In this fourth issue of the Photography FAQ, I will focus on Nikon-specific questions that have been sent by our readers. Big thanks to our readers for continuously sending questions to us and participating in the comments section of our blog. We truly value your feedback and we do our best to respond to your queries as soon as we can.
- Should I enable Active D-Lighting on my Nikon DSLR?
It depends on whether you shoot in JPEG or RAW format. If you shoot JPEG, then yes, I would certainly recommend enabling Active D-Lighting. Use “Auto” setting, if it is available. If “Auto” is not available, then use “Normal”, which should work well for most situations. However, if you shoot in RAW format, then enabling Active D-Lighting is only going to be useful if you use Nikon’s Capture NX software. If you use Lightroom or some other third party application for post-processing your images, then Active D-Lighting is a useless overhead that you do not need – it will only darken your images a little. The reason why this happens, is because Active D-Lighting is essentially a tone curve applied to a RAW image in Nikon’s proprietary format. Current Adobe products are unable to read this data, so they automatically discard such data as Active D-Lighting, sharpening, color saturation, etc.
- I have a Nikon D80 that I have been using for a while and I was wondering if the D5000 represents a step down from what I currently have?
Yes. While Nikon D5000 might seem like an upgrade for a D80 user, it is actually a lower-class camera. Nikon D5000 is an upper-entry-level camera, while Nikon D80 is a semi-professional camera that has more features (almost twice as many custom functions) than D5000. If you are currently using the Nikon D80, then you should be looking at D90 if you want to upgrade. A more detailed comparison of features can be found in my Nikon D5000 vs D90 article.
- Do you have any information on when an upgrade to Nikon D90 is supposed to be released? Will it happen this year?
I get this question a lot. If you look at Nikon’s release schedule in the past, then yes, there should be an update to Nikon D90 at the end of this summer. However, nobody can tell you for sure, because the information is kept in secret and Nikon makes select people sign special “non-disclosure agreements” (NDA) before they can see any of the unannounced products. I personally do have a problem with a possible summer update of D90 and I think that it is not going to happen. Why? Because Nikon has not released a new sensor on the professional DX line this year. Nikon released the D300s, but it uses the same sensor as in D300. This does matter, because historically, Nikon released semi-professional DX cameras only after a major update to the professional DX cameras (D80 came out after D200 and used the same sensor, D90 came out after D300, same sensor). So, if an update to D90 does come out this summer, would Nikon reuse the same sensor as in the current D90? I don’t think so, it just wouldn’t make much sense. Adding more features to D90 is also not a good option, since Nikon would not want to threaten the current D300s sales with a more capable D90.
NOTE: Nikon D7000 has been announced, no D90 update is planned for 2010.
- What about an update to Nikon D700?
Everybody was hoping for a Nikon D700s or Nikon D700x this spring, but it didn’t happen. Since Nikon D3s has a brand new sensor, a Nikon D700s would make the most sense. The Nikon D700 was released on July 1, 2008, so there could be a Nikon D700s announcement in July or later in the year (most likely November announcement for general availability before Christmas), but again, it is just a mere guess. There is also a possibility that it will not happen at all this year, due to Nikon’s financial situation. I hope Nikon understands that a lot of people are waiting for a D700s/D700x release – it will surely be a hot seller, especially in the wedding photography business.
- You recommend Nikon 35mm f/1.8G DX and Nikon 50mm f/1.4G lenses for low-light situations. If I have a room lit with just candle light, can those lenses create good, acceptably sharp images?
If you are shooting hand-held in a candle-lit room, then no, neither the 35mm f/1.8, nor the Nikon 50mm f/1.4 would help. Remember, there is a big difference between low-light and dark. Candle light is dark. What I consider low-light is your typical indoors light in your room, with one or more 60-100W light bulbs. Also, don’t forget that focusing with a camera in low-light situations is extremely difficult and even though you might get a camera shake-free image, it could be soft due to bad focus. If you have a camera with good high ISO performance like the Nikon D700/D3 or D3s, then you could certainly bump up ISO to a really high number and get acceptably sharp images, but you would once again have to watch for possible focusing problems. Having fast-aperture lenses does not mean that you can photograph night scenes by just hand-holding the camera.
Please let me know if you have any questions!