Your 2nd ten settings..

Following on from the previous article, here we take a look at the next ten settings you should consider.

The first ten were settings that you should make and then really just forget. However, these next ten settings are not quite the same. These are settings that you need to consider. You might want to set them, but you may decide, for very valid reasons – that you don’t. You need to decide what settings are most appropriate for the subjects you shoot.

So have a read of the next ten settings; think them through, and make your choice! At least you’re giving them thought…. and justifying whether you use them or not.

NB: On the D7200 the SHOOTING MENU is renamed as PHOTO SHOOTING MENU to differentiate from Movie Shooting settings. The text below refers to the PHOTO SHOOTING MENU as SHOOTING MENU for consistency across the DSLRs.

1. Shoot in RAW.

There are huge advantages to shooting in RAW rather than JPG. You can; change white-balance in post processing, recover huge amounts of detail from shadows and even edit non-destructively. I tend to always shoot in RAW, unless I’m shooting sports/action and need very fast buffer speeds – when file size becomes important.

Set this by going to MENU – SHOOTING MENU – Image quality – NEF (RAW) or NEF (RAW) + JPEG fine (if you want both RAW and JPEGs) – OK.

You’ll need some software that can edit RAW files and of course, by default your OS may not show previews of RAW files. Though Microsoft have released RAW viewers now (XP, Vista/Windows7) so you’ll want to download and install the appropriate version.

These are RAW viewers – not editors. If you can’t afford PhotoShop/Lightroom etc, have a look at Google Picassa – it’s free and let’s you catalog, view and edit RAW files.

2. Use Auto White-Balance.

If you shoot in RAW, you don’t need to worry too much about white-balance since you can change it in post-processing, so set it to Auto and forget it. If you shoot in JPG though, you need to be more careful about challenging light situations since the camera doesn’t get it right all the time. Not a D7x00 fault – simply a “feature” of cameras in general shooting at 18% grey.

Set this by going to MENU – SHOOTING MENU – White balance – Auto – Auto1 Normal OK.

And yes, I’ve done it! Set white balance to Tungsten for shooting indoors while on holiday in the Lake District, then gone shooting outdoors and….. forgotten to change! Then later looked at the photos and…yes of course…..they were all a wonderful shade of blue! No worries though – I was shooting in RAW – sorted with just a few clicks. If I’d been shooting in JPG though – well, that would have been altogether a different story.

3. Consider your Auto-ISO setting

My preference is to shoot with Auto-ISO off, aiming to shoot with the lowest possible ISO – given the light conditions. Higher ISOs = higher noise, though the D7x00 is excellent at low light and really doesn’t introduce much noise until higher ISOs. The D7200 is considerably better at this though as you’d expect. I’d recommend retaining manual control over ISO, thinking through the lighting conditions, and setting ISO accordingly. A growing body of DSLR users recommend shooting with Auto-ISO on – but you need to understand how it works and what its doing. I also shoot with Auto-ISO on at times (see below).

To check your setting, go to MENU – SHOOTING MENU – ISO sensitivity settings – and change Auto ISO sensitivity control to Off or On accordingly

Considerations:

The debate rages over Auto-ISO. Some users are fans, other purists hate it. My view? It is very useful at times, provided you understand what it does, when to use it, and set appropriate values for “maximum sensitivity” and “minimum shutter speed“.

If you’re relatively new to photography Auto-ISO might help – eliminating one of your decision factors. You can then concentrate on shutter and aperture.

If you’ve just started trying various modes (P, A, S or M) and learning to take control, then it may be better to turn Auto-ISO off, since you’re then in control of everything – which is the best way to learn.

If you’re using a tripod, I’d turn it off. It’s purpose is negated by the available longer shutter times.

If you’re experienced, fully understand Auto-ISO, and it’s implications, then it can be very useful to let the camera control ISO within your defined limits. For example, there could be times when you simply don’t have time to adjust ISO. I ran into a unique set of circumstances where I ended up using it. Have a read here.

Here’s an interesting article if you’d like to read more.

4. Turn “image review” off.

In the very first few days of taking photos with your D7x00, you’re probably going to want to check the photo right after taking it. However, if you want to use any of the continuous modes or start shooting in earnest, really you should be shooting one, checking histogram/sharpness etc, then shooting a few, more checks, then shooting lots.

Not  – shoot, check, shoot, check etc. You only need to press the play button to preview the photo and carry out your checks. So for this reason, I turn “image review” off.

To do this go to; MENU – PLAYBACK MENU – Image review and set it to OffOK.

5. Set the focus point to wrap.

This is an easy no-brainer – it’s saves time. When you move the focus point manually with the controls – it saves time if you can move from them most right point to the most left – or vice versa of course.

To do this go to: MENU – CUSTOM SETTINGS MENU – then per DSLR as follows:

    D7100/D7000;  a5 Focus point wrap-around

    D7200;            a6 Focus point wrap-around

Then select Wrap – OK

6. Turn the built-in AF-assist illuminator off.

The AF-assist illuminator is the light on the front of the D7x00 that automatically kicks in sometimes to aid the DSLR to focus. It happens when there’s insufficient light for the DSLR to focus. While great for focussing, it can be something of a nuisance in museums, tourist attractions, historic sites and at weddings and the like. I have mine turned off, and if auto-focus struggles – I try to focus manually. If the circumstances “allow it”, then I can always turn it back on anyway.

To do this go to MENU – CUSTOM SETTINGS MENU  – then per DSLR as follows:

   D7100/D7000;  a7 Built-in AF-assist illuminator

   D7200;             a9 Built-in AF-assist illuminator

Then select Off – OK.

7. Turn the viewfinder grid display on.

Again, I think this is a no-brainer. The grid in the display is set to thirds and therefore very useful for composition.

To do this go to MENU – CUSTOM SETTINGS MENU

   D7100/D7000;  d2 Viewfinder grid display

   D7200;             d7  Viewfinder grid display

Then On – OK.

8. Extend the “remote on” duration.

This setting controls how long the remote control is active for. By default it’s set just for 1 minute – which is not long enough! If you buy one of the Nikon ML-L3 remote controls, then you’ll want it to remain active for much longer. I set mine to 15 minutes.

To do this go to MENU – CUSTOM SETTINGS MENU – c5 Remote on duration – 15 minutes – OK.

9. Turn LCD illumination on.

By default, the top LCD display only lights up when you move the power lever to * (the position one further round than “on”). A better thing to do is have the LCD light up whenever the exposure meters are active. The LCD is lit then whenever you’re focusing/metering – just when you may want to check the LCD. Of course the downside to this is that it uses more battery life, but that’s not a problem really.

To do this go to MENU – CUSTOM SETTINGS MENU , then per DSLR:

   D7200/D7000;  d10 LCD illumination

   D7100;             d9 LCD illumination

Then On – OK

10. Fully enable the multi-selector.

By default, the multi-selector’s functionality is limited and you can’t use it in all circumstances. A better thing to do is “free it’s functionality” – you can then almost operate the D7x00 menus with just your thumb. It’s more intuitive.

To do this go to MENU – CUSTOM SETTINGS MENU then per DSLR:

    D7000;               f6 Customise command dials

    D7200/D7100;   f5 Customise command dials

Then Menus and playback – On – OK.

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And there we have it! Your second set of “Ten settings for your D7x00”.

In the next article I’ll explain how to check if your firmware needs upgrading and how to do it. Click here to read it now.