn Button to lock exposure, and the DOF Preview button to the function of your choice.

Nikon D7100 menu Function Fn Button customize assign
Example of one of the button customization options – assigning the Fn Button for use with a Command Dial.

The new Live View Selector switch is used to quickly choose between Live View and movie shooting, then the central LV Button is pressed to enter that mode. Again, the Movie-Record Button is now on the top near the Shutter Button.

I found the Shutter Button to be less sensitive than that of the D7100, which is a welcome change, as I often accidentally took a picture when simply trying to lock focus with the D7000 – though this change could simply indicate that I have gotten used to controlling the more sensitive button.

Overall, the body size, weight, and materials feel great and solid, and all the necessary and desired buttons and controls are in the right places. As with the D600, this results in a camera that I find a joy to use with the easy ability to access a wide variety of settings and functions.

Brief Commercial Interruption: I have written an e-book guide to the Nikon D7100, called Nikon D7100 Experience. The guide covers all the controls, functions, features, Menus options and Custom Settings (with recommended settings), autofocus system, exposure, metering, and more. Plus most importantly, it explains how, when, and why to use the various controls, features, and functions of the D7100. Click the link above or the cover to learn more, preview, and purchase the guide (available early April 2013).

Nikon D7100 book manual ebook field guide dummies how to use learn instruction tutorial

Use and Response: There really isn’t too much else I can say about the D7100 in action, as it performs excellently, as expected. The autofocus response is quick and accurate in normal use, and able to lock on quickly and accurately even in dim lighting. Note that the 15 central AF Points are cross-type points, which you will want to make use of in low light and challenging focusing situations. (This means that these points look for contrast in both the horizontal and vertical orientation, and thus can more easily and quickly find contrast to focus on.) In low light, night-time scenes – such as the in-camera Multiple Exposure image and the in-camera HDR image below – the camera locked right on and focused well.

Nikon D7100 preview review multiple exposure hands on
Multiple Exposure Mode of the Nikon D7100, where three images are automatically combined in-camera.

Nikon D7100 hands on review preview in camer HDR high dynamic resolution strength
HDR Mode of the Nikon D7100, where and over-exposed and under-exposed image are automatically combined and processed in-camera, at a user defined HDR Strength setting.

Autofocus System: As with the D7000, the autofocus system of the D7100 is one of its most important features, and you will need to learn to take control of it in order to get the most out of the camera. This means choosing the appropriate Autofocus Mode and Autofocus Area Mode, depending on if the subject is still or moving. I go into detail on this in an article about Taking Control of the  D7000 Autofocus System. While the D7100 of course offers 51 autofocus points rather than 39, the exact same principles apply – you simply have more AF points to help you compose the image exactly how you wish or to help you more accurately track a moving subject throughout the frame. And if 51 autofocus points are too many to deal with at first or in a specific situation, you can limit the number of selectable Focus Points to 11 in the Custom Settings menu.

I briefly did some testing of the AF system using AF-C Focus Mode for tracking moving subjects using 9-Point Dynamic Area AF Autofocus Area Mode, while shooting bursts of images in Continuous Shooting release mode. With the Dynamic Area AF modes, you select your desired AF Point to begin tracking the subject, and the surrounding points are used to help retain focus on the subject if it briefly leaves the active AF point.  You can choose from either 9 additional “helper” points, 21 points, or all of them.  Since I was tracking a relatively easy-to-keep-track-of running dog, I selected 9-Point. I placed the selected point on the dog, pressed the shutter button half-way to begin tracking the subject distance, then held it down as the camera took a continuous burst of shots. The camera had no trouble keeping focus on the dog as it ran about, even when it momentarily left the active point and was therefore picked up by a surrounding point.

Nikon D7100 autofocus af system af-c continuous track moving subject 9 point dynamic area af  setup tip recomment focusing focus
Image of running dog, making use of AF-C continuous focus mode and 9 point Dynamic Area AF to retain focus on a moving subject. (Some sharpening and exposure adjustment applied to JPEG.)

Nikon D7100 autofocus af system af-c continuous track moving subject 9 point dynamic area af
Crop of above image of running dog, making use of AF-C continuous focus and 9 point Dynamic Area AF to retain focus on a moving subject. (Some sharpening and exposure adjustment applied to JPEG.)

Functions and Features: The D7100 has all the features of the D7000, adds the newer features introduced on the D600, and offers a couple more. There is the in-camera HDR Mode, Multiple Exposure Mode, Interval Timer and Time-Lapse Photography shooting, AF Fine-Tune to microadjust the focusing of individual lenses, in-camera Noise Reduction features, and the in-camera image editing and processing features. The camera can auto bracket for exposure (or flash exposure, white balance, or Active D-Lighting) either 2, 3, or 5 shots, in EV steps from 0.3 to 2 EV – which can greatly assist those capturing shots to combine into a true HDR image. The bracketing variables are easily set with the BKT Button on the front of the camera and the Command Dials, and offers a wide range of options such as shooting all the exposures in a positive or in a negative exposure direction, rather than simply an underexposure and overexposure surrounding 0. For example, with the +3F setting, the first exposure is taken at 0 (the correct exposure), the second at +1 and the third at +2, rather than the typical bracketing sequence of 0, -1, +1.

The new addition to the D7100 is the 1.3x crop mode Image Area, which will allow you to virtually extend the reach of your telephoto lenses by using a smaller 15MP portion of the sensor. While it is basically the same as cropping your photo after the fact, it offers some advantages such as nearly filling the width of the frame with the autofocus points. This will allow you to more accurately track a moving subject throughout most of the active frame, as there will likely be an AF Point to focus on the subject no matter where in the frame the subject is located. Plus in this mode, you can increase the High Speed Continuous shooting speed to 7 frames per second. Since the APS-C sensor of the D7100 is a 1.5x crop of a full frame sensor, the additional 1.3x crop will basically double the focal length of your lens, meaning a 200mm lens will act as a 200 X 1.5 X 1.3 = 390mm lens.

Nikon D7100 autofocus viewfinder 1.3x crop image area af points system learn use how to manual guide  setup tip recomment focusing focus
Simulated view on the Nikon D7100 viewfinder, showing the area of the 1.3x crop mode, as well as the locations of the autofocus points.  Notice how the 1.3x crop extends the reach of your lens, and how the AF points then nearly fill the width of the frame when working in 1.3x crop Image Area.

As with previous models of this level, the D7100 allows you to use the built-in flash as a Commander flash, to wirelessly remotely control and trigger up to 2 groups of optional external Speedlights. The D7100 also works with a wide variety of optional accessories such as:

Nikon WU-1a Wireless Mobile Adapter which can be used to wirelessly transmit your images to a tablet or smart-phone as you shoot, share your images, or even use your smart phone or tablet to remotely release the camera’s shutter – all with Nikon’s Wireless Mobile Adapter Utility app.

Nikon GP-1 GPS Unit: Use this GPS receiver for automatic geotagging of your images including location, altitude data, and UTC time.

Nikon ML-L3 Wireless Remote Controller or WR-R10/ WR-T10 Wireless Remote Controller and Transceiver: These wireless remotes will allow you to trigger the shutter of the camera remotely, thus allowing either self-portraits or the ability to release the shutter without pressing the Shutter Button thus preventing possible camera shake. The WR set communicates via radio frequencies, and thus does not require direct line-of-sight between the camera and the remote. You can even use multiple WR-R10 receivers on multiple cameras and trigger them simultaneously with one WR-T10 remote transmitter. The new WR-1 Wireless Remote Controller will allow even greater wireless control over one or multiple cameras with their own WR-1 or WR-R10 unit.

Additional Nikon D7100 Accessories can be seen here.

Menus and Custom Settings: The Menus and Custom Settings of the D7100 allow you to personalize the camera controls and functions to work best for you and your needs and shooting style. They are a powerful set of options, and you should carefully set them up and then review them occasionally to see if they can be tweaked to better suit your current needs. For example, you can customize the size of the area metered by the camera when using Center-Weighted Metering. This can be the default 8mm circle, or else a 6mm, 10mm, or 13mm circle. You can modify the roles of the two memory card slots so that the second one acts as either overflow when the first card fills, simultaneous back-up of the first card, or JPEG on one and RAW on the other. And you can manually copy images from one card to the other. You can set the Continuous Low frame rate anywhere from 1 to 6 fps, though you may find that since Continuous High is 6 fps, 3 or 4 fps should work well. This is a wonderful option that Canon has yet to adopt on its cameras of this level. As mentioned earlier, you can customize the functions of various buttons, and there are numerous other adjustments to the controls and camera functions that you can make. I go though all of these Menu and Custom Setting options in my guide Nikon D7100 Experience, along with recommended settings for various uses.

Nikon D7100 autofocus viewfinder 1.3x crop metering spot center weighted af autofocus points
Simulated view of the Nikon D7100 viewfinder, showing the location of the 51 autofocus points, the optional grid, the area of the 1.3x crop mode, and the size of the Spot and Center-Weighted Metering circles (default 8mm with additional custom options shown in yellow).

A relatively new feature in Nikon dSLRs in the additional control over Auto ISO. If you do not wish to worry about the ISO setting and would prefer that the camera takes care of that, you can enable Auto ISO and then the camera will automatically change your selected ISO, without your expressed permission, in certain situations in order to obtain a proper exposure. For example, if you are working in Aperture-Priority Auto Mode (A) and set the ISO at 800, but based on your selected aperture and the lighting the camera does not believe there is enough light for the exposure and a realistic minimum shutter speed (that you can also set in this menu item), it will automatically raise the ISO so that the shutter speed does not become impossibly slow for hand-holding. You can tell the camera the Maximum Sensitivity or maximum ISO that the camera will use in these situations as well as the Minimum Shutter Speed that you would like the camera to automatically use. Alternately, you can choose to leave the Minimum Shutter Speed set for Auto. The great advantage of this setting is that the camera will now select an Auto ISO setting based on the focal length of the lens being used. This is helpful because longer telephoto lenses typically require faster shutter speeds to prevent hand-held camera shake (which will result in blur). In addition, if you find when using this Auto setting for the Minimum Shutter Speed that the camera is still selecting shutter speeds that are slower than you wish (and thus possibly causing blur due to camera shake), you can use this menu to fine-tune this setting and instruct the camera to select a faster Auto shutter speed. So as you can see, it becomes much more viable to make use of the Auto ISO setting of the D7100 and you can still rely on the camera to not alter the settings beyond your desired parameters.

There are a couple functions that will be greyed-out in your menus if you have a certain conflicting setting option set. For example, some features will not be available (like HDR Mode) if you have the image quality set for RAW or JPEG+RAW. You will have to switch to JPEG only in order to access these features. This is bound to aggravate you at first as you try to determine why the function is greyed-out and not accessible in the menus.

Image Quality: I am not a pixel peeper but rather more of the “just get out there and shoot” variety, and I believe that most all the current consumer cameras – including the D7100 – offer more than enough in terms of image quality and low noise for most every photography from enthusiast to semi-pro. So I will leave it up to DP Review, DXOMark, and other sites to evaluate the image quality and sensor performance. I have shot some informal ISO tests, which can be viewed on Flickr, such as the image below:

Nikon D7100 high ISO digital noise test review preview sample image photo NR noise reduction

Video: As noted above, the D7100 offers all the usual frame sizes and rates, including now 1080 frame size at 60i or 50i frame rates when working in the 1.3x crop mode. It has a built-in stereo microphone plus the ability to use an optional external mic, and offers manual audio control. As with all Nikons, there is manual control over the exposure settings, but you have to set the aperture before going into Live Mode movie shooting. The D7100 now offers a headphone jack for monitoring audio and you can control its volume. As noted above, you can use the new i Button to quickly access and change various video related settings before starting to record.

Conclusion: Overall I found the D7100 to be an excellent camera in all areas: handling and feel, build, features, use, controls, and image quality. It is an excellent value for the price, and offers all the controls and features (and then some) that most any enthusiast or semi-pro photographer would need in most any shooting situation.  There really aren’t any shortcomings to this camera (unless the lack of an anti-aliasing filter will affect the types of photos you take). My only minor gripes are the labeling of the left-rear buttons that I mentioned, and the long, scrolling menus that Nikon uses. I definitely prefer the additional menu tabs of the Canon menus that eliminate scrolling menus.

The D7100 should meet or exceed the needs of dedicated enthusiasts shooting any type of images – landscape, portraits, travel, low-light, etc., and is particularly well suited for action, wildlife, and sports photography due to its wide array of 51 autofocus points, fast shooting speed, and 1.3x crop ability to extend the reach of your telephoto lenses. Its sensor, image quality, and capabilities will certainly provide anyone with the potential to not only take professional quality images, but in most situations to capture exactly the image you intend. And that, in the end, is one of the top goals of photography!

Nikon D7100 sample example image low light sunset evening noise ISO
Weeks Bridge in Cambridge, Mass., taken with the Nikon D7100.

Sample Images: More of my sample images from the D7100 can be seen on Flickr here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/dojoklo/sets/72157632977605494/

Manual: To quickly learn all the essential and important features of the camera, how to set up the menus and Custom Settings, how to take control of the autofocus system and metering modes, and learn how, when, and why to use the various controls, features, and functions of the Nikon D7100, have a look at my e-book guide Nikon D7100 Experience. Click the link or the cover to learn more, preview, and purchase the guide (available early April 2013).

Nikon D7100 book manual ebook field guide dummies how to use learn instruction tutorial

Purchasing the D7100: If you are going to be ordering your Nikon D7100 online, please consider using my affiliate links below or on the left side of the page (Amazon, B and H). Your camera (or other gear) will be the same price, but they will give me a small referral bonus – thanks!

Nikon D7100 on Amazon (body only or with 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens)

Nikon D7100 on B and H (body only)

Nikon D7100 on B and H (with 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens)

 

If you enjoyed this post, please be sure to share it, mention it, or link to it!

Nikon D5200 Experience, my most recent e book and the first D5200 user’s guide, is now available! As with all my Full Stop guides, this e book goes beyond the manual to help you learn the features, settings, and controls of the versatile Nikon D5200, including its sophisticated 39 point autofocus system. Plus most importantly it explains how, when, and why to use the functions, settings, menu options, and controls in your photography. It includes recommended settings for the Menu and Custom Settings options, and explanations of the in-camera features such as Multiple Exposure, HDR, and Time-Lapse Shooting.

Written in the clear, concise, and comprehensive style of all Full Stop guides, Nikon D5200 Experience will help you learn to use your camera quickly and competently, to consistently make the types of images you want to capture. This e-book is available in either PDF or EPUB format for reading on your computer, tablet, iPad, e-reader, etc.

Nikon D5200 Experience book ebook manual guide instruction tutorial how to dummies field guide use autofocus af system

Learn more about it, view a preview, and purchase it here:

http://www.dojoklo.com/Full_Stop/Nikon_D5200_Experience.htm

As one reader has said about Full Stop guides, “It’s the first guide I’ve read which has taken me through all the settings in an understandable way. I now feel that I have control over the camera.”

Take control of your Nikon D5200, the image taking process, and the photos you create!

This instant download Nikon D5200 e book is for those who wish to get more out of their camera, go beyond Auto and Program modes, and shoot in Aperture-Priority (A), Shutter-Priority (S) and Manual (M) modes. To get you started, it guides you through all the Playback, Shooting, and Setup Menus, Custom Settings, and Movie Mode Menu settings of the D5200 to help you best set up the camera and its controls for your specific shooting needs. The guide covers basic dSLR camera functions and exposure concepts for those new to digital SLR photography, and explains more advanced camera controls and operation, such as taking full advantage of the upgraded, advanced 39-Point Autofocus System and its AF Modes, AF Area Modes, and Custom Settings for sharp focus of still and moving subjects. It explains how and when to use the various metering modes and exposure compensation for correct exposure of every image, how to take advantage of other features of the D5200 such as the in-camera HDR and Time-Lapse Shooting features, and introduces the HD video capabilities.

Nikon D5200 Experience book manual field guide dummies learn tutorial how to instruction autofocus night HDR    Nikon D5200 Experience book manual field guide dummies learn tutorial how to instruction autofocus body controls

Nikon D5200 Experience book manual field guide dummies learn tutorial how to instruction autofocus controls viewfinder    Nikon D5200 Experience book manual field guide dummies learn tutorial how to instruction autofocus
Sample images from Nikon D5200 Experience.

Nikon D5200 Experience not only covers the various settings, functions and controls of the Nikon D5200, but it also explains when and why to use them for your photography. The guide focuses on still-photography with an introduction to the movie settings and menus to get you up and running with HD video. Sections include:

  • Setting Up Your D5200 – All of the D5200 Custom Settings and Playback, Shooting, and Setup Menus, including Movie Mode Menus, with explanations and recommended settings for practical, everyday use. Set up and customize the advanced features of your dSLR to work best for the way you photograph.

  • Aperture Priority (A), Shutter Priority (S), and Manual (M) Modes – How and when to use them to create dramatic depth of field, freeze or express motion, or take total control over exposure settings.

  • Auto Focusing Modes and Area Modes and Release (Drive) Modes – The 39 point D5200 autofocus system is a is a powerful tool, and taking control of it will enable you to successfully capture more sharp images, especially in action situations.  Learn the AF Modes, AF Area Modes, and AF Custom Settings, how they differ, how and when to take advantage of them to capture both still and moving subjects. Plus how and when to use focus lock.

  • Exposure Metering Modes of the Nikon D5200 – How they differ, how and when to use them for correct exposures in every situation, and how to customize them for your needs. Also how to make use of exposure lock.

  • Histograms, Exposure Compensation, Bracketing, and White Balance – Understanding and using these features for adjusting to the proper exposure in challenging lighting situations, and setting custom white balance.

  • The Image Taking Process – Descriptive tutorials for using the settings and controls you just learned to take photos of both still and moving subjects.

  • Photography Accessories – The most useful accessories for day-to-day and travel photography including accessories specific to the D5200.

  • Composition – Brief tips, techniques, and explanations, including the creative use of depth of field.

  • Introduction to Video Settings – Settings and explanations to get you started shooting HD video.

This digital guide to the Nikon D5200 is a 195 page, illustrated e-book that goes beyond the official manual to explain how, when, and why to use the features, settings, and controls of the D5200 to help you get out there shooting in the real world.

Learn more about Nikon D5200 Experience, view a preview, and purchase it on my Full Stop website here:

http://www.dojoklo.com/Full_Stop/Nikon_D5200_Experience.htm

 

I spent a considerable amount of time with both the Nikon D610 and the Nikon D600 as I researched and wrote my guides to the camera, Nikon D610 Experience and Nikon D600 Experience, and it has proven to be one of my favorite dSLR bodies.  It is well designed, fully featured, and the image quality and low light performance has proved to be excellent. It is indeed a very powerful and versatile dSLR camera, and much of that is due to its autofocus system, its controls, and its custom settings.  In fact, if you go through the Menus and Custom Settings of the D610 / D600, you will find that a “Top 25 Tips and Tricks” post could easily be put together from just these options alone.

Below is an explanation or introduction to several of these features and options for the D610 / D600.  I go into much more detail about using all of these particular functions and settings, as well as everything else about the camera, in my e-book user guides Nikon D610 Experience and Nikon D600 ExperienceAnd in fact, some of the content from these books is excerpted or summarized throughout this post.

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Detail of the controls of the Nikon D600 dSLR camera.

Despite the title of this post, I’m sure you realize there generally really aren’t “tricks” to improving your photography and camera use, but rather there are functions, features, settings, techniques, and controls that you should learn and be familiar with if you wish to take full advantage of your powerful camera. That being said, “tips and tricks” makes for a shorter, more intriguing article title and format, and so I have put together this list of ten helpful … tips for taking control and full advantage of your D610 / D600:

1. Take Control of your Autofocus System:

When capturing an image, it is essential that the image is sharp and that the camera focuses exactly where you want it to. So in order to focus on your desired subject, or precisely on – for example – your subject’s eye, you need to take full control of the AF system. The 39 AF points of the D610 / D600 will allow you to tell the camera exactly where you wish to focus, but the various configurations of Autofocus Modes and Autofocus AF-Area Modes may make it more of a challenge to learn initially. So I have written an entire post about making use of this AF system, which you can read here. It involves first learning the AF related controls and then setting up the applicable Custom Settings so that the AF system works as you want it to. (Some of these settings are especially important when using AF-C mode to track moving subjects.) You will then choose an Autofocus Mode (such as AF-S or AF-C) typically based on if the subject is still or moving, and an Autofocus AF-Area Mode (such as Single-Point or Dynamic-Area) typically based on how you wish for the camera to make use of surrounding AF Points such as to help focus on a subject or track a moving subject.

Nikon D600 autofocus system af viewfinder learn use control book manual guide dummies how to
Simulated view of the Nikon D610 / D600 Viewfinder, showing the locations of the 39 AF Points (all of the AF Points will not be visible in the viewfinder at the same time as seen here).

The Menus and Custom Settings will also allow you to do things such as limit the number of available AF Points to just 11 if you find the 39 points excessive for your needs or overwhelming at first when learning to use them (a6: Number of focus points).  And you can make use of another setting to dictate whether or not the focus point selection “wraps around” to the other side of the screen when you reach, say, the far right AF Point (a5: Focus point wrap-around).

2. Make Full Use of and Customize the Buttons and Controls:

In order to work quickly or more efficiently, you should not only learn all the buttons and controls on the camera, but the D610 / D600 will allow you to customize them to fit your shooting needs and personal shooting style. Buttons like the Exposure Compensation and Metering Mode buttons on the top of the camera will obviously enable you to quickly change these settings. The AF Mode Button button, located inside the Focus Mode Selector switch near the base of the lens, may be confusing at first to those who have not previously seen or used it on the Nikon D7000, though you should quickly find that it is a convenient design. It is used to select the Autofocus Mode as well as the Autofocus AF-Area Mode. Press this button and turn the rear Main Command Dial to select the Focus Mode, such as AF-A or AF-C, while viewing the setting on the top Control Panel or in the Viewfinder. Press this button and turn the front Sub-Command Dial to set the AF-Area Mode, such as Single-Point AF or 39-Point Dynamic-Area AF, which you can also view on the top Control Panel or in the Viewfinder.

Nikon D600 buttons controls book manual guide how to use learn autofocus tutorial
View of the rear controls of the Nikon D600.

The AE-L/AF-L Button can be customized to lock the exposure setting and/ or focus distance independently of the Shutter Button, or configured to perform back-button focusing duties. And buttons like the Fn Button and Preview Button can be set up to access one of numerous other settings that there is not a specific dedicated button for, such as quickly changing to Spot Metering or temporarily capturing RAW files while shooting in JPEG format. The Flash Button on the front of the camera will not only raise the flash, but it is also used in conjunction with the rear Main-Command Dial to set the Flash Mode (as viewed on the top LCD Control Panel), and with the front Sub-Command Dial to change the Flash Compensation amount.

Nikon D600 function button customize use learn book manual how to dummies field guide
Some of the options for Custom Setting f2, to assign your desired function to the Fn Button.

3. Learn the Difference Between Interval Timer Shooting and Time-Lapse Photography:

Unlike some other Nikon dSLR cameras, the D610 / D600 has separate settings for Interval Timer Shooting and Time-Lapse Photography Shooting. Although they are closely related – and are both methods of setting up the camera to automatically take photographs at regular, preset intervals – there are important differences.

Interval Timer Shooting can be used to take a series of images at each interval (for example, four images in a row every 1 hour for 3 hours). It can be used to take these multiple series of shots over several minutes or hours. Time-Lapse Photography is used to take a series of individual photos at each interval over an extended period, which are then automatically combined into a time-lapse movie (for example, one photo every 30 seconds for 6 hours, which are then turned into a movie). The resulting movie will use the video frame rate you have set in the camera, and the menu will calculate and display how long the final movie will be based on your settings.

4. Make Use of and Customize Picture Controls for those Shooting in JPEG Format:

If you are capturing images as JPEG files, you will want to set and/ or customize the Picture Controls so that your images have your desired level of sharpening, contrast, brightness, saturation, and hue. In other words, so that they look exactly how you want them to when they come out of the camera. These Picture Control settings are permanently applied to JPEG image files as they are processed and saved in the camera (but do not permanently affect RAW-NEF files). You can choose one of the presets such as Standard, Vivid, Landscape, and even black and white Monochrome. Or modify one of the presets to your desired settings or create your own custom Picture Control. You can even find custom Picture Controls online, such as ones that mimic certain types of film.

Nikon D600 Picture Control menu option manual guide book how to instruction tutorial dummies
Nikon D600 Picture Control menus to choose and modify a Picture Control, which determines the final look of JPEG images.

Picture Control settings are not necessarily needed if you shoot in RAW. The Picture Control settings will be associated with the RAW file as metadata and may be “applied” as you view the image in processing software such as Nikon Capture or View NX 2, but the settings will not permanently affect the RAW file and they can be changed during processing without affecting the quality of the image. Although please note that the Picture Control you set applies to the images and their Histograms that you see on the rear LCD Monitor even if you are shooting in only RAW. So, for example, if you were to set a Picture Control with high contrast, the images shown on the LCD Monitor will incorporate this setting (and the Histogram will reflect this setting) and thus will not look the same as the “unprocessed” exposure captured in the RAW files that you will later view on your computer. Therefore you may want to have this set at Standard or Neutral if you shoot RAW so that the images and their histograms you view on the camera’s LCD Monitor closely resemble the actual unprocessed RAW images. Or you can take a different approach and customize the Picture Controls to closely resemble how you typically process your RAW files. That way you can preview on the rear LCD how your final, processed image will appear. This approach should be taken only after you have gained experience with post processing and have developed your own typical processing settings.

5. Configure Your Camera for Easy Exposure Compensation:

Pressing the Exposure Compensation Button, indicated by (+/-), and turning the rear Main Command Dial will adjust Exposure Compensation, so that the exposure of a subsequent image is lighter or darker. If you wish to “cancel” exposure compensation, you will need to remember to change this setting back to zero after you take the shot.

If you often make use of Exposure Compensation (EC), you may wish to sometimes apply EC to just the next shot but sometimes use it for all of your following shots.  Custom Setting b3: Easy exposure compensation can give you very precise control over how you use the camera controls to set exposure compensation. You can set it up so that you must press the Exposure Compensation button as you turn the Main Command Dial in order to adjust exposure compensation. Or you can select to just directly turn the Command Dial of your choice, without pressing the Exposure Compensation Button first (by choosing setting On). This is a quicker way to adjust exposure compensation but introduces the possibility of changing it accidentally. With either of these above settings, exposure compensation will not be reset to 0 when you turn the camera off or when the metering standby timer period ends, so you must be sure to check your settings often to ensure you are not using exposure compensation when you don’t wish to.

Nikon D600 easy exposure compensation menu custom setting screenshot
Custom Setting b3 to set up Easy Exposure Compensation.

Alternately, you can set up the camera so that you turn one of the Command Dials (of your choice in Custom Setting f5) to directly adjust exposure compensation (EC), but your EC setting will be reset when the camera or exposure meter (Standby Timer) turns off. This option is the most sophisticated and most flexible, and may be the best one to learn and use. This is because you can still continue to use the Exposure Compensation Button with a Command Dial to set EC, but by setting it for On (Auto reset) EC will not be reset when the camera or Standby Timer turns off. Exposure compensation will only be automatically reset if you set it directly using the Command Dial without the button. So if you wish to use exposure compensation for just one shot, you can adjust EC with just the dial and then let it cancel after than single shot. But if you wish to take a series of shots with the same adjusted EC, you can use the button / dial combination to set it more “permanently.” Once you learn more about exposure compensation and how and when to use it, this will all start to make more sense, and you will begin to understand why this is such a powerful and useful Custom Setting.

6. Take Advantage of the Two SD Card Slots:

If you insert SD memory cards in both of the available slots, you can configure the second card to function in a variety of ways, by using the Role Played by Card in Slot 2 menu setting.  Overflow will save your images onto the second card after the first card is full. Backup will simultaneously record copies of all images onto both card 1 and card 2. Raw Slot 1 – JPEG Slot 2 will store NEF (RAW) images on card 1 and JPEG images on card 2, for example when you are shooting NEF (RAW)+JPEG in order to capture both file formats at the same time. When the second or third option is selected, the camera will use the card with the least amount of remaining memory to determine the displayed amount of exposures remaining. In the Movie Settings Menu you can also select to save movies on a specific card.

Nikon D600 dual two card slot memory SD body detail learn use book manual guide

You can also use the Copy Image(s) menu item to copy images from one memory card to another when two cards are inserted in the camera. This can be used to back up specific images or the entire card at once. This could be useful to create back-up copies of your images when you don’t have access to your computer, external hard drive, or CD/DVD burner – but it is best to back them up on one of these more permanent devices as soon as possible.

7. Experiment with HDR Shooting and Multiple Exposure Shooting:

Previously, HDR processing was performed only with software, but with the in-camera HDR (high dynamic range) feature of the D600 you can now capture two images of various exposures (an under-exposed image and an over-exposed image), automatically combine them into a single HDR image, and process them using a variety of options, all in-camera. While this will not result in the distinctive, dramatic types of HDR images you may have seen, it can create an image with a broader range of tones. (To create dramatic HDR images, you will still need to manually bracket three, five, or seven exposures of the same scene and combine and process them using HDR software.)

The in-camera HDR Shooting menu will allow you to select the exposure value (EV) increments of the two images (from 1 EV to 3 EV, or choose Auto), and you can also set the amount of Smoothing used when combining the images. You can set the camera to take just one HDR series, or continue to shoot in HDR Mode until you disable the function.

Nikon D600 in camera HDR mode shooting learn use how to
Lowell House, Cambridge, Mass – Making use of in-camera HDR to obtain a better exposure at night, with broader range of light, dark, and shadow details than would be possible with a normal exposure.

The in-camera Multiple Exposure Shooting Mode of the D610 / D600 allows you to create multiple exposure shots, with either two or three exposures superimposed in one image. You can use the Multiple Exposure menu to initiate Multiple Exposure Mode, and as with HDR Shooting you can decide if you wish to take a series of multiple exposure shots, or a single one after which the camera automatically reverts back to regular shooting. You can then select the number of shots to be combined, and set the Auto gain (use On unless you are working with a dark background. When Auto gain is set for On, the exposure of each shot is adjusted so that the final shot has the correct density. For example, if three shots are taken and combined for the final multiple exposure, the gain for each shot will be set at 1/3. If Auto Gain is turned Off, the result will likely be a dark, muddy shot.)

Nikon D600 multiple exposure shooting mode book manual guide dummies how to use learn tutorial
Multiple Exposure image taken with the D600 using Multiple Exposure Shooting mode.

8. Set the Center Weighted Metering Circle Size, and Fine-Tune the Metering:

With the D610 / D600, Custom Setting b4: Center-weighted area gives you the ability to customize the size of the central area that is used in determination proper exposure when working in Center-Weighted Area metering mode. When using Center-Weighted Metering the camera looks at the entire frame to determine exposure, but adds extra “weight” to the exposure values of the central area of the frame.  You can choose the desired diameter of the central circle area: 8mm, 12mm, 15mm, or 20mm. Or you can choose for the camera to determine the Average exposure of the entire frame, with setting Avg.

This option should be set based on how precise you wish your metered area to be or based on the size of the subject that you are metering. Since you can use Spot Metering mode for very precise metering of a 4mm diameter spot when you need that, perhaps it is useful to leave this at the default 12mm (though note that the 4mm Spot Metering circle moves and is centered around the active AF Point, while the Center-Weighted circle does not move). You can also set this to Avg to average the entire scene. This is a far less sophisticated mode of evaluating the entire scene than Matrix Metering (which takes the selected Focus Point and other data into consideration), and is similar to using an old film camera that averages the entire scene to 18% grey to determine proper exposure.

Nikon D600 viewfinder metering mode center weighted spot autofocus system af learn use book manual guide grid
Simulated view of the Nikon D610 / D600 Viewfinder, showing the location of the AF Points, the approximate sizes of the Center-Weighted Metering area size options, and the optional grid. The 4mm circle is the size of the Spot Metering area, which will actually move based on the active AF Point.

You can also take advantage of Custom Setting b5: Fine-tune optimal exposure to fine-tune the exposure value that is selected by the camera in each of its various metering modes. If you find that your images are always typically being slightly underexposed or overexposed when using a specific metering mode, you can adjust this accordingly so that you don’t have to use exposure compensation every time you use that metering mode. For example, you may find that Center-Weighted Metering delivers great exposures, but you would prefer that the images taken with Matrix Metering were 1/3 EV (1/3 step) overexposed all the time. If that is the case, you would adjust Matrix metering to +2/6 using the Custom Setting b5 menu. If you make use of this adjustment, you can still use exposure compensation in any situation in addition to this fine-tune adjustment. The fine-tune adjustment of Custom Setting b5 will happen “behind the scenes” to adjust the baseline exposure prior to any exposure compensation adjustment.

9. Configure the ISO Settings and Take Advantage of the Auto ISO Options:

You can use the menu item for ISO Sensitivity Settings to do much more than simply changing the ISO setting (which is more easily done simply using the ISO Button on the camera). If you plan to use Auto ISO rather than selecting your own ISO setting, this menu is also used to set the optional Auto ISO Sensitivity Control, which will function in P, S, A, and M shooting modes. Making use of Auto ISO can allow you to concentrate more closely on your aperture or shutter speed settings, and of course on your composition and framing. And the D600 has some great options that make the use of Auto ISO more viable and appealing than previous cameras.

Nikon D600 ISO sensitivity settings menu auto iso screenshot how to use set up learn manual guide book dummies
Nikon D610 / D600 ISO Sensitivity Settings Menu, including Auto ISO.

If you enable Auto ISO then the camera will automatically change your selected ISO, without your expressed permission, in certain situations in order to obtain a proper exposure. For example, if you are working in Aperture-Priority Auto Mode (A) and set the ISO at 1600, but based on your selected aperture and the lighting the camera does not believe there is enough light for the exposure and a realistic shutter speed (that you also set in this menu item – see below), it will automatically raise the ISO so that the shutter speed does not become impossibly slow for hand-holding. This may be good if you are still getting used to the cameras controls and settings and wish for the camera to help you out a bit in certain situations where you may not be paying close enough attention to your settings. Or perhaps in situations such as at a concert where the lighting may change dramatically without you realizing it or responding fast enough. But if you want complete control of your settings and exposures, you will need to turn this Off.

If you do set Auto ISO Sensitivity Control to be On, then you also set the Maximum Sensitivity or maximum ISO that the camera will use in these situations. For example, you may wish to set it no higher than 3200 or perhaps 6400 if you are willing to accept the digital noise of photos at that high an ISO. You also set the Minimum Shutter Speed that you would like the camera to automatically use in these situations. I suggest you set it at the slowest shutter speed you can possibly hand-hold and still potentially get an image without blur, perhaps 1/30 at the slowest if you are careful.

One of the powerful features of Auto ISO with the D600 is that when using it, the camera selects an ISO setting based on the local length of the lens being used. If you find that, when using Auto ISO, the camera is selecting shutter speeds that are slower than you wish (and thus may cause blur due to camera-shake), you can use this menu to adjust these settings and instruct the camera to use a faster shutter speed.

10. Make use of the Playback Display Options and Histogram

You will likely want to enable most or all of the Playback Display Options so that you can better evaluate your images, their settings, and the resulting exposures. That way you will know how to adjust the camera settings for the subsequent images. When these various display options are enabled, you can view the different screens during full-screen image playback (not multiple thumbnail view) by pressing up or down on the Multi Selector.

Nikon D600 menu playback display histogram
Playback Display Options menu screen of the D610 / D600.

On the menu screen shown above, None will display a full screen image with no information, which helps you to inspect the image. Highlights will display blinking areas to alert you of where the image has been overexposed, which can help you determine the proper exposure for the subsequent shots. RGB histogram will display histogram graphs of the various color channels to also assist you in determining proper exposure. This one may actually be optional if you do not yet make use of individual color channel histograms. Shooting data displays additional information including the lens and focal length used, flash information, and Picture Controls settings. This screen is not necessarily very informative immediately after taking the shot since you already know most of these settings, but can be handy when later reviewing an image in-camera. Overview displays a thumbnail of the image along with the RGB histogram and shooting information. This is perhaps the most important and useful information screen to use while shooting to help determine that you obtained the proper or desired exposure of an image.

The option for Focus point will show you which Focus Point was used when capturing an image, and will thus verify if you properly focused where you intended (unless you recomposed after locking focus). It is that tiny red square or squares superimposed on your image when you view it on the rear LCD Monitor, but will not be on the actual image. It is most helpful for when you let the camera select the autofocus point, such as in action situations, and/ or when using an AF-Area Mode other than Single Point AF – and then you can see if the camera focused where you wished. But if you manually select your own AF point, as you typically should in many situations, you will already know where the camera focused.

Nikon D600 playback histogram how to use learn manual guide tutorial book
Overview Playback Display option, which shows a thumbnail of the image along with the RGB histogram and shooting information.

The Histogram is used to help you determine if your image was under- or over-exposed, and you generally want to make sure the graph falls down to zero before it reaches the edges of the histogram chart. If the data runs off the right side or spikes against the right edge, it means that you have over-exposed areas of your image, and you will need to adjust your exposure settings or make use of Exposure Compensation for taking the subsequent image.

There are, of course, numerous other settings and features of the D600 that can help you take full advantage of your camera. My guides Nikon D600 Experience and Nikon D610 Experience go beyond the manual to help you learn the features, settings, and controls of these sophisticated and highly customizable cameras.  Most importantly, they explain not only how but also when and why to use the D600/D610 basic and advanced features, settings, and controls in your photography. You can learn more about the guides, preview them, and purchase them by visiting my Full Stop webpage or by clicking on the book covers below:

Nikon D600 book ebook camera guide download manual how to dummies field instruction tutorial   Nikon D610 book manual guide how to autofocus settings menu custom setup dummies learn use tips tricks

Purchasing the Nikon D610: If you are still contemplating the D610 and plan to buy, please consider using my affiliate links to make your purchase, and the retailer will give me a little something for referring you – thanks! You can click on the Amazon, B&H, or Adorama logos on the left of this page, or click here for the Nikon D610 on Amazon.

If you are considering getting the new Nikon D5200, B&H Photo has put together a nice D5200 bundle with a free battery and free battery grip.

The third-party battery grip will allow you to use two batteries, thus extending your shooting time.  It also makes the camera larger, which many photographers prefer.  The D5200 is a relatively small dSLR, and many users find that the extended grip makes shooting in portrait orientation easier.  But in addition to that, it may keep your pinky from “falling off” the bottom when shooting with the camera in “standard” orientation, as well as help the feel and balance of the camera when using larger / heavier lenses.

I am busy working on my Full Stop camera guide to the Nikon D5200, Nikon D5200 Experience, which I hope to have finished by late February.  As with all my guides, it is an e-book user’s guide that goes beyond the manual to help you learn the features, settings, and controls of this versatile camera.  Most importantly, it explains not only how but also when and why to use the various features, controls, and custom settings in your photography.

The D5200 is a bit more advanced than its D5100 predecessor due primarily to the upgraded autofocus system.  The D5200 now has the 39 point AF system of the D7000, which proved to have a steep learning curve for many users. Nikon D5200 Experience fully explains how to take control of this powerful autofocus system and its Autofocus Modes and Autofocus Area Modes.

Nikon d5200 autofocus system 39 af point use learn book ebook guide manual
Simulated view of the Nikon D5200 viewfinder, showing the 39 autofocus points. Background image shown at 75% opacity to better view the AF points.

If you wish to purchase your D5200 from Amazon, it is now also available there in a variety of colors and kits:

Nikon D5200 dSLR on Amazon, body only / with 18-105mm kit lens / with 18-55mm kit lens

Nikon D600 Experience, my latest Full Stop e book and the first D600 user’s guide, is now available! This e book goes beyond the manual to help you learn the features, settings, and controls of the powerful and highly customizable Nikon D600. Plus most importantly it explains how, when, and why to use the functions, settings, menu options, and controls in your photography – including the sophisticated autofocus system and the in-camera features such as Multiple Exposure, HDR, and Time-Lapse Shooting.

Written in the clear, concise, and comprehensive style of all Full Stop guides, Nikon D600 Experience will help you learn to use your full-frame D600 quickly and competently, to consistently create the types of images you want to capture. This e-book is available in either PDF or EPUB format for reading on your computer, tablet, iPad, e-reader, etc.

Nikon D600 book ebook camera guide download manual how to dummies field instruction tutorial

Learn more about it, view a preview, and purchase it here:

http://www.dojoklo.com/Full_Stop/Nikon_D600_Experience.htm

As one reader has said about Full Stop guides, “I don’t know how I could fully take advantage of all the features the camera has to offer without this publication! It’s well-organized, easy to understand, and succinct enough to keep your attention while still containing a wealth of information to get the most out of your camera.”

Take control of your Nikon D600, the image taking process, and the photos you create!

For experienced photographers coming to the D600 from previous models, this guide explains the new and advanced features to quickly get you up and running and taking advantage of these capabilities, including the advanced 39 Point Autofocus System and its Autofocus Modes, AF-Area Modes, Menu options and Custom Settings. Plus it explains the camera controls, the in-camera HDR, Multiple Exposures, Interval Timer and Time-Lapse Shooting features, introduces the settings and controls of the HD video capabilities, and guides you through all the Menu and Custom Settings options to help you set up the camera for your specific needs.

This guide is also designed for Intermediate and Enthusiast dSLR Photographers who wish to take fuller advantage of the capabilities of the camera to go beyond Auto and Program modes and shoot competently in A, S, and M modes; take control of the sophisticated 39 point autofocus system; learn how, when, and why to use the controls, buttons, and features of the D600, and much more. It covers basic dSLR camera functions and exposure concepts for those learning digital SLR photography, and explains more advanced camera controls and operation such as using the various metering modes and exposure compensation for correct exposure of every image.

Nikon D600 Experience focuses on still-photography with an introduction to HD video in order to get you up and running with shooting movies, including the movie settings and menu options. Sections include:

  • Setting Up Your D600 – All of the D600 Custom Settings and Playback, Shooting, and Setup Menus, including Movie Mode Menus, with explanations and recommended settings for practical, everyday use. Set up and customize the advanced features of your dSLR to work best for the way you photograph.
  • Aperture Priority (A), Shutter Priority (S), and Manual (M) Modes – How and when to use them to create dramatic depth of field, freeze or express motion, or take total control over exposure settings.
  • Auto Focusing Modes and Area Modes and Release (Drive) Modes – The 39 point D600 autofocus system is a is a powerful tool, and taking control of it will enable you to successfully capture more sharp images, especially in action situations.  Learn the AF Modes, AF Area Modes, and AF Custom Settings, how they differ, how and when to take advantage of them to capture both still and moving subjects. Plus how and when to use focus lock.
  • Exposure Metering Modes of the Nikon D600 – How they differ, how and when to use them for correct exposures in every situation, and how to customize them for your needs. Also how to make use of exposure lock.
  • Histograms, Exposure Compensation, Bracketing, and White Balance – Understanding and using these features for adjusting to the proper exposure in challenging lighting situations, and setting custom white balance.
  • The Image Taking Process – Descriptive tutorials for using the settings and controls you just learned to take photos of both still and moving subjects.
  • Photography Accessories – The most useful accessories for day-to-day and travel photography including accessories specific to the D600.
  • Composition – Brief tips, techniques, and explanations, including the creative use of depth of field.
  • Introduction to Video Settings – Settings and explanations to get you started shooting HD video.

This digital guide to the Nikon D600 is a 217 page illustrated e-book that goes beyond the manual to explain how, when, and why to use the features, settings, and controls of the D600 to help you get the most from your camera.

Learn more about Nikon D600 Experience, view a preview, and purchase it on my Full Stop website here:

http://www.dojoklo.com/Full_Stop/Nikon_D600_Experience.htm

There is a lot of exciting news today, and not just with the US Presidential election but also on the dSLR front. Nikon has announced the new Nikon D5200 upper-entry-level dSLR and Canon has announced the Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM lens.  Yes, a 24-70mm with Image Stabilization! Plus they announced  the EF 35mm f/2 IS USM lens.

The Nikon D5200 is a pretty big leap for an upper-entry level camera in that not only does it boast the 24 megapixels of the new Nikon D600, it also incorporates the 39-point autofocus system of the D7000 (and D600).  This is a sophisticated, complex AF system that was challenging for many experienced enthusiasts to learn, so it is going to be an interesting challenge for those with much less dSLR experience. A very interesting move by Nikon.

Nikon D5200 dslr 39 point autofocus AF

The new Canon 24-70mm F/4L IS, with Image Stabilization, is designed to be the kit lens for the upcoming Canon 6D, though it will also make a great lens for any other Canon dSLR. It is going to create a very difficult decision for photographers who will have to weigh the pros and cons of the 25-105 f/4 IS (with Image Stabilization too), the original 24-70 f/2.8L or newer 24-70 f/2L II (both without Image Stabilization), and the brand new 24-70 f/4L IS – which adds Image Stabilization.

Canon 24-70mm lens ef is image stabilization f4 f/4

The original 24-70 f/2.8L quickly became my main walk-about lens immediately after obtaining it, so I can say that it is a wonderful lens and a great focal length.  Have the additional reach of the 24-105mm f/4L IS would be great, but I didn’t want to give up the wide f/2.8 aperture which creates even greater background blurring. Now people are going to have to analyze the Image Stabilization vs. the f/2.8 or f/4 aperture vs. the additional reach of the 24-105mm (especially on a full-frame camera) vs. the price vs. image quality vs. size and weight.  Not an easy decision! Perhaps when I get a chance, I will try to break it down and try to help with the decision.  Just know, before you lose your mind analyzing the pros and cons of each element, each of these lenses has amazing performance, built, and image quality.  You really can’t go wrong with any of them. Just pick one and start shooting!

And perhaps most exciting, Canon has introduced the Mark II lens caps! Finally, a center-pinch cap that can easily be accessed inside a lens hood.  I know you had to copy Nikon to do this, but thank you Canon!

Canon lens cap center centre pinch new

As I am working on my guide to the Nikon D600, Nikon D600 Experience, I realize that it may be very helpful to Nikon users to briefly explain the difference between Interval Timer Photography and Time-Lapse Photography. In the Nikon D600, these features are found in the Shooting Menu.

Interval Timer Shooting

This is used to take a continuous series of photographs at each specified time interval, for a set number of intervals, with the intervals to begin either immediately or at a set time (see Figure 1). It can be used to take these multiple series of shots over several minutes or hours. This is a bit different than the Time-Lapse Photography option (just below) in that Interval Timer Shooting can be used to capture not just one but rather a series of photos at each interval – for example, 4 photos in a row every 10 minutes, for 2 intervals. This will result in a total of 8 photos, as the camera will calculate and show you.

Nikon d600 interval timer vs time lapse photography shooting difference
Figure 1 – Interval Timer Shooting menu, showing 4 shots to be taken each interval, for 2 intervals, for a total of 8 shots. The intervals are to start immediately, with the time between intervals as 10 minutes. The current time is 22:50.

First choose to begin the Interval Timer Shooting immediately (Now), or at a set Start Time. Press left and right on the Multi Selector to navigate through these menus and up and down to set the desired times and numbers.

Next set the Interval, or time period between when each series of shots is taken. Then set the number of intervals (Select no. of times) and the number of shots to be taken at the start of each interval (no. of shots). Press right again when done with the settings, and select On to begin the Interval Timer shooting.

Ideally, set up your camera on a tripod for the duration of Interval Timer Shooting. Note that you cannot use Live View, and that each series of shots will be taken at the frames-per-second rate of the current Release Mode (or the Continuous Low rate if set for Single Frame), although this rate may be limited by a slower shutter speed setting. You can combine Bracketing with this function. Press the OK Button between intervals to pause or stop the process. The camera will need to focus before taking the shots, so it may be best to pre-focus the camera and then set the camera and lens to manual focus.

Time-Lapse Photography

This differs from the above Interval Timer Shooting in that it is used to take a series of individual photos over an extended period of minutes or hours that are then combined into a time-lapse movie (see Figure 2). Thus only one photo is taken at each interval – for example, one photo every 10 seconds, for 8 hours. The resulting movie will use the frame rate setting from the Movie Settings (also in the Shooting Menu), and thus that setting (24fps, 30fps, etc.) will determine to total length of the movie. If 24fps was used in the above example, the resulting movie would be 2 minutes, as the camera will thankfully calculate for you in this menu.

Nikon d600 interval timer vs time lapse photography shooting difference
Figure 2 – Time-Lapse Photography menu – here the camera is set up to take an image every 5 seconds (the Interval), over a period of 25 minutes (the Shooting time). Since the movie frame rate is set at 24fps, the final movie will be 12.6 seconds long (Length recorded). The maximum possible length of a movie here is shown to be 38 minutes and 15 seconds based on the space left on the memory card as shown at the bottom, though note that the actual maximum length of any movie is 20 minutes.

To set up this function, access Time-Lapse Photography in the Shooting Menu.

Press right on the Multi Selector to access the settings, then press right or left to navigate to the various settings, and up and down to change the numbers and times. First set the Interval or time period between each shot. Then set the total Shooting time. You need to set short Intervals and a long Shooting Time to create a lengthy final time-lapse movie.

When done with the settings, press right on the Multi Selector and choose On. The time-lapse shooting will begin after 3 seconds. Again, be sure to set up the camera on a tripod for the duration of the shooting. When the shooting is complete, the resulting movie will be saved to the memory card selected in the Shooting Menu under Movie Settings in the Destination option.

If you wish to calculate the total length of a resulting time-lapse movie without entering the numbers into the camera, you can use the formula below, or use a time-lapse calculator available online or as an app.

Time-Lapse Formula:

trt = H * 3600 / I *FR

trt= Total Running Time in seconds.

H= Total Hours taken for time lapse in real time.

I= Interval in Seconds between photographs.

FR= Frame Rate in which pictures will be displayed (24, 25, 30, 60 etc.).

So for the settings in Figure 202:

trt = 7.5 * 3600 / 30 * 24

trt = 37.5 seconds (shown on the camera as 37.6”)

As you can see, it is easier to just get an app for this! Note that the total maximum length for a movie is limited to 20 minutes. Be sure to replace the Viewfinder eyecup with the Eyepiece Cap provided with your camera to block stray light from entering the camera during this process. Press the OK Button or turn the camera off to stop the time-lapse process. As with Interval Timer Photography, the camera will need to focus before taking each shot, so it may be best to pre-focus the camera and then set the camera and lens to manual focus.

Both Interval Timer Photography and Time-Lapse Photography and their various settings and options are explained in more detail in the Interval and Time-Lapse Shooting section of the Nikon D600 Experience e-book user’s guide.

Nikon D600 Experience – The Still Photography Guide to Operation and Image Creation With the Nikon D600 is an e book user’s guide that goes beyond the manual to help you learn the features, settings, and controls of this sophisticated and highly customizable camera.  Most importantly, it explains not only how but also when and why to use the camera’s basic and advanced features, settings, and controls in your photography.

Nikon D600 book ebook camera guide download manual how to dummies field instruction tutorial

Written in the clear, concise, and comprehensive manner of all Full Stop dSLR camera guides, Nikon D600 Experience will help you learn to use your D600 quickly and competently, to consistently create the types of images you want to capture. As one reader has said about Full Stop guides:

“I don’t know how I could fully take advantage of all the features the camera has to offer without this publication!  It’s well-organized, easy to understand, and succinct enough to keep your attention while still containing a wealth of information to get the most out of your camera.”

For dSLR users from Experienced to Enthusiast:

For experienced photographers coming to the D600 from the D90, D7000, D5100, etc., this guide explains the new and advanced features in order to quickly get you up and running and taking advantage of these capabilities, including the sophisticated 39 Point Autofocus System and all its AF Modes, AF Area Modes, and Custom Settings.  Plus it explains the camera controls, the in-camera HDR, Multiple Exposure, and Time Lapse features, introduces the video capabilities, and guides you through all the Playback, Shooting, and Setup Menus, Custom Settings, and Movie Mode Menu settings of the D600 in order to help you best set up the camera and its controls for your specific shooting needs.

For intermediate and enthusiast photographers this instant download Nikon D600 e book will help you learn to take fuller advantage of the capabilities of your camera:

  • Go beyond Auto and Program modes and shoot competently in A, S, and M shooting modes.
  • Take full advantage of the sophisticated 39 point autofocus system.
  • Learn how, when, and why to use and customize the various controls, buttons, and features of the D600.

To get you started, it includes explanations and recommended settings for all Menu options and Custom Settings of the D600.  It covers basic dSLR camera functions and exposure concepts for those learning digital SLR photography, and explains more advanced camera controls and operation, such as taking control of the powerful autofocus system for sharp focus of still or moving subjects, using the various metering modes and exposure compensation for correct exposure of every image, and taking advantage of other features of the D600 such as in-camera HDR and Multiple Exposure Mode.

Nikon D600 book ebook download manual guide instruction tutorial how to dummies   Nikon D600 book ebook download manual guide instruction tutorial how to dummies

Nikon D600 book ebook download manual guide instruction tutorial how to dummies   Nikon D600 book ebook download manual guide instruction tutorial how to dummies
Example images from the text of Nikon D600 Experience

You can preview Nikon D600 Experience at the Full Stop webpage:

Nikon D600 Experience not only covers the various settings, functions and controls of the Nikon D600, but it also explains when and why to use them for your photography. The guide focuses on still-photography with an introduction to the movie menus and settings to get you up and running with video. Sections include:

  • Setting Up Your D600 – All of the D600 Custom Settings and Playback, Shooting, and Setup Menus, including Movie Mode Menus, with explanations and recommended settings for practical, everyday use. Set up and customize the advanced features of your dSLR to work best for the way you photograph.
  • Aperture Priority (A), Shutter Priority (S), and Manual (M) Modes – How and when to use them to create dramatic depth of field, freeze or express motion, or take total control over exposure settings.
  • Auto Focusing Modes and Area Modes and Release (Drive) Modes – The 39 point D600 autofocus system is a is a powerful tool, and taking control of it will enable you to successfully capture more sharp images, especially in action situations.  Learn the AF Modes, AF Area Modes, and AF Custom Settings, how they differ, how and when to take advantage of them to capture both still and moving subjects. Plus how and when to use focus lock.
  • Exposure Metering Modes of the Nikon D600 – How they differ, how and when to use them for correct exposures in every situation, and how to customize them for your needs. Also how to make use of exposure lock.
  • Histograms, Exposure Compensation, Bracketing, and White Balance – Understanding and using these features for adjusting to the proper exposure in challenging lighting situations, and setting custom white balance.
  • Composition – Brief tips, techniques, and explanations, including the creative use of depth of field.
  • The Image Taking Process – Descriptive tutorials for using the settings and controls you just learned to take photos of both still and moving subjects.
  • Photography Accessories – The most useful accessories for day-to-day and travel photography including accessories specific to the D600.
  • Introduction to Video Settings – Settings and explanations to get you started.

This digital guide to the Nikon D600 is an illustrated e-book that goes beyond the D600 manual to explain how, when, and why to use the features, settings, and controls of the D600 to help you get out there shooting in the real world.  It is available in instant download PDF and EPUB formats.

Title:  Nikon D600 Experience
Author:  Douglas Klostermann
Page Count:  217, illustrated
ISBN #: 978-1-3017-2999-9
Price: $14.99

What Readers are Saying about Doug’s previous guide Nikon D7000 Experience:

This book, together with the manual that came with your camera, is all you need to start discovering the full potential of the D7000.
-Max M.

It’s the first guide I’ve read which has taken me through all the settings in an understandable way. I now feel that I have control over the camera.
-Peter S.

Really practical and tremendously helpful. Readers of this e-book can expect to benefit from a more rewarding photographic experience using this superb camera, and be better able to exploit its potential to match their personal objectives and photographic style. Highly recommended.
-M.M.

I would recommend this to anyone who wants to get a quick start to using the D7000.  Manuals are nice, but this eBook highlights the important information and gives a quick easy to understand explanation of most all of the functions and controls.
-Ray M.

I found the Nikon manual good for understanding how to set things up but not much on the why – this book really focuses on the WHY.  The guide helped me understand why to use specific settings for specific needs.  The Custom Settings sections helps to make firm decisions on how to apply settings by understanding the usage of each in addition to knowing how to set them up.
-Benoit A.

This manual is a clearly written, concise and useful explanation of the rationale for the seemingly infinite and often confusing settings options for the D7000. Used in conjunction with the Nikon manual I feel a bit more confident in understanding how to at last proceed in getting better photographs.
-W.L.S.

It’s clear, concise and gets to the heart of the camera’s multiple and often confusing options. Very highly recommended – for experienced user and beginner alike. As previous reviewers have remarked, the official manual is very good on what to do, but not so clear on why.
-G.S.A.

A well written, professional helpful guide – Brilliant, just what I was looking for! A manual for the D7000 that was exciting, clear to follow, had examples and was used by a professional who gave just the right amount of technical with explanations of why you use those settings, when to use those settings and so on, all properly explained. The book is a revelation, a joy to follow, well thought through and well written. Nikon should be employing Doug to write every one of their cameras manuals.
-R.D.C.

Comparing the Nikon D600 vs. D7000 vs. D300s:

I’ve written a previous post comparing the Nikon D7000 vs D90 vs D300s, as well as one comparing the current Nikon dSLR line-up of the Nikon D7000 vs. D5100 vs. D90 vs. D3100.   Now that the full frame Nikon D600 has been introduced (and almost immediately made available for sale), I need to revisit these comparisons to include this latest Nikon dSLR.  I am going to focus on the D600 vs D7000 vs D300s here, with some D90 specs thrown in, but leaving out the D5100 plus the more expensive D800 full frame (FX) model for now until I get the chance to incorporate them into the discussion.

Nikon D600 vs D700 vs D300s compare choose which one decide review full frame fx dx size body weight
Nikon D600 vs Nikon D7000 – comparison of body size and controls of the full frame FX vs the APS-C sized DX format dSLR cameras – image by author, courtesy of Newtonville camera of Newton, Mass.

The introduction of the full frame (a.k.a. FX format) sensor sized Nikon D600 has expanded the Nikon dSLR line-up, and perhaps made it even more challenging to determine which camera is right for you.  To get a sense of where the D600 sits, it is designed to be the first full frame dSLR aimed at the photography “enthusiast” – in both features and price (about $2100).  (Full frame or FX format means that the sensor is the same size as a frame of 35mm film.) It does not have quite all the features, continuous frame rate speed, larger and more rugged body, external controls, and customization options as a professional level dSLR like the Nikon D800, yet it still offers more than enough in terms of image quality, features, controls, and durable construction for most any serious enthusiast.  I would even contend that it is plenty capable as a semi-pro’s full frame body or second body, or even a smaller, lighter weight option for sometime-use by a pro.

Sitting Between the D7000 and D800: The D600 has been described by Nikon as sitting between the APS-C sensor sized (DX) D7000 and the full frame (FX) D800.  What that means is that, first, it has the approximate size, weight, and “feel” of the pro-sumer D7000.  This “FX camera in a DX body” is a desirable feature for a lot of photographers, especially those carrying and using their camera all day such as when traveling.  Plus it incorporates the sophisticated and customizable 39 point autofocus system of the D7000, along with that camera’s “user-friendly” interface and controls (the autofocus system has actually even been improved over the D7000 in terms of greater sensitivity).  This makes it an easy transition for D7000 users wanting to go full frame, or wanting to simultaneously work with both bodies.  Yet is also boasts some technology borrowed from the higher end D800 like the HDMI output, uncompressed video recording, and improved exposure metering.

Nikon D600 vs D700 vs D300s compare choose which one decide review full frame fx dx
Detail of the Nikon D600 full frame dSLR camera – image by author

The Second Highest Rated Sensor:  Previously, in order to offer a high-quality, fully featured yet affordable camera for enthusiasts and semi-pros, the compromise was a smaller sensor – the APS-C sized sensor (or what Nikon calls the DX format) which is about two-thirds of the size of a full frame sensor.  Larger sensors have always been desired for several reasons:  they typically deliver better performance in terms of improved resolution, increased dynamic range, and improved low light / high ISO performance.  In other words, the images have much better detail and can withstand serious cropping, display a fuller range of colors and tones, and are cleaner with less digital noise, especially in low light situations.  And indeed the sensor of the D600 lives up to these expectations – in fact it is the second highest rated sensor on DXOmark, behind only the Nikon D800E and D800 (the D800E is the D800 without the anti-aliasing filter in front of the sensor). So in terms of image quality for the price, the D600 really can’t be beat at this point.

The full frame sensor will also affect the field of view of your lenses. For those moving from an APS-C sized (DX) sensor camera to a full frame body, a 50mm lens will now act as a true 50mm lens – no more 1.5x crop factor to consider. This means that your wide angle lenses will now act as true wide angle lenses, but your telephoto lenses will no longer have quite as much reach as you may be used to.  But in the interest of lens compatibility, Nikon DX lenses can be used with the D600 and the camera will automatically crop the images as if using a DX sized sensor (so the sensor is reduced to 10.5 MP).

I first introduced the Nikon D600 in my post The First Affordable Full Frame dSLR, and there you can learn about a lot of the camera’s specifications and what they mean as far as real-life photographic use.  Here I will try to spell out the difference in specs and how that might affect your choice.  As I always like to point out, when you are trying to determine which camera to purchase or upgrade to, you need to first consider and determine your needs, and then see which camera fills those needs. Not the other way around where you look at the new features and speculate if you really need or will use them. The latest cameras almost always have more impressive features and specifications than the preceding models, but if your needs and shooting style don’t required those upgrades then it is possible that you can save some money and be completely happy with a less expensive or earlier model (and spend your money on better lenses!)

Nikon D600 vs D700 vs D300s compare choose which one decide review full frame fx dx size body weight
Nikon D600 vs Nikon D7000 – comparison of body size and controls of the full frame FX vs the APS-C sized DX format dSLR cameras – Click on this image to have a closer look.  Image by author, courtesy of Newtonville camera of Newton, Mass.

Sensor and Image Quality: The image sensor of the D7000 was greatly improved over both the D90 and the D300s, and now the sensor of the D600 is an even greater leap.  The D7000 has 16.2 megapixels, where the D90 and D300s each have 12.3 megapixels.  The D600 boasts 24.3 megapixels.  In addition to its dramatic improvement in resolution, I noted above the other image quality advantages of a full frame sensor, as well as how that will affect your lenses’ field of view.  This increase in resolution will also allow for more intrusive editing of the files in Photoshop, the ability to crop a picture and still obtain an image with high enough resolution for printing or display, and allow for larger prints.  You can have a look at dxomark.com to compare the sensors – run your mouse along the red-to-green color bar to the right of the Measurement graphs (such as Dynamic Range) to see how these differences affect images.  You can see from the charts that there are some significant improvements over the sensor of the D7000.

Exposure Metering: As with the D7000, the D600 has a 2016 pixel RGB metering sensor – although Nikon has stated that this latest version is improved over the D7000.  Both of these are certainly improved compared to the D90 and D300s, and will result in better TTL metering performance of straightforward and complex lighting scenes, such as back-lit situations.  All of these Nikon cameras offer Matrix metering, Center-weighted average metering, and Spot metering. With center-weighted metering, the D600 offers the option of an 8, 12, 15, or 20mm center circle for its weighting, or simply an old-fashioned Average reading.  The D90 makes use of your choice of a 6, 8, or 10mm center circle for its weighting, while the D7000 and D300s add a 13mm circle option to that.  A nice feature of Nikon dSLR cameras is that the Spot Metering is linked to the active AF Point, so in the image below, the AF Point was placed on the subject’s face, and the camera determined metering there (rather than requiring me to first meter where I wanted and then lock the exposure as Canon Spot Metering requires).

Nikon D600 full frame FX sensor backlit backlighting active d lighting exposure metering spot
Nikon D600 – Use of Spot Metering and Active-D Lighting in severe backlit situation.  As you can see, you still need to know how to make use of the metering modes and determine a proper exposure, as the camera can’t perform magic.  Use of fill flash in this situation resulted in better exposure and contrast on the subject.

Autofocus: The autofocus system of the D600 is similar to the D7000 AF system, with its 39 AF points and 9 more sensitive cross-type points (clustered in the center).  However, you can see that the AF points are spread much more widely across the viewfinder with the DX sized D7000:

Nikon D7000 vs D600 viewfinder DX FX compare choose vs which one af autofocus point 39
Simulated view of Nikon D7000 viewfinder, showing the location of all the autofocus AF points (and the viewfinder grid that can be turned on or off)- image by author.

Nikon D7000 vs D600 viewfinder DX FX compare choose vs which one af autofocus point 39
Simulated view of Nikon D600 viewfinder, showing the location of all the autofocus AF points (viewfinder grid not show but is available to view)- image by author.

Each of these above images show the full simulated framing as seen in the viewfinder, and you can clearly see how the 39 AF Points of the D600 are limited more to the central area of the frame.  This means that you are likely going to have to do some significant “focus-lock and recomposing” as you create interesting compositions where the subject is off-center.  This will also impact the use of the AF Points when using AF-C Continuous Autofocus Mode to track moving subjects.  The moving subject will have to remain within the area of the AF Points in order for the camera to continue tracking it, so you will have to move the camera around to follow the subject more closely.  This again is going to seriously limit your compositions when using AF-C and tracking a subject, as the subject is always going to have to be located in the central part of the frame.  If you are a serious action, sports, bird, or wildlife photographer, you are going to have to seriously consider if this AF Point arrangement of the D600 is going to work for you.  Or else consider using the camera in DX Crop “mode,” where you use just a DX-sized portion of the sensor to capture the image.  Although you will only be making use of 10 megapixels, the AF Points will in effect be spread out over more of the frame, more similar to what you see in the D7000 viewfinder.

As mentioned above, the 39 AF Points of the D600 are more sensitive than those of the D7000, with 33 of them sensitive down to f/8.  This means when you use a teleconverter (such as with a long lens in order to turn a 200mm lens into a 400mm lens) which reduces the effective maximum aperture of your lens by a stop or 2 or 3, you can sill make full use of most of the AF Points.  As with the D7000, you can limit the number of selectable AF Points to 11 if you prefer to manually select your AF Point (as you typically should) and you find 39 too many to contend with.  Since the AF system of the D600 as well as its controls and autofocus Custom Settings are so similar to the D7000, you can have a look at this post Taking Control of your D7000 Autofocus System to begin to learn how to get the most out of it.  The AF systems of the D600 and D7000 (and D300s) allow for you to use the numerous autofocus points in various ways to best capture still subjects (typically using AF-S autofocus mode) or track and capture moving subjects (using AF-C autofocus mode), including Automatic AF point selection, Single Point AF, and Dynamic Area AF using your choice of 9 points, 21 points, all points, or all points with 3D-Tracking.

Regarding the D90 and D300s, the autofocus system of the D90 has 11 autofocus (AF) points with only the center one being the more accurate cross type. The D300s offers 51 AF points with 15 being cross type, and thus is ideal for sports, action, and wildlife – although it has begun to become outdated and superseded by many of the other features of the D7000.

Nikon D600 book ebook guide manual tutorial how to dummies instruction fieldBrief commercial interruption: I would like to mention that I have written an e-book user’s guide for the D7000 called Nikon D7000 Experience, and will be offering an e-book guide for the D600Nikon D600 Experience. The guides discuss not only how to use the features, controls, autofocus systems, and various settings of the cameras, but more importantly when and why to make use of them in your photography.  They also explain the metering modes, aperture and shutter priority modes and manual shooting, focus lock, exposure lock, and more.  Plus they describe all of the Menu options and Custom Settings, with recommended settings.  Learn more about my Full Stop dSLR camera guides here!

Body, Construction and Size/ Weight: The D600 and D7000 (and even the older D90) appear very similar at first glance, and both have a rugged partial magnesium alloy body (top and rear) with a polycarbonate front.  However, the D600 is actually slightly lighter than the D7000: 1.68 lbs. vs 1.7 lbs.  The D300s is slightly larger than the other 2 bodies, and weighs in at 2.2 lbs, with full magnesium construction. The sturdier construction of the D600 and the D7000, including their nice rubber gripping surfaces, creates the feel of a more professional body. The D600, D7000, and D300s all have weather sealing at the memory card and battery doors.  The D600 has a slightly larger rear LCD Monitor at 3.2″ vs. the 3″ rear LCD screen of the D7000 and D300s.

ISO: As mentioned in the Sensor/ Image Quality section above, the high ISO performance of the D600 is improved over the D7000, which was already improved over both the D90 and the D300s. The tests at dxomark.com tell this story.  The native ISO range of the D600 and D7000 is 100-6400 expandable up to 25,600.  The D300s and D90 have a native ISO range of 200-3200 expandable to 6400. This means that with the D600 you can use high ISO settings when required, such as in low light situations, and not have any difficulty with digital noise, particularly in the shadow areas of images. You can view my informal ISO test images on this post of Nikon D600 ISO Test Sample Images to see the excellent high ISO performance when shooting JPEG images.

Controls: The controls of the D600 are very similar to the D7000, with some minor changes such as the locking Mode Dial switch (a nice touch), the different Live View / Movie switch and relocated Record Button, and in the “why did they do that?” category the reversing of the zoom in and zoom out buttons.  The Multi-Selector thumb pad size has also been reduced on the D600, which I find to be less comfortable than the larger D7000 Multi-Selector.  Overall, all of the controls are easily accessible, user friendly, and quick and easy to access and use for changing settings on the fly.  Many controls make use of a button press and then either of the Command Dials to change the setting.  For example, press the AF-Mode Button at the base of the lens and then turn the Main Command Dial to change the AF Mode or the Sub-Command Dial to change the AF Area Mode, as you look on the top LCD Control Panel to see your choices.  I found myself always intuitively turning the wrong dial in conjunction with the ISO Button, but that will just take some practice (one dial enables Auto ISO while the other changes the ISO setting).

Nikon D600 vs D7000 controls buttons size compare side by side
Nikon D600 vs Nikon D7000 – comparison of body size and controls of the full frame FX vs the APS-C sized DX format dSLR cameras – image by author, courtesy of Newtonville camera of Newton, Mass.

The D300s has entirely different switches, dials, and buttons than the D600 and D7000, however this allows for quicker and easier direct access to a few more features and settings on the D300s.  As with the D7000, the D600 offers two customizable user settings (U1, U2) on the mode dial for pre-setting a combination of camera settings and Custom Settings.  For example, you can set up your camera for landscape photography with all the settings you use for that and assign these settings to U1, and then configure your camera for studio/ portrait use and assign that combination of settings to the U2 mode.  You can also assign numerous functions of your choice to certain buttons such as the Fn Button, such as quickly and temporarily changing to Spot Metering Mode or turning on the built-in level display.

Wireless Flash: All of these Nikon cameras allow for advanced wireless lighting using the built in flash as a remote Commander for Nikon Speedlights, allowing you to make use of and remotely control simple or complex off-camera lighting set-ups.

Viewfinder: As with the D7000 and D300s, the D600 has a large, bright 100% optical viewfinder coverage.

Processor: The D90 and D300s have the Nikon Expeed Processor, the D7000 has the improved Expeed II processor, and the D600 boasts the speedier Expeed 3 processor. This allows for more video options including full 1080p HD at all the frame rates and overall faster processing of stills and video files especially when using in-camera processing features while shooting such as Vignetting Control or High ISO Noise Reduction.  The fast processor also allows for quick results when taking in-camera HDR or Multiple Exposure images.

Continuous Shooting Speed: The D600 can shoot at a maximum continuous frame rare of 5.5 frames per second (fps) up to 100 images when shooting JPEG or up to 16 images when shooting at the best RAW setting.  This allows you to capture exactly the right moment of an action situation, or a rapidly changing expression on a subject.  The D90 can shoot 4.5 frames per second (fps) up to 100 images, the D7000 shoots 6 fps up to 100 shots, and the D300s shoots 7 fps – or 8fps with the battery grip. If you often capture action and really need the highest frame rate, such as for sports or wildlife shooting, you are going to have to seriously consider the D300s or D800 over the D600.  Otherwise, 7 or 8 fps is often complete overkill in typical real-life use.

Memory Card: Like the D7000, the D600 accepts 2 SD cards, where the second card can be used in a variety of ways: overflow, JPEG on one / RAW on the other, or mirrored backup of the first card. The D300s uses 1 CF card and 1 SD card, which also can be configured in a variety of ways. The second card can definitely come in handy if one is shooting a lot of still and video files or wants instant back-up of all images.  There is a “trick” for choosing which memory card slot is viewed during image playback:  Press and hold the BKT Button and then press Up on the Multi-Selector and follow the prompts to make your choice.

Battery: The D600 and D7000 both use the high capacity EN-EL15 battery, which will last for over 1000 shots.  TheD600 accepts the optional, new MB-D14 battery grip for the use of two batteries – and to perhaps make the camera more comfortable for some users particularly when using larger lenses or working often in portrait orientation.  Similarly, the D7000 accepts the optional MB-D11 battery pack/ vertical grip,  and the D300s uses the EN-EL3e battery and the optional MB-D10 battery pack/ vertical grip. The D90 also uses the EN-EL3e battery and its optional battery pack/ vertical grip is the MB-D80.

Full HD video: The D600 offers full HD video with manual control and all the usual frame rates (1080p at 30/25/24 fps and 720p at 60/50/30 fps), for up to 20 minutes of recording at the highest settings. As with stills, you can switch to DX (as if you were using a smaller DX sized sensor) for a “telephoto boost,” and it is capable of full time autofocus, though most dedicated videographers still prefer manually focusing. The camera records mono audio but is compatible with optional stereo mics, and has a headphone jack for audio monitoring.  The D90 and D300s offer 720p video at 24 fps, with a 5 minute shooting time. The D7000 improved upon that with full 1080p HD video at 24 fps for up to 20 minutes with full-time continuous autofocus. Plus it offers 720p at 30, 24, and 25 fps.

Price: Just under $2100 – may vary slightly at different retailers.

Shooting Experience: The D600 feels and performs absolutely wonderfully. Its body and controls are comfortable and responsive in the hands, with the exception of what I think is a too-small Multi-Selector pad.   All controls are easily accessible for quickly changing all the essential settings such as autofocusing modes, ISO, white balance, metering modes, bracketing, etc. The Shutter Button is thankfully less sensitive than that of the D7000, thus allowing focus lock or exposure lock using a half-press, without accidentally taking the shot.  The Matrix Metering works great to properly determine exposure in a wide variety of situations, and the Auto White Balance even captures sunset colors nicely rather than turning them into less warm daylight colors as many previous cameras might have done.  The D600 has carried over all of the nice touches from the D7000 such as the optional grid in the viewfinder, the ability to limit the AF points to 11 – for quicker manual selection, the ability to change the continuous low shooting speed between 1 to 5 shots (which Canon has yet to do on their non-pro cameras), and the versatility to change the size of the central spot size for center weighted metering.

Choosing a Camera:  So which camera is best for your needs? At this point I would be hesitant to recommend to D300s to most users, simply due to the fact that it is an “older” model.  While it is still a highly capable camera, the image resolution and many of the features have been improved upon by the current models.  So if you plan to use your dSLR for several more years, just consider how “outdated” it will be in 4 more years.

The D600 and D7000 are similar in so many ways that a big part of the decision comes down to the full frame sensor vs. the APS-C sized sensor.  Of course the D600 has improved resolution, dynamic range, etc, but remember that all that is relative. You can still capture excellent, professional quality images on the D7000, or even the D90.  Pixel peepers will certainly find a difference, but it may not be significant enough for many users.  The full frame will also allow you to capture wider more sweeping views with your wide angle lenses, and indirectly more dramatically shallow depth of field.

This is because depth of field is affected by not only your aperture setting but also by the camera-to-subject distance.  So say that you were to use the full frame D600 to frame a shot with a 50mm focal length and f/2.0 aperture, from 10 feet away.  To “recreate” this same shot with the APS-C sensor-sized D7000 and a 50mm focal length, you would have to back up several feet to have the same field of view.  The full frame sensor will capture a wider field of view, while the APS-C “crops” the scene due to its smaller size.  Even though you use the same f/2.0 aperture setting, the depth of field does not appear as dramatically shallow because the camera-to-subject distance has increased.  So…indirectly…a full frame camera can contribute to more dramatic depth of field. (However, this all gets a bit more complicated and a lot of photographers, including myself until recently, misunderstand the role of the focal length in this – namely that it does not affect this issue: http://www.bluesky-web.com/dofmyth.htm)

However, since the autofocus points of the D600 are grouped more closely to the center of the frame, they are not as useful as the more widely spread AF points of the D7000 for tracking and capturing moving subjects when working in AF-C autofocus mode.  If you intend to shoot lots of sports, action, birds or other wildlife, the D7000 may work better.  The faster continuous frame rate of the D7000 will greatly assist with action photography as well.  Plus the D7000’s DX sensor will “extend” the reach of your telephoto lenses in these situations.  You can always use the D600 in DX Mode to “widen” you AF point spread and “extend” your telephoto reach, but the tradeoff is that you will only be using 10 megapixels of your sensor.

Purchasing these cameras: If you plan to buy any of these cameras, accessories, or anything else through Amazon.com or B and H Photo, I would appreciate it if you use my referral links. Your price will be the same, and they will give me a little commission for referring you, which will help support my blog.  Thank you for supporting my efforts!

Order your D600 today on Amazon or B and H – it is already available and shipping!

Nikon D600 on Amazon (body only or kit)

Nikon D600 at B and H Photo – body only

Nikon D600 at B and H Photo – with the 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR Lens

Purchasing from the UK? Use my Amazon UK referral link here.

 

Nikon D600 book ebook guide manual tutorial how to dummies instruction fieldBrief commercial interruption: And don’t forget, I will be offering an e-book guide for the D600Nikon D600 Experience. The guide discusses not only how to use the features, controls, autofocus systems, and various settings of the cameras, but more importantly when and why to make use of them in your photography.  It also explains the metering modes, aperture and shutter priority modes and manual shooting, focus lock, exposure lock, and more.  Plus it goes over all of the Menu options and Custom Settings, with recommended settings.  Learn more about my Full Stop dSLR camera guides here!

I got my hands on the Nikon D600 and spent the weekend playing around with it.  I have written an introductory post about it here.  I am working on a detailed specs review and comparison post, and I will have to write a “hands-on” review.  But for now I can confidently tell you, from a handling, shooting, and image quality point of view, it is a great camera.  And if I wasn’t locked into my set of Canon L lenses I would seriously consider it as an “affordable” full-frame camera for myself.  A special thanks to Newtonville Camera of Newton, Mass. for getting a D600 in my hands so quickly!

Nikon D600 unboxing unbox full frame FX kit lens 24-85mm dslr
Nikon D600 with 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 kit lens – unboxing

I also did an informal ISO test, and here are the JPEG images below.  You can view all these images and more ISO samples in a larger size on my Flickr site here.  All images were taken with the kit lens – 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VRLong Exposure Noise Reduction was On, and High ISO Noise Reduction was set at Norm.  As you can see, they look great up to ISO 3200, and images taken at ISO 6400 may have an acceptable amount of noise based on your shooting situation and output size and use.  At this size, they all look virtually the same, and that actually doesn’t vary much when viewing them larger (until getting up to the very high ISO settings).

Nikon D600 ISO high test review compare sample image hands on

Nikon D600 ISO high test review compare sample image hands on 100

Nikon D600 ISO high test review compare sample image hands on 800

Nikon D600 ISO high test review compare sample image hands on 3200

Nikon D600 ISO high test review compare sample image hands on 6400 digital noise

Nikon D600 ISO high test review compare sample image hands on Hi 1 digital noise

If you are considering buying a Nikon D600 or any other gear, please consider using my affiliate links (below or at the left of the page) to make your purchase on Amazon, at B and H Photo, or Adorama – thanks!  The D600 is already available and shipping:

Nikon D600 on Amazon (body only or kit)

Nikon D600 at B and H Photo – body only

Nikon D600 at B and H Photo – with the 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR Lens

Introducing the Nikon D600 Full Frame dSLR Camera and the updated Nikon D610:

(With additions made at the end of this article to explain the features added to the updated Nikon D610)

(First, I have been corrected on the title of this post – the Sony a850 was the first “affordable” full frame (meaning ~$2000 price at introduction). But as I unfortunately only have time in my work day to mostly follow, research, and write about Canon and Nikon news and dSLR cameras, this one slipped by me!)

The day has finally arrived!  For a couple years I have been suggesting to my readers that when choosing lenses they anticipate the time that, someday soon, full-frame cameras will be more affordable.  This was both to address the possibility that certain DX lenses could not be used on an FX body, plus how a lens’ field of view will be affected by a full frame vs. a cropped APS-C sensor.  Well that day has now arrived with the introduction of the Nikon D600.  Initially priced at $2100 (body only), it can certainly be considered the first enthusiast full-frame (or in Nikon terminology, FX Format) camera – and which should also be more than rugged enough and capable enough for a semi-pro or a second body.  And as icing on the cake, DX lenses are indeed compatible with this new FX camera (although the resulting image will be a 10MP DX crop).

(Of course the full-frame Canon 5D Mark II is under $2000 at this time, but that is due to it recently being replaced by the 5D Mark III.  When the 5D Mark II was new, it was priced at around $2700, and didn’t go below $2400 for most of its active life.  And you don’t want the 5D Mk II anymore – its continuous frame rate is slow and its AF system isn’t so hot, especially compared to current models.)

Nikon D600 unbox unboxing full frame FX dSLR camera 35mm new kit lens
Nikon D600 full frame dSLR camera, shown with kit lens Nikkor 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR – Image by author.  Special thanks to Newtonville Camera of Newton, Mass.

Sensor, Viewfinder: The D600 sits between the D7000 and the recent D800, being closer – I would say – to a full-frame version of the D7000 (with a few more megapixels).  It boasts a 24.3 megapixel image sensor (over the 16.2 MP of the D7000) and the same 39 point autofocus system with 9 cross type points and similar custom settings options as the D7000. This full-frame size sensor delivers not only improved resolution but also increased dynamic range and improved low light / high ISO performance (6400 max. ISO expandable up to 25,600).  As noted above, the full-frame sensor will also affect the field of view of your lenses.  For those coming from an APS-C sized sensor camera, a 50mm lens will now act as a true 50mm lens – no more 1.5x  crop factor to consider.  This means that your wide angle lenses will now act as true wide angle lenses, but your telephoto lenses will no longer have quite as much reach as you may be used to.  However, the D600 offers a DX setting so that you can act as if you have a DX sized sensor.  This camera also has a nice big and bright 100% view viewfinder so that one can easily see their subject, make use of the AF Points, and frame their images.

Interface and Controls: Much of the user interface (menus, displays) as well as the controls are also similar to the D7000, with a few changes such as the addition of the Live View/ Movie switch, a locking Mode Dial switch, and the addition of a Picture Control button.  The newly locking Mode Dial contains the customizable user modes U1 and U2 so that you can set up the camera to quickly switch to your desired mode and settings, including your desired Custom Settings parameters.  In the“why did they do that?” category, Nikon has swapped the position of the Image Zoom [+] and [-] buttons used during image review.  So overall, any D7000 user will be immediately comfortable and familiar with this D600 body.  Changing the AF Mode and AF Area Mode of the D600 is done with the “hidden” button inside the AF/M switch at the base of the lens, in conjunction with the Command Dials (as with the D7000).  The D600 offers two customizable Function Buttons on the front of the camera to set for whichever functions you desire.

Nikon D610 book manual guide how to autofocus settings menu custom setup dummies learn use tips tricks     Nikon D600 book ebook camera guide download manual how to dummies field instruction tutorial

Brief Commercial Interruption: Of course I offer a Full Stop e-book user’s guide for the Nikon D610Nikon D610 Experience, and one for the D600, Nikon D600 Experience.  This first book is currently the highest rated D600 guide on the market, with nearly 50 five star reviews!  Click the links to learn more about the guides and all my other e-book camera guides for Nikon and Canon dSLR cameras.

Nikon D610 D600 autofocus af system full frame use choose decide book guide manual how to dummies
Simulated view of the Nikon D610 / D600 viewfinder showing the location of all 39 autofocus AF Points

Autofocus (AF) System / FPS: As mentioned, the D600 makes use of the 39 point autofocus system with 9 cross-type points of the D7000.  For those not familiar with this system, it is somewhat sophisticated in that it offers several combinations of autofocus modes (for still subjects or a variety of situations with moving subjects), autofocus area modes (how many of the AF points are active and how they track), AF related Custom Settings (to tweak the performance of the system to your subject and needs), and customizable controls (to set which buttons do what).  There is a bit of a learning curve in order to take full advantage and full control of it, but once mastered it enables a photographer to consistently and successfully capture sharp images of still subjects and to track and capture moving subjects in a variety of ways.  You can start to learn about this system in my post explaining how to Take Advantage of the Nikon D7000 Autofocus System.  You can put the AF subject tracking to good use as you shoot up to 5.5 frames per second with the D600.  This is a great frame rate for most action, sports, or wildlife photography – any slower misses important moments and any faster starts to give you nearly identical multiple shots which become a time and memory space drain when backing up and editing. (Of course if you shoot something like motorsports or professional sports, you likely need the faster frame rate of a full-fledged pro camera!)

Body, Size, Battery, Memory Cards: Regarding size and weight, the D600 is slightly larger than than the D7000, but surprisingly 20g lighter (with the battery.)  It shares the same EN-EL 15 battery as the D7000, and offers a new MB-D14 battery grip for the use of two batteries – and to perhaps make the camera more comfortable for some users particularly when using larger lenses or working often in portrait orientation.  The top and rear of the camera body are constructed of strong and light magnesium alloy, and the body is weather sealed against dust and moisture (including the battery and memory card doors).  Although the entire body isn’t magnesium like the Canon 7D or 5D Mk III, it should prove to be more than rugged and durable enough for most any photographer’s needs.  The D600 has two SD memory card slots which can be configured in a variety of ways including overflow (when one card fills images are automatically then saved to the 2nd card), simultaneous back-up (each image is saved on both cards), or stills on one card and movies on the other. The LCD monitor on the rear of the camera is now a slightly larger 3.2 inches (compared to the 3″LCD of the D7000) with 921K pixels, and is optimized for minimum glare and good contrast in sunlight.

Nikon D600 unbox unboxing full frame FX dSLR camera 35mm new kit lens
Unboxing of the Nikon D600 full frame dSLR camera, shown with kit lens Nikkor 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR – Image by author.  Special thanks to Newtonville Camera of Newton, Mass.

Accessories: Nikon is offering a Wireless Adapter, the WU-1b, which will allow you to immediately share your images through mobile devices, remotely save images, or remotely fire the shutter through a smartphone.  It is also compatible with the Nikon GP-1 GPS unit for geo-tagging your images.

Flash: Unlike the full-frame Canon 5D series that forgo the built-in flash, the D600 (like the D800) has a built-in flash that also acts as a wireless Speedlight Commander to control remote flashes (up to two groups).  The camera of course has a hotshoe for optional external Speedlights like the Nikon SB-900, SB-800, SB-700, or SB-600.

HD Video: And of course the D600 offers full HD video with manual control and all the usual frame rates (1080p at 30/25/24 fps and 720p at 60/50/30 fps). As with stills, you can switch to DX (as if you were using a smaller DX sized sensor) for a “telephoto boost,” and it is capable of full time autofocus, though most dedicated videographers still prefer manually focusing. The camera records mono audio but is compatible with optional stereo mics, and has a headphone jack for audio monitoring.

Bracketing: The D600 unfortunately only offers the choice of 2 or 3 frame Auto Exposure Bracketing (up to +/- 6 EV), which doesn’t help the HDR shooters who would prefer 5 or 7 bracketed shots.  There is a dedicated BKT Bracketing Button on the camera body to initiate this process.  There is also a built-in “HDR mode” which combines and processes two images in-camera.

Nikon D600 book guide ebook instruction manual how to dummies field guide
Image of a gorgeous Nikon F taken with the Nikon D600 and kit lens (24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR)  Unprocessed JPEG straight from camera (with watermarks added), ISO 2500.  Image by author – click to see larger.  Special thanks to Newtonville Camera of Newton, Mass. 

Of course the D600 offers the usual Metering Modes, Drive Modes, and White Balance options, as well as the familiar Scene Modes, Picture Style settings, Multiple Exposure mode, Interval Timer for time-lapse photography, and in-camera image processing and filter/ art effects.

I expect the Nikon D600 to be an extremely popular camera, offering an affordable full-frame camera for dedicated enthusiasts, aspiring pros, and semi-pros, or a highly competent second body for semi-pros and pros.  There is nothing lacking in this camera that would prevent any photographer from capturing the highest quality, professional level images in most every shooting situation, be it general photography, portraits, street photography, studio work, wedding photography, or travel use.  Plus it offers the ability, although somewhat limited by its frame rate and centrally clustered AF Points, to capture non-professional sports, wildlife, and other action type situations.  (See the image at the bottom of the page for the AF Points locations.)

As I work on a comparison post of the current Nikon dSLR line-up, have a look at these other Nikon related posts, including how to take full advantage of your autofocus system.

The camera is offered as a body-only or with the 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR Lens (image stabilized).

And as I mentioned, I will be coming out with a Full Stop e-book user’s guide for the Nikon D600 – Nikon D600 Experience, possibly as soon as November 2012.

Order your D600 today on Amazon or B and H – it is already available and shipping!

Nikon D600 on Amazon (body only or kit)

Nikon D600 at B and H Photo – body only

Nikon D600 at B and H Photo – with the 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR Lens

Nikon D600 full frame FX dSLR camera unbox unboxing 35mm new kit lens 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5
Nikon D600 full frame dSLR camera, shown with kit lens Nikkor 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR – Image by author.  Special thanks to Newtonville Camera of Newton, Mass.

The Nikon D610 was introduced in October of 2013, and has added a couple minor, but important features to the camera. The D610 incorporates a new shutter mechanism which enables a faster six frames per second (fps) continuous shooting speed and a new Quiet Continuous shutter-release mode for taking a burst of images up to three frames per second and with decreased shutter noise. In addition, the D610 has an improved Auto White Balance setting which promises more natural color reproduction both indoors under artificial lighting and outdoors. As mentioned above, the previous D600 model marked an important moment in the evolution of digital SLR cameras as the first dSLR with a full-frame sized image sensor to also be priced at about $2000 at release, thus putting it within the reach of far more photography enthusiasts. With the D610, Nikon has retained a similar price. And although a number of D600 users reportedly experienced issues with dust or oil spots on the camera’s sensor, it is expected that the new shutter mechanism of the D610 will eliminate this concern.

Nikon D610 D600 autofocus af system points full frame viewfinder
Another simulated view of the Nikon D610 / D600 viewfinder, showing the location of all 39 autofocus AF Points.  Image of Nikon F SLR by author, taken with Nikon D600 with kit lens – 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED VR, ISO 2500.  Special thanks to Newtonville Camera of Newton, Mass. 

B&H is having some great Black Friday deals on dSLR cameras and accessories, including some Double Instant Rebates on Canon bodies and lenses including the EOS 60D, 7D, and 5D MkII.  If you are looking to pair a new body with a great lens or Speedlite, such as one of the 70-200mm telephoto zooms, one of the high-quality wide angle lenses like the 17-55mm f/2.8, the 580 EXII flash, or a number of macro and specialty lenses like a tilt-shift, this is the time to do it!

Note that B&H will be closed and not be taking orders between Friday evening and Saturday evening.  Below is a sample of the savings you can get with the 60D. Click here for the B&H Canon Savings or on the image to go to B&H and see the entire offer.  They also have a number of other Black Friday and holiday specials.

Amazon also of course has many Black Friday deals in everything including cameras and accessories, including several Canon point and shoot cameras such as the very high quality Canon Powershot SX230HSClick here to view Amazon Black Friday camera specials.

B&H Black Friday and Holiday Specials

Black Friday Canon dslr camera 60D 7D 5D speedlite flash lens rebate sale

black friday camera dslr canon deal sale bargain

I just learned over on the Nikon Rumors website that there is an app for downloading and viewing your Nikon camera manual on your iPad or iPhone.  The app, called Nikon Manual Viewer, can be downloaded for free.  Once you have downloaded the manual, you can then view it offline at anytime.  It does not appear that Canon has a similar app yet.

Nikon Manual Viewer app ipad iphone guide book tutorial instruction

Be sure to also consider my dSLR camera guides, which can also be downloaded and carried with you on your iPad or computer, including Nikon D7000 Experience and Nikon D5100 Experience.  These guides go beyond the manuals to help you learn not only how, but more importantly when and why to use the features and functions of these versatile cameras.

  

I spend a lot of time on photography forums, trying to stay on top of the latest news and equipment as well as to better learn about the concerns and difficulties of those trying to choose or to learn to use their new dSLR.  This always helps me in writing my dSLR camera guides, such as learning which functions and concepts users have trouble with, and figuring out how to best explain them.

tips tricks photography dslr learn use manual instruction tutorial for dummies guide

Unfortunately one begins to see the same posts again and again:

“I want to get my first dSLR.  Which one should I get?”

often supplemented with

“I hear/ read/ am told that Canon is better at XX but Nikon is better at XX.  Which one should I choose?”

and then

“I want to start taking wedding and portrait photos.”

typically qualified with

“I only want to spend $500.”

So to be honest, it is pretty simple:

If you are truly on a budget and don’t want to spend a lot on a dSLR, then get the entry level Canon T3 or Nikon D3100.

But, if you really intend to grow and learn and develop as a photographer, and don’t want to quickly reach the limits of your camera and have to spend more money and buy another one, start out with the advanced-entry-level Canon T3i (also called the 600D) or the Nikon D5100.  These cameras will give you a bit more room to grow with their additional features, capabilities, and image quality.

If you plan to be really dedicated to photography, to pursue it as a serious hobby or even as a semi-pro, and intend to read every book you can find about your equipment, photography, exposure, composition, and Photoshop, and be out there using your camera all the time, then it may be worth your while to start off with a mid-level or pro-sumer camera such as the Canon 60D, Canon 7D, or Nikon D7000.  That way you won’t find yourself reaching the limits of your first camera within a year and having to upgrade so soon.

But know that starting out with a 7D or D7000 is jumping in near the deep end of the pool.  You will have a steep learning curve in order to get to the point where you can take control of your camera and take full advantage of all those features and capabilities you paid for.  As can be witnessed on the forum posts where the new user says

“I just got my ($1500 camera), set it on Auto and took some photos, and they don’t look anything like (pro photographer’s) photos.  What is wrong with my camera?  I guess I should start reading the manual, but what settings should I use to take better photos?”

…spending a lot of money on a “better” camera does not automatically, instantly lead to great images.

If you wish to become serious about photography, you need to understand that “photography” and “budget” do not belong in the same sentence!  If you want to do wedding and portrait/ child/ pet photography eventually, and want to be paid for it, then you need to change your mindset about the cost of the equipment required by a professional photographer.  The camera is a tool required to do the job right, and a professional needs professional equipment.  Not just because it is expected or is the price of admission, but because professional tools are needed to do professional work.  While one can get away with using a mid-level or pro-sumer camera for weddings or when starting out as a portrait or pet photographer, you will find that you really need the quality and capabilities of a pro camera to properly do the job. You need equipment that can perform in all situations (in conjunction with your skills).

I’ve written some much more detailed posts about comparing a choosing a dSLR camera, including:

Choosing Between the Canon 7D vs 60D vs T3i (600D)

Choosing Between the Nikon D7000 vs D5100 vs D3100

These posts go into detail about their features and differences, and why you may or may not need to additional features of the advanced cameras for your photography.

I’ve written a detailed article about Taking Advantage of the Nikon D5100 Autofocus System, but I decided to make a video as well, to introduce and explain the Focus Modes, Autofocus Area Modes, and the AF Custom Settings of the D5100, in order to help one use their camera to its full capabilities:


Change the viewer settings to 720p to watch in HD

To learn more about about the Nikon D5100 autofocus system as well as how to fully take control of your camera in order to consistently capture better images, please have a look at my e-book user’s guide Nikon D5100 Experience.  It not only explains all the features and controls but also when and why to use them in real life photography.

New firmware has been released for the Nikon D7000, version 1.03.  Be sure to update your camera, as it will fix several minor bugs including some settings and displays that have mysteriously changed on their own previously.

Update information on the Nikon site here:

http://support.nikonusa.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/17542

The Nikon D5100 firmware has also been updated for the first time, v 1.01, with fixes including:

  • An error recognizing some memory cards has been addressed.
  • When Selective color from the retouch menu is performed on a picture taken with the image quality set to NEF (RAW)+JPEG and an image size of M or S, the edges of the image may not have changed color. This issue has been resolved.
  • When Metering was set to Matrix metering, the exposure mode set to M (Manual), and the HDR exposure differential set to Auto, the exposure differential was fixed at a value equivalent to 2 EV. This has been changed to enable automatic adjustment of exposure differential so that it is appropriate for the scene.

D5100 firmware upgrade available here:

https://nikoneurope-en.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/50626

Nikon D7000 D5100 firmware update upgrade

Those who appreciate old, rare cameras, especially those with Leica fetishes, should have a look at this catalog for an upcoming Leica auction by Tamarkin Photographica.  The auction takes place October 29 and 30, 2011 in Woodbridge, CT.  There are even a couple Nikon rangefinders available, with gorgeous brassing.


Photo from Tamarkin Photographica Fall 2011 Auction Catalog – Nikon SP with Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 – estimate of $4,000-$6,000


Photo from Tamarkin Photographica Fall 2011 Auction Catalog – Nikon SP with Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 – estimate of $4,000-$6,000

I began to discuss the autofocus modes of various dSLR cameras in previous posts including Taking Control of Your Canon Autofocus System and Taking Advantage of the Autofocus Systems of the Nikon D5100 and the Nikon D7000

In this post I wish to go into more detail about one of the reasons it is important to take control of your autofocus system, namely not allowing the locations of the AF Points in your viewfinder to dictate your final composition.

As I mentioned in previous autofocus posts, one of the essential steps in taking a successful photo is controlling where the camera focuses.  If you allow the camera to auto focus by choosing its own focus point(s), it typically focuses on the closest object.  This may or may not be what you want to focus on, so you should select where the camera focuses using the Auto Focus Points.  For example, you often want to focus on a subject’s eyes, but if you allow the camera to choose the autofocus point itself, it may select another part of the face, or somewhere else on the body, or even a raised hand that is nearer to the camera than the face to focus most sharply on.

In addition, there are reasons to use the outer focus points and not just focusing with the center AF point and then recomposing.  First, if you are taking several shots of the same subject and framing, you will not have to re-focus with the center point and recompose between each shot.  And by controlling exactly where you focus, you then have greater, more precise control over the use of dramatic depth of field.  Also, if you use the center point and recompose, you have swept the camera in an arc to recompose, and are thus always focusing at a distance behind the subject.  This may not be as noticeable when the subject is further away, but for a close subject – especially when using shallow depth of field – the difference is critical.

One of the additional critical reasons to take control of your autofocus system is so that you don’t let the location of the AF Points dictate your composition. What happens when the subject you want to focus on is not located exactly under one of the AF Points? Even with 9 or 19 or more AF Points to choose from, they will not always be located exactly at or near where you need them to be.  Recomposing or re-framing your shot is often necessary so that you can capture exactly the image you wish to and not one dictated by the locations of the AF Points as you see them in the viewfinder.

Canon 7D 5D mark II 60D T3i 600D autofocus system AF point choose select set setting
Figure 1 – The desired framing and composition of the shot I wish to take, yet no AF Point, including the selected lower right point (the larger point shown in red here) is located exactly at the woman’s head where I wish to focus. (Canon 7D viewfinder shown)

Canon 7D 5D mark II 60D T3i 600D autofocus system AF point choose select set setting
Figure 2 – Image is temporarily framed to place the selected AF Point over the woman’s head, Shutter Button is pressed half-way and held to lock focus at that distance, image is recomposed to the desired framing of previous Figure 1, and Shutter Button is fully pressed to capture the image.

Figure 1 shows the desired framing and composition of the shot I want to take, but the woman is not located under an AF Point. This composition is desired for me because it captures the entire window along with some space around it, as well as some space in front of the woman for her to “walk into” – but not an excessive amount of space. So I manually select the lower right AF Point (using Single-Point AF Mode), temporarily frame the image to place the selected AF Point over her face or head, press and hold the Shutter Button half-way to lock focus at that distance (Figure 2), and see the Focus Confirmation Light illuminate in the viewfinder. I then recompose back to the final framing I want (Figure 1) and press the Shutter Button fully to take the image. Even though the subject is moving, I do not need the sophisticated tracking of AI Servo (Canon) or Continuous Servo (Nikon) Focus Mode to keep her in focus. I can quickly lock focus using One Shot (Canon) or Single Servo (Nikon) Focus Mode, recompose, and take the image without the camera-to-subject focus distance changing significantly.

With the example images above (Figures 1, 2), focusing on the wall would not have been tragic because the distance between the subject and the background is small, and if a medium or narrow aperture such as f/8 or f/16 is used both the wall and the subject may be in acceptable focus. If the background was further away, and/ or a wide aperture such as f/2.8 was used – especially with a telephoto lens, and if the image was enlarged, you would clearly see that the camera focused on the wall and not the woman. Not to mention the fact that the wall is a somewhat consistent area of color and the AF system may have difficulty properly focusing on it. So it is best not to take shortcuts such as focusing on the wall and hoping the subject will also be in focus, because in many other situations you will not have this option. It is best to take the photo properly and to learn and practice the habit of working in the more rigorous manner if you want all your photos to be sharp.

If you would like to learn more about the autofocus systems of your Canon or Nikon dSLR camera, as well as learn to use the other features of your camera including metering modes, Aperture and Shutter priority modes, all the menus and Custom Function settings, and more, have a look at my Full Stop e-book camera guides. In addition to explaining the features and settings, the guides clearly explain when and why to use them in order to capture the images you desire.

Take control of your camera and the images you create!

Learn more about the e-books by clicking on their titles or on the banner below:
Canon 7D Experience
Canon T3i Experience
Your World 60D
T2i Experience.

Nikon D7000 Experience
Nikon D5100 Experience.

full stop dslr photo photography camera manual guide for dummies canon nikon

For those with other cameras, check out my Ten Steps to Better dSLR Photography which also discusses taking advantage of any dSLR camera’s autofocus system.

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