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Nikon D50 First Look: Operation and Controls

Nikon D50 Intro, Features and Screen Shots, AF System and Custom Settings,
D50 Compared to Nikon D70s and Canon Rebel XT, Nikon D50 Image Samples

Nikon D50 New DX Format Sensor
The Nikon D50 incorporates a new CCD design compared to the Nikon D70s and its predecessor the Nikon D70.

The sensor size is the same Nikon DX Format (23.7 x 15.6 mm) found in the Nikon D70 DSLR series, with 6.1 effective megapixel resolution producing 3,008 x 2,000-pixel images, however, the physical shape of the micron lens structure on the Nikon D50 sensor has been revised to offer improvements in color shading and resolving ability.

Exposure Settings and Digital Vari-Program Modes
The next evolution of Nikon's scene-optimized Digital Vari-Program modes
produces great results for the intended shot, while freeing you to concentrate on the

Nikon D50 Mode Dial and Vari-Program Options

Selecting one of the seven easily distinguishable icons from the handy exposure mode dial (located on top of the camera), optimizes otherwise complex settings and ISO-equivalent sensitivity to produce great results for novice users.

Newly added is "Child" mode, which makes it easier to take memorable pictures of the little ones complete with ideal vivid color and contrast - ready to print without the need of later adjustments on the computer.







When using the Digi-Vari Program modes, the Nikon D50 automatically optimizes white balance, sharpening, tone (contrast), color, saturation and hue depending on the specific mode chosen. For example, select Portrait for beautiful skin tones and soft background focus that highlights your subject.

To activate, the user simply turns the Mode dial to select the appropriate Digi-Vari Program from the seven listed below.

  • Auto: The camera automatically adjusts settings to match the shooting conditions.

  • Portrait: For beautiful skin tones and soft background focus that highlight the subject.

  • Landscape: Creates sharp images with depth and highlighted plant and sky colors.

  • Close-up: Bring out the reds and greens of flowers while adding soft focus to the background.

  • Sports: Uses a fast shutter speed to freeze action cleanly.

  • Child: Clothing and background details are vividly rendered while skin tones remain natural

  • Night portrait: Uses the built-in Speedlight to capture beautiful portraits with sunsets or night scenes as a backdrop.

Combined with the user friendly auto program modes, the Nikon D50 offers photographers full manual override control with the flexibility of selecting from Program shift (P), Manual (M), Shutter Priority (S) and Aperture Priority (A) exposure modes. Shutter speeds ranging from 30 to 1/4,000 sec. and Bulb (time) exposure can be set.

420-Segment Color Matrix Metering II
Nikon's new 3D Color Matrix Metering II ensures accurate exposure control in most types of lighting situations by automatically comparing input from the camera's 420-pixel sensor to a large onboard database of over 30,000 actual photographic scenes.

Newly developed exposure evaluation methods detect highlights and shadows in the frame, and compensate for them to help minimize under- or over-exposure by comparing the lighting pattern of the frame with the onboard database of scenes, thus enhancing performance for more accurate and consistent exposures.

(The Nikon D70 and D70s feature a broader 1005-segment RGB metering sensor)

Metering Modes
The Nikon D50 offers four types of exposure metering options, including; 3D 420-segment Color Matrix (full area), Centre Weighted*
, Spot or Spot AF** area metering .

* Through the custom settings menu, the user can set the weight of 75% towards a 6, 8, 10, or 12-mm circle (8mm set to default) in the center of the frame, or weighting based on an average of the entire frame.

** Meters 3.5mm circle (about 2.5% of frame) centered on active focus area

White Balance (WB) Control
For ease of use the Nikon D50 offers an Auto WB setting were the camera determines the best WB setting. The D50 produces natural coloration by measuring the entire frame of the shot and matching white balance to the light source.

Auto white balance handles most lighting situations, but the advanced options include a choice of six specific manual settings, white balance bracketing for added creative control, as well as a preset option for using a gray or white object as a calibrating reference under mixed lighting conditions.

WB options shown in the D50 setup menu

Other exposure control options include: exposure compensation (+/-5 EV), flash exposure compensation (3 to +1 EV in increments of 1/3 EV) and auto exposure bracketing. (Three frames 2 EV in 1/3 or 1/2 steps).

The Nikon D50's ISO sensitivity can be set between ISO 200 to 1600 or controlled automatically across the same range of settings.

ISO options shown in the D50 setup menu

The Nikon D50 also features a new "ISO Control" feature: Digital Vari-Program modes now automatically select the appropriate ISO setting for each shot (In contrast to the D70/D70s, where you manually select the ISO setting) Manual selection (in 1 stop increments) made via Custom Menu setting if preferred.

2.5fps continuous shooting

The Nikon D50 offers continuous shooting at 2.5 frames per second for bursts of up to 137* pictures, making action photography a reality. Pictures taken are instantly processed and recorded to the photographer's compact SD (Secure Digital) memory card. A new USB 2.0 Hi-Speed interface supports faster transfer of images when connected to a compatible computer

* When using JPEG NORMAL - Large settings, and a Sandisk Ultra II SD 256 MB Card

Recording options
JPEG and RAW (NEF) Combination Filing System: The system enables simultaneous recording of RAW (NEF) and JPEG data for the same shot to optimize and accelerate workflow operations. Images that are needed immediately can be downloaded in JPEG format, while high-quality images needed for printing can be converted from NEF at a later time.

Nikon D50 Image Quality Settings

Image quality settings on the Nikon D50 include: RAW (NEF), Fine (JPEG Fine), Norm (JPEG Normal), Basic (JPEG Basic), RAW + B (NEF + JPEG Basic)

Image resolution size settings on the camera include; L (3008 x 2000), M (2256 x 1496), S (1504 x 1000)

Image Resolution Settings

Small Pic Mode
The Nikon D50 offers a "Small Pic" image size mode, similar to that found on Nikon's consumer Coolpix digital cameras. In this mode, the D50 automatically stores a resized copy of the original image, which can then be easily used for email or web based applications. Image size selections include: 640 x 480, 320 x 240, or 160 x 120 pixels.

NEF Format and Nikon Capture 4.3 Software
Nikon's original NEF (Nikon Electronic Format) can be considered as a digital negative. Each NEF file stores the RAW image data captured by the D50's image sensor, a thumbnail image, and an "Instruction Set" that contains the camera's original settings. Changes made never affect or degrade the quality of the archived RAW data. The original 12-bit data is processed by Nikon Capture 4.3 software (optional) and displayed using a full 16 bits per channel, so tonal and other color corrections can be made with smoother fidelity.

You can save any changes as a new Instruction Set, as a 48-bit TIFF file, or as a JPEG file when easy sharing via the Internet is the priority. Another advantage is that NEF files are designed to ensure forward compatibility, so they can take advantage of any new features added to future versions of Nikon Capture software.

Check for the latest deals on the Nikon D50 DSLR at


Image enhancement options
Easy to set image enhancement options optimize sharpening, contrast, tone, color, saturation and hue while using Auto Multi Program [P], Shutter-Priority Auto [S], Aperture-Priority Auto [A], or Manual [M] exposure modes to best match the scene or intended use for the picture. Choices include; Normal, Vivid, Sharp, Soft, Direct Print, Portrait, Landscape or Custom optimization.

  • Normal (default): Recommended for most situations
  • Vivid: Enhances saturation, contrast and sharpness to produce vivid images with vibrant reds, greens and blues
  • Sharp: Sharpens outlines
  • Soft: Softens outlines. Use to ensure smooth, natural looking skin tones in portraits
  • Direct Print: Optimizes images for printing "as is" via direct USB connection
  • Portrait: Lowers contrast and softens background details
  • Landscape: Enhances saturation and sharpness to produce landscapes with vibrant greens and blues
  • Custom: Customize sharpness, contrast, colour reproduction, saturation and hue

Customizing image enhancement options. The parameters for; Sharpening, Contrast (Tone), Colour reproduction, Saturation, and Hue, can all be adjusted by selecting Custom mode in the "Optimize image" menu.

Optimize Image "Custom Mode"


Settings include: Auto (A), Normal (0), Low (-2), Medium Low (-1), Medium High (+1), High (+2), None

Tone Compensation
Settings include: Auto (default), Normal (0), Low Contrast (-2), Medium Low (-1), Medium High (1), High Contrast (+2), Custom
( Custom curve can be created in Nikon Capture 4.3 and downloaded to the Nikon D50.)

Colour Modes
The Nikon D50 offers a choice of three colour modes, which determine the gamut of colours available for colour reproduction. The user can select a colour mode according to the intended output of the images.

Mode Ia*: (sRGB) A good choice for portrait shots that will be printed or used "as is", with no further modification.

Mode II: (Adobe RGB) Images taken at this setting are adapted to the Adobe RGB colour space. The preferred choice for images that will be extensively processed or retouched.

Mode IIIa*: (sRGB) Choose for nature or landscape shots that will be printed or used "as is" with no further modification.

* With respect to Colour Mode Ia and Mode IIIa, Nikon tuned the colour reproduction a little to satisfy what the company expects will best match the tastes of users who choose the Nikon D50.

Controlling Vividness: Saturation
Saturation controls the vividness of colours. Settings include;

  • Normal: Normal vividness. Recommended for most situations.
  • Moderate: Reduced vividness. Use when taking pictures that will be retouched on a computer
  • Enhanced: Increased vividness. Use for vivid, photoprint effect when taking pictures that will be printed "as is", without further modification.

Controlling Colour: Hue adjustment
Hue can be adjusted in the range of about -9° to +9° in increments of 3°

Nikon D50 Intro, Features and Screen Shots, AF System and Custom Settings,
D50 Compared to Nikon D70s and Canon Rebel XT, Nikon D50 Image Samples


To buy the Nikon D50 or D70s we recommend checking out B&H Photo and Video.
Trusted photographic merchants since 1973.

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