Nikon D50 Digital Field Guide
By David D. Busch
John Wiley & Sons ISBN: 0-471-78746-9
Chapter One Exploring the Nikon D50
If you've taken your first picture or two (or 200!) with your Nikon D50, you're probably eager to learn more about your camera's features and how to use them. The Quick Tour covered just the basics you need to know to get started. This chapter delves a little more deeply into the key features of the camera, what they're for, and how to use them.
I'm going to avoid the deadly trap that most camera manuals fall into when they provide three or four views of a camera (usually front, back, top, and perhaps side or bottom) and label everything willy-nilly without giving you a clue about what each control actually is used for. If you want to know where a specific button is located, you have to search for it in Where's Waldo? fashion amongst a thicket of labels. Then you may have to thumb through the manual to see exactly what the control does.
Although you've probably attempted to learn about your D50's buttons and wheels with the manual's confusing diagrams, this chapter's illustrations are more accessible roadmaps that will help you sort through the D50's features and controls much more quickly, especially when you're out in the field taking photos.
This chapter does not cover the D50's menu system. It concentrates on the buttons, dials, and other controls that you can access directly, without visiting menus. Some of the settings discussed in this chapter, such as flash options or white balance, are duplicated in the menus or have additional options available in there.
You can learn more about the D50's menu setup options in Chapter 2.
The front panel of the Nikon D50 is shown in figure 1.1. You can't see all the buttons and controls from a straight-on perspective, so I'll show you separate, three-quarters-view looks at each half of the front panel, which I've color-coded red (the left side of the camera when looking at it head-on) and green (the right side of the camera from this angle).
The easiest way to hold the D50 is by wrapping your fingers of your right hand around the hand grip, with the left hand providing support and usually activating most of the controls. However, there are a few controls within the reach of the right hand's digits, as shown in figure 1.2. These controls and features include the following:
* The handgrip: The grip is the housing for the D50's battery, and also serves as a comfortable handhold for your fingers.
* Front lamp: This front-mounted source of illumination serves three different functions. Under dim lighting conditions that make autofocusing difficult, this light source can be set to cast a little extra light on your subject to assist the autofocus system. If you've set your camera to self-timer mode, so that a picture is taken after a short delay (or if you're using the optional remote control in delay mode), the lamp blinks in a pattern as a sort of countdown to the eventual exposure. Finally, this lamp also can send out a little blast of light shortly before a flash exposure, which can serve to close down the pupils of your subjects' eyes, and reduce the demon redeye effect.
Nikon Speedlights as well as the Nikon SC-29 Speedlight cable have their own less-obtrusive focus assist lights that can take over for the one built into the camera.
* Infrared receiver: This is a dark red window (opaque to visible light) that captures a signal from the optional remote control. Because it's on the front of the camera you must use the remote from the front position.
* Shutter release: Canted atop the handgrip are the shutter-release button and power switch.
The other side of the D50 has a few more controls, as shown in figure 1.3. These include the following:
* Flash multi-button: Nikon has kept the D50's design clean by assigning multiple functions to many buttons, and this flash control is one of them. It serves three different purposes, even though Nikon calls it the Flash Exposure Compensation button. Pressing the button when the built-in electronic flash is in its down/stowed position causes the flash to flip up (as shown in figure 1.4), ready for use. Holding this button while spinning the command dial changes among flash sync modes, such as red-eye reduction, or slow sync (which combines flash and a regular exposure to lighten backgrounds). Holding this button and the EV button on the top of the camera while spinning the command dial adds or subtracts from the flash exposure, making your flash picture a little lighter or darker, as you prefer.
* Lens release: Press and hold this button to unlock the lens so you can rotate the lens to remove it from the camera.
* Focus-mode selector: The autofocus/ manual (AF/M) lever on the camera body can be flipped to set the focus mode for lenses that don't have such a control on the lens barrel, or for manual focus lenses. Figure 1.3 also shows such a control on the 18-70mm kit lens.
* AC Power/AV Connector/USB Connector covers: On the side of the camera, you'll see a rubber cover that protects the D50's primary external connectors. These include the AC power connector (bottom), which can operate the camera without batteries (for, say, studio work or time-lapse photography). Just above the AC power connector is an AV plug that can link the D50 to an external monitor for viewing pictures or menus. The topmost connector accepts the USB cable, which enables transferring pictures directly from the camera to your computer, and also lets you control the camera's functions using the Nikon Capture software.
The top surface of the D50 has its own set of controls, shown in figure 1.5. In addition, a bird's-eye view provides the best perspective of some of the controls on the lens. I've divided these controls into a pair of bite-sized color-coded pieces, too, with red assigned to the lens controls, and green to the camera-body controls.
You can see the basic controls found on many zoom lenses in figure 1.6. Not all these controls are found on all lenses, and some of them may be in different positions on different lenses (particularly those not produced by Nikon). The key components are
* Focus ring: This is the ring to turn when manually focusing the lens. If the autofocus/manual switch (AF/M) on the lens or camera is set to Auto, this ring has no effect. Some lenses allow manual override of the camera's autofocus setting, and are marked with an A-M/M switch instead. By convention, turning the ring toward the right (when looking down on the lens from above) increases the focused distance.
* Zoom ring: This is the ring turned to change the zoom setting. With many lenses, turning this ring to the right increases the focal length, but you may find that the opposite is true with some lenses (which can be very frustrating!).
* Zoom scale: These markings on the lens show the current focal length set.
* Lens hood alignment guide/bayonet: Used to mount the lens hood for lenses that don't use screw-mount hoods.
Figure 1.7 shows a single focal length, or prime lens, a 105mm Nikkor macro lens used for close-up photography. This particular lens has some features not available on the kit lens, but that are found on some other zoom and non-zoom lenses. Of course, because it doesn't zoom, this lens lacks the zoom ring and zoom scale. Other components include the following:
* Lens thread: Most lenses have a thread on the front for attaching filters and other add-ons. Some also use this thread for attaching a lens hood (you'd screw on the filter first, and then attach the hood to the screw thread on the front of the filter).
* Distance scale: This is a scale that moves in unison with the lens's focus mechanism (whether activated by manually focusing or by the autofocus system) to show approximately the distance at which the lens has been focused. It's a useful indicator for double-checking autofocus, and for roughly setting manual focus. Although the 18mm-55mm kit lens doesn't have such a scale, many other lenses do.
* Limit switch: Lenses with an extensive focus range (such as this macro lens) often have a switch that can be used to limit the range used by the autofocus system. For example, if you're not shooting close-up pictures, you can set the lens to seek focus only at more distant settings, which can save a bit of time.
* Aperture ring: The kit lens, as well as many other newer lenses, use the camera's electronics exclusively to set the shooting aperture. These lenses, which include a G suffix in their name, have no aperture ring at all, and are compatible only with cameras that can set the f-stop through a control on the camera. Other lenses maintain compatibility with earlier cameras by including an aperture ring and a pair of aperture readouts (the numbers from f/32 down to f/2.8 in figure 1.7). The second, outermost readout is required by some cameras. These lenses include a D suffix in their name. Both G- and D-type lenses work fine with the Nikon D50 digital camera.
* Aperture lock: When using a D-type lens on the D50, you'll need to set the aperture ring to the smallest f-stop, and then lock it in that position using the aperture lock. Set it once and then forget about it, unless you need to mount the lens on an older camera or you've mounted the lens on an accessory such as a bellows or extension ring.
The top panel has relatively few controls as shown in figure 1.8. They include:
* Mode dial: This knurled wheel is turned to change from the various exposure and scene modes, discussed later in this chapter.
* Flash accessory shoe: Mount an external electronic flash unit (Nikon calls them Speedlights), such as the Nikon SB-600 or SB-800, on this slide-in shoe. The multiple electrical contacts shown in the photo are used to trigger the flash and to allow the camera and flash to communicate exposure, distance, zoom setting, and other information. You can also attach other flash units made by Nikon and other vendors, but not all functions may operate.
* Monochrome LCD control panel: This LCD readout provides information about the status of your camera and its settings, including exposure mode, number of pictures remaining, battery status, and many other settings.
* Self-timer/Reset #1 button: Press this button to activate the self-timer or wireless remote control features. This button also can be used to reset the D50's internal settings, if you hold it down simultaneously with the Reset #2 button on the back panel (described in the next section).
* Sensor focal plane: Some specialized kinds of close-up photography require knowing exactly where the plane of the camera sensor is located. This marker shows that point, although it represents the plane, not the actual location of the sensor itself, which is placed aft of the lens.
* Exposure compensation/Aperture button: Hold down this button while spinning the command dial to add or subtract exposure from the basic setting calculated by the D50's autoexposure system or, when using Manual mode, to adjust the aperture.
* Shutter-release button: Partially depress this button to lock in exposure and focus; press it all the way to take the picture. Tapping the shutter release when the camera has turned off the autoexposure and autofocus mechanisms will reactivate both. When a review image is displayed on the backpanel color LCD, tapping this button will remove the image from the display and reactivate the autoexposure and autofocus mechanisms.
* Power switch: Flip this switch to turn the D50 on or off.
On the Back
The back panel of the Nikon D50, shown in figure 1.9, is studded with more than a dozen controls, many of which serve more than one function. Where other cameras may force you to access a menu to set image quality, change the camera's sensitivity, or to activate the self-timer, with the D50, just press the appropriate button, turn the command dial, and make the setting you want. I've divided this crowded back panel into four color-coded sections.
The upper-left corner of the back panel includes just one button - the Shooting mode button. You can hold this button while spinning the command dial to choose from single shot or continuous/burst mode. This button also serves as the Reset #2 button.
There are only a few controls located on the upper-right corner of the D50. They include:
* Viewfinder eyepiece: The rubber eyecup shields the viewfinder from extraneous light, much like a lens hood - a necessary component because light entering the viewfinder can affect the exposure meter. The eyecup is removable and can be replaced by a cap to block that extra light when the camera is used on a tripod.
* Diopter correction control: Slide this lever to adjust the diopter correction for your eyesight. The lever is normally hidden behind the eyecup, but you can see it in the inset in figure 1.11.
* AE/AF (autoexposure/autofocus) lock button: Depending on settings you make in the Setup menu (see Chapter 2), pressing this button will lock exposure, focus setting, or both, either until you release the button or press it a second time.
* Command dial: This dial is spun to change settings such as shutter speed, bracketing, or shooting mode, depending on what function button is being pressed at the same time.
This is the D50's "hot corner," with a collection of the function buttons you'll use the most. They can have multiple functions, you need to keep your camera's current mode (playback/shooting, and so on) mind when you attempt to access a specific feature. A more complete description each button's functions appears later in this chapter. The buttons include:
* Playback button: Enter picture review (playback) mode.
* Menu button: Access the D50's multilevel menu system.
* Sensitivity (ISO)/thumbnail button: In any shooting mode, hold this button and spin the command dial to change ISO. In playback mode, use it to change the number of thumbnails displayed on the LCD.
* White balance/help/protect button: In any shooting mode, hold and spin the command dial to change the white balance. When viewing the Custom Settings menu, press it to view the help screen. In playback mode, press it to lock the current image from accidental erasure.
* Image quality/size (QUAL)/ playback zoom/enter button: Press and spin the command dial to change the image quality. In playback mode, press it to zoom in and out of the reviewed image. When viewing menus, this button serves as an OK key.
A second cluster of controls and components is found in the lower-right corner of the back panel (see figure 1.13):
* LCD: The color LCD displays your images for review and provides access to the menu system.
* Multi selector: Used to navigate menus as well as scroll through photos being reviewed (by pressing the left/right keys), and to change the type of image information displayed (by pressing the up/down keys.)
* Delete button: Erases the currently viewed image during review.
* Memory card access lamp: Blinks when an image is being written to the SD card. . SD card compartment: Your memory card goes here.
The D50 provides lots of status information in the viewfinder, although not all of it will be visible at one time. Here's the skinny:
* Center-weighted metering reference circle: Shows the 8mm circle that's the default area for center-weighted meter readings.
* Autofocus/spot metering zones: Shows the areas used by the D50 to focus and measure exposure.
* No Memory Card Warning: Appears when you operate the camera without an SD card installed.
* Battery Status: Flashes when battery power is low.
* In-focus indicator: Illuminates when an image is focused correctly.
* Focus area/autofocus mode: Shows the current focus area, and which autofocus mode is in use.
* Autoexposure (AE)/autofocus (AF) lock indicator: Shows that exposure and/or focus have been locked.
* Flash Value lock: Shows when the flash output has been fixed at a particular setting.
* Shutter speed: Selected shutter speed.
* Aperture: Selected lens opening.
* Exposure display: Shows the amount of over- or underexposure.
* Flash compensation: Shows added or subtracted flash exposure.
Excerpted from Nikon D50 Digital Field Guide by David D. Busch Excerpted by permission.
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