The First and Best Canon 70D User’s Guide now Available!

Canon 70D Experience, my latest Full Stop e book and the first EOS 70D user’s guide, is now available! This e book goes beyond the manual to help you learn the features, settings, and controls of the powerful and highly customizable Canon 70D. Plus most importantly it explains how, when, and why to use the functions, settings, menu options, and controls in your photography – including the 19-point viewfinder autofocus system, new Live View-Movie AF system, exposure and shooting settings, flash and Wireless Flash, the in-camera features such as Multiple Exposure, HDR, RAW image processing, and the new Wi-Fi functions.

Written in the clear, concise, and comprehensive style of all Full Stop guides, Canon 70D Experience will help you learn to use your 70D quickly and competently, to consistently create the types of images you want to capture. This e-book is available in either PDF or EPUB format for reading on your computer, tablet, iPad, e-reader, etc. It is my most comprehensive, fully illustrated guide yet!

Canon 70D EOS book manual guide tutorial how to tips tricks recommended settings set up dummies use quick start

 

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

http://www.dojoklo.com/Full_Stop/Canon_70D_Experience.htm

As readers have said about Full Stop guides:

“An excellent guide, clear and concise. A great tool for budding photographer as well as the seasoned pro. A sure way to get the most out of your camera.”

and

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

Take control of your Canon 70D, the image taking process, and the photos you create!

For Intermediate and Enthusiast Photographers:

This instant download Canon EOS 70D e book is designed for enthusiast dSLR photographers who wish to take fuller advantage of the capabilities of their camera:

  • Go beyond Auto+ and Program modes and shoot competently in Av, Tv, and M modes.
  • Take full control of the versatile 19-point and new Live View autofocus systems.
  • Learn how, when, and why to use and customize the various controls, buttons, and features of the 70D.

To get you started, it includes explanations and recommended settings for all Menu settings and Custom Function options of the 70D. It covers basic dSLR camera functions and exposure concepts for those learning digital SLR photography, and explains more advanced camera controls and operation, such as taking control of the autofocus system for sharp focus of still or moving subjects, using the various metering modes and exposure compensation for correct exposure of every image, and taking advantage of the newer features found in the 70D such as Wi-Fi Functions and in-camera HDR and Multiple Exposure Modes.

For Experienced Photographers to get up and running with the 70D:

For experienced photographers coming to the EOS 70D from other models, this guide explains the new and advanced features and settings in order to quickly get you up and running and taking advantage of these capabilities. Plus it explains the camera controls, the in-camera HDR and Multiple Exposures features, in-camera image processing and editing, introduces the HD video capabilities, Wi-Fi functions, Flash and Wireless Flash, and guides you through all the 70D Menu and Custom Function items in order to help you best set up and customize the camera and its controls for your specific shooting needs.

Canon 70D Experience not only covers the various settings, functions and controls of the Canon 70D, but also explains when and why to use them for your photography. The guide focuses on still-photography with an introduction to the movie menus, settings, and options to get you up and running with HD video. Sections include:

  • Setting Up Your EOS 70D – Explanations of all of the Canon 70D Custom Function settings and Menu options, with recommended settings for practical, everyday use. These settings are a significant part of what makes the 70D such a powerful and versatile camera. Set up and customize the advanced features to work best for the way you photograph.
  • Camera Controls – Description of all of the camera’s controls, how to customize them for your needs, and when and why to use them.
  • Aperture Priority (Av), Shutter Priority (Tv), 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 Drive Modes – Explanations of the 19-Point Viewfinder AF system and new Live View-Movie AF system, how and when to use them to capture sharp images of both still and moving subjects. Also how and when to use focus lock and back-button focusing.
  • Exposure Metering Modes of the Canon 70D – How they differ, how and when to use them for correct exposures in every situation. 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 or for capturing a range of exposures to combine into HDR images.
  • Flash and Wireless Flash – Introduction to setting up and using the built-in flash or an external Speedlite, as well as taking advantage of the Wireless Flash capabilities of the 70D.
  • Wi-Fi Functions – Introduction to the set-up and use of the camera’s built-in Wi-Fi. Wirelessly control the 70D, save, or share images with your smart device or computer.
  • Introduction to Video Settings – Explanations of all the movie menus, settings, and options to get you started.
  • Composition – Tips, techniques, and explanations, including the creative use of depth of field.
  • The Image Taking Process – Descriptive tutorials for using the settings and controls you just learned to take still and action photos.
  • Lenses – Explanation of Canon lenses and choosing your next lens.
  • Photography Accessories – The most useful accessories for day-to-day and travel photography including those specific to the 70D, plus recommended photography books.

This digital guide to the Canon 70D is a 360 page illustrated e-book that goes beyond the 70D manual to explain how, when, and why to use the features, settings, and controls of the 70D to help you get the most from your camera.

Learn more about Canon 70D Experience, view a preview, and purchase it on my Full Stop website here:

http://www.dojoklo.com/Full_Stop/Canon_70D_Experience.htm

Canon 70D – Hands-on Review and Field Test

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

Canon 70D EOS hands on review field test book manual guide how to settings set up 1956 Buick Centurion concept
All images in this post taken with the Canon 70D at the Heritage Museum, Sandwich, Massachusetts. 1956 Buick Centurion concept car. (Learn about the over-saturated red channel below.)

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

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

Canon 70D EOS book manual guide tutorial how to tips tricks recommended settings set up dummies use quick start

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click on these image details to see larger versions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amazon:

Canon 70D – Body or with choice of kit lenses – $1,199 to $1,549

B and H Photo:

Canon 70D – Body only – $1,199

Canon 70D – with 18-135mm STM lens – $1,549

Canon 70D – with 18-55mm STM lens – $1,349

~ ~ ~

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Canon 70D Tips and Tricks – Custom Controls

One of the most powerful features of the Canon EOS 70D is the ability to customize the functions of various buttons and controls on the camera body. Taking advantage of this will allow you to set up the camera specifically for you and your shooting style and needs, and thus enable you to work more smoothly, quickly, and efficiently. Having the ability to easily and intuitively change the camera settings on the fly will also allow you to focus on the more important aspects of capturing the framing, moment, or composition you are after.

These settings are found in the  III-4: Custom Controls menu (see Figure 1). At first you may wish to leave many of these on the default settings or set them to match your previous camera settings. Then after working with the camera awhile, you will begin to know how you work and how you wish to work faster or more conveniently through customizing some controls. Pages 384-385 of the Canon 70D manual show all the possible options, and you might consider printing these manual pages to carefully study and consider your potential configurations.

These explanations are excerpted from my e-book guide to the EOS 70D called Canon 70D Experience. As with all my dSLR guides, Canon 70D Experience will help you to learn not only how but more importantly when and why to use the features, functions, and controls of the 70D. Learn more about the guide on my Full Stop website here.

Canon 70D set up quick start tips tricks recommended setting guide cool tricks menu custom function
Figure 1 – Custom Controls menu to customize the buttons and controls of the camera to function exactly how you need, to fit your working methods and shooting style.

Some custom controls that you may consider experimenting with are the assigned settings of the Shutter Button (when it is pressed halfway), the AF Start Button (AF-ON), and the AE Lock Button (the one with the [*] symbol). You can customize them so that they initiate and/ or lock focus and exposure separately or in a variety of different button combinations. When working in Evaluative Metering Mode and One-Shot AF, the default setting is that exposure metering is locked and focus is locked at your active AF Point when you press the Shutter Button halfway. You then recompose if necessary and fully press the Shutter Button to take your photo. But the exposure settings were locked on a different framing than your final framing! So you may wish to lock focus with a different button than you lock exposure, or else re-determine the exposure metering settings for the final framing before taking the shot (which is typically done with the AE Lock  [*] Button).

Canon, 70D, Canon 70D, book, manual, guide, how to, dummies, tips, tricks, quick start
Figure 2 – Custom Controls options – Selecting the Shutter Button (left), and choosing which function(s) it will perform when pressed half-way (right).

When working in One-Shot AF with one of the Metering Modes other than Evaluative Metering (Spot, Partial, or Center-Weighted), the default setting is that exposure metering is begun (not locked) and focus is locked when you press the Shutter Button halfway. You then recompose if necessary and fully press the Shutter Button to take your photo, and exposure is determined at that moment. But with these other Metering Modes it is likely that you will want to lock exposure on a certain area before framing for the final shot and taking the photo.

Either of these above default settings may cause you to meter for a scene or area that is different from what you intend, and thus result in a slight or profound under- or over-exposed shot. With the default button settings and the above scenarios, you can always use the AE Lock Button (exposure lock button with the [*] symbol) to lock in the exposure of your desired framing. But you may find that after working awhile, you would like to start or stop exposure metering and/ or focusing in a different manner than the default settings, and then you can reconfigure the functions of these buttons (See Figure 2).

To test how your camera functions before or after changing these settings, set it on One-Shot AF Mode, Tv or Av Shooting Mode, and Evaluative Metering Mode, hold the camera to your eye, aim it at a bright area, and half-press the Shutter Button. While keeping the Shutter Button half-pressed, move the camera and aim it at a dark area. Keep your eye on the aperture and shutter speed settings in the viewfinder and watch if they change or if they remain locked. Change the metering mode (Spot, Partial, or Center-Weighted) and do this again. Then repeat the process by first pressing the Shutter Button half-way and then pressing (and releasing) the AE Lock [*] Button. You can repeat a similar process to see focus lock in action or to test your custom focus lock button settings.

Note that there are multiple Auto Exposure Lock (AE Lock) options, such as when setting the function of the AE Lock [*] Button (see Figure 3). The AE Lock option will lock the exposure for the current scene when you press and release it. If you reframe the shot and want the camera to re-evaluate and re-lock the exposure, just press the [*] Button again. The AE Lock (while button pressed) option only applies to the Shutter Button, and will lock the exposure as long as the Shutter Button remains half-pressed, similar to how the camera works with the One-Shot / Evaluative Metering default settings, as described above. This differs from assigning the Shutter Button to Metering start because with Metering start, the camera will start evaluating for exposure, but the exposure values will not be locked but will continue to change until you take the photo or press the AE Lock [*] button (when you are working in Partial, Spot, or Center-Weighted Metering Modes). Again, you can see this in action by half-pressing the Shutter Button to start metering, look in the viewfinder (or on the LCD Panel) at the exposure settings, move the camera around, and see the settings change. The AE Lock (hold) option (indicated with “*H”) will lock the exposure and maintain that lock with those exposure settings for all subsequent shots, until you press the AE Lock [*] Button again. The AE Lock option without the (hold) option (indicated in the menu options with “*”) will only lock the exposure settings until the metering timer ends (the exposure numbers disappear in the viewfinder and on the top LCD Panel).

The AE Lock/FE Lock option will lock both the exposure settings as well as the flash output setting when using a flash. If a button is set for this option, pressing the button will fire a pre-flash from the built-in flash or a Speedlite to determine and then lock the proper flash output.

Canon 70D how to manual guide book how to
Figure 3 – Custom Controls options for customizing the functions of the AE Lock Button.

Some options will allow you to perform what is called “back button focusing,” which is further explained in the Back Button Focusing section of Canon 70D Experience. This technique allows you to start and/ or stop (lock) the autofocusing using the AF-ON button, in conjunction with or instead of the Shutter Button. Taking advantage of these options can help you to fully utilize the autofocus system of the 70D as well as modify it for your personal shooting style.

While you may wish to work with your camera before considering changing most of these settings, I strongly encourage you to immediately change the function of the thumb-pad Multi-Controller to AF Point direct selection so that you don’t have to press the AF Point Selection Button first every time before you select your autofocus point (see Figure 4). Instead you can just press the thumb-pad Multi-Controller to choose your desired AF Point (once you have tapped the Shutter Button to wake up the camera and begin metering).

Canon 70D set up quick start tips tricks recommended setting guide cool tricks
Figure 4 – Left: Custom Controls options for the Multi-Controller (thumb pad) to set for AF Point Direct Selection so that your desired AF Point can be quickly selected with the Multi-Controller alone. Right: Custom Controls options for customizing the functions of the Depth-of-Field Preview Button, including the Electronic Level.

You may also want to consider assigning the Depth of Field Preview Button to one of the other available functions if you don’t typically use it for its depth of field preview function (see Figure 5). For example, you can use it for FE Lock (flash exposure lock) or to quickly switch between One-Shot focus mode and AI Servo focus mode. The switch only occurs as you hold the button, so for example if you are shooting a still subject using One-Shot focus mode but suddenly wish to start tracking a moving subject, press and hold this button to temporarily work in AI Servo mode. Or if the camera is set for AI Servo mode, holding this button will temporarily switch the camera to One-Shot mode.

70D “Hidden” Feature: You can also set the Depth of Field Button as the Viewfinder’s VF Electronic Level, which is sort of a “hidden” feature of the 70D. This is different than the Viewfinder Level icon of the Shooting 1 menu, and instead uses the AF Points displayed in the Viewfinder as a one-axis level. This level will function in either camera orientation (see Figure 4). If this option is selected, when you are shooting simply press the Depth of Field Preview button for this Viewfinder Level to appear, then tap the Shutter Button to resume shooting.

And you may want to assign the SET Button to the function of your choice for quick access, such as perhaps Flash Exposure Compensation since there is not a dedicated button for this. Or you might set it for Image Quality. This can be a helpful setting because certain camera functions such as HDR Mode are only accessible when capturing JPEG images, so you may need to quickly change from RAW or RAW+JPEG image quality to JPEG only. Another interesting setting for the SET Button is Set ISO speed (hold button, turn Main Dial). What this customization does is allow you to change the ISO setting by pressing and holding the SET Button and turning the top Main Dial (see Figure 5). While this may seem unnecessary as there is a dedicated ISO Button on the top of the camera that allows you to quickly change the ISO, it can come in handy during shooting. For example if your camera is on a tripod and you are positioned behind it using the Live View screen, it may easier to use this SET Button and Main Dial arrangement to change the ISO than it is for you to look or feel around the top of the camera to determine which button is the ISO Button. Or you may find that this method is just a really quick way to change the ISO during Viewfinder shooting. Of course you can always use the [Q] Button or icon and Touch Screen to change the ISO setting as well. So, as with many other settings, determine which camera set-up and method works best for you and your shooting situation.

Unfortunately, if you set the Multi-Controller to AF Point direct selection, the SET Button will not directly select the center AF Point, as you may be used to. You will still have to press the AF Point Selection Button first and then press the SET Button to directly choose the center AF Point. This issue may cause you a bit of trouble if you have assigned the SET Button to another function, as that function screen will suddenly appear on the rear LCD Monitor if you press the SET Button while you are shooting, and you may accidentally change that setting. If this becomes an issue, assign the SET Button to OFF.

Canon 70D set up quick start tips tricks recommended setting guide
Figure 5 – Custom Controls options for customizing the functions of the SET Button.

Finally, if you often work in Aperture Priority (Av) mode but then sometimes work in Manual (M) shooting mode I suggest you swap the functions of the Main Dial and the Quick Control Dial in Manual Mode (see Figure 6). Access the Main Dial option (the half-circle icon) and assign it to the Av option (Aperture setting in M mode). Then access the Quick Control Dial (the full-circle icon) and assign it to the Tv option (Shutter speed setting in M mode). By doing this the Main Dial controls the aperture setting in M mode just as it does in Aperture Priority Mode, and the Quick Control Dial controls the shutter speed setting when working in Manual (M) mode. If you typically work in Av Mode and then switch over to M mode, the muscle memory of your index finger will thank you as it will instinctively turn the Main Dial to adjust the aperture setting, and this was not the default setting of the camera. If you typically work in Tv Mode and sometimes switch to M Mode, leave these buttons on the default settings.

Canon 70D set up quick start tips tricks recommended setting guide cool tricks
Figure 6 – Custom Controls options for customizing the functions of the Main Dial (left) and Quick Control Dial (right) when working in Manual (M) Shooting Mode.

To learn more about using your Canon 70D and how to take full advantage of all its features, functions and controls – including back-button focusing, plus taking control of the autofocus system, making use of the various metering modes, and understanding the elements of exposure – have a look at my e-book guide called Canon 70D Experience. As with all my dSLR guides, Canon 70D Experience will help you to learn not only how but more importantly when and why to use the features, functions, and controls of the 70D. Learn more about the guide on my Full Stop website here.

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Read my hands-on preview of the 70D with some sample images at my Canon 70D Unboxing and Hands-On Preview post.

Live View – White Balance: I ran across a question online about setting a Kelvin white balance in Live View, so I will add this info here with some screen shots below. To change the WB in Live View, press the Q Button to access the Quick Control Screen, then select the White Balance icon, either by navigating to it by pressing up or down on the Multi-Controller, or simply using the Touch Screen. If you have navigated to it, you can then press left and right on the Multi-Controller to make your selection at the bottom of the screen. If you select the K option, press the INFO Button to select your desired temperature.

Canon 70D white balance live view kelvin k setting custom touch screen EOS

 

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

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

Amazon:

Canon 70D – Body or with choice of kit lenses – $1,199 to $1,549

B and H Photo:

Canon 70D – Body only – $1,199

Canon 70D – with 18-135mm STM lens – $1,549

Canon 70D – with 18-55mm STM lens – $1,349

Tips and Tricks for the Nikon D7100 – part 2

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

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

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

Nikon D7100 sd memory card battery en-el15

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

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

Nikon D7100 picture control

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tips and Tricks for the Nikon D7100 – part 1

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.

The First Nikon D7100 e book user’s guide Now Available!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nikon D7100 Hands On Review

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!

The First Nikon D5200 e book user’s guide Now Available!

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

 

Ten Tips and Tricks for the Nikon D610 / D600

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

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

Nikon D600 body buttons controls manual use learn how to book guide dummies customize
Detail of the controls of the Nikon D600 dSLR camera.

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

1. Take Control of your Autofocus System:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Configure Your Camera for Easy Exposure Compensation:

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

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

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

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

6. Take Advantage of the Two SD Card Slots:

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

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

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

7. Experiment with HDR Shooting and Multiple Exposure Shooting:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10. Make use of the Playback Display Options and Histogram

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Great Deal on the new Nikon D5200

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

The First User’s Guide to the Canon Rebel T4i / EOS 650D Now Available!

Canon T4i / 650D Experience, my most recent Full Stop dSLR e-book and the first available user’s guide to the T4i / 650D, goes beyond the manual to help you learn the features, settings, and controls of the advanced and versatile T4i / 650D, plus most importantly how, when, and why to use the functions, settings, and controls in your photography.

Written in the clear, concise, and comprehensive style of all Full Stop guides, Canon T4i / 650D Experience will help you learn to use your Canon T4i / 650D quickly and competently, to consistently create the types of images you want to capture. The e-book is available in PDF format for reading on your computer, e-reader, or tablet.

Learn more about it, preview it, and purchase it here:
http://www.dojoklo.com/Full_Stop/Canon_T4i_Experience.htm

As one reader has said about the previous Canon T3i Experience e-book:A Must-Have Accessory – What a great addition to my bag. This is a well written, full body of work that explains, in plain English, how to get the most out of my new camera.  Doug provides the knowledge and experience to bring you to the next level.  I look forward to learning more every time I open the book.”

Take control of your Rebel T4i / EOS 650D, the image taking process, and the photos you create!

Canon Rebel T4i 650D book ebook manual guide tutorial instruction bible how to dummies field EOS

For beginner, intermediate and enthusiast photographers:  This Canon T4i / 650D e-book is for those who wish to get more out of their camera and to go beyond Auto+ and Program modes and shoot in Aperture Priority (Av), Shutter Priority (Tv), and Manual (M) modes. To get your camera set up, it begins with explanations and recommended settings for all Menu settings, Custom Function options, and Movie Mode Menu settings of the T4i / 650D.  It 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 using the various metering modes and exposure compensation for correct exposure of every image, controlling autofocus modes and focus points for sharp focus of still or moving subjects, and making use of the camera’s new multi-shot exposure modes.

Canon T4i / 650D Experience focuses on still-photography with an introduction to the movie menus and settings to get you up and running with video. Sections include:

  • Setting Up Your Camera – All of the Menu settings and Custom Function settings for the T4i / 650D, including movie mode menus, with brief descriptions and recommended settings for practical, everyday use. Set up and customize the advanced features of this dSLR to work best for the way you photograph.
  • Camera Controls – Description of all of the camera’s controls, plus when and why to use them, including how to take advantage of the new Touch Screen and Quick Control settings screens.
  • Aperture Priority (Av), Shutter Priority (Tv), 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 Drive Modes – How they differ, how and when to use them to capture sharp images of both still and moving subjects. Also how and when to use focus lock and back-button focusing.
  • Exposure Metering Modes of the Canon T4i / 650D – How they differ, how and when to use them for correct exposures in every situation. 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.
  • Lenses – Explanation of Canon lenses and choosing your next lens.
  • Composition – Brief tips, techniques, and explanations, including the creative use of depth of field.
  • The Image Taking Process – A descriptive tutorial for using the settings and controls you just learned to take still and action photos.
  • Photography Accessories – The most useful accessories for day-to-day and travel photography including those specific to this camera, plus recommended photography books.
  • Introduction to Video Settings – Some basic settings to get you started.

This digital guide to the Canon Rebel T4i / EOS 650D is a 165 page illustrated e-book that goes beyond the manual to explain how, when, and why to use the features, settings, and controls of the T4i / 650D to help you get the most from your camera.

Learn more about Canon T4i / 650D Experience e book manual for the Rebel T4i / EOS 650D on my Full Stop website here:

http://www.dojoklo.com/Full_Stop/Canon_T4i_Experience.htm

 

How to Use Your New dSLR

I know many people happily unwrapped a new dSLR this holiday.  And now after playing with it for a bit, you may be discovering that there is a bit of a learning curve to learning all the features and functions of your camera.  So if your are eager to learn how to use your new T3i, D5100, 60D, D7000, or whichever Canon or Nikon dSLR you received, be sure to have a look around my blog at the various articles discussing how to use your autofocus system, metering system, and other functions, plus photography techniques once you have started to get a hang of the controls.

Have a look at the front page of this blog to see these different categories and find the articles about Canons, Nikons, Photography Techniques, Lenses, Accessories, Books, and more.

And to quickly learn the ins and outs of your camera, also be sure to have a look at my e-book camera guides, which will not only teach you the functions and controls of your dSLR, but when and why to use them.

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

Happy shooting, and let me know if you have any questions.

Nikon D5100 Autofocus System Video

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.

Taking Advantage of the Nikon D5100 Autofocus System

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.

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! 

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Taking Advantage of the Nikon D810/ D610 / D7100 / D5300 Autofocus System

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!

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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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