Nikon DSLR

My Camera Settings For Nikon D810

I primarily shoot landscape and cityscape which requires me to take a long exposure and bracketed shots. Even though there is no hard-and-fast rule, there are few generally accepted practices among the photography communities for the camera controls and the settings, camera and the lens types and the list of accessories one should have to get better results. Usually, combining a full frame (FX-Format) camera with the wide angle lens gives you the best possible frame for the landscape or the cityscape shots. If you shoot with a higher resolution DSLR, you can crop the images, change the composition during the post-processing and still have enough pixels left in them to print in a larger size. If you are more interested in shooting buildings and architectures, you would get better results by using the tilt-shift lens which allows you to move (tilt and shift) the part of the lens in relation to the image sensor in a wide range of directions and gives you the better and more natural perspective of the structure.

Since I stepped into the photography world in 2009, Nikon D810 is my fourth DSLR but second full frame camera after D700. The decision to upgrade D700 to D810 was influenced by the need for a moderately higher resolution camera which was designed and marketed for landscape photography. Over the last 10 years, I have tried and shot in different camera settings and lighting environments. I have traveled to many places to get a good shot and also made countless mistakes repeatedly. I have learned the most from my own mistakes which gave me some invaluable lessons about what to do and what not to do during the shooting process. All these years of mistakes and countless teaching moments gave me my own set of camera controls and the settings to follow. Today, I want to share that information with you and get your feedback if you have any.

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The New York City!

Living in Washington DC, only four hours drive from New York City, I have been lucky enough to be able to visit this incredible city many times in the last ten years. It is always crowded, busy and messy but still magical. It hosts people from all around the world and serves food from all continents. I read somewhere that, in the New York City, even if someone eats two meals a day in a different restaurant everyday, they wouldn't be able to taste all the restaurants in their lifetime. That says so much about the magnitude of this world's largest city which has so much to offer to everyone. You can possible buy everything that money can buy here. After all, this is the Financial Capital of the free world.

This majestic city is the home for almost 10 Million New Yorkers and travel destination for almost 60 Million tourists every year. No matter what day of the month or what month of the year it is, the crowd doesn't seem to be lessening. People are out and about even if it's blazing hot outside or freezing cold. This city of concrete jungle welcomes you with the magnificent view of countless skyscrapers which seem to be growing in numbers every day. One does not have to be an architect or a photographer to admire the skyline of New York City. When I visited this city for the first time in 2009, I drove through New Jersey Turnpike and reached to the city via Lincoln Tunnel. When I saw the glimpse of these skyscrapers for the first time (from a distance), I was in complete awe and forgot to take a photo. I went there for the July 4th weekend to celebrate America's independence day and witnessed one of the biggest fireworks in the world. Even though I had just started learning about photography, I took my camera with me but didn’t feel ready to go out and shoot. I returned with some casual shots of friends and family gathering and promised myself to come back more prepared. I visited the city many times ever since and had managed to take few shots here and there. However, I was not satisfied with the outcomes and felt something was still missing. I decided to visit the city again and this time, I went back fully prepared to capture NYC in its full glory. This time, I was determined to get the shots I have always wanted and from as many places as I could pinpoint.

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Autofocus Is Not Working On My Nikon D5100

This post is a part of our Q&A section. If you want to submit your question, please use the form in the Contact page.

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Mark (New Jersey, USA) asked: I have a Nikon D5100 and recently bought a Nikon 70-300mm f/4-5.6G lens with AF but it is not auto-focusing. Am I missing some settings or something is wrong with my camera or the lens?

Hello Mark! Nikon's Autofocus system works by utilizing the motor (to move the lens elements) either inside the lens or inside the camera body. Unfortunately, neither your camera body nor the lens is equipped with such motor. Your lens might be capable of autofocus but the lens elements should be driven by some mechanism to "autofocus" and that is what missing in your combination. In short, the minimum requirement for Autofocus to work is, either the lens or the camera body has to have a focus motor. Lets discuss both of these scenarios one by one.

First scenario: Lens is AF and the camera body has a built-in motor for Autofocus.

The lens you bought is AF lens which stands for Autofocus but it will only autofocus if your camera has a built-in motor inside the camera body. All full frame (FX body) Nikon DSLRs as well as some high end crop sensor (DX body) DSLRs have a built-in AF motor which drives the Autofocus system. Among Nikon DX format (also known as APS-C image sensor format) bodies, D90 and all D7000 series come with the built-in motor inside the camera body but D60, D3000 series and D5000 series do not come with the motor. In case of such consumer DSLRs that do not come with the built-in focus motor, they need to use an AF-S or AF-P Nikkor lens to get the full Autofocus capabilities from the lens itself which we will discuss in our second scenario.

When you attach an AF lens with the camera that has a built-in motor in it, the mechanical coupling between the camera body and the lens is formed by utilizing the screw in the motor and the several pins on the lens (which is connected to the focus ring). When you try to autofocus by pressing the shutter release button half way down, camera uses multiple focus sensors to determine which part of the subject is in focus and which part is not and turns the motor accordingly to adjust the focus. These AF lenses come with their own CPU which gives the focal length, aperture setting and other information to the camera CPU which allows the camera to adjust TTL (Through The Lens) Metering for different shooting modes.

Nikon D810 Focusing Modes (Click the picture above to read my initial experience with Nikon D810)

Nikon D810 Focusing Modes (Click the picture above to read my initial experience with Nikon D810)

If you want to manually focus while using an AF lens, you have to switch the lever on the camera body (box 1 in the picture above) from AF to M which then disengage the mechanical coupling between the motor and the lens so that you can freely move the lens focusing ring to adjust the focus. In this situation, camera still gets the TTL Metering and different shooting modes data through the lens CPU.

Tip : The DSLR camera bodies that feature a focus motor can use both AF and AF-S or AF-P lenses for Autofocus.

Second scenario: Lens is AF-S or AF-P and the camera body doesn't have a built-in motor for Autofocus.

Nikon's another type of Autofocus lens is called AF-S lens (not to be confused with AF-S focusing mode) which has an Autofocus motor built inside the lens. Those Nikkor AF-S lenses feature Nikon's Silent Wave Motor (SWM) which converts "traveling waves" into rotational energy to focus the optics, according to the Nikon. This enables high-speed auto-focusing extremely accurate and super quiet. You can use Nikon’s AF-S lens with any current Nikon’s camera body whether the body has a focus motor or not, because the lens itself has a built-in focusing motor which controls the focusing function based on the information it gets from the camera’s focusing sensors.

Nikon's third type of Autofocus lens is AF-P lens which uses a “Pulse” motor or “Stepping” Autofocus motor making it even quieter and smoother to autofocus than AF-S lens. According to Nikon, AF-P lenses are ideal when shooting video with a DSLR camera. Some of the Nikon's newer AF-P lenses let you set certain settings from the camera's menu system (VR, AF/MF for example) but on older model lenses, you still have to switch those modes on the lens barrel itself like you do on AF-S lenses. Sometimes, even if your camera supports newer AF-P lenses, you might need to upgrade the camera firmware to be able to set lens’ parameters from the camera menu.

Since the lower end Nikon DSLRs such as D3000 and D5000 series do not have the focus motor built-in, if you want to manually focus using AF-S or AF-P lens, you have to switch the focus mode on the lens barrel from A or M/A to M (box 2 in the picture above) and then rotate the focusing ring on the lens. Since there is no mechanical coupling between the camera body and the lens for Autofocus, most of the higher end lenses let you focus manually in M/A (or A/M in some lenses - works same as M/A but manual focus is less sensitive than M/A) mode as well. The reason behind making such consumer level Digital SLRs without a built-in focus motor is to reduce the size and the weight of the camera for portability.

Conclusion: If you prefer to use Autofocus feature, either you have to upgrade your camera body or the lens if you can't afford upgrading both at the same time. If you want to keep the same body and upgrade your lens and feel comfortable shooting with 70-300mm, you can go with either AF-S or AF-P version of 70-300mm which might be little more expensive than your current lens but you get the VR feature as a bonus. And when you upgrade your body to FX format later, the lens is compatible with the newer body as well.

If upgrading either is not an option at the moment, you can continue using your existing combo and manually focus the lens using the focus ring on the lens barrel. While shooting manually, the green dot, which is visible in the lower left corner of the viewfinder, will confirm that your subject is in focus. When you want to focus, rotate the focus ring on the lens barrel and when it lights up green, the subject is in focus.

I hope this blog helps you to make your decision. Thank you for the question and keep shooting!

My Experience With The Nikon D810

I have had Nikon D700 for more than five years and loved every bit of it. When it was time for an upgrade, I was looking for a camera with a similar kind of body and controls. After doing much research, I ended up buying Nikon D810 even though Nikon had just announced D850 to upgrade D810. Before getting D810, I was struggling between D750 and D810 but my decision was made easy once I got my hands on both cameras. Even though D750 is newer model than D810, same look and feel and control as my trusted D700 sold me to D810. Some argue that D750 has better dynamic range than D180 but when I was happy shooting with even D700, I was pretty sure that D810 wouldn't disappoint me and it didn't. After I got my camera, I took it to the New York trip this December and got few shots of New York City and some of the city skyline. After I downloaded the pictures on my computer, I was amazed by the dynamic range of this camera and the details it captured. One of my favorite shot from this trip was mid-town New York City view from my hotel room. After having dinner, when I came back to the room, it was already dark and the town was glowing with the city lights. The city view from my room looked amazing and I was excited to capture it. When I took the test shot, I saw some reflections during the playback on the camera LCD screen. I had no choice but to wait little more so that the lights from neighboring rooms and other hotels will start fading and then try another shot. After waiting for few hours, I closed all the lights in my room and increase the camera distance to the glass window so that the camera reflection on the window wouldn't show up on the picture.

Whatever I did at that time to cut down the lights and avoid reflection, it worked and the picture came out with every possible detail I was expecting from 36 Mega-Pixel full frame camera. When I zoomed the picture to 100%, I could even see a person inside distant hotel room. The clarity of the camera sensor is amazing, I love the dynamic range and every detail was visible in the picture. I used Nikon 16-35mm f/4 wide angle lens with the D810 and processed the image using Adobe Lightroom.

Midtown New York City View (click the image to view full size)

Please let me know what do you think of this picture and if you are also shooting with D810, please share your experience with this camera. I always appreciate your feedback or any comments you may have. Happy Shooting!