Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Exploring Nikon's D5100

After moving up to a DSLR from a compact (especially if you have never spent any time with a DSLR), there may be a bit of information overload with all the options and/or buttons. This shouldn't last long or be very pronounced with Nikon's D5100 as the function buttons are logically and effectively organized. While many DSLR's have function buttons located along the left side, the hinge for the articulating LCD screen eliminates this option - instead placing them along the top and right sections of the rear of the camera.

Like most camera's today you will have a dial to select the shooting mode that includes options starting from full auto, ranging to scenic options like portrait, and making the way to semi-manual modes like shutter priority and then full manual.The live view switch is to the left of the mode dial with the shutter release, video record button close by as well. You'll find the flash function button and a customizable function button near the lens release button by the D5100 tag on the front of the camera body.

The camera body is not too big, and it also does not feel tiny in your hands - I happen to like the size and feel of the camera personally. For shooting options not attached to dedicated buttons the menu is divided up nicely based on function and is easy to find what you are looking for and after a few trips through the menu you will be able to adjust menu functions rather quickly. There is even a handy recent settings menu that will display the options last changed. And as nice as that option is, you can choose to switch the recent settings menu tab to instead display the my menu option where you can select which menu options you want in the list for quick changing. I discovered that one by accident, but glad I did - it is very handy!

I have found for quick shots indoors of family, the portrait preset is a great option to default to. You will most likely get images with flash and ISO 800 on this setting if your lighting is dim, but they will be very evenly exposed with balanced tones and no point and shoot flash white out look. I have not been disappointed with the quality of this combination yet.

For outdoor and scenic photos, I tend to leave the camera on Program after setting my desired base options (such as Large/Fine for the JPG quality setting). Another menu setting (one I have in my custom my menu setting) that is a good one to be familiar with is the Auto ISO setting. When this option is on you set the base ISO and then the maximum ISO/minimum shutter speed combination and the camera will adjust ISO if needed. One word of caution though: if you plan to do some manual exposure settings (like the moon photos I wrote about in October) you will want to make sure the Auto ISO setting is off - or it will interfere with you desired results.

Like most DSLR's today the D5100 has a live view option for using the LCD screen to compose images. This can come in handy in some situations when used in conjunction with the articulating LCD screen to make composing a photo that would otherwise be extremely difficult, if not impossible to compose relying on the view finder only. Other than those situations, I am not a big fan of live view on a DSLR. Also keep in mind that there is a delay in shooting when using live view. When you enter live view the mirror flips up to allow the shutter to open and expose the sensor. When you go to take you shot the mirror flips down, then back up, the camera then takes the photo and after that leaves the mirror up and re-enters the live view session.

Another option I haven't had time to experiment with is the interval timer function, which allows you to set the camera to take photos at a preset and customizable time interval, handy for time lapse photography. After setting the time between photos you will also choose how many photos the camera will take, ranging from 1 to 999. A fully charged battery or an AC Adapter will be a must for this option.

After a couple months of shooting with the D5100 the camera does not disappoint. It also makes a great choice for photo enthusiasts or beginners looking to get into DSLR photography with out completely draining the bank account. While it may lack some of the more advanced features of the D7000, that doesn't take away from the camera in my opinion - it is still a fantastic and plenty capable camera.



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