Chapter OneExploring the Nikon D300s
The Nikon D300s is one of Nikon's professional camera models and has many more buttons, dials, and knobs than most of the consumer and midlevel cameras. The reason for this is to make it faster and easier to access many of the controls that professional photographers need to change the most. To access most of these functions in consumer cameras, you need to enter a virtual maze of menu functions, which can cost precious time when you are in the midst of shooting. With the D300s, you can simply press one button and rotate a dial.
The many buttons and dials on the D300s can be daunting to look at. This chapter familiarizes you with each button and dial, as well as the displays on the LCD control panel and viewfinder.
Key Components of the D300s
In this section, you look at the camera from all sides and break down the layout so that you know what everything on the surface of the camera does.
This section doesn't cover the menus, only the exterior controls. Although there are many features you can access with just the push of a button, oftentimes you can change the same setting inside of a menu option. The great thing about the buttons, however, are that they give you speedy access to important settings - settings you will use often. Missing shots because you are searching through the menu options can get irritating fast, which is one of the key reasons that most people upgrade from a consumer model camera to a professional-grade camera like the D300s.
Top of the camera
The top of the D300s is where you find the most important buttons. This is where you'll find the buttons for the settings that tend to get changed most frequently. Also included in this section is a brief description of some of the things you will find on the top of the lens. Although your lens may vary, most of the features are quite similar from lens to lens.
* Shutter Release button. In my opinion, this is the most important button on the camera. Halfway pressing this button activates the camera's autofocus and light meter. When you fully depress this button the shutter is released and a photograph is taken. When the camera is set to [C.sub.L] or [C.sub.H], pressing and holding this button takes a sequence of photos. When the camera has been idle and has "gone to sleep," lightly pressing the Shutter Release button wakes up the camera. When the image review is on, lightly pressing the Shutter Release button turns off the LCD and prepares the camera for another shot. * On/Off switch/LCD illuminator. This switch is used to turn on the camera. It's concentric with the Shutter Release button. Turn the switch all the way to the left to turn off the camera. When in the center position, the camera is turned on. Turn the switch all the way to the right to turn on the top-panel LCD illuminator. This enables you to view your settings when in a dimly lit environment. The LCD illuminator automatically turns off after a few seconds or when the shutter is released. In CSM f1 you can also specify that this switch be used to display the Shooting Information Display on the rear LCD monitor. * Exposure Mode button. This button is used in conjunction with the Main Command dial and allows you to change among the different exposure modes. You can choose Programmed Auto, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, or Manual modes (P, S, A, or M). This button also doubles as a format button when pressed in conjunction with the Delete button. Pressing and holding down these two buttons simultaneously allows you to format the primary memory card without entering the Setup menu. Learn more about exposure modes in Chapter 2. The primary memory card can be set in CSM f1.
When the two-button format is performed only the primary card is formatted.
* Exposure Compensation button. Pressing this button in conjunction with spinning the Main Command dial allows you to modify the exposure that is set by the light meter on the D300s or the exposure you set in Manual exposure mode. Turning the Main Command dial to the right decreases exposure; turning the dial to the left increases the exposure. This button also doubles as the camera reset button when used in conjunction with the Quality button. Pressing these buttons at the same time restores the camera to the factory default settings. Learn more about exposure compensation in Chapter 5. * LCD Control panel. This displays some of the main camera settings. This is covered in detail later in this chapter. * Focal plane mark. The focal plane mark shows you where the plane of the CMOS image sensor is inside the camera. The sensor isn't exactly where the mark is; the sensor is directly behind the lens opening. When doing certain types of photography, particularly macro photography using a bellows lens, you need to measure the length of the bellows from the front element of the lens to the focal plane. This is where the focal plane mark comes in handy. * Hot shoe. This is where an accessory flash is attached to the camera body. The hot shoe has an electronic contact that tells the flash to fire when the shutter is released. There are also a number of other electronic contacts that allow the camera to communicate with the flash to enable the automated features of a dedicated flash unit such as the SB-600. Learn more about flash in Chapter 6. * Release mode dial. Rotating this dial changes the release mode of the camera. You can choose from Single frame, Continuous Low speed, Continuous High speed, Quiet mode, Self-timer, and Mirror up. In order to rotate the dial you must press the Release mode dial lock release button. * Release mode dial lock release button. This button is used to lock the Release mode dial to prevent it from accidentally being changed. * Quality button. Press this button and rotate the Main Command dial to change the file format that your camera is saving in as well as the quality of the JPEG if you are shooting that format. You can choose from RAW, TIFF, JPEG, or RAW + JPEG. Your JPEGs are saved at the following qualities: Fine, Normal, or Basic. Rotating the Sub-command dial while pressing this button allows you to change the size of the image when the camera is set to save in TIFF, JPEG, or RAW + JPEG. Rotating the Sub-command dial when the camera is set to save RAW files has no effect.
For more information on image quality and size settings, see Chapter 2.
* ISO button. Press this button and rotate the Main Command dial to change the ISO sensitivity. The higher the ISO setting, the less light is needed to make an exposure. The ISO value is displayed on the LCD control panel while the ISO button is pressed. The ISO value is also displayed in the viewfinder. To learn more about ISO see Chapter 2. * White balance button. Press this button and rotate the Main Command dial to choose from one of the predefined white balance (WB) settings such as Daylight, Incandescent, or Fluorescent. You can also choose to set your own WB (PRE) or choose a specific color temperature (K). White balance is used to compensate for the effect that different colored light sources have on your photos. Adjusting the WB gives your images a natural look. When set to a predefined WB, holding the button and rotating the Sub-command dial allows you to adjust the WB by making it cooler (right) or warmer (left). For more on white balance settings, see Chapter 2. * Focus ring. Rotating the focus ring enables you to manually focus the camera. With some lenses, such as the high-end Nikkor AF-S lenses, you can manually adjust the focus at any time. On other lenses, typically older and non-Nikon lenses and consumer-level AF-S lenses you must switch the lens to Manual focus to disable the focusing mechanism. * Zoom ring. Rotating the zoom ring allows you to change the focal length of the lens. Prime lenses do not have a zoom ring.
For more information on lenses, see Chapter 4.
* Focus Distance scale. This displays the approximate distance from the camera to the subject.
Back of the camera
The back of the camera is where you find the buttons that mainly control playback and menu options, although there are a few buttons that control some of the shooting functions. Most of the buttons have more than one function - a lot of them are used in conjunction with the Main Command dial or the multi-selector. On the back of the camera you also find several key features, including the all-important viewfinder and LCD.
* LCD monitor. This is the most obvious feature on the back of the camera. Nikon's 3-inch, 920,000-dot liquid crystal display (LCD) screen is, so far, the highest-resolution LCD on the market today (the D3 and D300 share this feature). The LCD is where you review your images after shooting, or compose using Live View. The menus are also displayed here. * Viewfinder. This is what you look through to compose your photographs (unless you're using Live View). Light coming through the lens is reflected from a mirror up to a pentaprism that reflects the image through the viewfinder to your eye, enabling you to see exactly what you're shooting (as opposed to a rangefinder camera, which gives you an approximate view). Around the viewfinder is a rubber eyepiece that serves to give you a softer place to rest your eye and to block any extra light from entering the viewfinder as you compose and shoot your images. Looking in the viewfinder you will also see a control panel (more on this later in the chapter). * Diopter adjustment control. Just to the right of the viewfinder is the Diopter adjustment control. Use this control to adjust the viewfinder lens to suit your individual vision differences (not everyone's eyesight is the same). To adjust this, look through the viewfinder, and press the Shutter Release button halfway to focus on something. If what you see in the viewfinder isn't quite sharp, pull out the button and turn the Diopter adjustment until everything appears in focus. When you are satisfied with the results be sure to push the button back in. * Metering mode selector. This dial is used to choose the metering mode. Turn the dial to the desired mode. You can choose Matrix, Center-weighted, or Spot metering. This dial is concentric with the AE-L/AF-L button. For more information on metering modes, see Chapter 2 * AE-L/AF-L. The Auto-Exposure/Auto-Focus lock button is used to lock the Auto-Exposure (AE) and Auto-Focus (AF). This button can be customized to perform many functions in CSM f7. For more information on Custom Settings, see Chapter 3. * AF-ON. The Auto-Focus On button activates the AF mechanism without you having to press the Shutter Release button. When in Single focus mode the AF-ON button also locks in the focus until the button is released. * Main Command dial. This dial is used to change a variety of settings depending on which button you are using in conjunction with it. By default, it is used to change the shutter speed when in Shutter priority and Manual mode. It can also be used with the ISO, QUAL, and WB buttons.
* Multi-selector. The multi-selector is another button that serves a few different purposes. In Playback mode, the multi-selector is used to scroll through the photographs you've taken, and it can also be used to view image information such as histograms and shooting settings. When in Shooting mode, the multi-selector can be used to change the active focus point when in Single point or Dynamic area AF mode. * Multi-selector center button. The button is used to select the highlighted option when navigating menus. When in Live View, pressing this button commences video recording. When viewing videos in playback mode, pressing this button begins playback. This button can also be assigned a number of different functions in both Playback and Shooting modes. These options can be set in CSM f/2. * Focus selector lock. This switch can be used to lock the multi-selector so the focus point won't accidentally be changed. Slide the switch to the L position to lock the focus point. * Live View button. Pressing this button activates the Live View feature. Once in Live View you can shoot photos or press OK to use the video feature. * AF area mode selector. This three-position switch is used to choose among focus modes. You can choose Single-area AF, Dynamic-area AF, or Auto-area AF. * Info button. Press this button once to view the Shooting Info Display, which displays the current camera settings; press this button twice to enter the Quick Settings Display, which allows you to quickly change a few options such as Noise Reduction, Picture Controls, and color space. * Speaker. This speaker allows you to hear sounds from the video playback. * Memory card access lamp. This lamp lights up to let you know that data is being transferred between the camera and the CF card. Under no circumstance should you remove the CF card while this lamp is lit. * Playback button. Pressing this button displays the most recently taken photograph. You can also view other pictures by pressing the multi-selector left and right. * Delete button. When reviewing your pictures, if you find some that you don't want to keep you can delete them by pressing this button marked with a trashcan icon. To prevent accidental deletion of images the camera displays a dialog box asking you to confirm that you want to erase the picture. Press the Delete button a second time to permanently erase the image.
* Menu button. Press this button to access the menu options on the D300s. There are a number of menus, including Playback, Shooting, Custom Settings, and Retouch. Use the multi-selector to choose the menu you want to view. * Protect/Help button. The Protect button has the icon of a key on it. The primary use of the Protect button is to lock the image to prevent it from being deleted. This function can be accessed only when the camera is in Playback mode. When viewing the image you want to protect, simply press this button. A small key icon will be displayed in the upper right-hand corner of images that are protected. Pressing the Shutter Release button lightly returns you to default shooting mode. When viewing the menu options, pressing this button displays a help screen that explains the functions of that particular menu option. * Thumbnail/Zoom out button. In Playback mode, pressing this button allows you to go from full-frame playback (or viewing the whole image) to viewing thumbnails. The thumbnails can be displayed either four images or nine images on a page. * Zoom in button. When reviewing your images you can press the Zoom in button to get a closer look at the details of your image. This is a handy feature for checking the sharpness and focus of your shot. When zoomed in, use the multi-selector to navigate around within the image. To view your other images at the same zoom ratio you can rotate the Main Command dial. To return to full-frame playback, press the Zoom out button. You may have to press the Zoom out button multiple times depending on how much you have zoomed in. * OK button. When in Menu mode, press this button to select the menu item that is highlighted.
Front of the camera
The front of the D300s (LCD monitor facing you) is where you find the buttons to quickly adjust the flash settings as well as some camera focusing options, and with certain lenses, such as the kit lens, you will find buttons that control focusing and Vibration Reduction (VR).