Chapter OneGetting the Lay of the Land
In This Chapter
* Attaching and using an SLR lens
* Adjusting the viewfinder to your eyesight
* Working with memory cards
* Getting acquainted with your camera
* Selecting from menus
* Displaying onscreen help
* Customizing basic operations
I still remember the day that I bought my first SLR film camera. I was excited to finally move up from my one-button point-and-shoot camera, but I was a little anxious, too. My new pride and joy sported several unfamiliar buttons and dials, and the explanations in the camera manual clearly were written for someone with an engineering degree. And then there was the whole business of attaching the lens to the camera, an entirely new task for me. I saved up my pennies a long time for that camera - what if my inexperience caused me to damage the thing before I even shot my first pictures?
You may be feeling similarly insecure if your Nikon D5000 is your first SLR, although some of the buttons on the camera back may look familiar if you've previously used a digital point-and-shoot camera. If your D5000 is both your first SLR and first digital camera, you may be doubly intimidated.
Trust me, though, that your camera isn't nearly as complicated as its exterior makes it appear. With a little practice and the help of this chapter, which introduces you to each external control, you'll quickly become as comfortable with your camera's buttons and dials as you are with the ones on your car's dashboard. This chapter also guides you through the process of mounting and using an SLR lens, working with digital memory cards, navigating your camera's menus, and customizing basic camera operations.
Getting Comfortable with Your Lens
One of the biggest differences between a point-and-shoot camera and an SLR (single-lens reflex) camera is the lens. With an SLR, you can swap out lenses to suit different photographic needs, going from an extreme close-up lens (also known as a macro lens) to a wide-angle lens, which encompasses a wide field of view, to a super-long telephoto, which lets you photograph a distant subject without getting too close. In addition, an SLR lens has a movable focusing ring that gives you the option of focusing manually instead of relying on the camera's autofocus mechanism.
Of course, those added capabilities mean that you need a little background information to take full advantage of your lens. To that end, the next four sections explain the process of attaching, removing, and using this critical part of your camera.
Attaching a lens
Your camera can autofocus only with a type of lens that carries the specification AF-S. (Well, technically speaking, the camera can also autofocus with AF-I lenses. But since those are high-end, very expensive lenses that are no longer made, this is the only mention you'll find of AF-I lenses in this book.) You can use other types of lenses, as long as they're compatible with the camera's lens mount, but you'll have to focus manually.
Whatever lens you choose, follow these steps to attach it to the camera body:
1. Turn the camera off and remove the cap that covers the lens mount on the front of the camera.
2. Remove the cap that covers the back of the lens.
3. Hold the lens in front of the camera so that the little white dot on the lens aligns with the matching dot on the camera body.
Official photography lingo uses the term mounting index instead of little white dot. Either way, you can see the markings in question in Figure 1-1. Note that the figure (and others in this chapter) shows you the D5000 with its so-called "kit lens" - the 18-55mm Vibration Reduction (VR) zoom lens that Nikon sells as a unit with the body. If you buy a lens from a manufacturer other than Nikon, your dot may be red or some other color, so check the lens instruction manual.
4. Keeping the dots aligned, position the lens on the camera's lens mount as shown in Figure 1-1.
When you do so, grip the lens by its back collar, not the movable, forward end of the lens barrel.
5. Turn the lens in a counterclockwise direction until the lens clicks into place.
To put it another way, turn the lens toward the side of the camera that sports the shutter button, as indicated by the red arrow in the figure.
6. On a lens that has an aperture ring, set and lock the ring so the aperture is set at the highest f-stop number. Check your lens manual to find out whether your lens sports an aperture ring and how to adjust it. (The D5000 kit lens doesn't.) To find out more about apertures and f-stops, see Chapter 5.
Even though the D5000 is equipped with a dust reduction system, you should always attach (or switch) lenses in a clean environment to reduce the risk of getting dust, dirt, and other contaminants inside the camera or lens. Changing lenses on a sandy beach, for example, isn't a good idea. For added safety, point the camera body slightly down when performing this maneuver; doing so helps prevent any flotsam in the air from being drawn into the camera by gravity.
Removing a lens
To detach a lens from the camera body, take these steps:
1. Turn off the camera and locate the lens-release button, labeled in Figure 1-2.
2. Grip the rear collar of the lens.
In other words, hold on to the stationary part of the lens that's closest to the camera body and not the movable focusing ring or zoom ring, if your lens has one.
3. Press the lens-release button while turning the lens clockwise until the mounting index on the lens is aligned with the index on the camera body. The mounting indexes are the little guide dots labeled in Figure 1-1. When the dots line up, the lens should detach from the mount.
4. Place the rear protective cap onto the back of the lens. If you aren't putting another lens on the camera, cover the lens mount with the protective cap that came with your camera, too.
Using a VR (vibration reduction) lens
If you purchased the D5000 camera kit - that is, the body-and-lens combination put together by Nikon - your lens offers a feature called vibration reduction. On Nikon lenses, this feature is indicated by the initials VR in the lens name.
Vibration reduction attempts to compensate for small amounts of camera shake that are common when photographers handhold their cameras and use a slow shutter speed, a lens with a long focal length, or both. That camera movement during the exposure can produce blurry images. Although vibration reduction can't work miracles, it does enable most people to capture sharper handheld shots in many situations than they otherwise could.
However, when you use a tripod, vibration reduction can have detrimental effects because the system may try to adjust for movement that isn't actually occurring. That's why your kit lens - and all Nikon VR lenses - have an On/ Off switch, which is located on the side of the lens, as shown in Figure 1-2. Whether you should turn off the VR feature, though, depends on the specific lens, so check the manual. For the 18-55mm kit lens, Nikon does recommend setting the switch to the Off position for tripod shooting, assuming that the tripod is "locked down" so the camera is immovable.
If you use a non-Nikon lens, the vibration reduction feature may go by another name: image stabilization, optical stabilization, anti-shake, vibration compensation, and so on. In some cases, the manufacturers may recommend that you leave the system turned on or select a special setting when you use a tripod, so be sure to check the lens manual for information.
Chapter 6 offers more tips on achieving blur-free photos, and it also explains focal length and its impact on your pictures. See Chapter 5 for an explanation of shutter speed.
Setting the focus mode (auto or manual)
Again, the option to switch between autofocusing and manual focusing depends on matching the D5000 with a fully compatible lens, as I explain in the earlier section, "Attaching a Lens." With the kit lens, as well as with other AF-S lenses, you can enjoy autofocusing as well as manual focusing.
The AF stands for autofocus, as you may have guessed. The S stands for silent wave, a Nikon autofocus technology.
For times when you attach a lens that doesn't support autofocusing or the autofocus system has trouble locking on your subject, you can focus manually by simply twisting a focusing ring on the lens barrel. The placement and appearance of the focusing ring depend on the lens; Figure 1-3 shows you the one on the kit lens.
To focus manually with the kit lens, take these steps:
1. Set the lens to manual focus mode.
Look for the switch labeled in Figure 1-3, and move it from the A to the M position, as shown in the figure.
2. While looking through the viewfinder, twist the focusing ring to adjust focus.
If you have trouble focusing, you may be too close to your subject; every lens has a minimum focusing distance. You may also need to adjust the viewfinder to accommodate your eyesight; you can get help with the process a few paragraphs from here.
If you use a lens other than the kit lens, check the lens instruction guide for details about focusing manually; your lens may or may not have a switch similar to the one on the kit lens. Also see the Chapter 6 section related to the Focus mode option, which should be set to MF for manual focusing. (The camera may automatically choose the setting for you, depending on the lens.)
Zooming in and out
If you bought a zoom lens, it has a movable zoom barrel. The location of the zoom barrel on the D5000 kit lens is shown in Figure 1-3. To zoom in or out, just rotate that zoom barrel clockwise or counterclockwise.
The numbers on the zoom ring, by the way, represent focal lengths. I explain focal lengths in Chapter 6. In the meantime, just note that when the lens is mounted on the camera, the number that's aligned with the lens mounting index (the white dot) represents the current focal length. In Figure 1-3, for example, the focal length is 18mm.
Adjusting the Viewfinder Focus
Tucked behind the right side of the rubber eyepiece that surrounds the viewfinder is a tiny slider called a diopter adjustment control. With this control, labeled in Figure 1-4, you can adjust the focus of your viewfinder to accommodate your eyesight.
If you don't take this step, scenes that appear out of focus through the viewfinder may actually be sharply focused through the lens, and vice versa. Here's how to make the necessary adjustment:
1. Remove the lens cap from the front of the lens.
2. Look through the viewfinder and concentrate on the little black markings shown on the right in Figure 1-4.
The little rectangles represent the camera's autofocusing points, which you can read more about in Chapters 2 and 6. The four curved lines represent the center-weighted metering area, which relates to an exposure option you can explore in Chapter 5.
3. Push the diopter adjustment slider up or down until the viewfinder markings appear to be in focus.
WARNING! The Nikon manual warns you not to poke yourself in the eye as you perform this maneuver. This warning seems so obvious that I laugh every time I read it - which makes me feel doubly stupid the next time I poke myself in the eye as I perform this maneuver.
Working with Memory Cards
Instead of recording images on film, digital cameras store pictures on memory cards. Your D5000 uses a specific type of memory card called an SD card (for Secure Digital), shown in Figures 1-5 and 1-6. You can also use the new, high-capacity Secure Digital cards, which are labeled SDHC, as well as Eye-Fi SD cards, which enable you to send pictures to your computer over a wireless network. (Because of space limitations, I don't cover Eye-Fi connectivity in this book; if you want more information about these cards, you can find it online at www.eye.fi.)
Safeguarding your memory cards - and the images you store on them - requires just a few precautions:
Formatting erases everything on your memory card. So before formatting, be sure that you have copied any pictures or other data to your computer.
To format a memory card, choose the Format Memory Card command from the Setup menu. The upcoming section "Ordering from Camera Menus" explains how to work with menus. When you select the command, you're informed that all images will be deleted, and you're asked to confirm your decision to format the card. Highlight Yes and press the OK button to go forward.
If you insert a memory card and see the letters For in the viewfinder, you must format the card before you can do anything else. You also see a message requesting formatting in the Shooting Information display.
If you turn on the camera when no card is installed, the symbol [-E-] appears in the Shots Remaining area of the viewfinder (lower-right corner), and you also see a little symbol that looks like an SD card on the left side of the viewfinder screen. (That card symbol appears whether or not the camera is turned on.) If the Shooting Information screen is displayed on the monitor, that screen also nudges you to insert a memory card. If you do have a card in the camera and you get these messages, try taking it out and reinserting it.
Some computer programs enable you to format cards as well, but it's not a good idea to go that route. Your camera is better equipped to optimally format cards.
You can protect individual images from accidental erasure by using the camera's Protect feature, which is covered in Chapter 4.