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The introduction of the Nikon D850 has resulted in tremendous excitement for Nikon photographers, with features and improvements that have exceeded expectations. This full-frame (FX) dSLR offers both high-speed shooting and a high resolution 45.7 megapixel sensor, as well as great image quality at high ISO settings for low-light shooting. The camera boasts a responsive 153 point autofocus system, with 99 cross-type points and 55 selectable AF points spread widely across the central area of the viewfinder. Plus all of the AF points are capable of focusing in very dim lighting. This superb autofocus system, combined with a fast 7 frames per second (fps) continuous frame rate and extremely large buffer, will allow you to maintain this rapid frame rate for up to 200 RAW images in a continuous burst, making the D850 ideal for sports, action, bird, and wildlife photography. The frame rate can even be improved to 9 fps with the addition of the Nikon MB-D18 Battery Pack and an EN-EL18b battery.

For those coming to the D850 from a previous, advanced Nikon dSLR, and who are already familiar with the typical features, functions, and controls and wish to immediately learn about the new and upgraded features and buttons, below is a summary of what has been added or improved with the D850. I’ve described some of these features as “hidden” features, because they can only be accessed in very specific ways, sometimes outside of using the menus or Custom Settings, and may be challenging to find if you are not familiar with them.

Nikon D850 tips tricks book manual guide body controls how to set up

Detail of the Nikon D850 dSLR camera.

This article is based on the “New and Hidden Features” section of my Nikon D850 Experience guide to the camera. Be sure to have a look at this clear and comprehensive guide to learn about all the controls, features, menus, and Custom Settings of the D850, as well as when and how to make use of them in your photography. You can learn more about the guide on my Full Stop Books website here: http://www.fullstopbooks.com/nikon-d850-experience/. As you wait for the full and comprehensive Nikon D850 Experience guide to become available in late November 2017, you can get started with my Nikon D850 Menu and Custom Settings Setup Guide, and / or my free Nikon D850 Setup Guide Spreadsheet, both of which are designed to help you set up the Menus and Custom Settings of this powerful camera.

Nikon D850 Experience book manual how how to use tips tricks  

New Features of the D850

First, it is important to note that while the OK Button and the Multi Selector Center Button are often interchangeable for completing menu functions, there are some functions that require you to use the OK Button. The most notable example of this is when you are formatting a memory card. You need to press the OK Button to complete this process, not the Multi Selector Center Button as you may be used to!

-Large 3.2” High-Resolution (2,359K-dot), Tilting, Touch-screen LCD Monitor, which can be color customized with the Monitor Color Balance item of the Setup Menu. The touch screen capability allows you to view, zoom, and scroll through playback images, enter text with the on-screen keyboard, as well as select an autofocus area and Spot White Balance area when working in Live View, and to release the shutter in Live View. The “Frame Advance Bar” for image review enables you to use the touch screen to quickly scroll through images without having to swipe one-by-one. Simply touch the lower portion of the rear Monitor during image playback to access the frame advance scroll-bar.

-Modified and New Controls, and Illuminated Buttons – As with most current Nikon dSLR models, the D850 includes the AF Mode Button and Focus Mode Selector switch, located on the front of the camera near the base of the lens. If you are not yet used to this control, you will find that it allows you to quickly change the AF Mode and AF-Area Mode by pressing the button and turning the appropriate Command Dial. The D850 includes the Sub-Selector joystick control rather than the AE-L/AF-L Button. This control can be used to select AF Points as well as navigate menus, and the button press can be customized to your desired function, such as focus lock and/ or exposure lock. The Mode Button and ISO Button have been moved compared to previous models, and the D850 has a Metering Mode Button rather than a small dial of older models. The D850 also has two customizable Fn-Function Buttons, and the i Button which enables quick access to various functions during shooting, Live View, and playback. Many of the buttons and controls can be customized in the Custom Setting f1 menu so that you can quickly access various functions and settings while shooting. The buttons of the D850 are also now illuminated, to help locate them in low light (see Figure 1 – left).

Figure 1 – Left: Detail of the illuminated buttons of the D850. Right: Simulated view of the Viewfinder with Group AF Area Mode in use.

Group-Area AF Area Mode – A group of five large AF Points (and adjacent assist points), configured in a cross-shaped pattern, can all be used together to help focus on a subject, in situations where using a single AF Point may not work as well (see Figure 1 – right).

Highlight-Weighted Metering Mode – This mode helps to prevent the overexposure of highlights, such as a subject under bright stage lighting.

-No Built-In FlashWhile the D810 has a built-in flash, the D850 requires an optional external Speedlight if you wish to make use of flash. The front Flash Button of the D810 is thus eliminated, and the Flash settings can be accessed as a secondary function of the Zoom-out Button.

XQD High Speed Memory Card Slot, in addition to the SD memory card slot – Making use of an XQD card will allow you to take advantage of the maximum continuous burst capability of the D850, including 51 consecutive images when capturing 14-bit lossless compressed RAW L files. With the dual memory card slots, you can choose which slot is the primary one, and the function of the other card, including Overflow, simultaneous Backup, or recording NEF (RAW) to one card and JPEG to the other (see Figure 2 – left).

Figure 2 – Left: Secondary Slot Function menu item, to select the function of the second memory card. Right: ISO Sensitivity Settings, including the versatile Auto ISO options.

-Expanded Native ISO Sensitivity Range – The native ISO range is expanded to include ISO 64 to 25,600. This can assist photographers with decreased noise at higher ISO settings. You can also select the Lo settings (down to ISO 32), and the Hi settings (up to the very grainy ISO 102,400).

Auto ISO Options – As with all the other current Nikon dSLR models, the D850 offers a powerful Auto ISO option, which will change the ISO setting if necessary in order to obtain a proper exposure, including when capturing images or recording video in Manual (M) Mode. You can set the parameters of Auto ISO, including the Maximum Sensitivity and Minimum Shutter Speed that the camera will use for Auto ISO (see Figure 2 – right). One useful option is that if you set the Minimum Shutter Speed to the Auto setting, the camera will select a shutter speed based on the focal length of the lens. For example, a longer telephoto lens requires a faster shutter speed to avoid blur from camera movement. But, if you are unhappy with the choice that the camera is making, you can continue to press right from the Minimum Shutter Speed > Auto setting, and you can fine-tune this setting so that the camera selects a faster or slower Auto shutter speed.

-RAW S and RAW M File Types – The smaller RAW S and RAW M formats will allow you to capture smaller RAW images, of reduced file size and resolution compared to full RAW images. However they lack the full quality of the RAW L files, have been shown to exhibit some softness compared to RAW L, and will be Lossless Compressed, 12-bit files.

Nikon D850 autofocus af points viewfinder grid

Figure 3 – Simulated view of the D850 Viewfinder, showing the location of all 153 AF Points, including the assist points. Note that only the active AF Point(s) will be visible in the Viewfinder. Background image shown at 75% opacity to better see Viewfinder elements.

-Improved Autofocus System – The D850 boasts 153 AF Points, 55 of which are selectable (see Figure 3). (The non-selectable points are assist points, typically located between the larger selectable points.) Of all these points, 99 are more accurate cross-type points (with 35 selectable cross-type). The large number of points, spread relatively widely across the frame, will allow you to more accurately track moving subjects when using AF-C AF Mode. When tracking moving subjects using 3D-Tracking AF-Area Mode, you can choose to make use of face detection (Custom Setting a4). And you can customize new focus tracking parameters to best match the motion of your subject (Custom Setting a3). The autofocus system can achieve focus in extremely low light, down to -4 EV for the center AF Point, and -3 EV for all of the other 152 other points.

Auto AF Fine-Tune – You can make use of Live View focusing to automatically fine tune the autofocusing of individual lenses, to correct for back-focus or front-focus issues (see Figure 4 – left). The data acquired by the process is entered into the AF fine-tune item of the Setup Menu, and registered for the attached lens.

Figure 4 – Left: AF Fine-Tune menu, where Auto AF Fine-Tune data is saved and modified. Right: New Auto White Balance options.

-White Balance Improvements – You can now choose between three different Auto White Balance options, including Keep white (reduce warm colors), Normal, and Keep warm lighting colors, as well as a new Natural Light Auto setting, which obviously adjusts the colors for what is seen by the eye under natural light (see Figure 4 – right). And you can store up to 6 Preset (PRE) White Balance settings, as well as make use of the new Spot WB measurement feature when working in Live View. You can also select a separate white balance for movie shooting while retaining the current photo shooting white balance, or set the movie white balance to be Same as photo settings.

Flicker Reduction – With this new anti-flicker option, the camera will detect the flickering of certain types of lighting often found in stadiums and areas, and will adjust the timing of the shutter release in order to maintain more consistent exposures.

Electronic Front-Curtain Shutter – This can help to reduce camera vibrations and thus potential blur in controlled situations such as landscape and macro shots. It is used with the Mirror Up (Mup) Release Mode during either Viewfinder or Live View shooting. The D850 also adds the ability to use this feature with the Quiet (Q) and Quiet Continuous (Qc) Release Modes. With the high resolution 45.7 megapixel sensor of the D850, these slight movements can become more apparent in images.

Picture Controls Options – The D850 offers the new Flat Picture Control, which is desired by videographers as it provides the greatest latitude for post-procesing by helping to retain details in both highlights and shadows. It can also be used for still images that are going to be heavily processed. Also, the Picture Controls now include a Clarity setting, the Brightness adjustment allows a wide range, and the settings allow finer (0.25 step) adjustment increments, and an Auto option (see Figure 5 – left). As with white balance, you can also select a separate Picture Control for movie shooting while retaining the current photo shooting Picture Control, or set the movie Picture Control to be Same as photo setting.

Figure 5 – Left: Picture Control options, including Clarity, and the ability to make adjustments in 0.25 increments. Right: The Focus Shift Shooting menu, used to set up and initiate this feature.

-Focus Shift ShootingThis new feature of the D850 enables you to take a series of images of the same scene, where the focus distance is automatically changed by the camera for each image. You will select the Focus step width to be used, which is a relative distance (see Figure 5 – right). The images can then be combined, using optional software, to make use of a technique called focus stacking. This is often used in close-up and macro photography, since it is difficult or impossible to capture the entire subject in focus in a single image, at such a close distance.

-Live View Pinpoint AF-Area ModePinpoint AF is a new Live View AF-Area Mode added on the D850. It is similar to Normal-area AF, except that it makes use of an even smaller focus point, so that you can focus on a more precise area or detail (see Figure 6).

Figure 6 – Left: Setting the Live View Autofocus Area Mode for “Pinpoint AF” as indicated by the icon highlighted in yellow at the top-center of the screen. Right: A view of the rear monitor, zooming in on the scene, to show the size of the Pinpoint AF area.

-Silent Live View PhotographyThis option can be used to completely eliminate the sound of the shutter when working in Live View, as well as reduce internal camera movement which can lead to image blur when working on a tripod with still subjects. The On (Mode 2) option can be used for extremely high frame rates of up to 30 fps for 3 seconds, however you will only be able to capture cropped images of the DX Image Area size, and the Image Quality will be JPEG Normal, Optimal Quality.

-Negative Digitizer – This new Live View feature of the D850 will enable you to transform your color negatives or black and white negatives into positive images (see Figure 7). Nikon also offers the Nikon ES-2 Film Digitizing Adapter Set, which includes holders for 35mm film strips and slides, and attaches to the AF-S Micro 60mm f/2.8 lens. This can be used with the Negative Digitizer feature to more easily “scan” your negatives and capture them as high-resolution files.

Figure 7 – Press the i Button during Live View to access the Negative Digitizer option (left), which reverses a film negative to the positive image, and you can then capture a high resolution photo of it.

-Video improvements – The D850 now boasts 4K Ultra High Definition (UHD) video (3840 x 2160), in addition to Full HD video. And 4K video makes use of the entire width of the sensor, without the 1.5x crop of previous models. Plus the camera offers new Electronic Vibration Reduction to help stabilize the scene when hand-holding, the Active D-Lighting option for full HD recording, the Flat Picture Control, built-in stereo microphones, the Power Aperture feature when recording to a memory card or to an external device, simultaneous recording to an internal memory card and external recorder, selectable audio frequency range (the standard Wide range or the narrower Vocal range), and Auto ISO during Manual (M) Exposure Mode for smooth exposure transitions while retaining the desired aperture and shutter speed settings. The D850 includes “zebra stripes” Highlight Display for viewing highlights and potentially overexposed areas, with the ability to adjust the brightness sensitivity as well as the pattern of the stripes. The D850 also includes the new Peaking Highlights focus peaking feature for Live View and movie shooting, which enables you to verify on the rear Monitor exactly what areas or parts of the subject are in-focus, when manually focusing (see Figure 8). The in-focus areas will be indicated by colored outlines, and you can select the sensitivity as well as which color is used on the screen.

Nikon D850 focus peaking video manual focus

Figure 8 – Peaking Highlights enabled during Live View shooting. Here, the blue areas on the hood of the toy car and on the llama’s face indicate that those details are in-focus (see inset detail of llama’s head).

Wi-Fi and Bluetooth – Used in conjunction with Nikon’s new SnapBridge app, the wireless connection between the camera and a smart device can be used to remotely control the camera and to transfer images, as well as to share GPS information from the phone to the camera. You will need to initiate a Bluetooth connection between the camera and the SnapBridge app, and the app will prompt you to switch to a Wi-Fi connection when required.

-New Multiple Exposure Options – These include new overlay options of Add, Average, Lighten and Darken, which will allow you to further process multiple exposure images. The camera also provides the option to Keep all exposures, so that the individual frames that make up the multiple exposure can be saved, and you can use the Select first exposure (NEF) option to choose a RAW image already on the memory card to be the first frame of the multiple exposure (see Figure 9 – left). When a multiple exposure series is in progress, you can press the Playback Button and then the i Button to access a menu which will allow you to view the progress, as well as edit the series by retaking or discarding the last exposure if desired.

Figure 9 – Left: Multiple Exposure options, including the new Overlay Mode option. Right: Time-Lapse Movie, including the new Silent Photography option.

-New Interval Timer and Time-Lapse Movie Options – The D850 offers Exposure Smoothing options for Interval Timer and Time-Lapse shooting to help maintain consistency among the individual exposures. You can create UHD 4K time-lapse movies, in-camera, or use the Interval Timer feature to capture full-quality still images that can be combined, with optional software, into an 8K time-lapse movie. The Interval Timer menu also offers the Silent Photography option, and enables you to automatically create a new folder to store the images. The Time-Lapse Movie menu offers new options such as Silent Photography, Image Area, and Frame Size / Frame Rate. (see Figure 9 – right). An Interval Priority option will become active in P and A Shooting Modes (if enabled), if the exposure time conflicts with the interval time.

-New Menu and Custom Settings Options – In addition to the above improvements, the D850 offers several new options in various menu items and Custom Settings, such as the option to batch process multiple images when using the NEF (RAW) Processing feature of the Retouch Menu. The After Burst, Show item of the Playback Menu will enable you to choose which image in a burst is initially shown during image playback, either the first or the last.

Nikon D850 Chevrolet Corvette 1960

1960 Chevrolet Corvette – Great Bay Corvette Club Car Show, Newington, New Hampshire – Shutter speed 1/640, Aperture f/5.6, ISO 400, Exposure Compensation +1.

“Hidden” Features of the D850

Users are often curious about “hidden” features that their camera may have, though typically most dSLR models really don’t have many, as long as one carefully goes through all of the Menu and Custom Settings items, and reads through the manual or a guide. However, with so many options and functions, there are a few items that truly are actually a bit hidden away on the Nikon D850. It’s not that the D850 manual doesn’t mention them, or that they can’t be found with careful investigation of the camera, but you may need to have them called to your attention to learn how to locate them and how to take advantage of them. And there are a few button shortcuts to access features and settings that you simply need to learn if you wish to take advantage of, because once you are using your camera, they are not indicated in any menus or button icons.

Some of these features were just listed above in the new features, and several of them are accessed with the i Button when working in the appropriate mode. Others are accessible in the menus but may require an understanding of the options as they are listed, or might require additional steps of sub-menu navigation to locate them.

Information Display and Button Settings – If you first press the Info Button to display the Information Display on the rear Monitor, you can then press most of the camera buttons to change the corresponding settings as you view them on the larger rear screen, rather than on the smaller top Control Panel. For example, you can press the AF Mode Button, and turn the appropriate Command Dial to change the AF-Area Mode and the Focus Mode (see Figure 10 – left). The screen will even indicate which Command Dial to use for each setting. This can also be used for the buttons on the top of the camera such as White Balance and ISO, as well as the BKT (Bracketing) Button and Flash (Zoom-out) Button.

Figure 10 – Left: First press the Info Button to display the Information Display, then press most any of the camera buttons to view and change those settings as you view them on the rear Monitor, such as the AF Mode Button for the autofocus settings. Right: Press the i Button during shooting to access the Photo Shooting i Button menu.

i Button Features – The D850 includes the i Button, which is included on most other current Nikon dSLR models. Pressing the i Button when shooting will allow you to access and change several settings using the i Button menu on the rear LCD Monitor, such as Active D-Lighting, Image Area, Long Exposure Noise Reduction, and High ISO Noise Reduction (see Figure 10 – right). It will also allow you to access the Custom Control Assignment menu where you assign the function of various camera buttons including the Pv, Fn1, and BKT Buttons, and the Sub-Selector joystick. When working in Live View, Movie Live View, image playback, and movie playback, the i Button will access a contextual menu for each mode, and in some situations it is the only way to access and change certain of these “hidden” features.

i Button in Live View – For example, the Live View i Button menu will allow you to access the Photo Live View Display White Balance feature. This feature allows you to set the white balance of the Live View screen separately than the white balance that will be used when the image is captured. While this may sound odd, it can come in handy when setting up a shot that will actually be taken with different lighting, such as with a Speedlight or studio strobes. So using this feature, you can set the white balance of the LCD Monitor to better set up the scene in the current lighting. The i Button is also the only way to access the Negative Digitizer, and the Split-Screen Display Zoom during Live View, where you can simultaneously zoom in on two different areas of the frame to help determine if they are level (see Figure 11). This can come in handy for landscape and architectural photographers.

Figure 11 – Live View i Button Menu – Press the i Button when in Live View or in Movie Live View to access the applicable i Button Menu screen and items such as Split-Screen Display Zoom (left). Right: Split-Screen Display Zoom shown in use, to compare two areas of the same scene to help determine if the framing is level.

The Live View i Button Menu can also be used to quickly access Silent Live View Photography and the Peaking Level sensitivity setting for focus peaking. Although the Electronic Front-Curtain Shutter is accessible with Custom Setting d6, and thus isn’t “hidden,” I will mention it here because it can also be accessed with the i Button during Live View. What you need to know is that this feature must be used in conjunction with Mirror Up (Mup), Quiet (Q), or Quiet Continuous (Qc) Release Modes.

Live View Exposure Preview – An important function to make note of is that pressing the OK Button when in Live View will display the Exposure Indicator scale on the screen, and the brightness of the screen will reflect the current exposure settings rather than simply showing the scene at an optimal brightness level (see Figure 12 – left). This will allow you to better preview the resulting image and make exposure adjustments, and will also enable you to view the Live View Histogram, by pressing the Info Button.

Figure 12 – Left: Press the OK Button when in Live View to enable Exposure Preview, and then press the Info Button to view the Live View Histogram. Right: The movie Highlight Display “zebra stripes” option, which will alert you to overexposed areas of the scene.

i Button in Movie Live View – Just as with Live View, some “hidden” features can be accessed with the i Button when working in Movie Live View. The “zebra stripes” feature is accessed with the Highlight Display item of the i Button menu, and you can select which highlight pattern to use (see Figure 12 – right). This will display diagonal lines on the screen at potentially over-exposed areas of the scene, thus helping you to adjust to the proper exposure. As with Live View, you can also access the Peaking Level sensitivity setting for focus peaking, used with manual focusing. You will also need to press the i Button if you wish to adjust the Headphone Volume if monitoring the audio with optional headphones. And the i Button will access the Multi-selector power aperture feature, where you can press up or down on the Multi Selector to smoothly adjust the aperture setting while recording. Power aperture can also be assigned to the Pv and Fn1 Buttons using Custom Setting g1. The new Electronic Vibration Reduction can also be accessed via the i Button, or by using the Movie Shooting Menu.

Custom Control Assignments – A few other “hidden” features of the Nikon D850 can only be accessed by customizing one of the camera buttons to assign it to that function. For example, you can make use of the Viewfinder Virtual Horizon, which is a camera level that you can display in the Viewfinder. It will show an electronic level along the bottom of the screen as well as one on the right side, so that you can see both pitch and roll of the camera body. In order to use this feature, you need to use Custom Setting f1 to assign either the Fn1 Button, Pv Button, or Sub-Selector Center press to the Viewfinder Virtual Horizon option. You can also assign the Pv Button or Fn1 Button to the 1 Step Speed / Aperture setting, which will allow you to quickly change the shutter speed or the aperture setting in 1 EV (full stop) increments, rather than the typical 1/3 EV adjustments that are made when you turn Command Dials. This can come in handy for manually bracketing exposures, such as for a series of images that you will later combine into an HDR image.

Figure 13 – Custom Control Assignments  Left: Assigning the Preview (Pv) Button to the Spot Metering function, to temporarily switch to a different Metering Mode. Right: Assigning the Function 1 (Fn1) Button to the AF-Area Mode option, to temporarily switch to a different AF-Area Mode.

Another handy customization will allow you to press and hold a button to temporarily switch to a different Metering Mode such as Spot Metering (see Figure 13 – left). Or you can press a button to temporarily switch to a different AF-Area Mode (see Figure 13 – right). For example, if you have set up the camera to capture a bird in flight using Dynamic-Area 25 Point AF-Area Mode, you can customize the camera to press the Pv Button, Fn1 Button, AF-ON Button, or Sub-Selector Center to temporarily switch to Single-Point AF to better capture a still subject.

Figure 13a – Left: Customize Command Dials, Menus and Playback options. Right: Customize Command Dials, Sub-Dial Frame Advance options.

Sub-Dial Frame Advance during Playback – If you wish to quickly scroll through your images as you view them on the rear Monitor during playback, you can use the rear Main Dial to advance one image at a time, and use the front Sub-Command Dial to advance 10 or 50 images. To set this up, access Custom Setting f4, and set the Menus and playback option for On (see Figure 13a – left). Setting for On (image review excluded) also allows you to use the Command Dials for menu navigation and image playback in the same manner as On, but they will have no effect during image review. (Image playback is when you press the Playback Button to view images, and image review is when the images are automatically displayed immediately after capture.)

The Sub-Command Dial will then be used to jump 10 or 50 images at a time (based on the next setting in this menu, Sub-dial frame advance), or to navigate up and down when reviewing thumbnails, or to access sub-menus when navigating menus. Set the Sub-dial frame advance item for 10 images or 50 images, or you can also choose to jump to protected images, still images or movies only, or to a different folder (see Figure 13a – right). Jumping 10 images is a handy setting when you are quickly scrolling through numerous images on a memory card.

OK Button and Multi Selector Shortcuts – During image playback, you can press the OK Button and simultaneously press the up arrow on the Multi Selector thumb pad to access the Choose slot and folder options. This allows you to quickly choose which memory card (SD or XQD) and folder is being accessed during image playback, so that you can quickly locate specific image files. You can also simply scroll through the images from one card to the next, or you can press the Zoom-out Button repeatedly to access this Choose slot and folder screen (rather than the calendar view screen of other Nikon models). You can also press the OK Button plus the right arrow of the Multi Selector to access the Retouch Menu. When using an optional Nikon WT-7 Wireless Transmitter, you can press the OK Button plus the Multi Selector Center Button to immediately upload a photo over a wireless or Ethernet network.

Figure 14 – Custom Setting f2 – Multi Selector Center Button, Playback Mode – Set the Center Button for Playback Mode to show a magnified view (left), or to show a large histogram (right).

One Button Playback Zoom / Histogram – Using Custom Setting f2, you can assign the Multi Selector Center Button so that during image playback it will immediately zoom-in, at the magnification level of your choice, centered at the area of the active focus point so that you can closely inspect your image (see Figure 14 – left). Or you can instead assign the button press to display a large histogram with the image, so that you can evaluate your exposure (see Figure 14 – right).

Autofocus Auto Fine-Tune – As mentioned above, the Autofocus Auto Fine-Tune feature will enable you to use Live View focusing to automatically fine tune the autofocusing of individual lenses. The procedure involves first simultaneously pressing the AF Mode Button and Movie Record Button (see Figure 15 – left).

Live View Spot White Balance – This feature enables you to take a white balance measurement of a precise area of the scene when working in Live View. This is accessed by setting the white balance to Preset Manual (PRE), then pressing the WB Button until the PRE icon flashes. You can then tap on the touch screen to select the area used for the Spot White Balance Measurement (see Figure 15 – right).

Figure 15 – Left: Simultaneously press the AF Mode Button and Movie Record Button to begin the Autofocus Auto Fine-Tune procedure. Right: Use the Live View Spot White Balance function to set the white balance off of a detail in the scene, such as the grey card here.

White Balance Color Temperature Selection – When making use of the K – Choose Color Temp White Balance Setting, you can select the desired color temperature in the White Balance menu item, or you can quickly adjust this setting during shooting by pressing the WB Button and turning the front Sub-Command Dial while viewing the setting on the top Control Panel or on the Live View Screen. If you wish to directly enter a value, you can press the WB Button and use the Multi-Controller to select and change the individual digits, again either on the top Control Panel or on the Live View screen.

Synchronized Release of Remote Cameras – If you are making use of an optional wireless remote to trigger multiple cameras, there is also a “hidden” setting for this in the Custom Setting f1 button assignments. You can choose to assign the Pv Button, Fn1 Button, or Sub-Selector Center press to the Sync. Release selection option, which is used in conjunction with Custom Setting d4 – Sync. Release Mode Options. You can set up the camera so that, for example, when using the D850 as a master camera to remotely trigger other cameras, you can press the Fn1 (or Pv) Button while taking the shot, and then just the master camera will shoot, or just the remote cameras and not the master, based on your settings.

Flash Information Screen – With an optional Speedlight flash attached and turned on, press the Info Button twice to access the Flash Information Screen showing the current flash settings, and then press the i Button to view and change the various settings and options, including Wireless Flash Options (see Figure 16).

Nikon D850 menu custom setting how to set up tips tricks quick start hints recommend

Figure 16 – When using an optional Speedlight flash, press the Info Button twice to access the Flash Information Screen showing the current flash settings (left), then press the i Button to view and change the various settings and options, and to access the Wireless Flash Options (right).

I hope that this information helps you to locate and take advantage of the various new and hidden features of the Nikon D850. This text is based on the “New and Hidden Features” section of my Nikon D850 Experience user guide to the camera. Be sure to have a look at this clear and comprehensive user guide to learn about all the controls, features, menus, and Custom Settings of the D850, as well as when and how to make use of them in your photography. You can learn more about the guide on my Full Stop Books website here: http://www.fullstopbooks.com/nikon-d850-experience/

Nikon D850 Experience book manual guide set up settings quick start tips tricks

As you wait for the full and comprehensive Nikon D850 Experience guide to become available in late November 2017, you can get started with my Nikon D850 Menu and Custom Settings Setup Guide, and / or my free Nikon D850 Setup Guide Spreadsheet, both of which are designed to help you set up the Menus and Custom Settings of this powerful camera.

If you are purchasing a Nikon D850 (or any accessories), please consider using my Amazon Associates link to purchase it on Amazon – your cost will be the same, and they will give me a small referral fee – thanks!: http://amzn.to/2z7dh0H

In conjunction with my camera guide for the new Nikon D7500, Nikon D7500 Experience, I have created a free Nikon D7500 Setup Guide – a comprehensive spreadsheet with suggested settings for the Shooting Menus, all of the Custom Settings, plus some shooting and exposure settings. It has separate camera setup recommendations for different types of shooting, including:

General / Travel / Street
Landscape / Architecture
Action / Sports
Moving Wildlife / Birds
Studio / Portraits
Concert / Performance

Here is an example detail of just a small part of the Setup Guide spreadsheet:

Nikon D7500 dslr menu menus custom setting setup guide tips tricks quick start recommend setting

The direct link to download the Excel spreadsheet is:

http://docs.fullstopbooks.com/forms/Nikon-D7500-Experience-Setup-Guide.xls

The setup guide spreadsheets can also be found here:

www.fullstopbooks.com/setup-guides/

To print the spreadsheet guide, you may wish to print it across several pages and then tape them together, so that the data is legible:

-First, be sure to set the print area, to avoid all the blank pages. Do this by manually selecting all the cells with data in them (drag the cursor from cell A1 to G171 and they will all appear blue.) Then access the menu for File > Print Area > Set Print Area.

-Then go to File > Print Preview and select the Setup button.

-Then set the page for “Landscape” and “Fit To” 2 pages wide by 3 pages tall.

This should result in 6 pages to be printed (as long as you have set the print area first).

Be sure to check the Print Preview to see that the data will print at a reasonable size, and that there are only 6 or so pages that will print.

Nikon D7500 book manual guide quick start setup tips tricks how to autofocus af
Example image from Nikon D7500 Experience.

In the past I have resisted requests for these types of quick-start “cheat sheets,” because I prefer that readers of my Full Stop camera guides read through all of the Menu and Custom Settings options, and determine which settings suit their shooting situations and preferences. This is one of the best ways to really learn the ins-and-outs of one’s new camera, so I still encourage you to do so. But I can appreciate the value and the handy reference features of this type of recommendation guide.

Please feel free to take the advice of dedicated Wildlife or Concert photographers, for example, above mine if it differs! And for further information, explanations, justifications, and caveats for the settings I specify, please have a look at my clear and comprehensive guide Nikon D7500 Experience.

Nikon D7500 book manual guide how to use learn tips tricks setup setting quick start

 

Version History of Spreadsheet

2017-06-30 – v1.0 – First version released

In conjunction with my camera guide for the new Nikon D500, Nikon D500 Experience, I have created a free Nikon D500 Setup Guide – a comprehensive spreadsheet with suggested settings for the applicable Menus, all of the Custom Settings, plus some shooting and exposure settings. It has complete and separate camera setup recommendations for different types of shooting, including:

General / Travel / Street
Landscape / Architecture
Action / Sports
Moving Wildlife / Birds
Studio / Portraits
Concert / Performance

Here is an example detail of just a small part of the Setup Guide spreadsheet:

 Nikon D500 Setup Guide Spreadsheet Experience Full Stop tips tricks recommend suggested setting menu Custom Setting

The direct link to download the Excel spreadsheet is:

http://docs.fullstopbooks.com/forms/Nikon_D500_Experience-Setup_Guide.xls

To print the spreadsheet guide, you may wish to print it across several pages and then tape them together, so that the data is legible:

-First, be sure to set the print area, to avoid all the blank pages. Do this by manually selecting all the cells with data in them (drag the cursor from cell A1 to G190 and they will all appear blue.) Then access the menu for File > Print Area > Set Print Area.

-Then go to File > Print Preview and select the Setup button.

-Then set the page for “Landscape” and “Fit To” 2 pages wide by 3 pages tall.

This should result in 6 pages to be printed (as long as you have set the print area first).

Be sure to check the Print Preview to see that the data will print at a reasonable size, and that there are only 6 or so pages that will print.

Nikon D500 viewfinder autofocus AF points crop 1.3x grid

In the past I have resisted requests for these types of quick-start “cheat sheets,” because I prefer that readers of my Full Stop camera guides read through all of the Menu and Custom Settings options, and determine which settings suit their shooting situations and preferences. This is one of the best ways to really learn the ins-and-outs of one’s new camera, so I still encourage you to do so. But I can appreciate the value and the handy reference features of this type of recommendation guide.

Please feel free to take the advice of dedicated Wildlife or Concert photographers, for example, above mine if it differs! And for further information, explanations, justifications, and caveats for the settings I specify, please have a look at my clear and comprehensive guide Nikon D500 Experience.

Nikon D500 Experience book manual guide how to use set up quick start setting recommend menu custom setting setup guide

Version History of Spreadsheet

2016-05-22 – v1.0 – First version released

2016-05-24 – v1.1 – Minor formatting corrections

In conjunction with my camera guide for the new Canon EOS 5DS and 5DS R,
Canon 5DS / 5DS R Experience, I have created a Canon 5DS / 5DS R Setup Guide – a comprehensive spreadsheet with recommended settings for the applicable Menus, all of the Custom Functions, plus some shooting and exposure settings. It has complete and separate camera setup recommendations for different types of shooting, including:

General / Travel / Street
Landscape / Architecture
Action / Sports
Moving Wildlife / Birds
Studio / Portraits
Concert / Performance

Here is a detail of just a small part of the Setup Guide spreadsheet:

Canon 5DS 5DSR Setup Guide Spreadsheet Experience Full Stop

The direct link to download the Excel spreadsheet is:

http://docs.fullstopbooks.com/forms/Canon-5DS-5DSR-Experience-Setup-Guide.xls

To print the spreadsheet guide, you may wish to print it across several pages and then tape them together, so that the data is legible:

-First, be sure to set the print area, to avoid all the blank pages. Do this by manually selecting all the cells with data in them (drag the cursor from cell A1 to G188 and they will all appear blue.) Then access the menu for File > Print Area > Set Print Area.

-Then go to File > Print Preview and select the Setup button.

-Then set the page for “Landscape” and “Fit To” 2 pages wide by 3 pages tall. Alternately, you can set for “Adjust to 58% Normal Size.”

Either of those options should result in 6 pages to be printed (as long as you have set the print area first).

Be sure to check the Print Preview to see that the data will print at a reasonable size, and that there are only 6 or so pages that will print.

Canon 5DS 5DSR setup book manual guide how to menu Custom Function quick start recommend

In the past I have resisted requests for these types of quick-start “cheat sheets,” because I prefer that readers of my Full Stop camera guides read through all of the Menu and Custom Function options, and determine which settings suit their shooting situations and preferences. This is one of the best ways to really learn the ins-and-outs of one’s new camera, so I still encourage you to do so. But I can appreciate the value and the handy reference features of this type of recommendation guide.

Canon 5DS 5DSR setup book manual guide how to menu Custom Function quick start recommend

Please know that I am in no way an experienced expert in all of the different photography categories I have included, so take the advice of dedicated Wildlife or Concert photographers, for example, above mine if it differs! And for further information, explanations, justifications, and caveats for the settings I specify, please have a look at my clear and comprehensive guide Canon 5DS / 5DS R Experience.

Canon 5DS 5DSR book manual guide master how to use learn quick start tips tricks setup setting menu custom function recommend

 

Version History of Spreadsheet

2015-06-18 – v1.0 – First version released

In conjunction with my camera guide for the new Nikon D7200, Nikon D7200 Experience, I have created the free and comprehensive Nikon D7200 Setup Guide, with recommended settings for the applicable Menus, all of the Custom Settings, plus some shooting and exposure settings. It has complete and separate camera setup recommendations for different types of shooting, including:

General / Travel / Street
Landscape / Architecture
Action / Sports
Moving Wildlife / Birds
Studio / Portraits
Concert / Performance

Here is a detail of just a small part of the Setup Guide spreadsheet:

Nikon D7200 Setup Guide spreadsheet menu custom settings setup quick start tips tricks

The direct link to download the Excel spreadsheet is:

http://docs.fullstopbooks.com/forms/Nikon_D7200_Experience-Setup_Guide-UL.xls

alternate link:

http://www.dojoklo.com/Full_Stop/forms/Nikon_D7200_Experience-Setup_Guide-UL.xls

To print the spreadsheet guide, you may wish to print it across several pages and then tape them together, so that the data is legible:

-First, be sure to set the print area, to avoid all the blank pages. Do this by manually selecting all the cells with data in them (drag the cursor from cell A1 to G151 and they will all appear blue.) Then access the menu for File > Print Area > Set Print Area.

-Then go to File > Print Preview and select the Setup button.

-Then set the page for “Landscape” and “Fit To” 2 pages wide by 3 pages tall. Alternately, you can set for “Adjust to 60% Normal Size.”

Either of those options should result in 6 pages to be printed (as long as you have set the print area first).

Be sure to check the preview to see that the data will print at a reasonable size, and that there are only 6 or so pages that will print.

Nikon D7200 Experience book manual guide set up spreadsheet menu custom setting tips tricks shooting exposure

 

In the past I have resisted requests for these types of quick-start “cheat sheets,” because I prefer that readers of my Full Stop camera guides read through all of the Menu and Custom Settings options, and determine which settings suit their shooting situations and preferences. This is one of the best ways to really learn the ins-and-outs of one’s new camera, so I still encourage you to do so. But I can appreciate the value and the handy reference features of this type of recommendation guide.

Please know that I am not an expert in all of the different photography categories I have included, so feel free to follow the advice of dedicated Bird or Concert photographers, for example, if it differs from mine. Or follow your own preferences as they develop with experience. And for further information, explanations, justifications, and caveats for the settings I specify, please have a look at my clear and comprehensive guide Nikon D7200 Experience.

Nikon D7200 Experience book manual guide quick start master tips tricks recommend autofocus metering

 

Version History of Spreadsheet

2015-03-24 – v1.0 – First version released

My latest guide, Nikon D5500 Experience is now available! Nikon D5500 Experience 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 how, when, and why to use the camera’s features, settings, and controls in your photography.

Nikon D5500 book manual guide tips tricks how to set up quick start tutorial recommend setting

Written in the clear, concise, and comprehensive manner of all Full Stop guides, Nikon D5500 Experience will help you learn to use your D5500 quickly and competently, to consistently make the types of images you desire.

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 camera and the images you create!

Nikon D5500 Experience book manual guide how to tips tricks tutorial set up quick startNikon D5500 Experience book manual guide how to tips tricks tutorial set up quick start

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 modes and shoot competently in A, S, and M shooting modes; take control of the complex 39 point autofocus system; and learn how, when, and why to use and customize the controls, buttons, and features of the D5500. 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 more experienced photographers moving up to the D5500, this guide explains the new and advanced features to quickly have you taking advantage of these capabilities, including the 39 point autofocus system and its Focus Modes and AF-Area Modes. Plus it explains the camera controls, new touch screen, the in-camera HDR and Interval Timer features, explains the HD video and Wi-Fi capabilities, and guides you through all the Menus and Custom Settings to help you set up the camera for your specific shooting needs.

Nikon D5500 Experience book manual guide how to tips tricks tutorial set up quick startNikon D5500 Experience book manual guide how to tips tricks tutorial set up quick start

Nikon D5500 Experience focuses on still-photography with an introduction to the movie menus and settings to get you started with video. Sections include:

  • Setting Up Your D5500 – All of the Custom Settings and Playback, Shooting, and Setup Menus, with explanations and recommended settings to customize the camera 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 full control over exposure settings.
  • Focus Modes, AF-Area Modes and Release Modes – Take control of the 39-point autofocus system. Learn the AF Modes and AF-Area Modes, how they differ, how and when to take advantage of them to capture both still and moving subjects.
  • Exposure Metering Modes – How they differ, and when to use 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 using the settings and controls to take photos of still or moving subjects.
  • Wi-Fi – Connect the D5500 to your smartphone or tablet.
  • Photography Accessories – Useful accessories for the D5500 and for dSLR photography.
  • Composition – 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 279 page digital guide to the Nikon D5500 is an illustrated e-book that goes beyond the manual to clearly explain how, when, and why to use the features, settings, and controls of the Nikon D5500 to help you get the most from your camera.

Nikon D5500 Experience book manual guide how to tips tricks tutorial set up quick startNikon D5500 Experience book manual guide how to tips tricks tutorial set up quick start

Learn more about Nikon D5500 Experience, view a preview, and purchase it on my Full Stop website here:

http://www.dojoklo.com/Full_Stop/Nikon_D5500_Experience.htm

If you haven’t yet purchased your D5500, be sure to use the Amazon or B and H referral links on the left side of this page, to head over to those sites – thanks!

As you likely discovered as soon as you starting exploring the controls, features, menus, and Custom Settings of your 36.3 MP, full-frame Nikon D810, it is a powerful, highly customizable, and versatile camera. There are numerous Menu options and Custom Settings that you can make use of in order to fine-tune the camera to perfectly fit your needs, shooting style, and scene or situation. The autofocus system and exposure metering system can be adjusted according to your preferences, the camera controls can be customized and assigned to a variety of functions, the displays, White Balance, and Auto ISO can be tweaked according to your needs. Plus several new features have been added to the D810 compared to its predecessor the D800/D800E, and all of them enhance the shooting experience. Many of them will be explained throughout this article.

I’ve spent some dedicated time with the D810 as I’ve researched and written my e-book user’s guide to the camera called Nikon D810 Experience, and below are the some of the top “tips and tricks” I’ve discovered for setting up and photographing with this powerful dSLR. And be sure to read to the end of the article to learn about my free, detailed, and comprehensive Nikon D810 Setup Guide spreadsheet, which covers recommended Menu settings, Custom Settings, and exposure settings for various types of shooting situations!

Nikon D810 body detail tips tricks how to use manual guide book set up quick start
Detail of the Nikon D810 dSLR camera – photo by author

1. Take Control of the D810 Autofocus System: Before getting into some of the tips regarding features and functions specific to the D810, one first needs to take control of the basic functions of the camera, including the autofocus system and exposure metering settings. The D810 boasts the 51 point autofocus system of its predecessor the D800, with 15 centrally-located cross-type points. The large number of focus points and their positions in the Viewfinder will allow you to focus exactly where you wish – with minimal recomposing (when working in Single-Servo AF-S mode), plus will better enable you to track moving subjects throughout the frame when working in Continuous-Servo (AF-C) autofocus mode. The different autofocus modes (AF-S, AF-C) and the various autofocus area modes (Single Point, Dynamic Area, etc. plus the new Group Area AF) may be intimidating at first, but once they are understood, it is easy to determine which combinations fit your shooting needs. I wrote an entire post introducing the use of the Nikon autofocus system, its AF and AF-Area modes, and its controls. (Despite the larger number of AF points in the D810, the system works nearly the same as explained in the article.) If you have not used one of the more current Nikon dSLR models such as the D800, D7100/D7000, or D610/D600, you may at first be confused by the autofocus controls with the AF switch / button near the base of the lens (used in conjunction with the Command Dials), but you should quickly find that it is a quick and convenient way to change the AF modes and AF area modes.

Nikon D810 autofocus af system viewfinder book manual guide dummies how to tips tricks setting menu quick start
Simulated view of the Nikon D810 Viewfinder, with all 51 AF points shown for reference.

In addition, the D810 offers several Custom Settings to customize various aspect of the autofocus system, namely the ones in the a: Autofocus category. You can use these to tell the camera if achieving exact focus takes priority over maintaining the fastest continuous frame rate, how long the AF system continues to track a specific subject (distance) even if the subject momentarily moves away from the active AF point, and if the active AF point is illuminated in the Viewfinder. Using Custom Setting a5: Focus Point Illumination, you can now choose to display the cluster of all of the AF Points of a Dynamic-Area (such as 9-Point or 21-Point), rather than just the active middle point of the cluster. And you can even limit the number of selectable AF points to 11 if that helps you to more quickly or easily select your desired AF point. Most of these options are explained in my previous Nikon AF system post mentioned above.

The D810 also offers the ability to remember a specific AF Point so that the camera will automatically jump to the last point used when the camera is held in a specific orientation. For example, if you last used an upper-right AF Point when holding the camera in the grip-up position, then returned to shooting with the camera in landscape orientation, when you next hold the camera in the grip-up position, the camera will automatically jump back to that upper-right point. This is done through Custom Setting a9: Store by Orientation. You can register different points for each of the camera orientations. Similarly, you can assign the center Multi Selector Button to be used to jump to a Preset Focus Point of your choice, when the button is pressed during shooting.

2. Make Use of the new Group Area AF Autofocus Mode: The D810 borrows a new focus mode from the flagship Nikon D4s – Group Area AF, which makes use of a group of five AF Points arranged in a cross-shaped pattern. Instead of selecting a primary point with the surrounding points acting as “helper” points as with the Dynamic-Area AF modes, you will actually be selecting the group of five points which will all be used to attempt to focus on the subject. The Viewfinder will display the four outer points of the Group Area AF group of points, but not display the central point – perhaps so that you can better view the subject. Or you can use Using Custom Setting a5: Focus Point Illumination to display four surrounding dots rather than larger squares.

Nikon D810 autofocus af group area mode learn use setup quick start tips tricks viewfinder bif bird heron
Nikon D810 – Group Area AF – Simulated view of the D810 Viewfinder, showing what you will see in the viewfinder when making use of Group Area AF, with the cross-shaped pattern of the four outer AF Points of the Group visible. Background image shown at 65% opacity to better view Focus Points.

Keep in mind that with the other somewhat similar Dynamic-Area AF modes, you choose a primary point and attempt to keep the subject located at that point, and the surrounding points act as “helper” points if the subject happens to move away from the primary point. But with Group Area AF you select the entire group of AF Points, and they all work equally to focus on the subject. This mode can be used similar to Single Point AF but when it might be challenging to locate the subject under an individual point, which might cause you to accidentally focus on the background. When working in AF-S Focus Mode and using Group Area AF, the selected AF Points will give priority to faces if they are present, otherwise they will focus on the closest subject.

3. Take Advantage of the new [i] Button, and the “Hidden” Features it will Access: The D810 adds the [i] Button (on the rear of the camera) which gives you immediate access to the Information Display screen, where many shooting settings and functions can be viewed and changed. You can press this button to turn on the Information Display on the Monitor and immediately access these settings with the use of the Multi Selector and OK Button or the center touch-pad button. Press the [i] Button a second time or the Info button to “de-activate” the settings and simply view the camera settings on the Information Display Screen. Or, after the Info Button is pushed to display the camera settings of the Information Display screen on the rear Monitor, this [i] Button is pressed to “activate” the screen to enable changing the settings. In addition to the readily accessible camera buttons on the body of the D810, this [i] Button and Information Display screen can be a quick and easy way to change many of the camera settings without having to dig into the menus, such as Active D-Lighting, High ISO Noise Reduction, Color Space (sRGB vs Adobe RGB), and Long Exposure Noise Reduction. Plus you can use this screen to quickly access and customize the Preview (Pv) Button, AE-L / AF-L Button, and Fn Button Assignments.

Nikon D810 Information Display LCD monitor screen
The Information Display of the D810, accessed with the Info Button or i Button, and “activated” with the i Button.

The [i] Button can also be used during Live View shooting, Movie shooting, and Image Playback – to quickly access a number of applicable functions, some of them are sort-of hidden unless accessed this way, such as the LCD Monitor White Balance adjustment, and the Highlight Display for showing “zebra stripes” at potentially over-exposed areas of the scene during Movie Live View.

During Live View shooting, the [i] Button can be pressed to access settings including Image Area, Active-D Lighting, the new Electronic Front-Curtain Shutter, Monitor Brightness, Photo Live View Display White Balance (explained just below), or Split-Screen Display Zoom to compare two magnified areas of the scene in order to confirm that the image is level (as will be described in Tip 5 below). The Photo Live View Display White Balance feature allows you to set the white balance of the Live View screen differently than the current white balance of the scene. This may sound odd, until you realize it can come in handy when setting up a shot that will actually be taken with different lighting, such as a Speedlight or studio strobes. So using this feature you can set the LCD Monitor WB to better match how the final image will appear.

During Movie shooting, the [i] Button will access Image Area, Frame Size and Frame Rate, Movie Quality, Microphone Sensitivity and Frequency Response, Wind Noise Reduction, Destination to select the active memory card, Monitor Brightness, Highlight Display to view “zebra-stripes” at overexposed areas of the scene, and Headphone Volume. Plus during video playback, the [i] Button is also used to display movie edit options.

When reviewing images during Image Playback, the [i] Button will access the Retouch Menu, which will allow you to apply various image edits such as Color Balance, Filter Effects, and Distortion Control. Be sure to take advantage of the [i] Button in these various mode, rather than digging into the menus, to easily access some of the most often used features as well as a couple of the “hidden” features. I have written a separate post about the “Hidden” Features of the D810 so that you can explore them further.

Nikon D810 Retouch Menu cross screen starburst
Nikon D810 Retouch Menu – Using the Cross Screen item of the Retouch Menu to create a cheesy starburst pattern!

4. Improve Exposures with the new Highlight Weighted Metering Mode: The D810 adds a brand new metering mode, Highlight Weighted Metering. This mode is designed for certain challenging lighting situations, in order to help retain detail in bright areas and avoid the overexposure of highlights. It does this by measuring the brightness in a scene then determining the best exposure level which will prevent the highlights from being overexposed (“blown-out”). It should prove to be a useful metering mode for those who shoot theater and live music performances where the lighting can suddenly and dramatically change, or even remain consistent but be prone to include bright “hot-spots” of illumination on a subject. It can also be used in other scenes that include a well lit subject against a dark background, particularly one that is moving and thus prevents the use of Spot Metering. And it can be used at a wedding reception where the bride may be under a spot light, and you wish to properly expose the scene and the subjects yet retain all the subtle details in the highlights of the wedding dress. Also take advantage of the quieter Quiet Shutter Release (Q) and Quiet Continuous Shutter Release (Qc) release modes when in theater, performance, or wedding situations, in order to reduce shutter noise as you take your shots.

With Highlight Weighted Metering Mode when the camera’s exposure settings are biased  to avoid the overexposure of highlights, they may result in some of the other areas of the scene, such as the midtones, being slightly underexposed. However, with the excellent sensor performance of the D810, even at higher ISO settings, you should be able to easily adjust the midtone and shadow areas of an image without increasing the appearance of digital noise. Shooting in the RAW file format rather than JPEG format will allow you more post-processing flexibility for these adjustments than will images in the JPEG format. Note that when using a lens other than a Nikon G, E, or D lens (typical current lenses) with the D810 set for Highlight-Weighted Metering, the camera will actually use Center-Weighted Metering.


The Highlight-Weighted Metering Mode of the D810 is designed for theater / performance scenes such as this, where a brightly lit subject is against a dark background, and is prone to overexposed hot-spots due to theater lighting.

5. New Features Ideal for Landscape Photographers: The D810 includes several new features that landscape photographers will want to make use of, as well as those shooting in other types of controlled situations such as macro and studio still-life shooting. While the 36.3 megapixel sensor of the D810 has the potential to create images with incredible resolution, the high megapixel count can also call attention to less-than-sharp images. You will need a high quality lens to take full advantage of the resolution, plus make use of some features that will help reduce camera shake and thus image blur.  In addition to the redesigned mirror/ shutter mechanism that is quieter and smoother, you can also make use of the new Electronic Front-Curtain Shutter to help reduce camera vibrations. When working in Mirror-up (Mup) Release Mode, this uses the sensor itself as the front curtain of the shutter, rather than a mechanical curtain. You can enable this with Custom Setting d5, as well as use it in Live View (press the i Button in Live View to access it). For maximum vibration reduction, you can also make use of:

-the Mirror Up release mode, which performs the jarring mirror-raising action prior to shutter release, requiring a second Shutter Button press to take the image. Use this with or without the Electronic Front-Curtain Shutter feature

-the Exposure Delay Mode (Custom Setting d4) to delay the shutter release for a couple seconds after you press the Shutter Button.

-and of course a tripod and a remote shutter release.

Landscape and architectural photographers can also make use of the new Split Screen Display Zoom during Live View, where you can simultaneously zoom in on two different areas of the frame (on the same horizontal plane) to help determine if they are level. Press the i Button when in Live View to access this feature, then navigate to the desired area of the scene, and zoom in or out. Press the Protect (key icon) Button to select the other half of the screen and navigate to the desired area of that side of the scene. Since this feature is used to determine if the framing is level, both sides of the screen will move up and down simultaneously when you navigate either side. Press the i Button again to exit the Split-Screen.

Nikon D810 Split Screen Display Zoom LCD monitor screen Live View
The Split-Screen Display Zoom of the D810, accessible during Live View shooting, to check if the framing of the scene is level.

You can also make use of the Electronic Level on the rear LCD Monitor, the Live View Electronic Level, or the Virtual Viewfinder Horizon level which is seen in the Viewfinder. Assign the Fn or Pv Button to display the Virtual Viewfinder Horizon level, via Custom Setting f4 or f5. And landscape photographers will also want to take advantage of the new, lower 64 ISO setting. This is a “native” ISO setting, not an artificial one created by processing. Landscape photographers (and videographers) often need to use dark ND filters in order to block some light so that they can take advantage of wide apertures settings, such as f/2.8. Or they are used so that you can obtain slower shutter speeds when desired, such as when you wish to blur the motion of water. By enabling you to lower the ISO below 100, it will reduce the need for an ND filter in some situations.

This article continues with Nikon D810 Tips and Tricks – Part 2, which can be read here:

http://blog.dojoklo.com/2014/08/29/nikon-d810-tips-and-tricks-part-2/

Remember, I also explain these features and functions in even more detail, as well as explain all the other aspects of the D810 in my e-book guide Nikon D810 Experience, available on my Full Stop website. The guide not only explains the features, functions, and controls of the camera, but more importantly explains when and why you will want to use them in your photography. Take control of your D810 and the images you create! Click the link below to learn more, preview, and purchase the guide:

http://www.dojoklo.com/Full_Stop/Nikon_D810_Experience.htm

And, in conjunction with the book, I have created a detailed and comprehensive Nikon D810 Setup Guide spreadsheet, which has recommended Menu settings, Custom Settings, and exposure settings for various shooting situations such as Landscape, Performance, Sports, and Travel, in order to help you set up your camera. You can learn about and download this free “cheat sheet” spreadsheet here:

http://blog.dojoklo.com/2014/06/30/nikon-d800800e-nikon-d810-setup-guide-with-recommended-settings/

If you have found this helpful and plan to purchase a Nikon D810 or some lenses or accessories for it, please consider using my affiliate links for Amazon or for B and H, found at the left side of this page. Your price will be the same, but they will give me a small referral fee – thanks! And please feel free to spread the word if this blog has been helpful.

In conjunction with my camera guide for the new Nikon D810, Nikon D810 Experience, I have created a Nikon D810 Setup Guide – a comprehensive spreadsheet (cheat sheet!) with recommended settings for the applicable Menus, all of the Custom Settings, plus some shooting and exposure settings. It has complete and separate camera setup recommendations for different types of shooting, including:

General / Travel / Street
Landscape / Architecture
Action / Sports
Moving Wildlife / Birds
Studio / Portraits
Concert / Performance

Here is a detail of just a small part of the Setup Guide spreadsheet:

Nikon D810 Setup guide menu custom setting cheat sheet quick start tips tricks recommend setting, book manual guide how to

The direct link to the Excel spreadsheet is:

http://docs.fullstopbooks.com/forms/Nikon_D810_Experience-Setup_Guide.xls

alternate link:

http://www.dojoklo.com/Full_Stop/forms/Nikon_D810_Experience-Setup_Guide.xls

Please note that the guide will also apply to the D800 and D800E, but new D810 menu items and features will obviously not be on the D800, and the names/ terms of some of the items has changed slightly.

To print the guide, you may wish to print it across several pages and then tape them together, so that the data is legible:

First, be sure to set the print area, to avoid all the blank pages. Do this by manually selecting all the cells with data in them (drag the cursor from cell A1 to G168 and they will all appear blue.) Then access the menu for File > Print Area > Set Print Area.

Then go to File > Print Preview and select the Setup button,

Then set the page for “Landscape” and “Fit To” 2 pages wide by 3 pages tall. Alternately, you can set for “Adjust to 60% Normal Size.”

Either of those options should result in 6 pages to be printed (as long as you have set the print area first).

Be sure to check the preview to see that the data will print at a reasonable size, and that there are only 6 or so pages that will print.

In the past I have resisted requests for these types of quick-start “cheat sheets,” because I prefer that readers of my Full Stop camera guides read through all of the Menu and Custom Settings options, and determine which settings suit their shooting situations and preferences. This is one of the best ways to really learn the ins-and-outs of one’s new camera, so I still encourage you to do so. But I can appreciate the value and the handy reference features of this type of recommendation guide.

Please know that I am in no way an experienced expert in all of the different photography categories I have included, so take the advice of dedicated Bird or Concert photographers, for example, above mine if it differs! And for further information, explanations, justifications, and caveats for the settings I specify, please have a look at my clear and comprehensive guide Nikon D810 Experience.

Version History
v1.2 – First version released
v1.3 – Formatting/ appearance changes
v1.4 – Formatting/ appearance changes
v1.5 – Formatting/ appearance changes
v1.6 – Footnote number corrections, some minor settings changes based on further findings and the final text of the guide

 Nikon D810 setup guide menus custom setting quick start cheat sheet how to manual tutorial tips tricks recommend
Nikon D810 – 1965 Ford Mustang GT – 2014 Annual Antique Auto Show – Codman Estate, Lincoln, Mass.

If you have purchased my Nikon D810 Experience e-book guide, be sure to sign up on the updates page, so that I can inform you of any updates made to the guide or to this spreadsheet, and well be able to provide you with a free updated guide, should there be any major updates or corrections.

Nikon D810 manual guide setup tips tricks how to use quick start recommend setting
Nikon D810, shown with 50mm f/1.4 AI-S lens. Camera courtesy of LensProToGo. Lens courtesy of Newtonville Camera.

If you have found this blog helpful and plan to purchase a Nikon D810 or some lenses or accessories for it, please consider using my affiliate links for Amazon or for B and H, found at the left side of this page. Your price will be the same, but they will give me a small referral fee – thanks! And please feel free to spread the word if this blog has been helpful.

Nikon Df – A Powerful, Fun, Nostalgia-Inducing Camera

The announcement of the retro-styled, full-frame Nikon Df caused plenty of interest and anticipation, though it is yet to be seen whether or not that is followed up with strong sales.  While they have quickly run out of stock in Japan, it sounds as if other potential users, such as in the US, are still taking a wait-and-see approach to learn how Df users feel about the controls, ergonomics, performance, etc. – or perhaps others are hoping that the price may go down a bit!

Nikon Df retro non ai pre ai lens how to use manual guide review hands on recommended setting dummies tutorial quick start tips tricks
Nikon Df with Nikkor 135mm f/3.5 non-AI (pre-AI) lens. Read below how to make use of non-CPU legacy Nikkor lenses (AI and pre-AI) with the Df. (All photos by the author, except where noted.)

From my hands-on experience so far, as I have been researching and writing my Nikon Df Experience guide to the camera, I can assure you that it is a highly capable, well featured dSLR, with extremely high image-quality. Its low-light performance has proven to be the best of any current dSLR. But in addition to all this, it is a beautifully styled camera (though with a couple functionality sacrifices made in the name of retro-styling), and it is a truly fun camera to admire, hold in your hands, and – most importantly – to use.

Before I get into this, I would like to extend a thanks and shout-out to LensProToGo for getting the Df into my hands so quickly, and to Newtonville Camera of Newton, Mass. for the non-CPU Nikkor lenses.

For those with past experience using a film SLR, it will at once feel familiar and likely bring back a few fond memories and emotions that you haven’t encountered in a long while, after becoming accustomed to the body and controls of a dSLR for the past many years. At the same time, it may cause you to be a bit off-balance for awhile, as you need to remind yourself to reach for a dial to change the ISO setting or exposure compensation amount, or to re-accustom yourself with the concept that shutter speed can be changed with a dial if you desire.


The retro-inspired Nikon Df  in silver (right), shown with one of its design inspirations, the Nikon F2S Photomic (left) (photo by Andrew Martin).

The retro, film-style controls help to encourage a slowing down, a more careful and exacting photo-taking process. You just may feel like a street photographer with the proper tool for the job – stalking your image, looking down to manually turn some dials to adjust your settings, carefully reviewing the information in the Viewfinder, lining up the shot and autofocusing. But the controls and various menu settings also allow you to take advantage of the “fusion” aspect of the Df (as Nikon says the “f” stands for). Fusion is indeed an accurate word, and the Df nicely combines the retro-dials with the digital LCD screens, the autofocus system, and the Command Dials which can be used as you are accustomed to for controlling shutter speed and aperture – if you wish.

Nikon Df Basic Specs

As you have likely already learned, the Df has a 16 MP full-frame sensor and Expeed 3 processor (borrowed from the high end D4) and has amazing low-light capabilities. While it can go up to 204,800 ISO, it is actually usable up to perhaps 6400 ISO or higher (for JPG, depending on your needs, expectations, and output). And of course you can apply noise reduction to NEF (RAW) files and determine where you achieve the right balance of clarity and detail retention. Have a look at the DPReview lab tests for some high ISO / low light samples and comparisons.

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Nikon Df unboxing, shown with Special Edition 50mm f/1.8 kit lens.

The Df can shoot at a maximum continuous shooting speed of 5.5 frames per second, boasts the 39-point autofocus system of the D600/ D610, has a nice large 3.2″ rear LCD monitor and smaller top info panel, and a single SD card slot which shares the bottom compartment with the EN-EL14A battery. While you can work in Live View, it does not have video capability. The Df can also use – and meter – with nearly all legacy Nikkor lenses including AI and pre-AI lenses dating back to 1959, which I will discuss below.

The Df is available in either Silver and Black, or all Black.  While the Silver and Black model is the standard US model and has a more retro-look to it, the Black version is sleeker and “sexier” but more subtle, IMHO. The Silver version will probably stand out more as you carry it around, initiating more looks and comments, if that appeals to you!

Nikon Df Controls and Ergonomics

The first thing most people will notice about the Df is its retro-styling and controls, inspired by some of the older Nikon F and FM models. This includes the form, colors, and finish, as well as the top dials for adjusting ISO, Exposure Compensation, Shutter Speed, and Shooting Modes (M, A, S, P). There is also a top switch for Release Modes and a rear switch for Metering Modes. Yet it also provides the large 3.2″ rear LCD Monitor for viewing images, menus, settings, and adjusting a limited number of settings – plus the Multi Controller thumb pad for navigating the screen and for selecting an autofocus point or group of points. The Df has the now-common Autofocus switch and AF button on the front of the camera (near the lens mount) for selecting the autofocus AF Area Mode and AF Mode (in conjunction with the appropriate Command Dial). Those who have used the D7000/D7100 or D600/D610 will feel right at home with these convenient AF controls.

Nikon Df retro use learn dummies tips tricks how to hands on review manual guide recommended setting book tips tricks quick start set up use learn
Detail of Nikon Df and some of its controls.

While you can use the dials and controls to emulate a manual film camera, the controls, menu settings, and Custom Settings of the Df also allow you to set up the camera so that you can use many of the controls just as you do now with your current Nikon dSLR. By placing the Shutter Speed dial on the 1/3 STEP setting when working in M or S shooting mode, you can then simply use the rear Main Command Dial to adjust the shutter speed as you view the setting in the Viewfinder, on the rear Information Screen, or on the top LCD panel – just as you may be doing now. This may be the easiest way to use the camera, though it will eliminate the need for the old-school dial adjusting that you may prefer on this retro camera. Or if you choose, you can select a specific shutter speed setting on the dial, and then by enabling Custom Setting f11: Easy Shutter-Speed Shift you can turn the rear Main Command Dial and adjust that shutter speed setting up or down 2/3-stop in 1/3-stop increments (as you view the settings in the Viewfinder, rear Monitor, or top Control Panel) so that you have a little adjustment lee-way as you work, without having to reach up and turn the Shutter Speed dial for minor adjustments.


Detail of the Nikon F2S Photomic, one of the design inspirations for the retro-styled Nikon Df (photo by Andrew Martin).

When working in M or A shooting mode, you will use the front Sub-Command Dial to adjust the aperture setting, unless of course you are using a non-CPU lens.  In that case you will need to register the Non-CPU lens with the camera (focal length, maximum aperture, AI or non-AI), then set the camera on that lens number when it is in use. Then turn the lens aperture ring to change the settings.  With an AI lens, the AI coupling tab on the lens mount with transfer the aperture setting to the camera and you will be able to view the aperture setting in the Viewfinder or on the camera screens.  With a pre-AI lens you will need to disengage the AI tab on the camera’s lens mount (so as not to damage the camera or lens), dial in the lens number that you registered, and then manually set the aperture ring on the lens.  You will also then have to match that aperture setting of the lens onto the camera yourself, by turning the from Sub-Command Dial. But in both cases (AI and non-AI) the camera will properly meter for the attached lens as long as it is registered in the camera menus.

Nikon Df low light digital noise high ISO learn use manual guide book how to dummies tips tricks hands on review
Nikon Df – Example Image in low light, 3200 ISO – click for EXIF data and larger version on Flickr. The AF system was quickly and accurately able to lock in on the darks eyes on the dark, furry face.

If you wish to have this same manual aperture ring experience with an newer CPU lens that also has an aperture ring, you can access Custom Setting f7: Customize Command Dials and enable the nearly-hidden Aperture Ring setting which will allow you to use the lens aperture ring rather than the Sub-Command Dial to change the aperture setting.

Speaking of the front Sub-Command Dial, that is one of my few but notable complaints about the Df. Unlike other Nikon dSLR models with this front dial, the one on the Df is aligned vertically. It is small, and has a hard surface rather than the nice rubberized surface of the rear dial, and can be a bit difficult to turn. You need to press your finger into it so that it turns without your finger slipping across it, which is uncomfortable due to its hard surface. It would have been much better if it was perhaps larger, tapered differently, and certainly needs the rubberized surface for comfort and ease of use. Not to mention that the camera strap attachment is sort of in the way of where your finger needs to be when using this dial.  These are some of the few physical faults with the camera, and while they are not make-or-break, they do affect regular use.

Others have complained about the height of the Shutter-Button, though that isn’t a major complaint for me. I really didn’t notice its placement being uncomfortable much at all, but perhaps it could be with extended use or in action-shooting situations. Some of the other buttons on the the rear of the camera are very flat (which looks cool), and some are more flush with the body and are thus a bit more difficult to press than they should be. And while I’m at it, the retro-styled latch to open the bottom battery / memory compartment is cool, but not as quick and practical to actually use as a typical latch. Plus the location of the SD card in this bottom compartment is not as convenient and with most dSLRs that have the memory card door on the side. But you will quickly get used to it.

Nikon Df example image sample how to use learn manual guide review hands on tips tricks quick start set up dummies recommended setting autofocus AF
Nikon Df Example Image – click image to see larger on Flickr. (To mangle the words of Brian Wilson, “I guess the Df just WAS made for these times!”)

As far as the ergonomics other than those issues, the Df has a smaller grip than the typical dSLR, yet I found it perfectly comfortable to use, and again it often brings back the feeling of a film SLR in one’s hands. And while one may at first need to look at the top dials and change the ISO and Exposure Compensation, with a little practice this can be done without taking your eye from the Viewfinder. While one finger presses the dial release button, another can turn the dial, and you can see the current setting change in the Viewfinder.  For the ISO setting, you will need to go into the Custom Settings menu and enable d3: ISO Display in order to display the ISO in the Viewfinder rather than the remaining frames.  If you have a large enough SD card, you won’t need to be worrying about the remaining frames, so this shouldn’t be an issue.

That being said, the Df may be a difficult camera to use for action situations or a wedding or event, where one will need to quickly change the settings on the fly. While I explained how to set up the camera in order to change the shutter speed and aperture in the typical dSLR manner, it is obviously slower and more awkward to have to change the ISO and E.C. settings using the dials, even if you can begin to do it without looking.

Regarding ISO, though, you can make use of the Auto ISO feature.  As with the other current Nikon models, you will set an ISO setting, but if the situation requires, the camera will automatically adjust it in order to obtain the proper exposure.  You can even use the Auto ISO menu settings to dictate the Maximum Sensitivity (ISO) and Minimum Shutter Speed that the camera will choose. Or if you set the Minimum Shutter Speed for Auto, the camera will make this selection based on the current lens focal length (for example, a long telephoto lens will require a faster shutter speed than a wide angle lens, to help prevent camera-shake blur). And this Auto Min. Shutter Speed can even be tweaked to always be faster or slower if you don’t agree with the camera’s Auto selections.

Nikon Df multiple exposure in camera example image sample quick start how to use guide manual set up tips tricks recommend setting
Nikon Df Example Image – in-camera Multiple Exposure

You can also use some of the rear camera buttons in conjunction with the appropriate Command Dial to change various settings, such as White Balance and Image Quality. The Df offers not only NEF (RAW) and JPEG, in various levels of size and compression, but it also offers TIFF image quality. However, TIFF files will be very large, 50MB files, about twice the size of the highest quality NEF (RAW) files.

And you can customize various buttons for a variety of functions, including the Fn (Function) and Pv (Preview) Buttons on the front, and the AE-L/AF-L and AF-ON Buttons on the rear. The front buttons can be set up to quickly access an often-used feature or setting, such as temporarily changing the metering mode, turning on the Viewfinder grid or level, or also capturing a RAW image if the image quality is set for JPEG. There is the “Press” vs. “Press+Dial” customization options for these buttons (set one option for pressing the button, and another option for pressing the button and turning a Command Dial). Though you will find that many of the options conflict, and you will often only be able to set either a “Press” or a “Press+Dial” option, not both. If you will be using non-CPU lenses, you will need to set one of these buttons to the Non-CPU Lens Number item so that you can select the number of the registered non-CPU lens when in use. The top-rear buttons (AE-L/AF-L and AF-ON) along with the Shutter Button can be set up for a variety of focus-lock and exposure-lock combinations, such as for back button focusing, or to better assist you when working in AF-C continuous mode where the camera will track a moving subject as long as you keep it located at the active AF point.


The retro-inspired Nikon Df in black (right), shown with one of its design inspirations, the Nikon F3 (photo by Andrew Martin).

While the Df does not offer customizable user shooting modes such as U1 and U2 – found on the mode dial of other Nikon dSLRs – it does offer Shooting Menu Banks and Custom Settings Banks where you can set and save groups of settings.  This prevents you from having to dig into the menus and change various settings when you switch from portrait shooting to action shooting, for example.  You can set up and assign Bank A to your portrait set up, and Bank B to your action set up (or landscape, etc.), and then quickly change the camera to those Banks.  Not quite as convenient as the U1, U2 settings, but still helpful. The Banks can be quickly accessed through the Information Display screen via the i Button. The i Button and rear screen will also allow you to quickly access settings such as High ISO NR, Active D-Lighting, HDR, Picture Controls, and Long Exposure NR.

Autofocus System

I won’t go into detail here about the Df autofocus system, as you can read about it in my post about using and customizing the Nikon Autofocus System. But as with the other current Nikon dSLR cameras, it offers AF-S and AF-C autofocus modes for either single shooting (locking focus on a still subject), or for continuously tracking a moving subject (but does not have AF-A auto mode). And it offers the various AF Area Modes such as Single Point, Dynamic Area Modes (for 9, 21, or 39 points to help you retain focus on a moving subject), 3D-Tracking for following moving subjects about the frame, and Auto (all) Af points where the camera selects where to focus. But I will say that even in low light, the Df was able to quickly find and lock focus, such as with the dark, furry face of the cat in the image earlier in this post.

Unfortunately, as with the Nikon D600 / D610, the autofocus points are clustered at the central areal of the Viewfinder, and do not reach towards the edges of the frame, which may make it challenging to track moving subjects or to compose your images as desired without dramatic re-composing and re-framing after locking focus. However, you can make use of the DX Image Area setting, which will basically “crop” your images, using a smaller portion of the sensor to emulate a non-full-frame DX camera, as shown by the inner rectangle in the Viewfinder when using DX mode:

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Nikon Df simulated viewfinder, showing full FX sensor area vs. DX Image Area (inner rectangle).

When using a DX lens on the Nikon Df, you will want to set the camera to Auto DX Image Area, so as not to suffer dramatic vignetting.

If you wish to emulate a manual film camera, you can make use of the Rangefinder feature of the Df. Simply place the camera and lens on manual focus, choose the desired AF Point as you look through the Viewfinder, then locate the AF point over your subject and adjust focus until the Focus Indicator light at the bottom-left of the Viewfinder lights up. While this is not quite the same as making use of a Viewfinder focus screen while you keep your eye on your subject, it is perhaps the best way to achieve accurate manual focus.

Nikon Df sample example image how to use learn manual guide book custom setting menus setting recommend set up quick start review hands on
Nikon Df Sample Image – Instruction in Photography by Abney. Fun fact: Did you know Abney possibly has the first recorded criticism of “spray and pray” shooting, back in…1886! http://bit.ly/1cJxppp

Manual Control

As I began to explain above, there are various settings for the menus and controls of the Df which will allow you to use it similar to a manual film camera, such as setting on M shooting mode and using the Shutter Speed Dial and the lens aperture ring to adjust your exposure settings, and manually focusing. You may also then wish to turn off the Beep, use the Monochrome Picture Control or perhaps a custom Tri-X or Kodachrome Picture Control, and perhaps set a high ISO to get a bit of “grain.” You can also use Center-Weighted Metering and set Custom Setting b1: Center-Weighted Area to Avg-Average, so that the camera averages the entire scene to determine exposure, similar to an older film camera (18% grey, although it is often really 12% grey). You should put the Release Mode on Single Shooting, and perhaps cover your LCD Monitor to prevent chimping!


A custom Nikon Picture Control, to recreate the look of Kodak Tri-X film (this image taken with the Nikon D610).

There are numerous other settings, menu items, features, and functions to take advantage of, and I explain all of them in my guide Nikon Df Experience, which not only covers the features, functions, and controls of the Nikon Df, but more importantly when and why to make use of them in order to take control of your camera and your images!

If you have found this helpful and plan to purchase a Nikon Df or photo accessories (or anything else) from Amazon or from B and H, please use my affiliate links (near the upper-left side of this page) to go to those sites and then make your purchase. Your price will be the same, but they will give me a small referral fee – thanks!

I’ve been waiting until I got my hands on the latest new dSLR, so that I could coordinate a camera “field test” with a visit to an exhibit I’ve been wanting to see. The Heritage Museum and Gardens is currently showing an exhibit of concept cars, called Driving Our Dreams, which will be there until October 27, 2013. They have gathered together one of the coolest collections of American concept cars from the 1950’s to the present, ranging from the “space-age” 1956 GM Firebird II turbine powered highway rocket to the solar powered 2009 Infinium – and what better place to try out a new camera?! So thanks to LensProToGo for putting a new Canon EOS 70D into my hands, just as it was hitting the stores at the end of August!

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All images in this post taken with the Canon 70D at the Heritage Museum, Sandwich, Massachusetts. 1956 Buick Centurion concept car. (Learn about the over-saturated red channel below.)

I headed out to Sandwich, Mass., the oldest town on Cape Cod, to visit the museum. I’ve been researching and writing about the 70D since it was announced a few months ago, as I work on my latest camera guide Canon 70D Experience, so I was already extremely familiar with its features and controls.

You can read all about the camera’s new features, and some tips for customizing the settings and controls of your 70D, in some of my previous Canon 70D articles. And if you wish to learn not only the features, functions, and controls of the 70D, but more importantly when and why to use them, be sure to look at my guide Canon 70D Experience. It will help you to take control of your camera, and the images you create!

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Controls and Touch Screen: If you have worked with a Canon 60D, 7D, or even a 50D (or earlier), you should find that the 70D feels very familiar. It has about the same weight and feel, and while some of the controls move around from model to model, most of them are similar. I found that I quickly learned which button to instinctively press for my needs, whether the Image Playback Button, Info Button, or Q Button, etc. Even more convenient is the new Touch Screen, first seen on the Canon Rebel T4i/ EOS 650D. For those who may be skeptical about using a touch screen because of either responsiveness concerns or due to the “purity” of using a camera’s controls, the Canon 70D Touch Screen may very well change your mind. As with the screen on the T4i/650D and T5i/700D, it is as responsive as you have come to expect with an iPhone, and even uses many of the same Multi-Touch gestures – particularly when reviewing images during Image Playback (swipe for the next image, spread and pinch for zooming in and out, etc.). Even though many of the menu tabs, menu items, and function icons of the 70D are tiny, I rarely ever have any problem immediately selecting the right one. And regarding the desire to use the actual camera buttons and controls to change settings, I have quickly gotten into the habit of just pressing the Q Button to access the Quick Control Screen, then using the Touch Screen to change my settings with a few taps. After I have reviewed an image and wish to change settings, I find that it is quicker and easier to do it this way and simply leave the camera in the same position in your hands as you look at the rear screen, than it is to tilt the camera up, locate your desired settings button, press it and look at the small top LCD screen. You can change all the shooting settings on the Quick Control Screen, jump around the menus for various other settings, review all your settings on the Shooting Function Settings screen, and go back into image review all with your right thumb and left index finger, while holding the camera in the same position. Though I still use the dials and controls to change the aperture / shutter speed settings and control the autofocus points as I work through the viewfinder.

Canon 70D EOS hands on review field test book manual guide how to settings set up 1954 Buick Wildcat II concept
1954 Buick Wildcat II concept car

The top Main Dial of the 70D, while solid, has that great “soft” rubber feel to it rather than the harder plastic feel of entry-level models.  And this softer material is much easier on your fingertip after a long day of shooting. I always gripe about the inclusion of the thumb-pad Multi-Controller on the 60D and 70D, rather than the joystick version of the 7D, 50D, and 5D Mark III. I prefer the joystick because of its location, which is much closer to the other buttons on the top rear of the camera that your thumb will also be using. However, I found that after some time with the 70D I eventually got used to the thumb-pad.  While I still dislike the location, it does make it a bit easier to select an autofocus point the diagonal directions. One of the Custom Controls that I found I like is to customize the SET Button for ISO selection. While there is a dedicated ISO Button on the top of the camera, or you can easily select it on the Quick Control Screen, I find that it is also quick and easy to press the SET Button as you turn the top Main Dial to make this adjustment. As described above, it helps you to make this adjustment while keeping the camera in the same “image review” position. Plus you can quickly use this method to change the setting while your eye stays in the Viewfinder. And while you can always use the top ISO button in the same manner, it is much more difficult to determine which top button is the ISO Button without looking at it. (While it has a little bump on it to help locate it by feel, it is not a big enough difference from the other buttons for me to locate it with confidence.)

Canon 70D EOS hands on review field test book manual guide how to settings set up Corvette 1962
1962 Corvette – production model

I decided with this photo shoot to use the 70D just as I would during any normal shoot, and thus concentrate on the controls, exposure issues, and autofocus system (rather than, say, playing with the Multiple Exposure or HDR features). I had earlier experimented with some of the other functions of the camera such as Auto Lighting Optimizer, in-camera HDR, Multi-Shot Noise Reduction, Multiple Exposures, Creative Filters, etc., and those can all be learned about in Canon 70D Experience. There will also be example images of all these features in my Canon 70D Flickr set.

Lighting, Exposure, White Balance, and Noise: One of the first things I discovered is that lighting at an indoor automobile exhibit is very challenging! While they allowed the use of flash, it would not have worked out well due to all the reflections and bright spots it would cause in the car body, glass, and chrome (which of course is well represented in the 50’s cars). Perhaps indirect flash would work well, but as I was going to be taking hundreds of shots, I didn’t wish to disrupt the other visitors with constant flashes. In addition, getting the right exposure was challenging because I was often taking close-up shots of a large area of a light tone or dark tone, which would fool the exposure meter and cause it to want to under- or over-expose the image. Plus some of the cars were bare metal, which is prone to very bright reflective areas and dark non-reflective areas depending on how the lights are hitting it and the angle of view. So the exposure level reading could change dramatically from the initial framing where I locked focus to the final framing when I took the shot. I had to carefully keep an eye on how the light changed based on what area of the car I was photographing, as well as how it changed based on my angle of view as I moved slightly side to side, or crouched down low. I needed to sometimes lock the exposure settings for my final framing or for an important area (using the AE Lock * Button on the rear of the camera), and I had to check the results and the histogram, and adjust the Exposure Compensation to lighten or darken the subsequent shots (while then remembering to set EC back to 0 when I moved on to the next shot!). (If you don’t yet fully understand what this all means, I discuss locking exposure settings, the Histogram, and Exposure Compensation in detail in my Canon 70D Experience guide.)

Canon 70D EOS hands on review field test book manual guide how to settings set up Corvette 1962
1962 Corvette – production model

There was relatively low lighting in the exhibition space, but I was able to make use of ISO 1600. I primarily worked in Aperture-Priority AE Shooting Mode (Av) so that I had control of the depth of field. Sometimes the shutter speed that the camera chose dropped below a desirable 1/100 or 1/125, so I often took a quick burst of images knowing that at least one would come out sharp. In truth, I just looked over my previous ISO tests of the 70D, and there is very little loss of quality between 1600 ISO and 3200 ISO, in the JPEG images straight from the camera.  Some excessive graininess definitely appear by 6400 ISO. So I could have safely increased the ISO well above 1600, perhaps even up to 3200. But it was simply an old habit of never going above 1600, drilled into me with older cameras such as the 50D – and I should have left that prejudice aside when working with the 70D. You can view JPEG test results at the various ISO settings, in my Canon 70D ISO Flickr set.

The images shown here and on Flickr were originally shot in RAW image quality, and converted to DNG using the Adobe DNG converter. They were then processed, sharpened, and saved as JPEG. Unfortunately, I did not apply any noise reduction during processing, and the results are excessively noisy. I am going to have to go back and apply noise reduction to these images, either using Photoshop or Canon Digital Photo Professional (DPP). Below are some details of the above image, showing the difference between:

  • the original JPEG
  • the original RAW converted with Adobe DNG and processed in Photoshop and output as a JEPG, no noise reduction
  • the original RAW processed in Canon DPP with noise reduction applied and output as a JPEG.

For any pixel peepers, please note that all of the processing was done relatively quickly, so as to illustrate the overall differences. This is not intended to show definitive lab-quality results that one could achieve with much more careful, patient processing and noise reduction application. Please view the results at DPReview to see their lab-quality tests of JPEG, RAW, image quality, and noise.

Click on these image details to see larger versions:

Canon 70D EOS hands on review field test noise high ISO JPEG vs RAW book manual guide how to settings set up
Detail of original JPEG straight from camera, 1600 ISO with “High ISO Speed NR” set for Standard – very little noise seen.

Canon 70D EOS hands on review field test noise high ISO JPEG vs RAW book manual guide how to settings set up
Detail of processed RAW>DNG (processed with Photoshop)>JPEG, with no noise reduction applied, and thus excessively noisy.

Canon 70D EOS hands on review field test noise high ISO JPEG vs RAW book manual guide how to settings set up
Detail of processed RAW (processed with Canon DPP)>JPEG with noise reduction applied, very little noise seen.

So the lesson of the above examples is that you can confidently shoot in JPEG, up to 1600 and even higher, and achieve clean, low-noise results. You can make use of the 70D in-camera High ISO Speed NR option to assist with this, setting it for Standard or High. View the tests on DPReview to see how high you are willing to raise the ISO before the noise is too much for your tastes or image-output needs. And, if you shoot in RAW, you are going to need to apply noise reduction (and contrast, sharpening, etc. as always) as you process the images, especially when you are shooting in high ISO settings (800, 1600, and higher). Apply noise reduction in Adobe Camera Raw, Photoshop, Lightroom, Aperture, Canon DPP, etc.

Regarding White Balance, I learned that I should not have forgotten to bring my digital grey card for creating some benchmark images or even for setting a Custom White Balance. Though my post-processing experiments, I discovered that the White Balance color temperature of the exhibit space was very close to the Incandescent setting, but it would have been helpful, and would have saved time, if I had simply taken a couple images with the grey card in the scene. The lighting also varied throughout the space, as some areas had a bit of daylight from large windows. With images like these, I feel it is very important to closely match the actual colors of the cars, as they are documentary images of sorts. While the artificial lighting of an exhibition space vs. natural lighting outside would make these cars, (and images of these cars) appear differently, I wanted to match as closely as possible what I saw. If you wish to create a Custom White Balance with the 70D, you can take an image of a white object or grey card, filling a large central area of the Viewfinder with the card (about the size of the AF Points diamond), then go into the Shooting 3 menu and select the Custom White Balance menu item. It will ask you to select the image of the grey card you just took. When that is set, simply set your White Balance setting to the Custom WB icon, by pressing the Q Button and using the Quick Control Screen.

Canon 70D EOS hands on review field test book manual guide how to settings set up 1956 Buick Centurion concept
1956 Buick Centurion concept car

As is common with many dSLR sensors, the red channel can have a tendency to be sensitive to over-saturation. I experienced this as well with the 70D, though as you can see in the above image there was a large expanse of brightly lit red. In this and other images of the red and white Buick Centurion, some of the brightest areas of red become over-saturated and lose all detail, variation, or shadow, and are simply “pure” red. This is most easily seen in the first image at the top of this post, where there is a large area of lighter red on the top of the rear fender, where all subtle detail of varying color tones and shadow gradation is lost. If you are only watching the Brightness Histogram you may not pick this up, as the overall image – according to the camera – is not over-exposed. In order to keep your eye on this as you work, you can make use of the RGB Histogram. As shown below, the red channel is cut off at the right edge of the graph, and thus all detail will be lost in those areas of the image where this occurs. The sensor has simply reached its limits of what it can capture. If you experience this, you can adjust the lighting and perhaps make use of reflectors or diffusers, or move the subject, or alter your angle of view. In a situation where you can’t control these elements, you will need to adjust the exposure (under expose) before retaking the image, then check the RGB Histogram to make sure the color channels are not cut off at the right side of the graph.  Then carefully work with the image in post-processing to “bring back” or raise the overall exposure while trying to keep the problematic color channel from becoming over-saturated.

Canon 70D RGB Histogram learn use how to book guide manual dummies
Canon 70D RGB and Brightness Histogram, showing that areas of red have been over-saturated.

Aperture-Priority, Lenses, Autofocusing: As I mentioned above, I primarily worked in Aperture-Priority AE Shooting Mode, where I controlled the aperture setting while the camera chose the appropriate shutter speed. This allowed me to control the depth of field of the images, since I was primarily aiming to achieve very shallow, dramatic depth of field in the detail images, as shown in the tail-fin image below:

Canon 70D EOS hands on review field test book manual guide how to settings set up aperture depth of field 1954 Buick Wildcat II concept car
1954 Buick Wildcat II concept car

By working with a Canon 70-200mm F/4L IS lens, I set the lens at or near the 200mm focal length, backed up several yards, and then focused on my area of interest while setting the aperture at f/4. This results in very shallow depth of field and calls attention to the area of detail.  For the images showing a larger area of the cars, I used either the 16-35mm f/2.8L wide angle lens or the Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L, with the aperture set around f/2.8 or f/4.

I primarily autofocused using One-Shot AF Focus Mode and Single-Point AF Autofocus Area Selection Mode. One-Shot AF is used for still (or relatively still) subjects. As with the Canon 7D, the 70D has an Autofocus Area Selection Button on the top of the camera near the Shutter Button, which allows you to choose between these modes as you look through the Viewfinder (Single-Point AF, Zone AF, or 19-Point Automatic Selection AF), and these modes determine how many AF Points are being used to try to find the subject to focus on. With Single Point AF, I am able to manually select my desired AF Point using the Multi-Controller as I look through the Viewfinder, place it over the exact area where I wish to focus, and then lock focus with a half-press of the Shutter Button or by pressing the rear AF-ON Button. I can then recompose the shot to get the framing I desire, and press the Shutter Button to take the shot. While the 70D has 19 AF Points to choose from, it is relatively quick and easy to select the one you wish. You can even customize the camera so that if you are selecting one of the edge points, you can choose to stop at the edge or “wrap-around” to the AF Point on the other side if you continue to click the Multi-Controller.  I always choose to have it stop at the edge.  That way if I am choosing an “edge” point, I can simply quickly “click, click, click” on the left Multi-Controller, and I know it will stop at the far left AF Point and not “wrap-around” to an AF Point on the other side of the frame.

As you may be aware, the Canon 70D has a brand new, potentially revolutionary Live View / Movie autofocus system. It is a phase-detection AF system called Dual Pixel CMOS AF, which can quickly and smoothly grab focus, and can also be used to very effectively track a moving subject.  Based on my tests and on many test videos found on the Internet, the system is living up to the hype and performs as well as promised. Previously, Live View focus was slow, and the camera often hunted for the subject.  With this new system, it achieves focus on the subject extremely quickly an accurately. I made use of both the rotating rear LCD screen of the 70D and the Live View AF system to take some shots looking down from the first level onto the lower level, as seen in this image:

Canon 70D EOS hands on review field test book manual guide how to settings set up 1956 GM Firebird II concept
1956 GM Firebird II concept car

I held the camera out at arms length, rotated the rear screen so that I could see it, and pressed the AF-ON Button to lock focus. Even in the low lighting, the camera immediately focused. With the Live View autofocusing system you can also select from different autofocusing methods that determine how large an area the camera looks at to find a subject. Again I used the smallest, most precise area, called FlexiZone-Single AF, which provides a small focus square that you can move around the screen and locate where you wish, either using the Multi-Controller or the Touch Screen.

Creative Filters:  In spite of what I said earlier, I did play around with the in-camera Creative Filters and applied them to some of these images. I used the the Art Bold Effect, which affects contrast and saturation, on an image of the Buick Centurion.  By setting it on the High setting, I totally blew out the red (over-exposed), but is also made the interior glow nicely and has a cool effect on the chrome. And I used the Fish-eye Effect on the Buick Wildcat II, which works well if you get in close while having receding lines, as I found at the corner of this bumper.

Canon 70D in camera creative filter art bold
Canon 70D In-camera Creative Filter – Art Bold Effect – High.

Canon 70D eos Creative Filter Fish-eye fisheye effect
Canon 70D In-camera Creative Filter – Fish-eye Effect – Low.

Conclusion: After spending a dedicated week with the Canon 70D, exploring every menu item and experimenting with every function and feature, I have grown tremendously fond of this camera. Part of this is the familiarity I feel from working so long with the 50D and the 7D. But it is also due to some of its new features, which would make going back to either of those cameras extremely difficult. The first is the Touch Screen, which is an extremely quick, easy, and convenient way to change settings on the fly, access menus, and review images. Second is the new Live View autofocus system, which works as well as promised. It mot only makes Live View shooting much less frustrating and much more viable for all kinds of shooting situations, but it also makes autofocusing during movie shooting a reality. In addition, you can now use the Touch Screen to immediately change the area of focus, while movie shooting, simply by touching the screen. And finally, there are some of the smaller features, but these little additions can make a big difference. For example, during image playback you can access the Playback Quick Control screen and quickly set an image Rating. When this first appeared on the 5DIII and Rebels, I thought it might be a bit frivolous. But I have come to make very effective use of it, and will miss it on other dSLRs that don’t have this feature.  It allows you to go through your images and the camera and quickly mark (rate) the best ones, as well as mark the bad ones (with one star) that you will likely be able to quickly delete after viewing them on your computer. It is a simple feature that can provide significant time savings in a busy workflow.

Another simple feature that I discovered I made use of more than expected is the electronic level in the viewfinder. Unlike previous cameras where you can use the AF Points, as seen in the Viewfinder, as a level, the 70D includes a small “level” icon at the bottom of the Viewfinder screen.  (You can also make use of the AF Points as a level, which is sort of a hidden feature I will explain in a moment.) This level icon is simply a camera icon surrounded by either straight or diagonal lines, which indicate if you are on or off level. Or if both the straight and diagonal lines are displayed, you are almost level. I have long had a tendency to hold the camera slightly off-level, so I always appreciate the Viewfinder grid, which can be enabled in the 70D. But this level icon helped even more to keep my images straight. I found that I could compose the image, take care of locking focus and exposure if necessary, and then take a peek at the level icon before pressing the Shutter Button to take the shot.  More often than not, it indicated I was slightly off, so I carefully leveled the camera and took the shot. Again, such a simple feature helped a great deal – by keeping my images straight and level, which eliminated the need to straighten (and thus slightly crop) numerous photos later in Photoshop.

Regarding the “hidden” Viewfinder level that uses the AF Points, you can use the Custom Controls to set the Depth of Field Preview Button to the Electronic Level option. You can then press this DOF Preview Button during shooting and activate a level that uses the AF Points in the Viewfinder to indicate if the camera is level or not. Press the Shutter Button to turn it off and return to shooting.  You can learn about several other Custom Controls and Custom Function settings in my post on the 70D Custom Controls.

Canon 70D EOS hands on review field test book manual guide how to settings set up 1956 Buick Centurion concept
1956 Buick Centurion concept car

Regarding image quality, while I failed to properly apply noise reduction to the RAW images used here as I processed them, my subsequent tests and inspections have confirmed that you can work in high ISO settings (approaching 3200) and achieve a low, acceptable amount of noise with JPEG images straight out of the camera, and with RAW images with noise reduction applied in post processing. This has been confirmed with test images on DPReview and other sites.

Additional concept cars and more images from this visit to the Heritage Museum can be seen on Flickr here.

Remember to check out my other Canon 70D blog posts to find out more about the camera. And if you wish to take control of your Canon 70D, and learn how, when, and why to use its controls, features, and settings, be sure to check out my e-book guide, Canon 70D Experience.

If you are planning to purchase your Canon 70D online, please consider using my affiliate links and help support this blog – thanks!

Order your Canon EOS 70D from Amazon or B and H Photo:

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Here is the second part of the Nikon D7100 “tips and tricks” article I posted a few weeks ago. You can read the first part here.

Nikon D7100 body book manual guide dummies how to tips tricks setting menu quick start
Detail of the Nikon D7100 dSLR camera – photo by author

6. Set up your Dual SD Memory Card Slots: The two memory card slots of the D7100 can function in a couple different ways, including using one for saving RAW files and the other for JPEG files, saving all your images to both cards simultaneously, using the second card as overflow when the first one fills up, or saving still images to one and movies to the other. You can set this up in the Shooting Menu under Role played by card in slot 2. To set how the cards function for saving videos, use the Shooting Menu > Movie Settings > Destination.

Nikon D7100 sd memory card battery en-el15

Nikon EN-EL15 battery and SD memory cards for the Nikon D7100

7. Use Picture Styles for your JPEG Images: If you are capturing your images as (NEF)RAW or JPEG files and will be post-processing your images in software such as Photoshop or Lightroom, then you don’t necessarily need to worry about Picture Styles. If that is the case, set the Picture Style for Standard or Neutral so that the images that you view on the camera’s rear LCD screen will be close to how they will appear in the actual RAW image file that you open on your computer. However if you are not post-processing, you will want the images to come out of the camera looking as you want them to, so you will need to set, customize, or create a Picture Style that best creates your desired look. Adjust the contrast, saturation, sharpening, etc. to achieve the look you are after. Save the Picture Styles you have created to access them later. You can even create your own styles using the included software, or find them online and download them. There are even styles to be found online that recreate the look of various traditional types of film including Kodachrome and Velvia.

Nikon D7100 picture control

8. Customize the Exposure Compensation Controls: Exposure Compensation can be used to adjust the camera’s exposure settings in order to achieve the final exposure that you desire. Explore the various options of Custom Setting b3: Easy Exposure Compensation to customize exactly how the exposure compensation (EC) controls works. You can set it so that you press the Exposure Compensation Button first before turning a dial to change EC, or have it set so that you can just turn a dial to quickly and directly change EC. You can even select which dial you use with Custom Setting f5. And you can set it so that the EC amount that you dialed in stays set for the subsequent shots, or that it is automatically reset to zero, depending on which controls you choose to use to set EC. This last option is the most sophisticated and most flexible, and may be the best one to learn and take advantage of. Using this option, On (Auto reset), you can choose to turn a dial to directly adjust EC, but your EC setting will be reset when the camera or exposure meter turns off. This is because you can still continue to use the Exposure Compensation Button with a Command Dial to set EC, but by setting it this way, EC will not be reset when the camera or meter turns off. Exposure Compensation will only be automatically reset if you set it directly using the dial without the button. So if you wish to use EC for just one shot, you can adjust EC with just the dial. 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.” Pretty powerful stuff! This is why you got the D7100, right? So that you can take advantage of these sophisticated controls!

Nikon D7100 easy exposure compensation
Making use of Easy Exposure Compensation to configure how the controls can be used to change exposure compensation

9. Fine-Tune the Exposure Metering Modes: While the Matrix Metering Mode will do an excellent job of determining the proper exposure for your images the majority of the time, there are some situations where you may wish to use the other exposure modes – Center-Weighted Metering and Spot Metering. This includes dramatically backlit situations, subjects with a dramatically dark background, scenes that contain a wide range of highlights and shadow areas, or other dramatic lighting situations.

If you find that you are consistently not quite happy with how the camera’s meter is determining the exposure settings when making use of any of these modes, you can make fine-tune adjustments to the metering system using Custom Setting b5: Fine-tune optimal exposure. This is not an exposure compensation adjustment, but rather a “behind the scenes” fine-tuning of how the camera’s meter will determine the exposure settings, independently for each of the different Exposure Metering Modes (Matrix, Center-Weighted Average, Spot). If you find that your images are always typically being slightly underexposed or overexposed when using a specific metering mode, 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 Spot Metering were 1/3 EV (1/3 step) underexposed all the time. If that is the case, you would adjust Spot metering to -2/6 using this menu. If you make use of this fine-tune adjustment, you can still use exposure compensation in any situation in addition to this fine-tune adjustment.

Nikon D7100 fine tume metering mode
Custom Setting b5: Fine-Tune Optimal Exposure, used to adjust the exposures of each metering mode to your preference, “behind the scenes,” so that exposure compensation is not needed each time you use that metering mode (left). Fine-tuning Spot Metering to underexpose by -1/3 EV (right) – not recommended, just an example!

10. Put Your Most Used Settings in My Menu: Instead of navigating into the Menus and Custom Settings all the time to find your most used settings, you can create your own custom menu called My Menu, which is then quickly and easily accessed with the Menu Button. You can even decide what order to list the items in. Set up My Menu by selecting Choose Tab in the Recent Settings menu, and select My Menu. Then Add Items and Rank Items in the order you desire. You can add items from most all of the Menus and Custom Settings Menus, such as maybe Movie Settings, some of the Flash control settings, or White Balance for easier access to additional white balance options and fine-tuning. If you frequently make use of a feature such as changing the Image Area from DX to 1.3x, use Interval Timer Shooting, or Multiple Exposures add these to your My Menu.

Nikon D7100 My Menu
Adding and item from the Shooting Menu to My Menu

I explain most of these features and functions in even more detail, as well as explain all the other aspects of the D7100 in my e-book guide Nikon D7100 Experience, available on my Full Stop website. The guide not only explains the features, functions, and controls of the camera, but more importantly explains when and why you will want to use them in your photography. Take control of your D7100 and the images you create! Click the cover below to learn more, preview, and purchase the guide:

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

Still looking to purchase your D7100 or some lenses or accessories for it? Please consider using my affiliate links for Amazon or for B and H, found at the left side of this page – thanks! And please feel free to spread the word if this blog has been helpful.

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.

Nikon D600 body buttons controls manual use learn how to book guide dummies customize
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.

A few days ago Reuters published a collection of the Best Photos of the Year 2012. This collection, similar to the Atlantic’s 2012: The Year in Photos, is a sometimes inspiring, often depressing look back at the events of the past year. The content and subjects of the images aside, they are both excellent presentations of some of the best in photojournalism and image making for the year, and I encourage you to not only look through the images, but to analyze the ones that you like or that move you, and determine what it is about the images that makes them so powerful. Look at the position and point of view of the camera, the aperture settings used (shallow depth of field vs. deep dof), the composition including wide vs. tight and what was put in the frame and what may have been left out, how the elements, forms, and colors in the image relate, the moment captured, etc.


Reuters photographer Joseba Etxaburu is knocked down by a wild cow during festivities in the bullring following the sixth running of the bulls of the San Fermin festival in Pamplona July 12, 2012. Etxaburu suffered some scratches on his right elbow but was able to continue shooting afterwards. Canon EOS-1D Mark IV, lens 70-200mm, f3.5, 1/640, ISO 500. http://blogs.reuters.com/fullfocus/2012/11/30/best-photos-of-the-year-2012/#a=1

In an interesting exercise, someone has compiled the type of cameras and lenses used for the photos, and the exposure settings, and then put it all into easy to read pie charts. To turn this information on its head, it seems that to have the best chance of make an interesting image, what you need is a Canon 1D Mark IV with a 16-35mm lens (likely the EF 16-35mm f/2.8L), set your aperture at f/2.8, shutter speed at 1/320, and use 200 ISO.

But to look seriously and more in-depth at the information compiled and presented in the charts, one can learn a lot about how photojournalists in the field operate:

They seem to prefer Canon dSLR cameras, with Canons used in about 90% of the images* – or it perhaps merely shows that Reuters provides, supports, and/ or encourages Canon equipment. (For example, they likely have a collection of Canon bodies and lenses at their offices for the photojournalists to use or to supplement their equipment when they need a specialized lens.) The top camera used, the Canon 1D Mark IV is a very rugged and reliable professional camera, which is interesting to note has “only” 16 megapixels (though it has a much higher quality image sensor than consumer cameras). It has recently been replaced with the more current Canon 1D X.

Prime lenses were used (rather than zooms) in about 55%* of the images, and the most common favorites were nearly equally divided over the 24mm, 50mm, and 16mm (each used about 8% of the time overall when including all lenses*).

With zoom lenses, the wide angle 16-35mm (EF 16-35mm f/2.8L) was used most often (about 19% of the time overall with all lenses*), followed by the 70-200mm (likely the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS version I or II). (The lens links here are for Canon lenses – I’ll try to get back to this and add similar Nikon lens links.)

(*these numbers may be off, as the numbers on Reddit seem to be inconsistent/ incomplete)

What this tells us is that wide angle lenses really are the “bread and butter” lens of the photojournalist, used to capture a wide scene or to place the subject or the action into a larger context – which is often important in telling a full and accurate story in a single image. It also means that the photographer was typically very close to the subject, right in the middle of the action. Sometimes however, a close-up portrait or detail best tells the story, or a photographer can’t get as close as desired, and that is where the 70-200mm comes in.  It is interesting to note that when I did extensive research into choosing lenses at the start of my professional career, I followed many working photographers’ advice and settled first upon these exact lenses – the 16-35mm and 70-200mm. You can do a lot of great travel and photojournalism work with those two lenses alone. One problem you will run into if you are only using one body, however, is that you sometimes have to quickly switch to the other, and that is where the more versatile 24-105mm f/4L or 24-70mm f/2.8L lenses can be more practical.  And you can see that these mid-range zooms were two of the other, lesser used zooms in the chart.

After some time with the zooms, most people want to try their hand at a prime lens – to increase image quality, help them work a bit more at composing and framing, and to provide even shallower depth of field. And as you can see, the wide primes are the most popular among photojournalists. The 50mm f/1.2L or the more affordable 50mm f/1.4 will give you a field of view approximating your normal vision (hence they are called “normal” lenses. The 24mm f/1.4L and 16mm focal lengths are much wider. These also show that the photographers were right up in the action.

The photojournalist’s expression used to be “f/8 and be there” but based on this data, it will obviously have to be modified to “f/2.8 and be there.” The most common aperture setting in these images was f/2.8, used in about 29% of the photos, followed by f/4, f/1.4 (which is possible with some of the prime lenses), and f/3.2. What this means is that they are most often using a very shallow depth of field, usually in an attempt to visually separate the subject of the image from the background, and to call attention to exactly where in the image they want the viewer’s eye to fall. Plus the wide aperture lets in lots of light, which may help them be able to use the fast shutter speeds and low ISO settings they desire.

The “f/8 and be there” expression has been interpreted in a few different ways, but what it seems to say is have your camera ready, and then just be at the scene. The camera settings aren’t nearly as important in photojournalism as simply being there to capture the action.  It also shows that with f/2.8 (and other wide apertures) being used as the most common aperture setting today, photography has likely made a shift over the past few decades where shallower depth of field is much more common.  This would be interesting to investigate, but it could be the result of autofocus systems, allowing a photojournalist to be much more sure of their focus and able to use shallow dof – where as before they had to quickly manually focus and a slightly deeper dof allowed some focusing lee-way. It could also have to do with lenses now being sharper at wider apertures.

The most often used shutter speeds were 1/320, 1/250, 1/800, and 1/640. A photojournalist is often capturing action or precise moments, and thus a fast shutter speed is desired. The best thing to do in these types of situations – especially if working in Aperture Priority Mode so that you have full control over your depth of field – is to set an ISO speed (based on the lighting of the scene) that will allow the camera to select appropriately fast shutter speeds. The best shutter speed depends on the situation and how fast/ what direction the subject might be moving, but from these results it shows that anywhere from 1/250 to 1/800 can work for many scenes – although 1/1000, 1/2000, or faster will be needed for sports and fast action. So set an ISO speed that will result in this shutter speed range when your aperture is set around f/2.8 or f/5.6 (or whatever aperture range you plan to use). The results show that the photojournalists seem to choose the lowest ISO possible for the situation (based on the lighting), as this will result in the least amount of digital noise – interestingly the most used ISO settings actually went in order from 200, 400, 800, to 1600. The fact that ISO 100 came in next, but at a much smaller percentage seems to say: don’t risk it with 100 ISO – just use 200 ISO so that you don’t inadvertently use too slow of a shutter speed when the lighting level decreases but you aren’t paying attention to the exposure settings. The noise and sharpness difference between 100 and 200 is pretty negligible for most current cameras.

Don’t quite understand all these settings and the terminology?  Have a look at my Full Stop dSLR camera guides, such as Canon 5D Mark III Experience and Nikon D600 Experience, which cover not explain the functions, features, and controls of Nikon and Canon dSLR cameras, but more importantly how, when and why to make use of them in your photography.

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

 

OK, I admit, I’m being a bit deceptive.  While this post will include “tips” for taking full advantage of the Canon EOS 5D Mk III, it won’t really contain any “tricks.”  That is because with digital photography, especially a camera as powerful and complex as the 5D3, there really aren’t any tricksTricks implies shortcuts, and to paraphrase Euclid, there is no royal road to dSLR photography.  Instead there are techniques and camera controls that can and should be learned.  These will then allow you to adapt not just to a specific situation or emulate a certain image or style, but will give you the tools and knowledge to adapt to any situation and create the images you desire.

I spent several intimate weeks with the Canon 5D Mk III as I researched and wrote my dSLR camera guide, Canon 5D Mark III Experience, the first (and hopefully best!) book available for the 5D Mk III.  In the process I learned and discovered a few obvious and not so obvious things about the 5D3 that will help you get the most from your camera.

Canon 5D mark III mk 3 Experience e book tips tricks how to learn manual guide instruction
Detail of the Canon 5D Mark III

Learn and Take Advantage of the Autofocus System

First and foremost is to learn, understand, and make full use of the new 61 Point autofocus system.  This powerful and highly customizable AF system will allow you to capture more sharp images of a variety of moving subjects which was not previously possible with the 5DII, or even the 7D.  But to do this you will need to take control of it in order to focus on, or begin tracking, your intended subject.  This involves making use of the AF Modes as well as the AF Area Selection Modes and AF Points.

For moving subjects you can then employ the AF Cases and their settings to let the camera know what to expect as far as subject movement.  AF subject tracking works in part by predicting where the subject will be when the Shutter is pressed, so if the camera knows the subject is going to be moving erratically about the frame and changing its rate of speed, then it can take measures to better follow this than if it is set for a subject that is expected to move smoothly at a steady rate.  Ten tips could easily be written about the autofocus system alone, but I will limit it to a few (my e-book guide Canon 5D Mark III Experience contains extensive explanation of the AF system and all its elements, if you wish to learn it inside and out.)

Canon 5d mark iii mk 3 auto focus autofocus 61 af point select
Simulated image of the Canon 5D Mark III viewfinder showing the 61 autofocus points, with the desired AF Point shown as the larger black square.

One of the essential steps in taking a successful and sharp photo is controlling where the camera autofocuses.  If you allow the camera to autofocus by automatically choosing its own focus point(s) (such as in Auto+ Shooting Mode or with One-Shot AF Mode and Auto Selection – 61 Point AF Area Selection Mode) it typically focuses on the closest object.  This may or may not be what you want to focus on, so you should select or at least narrow down where the camera focuses using the autofocus AF Points or Zones.  By doing so you are telling the camera exactly where to autofocus or to look to find a moving subject to track.  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.  If you are capturing an image of a bird in a tree, the camera has no idea you want the autofocus system to zero in on the bird so that it is in sharp focus and not the branches or leaves near it or the perhaps even the leaves closer to you.

You will select an AF Mode based on whether the subject is still or moving, and select an AF Area Selection Mode based on how large of an area you want the camera to look at to find your intended subject – ranging from a small spot to a wider Zone to all the available 61 AF Points.  You can set the AF Modes and AF Area Selection Modes in a variety of combinations based on what and how you are shooting.

Activate all the Available AF Area Selection Modes at first and experiment with them all.  Then if you decide that you will never or rarely use one or more of them, de-activate those modes so that you don’t have to “click” through them every time to select your desired mode.

canon 5d mark III mk 3 autofocus auto focus af point zone 61 af area selection mode
Available AF Area Selection Modes of the Canon 5D Mark III

Spot AF is Not Necessarily More Accurate than Single-Point AF.  You may be inclined to use Spot AF all the time, assuming it will be more accurate than Single-Point AF, but this is not advised.  Spot AF is designed for specific situations and autofocusing challenges, where you need to focus on a very precise area and avoid any surrounding or foreground objects that the AF system may otherwise lock onto.  This can include making sure you zero-in on a bird that is sitting among leaves and branches, or perhaps shooting through a fence to a subject beyond.  In those situations you may find that Single-Point AF searches back and forth between the near leaves/ fence and the further subject, because the area it is looking at to find the subject encompasses both potential subjects.  Spot AF will allow you to target in on a more precise area.  Although Spot AF is indicated in the Viewfinder by the tiny square within the larger selected AF Point square, Spot AF will actually pinpoint the focus to an area about the size of the larger square.

So while Spot AF will be more accurate in certain situations as described, it should not be used for general use.  Because it is so precise, the area it looks at to find contrast or a detail on which to focus may be an area of solid color.  For example if you used Spot AF to quickly focus on the general cheek and eye area of a face, it may be aimed at an area of skin without contrast, whereas the Single-Point AF area might encompass the cheek and the eye and thus find enough contrast to be able to properly and quickly focus.

Decide How Many Selectable AF Points you wish to Choose From.  If you are coming from a Canon 5D Mark II, the 60D, or any number of other previous Canon dSLR cameras, you may be used to only having 9 AF Point to choose from.  If you still wish to manually select a specific point or zone, you may find that 61 points are a bit overwhelming at first.  Even if you are used to the 19 AF Points of the Canon 7D, you may not wish to suddenly jump up to 61 AF Points.  So you can limit the number of AF Points you wish to choose from to either 15 or 9, or to just the more accurate cross-type points.  Unfortunately, the 9 points are not in the nice diamond pattern of previous EOS cameras, but you may find them to be more manageable.

canon 5d mark III mk 3 auto foucs autofocus af mode point area selection 61 11
Limit your Selectable AF Points if 61 are too many to deal with.

Choose Your Priority when Working in AI Servo – Focus or Release.  You will need to tell the camera what your priority is when shooting in AI Servo AF mode – is it to ensure that the subject is in focus, or that the shutter is release immediately, whether or not the subject is in focus?  There are two menu items to set the priority for the first image and the second and subsequent images if shooting in Continuous Shooting Mode.

For AI Servo 1st Image Priority, Release priority will prioritize shutter release, or immediately capturing the initial shot at the possible expense of exact focus.  Generally when taking a photo, you are supposed to half-press the Shutter Button, allow the camera to focus, then continue the full-press of the Shutter Button to take the image.  If you simply “mash” down the Shutter Button, this setting will cause the camera to take the photo without bothering to focus first.  Sometimes when photographing sports, news, or events, capturing the “decisive moment” may take priority over exact focus.

Setting for Focus priority will prioritize focus for the first shot, ensuring that the subject is in focus before the picture is taken.  So when you fully press the Shutter Button, this setting may cause a brief, perhaps micro-seconds delay while the camera confirms focus before actually releasing the shutter.

Equal priority is a slight compromise between Release and Focus priorities.  It allows a brief (perhaps micro-seconds) pause for the camera to possibly find focus before releasing the shutter.  It does not guarantee that the image will be in focus, but merely gives it more of a chance to find focus.  It generally seems to make more sense to choose Release or Focus based on your priority.

Canon 5D mark III mk 3 custom setting function control multi controller direct autofocus point
AI Servo 1st Image Priority menu to determine if capturing the shot or getting the subject in-focus is the priority.

AI Servo 2nd Image Priority is similar except that it applies to the second and subsequent images in the burst.  Setting for Speed (Shooting speed priority) will prioritize shutter release, or continuing the high speed burst at the possible expense of exact focus.

Setting for Focus will prioritize focus tracking for the following shot(s), ensuring that the subject is in focus as you continue to take the burst of images.  Again, this may cause a brief, perhaps micro-seconds delay while the camera confirms focus before releasing the shutter for each image.

Equal priority again allows a slight pause before each of the subsequent shots to perhaps give the camera time to find focus before releasing the shutter.  This pause may be slightly more pronounced when shooting in low light or low contrast situations.

These 1st Image Priority and 2nd Image Priority settings should be set in conjunction with each other, based on the type of situation you are photographing and thus your priorities.  Generally, it sharp images are your goal, you will want to set both for  Focus Priority.  You may sacrifice the maximum 6 frames per second (fps) continuous shooting speed (if you have the Drive Mode set for High Speed Continuous) as there might be a  couple micro-seconds or more delays as the camera ensures that the subject is in focus before taking the subsequent shots.  If you are capturing a “decisive moment” such as a runner at the finish line or a goal being scored, you will want to set one or both of the settings to Release Priority/ Speed Priority, but ensure somehow that you have pre-focused on the subject distance so the result is not wildly out of focus.  Again, I go into much more detail about the various combinations and when to make use of them in my e-book.

Set the Custom Controls for Multi-Controller Direct.  This will allow you to manually select your AF Point or Zone more quickly by simply toggling the Multi-Controller thumb joystick, without having to first press the AF Point Selection Button.  You have probably noticed, to the dismay of your muscle memory, that the AF Point Selection Button no longer controls image zoom.  This is because there are many more image review options that are now made possible by Comparative Playback (side by side image review), discussed just below.

canon 5d mark iii mk 3 multi controller direct af auto focus autofocus point select

canon 5d mark iii mk 3 auto focus autofocus multi controller direct af point select zone control custom function setting
Set the Multi-Controller for AF Point Direct Selection for ease and speed.

Take Advantage of Comparative Playback (Side by Side Image Review).  Of course you can instantly review the image you just captured on the rear LCD Monitor, but the 5D Mk III now also offers Comparative Image Playback Mode (Two-Image Display) which gives you the ability to simultaneously compare two images or two different sections of the same image.  Whereas before, one would have to “flip” back and forth between two images and navigate around the images, this feature allows for some extremely helpful and flexible image analysis that was previously only possible once you were back at your computer.

To enter Comparative Playback Mode during image playback or review, press the Creative Photo / Comparative Playback Button (at the top of the row on the left of the camera back), which is also indicated by the side-by-side blue squares icon for side-by-side image playback.  Use the SET Button to highlight which of the two image windows you wish to navigate, then use the Quick Control Dial or Main Dial to scroll or jump to the desired image, the Magnify Button followed by the top Main Dial to zoom in or out of the selected image, and the Multi-Controller to navigate around the selected image frame.  You can press the INFO Button repeatedly to change the Shooting Information Display in order to view shooting information and/ or the Histograms.  If you zoom in on a specific area of one image and wish to zoom in on the other image to the same magnification and same area of the image, press the SET Button to switch to the other image window, then press the [Q] Button.  Also, press and hold the Playback Button to view the highlighted image as a single, full-screen image.

canon 5d mark iii mk 3 view image lcd side by side comparative playback review rear screen
Comparative Playback Mode view of two different images, also showing the images’ Histograms.

There are several different viewing options and potential uses for Comparative Playback, whether you are simultaneously viewing two separate images or two areas of the same image.

-Display the active AF point(s).
-Preview alternate cropping guides.
-View the thumbnail plus the Luminance Histogram.
-View the thumbnail plus the RGB Histograms.
-View the thumbnail plus basic exposure information.

For two different images:
-Compare the compositions of two images simultaneously.
-Zoom in and simultaneously compare a specific area for focus or exposure.
-View the thumbnails along with histograms or basic exposure information of both images.

For the same image:
-Zoom in and simultaneously compare two separate areas of the same image to have a closer look at focus or exposure.
-View the entire image for overall composition while also zooming in to view an area of detail for focus or exposure (see Figure 61).

Set the Default Magnification for Image Review.  In order to immediately review your images according to your preferences, you should set the initial magnification and position that you will view an image during image review (Playback) when you press the Magnify Button.  You can set for no magnification (1x) and then use the top Main Dial to zoom in and out.  This can be handy if you have the image review set to initially show the Shooting Information Display with the Histogram.  Since the image in that view is a thumbnail, you can then press the Magnify Button to show the full size image.  After this initial zoom, you can then use the Main Dial to zoom in or out.

Or set for 2x, 4x, 8x, or 10x magnification and it will instantly zoom to that magnification when the Magnify Button is pressed.  Again, after this initial zoom, you can then use the Main Dial to zoom in or out.  Each of these magnifications will zoom from the center of the image.  Or you can set it to quickly zoom in to full size, 100% view of the pixels, zoomed into the AF Point where focus was achieved, using setting Actual size (from selected pt).  This can be useful to quickly check for precise focus, though note that if you focused with a selected AF Point and recomposed, it will zoom into the final position of that AF Point in the composition, not the actual position where you used it to focus on your subject.  But if you only recomposed slightly, it will often be easy to quickly navigate to the actual area of focus.  The setting Same as last magnif. (from ctr) will zoom in at the same magnification that you last viewed an image at, centered at the image center.

canon 5D mark III mk 3 magnify button lcd view zoom
Magnification menu to set how images are initially viewed during Playback when the Magnify Button is pressed.

 

I’m still putting this post together but wanted to share what I had already written.  Next week I will go into more detail about the tips below:

Turn on the Viewfinder Warnings

canon 5D mark III mk 3 viewfinder warning custom function setting

 

Auto Rotate Images in the Camera and on Your Computer

canon 5D mark III mk 3 auto rotate image view lcd

 

Use the Q Button for Quick Access to a Variety of Features for Still Images

canon 5d mark iii mk 3 q button control edit image view lcd

 

Make Use of the Silent Control Touch Pad and Q Button for Movie Shooting

canon 5d mark iii mk 3 movie video silent control touch pad q button menu

 

canon 5d mark iii mk 3 movie video silent control touch pad q button menu

 

All of the above information – and much, much more – can be found in Canon 5D Mark III Experience, my latest Full Stop dSLR user’s guide e book, which goes beyond the manual to help you learn the features, settings, and controls of the powerful and highly customizable EOS 5D Mk III, plus most importantly how, when, and why to use the functions, settings, and controls in your photography.

Written in the clear, concise, and comprehensive style of all Full Stop guides, Canon 5D Mark III Experience will help you learn to use your Canon 5D Mk 3 quickly and competently, to consistently create the types of images you want to capture. The e-book is available in either PDF, EPUB, or MOBI format for reading on any device.

Learn more about it, preview it, and purchase it here:
http://www.dojoklo.com/Full_Stop/Canon_5DMkIII_Experience.htm

As one Canon user 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 5D Mk III, the image taking process, and the photos you create!

Canon 5D Mark III mk 3 book ebook manual guide tutorial instruction bible how to dummies field EOS

 

The autofocus systems of the Canon 5D Mark III and Canon 5D Mark IV are incredibly powerful and versatile, with their 61 AF Points, various pre-set AF “Cases,” and its Custom Function settings and redesigned menus to help photographers take advantage of its features.  The AF systems are designed to better enable you to lock onto and track moving subjects, so that when you take the shot the subject is ideally in focus, even when using Continuous Shooting to capture multiple shots.

For the basics of the Canon AF system, including the AF Modes, please see this other post first: Taking Control of Your Canon Autofocus System.  This post here will then address the additional features and options of the 5D3 and 5D4 AF system.  Most of the text below is excerpted from my e-book guides Canon 5D Mark III Experience and Canon 5D Mark IV Experience, where I write extensively about the 5D3  and 5D4 autofocus systems, including the numerous and important Auto Area Selection Modes.

Please note that some of the menu numbers, names, and options may vary slightly between the two cameras.

Canon 5D Mark III mk 3 autofocus auto-focus auto focus manual guide book
Antigua, Guatemala – simulated view of Canon 5D Mark III viewfinder and AF Points

All of these settings will apply when working in AI Servo Autofocus Mode.

First you will need to set the Autofocus (AF) Menu AF2: AI Servo settings to match your priorities:

AI Servo 1st Image Priority and AI Servo 1st Image Priority:  

Setting for Release priority will prioritize shutter release, or immediately capturing the initial shot and subsequent shots at the possible expense of exact focus.  Generally when taking a photo, you are supposed to half-press the Shutter Button, allow the camera to focus, then continue the full-press of the Shutter Button to take the image.  If you simply “mash” down the Shutter Button, this setting will cause the camera to take the photo without bothering to focus first.  Sometimes when photographing sports, news, or events, capturing the “decisive moment” may take priority over exact focus.

Setting for Focus priority will prioritize focus for the first shot and subsequent shots, ensuring that the subject is in focus before the picture is taken.  So when you fully press (or hold) the Shutter Button, this setting may cause a brief, perhaps micro-seconds delay while the camera confirms focus before actually releasing the shutter.

Equal priority is a slight compromise between Release and Focus priorities.  It allows a brief (perhaps micro-seconds) pause for the camera to possibly find focus before releasing the shutter.  It does not guarantee that the image will be in focus, but merely gives it more of a chance to find focus.  It generally seems to make more sense to choose Release or Focus based on your priority.

Then choose the AF Area Selection Mode that will best enable you to keep track of your subject.  Choose the some that is most accurate yet allows for the proper amount of lee-way if you are unable to keep the subject under your selected initial point at all times.  These settings include Single Point AF, AF Point Expansion 4 or 8 surrounding points, etc.  I will not go into detail about them here, but they are fully discussed in my guide.

Then find a “Case” setting which closely matches your needs

Case 1 – Versatile multi purpose setting

Tracking sensitivity:  0
Acceleration/deceleration tracking:  0
AF point auto switching:  0

Case 2 – Continue to track subjects, ignoring possible obstacles

Tracking sensitivity:  -1
Acceleration/deceleration tracking:  0
AF point auto switching:  0

Case 3 – Instantly focus on subjects suddenly entering AF points

Tracking sensitivity:  +1
Acceleration/deceleration tracking:  1
AF point auto switching:  0

Case 4 – For subjects that accelerate or decelerate quickly

Tracking sensitivity:  0
Acceleration/deceleration tracking:  1
AF point auto switching:  0

Case 5 – For erratic subjects moving quickly in any direction

Tracking sensitivity:  0
Acceleration/deceleration tracking:  0
AF point auto switching:  1

Case 6 – For subjects that change speed and move erratically

Tracking sensitivity:  0
Acceleration/deceleration tracking:  1
AF point auto switching:  1

These are the various options of these Cases which you can tweak for your specific needs:

Tracking sensitivity – This is the speed at which the AF system will switch from the initial subject to another subject when a new subject enters the focusing field of view or passes in front of the initial subject, or if you momentarily lose the subject that you are trying to keep positioned under a selected AF point. If you wish for it to quickly lock onto a new subject that enters the area you are focusing on, or rapidly switch intentionally between subjects at various distances, set for +2. If you wish to retain focus tracking on the same subject and ignore new or obstructing subjects set for -2. If your objective is somewhere in between, set accordingly at +1, 0, or -1.

Acceleration/deceleration tracking – AI Servo Autofocus Mode works in part by predicting the potential location of a subject based on the subject’s current speed and direction. In order to make these predictions more accurate, use this setting to tell the camera if the subject is accelerating/ decelerating at a steady pace, or if it is changing its speed more erratically. For subjects that move smoothly set for 0. If the subject moves erratically and may very suddenly speed up, slow down, start, or stop set for 2. Or set for 1 if the subject’s movements are somewhere in between these other options.

AF point auto switching – When you are using Auto Selection – 61 AF Point, Zone AF, or AF Point Expansion Autofocus Area Selection Modes this setting will adjust the speed at which the AF Points change to track a moving subject as it travels across the frame. Setting 0 is for a slow, gradual speed at which the surrounding AF Points will pick up and start tracking the subject if it moves away from the initially selected AF Point. Setting 1 will somewhat rapidly switch to a different AF Point, and setting 2 will most rapidly switch to a different AF Point. So for example, if you began tracking a subject with a selected point and the subject was quickly moving between it and the surrounding eight points, setting 0 would retain focus at the initial point expecting the subject to soon return to that primary point. Setting 2 would mean the surrounding points would immediately activate, pick up the moving subject as it entered their area of focus, and be used to focus on it.

Again, there is much more to the AF System and its Autofocus Modes, Autofocus Area Selection Modes, and Menu and Custom Function settings.  Please have a look at my e-book guides Canon 5D Mark III Experience and Canon 5D Mark IV Experience to learn more!

Whenever a new photographer wishes to learn about exposure, shooting modes, and working in Manual or Aperture Priority Mode, most photographers recommend the Bryan Peterson book Understanding Exposure.  It has become the go to guide because it offers explanations that no other book seems to cover as well or as thoroughly.  However, many people aren’t the biggest fans of it and wish there was another guide with a slightly different approach – perhaps an easier, less confusing way to present some of the material.

Understanding Exposure has been updated for the current digital era, but it may be better to toss many of the old notions and methods that have been carried over from film, start from scratch, and approach the subject in a practical manner that applies fully to digital SLR cameras – cameras with histograms and instant feedback of the image and the exposure settings via the rear LCD screen, not to mention the ability to head straight to your computer and study and analyze your results and EXIF data.

While I contemplate writing an exposure book for the digital era, I will begin with a quick-start tutorial to exposure and metering with a dSLR:

First, don’t start with M mode yet. Start working in Av or A – aperture priority mode.

Set the camera on Av / A (aperture priority). Go into the menus and turn off Auto Lighting Optimizer and Highlight Tone Priority on a Canon and Active D-Lighting on a Nikon.

Set the ISO to an appropriate setting based on the lighting of the scene.
outdoors in sun: 100
less sun or shade: 200-400
more shade or darker: 800
indoors: 1600-3200

Set your aperture setting to whatever aperture setting you desire based on how much depth of field you want. Want a lot of depth of field with everything in focus from near to far? Set for f/16 or f/22. Want very shallow depth of field with just the subject in focus and cool background blurring? Set for f/2.8, f/4, or f/5.6.

Aim your camera at your subject, press the shutter button halfway, and see what Shutter Speed the camera selected. Is it slower than 1/125? (such as 1/80, 1/30) Then increase your ISO setting to a higher number. If you can’t or don’t want to increase ISO, use a wider aperture setting (a “lower” F number like f/4, f/5.6).

Is your shutter speed now about 1/125 or faster? (for still subjects – use perhaps 1/500 or 1/1000 for moving subjects). Take the photo.

Now, if the exposure is not coming out how you want, use exposure compensation to adjust it and then re-take the photo.  Adjust it to the positive side to make the exposure lighter, and to the negative side to make the exposure darker.

Sound easy? It is! But of course, it all gets more complicated from here. For example, how did the camera determine what the proper exposure was? You can learn more about that, and how to better control the camera’s determination of exposure with Exploring Metering Modes.

And then now that you have the basics, and can move on to learning more about controling your autofocus system, locking focus and exposure – independently, how focal length and distance affect depth of field, composition, white balance, etc, etc!

You can learn all about these settings and functions in my e-book camera guides for Nikon and Canon dSLRs, such as Nikon D5100 Experience and Canon T3i Experience.  Click the image below to see all the available guides and to learn more:

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

 

Craft and Vision, publishers of many fine photography e-books, has just introduced a new, FREE e-book!  It is a collection of articles from various talented Craft and Vision authors/ photographer, and is intended, of course, to introduce you to their thoughts and writings and entice you to buy all the other Craft and Vision books!  This is not a bad thing, as the books are all excellent, and I’m certain you will find at least a couple, if not a handful that will appeal to you as well as help you improve your photography.

The FREE e-book, 11 Ways You Can Improve Your Photography, is available by clicking on its title or the image below.  You will be taken to the Craft and Vision site where, after getting your free book, you can view (and purchase!) all the other books.

The free book has several excellent articles discussing numerous aspects of making a photograph and improving your results including composition, exposure, making prints, self-assignments/ projects, and capturing the moment.  And it is no pamphlet…67 spreads, as in 134 magazine pages!

Authors include: David duChemin, Piet Van den Eynde, Andrew S. Gibson, Nicole S. Young, Alexandre Buisse, Stuart Sipahigil, Eli Reinholdtsen and Michael Frye.

To read my reviews or intros to other Craft and Vision books, have a look at my post Developing Your Photographic Vision as well as the other posts tagged “Craft and Vision.”

If you have begun to take control of your camera’s functions and settings and are understanding the basics of exposure, and perhaps are working in Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority Mode, you may still find that sometimes your images are coming out lighter or darker than you desire.  This could be due to an unusual lighting situation, a scene that contains a wide range of bright and dark areas, a subject that is back-lit, the camera metering from the “wrong” area of the scene, or a number of other reasons.

In this situation hopefully you have begun experimenting with exposure compensation.  If not, exposure compensation can be the solution to these types of problems by enabling you to “over-ride” the camera’s exposure decision and making the next image lighter or darker as desired.  And since most all the functions and settings of a dSLR are inter-related, the use of other metering modes such as Center-Weighted or Spot metering can also be part of the solution (or part of the problem) – but those are topics for other posts!  I’ve written one about Exploring Metering Modes, and should probably tackle some exposure issues soon.

exposure compensation auto exposure bracketing aeb canon nikon dslr
Figure 1 – French Medieval Storefront Carving, Gloucester, Mass. – Three bracketed exposures of the same scene:  the “proper” exposure as determined by the camera (Center-Weighted Average Metering Mode) in the center; over-exposed +1 stop on the left; under-exposed -1 stop on the right.  The desired exposure, for my eye, lies somewhere between the “proper” exposure and the darker under-exposure, where some highlights on the figure remain but the color and detail of the wood can be seen in those areas.  Center exposure:  Shutter speed 1/60 aperture f/2.8, ISO 200

If you have begun to make use of Exposure Compensation, or wish to start, a technique called exposure bracketing can expand upon that or perhaps help you to learn and understand over- and under-exposures.  Exposure bracketing is when you take at least three photos of the same scene, one at the “proper” or desired exposure, one under-exposed, and one over-exposed (see Figure 1).  For example you may take the second and third shot with the exposure compensation set at +1 and then -1.  This is done to ensure that you capture exactly the right exposure you desire or to experiment and see the results of varying your exposure settings.  A common feature of dSLR cameras called Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB) can even automate this process for you.

In the days of film, exposure bracketing was a helpful technique – especially for critical situations – since one didn’t have the immediate feedback of the image on an LCD screen and a histogram.  It can still be used today for critical situations or for test shots when determining the right exposure settings.  The Auto Exposure Bracketing feature of digital SLRs automates this process by automatically changing the exposure settings between shots.  You set the amount of under- and over-exposure desired (such as +1, -1 or +2/3, -2/3) and then take three images in a row.  The camera automatically adjusts the exposure for each shot so that one is taken at the “proper” or baseline exposure, another shot is under-exposed, and the other is over-exposed.  If your camera is set on continuous drive mode, you can just hold down the shutter button and the camera will take the three shots in a row.  Or if you have it set on single shooting, you click the shutter three times in a row, ideally of the same scene.  Many cameras even allow you to dictate the order that the images are taken, and whether or not AEB cancels itself after one use or when the camera is turned off.

Or you can perform this process yourself, by either using exposure compensation between shots or by working in Manual Mode and adjusting the aperture or shutter speed setting between shots.

auto exposure bracketing canon nikon dslr aeb
Figure 2 – Weaver Constructing the Keshwa Chaca, Huinchiri, Peru – Three bracketed exposures of the same scene:  the “proper” exposure as determined by the camera (Evaluative metering mode) in the center, under-exposed -2/3 stop on the left, over-exposed +2/3 stop on the right.  The desired exposure in this case, for my eye, lies somewhere between the “proper” exposure and the over-exposure.  With auto exposure bracketing you can often customize the order that the bracketed images are taken, for example proper/under/over or under/proper/over.  In this example they were taken proper/under/over, so they are displayed here in a different order than actually captured.  Center exposure:  Shutter speed 1/1000, aperture f/5.0, ISO 100

Exposure compensation and bracketing are also used in HDR (high dynamic range) photography to take three or five or more photos of the same scene at various exposures.  All the images are then combined by the photographer, using HDR software, into a single image which will contain a much broader dynamic range of light and dark than is possible with a single image.

The basic principles of exposure as well as all of the other important functions and controls of a dSLR, such as Metering Modes and the Autofocus System, are explained in my e-book Ten Steps to Better dSLR Photography, as well as in all my other dSLR camera guides to specific cameras such as Nikon D5100 Experience and Canon T3i Experience.  Click on the titles or the cover below to learn more!

dslr learn improve autofocus exposure aperture shutter priority for dummies

 

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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This article mostly applies to the 9 point autofocus system of the Canon 60D and the Rebels including the T5i / 700D and T4i / EOS 650D (and their predecessors), as well as to the new Canon 6D and its 11 AF points.  The Canon EOS 7D also shares the same Autofocus Modes discussed below, but it adds Autofocus Area Modes to the mix as well as additional Custom Functions affecting the AF system, so I will have to address those additional capabilities in the future (or you can learn all about them now in my Canon 7D Experience e-book).  I have written a separate post that addresses the AF system of the Canon 5D Mark III.

You can learn much more about using these cameras with my Full Stop e-book camera guides for Canon dSLR cameras.

Using Auto Focus
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.  This does not mean you have to manually focus the camera, it means you tell the camera exactly where to autofocus.  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.  If you are capturing an image of a bird in a tree, the camera has no idea you want the autofocus system to zero-in on the bird so that it is in sharp focus and not the branches or leaves near it, or the leaves closest to you.

Autofocus works by looking for contrast, so try to focus (place your AF Point) on a detail with a strong line or strong contrast between light and dark.  It may not be able to focus on a large area of consistent color – such as a white wall or blue sky or even an evenly colored and lit shirt – or on a subject that is too dark.  It can be disrupted by regular patterns or confused when looking through close objects to objects farther away, such as looking through a fence.  And it sometimes fails to work as well in dim light, though the AF-Assist Beam can assist in this situation.  When photographing people, always try to focus somewhere on the face, ideally on the eyes or eyebrows, then recompose the framing of your image if necessary.

Select an Auto Focus Point, or AF Point, using the Multi-Controller or using the AF Point Selection Button and the Cross Keys (depending on your camera).  If you have a model with the Multi-Controller (such as the 60D with the thumb-pad or the 7D or 5DII with the thumb-joystick), be sure to set the Custom Function setting for AF Point Selection Method so that you can directly change the AF Point without pressing the AF Button first.

Canon 60D T3i 600D autofocus system AF point select choose set setting
Figure 1 – The selected AF Point is located over the subject’s eye in order to ensure the camera autofocuses where desired.  (Canon 60D viewfinder shown, T3i/600D viewfinder similar)

To see how autofocus point selection works, make sure the switch on your lens it set to AF and your Autofocus Mode, as seen on the top LCD Panel or rear LCD screen, is set to One Shot, then:

•    Tap the Shutter Button with a half-press to wake up the camera.
•    Looking through the viewfinder, use the Multi-Controller or Cross Keys to select the focus point that is nearest to where you want to focus.
•    Place that point over your intended subject.
•    Press and hold the Shutter Button halfway down and see that point blink red.  The Focus Confirmation Light should light up in your viewfinder.  You have locked the focus.
•    Keeping the Shutter Button pressed halfway, recompose if necessary, and take the shot by fully pressing the Shutter Button.

There are reasons to use the outer focus points and not just the center one all the time.  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 (think of an arc that is your focus distance, and the tangent line off that arc that is the focus plane which now runs behind the subject after re-composing).  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.

It may sound difficult to select the focus point each time, but it is actually very quickly done and should become instinctive.  You may even start to set your focus point as you approach a scene before even bringing your camera to your eye.

Focus Modes
The 60D and T3i (and 5D/ 5DII and 7D) have different focus modes to choose from, typically depending if your subject is still or moving, or if you wish to track its movement.

One-Shot AF
Use this mode when your subject is still and not going to move, or if your subject is not going to move very much, or if the distance between you and the subject is not going to change between the time you lock focus, recompose, and take the shot.  Lock focus on the subject and recompose if necessary.  This mode can even be used for moving people or objects if you quickly take the shot after establishing or locking focus.

Focus on your subject by pressing the Shutter Button halfway.  The active or selected AF Point will be displayed or will illuminate, and the Focus Confirmation Light at the lower right in the Viewfinder will illuminate as well.  Continue to press the Shutter Button all the way to take the shot.  If you half-press the Shutter Button to lock focus on your subject, the camera will remain focused at that distance as long as you keep half-pressing the Shutter Button.  You can recompose the shot as you wish and then full press the Shutter Button to take the photo.

As just noted, if the Focus Confirmation Light does not light up and the camera does not take the photo, the camera may not be finding enough contrast to focus on, you may be too close to your subject for the lens to focus, or the lighting may be too dim for the AF system to work properly.

However, if you are photographing a subject that is approaching or receding from view at a relatively constant rate, or photographing fast or erratic or unpredictably moving subjects, or photographing sports, action, or wildlife you will usually want to use AI Servo Focus Mode.

Canon 7D 5D mark II 60D T3i 600D autofocus system AF point choose select set setting
Figure 2 – Use One-Shot AF mode and select your desired AF Point to capture still or moderately moving subjects.  (Canon T3i viewfinder shown – 60D similar)

AI Servo
AI Servo mode is used for tracking and focusing on moving subjects, and is ideal for capturing sports and wildlife including birds.  If the subject is moving towards you or away from you the camera will keep evaluating the focus distance as long as the subject remains under the focus point that was originally active and the Shutter Button is kept half-pressed, and if the subject is moving from side to side or throughout the frame the camera will track it as it passes from one AF Point or Zone to the other ones (if you started tracking with the center AF point on the 60D and T3i or any selected AF point with the 7D).

If the subject is going to be moving across your field of view, set the camera to automatically select the focus point using all the AF points (this is one of the few times you will not be manually selecting the auto focus point), focus on the moving subject with the center focus point, and then as long as the Shutter Button remains half-pressed the camera will track the subject to the other focus points if it moves to them.  Thus when the image is taken, the subject is in focus.  This will even work in conjunction with continuous shooting.  If you keep the Shutter Button fully pressed and continue to take photos, the camera will keep focusing on the moving subject.  As you can imagine, this is ideal for tracking a player running across a field, a dog running toward you, or a bird moving across the fame.  Note that when shooting with Continuous Shooting Drive Mode not every shot may be in sharp focus as the camera sometimes can’t keep up and accurately predict the subject’s speed or location.  But you should be able to capture many sharp images with this technique.  The more sophisticated Canon 7D will allow you to start tracking moving subjects with any selected AF Point and not just the center AF Point.  These are the types of advanced capabilities you are paying for (and should take advantage of!) with a more expensive dSLR.

As you will see, when using AI Servo mode your compositions will be partially dictated by the positions of the autofocus points in your Viewfinder.  The subject needs to be at one of these AF Points in order for the camera to maintain focus on it.  This is why in some situations becoming skilled at quickly using One-Shot AF – even for action scenes – will give you much more ability to control your compositions.

AI Focus
This mode is a hybrid of the two other focus modes.  It starts in One-Shot AF mode then changes to AI Servo mode if your subject starts moving.  Why shouldn’t you use this all the time, then?  Well, it is typically not the best of both worlds.  If you are focusing and then recomposing, as you may often be doing, your movement of the camera may fool it into thinking that the subject is moving and then activate subject tracking AI Servo Mode, and your resulting focus may not be where you intend it to be or may not be as accurate as it could have been with One-Shot AF.  And in AI Focus Mode it may not be as quick to respond to a moving subject as it would in AI Servo Mode.  Typically you know if your subject is still or moving so it is better to select one of the other two AF Modes.  Plus that way you always know which AF Mode you are working in and can either lock focus where you want it or begin tracking a subject without wondering what mode the camera is in and if it will suddenly change.  But there may be situations that call for this combination mode such as a still bird or animal that may start moving unexpectedly, so keep it in mind.

How do you remember which mode is which since the terms “AI Servo” and “AI Focus” tell you nothing that makes sense?  Although I listed them in a different order above to explain them more easily, on your camera they are listed:

ONE SHOT
AI FOCUS
AI SERVO

Remember that One-Shot AF just focuses once and doesn’t change once you lock it in, and AI Servo AF is the other extreme – continuous focus used for moving objects. And AI Focus AF is listed in the middle, between the two, because it is the hybrid, combination of the two.

Checking Focus
You can review your images on the rear LCD Monitor of your camera to try to determine if they are in focus, especially by zooming in as close as possible.  But be aware that this screen has only about one million dots or pixels, while your actual image has about 18 million pixels.  That means that many images will appear to be in proper focus on your LCD screen, but you might discover that the actual images are not really so sharply in focus.

Before continuing, I want to mention that much of this text is excerpted from my dSLR guides for the Canon EOS 6D, Canon 70D, Rebel T5i / EOS 700D, Rebel T4i / EOS 650D, and the Canon EOS 7D. If you would like to learn more about the autofocus systems as well as all the other features of your camera including metering modes, Aperture and Shutter priority modes (Av and Tv), 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 the banner below:

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To learn about another important reason why you need to take control of your autofocus system, and why the two example photos above actually weren’t my final compositions, see the next post:

Don’t Let the Locations of the AF Points Dictate Your Composition

What do you do when, with your desired framing, your subject is not located exactly under or near an AF point?  Even with the 19 or 39 points of an advanced Canon 7D or Nikon D7000, this will often be an issue.  For example in Figure 2 above, I actually wish to capture the entire window and more space around it within the image frame, but moving the camera and framing for that composition leaves me with no AF Point at the woman where I wish to focus.  Have a look at the above post to learn why this is an issue and how to resolve it.

Focus and Depth of Field

Many functions of dSLR cameras are related to some degree or another, and Focus and Depth of Field are two of these.  The depth of field, based on your aperture setting (and thus related to exposure…) expands forward and back from your point of focus.  Thus, one important aspect of controlling your depth of field begins with focusing exactly where you want to.  To begin learning more about depth of field, have a look at my post Depth of Field Simplified.

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