Mastering the Nikon COOLPIX A (2014)
Chapter 4. Shooting Menu
The Shooting Menu settings are the most-used functions in the camera. Spend time to learn about each of these selections because you’ll use them often. They affect how your camera takes pictures in all sorts of ways. Some of these same items are found in the Quick Menu we discussed inchapter 2; however, the Shooting Menu often allows you to do even more configurations than the Quick Menu—it certainly contains more items.
The following list is an overview of the 19 items found on the COOLPIX A Shooting Menu.
Shooting Menu Function List
• Reset shooting menu: Restores the factory default settings in the Shooting Menu for the User setting (U1 or U2) currently in use.
• Storage folder: Selects which folder subsequent images will be stored in on the camera’s memory card. You can also create new folders and rename or delete old folders.
• Image quality: Select from seven image quality types, such as JPEG fine or NEF (RAW).
• Image size: Choose to shoot Large (4928x3264, 16.1 M), Medium (3696x2448, 9.0 M), or Small (2464x1632, 4.0 M) images.
• White balance: You can choose from seven White balance types, including several subtypes and the ability to measure the color balance of the ambient light (PRE or Preset manual).
• Set Picture Control: Choose from six Picture Controls that modify how the pictures look.
• Manage Picture Control: Save, load, rename, or delete custom Picture Controls on your camera’s internal memory or memory card.
• Color space: Select either the printing industry standard, Adobe RGB, or the Internet and home-use standard, sRGB, color space.
• Active D-Lighting: Allows you to select from several levels of automatic contrast correction for your images. The camera itself will protect your images from a certain degree of under- or overexposure.
• Long exposure NR: Processes the image to significantly reduce noise in long exposures. If this setting is enabled, it affects any image made with a shutter speed slower than 1 second.
• High ISO NR: Uses a blurring method to remove noise from images that are shot with high ISO sensitivity values.
• ISO sensitivity settings: Allows you to set the sensitivity from ISO 100 to ISO 25,600 (Hi 2), or the camera can automatically decide for you. The camera even has an Auto setting for automatic ISO adjustments while you use Scene modes.
• Release mode: Allows you to choose how the camera releases the shutter when you take a picture. It includes functions such as Single frame, Continuous, and Self-timer. In addition, you can use this menu to select video (Movie) recording.
• Built-in AF-assist illuminator: You can choose whether the small red AF-assist illuminator on the front of the camera lights up in low ambient light conditions, allowing the camera to focus when it normally could not.
• Exposure comp. for flash: Lets you configure how the camera adjusts the flash level when you are using Exposure compensation. The compensation can affect both the subject and the background, or only the background.
• Flash cntrl for built-in flash: Offers you the choice of either fully automatic (TTL) flash exposure or Manual flash exposure, in increments from 1/32 power to Full power.
• Auto bracketing set: This function works in a direct relationship with the Auto bracketing function on the Quick Menu. Auto bracketing set allows you to choose whether Auto bracketing applies to Auto exposure (AE), White balance (WB), or Active D-Lighting (ADL). Then, when you select a value from Auto bracketing on the Quick Menu, the actual bracketing is done for one of the three choices (types) on the Auto bracketing set menu.
• Interval timer shooting: You can set your camera on a tripod and make a time exposure with this function. Shooting things like a time exposure of a flower opening is easy with the COOLPIX A.
• Movie settings: You can use this setting to specify the frame size, rate, and bit depth of the video stream in Movie mode. You may also turn the internal Microphone on and off.
Each of these items can be configured in two ways by using the two available user settings in the COOLPIX A: U1 and U2 on the Mode dial.
User Settings U1 and U2
(User’s Manual, Page 60)
The User settings U1 and U2 are memory locations that semipermanently save your camera’s configuration in two separate ways. When we consider the Setup Menu in the next chapter, I will provide more information about how to save your favorite camera configurations. However, let’s briefly discuss how U1 and U2 work.
Figure 4.1: User settings U1 and U2
If you configure your camera’s internal settings in a particular way and want to save that setup, simply go to the Setup Menu and select Save user settings > Save to U1 [or U2] > Save settings to save your configuration for that specific style of shooting. This is optional, in case you don’t want to use U1 or U2 on the Mode dial (figure 4.1). However, it is a very convenient way to configure your camera for specific shooting situations so you can change the settings quickly.
For instance, on my COOLPIX A, I set U1 as my high-quality setting. I shoot in Aperture-priority (A) mode with the aperture initially set to f/8, NEF (RAW) Image quality, Adobe RGB Color space, ISO 100, and Neutral Picture Control.
U2 is my party setting. I use Aperture-priority (A) mode with the aperture initially set to f/5.6, JPEG fine Image quality, sRGB Color space, ISO 400 with Auto ISO sensitivity control set to On and Maximum sensitivity set to 1600, and SD Picture Control.
I not only save my settings in U1 and U2, but I also save an exposure mode (M, A, S, or P). The steps to save a particular camera configuration to one of the user settings (U1 or U2) are as follows (all of the steps are optional):
1. Select an Exposure mode (e.g., M, A, S, or P). Notice that you do not set the camera to U1 or U2 when you save the configuration. If you do, you will not be able to save an Exposure mode. Instead, choose whatever Exposure mode you want to use and leave the Mode dial set to that Exposure mode setting when you use Setup Menu > Save user settings > Save to U1 [or U2] > Save settings to save one of the settings.
2. Configure all the camera’s Shooting Menu settings.
3. Choose a Flash mode.
4. Configure any Exposure compensation settings.
5. Select the metering mode (e.g., Matrix, Center-weighted, or Spot).
6. Select an AF-area mode (e.g., Single-point AF, Dynamic-area AF, or Auto-area AF).
7. Configure any bracketing settings.
8. As mentioned in step 1, to save the User setting go to Setup Menu > Save user settings > Save to U1 [or U2] > Save settings.
9. You have saved one User setting and have one more to go. Configure the camera in a completely different way and save it to the other User setting.
The two User settings on the Mode dial allow you to store a lot more than just basic Shooting Menu items. They can also store a specific configuration for many other settings, such as the exposure modes, flash, compensation, metering, AF-area modes, bracketing, and more. We’ll discuss how to configure and save these two settings in chapter 5 under the subheading Save User Settings.
You can make changes to the camera settings, outside the U1 and U2 Mode dial positions, at any time with no effect on U1 and U2. When you select U1 or U2 on the Mode dial, the settings outside of U1 or U2 will be overridden—but not overwritten—by your chosen User setting. In other words, if you configure your camera a certain way outside the two user settings, and then you select U1 or U2, the user settings do not overwrite the current configuration. Instead they toggle the settings you’ve saved in U1 or U2. When you exit U1 or U2, the camera reverts to however it was previously configured outside the User setting.
Basically, you can configure the camera in up to three separate ways: U1, U2, and however you want outside the two user settings. There are several Shooting Menu options that cannot be stored and saved in the user settings:
• Reset user settings
• Storage folder
• Manage Picture Control
• Release mode
• Interval timer shooting
These five Shooting Menu functions are independent of the user settings that you can save. If you modify one of these functions, they will work the same way no matter what User setting you have selected.
Now, let’s examine how to configure the Shooting Menu settings.
Configuring the Shooting Menu
(User’s Manual, Page 176)
Press the MENU button on the back of your COOLPIX A to locate the Shooting Menu, which looks like a small green camera in the toolbar on the left side of the monitor (figure 4.2).
Figure 4.2: The Shooting Menu
We’ll now examine each of the settings on the Shooting Menu. Have your camera in hand, and maybe even the user’s manual if you are interested in what it says about certain settings. Remember that it’s entirely optional to use the user’s manual. This book is a comprehensive reference, but sometimes it is still good to get an alternate view. The user’s manual, although somewhat dense, is a good reference.
If you take time to think about and configure each of these settings at least once, you’ll learn a lot more about your new camera. There are a lot of settings to learn about, but don’t feel overwhelmed. You’ll get used to them pretty quickly. Some of these settings can be configured and then forgotten, and you’ll use other settings more often. We’ll look at each setting in detail to see which ones are most important to your style of shooting.
Reset Shooting Menu
(User’s Manual, Page 176)
Be careful with this selection. Reset shooting menu does what it says—it resets the Shooting Menu, only for the currently selected User setting (U1, U2, or outside the user settings), to the factory default configuration (figure 4.2). If you have U1 selected on the Mode dial, it resets only U1, and so forth.
Figure 4.3: Reset Shooting menu
This is a rather simple process. Here are the steps to reset the Shooting Menu:
1. Select Reset shooting menu and scroll to the right (figure 4.3, image 1).
2. Choose Yes or No from the menu (figure 4.3, image 2).
3. Press the OK button.
If you select Yes, all Shooting Menu functions for this user setting will be reset to the factory defaults. If you have configured the Shooting Menu, your settings will be reset immediately!
The reset action will include the items that cannot be saved in a User setting and that affect the camera in U1, U2, and outside of U1 and U2, such as Storage folder, Manage Picture Control, Release mode, and Interval timer shooting.
Settings Recommendation: This is an easy way to start fresh with a particular User setting since it’s a full reset of all the values. I use this when I purchase a preowned camera and want to clear someone else’s settings or when I simply want to start fresh.
(User’s Manual, Page 177)
Storage folder allows you to either create a new folder for storing images or select an existing folder from a list of folders. The COOLPIX A automatically creates a folder on the memory card called something similar to 100NIKON. A folder can hold up to 999 images. You’ll see the full file name of the folder only when you examine the memory card in your computer—check in the digital camera images (DCIM) folder on the memory card.
When the camera senses that the current folder contains 999 images and you take another picture, it is written to a new folder that is a seamless continuation of the previous folder. The first three digits of the new folder name are increased by one. For example, if you are using a folder named NIKON—internally named 100NIKON—the camera will automatically create a new folder called 101NIKON when you exceed 999 images in the original folder.
The camera treats all folders with the same name, but a different number, as a continuation of the original folder. For instance, if you shoot 999 images in folder 100NIKON and the camera creates 101NIKON to hold the next 999 images, it’s as if there is only one folder called NIKON, even though there are actually two folders on the memory card (100NIKON and 101NIKON).
If you have Playback Menu > Playback folder set to Current, you will see images in both NIKON folders, but no images in any other named folders. On the other hand, if you have Playback Menu > Playback folder set to All, you will see all images in all folders on the memory card, regardless of their name.
Note: Unlike with Nikon DSLRs, the folder numbering is automatic and you have no control over it. However, you can control the five-character name, which we will discuss shortly.
Selecting an Existing Storage Folder
You can use folders you have previously created by selecting them from a list of folders. Here is how to switch between different folders on the memory card to store various types of images. We will discuss how to create a new folder in the next subsection.
Figure 4.4: Storage folder, Select folder
Use the following steps to select an existing folder:
1. Choose Storage folder and scroll to the right (figure 4.4, image 1).
2. Choose Select folder and scroll right (figure 4.4, image 2). If there is only one folder on the memory card, such as the default NIKON, you need to create a new folder with the instructions in the previous section.
3. You’ll see the available folders displayed in a list that looks like the one shown in figure 4.4, image 3. Select one of the folders from the list. My camera is set to PEEPS for a portrait session (PEEPS = people).
4. Press the OK button. The camera will now switch back to the Shooting Menu main screen, with the PEEPS folder name next to Storage folder (figure 4.4, image 4).
All images will be saved to this folder until you exceed 999 images in the folder or until you manually change to another folder.
Settings Recommendation: As memory cards get bigger and bigger, this functionality will become more important. Last year I shot around 150 GB of image files. With the newest memory cards now hitting 128–256 GB, I can foresee a time when the card in my camera will become a months-long backup source. I’m sure we’ll have 1 terabyte (1024 GB) memory cards sooner than later. This is certainly a good function to learn how to use!
Manually Creating a New Storage Folder
If you want to store images in separate folders on the memory card, you might want to create a new folder, such as ABCDE. Each folder you create can hold 999 images, and by using Storage folder > Select folder (previous subsection), you can select any folder as the default. This is a nice way to isolate certain types of images on a photographic outing. Maybe you’ll put landscape shots in a folder named LANDS and people shots in PEEPS.
Let’s examine how to create a new folder with a Storage folder name of your choice.
Figure 4.5: Storage folder, New
Here are the steps to manually create a new folder:
1. Choose Storage folder and scroll to the right (figure 4.5, image 1).
2. Select New and scroll to the right (figure 4.5, image 2).
3. You’ll now see a screen that allows you to create a new five-character folder name (figure 4.5, image 3). Create the name using the Rotary multi selector to choose a character and the OK button to insert a character. You can delete text by holding down the +/– Exposure compensation button and using the Rotary multi selector to move the cursor to a character you want to delete, then pressing the Delete button (trash can), or you can insert a different character. I created a folder called SMOKY to use during a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee.
4. Press the Playback zoom in button to save your setting. After you have created a new folder, the camera will automatically switch to it (figure 4.5, image 4).
If you try to create a new folder using a name that already exists on the memory card, the camera will display a message that says Folder with selected name already exists. Choose another name.
Settings Recommendation: I have come up with several folder names that I like to use on my COOLPIX A. Give it some thought and you should be able to invent some five-character names that will work for you.
Renaming an Existing Storage Folder
You may have a list of storage folders you like to use and suddenly realize you need to change the name of an existing folder. It is easy with the COOLPIX A menus.
Figure 4.6: Storage folder, Rename
Here’s how to rename an existing folder:
1. Choose Storage folder and scroll to the right (figure 4.6, image 1).
2. Select Rename and scroll to the right (figure 4.6, image 2).
3. Select the folder you want to rename and scroll to the right. I am going to modify my folder named PEEPS (figure 4.6, image 3).
4. Create the new folder name by using the Rotary multi selector to choose a character and the OK button to insert a character. You can delete text by holding down the +/– Exposure compensation button and using the Rotary multi selector to move the cursor to a character you want to delete, then pressing the Delete button (trash can), or you can insert a different character. I renamed the PEEPS folder to PORTX for use during an extended portrait session (figure 4.6, image 4).
5. Press the Playback zoom in button to save your new folder name.
Now, let’s consider how to delete folders that you no longer need and do not contain any files.
Deleting an Existing Storage Folder
Eventually you will have folders that you no longer need. You can easily delete them, as long as the folders are empty.
Figure 4.7: Storage folder, Delete
Use these steps to Delete an existing Storage folder:
1. Remove the image files from any folders you no longer need.
2. Choose Storage folder and scroll to the right (figure 4.7, image 1).
3. Select Delete and scroll to the right (figure 4.7, image 2).
4. Answer Yes to the question, Empty folders will be deleted. OK?
Settings Recommendation: Unfortunately, Nikon does not allow you to delete individual folders by name, so this function is somewhat limited. It would be much easier to simply insert the memory card into your computer to move things around and delete unnecessary folders. However, in an emergency you can blow away all empty Storage folders with this basic Delete function.
(User’s Manual, Page 69)
Image quality is simply the type of image your camera creates, along with the amount of image compression that modifies picture storage sizes.
You can shoot two distinct image formats with your COOLPIX A, along with several combinations of the two formats. We’ll examine each format in detail and discuss the pros and cons of each as we go. When we’re done, you’ll have a better understanding of the formats, and you can choose an appropriate one for each of your shooting styles.
The camera supports the following seven Image quality types:
• NEF (RAW) + JPEG fine
• NEF (RAW) + JPEG normal
• NEF (RAW) + JPEG basic
• NEF (RAW)
• JPEG fine
• JPEG normal
• JPEG basic
Figure 4.8: Choosing an Image quality setting
The steps to select an Image quality setting are as follows:
1. Select Image quality from the Shooting Menu and scroll to the right (figure 4.8, image 1).
2. Choose one of the seven Image quality types. Figure 4.8, image 2, shows JPEG fine as the selected format.
3. Press the OK button to select the format.
Let’s look at each of these formats and see which ones you might want to use regularly. We’ll go beyond how to turn the different formats on and off and discuss why and when you might want to use a particular format. Even though the Image quality list shows seven entries, the camera really shoots in only two formats: NEF (RAW) and JPEG.
The first three selections on the Image quality list (figure 4.8, image 2) allow the camera to record a NEF (RAW) file and a JPEG fine, normal, or basic file at the same time. Fine, normal, and basic indicate three levels of compression that are available for the JPEG format. When you press the Shutter-release button with one of the three NEF (RAW) + JPEG Image quality modes selected, the camera creates both a RAW file and a JPEG file and writes them to the memory card as separate files. Let’s examine the NEF (RAW) and JPEG formats.
NEF (RAW) Image Quality Format
NEF is a proprietary Nikon file format that stores raw image data on the memory card. Most of the time photographers refer to a NEF file as a RAW file. You can easily recognize a RAW file because the file name ends with NEF. This image format is not used in day-to-day graphics work (like the JPEG format), and it’s not even an image yet. Instead, it’s a base storage format used to hold images until they are converted to another file format ending in something like JPG, TIF, EPS, or PNG.
NEF (RAW) Conversion Software
You must use conversion software—such as Nikon View NX 2, Nikon Capture NX 2, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, or Adobe Photoshop—to convert your NEF-format RAW files into other formats. You can download the latest version of the free Nikon View NX 2 software, and other Nikon imaging software, from the following Nikon website:
The Nikon CD that comes with your camera contains Nikon View NX 2, which you can use for RAW conversion. However, I recommend using the link to the Nikon website for downloading the latest version. Alternately, you can install Nikon View NX 2 from the Nikon CD and then click the Help menu, where you will find a link to check Nikon’s website and update the software, if needed.
There are also several aftermarket RAW conversion software packages available. Do a Google search for “Nikon RAW conversion software” to find a listing.
Before you shoot in NEF (RAW) format, it’s a good idea to install your RAW conversion software of choice so you’ll be able to view, adjust, and save the images to another format when you are done shooting. You may not be able to view NEF files directly on your computer unless you have RAW conversion software installed.
Viewing RAW Files as Thumbnails on Your Computer
Some operating systems provide a downloadable patch or codec (coder/decoder) that lets you see NEF files as small thumbnails in the file manager software (e.g., Windows Explorer or Mac OS X Finder).
Do a Google search for “download Nikon NEF RAW viewer” to find codecs. You will find free codecs for Windows 7 and 8, Vista, XP, and Mac OS X. However, be careful that you don’t go to a website that promises the moon and delivers malware instead.
Nikon provides a free codec for Windows 8 (32 and 64 bit), Windows 7 (32 and 64 bit), Windows Vista (32 and 64 bit, Service Pack 2), and Windows XP (32 bit only, Service Pack 3) at this website:
There are also reliable third-party companies, such as Ardfry Imaging LLC (http://www.ardfry.com/nef-codec/), that offer various 32- and 64-bit RAW codecs for a small fee.
Unfortunately, there is a greater selection of codecs for Windows than for Mac. However, with so many software developers out there, things change constantly.
Nikon Software Included with Your Camera
The Nikon CD that comes with your camera has apps for both Mac OS X and Windows. Nikon View NX 2 RAW conversion software is supplied free with the COOLPIX A, but Nikon Capture NX 2 requires a separate purchase. Capture NX 2 is my favorite conversion and post-processing software, along with Adobe Photoshop.
A RAW File Is Not an Image, Yet!
Now, let’s talk about NEF, or RAW, quality. I use the NEF (RAW) format most of the time. I think of a RAW file like I thought of my slides and negatives a few years ago. It’s an original image that must be saved and protected.
It’s important that you understand something very different about NEF (RAW) files. They’re not really images—yet. Basically, a RAW file is composed of black-and-white sensor brightness data and camera setting information markers. The RAW file is saved in a form that must be converted to another file type to be used in print or on the web.
When you take a picture in RAW format, the camera records the image data from the sensor and stores markers for how the camera’s color, sharpening, contrast, saturation, and so forth are set, but it does not apply the camera setting information to the image. If you are using Nikon post-processing software in your computer, the image will appear on-screen with the settings you initially configured in your COOLPIX A. However, these settings are applied temporarily for your computer viewing pleasure. If you are using non-Nikon software, such as Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) in Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop, the software will decide how the image should initially look, according to its default settings or your custom image-opening settings, and you can change it afterwards. I prefer to use Nikon’s post-processing software. Why use your camera’s extremely convenient, built-in Picture Controls if aftermarket software will not fully use those settings later?
When you use any RAW conversion software, Nikon or otherwise, you have complete control over the look of the image, even if it is different than what you originally shot. For example, if you don’t like the white balance you selected at the time you took the picture, simply apply a new white balance and the image will appear as if you had used the new setting when you took the picture. If you initially shot the image using the Standard Picture Control and now you want to use the Vivid Picture Control, all you have to do is apply it—with Nikon View NX 2 or Nikon Capture NX 2—before the final conversion, and it will be as if you used the Vivid Picture Control when you first took the picture.
This is quite powerful! Virtually no camera settings are applied to a RAW file in a permanent way. That means you can apply completely different settings to the image in your post-processing software and it will appear as if you had used those settings when you first took the picture. This allows a lot of flexibility later. NEF (RAW) is generally used by individuals who are concerned with maximum image quality and who have time to convert the images. A conversion to JPEG sets the image markers permanently.
Here are the pros and cons of NEF (RAW) format:
NEF (RAW) Positives
• Allows the manipulation of image data to achieve the highest-quality image available from the camera.
• All original details stay with the image for future processing needs.
• No conversions, sharpening, sizing, or color rebalancing will be performed by the camera. Your images are untouched and pure!
• You can convert NEF files to any other image formats by using your computer’s much more powerful processor instead of your camera’s processor.
• You have much more control over the final look of the image since you, not the camera, make the final decisions about the appearance of the image.
• The COOLPIX A’s 14-bit format provides maximum color information.
NEF (RAW) Negatives
• Not often compatible with the publishing industry, except after conversion to another format.
• Requires post-processing with proprietary Nikon software or third-party software.
• Larger file sizes are created, so you must have larger storage media.
• There is no industry-standard RAW format. Each camera manufacturer has its own proprietary format. Adobe has developed a generic RAW format called digital negative (DNG) that has become an industry standard. You can use software, such as Adobe Lightroom, to convert your RAW images to DNG if you desire.
• The industry standard for home and commercial printing is 8 bits, not 14 bits.
Now, let’s examine the most popular format on the planet: JPEG.
JPEG Image Quality Format
As shown in figure 4.8, image 2, the COOLPIX A has three JPEG modes. Each mode affects the final quality of the image. Let’s look at each mode in detail:
• JPEG fine: Compression is approximately 1:4
• JPEG normal: Compression is approximately 1:8
• JPEG basic: Compression is approximately 1:16
Each JPEG mode provides a certain level of lossy image compression, which means that it permanently throws away increasingly more image data as you select higher compression levels (fine, normal, or basic).
The human eye compensates for small color changes quite well, as long as the brightness stays the same, so the JPEG compression algorithm works very well for everyday image use.
A useful thing about JPEG is that you can vary the file size of the image, via compression, without affecting the quality too much.
Here are details of the three JPEG modes:
• JPEG fine (or fine-quality JPEG) uses a 1:4 compression ratio. If you decide to shoot JPEG files, this mode will give you the best-quality JPEGs your camera can produce.
• JPEG normal (or normal-quality JPEG) uses a 1:8 compression ratio. The image quality is still very acceptable in this mode. If you are shooting at a party for a 4x6-inch (10x15 cm) image size, this mode will allow you to make lots of images.
• JPEG basic (or basic-quality JPEG) uses a 1:16 compression ratio. These are still full-size files, so you can take a lot of pictures. If you are shooting for the web or just want to document something well, this mode provides sufficient quality.
Note: It’s hard to specify an exact number of images that a particular card size will hold. My COOLPIX A reports that a certain number of images will fit on a memory card, yet when the card is full I often have significantly more images than the camera initially reported.
The complexity within a scene has a lot to do with the final compressed file size of a JPEG or RAW image. That’s why the camera underreports the number of images it can hold. You’ll find that your memory card will usually hold many more images than the estimate presented by the camera.
The JPEG format is used by individuals who want excellent image quality but have little time for, or interest in, post-processing or converting images to another format. They want to use images immediately when they come out of the camera, with no major adjustments.
The JPEG format applies your chosen camera settings to the image when it is taken. The image comes out of the camera ready to use, as long as you have exposed it properly and have configured all the other settings appropriately.
Since JPEG is a lossy format, you cannot modify and resave a JPEG file more than a few times before compression losses begin to degrade the image.
Nature photographers might want to use NEF (RAW) since they usually have more time for processing images and wringing the last drop of quality out of them. Event or journalist photographers who are on a deadline may not have the time for, or interest in, processing images, so they often use the JPEG format.
Here are the pros and cons of capturing JPEG images:
• Allows for the maximum number of images on a memory card and computer hard drive.
• Allows for the fastest transfer from the camera memory buffer to a memory card.
• Compatible with everything and everybody in imaging.
• Uses the printing industry standard of 8 bits.
• Produces high-quality, first-use images.
• No special software is needed to use the image right out of the camera (no post-processing).
• Immediate use on websites with minimal processing.
• Easy transfer across the Internet and as email attachments.
• JPEG is a lossy format.
• You cannot manipulate and resave a JPEG image more than once or twice before it begins to degrade. Every time you modify and save a JPEG image, it loses more data and quality because of data compression losses.
Combined NEF + JPEG Shooting (Two Images at Once)
Some shooters use the three Image quality settings, shown in figure 4.8, image 2, that save two images at the same time:
• NEF (RAW) + JPEG fine
• NEF (RAW) + JPEG normal
• NEF (RAW) + JPEG basic
The three NEF (RAW) + JPEG modes cause the camera to save both a NEF file and a JPEG file each time you press the Shutter-release button. In NEF (RAW) + JPEG fine, for instance, your memory card capacity will drop drastically since it stores a RAW file and a fine JPEG file for each picture you take.
You can use the NEF (RAW) file to store all the image data and later process it into a masterpiece, and you can use the JPEG file immediately with no adjustment.
The NEF (RAW) + JPEG modes have the same features as their stand-alone modes. In other words, a RAW file in NEF (RAW) + JPEG mode works like a RAW file in NEF (RAW) mode, and a JPEG file in NEF (RAW) + JPEG mode works like a JPEG fine, normal, or basic file without the NEF (RAW) file.
Image Format Recommendations
Which format do I prefer? Why, RAW, of course! But it does require a bit of commitment to shoot in this format. NEF (RAW) files are not yet images and must be converted to another format for use. After they are converted, they can provide the highest-quality images your camera can possibly create.
When you shoot in RAW, the camera is simply an image-capturing device, and you are the image manipulator. You decide the final format, compression ratio, size, color balance, and so forth. In NEF (RAW) mode, you have the absolute best image your camera can produce. It is not modified by the camera’s software and is ready for your personal touch. No camera processing allowed!
If you get nothing else from this section, remember this: by letting your camera process images in any way, it modifies or throws away data. There is a finite amount of data for each image that can be stored in your camera, and later in your computer. With JPEG, your camera optimizes the image according to the assumptions recorded in its memory. Data is thrown away permanently, in various amounts.
If you want to keep all the image data that was recorded with your images, you must store your originals in RAW format. Otherwise you’ll never again be able to access that original data to change how it looks. A RAW file is the closest thing to a film negative or transparency that your digital camera can make. That’s important if you would like to modify the image later. If you are concerned with maximum quality, you should probably shoot and store your images in RAW format. Later, when you have the urge to make another masterpiece out of the original RAW image file, you’ll have all of your original data intact for the highest-quality image.
Settings Recommendation: I shoot in NEF (RAW) format for my most important work and JPEG fine for the rest. Some people find that JPEG fine is sufficient for everything they shoot. Those individuals generally do not like working with files on a computer or do not have time for it. You’ll use both RAW and JPEG, I’m sure. The format you use most often will be controlled by your time constraints and digital workflow.
(User’s Manual, Page 72)
Image size lets you shoot with your camera set to various megapixel sizes. The default Image size setting for the COOLPIX A is Large, or 16.1 M (16.1 megapixels). You can change this rating from 16.1 M to 9.0 M, or even 4.0 M (figure 4.9, image 2). Image size applies only to images captured in JPEG fine, normal, or basic modes.
If you’re shooting with your camera in any of the NEF (RAW) + JPEG modes, these image sizes apply only to the JPEG image in the pair. Image size does not apply to a NEF (RAW) image. This setting is relatively simple since it affects just the megapixel (M) size of the image. Here are the three settings under Image size:
• Large: 4928x3264; 16.1 M
• Medium: 3696x2448; 9.0 M
• Small: 2464x1632; 4.0 M
Figure 4.9: Choosing an Image size
The steps to select an Image size are as follows:
1. Select Image size from the Shooting Menu and scroll to the right (figure 4.9, image 1).
2. Choose one of the three Image size settings. In figure 4.9, image 2, Large is selected.
3. Press the OK button to lock in your setting.
I’m not very interested in using my 16.1 MP camera to capture 9.0 MP or 4.0 MP images. However, there are reasons to shoot at lower megapixel sizes, such as when a smaller-resolution image is all that will ever be needed or if card space is at an absolute premium.
Settings Recommendation: You’ll get the best images at the Large (16.1 M) Image size. The smaller sizes won’t affect the quality of a small print, but they will seriously limit your ability to enlarge your images. I recommend leaving your camera set to Large unless you have a specific reason to shoot smaller images.
(User’s Manual, Page 89)
White balance lets you capture accurate colors in each of your camera’s RGB color channels. Your images can reflect realistic colors if you understand how to use the White balance settings.
This is one of the more important things to learn about digital photography. If you don’t understand how white balance works, you’ll have a hard time when you want consistent color across a number of images.
In this chapter we will look at white balance briefly and learn only how to select the various White balance settings. This is such an important concept to understand that an entire chapter—chapter 10, White Balance—is devoted to this subject. Please read chapter 10 very carefully. It is important that you learn to control the White balance settings. A lot of what you’ll do in computer postprocessing requires a good understanding of white balance.
Many people leave their cameras set to Auto White balance. This works fine most of the time because the camera is quite capable of rendering accurate color. However, it’s hard to get exactly the same white balance in each consecutive picture when you use Auto mode because the camera has to make a new white balance decision for each picture. This can cause the white balance to vary from picture to picture.
For many of us this isn’t a problem. However, if you are shooting in a studio for a product shot, I’m sure your client will want the pictures to be the same color as the product. White balance lets you control that carefully, when needed.
Figure 4.10: Setting White balance to Auto1, Normal
The steps to select a White balance setting are as follows:
1. Select White balance from the Shooting Menu and scroll to the right (figure 4.10, image 1).
2. Choose a White balance type, such as Auto or Flash, from the menu and scroll to the right (figure 4.10, image 2). If you do not choose Auto, Fluorescent, or PRE (Preset Manual), skip step 3 and figure 4.10, image 3.
3. If you do choose Auto, Fluorescent, or PRE (Preset Manual), you will need to select from an intermediate screen, such as the one shown in figure 4.10, image 3. Auto presents two settings: Auto1 Normal and Auto2 Keep warm lighting colors. Fluorescent presents seven different types of fluorescent lighting. PRE (Preset Manual) shows the stored white balance memory locations d-0 through d-4 and allows you to use one of them. If this seems a bit overwhelming, just choose Auto1 Normal for now. Chapter 10, White Balance will cover how to use all these settings.
4. As shown in figure 4.10, image 4, you’ll now arrive at the White balance fine-tuning screen, where you can adjust how you want this White balance to record color by introducing a color bias toward green, yellow, blue, or magenta. You do this by moving the little black square in the middle of the color box toward the edges of the color box in any direction. If you make a mistake, simply move the black square to the middle of the color box. Most people do not change this setting.
5. After you have finished adjusting the colors (or not), press the OK button to save your setting. Most people press the OK button as soon as they see the fine-tuning screen so they don’t change the default settings.
Settings Recommendation: Until you’ve read chapter 10, I suggest that you leave the camera’s White balance set to Auto1 Normal. However, please do take time to understand this setting by reading the White Balance chapter carefully. Understanding White balance is especially important if you plan to shoot JPEGs regularly since the White balance of a JPEG image cannot easily be changed.
Set Picture Control
(User’s Manual, Page 99)
Set Picture Control allows you to choose a Picture Control for a shooting session. Nikon’s Picture Control system lets you control how your image appears in several ways. Each control has a specific effect on the appearance of the image. If you have ever used film, you know there are distinct looks to each film type. No two films produce the same color.
In today’s digital photography world, Picture Controls give you the ability to impart a specific look to your images. You can use Picture Controls as they are provided from the factory, or you can fine-tune Sharpening, Contrast, Brightness, Saturation, and Hue.
We’ll discuss how to fine-tune a Nikon Picture Control later in this section. In the next section we’ll discuss how to save a modified Picture Control under your own Custom Picture Control name. You can create up to nine Custom Picture Controls.
I’ll refer to Picture Controls included in the camera as Nikon Picture Controls since Nikon does too. You may also see them called Original Picture Controls in some Nikon literature. If you modify and save a Nikon Picture Control under a new name, it becomes a Custom Picture Control. I’ll also use the generic name of Picture Control when I refer to any of them.
The cool thing about Picture Controls is that you can share them. If you tweak a Nikon Picture Control and save it under a name of your choice, you can then share it with others. Compatible cameras, software, and other devices can use these controls to maintain the look you want from the time you press the Shutter-release button until you print the picture with a program like Nikon Capture NX 2.
Figure 4.11: Choosing a Picture Control with the Shooting Menu
The steps to choose a Picture Control with the Shooting Menu are as follows:
1. Select Set Picture Control from the Shooting Menu and scroll to the right (figure 4.11, image 1).
2. Choose one of the Nikon Picture Controls from the Set Picture Control screen (figure 4.11, image 2).
3. At this point, you can simply press the OK button and the control you’ve chosen will be available for immediate use. It will show up as a two-letter name in the Shooting Menu next to Set Picture Control. You can see this in figure 4.11, image 1, where SD is displayed to the right of Set Picture Control.
4. You can modify the currently highlighted control by scrolling to the right (figure 4.11, image 3). This will bring you to the fine-tuning screen. You can adjust the Sharpening, Contrast, Brightness, Saturation, and Hue settings by scrolling up or down to select a line and then scrolling right or left (+/–) to change the value of that line item. Or you can simply scroll to the left or right on the Quick adjust line and let the camera make adjustments according to what it wants to enhance. This fine-tuning process is entirely optional. When you are finished, press the OK button.
Modifying an Existing Picture Control
What if you want to modify a Picture Control by changing its sharpness, contrast, brightness, saturation, or hue? Figure 4.11, image 3, shows the settings to change any of those values.
If you do choose to modify a control, it is not yet a Custom Picture Control because you haven’t saved it under a new name. Instead, it’s merely a modified Nikon Picture Control. We’ll discuss how to name and save your own Custom Picture Controls in the upcoming section calledManage Picture Control.
Figure 4.12, images 1 and 2, shows an asterisk after the Vivid Picture Control (VI*). This asterisk appears after you have modified any of the Picture Control’s inner settings, such as Sharpening or Contrast. The asterisk will go away if you set the control back to its factory default.
Figure 4.12: The Vivid Picture Control has been modified
Note: You can reset a Picture Control by pressing the Delete button when you are in the Quick adjust screen shown in figure 4.11, image 3. A screen will be displayed that says, Selected Picture Control will be reset to default settings. OK? Select Yes then press the OK button, and the Picture Control will return to the factory default setting.
Now, let’s take a closer look at the Picture Control system. As shown in figures 4.11 and 4.12, image 2, there is a series of Picture Control selections that modify how your COOLPIX A captures an image:
• SD: Standard
• NL: Neutral
• VI: Vivid
• MC: Monochrome
• PT: Portrait
• LS: Landscape
Each of these settings has a different and variable combination of the following settings:
• Filter effects (MC only)
• Toning (MC only)
You can select one of the controls and leave the settings at the factory defaults, or you can modify the settings and completely change how the COOLPIX A captures the image (figure 4.11, image 3). If you shoot in one of the NEF (RAW) modes, the camera does not apply these settings to the image permanently; it stores them with the image data so you can change them during post-processing in your computer. If you shoot JPEG images, the camera immediately and permanently applies the settings you’ve chosen. Let’s examine each of the Picture Controls.
Examining Picture Controls
Figure 4.13 provides a look at the differences in color saturation and shadows for the various Picture Controls. Due to limitations in printing, it may be hard to see the variations. The Saturation and Contrast depth increases within these Picture Controls, in this order: NL (low), SD (medium), VI (high).
Figure 4.13: All six Picture Controls applied to the same scene
The following is an overview of what Nikon says about Picture Controls and what you can see in figure 4.13 with the various controls:
• SD, or Standard, is Nikon’s recommendation for getting balanced results. They recommend SD for most general situations. Use this Picture Control if you want a balanced image and don’t want to post-process it. The control has what Nikon calls “standard image processing.” It provides what I call medium saturation, with darker shadows to add contrast. If I were shooting JPEG images in a studio or during an event, I would seriously consider using the SD control. This setting compares to Fuji Provia or Kodak Kodachrome 64 slide films.
• NL, or Neutral, is best for an image that will be extensively post-processed in a computer. It, too, is a balanced setting, but it applies minimal camera processing so you’ll have room to do more with the image during postprocessing. The NL control has less saturation and weaker shadows, so the image will be less contrasty. The effects of the NL and SD controls are hard to see in figure 4.13 since there’s not a marked difference. However, the NL control gives you a little extra dynamic range due to more open shadows and slightly less saturated colors. If you’ve ever shot with Fuji NPS or Kodak Portra negative films and liked them, you’ll like this control.
• VI, or Vivid, is for those of us who love Fuji Velvia slide film. This setting saturates colors for intense imagery. The contrast is higher for striking shadow contrast, and the sharpness is higher, too. If you are shooting JPEGs and want to imitate a saturated transparency film like Velvia, this mode is for you! If you look at the sky and red caboose under the VI control in figure 4.13, you’ll see that the colors are pushed into deep saturation, almost to the point of oversaturation. Plus, the shadows are darker. That means your nature shots will also look saturated and contrasty. Be careful when you use the VI control on a high-contrast day, such as in direct sunshine in the summer, because you may find that your images are too high in contrast. It may be better to back off to the SD or NL control when you shoot in bright sunshine. You’ll need to experiment with this to see what I mean. On a cloudy or foggy low-contrast day, when the shadows are weak, you may find that the VI control adds pleasing saturation and contrast to an image.
• MC, or Monochrome, allows the black-and-white lovers among us to shoot in toned black-and-white. The MC control basically removes the color by desaturation. It’s still an RGB color image, but the colors have become levels of gray. It does not look the same as black-and-white film. The blacks are not as deep, and the whites are a little muddy. It seems that the MC control is fairly low contrast, and that’s where the problem lies. Good black-and-white images have bright whites and deep blacks. To get images like that from a digital camera, you’ll have to manually work with the image in a graphics program like Photoshop. However, if you want to experiment with black-and-white photography, this gives you a good starting point. There are two extra settings in the MC control that allow you to experiment with Filter effects and Toning. We’ll look at these settings in the upcoming section called MC Picture Control Filter Effects and Toning. The MC control creates a look that is somewhat like Kodak Plus-X Pan negative film, with blacks that are not as deep.
• PT, or Portrait, is a control that, according to Nikon, “lends a natural texture and rounded feel to the skin of portrait subjects.” I’ve taken numerous images with the PT control and shot the same images with the NL control. The results are very similar. I’m sure Nikon has included some software enhancements specifically for skin tones in this control, so I’d use this control for portraits of people. The results from the PT control look a bit like smooth Kodak Portra or Fuji NPS negative films.
• LS, or Landscape, “produces vibrant landscape and cityscapes,” according to Nikon. That sounds like the VI control to me. I shot a series of images using both the LS and VI controls and got similar results. Compared to the VI control, the LS control seemed to have slightly less saturation in the reds and a tiny bit more saturation in the greens. The blues stayed about the same. It seems that Nikon created the LS control to be similar to, but not quite as drastic as, the VI control. In my test images the LS control created smoother color transitions. However, there was so little difference between the two controls that you’d have to compare the images side by side to notice. Maybe this control is meant to be more natural than the supersaturated VI control. It will certainly improve the look of your landscape images. The look of this control is somewhere between Fuji Provia and Velvia films. You get great saturation and contrast, with emphasis on the greens in natural settings.
Figure 4.14: Filter effects with RGB colors
Figure 4.14 shows the same Picture Controls compared in photographs of red, green, and blue blocks. You can see how the tone varies among the controls.
MC Picture Control Filter Effects and Toning
The Monochrome, or MC, Picture Control has some added features for those who love black-and-white photography.
As shown in figure 4.15, image 3, there are Filter effects that simulate the effect of yellow, orange, red, and green (Y, O, R, G) filters on a monochrome image. Yellow, orange, and red change the contrast of the sky in black-and-white images. Green is often used in black-and-white portrait work to change the appearance of skin tones.
Figure 4.15: Filter effects controls
Figure 4.16 is a comparison of the color SD Picture Control, the four MC Filter effects (Y, O, R, G), and no filter. The R (red) filter seems to darken the sky and emphasize clouds a bit better in black-and-white nature images. It is rather difficult to see the shade differences in a book because they are subtle. However, there are distinct differences in real life.
Figure 4.16: Filter effects: SD, off, yellow (Y), orange (O), red (R), and green (G)
As displayed in figure 4.17, there are 10 variable Toning effects: B&W (none, or standard black-and-white), Sepia, Cyanotype, Red, Yellow, Green, Blue Green, Blue, Purple Blue, and Red Purple. Each of the Toning effects is variable within itself—you can adjust the saturation of the individual tones.
Figure 4.17: Filter effects, Toning filters
In figure 4.17 I cranked the Toning effects all the way up to the maximum setting, which tends to oversaturate the toning color, so you can clearly see the maximum potential in the Toning settings.
You can shoot a basic black-and-white image, use filters to change how colors appear, or tone the image in experimental ways. Can you see the potential for a lot of fun with these tones?
In the first image of figure 4.17, notice that to the right of Toning there is a row of 10 tiny rectangles. The first rectangle is half black and half white. That is the normal black-and-white (B&W) selection, and it has no extra toning. Next to that is a golden-brown rectangle. That is the Sepia toning effect. To the right of that is the bluish Cyanotype effect. The smaller rectangles that follow are the other colors for toning. Each color has seven saturation settings in the bar below the Toning rectangles (e.g., next to Sepia, 4 in figure 4.17). This bar allows you to select the depth of saturation for each of the colors. Sepia is set to the fourth saturation position in figure 4.17.
Use the Multi selector to move around in the Filter effects and Toning settings. Press the OK button to select one of them.
Picture Control Grid Screen
Each Picture Control has a Picture Control Grid that allows you to compare the selected control to the other Nikon Picture Controls (figure 4.18). You access the Grid by navigating to the screen shown in figure 4.12, image 2, then pressing the Playback zoom in button.
Figure 4.18: Picture Control Grid screen
When you modify the Saturation or Contrast of a particular control, you’ll see the position of that control change on the Picture Control Grid. Figure 4.18, image 1, shows a Standard Picture Control Grid in its unchanged condition, with all controls set to the factory default.
In figure 4.18, image 2, I changed the Saturation, along the horizontal axis, by four notches. You can see that the S*, which represents the modified Standard setting, has moved from its starting location (image 1) to its new location four squares to the right (image 2). In figure 4.18, image 3, I changed the Contrast, along the vertical axis, by four notches. The S* moved from its former location, up four squares, to its new location. The original position of the Standard Picture Control is at the location of the faint S (near the N).
The Picture Control Grid allows you to see how each control compares to the others, both before and after you make a change. After you make a change you’ll see a faint black square that marks the original location of the control and a yellow square that marks the new location. The new location will have the same name as the previous location, except it will have an asterisk after it.
Notice in figure 4.18, image 1, that the Standard Picture Control is highlighted in a yellow bar at the top of the screen. Also notice the up and down pointers at the end of the yellow bar. This signifies that you can scroll up or down with the Rotary multi selector and access other Picture Controls. Each item in the two-character list on the right side of the screen (SD, PT, NL, VI, MC, LS) will turn yellow as it is highlighted. Its symbol and full name will appear in the yellow bar at the top of the screen.
Resetting a Nikon Picture Control
If you modify the Nikon Picture Controls, you may do what I did and forget what the original settings were when you want to change them back. Worry not! Nikon has given us an easy way to reset a control.
Figure 4.19: Reset a Picture Control
If you press the Delete button while you have the Set Picture Control screen open (figure 4.19, image 1, red arrow), you’ll see the warning shown in figure 4.19, image 2: Selected Picture Control will be reset to default settings. OK? Select Yes from the menu and press the OK button to reset the control to the factory default settings.
Manage Picture Control
(User’s Manual, Page 106)
The Manage Picture Control section of your camera’s Shooting Menu allows you to create and store Custom Picture Control settings for future use. If you modified them when you read the Set Picture Control section just before this one, you simply create a one-off setting. If you’d like to go further and create your own named Custom Picture Controls, the COOLPIX A is happy to oblige. There are four choices on the Manage Picture Control screen:
Let’s look at each of these four Picture Control management settings.
Save/Edit a Custom Picture Control
There are six screens to Save/edit a Nikon Picture Control (figure 4.20) and store the results for later use as a Custom Picture Control.
Figure 4.20: Save/edit a Picture Control
Use the following steps to edit and save a Picture Control with a modified setting:
1. Select Manage Picture Control from the Shooting Menu and scroll to the right (figure 4.20, image 1).
2. Highlight Save/edit and scroll to the right (figure 4.20, image 2).
3. Choose a Picture Control that you want to use as a base for your new settings, then scroll to the right (figure 4.20, image 3). I am modifying the Standard Picture Control and will save it under a different name.
4. Make your adjustments to Sharpening, Contrast, and so forth. When you are done, press the OK button (figure 4.20, image 4).
5. Select one of the nine storage areas, named C-1 to C-9, and scroll to the right (figure 4.20, image 5). They are all currently marked as Unused. You can save up to nine Custom Picture Controls for later use.
6. You now see the Rename screen, which works just like the other screens you’ve used to rename things. Type in a new name by selecting characters from the list at the top of the screen and pressing the OK button to choose the highlighted character (figure 4.20, image 6). To correct an error, hold down the +/– Exposure compensation button and use the Rotary multi selector to move back and forth along the field that contains the new name.
7. Press the Playback zoom in button when you have entered the name of your Custom Picture Control. This will save the custom control to the storage location (C-1 to C-9) you selected.
Your camera is now set to your Custom Picture Control. You can switch from a Custom Picture Control to a Nikon Picture Control by using Set Picture Control (see the previous section, Set Picture Control). Each of your newly named Custom Picture Controls will appear in the Set Picture Control menu. Now, let’s look at how to rename an existing Custom Picture Control.
Rename a Custom Picture Control
Figure 4.21: Renaming a Picture Control
If you decide to rename an existing Custom Picture Control, you can do so with the following steps:
1. Select Manage Picture Control from the Shooting Menu and scroll to the right (figure 4.21, image 1).
2. Select Rename from the Manage Picture Control screen and scroll to the right (figure 4.21, image 2).
3. Select one of your Custom Picture Controls from the list (C-1 to C-9) and scroll to the right (figure 4.21, image 3). I will rename STANDARD-02. This is the Custom Picture Control I created in the previous section.
4. Now you’ll see the Rename screen (figure 4.21, image 4). To create a different name, hold down the +/– Exposure compensation button and use the Rotary multi selector to scroll back and forth within the old name. When you have the small gray cursor positioned over a character, you can delete that character with the Delete button. To insert a new character, position the yellow cursor in the character list and press the OK button. The character that is highlighted in yellow will appear on the name line below, at the position of the gray cursor. If a character is already highlighted with the gray cursor, it will be pushed to the right. The name of your Custom Picture Control is limited to 19 characters.
5. Press the Playback zoom in button when you are done entering the new name. I renamed my Custom Picture Control from STANDARD-02 (figure 4.21, image 3) to STANDARD-03 (figure 4.21, image 4).
Note: You can have more than one control with exactly the same name in your list of Custom Picture Controls. The camera does not get confused because each control has a different location (C-1 to C-9). When you no longer need a Custom Picture Control, you can easily delete it.
Delete a Custom Picture Control
You cannot delete a Nikon Picture Control (SD, NL, VI, MC, PT, or LS). They don’t even appear in the Manage Picture Control > Delete menu.
Figure 4.22: Deleting a Custom Picture Control
You can, however, delete one or more of your Custom Picture Controls by following these steps:
1. Select Manage Picture Control from the Shooting Menu and scroll to the right (figure 4.22, image 1).
2. Select Delete from the Manage Picture Control screen and scroll to the right (figure 4.22, image 2).
3. Up to nine controls will be listed in C-1 to C-9. Select one of the Custom Picture Controls and press the OK button (figure 4.22, image 3). I selected STANDARD-03 for deletion.
4. Choose Yes from the Delete Picture Control? menu (figure 4.22, image 4).
5. Press the OK button to delete the Custom Picture Control from your camera.
Now, let’s move to the last menu selection from the Manage Picture Control screen, Load/save.
Load/Save a Custom Picture Control
There are three parts to the Load/save function. They allow you to copy Custom Picture Controls to and from the memory card or delete them from the memory card. There are three selections in the Load/save menu, as shown in figure 4.23, image 3:
Figure 4.23: Load/save a Picture Control
• Copy to camera: Loads Custom Picture Controls from the memory card into your camera. You can store up to nine controls in locations C1 to C9.
• Delete from card: Displays a list of any Custom Picture Controls on the memory card. You can selectively delete them.
• Copy to card: Allows you to copy your Custom Picture Controls from your camera to a memory card. You can then share them with others. The camera will display up to 99 control locations on any single memory card.
Let’s examine each of these selections and see how to use them.
Copy to Camera
After you’ve transferred a Custom Picture Control from your memory card to your camera, it will show up in the Shooting Menu > Set Picture Control screen.
Figure 4.24: Copy to camera
Use the following steps to copy a saved Custom Picture Control from the memory card to the camera’s memory:
1. Figure 4.24, image 1, continues from figure 4.23, image 2 (Load/save on the Manage Picture Control menu). Choose Copy to camera and scroll to the right.
2. You’ll see the list of controls that are currently on the memory card (figure 4.24, image 2). If there are no controls on the memory card, the camera will display a screen that says No Picture Control file found on memory card. Figure 4.24, image 2, shows two controls: STANDARD-02 andNEUTRAL-02. Select a control from the list and press the OK button. (If you scroll to the right instead, you will be able to examine and adjust the control’s settings before you save it to your camera. If you don’t want to modify it, simply press the OK button.)
3. You will now see the Manage Picture Control > Save as menu, which lists any Custom Picture Controls already in your camera (figure 4.24, image 3). Select one of the Unused memory locations and press the OK button.
4. You’ll now see the Rename screen, where you can change the name of the Custom Picture Control (figure 4.24, image 4). If you don’t want to change the name, simply press the Playback zoom in button, and the custom control will be added to your camera’s Set Picture Control menu. It’s okay to have multiple controls with exactly the same name. The camera keeps each control separate. However, I always rename them to prevent confusion. If you do want to rename a control so it has a different name when it is copied to the camera, follow these steps (figure 4.24, image 4):
a. Hold down the +/– Exposure compensation button and use the Rotary multi selector to scroll back and forth within the old name. When the small gray cursor highlights a character, you can delete it with the Delete button. To insert a new character, position the yellow cursor in the character list and press the OK button. The character that is highlighted with the yellow cursor will appear on the name line below, at the position of the gray cursor. If there is already a character highlighted by the gray cursor, it will be pushed to the right. Custom Picture Control names are limited to 19 characters.
b. Press the Playback zoom in button when you’ve completed the new name.
Note: You can also create Custom Picture Controls in computer programs such as Nikon Capture NX 2, which has a Picture Control Utility, and then load them into your camera using the preceding steps.
Delete from Card
After you’ve finished loading Custom Picture Controls on your camera, you may be ready to delete a control or two from the memory card. You could format the memory card, but that will delete all the images and Picture Controls on the card. A less drastic method that allows you to be more selective is the Delete from card function.
Figure 4.25: Delete from card
Here are the steps to remove Picture Controls from your memory card:
1. Figure 4.25 continues from figure 4.23, image 2. Choose Delete from card from the Load/save menu and scroll to the right (figure 4.25, image 1).
2. Choose one of the Custom Picture Controls that you want to delete (figure 4.25, image 2). I chose STANDARD-02. You can confirm that you are deleting the correct control by scrolling to the right, which gives you the fine-tuning screen with current adjustments for that control. If you are sure this is the control you want to delete, move on to the next step by pressing the OK button.
3. You will see the deletion screen, which asks, Delete Picture Control? Choose either Yes or No (figure 4.25, image 3). If you choose Yes, the Picture Control will be deleted from the memory card and Done will be displayed. If you choose No, you will return to the previous screen.
4. Press the OK button to execute your choice.
Copy to Card
After you create up to nine Custom Picture Controls using the instructions in the last few sections, you can use the Copy to card function to save them to a memory card. When they are on a memory card, you can share your Custom Picture Controls with friends who have compatible Nikon cameras.
Figure 4.26: Copy to card
Use the following steps to copy your Custom Picture Controls to a memory card:
1. Figure 4.26 continues where figure 4.23, image 2, left off. Choose Copy to card from the Load/save menu and scroll to the right (figure 4.26, image 1).
2. Select one of your current Custom Picture Controls from the Copy to card menu and scroll to the right (figure 4.26, image 2).
3. Now you’ll use the Choose destination menu to select where you want to save the custom control (figure 4.26, image 3). You have 99 choices for where to place the control on the card. Select any Unused location.
4. Press the OK button, then you’ll briefly see a screen that says, Data saved to memory card. Your Custom Picture Control is now ready to distribute to the world or load onto another one of your compatible Nikon cameras.
Settings Recommendation: To help you understand Nikon Picture Controls even better, please download and read the following 13-page PDF document from Nikon (allow time to download, please):
You’ll need Adobe Reader, which you can download for free from www.Adobe.com, to open the file.
This document describes Picture Controls—with lots of pictures—to help you see the range of control you can achieve. I really enjoyed reading it because it explains Nikon Picture Controls well and even mentions software that will work with them.
Memory Cards and Custom Controls
If you use your computer to look at the contents of your memory card after you create and save a new Custom Picture Control to it, you’ll find a new folder called NIKON with a sub folder called CUSTOMPC. This folder contains any Custom Picture Controls you might have saved. Each control has a file name that ends with NCP.
(User’s Manual, Page 178)
Color spaces are an interesting and important part of digital photography. They help your images fit into a much broader range of imaging devices. Software, printers, monitors, and other devices recognize which Color space is attached to your image, and they use it, along with other color profiles, to help balance the image to the correct output colors.
The two Color spaces available in the Nikon COOLPIX A have different gamuts, or ranges of color. They are called sRGB and Adobe RGB.
Figure 4.27: Choosing a Color space
Here’s how to select your favorite Color space:
1. Choose Color space from the Shooting Menu and scroll to the right (figure 4.27, image 1).
2. Select the Color space you want to use, keeping in mind that Adobe RGB has a larger color gamut (figure 4.27, image 2). We’ll learn more about which choice you should make in the next section.
3. Press the OK button to lock in your choice.
Which Color Space Should I Choose?
Adobe RGB uses colors from a broad selection of the total color range that approximates human vision (called CIELAB in the graphics industry), so it has a wider gamut (color range) than sRGB (figure 4.28). If you are taking images that might be printed commercially, Adobe RGB is often the best Color space to use (see the sidebar, Which Color Space Is Best, Technically?).
Figure 4.28: CIELAB, Adobe RGB, and sRGB Color spaces
After a JPEG file is created, either in a camera or on a computer, both the Adobe RGB and sRGB color gamuts are compressed into the same number of color levels. A JPEG has only 256 levels for each of its red, green, and blue (RGB) channels. However, since the Adobe RGB Color space takes its colors from a wider spectrum, you will have a better representation of reality when there are lots of colors in your image.
You should understand that RAW format images are different than JPEG images in that you can change the Color space after you have taken the image; with a JPEG image, you can’t. However, I still recommend using Adobe RGB when you shoot in RAW format, for reasons we will discuss shortly.
Adobe RGB allows your images to store the maximum color potential. A NEF (RAW) image file from a COOLPIX A can contain 16,385 levels of color for each RGB channel, instead of the limited 256 levels in an 8-bit JPEG. Using Adobe RGB makes a lot of sense because of its capacity to contain more colors as a base storage medium.
There are some drawbacks to using Adobe RGB, though. The sRGB Color space is widely used in printing and display devices. Many local labs print with sRGB because so many point-and-shoot cameras use that format. If you try to print Adobe RGB directly to some inkjet printers that are configured for sRGB, the colors may not be as brilliant. If you aren’t going to modify your images in post-processing and plan to print them directly from your camera, you may want to use sRGB. If you shoot only JPEGs for computer display or Internet usage, it might be better to stay with sRGB for everyday shooting.
If you are a RAW shooter and regularly post-process your images, you should consider using Adobe RGB. You will have a wider gamut of colors to work with and can make your images the best they can be. Later, you can convert your carefully crafted images to print with a good color profile and get great results from inkjet printers and other printing devices. Here is a rough way to look at it:
• Many people who regularly shoot in JPEG format use sRGB
• Many people who regularly shoot in RAW format use Adobe RGB
These are not hard-and-fast rules, but many photographers follow them. I shoot RAW a lot, so I often use Adobe RGB.
In reality, though, it makes no difference which Color space you choose when you shoot in NEF (RAW) because the Color space can be changed after the fact in your computer. Why does it matter, then? Simply because many photographers are not in the habit of changing the Color space during a RAW to JPEG conversion. Therefore, if you need the extra color range, why not leave the camera set to Adobe RGB for later convenience? Why add an extra step to your digital darkroom workflow? If you are shooting for money—such as for stock image agencies—most places expect that you’ll use Adobe RGB. It has a larger color range, so it’s the quality standard for most commercial printing.
Settings Recommendation: I use Adobe RGB most of the time since I shoot a lot of nature pictures with a wide range of color. I want the most accurate color my camera can give me. Adobe RGB has a wider range of colors, so it can be more accurate when my subject has a lot of colors. However, if you are shooting JPEG snapshots, there’s no need to worry about this. Leave the camera set to sRGB and have fun.
Which Color Space Is Best, Technically?
There is a large color space used by the graphics industry called CIELAB or CIE L*a*b* (figure 4.28). This color space is designed to approximate human vision. Adobe RGB covers about 50 percent of the CIELAB color space, and sRGB covers only about 35 percent. In other words, Adobe RGB has a wider gamut. That means Adobe RGB gives your images access to significantly higher levels of color, especially cyans (bluish tones) and greens. Another important consideration if you send your work to companies that use offset printing—such as book and magazine publishers—is that Adobe RGB maps very well to the four-color cyan, magenta, yellow, black (CMYK) printing process. If you are shooting commercial work, you may want to seriously consider Adobe RGB. Stock photo shooters are nearly always required to shoot in Adobe RGB.
(User’s Manual, Page 110)
Active D-Lighting is used to help control contrast in your images. Often, the range of light around a subject is broader than the camera sensor can capture. The COOLPIX A can capture six to nine exposure value (EV) steps of light, but the brightness outside on a sunny day might equal 12 stops in range. The contrast is too high!
Since the camera often cannot grab the full range of light—and most people use the histogram to expose for the highlights (we’ll discuss how in chapter 9, Metering, Exposure Modes, and Histogram)—some of the image detail will be lost in the shadows. The COOLPIX A allows you to “D-Light” the image—bring out additional shadow detail—while protecting the highlights; in other words, you can lower the contrast. Active D-Lighting has these settings: Auto, Extra high, High, Normal, Low, and Off.
If you are familiar with Nikon Capture NX 2, you may know how Active D-Lighting works. You can use it to bring up lost shadow detail at the expense of adding noise in darker areas of the image. We’ll talk about noise in an upcoming section called Long Exposure NR.
Figure 4.29: Choosing an Active D-Lighting level
Use the following steps to choose an Active D-Lighting level:
1. Choose Active D-Lighting from the Shooting Menu and scroll to the right (figure 4.29, image 1).
2. Select one of the Active D-Lighting levels (figure 4.29, image 2). Refer to figure 4.30 to see how the levels affect an image.
3. Press the OK button to save your setting.
Basically, Active D-Lighting will bring out detail in areas of your image that are hidden in shadow due to excessive contrast. It also helps protect the highlights from becoming pure white with no detail. Figure 4.30 shows a series of six images with Active D-Lighting set to its various levels, including Off.
I deliberately exposed the image for the white background to underexpose my 1963 Nikkorex Zoom 35 camera, with its first commercially available zoom lens (43–86mm). This allows you to see what each level of Active D-Lighting does with the restoration of shadow detail.
Figure 4.30: Active D-Lighting at all five levels and off
Settings Recommendation: You’ll need to experiment with the Active D-Lighting settings to see which ones you like best. Active D-Lighting lowers the contrast, and some people do not like low-contrast images. Also, any time you recover lost detail from shadows, there will be extra noise in the recovered areas, so be careful!
This function can be useful for JPEG shooters, in particular. Since you really shouldn’t modify a JPEG file, it’s important that the image is created exactly right in the first place. When you are shooting in a high-contrast setting, such as direct sunlight, some degree of Active D-Lighting may help rein in the contrast.
If you set Active D-Lighting much above Normal, the image will start to have an artificial look. Light skin tones can develop a pinkish look that seems unnatural.
If you shoot RAW images, there’s not much point in using Active D-Lighting since you will post-process your images in your computer.
Remember, your camera has multiple user settings, and you can set Active D-Lighting for each setting (U1 and U2) in a different way and then select the most appropriate setting for a particular situation. I leave it set to Off for the user setting that uses NEF (RAW) mode and On for the user setting that uses JPEG. I don’t normally go much above the Low setting, except for party JPEGs, which I set to Normal. My best JPEGs are set to Low.
Use Auto mode when you’re shooting JPEGs and don’t have time to fool with camera settings but you must get the shot, no matter what. Auto lets the camera decide the appropriate level of Active D-Lighting according to the ambient light and contrast in the image.
Experiment with this by shooting images in a high-contrast and a low-contrast setting at all the various levels of Active D-Lighting. You’ll see how the camera reacts, and then you can decide how you’ll use this functionality.
Long Exposure NR
(User’s Manual, Page 179)
Long exposure NR is designed to combat visual noise in long exposures. Noise is that ugly, grainy look in images when they are underexposed and then brightened or when a really high ISO sensitivity setting is used. If you ever shoot film, you know how faster films have lots more grain. Noise is like that, except uglier. It’s the digital equivalent of static in music. Who wants static in their images?
Nikon knows that their sensors might exhibit more noise than is acceptable in exposures longer than one second. The sensor can start to warm up a little when longer exposures are used. This causes a condition called amp noise, in which warmer sections of the sensor start to create more noise than cooler sections.
There are two settings for Long exposure NR:
• On: When you select On and an exposure is longer than one second (1 s), the camera will enable special processing to remove random noise, such as bright spots, bright pixels, and fog. The entire exposure duration will be approximately double the normal time to allow for the extra noise reduction processing. A message on the monitor will display Performing noise reduction until the process is complete. It’s really quite effective and beats having to blur the image to get rid of noise. I’ve taken exposures of about 30 seconds and had perfectly usable results. The only drawback is that the total exposure time is doubled. During the time the special processing is in action, you cannot use the camera. If you turn it off during processing, the camera will keep the picture, but it won’t do any noise reduction on it. With Long exposure NR set to On, the frame advance rate may slow down a little in Continuous Release mode, and the capacity of the in-camera memory buffer will drop, usually by one image. (We’ll discuss Continuous release mode in chapter 8, Autofocus, AF-Area, and Release Modes).
• Off: If you select Off, Long exposure NR will be disabled in exposures longer than one second (1 s).
Figure 4.31: A 30-second night sky picture with clouds and Long exposure NR turned On
Figure 4.31 is an image I took with a 30-second exposure and Long exposure NR set to On. I left the shutter open for 30 seconds for several exposures, hoping to catch a deep view of the sky near my home. The camera used Long exposure NR processing to remove noise from my nighttime image, without seriously blurring the image in the process. I can’t see any noise, can you?
Figure 4.32: Using Long exposure NR
Here are the steps to choose a Long exposure NR setting:
1. Choose Long exposure NR from the Shooting Menu and scroll to the right (figure 4.32, image 1).
2. Select either On or Off (figure 4.32, image 2).
3. Press the OK button to save your setting.
Settings Recommendation: I like the benefits of Long exposure NR. I shoot a lot of waterfall and stream shots where I want exposures longer than one second to really blur the water. Also, I like to take midnight shots of the sky and shots of city scenes at night. Even though it may slow down the frame rate slightly and give me one less image in the in-camera memory buffer, I still use it most of the time.
If I were a sports or action shooter using Continuous Release mode, I may leave Long exposure NR set to Off. It’s unlikely I would use exposures longer than one second, and I would want the maximum frames per second and the ability to cram as many images into the camera buffer as possible. I wouldn’t want my camera to slow down during Long exposure NR processing.
Your style of shooting will govern whether this function is useful to you. Ask yourself one simple question: Do I often shoot exposures with a shutter speed longer than one second? If so, you may want to keep Long exposure NR set to On. Compare how your images look both with and without it. I think you’ll like Long exposure NR.
High ISO NR
(User’s Manual, Page 179)
High ISO NR lessens the effects of digital noise in your images when you use high ISO sensitivity (exposure gain) settings. Nikon doesn’t specify the exact ISO level at which High ISO NR kicks in. I suspect that a small amount of noise reduction occurs at around ISO 400–800 and gradually increases as the ISO gets higher.
The COOLPIX A has better noise control than most cameras, so it can shoot up to ISO 800 with little noise. However, no digital camera (that I know of) is completely without noise, so it’s a good idea to use some noise reduction above a certain level of ISO sensitivity.
If High ISO NR is turned Off, the camera does not reduce noise until the ISO reaches 1600. At that point a small amount of noise reduction—less than the Low setting—kicks in, even if the setting is turned Off. Above ISO 1600 you will always have some noise reduction. You can control the amount by choosing one of the four High ISO NR settings: High, Normal, Low, and Off.
Figure 4.33 shows an example image at ISO 3200, with all four High ISO NR settings. The red area in the middle of the figure is shown in the surrounding pictures.
Figure 4.33: Sample High ISO NR settings
You’ll need to shoot some high-ISO exposures and decide for yourself which settings you are comfortable with. The COOLPIX A has relatively low noise, even at ISO 3200, as you can see in figure 4.33.
High ISO NR works by blurring the image more and more as you increase the setting from Low to High. By blurring the image, the grainy noise is blended into its surroundings and reduces the appearance of noise in the image. A variable amount of mild resharpening is applied to restore some image sharpness. This whole process tends to make the image lose detail as noise reduction is turned to higher levels.
Figure 4.34: Using High ISO NR
Use the following steps to choose a High ISO NR setting:
1. Choose High ISO NR from the Shooting Menu and scroll to the right (figure 4.34, image 1).
2. Select one of the noise reduction levels: High, Normal, Low, or Off (figure 4.34, image 2).
3. Press the OK button to save your setting.
Settings Recommendation: I leave High ISO NR set to Low. I do want some noise reduction above ISO 800. However, since any form of noise reduction blurs the image, I don’t go too far with it. I shoot in RAW format, so it really makes no difference because I can change everything later in the computer. If I were shooting in JPEG format, it would make a serious difference.
Why not test a few images at high ISO sensitivity settings with High ISO NR turned On? You may like the output of High, or you may prefer Normal or Low. Remember that you can set High ISO NR differently for each User setting so your camera can be configured for different shooting styles.
Note: If you have High ISO NR turned On, your in-camera memory buffer for images shot in Continuous release mode will decrease by at least one image.
What Is Noise?
Have you ever tried to watch TV while children are playing in the same room? The louder you turn the TV, the louder the kids get, it seems. However loud the volume of the TV, the children laughing and running around degrades the pure sound you desire. There is a high child-to-TV noise ratio that interferes with your enjoyment of the program you are watching. After a while, there is a point when you simply have to ask the kids to leave the room. Turning up the TV just makes them get louder and louder to overcome the sound.
Noise in a digital image is somewhat similar. You want pure, clean images when you take pictures, but instead digital noise interferes with the clarity. The higher you turn the camera’s ISO sensitivity, the more digital noise degrades your image. The noise-to-signal ratio can damage the picture. How can you make the visual noise go away? Use High ISO NR, that’s how!
ISO Sensitivity Settings
(User’s Manual, Page 81)
ISO sensitivity settings are provided to give you control over the light sensitivity of the imaging sensor, including whether you manually control it or if the camera sets it automatically.
In digital cameras the ISO numbers are sensitivity equivalents. To make it very simple, ISO sensitivity is the digital equivalent of film speed. The higher the ISO sensitivity, the less light is needed for the exposure. A high ISO setting allows higher shutter speeds and smaller apertures.
In figure 4.35 you can see the external camera controls used to change the ISO sensitivity on the COOLPIX A. This is a good way to adjust the ISO sensitivity quickly; it’s also the easiest way, even though it doesn’t involve the Shooting Menu.
Figure 4.35: Setting ISO sensitivity with external camera controls
Here are the steps to manually adjust the camera’s ISO sensitivity:
1. Hold down the ISO button (figure 4.35, image 1).
2. Rotate the Command dial counterclockwise to increase the ISO sensitivity, or turn it clockwise to decrease the ISO sensitivity (figure 4.35, image 2).
3. The ISO sensitivity number will be displayed on the Live view monitor (figure 4.35, image 3).
Configuring the ISO Sensitivity Settings
You can also navigate to Shooting Menu > ISO sensitivity settings to change the camera’s ISO sensitivity. Figure 4.36 shows the three screens you use to select your favorite ISO sensitivity for the circumstances in which you are shooting.
Notice in figure 4.36, image 3, that there is a list of ISO sensitivity settings, from ISO 100 to Hi 2 (ISO 25,600). The normal ISO range for the COOLPIX A is 100 to 6400—above that is an extended range. Select your desired ISO sensitivity from the list of available ISO sensitivity settings.
Figure 4.36: Setting ISO sensitivity
Here are the steps to select an ISO sensitivity setting:
1. Choose ISO sensitivity settings from the Shooting Menu and scroll to the right (figure 4.36, image 1).
2. Select ISO sensitivity from the menu and scroll to the right (figure 4.36, image 2).
3. Scroll up or down in the ISO sensitivity menu until you highlight the ISO value you want to use. My camera is set to ISO 200 (figure 4.36, image 3).
4. Press the OK button to save the setting.
The standard minimum ISO sensitivity for the COOLPIX A is ISO 100. You can adjust the camera in a range from ISO 100–6400, in one-third EV steps, except for the increase from Hi 1 (ISO 12,800) to Hi 2 (ISO 25,600), which is a full EV step.
Select your favorite ISO sensitivity setting by using either the external camera controls or the ISO sensitivity settings from the Shooting Menu. If you’d like, you can simply let your camera decide which ISO to use. This brings us to two often-misunderstood features.
ISO Sensitivity Auto Setting
You may have noticed in figure 4.36, image 3, that there’s a grayed-out Auto setting at the top of the ISO sensitivity list. This Auto setting is the default when you have the camera set to one of the automatic Scene or Auto modes—found on the Mode dial—and allows the camera to take control of adjusting the ISO sensitivity to help you get the picture under difficult lighting. Auto mode is limited to ISO 100-3200, which means the camera will stay within that ISO range.
Don’t confuse the ISO sensitivity Auto setting with the Auto mode (it looks like a green camera on the Mode dial) or the Auto ISO sensitivity control setting that we’ll discuss in the next section. They are three separate settings.
A nice feature on the COOLPIX A is its ability to use the fully automatic Auto exposure mode or Scene modes and still allow you to select the ISO manually (figure 4.36, image 3). Auto will stay grayed out on the ISO sensitivity menu until you enter one of the Scene or Auto modes. Then you can choose Auto from the ISO sensitivity menu and let the camera decide which ISO setting to use, or you can choose your own ISO setting (e.g., 200, 400, 800) from the menu (figure 4.36, image 3).
This is a fine degree of control that allows a new user to gradually take more and more control of the camera settings.
Note: If you happen to be using the ISO sensitivity Auto setting in a Scene mode and then turn the Mode dial to the M, A, S, or P mode, the camera will revert the ISO sensitivity to the setting that was in use when you last used that M, A, S, or P mode.
Auto ISO Sensitivity Control
There’s another automatic setting available: the Auto ISO sensitivity control. This was known on earlier Nikon cameras as ISO-AUTO.
This setting allows the camera to control the ISO sensitivity and shutter speed according to the light levels sensed by the camera. Even though it is an automatic mode, it gives you some control over how the camera adjusts the ISO sensitivity by allowing you to set ranges for the ISO and shutter speed.
Figure 4.37: Using the Auto ISO sensitivity control
Use the following steps to enable the Auto ISO sensitivity control:
1. Choose ISO sensitivity settings from the Shooting Menu and scroll to the right (figure 4.37, image 1).
2. Select Auto ISO sensitivity control from the menu and scroll to the right (figure 4.37, image 2).
3. Choose On or Off from the menu (figure 4.37, image 3).
4. Press the OK button to select the setting.
After you set the Auto ISO sensitivity control to On, you should immediately set two values, depending on how you shoot: Maximum sensitivity and Minimum shutter speed.
The Maximum sensitivity setting is a safeguard. It allows the camera to adjust its own ISO sensitivity from the minimum value of ISO 100 to the value set in Maximum sensitivity, according to the light conditions. The camera will try to maintain the lowest ISO sensitivity it can to get the picture. However, it can rapidly rise to the Maximum sensitivity level, if needed. This setting overrides the normal ISO sensitivity settings.
Figure 4.38: Auto ISO sensitivity control, Maximum sensitivity
Use the following steps to change the Maximum sensitivity value:
1. Choose ISO sensitivity settings from the Shooting Menu and scroll to the right (figure 4.38, image 1).
2. Select Maximum sensitivity from the menu and scroll to the right (figure 4.38, image 2).
3. Choose a Maximum sensitivity value from the menu (figure 4.38, image 3). I selected a maximum ISO of 1600.
4. Press the OK button to lock in the value.
Note: It’s a little-known fact that you can also set a minimum sensitivity, of sorts. The user’s manual describes how to set the Maximum sensitivity, but it does not mention (that I’ve found) that you can use the normal ISO sensitivity setting to control the lowest ISO you want the camera to use.
If you set the ISO sensitivity to 400 (top of figure 4.38, image 2) and the Maximum sensitivity to ISO 1600 (highlighted in yellow in figure 4.38, image 2), the camera will use the ISO range of 400 to 1600. It will not go below ISO 400, nor will it exceed ISO 1600.
The Maximum sensitivity setting you choose is the maximum ISO value the camera will use to get a good exposure when the light dims.
What happens when the camera reaches the Maximum sensitivity and there still isn’t enough light for a good exposure? Let’s find out.
Minimum Shutter Speed
Since the shutter speed helps control how sharp an image is, depending on camera shake and subject movement, you need some control over the minimum shutter speed while the Auto ISO sensitivity control is set to On.
Figure 4.39: Auto ISO sensitivity control, Minimum shutter speed
Use the following steps to change the Minimum shutter speed:
1. Choose ISO sensitivity settings from the Shooting Menu and scroll to the right (figure 4.39, image 1).
2. Select Minimum shutter speed from the menu and scroll to the right (figure 4.39, image 2).
3. Choose a Minimum shutter speed from the menu (figure 4.39, image 3). I chose a minimum shutter speed of 1/30 s.
4. Press the OK button to lock in the value.
You can select the Minimum shutter speed that the camera will allow when the light diminishes. In Programmed auto (P) mode (where the camera controls the shutter speed and aperture) and Aperture-priority (A) mode (where the camera controls the shutter speed and you control the aperture), the camera will not go below the Minimum shutter speed unless the Maximum sensitivity setting still won’t give you a good exposure.
This is the answer to the question in the previous subsection about what happens when there is not enough light and the camera has maxed out the Maximum sensitivity level. Even though you’ve selected a Minimum shutter speed, the camera will go below the Minimum shutter speed when the Maximum sensitivity ISO number has been reached and the light is still too low for a good exposure.
In other words, in Programmed auto (P) or Aperture-priority (A) exposure modes, if you try to take pictures in low light, the camera will try to keep the ISO sensitivity as low as possible until the shutter speed drops to the Minimum shutter speed you selected. When it hits the Minimum shutter speed (which is 1/30 in figure 4.39, image 2), the ISO sensitivity will begin to rise to the Maximum sensitivity you selected (which is 1600 in figure 4.38, image 2).
If there still isn’t enough light for a good exposure after the camera hits the Maximum sensitivity value, it won’t keep raising the ISO sensitivity. Instead, the camera will go below your selected Minimum shutter speed; in our example, it drops below 1/30s. Be careful because if the light gets that low, your camera can go all the way down to a shutter speed of 30 seconds to get a good exposure. You had better have the camera on a tripod and the subject should be static with a shutter speed that low.
Consider the Minimum shutter speed to be the lowest handheld speed, after which you’ll put your camera on a tripod. Most people can handhold a camera down to about 1/60s if they are careful, and maybe as low as 1/30s if they’re extra careful and brace themselves. At shutter speeds slower than that, it’s blur city for your images. It’s even worse with telephoto lenses because camera movement is greatly magnified with a long lens, and a Minimum shutter speed of 1/250s to 1/500s or more may be required (the maximum is 1/4000s).
Auto ISO Sensitivity Control from the Camera’s Perspective
For fun, let’s listen to the camera talk to itself while you take pictures in low light with the Auto ISO sensitivity control enabled. As we listen in on the COOLPIX A thinking, we need to know that the Maximum sensitivity setting is ISO 1600 and the Minimum shutter speed setting is 1/30s.
Nikon COOLPIX A thinking: Okay, the Auto ISO sensitivity control is on! The light is dropping and my current 1/60s shutter speed at ISO 200 won’t let me make a good exposure. I’ll slow the shutter speed to the minimum of 1/30s, as my owner specified in my Minimum shutter speed setting. More pictures are incoming, and the light is still dropping! I can’t go any lower on the shutter speed for now, since my owner has instructed me to keep the Minimum shutter speed at 1/30s unless I can’t get a good picture. I’ll have to start raising the ISO sensitivity. Here comes more pictures, and whew, it’s getting dark! I’ve now raised the ISO sensitivity to my Maximum sensitivity level of ISO 1600, which is as high as I am allowed to go. I have no choice now but to go below the 1/30s Minimum shutter speed my owner has specified. I hope I’m on a tripod!
Note: The other exposure modes, Shutter-priority (S) and Manual (M), allow you to control the camera in a way that overrides certain parts of the Auto ISO sensitivity control.
In Manual (M) mode the camera completely relinquishes control of the shutter and aperture. It can adjust only the ISO sensitivity by itself, so it can obey the Maximum sensitivity, but the Minimum shutter speed is overridden and does not apply.
In Shutter-priority (S) mode the camera can control the aperture, but you control the shutter speed. The Auto ISO sensitivity control can still control the Maximum sensitivity, but the camera cannot control the Minimum shutter speed.
It may be a good idea to enable High ISO NR when you turn on Auto ISO sensitivity control. This is especially true if you leave the camera set to high Maximum sensitivity values of ISO 3200 and above. Otherwise your images may have excessive noise when the light drops.
When and Why Should I Use Auto ISO Sensitivity Control?
How much automation do you need to produce consistently excellent images? Let’s explore how and when automatic, self-adjusting ISO might improve or degrade your images. What is this feature all about? When and why should you use it? Are there any compromises in image quality when you use this mode?
Normally you will set your camera to a particular ISO number, such as 200 or 400, and shoot your images. As the light dims or as the shade deepens, you might increase the ISO sensitivity to continue taking handheld images. If you absolutely must get the shot, Auto ISO sensitivity control will work nicely. Here are a few scenarios:
• Scenario 1: Let’s say you’re a photojournalist and you’re shooting flash pictures of the president as he disembarks from his airplane, walks into the terminal, and drives away in his limousine. Under these circumstances, you will have little time to check the ISO settings or shutter speeds and will be shooting in widely varying light conditions.
• Scenario 2: You’re a wedding photographer in a church that doesn’t allow the use of flash. As you follow the bride and groom from the dark inner rooms of the church into the lobby, and finally up to the altar, the light conditions vary constantly. You have no time to change the ISO to deal with the light fluctuations.
• Scenario 3: You’re at a party and you want some great pictures. You want to use flash, but the popup Speedlight is not powerful enough to reach across the room at low ISO settings. You really don’t want to be bothered with camera configuration but still want some well-exposed images. The light varies as you move around the room talking and laughing and snapping pictures.
These scenarios present excellent environments for the Auto ISO sensitivity control. The camera will use your normal settings, such as your ISO, shutter speed, and aperture, until the light will not allow those settings to provide an accurate exposure. Only then will the camera raise the ISO or lower the shutter speed so it can keep functioning within the shutter speed and aperture parameters you have set.
Look at the Auto ISO sensitivity control as a fail-safe for times when you must get the shot but have little time to deal with camera settings, or when you don’t want to vary the shutter speed and aperture settings but still want to be assured of a well-exposed image.
Unless you’re a private detective shooting handheld telephoto images from your car or a photojournalist or sports photographer who must get the shot every time regardless of maximum quality, I don’t recommend leaving Auto ISO sensitivity control set to On. Use it only when you really need to get the shot under any circumstances!
Of course, if you are unsure of how to use the correct ISO for the light level, don’t be afraid to experiment with this mode. At the very worst, your images might be noisier than usual. However, it may not be a good idea to depend on this mode over the long term because noisy images are not very nice.
Are There Any Drawbacks to Using Auto ISO Sensitivity Control?
Maybe! It really depends on how widely the light conditions vary when you are shooting. Most of the time your camera will maintain the normal range of ISO settings in Auto ISO sensitivity control, so your images will be their normal low-noise, sharp masterpieces. However, at times the light may be so low that the ISO will exceed the low-noise range of 100–800 and will start getting into the noisier range above ISO 800.
Be aware that Auto ISO sensitivity control can and will push your camera’s ISO sensitivity into a range that causes noisier images when light levels drop if you’ve allowed it by setting the Maximum sensitivity to a high level. Use the Auto ISO sensitivity control with this understanding and you’ll do fine; otherwise you might get some noisy images.
The Auto ISO sensitivity control is yet another great feature of your powerful Nikon COOLPIX A. Maybe not everyone needs this fail-safe feature, but some people rely on it. I use it in circumstances when getting the shot is the most important thing and when the light levels may get too low for normal ISO settings.
Even if you think you might use Auto ISO sensitivity control only from time to time, learn how to use it for those times. Experiment a bit. It’s fun and can be useful!
What is ISO?
An ISO sensitivity number, such as 200 or 3200, is an agreed-upon sensitivity for the image-capturing sensor. Virtually everywhere you go in the world, all camera ISO numbers mean the same thing. With that fact being established, camera bodies and lenses can be designed to take advantage of the ISO sensitivity ranges they will have to deal with. Standards are good! ISO is an abbreviation for the International Organization for Standardization, a standards-setting group with representatives from several national standards organizations.
(User’s Manual, Page 63)
Release modes affect how and when your camera releases the shutter to take a picture or record a video. Here are the six settings you can choose from:
• Single frame: You can take one picture at a time, one for each press of the Shutter-release button.
• Continuous: You can take a series of pictures quickly in a continuous burst.
• Self-timer: The camera takes one to nine pictures after an adjustable several-second delay.
• Delayed remote (ML-L3): When you press the button on the optional Nikon ML-L3 infrared remote release the camera fires the shutter after a two-second (2 s) delay.
• Quick-response (ML-L3): When you press the button on the optional Nikon ML-L3 infrared remote release the camera fires the shutter immediately.
• Movie recording: When you press the Shutter-release button the camera will record a movie instead of taking a still picture. Pressing the Shutter-release button again ends the movie.
We won’t discuss each of these items in detail in this chapter. We’ll learn only how to set them. In chapter 8 we’ll go into full detail about the first five Release modes. Chapter 11, Creating HD Videos, fully describes how to use the Movie recording mode.
Figure 4.40: Selecting a Release mode
Use these steps to choose a Release mode:
1. Choose Release mode from the Shooting Menu and scroll to the right (figure 4.40, image 1).
2. Select one of the six release modes from the menu (figure 4.40, image 2). I chose Single frame.
3. Press the OK button to lock in your choice.
Settings Recommendation: I use Single frame Release mode most of the time. It allows me to compose and shoot one picture at a time. If I am shooting action, I often choose Continuous Release mode since it allows me to shoot multiple frames in a series. I use the Nikon ML-L3 remote infrared release and either Delayed remote (ML-L3) or Quick-response (ML-L3) when I have my camera on a tripod and I’m shooting landscapes or group photos. Of course, if I want to shoot some HD video, I use the Movie recording mode.
Built-in AF-Assist Illuminator
(User’s Manual, Page 180)
You’ve seen the AF-assist light on the top front of the COOLPIX A. It often shines a bright red light to help the camera autofocus in low-light conditions when you use certain AF-area modes (not all of them).
A setting allows you to control when that little light comes on. Nikon calls it the Built-in AF-assist illuminator, and it lights up when low-light conditions are sensed in most AF-area modes—except Subject-tracking AF—to help with autofocus.
There are two choices on the Built-in AF-assist illuminator menu. The following are descriptions of how the choices affect the AF-assist illuminator:
• On: If the light level is low, the AF-assist illuminator shines a bright red light to help illuminate the subject enough for autofocus. This works only in certain modes: in Face-priority AF-area mode any time it’s needed; and in Wide-area and Normal-area AF modes if the autofocus rectangle is near the center of the Live view monitor. Again, in Subject-tracking AF-area mode, the AF-assist illuminator does not light up.
• Off: The AF-assist illuminator does not come on to help you in low-light autofocus situations. The camera may not be able to autofocus in very low light.
Figure 4.41: The Built-in AF-assist illuminator setting
Use the following steps to set the Built-in AF-assist illuminator to On or Off:
1. From the Shooting Menu, highlight Built-in AF-assist illuminator and scroll to the right (figure 4.41, image 1).
2. Choose On or Off from the menu. In figure 4.41, image 2, I selected On.
3. Press the OK button to lock in the setting.
Settings Recommendation: I leave Built-in AF-assist illuminator set to On most of the time. It is activated only when the light is low enough to need it. However, there are exceptions for specific circumstances.
If you are trying to take pictures without being noticed, such as from across the room with a zoom lens or while doing street photography, you certainly don’t want this extremely bright light drawing attention when you start autofocus. Or you may be shooting wildlife, such as a giant grizzly bear, and you sure don’t want to call attention to yourself by shining a bright light into the bear’s eyes.
Don’t use this feature if you don’t want others to notice you—especially if they are 8-feet tall with claws and fangs—because shining a bright red light will immediately draw the subject’s attention.
Exposure Comp. for Flash
(User’s Manual, Page 180)
The Exposure comp. for flash function originally appeared in the Nikon D4 professional camera. Basically, it allows you to treat the subject and background differently when you use flash. You can separate the normal exposure compensation function (for the background) and the flash compensation function (for the subject). Exposure compensation can be applied only to the background, or to the background and subject (the entire frame) with flash. There are two available settings:
• Entire frame: Both the flash and the exposure compensation work together.
• Background only: The flash and nonflash exposure compensation are separate. Flash compensation applies to the subject only, and nonflash exposure compensation applies to the background only.
Figure 4.42: Exposure comp. for flash
Use the following steps to choose a flash and exposure compensation combination:
1. From the Shooting Menu, highlight Exposure comp. for flash and scroll to the right (figure 4.42, image 1).
2. Choose Entire frame or Background only. If you choose Background only, the nonflash and flash compensation functions are applied separately (figure 4.42, image 2).
3. Press the OK button to lock in your choice.
Settings Recommendation: I leave my camera set to Entire frame for most shooting. If I need to change the light level relationship between the subject and the background, I set the camera to Background only and experiment until I find the best compensation for balance or to emphasize one or the other. Why not spend time learning how to use this new technology?
Flash Cntrl for Built-in Flash (and Optional Flash)
(User’s Manual, Page 181)
The Flash cntrl for built-in flash setting provides two distinct ways to control the output of the popup Speedlight flash or external Nikon Speedlight flash unit—such as the SB-400, which the user’s manual specifically mentions. The two modes are TTL and Manual.
When you use the popup flash, this Shooting Menu item is called Flash cntrl for built-in flash. If you insert an SB-400 flash unit into the camera’s Accessory shoe, the menu item name changes to Optional flash.
By attaching the larger, more powerful SB-400 flash unit, the camera gives you some extra settings in Manual flash mode. Let’s examine how using the built-in flash and mounting an external Speedlight flash affects the camera settings and capabilities.
The following list describes the two Flash cntrl for built-in flash (or Optional flash) modes and what they do:
• TTL: Also known as i-TTL (intelligent through the lens), this mode is the standard way to use the camera for flash pictures. TTL (through the lens) creates a very accurate and balanced flash output by firing virtually invisible preflashes to determine the correct exposure before the main flash burst fires. TTL is compatible with the Nikon SB-910, SB-900, SB-800, SB-700, SB-600, SB-400, and SB-R200 Speedlights. TTL is a completely automatic mode and will adjust to various distances, shutter speeds, and apertures your camera can use.
• Manual: The Manual mode allows you to manually control the output of your flash. The settings range from Full power to 1/32 of Full power with the built-in flash, or Full power to 1/128 of Full power with the SB-400 flash unit. If you’ve been shooting in a studio for a long time, this setting will be quite familiar to you.
Figure 4.43: Flash cntrl for built-in flash or Optional flash
Use the following steps to choose one of the Flash cntrl for built-in flash settings:
1. From the Shooting Menu, highlight either Flash cntrl for built-in flash (for built-in flash, use figure 4.43, image 1) or Optional flash (for the SB-400 flash, use figure 4.43, image 2) and scroll to the right.
2. Choose TTL or Manual. If you choose Manual, scroll to the right to set the flash output from Full to 1/32 (for built-in flash) or Full to 1/128 (for the SB-400).
3. Press the OK button to lock in the setting.
Note: At the time of this writing a new small Speedlight flash unit called the Nikon SB-300 became available. However, I was not able to acquire one for testing before this book went to press. From discussing this new flash with Nikon technical support, it appears that the SB-300 will be compatible with the COOLPIX A and may offer the extended Manual flash range (Full to 1/128). You may want to consider the SB-300 for your A if that proves to be true.
I tested my Nikon SB-900 pro-level flash on the COOLPIX A, and it works perfectly. However, it does not change the Shooting Menu item name from Flash cntrl for built-in flash to Optional flash the way the SB-400 flash unit does. Nor does the SB-900 offer the extended manual flash range from within the camera’s menu as it does with the SB-400. Of course, you can fully control the Manual mode power from the screen on the back of the SB-900, but the SB-400 has no screen and therefore uses the camera’s menu screens for fine control.
Auto Bracketing Set
(User’s Manual, Page 181)
The Auto bracketing set function lets you choose how bracketing works. You can set up bracketing for the exposure system (AE), White balance (WB), and Active D-Lighting (ADL).
The Auto bracketing set function works directly with a Quick Menu setting called Auto bracketing on the Information display (see chapter 2, Live View, Information Display, and Quick Menu). When you enable Auto bracketing on the Quick Menu, the camera brackets according to how you have the Auto bracketing set function configured.
The basic idea behind bracketing is to take the same picture multiple times with different exposures, White balances, or Active D-Lighting levels. It’s a way to play it safe so you get at least one excellent picture out of the series or so you can combine multiple images into one image with a high dynamic range (HDR) or more accurate color.
Let’s start by reviewing the three types of bracketing:
• AE bracketing: When you set up a session for bracketing, the camera will cause any type of normal picture you take to be bracketed, whether it is a standard exposure or it is taken with flash.
• WB bracketing: White balance bracketing works the same as exposure and flash bracketing, except it is designed for bracketing color in mired values; that is, the color temperature is adjusted instead of the light (see sidebar, What Is Mired?). You can use WB bracketing only when you are shooting in JPEG mode.
• ADL bracketing: This allows Active D-Lighting to be bracketed in up to five separate exposures. Each consecutive exposure uses the next-higher level of Active D-Lighting.
Figure 4.44: Auto bracketing set choices
Use the following steps to select an Auto bracketing set type:
1. From the Shooting Menu, highlight Auto bracketing set and scroll to the right (figure 4.44, image 1).
2. Choose one of the options from the list. In figure 4.44, image 2, I selected AE bracketing.
3. Press the OK button to lock in the setting.
Now let’s consider how to use the bracketing system.
Steps to Use AE Bracketing
When you enable AE bracketing by selecting it from the Auto bracketing set menu, you’re telling the camera you want to take three pictures in succession with equal exposure variances. All AE bracket sequences with the COOLPIX A are three-shot brackets. You cannot select a different number of frames.
You can select a bracketing exposure range from AE0.3 to AE2.0 in 1/3 EV steps (figure 4.45, image 2). For example, AE1.0 means that your camera will take the three bracketed pictures with the first picture at +1.0 EV (+1 stop), the second picture at normal exposure, and the third picture at -1.0 EV (-1 stop). That will leave you with three pictures: one overexposure, one normal exposure, and one underexposure. You can then use the best single exposure or do an HDR combination of the three.
To create the bracket with the camera’s Release mode set to Single frame, you must take three individual pictures by pressing the Shutter-release button three times. Or you can set the camera’s Release mode to Continuous and hold down the Shutter-release button. In Continuous Release mode the camera will take the three pictures in a single burst and then stop taking pictures.
Note: The camera does not automatically turn Auto bracketing set off after you shoot the bracketed series of images, so you must remember to turn it off when you are finished. Otherwise you will continue shooting bracketed images, usually without realizing it, until you disable the setting.
Let’s examine how to set up the camera for the bracket.
Figure 4.45: Auto exposure and flash (AE) bracketing
Use these steps to choose an AE bracketing setting:
1. Open the Information display screen with the i button and select Auto bracketing (BKT) from the Quick Menu on the bottom right (figure 4.45, image 1).
2. Press the OK button, and you will see the Auto bracketing menu with the choices discussed earlier. Select your favorite Auto bracketing setting. Press the OK button again to lock in your choice. I chose the AE1.0 setting (figure 4.45, image 2), which specifies a 1 EV step (1 stop) difference between each image in the bracket.
3. Press the Shutter-release button halfway down to return to the Live view display. Notice that the AE bracketing selection you made is displayed on the Live view screen (figure 4.45, image 3). The arrow points to a label that says AE-BKT and a -/+ Bracketing progress indicator. There are three vertical lines below the -/+ Bracketing progress indicator. Each line represents one picture. As you take each picture in the bracket, one line will disappear. When they are gone, all three pictures in the bracketing series have been captured.
4. Set the Release mode to Continuous (see a previous section titled Release Mode) and hold down the Shutter-release button until the three pictures are taken; or you can leave the Release mode set to Single frame and take three individual pictures to complete the bracket series.
Steps to Use WB Bracketing
When you enable WB bracketing by selecting it from the Auto bracketing set menu (figure 4.44, image 2) you are telling the camera you want it to take one picture, make two copies (for a total of three images), and change the White balance on two of the images.
The first shot will be taken with the White balance the camera detected in Auto or with a preset White balance value you choose (e.g., Cloudy), the second shot will have increased amber (warmer), and the third shot will have increased blue (cooler).
There are three WB bracketing choices on the Auto bracketing screen (figure 4.46, image 2): WB1, WB2, and WB3. Each of these has a greater increase in amber and blue. The camera uses the mired scale, where 1 mired equals a barely perceptible change in color. The WB bracketing system uses three mired settings: WB1 is 5 mired, WB2 is 10 mired, and WB3 is 15 mired. See the upcoming subsection titled What Is Mired? for more information about mired and how the WB bracketing system works in the COOLPIX A.
WB bracketing is not available when your camera is in RAW mode or a RAW + JPEG mode; it’s available for standalone JPEG modes only.
Figure 4.46: White balance (WB) bracketing
Use the following steps to shoot a series of images with WB bracketing:
1. Open the Information display screen with the i button and select Auto bracketing (BKT) from the Quick Menu on the bottom right (figure 4.46, image 1).
2. Press the OK button, and you will see the Auto bracketing menu with the choices discussed earlier. Select your favorite WB bracketing setting (WB1, WB2, or WB3). Press the OK button again to lock in your choice. I chose the WB1 setting (figure 4.46, image 2), which is a 5-mired increase in amber (warmer) on one image and blue (cooler) on another image.
3. Press the Shutter-release button halfway down to return to the Live view display. Notice that the WB bracketing selection you made is displayed on the Live view screen (figure 4.46, image 3). The arrow points to a label that says WB-BKT and a -/+ Bracketing progress indicator. There are three vertical lines below the -/+ Bracketing progress indicator. Each line represents one picture in the bracket.
Note: Remember that White balance bracketing works differently than AE bracketing when it comes to shooting the bracket. All you have to do is press the Shutter-release button once, and the camera takes one image, makes two copies (for a total of three images), and applies the different WB bracketing values to each image. It then saves the three images, with their different White balance settings, under different file names. You do not take multiple images in WB bracketing; the camera makes three images from one picture.
Settings Recommendation: I prefer to use RAW mode and make minor (or major) color adjustments in the post-processing stage. However, you may want to use WB bracketing when you shoot JPEGs because each time you modify and resave a JPEG image, the file is degraded. Photographers who are concerned with accurate color balance will find WB bracketing useful.
What Is Mired?
Mired is a scale of color changes that are applied to an image, in this case toward amber or blue. In effect, the color change warms or cools the image. The camera applies the color change directly to images when you shoot JPEGs. You don’t have to worry about mired values unless you are a color scientist. You can just determine whether you like the image the way it is or would prefer that it be warmer or cooler, and bracket accordingly.
Figure 4.47: An image with a 5-mired color shift (A1)
Here’s how mired is used in the COOLPIX A. In WB bracketing the A (amber) direction warms and the B (blue) direction cools. If you look at an image that is part of a WB bracketing series in the camera’s Overview screen, you will see something like this: WB AUTO1 A1 or WB AUTO1 B2 (figure 4.47).
WB AUTO1 A1 means the image is using AUTO1 white balance as the base color and is color shifted toward amber (warmer) by 5 mired. WB AUTO1 B2 means the image is using AUTO1 white balance with a color shift of 10 mired toward blue (cooler).
When you shoot a WB bracketed series, the camera creates three images out of one. If you use AUTO1 as the base white balance, the WB1 choice means that the first image in the bracket uses AUTO1 as the white balance, the second image uses AUTO1 as the base with a 5-mired color shift toward amber (A1), and the third image uses AUTO1 as the base with a 5-mired color shift toward blue (B1). WB2 and WB3 simply increase the color shift by 10 mired (WB2) and 15 mired (WB3) instead of 5 mired (WB1).
Mired is calculated by multiplying the inverse of the color temperature by 106. I’d rather let my camera calculate mired values and then judge them with my eye. WB bracketing modifications are permanently applied to JPEG files.
Remember that if you shoot RAW images you can change the color values during image post-processing, so you don’t have to worry about mired.
Steps to Use ADL Bracketing
Active D-Lighting (ADL) pulls detail out of the shadows and protects detail in the highlights. ADL bracketing allows you to shoot a bracketed series of two images: the first image has ADL turned off, and the second picture has whatever setting you configured under Shooting Menu > Active D-Lighting (see the previous section called Active D-Lighting).
Figure 4.48: Active D-Lighting (ADL) bracketing
Use the following steps to shoot a series of images with ADL bracketing:
1. Open the Information display screen with the i button and select Auto bracketing (BKT) from the Quick Menu on the bottom right (figure 4.48, image 1).
2. Press the OK button, and you will see the Auto bracketing menu with Off and ADL as your two choices. To enable ADL Auto bracketing, select ADL and press the OK button again.
3. Press the Shutter-release button halfway down to return to the Live view display. Notice that the ADL bracketing selection you made is displayed on the Live view screen (figure 4.48, image 3). The arrow points to a label that says ADL-BKT, the word OFF, and the letter L. The camera will take two pictures, in this order: one with ADL off, then one with the current ADL setting in Shooting Menu > Active D-Lighting (or Quick Menu > ADL). OFF is underlined on the monitor to indicate that the first picture will be taken with ADL off. The underline will move to the next position for the second picture—in this case, the next position is L because I have ADL set to Low(L). Depending on your ADL selection, you could also see N (Normal), H (High), H+ (Extra high), or AUTO (ADL Auto).
4. Set the Release mode to Continuous (see the section titled Release Mode) and hold down the Shutter-release button until the two pictures are taken, or you can leave the Release mode set to Single frame and manually take two pictures to complete the bracket series.
Canceling a Bracketing Session
To disable bracketing or cancel a bracketed series in the middle of shooting the bracket, simply press the i button to access the Quick Menu and set ADL to Off.
The user’s manual mentions that you can cancel bracketing by rotating the Mode dial to another setting besides M, A, S, or P. However, I have found that when you return to any of the M, A, S, or P settings, Auto bracketing is still enabled and is ready to start over at the first picture in the bracket. Even turning the camera off in the middle of a bracketed series does not disable bracketing.
Therefore, the safest way to disable bracketing at any time is to use the Quick Menu to set ADL to Off. My camera is using firmware version C1.01 (check yours at Setup Menu > Firmware version). Nikon may change how this works in future firmware upgrades, so be sure to test bracket canceling before you use bracketing regularly.
Settings Recommendation: You might use each of the bracketing types for different reasons as you shoot. Many landscape or scenic shooters use AE bracketing frequently to get several images of the same scene at different exposures so they can later combine them in high dynamic range (HDR) imaging software. WB bracketing may be useful if you use your camera in a studio where white balance is critical. If you haven’t used bracketing before, I urge you to learn how. It is a powerful capability that seriously extends the camera’s ability to capture a greater range of light.
Interval Timer Shooting
(User’s Manual, Page 127)
Interval timer shooting allows you to set up your camera to shoot a series of images over time. Make sure your battery is fully charged or your camera is connected to a full-time power source for images taken over long periods of time.
You will need the Nikon EH-5b AC adapter and EP-5C power connector for a full-time AC power connection. For extended Interval timer shooting, it is best to use a tripod. Let’s examine how to set up the camera for an Interval timer shooting session.
Figure 4.49: Setting up Interval timer shooting
The screens in figure 4.49 look a little daunting, but the bottom half of screens 2–6 are informational. They show the settings you create in the top half of each screen.
There are three basic steps to configure Interval timer shooting (we will go through the detailed steps momentarily):
1. Choose a Start time.
2. Choose an Interval.
3. Choose the number of intervals (Number of times).
Let’s set up a specific Interval timer shooting session scenario. If you want to take a series of images starting at 3:30 p.m. (Start time) and shoot every 10 seconds (Interval) over a period of 30 seconds—or three intervals (Number of times), taking one picture per interval—you would follow these steps:
1. Navigate to Interval timer shooting from the Shooting Menu (figure 4.49, image 1). From the Choose start time menu select Start time (figure 4.49, image 2) and scroll to the right.
2. You will now see a Start time menu (figure 4.49, image 3), with the time in 24-hour (military) format:
Enter the time at which you want the intervals to begin. If you want to start at 3:30 p.m., insert the following time and then scroll to the right:
3. You will now see the Interval screen with hours, minutes, and seconds in the following format (figure 4.49, image 4):
The sets of zeroes represent hours, minutes, and seconds, respectively. Since we want to start with an Interval of 10 seconds, set the screen to look like this, then scroll to the right:
4. Now select the number of intervals (figure 4.49, image 5). This screen says Number of times in the following format, which represents the number of intervals with one picture taken:
Set your camera so it looks like this:
This means there will be 003 intervals of 10 seconds each (set in step 3), and the camera will take one picture in each interval for a total of three pictures. In other words, one picture will be taken every 10 seconds over a period of 30 seconds, for a total of three images. Now scroll to the right to get to the next screen.
5. Select On from the final screen (figure 4.49, image 6) and press the OK button. A Timer active message will appear on your camera’s monitor (figure 4.50) and the camera will wait until 3:30 p.m. to start shooting a picture at each timed interval.
Figure 4.50: Interval timer active
During the interval countdown, a small green LED light (on top of the camera, to the right of the On/Off label) will blink every few seconds.
To stop Interval timer shooting before the interval has completed, turn the camera off. It will remember the settings you previously entered, making it convenient to restart the Interval timer later.
Note: If you select Now instead of Start time in figure 4.49, image 2, your camera will start the interval timer session about five seconds later, instead of at a specified time.
Settings Recommendation: Interval timer shooting is somewhat complicated, but if you read this section carefully and practice using it as you read, you’ll learn quickly. This type of photography allows you to shoot things like flowers gradually opening or clouds moving across the sky. Have some fun with it!
(User’s Manual, Page 43)
Movie settings allow you to control how the camera records video sequences. This set of functions allows you to adjust three specific things about how Movie mode works:
• Frame size/frame rate: Choose from six frame size and frame rate combinations
• Movie quality: Select from High quality and Normal
• Microphone: Turn the built-in stereo microphone on or off
First, let’s examine how to make a selection from the six frame size and frame rate combinations.
Figure 4.51: Frame size/frame rate selection
Use the following steps to select a Frame size/frame rate for your Movie:
1. Choose Movie settings from the Shooting Menu and scroll to the right (figure 4.51, image 1).
2. Select Frame size/frame rate and scroll to the right (figure 4.51, image 2).
3. Choose a frame size and frame rate for your Movie from the list of six choices (figure 4.51, image 3).
4. Press the OK button to lock in the setting.
Note: The p designation, such as in 30p, stands for progressive. This is a standard that has to do with how the camera uses the sensor to create a movie. I will explain this in much greater detail in chapter 11, Creating HD Videos.
Next, let’s see about selecting High or Normal quality for the Movie. This affects the bit rate at which the Movie is shot and determines the final quality of the Movie. Table 4.1 is a list of Frame sizes/frame rates and bit rates that are controlled by Movie quality and the recording time for each.
Table 4.1: Frame size/frame rate and Movie quality bit rates and times
Figure 4.52: Movie quality selection
Use the following steps to choose a Movie quality:
1. Choose Movie settings from the Shooting Menu and scroll to the right (figure 4.52, image 1).
2. Select Movie quality from the menu and scroll to the right (figure 4.52, image 2).
3. Choose High quality or Normal (figure 4.52, image 3).
4. Press the OK button to lock in the Movie quality.
Now, we’ll look at choosing the most appropriate Microphone setting for your built-in microphone (mic), external accessory shoe–mounted mic (such as the Nikon ME-1 stereo mic), or external boom-mounted mic.
Figure 4.53: Turning the Microphone on or off
Use the following steps to enable the stereo Microphone for your Movie:
1. Choose Movie settings from the Shooting Menu and scroll to the right (figure 4.53, image 1).
2. Select Microphone from the menu and scroll to the right (figure 4.53, image 2).
3. Choose On or Off (figure 4.53, image 3).
4. Press the OK button to lock in the Microphone setting.
Note: The actual frame rate for 30 frames per second (fps) is 29.97 fps; the rate for 24 and 25 fps is 23.976 fps. It is important for you to know this because if you try to interface with some devices and use anything but the exact frame rate, the device will not record the Movie.
The maximum recording time is either 20 minutes or 29 minutes and 59 seconds. Refer to table 4.1 to see which modes and bit rates allow which recording times.
The camera records stereo sound through the two small microphone holes to the left and right of the AF-assist illuminator on the top front of the camera, to the right of the Nikon label.
If you are shooting video in an area with a high ambient temperature and the camera sensor gets too hot, the camera may shut down before the maximum video recording length.
I will explain the video recording features in much greater detail in chapter11.
Settings Recommendation: When I shoot a Movie, I normally select 1920×1080 at 24 fps because I have grown accustomed to the look of 1080p at 24 fps. You have many video quality choices. If you want to save some memory card space, you may want to drop the Frame size/frame rate down to 1280×720 at 30 fps. This provides extremely high quality 720p HD video that takes up only a little more than half the space of full 1080p. To shoot video successfully, you should acquire some memory cards with a capacity of at least 16 GB—preferably 32 GB or 64 GB. Video requires a lot of space.
Video Compression Type and Audio
For the technically inclined individuals among us, the COOLPIX A usesH.264/MPEG-4 Advanced Video Coding (AVC), with MOV (Apple QuickTime) file format. The audio recording is in stereo and uses the Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) format.
Congratulations! You have fully configured one of the camera’s user settings. Now, set up another one. Taking advantage of the camera’s two user settings (U1 and U2) gives you a great deal of flexibility in how your camera operates. You can switch between two different camera configurations very quickly.
The next chapter, Setup Menu, will round out the major configuration of your camera for daily shooting.