Sunday, March 8, 2009

Browsing in the Menus with the command dials

First off, a word about the photos below: one of these two is a shot of Santiago Calatrava's wing of the Milwaukee Art Museum. The other, is the side wall of the Chicago Lyric Opera theater. I'm sure you can guess which is which...

Now, let's go down to business.  I offered a little tip last time: how to check your menus without pushing the round wheel, officially known as multi-selector, in the camera back.  In fact, you should be able to navigate through it with your command and subcommand dials.  

This is how you do it.  Turn on your D700 first.

Now that it's on, push the Menu button.   Go to the Custom Setting Menu, then to the Controls section, which is F.  Now, look for F9:  Customize command dials.  Click OK.  In the menu you will find "Menus and Playback" as one of the choices.  Click on it to turn it on.  Return to the Custom Setting Menu

Now that you're in the main menu... Play with it!  Let's assume you are in the Playback Menu and that your first choice, which is DELETE, is already highlighed and on top of the menu.

  • Now, turn your main command dial (the one in the back of the camera, right in front of you) to the right, and you will find it goes downward, highlighting selections as it goes down.  Turn it leftwise and it goes up. 
  • But you didn't want to do anything with Playback!  You turned on the menus to check, say, Vignette Control.  What do you do?
  • You turn the Sub-command dial (the one in the front of the camera, right above the grip) towards the left.  Now, the cursor-selector is on the Tabs (in which the options are Playback, Shooting, Custom Setting, Setup, Retouch and MyMenu).  
  • Turn your main command to the right just one step and you'll find yourself in the Shooting Menu.
  • Turn your subcommand dial to the right.  This will take you from the Tabs to the Shooting Menu
  • Active D-Lighting should be highlighted.  If not, that's because it wasn't the last choice you used when you turned to this menu the last time.  
  • Turn your main command dial to the right one step... and voilĂ !: you are in Vignette Control.
  • Things get better... Turn your subcommand dial to the right again...
  • Here you see your choices: High, Normal, Low and Off.  Pick the one you prefer by rotating the main command to the right or left, and then, only then, push the OK button.

You're done... and you haven't used the multi-selector at all!   Ain't that cool?

I'm sure this option must be in the manual, but I didn't bother finding it or even looking for it.  I simply stumbled upon this by accidentally turning one dial while I was looking at the menus.   In essence, you use the main command to navigate them, and the subcommand dial to switch around.  The logic is pretty intuitive, because you turn the subcommand to the left when you want to go to the Tab, or to the right, when you want to go into a particular menu. 

For another cool choice with the Nikon D700 (and I believe you can use it in the D300 as well), go to D-Town TV and watch the first episode of Scott Kelby's and Matt Kloskowski's TV Nikon camera tips show.  Episode No. 1 will show you how to review your photographs in Playback without using the multi-selector, and using only the main command in your camera.  The best thing is that while you can turn from shot to shot with the main command, you can review the technical information with the subcommand dial.  

Goodbye to using that multi-selector again! 

One important last word:  check out Scott and Matt's weekly episodes and make sure to add their site to your bookmarks.  You can always find them in the list of relevant Nikon links to the left of this text.  They are really good; in fact, their first episode really convinced me to buy the Capture NX 2 software, even though I had pretty much decided against it.  In the meanwhile, have loads of fun with your toys!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

I broke down...

I did... and bought a nice copy of Capture NX 2. 

The deal is this: apparently, there simply is no better software than Capture to edit RAW files, or to edit images, period.  I wasn't too crazy about it at first, but then, I read a couple of tutorials and its apparent simplicity ended up convincing me of the purchase. 

Now, I did not pay the MSRP.  The NY store Cameta Camera was selling it for about $127.  Compared to the price at which one can find it at B&H or Adorama, it's a steal. 

I'll continue with my experiences later.  For now, I have to sink my nose in the 250+ page manual that came with the CD in a relatively large box that promptly went into the recycling bin.  

Also, a couple of neat tricks for playback coming soon!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Pixel Peeping Syndrome

First things first...

Below, a nice sample of what this camera can do.  It's a piece of pottery from the Milwaukee Art Museum, shot with the lens wide open, at probably ISO 5000, Auto WB, and checked out some time later in the camera monitor.  It looked nice...  

Then, I downloaded it to my Mac... and I didn't quite like what I saw... 

When I bought this camera, I already had looked at all the possible images taken with it, found in Nikon ads (their website had some), Flicker and Nikonians.  One thing that really sold me was the almost absolute perfection.  As a friend said once about his conversion to digital, there was no grain. 

But then, how about them pixels?

Can you see the little devils?  I thought I had... in the RAW file!  This is too much... I want purity, clarity, sincerity, absolutely no granulosity...

Then, it dawned on me: I've become a pixel peeper. 

Must admit it: before opening the daffodil above (which, by the way, was done with my SB-600 at f8, in a futile attempt at reproducing the darkening of the background that relatively fast shutterspeeds can do with flash), I looked at it really close.  There they were again.  Heck!  There they are, under the naked eye, right above... and, alas, below too. 

Same little daffodil, a bit posterized because of my clumsiness at using Photoshop.  

BTW, the shot above was done with a close aperture, in P, with an SB-600.  My attempts at getting overexposed foregrounds and dark backgrounds are failing miserably...  But I'm even more frustrated because of this stupid habit of looking for flaws and pixelation.  

Is there a cure?

I guess I'll have to learn to live with it.  

In any case, for whatever is worth, I placed an order for Nikon Capture NX2 earlier this week.  It may be coming soon.  And my Nikon AF-ED 80-200 f2.8 lens is in the shop right now. 

However, life still looks good.

More about things later!