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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.

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).

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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 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.

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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.

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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

As you are likely discovering with your Nikon D7100, it is a highly customizable and versatile camera, and there are a lot of 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 needs and desires, the camera controls can be customized and assigned to a variety of functions, the displays, White Balance, and ISO can be tweaked according to your preferences. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time with the D7100 as I researched and wrote my e-book user’s guide to the D7100 called Nikon D7100 Experience, and below are the some of the top “tips and tricks” I’ve discovered for setting up and photographing with this powerful dSLR.  I previously put together a similar “D7000 Tips and Tricks” post for the Nikon D7000, and all of those tips apply to the D7100 as well.  I have repeated a couple of the important ones, and added several new ones here (in no particular order). Since this has turned into such a long post, I am dividing into two parts (Part 2 coming soon…)

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

1. Take Control of the D7100 Autofocus System: Before getting into some of the tips regarding features and functions specific to the D7100, one needs to first take control of the basic functions of the camera, including the autofocus system and exposure metering settings. The D7100 boasts a 51 point autofocus system, upgraded from the 39 point system of the D7000. 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 various autofocus modes (AF-S, AF-C, etc.) and the autofocus area modes (Single Point, Dynamic Area, etc.) may be intimidating at first, but once they are understood, it is easy to determine which combinations fit your shooting needs. Despite the increase in AF points, the system works nearly the same as that of the D7000, and I wrote an entire post introducing the use of the Nikon autofocus system, its AF and AF-Area modes, and its controls. If you have not previously used the D7000 or 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 D7100 autofocus, af, system, viewfinder, book manual guide dummies how to tips tricks setting menu quick start
Simulated view of the Nikon D7100 Viewfinder, with all 51 AF points shown for reference.

In addition, the D7100 offers several Custom Settings to customize various aspect of the autofocus system, namely Custom Settings a1-a6. 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 points are illuminated in the Viewfinder. 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. Each of these options are explained in my previous Nikon AF system post mentioned above.

2. Take Advantage of the new [i] Button: The D7100 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. 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 D7100, 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 Image Area, Active D-Lighting, High ISO Noise Reduction, and Long Exposure Noise Reduction. Plus you can use this screen to quickly access and customize the DOF Preview Button, AE-L / AF-L Button, and Fn Button Assignments.

Nikon D7100 book manual guide dummies how to tips tricks setting menu quick start
Detail of the Nikon D7100 with [i] Button shown – photo by author

The [i] Button can also be used during Live View shooting, Movie shooting, and Image Playback – to quickly access a number of applicable functions.  During Live View shooting it can be pressed to access settings including Image Area, Image Quality, Image Size, Picture Control, Active D-Lighting, Remote Control Mode, and Monitor Brightness. During Movie shooting, the [i] Button will access Image Area, Picture Control, Monitor Brightness, Frame Size and Frame Rate, Movie Quality, Microphone sensitivity, Destination for which SD card slot movies will be saved to, 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.

Nikon D7100 menu display book manual guide dummies how to tips tricks setting menu quick start
Information Display shown on the rear LCD Monitor. Press the [i] Button to “activate” the screen and access/ change various settings. Select and change the settings along the bottom of the screen, such as the Picture Controls shown active and highlighted here.

3. Beware of Menu Conflicts: As with most current dSLR cameras, the D7100 has a couple menu settings and function “quirks” or conflicts that may drive you crazy if you are not aware why they are occurring. Most notably, some settings will be greyed-out or inaccessible in the menus and you will not be able to select them when working in one of the auto shooting modes, if not using an optional accessory, or if a “conflicting” setting is enabled. An example includes HDR shooting, which is not accessible when the camera is set to capture files in the (NEF) RAW or (NEF) RAW+JPEG image formats. Or, since White Balance Bracketing and RAW format are incompatible, if the camera is set for White Balance Bracketing and (NEF) RAW or (NEF) RAW+JPEG image formats, the BKT Button will not allow you to access bracketing. These are actually not arbitrary quirks, but are typically logical conflicts.

Nikon D7100 book manual guide dummies how to tips tricks setting menu quick start
Custom Setting f2: Assign Function (Fn) Button, with the “Press” and “Press+Command Dials” options. Some of the “Press” options shown at right.

Another set of conflicts involves the customization of some buttons (Fn Button, Preview Button, and AE-L/AF-L Button) where you have the option to set a separate Press function (where you simply press the button) and a Press+Dial function (where you press the button and turn a dial in order to change a setting). While it at first seems handy that the D7100 menus separated the Press from the Press+Dial functions thus allowing you more options, you will soon find that most of them conflict, and in reality you will likely only be able to set either a Press function or a Press+Dial function.

4. Extend Your Reach with the 1.3x Crop Mode: Just as the D600 allows you to shoot in either full-frame FX mode or in a cropped DX mode, the D7100 allows you to shoot in full-sensor DX mode or in a cropped 1.3x mode. Using the Image Area menu setting, you can set the D7100 APS-C sized DX format sensor to act as an even smaller sized sensor, with an additional 1.3x crop. While the default DX setting takes advantage of the entire sensor, by enabling the 1.3x crop setting you can change the aspect ratio (very slightly) and angle of view (dramatically) of your resulting images – basically cropping your photos from what you see in the full Viewfinder to what you see inside the 1.3x outline shown in the Viewfinder when this feature is enabled.

Nikon D7100 DX 1.3x crop sensor autofocus af viewfinder book manual guide dummies how to tips tricks setting menu quick start
Simulated D7100 Viewfinder view, showing the full size DX Image Area and the approximate size of the cropped 1.3x image indicated by the black rectangle surrounding the AF brackets. Location of all the Focus Points shown for reference. The 1.3x crop will, in effect, allow you to extend the reach of your lens and get closer to the action, as well as nearly fill the width of the active frame with the Focus Points.

The first advantage of the 1.3x crop is that it will allow you to “get closer” to the action by virtually extending the reach of your lenses. This can be particularly helpful when using a telephoto lens to capture sports, wildlife, or bird images where the subject is at a significant distance from you. It will allow, for example, your 200mm focal length lens to act as nearly a 400mm focal length. (Since the DX frame is already a 1.5x crop sensor in relation to a full-frame 35mm sized sensor, the additional 1.3x crop effectively doubles the focal length of the lens: 200mm X 1.5 X 1.3 = 390mm.)

The second advantage is that with the 1.3x crop, the area of the autofocus points as seen in the Viewfinder reaches nearly to the sides of the effective frame. This will allow you to track and capture a moving subject throughout almost the entire width of the active frame (when using continuous AF-C Focus Mode), or enable you to focus on and capture a still subject most anywhere in the frame without having to lock focus and reframe (when using single-shot AF-S Focus Mode).

A third advantage of working in 1.3x crop mode is that the Continuous High shooting speed goes from 6 fps to 7 fps (when shooting in JPEG or in 12-bit NEF-RAW), allowing you to capture slightly more images in a quick burst.

The disadvantage of the 1.3x crop is that you will only be using 15 megapixels of your 24.1 megapixel sensor, so you will have slightly reduced image resolution. The end result will be as if you cropped the image in post-processing. However, 15 MP is still a very high resolution, and for many shooting situations and image needs this may be more than sufficient.

5. Interval Timer and Time-Lapse Shooting: The Interval Timer Shooting function can be used to take a continuous series of photographs at each specified time interval, for a set number of intervals, with the intervals to begin either immediately or at a set time. It can be used to take these multiple series of shots over several minutes or hours – for example, 3 photos in a row every 10 minutes, for 12 intervals. This will result in a total of 36 photos, as the camera will calculate and show you. This Interval Timer Shooting menu can also be used for time-lapse photography by taking a series of individual photos over an extended period of minutes or hours, with just one photo per interval, which can then be combined into a time-lapse movie (using software designed for this such as Photoshop).

Nikon D7100 book manual guide how to tips tricks interval timer time lapse setting menu quick
Interval Timer Shooting menus. Left: Setting the Interval time period between shots, here set for 10 minutes. Right: Setting the number of intervals and the number of shots to be taken at the start of each interval. Here, 12 intervals are set, with 3 shots to be taken each interval, for a total of 36 shots. The intervals are to start immediately, with the time between intervals as 10 minutes. The current time is 16:17 (which is shown in case you wish to set the Start Time).

Use the Interval Timer Shooting menu to choose all of your desired settings. Ideally, set up your camera on a tripod for the duration of Interval Timer Shooting, and use the included Eyepiece Cap to cover the Viewfinder and prevent stray light from altering the exposure. The camera will need to focus before taking the shots, so it may be best to pre-focus the camera and then set the camera and lens to manual focus.

For time-lapse photography you will need to take images at short intervals, with just one image per interval, for numerous intervals, in order to create a long and effective movie. For example, a photo every 30 seconds, for 8 hours. Be sure to have a large memory card or cards in the camera, and set the Role Played by Card in Slot 2 for Overflow if necessary. In the software you will set the movie frame rate, and that setting (24fps, 30fps, etc.) will determine to total length of the movie. There are time-lapse formulas, as well as apps, which you can use to plug-in your variables and determine either the settings you will need to use, or the resulting length of the final movie.

Here is a link to a tutorial for creating a time lapse movie using Photoshop. There are also plug-ins/ templates for Lightroom which will allow you to assemble and export a time-lapse video using that software (direct link to presets zip file).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional Nikon D7100 Accessories can be seen here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nikon D7100 on B and H (body only)

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canon Rebel T4i / EOS 650D:

(After learning about the features of the new T4i here, see this other post for a comparison of the Canon Rebel T4i vs. EOS 60D)

Each year as Canon updates its high end Rebel (or xxxD) model, they borrow additional features from their more advanced (and more expensive) dSLR cameras, resulting in higher and higher quality consumer models that incorporate previous “pro” and “pro-sumer” features. The T2i then T3i added the improved 63 zone exposure metering system, 18 megapixel sensor, wireless controlled external flash, and full HD video of the pro-sumer models, plus threw in some additional menu items, custom function options, and in-camera processing features that were lacking in previous Rebels.

Canon Rebel T4i EOS 650D features compare
The Canon Rebel T4i / EOS 650D (image by the author)

Trickle-Down Features: The new Canon Rebel T4i / 650D demonstrates a significant leap in this “trickle-down” trend by taking the all-cross-type 9 point autofocus system and faster continuous shooting speed from the 60D and introducing these to the Rebel line. Although these previous omissions were seemingly necessary to differentiate the Rebels from the mid-level 50D/ 60D line, they resulted in two of the few but important “shortcomings” of the Rebels: they always had a less precise autofocus system with only one cross-type AF point (the center one), and a slower frames-per-second maximum continuous shooting speed. (Learn more about why cross-type points are so great just below.) Now with these improved features, the differences between the T4i and the mid-level 60D have been significantly reduced. (The 60D still offers additional external buttons and controls, slightly more rugged build and weatherproofing, and additional Custom Function options.)

All New LCD and Movie Focus: In addition, the T4i adds a first for a Canon dSLR: a touch-screen LCD that can be used for settings selection, image review, menu navigation, and even autofocusing or shutter release in Live View. Plus it offers a totally revamped hybrid autofocus system for Live View and Movie shooting that makes use of phase detection and contrast detect, allowing for another Canon dSLR first: continuous autofocus during Live View and Movie shooting. The phase detection aspect of the new AF system allows the camera to determine both the out-of-focus distance and the direction in which to correct, finally eliminating the slow and awkward focus hunting of previous models. Add one of the new “step motor” STM lenses such as the 18-135mm kit lens or the 40mm “pancake” and the lens will now silently focus during movie shooting, thus eliminating the autofocus motor noise previously picked up by the camera’s microphone. (Did I mention the built-in mic is now a stereo mic! And there is a stereo mic input jack.) Plus the image stabilization of the 18-135mm EF-S IS STM lens is designed to counteract camera shake caused by walking while shooting video.

Canon T4i EOS 650D Rebel T3i autofocus viewfinder 9 point cross type
Simulated view of the Canon T3i/ T4i viewfinder with 9 autofocus (AF) points. (Image by author)

All Cross-Type AF Points:  Cross-type autofocus points are more accurate and more desired because they can grab focus on a wider range of subjects. If your non-cross-type point is oriented only in the vertical direction, and you aim it at a subject displaying a strong line also also in the vertical direction (such as the side of a door frame) it will not be able to detect the line or a change in contrast, and will not be able to focus. Aim it at the strong horizontal line of the top of the door, and it will lock right on. (learn more about autofocus concepts here.)

So the fact that the T4i uses cross-type AF sensors for all 9 AF points means that the autofocus system is significantly more accurate, and you can confidently use not just the center AF point but all the outer points as well to focus on or track a subject. Not to mention that the center AF point is now also an even more accurate diagonal cross-type sensor when using an f/2.8 lens.

Faster Frame Rate: The T4i now boasts a more rapid 5 frames per second maximum continuous shooting speed, and incorporates the speedy Digic 5 processor, narrowing another major difference with the mid-level 60D. These features will allow you to capture quicker shots in a burst thus giving you the greater possibility of capturing just the right moment of action or the best facial expression or pose.

As mentioned, the Canon T4i also finally brings us great quality touch-sensitive (not old-fashioned pressure-sensitive) touch-screen capabilities on a Canon dSLR (with smear-resistance!). You can select and change your settings on the Quick Control Screen (Q Screen) simply by touching your choice, or use it to tell the camera where to focus during Live View shooting. It can also be used to navigate the menus, and during image playback you can easily swipe and zoom with iPhone-like multi-touch motions and response. Early reports indicate that the screen responds incredibly well, and the graphic layout of icons and options make it easy to use. This 1 million pixel LCD screen is fully articulating, as with the T3i and 60D.

New Live View/ Movie AF Modes: So in addition to the upgraded AF system during stills shooting, Canon has modified the Live View and Movie Shooting autofocus system, which now offers Face Detection+Tracking, FlexiZone-Multi, and FlexiZone-Single AF modes rather than the previous Quick, Live, and Face AF Modes. Quick Mode AF is still also available for Live View shooting. (With Quick Mode you use the 9 auto focus points, similar to the viewfinder AF Points, as displayed on the LCD Monitor. But since the camera is using the autofocus sensor to focus, it momentarily interrupts the Live View on the LCD Monitor when it flips the mirror back down to access the AF sensor.)

All of these features contribute to the T4i / 650D being quite an amazing consumer level camera. In most ways it is a higher-quality, more capable camera that the pro-sumer 50D of just a few years ago, and it will definitely fulfill the needs and expectations of most any enthusiast shooter. The only reasons one would need to step up to the 60D would be if you need more direct access to controls, buttons, and settings on the body of the camera in order to change and adjust settings on the fly, if you needed a slightly more rugged and dust/water-proof body, and wanted greater ability to customize the controls and functions of the camera with its additional Custom Functions.

Borrowing from the 5D MkIII:  The specs also note that due to the faster Digic 5 processor, the T4i has Lens Aberration Correction and Chromatic Aberration Correction features as first seen on the 5D3, as well as a new Ambient Light Correction.

Canon Rebel T4i EOS 650D mode dial
Note the additional Mode Dial options and Power Switch change (Movie Shooting Mode) to the Canon T4i (image courtesy of Canon USA)

Some Extras: And in addition to the standard Creative Zone shooting modes (Av, Tv, P, M) and the Basic Zone modes (Flash Off, Creative Auto, Portrait, Landscape, Close-Up, Sports, Night Portrait) the T4i eliminates the Automatic Depth of Field mode on the dial and adds Night shooting without a tripod and HDR backlight compensation. Movie Shooting mode is removed from the Shooting Mode dial and is added to the On-Off switch. The T4i includes the Auto+ Shooting Mode (Scene Intelligent Auto) introduced on the T3i and even used on the 5D Mark III, where the camera analyzes the specific scene in order to automatically determine the best and most appropriate exposure, white balance, Picture Style, focus, and other settings.

The T4i shares the same battery (the LP-E8) and the same battery grip (the BG-E8) as the T3i and T2i. The fun filter (Creative Filters) effects introduced in the previous models (including Grainy Black and White, Soft Focus, Fish-eye Effect, Toy Camera Effect, Miniature Effect) are all still available, plus a couple new ones such as Water Painting and Art Bold.

Order your T4i from Amazon or B and H Photo today:

(If you plan to purchase the T4i, or any photo equipment or books etc., I encourage you to do so through these referral links. While your price will be the same, they will give me a little something for the referral, which helps to support my blog and my work – thanks!  I appreciate your support!)

Canon T4i from Amazon – body only, 18-55mm kit, or new 18-135mm STM kit

Canon T4i from B&H Photo – body only, 18-55mm kit, or new 18-135mm STM kit



Remember to check out this other post for a comparison of the Canon Rebel T4i vs. EOS 60D.

For a full list of Rebel T4i / EOS 650D specifications and features, have a look here:

http://www.usa.canon.com/cusa/consumer/products/cameras/slr_cameras/eos_rebel_t4i_18_135mm_is_stm_lens_kit#Specifications

 

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


Change the viewer settings to 720p to watch in HD

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

I wrote about the introduction of the new Canon flagship EOS 1D X digital SLR a couple weeks ago.  As I mentioned, I don’t typically discuss $6,000 professional cameras on this site – if someone is trying to decide if they need a 1D, well, they probably don’t need a 1D!  If you need one, you already know that you need one…

Anyway, I think it is well worth looking at the new autofocus system that the 1D X introduces as it will eventually find its way, in some form, into the pr0-sumer cameras such as the Canon 7D Mark II and hopefully the 5D Mk III.  While those cameras won’t offer the 61 AF points and huge variety of customization options, they may incorporated the increased precision, low light sensitivity, better tracking speed, and the new algorithms that coordinate with the exposure system to detect and better track a subject by brightness, color, and even facial recognition (yes, even pros can use face-detection now!).

canon autofocus af system
Screenshot from Canon 1D X video (link below) explaining new autofocus system – image by Canon Europe

What will will certainly see in the newer cameras is the redesign of the menus, incorporating an Autofocus tab and AF tracking presets!  These are highly desirable features, as anyone who has attempted to fully take advantage of the 7D AF system knows how challenging it is to go between the AF menus and the Custom Functions to change to the desired settings while trying to decipher the cryptic C.Fn option names.

The EOS 1D X has a single AF tab in the menu, containing 5 AF sub-menus.  One of the most helpful sub-menus is going to be the AF Config Tool menu that contains the “Case Study” AF presets.  Instead of trying to recall how to set each Custom Function such as AI Servo Tracking Sensitivity and AI Servo AF Tracking Method to best track a subject and respond to loss of the subject or interference of an object between the camera and subject, one can now choose from preset options with helpful descriptions such as “Continuous shooting, ignore obstructions,” “Subjects that accelerate or decelerate quickly,” and “Instantly refocus suddenly with obstructions.”

The 1D X offers six AF “Case studies” presets, and there is no reason not to include all of these with the 7D replacement, since it too is a camera designed for sports and motion.

If you intend to purchase the 7D Mk II or whatever it will be called, it is worth your time to have a look at this page and video from Canon and begin to become familiar with what you will want to learn and take advantage of in the near future with the likely-to-be-improved 7D AF system and menus:

http://cpn.canon-europe.com/content/education/technical/eos_1d_x_af_system_explained.do

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.

Was this post helpful?  Please let others know about it by clicking the Facebook or Twitter sharing buttons below, linking to it from your blog or website, or mentioning it on a forum.  Thanks!  Want to help support this blog with no cost or effort?  Simply click on the Amazon, B&H Photo, or Adorama logos on the left side of this page to go to those sites and make your purchases.  They will then give me a little referral bonus!

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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Learn How to Use the Nikon D5100 Autofocus System

The autofocus system of the Nikon D5100 may not be quite as complicated as the 39 point AF system of the Nikon D7000, but it does offer many of the same capabilities and options, and can be a little confusing to figure out.  The autofocus system includes not only the three Focus Modes used in various combinations with four Autofocus Area Modes, but also includes a few Custom Settings as well as the optional AF-L or Autofocus Lock Button.

Nikon D5100 autofocus system AF focus mode autofocus area mode
Image by author – copyright 2011 – please do not use without permission!

You will first want to set up the autofocus Custom Settings so that the AF system functions how you desire.

a1: AF-C priority selection – This setting determines if attaining focus is top priority when you are in Continuous-servo AF mode (AF-C autofocus mode), or if you just want the shots to be taken even if exact focus is not attained for each shot.  If exact focus is your priority, set on Focus.  If getting the shots at all costs is the priority, set for Release.

a2: Built-in AF-assist illuminator – This is used to enable or disable the autofocus assist light, to assist you in autofocusing in low light.  Note that the AF-assist lamp only works in AF-S mode or when the camera is in AF-A and choosing single-servo (not always under your control), and when in Auto-area AF area mode or only with the center AF point in other AF area modes.

a3: Rangefinder – This setting is used to help obtain focus when you have turned off autofocus and are using Manual Focus mode (MF) and manually focusing.  (Be sure to also set the autofocus switch on your lens to M)  The exposure indicator in the viewfinder is used to indicate if the subject is correctly in focus.

f2: Assign AE-L/AF-L button – This is to assign the function of the AE-L/AF-L Button., which gives you the option to use this button to lock focus or to initiate focus, and this separate those functions from the Shutter Button.

This should get you started, and I go into more detail about each of these Custom Settings, as well as all the other D5100 Custom Settings in my e-book guide Nikon D5100 Experience.

Using Autofocus
The information below is also excerpted from my e-book user’s guide Nikon D5100 Experience, so I hope you have a look at the guide in order to learn more about the AF system as well as all the other functions and controls of the D5100.

One of the essential steps in taking a successful photo is controlling where the camera focuses.  If you allow the camera to autofocus by choosing its own Focus Point(s), it typically focuses on the closest object or human subject.  This may or may not be what you want to focus on.  So you should choose where the camera focuses using the autofocus Focus Points and selecting a specific AF point.  This does not mean you have to manually focus the camera, it means you tell the camera exactly where to autofocus.  But you also need to select the desired Focus Mode and Autofocus Area Mode, based on your subject and its type of movement (or lack of movement).

Focus Modes

The D5100 has three different Focus Modes to choose from, typically depending if your subject is still or moving.  It also has four different Autofocus Area Modes (see below) to specify how many of the AF points are active and how they track a moving object.  You can set these two functions in various combinations.  First the Focus Modes.

Single-Servo AF (AF-S)
Use this mode when your subject is stationary, or 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.  When using AF-S, you can select from two Autofocus Area Modes, either Single-Point AF where you select the AF point, or Auto-Area AF, where the camera selects the AF point(s) for you.  I suggest you nearly always select your own desired AF point so that the camera focuses exactly where you want it to.

Continuous-Servo AF (AF-C)
Use this mode when your subject is moving.  If the subject is moving towards you or away from you, the camera will keep evaluating the focus distance, as long as the Shutter-Release Button is kept half-pressed.  You will need to use this in conjunction with the Autofocus Area Modes to determine if and how the camera tracks the subject laterally to the surrounding AF points, or if it will only track the subject if it remains at the initially selected AF point.  Single-Point AF will only track the subject’s distance as it moves near or far if it remains under the selected point.  It will not track lateral movement if the subject leaves the selected AF point.  If the subject is going to be moving somewhat unpredictably and may leave your selected AF point before you can react, use the Dynamic-Area AF mode so that the surrounding AF points are used to maintain focus while you realign your selected AF point with the subject.  If the subject is going to be moving across your field of view, set the AF-Area Mode to the 3D-Tracking mode so that the camera tracks it in any direction as it moves to the other AF points.

Focus on the moving subject with the selected AF point when using Dynamic Area Mode or 3D-Tracking Mode, or let the camera select the AF point in Auto-Area AF Mode, and then as long as the Shutter-Release Button remains half-pressed the camera will track the subject to the other focus points if it moves to them and as it moves closer or farther in distance.

Auto-Servo AF (AF-A)
This mode is a hybrid of the two other focus modes.  It starts in Single-Servo AF (AF-S) mode then changes to Continuous-Servo AF (AF-C) mode if your subject starts moving.  Why shouldn’t you use this all the time, then?  Well, 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 your resulting focus may not be where you want it to be, or may not be as accurate as it might be if you are using Single-Servo AF.

Manual Focus
Sometimes you may be taking several photos of the same subject from the same distance, or for some other reason want to keep the same focus distance and not have to keep re-focusing and re-composing.  Or you may be taking multiple photos for a panorama.  In these situations, turn off the auto-focus with the autofocus switch on the lens itself (set to M) and change your camera’s Focus Mode to MF (Manual Focus).  Just remember to switch them back when you are finished.  You may also wish to do this if you want to precisely manually focus with the focus ring on your lens.  (Note that for lenses with “full time manual focus” you don’t need to switch to M in order to manually override when slightly tweaking the autofocus with the lens focus ring.  These lenses will have M/A and M on the lens focus mode switch instead of A and M.)  Use the Rangefinder feature of the D5100 to assist with manual focus – Custom Setting a3.

Autofocus Area Modes

The Autofocus Area Modes are used to set if just a single AF point is active or else how many AF points surrounding your selected AF point will be used to track a moving subject if you are using AF-C or AF-A Focus Modes.

Nikon d5100 autofocus af auto focus system lock point area mode
Selecting an AF Point using Single-Point AF and locking focus

Single-Point AF
Only one AF point will be active, and surrounding AF points will not become active to track a subject that moves away from the one selected point.  This is typically used along with Single-Servo AF (AF-S) to focus on a stationary or still subject, or in a situation where you will be reframing the shot after you lock focus at a specific distance.  It can also be used with accuracy with AF-S mode for moving subjects if you take the photo quickly or if you recompose and take the shot quickly after locking in focus, especially if the camera-to-subject distance does not change at all or very much in that period between locking focus and taking the photo.  Use the Multi Selector to choose your active AF point as you look through the viewfinder and use the OK Button to quickly select the center AF point.  If you choose Single-Point AF with Continuous-Servo AF (AF-C) or Auto-Servo AF (AF-A) for tracking moving subjects, it will only track the subject as long as it is positioned at the selected AF point, and it will not be tracked laterally to the other, surrounding points.  As noted above, the single AF point you select will track a subject if it moves closer or farther away, but the AF system will not track the subject if it moves left, right, up, or down and away from your selected AF point.  To do this, you use Dynamic-Area AF mode or 3D-Tracking mode.

Dynamic-Area AF
With the Dynamic-Area AF Mode, you select an AF point to tell the camera where to autofocus, and if your subject briefly moves away from that point to a neighboring point or if you lose the subject from your AF point while panning, the camera will use the surrounding AF points to help maintain focus on it.  Select Dynamic-Area AF when you are photographing moving or potentially moving subjects using Continuous-Servo AF (AF-C) or Auto-Servo AF (AF-A).  These modes are ideal for a subject moving closer or further from the camera but which may also move laterally away from the selected AF point faster than you can react in order to keep it located at that point, or for when you are panning and following the subject and attempting to keep it located at the selected AF point, but may have a little or a lot of difficulty doing so.  Remember that you need to keep the Shutter Button half-pressed in order for the continuous focusing at the initial point or the surrounding points to occur.  Note that the camera may pick up and start tracking a new subject that falls under the selected AF point if you lose your initial subject.

The Dynamic-Area AF Mode is not used to track and maintain focus on a subject that is moving across the various AF points in the frame, but rather is used to stay focused on a moving subject that you attempt to keep located at your selected AF Point.  To track a subject that is moving across the frame, intentionally passing from one AF point to the next, use 3D-Tracking.

3D-Tracking
This mode is used for subjects moving across the frame in any direction, or subjects moving erratically from side-to-side in the frame, and they are tracked by areas of color.  This is used when you don’t wish to necessarily pan or follow the subject to keep it located in the same part of the frame, but rather when you wish to keep the camera relatively still as the subject moves across the frame.  You may select this option when you are tracking and photographing moving subjects using Continuous-Servo AF (AF-C) or Auto-Servo AF (AF-A).  Again, you choose the initial AF point to locate the subject and begin the tracking.  If the area of color you wish to track is too small or if it blends into the background, this mode might not be very effective.

Auto-Area AF
The camera uses all 11 AF points to detect what it thinks is the subject and automatically choose the appropriate AF point(s).  Typically, the camera will select the nearest subject or a human in the frame, so it may not focus on exactly what you wish to focus on.  That is why it is best to use one of the other modes and select the AF point yourself.  However in certain situations such as quick sports or action scenes you may have to make use of this.

Locking Focus

The next step is to learn to lock focus independent of locking exposure, typically through the use of the AE-L/AF-L Button as noted in the f2 Custom Setting above.  But for that, and numerous other important functions of the D5100, you are going to have to have a look at my e-book, Nikon D5100 Experience!
Nikon D5100 book user guide manual download ebook

I’ve put together a video introduction to the D5100 autofocus system to compliment this article:

To learn about another important reason why you need to take control of your autofocus system, see the related 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 all the AF points of an advanced Nikon D5100 or D7000, this will often be an issue.  Have a look at the above post to learn why this is an issue and how to resolve it.

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Want to help support this blog with no cost or effort?  Simply click on the Amazon, B&H Photo, or Adorama logos on the left side of this page to go to those sites and make your purchases.  They will then give me a little referral bonus!

This was originally written for the Nikon D7000, but as the Nikon D7100, the Nikon D7000, the Nikon D610 / D600, the Nikon D810 / D800, and the Nikon D5200 / D5300 all share a similar Autofocus system, most of this information will apply to all of them.  And even though some of the models have 51 AF Points instead of the 39 AF Points of the other cameras, all the same settings and actions apply.

The Nikon D7100, the Nikon D7000, the Nikon D610 / D600, the Nikon D810 / D800, and the Nikon D5200 / D5200 dSLRs all share very similar, and quite sophisticated autofocus systems – especially if you are coming from a D90, D5100, or earlier camera.  With their 39 AF points or 51 AF points that can be used independently or together in a variety of ways, its Autofocus Custom Settings that affect many of the functions of the AF system, and the three different Autofocus Modes that are used in various combinations with the four different Autofocus AF-Area Modes, it is no wonder that users are having difficulty figuring it all out. (Plus the D810 offers an additional Group Area AF Area Mode!)

Nikon D600 D7000 autofocus af system 39 point auto focus control learn use how to dummie book guide manual
Some of the Autofocus controls of the Nikon D600, located near the base of the lens (to the left of the FX badge and below the Lens Release Button).

First, the Autofocus Controls on the D810/ D800, D610/ D600, D7100, and D7000 are a bit different than previous cameras.  You can change the Autofocus Mode and AF Area Mode by pressing the AF Mode Button (located inside the Focus Mode Selector switch) and then use the Command Dials to adjust the settings as you view them on the top LCD Control Panel or in the Viewfinder.

Focus Mode Selector – This switch is used to turn on or off autofocus. Set to AF for autofocus and M for manual focus. Be sure to set the similar switch on the lens as well. If your camera does not seem to be autofocusing, be sure to check this switch and the one on your lens.

AF Mode Button – This button, located inside the Focus Mode Selector switch, may be confusing at first to those who have not previously seen or used it on the Nikon D7000 or D600, though you should quickly find that it is a convenient design. It is used to select the Focus 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. Again, you can view the selected setting on the top Control Panel or in the Viewfinder. The autofocus system including the Focus Modes and AF-Area Modes will be explained below.

Next you will need to set up some of the autofocus Custom Settings to begin to customize how the AF system functions for your needs (Some of these options may not be available with the D5200):

AF-C priority selection – This setting determines if attaining focus is top priority when you are in Continuous-servo AF (Auto-Focus) Mode (AF-C), or if you just want the shots to be taken even if exact focus is not attained for each shot.  If exact focus is your priority, set on Focus.  If getting the shots at all costs is the priority, set for Release.

AF-S priority selection – This is similar to above, except that this setting is for when you are working in Single-servo AF Mode (AF-S), typically used when your subject is not moving.  Since AF-S is typically used with subjects that are not moving, it makes more sense to make sure focus is attained, thus you should typically select Focus for this setting.

Focus tracking with lock-on – This setting determines how the autofocus system reacts to sudden, dramatic changes in the distance of the subject when you are working in AF-C or AF-A modes.  Decide if you wish to have the camera quickly refocus on a new or closer subject (1-Short), wait awhile until it ideally picks up the intended subject again (5-Long), somewhere in between, or immediately refocus on a new subject at a large distance from the initial subject (Off).  Keep this option in mind with the various AF-C and AF Area Mode configurations, as it may change depending on your subject and situation.  Sometimes you don’t want the camera to quickly refocus on a closer or more distant subject, while other times you do.

AF point illumination – This is used to set whether or not the selected autofocus point (AF Point) is illuminated in the viewfinder.  Since you pretty much always want to know where your camera is focusing, this should be set for On.

Focus point wrap-around – This determines if the AF Point selection will “wrap around” to the other side of the screen when you reach an edge.  In other words, if you are selecting your AF Point (as you should be doing at almost all times) and you reach an AF Point on the far right, when you click right again, do you want to “wrap around” to a focus point on the far left, or do you wish to stop at the edge and not continue to the other side?

Number of focus points – This setting determines the number of autofocus points that are available for selection in your viewfinder.  If you are always selecting your AF Point (as you typically should) you may find that it is quicker and easier, at least at first, to limit the number of AF Points to 11 – AF11.  If you prefer to have all the AF Points available for your selection, set this at AF39 (or AF51 with the D7100).  If you set to 11 AF points your selection will be limited to those 11 AF points, but the additional surrounding AF points will still be active to be used by the camera in the AF-Area Modes and in subject tracking, so the camera is still taking advantage of all the AF points of the autofocus system.

Built-in AF-assist illuminator – This is used to enable or disable the autofocus assist light.  Turn this On to assist you in autofocusing in low light, but be sure to turn it Off if you are working in situations where it will be distracting, unwanted, or unnecessary.

and

Assign AE-L/AF-L button (f4 on the D600 and D7100) – This is to assign the function of the AE-L/AF-L Button.  You may want to use this in conjunction with the Function or Fn Button and use one to lock exposure and the other to lock focus.  In that case, you would typically set this to AF lock only to use this button to lock focus.

I go into much more detail about each these Custom Settings, how you may wish to set them up, and recommended settings in my e-book guides for all the current and previous cameras including Nikon D600 Experience, Nikon D7100 Experience, and Nikon D5200 Experience – but this should get you started.

Nikon D600 book ebook camera guide download manual how to dummies field instruction tutorial     Nikon D7100 book ebook manual tutorial field guide how to learn use dummies

 

Using Autofocus
Now on to using the AF system.  (All of the information below is also adapted from my e-book user’s guides, so I hope you will have a look at them to learn more.)

One of the essential steps in taking a successful photo is controlling where the camera focuses.  If you allow the camera to autofocus by choosing its own Focus Point(s), it typically focuses on the closest object or a person in the scene.  This may or may not be what you want to focus on.  So you should choose where the camera focuses using the autofocus Focus Points.  But first you will need to select an appropriate Autofocus Mode and an Autofocus Area Mode, based on your subject and situation.

Autofocus Modes
The D7100, D7000, D600, and D5200 each have three different Autofocus Modes to choose from, typically depending if your subject is still or moving.  They also have four different Autofocus Area Modes (see below) to specify how many of the AF points are active and how they track a moving object.  You can set these two functions in various combinations.  First the Autofocus Modes:

Single-Servo AF (AF-S)
Use this mode when your subject is stationary, or 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.  When using AF-S, you can select from two Autofocus Area Modes, either Single-Point AF where you select the AF point, or Auto-Area AF, where the camera selects the AF point(s) for you.  I suggest you nearly always select your own desired AF point.

Continuous-Servo AF (AF-C)
Use this mode when your subject is moving.  If the subject is moving towards you or away from you, the camera will keep evaluating the focus distance, as long as the Shutter Button is kept half-pressed.  You will need to use this in conjunction with the Autofocus Area Modes to determine if and how the camera tracks the subject laterally to the surrounding AF points, or if it will only track the subject if it remains at the initially selected AF point.  If the subject is going to be difficult to follow or is moving across your field of view, set the AF-Area Mode to one of the Dynamic-Area AF modes or to the 3D-Tracking mode.  Focus on the moving subject with the selected point if using Single-Point, one of the Dynamic Area Modes, or 3D-Tracking, or let the camera select the AF point in Auto-Area AF, and then as long as the Shutter Button remains half-pressed the camera will track the subject as it moves closer or farther in distance.  Depending which AF Area Mode you are using, the camera may also maintain focus or track the subject to some or all of the surrounding focus points if it moves away from the initially selected point.  More about this in the Autofocus Area Modes section just below.

Auto-Servo AF (AF-A)
This mode is a hybrid of the two other focus modes.  It starts in Single-Servo AF (AF-S) mode then changes to Continuous-Servo AF (AF-C) mode if your subject starts moving.  Why shouldn’t you use this all the time, then?  Well, 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 your resulting focus may not be where you want it to be, or may not be as accurate as it might be if you are using Single-Servo AF.

Nikon D600 autofocus 39 point af system use learn tutorial how to auto focus mode area
The arrangement and position of the 39 AF points of the Nikon D600, shown with the optional viewfinder grid display.

Manual Focus
Sometimes you may be taking several photos of the same subject from the same distance, or for some other reason want to keep the same focus distance and not have to keep re-focusing and re-composing.  Or you may be taking multiple photos for a panorama.  In these situations, turn off the auto-focus on your lens by switching from AF to M with the camera’s Focus Mode Selector switch and with the A/M switch on the lens itself.  Just remember to switch them back when you are finished.  You may also wish to do this if you want to precisely manually focus with the focus ring on your lens.  For lenses with “full time manual focus” however, you don’t need to switch to M in order to manually override the autofocus with the lens focus ring.  These lenses will have M/A and M on the lens focus mode switch instead of A and M.

Autofocus Area Modes
The Autofocus Area Modes are used to set if just a single AF point is active or else how many AF points surrounding your selected AF point will be used to maintain focus or to track a moving subject if you are using AF-C or AF-A Autofocus Modes.

Single-Point AF
Only one AF point will be active, and surrounding AF points will not become active to maintain focus or to track a subject that moves away from the one selected point.  This is typically used along with Single-Servo AF (AF-S) to focus on a stationary or still subject, or in a situation where you will be reframing the shot after you lock focus at a specific distance.  It can also be used with accuracy with AF-S mode for moving subjects if you take the photo quickly or if you recompose and take the shot quickly after locking in focus, especially if the camera-to-subject distance does not change at all or very much in that period between locking focus and taking the photo.  Use the Multi Selector to choose your active AF point as you look through the viewfinder and use the OK Button to quickly select the center AF point.  Also, remember that Custom Setting a6 allowed you to choose between having all 39 AF points available or to limit the camera to 11 AF points.  If you are just starting out with manually selecting a single Focus Point, you may wish to limit them to 11 now, and when you get the hang of it or when you are using one of the other AF Area Modes described below, increase it to 39 to take full advantage of all the AF points of the D7000 autofocus system.  If you choose Single-Point AF with Continuous-Servo AF (AF-C) or Auto-Servo AF (AF-A) for tracking moving subjects, it will only track the subject as long as it is positioned at the selected AF point, and it will not be tracked laterally to the other, surrounding points.  In other words, the single AF point you select will track a subject if it moves closer or farther away, but the AF system will not follow or track the subject if it moves left, right, up, or down and away from your selected AF point.  To do this, you use Dynamic-Area AF Mode or 3D-Tracking.

Dynamic-Area AF
With the Dynamic-Area AF Modes, you select an AF point to tell the camera where to autofocus, and if your subject briefly moves away from that point to a neighboring point or if you lose the subject from your AF point while panning, the camera will use the surrounding AF points to help maintain focus on it.  Select one of the Dynamic-Area AF options (below) when you are photographing moving or potentially moving subjects using Continuous-Servo AF (AF-C) or Auto-Servo AF (AF-A).  These modes are ideal for a subject moving closer or further from the camera but which may also move laterally away from the selected AF point faster than you can react in order to keep it located at that point, or for when you are panning and following the subject and attempting to keep it located at the selected AF point, but may have a little or a lot of difficulty doing so.  Remember that you need to keep the Shutter Button half-pressed in order for the continuous focusing at the initial point or the surrounding points to occur.  Note that the camera may pick up and start tracking a new subject that falls under the selected AF point if you lose your initial subject, in part determined by your setting for Custom Setting a3.

9-Point Dynamic-Area AF will use the immediate surrounding AF points to help maintain focus on a subject that briefly leaves the selected AF point.  This can be used with predictably moving subjects, like a runner or vehicle moving towards you or one that you can easily follow laterally by panning.

21-Point Dynamic-Area AF will use even more of the surrounding AF Points, more than half the total AF Points, to help maintain focus on a subject that briefly leaves the selected AF point.  This should be used for more unpredictably moving objects, like sports players on a field, which may quickly move further away from your selected AF point before you have a chance to realign that point over the subject.

39-Point Dynamic-Area AF (or 51-Point Dynamic-Area AF with the D7100) will use all of the 39 AF points (or 51 points) to help maintain focus on a subject that briefly leaves the selected AF point.  It can be used for very quick and unpredictably moving subjects, like pets, birds or other wildlife, and all 39 AF points will be used to maintain focus on the subject as you attempt to realign the selected AF point with the subject.

The Dynamic-Area AF Modes are not used to track and maintain focus on a subject that is moving across the various AF points in the frame, but rather are used to stay focused on a moving subject that you attempt to keep located at your selected AF Point.  To track a subject that is moving across the frame, intentionally passing from one AF point to the next, use 3D-Tracking.

Nikon D5200 autofocus af system viewfinder 39 point how to use learn manual guide book instruction dummies tutorial area mode dynamic
A simulated image of the Nikon D5200 viewfinder, showing the autofocus focus points active with 9-Point Dynamic Area AF area mode, when the center AF point is selected. (Image shown at 50% opacity to better view AF points.)

3D-Tracking
This mode is used for subjects moving across the frame in any direction, or subjects moving erratically from side-to-side in the frame, and they are tracked by areas of color.  This is used when you don’t wish to necessarily pan or follow the subject to keep it located in the same part of the frame, but rather when you wish to keep the camera relatively still as the subject moves across the frame.  You may select this option when you are tracking and photographing moving subjects using Continuous-Servo AF (AF-C) or Auto-Servo AF (AF-A).  Again, you choose the initial AF point to locate the subject and begin the tracking.  If the area of color you wish to track is too small or if it blends into the background, this mode might not be very effective.

Auto-Area AF
The camera uses all 39 AF points to detect what it thinks is the subject and automatically choose the appropriate AF point(s).  Typically, the camera will select the nearest subject or a human in the frame, so it may not focus on exactly what you wish to focus on.  That is why it is best to use one of the other modes and select the AF point yourself.

Group Area AF
The Nikon D810 and D4s include the Group Area AF autofocus area mode, which makes use of a group of 5 AF Points arranged in a cross-shaped pattern. And instead of selecting a primary point with the surrounding points being “helper points,” you will actually be selecting the group of five points, which will all be used to attempt to focus on the subject. Unlike the other AF Area Modes with multiple points, the Viewfinder will actually display the four outer points of the group, but for some reason not the central point – perhaps so that you can better view the subject.

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. 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.

 

The next step is to learn to lock focus independent of locking exposure, and customize the camera’s controls to perform these functions how you wish.  But you are going to have to have a look at my e-book guides Nikon D7100 Experience, Nikon D7000 Experience, Nikon D600 Experience and Nikon D5200 Experience to learn about this and many other important functions of your sophisticated Nikon D600, D5200, or D7000!

Nikon D600 book ebook camera guide download manual how to dummies field instruction tutorial      Nikon D7100 book ebook manual tutorial field guide how to learn use dummies

 

To learn about another important reason why you need to take control of your autofocus system, see the related 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 all the AF points of an advanced Nikon D7000 and D600, this will often be an issue. Have a look at the above post to learn why this is an issue and how to resolve it.

Still need to purchase your D7100, D7000, D5200 or D600.  Please use my links to have a look at them on Amazon:

Nikon D7100 24.1 megapixel DX format dSLR camera

Nikon D7000 16.2 megapixel DX format dSLR camera

Nikon D600 24.3 megapixel full-frame FX format dSLR camera

Nikon D5200 24.2 megapixel DX format dSLR camera

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I continue to get a large number of visits from people who are comparing the current line of Canon digital SLR cameras – the 5D Mk. II vs. 7D vs. 50D vs. 550D / T2i. I go into detail about comparing the features of these cameras in this post, including the 60D and T3i, so that is probably the post you want to read first. However, it is a long, in-depth post. If you would like to read a summary of how to make this decision and find out which camera is right for you, here it is (however, I still encourage you to read that in-depth post which is a bit more educational than this post).

Before I start I want to mention:

I have written eBook tutorials for the Canon 60D and for the Canon T2i, which cover ALL the Menu settings and Custom Function settings, with recommended settings, plus in-depth descriptions of how and and why to use the cameras’ settings and features in everyday use – Canon 7D Experience, Your World 60D, Canon T3i Experience, and T2i Experience. Learn more about the eBooks by clicking on their titles.

Longfellow House
Longfellow House – Cambridge, MA

-New to digital SLR photography and want a really nice camera for casual home and travel use? Not really sure what all those buttons and symbols are and not really interested in knowing? Get a 550D/ T2i or a Rebel XSi.

-New to digital SLR photography and want to take really great, high quality photos, but don’t ever really plan to totally get into it? Don’t really want to spend months reading about f-stops and metering modes? Plan to use Auto or Program mode most of the time? Fall asleep 3 minutes into reading the manual? Get a 550D/ T2i or a Rebel XSi.

-New to digital SLR photography and want to learn the basics of exposure: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO? Want to learn to take the camera off Auto or Program mode, and experiment with partial or spot metering and manually selected focus points? Eager to read and understand the often confusing explanations of the manual? Get a 550D/ T2i, or a 60D.

-New to digital SLR photography and want to learn everything noted above plus want to take pictures of fast moving action: kids at play, sports, dance? Consider a 60D because it can shoot 5.3 frames per second vs. 3.7 fps of the 550D. This doesn’t mean you can’t focus on and capture fast moving action with the 550D, but it means with the 60D you can fire off a faster rapid series of shots, and thus hope to capture the exact right moment.

-New to digital SLR photography but super ambitious and know you are going to be committed and dedicated enough to learn about exposure compensation and back-button focusing? Ready for Av mode now, and plan to really take your photography to the next level over the next year or two? Already read the manual online? Want to consider the possibility of professional photography in the future? Get a 60D or get a 7D if you are super-serious and if you can afford it.

-Experienced with digital SLR photography and have outgrown the limited speed and menu/ custom options of the entry level cameras? Annoyed with digital SLR users you see on the street whose cameras are nicer than yours but are left on Auto or P mode? Want to take it to the next level and maybe test the waters of professional photography? Get the 60D or get a 7D if you can afford it. Consider a 5D Mk II if you are really, really serious.

-Experienced with digital SLR photography and plan to be a top notch amateur/ semi-pro or work towards being a pro? Carry your camera everywhere and want a sturdy tool that serves you and the way you work? Already have been paid to shoot some photos, portraits, or events? Have stopped trying to read the model number of other people’s cameras because you know your photos are better than theirs even if they have a nicer camera? Get a 7D, or a 5D Mk II if you can afford it, or wait for the 5D Mk III.

-Highly experienced with digital SLR photography and are dedicating yourself to being a part-time or full time pro? Already know and understand 99.6% of what you read in this other post? Just looking for reassurance that spending $2,500 is the right decision? Get a 5D Mk II, wait for the 5D Mk III, or get a 7D if you really can’t afford the 5D yet.

Cambridge City Hall
Cambridge City Hall – Cambridge, MA

You may have been convinced by forums, reviews, or online comments to question and compare image quality, auto-focus speed, high ISO performance and noise, dynamic range, etc., but those factors are all nearly completely irrelevant. All of these cameras have more than enough quality in each of those areas. Your choice should instead be based on your experience level and expected needs as a photographer, and on which camera best serves the way you work. Remember, you don’t need a top of the line camera to take professional quality photos. Instead you need mastery of the camera you have, combined with good knowledge of composition and lighting. I encourage you to have a look at some Flickr users’ photos taken with an “old,” 8MP Rebel XT to confirm this. When you are done selecting a digital SLR body, you canread some of my other posts to learn more about the Best Lenses for Travel Photography or Why You Shouldn’t Buy the Kit Lens.

Canon 5D vs. 550D / T2i – I get an unusually high number of hits from people searching for a comparison of the 5D Mk II vs. 550D / T2i. As you can see above, there isn’t a scenario where those two cameras are together as options, as they are on opposite ends of the spectrum. It is a strange comparison between an entry level dSLR and a full frame professional dSLR that, quite frankly, confuses me. If the 5D fits your expanding needs as a photographer, you would already pretty much know that you needed a 5D after your extensive time using a Rebel or a 20D, 40D, etc. Otherwise, getting a 5D means most likely you’d be investing in far more camera than you will actually need or use. Read more about why I say that here and in the Other Important Custom Functions section here (this post is about the 7D, but it will give you a feel for how a 5D / 7D differs from a 550D in terms of features that you may need but probably don’t).

AF Microadjustment 550D / T2i, 60D – A lot of people also search for AF Micro-adjustment or focus calibration for the Canon 550D / T2i for back focus or front focus issues. Due to quality control issues, acceptable tolerances, or more rarely but not unheard of bad cameras, your camera and/or lens may focus a few notches in front of or behind the subject you focused on. If your camera happens to be 2 notches on the plus side and your lens 2 notches on the minus side, well, you are going to have some issues. While the AF Microadjustment feature is not built into the menus of the Canon 550D or new Canon 60D, here is how you micro adjust for front or back focus: send the camera and/ or lens to Canon while it is under warranty, with instructions to calibrate them. You have to pay for one way shipping and insurance (+/- $30 for one item depending on weight and coverage). Ask them to include a detailed report of what the issue was and what service they actually performed (otherwise they just repeat what you wrote and say “lens was front focusing – electrical adjustment of AF mechanism” and you don’t know if it was the camera, the lens, or your mind that was off). Then send a letter to Canon asking them why a brand new expensive Canon camera paired with a brand new expensive Canon lens that you just bought does not focus properly, and why you have to pay $30 to send it immediately back to them to fix it. This process also applies to the AF Microadjustment of the 7D, 5D, and 50D and soon the 60D. It is best to first determine if the camera or the lens is the culprit, by testing the lens on another body or the body with another lens, but it may well be a combination of both since each lens and camera is uniquely faulty. See this great post, “This Lens is Soft and Other Myths” on LensRentals.com for more info on this.

If you are pretty new to digital SLR photography and you decided on the 7D, check out this really great book I recently came across while browsing the photo section at a bookstore: Canon 7D: From Snapshots to Great Shots by Nicole Young. I think you’ll learn more from it than most other how-to photo books and expanded manual type books. Even if you have another Canon and not a 7D, you’ll still find it helpful for learning how to really use a digital SLR to take better photos. She is currently working on a version of the book for the 60D, Canon 60D: From Snapshots to Great Shots.
canon 60D great shots

And I, myself, have written eBook user guides for the Canon 7D, Canon 60D and for the Canon Rebel T2i / EOS 550D. You can learn all about them here:  Canon 7D Experience, Your World 60D, plus the mini-guide to the 60D Menus and Custom Functions (excerpted from the full version of Your World 60D), and T2i Experience.

Need a lens to go with your new camera? Read about choosing a lens other than the kit lens in this post Why You Shouldn’t Buy the Kit Lens, and learn about the Best Lenses for Travel Photography here.

Please leave a comment, ask a question. Let me know what has been helpful, and what you’d like to read more about.

If you plan to purchase any of this equipment or books, I encourage you to do so through the site I’ve set up with Amazon, Doug’s Picturing Change Digital Photography Equipment and Books or through this direct link to Amazon.com. Purchasing through any of these links to Amazon.com, or the ones below, will help support my blog and my work. Thanks! And for those of you across the pond, click here for my referral link to Amazon UK. If you are in another country, click on one of my Amazon links, scroll to the bottom of the page, and click on your country for your local Amazon.
See the T2i on Amazon.
See the 60D on Amazon.
See the 7D on Amazon.
See the Canon 5D MkII on Amazon.

I recently returned from a trip to Guatemala, where I was taking photos for an NGO that works with children, literacy, and education. It gave me the perfect opportunity to try out a bunch of new equipment and really put it to the test in the field.


San Miguel Duenas, Guatemala – Canon 7D, 70-200mm f/4L IS lens at 78mm, 1600 ISO, 1/100, f/5.6

Jump to the Custom Function section

First and foremost, it was the first time I really had the opportunity to use the Canon 7D body (I discuss the additional gear in this related post). The camera performed wonderfully in many ways, however, I did have autofocus related problems – namely a serious front focus issue. With both wide angle and telephoto L-series lenses, the camera was consistently focusing several inches or more in front of the subjects. I played around briefly with the AF Microadjustments, with the intention of taking a closer look at the situation when I returned home.  (Body was later exchanged for another that focuses properly.)

I had another, odd and unexpected complaint in the field, and that is with the high speed shooting modes. One has the choice of 3fps or 8fps, yet I needed something more like 5fps! I’ve included some images throughout the post that are straight from the camera (I merely converted from RAW to JPEG). Anyway, on to the review and instructions for many of the camera’s settings, and how and when to use them in real world situations. And at the end there is some info about video tutorials available for downloading and watching.

If any of the digital photography terms you come across in this post are unfamiliar, be sure to refer to this great glossary for assistance.

Design – The camera is extremely comfortable to hold and use, especially due to the size, shape, and material of the grip, and it felt to be designed perfectly for my hands. It is nicely weighted with both a 16-35 f/2.8L II and a 70-200 f/4, and carries well with an R-Strap attached to the camera body (the 70-200 f/4 doesn’t come with a collar). Due to its similar design and button placement as previous Canon models, it was easy to get used to changing various settings on the fly – everything from ISO right up on top to Flash Control in the menus. There are a few settings that I quickly fell into, but that I would like to experiment with a little more with before I settle permanently into. Here are a few notes, in no particular order of importance:

Av Mode – I set the camera to Av mode for 99% of the time, as that is how I typically work (because I always want to control the depth of field). About the only time I took it out was when I was experimenting in an HDR type situation where I was in Manual and bracketing, trying to properly expose both a dark colonnade I was under and the cathedral in bright sunlight beyond. I haven’t yet worked on combining the exposures, but here is a nice shot that came from that situation:


Antigua, Guatemala – Canon 7D, 16-35 f/2.8L lens at 16mm, 1600 ISO, 1/500, f/16

(edit – I added the camera and lens information to these images.  Please note that the camera settings used for these various images may not necessarily be the “best” or “ideal” settings to use in the specific situations, but camera settings are always the result of changing situations and lighting, coming from another scene, going back and forth between action and still subjects, adapting, experimenting, and sometime just plain not paying attention!)

ISO – I had high hopes for Auto ISO, thinking I would finally be given the freedom to stop worrying where I left it set, but I quickly found that in Av, I didn’t like the slow shutter speeds that were resulting when I selected the aperture and the camera selected the ISO. So I ended up never using it. I would like to experiment with it some more, and figure out if there is something I can do to keep the shutter speeds in a better range. It is wonderful to have the versatility to change ISO on the fly, but one often gets caught up in shooting, and forgets to change it to an appropriate setting, and thus sometimes the shutter speed isn’t the most ideal. So, I just have to stay in the habit of paying attention to where all three settings are as I go from indoor to out or change lenses, etc. This is aided by these settings being visible in the 7D viewfinder.

High Speed Continuous Shooting – many people marvel at the 7D’s ability to shoot 8fps in High Speed Continuous Mode. However, for my purposes on this trip, that proved far too excessive. I often shoot a burst of photos when someone or something is in motion and I want to capture the peak of action or a flattering pose, or when a gesture or facial expression might change rapidly. Unfortunately, 8fps results in a lot of unwanted files, and as I will soon address, these files are HUGE and rapidly fill up a hard drive. But sadly, the Low Speed Continuous drive setting is only 3fps, which is too slow to capture the rapid changes in a scene. The 3fps speed was one of the main drawbacks of my previous body, and a major reason for upgrading. What I need is something in between, maybe 5fps! Perhaps Canon or someone will tweek the firmware to allow this…


San Miguel Duenas, GuatemalaCanon 7D, 16-35 f/2.8L lens at 35mm, 800 ISO, 1/500, f/3.5

Custom Functions – In order for you to get the most out of the 7D, and to set it to function best how you work, you need to dig into the Custom Functions. One of the settings I use is customizing My Menu, and then having My Menu always appear first when I hit the Menu button. (My Menu Settings / Display from My Menu=enable) I played around with different items on My Menu, but have settled for now on the ones that I use most often or that I may quickly need and want to access without digging into the menus. They are:

Flash Control
– you can quickly adjust all the settings for the built in flash, external flash, wireless flash. You can even control all the setting of the 580EX II remotely – when it is not attached to your camera. Very cool.
Exposure Compensation/ AEB – exposure compensation is easy to change at any time with the big dial, so this shortcut is for using when I want to bracket (AEB).
Review Time – I found that I was often shooting away without chimping (looking at the LCD), so I often just turn off the LCD review altogether. Other times, however, I want to review.
ISO Expansion – I haven’t used this yet, but I wanted it handy in case I want to use the high ISO. I typically have this turned off because I didn’t want the camera to default to High ISO during any situations. But considering I wasn’t using Auto ISO, this all seems unnecessary, and now that I realize this, I will have to replace this with something else on the menu! I never went above 1600 ISO, which I did have to use sometimes in very dark classroom settings along with the flash. Upon quick review of those images, the lack of noise in these files is really good.
Format – this is to format the memory card in preparation for use the next day. Always reformat the card, never simply erase them or use the Erase All option if your camera had that (the 7D does not). However, after formatting, turn the dial to select another menu item so that next time you hit Menu, Format isn’t still selected and you quickly make a grave mistake of pressing it.
Highlight Tone Priority (II-3) – this is a great setting to use in a high key situation, or with a bright subject or scene. It helps to retain detail in the highlights so they don’t get blown out, such as a white wedding dress, or a snow or beach scene. I never did use it, but I keep it in this menu to remind me it is there for the day when I do need it!


Chichicastenango, Guatemala – Canon 7D, 70-200mm f/4L IS lens at 155mm, 200 ISO, 1/80, f/4

Other important Custom Function Settings

(please note, this post was initially written to explain how I used these settings in a specific travel situation.  I go into more detail about each of the Custom Function settings, with clear explanations of what they are and when and why to use them, in my e-book Canon 7D Experience, which is discussed below.)

Safety Shift (I-6) – I sometimes enable this setting. It allows the camera to shift the shutter speed or aperture automatically, without your expressed permission, in order to get the shot. This is great for situations where the light suddenly and dramatically changes, such as at a concert.  However if you are carefully choosing your settings, or working with a flash, you will want to disable this so that the camera isn’t overriding your careful settings.

AI Servo Tracking Sensitivity (III-1) – This dictates how quickly focus tracking switches to another subject when it momentarily loses the initial subject, such as when another subject passes in front of it. You can choose to have it stay focused on the initial subject (Slow), or focus quickly on a new subject that moves in front of your initial subject (Fast). Typically I want to stay focused on my selected subject, and ignore someone or something that momentarily passes between us. If you want to quickly focus on different subjects at different distances, put it on fast.

AI Servo 1st/2nd (III-2) – Is your priority focusing on the subject, tracking the subject, firing off rapid shots? Look at the manual to see which situation works best for how you shoot.Personally I think 0 or 1, with the autofocus (AF) Priority, is best. (The camera makes sure it focuses first before taking the shot. It may cost you a microsecond of time however.) Regarding tracking vs. drive, I keep it at 0. Setting 0 continues to prioritize focusing possibly at the expense of speed, while setting 1 will prioritize the speed of subsequent shutter releases at the expense of focus.

AI Servo AF Tracking Method (III-3) – This works with autofocus modes where more than one AF point is active. The names of the choices are a little confusing but what they do is Setting 0 will focus on a closer subject that enters into your view, not necessarily in front of your subject. while setting 1 will remain focused on the initial subject. I keep mine on 1, since I want to stay focused on my initial subject.


San Juan del Obisbo, GuatemalaCanon 7D, 70-200mm f/4L IS lens at 200mm, 100 ISO, 1/1000, f/4

AF Focus Mode (III-6) – I enabled all the AF modes in the Custom Functions – by default, several of them are not available to you unless you change that setting. I started out using Single Point, but sometimes changed to Spot for more precision. The cost of using Spot is that it may not focus as quickly or as well when hand held or with a moving subject, and is generally not necessary unless you are trying to focus on a very small, precise area, such as through a fence to a subject beyond.  I occasionally used AF Point Expansion when photographing rapidly moving children. I don’t know how other photographers work (according to a Canon rep who gave a 7D presentation at B+H, there are big name professionals who still just focus with the center point and recompose), but I always choose the focus point I want manually, using the Multi-Controller button. This takes a little longer, now that I am dealing with 19 focus points, but that enables me to quickly get the composition I want, makes sure the camera focuses on what I want it to, and to get subsequent shots without too much reframing. There is an important menu setting so that you can use the Multi-Controller directly to change the AF point without having to press the AF thumb button first – I believe it is on the screen where you can customize all the camera’s buttons. Oh, and I changed the custom settings so that all the focus points always show, and that they light up upon achieving focus, even in bright sunlight (which they would not do if you had this setting on Auto or Disable). That way I always know when it has focused.  And I set Custom Function III-7 to stop focus point selection when I reach the edge and not loop around to the other side. I’m also thrilled that the 7D has a grid display that you can turn on in the viewfinder, which helps me keep my horizons and compositions straight. The viewfinder looks pretty busy, filled up with AF points and the grid, but when you are shooting away and focusing on your subject, you don’t even notice they are there.

Single Point Focus vs. Spot Focus Size – This controls the size of the area being looked at for focusing purposes on the 7D.  With Single Point AF Area Mode, the camera is actually looking at a cross shape area (all focus points are cross type, center point is dual diagonal as well at certain apertures) that extends about 2x as big as the actual square you see in the viewfinder. With Spot AF Area Mode, the size of the cross is about the size of the square you see, I think perhaps slightly larger.  Now you might think that using Spot AF will be more accurate all the time and sounds like a great idea and will get you sharper pictures, but this is not necessarily the case.  Since Spot AF is so precise, and since autofocus works by looking for an area of contrast, Spot AF may not focus as well or as quickly in many general situations (because it may be looking at such a precise area that is all one color or  tone).

Spot AF is for when you need a really precise “focus beam” to pinpoint, for example a bird in a tree, and not the branches and leaves surrounding it and all around it, which may be closer to you and the camera.  Or if, say, you are shooting through a chain link fence and you want the camera to focus on the animal beyond and not on the fence.  If you were to use Spot AF all the time, you would have to continue to act in a slower and more precise manner, so that you ensure you are focusing on an area of contrast or a nice line.  For example, if you capture a shot of a person, you want to focus on the eye typically.  If you do this quickly with Single Point AF, you can aim at the general area of the eye and you will likely include it in the area being looked at by the camera.  However if you grab a quick shot with Spot AF, you may  be a little off and the camera is looking at an area of cheek to focus on, which will be difficult since there isn’t much contrast there.

Orientation Linked AF Point – This setting allows you to choose your favorite AF points, and when you are hold the camera horizontally or vertically, those points are automatically selected. However, it is very complicated to set, so much so that is would seem Canon doesn’t even understand it. The Canon rep did not fully explain it properly at the B+H presentation, the instructions in the manual do not work, and after 3 different instructions by email from Canon, I may finally have the correct way. I still have to try their latest directions. (note- nope, latest instructions still don’t work properly) **12/17/2009** AHA!! Here it is, finally explained in its entirety.

I also changed the button/ dial function settings so that in Manual mode, the big dial controls shutter speed and the top dial controls aperture. The default is the opposite. I changed this because I almost always shoot in Av mode, where the top dial controls aperture, so when I switch to Manual mode, I want that to remain the same.

Additional edit – August 2011:
I have written a popular e-book user’s guide for the Canon 7D
called Canon 7D Experience. It not only explains all of the features, functions, and controls of this powerful, sophisticated, and highly customizable camera, but also when and why to use them in your photography – including EVERY Menu item and Custom Function setting, with explanations and recommended settings for real-life use.  You can learn more about the guide, preview it, and purchase it here.

 

AF Microadjustments – This is a setting on the 7D which enables you to tweak the auto-focusing to your different lenses. A site about AF micro adjustments that look to be helpful is below:

http://www.northlight-images.co.uk/article_pages/cameras/1ds3_af_micoadjustment.html#Anchor-Canon-49575

Here is a micro-adjustment focus test chart you can use.

Viewfinder – The viewfinder on the 7D is big and bright and wonderful. It is nearly 100% view of the image you will capture. The aperture and shutter speed info is of course displayed below, along with the current ISO setting, which one should get in the habit of glancing at often. See the AF Focus Mode category above for more info on what you can view in the viewfinder to assist with focusing and composition.

Picture Style – I had this on Standard, since I shoot in RAW and intend to post-process, however, I would like to do a comparison of the styles to see which one best matches my visual preferences – although the Picture Styles will only affect JPEGs and, it is important to know, the image you see on your rear LCD screen when shooting RAW.


Jalapa, GuatemalaCanon 7D, 16-35 f/2.8L lens at 35mm, 800 ISO, 1/2000, f/8

File Size – I shot RAW for almost the entire trip, and quickly discovered that these files are HUGE. The files range from about 21MB to around 31MB each. I used SanDisk Extreme III 16GB cards, which worked great, and one card often lasted much of the day. I have no good reason for using SanDisk over Lexar, other than the fact that the Lexar people haven’t approached me about sponsorship… :) The Extreme III cards have been replaced by the new Extreme and Extreme Pro cards, and are thus the old ones are much cheaper at the moment, especially with current rebates. At 30MB/s, they were fast enough for the types of shooting and short bursts I was doing. However, downloading them to my computer and external HD were pretty slow using the SanDisk ImageMate CF card reader. Eventually I’m going to have to spring for a card reader that goes right into the PC slot. I used Adobe Bridge to simultaneously save the day’s files to 2 external hard drives. The 160GB Iomega Ego filled up before the trip was over, but fortunately I also had a Lacie 500GB. I am dreading the number of external hard drives I am going to have to buy for travel and for home storage, but once you go RAW, it’s hard to go back to shooting just JPEG. I’m going to have to look into the Drobo system that many rave about.

Battery Life – The battery life of the 7D is excellent. When you get new batteries, first charge them all the way. Do not recharge until they are completely drained. Do this one or two cycles. I know they say you no longer have to do this, but some claim that seasoning the batteries like this will maximize their charge life. Anyway, one battery lasted well into 2 days of shooting, maybe longer, I didn’t keep track. They just keep going, even with heavy use, chimping (LCD reviewing), frequent use of an external Speedlite flash, and use of image stabilization (IS) on the 70-200 lens. I carried 3 batteries, but probably could have gotten away with 2. The spring-loaded battery door that pops right open for quick battery changes is a nice touch.


Antigua, Guatemala – Canon 7D, 70-200mm f/4L IS lens at 78mm, 100 ISO, 1/250, f/4

Automatic Sensor Cleaning – Like most good dSLRs these days, the 7D automatically cleans the sensor at start up and shut down. Since the dust that is shaken off is collected on a tiny sticky strip at the base of the sensor, it seems to me that you should hold the camera straight as this happens. I’m not sure if this is actually true, but I think I read in the manual that it even says to place the camera flat on a table as you use this, so I have gotten in the habit of holding it straight and still as I turn it off and on. Yeah! No more having to clean the sensor manually with a Rocket Blower!

Video – I did not have a chance to even experiment with the HD video on the 7D yet…so much to learn, so little time…

The next post will review all the other gear I used on the trip – the camera backpack, R-strap, accessories, etc. – and perhaps some of the other lessons learned. Read it here.

Purchasing: If you plan to buy the Canon 7D or any other camera or equipment from Amazon.com, I would appreciate it if you use my referral link by clicking on the text or logo below. Your price will be the same, and they will give me a little something for referring you, which will help support this blog. Thanks!


See and buy the Canon 7D on Amazon

And due to popular request, if you are in the UK, here is my referral link to Amazon UK.

And for those wishing to purchase from B&H Photo, Adorama, or directly from Canon just click their logos on the left side of the page.


Jalapa, GuatemalaCanon 7D, 70-200mm f/4L IS lens at 200mm, 200 ISO, 1/1600, f/4

Again, be sure to check out my e-book user’s guide for the Canon 7D called Canon 7D Experience. It not only explains all the features, functions, and controls of this powerful, sophisticated, and highly customizable camera, but also when and why to use them in your photography. You can learn more about the guide, preview it, and purchase it here.

I’ve run across a nice set of video tutorials (link below) for using the Canon 7D. You can watch them online, or even download them to your camera for viewing. The one on AF Custom Fuctions is especially helpful at clarifying those setting. Be sure to look around on the Canon Digital Learning Center to find all kinds of other cool stuff about using your camera plus useful tips and instructions from pros who use them.

link to Canon 7D Video Tutorials

The distinctive voice you hear in the 7D tutorial videos is Canon guru Rudy Winston, and the photo samples are his images as well. If you are in NYC, you can often find him leading workshops and presentations at places like B+H and Adorama. I went to a wonderfully informative introduction to the 7D that he gave a B+H a month or 2 ago, and these videos are pretty much the same presentation.

Here is additional information from Canon Europe about custom functions of the 7D:

http://cpn.canon-europe.com/content/education/technical/custom_functions_eos_1d_mark_iv_and_eos_7d.do