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Nikon D50: Luvvin' It!

Nikon D50Janice gave me a Nikon D50 digital SLR camera as an anniversary gift this year.  I confess, I’ve been lusting after a Nikon digital SLR for a very long time.  My first digital camera was the Olympus C3030, a venerable 3 megapixel camera, which died an unhappy death about 2 years ago.  After that, an Olympus C4000.   Both were fine snapshot cameras, and I truly enjoyed the spontaneity of digital photography.  I also bought an underwater housing for the C4000 which let me take some spectacular shots while scuba diving.  But, having been a 35mm photographer before getting the digital cameras, I missed the quality and compositional options that an SLR affords.  It seemed logical to go Nikon, since I had two prior Nikon bodies (an N70 and a fully manual FE), and several Nikon mount lenses.

The D50 is Nikon’s bottom end digital SLR.  It’s priced at about the same price as a film SLR was priced 10 or 20 years ago, which is to say that it’s around $700 with a lens.  It’s a six megapixel camera, capable of shooting up to 3 frames per second for action photographs, and it takes all the same lenses you might have from previous Nikon purchases.  In fact, it was instantly familiar.  Once you’ve learned to drive one Nikon camera, they’re all pretty similar.

In the decade since I bought my N70, however, the software in these cameras has improved dramatically.  The D50 knows what it’s pointed at, how to meter, and colour balance.  It also knows that landscape photographs look best if the colour is a little more saturated, that portraits need a little softening and a wide aperture to achieve pleasing depth of field, and so on.  The D50 has the smarts of a professional photographer, in software. 

For instance, the D50 has an “action” mode, intended for taking sports shots.   In the “action” mode, the autofocus system runs in continuous autofocus mode, always focus on what it thinks the subject will be.  To compensate for shutter lag (the delay between when you press the shutter release, and when the photograph is actually taken) the focusing system tries to anticipate where the subject will be. In addition, it turns the flash off, so you can take as many as 3 pictures per second in order to perfectly capture that action shot.   It’s great for snapping quick photos of a running hound, and here are a couple I took on a recent walk.

In this photograph, Ginger was at full run, and I was panning the camera as I shot the picture.  Notice the motion blur in the background, while she is mostly in focus.  The picture is slightly grainy because it was shot in the forest, in low light conditions.


This photograph shows Toby also on the run in the forest.  Again, he’s sharply in focus, while the background and foreground are not.  The camera automatically opened the aperture wide to get the most light in, while staying focused on him.


One of the things which is particularly great about SLR photography is the control you have over depth of field.  Depth of field refers to how much of the photograph is in focus, versus not.  A narrow depth of field means that the subject is in focus, but the foreground and background are not.  It’s very typical in portrait photography, where the emphasis is on the face of the subject. 

This particular photograph, while not a portrait, illustrates depth of field well.  Notice how the dam and waterfall are in sharp focus, while the background is not.  This photograph was actually taken using D50’s the “landscape” mode which also tends to saturate colours.


And finally, this photograph was taken by Janice on the Rideau River, early one morning as the mist was rising from the river.  Notice the saturation of the colours, but also notice how well the D50’s metering system handles the varying light levels in the photograph.


I’m truly enjoying SLR photography again, especially with a spectacular instrument like the Nikon D50 in my hands.  It would have been impossible to take any of these photos with my well loved, but much less capable, Olympus camera.

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