Photography FAQ #4

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

  4. 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.
  5. 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!

Comments

  1. 1
    ) Sekhar
    June 18, 2010 at 7:12 am

    You are welcome ! it is a pleasure going through your website from time to time…. so to shoot in dark, we need D3s … out of reach for now ! have you already commented on, what are some basic things one can do get sharp imagesl in low light or dark with d90 or probably others models… but, there will be quite a few people interesting in knowing that.. say, with a 50mm f/1.4. Any specific camera settings? One of the main reasons me (and my wife) shifted to dslr is because we wanted to be able to get sharp images in low light… our p&s literally spoiled our night shots at last vacation !

    • June 29, 2010 at 9:11 pm

      Sekhar, have you seen my low light photography tips article? Most of what you are interested in is already described there.

      When it comes to night shots, no camera can really capture images well, unless you have it on a tripod or some other stable surface. You might need to get a good flash and bounce the light off white walls and ceilings to get beautiful images, but you have to watch autofocus and make sure that the camera is able to acquire focus in low light. Either way, a DSLR is going to produce much better results than a point and shoot, even without a flash.

      • 7
        ) Sekhar
        July 6, 2010 at 7:20 am

        Nasim, Indeed, I can already see a difference of day and night between my old p&s and d90 – no doubt. I felt very limited with the old camera. I indeed appreciate your suggestions, esp. on d90 on this site, as they are very accurate.

        yes i have read your excellent section on low light. I am indeed satisfied to notice what you already clarified very nicely to me. I have taken sample pictures at home with many bulbs, but every time the ISO goes up… and i have to do some tweaking to reduce the ISO. Lighting is indeed not enough. I am taking pictures in various environments to check how the aperture, shutter and iso work.

        I have encountered a new issue. While on my computer the photos look fine. I gave some for printing and I see that everything has become little bluish… walls which are pink have become indigo-violet, creamish background has become bluish… even white seems to have become bluish… do you think it is a mistake of the studio or something else at work. is there a way to check that all colors are coming out fine in my computer itself? I will ofcourse later this week, cross check with the studio. I don’t know if I have done something strange with WB.

        • July 9, 2010 at 4:34 pm

          Sekhar, I’m glad that you are liking the camera.

          In terms of prints, did you extract your images in sRGB profile or AdobeRGB? Many printing studios cannot match their calibration profiles with your images, so you have to find a good one that can. Otherwise, your best bet is to extract in sRGB color profile and then submit for printing.

          • 9
            ) Sekhar
            July 13, 2010 at 1:05 am

            Nasim, I extracted in sRGB profile (it was on by default). Changing studio did not help, but i have another reliable place where i will finally check and then see what happens.

            I have another question. What do you check after taking a picture to see if it is alright? I particularly check whether ISO is 200 or not, and pretty much decide on that basis. do you think this logic is correct?

            • July 17, 2010 at 1:43 am

              Sekhar, I don’t look at ISO after I take the picture – I do it before. For me, the sharpness of the image is the most important factor. If I see blur in the image that I don’t like, I immediately delete the image.

  2. 2
    ) Sekhar
    June 22, 2010 at 3:20 am

    okay, i found lot of info on low light in your pages itself ! playing around with my d90.

    • June 29, 2010 at 9:11 pm

      Sekhar, let me know if you have any questions.

      • 11
        ) Sekhar
        July 30, 2010 at 2:07 pm

        Nasim, I finally managed to use photoshop (with help from studio) and make the right prints. It took some time, but everything works now. The pictures taken with 50mm 1.4 were always the stand out as suggested in your pages. I am glad I came across this lens.

        what do you do to get right contrast and colors in very bright sun light? the sky is literally white, nowhere close to blue?

        • July 30, 2010 at 4:14 pm

          Sekhar, you are most welcome!

          If the sky is white, it means that your subject is probably darker than the sky. In terms of contrast and colors, you can make adjustment to your images within Lightroom.

  3. 3
    ) Tair
    June 28, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    Good Day
    I have one question in mind. I cannot understand which color profile on my camera i should use. As the majority of modern cameras i have sRGB and Adobe RGB color profiles and i cannot understand which one is better and how to use Adobe profile correctly. While using Adobe RGB i get more contrast and saturated ( maybe even oversaturated) pictures, but i feel that using it i’m losing midtones. Could you please share your expirience on this topic. Thank You.

    • June 29, 2010 at 9:16 pm

      Tair, if you shoot in RAW format, it doesn’t matter, since you can change the color profile while converting an image to a JPEG or any other format. I personally leave mine at Adobe RGB on the camera…

      Now if you shoot in JPEG and want to choose the right color profile, then I would recommend to go with sRGB instead, because it will be easier to work with and most monitors cannot reproduce Adobe RGB anyway. Exporting images to web would also be very quick. If your images look oversatured, it doesn’t mean that they actually are – it is most likely due to your monitor/LCD not being able to reproduce such a large color gamut.

      Let me know if you have any questions.

  4. 13
    ) Amit
    October 9, 2010 at 8:43 am

    I feel that question 3 can be removed now and question 2 can be modified to also suggest D7000 apart from D90.

    • November 17, 2010 at 6:49 pm

      Amit, you are right – those questions are no longer relevant :)

  5. 14
    ) Anthony
    November 11, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    Dear Nasim,

    I have been a keen follower of your website for a while now. I must congratulate you and a wonderful job. You tackle all the complex issues and communicate it to us in a simple manner for all to understand. I have recommended and will continue to reccomnd your site to others. (my wife even brows the recipe section :-)

    I have a Nikon D200 (since 2007) with a Nikon 18-200mm and the SB-800 speedlight flash. It is a nice camera however, I have not been able to get consistent quality images with it. I started photography recently and the D200 was my first ‘real’ camera. I strongly agree that it is the user and not the camera.My problem lies with taking pictures in low light. I am finding it difficult to take pictures that aren’t under or over exposed. Any articles you have I can read or tricks I can use to help get me better quality pictures in low light?

    On another note, if I were to upgrade my camera, what would you recommend? I use the camera mostly for family portraits, birthdays, family weddings and gatherings etc. Would love to have a lens for great Bokeh as well.

    Thanks in advance and please keep up the good work.

    Anthony

    • November 17, 2010 at 6:54 pm

      Thank you for your feedback Anthony!

      When you say that you have problems with shooting in low light, do you mean shooting in low light with your SB-800 or without? The Nikon 18-200mm is certainly a slow lens when compared to prime lenses like Nikon 35mm f/1.8G or Nikon 50mm f/1.4G and it is more difficult to focus in low-light.

      I will be posting some flash photography guides soon, if that’s the area you want to learn more about.

      In terms of upgrading your D200 – what is your budget? The newer cameras definitely handle noise better, but if you learn how to use your flash well, you might not need to shoot the camera at high ISOs…

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