This year was a year of many expectations from Nikon – cameras like Nikon D3000, D90 and D700 were rumored to be updated and while the release history told us the cameras would get minor and major upgrades, many of us understood that the tough economy would certainly affect the normal schedule and could result in extended life for the existing product line. The camera update that many photographers have been waiting for was for the Nikon D90, which has been one of the hottest selling cameras from Nikon ever since it was announced.
During the last several weeks, I have received several requests from our readers about finding the total number of shutter actuations on their DSLRs. I decided to write a short article on how you can find the total shutter actuations on both Nikon and Canon DSLRs, in case you are interested in seeing how much you have been using your camera or how close your shutter speed is to the manufacturers’ rated shutter life of 150,000 (on most entry and mid-level cameras) or 300,000 (professional cameras).
1) EXIF Data
The information on the total shutter actuations on your camera is preserved in file headers, known as “metadata” or “EXIF”. If you do not know what EXIF is and what it is used for, check out my “What is EXIF” article that I wrote a while ago. Basically, your camera writes all exposure-related information such as date, time, shutter speed, aperture, ISO and a bunch of other important information into the header of each file. Some camera manufacturers like Nikon and Canon also add unique shutter actuations data fields that are used for seeing the total number of exposures or “shutter actuations” cameras have.
2) Switch to JPEG format
If you are shooting RAW, it is best to switch to JPEG format just for getting the required information from your camera. While the camera native RAW format preserves all of the EXIF information that is coming out of the camera, third party conversion software like Adobe Photoshop Lightroom can strip out some of the proprietary EXIF data, including the number of shutter actuations. Therefore, switching to JPEG will allow you to view EXIF data straight, without having to import the image into Lightroom or Photoshop first. It doesn’t matter what size of JPEG files you choose – even JPEG BASIC works fine. Once selected, take a picture of anything you want.
3) Download EXIF viewer
In order to view the proprietary EXIF information from files, you need to use an image EXIF viewer that does not strip out anything from the file. Unfortunately, almost all current image viewers only display generic EXIF data that most people use and ignore the rest. Instead of properly reading EXIF data from files and then parsing the results, they typically just look for generic EXIF tags within the file and display them when they are available. If something is not available, it stays blank. To reduce the number of blank items to the minimum, they only provide generic information that is more or less standardized across most camera manufacturers.
Today Nikon announced the new Nikon D3100 DSLR camera – an update to the existing Nikon D3000 that was released a year ago. The D3100 is not just a cosmetic update, it comes with a brand new sensor and advanced video recording capabilities that are not yet present in any of the current Nikon DSLR bodies. Specifically, there is now an option to shoot 1080p video, the absence of which has certainly been a disadvantage when compared to Canon’s line of beginner cameras.
Are you getting frustrated with seeing small dark spots in your images that seem to show up in every image? If you see them consistently in the same location (the size and darkness of the spots can vary depending on aperture), you are most likely dealing with dust particles on your camera’s sensor. In this short article, I will show you a quick and easy way to identify sensor dust when shooting outdoors.
What is sensor dust?
If you own a DSLR, you will at some point have to deal with sensor dust, whether you like it or not. Dust is a normal fact of life and it is all around us, even at our homes that we try to keep clean at all times. The dust lands on both the lens and the camera body and due to the “breathing” mechanism of the lens while zooming in/out and focusing, the small dust particles end up getting sucked into the camera body. All lenses breathe one way or another or else the internal elements would not be able to move for autofocus and zoom functions. If you use more than one lens, the dust might be able to get into the camera body during the process of changing lenses.
An error message showing up on a camera is no fun and it can get frustrating when it happens. All modern Nikon DSLRs such as Nikon D3000, D5000, D40/D40x, D60, D80, D90, D200, D300/D300s, D700, D3, D3s and D3x display specific error messages when certain problems occur, to guide photographers in troubleshooting and fixing the problem. In this short article, I will go through each of the error codes and explain what needs to be done to get the problem resolved.
Blinking “Err” message
When you see a blinking “Err” message on the back or top LCD, it means that there is some sort of camera malfunction. It does not necessarily mean that the camera is bad though. This error shows up fairly frequently on new Nikon DSLR cameras that have oily contacts from the manufacturing process, which you can easily take care of yourself. All you need to do is dismount your lens, then use a clean cloth to clean contacts both on the lens and DSLR. If you want to find out how to do it in details, check out my “How to fix blinking ERR error on new Nikon DSLR cameras” article.
So you got yourself a brand new DSLR and after using it for a little while got the dreaded “Err” error on your camera LCD? Fear not, your camera might not damaged and there might be no need to return it back to Nikon, as they suggest in most camera manuals.
The reason why this error comes up, is because your camera is not properly communicating with your lens due to some dirt and grease both on camera and lens contacts. The solution is pretty simple – all you have to do is dismount your lens and clean the lens contacts, then clean camera contacts and mount the lens back on the camera and see what happens. Sounds too complicated? Are you afraid to damage your camera and/or lens? Then keep reading, because I will show you exactly what needs to be done.
Nikon’s DSLR & Lens rebates are ending tomorrow (May 1st, 2010), so today is your last chance to save some serious cash if you buy a Nikon D300s or Nikon D700 with any of the following Nikkor lenses: Nikon 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G DX, Nikon 16-35mm f/4.0G VR, Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G, Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G DX VR, Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G VR, Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II and Nikon 24-120 f/3.5-5.6G VR.
Note that the new and excellent Nikon 16-35mm f/4.0G VR is also included in the deal!
The heavy discount is between $250 and $400, depending on the combination and they will give you another $100 off if you purchase a Nikon SB-900 flash. Nikon rarely runs rebates like this, so grab your Nikon DSLR + lens if you haven’t done it already.
Click here to see the semi-updated list of rebates. You can see the full list of rebates on B&H website, once you click the “View Available Kits” button under a DSLR.
One of the areas within the camera that rarely ever gets touched, is the camera software, also known as “firmware”. Most modern electronic gadgets provide the ability to update their firmware by downloading fixes and updates through manufacturers’ websites and applying those updates on the devices. The firmware updates not only provide important fixes for identified bugs, but also provide brand new features that were absent when the device was shipped from the manufacturer. This ability to be able to update and run the latest version of firmware has become a standard among DLSR manufacturers, allowing end users to run the latest and greatest firmware on their cameras.
If you have never updated firmware on your Nikon DSLR or have not performed an update for a long time, you might want to check if new firmware is available for your camera. Some photographers argue that they do not feel the need to touch camera firmware, since they do not have any problems with their cameras and everything seems to be functioning properly. I personally feel otherwise – why not to run the latest and greatest camera software? And why would you resist adding more functions to your camera, especially if those functions are available to you at no charge? If you agree with me, then you should check what firmware you are running today and what firmware is currently available from Nikon.
In some cases, it is best to wait for at least 2-3 weeks after a brand new firmware update is released, to make sure that it does not come with unexpected bugs and problems. Although Nikon has a very good history and reputation when it comes to firmware releases, it does not necessarily mean that bad things won’t happen in the future.
1) Check current Firmware Version
Checking the firmware version on Nikon DSLR is very easy – just press the “Menu” button, the go to “Firmware Version” under “Setup”. You should see something like this (image courtesy of Nikon):
Choosing a tripod can be an overwhelming experience, given how many different types and choices we are presented with. On one hand, a tripod is a very simple tool to keep our cameras steady when we use them in challenging light conditions. On the other hand, there are so many different variables that come into play when choosing a tripod: How tall should it be? How light should it be? How stable should it be? What kind of weight can it support? How much should I spend on a tripod? These are just some of the questions that might come up as you look into buying a new tripod.
I get a lot of questions around changing aperture on Nikon D3000 and D5000 cameras and why aperture sometimes changes automatically on some lenses. This is a very quick tip on how to change aperture on both D3000 and D5000 (the top view is identical for both).
How to change aperture on Nikon D3000 and Nikon D5000 cameras
- Make sure that your lens aperture can be changed through the camera. If you are using an older lens with an aperture ring, make sure to set the aperture on the lens to the largest number. There should be a lock on the lens to keep it at that number. If you are getting an error on the back LCD of the camera when you press the “Info” button, you should go back and make sure that the aperture ring is set correctly. This is not an issue on most new lenses and the latest generation of the Nikon lenses labeled with a “G” do not have this ring at all. For example, neither the Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR nor the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G DX lens have the aperture ring.
- Changing lens aperture in Aperture Priority mode is very easy – just make sure that the dial on top of the camera is set to “A” position, then rotate the rear command dial to the left to decrease the aperture and to the right to increase it. In Aperture Priority mode, you set the lens aperture manually, while the camera picks the right Shutter Speed for you.
- Changing lens aperture in Manual mode is a little tricky. First, make sure that the dial on the top of the camera is set to “M” position.
- Next, press and hold the +/- button located right below the camera shutter, then rotate the rear command dial to change aperture. Rotating to the left will decrease the aperture, while rotating to the right will increase the aperture.
When you decrease the aperture, the aperture setting will stop at the maximum aperture the lens allows. For example, on the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G lens, aperture will stop at f/1.8. There is also a limit on minimum aperture on each lens and you cannot go higher than that limit as well. Typical minimum lens apertures are f/16, f/22 and f/36.
Lens apertures work a little differently on zoom lenses and the minimum/maximum aperture depends on what focal length you are using on the lens. For example, if you are using the Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5 lens and you are zoomed out at 18mm, the smallest aperture number you can use is f/3.5. However, if you zoom in to 55mm, the aperture will be limited to f/5.6 and you will not be able to go lower than that. The same principle works on all other variable aperture zoom lenses.