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Nikon D90 Digital Field Guide by J. Dennis Thomas

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Out of stock. Get In-Stock Alert. Delivery not available. Pickup not available. About This Item We aim to show you accurate product information. Manufacturers, suppliers and others provide what you see here, and we have not verified it. See our disclaimer. Customer Reviews. But today, the boundary between moving images and still pictures is becoming blurry — even professional photographers in the media are being asked more and more to blend videography with photography.

As more professional photographers make the leap from stills to video, they're going to need one tool that does it all, much like modern day cell phones which act as phones, cameras, calendars and e-mail programs. So while the existence of the video mode in the D90 is not all that surprising, it's just a bit of a shock to have it arrive so soon. It's also a bit of a shock to transition from stills to video when you're so deeply rooted as I am in the techniques and composition that make a good still image and I'll be the first to admit that many of the videos I captured for this Nikon D90 guide are - well - pretty boring.

It became clear to me quite early on that using the video mode on this camera takes plenty of time and patience to master. If I had three months to work with it along with a significantly better sense of what makes a good video then I'm sure that my videos would have been much more compelling. As I mentioned at the beginning of this Nikon D90 guide, the amount of video you can capture is limited :. Of course, the true amount of time that you'll be able to record video depends entirely on the size of the memory card you use and how much space you've got left on it.


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In addition to movie length, there are a few other limitations associated with video capture on the Nikon D All this means is that capturing great videos with the D90 is going to take a fair amount of practice : you're not going to get anything all that memorable on your first couple of attempts. But as you learn how to manually track focus and set exposure correctly, the potential of this new medium becomes clear: first, you can capture video using ANY lens compatible with the D90 - which means that extreme wide angle and extreme telephoto videos are possible macro videos anyone?

Second, you can quickly switch between still frame mode and video mode - allowing you to capture motion and sound if that suddenly becomes more compelling than a still image. He sets up two chairs side by side in our living rooms and pretends that he's surfing along to the music coming out of the stereo. While I have taken countless numbers of photos of him engaged in this activity, there's one REALLY important missing piece: the music itself that, and the silly motions he makes as he's "surfing".

With the D90 in hand, I was able to grab a few still frames of him perched on his chairs, then I switched to video mode to capture the action complete with music and arm flailing. The live view mode on the Nikon D90 makes a few improvements over the older live view systems, but still has its limitations. On some of the early digital SLRs that included live view - like the Olympus E - engaging the autofocus in live view mode required pressing a different button than the main shutter release which is what you use to autofocus when looking through the viewfinder.

On the D90, pressing the shutter release down halfway engages autofocus, regardless of what mode you're in. Despite this improvement, the autofocus performance when the camera is in live view mode is slow , since the camera can't leverage the full power of its point autofocus system. Live view on the D90 therefore is therefore most useful for subjects that aren't moving around a lot, and for situations where composing using the viewfinder is out of the question.

It's much less practical for action photography, but for this you can either switch back to the viewfinder or you can also attempt to focus manually. The 3 inch display leverages , pixels 4 times more than the D80 to display your photos in all of their colorful glory. Since the LCD is so clear and sharp, it improves the live view experience since you're able to judge focus accurately and you can see the image on the LCD even in bright sunlight.

Talking about the ISO performance of the D90 is quite easy, since I can sum it all up in a single word: wow. I've seen my fair share of cameras that did a great job of supressing image noise up to about ISO , but the D90 takes that peformance a step further. You'll have to closely inspect images taken at ISO for a mere hint of noise, and even shots captured at should surprise you since they don't look like a grainy mess.

This makes the Nikon D90 a superb choice if you love to snap pictures in very dim available light without a flash. This would be my camera of choice for taking pictures at concerts: available light is incredibly dim except for the stage and using a flash is out of the question unless you have the good fortune to be standing ON the stage.

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The only way to get clear shots in this sort of situation is to kick up the ISO as high as you can go. With the D90, you could easily set the ISO to or even and still get nice, clear, relatively noise-free images. In the "old" days of digital and film SLR cameras, if you took a photo that was half in sunlight and half in shade, you'd have to make a decision:. Cameras - regardless of type - don't have the same dynamic range that your eyes do: this gives you the ability to see detail in shadows and highlights regardless of how extreme the contrast may be.

Instead, SLR cameras have compressed dynamic range - which means that they lose detail in some part of the image when there's too much contrast in the scene. The latest breed of digital SLR cameras attempts to remedy this situation through the use of technology: for the Nikon D90, this particular feature is called Active D-Lighting. Active D-Lighting can be engaged at various levels of intensity when you're taking photos where the range from light to dark is too great for the camera to capture accurately.

When Active D-Lighting is turned on, the camera tones down bright highlights and it also increases the brightness of just the shadow areas in both cases, detail that would otherwise be lost is maintained. Less useful for portrait work, this feature is a great thing for anyone who's a dedicated landscape photographer. If you've spent any sort of significant time wandering around the great outdoors trying to capture pictures of the surrounding beauty, you're well aware that the available light doesn't always cooperate.

When faced with a panoramic vista, you may either choose to wait until the light is perfect which is what the pros do or you can grab the best shot you can with the light that's there. If the day is overcast and the contrast is fairly neutral, then you don't have to worry about anything - the camera will capture the detail and tones exactly the same way that you see them. But if the sun is out and the landscape is mottled with shadows and highlights, then the only way to get a keeper photo is to engage Active D-Lighting. The default setting is on AUTO, meaning that the camera judges when there's a lot of contrast and just how much Active D-Lighting it needs to apply.

The image below shows the effect it can be fairly subtle.

Nikon D90 Shooting Info

Pay special attention to the areas in shadow they'll get brighter and anything in direct sunlight it will become slightly darker. In essence, Active D-Lighting is just compressing the dynamic range so that the image captured is a better match with what your eyes are seeing. At full resolution, the D90 is capturing massive That's a lot of leeway to edit out part of the image you're not happy with. If you don't go crazy cropping your photos, you're able to print at huge sizes: up to 16 x 20 inches if you so desire.

The only drawback to these great big photos is that they take a lot of time to upload to an online gallery and e-mailing them to friends is out of the question unless you dramatically reduce the size of the original. If you find yourself in a situation where you're taking photos that won't be made into enormous prints and you want to get more mileage out of your SD memory card, then you can reduce the number of pixels captured by the D90's sensor - provided the photos are in the JPG format not RAW. Images captured at 6. With the JPG file format, you can also specify how much compression is applied to the image: images that are compressed more lose image quality, but also have a smaller digital footprint, taking up less space on your memory card and hard drive.

The following table shows the approximate file size and number of shots that you'd expect to be able to capture with a 2 GigaByte SD memory card:. Like much of its competition, the D90 is packed with settings that allow you to make fine-tuned adjustments to the color and clarity of the image captured by the sensor.

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Before I get any further into this topic, a disclaimer is required: the image settings that I am about to describe only apply to JPG images - unprocessed RAW files don't leverage them. If you're going to capture images in the RAW format, then the assumption is that you'll be using an image editing program to make these fine-tuned adjustments. But if you enjoy the convenience of the JPG format and still want to have some control over the color in your images, the D90 delivers with plenty of different options.

Each one of these Picture Controls includes 5 default settings selected by Nikon that establish the "look" of the JPG image. If you want, you can exert manual control over the factory defaults, and make adjustments to any one of them:. Often you'll find that the six main Picture Styles get the job done, but if there's any part of the image that you're not satisfied with, then there's always room for adjustment.

I think that it's safe to admit that I've never seen quite so many monochromatic controls on a digital SLR before. When I first dug into the monochrome settings for this Nikon D90 guide, I figured that it would have the same number of settings that are common on other cameras: just a few filter and toning effects. In addition to the traditional black and white mode, you can also apply a variety of digital "filters" that replicate the effects of old black and white film filters: Yellow, Orange and Red are good for landscape photographers who want to enhance or tone down the sky, while the Green filter is often used by portrait photographers to produce a nice skin tone.

You can also add a tint of color to your black and white images each one can be applied at 7 different intensity levels :. While this may seem excessive, it just means that if you feel more comfortable behind a camera rather than in front of a computer, you can achieve a wide variety of different "looks" without having to spend a lot of time working with an image-editing program.

Those with an artistic bent can also use this feature to create color collages - if you stitch together some full-size 12 megapixel images you can wind up with a massive image that is suitable for large-scale printing poster size or bigger. I don't often include information about flash in my digital SLR guides, simply because I don't think that built-in flash units perform all that well.

They're useful when you're in a pinch and need a little extra light in the scene, but if you really want good flash then I often recommend that you buy an external flash unit. Built-in flash units often blast the subject with light, creating a deer-in-the-headlights sort of look — not ideal if you'd like to flatter a portrait subject. This is also true even when you want to add a bit of additional flash light to a scene with strong contrast and dark shadows: the light output from the flash is often too much, so that anyone looking at your photo will instantly know you used a flash.

Instead of the harsh, glaring light that I was expecting, the D90's built-in flash did a great job of brightening shadows and adding just a "touch" of light to scenes that really needed it. Even when the flash was the primary light source, it still did a great job of evenly illuminating the subject and spreading the light out over a wide area. The nice light output from the built-in flash is already a good selling point for anyone who uses flash on a regular basis, but the D90 takes flash photography to a whole new level. This second point is a huge benefit for anyone with a strong desire to produce professional-looking portraits using a digital SLR camera.

In order to capture great portraits using artificial light, you often need two or more individual light sources. This allows you to wrap light around your subject, and can help your portrait subject stand out from the background. In traditional multi-light setups, you have to adjust the amount of light emitted by each flash unit manually : you have to physically touch each separate flash unit to adjust its power.

Making adjustments to a setup like this is not exactly easy: take a test shot, walk over to the flash, tweak the power, take another test shot and so on. But with the Nikon D90, these types of adjustments are downright simple, and can be handled entirely from a menu setting. When the flash control mode on the D90 is set to "Commander mode" you have the ability to control the amount of light put out by the built-in flash as well as two different "groups" of flashes where a group can consist of multiple different flash units. If you don't like the amount of light being put out by one group of flashes you can either increase it or decrease it until you get the look just right — all without ever leaving the camera.

You can even choose to disable the built-in flash on the D90 so that it doesn't add any additional light to the scene - it just acts as a controller to fire all the other remote flash units. Using this system, you can quickly capture some fairly nice portrait shots, even if you only have a budget for one external flash. As you find loose change underneath the couch cushions and are able to afford a few more external flash units, your lighting can become more and more sophisticated 3 and even 4-light setups are not out of the question.

While I didn't use this feature of the Nikon D90 very much for this guide - I prefer to edit my images on the computer - it's definitely worth mentioning.

Nikon D90 For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Any photo that you've taken with the Nikon D90 that is still stored on the memory card can be edited in the camera no computer required using Nikon's "Retouch" features. One of the reasons that I prefer to use an editing program like Adobe Elements is because I find it much easier to see the changes I'm making to an image on a 19 inch monitor rather than a 3 inch LCD.

I think that the retouch features exist primarily for those who want to do some quick photo editing in the field, and for those who want to quickly edit images without having to camp out in front of the computer for hours. Unlike some other kit lenses even some produced by Nikon , this lens is no flimsy piece of plastic. It's large and solid, with a smooth zoom action and a manual focus ring that you can use at any time to fine-tune your focus. The good news here is that the quality of the lens is a fine complement to the camera itself - an unusual situation.

Often the kit lenses packaged with the higher-end digital SLRs are of such low quality that it's better to buy the camera body and then purchase a lens separately. With the Nikon D90 there's no need: the zoom range on this lens is excellent from wide angle for landscapes to telephoto for portraits and the image quality is superb.


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  6. I left this lens on the camera almost the entire time I was taking shots for this Nikon D90 guide, and not once did I feel that the lens wasn't meeting my needs. There are only two groups of photographers who will need to consider an alternative or additonal lens: macro closeup and wildlife. For wildlife photography, you'll want a little more range on the telephoto end to get up close and personal with distant subjects.

    Macro photographers will benefit from a dedicated macro lens, and there are plenty of Nikon and third party macro lenses that are compatible with the D In case it's not obvious from the details included in this Nikon D90 guide, everything about this camera lives up to expectations and then some. Regardless of whether you're a nature, landscape, portrait, macro, action, daytime or night-time photographer, the D90 has some type of setting that will help you capture great images.

    This makes it a good choice for photographers who are just starting out and don't know what they will ultimately want to photograph. Parents can leverage the low noise at high ISO, video mode and flash capabilities to capture special moments of their children and those with an artistic bent can take multiple exposure shots and add color tints to monochrome images for impact. From the regular-mundane to the ultra-creative, the Nikon D90 is the sort of camera that can capture it all. Just a word of warning - there's a learning curve associated with this type of camera, and it's not a trivial one.

    If this is your very first digital SLR camera, the buttons and controls of the D90 might seem intimidating at first. But give it time and play with it every day and eventually you should enjoy using the D90 to capture your favorite photos as much as I did. The Nikon D90 comes in two main kit configurations: one without a lens and one with the mm VR.

    Of course, there are plenty of other packages that you can find, if you're looking for more accessories in addition to the camera and lens. The first extra you're going to need with a new Nikon D90 is a memory card, since it's not included with the basic camera and lens kit. The D90 uses SD Memory cards , and the good news is that today there are plenty to choose from in a variety of capacities.

    If you're only planning on using the camera for short trips and don't intend to use the RAW mode a lot, then a 4 GigaByte card should be fine. Prolific shooters, those who exclusively capture RAW images and travelers who enjoy extended vacations should consider cards with more capacity like 8 GigaBytes and 16 Gigabytes. While battery life is quite good and the camera's battery charge indicator is more detailed than on other models it's quite easy to burn through a full charge, especially if you're taking a lot of video and using live view mode. Some additional benefits of the MB-D80 battery pack are that it makes the camera much easier to hold in the vertical portrait position, and it even provides additional command dials and a shutter release button.

    On the flip side, the battery pack also add an additional 1. Remote triggers are best used when you have the camera locked on a tripod and are either taking photos with very long exposure times where even touching the camera can result in a blurry photo or when you would like to be included in the group portrait.

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