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NIKON

Volume 1
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PAGES
REVISED & UPDATED
FOR 2014

Take better shots with


your Nikon D-SLR
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2014

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INTRODUCTION

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CAMERA SKILLS

NIKOPEDIA

ith SLRs suitable for beginners as well as the


most demanding professional, Nikon has long
been one of the most sought-after brands by
serious photographers. The beauty of these
interchangeable-lens cameras is that they allow you to get
really creative with your pictures, and end up with
photographs that are far more than point-and-shoot
snapshots. But getting great images from these
sophisticated tools means far more than pressing the shutter
and hoping for the best. An array of dials,
menu options and information-packed
displays have to be given proper
attention. The Ultimate Nikon SLR
Handbook is the instruction
manual that should have come
e:
re
th
r
Turn to chapte
ge
pa
on
e
in the box. It doesnt just tell you
ar
ftw
Nikon so
e Watch
th
ick
cl
d
an
2
what
the buttons do it shows
10
watch
the video links to g
you how to use them to get great
in
the accompany
es
pictures!
Our exhaustive 11-lesson
id
gu
eo
vid
Nikopedia section (see page 56)
provides a complete introduction to
photography with a Nikon D-SLR
from how to change your lens, to how to master depth
of eld. Our tutorials and the accompanying videos
show you how to improve the pictures you take using
Nikons highly-respected editing software. As you learn
more about photography, you will be tempted to invest
in more lenses and other accessories but make sure
you read our fact-packed group tests (on page 126)
before making a decision about what to buy!

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VIDEO GUIDES

Chris George, Series editor

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2012 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 3

INTRODUCTION
CAMERA SKILLS

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4 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

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INTRODUCTION

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CAMERA SKILLS
NIKOPEDIA

CHAPTER ONE

Camera skills

CHAPTER THREE

6 Master Nikon software 102

Nikon D-SLR crash course......................... 8


Shoot it sharper with your Nikon............ 20
Learn all about lenses ............................. 32
100 Nikon SLR secrets .............................44

CHAPTER TWO

Nikopedia

56

CHAPTER FOUR

Essential kit

126

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2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 5

VIDEO GUIDES

Budget telephoto zooms.......................... 128


Ultra wide-angle lenses ............................142
Superzooms ............................................... 156
Standard zooms ........................................ 166
Macro lenses .............................................. 178
Super telephoto lenses ............................ 190
Tripods ........................................................202
Flashguns ....................................................212

ESSENTIAL KIT

Focal length explained ............................ 58


Whats autofocus all about? ................... 62
So whats depth of field all about? ........ 66
Whats exposure all about? .................... 70
So whats aperture all about? .................74
So whats shutter speed all about? ....... 78
What mode and when? ............................ 82
What are metering modes? .................... 86
What is white balance?............................90
Digital processing explained .................. 94
Contrast and dynamic range .................. 98

Introducing Capture NX 2 .......................104


Take control of your editing ...................106
Go fast with quick fixes...........................108
Play with exposure...................................110
Fix colour with a click ..............................112
Camera and lens correction ...................114
Retouch dull portraits .............................116
Work on your RAW shots .........................118
Selections and masks.............................120
Convert to monochrome ........................ 122
Improve composition ..............................124

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is
W h e n y ou se e t h s
b u t t on , t h e r e g
a n a c c om p a n y in e
id
Nik on v id e o gu

NIKOPEDIA

CAMERA SKILLS

INTRODUCTION

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Page 20

Page 8
6 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

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Nikon skills

INTRODUCTION

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CAMERA SKILLS
NIKOPEDIA

Page 32

Nikon D-SLR crash course .................................8


Shoot it sharper with your Nikon ................ 20
Learn all about lenses ...................................... 32
100 Nikon SLR secrets ......................................44

NIKON SOFTWARE
ESSENTIAL KIT
VIDEO GUIDES

Page 44
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2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 7

VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

NIKOPEDIA

CAMERA SKILLS

INTRODUCTION

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8 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

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INTRODUCTION

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CAMERA SKILLS

ISO and White Balance


In tricky lighting, you might
need to take manual control

Lenses explained
How focal length works and
how to choose the right lens

Shutter speed
How shutter speed affects
camera-shake and movement

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Focus and Aperture


Learn to control sharpness
and introduce creative blur

2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 9

VIDEO GUIDES

Exposure modes
Which mode do you choose,
and whats the difference?

ESSENTIAL KIT

WHAT YOULL LEARN...

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Just got a new NikonD-SLR? Dont be fazed by all those new options
and controls. Our beginners guide will make everything clear and
get you shooting fantastic pictures in no time at all

NIKOPEDIA

Nikon D-SLR
crash course!

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EXPOSURE MODES THE BASICS


Your D-SLRs mode dial
offers a whole host of
different settings. But
which one should you
use, and why?

he mode dial on the top of your


D-SLR is your cameras nerve
centre. Its where you decide how
you want the camera to work, and how
much control you want to have.
If youre new to D-SLRs, dont worry!
All of Nikons consumer cameras have
a green Auto mode that takes care of
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Scene modes take things a little further.
Here, you tell the camera what kind

of subject youre shooting, and it then


chooses the best camera and picture
settings for that subject.
Sooner or later, though, youll want
to take control, and this is where the
P, A, S & M (Program AE, Aperture
Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual)
modes come in. These give you much
more control over the shutter speed and
aperture, which is where you can start
getting creative with your photography.

EXPOSURE TECHNIQUE CONFUSED BY P, A, S & M MODES?


Heres our quick guide to which mode you should use, and when

Program AE (P)

Aperture Priority (A)

Shutter Priority (S)

Manual (M)

Here, the camera chooses both the


shutter speed and the aperture.
This is quick and simple, and ne for
most everyday subjects.

You choose the lens aperture and


the camera automatically sets the
shutter speed. Use this when you
want to control background blur.

You set the shutter speed and the


camera automatically sets the
aperture. Its ideal for action and
capturing movement.

In Manual mode, you set both the


shutter speed and the aperture. Its
good for tricky lighting, but you have
to check the exposure is correct.

10 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

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WHAT DO THE MODES MEAN?

Close-up mode
Full Auto mode
This helps you get
If youre a complete
the best shots of
novice, this mode is
small subjects.
ideal because the
Consider using a tripod to help
camera takes care of all the
reduce any camera-shake.
settings automatically.

Live View lets you compose your


picture on the LCD display. Its
what you use to shoot movies too

MAKE THE MOST OF LIVE VIEW


How to compose your pictures on the LCD display
View using a switch on the camera body
or, with some Nikon camera models, by
pressing an Lv button.
Autofocus can be slower in Live
View mode, and it may be less useful in
bright light. But it shows you a lot more
shooting information, and previews the
effect of exposure, White Balance and
other camera adjustments.

Portrait mode
The camera will
use a wide lens
aperture to throw
the background out of focus,
and softens skin tones.

Manual mode
This is designed for
experts. You choose
the exposure
yourself, though the camera
still suggests settings.

Shutter
Child mode
Priority mode
In this mode, the
Use this if you
camera keeps
want to choose the
backgrounds
colourful, and makes skin tones shutter speed but make the
camera set the aperture.
soft and natural looking.

If youre new to D-SLRs, dont worry! All


Nikons consumer cameras have a green
Auto mode that takes care of everything

Program AE mode
Sports mode
The camera still
Ideal for fastsets the shutter
moving action
speed and aperture,
where youre happy
but you get to control other
for the camera to choose the
settings. Ideal for general use.
settings itself.

ESSENTIAL KIT

EXPERT TIP SCENE MODES AND PICTURE CONTROLS


Both change the picture settings, so whats the difference?

Scene modes change the camera settings

Picture Controls change the processing applied

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2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 11

VIDEO GUIDES

Scene modes adjust both


the camera settings and the
picture properties. For example,
in Portrait mode, the camera
chooses wider lens apertures to
defocus the background, and also
processes the picture to produce
softer skin tones. Picture Controls
only affect the way the image is
processed, so the Portrait Picture
Control gives you the same
skin-softening effect but without
imposing camera settings. Picture
Controls are more important if
youre shooting in JPEG, not RAW.

NIKON SOFTWARE

Aperture
Landscape mode
Priority mode
Designed for vivid
Use this if you want
landscape shots in
to choose the lens
daylight. The builtin ash is switched off because aperture but make the camera
set the shutter speed.
its not needed.

NIKOPEDIA

Normally, the mirror inside your


camera reects the image up into the
viewnder, then ips up and out of the
way when you take the picture. In Live
View mode, the mirror is moved out of
the way rst, so the sensor is exposed
and you can view the image on the LCD
display instead, just as you can on a
compact camera. You activate Live

Night Portrait
Flash Off mode
mode
Ideal for museums,
The ash res to
theatres or indoor
light your subject,
sports venues,
where using a ash might get but the camera also captures
the background lighting.
you thrown out!

CAMERA SKILLS

The mode dial is the nerve centre


of your camera. Its where you
choose the shooting mode you
want to use. These range from
automatic modes, for novices,
to more advanced options where
you take over some or all of the
cameras functions

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CAMERA SKILLS

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ISO AND WHITE BALANCE


Sometimes you need to take control
to get the colours and exposure
exactly right. Heres how its done
ight can change both in its intensity and its colour, and this
is especially true when youre shooting indoors. While your
camera will attempt to adapt automatically, its often better if
you take control yourself. The cameras ISO adjustment is used when the
light is too dim for normal handheld shooting, while the White Balance
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SHOOTING TECHNIQUE WHITE BALANCE


When to use Auto White Balance and when to use the presets
The camera has an Auto
White Balance option that
measures the colour of the lighting
and then attempts to correct it if it
thinks theres a strong colour cast.
This can work well, provided the
light doesnt deviate too far from
normal. The strong yellow colour of
articial lighting is usually too much
for the camera to cope with, though,
and its correction wont usually
go far enough. In these situations,
its best to use the White Balance
presets, which tell the camera which
correction to apply.

Auto White Balance

Articial lighting

Fluorescent preset

Auto White Balance copes


well for everyday outdoor
shots like this one. Its indoors that
you might need to take over.

Here, the Auto White Balance


has failed to fully correct the
strong yellow/orange cast of the
articial lighting in this mall

but choosing an appropriate


White Balance preset to
match the lighting produces much
more natural-looking colours.

12 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

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UNDERSTANDING THE ISO SCALE

CHECK THE HISTOGRAM


This is your best guide to judging exposure
Histogram

ISO 12,800
ISO 10,000

ISO 5000
ISO 4000

ISO 3200

MORE NOISE

ISO 6400
1/3 STOP

HIGH SENSITIVITY

ISO 8000

ISO 2500

NIKOPEDIA

ISO 2000

ISO 1600

ion

ISO 1000

ISO 800
ISO 500

LESS NOISE

ISO 400
ISO 320
ISO 250
ISO 160
ISO 125

ONE STOP

ISO 200

ISO 100

The ISO you need depends not just on the lighting but whether youre using a tripod

But you do when youre shooting handheld

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2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 13

VIDEO GUIDES

You dont need high ISOs for tripod shots like this

ESSENTIAL KIT

EXPERT TIP CHOOSING THE ISO


Indoors and after dark, light
levels are very low, and your
camera will adapt by increasing
the exposure time. This can cause
camera-shake, though, because
the camera moves while the shot is
being taken. However, if you increase
the ISO, you turn up the sensitivity
of the cameras sensor, enabling you
to use faster shutter speeds. Higher
ISOs are often useful for handheld
photography, then, but when youre
using a tripod, theres no risk of
camera-shake anyway. Here, stick to
a low ISO setting for the best quality.

NIKON SOFTWARE

LOW SENSITIVITY

ISO 640

TWO STOPS

ISO 1250

Higher ISOs are often useful for handheld


photography, but with a tripod, theres no
risk of camera-shake and you dont need them

CAMERA SKILLS

The histogram displays the tones


in your picture as a bar chart on
the cameras LCD display. You
can view the graph in Playback
mode. What youre looking for is a
histogram that ts neatly within
the scale. If its chopped off at the
left-hand end, it means the image
is underexposed and that darker
areas will come out as a solid
black. If its chopped off at the
right, the image is overexposed,
and brighter areas will just be a
solid white. If the histogram is
clipped in this way, use the EV
compensation dial to increase
or reduce the exposure, then
reshoot the picture and check
the histogram again.
EV compensat

ISO settings go up in xed values, with intermediate


settings available too. High ISOs can be useful in low
light, although the noise in the image increases.

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LENSES & FOCAL LENGTH


The great thing about D-SLRs is
that you can use different lenses,
but how do they actually work?
enses are categorised according
to their focal length. This is
another way of describing their
angle of view, or how much they take
in. The shorter the focal length, the
wider the angle of view hence the term
wide-angle lenses. When you shoot
with a wide-angle lens, you get more in
the frame but objects look smaller. The
longer the focal length, the narrower the
angle of view. You get less in the frame,
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This is what is meant by telephoto lens.


Most lenses these days are zooms, which
is convenient because they cover a range
of focal lengths. The 18-55mm lens
that comes with the Nikon D3300 and
D5300, for example, has a focal range
of 18-55mm, for wide-angle shots at one
end of the range and modest telephoto
ones at the other. The cameras kit lens
is a good all-rounder, but sooner or later,
youll want to expand your shooting
options with extra D-SLR lenses.

200mm

SHOOTING TECHNIQUE HOW TO CHANGE LENSES


Need a telephoto for wildlife close-ups? Heres how to swap lenses!
Changing the lens on
your Nikon camera is very
straightforward, but because
youre juggling the camera body
and two different lenses, you need
to approach it carefully. Dont leave
the insides of your camera exposed
for too long, because this increases
the chances of dust getting in and
sticking to the sensor. Nikon D-SLRs
do have built-in dust-removal
systems, but its best not to cause
problems in the rst place. And
make sure you keep both the front
and rear caps for your lenses!

Preparation is everything

Remove the old lens

Fit the new lens

Its risky to juggle cameras and


lenses while youre standing, so nd
a convenient, at surface and have
your replacement lens ready.

Press the lens release button just


to the left of the lens (looking from
above), and then turn the lens to the
left to release it.

Now line up the dot on the new lens


with the dot on the camera body,
insert it into the lens throat and
twist to the right to lock it.

14 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

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WIDE-ANGLE TO TELEPHOTO

LENSES AND PERSPECTIVE


Telephoto lenses dont just make things bigger!
Wide-angle

400mm
(EFL-600mm)

200mm

CAMERA SKILLS

If you look at these two shots


on the right, youll see that
the telephoto version (bottom)
makes the facades of the
buildings in the distance look
much larger, as youd expect.
But something else is happening
too. In the wide-angle shot
(top), objects closest to the
camera look much larger than
those further away, and the
perspective is exaggerated.
But in the telephoto shot
(bottom), theres not so much
difference in size between
the nearest buildings
and those furthest away,
producing a much atter
perspective. By changing
your shooting position and
the lenss focal length, you
can change the perspective
Telephoto
in your shots to match the
mood you want to create.

The focal length of a lens and its angle of view go


hand in hand. Wide-angle lense have shorter focal
lengths, while telephoto lenses have long focal
lengths. The effective focal length (see below), or
EFL, is also given for DX-format SLRs.

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(EFL-300mm)

135mm
(EFL-200mm)

(EFL-90mm)

NIKOPEDIA

60mm

30mm
(EFL-45mm)

18mm
10mm
(EFL-15mm)

Effective
focal length

The cameras kit lens is a good all-rounder,


but sooner or later youll want to expand
your shooting options with extra lenses

DX-format Nikon D-SLRs


have smaller sensors than
the 35mm lm frame,
so the focal lengths are
effectively longer.

ESSENTIAL KIT

EXPERT TIP COMBATING CAMERA SHAKE


Longer focal lengths increase the risk of blur in your pictures

If your lens has VR, you should switch it on

Try bracing yourself against something solid

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2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 15

VIDEO GUIDES

Camera-shake happens when


the camera moves during the
exposure, and its more likely with
longer focal lengths because any
shake is made more obvious by the
magnifying effect of the lens. There
are ways in which you can minimise
camera-shake with telephoto
lenses. Many Nikon lenses now
come with VR (Vibration Reduction)
mechanisms, which react to any
movement and counteract it. You
should also brace yourself against
any nearby object, as youll be able to
shoot from a steadier position.

NIKON SOFTWARE

(EFL-27mm)

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SHUTTER SPEED
The shutter speed
controls the length of
the exposure, but its
also a creative tool
he shutter speed is one of
the two ways of controlling
the exposure (the other
is the lens aperture). In normal,
everyday photography, you might
not have to worry too much about
the shutter speed, as long as its fast
enough to avoid camera-shake. But
when youre shooting fast-moving
objects, the shutter speed takes on a
whole new role.
The longer the shutter is open,
the further your subject will move
during the exposure. To freeze
your subject, you can simply use
a fast shutter speed. What many
sports photographers do, though,
is set a slower shutter and pan the
shot, following the subject in the
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This keeps the subject sharp but
blurs the background. See our
expert tutorial on panning, starting
on page 58, to learn the key settings
and skills for this technique.

VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

NIKOPEDIA

SHOOTING TECHNIQUE CHOOSING THE RIGHT SHUTTER SPEED


You dont always want to freeze your subjects
Your rst thought might
be to try to freeze moving
subjects by using a fast shutter
speed, but while this can work well
for some sports and action shots,
it can leave the picture looking a
little still and lifeless. Quite often,
a little creative blur can give your
picture more impact, as these shots
of a fairground ride demonstrate.
They show how changing the shutter
speed can really change the mood
of the image. Its not always easy to
predict the best speed to use, so be
prepared to experiment.

Freeze the action

Add a sense of movement

Get creative blur

This shot was taken at a


shutter speed of 1/1000 sec,
but while it has frozen the whirling
carousel, the shot looks lifeless.

With a much slower shutter


speed of 1/15 sec, the blur
adds life and movement (try panning
the camera to blur the background).

Shooting at a shutter speed


of 1/4 sec has produced an
impressionistic whirlwind of colour,
but some details are still sharp.

16 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

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THE SPEED SCALE EXPLAINED

SHOOTING WITH FLASH


Professional photographers often use ash to freeze
movement
External Speedlight

One stop =
shutter open
twice as long

1/3200
1/2500

1/2000
Fast shutter
speeds =
sharp images
of moving
subjects

1/1600
1/1250

1/1000
1/800
1/640
1/400
1/320
1/200
1/160

1/125
1/60

Quite often, a little bit of


creative blur can give your
picture a lot more impact than
simply freezing your subject

1/50
1/40
Slow shutter
speeds =
blurred images
of moving
subjects

1/30
1/25
1/20

1/15
ESSENTIAL KIT

EXPERT TIP CONTINUOUS SHOOTING MODES


This is the best way to shoot unpredictable action sequences

On the D3100, the mode switch is on the top

On the D7100, its underneath the mode dial

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2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 17

VIDEO GUIDES

With some subjects, you can


more or less predict when
key moments are going to happen,
but usually the action unfolds
in an unpredictable fashion and
its difcult to time a single shot
perfectly. This is what your cameras
Continuous shooting mode is made
for. The speed you can shoot at
depends on the camera, but its
quoted as fps, or frames per second.
The number of shots you can take
will also depend on the camera, but
choosing JPEGs rather than RAW
les will let you shoot more.

NIKON SOFTWARE

1/100
1/80

SLOW SHUTTER SPEED

1/250

NIKOPEDIA

1/500

FAST SHUTTER SPEED

1/4000

CAMERA SKILLS

This is often called slow sync


ash, because the ash is
synchronised with a slower
shutter speed than normal,
so the background lighting
is recorded as well. The main
subject, close to the camera, is
frozen by the ash. This tends
to work best when the lighting is
quite low anyway, such as
near the end of the day. Try
it out by setting your Nikon
to Shutter Priority (S) mode
and choosing any shutter
speed of 1/250 sec or slower
this is the maximum ash
synchronisation speed, and
will depend on the camera.
If the background is too
dark, choose a slower
shutter speed; if its too
Slow sync ash
light, try using a faster one
instead.

Just like aperture settings and ISOs, shutter


speeds go in a xed sequence, though sometimes
intermediate values are used too.

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FOCUS AND APERTURE


Your D-SLRs autofocus will get
your subjects sharp, but lens
aperture plays a part too
he lens aperture is just
one of the controls used
to get the exposure
right. It controls the amount of
light passing through the lens,
while the shutter speed controls
the length of the exposure.
The size of the lens aperture
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the picture. Shallow depth of
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subject is sharp, and any objects
in the background or nearer to
the camera are out of focus. You
get this from using large lens
apertures. However, you can

also increase the depth of


HOGE\XVLQJDVPDOOHUOHQV
aperture, which makes
objects at different distances
look sharper.
Its important to understand
how your cameras autofocus
system works so you can make
sure its focusing on the right
thing. But its also important to
take aperture and depth of
HOGLQWRDFFRXQWLI\RXZDQWWR
blur backgrounds or make your
shots look perfectly sharp from
the foreground into the
horizon in the far distance.

VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

NIKOPEDIA

WorldMags.net

SHOOTING TECHNIQUE MAXIMIZING DEPTH OF FIELD


To get two objects sharp, dont focus on either of them!
If youre taking a shot where
you have two subjects
at different distances from the
camera, you can use depth of eld
to make them both appear sharp.
First, choose a lens aperture small
enough to give you the depth of eld
you need f/16 or f/22, say. The trick
now is not to focus on either one of
the objects, but to focus at a point
roughly one-third of the distance
between them. To do this, youll
need to switch to manual focus. This
makes the best use of the available
depth of eld.

Focusing on the nearest

Focusing on the farthest

Focusing in between

If we focus on the ower


nearest the camera, the
one in the background is blurred
because its too far out of focus.

If we focus on the one at


the back, the one in front
becomes blurred. Were not making
the most of the depth of eld.

If we switch to manual focus


and choose a point between
the two objects, both come out
acceptably sharp.

18 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

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DEPTH OF FIELD EXPLAINED

Who chooses what to focus on you or the camera?


Foreground

f/5.6
Wider apertures = less depth of eld

Background

f/11
Mid-apertures = best image quality

f/16

NIKON SOFTWARE

MORE DEPTH OF FIELD

f/8

NIKOPEDIA

Your D-SLR uses a number of


focus points spaced around the
frame to allow for subjects that
arent in the centre. But how does
the camera choose the focus
point, and how can you take over?
Nikon D-SLRs offer three main
focus modes: Single-point AF,
Dynamic-area AF and Autoarea AF. Auto-area AF is fully
automatic, and the camera will
focus on whatevers nearest
(the tree trunk, above right).
To focus on the background
instead, switch to Single-point
AF mode and place the focus
point in the centre using the
four-way controller on the
back of the camera.

f/4

CAMERA SKILLS

FOCUS POINTS

LESS DEPTH OF FIELD

The aperture you use is the main factor in dictating


how much of the scene appears pin-sharp. The
narrower the aperture opening (and the larger the
f/number) the more of the image will be in focus.

INTRODUCTION

CAMERA SKILLS
WorldMags.net

f/22
Narrower apertures = more depth of eld

ESSENTIAL KIT

EXPERT TIP FOCUS MODES


Your camera offers different autofocus options for different situations

The D90s focus mode button is on the top

The D7100s is at the side of the lens mount

WorldMags.net

2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 19

VIDEO GUIDES

Nikon D-SLRs offer a choice of


focus modes to suit different
subjects and styles of photography.
These are accessed via the menus
or exterior controls, depending on
the model. AF-S mode is designed for
single shots, and the camera waits
until it has achieved focus before
it takes the picture. In AF-C mode,
it focuses and shoots continually
to keep up with moving subjects.
In AF-A mode, it selects the Single
or Continuous AF automatically,
depending on whether it detects a
moving subject.

INTRODUCTION
NIKOPEDIA

CAMERA SKILLS

WorldMags.net

VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

Do nature justice with our jargon-free guide to


getting sharper images every time you shoot
lurry pictures are the bane of
every photographers life. It
doesnt matter what camera, lens
or kit you own, or how much experience you
have some of your subjects just wont look
as crisp as youd like them to.
If you dont think you have a problem, the
chances are that youre not looking at your
results closely enough, or arent being
adventurous enough with your pictures.
Trust us youll soon become obsessive
about sharpness!
While ending up with some soft shots is
par for the course, it makes sense to do
everything possible to improve your success
rate. Over the next 12 pages, well reveal a
number of ways to improve your skills so

that you can get pictures that are much


crisper straight out of the camera.
To get sharper images, you need to use the
right combination of settings and skills.
Theres no magic solution a faster shutter
speed or smaller aperture isnt always the
answer, as youll discover. To get the best
results from your Nikon you have to avoid
camera-shake, control depth of eld, focus
on the right point, get the best from your
lens and make the most of your computers
sharpening tools. We know that sounds like a
lot to take in, but youll be amazed at the
difference a few easy tricks can make.
Follow our simple steps and we guarantee
youll need to delete far fewer out-of-focus
or blurred pictures this spring

WHAT YOULL LEARN...

BEAT CAMERA SHAKE

TRIPOD KNOW-HOW

MASTER DEPTH OF FIELD

LENS SKILLS

SHARPENING SOFTWARE

Get to grips with setting


the right shutter speed

How to brace the camera


for the crispest pictures

Understand how aperture


affects sharpness

How to nd the sweet spot


of your zoom lens

All the advice you need to


edit your pictures

20 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

WorldMags.net

INTRODUCTION

WorldMags.net

CAMERA SKILLS
NIKOPEDIA
NIKON SOFTWARE
ESSENTIAL KIT

WorldMags.net

2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 21

VIDEO GUIDES

Super sharpness
Choosing the right aperture,
focusing in the right place
and controlling depth of eld
are key to getting images
that are bitingly sharp in just
the right places

INTRODUCTION
CAMERA SKILLS

CAMERA SKILLSWorldMags.net

BEAT CAMERA SHAKE

SETTING THE RIGHT


SHUTTER SPEED
How fast does an exposure have to
be to give you razor-sharp results?
he rst thing you need to
consider when youre aiming
to capture sharp pictures is
whether your camera is steady
enough. If the scene you see through
your D-SLRs viewnder is wobbling
around as you press the shutter, youre
more likely to end up with a blurred
photograph.

NIKOPEDIA

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

HOW SLOW CAN YOU GO?


The minimum handheld shutter
speeds for any popular Nikon
D-SLR, such as a D3300 or D7100,
if not using Vibration Reduction:
FOCAL LENGTH

SHUTTER SPEED

10mm

1/15 sec

18mm

1/30 sec

28mm

1/50 sec

55mm

1/90 sec

100mm

1/150 sec

250mm

1/400 sec

400mm

1/640 sec

Just how blurred the image looks will


depend on how long the shutter
remains open. The slower the shutter
speed, the more any camera motion
will show up in your shot. Fortunately,
the opposite is also true the faster
the shutter speed, the sharper your
pictures will become.
The best shutter speed to use
depends on the angle of view of the
lens youre using you need a faster
shutter speed for telephoto focal
lengths than you do for wide-angle
settings. To work out the longest
shutter speed you can use handheld
for any lens or zoom setting, you need
to know the optics effective focal
length. For most Nikon D-SLRs you
multiply the actual focal length by 1.5,
then divide 1 by this number to get the
safe handheld shutter speed.
So, if youre using an 18mm zoom
setting, you need a shutter speed of
1/27 sec or faster. The closest speed
your camera offers is 1/30 sec so this
is the slowest handheld shutter speed
you should attempt to use.

CHANGING THE SHUTTER SPEED


How to take control of exposure times on your Nikon

Firstly, point your Nikon D-SLR at your


subject and press the shutter release
button lightly.

VIDEO GUIDES

01

To change the shutter speed, set the mode


dial on top of the camera to Program (P),
Aperture Priority (A) or Shutter Priority (S).

Now rotate the thumbwheel on the back of


the camera. As you do this, the shutter
speed will change, as will the aperture.

To set a specic shutter speed, work in


06 Shutter Priority (S) or Manual (M) mode.
Bear in mind that you might need to set a higher
ISO in order to achieve the desired speed.

You can now check the shutter speed in


one of three ways through the viewnder,
on the top-plate LCD screen (if your camera has
one) or on the rear monitor.

02

Look at the display in the viewnder. The


rst number is the shutter speed (60
represents 1/60 sec, 500 is 1/500 sec, and so on).

03

04

22 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

05

WorldMags.net

04

02
01

03

Zoom position
To avoid camera-shake, you need to
use a faster shutter speed with a
telephoto zoom setting (below) than
you do with a wide-angle one (left)

INTRODUCTION

WorldMags.net

CAMERA SKILLS

TELEPHOTO: 1/250 SEC


NIKOPEDIA

TECHNIQUES EXPLAINED
LOCKING UP THE MIRROR FOR SHARPER SHOTS
In photography, there are no such things as good vibrations

NIKON SOFTWARE

When the shutter speed drops, theres a


greater risk of your pictures being blurred.
This wont just be down to camera-shake it
will also be because of the the vibrations
caused by the mirror flipping up and down
inside the camera. Usefully, Nikon D-SLRs
from the D7000 and above include a Mirror
Lock-up function (MUP in the image on the
right), which ensures the mirror moves
out well before the shutter is opened. This
means you avoid the vibrations and resulting
camera-shake created by the mirror.

ESSENTIAL KIT

LIVE VIEW
No Mirror Lock-up
function? No problem!

WorldMags.net

VIDEO GUIDES

Live View can be used a substitute for


Mirror Lock-up on cameras such as the
D3100 and D5100, which dont have that
function. The majority of recent Nikon
D-SLRs feature a Live View mode that
locks the mirror up when Live View is
selected. The mirror wont drop down
until Live View is stopped. The feature is
more useful than Mirror Lock-up, as you
can continue to check framing, focus and
exposure on the rear screen.

2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 23

INTRODUCTION
CAMERA SKILLS

CAMERA SKILLSWorldMags.net

TRIPOD KNOW-HOW

NIKOPEDIA

GIVE YOURSELF
MORE SUPPORT
Improve the sharpness of your pictures
instantly with the help of a tripod
ne of the most effective
ways to eliminate camerashake is to use a tripod. A
tripod enables you to use any shutter
speed you like and still get a shakefree shot of a stationary subject.
Youre then free to select the aperture
you want to ensure maximum
sharpness.
Any slight tripod movement can be
seen in your shots, particularly with
night exposures that are seconds
long. Therefore, use a remote release,
wireless control or the cameras
self-timer function to re the shutter
and minimise any vibrations.
Its important to remember that
not all tripods are made equal, and a
lightweight model that seems solid

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

enough in a camera shop might not


give adequate support when youre
shooting in a gale on the edge of a cliff.
Choose the sturdiest model you feel
comfortable carrying.
If you dont fancy lugging a tripod
around, there are several other types
of support to consider. A monopod can
be a good choice when youre shooting
sports, for instance, as it gives you
more exibility for panning the
camera to follow the action.
For low-level photography or
picture-taking in positions where it
would be too awkward to set up a
tripod, a GorillaPod or beanbag can
provide excellent stability. Theyre
especially good when used with a
Vibration Reduction (VR) lens.

USE VIBRATION REDUCTION


Nikons VR lenses can help you shoot in low light without a tripod

A lens with built-in Vibration Reduction


(look for VR on the barrel) enables the use
of a slower shutter speed than is recommended
for handheld photography.

VIDEO GUIDES

01

Although a Nikon VR II lens can give you up


to four stops of handholdability, it cant
compensate for subject movement. Potentially,
you might be able to hold a 200mm VR II lens at
1/20 sec instead of 1/320 sec, but your subject
might have moved during the longer exposure
time, leading to a blurred result.

02

24 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

Only a few VR lenses can be left with


Vibration Reduction active when the
camera is mounted on a tripod. Most require VR
to be switched off, otherwise the lens will
actually introduce blur.

03

Some VR lenses let you switch between


Normal and Active mode. Active mode is
designed to reduce the severe vibrations that
occur when you shoot from a car, boat or train. It
cant distinguish any intended panning motion
though, so stick with Normal for action shots.

04

WorldMags.net

Even when youre using VR,


take short bursts of shots to
increase the chance of at least
one being sharp

Take it steady

TECHNIQUES EXPLAINED

Even when theres plenty of


light, using a tripod enables
you to select the lowest ISO
sensitivity and smaller
apertures for the best-quality
pictures. A tripod also slows
you down, forcing you to think
more about composition

INTRODUCTION

WorldMags.net
SETTING UP YOUR TRIPOD

NIKOPEDIA

Try to choose a tripod that allows you to raise


the camera to your eye level just by extending
the legs raising the centre column
effectively turns your three-legged friend into
a shaky monopod. Avoid touching the tripod
during the exposure, and use the self-timer or
a remote release to re the shutter. If your
camera has Mirror Lock-up (see page 23),
activate this to prevent mirror slap vibrations
softening the shot. Some tripods include a
hook on the bottom of the column use this to
hang a heavy bag from
in windy conditions, as this
will lower the centre of
gravity and
stabilise
the legs.

CAMERA SKILLS

Youll still get unsharp shots if you


dont use the right tripod technique

NIKON SOFTWARE

Boost your hit rate by


bracing the camera

Twist the tripod


collars foot to the
top of the lens, so
you can grip the
barrel

Lean your your


elbows on a suitable
surface if possible

WorldMags.net

Kneel on one leg,


sit or lie down to
get a stable base

VIDEO GUIDES

Its possible to get sharp shots at slow


shutter speeds without using a tripod
if you support the camera correctly.
Grip the body with your right hand and
cradle the lens in your left hand. Wrap
the camera strap tautly around your arm
to add stability, and tuck your elbows
in. Lean on a rm support if possible.
Squeeze the trigger gently to take a
photo dont stab at it. Dont hold your
breath, either; breathe out, then re.

Pull the camera


strap taut to add
additional stability

ESSENTIAL KIT

BRACE POSITION

INTRODUCTION

CAMERA SKILLSWorldMags.net

MASTER DEPTH OF FIELD

CAMERA SKILLS

CONTROLLING
WHATS IN FOCUS
Change the lens aperture to control
how much of a picture looks sharp
owever you support your
camera and however fast
you set the shutter speed,
theres no guarantee that everything
in your picture will be sharp.
This is because lenses can only
focus precisely on one distance at a
time. Fortunately, parts of the image
at other distances dont necessarily
look unsharp and out of focus theres
always a range of distances that look
acceptably sharp to the human eye.
This range is known as depth of
eld, and can stretch for miles (from
your feet to the horizon) or just a few
millimetres (the width of a ys eye).

Three key factors dictate how much


depth of eld you have to play with:

The smaller aperture


means the foreground
looks sharp

With a wider aperture,


only the centre of the
scene looks sharp

1. Focused distance The closer you


are to a subject, the less depth of eld
available. Its the distance at which
you focus the lens thats crucial.
2. Focal length The wider the angle
of view of your lens, the more depth of
eld you have to work with.
3. Aperture The narrower the
aperture, the more depth of eld. A
wide (large) aperture of f/4 will mean
that less of a scene appears in focus
than if you used a narrow (small)
aperture of f/16.

F/16

Image: Bhuminan Piyathasanan

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

NIKOPEDIA

VIDEO GUIDES

In focus
To make a landscape look
sharp from the foreground to
the horizon, choose a small
aperture, and focus about a
third of the way into the scene
Nikon D7000, Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5,
1/125 sec, f/10, ISO100

The big picture


The size of the cameras
sensor affects depth of eld.
For any particular angle of
view, full-frame sensors such
as the one in the D800 offer
less depth than the smaller DX
sensors in most Nikons

F/5.6

MAGNIFY THE SHOT

AUTOFOCUS SKILLS

How you can check image


quality on your D-SLR

Precise focusing can make


or break a photos success

You can use the LCD to check whether


key parts of your picture look sharp.
Switch to Live View and tap the button
with the magnifying glass and + sign
to enlarge the image. You can now
twist the focus ring to get a precise
part of the subject in focus. When
playing back your shots, hold down
the same + button, then use the
arrow keys to move around the image
and spot any blurred parts.

Not everything in the frame needs to look sharp, and


limited depth of eld can be unavoidable. If youre
photographing wildlife, youll often need a long
telephoto lens and a fast enough shutter speed to
allow for a moving target and camera-shake.
In situations where depth of eld is limited,
accurate focusing is key. The shot will look sharp
if only the subject is sharp. However, with so little
depth of eld to play with, its easy to get things
wrong particularly if you leave the camera in full
auto mode and let it decide what should be in focus.

26 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook

WorldMags.net

INCREASING DEPTH OF FIELD


Try using a small aperture to make
more of a scene look sharp

Decrease the aperture using A, S or P modes, using the


thumbwheel to alter the setting.

02

Look at the display in the viewfinder. The second number


from the left is the aperture.

03

04

As you alter the aperture, the shutter speed will also


change, and at narrow apertures the shutter speed will
often become too slow to be of use.
If you struggle to make a subject look sharp when shooting
close-ups, try zooming out or taking a step backwards.

NIKOPEDIA

01

CAMERA SKILLS

TECHNIQUES EXPLAINED

INTRODUCTION

WorldMags.net

NIKON SOFTWARE

Another way to check settings is to half-press the shutter


button aperture and shutter speed appear on the top plate

ESSENTIAL KIT
VIDEO GUIDES

Try switching the autofocus to Single-point AF, and


then select the one red AF point in the viewnder that
lines up with the subject. For more precision, use the
central AF point, and the focus lock to focus on any
point in the frame.
To use the focus lock, point the AF point at the
subject, then gently press the shutter button halfway
down. A green circle will light up in the viewnder to
conrm that the focus is locked. Keep your trigger
nger pressed down, recompose, then re.

All in the eyes


In the rst shot, the camera is focused on the
birds breast, leaving the eye blurred
Nikon D90, Sigma 120-400mm f/4.5-5.6, 1/500 sec, f/5, ISO250

WorldMags.net

INTRODUCTION

CAMERA SKILLSWorldMags.net

LENS SKILLS

CAMERA SKILLS

HOW TO DO MORE
WITH YOUR LENS
Do your pictures look soft despite perfect
technique? Try a different aperture
nce youve selected the
aperture, you need to get
enough depth of eld for
your shot, and have a fast enough
shutter speed to avoid camera-shake.
You might still have some choice over
the actual exposure settings you use,
though. For example, an exposure of
1/250 sec at f/11 may give you as sharp
a shot as shooting at 1/60 sec at f/5.6.
If you want to capture the sharpest
shots possible, which you choose can
end up proving critical.

NIKOPEDIA

F/16

F/32

TESTING YOUR LENS


<RXFDQQG\RXURSWLFVVZHHWVSRWE\
testing it at different apertures

Set your D-SLR on a tripod and attach a sheet of newspaper


to a flat wall. The share price pages from a broadsheet
work best, as you get small text across two pages.

01

Make sure your lens is pointed straight at the paper. Focus


on it, then take a series of pictures at each full aperture
stop (f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16 and f/22, for example).

02

Look at the shots on your PC screen, zooming in to 100 per


cent. Youll see a difference in clarity and contrast between
each setting.

03

VIDEO GUIDES

Image: Bhuminan Piyathasanan

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

F/5.6

The quality and resolution of a lens


will vary depending on the aperture
you set. It doesnt matter how much
you spend on your optic it wont give
the best results when used at its
widest, maximum aperture. Equally, a
softer, less dened image will be
captured at the narrowest aperture
due to a phenomenon known as
diffraction. The result is that your lens
has an optimum aperture somewhere
in the middle of the range this will
give you the best results.

TECHNIQUES EXPLAINED

TRY AF FINE TUNE


If a lens doesnt focus sharply
then it may need to be calibrated
Sometimes, pictures turn out slightly less sharp
through no fault of your own. It could be that
your D-SLR or lens isnt calibrated, so the
autofocus is slightly inaccurate in all shots. On
high-end Nikon D-SLRs such as the D300s and
D7000, theres an autofocus tuning option to
correct the problem. Select AF ne tune in the
Setup menu, and take a series of test shots,
dialling in adjustments to rene the result.
Download a free test pattern from
http://tinyurl.com/microfocus
28 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

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INTRODUCTION

WorldMags.net

CAMERA SKILLS
NIKOPEDIA

Against the rules


Just because youre shooting a
landscape or close-up doesnt
mean you have to use the
narrowest aperture setting

NIKON SOFTWARE

Reveal more detail


Your choice of aperture doesnt
just affect the depth of eld in a
picture, it also determines how
much detail is resolved

ESSENTIAL KIT

ZOOM OR PRIME?
How do you get the best from a zoom,
DQGVKRXOG\RXXVHDSULPHLQVWHDG"

A zoom is more versatile than a prime, but youll


sacrice a degree of sharpness for the convenience

WorldMags.net

Prime lenses are pricey,


but optically superb

2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 29

VIDEO GUIDES

As a general rule its best to avoid the extremes of a zoom lens, as


the optical performance tends to be weakest at the full wide or full
telephoto setting. The maximum aperture of many zoom lenses
also changes as you zoom in with them. For instance, a 70-300mm
f/4.5-5.6 runs from f/4.5 at 70mm through to f/5.6 at 300mm. As the
aperture decreases, the shutter speed needs to become longer to
maintain the same exposure, increasing the likelihood of camerashake. Prime lenses, on the other hand, have xed focal lengths and
often very wide maximum apertures. As well as enabling the use
of fast shutter speeds, they contain fewer elements than zooms,
making them lighter and, generally, sharper.

INTRODUCTION

CAMERA SKILLSWorldMags.net
TOO MUCH SHARPENING

CAMERA SKILLS

NO SHARPENING

SHARPENING SOFTWARE
NIKOPEDIA

GET SHARPER
SHOTS LATER ON

VIDEO GUIDES

ven with the right aperture,


shutter speed and focus
settings, photos taken
straight from your camera can still
look slightly soft and lacking in clarity.
Theres no need to be despondent or
blame your tools this is, in fact,
perfectly normal. Your Nikon D-SLRs
sensor is designed so that images
arent as sharp as they could possibly
be. The reason for this is that the
grid-like pattern of the individual
photo-sensitive cells on the sensor

Image: Bhuminan Piyathasanan

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

Learn how to use digital sharpening


to create the clearest possible pictures
would lead to strange interference
patterns on your pictures if they were
super sharp. Therefore, a lter in front
of the sensor adds a slight amount of
blur to each image.
Its necessary to add a degree of
electronic sharpening to every picture
and the Unsharp Mask (USM) lter in
Photoshop offers the ideal solution.
This tool allows you to alter the
amount and location of sharpening
applied to suit the image youre
working on.

IN-CAMERA
SHARPENING
Play with the sharpening
applied as you shoot
The easy option for digital sharpening
is to ramp up the Sharpening setting
in your Nikons Picture Control menu.
However, some shots need more
sharpening than others, and if you
apply too much then image quality can
fall. Digital sharpening isnt applied to
RAW les, but if you shoot JPEGs, any
in-camera sharpening is permanent.

Choose Set Picture Control


in your cameras Shooting
menu. There are six Picture
Control presets. Highlight one,
then press the right arrow key to
enter the Quick Adjust screen.
Here, you can make ve levels of
modication to the overall effect.

01

30 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

With Quick Adjust,


sharpening is altered
automatically in line with other
parameters. Tap the down arrow to
highlight Sharpening and change it
manually. There are 10 levels of
adjustment the yellow underline
indicates the original setting.

02

WorldMags.net

Pressing and holding the


camera button with the
magnifying glass and sign
brings up a grid. Contrast is the
vertical axis on the graph the
higher the contrast, the greater
the perceived sharpness your
image will have.

03

CORRECTLY SHARPENED

TECHNIQUES EXPLAINED

INTRODUCTION

WorldMags.net

THE UNSHARP MASK AT A GLANCE


Photoshops Unsharp Mask
filter provides you with three
sliders, each of which affects
sharpness:

Amount

Radius

Nine top tips to help you get more


IURPWKH8QVKDUS0DVNOWHU

The USM lters sliders work in unison, so the


effect of one can be cancelled out by another.
The USM lter offers two types of sharpening.
One works overall, the other strengthens edges.
With a landscape, lots of detail will need a little
sharpening. Keep Radius and Threshold low.

NO SHARPENING

For simpler compositions, just sharpen the


edges. Use a higher Radius and high Threshold to
make sure any even areas of tone dont look grainy.

05

07
08
09

06

EDGE SHARPENING

The amount of Radius needed will vary depending


on the number of pixels in the picture.

Youll need to do more sharpening for shots that


are going to be printed.
How much sharpening you do is a matter of taste
it can also reveal things you may want to hide!

Bright or dark outlines around subject edges are


a sign of over-sharpening. Also look out for grain
and noise in areas you didnt want to be sharpened.

Even apparently-clear,
high-contrast shots
need digital sharpening

WorldMags.net

View at 100 per cent and


check the edges as you
drag the sliders

2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 31

VIDEO GUIDES

02
03
04
01

Sharpening should be your nal editing task.


Only attempt it after all other corrections.

USM starting point: Amount


at 100%, Radius at 1 pixel
and Threshold at 5 levels

ESSENTIAL KIT

THE GOLDEN RULES

Sharpening works on the


edges of a subject by
increasing the contrast
at these points, making
these outlines stand out
more prominently. The
higher the Radius amount,
the stronger the sharpening
effect. Its measured in
pixels, as this is the width of
the sharpening effect.
Typical setting: 1-8 pixels
Good starting point: 1 pixel

NIKON SOFTWARE

Digital vs optical
Were not yet at the stage
where digital sharpening can
rescue a severely blurred
image (though Adobe may be
working on this for Photoshop
CS7). Always work on the
sharpest image you have

Confusingly, with this slider,


the higher the amount set,
the lower the sharpening
effect. This control defines
what counts as an edge for
the sharpening applied by
the other two sliders. At
0 levels every pixel in the
picture counts as an edge, so
is sharpened. At high values
(25 levels and above, for
example) only high-contrast
edges are sharpened.
Typical setting: 1-15 levels
Good starting point:
5 levels

NIKOPEDIA

This is like a volume


adjustment the higher the
percentage, the stronger the
sharpening effect. Whether
you use a low or high
percentage will depend on
the position of the other two
sliders.
Typical setting: 50-200%
Good starting point: 100%

Threshold

CAMERA SKILLS

Finding yourself at a loss over where to


start in Photoshop? Try these settings

INTRODUCTION

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NIKOPEDIA

CAMERA SKILLS

LL ABOUT
The ability to change lenses is your Nikon D-SLRs
strongest feature. After all, the camera just captures
the image its the lens that controls what it sees
he standard, or kit lens that came
with your Nikon D-SLR can cope with a
wide range of subjects, but it does
have its limits. It offers a range of focal lengths,
from wide angle to a short telephoto setting
that will cope with the majority of everyday
situations, but its soon out of its depth when
you want to take on a wider range of subjects.
This becomes obvious when you try to shoot
sports or wildlife subjects, for example. To do
this properly you will need a telephoto lens so
that your subjects arent just tiny dots in the
distance. In fact, a telephoto is usually the rst
lens that D-SLR owners buy to complement
their standard zoom.
And then at other times youll nd yourself in
a situation where you cant get everything in

VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

the frame and you cant step back any further.


This is where you need a super wide-angle
zoom. These are perfect for shooting in
cramped interiors or narrow city streets.
But lenses will have a powerful creative
effect, too. Your choice of lens will have an
inuence the scale, perspective and
proportions of the objects in your picture.
Telephoto lenses atten perspective and can
give a powerful sense of scale, while wideangles exaggerate angles, distances and
differences in size, while producing wild
and dramatic effects.
Thats just the start. Other lens types, such
as macros and sheyes, can completely change
the way you see the world, so join us as we
explore the amazing world of lenses

WHAT YOULL LEARN

KIT LENSES

TELEPHOTOS

How to get the best from your How to shoot far-away


Nikons standard zoom lens
subjects more effectively

32 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

WIDE ANGLES

MACRO LENSES

SPECIALIST LENSES

See the world from a whole


new perspective!

Discover the amazing world


of close-up photography

Lenses that distort, enhance


and transcend reality!

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INTRODUCTION

CAMERA SKILLS
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CAMERA SKILLS
NIKOPEDIA
NIKON SOFTWARE
ESSENTIAL KIT
VIDEO GUIDES

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2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 33

INTRODUCTION
CAMERA SKILLS
NIKOPEDIA
NIKON SOFTWARE
ESSENTIAL KIT
VIDEO GUIDES

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STANDARD LENSES

WHAT YOUR KIT


LENS CAN DO...
Most Nikon D-SLRs are sold with a
standard or kit lens. It may seem
like a basic option, but theres more
to kit lenses than you might think

ost Nikon D-SLRs come with Nikons 18-55mm zoom. This has
a 3x zoom range, from wide-angle to short telephoto and you
can nd out what this means using our handy focal length guide,
opposite. But a zoom lens does more than just magnify your
subject. It changes the perspective too. So before you invest in
new lenses for your Nikon, you need to make sure that youre
getting the best from the one youve already got!

PERSPECTIVE POINTERS
=RRPOHQVHVGRQWMXVWFKDQJHWKHPDJQLFDWLRQ
they change the whole perspective of the picture too
The obvious effect of a zoom is to make your subject bigger or smaller,
but theres another effect too, which is especially noticeable with
portraits. If you use a wide focal length and get up close, your subjects
features are distorted and the results are very unattering! But if you
step back and use your lenss longest zoom setting (typically 55mm),
the perspective is attened, and your subjects look much more natural.
18 mm

55 mm

Dont shoot portraits with your zoom at its widest setting!


Instead, use the longest focal length and stand back.

34 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

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STANDARD CHOICE

FOCAL LENGTH & ZOOMS

Jeremy Walkers spectacular shot of


Portland Bill Lighthouse was taken at a
focal length of 50mm, right in the middle
of the zoom range for his Nikon 24-70mm
f/2.8, and equivalent to the standard
50mm prime lenses on lm SLRs.

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Your Nikons standard zoom covers just


a fraction of the focal lengths available
Heres how the same scene looks when it is shot

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS

10mm

Your standard zoom can focus closer


than you think. This was taken with the
Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens. The
minimum focus distance doesnt
change, so the secret is to zoom to the
maximum focal length to get the
greatest magnication.

10mm fisheye
Fisheye lenses offer
the widest angle of view,
but straight lines are
distorted into curves.

10mm

zooms dont go as wide as


sheyes, but they do
preserve straight lines.
18mm

18mm wide-angle
This is as wide as the

NIKOPEDIA

Exposure: 1/400 sec, f/10, ISO200


Lens: Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 VR

10mm superwide
Super-wideangle

CAMERA SKILLS

using different lenses at different focal lengths on a


DX-format Nikon D-SLR. The standard 18-55mm
zoom offers a reasonable range, but youll nd that
super wide-angle lenses will increase your picturetaking possibilities enormously.

Exposure: 1/60 sec, f/11, ISO200


Lens: Nikon 24-70mm

standard zoom will go,


but its enough for most
shooting situations.

55mm telephoto
This is the maximum on
the standard zoom, but
for many subjects youll
need longer focal lengths.

200mm

200mm telephoto
This is a short-medium
telephoto ideal which is
okay for many types of
sport/action shot.

400mm

sports photography youll


need a longer, more
specialised telephoto.

LENS TYPES KIT ZOOM

ESSENTIAL KIT

400mm telephoto
For wildlife and some

NIKON SOFTWARE

55mm

The everyday lens for your camera

Exposure: 1/20 sec, f/2.8, ISO100


Lens: Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8

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2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 35

VIDEO GUIDES

LOW LIGHT
A standard zoom is ne for low light shots, such as Jeremy Walkers
shot of a New York taxi. A wider maximum aperture will allow faster
shutter speeds, but the standard lenss VR system cuts shake too.

Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 VR


This is the lens supplied with many Nikon D-SLRs. It
covers the most useful everyday focal lengths.
There are alternatives. The
17-55mm f/2.8 offers a similar
range, but with a faster f/2.8
maximum aperture across the
zoom range, while the 16-85mm
f/3.5-5.6 offers slightly wider
and longer focal lengths.

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TELEPHOTO LENSES

YOUR FIRST
SECOND LENS?

IN THE THICK OF THE ACTION


Adam Duckworths spectactular shot
captures the pile up at the start of a
motocross race. The telephoto lens
compresses the action and makes the riders
look as if theyre on top of each other.

Exposure: 1/1600 sec, f/4, ISO400


Lens: Nikon 300mm f/2.8

For many subjects, your kit lens


just wont zoom in far enough.
Thats when you need a telephoto

NIKOPEDIA

oull need a telephoto lens for most kinds of sport, wildlife


photography and, sometimes, for landscapes and travel. You
can get a superzoom lens such as the Nikon 18-200mm or brand
new 18-300mm to cover both standard and telephoto focal
ranges, but most users opt for a separate lens such as the Nikon
70-300mm. A telephoto lens increases the range of subjects that
you can shoot, but using it to create effective compositions takes
a certain amount of skill, and the risk of camera-shake is higher so
you need to pay attention to shutter speeds too.

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

DX vs FX
The size of your Nikon D-SLRs sensor has an
effect on a lenss effective focal length
Nikon D-SLRs come in two different formats: FX and DX. The
professional FX cameras have the same size sensor as 35mm
lm and are also called full-frame cameras. But the sensors
in Nikon DX-format SLRs are smaller. This means that they
capture a smaller angle of view, which in turn makes the
magnication appear greater. On a DX-format Nikon, a 300mm
lens will actually look like a 450mm lens its focal length is
300mm, but its effective focal length is 450mm. Some
professionals prefer DX-format Nikon cameras for longer
range work because of the way they increase the effective
focal length of their telephotos.
DX format

The smaller sensor in


DX format cameras
makes subjects look
larger (left) compared
to FX cameras (below).
FX format

CREATIVE BLUR

VIDEO GUIDES

Paul Harris has used a


telephoto with a
deliberately slow
shutter speed to give
this rafting shot extra
movement and drama.

Exposure: 1/8 sec, f/22, ISO100


Lens: Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8

36 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

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CAMERA SHAKE & MOVEMENT

INTRODUCTION

CAMERA SKILLS
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How do you make sure your


telephoto shots come out sharp?
Camera-shake is far more likely

Focal length
(DX format)

Minimum safe
speed (seconds)

60mm

40mm

1/60sec

80mm

53mm

1/80sec

100mm

67mm

1/100sec

83mm

1/125sec

160mm

107mm

1/160sec

200mm

133mm

1/200sec

250mm

167mm

1/250sec

320mm

213mm

1/320sec

400mm

267mm

1/400sec

500mm

333mm

1/500sec

640mm

427mm

1/640sec

800mm

533mm

1/800sec

1000mm

667mm

1/1000sec

LENS TYPES TELEPHOTO


Fill the frame with distant subjects

DEPTH OF FIELD

Exposure: 1/125 sec, f/2.8, ISO100


Lens: Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8

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2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 37

VIDEO GUIDES

Telephoto lenses produce


very shallow depth of eld,
which can create wonderfully
atmospheric effects. Jeremy
Walkers photograph of
poppies on the Somme was
taken with a Nikon 70-200mm
f/2.8 at its maximum aperture.

Try this: Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 VR


This is one of Nikons most versatile telephoto
zoom lenses because it covers a good range of focal
lengths and because it can be used on both DX format
cameras and FX format D-SLRs if you upgrade later.
Alternatives include the cheaper and lighter Nikon
55-200mm f/3.5-5.6
VR lens (for DX
cameras only), or
Nikons professional
FX-format 70-200mm
f/2.8 VR.

ESSENTIAL KIT

To reduce the risk of shake, make sure youre using


a shutter speed high enough for the zoom setting.

NIKON SOFTWARE

125mm

NIKOPEDIA

Focal length
(FX format)

CAMERA SKILLS

with telephoto lenses because they


magnify any camera movement.
But there is a way to work out safe
shutter speeds for handheld photography.
You take the effective focal length of the
lens (see the DX vs FX box) and divide it into
1 to get the minimum safe shutter speed.
Some Nikon lenses come with VR
(Vibration Reduction), which offers an
advantage of up to four stops. In other works
you may be able to use shutter speeds four
times slower without shake. .
But note that camera-shake and
subject movement arent the same thing!
You still need fast shutter speeds to
freeze movement.

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WIDE-ANGLE LENSES

GETTING THE
WIDER VIEW
Wide-angle lenses dont just let you
get more in. They dramatically
change the way the world looks
f a telephoto is your rst extra lens, a wide-angle zoom should
be your second because their creative impact is just as
important as their practical value. You can use them to capture
broad, sweeping landscapes or tall buildings, of course, but they
also let you get really close to your subjects, and its this that
produces those weird and wonderful wide-angle perspectives.
This makes objects in the foreground look much larger and the
background smaller. The wider the lens, and the closer you get,
the more exaggerated the effect becomes.

CONVERGING VERTICALS

VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

NIKOPEDIA

How do you stop tall buildings leaning inwards?


Its not the lens, its where you stand...
Wide-angle lenses give their strong converging perspective effect
because you are getting right up close to your subject and tilting
the camera more. This can cause a problem with architectural
shots because it produces converging verticals, where the sides
of the building appear to lean inwards. The secret of avoiding this
outcome is to move further back so that you can keep the camera
level, and nd something interesting to ll the foreground.
10mm
10mm

WIDE OPEN SPACES


You get converging verticals because youre tilting the camera.
You need to move further back and shoot with the camera

38 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

The converging lines of the jetty really draw you into Jeremy Walkers
atmospheric landscape shot, and he did it by using a wide-angle lens.

Exposure: 1/250 sec, f/11, ISO200


Lens: Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8

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USING DEPTH OF FIELD

INTRODUCTION

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How to control the near-to-far


sharpness in your pictures
In theory, only the object youve focused on will be

5m

1m

20m

NIKOPEDIA

15m

10m

CAMERA SKILLS

truly sharp; in practice, objects nearer the camera or


further away can look sharp because theyre out of
focus by such a small amount that you cant really see
it. This is the depth of eld in the picture.
Wide-angle lenses have more depth of eld than other
types, and you can exploit this in a very interesting
way using the hyperfocal distance.
The idea is to get both innity (the distant
background) and the nearest part of your subject right
at the limits of the depth of eld. This means choosing
the right lens aperture and focus point. But dont
worry, because weve done it for you see the table
below. Its based around a focal length of 18mm on a
DX format Nikon D-SLR.
For different focal lengths, try using
the excellent online calculator and
www.dofmaster.com.

15m
10m
5m
1m

The sense of speed and direction in


Adam Duckworths shot of a VW
comes from the use of a wide-angle
lens. This creates strong diagonals
and converging lines.

Exposure: 1/50 sec, f/18, ISO200


Lens: Nikon 17-35mm f/2.8

PLAYFUL PERSPECTIVE

Exposure: 1/125 sec, f/9, ISO100


Lens: Nikon 12-24mm f/4

Far limit

4.07m

2.04m

Innity

f/5.6

2.88m

1.44m

Innity

f/8

2.04m

1.02m

Innity

f/11

1.45m

0.75m

Innity

f/16

1.03m

0.52m

Innity

f/22

0.73m

0.37m

Innity

This table shows the hyperfocal distances with an


18mm lens at different lens apertures.

LENS TYPES SUPERWIDE


Wider angles, dramatic perspectives
Try this: Tamron 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5
Super-wideangle lenses offer a much wider angle of
view than a standard zoom. The Tamron 10-24mm is a
good example, offer a wide zoom range for a lens of
this type at a very affordable price.
Alternatives include Nikons
own 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 and
Sigmas 10-20mm f/3.5
These lenses are for DX format
cameras only. FX format lenses
dont go wide enough.

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2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 39

VIDEO GUIDES

The charm of Paul Harriss shot


of a giraffe taking a closer look
at the camera is achieved by
the distortion of its features
created by the wide-angle lens.

Near limit of sharpness

f/4

ESSENTIAL KIT

DRAMATIC DIAGONALS

Lens aperture Focus at

NIKON SOFTWARE

Wide-angle lenses (top) have much more depth of


eld than standard lenses (centre) or telephotos
(bottom). Theyre perfect for hyperfocal focusing.

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NIKOPEDIA
NIKON SOFTWARE
ESSENTIAL KIT

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MACRO LENSES

GET CREATIVE
IN CLOSE-UP
Sometimes the most spectacular
images can be found in the smallest
details, and thats when you really
need a macro lens

he term macro is often abused. Some photographers (and


camera-makers) use it to refer to a photo taken at a closer
distance than normal, but the real denition of macro is very exact.
It means that the subject is reproduced on the sensor at exactly the
same size as it is in real life, and when you view macro shots on a
computer screen or in a print, the tiniest bug takes on the proportions
of a dinosaur. Exploring this miniature world can reveal the most
amazing details and colours.

PATTERNS IN NATURE
Paul Harris has cropped in tight and
shot directly from above to capture the
fascinating patterns of veins in these leaves.

Exposure: 1/60 sec, f/8, ISO100


Lens: Nikon 60mm f/2.8

CLOSE-UP FILTERS IN ACTION


These offer a simple way to shoot close-ups
without the expense of a dedicated macro lens
The No Filter shot was taken using a Nikon 50mm f/1.8 lens at its
minimum focus distance. Its as close as we can get with this lens,
but its not close enough to show the individual fruit. The With
Filter shot was taken with the same lens, but with all three
lenses from a Kood close-up lter set, screwed to the front. Its
not the same as a proper macro lens, but it gets us almost as
close, and the image quality is surprisingly good.
No lt er

Close-up lters are a


low-tech solution, but
effective nonetheless

VIDEO GUIDES

wit h lt er

KEEP YOUR DISTANCE


Magda Wasiczeks beautiful macro shot was
captured with a 150mm macro lens. This allowed
her to shoot a timid subject from further away.

Exposure: 1/200 sec, f/8, ISO250


Lens: Sigma 150mm f/2.8
40 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

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WAYS TO GET CLOSER

INTRODUCTION

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There are accessories that can help you


shoot close-ups with your existing lens
A macro lens isnt the only way you can shoot

EXTENSION RINGS

REVERSING RINGS

CLOSE-UP FILTERS

LENS TYPES MACRO

ESSENTIAL KIT

These screw on to the


front of the lens and come
in different sizes to t your
lenss lter size. They come
in sets, in varying strengths
and can be used individually
or in combination. You dont get quite the same picture
quality or level of magnication as a dedicated macro
lens, but theyre inexpensive and simple to use.

NIKON SOFTWARE

These enable you to t the


lens to the camera the wrong
way round! This improves the
optical performance of
lenses that are not designed
specically for macro
photography. But youll lose the connections between
the lens and the body so set the exposure manually.
Youll need older D-type Nikon lenses for this.

NIKOPEDIA

These t between the lens


and the camera body and
preserve all the connections
that allow automatic
exposure and lens aperture
control. They come in sets of
three, each one of a slightly different thickness. You
can use them individually or in combination to get the
degree of magnication that you want.

CAMERA SKILLS

close-ups. Unlike ordinary lenses, macro lenses are


designed to give their best performance at very close
distances, but apart from that the main difference is
simply that the focus travel is increased. And you can
achieve the same result using a regular lens and
close-up accessories.

View the world in miniature

Exposure: 1/250 sec, f/6.3, ISO400


Lens: Nikon 105mm f/2.8

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2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 41

VIDEO GUIDES

SHALLOW FOCUS
The closer you get, the shallower the
depth of eld. Adam Duckworth has
used this effect to focus on the tiny
cluster of stones on this earring.

Try this: Sigma 105mm f/2.8


Macro lenses are xed focal length prime lenses
(you cant zoom in and out). There are many to choose
from, but the Sigma 105mm f/2.8 delivered
exceptional performance in our macro group test.
Macro lenses come in different
focal lengths. The advantage of
longer focal lengths is that you
can shoot timid subjects from
much further away.

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NIKON SOFTWARE

NIKOPEDIA

CAMERA SKILLS

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THINK OUTSIDE
OF THE BOX
Mainstream standard, telephoto or
wide-angle zooms can cover most
situations, but special creative
effects call for special lenses

A
VIDEO GUIDES

FISHEYES AND FORMATS

SPECIALIST LENSES

lens isnt just a focal length and an f-number. Its an amazing


creative tool which you can use to capture the world from your
own unique perspective. And never more so than with the lenses in
this nal set, which can distort, enhance or interpret the world in
whole new ways. From lo- lenses to tilt-shift, from sheyes to
freelensing, these specialised lenses enable you to you shoot
outside the box. Rather than just recording scenes and objects
as they actually are, they let you create your own interpretations,
moods and atmospheres. Remember all those rules about
composition, focussing, depth of eld and straightening the
camera? Nows the time to ignore them completely!

42 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

Fisheyes come in two types, standard and


circular, and two formats DX and FX
With sheye lenses you have to be particularly careful to get
the type you want. Standard sheyes ll the whole picture
frame, but still give the characteristic curved distortion
effect. Circular sheyes have a wider angle of view and more
distortion, but create a circular image and dont ll the frame.
This makes it more important to choose the right one for your
camera format. Here are just four possible permutations.

FX Circular sheye on FX camera

FX Circular sheye DX camera

Standard DX sheye on DX camera

Standard DX sheye on FX camera

Fisheye lenses, whether theyre standard or circular types,


need to be used on the format they are designed for.

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CITY SKYLINE
Jeremy Walker used a sheye
lens to capture this ultra-wide
cityscape at night, and the
curvature of the horizon
adds to the sense of scale.

Exposure: 4 sec, f/8, ISO100


Lens: Nikon 16mm f/2.8 fisheye

LENS COMPATIBILITY
Can you use old Nikon lenses on your
new Nikon D-SLR?
Nikon has used the same basic lens tting for every

Pre-AI
(1959)

Warning: AI
conversion
required!

Warning: AI
conversion
required!

Caution: Nikon
says no, but
others say yes

AI (1977)
& AI-S
(1982)

Manual focus,
metering

Manual
focus, no
metering

Manual focus, no
metering

AI-P
(1988)

Manual focus,
metering

Manual
focus,
metering

Manual focus,
metering

AF (1983)

Autofocus,
metering

Autofocus,
metering

Manual focus,
metering

Autofocus,
metering

Autofocus,
metering

Autofocus,
metering

AF-I
(1992)
AF-S
(1996)

Even though you can use older lenses, you may not
have access to all metering or focusing functions

LENS TYPES LO-FI

ESSENTIAL KIT

Nikon D40,
D40x, D60, D3000,
D3100, D3200,
D3300, D5000,
D5100, D5300

NIKON SOFTWARE

Exposure: 1/1600 sec, f/5.6, ISO500


Lens: Nikon 6mm f/2.8 fisheye

Nikon D50,
D70, D70s,
D80, D90,
D100

NIKOPEDIA

ALL THE ANGLES

Lens type Nikon D1 series,


D2 series, D200,
D3 series, D300
series, D700, D4,
D7000, D7100

CAMERA SKILLS

Nikon SLR since the launch of its rst ever SLR, the
Nikon F, in 1959.
But only later AI lenses, which arrived in 1977 with
the launch of the Nikon FM, can be mounted directly
on todays D-SLRs.
Earlier, non-AI lenses MUST be converted rst or
they may damage the
mechanical linkages on
the camera body.
The following table is a
summary overview of the
lens types available, what
they can be used on and
any technical limitations.
Remember, you
should always check
You can go right back to
specic camera-lens
the AI lenses introduced
combinations for details. with the NikonFM in 1977.

Mark Pain chose a dramatic


viewpoint for this shot of the
Oaks, taken with a rare Nikon
8mm sheye.

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Transform the world around you

TILT-SHIFT

Exposure: 1/1600 sec, f/NA, ISO100


Lens: Hartblei Tilt-Shift

FREELENSING
Ben Brain disconnected the lens
from the camera for this still life,
tilting the lens in front of the body
to achieve this effect.

Exposure: 1/8000 sec, f/1.4, ISO200


Lens: Nikon 50mm f/1.4

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2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 43

VIDEO GUIDES

Adam Duckworth created this


amazing miniature effect using a
Hartblei tilt-shift lens on a Nikon
D3. The defocused background
and foreground makes the car
look like a toy.

Try this: Lensbaby (all models)


With a Lensbaby, you can tilt the lens while its still
mounted on the camera to produce controllable
defocussing effects. Low-quality glass or plastic
lenses are used for a deliberately
old-fashioned, lo- look.
Holga cameras have a cult
following, but you can also get
a cheap Holga 60mm lens to t
a Nikon D-SLR.

INTRODUCTION
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NIKOPEDIA
NIKON SOFTWARE
ESSENTIAL KIT
VIDEO GUIDES

CAMERA SKILLSWorldMags.net

1OO
Want to get the most out of your Nikon SLR?
We reveal the menus, RAW options and
hidden gems that can transform your shots
ou can get great shots with your
Nikon straight out of the box, but
your results will be even better
once you start taking over the controls and
making the shooting decisions yourself with
manual white balance, shutter speed, lens
aperture and ISO settings.
But it doesnt end there. The Shooting
menu offers additional options for extending
your cameras capabilities, such as Nikons
Active D-Lighting mode. And the Setup
menu handles important housekeeping
tasks, such as rmware updates and how
your les are named.
But its in the Custom Setting menu that
things get really interesting, because its
here that you can tinker with the innermost

44 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

workings of your camera and congure it in


a way that suits your own personal style.
There are differences between cameras,
of course. The D3000-series cameras dont
have a Custom Setting menu, and all their
conguration options are merged with the
Setup menu. And, not surprisingly, there are
options on the professional models, such as
the D4 and D800, that arent available on
others. Well indicate broadly which
cameras have which features as we go
along, but you may need to check your own
cameras manual to nd out for sure, and to
get more detailed instructions if required.
Our aim is to show just what your Nikon
D-SLR is capable of, and were willing to bet
that its a lot more than you think!

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INTRODUCTION

CAMERA SKILLS
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CAMERA SKILLS
NIKOPEDIA
NIKON SOFTWARE
ESSENTIAL KIT
VIDEO GUIDES

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2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 45

INTRODUCTION
CAMERA SKILLS

CAMERA SKILLSWorldMags.net

EXPOSURE BRACKETING

VIDEO GUIDES

Images by: Michelle McMahon. Melanie Stevens and Tim Gartside

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

NIKOPEDIA

Estimating the correct exposure can be tricky, especially with a


high-key subject like this. With the auto-exposure bracketing function,
available on the D5100 and up, the camera takes three shots at three different
exposures, so that you can choose the best later.

GET BETTER
RESULTS FAST!
Quick tips for better results and
better ways to use your camera!

heres plenty to take on board when youre getting to grips with


your camera, and learning the art of photography at the same
time. As a result, its easy to overlook features and options that
could make your life easier. Some are straightforward, but others
reveal capabilities you may not have known your camera
possessed, from exposure options to focus points.

DOF preview

Buttons, dials and


features that are worth
experimenting with

How much depth of eld


will you have? Press the
depth of eld preview button
(D90 and up) to get an idea.
Bear in mind that the
viewnder image will darken.

46 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

SHIFT AE BRACKETING
WITH EV COMPENSATION

Dark backgrounds play havoc with exposure


meters. But you can apply negative EV compensation
rst and then use the auto-exposure bracketing
feature to bracket your exposures around your
corrected exposure to cover all the bases.

Quiet mode

Nikons Q mode disables


the cameras autofocus beep,
and delays the mirror return
(the noisy part) for as long as
you keep the shutter button
pressed down.

WorldMags.net

Mirror lockup

The Lock mirror up


command is used for sensor
cleaning, but many Nikons
(D7000 and up) also have a
Mirror Up mode, to reduce
shake in tripod shots.

MISSION INFO
Top tips for viewing,
focusing and getting the
most from Live View

AUTO ISO

Live View AF points

Auto ISO isnt just


for novices! Its
ideal for travel photography,
when youre shooting in a
range of different conditions.
On a bright day like this itll
automatically choose a low
ISO setting, so theres no
need to worry about qualtiy.

You can use the multiselector in Live View to move


the square AF point marker
anywhere in the frame.

Live View zoom in

You can use the zoom


button to ne-tune your
manual focus. This works best
with the camera on a tripod.

The camera can still tell


you when the subjects in focus
using the Rangender feature
(in the Setup menu).

Youre wasting your


time, and your
cameras powermanagement features.
Your Nikon D-SLR will power
down automatically if it
hasnt been used for a while.

Centre the AF

If youre using single-point


autofocus, and youve moved
the point away from the centre,
just click OK to revert to the
centre AF point.

EYEPIECE DIOPTRE

Does the viewnder


information look blurred?
All Nikon D-SLRs have a
tiny dioptre setting
dial next to the
viewnder eyepiece
to allow you to
adjust the focus for
your own eyesight.

AF lock switch

It can be easy to shift the


AF point by mistake, so some
Nikons (D90 and above) have a
focus selector lock on the back
to prevent this from happening.

Use the Info display

If youre standing away


from the camera, its hard to
see the status panel so press
the info button to show the
settings on the LCD display.

Built-in spirit level

Some Nikon models have


a virtual horizon, which can be
displayed via the Setup menu
or live in the Live View mode.

ESSENTIAL KIT

Your Nikon D-SLR


starts working
the moment
you half-press
the shutter
release, xing the
exposure and the
focus, but its only when you
press it the whole way that it
takes the picture. You can
use this to reframe your shot
without changing the
settings, or eliminate shutter
lag due to autofocus delay.

NIKON SOFTWARE

PRESSING
HALF
THE SHUTTER

NIKOPEDIA

Manual focus

DONT KEEP
SWITCHING
ON AND OFF

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Help!

If you see a ? symbol in


the bottom left corner of the
LCD display, press the Help (?)
button for an on-screen hint.
Some Nikon lenses have
two VR settings. Stick to the
Normal setting, and only use
Active if youre being thrown
around in the back of a Land
Rover, for example.

LCD illumination

Shooting at night and


cant see your status panel?
The power switch has an
extra spring-loaded detent
that activates the LCD
backlight for a few seconds.

JPEGs for bursts

RAW les are great for


ultimate quality, but your
camera can save more JPEGs
in a burst. On a D3100, say, its
the difference between
getting six shots and 100 shots!

WorldMags.net

Power-saving

Does your Nikon D-SLR shut


down too quickly? Go to the
Settings menu and change the
power-off delay time.

2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 47

VIDEO GUIDES

VR settings

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BE A SHARPER SHOOTER
WITH CUSTOM TWEAKS
Your cameras Custom Setting
menu conceals a wealth of options

AF-ON BUTTON

Professional
photographers swear by
it; others hardly notice its
there. The AF-On button can
be congured to take over autofocus
activation from the shutter release
button. Most pros nd this offers a
much more instinctive way of working.

VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

NIKOPEDIA

ou might happily carry on using your Nikon D-SLR indenitely


without once taking a look at the Custom Setting menu. But if
you do have a look, you could discover whole new ways of using
your camera or nd the easy solutions to some irritating
problems that have been annoying your for ages!

THE
RECONFIGURE
AE-L/AF-L BUTTON
The AE-L/AF-L button
locks both the focus and
exposure, just like
half-pressing the
shutter release. So
whats the point of that?
Well, you can also congure it to lock
only the focus or only the exposure,
which is much more useful. It can
also be used as an AF-On button on
cameras that dont have one.

D7100 U modes

Tips to help you get the


most from your cameras
special hidden features

The D7100 bridges the


gap between pro SLRs and
amateur models. It lets you
save two lots of custom
settings, selected using U1
and U2 on the mode dial.

48 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

Set the date!

Your Nikon embeds the


time and date in each image,
and you (or your cataloguing
software) might need this
information one day, so be
sure to set it correctly.

WorldMags.net

No card inserted?

Its annoying when the


shutter wont re because
theres no memory card
inserted. Find the Slot Empty
Release Lock setting and set
it to Enable Release.

MISSION INFO

INTRODUCTION

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WorldMags.net
Custom settings can be
fundamental to the way
your camera works
Pro Nikon SLRs let you
create sets of custom settings
via banks A, B, C and D.

Recent Items

SHAKE-FREE SHOTS
WITH THE SELF-TIMER

ISO HI AND LO

Nikon includes Hi and Lo


ISO sensitivity values to
increase the range of lighting
conditions you can shoot in. Theyre
called Hi and Lo and only given
equivalent ISO numbers because
theyre slightly outside the range
for accurate ISO calibration.

My menu

On Nikons pro D-SLRs you


can swap the Recent Items
menu for your own custom My
Menu open the menu and
select the Choose tab.

File numbering

REVERSE DIAL
ROTATION

sRGB vs RGB

You can set your Nikon to


shoot sRGB, the colour space
used by most digital devices, or
Adobe RGB, which is better for
commercial publishing. Or
shoot RAW and choose later!

AVERAGE METERING

All Nikon D-SLRs offer a centre-weighted


metering mode, but what if you want simpler
average metering? This is a hidden option on all
Nikon pro SLRs and the D7000 among the custom
settings for the centre-weighted area size.

RAW options

Basic Nikons shoot 12-bit


NEFs, while others shoot higher
quality 14-bit NEFs. The pro
models offer a choice, so that
you can balance image quality
against le size.

Exposure steps

Digital SLRs adjust


exposure values in 1/3-stop
increments, but if you prefer
1/2-stops, change the EV Steps
in the Custom Settings (not on
D3000-series cameras).
Periodically, Nikon may
issue rmware updates to x
bugs or add new features to
your camera. Check the Nikon
websites Services & Support
section for updates.

Embed copyright

If you take pictures for a


living, youll want to embed
copyright information. You
can set up a custom copyright
message on Nikons pro
D-SLRs from the D7000 up.

Self-timer delay

If youre using the


self-timer to re the camera
on a tripod, you wont want to
wait 10 seconds every time. So
use the Custom Settings
menu to change the delay.

WorldMags.net

Noise reduction

Long-exposure noise
reduction and high-ISO noise
reduction are set separately
except on the D3000-series.

2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 49

VIDEO GUIDES

Free SLR upgrade

ESSENTIAL KIT

Does the EV
compensation
always go the
wrong way
when you turn
the command
dial? It just doesnt seem right
that the exposures reduced
when you turn the dial to the
right. The answer? Reverse
the dial rotation in the
Custom Settings menu (not
featured on the D3000

NIKON SOFTWARE

To make sure every shot


has a unique le number, set
the File number sequence
option to On. Otherwise, youll
end up with duplicate le
names on your computer.

NIKOPEDIA

When youre taking


long-exposure night shots or
close-ups with the camera on a
tripod, you need to avoid jogging it
when you press the shutter release.
The solutions easy just use the
camera self-timer!

Need to change a setting


youve just made? Theres no
need to plod back through the
menus because itll be on the
Recent Items menu!

CAMERA SKILLS

Settings banks

INTRODUCTION

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NIKON RAW
CONVERTERS

VIDEO GUIDES

Images by: Michelle McMahon, Chris George and Tim Gartside

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

NIKOPEDIA

CAMERA SKILLS

Ever wondered why your


RAW conversions in Adobe Camera
Raw dont quite match your Nikons
JPEGs? Only Nikons own software
(View NX 2 and Capture NX 2 )
interprets the white balance and
Picture Control settings exactly as
Nikon intended. This can be crucial
where subtle colour combinations
are the theme of the picture.

GET THE INTEL


ON THE MUST
HAVE GADGETS
A few smart accessories can make
your photography a lot easier

hink of camera accessories, and you may think about lenses


and tripods. But there are lots of other add-ons that can make
just as much difference, and often with a smaller cash outlay.
There are also some features on your existing gear and the
things you plan on buying that you really ought to know about
before you make any decisions.

ML-L3 remote

Inexpensive accessories
that no photographer
should do without

Its cheap (just $15),


its small and it res your
Nikon by infrared. It also
works with most DX-format
cameras, except for the
D3100, D300 and D300s.

50 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

DUAL MEMORY CARDS

Why do Nikons
professional D-SLRs have two
memory card slots? Its not just in
case your rst memory card lls up! You can use
the second slot to store image backups or
separate RAW les and JPEGs (or videos).

LENSES FOR FILTERS

If you regularly use lters,


you need to take care when
shopping for new lenses that they
feature non-rotating front elements.
These are lenses whose front elements dont
rotate when you adjust the focus, which would
make using polarisers and graduated lters tricky.

Get a grip!

Nikons smaller D-SLRs


dont take battery grips, but
the rest do. They provide
longer-lasting power, easier
handling, and in some
instances, a speed boost.

WorldMags.net

Flashy alternative

Need extra light but


dont want the fuss of ash?
LED lamps like the Manfrotto
ML240 clip to the accessory
shoe and provide more light
than you might think.

MISSION INFO

INTRODUCTION

CAMERA SKILLS
WorldMags.net
Top advice for buying
and using Nikoncompatible accessories
When youre choosing
memory cards, dont just go for
capacity. You need Class 6
cards or faster if you plan on
shooting full HD video.

FLASH DIFFUSER

AF Fine Tune

The light from the onboard ash is quite hard,


but a simple ash diffuser will soften it up.
Because the light source is more spread out, you dont
get such harsh shadows.

CLOSE-UP FILTER

Keen on close-ups but cant


afford a macro lens? Close-up
lters could be the answer. Filter
manufacturer Kood, for example, makes
close-up lters in three different
strengths, and you can use them singly
or in combination check your lenss
lter size rst.

Thinking of upgrading to
full-frame at some point?
Youll need to stick to DX
format wide-angles and
standard lenses, but for macro
and telephoto photography,
FX-format lenses are ne.

DX lenses on FX

MANUAL FOCUS
OVERRIDE

You can still use your DX


lenses on an FX camera it will
switch to DX crop mode.

Does your lens have


an MA/M switch
(rather than A/M)?
If so, it offers
full-time manual
override so you can turn the
focus ring manually, even
while the lens is still switched
to autofocus mode.

AF motors

D3000- and D5000-series


Nikons dont have autofocus
motors in the body. Most new
lenses have motors built in, but
some older ones dont, so
check before you buy.

Lens hoods reduce lens


are when youre shooting into
the light. But theyre just as
useful if it rains because they
help keep rain off the lens.

Off-camera flash

ESSENTIAL KIT

Lens hoods

NIKON SOFTWARE

FX future-proofing

NIKOPEDIA

Use the AF Fine Tune


option in the Setup menu on
the D7000 and above if you
have a lens where the focus is
slightly out but make sure its
not focus error on your part.

CAMERA SKILLS

Faster cards

You can great effects


with off-camera ash, but
wireless control can be quite
daunting so get a simple
external ash cable instead.
You could spend a
fortune on underwater
housings or bespoke rain
covers, but these cheap and
simple covers from Op/Tech,
are just $7 per pair.

Take a seat

If youre shooting sports


or wildlife, you can end up
standing in the same spot for
hours. Fold-up Walkstools
take up no more space than
a small tripod.

On the level

Not all Nikon D-SLRs


offer an on-screen spirit level
to help get your camera
straight, but this clip-on spirit
level is a cheap and simple
alternative for any Nikon.

WorldMags.net

Get a card reader

Do you still hook up your


camera to your computer with
a cable? Card readers are both
quicker and simpler.

2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 51

VIDEO GUIDES

Dont get wet!

INTRODUCTION
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CAMERA SKILLSWorldMags.net

BLACK AND WHITE FILTERS

Images by: Michelle McMahon, Melanie Stevens and Rod Lawton

NIKOPEDIA
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VIDEO GUIDES

SUBTLE MONOCHROME TONING EFFECTS

Old-school black and white


photographers would use
coloured lters to change the tonal balance in their pictures and you can do the same with
your Nikon D-SLR. Select the Monochrome Picture Control in the Shooting settings menu,
then press right on the multi-selector to access the Filter effects.

You can also apply toning effects to your


black and white pictures. The ability to
adjust the strength of these effects means that you
can exercise lots of subtlety there are no crude
orange sepia effects here!

USE YOUR SLRs


BUILT-IN LAB
How to get the look you want
from your Nikon D-SLR photos

ere used to xing up our photos in Photoshop, but theres a


lot you can do in the camera itself. You need to make
decisions about lens aperture and shutter speed as you shoot,
and Nikons Active D-Lighting control adjusts the exposure, not
just the image processing. Nikons Picture Controls can save you a
lot of Photoshop processing time later, and you may be surprised
by the tools and effects available in the Retouch menu

Time lapse

Explore your SLRs menu


options and take control
of your photography

Time-lapse photography
can be fascinating. Many of
the latest Nikon models
(D5100 and up) have an
Interval Timer mode on the
Shooting settings menu.

52 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

MINIATURE EFFECT (RETOUCH)

The tilt-shift effect is all the rage right now, where selective
defocusing is used to make the world look like a model village.
You guessed it you can do this in-camera too. It takes just a few
moments to position the sharp section of the image, and you can preview
the result before you save it.

Auto Distortion

All lenses produce


some degree of distortion.
But did you know that as long
as youre using supported
Nikon lenses, your camera
can correct it automatically?

WorldMags.net

Perspective

Are your architectural


shots spoiled by converging
verticals? The Perspective
control option in the Retouch
menu can correct vertical
and horizontal perspective.

MISSION INFO

FLEXIBLE PROGRAM

You dont actually need


to switch to A or S mode for
aperture or shutter speed
control. If you turn the command dial
in P mode, it goes into Flexible Program mode,
shifting the aperture/shutter speed
combinations one way or the other.

INTRODUCTION

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Get the correct
exposure, white
balance and more
This mode enables you to
capture very high-contrast
scenes. It adjusts the exposure
to capture bright highlight
detail, and processes the image
to bring out the shadows.

ADL bracketing

Regular D-Lighting

You can also apply Active


D-Lighting to images already
saved on the memory card. It
doesnt change the exposure it
simply brightens the shadows.

NIKOPEDIA

Most Nikon models now


offer ADL bracketing, where
the camera takes a series of
shots at different Active
D-Lighting settings.

CAMERA SKILLS

Active D-Lighting

Predictable WB

SYNC WITH
SLOW
BUILT-IN FLASH
(FLASH
AUTOMATIC
OFF) MODE

Custom WB

If youre shooting in a
museum, a theatre or at an
Olympics event, the last thing you need is
the ash ring! But if you want the
convenience of fully automatic operation,
just switch to the Auto (ash off) mode
its the circular ash strike-through
symbol on the mode dial.

You can use the White


Balance menu to take a manual
white balance reading. The
camera saves this reading until
you override it with another.

WB bracketing

With white balance


bracketing (D5100 and up), the
camera saves three images
with different WB settings.

Retouching tools

ESSENTIAL KIT

Flash on its own can


look pretty grim, but
if you set the ash
mode to Slow,
the camera will
balance the
ash with the
existing light. This works best
at dusk or in poor light, where
subjects in the foreground are
brightly lit and the
background is darker.

NIKON SOFTWARE

With auto white balance,


the camera corrects the
colours for each scene. But
sometimes the colour of the
light is a key part of the photo.
To preserve colours, use the
Direct Sunlight preset.

The Retouch menu


enables you to straighten, crop
and retouch photos without a
computer in sight.

Zoom lenses have the


same minimum focus
distance whatever the zoom
setting youre using, so the
trick is to set the lens to its
maximum focal length rst.

HDR bracketing

To create an HDR image


you can use your Nikons
auto-exposure bracketing
function, but set wider
bracketing increments than
usual 2EV should do it.

Built-in HDR

The D800, D4 and


D5000 series have built-in
HDR modes where two
exposures are combined
in-camera, capturing an
extra-wide dynamic range.

WorldMags.net

Mono in RAW

Your Nikon has great mono


effects, but its still worth
shooting in RAW. The LCD will
show the mono effect, but
youll have all the colour data.

2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 53

VIDEO GUIDES

Zoom for macros

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PLAY, REVIEW,
AND PERFECT!

VIDEO GUIDES

The histogram display in Playback mode


gives you a quick guide to whether you need
to retake the picture watch out for clipping in the
shadows or highlights. Its invaluable for subjects
which push the extremes of the tonal range.

ow its time to see what youve got! Your Nikon can display a
whole raft of information about your images, including the
shooting settings and exposure data. The histogram will show
you how good your exposure technique has been, and custom
Picture Controls can tune your cameras output to match your
style. Your camera even has its own built-in RAW converter. Last
but not least, you need to keep your camera and your memory
cards organised, and weve got tips for that too.

Images by: Michelle McMahon and Tim Gartside

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

NIKOPEDIA

Get the most from the photos youve


taken with your Nikon D-SLR

INTERPRETING THE HISTOGRAM

SENSOR CLEANING

If youve got soft, dark


spots appearing in the same
place on all your photos, its dust
on the sensor. But before you attempt to remove
the dust yourself, try running the cameras own
sensor-cleaning process manually you can do
this via the Setup menu (older models dont have
sensor-cleaning functionality).

RAW processing

Advanced tips and


techniques to help you get
the most from your Nikon

If youve shot RAW les


and you need a JPEG, use the
NEF (RAW) Processing option
on the Retouch menu. The
camera saves a JPEG along
with the original RAW le.

54 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

NEF exposure

You can adjust the


exposure compensation of
RAW les in-camera because
RAW les have slightly more
highlight and shadow latitude
than JPEG images.

WorldMags.net

Dust Off

If your Nikon doesnt


have sensor-cleaning, you
could use Nikon Capture NX 2
(sold separately). The Dust Off
feature uses reference shots
to automatically remove dust.

MISSION INFO

NEF WHITE
BALANCE

Review your images,


manage your EXIF
data and more

Instant review

Make sure the Image


Review option is switched on
(Playback menu). The camera
will then display the image
youve just taken for a few
seconds long enough for you
to check that its okay.

Playback info

CREATE YOUR OWN PICTURE CONTROLS

FORMAT SHORTCUT

LOCK IMAGES

In the highlight warning


mode, pictures display
normally, except that if any
areas have been overexposed,
such as bright skies, these
areas ash as a warning.

Image comments

You can add a comment to


your photos, such as a location
or model name, but its a
non-standard data eld, and
you wont see it in Adobe Bridge.

Playback folders

Each camera you use will


set up its own folder on the
memory card, and will usually
only show the contents of that
folder you can use the
Playback Folder option to
change this.

Deleting images

Select the Delete option


on the Playback menu, press
the right button, and choose
Selected. You can now browse
your saved images in thumbnail
view and pick out the ones you
want to delete.
Why scroll through your
images manually when the
camera can do it for you? Look
for the Slide show option on
the Playback menu you can
even choose the transition.

Reset settings

To reset your camera,


open the Shooting menu and
choose Reset shooting menu,
then open the Custom
Settings menu and choose
Reset Custom settings.

WorldMags.net

Format or delete?

Formatting wipes the


whole card, while deleting only
removes photos from the folder
being used by the camera.

2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 55

VIDEO GUIDES

Play a slideshow

ESSENTIAL KIT

In Playback mode you can lock images to


prevent them being deleted using the Lock (key)
button. This is in a different place on different
cameras. Its easy to press accidentally, and if youre
wondering why youve got some photos you cant delete this is why!

Highlight warning

NIKON SOFTWARE

If your Nikon
has a red
Format
button on the
top, there will
be another on
the back. These
offer a quick way to format
your memory card. You press
and hold until For appears on
the status panel on the top,
then press both again to
format the card.

You can cycle through the


image playback information by
pressing up/down on the
multi-selector. If some info isnt
visible, open the Setup menu
and choose Playback Display
Options or Display Mode.

NIKOPEDIA

Picture Controls change the way the image


is processed to tweak the contrast,
saturation and tonal rendition of your pictures. If you
like super-saturated landscapes, for example, a
custom Picture Control can recreate the look you like.

Movie les take up a lot of


space on your memory card,
but you can trim them
in-camera and save a copy.
Then you can delete the
original to free up some space.

CAMERA SKILLS

If you shoot
RAW, you can use the
NEF (RAW) Processing
tools to see the effect
of different white
balance settings.
Try using the
Incandescent setting
to emphasise cool,
dawn light, for
example.

Trim movies

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INTRODUCTION
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CAMERA SKILLS

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NIKON SOFTWARE

Page 58
Page 86

Page 74
Page 78

Page 70

56 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

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Nikopedia

CAMERA SKILLS
NIKOPEDIA

Page 94

Focal length ........................................................... 58


Autofocus ................................................................ 62
Depth of eld ......................................................... 66
Exposure .................................................................. 70
Aperture ....................................................................74
Shutter speed.........................................................78
Shooting modes ................................................... 82
Metering modes ................................................... 86
White balance .......................................................90
Digital processing ...............................................94
Contrast and dynamic range ........................ 98

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Page 82
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2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 57

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10mm ultra-wide-angle

NIKOPEDIA

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INTRODUCTION

NIKOPEDIA

NIKON SOFTWARE

200mm telephoto

The right lens helps you


isolate subjects or set the
scene with your pictures

VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON KNOW-HOW

FOCAL LENGTH EXPLAINED


Discover how your Nikon D-SLRs lenses work in our complete beginners guide
A major benet of a D-SLR is
the availability of a variety
of lenses suited to particular
photographic situations. You
undoubtedly already know that
long lenses make distant subjects
appear closer, or larger in the
picture, while wide-angle lenses
take in more of the scene. Specifying
the focal length numerically makes
it easier to compare different lenses.
Focal length is measured in
millimetres. The range around

35-50mm is considered normal,


or standard, as it roughly matches
your central eld of vision (excluding
your periphery vision).

Short and wide


Wide-angle lenses have shorter
focal lengths than this. Their wider
view enables you to get more of a
scene into your shot good for big
landscapes and tight spaces.
Long (or telephoto) lenses
70mm and upwards, say excel at

58 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

close-ups, portraits, and sports and


wildlife photography.
Focal length is closely related
to angle of view. This directly
describes how much or how little of
the scene you can see in your D-SLRs
viewnder.
The term wide-angle is helpfully
descriptive these lenses have
short focal lengths, such as 18mm.
At the other end of the scale,
we dont speak of narrow-angle
lenses, though it would be a logical

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description for long lenses such as


200mm or 300mm.
However, to complicate things
slightly, the angle of view in your
viewnder (and in the nal picture)
isnt solely determined by the focal
length of the lens. This is because
not all Nikon D-SLRs are alike they
have different-sized sensors.
The sensor is the digital chip that
captures the image. In Nikon SLRs,
its one of two sizes. Most Nikon
D-SLRs, such as the D3300, D5300,

300mm (EFL 450mm)

Understand the difference between


focal lengths, from 10mm to 300mm
Your lenss focal length affects the angle of view
you can see through your cameras viewnder. To
understand the difference focal length can make to
the angle of view, compare a sequence of shots of the
same subject taken at varying focal lengths. See our
examples for how much or how little of a scene you can
capture depending on your effective focal length (EFL).

CAMERA SKILLS

WIDE-ANGLE
TO TELEPHOTO

INTRODUCTION

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200mm (EFL 300mm)

NIKOPEDIA

105mm (EFL 158mm)


83mm (EFL 125mm)

27mm (EFL 40mm)

How your D-SLR


forms an image

15mm (EFL 23mm)

ESSENTIAL KIT

Your lens projects a circular, upside-down


image of your subject. Thanks to your
D-SLRs prism and mirror, the image then
looks the right way up in the viewnder!

NIKON SOFTWARE

55mm (EFL 83mm)

JARGON BUSTER
Effective focal length

This image is formed by an FX-format


lens; the smaller area in the centre is
what a DX-format sensor would see.

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2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 59

VIDEO GUIDES

If you use a DX-format


Nikon D-SLR, multiply the
actual focal length by 1.5
(the crop factor) to get
the EFL the effective, or
equivalent, focal length.

INTRODUCTION

NIKOPEDIA

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NIKON KNOW-HOW

CAMERA SKILLS

ANATOMY OF A NIKON LENS


The lens is the eye of your
camera. We dissect one to
show you whats inside
Lens aperture
This opening controls how much
light is let in.

NIKOPEDIA

Front element
The big piece of glass on the front
that collects the light and which
is also the most exposed to dust
and vulnerable to scratches.

Zoom ring

VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

When you turn the zoom ring,


internal groups of lens elements
move, changing the focal length.

D90 and D7100, use smaller sensors


(about 24x16mm), designated DX.
The pro models (D800 and D3 series)
have larger FX, or full-frame,
sensors (36x24mm).

The crop factor


The larger FX sensor sees more of
the image projected by the lens. This
means the same lens gives a wider

angle of view on an FX camera than


on a DX model. Conversely, on a DX
camera, a lens gives a narrower view.
In fact, focal length is effectively
magnied by 1.5.
We also describe this as the crop
factor DX cameras have a crop
factor of 1.5x. With telephoto focal
lengths, this brings you even closer
to the action. For instance, it means

that a 200mm lens has an effective


focal length (EFL) of 300mm
(200x1.5). This is often helpful for
wildlife or sports photography.
Conversely, the crop factor
reduces the wide-angle-ness of
wide-angle lenses. For example, it
increases an 18mm lens to an EFL of
27mm (18x1.5), reducing how much
you can t in your frame. This is

obviously unwelcome when youre


facing a vast landscape.

Prime and zoom


Lenses that have a xed focal length
are called prime lenses, such as
the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G DX. Zoom
lenses, on the other hand, have a
range of focal lengths: a 55-200mm
zoom offers all the focal lengths

STEP BY STEP HOW TO SWITCH LENSES


Follow these simple steps to change lenses without damaging them or your camera!

Be prepared

Get started

Remove your lens

Line up the new lens

Switch lenses indoors, or out


01
of the wind, to avoid dust
reaching your sensor. Have your new
lens handy to minimise the time your
D-SLRs innards will be exposed for.

Switch off your camera and lie


02
it k on a soft surface. With
your left index nger pressing the
lens release button, use your right
hand to turn your lens clockwise.

Lift the lens clear and place it


03
safely to one side. Remove the
dust cap from the lens mount of the
replacement lens and put it on the
one youve just removed.

Line up the white dot on the


camera with the white dot or
index mark on the lens youre going
to attach. On some third-party
lenses the dot might be red.

60 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

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04

PUTTING IT INTO PRACTICE


Vibration Reduction (VR)

36mm

23.9mm

You can change the focal length, or zoom setting, to


change the magnication, but it has other effects too
FX sensor

Bayonet lens mount

23.6mm

15.6mm

This attaches the lens to your


D-SLR. Contacts supply power
from your camera to drive the
autofocus and VR, and enable the
camera and lens to communicate.

LENSES AND PERSPECTIVE

DX Sensor

Lens motor

Focal length
The focal length currently set is
indicated by the number on the
zoom ring that lines up with the
central mark.

DX sensors capture a smaller part of


the scene than FX ones, which makes
the focal length appear longer

range is referred to by f/3.5-f/4.5 at


10mm the widest aperture you can
use is f/3.5, while at 24mm this is
reduced to f/4.5. However, narrower
apertures (f/11, say) are available
throughout the focal length range.
Nikon lenses badged DX are
designed for smaller-sensor (DX)
Nikon D-SLRs such as the D3100.
These cameras are relatively light
and usually relatively affordable,
and still deliver top results. If you
own a full-frame (FX) D-SLR, DX
lenses wont give full coverage
on the larger sensor. However, all
lenses, except for a few obscure
ones, can be used on DX cameras.

Your assignment
See how different focal lengths affect your results with these tests:
Without moving your camera or subject, take three shots at three
focal lengths. For instance, try 18mm (wide-angle), 35mm (standard
on a DX camera) and 100mm (telephoto). You should see, as you might
expect, that the magnication and angle of view change according to
the focal length that youve set.
Now take three shots of the same subject at different focal lengths
18mm, 70mm and 200mm, say. This time, though, change the camera
position and move back each time so the subject still lls the frame.
Below are examples that show the effect this has on the perspective
and how you can use this to change the style of the picture

18mm from 3m

70mm from 10m


At 70mm, you have to move
much further away from the
subject to make it the same size in
the frame. Relative to the camera,
the owers and the building now
seem to be much closer together,
and the building appears larger.

02

ESSENTIAL KIT

At this focal length, you have


to get right up close to the
subject (the owers at the base of
the monument). This exaggerates
the distance to the building in the
background, making it look much
smaller.

01

NIKON SOFTWARE

from 55mm to 200mm inclusive.


Some people confuse telephoto
with zoom, but many zoom lenses
arent telephoto at all. For example,
the Nikon 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 DX is
an ultra-wide-angle zoom. The focal
length range is denoted by 10-24mm
10mm is an extreme wide-angle,
while 24mm is a more moderate
wide-angle. The maximum aperture

DX sensor

NIKOPEDIA

Nikon autofocus lenses have


motors to move the elements.
Silent Wave Motor (SWM) lenses
are even quieter and faster.

Here weve set an assignment to help you turn theory into practice.
To recap, when you change your focal length, youre also changing the
angle of view. At a short focal length of 18mm, you can t more of the
scene into the frame, compared to using a long focal length of 200mm
from the same spot.
However, focal length isnt merely a simple cropping tool it also
has other creative effects on your picture. For instance, it indirectly
affects perspective. Photographing subjects up close with a wide-angle
lens makes foreground objects look larger, while using a telephoto at a
greater shooting distance creates a compressed perspective, making
things at different distances appear closer together. Focal length also
affects depth of eld, which you can use to great creative effect, as well
investigate in the near future.

CAMERA SKILLS

Nikons image stabilisation


technology uses gyroscopic
sensors and a micro-computer to
detect and compensate for lens
vibrations caused by hand shake.

INTRODUCTION

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200mm from 29m


Stow your old model

Carefully slot the lens home


and then turn it anticlockwise, so that the focusing scale
is facing upwards. Keep turning until
you hear it click securely into place.

Take the lens cap off your


replacement lens and safely
stow the one youve removed. Now
turn the camera back on youre
ready to take some photos!

05

06

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At 200mm, you have to move


so far away from the subject
that the background is, relatively
speaking, not much further away. It
appears almost at its correct size
hence the perspective-attening
effect of telephoto lenses.

03

2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 61

VIDEO GUIDES

Attach the new lens

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How does autofocus really work?
Autofocus analyzes the image and then adjusts the
lens using a motor. It exploits the fact that a sharp
image has higher contrast than an out-of-focus one.
A pair of sensors correspond to each AF point
shown in the viewnder. By assessing the signal from
the AF sensors, your camera can adjust the lens to
achieve the highest-contrast image. If more than
one AF point is used, the system normally assumes
you want to focus on the point giving the closest
focusing distance.
With uniform subjects such as a plain wall, theres
no contrast, so the autofocus struggles to lock on.

NIKOPEDIA

CAMERA SKILLS

INTRODUCTION

NIKOPEDIA

Autofocus is an
easy way to make
subjects clear

VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

Focused too near

NIKON KNOW-HOW

In focus

WHATS AUTOFOCUS
ALL ABOUT?

Focused too far

Discover how to get sharp shots every time


with our complete beginners guide to focusing
Pictures where the main
subject isnt sharp are rarely
welcome, which puts focusing
among the most crucial controls on
your camera. A lens can only focus
precisely at one distance at a time,
so it needs to lock on to the correct
point in the frame or your subject
might appear blurred.
Depth of eld (a phenomenon well
explore next issue) often creates
some margin for error as it may
make nearer or more distant objects
also appear to be in focus. Still, its
best to ensure that the key point

of your image is in focus, and your


Nikon provides a range of systems to
help you achieve this.
Nikons rst autofocus (AF) SLR
was the F3AF, produced in 1983.
Since then the technology has
improved immensely. Essentially,
dedicated sensors in the camera
body assess the contrast in the
image and move the lens elements
to bring the image into focus.
However, the system is not
foolproof. For a start, your camera
cannot know which part of the
frame you want to focus on. AF-area

62 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

modes (see right) help determine


where in the frame the camera can
focus. Left to itself, the AF system
will assume you want to focus on
the part of the picture closest to
the camera. This isnt always the
case. One solution is to manually
select the AF point that lines up with
the subject, or use Focus Lock and
recompose your shot.

Moving targets
Accurate focusing gets more
complicated when your subject is
in motion. In AF-S Single-servo AF

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Low contrast
Lens focused too
close, giving a lowcontrast image on
the sensor

High contrast
Precise focus,
giving a highcontrast image on
the sensor

Low contrast
Lens focused too far,
giving a low-contrast
image on the sensor

mode, the lens locks the focus as


soon as it nds the subject distance.
AF-C Continuous-servo AF
mode is better for moving subjects
because it keeps tracking the
subject, right up to the moment
when the shutter opens.
On most Nikon D-SLRs, youll
also nd an AF-A mode, which
automatically switches between
AF-S and AF-C according to whether
or not the camera detects any
movement. This is often helpful,
but the system isnt infallible for
example, there might be

INTRODUCTION

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READING YOUR D-SLRS VIEWFINDER


Focus preview

Multiple AF points

The focusing screen has an etched


surface, which helps clarify which
parts of the image are in sharp
focus and which arent (as with the
church, here). It also gives an idea
of how much depth of eld youll
get with the widest aperture.

Current Nikon D-SLRs offer


between 11 and 51 autofocus
points, any of which can measure
subject distance.

CAMERA SKILLS

The viewnder gives lots of information about focusing you just need to know where to look

Red alert

Focusing screen
The image you can see in the
viewnder is projected by the lens
onto the focusing screen.

Central AF point

A green circular LED will light up when the autofocus has


locked onto a subject (when using Single-servo AF mode).
It will blink if the AF cant lock on to the subject, or if youre
too close. The LED doesnt light up if youre using AF-C
Continuous-servo AF.

The central autofocus point is the most sensitive, making


it the best choice when shooting in low light or when
precise focusing is critical. You can use this central
AF point even if you dont want the subject to be in the
middle of a photo

CAMERA SETUP

CHOOSING YOUR FOCUS MODE

NIKON SOFTWARE

Focus conrmation

NIKOPEDIA

The AF points in use will briey


ash red as you squeeze the
shutter release, conrming
that the camera has locked on
to the right subject. Here, one
point is ashing, showing that
the furthest tree on the right is
in focus. This ashing doesnt
happen in AF-C Continuous-servo
AF mode (see the box below).

Get ready to change settings if the subject starts or stops moving

Best for moving


subjects. Half-press
the shutter and the
autofocus system
adjusts to track the subject. Its
predictive focus continues to track
the anticipated path of the subject,
even after the shutter has been red.

AF-A Auto-servo AF

Manual focus (M)

Ideal for shooting a


mix of static and
moving subjects,
such as those at a
wedding. The camera will switch
between One Shot and AF-C
Continuous-servo AF, depending on
whether it detects any movement.

Manual mode can


be more accurate
sometimes, such
as in low light,
with low-contrast targets or when
shooting fast-moving subjects that
follow a predictable path. The LEDs
still light up in the viewnder.

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2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 63

VIDEO GUIDES

AF-C Continuous-servo AF

This is best for


stationary
subjects. The
autofocus locks
the focus distance as soon as its
focused on the target. The circular
green LED in the viewnder
conrms focus has been found.

ESSENTIAL KIT

AF-S Single-servo AF

INTRODUCTION
CAMERA SKILLS

NIKOPEDIA

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NIKON KNOW-HOW

ENSURING A
SHARP SHOT
Your Nikon has more controls for
focusing an image than you probably
imagine. Heres where they are
Focusing screen

NIKOPEDIA

Hidden below the pentaprism or pentamirror,


the focusing screen is what you see when you
look through the viewnder.

Manual focusing
To control the focusing yourself, rather than
using the AF system, you turn a ring on the
outside of the lens. Set the lens to MF rst.

Lens elements

VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

To adjust the focus, groups of lens


elements are physically moved
within the lens.

movement in the scene but the key


subject itself is static.

AF-area modes
Alongside these focus modes, your
Nikon has a range of AF-area modes,
and these determine which focus
point or points the camera can use.
In Single-area AF, it will use a single
focus point of your choice you shift

the active
focus point
using the multiselector. The camera can still adjust
focus on a moving subject, but only
if it stays in line with the focus point,
which normally means its moving
directly towards or away from you.
In Dynamic-area AF, you select
the initial focus point in the same

way, but the camera


can also employ other
focus points to track a moving
subject. In Auto-area AF, its the
camera, not you, that decides which
focus point(s) to use.

When accuracy counts


Depth of eld can make focusing
even more critical when depth

of eld is small, theres minimal


margin for error, so precise focusing
becomes vital. Wider apertures,
longer focal lengths and moving
closer to the subject can all reduce
depth of eld.
Good light is also helpful, and not
just in terms of the brightness of the
scene. Lenses with wider maximum
apertures provide better autofocus

STEP BY STEP USE FOCUS LOCK FOR OFF-CENTRE SUBJECTS


Its easy to keep your subjects sharp and in focus, even when theyre not positioned in the centre of your image

Set your shooting mode

Pick the area mode

Select your focus point

Set the camera to AF-S


01
Single-servo AF. How you do
this varies: this D700 has a special
lever by the lens mount; on many
models, you select it on screen.

Set the AF-area mode to


02
Single-area AF. Again, the
method varies the D700 boasts a
dedicated lever, while most other
models have on-screen selection.

You now need to half-press


the shutter release button to
ready the camera for shooting, and
then press OK on the rear. This
selects the central focus point.

64 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

03

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Frame your shot


Aim the camera so the central
point is lined up precisely with
the point in the picture you want to
focus on. Here, its the girls left eye.

04

Adjust for your eyes


Viewnder

Mirror
The main mirror reects the image
created by the lens so it appears on
the focusing screen. It ips out of
the way when the shutter is red.

Sub-mirror

FOCUS CONTROL COURSE


You can change the focal length, or zoom setting, to
change the magnication, but it has other effects too
With every lesson in Nikon Know-how, you get some homework
to do this will help you put everything youve learned into practice!
To check you now have complete control over focus, nd two subjects
(two people, say, or even two cans from your kitchen cupboard) and
place them at different distances from you.
Set up a shot that frames both subjects tightly, and use a wide
aperture. Use A mode, and use the Command Dial (Sub-command
Dial on two-dial cameras) to set a wide aperture of, say, f/4 or f/5.6.
Use Manual AF point selection to take two shots, rst with the nearer
subject in focus, then with the further subject in focus.
Repeat the exercise, but this time take the pictures using manual
focus. Check all four images on your computer, so you can zoom in and
see that the subjects you wanted to be in focus really do look sharp!

Autofocus module

NIKOPEDIA

The main mirror is semi-silvered,


allowing some light to pass through
it to a hinged, secondary sub-mirror.
This reects light downwards,
towards the AF module.

PUTTING IT INTO PRACTICE

CAMERA SKILLS

An eye-level viewnder gives a


visual guide to whats in focus, and
indicates when, and on what, the
AF is focusing.

To get the clearest possible


viewnder image, so you can
clearly see the AF points and
easily assess whats sharp,
you might have to adjust the
viewnder eyepiece lens to
suit your eyesight. All current
Nikon D-SLRs offer this dioptric
correction you normally turn
a small knurled knob by the topright corner of the eyepiece.
Lightly press the shutter
release button to activate the
viewnder display, then turn the
dioptric correction knob until
the icons and numbers look as
crisp as possible.

INTRODUCTION

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A dedicated sensor is used to assess


the contrast and focus in small
areas of the image. Adjustments are
then communicated to the lens.

as they allow more light to reach the


autofocus sensor. Their shallower
depth of eld also makes subjects
snap in and out of focus. Whatever
aperture youre using for the shot,
the lens always focuses with the
aperture at its widest setting and
only closes as the shot is taken.
You can use the tricks and
techniques on these pages to

increase your focusing accuracy.


And remember, to make sure your
shot really is sharp where you want
it to be, always review the photo
youve just taken. You can zoom in
to examine the key part of an image
more closely on the LCD and make
sure its pin sharp.

Focus on the subject

Reframe the shot

Making the autofocus do what you want

Now lightly press the shutter


05
release button to activate the
autofocus. The AF point over
Hannahs eye lights up in red.

Keeping the shutter button


06
half-pressed, reframe the
shot. Then press the shutter button
down fully to take the picture.

So how do we make the camera focus on the sign thats further away
instead? Well, you can select a single focus point, position it carefully
and half-press the shutter button to lock the focus, or switch to Manual
focus and do it yourself practice makes perfect.

What the autofocus will try to do


By default, the autofocus will always try to focus on the object nearest
the camera in this case, the nearest of the two cemetery signs. A lot of
the time, this will be exactly what you want, but you also need to be able
to take over in situations where you want a different effect.

NIKON SOFTWARE

The dioptric correction knob by


the top-right of the eyepiece helps
you get your viewnder in focus

ESSENTIAL KIT

2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 65

VIDEO GUIDES

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f/4

VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

NIKOPEDIA

CAMERA SKILLS

INTRODUCTION

NIKOPEDIA

NIKON KNOW-HOW

f/22

SO WHATS DEPTH OF
FIELD ALL ABOUT?

The narrow f/22 aperture makes more


of the scene look in focus, but it
doesnt guarantee everything is sharp

Discover how to get sharp shots every time with our beginners guide to focusing
A lens can only focus
precisely at one distance at
a time. However, things that are
closer or more distant than the
subject can still look sharp. This
zone of apparent sharpness can be
so shallow its virtually non-existent,
or can stretch to a distant horizon.
Zone of apparent sharpness is a
good working denition of depth of
eld. Only perfect focusing at one
distance can create pin-point
sharpness, but things on either side
may still appear sharp any blur is
too slight to be perceptible. Its
apparent sharpness that counts in

the real world. If something looks


sharp, even if theoretically it isnt,
its sharp enough for our purposes.
For landscape photography, we
normally try to get everything sharp,
from the grass at the tripod feet to
the distant hills. But its a matter of
choice, not a law.
In sports or portraiture, a shallow
depth of eld is often welcome, as it
throws distracting backgrounds and
foregrounds out of focus.

Staying in control
Depth of eld varies enormously, and
its governed by three factors. The

66 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

rst is aperture the size of the


opening created by the lenss iris.
Wide apertures give smaller depths
of eld. Remember that aperture
numbers are fractions, so f/16 is a
narrow option and f/4 is wide.
Most Nikon D-SLRs have a range of
Scene Modes: Landscape will set
narrow apertures, to increase depth
of eld, while Sport or Portrait lean
towards wider apertures. To control
the aperture, use Aperture Priority:
set the mode dial to A and tweak
settings with the command dial.
On cameras with two command
dials, use the sub-command dial on

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the front. As the aperture changes,


the camera adjusts the shutter
speed appropriately to keep the
overall exposure constant.
Altering aperture is easy, but it
wont always give the right results.
Fortunately, theres also the lenss
focal length. A longer focal length
reduces depth of eld. A wide-angle
setting (such as the 18mm end of a
standard zoom) is good for keeping
everything sharp. To blur the
background, use a long lens.
The third factor is the distance
between the camera and subject.
The smaller this is, the less depth

THREE WAYS TO AFFECT


DEPTH OF FIELD

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1. Changing the aperture

How aperture, focus distance and focal


length change what will appear sharp
Aperture: f/8
Focused at 10m with
zoom setting of 70mm

CAMERA SKILLS

The wider the aperture you use,


the less depth of eld you capture.
This isnt always a disadvantage, as
it enables you to throw distracting
elements out of focus.

Aperture: f/22
Focused at 10m with
zoom setting of 70mm

20m

15mm
15

55mm

Red areas show how much of the


scene would be in focus for each
of the nine camera setups.

1m
1m

Aperture: f/2.8
Focused at 10m with
zoom setting of 70mm
Lens focused on subject at 1m
Camera set to an aperture of f/8
with a lens setting of 70mm.

NIKOPEDIA

m
10
10m

Lens focused on subject at 5m


Camera set to an aperture of f/8
with a lens setting of 70mm.

15m
15m

10m
5m
1m

3. Changing the focal length

1m

Lens focused on subject


at 20m Camera set to an
aperture of f/8 with a lens
setting of 70mm.

10
2. Changing the
focus distance

5m The closer you are to the subject youre


focusing on, the less depth of eld youll
capture on camera.

Focal length: 70mm


Focused at 10m with
aperture set at f/8

20m

ESSENTIAL KIT

The zoom setting, or lens, that you use affects how much
of the image looks sharp. The wider the lens (the shorter
the focal length) the more depth of eld you capture.
Focal length: 28mm
Focused at 10m with
aperture set at f/8

NIKON SOFTWARE

20m

15m
10m

Focal length: 200mm


Focused at 10m with
aperture set at f/8

1m

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Telephoto effect
The more you zoom in on your
subjects, the less depth of eld
youll capture on camera.

2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 67

VIDEO GUIDES

5m

INTRODUCTION
CAMERA SKILLS
NIKOPEDIA

NIKOPEDIA

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NIKON KNOW-HOW

THE SCIENCE
OF CIRCLES
Whats really going on when bits
of your scene arent quite in focus
A single point on a subject is only registered as a point on
the cameras sensor if the lens is precisely focused at the
right distance. Otherwise, it will actually be recorded as
a circle (known as a circle of confusion).

NEARER TO YOU
Circles of confusion

Point of focus

FURTHER FROM YOU


Circles of confusion

Out of focus

Depth of eld

Out of focus

VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

The further a point on the subject is from the point of focus, the bigger the
circle. When the circle is small enough, it will be indistinguishable from a point
in the picture. This creates the acceptably sharp range we call depth of eld.

of eld youll have. This is clear with


macro subjects, when depth of eld
all but disappears; you can focus on
a specic feature. But depth of eld
extends beyond the point of focus,
as well as in front focusing on the
most distant point wont give you the
maximum depth of eld.
Unfortunately, the three factors
controlling depth of eld dont

always work in harmony. You might


decide to swap to a wide-angle lens
to improve depth of eld. This makes
your subject look smaller in the
frame. To x this, youd move closer,
but this reduces depth of eld.

Sneak previews
Looking through the viewnder
doesnt show the effect of changing

Point on
subject
Camera
sensor

Lens

aperture it shows the view with the


lens wide open, but predicting the
end result isnt pure guesswork.
Most Nikon D-SLRs have a depth of
eld preview button, which stops
the lens to the selected aperture.
Unfortunately, this darkens the
image, making it harder to see.
A few Nikon D-SLRs, such as the
D3300, dont have a preview button.

Instead, the D3300 has Live View,


which previews the scene. However,
if you change the aperture while in
Live View, the view doesnt update
the camera resets the aperture if
you exit and resume Live View.
On cameras such as the D3000,
which have neither Live View nor a
depth of eld preview, examine the
playback image closely.

STEP BY STEP HOW TO PREVIEW DEPTH OF FIELD


Its easy to keep your subjects sharp and in focus, even when theyre not positioned in the centre of your image

Use the viewnder

Press for a preview

Ignore brightness

Look with Live View

Normally, the view uses the


01
widest aperture of the lens,
regardless of the setting youve dialled
in, so depth of eld is at a minimum.

Most Nikon D-SLRs have a


02
depth of eld preview button.
Pressing this closes the aperture
down to the selected setting.

Pressing the preview button


03
darkens the viewnder image
but will also give an idea of the
increase in depth of eld.

If your camera doesnt have a


preview button, use Live View
instead. To see the effect of different
apertures, exit and re-enter Live View.

68 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

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04

PUTTING IT INTO PRACTICE

This assignment is designed to improve your knowledge


of depth of eld, and how to control it in your pictures

In focus

Blurred

Very blurred

Similarly, you can inspect the


image closely on playback,
using the same button to zoom in
and the multi-selector to move.

70mm at f/4

70mm at f/22

06

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2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 69

VIDEO GUIDES

Reframe the shot

In Live View you can zoom in on


05
any part of the frame to assess
sharpness. Move the selected area
using the multi-selector.

18mm at f/22

ESSENTIAL KIT

Get a close-up

18mm at f/4

NIKON SOFTWARE

Circles of confusion (left) are signicant in everyday photography. Depth


of eld isnt simply a matter of some things being out of focus. Areas of a
scene can range from being slightly unsharp (a small circle of confusion)
to completely blurred. Things that are just outside the depth of eld zone
are still recognisable, and this can make them distracting.
To reduce or eliminate distractions, you might want to throw some
areas (normally the background) so far out of focus that theyre beyond
recognition. This may mean doing everything possible to keep depth of
eld to a minimum. This is why many pros prefer lenses with the widest
maximum apertures, as these allow depth of eld to be minimised.

NIKOPEDIA

Degrees of sharpness

Depth of eld is more limited at close range, so working at the


tabletop scale makes it much easier to see a difference in results. Here,
weve used a Monopoly set, but you could use bottles and cans from your
kitchen cupboard equally well.
If possible, use a tripod to take camera-shake out of the equation
that way, the only source of blur is the limit of depth of eld. If you dont
have a tripod, use a brightly lit room and a high ISO (try ISO1000) to keep
shutter speeds acceptably high as you explore a full range of apertures.
Frame your still life using the longest setting of your standard zoom
lens (this is usually 55mm). Focus on the part closest to you. Set the
mode to Aperture Priority (A) and use the command dial (or the
sub-command dial on some models) to set the widest available aperture
(usually f/4-5.6). Now take a picture. Shift the aperture to f/22, keeping
all other settings the same, and take a second shot.
Now zoom out to the widest zoom setting available (this will usually
be 18mm). Repeat the sequence, taking one shot at the widest possible
aperture and another at f/22.
Look at all four images on your computer, zooming in to see exactly
which subjects look sharp, and noticing the degree of blur in different
parts of your shots. Youll probably nd that even at f/22 everything
isnt perfectly sharp, but that zooming out gives more depth of eld and
reduces the blur on bits that were drastically out of focus.

CAMERA SKILLS

DEPTH OF FIELD
COURSEWORK

INTRODUCTION

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Just right

NIKOPEDIA

CAMERA SKILLS

INTRODUCTION

NIKOPEDIA

NIKON SOFTWARE

Too dark

Getting the exposure right makes


a major difference to results

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON KNOW-HOW

WHATS
EXPOSURE
ALL ABOUT?

VIDEO GUIDES

Getting the light right is one of the most


important keys to a good-looking photo
The word exposure has
been in use since the very
beginning of photography. To make
an image, you expose light-sensitive
material to a controlled amount of
illumination. That material could be
a chemical emulsion coated onto

lm or a glass plate, but these days


its much more likely to be a digital
chip, such as the CMOS sensor at the
heart of your Nikon D-SLR.
The word exposure is used in
more than one sense. An exposure
is almost synonymous with a photo

70 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

early photographers would talk


about making an exposure, while
more recently a roll of 35mm lm
would allow 24 or 36 exposures.
However, the word is now used
more often in relation to the vital
business of making sure the right
amount of light reaches the sensor
for each image. We talk about
exposure metering, about getting
the exposure right and about shots
being under- or over-exposed.

Moving the goalposts


One of the most fundamental facts
in photography is that light levels
vary. Outside controlled studio
environments, they can change

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constantly and often unpredictably.


To deal with this, Nikon D-SLRs have
three key controls. It doesnt matter
whether you have a D3300 or a D4
the fundamental exposure
controls are the same.
Two of the three have been
present on virtually every camera
ever made. The rst is exposure time
(usually referred to as shutter
speed), which is perhaps the easiest
to understand. If you expose the
sensor for a longer time, you let in
more light. Early cameras didnt
have shutters, and exposures were
often made by removing and
replacing the lens cap. Shutter
speed aside, another way to affect

CAMERA SETUP

Handy buttons and dials you should know

Every Nikon D-SLR has


an exposure compensation button,
and its position is fairly consistent.
Look on the top plate, near the
shutter release.

Main command
dial
You can use this
in conjunction
with the exposure
compensation button
to set an exposure
compensation level.

Exposure
bracketing
(BKT) button
The D90 has a dedicated bracketing
button on the front-left side, near
the lens mount. The D70, D80,
D7000, and D7100 are similar.

The D90s ISO button is on the rear,


to the left of the LCD screen.

And on other Nikon cameras


ISO button

Information display

The position of the ISO button


varies quite a bit across the Nikon
range. On the D300, D300s and D700 its in the
cluster on the left-hand side of the top plate.
For the D70, D80, D7000 and D7100, see above.

You can set exposure bracketing


on the D5000 series through
the information display on the rear LCD. This
screen controls ISO on the D40, D60, D3000
series and D5000 series.

Fn button
On the D300, D300s and D700
theres no separate BKT button.
Instead, the Fn button can be programmed to
perform this function (the preview and AE-L/
AF-L buttons can also be set to do this).

Dont be a slave to your camera personal taste counts too

High key

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even when your camera is consistently


delivering correct exposures.
Cameras such as the D5300 have a
wide range of Scene Modes. Some of
these are intended to produce
relatively light or dark overall
exposure levels. For example, Beach/
Snow is designed to preserve the light,
bright feel of coastal or snow-covered
environments. On the other hand,
Sunset and Silhouette are aimed at
producing deep, intense colours.

2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 71

VIDEO GUIDES

The shot above suits a lighter,


or high key, treatment, and
the other is naturally darker,
or low key

While you can rely on your Nikon


camera for an acceptable exposure
most of the time, theres also a
subjective element. Some people like
slightly darker results, for example,
which can give deeper, richer colours.
Others prefer a lighter overall feel for
more sparkle. Different approaches
suit different subjects.
This is one of the reasons its worth
experimenting with exposure
compensation or exposure bracketing

ESSENTIAL KIT

ROOM FOR INTERPRETATION

Low key

NIKON SOFTWARE

ISO button

NIKOPEDIA

Some key controls are in much


the same place on every Nikon
D-SLR, but others move
around. Were using a D90 as
our main example, while the
smaller illustrations show
where to nd the controls on
other models.

Exposure
compensation

CAMERA SKILLS

EXPOSURE CONTROLS AND


WHERE TO FIND THEM

INTRODUCTION

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INTRODUCTION
CAMERA SKILLS

NIKOPEDIA

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NIKON KNOW-HOW
Aperture

KEY EXPOSURE
FACTORS

Think of the aperture as how


many turns the tap is turned
on by do you want a trickle
of light or a torrent?

Exposure is like lling a cup with water


Several things control exposure, and therefore the amount of
light that creates the image on the cameras CMOS sensor. To
understand how these factors work together, it can help to
think of controlling exposure as lling a cup with water...

NIKOPEDIA

Shutter speed
This corresponds to the amount of time the tap
is left on for. It works hand in hand with
aperture you can have the tap on full for a
short time or open just a little bit for longer to
get the same volume of water.

Intensity of light
This is like the water pressure. If the
pressure is high, you dont need to turn the
tap on so far, or for so long, to ll the glass.

A matter of taste
ISO setting

NIKON SOFTWARE

Exposure isnt all about science, its also about


artistic interpretation. Exactly how full do you
prefer your cup of water to be?

how much light gets to the sensor is


to change the aperture setting.
The third well-known factor is the
ISO setting. Altering this makes the
sensor more or less sensitive to the
light it receives.

Using your judgement

VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT

Although your D-SLRs superb


exposure metering system, which

ISO is like the size of the glass. A small vessel


(a high ISO) will ll more quickly than a big one.

will give good results in most


situations. It can still go wrong,
though. Fortunately, you can review
the shot youve just taken on the
LCD. The screen also offers some
more precise checks, such as the
handy histogram.
But the metering system might
not always get the result you want.
Fortunately, there are several ways

to ne-tune or override it and get


closer to the perfect shot
First, theres exposure lock, which
allows you to take the meter reading
from one area of the scene and then
reframe the shot.
Exposure bracketing (see box,
right) is a way of telling the camera
to take a series of shots at different
exposures. You can then choose the

best one later. Basically, its a quick


way of hedging your bets.
Exposure compensation (see
below) allows you to increase or
reduce the overall exposure by an
amount of your choice.
As a nal alternative, you can
always set the camera to manual (M)
mode and take direct control of both
aperture and shutter speed.

STEP BY STEP APPLYING EXPOSURE COMPENSATION


With a little trial and error, its easy to make sure your camera lets in just the right amount of light

Find the right button

Look at your LCD

Use the multi-selector

Choose a value

On some cameras, exposure


01
compensation is only available
in Program, Shutter Priority and
Aperture Priority modes.

Hold down the exposure


02
compensation button and
rotate the command dial (the main
command dial on two-dial cameras).

On the D3000 series and D5000


03
series you can also apply
exposure compensation through the
information display on the LCD.

Compensation can be between


-5EV and +5EV, in steps of
1/3EV. Its rare that youll need to go
all the way to one of these extremes.

72 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

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04

PUTTING IT INTO PRACTICE

+1EV

When youre concerned about getting a perfect shot,


exposure bracketing is a handy form of insurance

+2EV

1/125 sec at f/8, or 1/250 sec at


f/5.6, for example.
In practice, we mostly
encounter EV when setting
exposure compensation or
exposure bracketing, where it
serves as a measure of the
difference between two or more
exposures. A difference of 1EV (or
one stop) doubles or halves the
amount of light admitted. This
usually makes a noticeable
difference in the nal image.

NIKON SOFTWARE

More traditional photographers


will often refer to altering
exposure by a stop. The more
modern term is exposure value
(EV for short). This is used in
Nikon camera menus and
instruction manuals, as well as
many other places.
The EV concept is designed to
recognise the fact that many
different combinations of shutter
speed and aperture can produce
the same overall exposure:

NIKOPEDIA

Stops and EVs explained

You can try exposure bracketing with any subject. However, its best
to shoot something with a broad range of colours and tones. Its also
better to pick a fairly static subject, as movement between shots can be
a distraction. A well-lit landscape, urban or rural, is ideal.
A tripod is helpful, but not essential. Try to ensure that all your shots
are framed similarly, so youre looking at the same subject each time.
Use Aperture Priority or Program mode. On most Nikon D-SLRs, press
the BKT button and rotate the main command dial to set the number of
shots in the sequence to three. Still pressing BKT, rotate the subcommand dial to select a 1EV increment (exposure difference) between
shots. On a D5000 series camera, control these settings in the
information display. If you have a D40, D60, or D3000 series camera,
youre out of luck, as these have no auto bracketing, but you can get the
same result with exposure compensation.
Now take your shots. You might be able to hear a difference in the
shutter sound, indicating that the camera has varied the shutter speed
to get the different exposures. Check the results.
Looking at the LCD will give you an idea of the difference between the
bracketed exposures, but studying them on your computer screen will
tell you more. Which exposure gives the richest colours? Have shadows
gone black in the darkest shot?

CAMERA SKILLS

THE RIGHT WAY TO USE


EXPOSURE BRACKETING

INTRODUCTION

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ESSENTIAL KIT

Wipe the setting

Having set your compensation


05
level, take a shot and review it
on the LCD. If the exposure still needs
tweaking, repeat the procedure.

When youve nished with the


shot or sequence of shots, set
compensation to 0EV so it isnt
applied to future images.

06

Underexposed

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Metered exposure

Overexposed

2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 73

VIDEO GUIDES

Do some ne-tuning

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85mm at f/5.6

85mm at f/1.8

VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

NIKOPEDIA

CAMERA SKILLS

INTRODUCTION

NIKOPEDIA

These lenses both offer an 85mm focal length but on the 16-85mm the aperture
can only be opened to f/5.6 at this setting (left). The 85mm prime can limit
depth of eld more, and let in more light, with its f/1.8 maximum aperture (right)

NIKON KNOW-HOW

SO WHATS
APERTURE ALL
ABOUT?
Understand aperture and f-stops and youll
get sharper, more creative shots
No matter what camera or
exposure mode you use,
there are just two main ways to
regulate how much light reaches
an image sensor. One is shutter
speed, which well examine next
issue. The other is aperture
Aperture has an important effect
on depth of eld, which we explored
in issue 3, but it can impact on the
sharpness of your images in other

ways, too. Its also directly related to


the working distance when youre
using ash, and maximum aperture
is an important factor in
differentiating lenses.
Yet the concept of aperture can
be confusing. For example, its
described by irregular numbers such
as f/2.8 and f/5.6. And in topsy-turvy
fashion, big gures relate to small
apertures and vice versa.

74 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

So what is aperture anyway? Well,


its not just a bit of jargon the word
means a hole, or opening. More
specically, the aperture is an
opening located within each lens. Its
size is controlled by a diaphragm
that performs in a similar way to the
iris in your eye. Maximum aperture
varies between lenses.

Open wide
Its easy to understand that a small
opening will admit less light than a
big one. However, the idea can get
confusing because of the system
used to describe the apertures size.
There is logic to it, though!
The crucial point is that aperture
numbers are fractions: f/2 means
focal length (f) divided by 2. So on a
50mm lens, f/2 means the diameter
of the aperture is 25mm. On a

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200mm lens at f/2, the aperture


would be 100mm wide. This helps
explain why bigger numbers refer to
smaller apertures.
However, the amount of light that
can pass through an aperture is
proportional to the openings area,
not its diameter. If you halve the
diameter (from f/2 to f/4, for
example) the area decreases by a
factor of four. Its the in-between
setting of f/2.8 that gives half the
area and half the amount of light.
This is why the aperture scale
includes seemingly irregular
numbers such as f/2.8 and f/5.6.
In traditional photographic
terminology, halving or doubling the
amount of light is called a one-stop
change. Today, we often refer to it as
1EV, or exposure value, but it means
essentially the same thing.

APERTURE NUMBERS

Your at-a-glance guide to aperture scales and what the numbers mean
1/2 stops

1/3rd stops

f/2.8

2.8

2.8
3.2

ONE STOP

5.6

f/5.6

5
5.6
6.3
7.1
8
9

f/11

TWO STOPS

9.5
11
13
f/16

16
19

f/22

22

10
11
13
14
16
18
20
22

The widest apertures have


f-stops with the smallest
numbers. The maximum aperture
available depends on the lens youre
using. On many zoom lenses, for
example, the maximum aperture gets
smaller as you zoom in.

Medium apertures
The middle apertures on your
lens tend to give you the
best-quality images. However, they might
not give you the amount of depth of eld
you require. Think of it as a balancing act,
with some compromise required.

Narrow apertures
Most lenses have a minimum
aperture of f/22, although some
stop at f/16 while others go down to f/32.
As aperture gets smaller, depth of eld
increases. Ultimately, though, the image
resolution deteriorates due to diffraction.
See page 76 for more on this.

Understanding screen diagrams

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JARGON BUSTER
Depth of eld
A lens can only focus
precisely on one point,
but there will be a zone
of apparent sharpness in
front of and behind the
subject. Depth of eld
describes how far this
zone extends.

2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 75

VIDEO GUIDES

All Nikon D-SLRs will show what aperture


youre using (F11 or f/11 in the example here).
However, D3000 series and D5000 series
cameras also give you a graphical depiction of
the aperture on their information displays. If
youd like to see this, go to the Setup menu,
select Info display format and check Graphic.
The diagram then shows roughly how wide the
aperture is set and is a reminder that bigger
numbers relate to small apertures.

ESSENTIAL KIT

GRAPHIC
REMINDERS

NIKON SOFTWARE

MORE DEPTH OF FIELD

3.5
4
4.5

6.7
f/8

LESS LIGHT

4.8

NARROW APERTURES

LESS DEPTH OF FIELD

f/4

Wide apertures

NIKOPEDIA

MORE LIGHT

3.3

WIDE APERTURES

Full stops

CAMERA SKILLS

MAKING SENSE OF F-STOPS

INTRODUCTION

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INTRODUCTION
CAMERA SKILLS

NIKOPEDIA

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NIKON KNOW-HOW

Demystifying diffraction

WHAT AN APERTURE
LOOKS LIKE

As a photographer, its important to know that any


light travelling through your lens does so in wave
form. When it passes through the aperture, it
spreads out before hitting the sensor. This
spreading effect is called diffraction. With wide
apertures its minimal, but with smaller ones it
gradually becomes more severe. At the very
smallest apertures it can be so severe that it
creates a fuzzy image on the sensor.

Take a tour of your lens


While the concept of aperture can be
tricky to grasp, the physical side of it is
incredibly simple. Heres whats going
on inside your lens barrel, where a
motor keeps aperture under control

NIKOPEDIA

Iris blades

With a wide aperture you get minimal bending

The aperture is created by a diaphragm


formed by intersecting blades. These
usually number between ve and nine
on any one lens.

Motor
Lens component

This opens and closes the aperture when


the shutter res. It matches the
f-stop set by you or the camera, and the
focal length youre using.

VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

The aperture assembly is located in the


barrel of each lens you use, between the
lens elements.

Your Nikon also enables you to


change aperture and shutter speed
in smaller steps, for ner control. On
most D-SLRs, you can choose steps
of 1/2EV or 1/3EV.
Aperture is crucial in determining
depth of eld, or how much of a
scene appears sharp. If other factors
(such as the lens focal length and
distance to the subject) stay the

same, using a smaller aperture will


give greater depth of eld. However,
you cant just keep stopping down
to ever-smaller apertures. Theres a
reason most Nikon lenses dont go
smaller than f/16 or f/22 lens
design is complex, but almost all
lenses give their sharpest images at
middling apertures such as f/8 or
f/11. Below this, depth of eld

A narrow aperture means signicant bending

increases but competes against an


across-the-board reduction in
sharpness thats largely due to a
phenomenon known as diffraction.

Comparing lenses
Describing aperture by fractions
enables us to compare lenses. Every
model includes details on maximum
aperture 50mm f/1.8 or 135mm

f/2.8, for example. Lenses with a


large maximum aperture are called
fast lenses because they allow
quicker shutter speeds to be used.
Comparing two lenses of the same
focal length, a faster one will
normally be bigger and pricier, but
might be of better quality, give a
brighter viewnder image and allow
extra shooting options.

STEP BY STEP TAKE CONTROL OF APERTURE


With a little trial and error, its easy to make sure your camera lets in the right amount of light

Choose a scale

Step up or down

Look on the back

Have a look on top

Most Nikons give a choice of


01
aperture scales, in steps of
1/2EV, 1/3EV or 1 EV. To switch scales,
go to the Custom Settings menu.

Look for menu item b1 or b2,


02
which is usually called EV
steps for exposure cntrl. Scroll to
make your choice, then press OK.

You can see which aperture


03
setting youre using on the
viewnder. Half-press the shutter
button to see an f-stop, left of centre.

Mid- and high-end D-SLRs (from


the D90 up) also have a top-plate
LCD that gives a handy readout of your
exposure settings, including aperture.

76 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

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04

PUTTING IT INTO PRACTICE

Eight blades

INTRODUCTION

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TEST YOUR LENS

An eight-bladed diaphragm
produces some obvious
octagonal highlights

Nine blades

A nine-bladed diaphragm
gives more circular bokeh

Often, the aperture setting we choose is limited by external factors.


For example, you need a small aperture to boost depth of eld and a
wide one for fast shutter speeds. However, there are many occasions
when depth of eld isnt really an issue if youre photographing at
surfaces face-on, for example. When your subjects stationary you can
try a wide range of speeds safely, especially if you use a tripod.
At such times, youre free to think about which aperture setting
gives the best results from the lens youre using. However, this can vary
between lenses, so this issues assignment is to nd out the optimum
aperture for each lens you own. Heres what to do

CAMERA SKILLS

Knowing which aperture settings work best for your


setup can save you time and ensure great results

NIKOPEDIA

BLADES AND BOKEH

f/32

The number of blades forming the


aperture diaphragm has a big
effect on how out-of-focus, or
bokeh, areas appear. Bokeh is
most clear on subjects with bright
highlights, such as city lights at
night. With a lens maximum
aperture, these will look perfectly
circular. At middling settings,

theyll mimic the aperture shape


hexagonal with six blades, and so
on. Many Nikon lenses have seven
or nine slightly curved blades, so
bokeh is more circular.
At very small apertures, bokeh
is star-shaped, with the number of
points per star equal to twice the
number of diaphragm blades.

NIKON SOFTWARE

How your lens can change the shape of out-of-focus spots

f/2.8

f/8

Find some paper with ne-printed type try a phone directory or


newspaper. Make sure that its completely at and set up the
camera to photograph it exactly head-on. The slightest camera-shake
will make the results meaningless, so use a tripod.

01

ESSENTIAL KIT

Its normal to get the best


image quality at medium
apertures f/8, in this case

Frame the page so it lls the viewnder. Use Aperture Priority (A)
mode and set the aperture to its widest setting. Focus and take a
picture. Repeat, working through the available apertures at full-stop
intervals (see page 75). Repeat again for each lens you own.

02

Other options

The easy way to control aperture


On the D3000 series and D5000
05
06
is with Aperture Priority (A) mode.
series, hold the exposure
Rotate the sub-command dial to get the compensation button and turn the
value you want.
command dial to change the aperture.

Load test images onto your computer and view them at high
magnication. Resolution and contrast should improve visibly for
images taken with a medium aperture, and decline again as you
approach the lens minimum aperture. Make a note of the setting that
gives the best results with your lens.

03

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2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 77

VIDEO GUIDES

Make changes

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1/500 sec

45 secs

CAMERA SKILLS

INTRODUCTION

NIKOPEDIA

NIKON SOFTWARE

NIKOPEDIA

1 sec

VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON KNOW-HOW

SO WHATS SHUTTER
SPEED ALL ABOUT?
Master shutter speed and take full control of your Nikon
There are only two main
ways of regulating how
much light reaches your cameras
image sensor aperture and
shutter speed. Having already
examined aperture (see page 74),
well now reveal all you need to know
about shutter speed.
The parameter is important for
several reasons. Whenever theres
movement, different shutter speeds
alter how our images look, and this

is true whether its the subject that


moves, the camera or both. Shutter
speed also has an important role in
determining when we can use ash.
Unlike the apparently topsyturvy numerical scale for aperture,
shutter speed values are simple to
grasp. Its easy to understand that
1/2 sec is a longer time than 1/125
sec. However, Nikon D-SLRs dont
display shutter speeds in fractional
form. In all of the cameras displays,

78 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

1/2 sec is shown as 2, 1/125 sec as


125 and so on. Exposure times of one
second or longer use the seconds
symbol, appearing as 1", 4" and so on.

In the picture
So how does the shutter speed
affect what youll see in your
pictures? Suppose the camera and
the subject are static, such as in a
still-life setup. In this case, you wont
see any difference in shots taken at

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different shutter speeds, as long as


the aperture and/or ISO rating are
adjusted to keep overall exposure
constant. As soon as theres any
movement, however, changing the
shutter speed can have a dramatic
effect on the exposure.
First, theres movement of the
camera. This can blur everything.
Usually, this isnt helpful we
refer to camera-shake as a bad
thing. However, there are ways to
use controlled camera motion to get
beautiful or exciting results.
The most obvious is the panning
shot, where you track a moving
subject. If the camera is still and the
subject moves, shutter speed will
determine whether any blur is
visible and, if so, how much.

SHUTTERS EXPOSED

CAMERA SKILLS

CURTAIN CALLS
The ne details of how shutter speed is controlled
position by the camera at the end of every exposure,
ready for the next shot. Using two blinds ensures that
the whole image area gets the same amount of light. The
top of the scene is exposed to the sensor rst, but this
part is also blocked off rst by the second curtain. At the
end of the exposure, the rst curtain is fully open and the
second fully closed.
Normal ash is only possible when the entire area of
the sensor is exposed at the same time. This never
happens with faster shutter speeds (shorter than 1/200
sec or 1/250 sec), making these the limit for normal
ash operation.

Flash sync speed


This is the highest shutter
speed you can use with a
normal ashgun.

Slow shutter speeds


When youre shooting at 1/10 sec, as in this
example, both curtains are fully open for part
of the exposure (B), allowing light onto the
whole of the sensor.

Speedlights with FP
High-speed Sync mode can
work at fast shutter speeds.

NIKON SOFTWARE

High-speed ash

NIKOPEDIA

Your Nikons shutter controls how long the sensor is


exposed to light for. It uses a pair of curtains, or blinds,
to do this (see page 80). The rst opens to start the
exposure, and the second closes to end it. At slower
speeds, both curtains are open for some of the exposure.
At faster speeds (anything above the ash sync speed of
1/200 sec or 1/250 sec) the second curtain begins to close
before the rst has completed its travel. This means
that the sensor is effectively exposed to light through a
moving slit.
At the start of each exposure, the rst curtain is fully
closed and the second fully open. They are reset to this

INTRODUCTION

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ESSENTIAL KIT

At quick shutter speeds, the second blind


starts closing before the rst has nished its
travel this exposes the image evenly.

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2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 79

VIDEO GUIDES

Fast shutter speeds

INTRODUCTION
CAMERA SKILLS

NIKOPEDIA

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NIKON KNOW-HOW

Motor

WHAT A SHUTTER
LOOKS LIKE

Though its controlled


electronically, the shutter
itself is mechanical, with
its own motor for ring
and cocking the blinds. A
separate motor is used to
raise the mirror just before
the shutter res.

How the mechanism works


We delve deep inside a Nikon D-SLR to
show exactly how the shutter system
works, and how it can control exposure
so accurately

NIKOPEDIA

Focal plane
Nikon D-SLRs use a vertical-travel focal
plane shutter. Focal plane indicates
that its located just in front of your
cameras sensor.

Longevity
The expected life of the
mechanism varies from
model to model. The
D4s shutter is rated for
400,000 releases.

Twin blinds

VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

The shutter mechanism is made up of two


ultra-thin blinds that move up and down.
One opens to start the exposure, the second
follows to close it.

The result depends not just on how


fast the subject is moving, but how
close it is to the camera, too. Youll
need a faster shutter speed to get a
sharp image of someone running or
cycling close to you than you would
to capture an express train thats
hurtling by 50m away.
Whatever exposure mode youre
using, the camera will tell you what

shutter speed is being set, but in


Auto mode (and the Scene modes
that many Nikon D-SLRs offer) you
cant control it directly.

Taking charge
When you want direct control, the
natural mode to use is Shutter
Priority, marked with an S on
the mode dial. As you change the

shutter speed, the camera adjusts


the aperture automatically to
maintain the same exposure.
You can also control shutter
speed directly when using Manual
(M) mode. In Aperture Priority
(A) mode you can see the shutter
speed change as you adjust the
aperture, so again its easy to get
to a suitable setting. Finally, in

Program (P) mode you can rotate the


command dial to shufe through
different combinations of aperture
and shutter speed this is called
Flexible Program.
However, when youre going to be
experimenting with shutter speeds
to see their effects, the best mode
to use is Shutter Priority (S). We used
it for many of the shots here.

STEP BY STEP CONTROL SHUTTER SPEED


Adjust the amount of blur and sharpness in your images using Shutter Priority mode

Select a mode

Check settings

Set the Exposure mode to


The best place to see the
02
01
Shutter Priority (S). Rotate the
shutter speed youve set is in
rear command dial to set shutter speed the viewnder. Half-press the shutter
aperture is regulated automatically.
button and look in the bottom-left.

80 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

Look at the LCD

Top screen

You can also see the shutter


03
speed in the Info display on the
rear LCD. In Live View, the shutter
speed is at the top of the screen.

Most Nikon D-SLRs have a


top-plate LCD screen (the control
panel) that shows exposure settings.
Shutter speed is shown at the top.

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04

1/2 stops

1/3 stops

f/2.8
1/4000

1/4000

1/4000
1/3200

PUTTING IT INTO PRACTICE

1/3000
1/2000

1/1000

1/1250
1/1000
1/800

1/1000
1/750

1/500

1/350
1/250

1/320
1/250
1/200

1/250

Third of a stop

1/640
1/500
1/400

1/500

1/80
1/60
1/50

1/60
1/45

1/30

1/40
1/30
1/25

1/30
1/20

1/20
1/15

1/15

1/500 sec

1/125 sec

1/30 sec

Use Shutter
Priority (S) mode
and set an ISO of 400.
Set the release mode to
Continuous (C) or
Continuous High-speed
(CH). Set the focus mode
to Continuous-servo AF
(AF-C).

PLAYING BY NUMBERS
Your complete guide to the shutter speed scale

Set the shutter


speed to 1/4000
sec. This will show as
4000. If the aperture
readout changes to Lo,
increase the ISO. Get
your volunteer to move
past you, and take some
shots as they pass by.

02

Repeat using
slower shutter
speeds: 1/1000, 1/250,
1/60, 1/15 and 1/4 sec
should give a good range
of results. Check your
images on a computer
which show artistic blur?

03

Most Nikons offer a choice of two different shutter speed scales one
with 1/2 stop steps, the other with 1/3 stop steps. Pro models also allow
full-stop intervals. Each full-stop interval represents a doubling or
halving of the amount of light reaching the D-SLRs sensor.

ESSENTIAL KIT

Panning at 1/30 sec

Change the fraction

On most Nikons you can vary the


05
fraction by which you change
shutter speed every time you stop up
or down. Go to Custom Settings.

Theres a choice of 1/3 step or 1/2


step. Pro models also enable
full steps, while entry-level models
have xed 1/3 steps.

06

Repeat the exercise, this time panning your camera as the


cyclist or runner crosses the frame. Test out different shutter
speeds and see which one gives the best action blur.

04

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2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 81

VIDEO GUIDES

Set the scale

NIKON SOFTWARE

1/15

Your Nikon gives you great control over the way moving subjects will
appear. This assignment will help you explore that potential. For the
exercise, we recommend using a tripod to eliminate camera movement.
Youll also need a willing (and reasonably t!) volunteer to run or cycle
past you several times at a consistent speed. In the examples here, the
rider was travelling at about 20mph.

NIKOPEDIA

1/60

One stop = shutter open twice as long

1/90

Slow speeds = blurred images


of moving subjects

1/160
1/125
1/100

1/125

Knowing which aperture settings work best for your


setup can save you time and ensure great results

01

1/180
1/125

SPEED CAMERA
CAMERA SKILLS

1/1500

One stop

1/2000

1/2500
1/2000
1/1600

Fast speeds = sharp images


of moving subjects

Full stops

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INTRODUCTION

NIKOPEDIA

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CAMERA SKILLS

If you want a fast, or


the fastest, speed then
Aperture Priority (A) is the
best mode to use

VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

NIKOPEDIA

For a specic speed for


creating blur, say choose
Shutter Priority (S)

NIKON KNOW-HOW

WHICH SHOOTING MODE?


Choosing the right mode is central to getting the best out of your camera and subject
Some camera modes are
more useful than others it
depends on how much control you
want to have over settings. In the
last couple of issues we looked at
the importance of shutter speed and
aperture selection. When you choose
a shutter speed (or aperture), the
aperture (or shutter speed) has to
change as well in order for the
overall exposure to be right.
The exposure mode you use
dictates how the particular pairings
of shutter speed and aperture are
chosen, and the exposure modes on

a typical Nikon D-SLR can be broken


into three types.
The traditional ones are known as
the PASM modes. Each enables you
to specify exactly what shutter
speed or aperture you use, giving you
full creative control. Nikons
professional D-SLRs only offer PASM
modes, and they dispense with the
mode dial altogether. Instead, you
hold down the mode button and turn
the command dial to select the
setting you want to use.
The second group consists of the
Scene modes, such as Portrait,

82 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

Landscape and Sports. These are


fully automatic exposure modes
that set the shutter speed and
aperture for you, giving you no direct
control over the settings. But they
arent always good solutions. The
Portrait mode will set a wide
aperture to blur the background, for
instance, but this isnt desirable in
all pictures of people.
These Scene modes take control
of other camera settings, too. They
set the autofocus and White Balance
for you, for instance, and usually
wont let you shoot in RAW. On some

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models, the Scene modes all appear


on the mode dial. On others they
might be under a single Scene
setting, or be split between the two.
The third group of modes are
point and shoot ones designed for
beginners. The green Auto mode
takes care of all the camera settings
automatically, making it ideal for
novices. D3000 series cameras also
have a Guide mode that offers
interactive assistance as you learn
to shoot different types of subject,
while D5000 series cameras have
an Effects setting for applying

SHOOTING MODES

INTRODUCTION

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MAKE SENSE OF SHOOTING MODES


Auto mode

Sports mode

If youre a complete novice,


this mode is ideal because
the camera takes care of all
the settings automatically.

The ash is switched off


and the camera uses faster
shutter speeds to help freeze
fast-moving subjects.

Use this if you want to choose the


shutter speed yourself. The camera
will set the aperture automatically
so that the exposure is correct.

Close-up mode

Auto Flash Off mode


The same as Auto, but
for museums, theaters or
indoor sports venues where
using a ash might get you thrown out!

Shutter Priority

This favours a smaller


aperture to improve depth of
eld. Consider using a tripod
when theres a risk of camera-shake.

Ideal for general use, or when


theres little time to think. The
camera sets the shutter speed and
aperture but you get to control other settings.

Night Portrait mode

The camera softens skin


tones and uses a wide
aperture to throw the
background out of focus.

NIKOPEDIA

Portrait mode

Program AE mode

The ash res to light your


subject, but the camera uses
a slower shutter speed to
capture the background lighting too.

Landscape mode

CAMERA SKILLS

The mode you choose affects the amount of control you have over camera settings

Manual mode
This is designed for experts.
You choose the shutter speed
and aperture yourself, though
the camera still suggests settings.

Child mode

Aperture Priority

In this mode, the camera


makes backgrounds and
clothing colourful but keeps
skin tones soft and natural looking.

Use this if you want to choose


the aperture yourself. The
camera will set the shutter
speed automatically for correct exposure.

GUIDE
A special feature on D3000 series
cameras that shows you what to
do as youre taking pictures. Its
great for learning about photography.

NIKON SOFTWARE

Designed for vivid landscape


shots taken in daylight. The
built-in ash is switched off
and you might need a tripod in poor light.

CAMERA SETUP

If you dont like the aperture and shutter speed combination your camera has chosen, you can easily change it

Info display

Faster and wider

Slower and narrower

You select the Program mode by


turning the top dial to P. This will set
both aperture and shutter speed for
you, based on the lens youre using,
the ISO setting and the metered
light level.

The viewnder and LCD display will


show the shutter speed and
aperture settings currently chosen
by the camera. If this isnt visible,
half-press the shutter button to
reactivate the meter.

If you want a faster shutter speed


than the one suggested by your
camera, or a wider aperture, turn
the rear command dial to the right.
Youll see the settings change in the
viewnder (or on the LCD).

If you want a slower shutter speed,


or a narrower lens aperture, turn
the wheel to the left. In both cases,
youll see a P* symbol to remind
you that youve used the Flexible
Program feature.

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2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 83

VIDEO GUIDES

Program mode

ESSENTIAL KIT

HOW TO SHIFT THE SETTINGS IN P MODE

INTRODUCTION

NIKOPEDIA

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NIKON KNOW-HOW

How does Nikons all-purpose Program setting differ to the specic Scene modes?
The Program mode on your
Nikon D-SLR automatically
sets both the shutter speed
and aperture based on the
light levels measured by the
cameras exposure meter.
But it does this intelligently,
adapting the program to
different focal lengths and
shooting conditions.

VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

NIKOPEDIA

CAMERA SKILLS

PROGRAM MODE vs SCENE MODES

D3000 series and D5000 series


cameras show a representation
of the aperture and shutter
speed on the LCD display

P mode

Sports mode

Landscape mode

In P mode, the camera isnt set up


for any specic kind of photography,
so it chooses combinations of
shutter speed and aperture that
are designed to provide a good
compromise between sharpness
(higher shutter speeds) and depth of
eld (smaller lens apertures). Often,
this is all you need.
Shutter speed: 1/200 sec
Aperture: f/5.6

If you select the Sports mode, youre


telling the camera youll be shooting
fast-moving subjects. It then adapts
the exposure program to favour
faster shutter speeds rather than
smaller apertures. Youll get less
depth of eld, but youre also less
likely to get any movement blur,
which is much more important.
Shutter speed: 1/2000 sec
Aperture: f/3.5

With landscape photography, you


need good depth of eld so that
objects both far away and nearby are
sharp. When you select Landscape
mode, then, the camera favours
small apertures because theyre
more important than fast shutter
speeds, though you may need a
tripod to prevent shake.
Shutter speed: 1/30 sec
Aperture: f/11

Night Vision, Miniature and other


effects to your photos.

Shutter or aperture?
Its the rst group of modes that you
really need to learn to use. But
which of the four PASM settings is
best? It often comes down to

personal taste, but its worth


learning what each one does.
A stands for Aperture, as in
Aperture Priority. You set the
aperture and the camera sets the
shutter speed for you to ensure a
good exposure. A is undoubtedly the
most versatile mode. Despite its

name, you can use it to set a


particular shutter speed just as
quickly you just turn the dial until
the desired setting is displayed.
S, or Shutter Priority, works in the
opposite way. You set the shutter
speed and the camera sets the
aperture. Its less useful than A

because the range of apertures


available is much more limited than
the range of shutter speeds, and the
camera might not have a suitable
aperture to pair with your selected
speed. But S mode does come into
its own where a precise shutter
speed is needed for a particular

STEP BY STEP HOW TO SHOOT IN MANUAL MODE


This takes more experience but gives you control over shutter speed, aperture and overall exposure at the same time

Switch to M

Change the shutter speed

Tweak the aperture

Use the indicator

On most Nikon D-SLRs you can


01
do this on the main mode dial,
but on professional models theres a
mode button that you use in
conjunction with the command dial.

You do this with the rear


02
command dial. As the shutter
speed changes, youll see the bars on
the exposure indicator moving to
show that the exposure is changing.

Use the front sub-command


03
dial if your camera has one, or
on other models hold down the EV
compensation button and turn the
rear command dial.

As you change the shutter


speed and/or aperture, youll
see bars on either side of the exposure
indicators zero point showing
under- or over-exposure.

84 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

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04

PUTTING IT INTO PRACTICE

INTRODUCTION

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TRY A NEW MODE
Its important to learn that the exact choice of exposure mode isnt
crucial in many situations you can use any of the four PASM modes and
get the identical combination of shutter speed and aperture. Use the
exercise below to try a mode you havent used before!

Manual exposure is a good


option in the studio (above), or
when shooting a sequence
against a dark backdrop (right)

You might end up with the same


settings whichever mode you use,
but its worth trying different options

NIKOPEDIA

Dial M for Manual

NIKON SOFTWARE

Some seasoned photographers prefer to use Manual (M) mode. Many do


so out of habit, as this was the only option on the cameras they started
out with. However, being able to set the aperture and shutter speed
independently can have its advantages in certain situations where
you want to completely ignore the built-in meter or use the metered
reading for occasional guidance only. Even in Manual, the viewnder
display continues to provide an indication of what the meter thinks of
your settings! Manual is particularly useful with studio ash, where the
shutter speed and aperture are set for the subject and the ash output
is adjusted to give the right exposure. Manual is also useful in situations
where the background or subjects clothing may change between shots
but the lighting remains consistent.
effect, such as blurring movement
or panning with a moving subject.
In Manual (M) mode you set both
aperture and shutter speed we
look at occasions when this can
prove useful in the box above.
Last but not least is P, or Program.
This is an excellent fail-safe option

for those starting out with the PASM


modes. The camera sets aperture
and shutter speed for you but when
you want to set a specic shutter
speed or aperture you simply turn
the dial. Unlike with the Scene
modes, you retain full control over
all other camera settings.

Find something to take a close-up


of. Weve used a frog in our example,
but a favourite ornament from your
mantelpiece might be an easier
option for you.

Flexible Program

02 Select P and use

Zero the setting


When the bars are zeroed, the
exposure is indicated by the
cameras meter, but its up to you how
you interpret the reading. You can use
your own skill and judgement.

Compensate on the y
06 If your subject is very light or

dark, adjust the shutter speed or


aperture so the exposure indicator bars
move to the left or right of the centre.

the aperture

03 Use A mode and set


Repeat using Aperture Priority
mode again, using the rear

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change speed

04 Switch to S to

As you turn the command dial to


change the shutter speed, youll see
the aperture setting change at the
same time stop when it reaches
your lens maximum aperture.

in Manual

05 Choose settings
For your nal picture, switch to M
mode. Set the widest lens aperture,
then adjust the shutter speed until
the exposure indicator on the
viewnder or LCD is zeroed in at the
middle of the metering scale.

2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 85

VIDEO GUIDES

Set the exposure mode dial to P. Use


the rear command dial to set the
widest aperture available with your
lens. Take a picture.

command dial so youre using the


widest aperture your lens allows.

ESSENTIAL KIT

subject

01 Choose a suitable

05

CAMERA SKILLS

How to understand shutter speed and aperture more


clearly, and open your eyes to new techniques

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CENTRE-WEIGHTED

CAMERA SKILLS

INTRODUCTION

NIKOPEDIA

SPOT

VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

NIKOPEDIA

Matrix metering works


well for off-centre
portraits, while
centre-weighted
excels for subjects in
the middle of the frame

Spot metering is good if the


background is a lot brighter or
darker than the subject

NIKON KNOW-HOW

MATRIX

WHAT ARE METERING MODES?


Getting to grips with the meter in your camera is the rst step to better exposures
Measuring the brightness of
the scene youre shooting is
a crucial part of getting the right
exposure for your pictures. In the
last few issues weve looked at
shutter speed, aperture and
exposure modes, but before these
can be set you need to measure the
brightness of the scene. This is
where the exposure meter comes in.
Your Nikon D-SLR has a built-in
meter, of course. But it isnt simply a
matter of taking one reading. The
brightness of the scene can vary
enormously across the picture

the sky will usually be much lighter


than the foreground, for example.
As such, an average reading is
needed. Arriving at the perfect value
isnt made easier by the fact that the
key area of your image will vary
according to your composition and
what you want to highlight. To allow
for this, your Nikon camera has not
one metering system but three.

Metering modes
The main metering mode, and the
one that your Nikon will be set to
when you take it out of the box, is

86 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

matrix. Its the only option youll get


in some exposure modes, and youll
have to switch to P, S, A or M to use
other metering choices.
Matrix is by far the most
sophisticated of the metering types.
The pattern it uses to assess a scene
breaks the image into a number of
zones. This results in a range of
readings that are then analysed
before an overall average exposure
is calculated. The latest cameras
feature 3D Color Matrix Metering II,
which takes colours and focus
distance into account, as well as the

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distribution of light. It looks at the


scene in an intelligent fashion, trying
to work out what sort of picture
youre taking by matching the data
up with an internal database of
30,000 scenes. It then relays its
suggested exposure to create an
appropriate shutter speed and
aperture combination.
Centre-weighted metering biases
the exposure towards the centre of
the frame. This doesnt take focusing
or distribution of light into account,
and just assumes that the subject is
in the middle. It works well for

METERING MODES

INTRODUCTION

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MODES AT A GLANCE
Spot

3D Color Matrix

Centre-weighted

Average

The default metering


mode on Nikon D-SLRs measures
light distribution across the whole
frame, together with colour and
focus data. It then compares this to
an internal database of typical
photographic scenes to arrive at a
suitable exposure.

This mode measures the


light across the whole picture area,
but strongly biases the resulting
reading to the centre of the
viewnder. On more advanced
Nikon D-SLRs, you can change the
size of this central area, and hence
the overall bias.

This is a variation on the


centre-weighted mode thats only
available on Nikons pro D-SLRs. It
measures light evenly across the
whole frame, which makes it the
least sophisticated metering
system of all, but for experts it can
be the easiest to interpret.

This graph shows how spot metering


concentrates around the AF point

With matrix metering, the shape of


the graph changes with each scene

This graph is higher in the middle,


where its heavily weighted

The graph for average metering is


at, as all areas are treated equally

The small area around the AF point


gives an indication of the region
covered by spot metering

Your current focus point is one of the


criteria used by matrix metering to
work out the best exposure

The exposure is based mainly on the


central part of the image, though the
outer parts have an inuence too

The light across the whole frame is


measured as a single value. Its a
crude method but can be useful

NIKOPEDIA

Spot metering only


measures the intensity of light over
a small circular area around the
active AF point, so you need to pay
attention to where this is. The area
corresponds to roughly 1.5-2.5 per
cent of the frame, depending on
which Nikon D-SLR youre using.

CAMERA SKILLS

How each of the metering patterns works, and when to use them

NIKON SOFTWARE

CAMERA SETUP
ESSENTIAL KIT

HOW TO SWITCH METERING MODES


The way you change metering modes depends on the camera youre using

Information display

Metering mode icon

Mode choice

The location of the metering mode


control depends on the D-SLR
youre using. On the D800, its a dial
mounted around the AE-L/AF-L
button, while on the D7100 its a
button on top of the camera.

On beginner models such as D3000


series and D5000 series cameras,
you change the metering pattern
using the LCD interface. Press the i
button on the back of the camera to
activate the interface.

Now use the multi-selector to


highlight the metering mode icon in
the menu panel at the right side of
the screen. Its towards the bottom
of the list, underneath the AF mode
options. Click the OK button

You can now pick which metering


mode you want to use click the OK
button to conrm your choice. Back
on the information display, the icon
changes to show which metering
pattern youre using.

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2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 87

VIDEO GUIDES

External controls

INTRODUCTION

NIKOPEDIA

WorldMags.net

NIKON KNOW-HOW

VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

NIKOPEDIA

CAMERA SKILLS

CONTRAST CONTROL
How to deal with the shadows and highlights in your shots
Digital cameras can only register a
limited range of tones, and cant see
the full range of brightness that the
human eye can. This presents a
problem in high-contrast scenes
where you have dark shadows and
bright highlights when youre
photographing on a sunny day,
shooting towards the light or
capturing nightscapes, for example.
In these situations it might not
matter what metering mode youve
chosen youll lose detail from the
highlights or the shadows. Unless
you change your shot, the best
exposure needs to be a compromise,
and how you decide which areas you
want to preserve details in will
depend on which parts of the scene
are the most important. Shooting
outdoors, its generally a better idea
to ensure that the highlights arent
blown out. You can then rescue dark
shadows at the editing stage.

High-contrast scenes can mean theres no ideal exposure


either the sky is overexposed or the foreground is too
dark. But tools such as Active D-Lighting can help

most pictures, and its also easier to


predict when this metering mode
will get things wrong. You can then
anticipate when exposure
compensation will be necessary.
On higher-end Nikon D-SLRs you
can change the size of the area used
for centre-weighting, and some also

allow you to switch to average


metering, which gives equal weight
to all areas of the frame.
Spot metering is much simpler,
just taking a reading from a small
area surrounding the active focus
point and ignoring everything else in
the picture. Therefore, its the most

Active D-Lighting
Nikons Active D-Lighting feature is designed
to cope with high-contrast scenes when youre
using matrix metering. The camera will slightly
underexpose a scene (to preserve the highlights)
and lighten the shadows, providing a more
balanced result. Active D-Lighting is best used
when youre shooting JPEGs, or RAW les that
will be processed by Nikon software such as
Capture NX 2. If you open a NEF le shot with
Active D-Lighting in Photoshop or Lightroom, it
will just look underexposed.
PROS Results can look natural, and you can
adjust the strength on more advanced cameras.
CONS Because the exposure is automatically
adjusted, the results arent always predictable.

precise metering mode on your


camera but is also harder to use, as
you have to pick the spot you take
the reading from with care.

Error alert
Its important to realise that,
whatever metering mode you use,

all options will get the wrong result


in certain situations. The problem
stems from the way these metering
systems work. They measure the
light thats being reected by the
subject rather than taking an
incidental reading that records the
light falling on the subject.

STEP BY STEP USE AE LOCK TO CONTROL EXPOSURE


Use your cameras AE-L/AF-L button to save a meter reading and recompose the shot in tricky lighting conditions

Play with settings

Make a rst attempt

By default, the AE-L/AF-L


01
button locks both the
exposure and the focus. But you can
change the camera settings so that
it only locks the exposure.

First, frame your shot to


include only the areas you
want correctly exposed. Do this by
turning the camera or zooming in,
then holding down the button.

02

88 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

Choose an area

Rinse and repeat

Lets say we want to expose


03
for the stained glass windows.
Zoom in so they ll the frame and
hold down the AE-L/AF-L button.

Keep holding the AE-L/AF-L


button (youll see the AE-L
symbol in the viewnder) to reframe
and take a shot. The shot is too dark.

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04

METERING MODES
ON YOUR NIKON

PUTTING IT INTO PRACTICE

SPOT THE DIFFERENCE

Options vary according to model


MODEL

MATRIX

CENTREWEIGHTED

AVERAGE?

SPOT

D3000

3D Color Matrix

420 pixels

8mm circle

No

2.5%

D3100

3D Color Matrix

420 pixels

8mm circle

No

2.5%

D3200

3D Color Matrix

420 pixels

8mm circle

No

2.5%

D3300

3D Color Matrix

420 pixels

8mm circle

No

2.5%

D5000

3D Color Matrix

420 pixels

8mm circle

No

2.5%

D5100

3D Color Matrix

420 pixels

8mm circle

No

2.5%

D5200

3D Color Matrix

2,016 pixels

8mm circle

No

2.5%

2,016 pixels

8mm circle

No

2.5%

3D Color Matrix

2,016 pixels

6, 8, 10 or
13mm circle

Yes

2.5%

D7100

3D Color Matrix

2,016 pixels

6. 8, 10 or
20mm circle

Yes

2.5%

D300s

3D Color Matrix

1,005 pixels

6, 8, 10 or
13mm circle

Yes

2.0%

D700

3D Color Matrix

1,005 pixels

8, 12, 15 or
20mm circle

Yes

1.5%

D800

3D Color Matrix

91,000
pixels

8, 12, 15 or
20mm circle

Yes

1.5%

D810

3D Color Matrix

91,000
pixels

8, 12, 15 or
20mm circle

Yes

1.5%

D4

3D Color Matrix

91,000
pixels

8, 12, 15 or
20mm circle

Yes

1.5%

D610

3D Color Matrix

2,016 pixels

6. 8, 10 or
20mm circle

Yes

1.5%

Df

3D Color Matrix

2,016 pixels

6. 8, 10 or
20mm circle

No

1.5%

Unfortunately, this reected reading


is skewed by the colour and
brightness of the subject itself.
Bright, white subjects reect more
light than dark ones. The averaging
system used by all three metering
modes assumes that the average
from the zone (or zones) it measures

is a midtone brightness the


18 per cent grey often referred to
by old-school photographers. For
this reason, youll often end up
needing to dial in some exposure
compensation when youve
photographed particularly light- or
dark-toned subjects.

Using the AE-L/AF-L button


again, we can reframe the
shot and get an exposure that brings
out the interior of the abbey.

06

02 Set the AF point

The rst option is to select


the AF point that corresponds to
the part of the picture you want to
be exposed correctly. Remember
that the AF point is where the spot
reading will be taken from. Now
take the shot again but with the AF
point over a different area, like the
background. The exposure will be
very different!

03 Use AE-L/AF-L

Sometimes there wont be


an AF point in the right position for
the area you want to take a spot
reading from. Use the AE-L/AF-L

Spot metering comes into its own


when your subject is much brighter
or darker than its background

button to lock the exposure, as


shown in the step-by-step below.
Place the AF point over your
subject, then reframe to shoot.

matrix metering

04 Compare with

Do either of these attempts at spot


metering give better or worse
exposure results? Now shoot the
same high-contrast scene using
matrix metering and see how the
exposures differ again.

Fair compensation
You shouldnt always expect to
nd a metering mode that will
give you an ideal exposure for
a picture. Its often essential
to use exposure compensation
to override the meter reading
and get the result you want.
Youll need compensation
most frequently when your
shot doesnt conform to the
mid-grey average that all four
of the matrix metering modes
With all-white subjects youll need
assume. An obvious example
to use exposure compensation to
would be a scene thats made
get the right light balance
up mostly of light tones, such
as a snowy landscape or the bulbs of garlic on a white backdrop,
as shown here. You might need to dial in one or two stops (+1 or
+2EV) of compensation. With subjects that are dark, negative
compensation will be needed.

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2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 89

VIDEO GUIDES

Shoot again

For a different result, try


05
framing the scene to include
the walls of the church alone and not
the stained-glass windows.

This picture of a lizard against a


dark background is a good example,
because theres a big brightness
difference. The camera doesnt
know which area needs to be
correctly exposed only you do!
There are two solutions

ESSENTIAL KIT

Choose another area

contrast subject

01 Choose a high-

NIKON SOFTWARE

3D Color Matrix

D7000

Spot metering mode is great for precise exposure readings, and can
be a godsend when youre shooting in tricky light. But the skill lies in
deciding which part of the scene to take the reading from in the rst
place. Practice makes perfect, so try this exercise and see how you do

NIKOPEDIA

D5300

To get the advantages of spot metering you need to be


able to pinpoint an exact area of a scene

CAMERA SKILLS

METERING
SENSOR

INTRODUCTION

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The Automatic White Balance setting works well


most of the time, but its restricted operating range
means it often gives orangey results with indoor
lighting and when shooting oodlit buildings

CAMERA SKILLS

INTRODUCTION

NIKOPEDIA

VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

NIKOPEDIA

AUTO WHITE BALANCE

MANUAL WHITE BALANCE

NIKON KNOW-HOW

WHAT IS WHITE BALANCE?


Get perfect colour rendition from your Nikon D-SLR in different lighting conditions
White balance, or WB, is
necessary because light
doesnt just vary in brightness, but
also in colour. Each light source
has its own individual colour
temperature, which varies from
red to blue as you move through the
visible spectrum. Human vision is
very good at compensating for this,
so a sheet of white paper will look
white whether its viewed in daylight
or by candlelight. Its the job of the
cameras White Balance system to
do the same thing and compensate
for the colour differences in the

lighting, so the colours in a scene


look exactly as we would expect.

Take control of colour


Your Nikon D-SLR has a wide range
of options for controlling the
White Balance to suit the colour
temperature of the light in the
scene, including Automatic White
Balance (AWB), which will cleverly
look after all this for you. However,
as with all your cameras automatic
settings, the Auto White Balance
isnt foolproof, and it may undercompensate for extreme conditions

90 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

because it can only operate within a


restricted range of temperatures.
Colour temperature is measured
on the Kelvin (K) scale, and Nikons
AWB system can only adjust
between 3500K and 8000K. It will
struggle to get a picture that doesnt
look orange when youre shooting
in your front room at night, for
example, as the colour temperature
of domestic lighting will be lower. It
may also struggle just before dawn,
when the light is blue-toned and has
a higher colour temperature than
the Auto setting can cope with. Your

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D-SLR, therefore, has a number of


manual White Balance options that
enable you to take full control. The
easiest to use are the presets. These
are settings designed specically
for different light sources, such as
ash, incandescent light (domestic
light bulbs), sunny days, cloudy days
or deep shade. They are useful for
getting consistent colours within a
sequence of pictures, or for tricking
the camera into giving you slightly
warmer- or colder-looking results.
For more control over colour
temperature settings, you need

MEASURING WHITE BALANCE

INTRODUCTION

WorldMags.net NIKOPEDIA

THE KELVIN SCALE EXPLAINED


Candle

1000K

AWB

Presets

WB shift

3500-8000K

3000-8000K

2750-10,500K

2500-10,000K

The White Balance Shift


option extends the colour
temperature range of
the presets

The option to set White


Balance with an exact
Kelvin (K) number is only
available on some Nikons

Auto White Balance (AWB)


only operates accurately
in a restricted range of
colour temperatures

Sunrise
or sunset

2000K

Incandescent
3000K

Tungsten

CAMERA SKILLS

The colour temperature range of your Nikon depends on the White Balance mode used

3000K
The higher the wattage
of light bulb, the higher
the colour temperature

Photoood

4000K

NIKOPEDIA

White uorescent
3700K

5000K

Direct sunlight
5200K

Average
midday
sunlight

Flash 5400K

6000K
Cloudy
6000K

Overcast sky

7000K

NIKON SOFTWARE

Hazy sky

Shade 8000K

8000K
The light reected by the
atmosphere, known as
skylight, is blue in colour

9000K

Your Nikons White


Balance button gives fast
access to the colour
temperature presets

Clear blue sky

10,000K

CAMERA SETUP

There are two ways to choose the White Balance setting, depending on the model youre using

Preset options

White Balance button

Display icons

On simpler D-SLRs such as D3000


series and D5000 series cameras,
press the i button on the bottom
left to activate the information
display. The White Balance option is
near the top of the list on the right.

Click OK to display the list of


White Balance presets. Auto is the
default, but you can scroll down
through the list to choose one of
the manual presets instead. Click
OK to conrm your choice.

More advanced models, such as


the D90, D7000 and up, have a WB
(White Balance) button on the back
of the camera. You hold this down,
then turn the main command dial to
change the White Balance setting.

The White Balance setting is


displayed as a small icon on the LCD
status panel on top of the camera.
The icon changes as you turn the
command dial, and you simply stop
when you reach the one you want.

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2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 91

VIDEO GUIDES

Information display

ESSENTIAL KIT

HOW TO USE THE WHITE BALANCE PRESETS

INTRODUCTION

NIKOPEDIA

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NIKON KNOW-HOW

CAMERA SKILLS

RAW POWER
Shoot RAW and you can choose the White Balance later
Software options
All RAW editing programs enable
you to alter White Balance settings
as you process the le. Nikons View
NX 2 does the job and comes free
with your Nikon D-SLR.

Shift the balance

VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

NIKOPEDIA

Preset menu
A dropdown menu enables you to
set the White Balance preset. By
default, it displays the recorded
value (the camera setting), but you
can override this.

Manual adjustments
Underneath are sliders for
ne adjustments to the colour
temperature setting and the option
to change the tint, an additional
red-green adjustment often built
into the White Balance settings.

to use another manual option.


Although not found on all Nikon
models, the K setting enables you to
set a specic colour temperature.
This is great for precise control
because you can dial in any setting
from 2500 to 10,000K.
Of greater use, and available on all
Nikon D-SLRs, is the preset manual
White Balance setting (see below).

You can use Nikons View NX 2 to choose the White


Balance setting you want to apply to your RAW les

This is set by taking a measurement


from a test target, such as a sheet
of white paper. Just ensure this lls
the frame and is in the same lighting
youll be using for your photos.

Why bother with RAW?


If you set the le format to RAW, you
can easily alter the White Balance
after youve taken the picture, and

When you select a White Balance preset via the


menus, you can press the right button on the
multi-selector to access a set of controls for
ne-tuning the colour. You press left and right
on the multi-selector to shift the amber-blue
(A-B) balance, which is equivalent to the colour
temperature setting, or press up and down to
adjust the green-magenta (G-M) balance, which
is equivalent to the tint setting. The camera
saves any adjustments youve made, and the
preset is then marked with an asterisk, both
in the menu and on the status display (if the
camera has one) to show its been changed.
This enables you to make very precise colour
adjustments at the time of shooting, though in
practice, its easier to shoot RAW les and make
these adjustments later on a computer.

without any image degradation.


Even so, its still good practice
to choose an appropriate White
Balance setting when you shoot
it saves work later, and it ensures
that the pictures displayed on
your Nikons LCD reect the White
Balance as set on the camera.
Another reason is that the White
Balance presets in third-party

software, such as Adobe Camera


Raw, may not exactly match the
White Balance settings on your
camera. The only way to be sure is to
set the White Balance on the camera
and use the As Shot option in ACR.
If youre using Nikon View NX 2 or
Capture NX 2 to convert your RAW
les, however, the White Balance
presets will match perfectly.

STEP BY STEP SET YOUR OWN CUSTOM WHITE BALANCE


By shooting a neutral-toned target, you can match the White Balance setting to the lighting conditions youre shooting in

Preset Manual option

Overwrite existing data

Shoot your target

More advanced Nikons

On the D3300 and other


01
Nikon models that have an
information display, choose Preset
manual at the bottom of the White
balance menu and press OK.

These models can only store a


02
single custom White Balance
preset, so youll now be prompted to
conrm that you want to replace the
existing custom setting.

Now take a picture of a


03
neutral subject (or target),
such as a blank sheet of paper or a
plain background. The camera then
saves your new custom preset.

On more advanced Nikon


D-SLRs with WB buttons on
the back, you hold down the button
until PrE ashes in the bottom
corner of the status panel.

92 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

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04

WHITE BALANCE OPTIONS


ON YOUR NIKON

PUTTING IT INTO PRACTICE

Options vary according to model

You can use your Nikons White Balance presets


creatively to enhance the mood of your pictures

AUTO OPTIONS

NUMBER
OF

WHITE BALANCE
BRACKETING

WHITE BALANCE TIPS

USER
PRESETS

KELVIN (K)
VALUES

D3000

Auto

12

No

No

D3100

Auto

12

No

No

D3200

Auto

12

No

No

D3300

Auto

Auto

No

No

D5000

Auto

12

3 shots, 1 increment

No

D5100

Auto

12

3 shots, 1 increment

No
No

12

3 shots, 1 increment

Auto

12

3 shots, 1 increment

No

D7000

Auto 1 (Normal) Auto


2 (Keep warm lighting)

12

3 shots, 1 increment

250010,000K

D7100

Auto

12

2 to 5 shots,
increments of 1, 2 or 3

250010,000K

D300s

Auto

12

3, 5, 7 or 9 shots, 3
increments

250010,000K

D610

Auto 1 (Normal) Auto


2 (Keep warm lighting)

12

2 to 3 shots,
increments of 1, 2 or 3

250010,000K

D700

Auto

12

3, 5, 7 or 9 shots, 3
increments

250010,000K

D800 +
D800E

Auto 1 (Normal) Auto


2 (Keep warm lighting)

12

3, 5, 7 or 9 shots, 3
increments

250010,000K

D810

Auto 1 (Normal) Auto


2 (Keep warm lighting)

12

3, 5, 7 or 9 shots, 3
increments

250010,000K

D4

Auto 1 (Normal) Auto


2 (Keep warm lighting)

12

3, 5, 7 or 9 shots, 3
increments

250010,000K

Df

Auto 1 (Normal) Auto


2 (Keep warm lighting)

12

2 to 3 shots,
increments of 1, 2 or 3

250010,000K

The wrong white balance preset can


sometimes deliver the best pictures

01 Cloudy for warmth

Find a suitable outdoor


subject lit with normal daylight on a
bright day. Now set the White
Balance to Cloudy. This will make
the images tones warmer, which
works particularly well when youre
shooting portraits or architecture.

02 Shade for sunsets

Sunsets often look less


impressive in photographs than you
remembered when taking them.
Cheating with White Balance can
make dusk and dawn look more
golden. Set the WB to Shade, or if

your camera allows, set a colour


temperature of 10,000K.

03 The moonlit look

Give your landscapes a


moonlit look with a blue tone. Set
the WB to Tungsten, or set a value
of 2500K. Alternatively, use the
Custom White Balance option but
rather than using a piece of white
paper, use a piece of orange or red
paper for your test card. This will
trick your camera into giving you a
blue-toned picture. This works well
for ghostly Halloween portraits too.

Preset slots

Now take the test shot of your


On these cameras, you can
06
05
White Balance target. Again, in
save up to ve different
our example, were using a plain grey
presets in slots d-0 to d-4. New
background. If the shot is suitable, the settings are saved to d-0 but you
status display shows Good.
can then copy them to the others.

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2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 93

VIDEO GUIDES

Shoot your target

ESSENTIAL KIT

Mixed lighting
Back in the days of lm, colour
temperature was adjusted using
correction lters. Filters are
still used to correct colour in
digital photography when White
Balance adjustments arent
enough. This happens if youre
shooting with two different light
sources. The White Balance cant be
adjusted for, say, ash and ambient
light, and if you adjust it to match
the ash, youll get a yellow-orange
background. By putting an orange
lter (known as a gel) over the front
of the ash, the colour of both light sources can be made similar,
so you can choose a White Balance setting that matches both.

NIKON SOFTWARE

Auto

Tungsten

Shade

NIKOPEDIA

D5200
D5300

Its not always necessary to get your White Balance spot on at the
time of shooting, and not just because you can tweak colours at the
editing stage. Getting the White Balance wrong can often actually help
your photography. Here are three great White Balance tricks to try

CAMERA SKILLS

NIKON
MODEL

INTRODUCTION

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ORIGINAL IMAGE

CAMERA SKILLS

INTRODUCTION

NIKOPEDIA

VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

NIKOPEDIA

INDIVIDUAL PIXELS

A digital image is made up of millions of


individual pixels, and each of these is the
result of some extremely clever digital
processing inside your Nikon D-SLR

NIKON KNOW-HOW

DIGITAL PROCESSING EXPLAINED


Your D-SLR might look like a lm camera, but inside is the equivalent of a digital processing lab
Your digital camera does a
lot more work to turn what
you see in the viewnder into a
nished image than you probably
give it credit for. Understanding a
little of what goes on deep inside
your Nikons circuitry will help
you understand some of the many
options that you have to play with.
Perhaps the most important thing
to appreciate is that your image
is only converted into digital form
well after it has left the sensor.
The sensor itself is an analogue
component, creating an old-

fashioned electrical signal that can


be tweaked by electronic circuitry
to increase the ISO, for instance,
amplifying the signal in much the
same way as you crank up the
volume on your radio.

How sensors work


The sensor is made up of millions of
light-sensitive units, often referred
to as pixels, but at this stage more
accurately called photosites. These
can measure as little as 0.004mm
across (around 1/16th of the width
of a single human hair). Each one

94 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

creates its own electrical signal in


proportion to the brightness of the
part of the image that it covers.
But these individual photosites
cant see colour only luminance.
To produce a full-colour image, each
photosite has a miniature coloured
lter, either red, green or blue. A
pixel with a green lter will only
see colours that have some green
light in them. But as practically all
colours can be made by mixing red,
green and blue light together, this
still provides valuable information.
The clever bit is how the pixels work

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together to assign accurate colours


to each pixel in the nal image.
The green-ltered photosite can
effectively see red light by using
information from neighbouring redand blue-ltered photosites. Known
as demosaicing, this interpolation
process makes an informed guess
about the colour of each and every
square that makes up the image.

JPEGs and RAW les


With JPEG pictures, each photosite
can register 8 bits of data, which
equates to 256 different shades of

FROM A TO D

Image storage

Buffer
Digital image
processing

CAMERA SKILLS

TURNING LIGHT INTO


A DIGITAL FILE

Analogue/
digital converter

How your Nikon D-SLR converts


captured light into image pixels

INTRODUCTION

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Analogue
electronics

Image sensor
Mosaic lter

Lens
The A/D converter turns the
analogue electrical signal into
digital data, using the same
binary language as computers

Light reected off the


subject is captured and
focused by the lens

Subject

The colour lter array

NIKOPEDIA

Nikon D-SLRs use Nikons


Expeed image processing
systems to help crunch the
huge amount of digital
data created for every
image you shoot

NIKON SOFTWARE

B G
The photosites on the sensor only
R G
B G
R G
measure the brightness of the light, not
R
G B
G R
its colour. So that colour information
G B
G B
R
is gathered, each photosite has a red,
G
G R
G R
green or blue lter. These are arranged in
G R
a mosaic known as a Bayer pattern, after the bofn that
came up with it. He found that by using twice as many green lters as
blue or red, you got a sharper image. A demosaicing process turns this
raw data into the full-colour grid of pixels in the recorded images.

CAMERA SETUP

Your camera offers a wealth of options that enable you to change the amount of processing used

Shoot RAW

12-bit or 14-bit

Compression options

By default, your Nikon D-SLR shoots


ready-to-use JPEG les in one of
three quality settings: Fine, Normal
and Basic. The Fine option is visible
here on this D3100s Shooting menu
under Image Quality.

Nikon D-SLRs can also shoot RAW


or NEF les. RAW les need to
be converted on a computer, but
they give you more control over
the appearance of the image, and
potentially better quality.

Simpler Nikon D-SLRs save RAW


les using 12 bits of data per pixel.
This is a big improvement on the
8 bits used for JPEGs, but some
models, such as the D610, offer a 14bit NEF format for higher quality.

Some Nikons offer different


compression options for NEF les,
including compressed, lossless
compressed or uncompressed
NEFs. Compression reduces the
le size of the saved image.

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2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 95

VIDEO GUIDES

Save as JPEGs

ESSENTIAL KIT

HOW MUCH PROCESSING DO YOU WANT?

INTRODUCTION

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NIKOPEDIA
NIKON KNOW-HOW

For rapid-re photography, understanding the buffer is vital


A camera needs a great deal of computing
power to record images quickly, and this varies
from one D-SLR to another. But it also needs
somewhere to store them temporarily as it
writes the processed images to the memory
card. This temporary memory is the buffer.
The amount of processing power will affect
how many frames you can shoot in a second,
but the cameras buffer controls how many

you can shoot before it cant cope with any


more data. Depending on your camera, your
image quality settings and memory card
speed, a camera may only take six RAW shots
before it refuses to take any more pictures,
taking a break until it has cleared space in the
buffer. But if you switch to JPEG, youll be able
to keep shooting for much longer. See our table
on the right for details on different D-SLRs.

NIKOPEDIA

CAMERA SKILLS

BUFFER BOTTLENECK

VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

01

02

brightness. This might not sound like


much, but when its combined with
the full colour information generated
by demosaicing, this generates an
amazing 16.7 million possible colours.
RAW (NEF) images offer even more
colour detail. Nikon NEF les store
12 bits of data, equivalent to 4,096
separate shades rather than JPEGs
256. Advanced Nikon models can

04

03

also save 14-bit NEF les, equivalent


to 16,384 brightness levels that can
be recorded for each pixel.

Take control
Regular JPEG images will still show
a full range of colour and tones,
but RAW les have the potential
for a wider brightness range and
smoother tonal gradations. Whether

Subjects such as nely woven fabrics (above),


or lines of railings in the distance are more
likely to suffer from moir patterns

Mastering moir
The sensor in your Nikon D-SLR
not only has a lter in front of
each of the pixels, but it also
has a lter covering the whole sensor area. This
low-pass lter softens the image projected
by the lens. Without this, the grid-like pattern
of photosites on the sensor would create
interference patterns when photographing
subjects that have ne, grid-like patterns, such
as nely woven fabrics. The softening effect
is counteracted by sharpening processes in
the camera or later on a computer. The Nikon
D800E is a special variant of the D800 where the
anti-aliasing feature is removed. This produces
slightly better resolution, but it may be
necessary to remove moir effects when editing,
using software such as Nikon Capture NX 2.

you choose to record in JPEG or


RAW format also affects the way a
picture is processed, and the Picture
Control you use on your Nikon is a
case in point. Changing the Picture
Control is a bit like changing the
type of lm in the old days. Each
Picture Control gives a different
colour balance, saturation and
contrast. Vivid gives you rich, vibrant

colours, while Monochrome shoots


pictures in black and white.
If you shoot in RAW, the Picture
Control isnt applied to the RAW
data, but simply stored alongside
it, so you can ignore it completely.
However, as youll nd out in this
months homework assignment,
even those shooting in RAW should
take Picture Controls seriously.

STEP BY STEP EXPLORE NIKON PICTURE CONTROLS


Take complete control of your images colours and tones with this powerful set of in-camera processing options

Set the Picture Controls

Fine-tune the effect

Go black and white

Make manual adjustments

Youll nd the Picture


01
Controls on the Shooting
menu. Standard is the everyday
default, but use Neutral for subtler
colours or Vivid for a stronger effect.

If you highlight a Picture


02
Control on the menu and
press the right button on the
multi-selector, you can use these
sliders to adjust the effect.

The Monochrome option is


03
especially powerful. You can
simulate different black and white
lters, such as red and yellow, and
toning effects such as Sepia.

If you do adjust the Picture


Controls in this way, theyre
marked with an asterisk in the
Shooting menu as a visual reminder
that theyve been changed.

96 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

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04

YOUR NIKONS PROCESSING


POWER REVEALED
CONTINUOUS
SHOOTING
SPEEDS

BUFFER
CAPACITY
(RAW)

BUFFER
CAPACITY
(JPEG FINE)

PROCESSOR

D700

2008

Expeed

12-bit, 14-bit

5fps

31-95

100

D3000

2009

Expeed

12-bit

3fps

100

D5000

2009

Expeed

12-bit

4fps

63

D300S

2009

Expeed

12-bit, 14-bit

7fps

17-45

44

D3100

2010

Expeed 2

12-bit

3fps

13

100

D7000

2010

Expeed 2

12-bit, 14-bit

6fps

10-15

31

D5100

2011

Expeed 2

14-bit

4fps

16

100

D3200

2012

Expeed 3

12-bit

4fps

18

80

D800

2012

Expeed 3

12-bit, 14-bit

4fps

16-25

100

D4

2012

Expeed 3

12-bit, 14-bit

10fps

69-98

170

D5200

2012

Expeed 3

14-bit

5fps

35

D7100

2013

Expeed 3

12-bit, 14-bit

7fps

8-12

73

D610

2013

Expeed 3

12-bit, 14-bit

6fps

34-55

100

Df

2013

Expeed 3

12-bit, 14-bit

5.5fps

29-37

100

D5300

2013

Expeed 4

12-bit, 14-bit

5fps

6-13

100

D3300

2014

Expeed 4

12-bit

5fps

28

100

D810

2014

Expeed 4

12-bit, 14-bit

5fps

28-47

100

Advanced Nikon D-SLRs that offer a choice of 12-bit or 14-bit NEF les also
offer different compression settings. Uncompressed NEFs take up the most
space on a memory card, but you can save lossless compressed NEF les
that are the same quality, but smaller. Compressed les are the smallest,

Its important to understand the effect of the Picture Controls and


how to get the best from them. If youre shooting JPEGs, you could just
use the Standard setting and edit your pictures later in a program such
as Photoshop Elements, but the quality may not be quite as good as if
youd chosen a more appropriate Picture Control to start with.
Choosing a suitable Picture Control doesnt just save you editing time
later, either it will also help you work towards the result youre aiming
for much more easily. This applies especially to black and white
photography, because if you dont use the Monochrome option, it can be
hard to imagine how the colours in a picture will translate into shades of
grey and this applies even if youre shooting in RAW. To get to grips with
the different effects, experiment with the Picture Controls below

01 Neutral colours

The Neutral setting is


designed to produce true-tolife colours and tones, whereas
the Standard setting includes
a degree of enhancement. If
youre not sure what effect
youre looking for, this provides
a reasonable starting point.

02 Vivid colours

But then see what


happens if you switch to Vivid
mode instead. It suits colourful
subjects such as this buttery,
where the colours really start
to pop although the higher
contrast means you may need
to watch the exposure.

Vivid colours may be too blunt


an approach for other kinds of
subjects. Try Landscape mode
for scenic shots, or Portrait
mode for those occasions
where you want to preserve
smooth and subtle skin tones.

ESSENTIAL KIT

Landscape

03 Portrait and

NIKON SOFTWARE

YEAR

Finding the best Picture Control for your subject and


conditions can turn a good photo into a brilliant one

NIKOPEDIA

MODEL

NEF (RAW)
FORMATS

GET CREATIVE WITH


PICTURE CONTROLS

CAMERA SKILLS

Find out your Nikons shooting capacity


and RAW formats with our handy chart

PUTTING IT INTO PRACTICE

INTRODUCTION

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04 Monochrome

Use Adobe Camera Raw

If you shoot JPEGs, the Picture


05
Control is applied permanently
to the image. But if you shoot RAW,
you can open the image in View NX 2
or Capture NX 2 and alter it later.

Be aware that with non-Nikon


software, such as Adobe
Camera Raw, the Picture Control
option will be ignored and youll have
to make any adjustments manually.

06

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2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 97

VIDEO GUIDES

Explore the RAW options

Make sure you try


the Monochrome mode
too, especially its extended
customisation options. For
capturing truly dramatic skies,
try using the red lter option
and increasing the contrast for
spectacular effects.

INTRODUCTION

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VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

NIKOPEDIA

CAMERA SKILLS

NIKOPEDIA

Scenes with a high brightness range pose


problems for D-SLRs. Once you understand
dynamic range, you can work out the
optimum exposure and whether you need
to resort to multi-exposure HDR techniques

NIKON KNOW-HOW

CONTRAST AND DYNAMIC RANGE


Can your camera capture all the tones in a scene? We show you how to nd out...
If youve ever taken a shot
in sunlight, or any other
situation where the brightness
range is high, the chances are your
camera will have lost some detail
in the darkest parts of the picture,
the brightest parts or both.
The problem isnt to do with
exposure. Its because the
difference between the brightest
and darkest areas is so great that
you cant nd a single exposure that
can capture them both.
Digital camera sensors can
capture a wide range of brightness

values, but there is a limit. This is


the cameras dynamic range, and if
youre faced with a scene that has a
wider dynamic range (or brightness
range) than the cameras, you may
well have a problem.

How do you check?


Your cameras histogram display
is a good way to check if theres a
problem. If the histogram is chopped
off, or clipped at the left-hand end
of the scale, it means that some
of the darkest parts of the picture
havent recorded and will appear

98 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

as a solid black. If the histogram is


chopped of at the right-hand end,
it means the brightest parts of the
picture have been overexposed and
will reproduce as a solid white.
Quite often, you can adjust the
exposure, reshoot and solve the
problem. But scenes with a very wide
brightness range also produce a very
wide histogram and sometimes the
histogram is so wide that its clipped
at one end or the other, no matter
how you adjust the exposure.
The illustration, opposite, shows
this graphically. The range of tones

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on an overcast day is quite narrow,


producing a narrow histogram. This
wont pose any exposure problems.
But the extreme brightness range
of a sunny day may produce a
histogram so wide that it wont t
within the cameras dynamic range
no matter what you do.

Whats the answer?


The histogram shows you the range
of tones in the whole picture, but not
necessarily the ones which youre
most interested in! Sometimes its
okay to have dense areas of black.

A MATTER OF CONTRAST

INTRODUCTION

WorldMags.net NIKOPEDIA

HISTOGRAMS AND DYNAMIC RANGE


High contrast

In a low-contrast scene, theres not much difference between the


brightest and darkest parts of the picture. This shows up in the histogram,
which ts easily within the dynamic range of the camera sensor.

With a high-contrast scene, theres a huge difference between the


brightest and darkest parts. This produces a much wider histogram which
could quite easily be wider than the cameras own dynamic range.

Exposure for low-contrast scenes

Exposure for high-contrast scenes

Because the histogram is narrow, theres plenty of exposure latitude. If


you change the exposure, the histogram will shift left or right, but you
could make quite large adjustments before any clipping might occur.

If the brightness range is too much for your camera and you dont want to
use HDR techniques, youll have to choose an exposure that captures the
highlights but sacrices the shadows, or vice versa.

NIKOPEDIA

Low contrast

CAMERA SKILLS

Exposure and dynamic range are not the same, but they are connected

Wide histogram
wont t

Cameras dynamic range

The cameras histogram


shows the missing tones
bunched up at the ends

Cameras dynamic range

NIKON SOFTWARE

Narrow histogram
ts easily

CAMERA SETUP
ESSENTIAL KIT

SCENES THAT CAUSE PROBLEMS


Worried about dynamic range? Here are some warning signs

Bright skies

Interiors/exteriors

Light sources in the frame

If youre shooting into the sun or any


other bright light source, the side of
the subject facing the camera will
be in shadow therell be a huge
brightness difference between your
subject and the background.

Overexposed skies spoil landscape


shots. On overcast days, the sky can
be many stops (EV) brighter than
the scene youre photographing. A
graduated lter will bring the sky
within the cameras dynamic range.

The difference between a windowlit interior and a daylight scene


outside will almost certainly be too
great for a single exposure. To show
any detail through the windows,
youll need to use HDR techniques.

If you include light sources within


the frame, the light source will be
too bright to record at an exposure
that renders the rest of the scene
normally. Just accept that this area
will be overexposed.

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2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 99

VIDEO GUIDES

Backlighting

INTRODUCTION

NIKOPEDIA

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NIKON KNOW-HOW

CAMERA SKILLS

RAW RESPONSE

01

RAW les capture a slightly wider dynamic range than JPEGs


02

Nikon ViewNX 2 and Capture NX2 have exposure compensation tools


which you can use to recover some extra highlight detail in RAW les,
but Adobe Camera Raw goes further, and version 7 (supplied with
Photoshop CS6) has new shadow and highlight tools.

03

01 Exposure

NIKOPEDIA

Dragging this slider to the left or right will reveal extra


highlight or shadow detail hidden in the RAW le, though reducing the
exposure to recover highlights will have a knock-on effect on the
shadow detail so its not always the best solution.

02 Highlights

Dragging this slider to the left recovers highlight details


without having an impact on the midtones and shadows in the image.
Its the best solution for shots where the overall exposure is ne and
its just the highlights that are missing.

03 Shadows

VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

If most of the picture is ne but the shadows are a dense


black, push this slider to the right. It reveals extra shadow detail hidden
in the RAW le without unduly affecting the rest of the image.

Its ne, for example, in black and


white images.
So by all means use the histogram
as a guide, but consider checking
key areas of the picture yourself.
You can do this using your cameras
spot metering mode to check the
brightest and darkest key areas in
the picture to see if theres a single
exposure which can capture them

both. Youll nd instructions for how


to do this at the end of this article.
Alternatively, you can shoot RAW
les. These capture up to 1EV of
extra shadow and highlight detail
that you can extract later in your
RAW conversion software. You wont
see any sign of this on the camera
histogram, though, because your
Nikon will display a processed JPEG

preview of your image for display on


the LCD, even if youve shot in the
RAW format.
You still have to get the exposure
exactly right, even if you shoot RAW,
but the slight extra leeway might be
all you need to capture extremely
dark and bright tones in the image.
Sometimes, though, even
shooting RAW les wont be enough,

and this is where you enter the world


of HDR imaging

HDR techniques
HDR stands for high dynamic
range photography. Its a two-stage
process where you shoot a series of
exposures of the same scene and
then combine them using software
to reproduce a wider range of tones

STEP BY STEP HOW TO MEASURE THE BRIGHTNESS RANGE


To get the right exposure, you need to know the brightness range youre dealing with

Switch to manual

Choose an aperture

Swap to spot

In M mode you can note down


01
the exposure readings and
choose how you interpet them,
rather than relying on the cameras
ideas about correct exposure.

If you select a specic


02
aperture, you only need to
change one variable the shutter
speed to work out the best
exposure. Lets go for f/8.

Now select the spot metering


mode. This takes an exposure
reading from a small area around
the selected focus point only so
switch to single-point AF mode.

100 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

03

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Measure the brightest area


Position the AF point over the
brightest area (but not the sun)
and adjust shutter speed to centre
the exposure bar, here its 1/500sec.

04

PUTTING IT INTO PRACTICE

How N-Photo magazine assesses SLRs in the lab

MEASURING
DYNAMIC RANGE
You dont have to guess! You can use your measurements
and this table to work out the best exposure
Digital cameras can cope with up to two stops (2EV) of over or
underexposure in a particular area before detail starts to disappear, and
you can use this to work out whether the brightness range of the scene
is too great for the camera, and what the best exposure settings will be.
If youve followed our walkthrough, you can look up the two shutter
speeds youve recorded in this table to see what to do next (each step up
or down on this ladder is a third of a stop). The arrows alongside are for
illustration your shutter speeds will be different.
SHUTTER SPEED

1 sec
1/1.3sec
1/1.6sec
1/2sec
1/2.5sec
1/3sec
1/4sec

difference

01 Less than 4EV


Youve got some leeway! You
need to pick a shutter speed
somewhere in the middle, but
as long as the shadows arent
more than 2EV underexposed
and the highlights arent more
than 2EV overexposed, you can
afford to bias the exposure
towards one or the other.

NIKOPEDIA

It is possible to test the dynamic range of sensors scientically. When


N-Photo magazine (www.nphotomag.com) reviews Nikon SLR cameras, it
measures their dynamic range in controlled laboratory conditions using
equipment from DxO Labs, and you see the results quoted as EV values in
our camera reviews. The tests show, for example, that the new D800 and
D4 sensors have a higher dynamic range than the older sensor in the D700.
However, although these dynamic range gures are high (up to 13EV for
the D800), they measure single brightness values, whereas for everyday
photography, where you want to see details and textures in the shadows and
highlights, our suggested 4EV exposure window is still an effective guide.

CAMERA SKILLS

DYNAMIC RANGE TESTING

INTRODUCTION

WorldMags.net NIKOPEDIA

1/5sec

than the camera could capture with


a single exposure.
There are two approaches you
can take. Theres the realistic one,
where youre trying to manage a
high brightness range, but want the
photo to look normal, and theres
the artistic approach, where youre
creating an obvious HDR effect
with darkened highlights, detailed

shadow areas, and strong outlines.


HDR software can do both.
Camera makers, meanwhile, are
starting to incorporate HDR modes
in their cameras the Nikon D800
and D5300 both have HDR modes
where the camera shoots a series
of exposures and combines them
in-camera. These are designed more
for realism than artistic effect.

1/8sec
1/10sec
1/13sec
1/15sec
1/20sec

01

02 03

1/25sec
1/30sec
1/40sec

1/60sec
1/80sec
1/100sec
1/125sec
1/160sec
1/200sec
1/250sec
1/320sec
1/400sec

Check them on the chart

1/500sec

Now do the same for the


darkest area of the picture, and
again, make a note of the shutter
speed this time its 1/30sec.

If the two readings are no


more than 4EV apart (check
the table opposite), choose a shutter
speed right in the middle 1/125sec.

1/640sec

05

06

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1/800sec
1/1000sec

difference

03 More than 4EV


You have three choices here:
(a) You can peg the exposure
2EV above/below your
measured values so that the
highlights or shadows are just
recorded, but the rest of the
image has to take its chances.
(b) You can modify the lighting,
using ll-ash to bring out
shadowed subjects in the
foreground, for example, or
a graduated lter to control
excessively bright skies.
(c) You can shoot a series of
exposures to capture the
whole range of tones, then
combine them into a single
shot using HDR software.

2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 101

VIDEO GUIDES

Measure the darkest area

Youre right on the limit of


what the camera can record,
and you need to set a shutter
speed exactly in the middle of
the two youve measured. The
shadows and highlights will be
recorded just but it would
be a good idea to shoot RAW
les as extra insurance.

ESSENTIAL KIT

1/50sec

difference

02 Exactly 4EV

NIKON SOFTWARE

1/6sec

INTRODUCTION
NIKOPEDIA

CAMERA SKILLS

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Page 110

Page 106
Page 114

Cl i c k t h e
l in k b e l ow t o
down l oa d t h e
st a rt f il e s f or
als
t u t ori
t h e Page
116

VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

Page 104

102 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

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http://bit.ly/PMZ37_images

Page 120

Nikon software

NIKOPEDIA

Introducing Capture NX 2 ............................. 104


Take control of your editing .........................106
Go fast with quick xes ...................................108
Play with exposure .............................................110
Fix colour with a click .......................................112
Camera and lens correction .........................114
Retouch dull portraits ......................................116
Work on your RAW shots .................................118
Selections and masks .....................................120
Convert to monochrome ................................122
Improve composition .......................................124

CAMERA SKILLS

is
W h e n y ou se e t h l in k
the
b u t t on ,l oo k f or a n y in g
t o t h e a c c om p
id e
Nik on v id e o gu

INTRODUCTION

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NIKON SOFTWARE

Page 112

ESSENTIAL KIT
VIDEO GUIDES

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2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 103

INTRODUCTION
CAMERA SKILLS
NIKOPEDIA
NIKON SOFTWARE
ESSENTIAL KIT
VIDEO GUIDES

NIKON SOFTWARE
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CAPTURE NX 2

INTRODUCING
CAPTURE NX 2
There are lots of image editing programs,
but Nikons own may well be one of the best
At about $140, Nikons
Capture NX 2 is pricier than
other powerful photo-editors such
as Adobe Photoshop Elements.
Despite this, it has a loyal following
among professional and hobbyist
photographers alike.
Capture NX 2 is perfectly tailored
to suit the needs of Nikon users, with
features designed to be compatible
with those on your camera. If you
prefer to shoot in RAW, the software
will help you process high-quality
NEF les more effectively than a
third-party program and it can
handle TIFF and JPEG formats too.
The colour- and tone-tweaking
tools enable you to perform quick
xes. But you can also summon up
more powerful commands to alter
contrast with precision, or target
and tweak colours and tones in
specic areas using the versatile U
Point controls. You can also
overcome lens problems such as
colour fringing and vignetting, as

well as banish red-eye. There are


also ways to sharpen up soft-focus
shots to reveal ne details, and you
can retouch shots to remove
unsightly sensor spots or banish
blemishes from portraits. Even basic
features such as the Crop tool go the
extra mile by giving you a rule of
thirds grid that helps you improve
compositions with ease.
Capture NX 2 also enables you to
solve the problem of image
management. Thanks to rating
options, you can lter photos to nd
the best shots (or ones marked for
rejection), and even add keywords to
locate specic pictures.

Your training course


Over the following pages, well show
you how to master Capture NX 2s
editing and organisational tools,
using detailed step-by-step tutorials
and video lessons. But for now, lets
examine some of the programs
highlights

EXIF and metadata


Discover what settings were used to
capture your shot, and organise your
collection using keywords and ratings.

STEP BY STEP FIVE POWER TOOLS


Our guide to some of the best reasons for using Nikons image-editing program

RAW processing for NEFs

Clever Control Points

Automatic retouching

Different cameras use different methods to


01
process NEF les. Some programs struggle
to open NEF les from newer Nikons, but Capture
NX 2 works with all of the brands models and
makes the most of your NEF les RAW data.

With Nikons U Point system, you can pop a


02
Control Point on a specic area and use a
series of sliders to adjust a variety of properties.
This enables you to target and tweak problems
quickly and effectively.

With the Auto Retouch brush, you click on a


sensor spot in a patch of sky, or on a
blemish, and replace it with clear sky, or smooth
skin. This helps clean up imperfections in a similar
way to Photoshops Spot Healing brush.

03

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Toolbar

INTRODUCTION

NIKON SOFTWARE
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Its possible to access handy xing
tools from here, such as the Crop,
Rotate and Straighten options.

You can use a variety of tools to


change a shots colours and tones.
Experiment with different results by
turning a particular feature on or off.

CAMERA SKILLS

Layer-based editing

Selective edits

By placing a Color Control Point on a


subjects lips, for example, you can
boost colour without oversaturating
similar hues in the shot.

This graph helps you diagnose


exposure problems instantly. You
can then use the powerful Tone
Curves command to give shadows
and highlights healthier levels.

NIKON SOFTWARE

Histogram
Color Control Point

NIKOPEDIA

After using the Selection Control Point


tool to restrict changes to areas such
as the subjects eyes, you can view the
editable areas as a mask.

FREE SOFTWARE

Dont want to fork


out for Capture?
ViewNX 2 is free

Selection Control Point

The Quick Fix tab gives easy access to tools


04
that enable you to sort exposure problems
and boost saturation. You can also recover
blown-out highlight or shadow detail using the
Highlight and Shadow Protection sliders.

You can make tonal or colour edits with the


Adjust commands, then use the Selection
Control Point to limit the tweaks to a specic
area. This is faster than creating masks, although
you can do that with Capture NX 2 too.

05

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2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 105

VIDEO GUIDES

Time for a Quick Fix

Your Nikon ships with a disc of free software


that includes the useful ViewNX 2. This is a
less complex cousin of Capture NX 2 that
enables you to organise your images and x
colour and exposure problems. It will even let
you trim movies shot on your Nikon. ViewNX 2
lacks Capture NX 2s innovative and powerful
Control Points but will still enable you to
spruce up pictures and share them. If you cant
locate your Nikon disc, download ViewNX 2 for
free from www.nikonimglib.com/nvnx. You can
also get a 60-day trial version of Capture NX 2
from www.nikonimglib.com/cnx2.

ESSENTIAL KIT

VIEWNX 2

INTRODUCTION
CAMERA SKILLS
NIKOPEDIA
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CAPTURE NX 2

TAKE CONTROL
OF YOUR EDITING
How to use Control Points to target and tweak
individual image areas with precision
In our start image, the sky Before
and the white buildings
highlights are overexposed,
and theyre also lacking detail.
After
Meanwhile, the red roof and the
green trees colours look a little
desaturated. The darkest shadows
are washed out and the shot suffers
Make accurate and
from a slightly cold blue cast.
specic changes to
You could try using the basic
tone and colour
tone and colour-tweaking sliders in
a variety of avours. You can darken
Capture NX 2s Quick Fix palette to
the shots blackest shadows in a
create more vibrant hues, provide a
click by sampling an area with the
wider contrast and claw back colour
Black Control Point. Flash-induced
and detail in overexposed areas.
However, for much greater precision, red-eye can be removed in a couple
of clicks using the Red-Eye Control
use Control Points.
Point. Meanwhile, the powerful
Complete control
Selection Control Point enables you
Control Points enable you to click on
to make a wide range of adjustments
a specic colour or tone to sample
including sharpening and noise
it. You can then use a Control
reduction in a specic area.
Points sliders to adjust a wide
By following the step-by-step
range of attributes for the sampled
guide below, you can explore these
colour, such as hue, saturation and
amazing tools and discover their
brightness. Control Points come in
image-editing powers.

Enhance colours

Adjust exposure

You can add as many Color Control


Points as you like. Here, weve used
one to sample the red roof, and
boosted its saturation to get more
vibrant reds and oranges.

You can drag a Color Control Points


Brightness (B) slider to the left to
reduce the exposure of a sampled
area. This restores blue to the skys
blown-out white highlights.

STEP BY STEP MAKE SELECTIVE ADJUSTMENTS


Use Capture NX 2s precision tools to carefully tweak and enhance particular areas of an image

Remove colour cast

Improve contrast

Restore highlight detail

Open the ControlPoints_before.nef le


01
on your disc. The shots colours are a little
cold, so grab the Neutral Control Point from the
toolbar and click on the slightly blue bridge. This
instantly warms up the sampled area.

The images darkest shadows could be


02
blacker, especially under the bridge arches.
Grab the Black Control Point and click on the
darkest part of the bridge. The tool darkens the
sampled area and any similar tones in the shot.

Grab the Color Control Point and click on


the sky to sample it. Drag the top slider so
its range circle includes some sky and the white
buildings. Drag the Brightness slider (B) to -42 and
the Saturation (S) slider to +100 for a bluer sky.

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GOING FURTHER

Toolbar
Click here to select the type of
Control Point you want to apply
(such as this Color Control Point)
and then click on the image to
sample a particular colour or tone.

Edit and enhance your images with


more powerful Control Point options

Adjust range
You can increase the range of a
Control Point by dragging the top
slider. This changes the diameter
of the circular selection marquee
around each Control Point.

Selection Control Point


You can get the Selection Control
Point to edit any aspect of a sampled
area. This one adjusts the contrast
and brightness of the white house to
stop it turning blue.

Helpful histograms

The Black, White and Neutral


Control Points allow you to change a
range of tones. This Neutral Control
Point warms up the cold bridge to
produce natural hues.

As you change colour and tone using


various Control Points, you can keep
an eye on the shots overall spread
of tones by using the graph in this
window.

By using the simple sliders, you can make a huge


range of tone and colour changes to your images

NIKON SOFTWARE

One-click x

NIKOPEDIA

By default, each Colour Control Point


presents you with three sliders Brightness
(B), Contrast (C) and Saturation (S). Below
these sliders is a little y-out icon that, when
clicked, gives you access to more advanced
adjustments, such as changing the mix of
the red, green and blue colour channels that
produce all the colours in the shot. Theres also
a handy Warmth (W) slider that enables you to
remove colour casts from the sampled area.
Weve just scratched the surface of what
Control Points can do, and well encounter
them again as we explore other aspects of the
Capture NX 2 toolset in future issues.

CAMERA SKILLS

ADVANCED
ADJUSTMENTS

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ESSENTIAL KIT

Show selection

Selection Control Point

Click a new Color Control Point on the red


04
roof. A Color Control Point tab will appear in
the Adjust panel. Drag the Saturation (S) slider to
+55. Use another Control Point to create more
vibrant green leaves with a Saturation of +38.

To see which pixels will be edited by a


05
Control Point, go to its eld in the Adjust
panel and click Show Selection. The whitest pixels
will be changed the most and the greys a little,
while the black ones remain untouched.

Click the New Step icon in the Adjust panel.


From the Select Adjustment dropdown, hit
Light > Contrast/Brightness. With the Selection
Control Point, click the slightly blue house. In the
panel, set Contrast to +31 and Brightness to +4.

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VIDEO GUIDES

Selective colour adjustments

INTRODUCTION
CAMERA SKILLS
NIKOPEDIA
NIKON SOFTWARE
ESSENTIAL KIT
VIDEO GUIDES

NIKON SOFTWARE
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CAPTURE NX 2

GO FAST WITH
QUICK FIXES
Discover the fast way to solve common
picture problems in Nikons own edit suite
Nikons Capture NX 2
Before
software offers many
different ways to target and
tweak problematic colours and
After
tones. However, sophisticated tools
such as Control Points can take a
while to implement. Therefore,
well look at faster ways to
We can tweak the
overcome common problems using
mid-tones to get
the Quick Fix panel. With this, you
more contrast
can spend less time processing
metering mode may struggle to
pictures and more time actually
prioritise which areas are important.
shooting them!
You can therefore end up losing
Show what you see
shadow detail or blowing out the
The Quick Fix panel groups together
highlights. In our main start image,
the most useful photo-xing tools
were losing a lot of mid-tone detail,
so that you can deal with common
so well show you how to use the
issues quickly. This covers problems
Quick Fix panels sliders to make a
such as washed-out colours and
selective tonal adjustment.
incorrectly exposed shots. When
Well also show you how to
faced with high-contrast scenes like
use Quick Fix to diagnose and x
the one in our main image, the
tonal problems using the handy
human eye is very good at discerning
histogram. Then we'll start boosting
detail in both the shadows and the
desaturated colours to create more
highlights. However, your Nikons
interest and impact.

01 Quick Fix

Click on the triangle to


toggle open the Quick Fix panel. This
gives you access to useful tools so
you can overcome common tonal
and colour problems fast.

02 Levels

A well-exposed histogram
would stretch from the left to the
right. Our original shot lacks strong
highlights, so we drag the brightness
slider to the left to x this.

STEP BY STEP MAKE QUICK FIXES


Tweak common colour and tonal problems for better-looking shots

Lighten the shadows

Darken the highlights

Check exposure

Open ShadowHighlight_before.jpg. Go to
01
the Quick Fix section of the Develop pane.
The shaded areas are lacking in detail. Drag the
Shadow Protection slider to 44. This brightens the
shadows and mid-tones by just the right amount.

The highlights are a little clipped. To reveal


02
missing details, drag the Highlight
Protection slider up to 52. This shows up delicate
textures, such as the brickwork, that couldnt be
seen in the unedited version of the photo.

Open UnderExposed.jpg. Drag Contrast to


20 for a wider tonal range. The histogram
doesnt stretch to the far right, so drag the
triangular slider left until it's under the graph.
This makes the highlights much brighter.

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GOING FURTHER

This slider enables you to


make selective tonal adjustments.
Pull it to the right to claw back
missing detail from a shot that has
overexposed highlights.

01

In an underexposed photo,
the shadows might lack detail. By
increasing this sliders value, you
can brighten up the shadows
without altering the correctly
exposed highlights.

02

04

07 Saturation

06

When you reveal detail in the


shadows, you can get desaturated
colours. Boosting the Saturation
slider gives more vibrant-looking
colours and a more attractive print.

07

By increasing the value of the


Contrast slider, you can quickly x
an image that suffers from at
tones, by darkening the shadows and
brightening the highlights in one go.

Histograms might look technical, but know what


to look for and they can be extremely helpful

NIKON SOFTWARE

04 Contrast

NIKOPEDIA

05

An unedited tone curve


appears as a straight diagonal line.
By placing Control Points on the line,
you can drag it into a curve. This is a
good way to tweak a shots tones.

Histograms help you x the spread of tones


in a shot. A well-exposed image has pixels
stretching from the left (shadows), to the
middle (mid-tones), to the right (highlights).
You can use the Quick Fix graph to make
tones healthier. In step three (below) we
adjust underexposed highlights to make them
brighter. You can also drag the black shadow
slider right to darken overexposed shadows.
You can lighten the mid-tones by moving the
grey slider left, or move it right to darken them.

06 Shadow Protection

03

03 Curves

Play with numbers in order to get the


perfect balance of tones

CAMERA SKILLS

HELPFUL
HISTOGRAMS

05 Highlight Protection

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ESSENTIAL KIT

Boost the colours

Be clever with curves

Boosting contrast can cause clipped


04
(underexposed) shadows that print with no
detail. Use Shift+S (or View > Show Lost Shadows);
clipped shadows show as patches of colour. Put
Shadow Protection up to 9 to reduce clipping.

When you reveal detail by tweaking tones,


05
the colours can look washed out. Its always
worth enhancing the hues by pushing the
Saturation slider right (in this case, to 36). We now
have a more vibrant shot with little effort.

Open Colour_before.jpg. Set Saturation to


58. To get darker shadows, click near the
bottom-left of the Curve panels diagonal to place
a point. Drag it down so that Input is 32 and Output
is 19. This darkens shadows and adds contrast.

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2014
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VIDEO GUIDES

Reduce clipping

INTRODUCTION
CAMERA SKILLS
NIKOPEDIA
NIKON SOFTWARE
ESSENTIAL KIT
VIDEO GUIDES

NIKON SOFTWARE
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CAPTURE NX 2

PLAY WITH
EXPOSURE

After

How Capture NX 2 lets you tackle typical


brightness and contrast problems selectively
With high-contrast scenes,
your cameras exposure
metering mode might struggle to
reveal detail in key areas. For
example, if you shoot someone
against a bright background, their
face might be in shadow. This is such
a common issue that your Nikon has
a handy D-Lighting command in its
Retouch menu. It's designed to
brighten shadows without
overexposing brighter highlights.
However, it can also add unwanted
noise to a shot. Here, well show you
how to brighten a backlit subjects
shadows more effectively, using
Capture NX 2s more advanced
version of the D-Lighting tool.

without blowing out a correctly


exposed sky.
When brightening a JPEGs
darker areas, you run the risk of
revealing unsightly picture noise or
compression artefacts. By editing a
RAW (NEF) le, you have more colour
and tonal information to work with,
leading to better results than youd
get with a compressed JPEG. With
this in mind, weve included a couple
of RAW les for you to work with.

Before

Lowering the tone


Well also show you how to use
the powerful Levels & Curves
command to make selective tonal
adjustments. This provides an
effective way to reveal lost shadow
detail in underexposed landscapes

01 New Step

The left-hand side of the


image is ne, but the girl's
face was in shadow

Different photos need


different tools. You can combine a
variety of image-adjustment
commands by clicking the New Step
button in the Adjust pane.

After

STEP BY STEP ADJUSTING EXPOSURE


How to make selective tonal adjustments and bring back lost detail in your shots

Choose an adjustment

Adjust the highlights

Brighten the midtones

Go to File > Open Image and open Under_


01
before.NEF. Click the New Step button to
create a new adjustment. In the Adjust pane, click
the Select Adjustment dropdown menu. Choose
Light and then Levels & Curves.

The grey histogram shows the spread of


02
tones throughout the shot. There are plenty
of strong shadows at the left, but the highlights
peter off to the right. Drag the white highlight
slider to 205 to make the highlights brighter.

To reveal more midtone detail, drag the


grey slider left to 1.73. These adjustments
create a new curve that bulges upwards to lighten
the midtones. You can click the curve to add
Control Points, then drag them to adjust tones.

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04 RGB

02

GOING FURTHER

BRACKETING

05 Curves

Combine practical technique with


software for the very best results

An unedited images curve is


a straight line from the bottom-left
shadows to the top-right highlights.
This curves upward bulge boosts
the brightness of the midtones.

04

05

06 Color Booster

03

06

When you reveal details in


underexposed areas they can lack
colour. You can x this by sliding the
Color Boosters Level slider to
create more vibrant hues.

07 Version

01

02 Levels & Curves

This enables you to adjust


tones with sliders. Alternatively,
click to place Control Points on a
curve drag them up to lighten
tones, or down to darken them.

03 Target tones

The grey midtone slider


lightens underexposed landscapes
without blowing out highlights. The
white slider brightens highlights
without messing up midtones.

Choose the blue sky of the image on the left and


you can lighten up the grass in Capture NX

NIKON SOFTWARE

To compare edited shots and


start images, click this menu and
toggle between Current and
Original. Or choose View > Compare
Images > Compare with Original.

NIKOPEDIA

Nikons Capture NX 2 software provides


a variety of ways to overcome exposurerelated problems, but theres no substitute
for capturing an effectively exposed image in
the rst place. This will keep ugly artefacts
such as noise down to a minimum. For more
detail on the bracketing technique, see the
Nikon Know-how section in Nikopedia. As we
explain there, you get several versions of the
scene, across which the image is both overand underexposed by specied increments.
You can review the different shots and decide
which reveals the most tonal detail, perfecting
the image in Capture NX 2 if required.

CAMERA SKILLS

07

The Levels & Curves


command makes the same tweaks
to the Red, Green and Blue channels,
but you can target individual ones
using this dropdown menu.

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ESSENTIAL KIT

Sort out the shadows

Reduce the noise

The hues in the brightened areas are


04
washed out here. Click New Step and go to
Select Adjustment > Color > Color Booster. Tick
Protect skin tones to stop skin looking orange.
Drag the Level slider to 61 for more vibrance.

Open Backlit_before.NEF. Click New Step


05
and go to Select Adjustment > Light >
D-Lighting. Tick Better Quality (HQ) and then set
Shadow Adjustment to 64, Highlight Adjustment
to 22 and Color Boost to 74.

Use the Birds Eye pane to zoom in to 100%.


Youll notice noise in the lightened areas.
Click New Step. Go to Select Adjustment > Noise
Reduction. Set Intensity to 11%, Sharpen to 4 and
Method to Better Quality.

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VIDEO GUIDES

Boost the colours

INTRODUCTION
CAMERA SKILLS
NIKOPEDIA
NIKON SOFTWARE
ESSENTIAL KIT
VIDEO GUIDES

NIKON SOFTWARE
WorldMags.net
CAPTURE NX 2

FIX COLOUR
WITH A CLICK
How to correct common white balance
and colour saturation problems with ease
Your Nikons Picture Control
presets can dramatically
alter the colours in a photo.
However, if you only shoot in JPEG
format, the changes will be
permanent and youll have fewer
colour correction tools to work with
in Capture NX 2. By shooting in
uncompressed RAW (NEF) format
you can use Capture to experiment
with different colour and saturation
settings at your leisure, knowing
that the shots original tones will
always be available.
Of course, you can tweak the
colours of JPEGs too, but NEFs give
better-quality results. Plus, you get
more colour correction tools, such
as the Camera Settings panel.

After
07

temperature, or you may have used


an incorrect White Balance setting.
A shots colours could also be too
weak, or even too vibrant, depending
on the in-camera Picture Control
setting you chose.
Here, well show you how to use
Captures tools and techniques to
counteract colour casts with
precision and achieve true colours.
Youll also learn to x saturation for
more attractive-looking shots.

Before

01 Camera Settings

Second chances
You might need to edit a shots
colours in Capture for several
reasons. For starters, an image
could suffer from a colour cast due
to changes in a locations colour

Weve brought life to this


scene with a brighter sky
and richer tones

If you shoot in RAW (NEF) you


have access to this panels powerful
colour correction tools. These are
similar to those in your Nikon, but
make it easier to get better results.

After

STEP BY STEP MAKE COLOUR TWEAKS


Whether your image is dark, dreary, warm or blue, theres a x available in Capture NX 2

Fix White Balance

Set Grey Point

Tweak Picture Controls

Open Cool_before.NEF. Go to Develop and


01
toggle open Camera Settings. Click the New
WB dropdown and select Daylight. Set the second
dropdown to Cloudy. The new Daylight setting
creates warmer, more natural-looking colours.

Alternatively, set the New WB dropdown


02
menu to Recorded Value and the White
Balance dropdown to Set Gray Point. Press Start
and click the eyedropper over an area thats too
blue. This will warm up the entire shot.

Were using a RAW le, so we can change


the Picture Control settings to boost colour
and contrast. Set Non-Picture Control to Picture
Control. Set the Picture Control dropdown to Vivid
for stronger colours and contrast.

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04 Fine-tune

01

GOING FURTHER

COLOUR
TEMPERATURE

05 Color Temperature

02

03
04
05

The Fine Adjustment slider


lets you adjust Color Temperature
using a Kelvin (K) scale. A shot
captured on a sunny day at noon
should have a temperature of
between 5000 and 5400K.

How can a hue be warm or cold?

06 Picture Control

Your Nikons Picture Control


menu has a variety of settings that
affect saturation. Shoot in RAW and
you can choose a different Picture
Control setting, such as Vivid, later.

06

07 Color Control Point

02 Set Gray Point

Do this and you can click an


area that should be white or grey. If
its tinted blue, Capture will warm it
up to a neutral white. This produces
tint-free hues in the rest of the shot.

03 New White Balance

This shot was captured using


an Incandescent White Balance. You
can change the White Balance
settings to produce more accurate
colours and banish colour casts.

Got the White


Balance wrong
in-camera? Dont
panic Capture
NX 2 lets you
make changes
later, too

NIKON SOFTWARE

Our overexposed skys blue


colour was a little washed out, so we
popped a Color Control Point onto a
section of blue. We were then able to
drag the S (Saturation) slider right to
selectively enhance the hue.

NIKOPEDIA

To generalise, daylight has a cold colour


temperature, while indoor light has a warmer
one. Your cameras White Balance setting
is designed to keep whites looking white in
any lighting setup. For example, what would
happen if you took an outdoors shot with an
Incandescent White Balance? The setting
cools down warm, orange indoor light sources,
so it will make the cool daylight look very blue.
If you use an outdoor White Balance setting
such as Cloudy when shooting indoors, youll
get garish orange colours, as you can see in
step 04 below. Leave your cameras setting on
Auto and you should get accurate results.

CAMERA SKILLS

Different weather conditions


give different colour temperatures.
You can select the most appropriate
White Balance setting for the
scenario here.

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ESSENTIAL KIT

Correct light levels

Boost the colours

Open Warm_before.NEF. This indoor shot


04
was captured with a Cloudy White Balance,
so looks too warm. In Camera Settings, choose
Set Color Temperature. Set the New WB menu to
Incandescent. This creates less garish oranges.

This image is underexposed. To brighten it


05
up, click New Step. Click Select Adjustment
and choose Light > Levels & Curves. Drag the
curves white highlights slider left to 131. The shot
now has more natural colours.

Open Desaturate_before.NEF. To give this


shot more impact, click New Step > Select >
Adjustment > Color > Color Booster. Set Level to
26. Tick Opacity and toggle it open. Set Blending
Mode to Overlay for a stronger contrast.

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VIDEO GUIDES

Cool things down

INTRODUCTION
CAMERA SKILLS
NIKOPEDIA
NIKON SOFTWARE
ESSENTIAL KIT
VIDEO GUIDES

NIKON SOFTWARE
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CAPTURE NX 2

CAMERA & LENS


CORRECTIONS
Find out how to remove artefacts and
distortions so images look more true to life
What you see with the naked
eye isnt always what you
get in a photo. For example, when
you shoot with a wide-angle lens the
edges of the frame can become
distorted, with horizontal and
vertical lines looking curved. This
barrel distortion is especially
noticeable with architecture.
Cheaper lenses can also add
colour-related artefacts to subjects.
When faced with a high-contrast
edge such as a white swan against a
dark-blue lake, you might nd
fringes of purple clinging to the edge
of the bird. This ugly and distracting
chromatic aberration is caused by
the lens inability to focus different
wavelengths of light onto the same
spot on your Nikons sensor.
If you're using a camera-mounted
ash, light can bounce off your
subjects retina and cause glowing
red-eye. In pre-digital days this type
of unsightly side effect would see
the print adorned by a Quality

Control sticker when sent back from


the developer.

Straight and narrow


Here, well show you how to use
Capture NX 2 to x lens distortion
and level out curved edges. Youll
also learn how to clobber chromatic
aberration and cure a bad case of
red-eye. Plus, we reveal how to
remove distracting spots caused by
dust on your Nikons sensor.
Before

01 Auto Distortion

This shot looks much better


with straighter ground and
dampened barrel distortion

This panel can analyse a


shots metadata to discover which
lens was used to take the photo and
then automatically counteract
barrel or pin-cushion distortion.

After

STEP BY STEP CORRECT ARTEFACTS


How to combat barrel distortion, remove red-eye and smooth out sensor spots in Capture

View full size

Fix fringing

Clean up spots

Open fringe_start.jpg. Grab the Zoom tool


01
and right-click to get the pop-up menu. Set
View to 100%. Hold the spacebar to select the
Hand tool, and drag to view the swans front. Note
the purple fringe around the edge of the bird.

In the Adjust panel, click New Step. Click


02
Select Adjustment and go to Correct >
Lateral Color Aberration. To remove the purple
fringe, drag the Red-Cyan slider to 49. Tackle blue
or yellow fringes with the slider underneath.

Hold the spacebar and drag to view the


top-right of the frame. Youll see a
distracting smudge caused by dust on the sensor.
To remove it, click Auto Retouch. Set Size to 44
pixels. Scribble over the sensor spot to 'clean' it.

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04 Distortion Control

GOING FURTHER

DISTORTION

05 Straighten

When shooting handheld you


can end up capturing tilted horizons.
The Straighten tool enables you to
crop and rotate the shot in one easy
operation.

01
02
03

Lines not looking as straight in shots


as they do to your eye? No problem

06 White edges

When you rotate a shot to


straighten horizons, you can create
white patches around the frame
edges. The Straighten tool can crop
these out automatically.

04

07 Toolbar

05

This contains handy


correction aids such as the
Straighten tool. It also boasts a
Red-Eye Control Point that does a
more effective job than the Auto
Red-Eye correction command.

06

You can get rid of red-eye


with ease by switching this option to
Automatic. This can be a faster way
to remove red-eye from group shots,
compared with xing them manually.

03 Intensity

In some situations, less light


enters the edge of the frame,
underexposing the corners. You can
compensate for this vignetting by
dragging this slider to the right.

You can x
distortion by
moving this
slider go right
for barrel and
left to tackle
pin-cushion

NIKON SOFTWARE

02 Auto Red-Eye

NIKOPEDIA

Your photos can suffer from a variety of


different distortions. A barrel effect causes
the edges of the frame to bulge outwards it
really does look as though youve wrapped the
photo around a barrel! Conversely, pin-cushion
distortion causes edges to bulge inwards. The
Distortion Control commands Correction
slider enables you to counteract both types
manually. When you view a tall subject from a
low angle, its vertical lines tend to converge
towards the top of the frame. This is called
perspective (or keystone) distortion, which
NX 2 cant counteract easily. However, the
effect does help emphasise a buildings
height, so isnt necessarily a problem. If youre
shooting skyscrapers, say, it can look great.

CAMERA SKILLS

When Auto Distortion fails


you can ne-tune things using this
slider. Drag it to the right to remove
barrel distortion, or to the left to
tackle pin-cushion distortion.

07

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ESSENTIAL KIT

Level the land

Remove red-eye

Open Distort_start.NEF. Toggle open


04
Camera & Lens Corrections in the Develop
pane. Turn the Auto Distortion dropdown from Off
to Automatic. Capture will read the metadata and
compensate for any barrel distortion.

The horizon still curves up at the edges.


05
Click New Step. Choose Correct > Distortion
Control. Drag the Correction slider to 19. Grab
Straighten. Draw a line that follows the tilted
horizon. This will crop and rotate the shot.

Open red_eye_start.jpg. In Camera & Lens


Corrections, select Red-Eye Control Point.
Click a pupil. Drag the Control Points slider so
that it covers the pupil. Use a new Control Point to
cure the other eye.

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VIDEO GUIDES

Remove distortion

INTRODUCTION
CAMERA SKILLS
NIKOPEDIA
NIKON SOFTWARE
ESSENTIAL KIT
VIDEO GUIDES

NIKON SOFTWARE
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CAPTURE NX 2

RETOUCH DULL
PORTRAITS
Find out how to remove marks and lines to
give people younger-looking complexions
Some people frown upon the
retouching of portraits to
make celebrities look taller,
slimmer or younger. Yet were often
happy to tweak our own appearance
by getting our hair cut, using
moisturiser or dabbing concealer
over a stubborn spot.
The trick to appropriate and
successful digital retouching is to
keep the edits subtle and get the
subject to look their best without
fundamentally altering their
character or appearance. Well show
you how to use Capture NX 2s Auto
Retouch Brush to remove spots and
blemishes in a few clicks, and wipe
away distracting hairs that stray
over someones face.

04

we tend to look at them rst. In our


start image, the whites of the girls
eyes look a little underexposed and
grey, so we need to brighten them up
a tad without changing the shots
overall exposure.
Well show you how to use the
powerful Selection Brush to limit a
tonal adjustment to the white of an
eye. Then well change the intensity
of the adjustment using differing
Opacity values.
Before

01 Auto Retouch Brush

The eyes have it


Youll also learn how to overcome
lighting problems to produce more
attering portraits. For example, a
subjects eyes are one of the most
important aspects in a portrait, as

This handy retouching tool


samples clear patches of skin,
adjacent to problem areas, and
transplants them over unwanted
spots and blemishes.

The differences between


these shots are very subtle
theres no need to overdo it

After

STEP BY STEP WORK ON PORTRAITS


How to smooth out spots, brighten tired eyes and tidy up yaway hairs

Select Auto Retouch

Remove blemishes

Cut out stray hairs

Go to File > Open Image and browse to


01
retouch_before.jpg. Zoom in to view the
face at 100%. Click the Auto Retouch Brush icon in
the toolbar (or press R to bring it up). Set the Size
to 30px.

Place the cursor over a spot or freckle and


02
click once. For larger areas, such as this
girls make-up star, click a few times. If the tool
chooses inappropriate pixels (an eyelash, for
example), choose Edit > Undo and try again.

Press { a few times to shrink the Auto


Retouch Brush tip to about 16px. Drag the
tool over an unwanted hair, which will show up as
a red streak. Let go of the cursor. You might need
to dab the cursor over the area a few times.

Watch the video http://bit.ly/1g2cqOj

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03

Get the files http://bit.ly/PMZ37_images

04 Overlay

05

01

GOING FURTHER

05 Opacity

MASKS

If you want to produce a


more subtle adjustment with the
Selection Brush, simply reduce the
Opacity using the dedicated slider in
the Options bar.

Not sure where to apply your tonal


changes? A colour map can help

06 Mask and overlay

02

If you try the Selection


Brushs green overlay but nd it too
distracting, you can switch it off
here. You can also view the selected
area as a greyscale mask.
07
06

Use the Size slider at the top


of the screen to change the Auto
Retouch Brushs tip size. You can
then remove large blemishes or
delicate spots with dabs or strokes.

To see what difference a


particular adjustment is making to
your portrait, tick the box next to
Select Adjustment to turn the
change off and on.

03 Selection Brush

This powerful tool enables


you to select a specic area by
painting on it. You can then apply
colour or tonal adjustments to the
region youve selected.

Go to the Levels
& Curves panel
to make the
handy greyscale
mask visible
you just need to
tick Show mask

NIKON SOFTWARE

02 Brush size

07 Before and after

NIKOPEDIA

When you use the Adjustment Brush on part


of an image, it makes a selection. When you
apply a tool such as Levels to this chosen area,
you can display the region as a greyscale mask.
Black areas of the mask stop Levels having an
effect, whereas white areas show where the
tool will work. If you set the Adjustment Brush
to a 50% Opacity, youll see grey strokes on the
mask. This makes the Levels adjustment more
subtle in these areas.

CAMERA SKILLS

The Selection Brush gives


you the option of displaying a green
overlay as you paint. This enables
you to see precisely which areas will
be affected by your changes.

03

INTRODUCTION

NIKON SOFTWARE
WorldMags.net

ESSENTIAL KIT

Lighten the midtones

Finishing touches

Click the Selection Brush in the toolbar. Set


04
Size to 16px and Opacity to 47. In the Edit
List panel a new Select Adjustment will appear.
Click the face icon and tick Show overlay. Spray
over the whites of the eyes to select them.

In the Adjust panel, click the Levels &


05
Curves dropdown. Under the histogram,
drag the grey midtone slider to 1.32. This lightens
midtones of selected areas and brightens the eye
whites. Dont lighten them too much.

Put the Selection Brushs Opacity up to 77%


and spray the teeth to lighten them. Tick
Opacity, below the Levels & Curves graph. Reduce
Opacity to 89% to tone down the strength of the
tweak and make the edit less obvious.

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2014
2012 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 117

VIDEO GUIDES

Select the eyes

INTRODUCTION
CAMERA SKILLS
NIKOPEDIA

NIKON SOFTWARE
WorldMags.net
CAPTURE NX 2

WORK ON YOUR
RAW SHOTS
Capture NX 2 is perfect for getting the most
out of your Nikons NEF-format RAW les
When you shoot in NEF
format, you create an
uncompressed RAW le. This gives
you a more complete story about a
scenes colours and tones than youd
get from the shorthand version of an
image described as a compressed
JPEG. The lack of detail thats held
in a JPEG means youre more likely
to introduce artefacts when you edit
the photo in Capture NX 2. These
issues might include posterised
colours and extra noise.

VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

Editing options
As well as providing you with
better-quality results, the NEF
format also gives you more editing
choice. For instance, when you apply
Picture Control settings to a JPEG
in-camera, it can be tricky to adjust
the shots colours and tones later
on. If you shoot in RAW, you can
make tweaks from the comfort of
your computer, experimenting with
different looks. Capture NX 2 is also

designed to read all the extra


information in a NEF le, so you can
make edits and try out various White
Balance settings. Its as though
youre still on location with your
D-SLR in hand!
In addition to these handy
features, when you open a RAW le
in Capture NX 2, you gain access to
an extra Camera Settings panel that
enables you to get more from your
shots. Lets see how it works
Before

01 Camera Settings

This collection of handy


tools is only available when you edit
NEF (RAW) les. It enables you to
experiment with alternative settings
to those used on location.

The shot above has the wrong


White Balance, which is easy
to correct if you shoot in RAW

After

STEP BY STEP GET MORE FROM RAW FILES


Discover how to adjust camera settings, correct colours and reveal missing details

Open Camera Settings

Change White Balance

Switch tabs

Go to File > Open Image and browse to


01
whitebalance_before.NEF. Toggle open the
Camera Settings tab in the Edit List. The shot is
too cold, as it was taken with Incandescent White
Balance, designed for shooting in articial light.

In the New WB area, click the rst dropdown


02
menu. Pick the Daylight White Balance
setting. This will reveal the correct colours. You
can boost contrast and tweak hues by setting the
Picture Control dropdown to Landscape.

As well as using the RAW-only Camera


Settings tab, you can also edit NEF les
with Capture NX 2s standard editing tools. Open
DLighting_before.NEF. Here, the backlit subjects
lack detail in the shadows.

Watch the video http://bit.ly/1atieT0

WorldMags.net

03

Get the files http://bit.ly/PMZ37_images

GOING FURTHER
04 Picture Control

06 Advanced

04
05

07 Intensity

07

This feature enables you to


reduce picture noise, although youll
need to view the shot at 100 per
cent magnication to see it working
effectively.

After choosing a more


appropriate White Balance setting,
tweak the colour of the image by
dragging this slider. Go left to cool
the shot down, or right to warm it up.

The Advanced
options enable
you to tweak
Sharpening,
Contrast and
other settings

NIKON SOFTWARE

03 Fine Adjustment

NIKOPEDIA

06

Toggle this option open to


take more control over properties
such as Saturation and Sharpness
(see right for more details).

CAMERA SKILLS

The Picture Control option in the Camera


Settings panel enables you to experiment
with a variety of colours and tones quickly.
However, youll probably nd it useful to tweak
a few extra properties using the Advanced
sliders. If you use the Birds Eye panel to zoom
in to 100 per cent, you can use the Sharpening
ruler to give your print more punch. You can
also tweak properties such as Contrast, and
boost Saturation if needed. You can even save
the adjusted settings as a customised Picture
Control, applying it to other shots in the future.

For darker shadows and


a more striking contrast, set the
second Picture Control dropdown
menu to Landscape.

03

We shot our start image with


an incorrect Incandescent White
Balance, so the image looks too cold.
You can restore the photos true
colours using the Daylight setting.

If youre not totally happy with your


edited NEFs, try these extra options
and save your changes as a preset

05 Extra options

02

02 New WB

ADVANCED
CONTROLS

You can set your camera


to edit colours and tones
automatically, using its Picture
Control system. Alternatively,
override the in-camera settings
using this menu.

01

INTRODUCTION

NIKON SOFTWARE
WorldMags.net

ESSENTIAL KIT

Restore the highlights

Boost exposure

Click on New Step at the bottom of the Edit


04
List panel. In the Adjust panel, select Light
> D-Lighting. Tick Better Quality (HQ). Move the
Shadow Adjustment slider to 64 to brighten the
shadows. Now drag Color Boost to 69.

Go to View > Show Lost Highlights. Blown05


out areas will appear as coloured patches.
Set the D-Lightings Highlight Adjustment slider
to 49. Press Shift+H to turn off clipping warnings.
The sky should now have some colour and detail.

Open exposure_before.NEF. Open the Quick


Fix menu. The graphs highlights end before
the right side, indicating underexposure. Drag
Exposure Compensation to 0.68 and then pop
Saturation up to 13 for more vibrant colours.

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2014
2012 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 119

VIDEO GUIDES

Even out lighting

INTRODUCTION
CAMERA SKILLS
NIKOPEDIA
NIKON SOFTWARE
ESSENTIAL KIT
VIDEO GUIDES

NIKON SOFTWARE
WorldMags.net
CAPTURE NX 2

SELECTIONS
AND MASKS
Find out how to make and modify selections
so that you can tweak tones with precision
In our start image we shot
straight into the sun, so we
needed to clamp down the
aperture to try and preserve the
skys highlights and the misty
mountains midtones. The darker
foreground forest has been plunged
into shadow. Despite our efforts
therefore, the suns highlights are
too blown out and mountain detail
has been lost in the atmospheric
haze. Fortunately, we captured the
shot in RAW (.NEF) format, so theres
more shadow and highlight detail
available than initially thought.
We could use Quick Fixs Highlight
and Shadow Protection sliders to
selectively adjust highlights and
shadows, but there are more
powerful and accurate ways to
target and tweak particular tones.
Capture NX2 has a range of
selection tools that we can use to
target and tweak specic areas,
so you can selectively lighten
under-exposed shadows, claw back

blown out highlight detail and gently


burn in more midtone information to
give the mountains more impact.

Marvellous masks
Well use these selection tools in the
following steps. As a bonus youll
learn to display the various
selections as overlays or greyscale
masks, so that you can see more
clearly which areas will be altered
by particular adjustments.

07

05

01

Before

01 Selection Control

Point

When you click to place a Selection


Control Point it samples similar
adjacent tones. We used this point
to lighten the foreground forest.

The mountain detail has


been lost but shadows and
highlights can be recovered

After

STEP BY STEP SELECTIONS AND MASKS


Selectively target and adjust particular tones for greater strength and subtlety

Add control point

Lighten the shadows

Draw a gradient

Go to File>Open Image and browser to


01
our Selections_before.NEF shot. Click
on Selection Control Point icon to sample the
foreground forest. In the Select Adjustment tab,
increase the Selection Control Points Size to 57.

Click the Select Adjustment menu, choose


02
Light>Levels & Curves. Click to place a
control point in the middle of the diagonal line.
Place a new point to the left of the rst. Drag it so
the Input reads 65 and the Output a brighter 105.

Click the New Step icon in the Adjust pane.


Grab the Selection Gradient from the tool
bar and draw a gradient down from the top of the
shot to the base of the mountains. The darker
green areas will make a stronger adjustment.

Watch the video http://bit.ly/1atiKAh

WorldMags.net

03

Get the files http://bit.ly/PMZ37_images

GOING FURTHER
04 Gradient Range

USE A MARQUEE
Draw a selection to help you target
particular areas for adjustment

03

The Selection Brush enables


you to dene which areas will be
adjusted by spraying on them. You
can change the tips Opacity and
Size to work with precision. This is a
great way to dodge or burn tones.

06
02

06 Adjustments

Once youve started to


make a selection, you can assign
an adjustment command to it. This
enables you to change tone or colour
in the selected area.

07 Sensor spots

02 Selection Display

Control

Click here to access different


ways to display a selection. The
Overlay option displays selected
areas in tones of green.

03 Overlay

A green overlay selection


display indicates a graduated
selection. When changing tone levels
in the Adjust pane, the darker green
areas allow a stronger adjustment.

Marquee tools enable you to make a variety


of simple selection shapes

NIKON SOFTWARE

Once youve nished


tweaking the shadows, midtones
and highlights using different
selection techniques, grab the
Auto Retouch Brush and spray
on sensor spots to hide them.

NIKOPEDIA

Another way for you to select a particular


area for adjustment is to grab one of the
marquee tools from the toolbar. If you hold
down the mouse button on the Lasso icon
then you will be able to choose between a
freehand Lasso, Polygon Lasso, Rectangle
Marquee or Oval Marquee.
To help the edited areas within the
selection to blend with their unedited
neighbours, it is always worth increasing the
values in the Edge Softness box to give the
selection a gentle feathered edge. To do this,
click and drag to make a selection and then
create a New Step to choose a particular
tonal or colour editing command.

05 Selection Brush

CAMERA SKILLS

By sliding the Gradient


ranges midpoint you can change the
graduated adjustments transition
so that the sky begins to darken at a
higher or lower point in the frame.

04

INTRODUCTION

NIKON SOFTWARE
WorldMags.net

ESSENTIAL KIT

Burn the mountains

Finishing touches

Set the Select Adjustment drop-down


04
menu to Light>Levels & Curves. Drag the
grey midtone slider right to 0.5 to darken the
levels of the midtones. To ne-tune, drag the
Gradient Ranges grey midpoint slider right to 39.

Grab Selection Brush. Set Size to 400,


05
opacity to 20%. Click to spray. On new
Select Adjustment tab, choose Levels & Curves.
Drag grey midtone slider to 0.6. Spray to darken
mountains. Tick icon to deselect areas.

Tick the Selection sections little head icon,


choose Show Mask. Lightest areas will
have strongest tonal adjustments, black areas
will remain untouched. Click Hide Selection, tick
Opacity and reduce to 80% for subtler tweak.

WorldMags.net

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2014
2012 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 121

VIDEO GUIDES

Darken the sky

INTRODUCTION
CAMERA SKILLS
NIKOPEDIA

NIKON SOFTWARE
WorldMags.net
CAPTURE NX 2

CONVERT TO
MONOCHROME
Find out how to convert your images to black
and white, and give them a sepia-toned effect
By converting colour shots
into black and white you
can remove distracting colour
information and draw the viewers
attention to other features in
the scene, such as contrasting
shapes and patterns. However, if
you simply desaturate a shot, you
run the risk of creating a drab wash
of greyscale tones. Here, we'll show
you how to produce more striking
monochrome prints using various
Capture NX 2 tricks and techniques.

VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

Colour and tone


Traditional lm photographers
would pop coloured lters over the
lens when shooting with black and
white lm. These lters lightened
or darkened tones. For example, a
red lter would darken blues. This
created darker skies in the black
and white print, which made white
clouds stand out more in contrast.
Capture NX 2s Black and White
Conversion command enables us

to digitally recreate this approach


and use sliders to lighten or darken
colours in the mono conversion, so
we can choose which areas stand
out in contrast to others in the shot.
The Photo Effects command does
a similar tone-tweaking job, but also
enables you to add a wash of colour
to the monochrome conversion.
Well put both commands through
their paces so that you can decide
which approach you prefer.
Before

01 Black and White

Conversion

Capture NX 2 emulates
traditional techniques so
that white clouds stand out

This command enables you to


lighten or darken the tones of
specic colours in a monochrome
image to make features stand out.
After

STEP BY STEP MONOCHROME CONVERSIONS


Make tonal adjustments based on colour to improve contrast and composition in your shots

Desaturate the image

Black and White Conversion

Reveal the clouds

Go to File > Open Image and browse to our


01
mono_before.NEF shot. In the Adjust panel
click New Step. Click Select Adjustment, Color,
then Saturation/Warmth. Reduce Saturation to
-100 for a monochrome shot. But it lacks contrast.

Click the 'x' icon to delete the adjustment.


02
Click New Step, then the Select Adjustment
drop-down menu and Black and White Conversion.
Experiment by dragging the Filter Hue slider.
Setting it at 244 darkens warmer colours.

The sky is a dull grey wash. Drag the Filter


Hue slider left to a warmer 61. This darkens
colder blues in the sky, making delicate clouds
stand out more effectively. Boost the Color Filter
Strength to 66 for more cloud and sky contrast.

03

Get the files http://bit.ly/PMZ37_images


Watch the video http://bit.ly/1dqyMpE WorldMags.net

04 Global adjustments

The Filter Hue slider enables


you to lighten or darken the tones of
specic colours. Use the Brightness
and Contrast sliders to get whiter
whites and blacker blacks.

07

GOING FURTHER
How to discover and recover lost
tonal information in an image

The histogram graph helps


to ensure that we have a wide
spread of tones, from the black
shadows on the left to the white
highlights on the right.

06
02
03

06 Before and after

04

All the edits that we make


to our RAW .NEF le are nondestructive. You can tick and untick
this option to toggle between
the original colour shot and the
monochrome conversion.

07 Rule of thirds

05

This slider mimics the oldschool technique of placing coloured


lters over the lens, then shooting
with black and white lm. Here, a
warm lter darkens cool colours.

03 Color Filter Strength

For a more dramatic contrast


you can increase the value of the Color
Filter Strength slider. This enables us
to darken the pale blue sky so that the
clouds stand out more.

It's easy to spot and x blown-out highlights in


your photos thanks to clipping warnings

NIKON SOFTWARE

02 Filter Hue

When cropping a shot, its


always worth keeping this box
ticked. This overlays a classic
Rule of Thirds grid on the crop
window, enabling you to create
a more well-composed shot.

NIKOPEDIA

When you tweak the monochrome conversions


tones using the Filter Hue and Color
Filter Strength sliders, you run the risk of
overexposing the brightest parts of the shot.
To spot these areas choose View > Show Lost
Highlights. Clipped highlights will appear as
white, while correctly exposed areas will stay
black. Clipped highlights will print out with no
detail theyll just be pure white.
Fortunately, its possible to tweak the
Brightness or Contrast sliders until the
clipped highlights turn black. Theres also a
rather useful Show Lost Shadows command
that displays clipped shadows as patches of
black against a white screen.

CAMERA SKILLS

EARLY WARNINGS

05 Helpful histogram

01

INTRODUCTION

NIKON SOFTWARE
WorldMags.net

ESSENTIAL KIT

Improve the composition

Add contrast and tint

Weve clipped the highlights on the woman


04
on the right. Press Shift+H to view the
blown highlights as white patches on black.
Drag the Contrast slider to -6 to recover the
highlights, then press Shift+H again.

Grab the Crop tool from the top toolbar.


05
Drag the crop handles to lose the
distracting foreground detail, then press Enter.
The shot is cleaner, and its wider aspect ratio
helps enhance the locations sense of space.

Open sepia_before.NEF. Go to Filter > Photo


Effects. In the Adjust panel set the Method
to Black and White. Drag Cyan-Red to -83 to make
the trees stand out. Boost Brightness to 7. Choose
Sepia from the Method menu to add a warm tint.

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2014
2012 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 123

VIDEO GUIDES

Reduce the clipping

INTRODUCTION
CAMERA SKILLS
NIKOPEDIA

NIKON SOFTWARE
WorldMags.net
CAPTURE NX 2

IMPROVE
COMPOSITION
We show you how to use Capture NX 2s crop
and resize tools to improve composition
One of the quickest and
easiest ways to improve a
photo is to give it a nip and tuck
with the Crop tool. When shooting
an erratically moving subject such
as a dog at play, it can be a challenge
to capture a close-up of the animal.
By zooming out you can increase the
chance of getting a decent action
pose with all of the subject in the
frame, but this leaves lots of dead
space in other parts of the image.
You may also nd that the horizon is
tilted as you pan the camera to
follow the moving subject.

it, so that it will print out at a typical


print size such as 5x7-in.
A common problem when
shooting landmarks is the presence
of unwanted distractions close
to the subject. Cropping the shot
can remove them, and also helps
to make distant objects look more
prominent. Well show you how the
Crop tool can assist you in producing
a landmark shot that meets the
criteria of the rule of thirds.

05

Before

VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

Composition
The Crop tool enables you to remove
all these problems with just a
few clicks. In our shot were going
to remove the boring expanse of
beach on the left and change the
shots aspect ratio from landscape
to portrait, which suits the canine
subject matter more effectively.
Well also re-size the shot as we crop

01 Straighten tool

Cropping the image and


changing the aspect ratio
focuses attention on the dog

After

The Straighten tool


straightens and crops an image at
the same time. Its always worth
straightening the horizon before you
perform the main crop.

STEP BY STEP CROP AND COMPOSE


Improve composition, change the aspect ratio and re-size an image in Capture NX 2

Straighten the horizon

Set up the options

Crop the shot

Go to File > Open Image and browse to


01
crop_before.jpg. Pick the Straighten tool,
then draw a line on the image that follows the
horizon. The Straighten tool calculates the angle
of the tilt and rotates and crops to compensate.

To remove the empty space on the left-hand


02
side, grab the Crop tool. By default it is set
to Free Crop. Click the drop-down menu and
change it to Fixed Aspect Ratio. Click the Custom
drop-down menu and choose 5x7 Portrait.

Click and drag to draw a portrait-oriented


crop window around the dog. Drag inside
the window to ne-tune the composition. Drag any
corner handle to ne-tune which areas you want
to keep. Press Enter to apply the crop.

Watch the video http://bit.ly/1nTRheO

WorldMags.net

03

Get the files http://bit.ly/PMZ37_images

GOING FURTHER
04 Preset sizes

02
01

RULE OF THIRDS

04

How to create an aesthetically


pleasing composition

05 Greyed out

07

Areas that will be removed


after you apply the crop will appear
grey. You can drag any crop border
handle to re-frame the crop and
ne-tune the composition.

06

06 Crop Assistance Grid

These intersecting lines


enable you to produce a more
aesthetically pleasing composition
using the Rule of Thirds.

07 Resize

02 Crop tool

Because they do a similar job


of improving composition, the
Straighten and Crop tools sit side by
side in the toolbar.

03 Aspect Ratio

This term refers to the shape


and orientation of the shot, such as
portrait or landscape. You can change
this drop-down menu to perform an
unconstrained free crop.

Use the Crop Assistance Grid to arrange your


photo according to the Rule of Thirds

NIKON SOFTWARE

If you crop tightly using a


Fixed Aspect Ratio such as 8x10, the
cropped area may not be large
enough to print at the desired print
size. You can type in a larger size
here, but dont resample the image
or it will look fuzzy.

NIKOPEDIA

When shooting a subject such as our misty


castle its tempting to plonk the subject in the
centre of the frame. One way to create a more
aesthetically pleasing composition is to use
the Rule of Thirds as a guide, splitting the
image into thirds horizontally and vertically
and placing your subject on one of these
imaginary lines or intersections. The Crop
tools Crop Assistance Grid features two
equally spaced horizontal and vertical lines
that break the scene into a grid of nine boxes.
These boxes help us to re-frame the image so
that features in the landscape fall within the
horizontal or vertical bands or into specic
boxes. You can also use the grid to place key
features, such as the castle, so that they
appear on an intersection of lines.

CAMERA SKILLS

If you choose Fixed Aspect


Ratio then you can select from a
variety of common print sizes in
both portrait or landscape
orientations.

03

INTRODUCTION

NIKON SOFTWARE
WorldMags.net

ESSENTIAL KIT

Remove distractions

Improve composition

To check that the shot has been re-sized to


04
a 5x7 print aspect ratio, go to Edit > Size/
Resolution. A Size/Resolution box will appear in
the Edit List window. Our portrait is 5.66x7.93-in.
Type 5 into Width and the Height will change to 7.

Go to File > Open Image and browse to


05
composition_before.jpg. Grab the Crop tool.
Choose Fixed Aspect Ratio. On the adjacent menu,
pick 8x10 Landscape. Tick Show Crop Assistance
Grid. Click and drag to crop out the photographer.

Drag inside the Crop window so that


intersecting lines overlap the tower and
mound. Weve placed the sky in the top three boxes,
the lake in the middle three and the foreground in
the lower three. Press Enter to apply the crop.

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2014
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VIDEO GUIDES

Fine-tune the size

Page 154

Page 212

Page 142
Page 178

VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

NIKOPEDIA

CAMERA SKILLS

INTRODUCTION

WorldMags.net

Page 166

126 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

WorldMags.net

Essential kit

NIKOPEDIA

Budget telephoto zooms ........................128


Wide-angle zooms...................................142
Superzooms.............................................154
Standard zooms ......................................166
Macro lenses ...........................................178
Super telephotos ....................................190
Tripods.....................................................202
Flashguns ................................................212

CAMERA SKILLS

Page 202

INTRODUCTION

WorldMags.net

Page 128
NIKON SOFTWARE
ESSENTIAL KIT
VIDEO GUIDES

WorldMags.net

2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 127

BUDGET

CAMERA SKILLS

INTRODUCTION

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NIKON SOFTWARE

NIKOPEDIA

You can get more reach with a


good-quality telephoto zoom, but
should you go for Nikon glass or
a third-party offering? We test
out eight models to find out

VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT

2
5

128 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

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THE CONTENDERS
1 Nikon 55-200mm f/4-5.6G
AF-S DX IF-ED VR 195, $247

INTRODUCTION

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2 Nikon 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G


AF-S DX ED VR 210, $397

4 Sigma 50-200mm f/4-5.6


DC OS HSM 170, $200
5 Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6
APO DG Macro 146, $154
6 Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6
DG OS 98, $200

CAMERA SKILLS

3 Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G


AF-S VR IF-ED 420, $587

7 Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6


AF Di LD Macro 100, $200

NIKOPEDIA

8 Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6


SP Di VC USD 350, $450

NIKON SOFTWARE

ESSENTIAL KIT

VIDEO GUIDES

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2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 129

INTRODUCTION
CAMERA SKILLS
NIKOPEDIA
NIKON SOFTWARE
ESSENTIAL KIT

ESSENTIAL KIT WorldMags.net


heres no shortage of
quality in the 18-55mm
and 18-105mm kit zoom
lenses that are supplied with
current Nikon D-SLRs. However,
one thing they lack is telephoto
reach, so a telephoto zoom is
OLNHO\WREHWKHUVWDGGLWLRQDO
lens you buy. Top professional
telephoto zooms such as the
Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 VR II will
VHW\RXEDFNXSZDUGVRI
Thankfully, there are plenty of
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7KH\UHFHUWDLQO\QRWDOOFUHDWHG
HTXDOWKRXJKDQGWKHUHDUHVRPH
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before reaching for your wallet.

Knowing the market


There are two main types of
telephoto zoom lens available.
6RPHDUHGHVLJQHGIRUIXOOIUDPH
cameras such as the D700, while
RWKHUVDUHFUHDWHGVSHFLFDOO\IRU
&ODVVLF$GYDQFHG3KRWRJUDSKLF
6\VWHP $36& FDPHUDVVXFK
as the D3300, D5300, D7100
DQG'V:KHUHDVIXOOIUDPH
cameras have sensors that are the

same size as a frame of 35mm


OP$36&VHQVRUVDUHVPDOOHU
The upshot is that the image
FLUFOHSURGXFHGE\DQ$36&OHQV
RUZKDW1LNRQFDOOVD';OHQV 
GRHVQWQHHGWREHDVODUJHDVD
full-frame, or FX, lens.
:LWKDUHGXFWLRQLQWKHVL]H
of the image circle comes the
SRVVLELOLW\WRGRZQVL]HWKH
physical construction of the lens
itself. Therefore, DX lenses are
XVXDOO\VPDOOHUDQGOLJKWHUWKDQ
FX lenses of a similar zoom range.
In this test group, the Nikon
55-200mm VR, Nikon 55-300mm
95DQG6LJPDPP26
OHQVHVDUHGHVLJQHGIRU$36&
cameras, while all the 70-300mm
lenses are full-frame compatible.
%DFNLQWKHGD\VRIPP
OPPPZDVWKHFODVVLF
zoom range for non-professional
telephoto lenses. Nikon DX-format
cameras have a focal length
multiplier, or crop factor, of 1.5x.
This means that by multiplying
the actual focal length of a lens by
1.5 youll get the effective focal
length of using it on a full-frame
camera. Thats

why most telephoto zoom lenses


GHVLJQHGIRU$36&FDPHUDVKDYH
zoom ranges of about 50-200mm
the zoom range effectively
becomes 75-300mm, in keeping
with convention.

Full-frame pros and cons

JARGON BUSTER
Ultrasonic
This type of autofocus
is driven by an AC electric
motor, with a frequency
of about 30kHz. Thats a
higher frequency than
audible sound.

Crop factor
This is how much you
need to multiply the
actual focal length of a
lens by to get its effective
focal length, or its
equivalent angle of view
on a full-frame camera.

,I\RXUHQRWIXVVHGDERXWVDYLQJ
VL]HDQGZHLJKWWKHUHVSOHQW\
WREHVDLGIRUWWLQJDIXOOIUDPH
telephoto zoom to your DX-format
Nikon. For starters, the classic 70300mm zoom range gives you an
HIIHFWLYHPPVR\RXJHW
much more telephoto reach at the
ORQJHQG$OVR\RXOORQO\EHXVLQJ
the central part of the full-frame
image circle, where sharpness
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SHDN7KHUHVDOVROHVVGDQJHU
RIYLJQHWWLQJ GDUNHQHGLPDJH
FRUQHUV IRUWKHVDPHUHDVRQ
2QHGUDZEDFNWKRXJKLVWKDW
at very long effective telephoto
OHQJWKVRIDERXWPPFDPHUD
shake becomes an ever-present
GDQJHU7KHUXOHRIWKXPELVWKDW
WRDYRLGLW\RXQHHGDVKXWWHU
VSHHGWKDWVDWOHDVWDVIDVWDVWKH
reciprocal of the focal length.

EQUIPMENT KNOW-HOW

FEATURES TO LOOK FOR

Maximum
magnication

Even relatively compact telephoto


zooms can be big on features

At their closest focus distances,


the Sigma 70-300mm APO and
Tamron 70-300mm AF lead the
way with a 0.5x macro facility. The
maximum magnication of other
lenses in the group is about 0.25x.

Zoom range
A 50-200mm lens will give you
an effective zoom range of 75300mm, whereas a 70-300mm
model provides a more powerful
telephoto reach of up to 450mm.

Maximum aperture
Image stabilisation

The largest aperture on budget


telephoto lenses is usually f/4 or
f/4.5 at the shortest focal length,
reducing to f/5.6 at the maximum
zoom setting.

Not all lenses have optical


stabilisation, though many of
the latest Nikons, Sigmas and
Tamrons offer it equivalent to four
stops, for sharp handheld shots.

Sensor type

VIDEO GUIDES

Autofocus motor

Nikon FX, Sigma DG and Tamron


Di lenses are fully compatible
with both full-frame and APS-C
camera bodies. DX, DC and Di II
lenses are designed specically
for APS-C cameras and produce
smaller image circles.

Standard electric motors are


often quite noisy and slow.
Ultrasonic ones are quieter and
faster, while ring-type ultrasonic
systems are the fastest, and
nearly silent.

130 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

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$)6 6LOHQW:DYH XOWUDVRQLF


autofocus, but there are actually
WZRGLIIHUHQWW\SHV%DVLF$)6
features a small ultrasonic motor
WKDWGULYHVJHDUZKHHOVWRIRFXV
WKHOHQV7KHPRUHDGYDQFHG
ring-type AF-S features two
ODUJHULQJVWKDWWMXVWLQVLGHWKH
FLUFXPIHUHQFHRIWKHOHQVDQG
offers faster, near-silent autofocus
SHUIRUPDQFH:KDWVPRUHWKH
IRFXVULQJGRHVQWURWDWHGXULQJ
DXWRIRFXVDQG\RXDOVRJHWIXOO
WLPHPDQXDOIRFXVRYHUULGH
In this group, only the Nikon
PP95DQG7DPURQ

300mm VC USD have ring-type


ultrasonic autofocus. Both of
WKHRWKHU1LNRQOHQVHVDQGWKH
Sigma 50-200mm HSM (Hyper
6RQLF0RWRU OHQVXVHWKHPRUH
basic form. The remaining lenses
DUHWWHGZLWKVRPHZKDWQRLVLHU
VWDQGDUGHOHFWULFPRWRUV
Lastly, the Nikon 55-200mm
VR, Nikon 70-300mm VR, Sigma
PP26DQG7DPURQ
70-300mm VC USD lenses use
internal focusing. The front
HOHPHQWGRHVQWURWDWHGXULQJ
focusing, which makes it easier to
XVHURWDWLRQFULWLFDOOWHUVVXFKDV
circular polarizers.

Our tests are carried out under fixed conditions


using industry-standard tools and procedures
The N-Photo Test Team runs
two sets of tests in parallel.
These comprise real-world shots
of carefully chosen, standardised
subjects, and lab trials that use
dedicated hardware and analysis
software. Youll see both sets of
results together in the Image
Quality in Focus section on pages
136 and 137, where you can also
compare the results from
different lenses.
To do the real-world tests, we
combine an ISO 12233 resolution

chart, an architectural subject


thats specifically chosen to
highlight chromatic aberration,
and a brick wall to show the
effects of distortion.
We choose to run two sets of
tests because neither shows the
full picture on its own. The
real-world trials show how lenses
perform in a highly simplified,
visual way, while the lab data
offers a much broader but more
technical assessment of lens
performance.

Our real-world resolution tests are done with this industry-standard ISO
12233 chart. The full lab data you can see on pages 120 and 121 is
generated with the Imatest Master and DxO Anaylser testing suites

NIKON SOFTWARE

9LEUDWLRQ5HGXFWLRQ 95 7KH
V\VWHPWHQGVWREHYHU\HIIHFWLYH
especially at long telephoto focal
OHQJWKVDQGPDQ\RI1LNRQV
latest VR lenses offer a four-stop
DGYDQWDJH7KLVPHDQVWKDWZKHUH
\RXGQHHGDVKXWWHUVSHHGRI
VHFWRDYRLGFDPHUDVKDNH
\RXFDQVKRRWDWMXVWVHFDQG
still expect to get sharp, shakeIUHHLPDJHVZLWKVRPHGHJUHHRI
FRQVLVWHQF\6LJPDDQG7DPURQ
KDYHWKHLURZQLQGHSHQGHQWO\
GHYHORSHGVWDELOLVDWLRQV\VWHPV
<HWPRUHFKRLFHVDUHWREHPDGH
when it comes to autofocus motors.
Most current Nikon lenses feature

REAL-WORLD MEETS LAB

NIKOPEDIA

If youre not fussed about size and weight,


theres a lot to be said for fitting a full-frame
telephoto zoom to your DX-format Nikon

HOW WE TEST

CAMERA SKILLS

$WPPVD\\RXGQHHGD
PLQLPXPVKXWWHUVSHHGRI
VHF WKDWVVHFLQSUDFWLFH 
:LWKDPD[LPXPDYDLODEOH
aperture of f/5.6 at the telephoto
HQGRIWKH]RRPUDQJHWKLVFDQ
be tricky in anything other than
EULJKWVXQQ\FRQGLWLRQVZLWKRXW
LQFUHDVLQJWKHVHQVLWLYLW\ ,62 
Thats where image stabilisation
comes to the rescue.
6RPHPDQXIDFWXUHUVQRZEXLOG
sensor-shift image stabilisation
LQWRWKHLUFDPHUDERGLHVEXW
Nikon opts for optical stabilisation
within the lens, which it calls

INTRODUCTION

WorldMags.netESSENTIAL KIT

STEP BY STEP A moment of clarity


ESSENTIAL KIT

Get the clearest, sharpest images possible from your telephoto zoom

02 Use the lens hood

03 Normal vs Active VR

When youre shooting into the distance with a


telephoto, haze in the atmosphere can degrade
your photos. A UV lter can help, and will also
protect the front lens element from scrapes and
scratches. Check the lters size before you buy.

All the lenses on test come complete with a hood.


With telephoto shots, these can greatly reduce
ghosting and are. Lenses that use internal
focusing have petal-shaped hoods, reecting the
fact that their front element doesnt rotate.

Some Nikon lenses feature Normal and Active


modes in their Vibration Reduction system.
Normal is for regular use, while Active is meant
to be used when youre shooting from a
vibrating platform such as a moving train.

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2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 131

VIDEO GUIDES

01 Fit a lter

INTRODUCTION
CAMERA SKILLS
NIKOPEDIA
NIKON SOFTWARE
ESSENTIAL KIT
VIDEO GUIDES

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Nikon 55-200mm f/4-5.6G


AF-S DX IF-ED VR 195, $247
This baby Nikon cuts telephotos down to size and
could fit into a corner of almost any gadget bag
This Nikon DX lens is
GHVLJQHGVSHFLFDOO\IRU
APS-C cameras, rather than
full-frame ones, and combines
a useful 82.5-300mm effective
zoom range with a remarkably
compact, lightweight build.
,QGHHGLWVOHVVWKDQKDOIWKH
weight of the full-frame Nikon
PP95OHQVDQGRQO\
DERXWWZRWKLUGVLWVOHQJWK
$WUVWJODQFHWKHIXQVL]H
55-200mm still manages to pack
in plenty of useful features, such
DV$)6 6LOHQW:DYH DXWRIRFXV
DQG95DVZHOODVLQWHUQDO
focusing. This means that the
IURQWHOHPHQWQHLWKHUH[WHQGV
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'LJDOLWWOHGHHSHUWKRXJK
DQGWKHOHQVORRNVDELWOHVV

inspiring. Its the only one in


our test group to have a plastic
mount rather than a metal one,
DQGWKHUVWJHQHUDWLRQ95
RQO\JLYHVDWKUHHVWRSEHQHW
LQVWHDGRIWKHIRXUVWRSERQXVRI
95,,ZKLFKLVWWHGWRWKHRWKHU
two Nikon lenses on test.

Performance

55mm

$WWKHOHQVVZLGHVWDSHUWXUHV
VKDUSQHVVZDVPHUHO\DGHTXDWH
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OHQJWKV,WGLGQWLPSURYHDW
PPHYHQZKHQZHVWRSSHG
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But this lens was impressive at
the maximum focal length of
200mm. Vignetting was also
ZHOOFRQWUROOHGZKLOHDXWRIRFXV
ZDVUDSLGDQGDFFXUDWH

FEATURES
BUILD QUALITY
IMAGE QUALITY
VALUE FOR MONEY
This lens lacked
the reach of the
big boys, but
sharpness was
good at 200mm

200mm

OVERALL
WE SAY Build quality isnt top
drawer, but optical performance
was good at the telephoto end.

Nikon 55-300mm f/4.55.6G AF-S DX ED VR 210, $397


This lens feels quite small and light but it comes
with built-in VR and a mighty zoom range
Like the slightly smaller
and lighter Nikon
55-200mm lens, this newer
model is built exclusively for
APS-C cameras, so its still
reasonably compact. Despite
its fairly small size, it offers the
biggest 5.5x zoom range of any
OHQVWHVWHGVWUHWFKLQJIURPDQ
HTXLYDOHQWPPWRPP
Unlike the 55-200mms
VR system, this lens features
Nikons later generation of the
WHFKQRORJ\ZKLFKLVJRRGIRU
four stops of stabilisation. Thats
HVSHFLDOO\KDQG\ZLWKWKHH[WUD
telephoto reach of the lens.
$EXLOGTXDOLW\LPSURYHPHQW
is that the mounting plate
is metal rather than plastic.
However, the 55-300mm VR is

the only Nikon in the group that


GRHVQWKDYHLQWHUQDOIRFXVLQJ
The rotating front element is a
pain when youre using rotationVHQVLWLYHOWHUV2QHQLFHWRXFK
LVWKDWWKHFOLSRQOHQVKRRG
is particularly easy to attach
FRPSDUHGZLWKPRVWED\RQHW
WWLQJPRGHOV

55mm

Performance
$XWRIRFXVZDVTXLFNDQGTXLHW
throughout most of the zoom
UDQJHDOWKRXJKLWVORZHGDELW
at the maximum 300mm focal
length. The VR system gave
more consistent results than the
1LNRQPPVDQGOLYHGXS
WRLWVIRXUVWRSFODLPV2SWLFDOO\
WKLVSURYHGRQHRIWKHVKDUSHVW
lenses on test.

132 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

FEATURES
BUILD QUALITY
IMAGE QUALITY
VALUE FOR MONEY
We got plenty of
detail and
contrast, and a
great 5.5x zoom
range to boot

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300mm

OVERALL
WE SAY Impressive zoom range,
VR and optical quality. Shame about
the rotating front element.

Nikon 70-300mm f/4.55.6G AF-S IF-ED VR 420, $587


silent autofocus, with full-time
PDQXDORYHUULGH ZKLFKDOORZV
you to manually focus even in
DXWRIRFXVPRGH 

Performance
In our lab tests, sharpness was
excellent throughout most of the
]RRPUDQJHWKRXJKLWGLGGURS
off at maximum zoom. However,
ZKHQZHVKRWKDQGKHOGDW
300mm the lens consistently
gave really crisp-looking images,
with great contrast. This shows
WKDW\RXQHHGERWKUHDOZRUOG
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a lenss character.
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be great for sports photography.

70mm

FEATURES
BUILD QUALITY
IMAGE QUALITY
VALUE FOR MONEY
The Nikon
70-300mm VR
consistently
delivered top
results in tests

300mm

OVERALL
WE SAY With its dual-mode VR II
and ring-type autofocus, this lens
has good quality and great handling.

NIKON SOFTWARE

Sigma 50-200mm f/4-5.6


DC OS HSM 170, $200
This low-cost Sigma is a direct rival to the Nikon
55-200mm VR, but does it come out on top?
lacking on Nikons 55-200mm
95DQGPP95PRGHOV
The focus ring is also easier
to use for manual focusing.
However, because the ring
URWDWHVGXULQJDXWRIRFXVLWV
easier to foul its action with your
QJHUVZKHQKROGLQJWKHOHQV

Performance

ESSENTIAL KIT

50mm

In terms of sharpness, optical


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that on Nikons competing
55-200mm VR lens. The Sigma
was more typical of telephoto
]RRPVGHOLYHULQJLWVVKDUSHVW
LPDJHVDWVKRUWHUDQGPLGUDQJH
focal lengths. At the maximum
DYDLODEOHDSHUWXUHRIIDQG
200mm setting, the sharpness
GURSSHGRIIFRQVLGHUDEO\

FEATURES
BUILD QUALITY
IMAGE QUALITY
VALUE FOR MONEY
Sharpness
suffered when
we shot at the
maximum zoom
and aperture

200mm

WorldMags.net

OVERALL
WE SAY A neat little lens thats
cheaper than the Nikon 55-200mm.
But sharpness was poor at 200mm.

2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 133

VIDEO GUIDES

There are many


similarities between
this Sigma and the Nikon 55200mm VR.%RWKDUHGHVLJQHG
exclusively for DX-format Nikons
DQGDUHDOPRVWLGHQWLFDOLQVL]H
though the Sigma is a little
heavier. They also both feature
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internal focusing with nonrotating front elements. The
6LJPDV26 2SWLFDO6WDELOL]HU 
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three, but the effectiveness was
the same in our tests.
1RWDEOHGLIIHUHQFHVLQFOXGH
the Sigma having a metal
mounting plate rather than a
SODVWLFRQHDQGWKHOHQVIHDWXUHV
DIRFXVGLVWDQFHVFDOHWKDWV

NIKOPEDIA

When you pick up the


PP95WKHUVW
thing you notice is how much
bigger and heavier it is than
the other Nikons on test. The
H[WUDZHLJKWPDGHWKHOHQVIHHO
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DWORQJIRFDOOHQJWKVDQGZKHQ
panning. Its also compatible
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1LNRQ6/5ERGLHV
7KHDGYDQFHG95,,RSWLFDO
stabiliser has the same fourVWRSDGYDQWDJHDVWKH1LNRQ
55-300mm VR, but this time
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$FWLYHPRGHIRUVKRRWLQJIURP
XQVWHDG\SODWIRUPV
Its also the only Nikon
on test to feature ring-type
AF-S, for super-fast, near-

CAMERA SKILLS

This full-frame telephoto zoom is big on size


and weight but even bigger on features

INTRODUCTION

WorldMags.netESSENTIAL KIT

INTRODUCTION
CAMERA SKILLS
NIKOPEDIA
NIKON SOFTWARE
ESSENTIAL KIT
VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT WorldMags.net

Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6


APO DG Macro 146, $154
Are you ready for your close-up? This low-cost
Sigma can tackle subjects both near and far
Bearing Sigmas DG
designation, not DC,
this lens is designed for both
full-frame and APS-C D-SLRs.
,WV$32 $SRFKURPDWLF GHVLJQ
LQFOXGHVQROHVVWKDQWKUHH6/'
6SHFLDO/RZ'LVSHUVLRQ OHQV
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close-focusing capability. The
super-close focus is available in
the 200-300mm zoom range via
a switch on the lens barrel. This
]RRPVHWWLQJDQGWKHPLQLPXP
IRFXVGLVWDQFHRIFPGHOLYHUD
0.5x macro facility.
For regular telephoto
shooting, the absence of an
optical stabiliser is a setback,
DQGZKLOHWKHEDVLFHOHFWULF

autofocus motor was fairly


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IURQWHOHPHQWDOVRH[WHQGVDQG
URWDWHVGXULQJIRFXVLQJ

Performance
Impressive throughout most
of its zoom range, the Sigmas
VKDUSQHVVGURSSHGRIIDWWKH
ORQJHQGRIWKH]RRPUDQJH
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the frame. Sharpness at 300mm
was poor across the whole frame
at small apertures of f/16 to
f/32, which you might want to
XVHWRLQFUHDVHGHSWKRIHOGLQ
PDFURVKRRWLQJ7KHOHQVV$32
EDGJHSURYHGMXVWLHGZLWKORZ
levels of chromatic aberration,
though image contrast was often
EDGZKHQZHVKRWLQORZOLJKW

70mm

FEATURES
BUILD QUALITY
IMAGE QUALITY
VALUE FOR MONEY
This image is
sharp but theres
no stabiliser, so
shooting is too hit
and miss

300mm

OVERALL
WE SAY The lens has been around
a while, and the lack of stabilisation
made handheld shooting tricky.

Sigma 70-300mm
f/4-5.6 DG OS 98, $200
Is this just the Sigma APO DG Macro with an
image stabiliser? No, it has a few new tricks
It might seem that the
newer 70-300mm OS
lens is simply Sigmas older
model with an optical
stabiliser. In fact, its completely
GLIIHUHQW%XWZKDW\RXJDLQLQD
highly effective four-stop optical
stabiliser, you lose elsewhere.
This lens only has one SLD
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QRWWKUHHDQGWKHPDFURIDFLOLW\
GLVDSSHDUVDOWRJHWKHU(YHQVR
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stabilisation has become a
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telephoto shooting with effective
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Neither of Sigmas 70-300mm
lenses have ultrasonic autofocus
VRDVZLWKWKH$32YHUVLRQWKLV
OHQVVIRFXVLQJLVIDLUO\TXLFNEXW

TXLWHQRLV\$JDLQWKHIURQW
element rotates when it focuses,
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polarisers tricky to use.
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$32OHQVWKH26LVJKHDYLHU
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OWHUWKUHDG PPQRWPP 

Performance

70mm

In our tests, the stabiliser on this


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consistently than the Sigma
PPV$QGHYHQWKRXJK
the DG lacks the competing
6LJPDPPOHQVV$32
label, chromatic aberration was
even less noticeable. Sharpness
LPSURYHGVOLJKWO\ZKHQZHVKRW
at the maximum aperture at
300mm too.

134 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

FEATURES
BUILD QUALITY
IMAGE QUALITY
VALUE FOR MONEY
This lens gave a
sharper image at
300mm than its
70-300mm APO
cousin

WorldMags.net

300mm

OVERALL
WE SAY A good zoom range and
optical quality, backed up by an
efficient four-stop optical stabiliser.

Tamron 70-300mm f/45.6 AF Di LD Macro 100, $200


0.5x macro facility, this time
available in the 180-300mm
zoom range.
7KH7DPURQLVTXLWHOLJKWIRU
a full-frame 70-300mm lens,
EXWWKLVLVUHHFWHGLQWKHEXLOG
TXDOLW\ZKLFKIHHOVDELWFKHDS
DQGSODVWLFN\

Performance

70mm

A capable performer throughout


the 70-200mm zoom range, the
7DPURQVKRZHGWKHVWUDLQDV
ZHJRWWRZDUGVLWVPD[LPXP
300mm focal length. Sharpness
GURSSHGRIIPDGHZRUVHE\D
ODFNRIVWDELOLVDWLRQIRUKDQGKHOG
VKRRWLQJ%DVHGRQDVWDQGDUG
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painfully slow in our tests,
especially at long focal lengths.

FEATURES
BUILD QUALITY
IMAGE QUALITY
VALUE FOR MONEY
Our results were
decent but the
autofocus also
struggled to
keep up

300mm

OVERALL
WE SAY Cheap, but hamstrung by
its slow autofocus and lack of
image-stabilisation facility.

NIKON SOFTWARE

Tamron 70-300mm f/45.6 SP Di VC USD 350, $450


The new Tamron has all the right credentials,
so does it deliver the performance it promises?
ZLWKLQHDV\UHDFK%XLOGTXDOLW\
is vastly superior to that of
Tamrons 70-300mm lens, the
only failing being that the zoom
ring on our review sample was
slightly lacking in smoothness.

ESSENTIAL KIT

Performance
7KLQJVVWDUWHGRIIZHOOHQRXJK
DWWKHPPHQGRIWKH]RRP
UDQJHDQGJRRGRSWLFDO
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up to a focal length of about
250mm. At the maximum
300mm telephoto setting,
however, sharpness took a
QRVHGLYH$WILWGHOLYHUHG
the lowest resolution of any lens
on test. Its a shame, because in
all other respects the Tamron
has a lot to offer.

70mm

FEATURES
BUILD QUALITY
IMAGE QUALITY
VALUE FOR MONEY
We got decent
results but found
that resolution
suffered at
full zoom

300mm

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OVERALL
WE SAY Theres a lot to love about
this lens, but its let down by a lack
of sharpness when fully zoomed in

2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 135

VIDEO GUIDES

Tamrons new 70-300mm


lens packs a host of
features. From the SP (Super
Performance) stable, its a Di
(Digitally Integrated) lens
suitable for both full-frame
and APS-C bodies. Tamron
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the ring-type USD autofocus
ZDVRQO\ULYDOOHGE\WKH1LNRQ
70-300mm VR lenss in this
group. The formers was very
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at the rear of the lens barrel

NIKOPEDIA

At roughly half the


price of many telephoto
zooms, Tamrons 70-300mm
is nevertheless designed for
use with both full-frame and
APS-C D-SLRs, as denoted
E\LWV'LVXI[ It shows its
age though, lacking Tamrons
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to watch out for is that, prior
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without a built-in autofocus
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on cameras such as the D3100
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Like the Sigma 70-300mm
$32WKLVOHQVIHDWXUHVD

CAMERA SKILLS

Is this the best bargain of them all? It even works


with both full-frame and DX-format Nikons

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IMAGE QUALITY IN FOCUS


Nikon 55-200mm f/4-5.6G
AF-S DX IF-ED VR
135MM f/8

SHARPNESS

NIKOPEDIA

CAMERA SKILLS

Find out how the lenses on test compare our


detailed lab results separate the best from the worst

16

135MM f/8

Centre sharpness at 55mm and 200mm


produced average results, but at 135mm
images showed signs of softening.
LAB TEST

FRINGING

135MM f/8

At 55mm and 135mm, centre sharpness


was excellent. While this dropped at the
longest focal length, detail was still good.
LAB TEST

18

Sigma 50-200mm f/4-5.6


DC OS HSM
135MM f/8

Sharpness at 70mm and 135mm was


above average, but dropped steeply as
the focal length increased to 300mm.
LAB TEST

20

Overall, the Sigmas 50-200mm centre


sharpness was the lowest, not helped by
its disappointing result at 200mm.
LAB TEST

1243

Sharpness at 55mm

2243

Sharpness at 70mm

1783

Sharpness at 50mm

1306

Sharpness at 135mm

906

Sharpness at 135mm

2242

Sharpness at 135mm

2178

Sharpness at 135mm

1220

Sharpness at 200mm

1389

Sharpness at 300mm

1386

Sharpness at 300mm

882

Sharpness at 200mm

634

55MM

Across the focal range and frame,


fringing was minimal, with only a slight
sign of a blue edge.
LAB TEST

70MM

Signs of fringing were low, with only the


smallest appearance of a blue or red edge
at 300mm.
LAB TEST

50MM

At both 200mm and 300mm there


were visible signs of blue fringing towards
the edge of the frame.
LAB TEST

At 50mm and 135mm, colour fringing


was low, and there was only a faint sign
of a blue edge at 200mm.
LAB TEST

Fringing at 55mm

0.62

Fringing at 55mm

0.05

Fringing at 70mm

0.69

Fringing at 50mm

0.20

Fringing at 135mm

0.36

Fringing at 135mm

0.1

Fringing at 135mm

0.42

Fringing at 135mm

0.30

Fringing at 200mm

0.65

Fringing at 300mm

0.29

Fringing at 300mm

0.97

Fringing at 200mm

0.34

55MM

DISTORTION

NIKON SOFTWARE
ESSENTIAL KIT

22

Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G


AF-S IF-ED VR

Sharpness at 55mm

55mm

55MM

At 55mm the Nikon lens showed mild


barrel distortion, while at 135mm and
200mm there was visible pinch distortion.
LAB TEST

VIDEO GUIDES

Nikon 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G


AF-S DX ED VR

70MM

Across the focal range this lens showed


visible signs of distortion, with the highest
pinch distortion result at 135mm.
LAB TEST

50MM

Barrel distortion matched the other


Nikons at maximum focal length. But at
300mm pinch distortion was the lowest.
LAB TEST

There were signs of barrel distortion at


50mm. At 200mm, pinch distortion was
the most visible in the test.
LAB TEST

Distortion at 55mm

-0.50

Distortion at 55mm

-0.49

Distortion at 70mm

-0.5

Distortion at 50mm

-0.96

Distortion at 135mm

1.64

Distortion at 135mm

2.16

Distortion at 135mm

1.03

Distortion at 135mm

1.6

Distortion at 200mm

1.31

Distortion at 300mm

1.33

Distortion at 300mm

0.80

Distortion at 200mm

1.64

IMAGE QUALITY VERDICT


Fringing and distortion across the
focal range were poor and the drop in
sharpness in the middle of the focal
range is disappointing.

IMAGE QUALITY VERDICT


Sharpness at the widest and middle
focal lengths was excellent, but the
level of pinch distortion obvious at
135mm was rather high.

136 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

IMAGE QUALITY VERDICT


Sharpness at 70mm and 135mm was
good, although this lens showed a high
result for fringing across the available
focal range.

WorldMags.net

IMAGE QUALITY VERDICT


Levels of sharpness and colour
fringing were average, but the level
of distortion from barrel to pinch
proved the highest in the test.

The tests explained!

Sharpness

Fringing

Distortion

(low scores are


better)
Our real-world test
shows how colour fringing affects a
subject, while the lab results provide
precise values at different focal lengths.
The perfect result would be 0%.

Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6


APO DG Macro

Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6


DG OS

Tamron 70-300mm
f/4-5.6 AF Di LD Macro

135MM f/8

18

135MM f/8

LAB TEST

135MM f/8

The Sigma 70-300mm put in a good,


consistent performance, with only the
smallest drop in sharpness at full zoom.
LAB TEST

16

Tamron 70-300mm
f/4-5.6 SP Di VC USD
135MM f/8

Sharpness peaked at 135mm. Centre


sharpness was average for the group at
70mm but detail dropped at 300mm.
LAB TEST

22

Centre sharpness at 135mm was high.


However, detail was lost at 200mm, with
the lowest result in the test.
LAB TEST

Sharpness at 70mm

2295

Sharpness at 70mm

2174

Sharpness at 70mm

1315

Sharpness at 70mm

1320

Sharpness at 135mm

2204

Sharpness at 135mm

1858

Sharpness at 135mm

1501

Sharpness at 135mm

1913

Sharpness at 300mm

988

Sharpness at 300mm

1341

Sharpness at 300mm

828

Sharpness at 300mm

474

70MM

70MM

LAB TEST

This Sigma showed the least fringing in


the test, with little to no signs at all focal
lengths and across the frame.
LAB TEST

70MM

Signs of fringing across the frame and


at all focal lengths were consistently
rare, especially at longer focal lengths.
LAB TEST

Although the Tamron showed one of


the higher results for fringing in the test,
visible signs were hard to spot.
LAB TEST

Fringing at 70mm

0.09

Fringing at 70mm

0.05

Fringing at 70mm

0.57

Fringing at 70mm

0.4

Fringing at 135mm

0.17

Fringing at 135mm

0.13

Fringing at 135mm

0.08

Fringing at 135mm

0.36

Fringing at 300mm

0.14

Fringing at 300mm

0.08

Fringing at 300mm

0.05

Fringing at 300mm

0.24

70MM

This showed the least amount of barrel


distortion at 70mm. Distortion across the
rest of the focal range was average.
LAB TEST

70MM

At 135mm the Sigma showed the least


pinch distortion in the test; at 70mm and
300mm distortion was average.
LAB TEST

70MM

Pinch distortion was worst at 135mm,


but at the widest and narrowest focal
lengths distortion was low to medium.
LAB TEST

Signs of distortion across the focal


range were comparatively low, producing
better-than-average results for this test.
LAB TEST

Distortion at 70mm

-0.05

Distortion at 70mm

-0.34

Distortion at 70mm

-0.23

Distortion at 70mm

-0.27

Distortion at 135mm

1.25

Distortion at 135mm

0.55

Distortion at 135mm

1.05

Distortion at 135mm

0.82

Distortion at 300mm

0.96

Distortion at 300mm

0.84

Distortion at 300mm

0.96

Distortion at 300mm

0.83

IMAGE QUALITY VERDICT


The Sigma 70-300mm produced the
best results in the test across the
board for sharpness, colour fringing
and distortion.

IMAGE QUALITY VERDICT

IMAGE QUALITY VERDICT

The Tamrons performance was


unexceptional, and it sat firmly in the
middle of the group for sharpness,
colour fringing and distortion.

WorldMags.net

Centre sharpness at 135mm was very


good, but images at 200mm and
beyond lacked detail. Fringing also
proved an issue at 135mm.

2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 137

VIDEO GUIDES

IMAGE QUALITY VERDICT


This lens scored two of the highest
results for sharpness at 70mm and
135mm, and came second in the test
for fringing and distortion.

ESSENTIAL KIT

70MM

NIKON SOFTWARE

Fringing at all focal lengths and across


the frame was minimal. Close analysis
showed a faint green/blue edge.

70MM

NIKOPEDIA

At 70mm, the Sigma APO produced the


best sharpness result in our test. But
detail dropped at 300mm.

26

(scores closest
to 0 are best)
The shots of the
brick wall show how distortion affects
our real-world subject, while the lab
data reveals clear measurements.
Again, the perfect result would be 0%.

CAMERA SKILLS

Our real-world test images give


a visual demonstration of each
lenss performance, while the
lab data shows the full picture

(high scores are


better)
Our real-world
resolution test uses a standard ISO 12233
chart. The point where the lines merge is
the maximum resolution (line widths per
picture height, multiplied by 100).

INTRODUCTION

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INTRODUCTION
CAMERA SKILLS
NIKOPEDIA
NIKON SOFTWARE
ESSENTIAL KIT
VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT WorldMags.net


COMPARISON TABLE
Nikon 55-200mm
f/4-5.6G AF-S DX
IF-ED VR

Nikon 55-300mm
f/4.5-5.6G AF-S
DX ED VR

Nikon 70-300mm
f/4.5-5.6G AF-S
IF-ED VR

Sigma 50-200mm
f/4-5.6G DC OS HSM

Sigma 70-300mm
f/4-5.6 APO
DG Macro

Sigma 70-300mm
f/4-5.6 DG OS

Tamron 70-300mm
f/4-5.6 AF Di
LD Macro

www.nikon.com
195, $247
No
82.5-300mm
f/4-5.6 to f/22-32
Three-stop
Ultrasonic (basic)
Yes
No
110cm
0.23x
Plastic
15/11
7
52mm
Hood, pouch
73x100mm
175mm
335g

www.nikon.com
210, $397
No
82.5-450mm
f/4.5-5.6 to f/22-29
Four-stop
Ultrasonic (basic)
No
Yes
140cm
0.22x
Metal
17/11
9
58mm
Hood, pouch
77x123mm
225mm
530g

www.nikon.com
420, $587
Yes
105-450mm
f/4.5-5.6 to f/32-40
Four-stop
Ultrasonic (ring-type)
Yes
No
150cm
0.25x
Metal
17/12
9
67mm
Hood, pouch
80x144mm
258mm
745g

www.sigmaphoto.com
170, $200
No
75-300mm
f/4.5-5.6 to f/22-32
Four-stop
Ultrasonic (basic)
Yes
No
110cm
0.22x
Metal
14/10
8
55mm
Hood
74x99mm
161mm
420g

www.sigmaphoto.com
146, $154
Yes
105-450mm
f/4-5.6 to f/22-32
None
Standard electric
No
Yes
95cm
0.5x
Metal
14/10
9
58mm
Hood, pouch
77x119mm
249mm
550g

www.sigmaphoto.com
98, $200
Yes
105-450mm
f/4-5.6 to f/22-32
Four-stop
Standard electric
No
Yes
150cm
0.25x
Metal
16/11
9
62mm
Hood
77x123mm
235mm
610g

www.tamron.com
100, $200
Yes
105-450mm
f/4-5.6 to f/32-45
None
Standard electric
No
Yes
95cm
0.5x
Metal
13/9
9
62mm
Hood
77x117mm
214mm
435g

Tamron 70-300mm
f/4-5.6 SP Di
VC USD

HOW THE
LENSES
COMPARE
WEBSITE
STREET PRICE
FULL-FRAME
EQUIV ZOOM (APS-C)
APERTURE RANGE
IMAGE STABILISER
AUTOFOCUS MOTOR
INTERNAL FOCUS
FRONT ELEMENT ROTATES
MIN FOCUS DISTANCE
MAX MAGNIFICATION
LENS MOUNT
ELEMENTS/GROUPS
DIAPHRAGM BLADES
FILTER SIZE
ACCESSORIES INC
DIAMETERxMIN LENGTH
MAX LENGTH WITH HOOD
WEIGHT

www.tamron.com
350, $450
Yes
105-450mm
f/4-5.6-f/32-45
Four-stop
Ultrasonic (ring-type)
Yes
No
150cm
0.25x
Metal
17/12
9
62mm
Hood
82x143mm
280mm
765g

FEATURES
BUILD QUALITY
IMAGE QUALITY
VALUE FOR MONEY
OVERALL

10 things we learnt in this test


Out and about with a telephoto zoom, a few factors soon came to light
1 Weighty decisions
5 On the move
8 In the hood
A heavier telephoto lens can be an
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HDVLHUWRDYRLGFDPHUDVKDNHDWORQJIRFDO
lengths, especially when youre panning.

Hold steady

Slow going

$JRRGTXDOLW\RSWLFDOVWDELOLVDWLRQ
system makes for much greater consistency
when youre attempting to get sharp
KDQGKHOGWHOHSKRWRVKRWV

$XWRIRFXVVSHHGWHQGVWRGHFUHDVHDW
WKHORQJHQGRIWKH]RRPUDQJHLQWHOHSKRWR
lenses. This is most noticeable in 70-300mm
lenses.

Noise reduction

Ultrasonic autofocus systems are


JHQHUDOO\PXFKTXLHWHUWKDQWKHPRUHEDVLF
HOHFWULFPRWRUVWWHGWRVRPHOHQVHV
138 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

Faster, ring-type ultrasonic autofocus,


DVWWHGWRWKH1LNRQPP95DQG
Tamron 70-300mm VC USD, is better for
WUDFNLQJIDVWPRYLQJVXEMHFWV

Time to downsize

Mind the gap?

Choosing a 50-200mm
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1LNRQVVDYHVRQVL]HDQG
weight while still enabling
a generous 300mm effective
telephoto focal length.

7KHUHVQRQHHGWR
worry about the gap in focal
length between an 18-55mm
NLWOHQVDQGDPP
telephoto zoom. In practice, this
really isnt a problem.

WorldMags.net

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DWHOHSKRWROHQVQRWRQO\JXDUGVDJDLQVW
JKRVWLQJDQGDUHEXWDOVRSURWHFWVWKHIURQW
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Wide open
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long zoom settings. Therefore,
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WKHOHQVZLGHRSHQLVNH\

10

Mix and match

Lenses in which
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much easier to use with
URWDWLRQVHQVLWLYHOWHUV
such as circular polarizing or
JUDGXDWHGOWHUV

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INTRODUCTION
CAMERA SKILLS
NIKOPEDIA
NIKON SOFTWARE
ESSENTIAL KIT
VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT WorldMags.net


THE WINNER IS...

Nikon 70-300mm f/4.55.6G AF-S IF-ED VR


Its the most expensive lens on test
but its also the best, so if your budget
will stretch this is the one to go for
Nikon has packed plenty of top-level
features into the 70-300mm VR,
including ring-type AF-S autofocus thats
super-quick and practically silent. Theres
also VR II stabilisation, which gives a
FRQVLVWHQWIRXUVWRSDQWLVKDNHEHQHW
FRPSOHWHZLWKDQDGGLWLRQDO$FWLYHPRGHIRU
shooting from a vibrating platform. The
resolution at the maximum 300mm zoom
setting wasnt as impressive in our lab tests
DVZHGH[SHFWHGEXWWKHOHQVGHOLYHUHGWKH
VKDUSHVWVKRWVLQWKHJURXSIRUUHDOZRUOG
shooting, time after time.
The Tamron 70-300mm VC USD is close
in terms of features. However, sharpness at
WKHORQJHVW]RRPVHWWLQJUHDOO\ZDVTXLWH
GLVDSSRLQWLQJHVSHFLDOO\DWWKHODUJHVW
available aperture of f/5.6. The cheaper

6LJPDPP26
SURYHGPXFKEHWWHULQ
WKLVUHVSHFWDQGFRVWVOHVV
than the Tamron.

DX delight
2IOHQVHVGHVLJQHGVSHFLFDOO\IRU';IRUPDW
cameras, theres a clear winner in Nikons
55-300mm VR. Its better built than the
VPDOOHU1LNRQPP95DQGLWV
stabiliser works more effectively than those
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PP26OHQVHV7KHRSWLFDOTXDOLW\RI
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RIIHUVVXFKDPDMRUDGYDQWDJHWKDWOHQVHV
VXFKDVWKH6LJPD$320DFURDQG
Tamron 70-300mm Macro seem pretty

much obsolete. Theyre only worth a look if


\RXUHRQDWLJKWEXGJHW(YHQWKHQLI\RX
KDYHD';IRUPDW'6/5ZHGVDFULFHWKH
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PP95RU6LJPDPP26
Whats good Great build quality for this class of
lens, with a top feature-set.
Whats bad Sharpness could be better at the
300mm end of the zoom range.
Our verdict For any Nikon full-frame or APS-C
camera, this is the best budget telephoto zoom.

OVERALL

Not winners but denitely not losers

Nikon 55-200mm f4-5.6G


AF-S DX IF-ED VR

Nikon 55-300mm f/4.55.6G AF-S DX ED VR

Tamron 70-300mm f/4-5.6


SP Di VC USD

Whats good Decent optical performance,


especially at full zoom, and its small and light.
Whats bad An odd dip in sharpness in the
middle of the zoom range.
Our verdict Its not perfect, but this lens is
inexpensive and a good first telephoto option.

Whats good Good all-round optical


performance, and a sturdy build at the price.
Whats bad Lacks exotic ring-type AF-S, and the
front element rotates during focusing.
Our verdict For DX-format Nikon D-SLRs, you
simply cant go wrong at the price.

Whats good The Vibration Compensation and


Ultra Sonic Drive autofocus are great.
Whats bad Sharpness drops off noticeably at
the longest end of the zoom range.
Our verdict Its a high-quality lens but the Nikon
70-300mm is worth the extra money.

OVERALL

OVERALL

OVERALL

Visit www.nphotomag.com for more expert reviews


140 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

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INTRODUCTION
CAMERA SKILLS

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NIKOPEDIA

8
7

VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

ULT R A

WIDE-ANGLE LENSES

From cramped interiors to sweeping landscapes, an ultra-wide lens will


help you see the big picture. We hunt out the best Nikon-fit deals
142 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

WorldMags.net

THE CONTENDERS
1 Samyang 14mm f/2.8 IF ED UMC 330, $355

INTRODUCTION

WorldMags.net
2 Tamron 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 SP AF Di II 360, $499
3 Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM 350, $399
4 Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM 400, $650

6 Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6 DC HSM 550, $650


7 Tokina 12-24mm f/4 AT-X124 PRO DX II 440, $400
8 Nikon 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G AF-S DX ED 640, $780

CAMERA SKILLS

5 Tokina 10-17mm f/3.5-4.5 AT-X107 DX 530, $600

NIKOPEDIA

NIKON SOFTWARE

ESSENTIAL KIT
VIDEO GUIDES

WorldMags.net

2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 143

INTRODUCTION
CAMERA SKILLS

ESSENTIAL KIT WorldMags.net


EQUIPMENT KNOW-HOW

FEATURES TO
LOOK FOR
The basics you should tick
off, plus some fancy extras

Lens hood

Autofocus

A ower-shaped lens hood comes


with most ultra-wide lenses, and is
useful for minimising ghosting and
are. In some cases, the hood is
built into the lens.

Ring-type ultrasonic autofocus


is best it offers very fast and
near-silent operation, along with
full-time manual override.

VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

NIKOPEDIA

Filter thread

Zoom range

Not all ultra-wide lenses have a thread


for attaching lters. Theyre absent on
the Samyang and Tokina 10-17mm ones,
and can only be used at the longest
zoom on the Sigma 8-16mm lens.

A bigger zoom range can be a


bonus, but for ultra-wide lenses a
short minimum focal length is the
key factor. About 10mm is ideal.

Mounting plate

Focus distance scale

All the lenses featured in


this group have sturdy metal
mounting plates, rather than the
plastic mounts that are tted to
some cheap lenses.

This is an advantage because


it enables you to manually set
the hyperfocal distance, for
maximum depth of eld in
landscape photography.

imes are hard when your


back is quite literally up
against the wall and you
still cant squeeze everything
into the frame. Its a common
problem when shooting interiors,
and carries through to the great
outdoors, where a sweeping vista
can be severely cropped.
It all boils down to the lens. The
18-55mm or 18-105mm kit models
supplied with most Nikon D-SLRs
(such as the D3300, D5300 and
D7100) have effective zoom ranges
of 27-82.5mm and 27-157.5mm
respectively. Thats because of
the 1.5x crop factor of DX-format
Nikon cameras, which have APS-C
(Advanced Photo System Classic)
sensors. Theyre smaller than the
IXOOIUDPHVHQVRUVWWHGWRWKH
D700 or D4, which are the same
VL]HDVDIUDPHRIPPOP
On DX Nikons, an equivalent focal
length of 27mm gives reasonably
good wide-angle coverage but can
be a little limiting.
At the telephoto end, using FX
(full-frame) lenses on DX cameras
can be a big bonus. The crop factor
plays into your hands, turning

a 300mm lens into one with an


effective focal length of 450mm.
The tables are turned at the wideangle end, where FX lenses with
even the shortest focal lengths lose
more than a little something in
translation. For example, an 18mm
FX lens on a full-frame camera will
give an extremely wide angle of
view. But on a DX camera it will
only be about 65 degrees from
side to side, or 75 degrees from
corner to corner.

Zooming in
DX-format ultra-wide lenses
generally need to be designed
VSHFLFDOO\IRU$36&FDPHUDV
and arent compatible with fullframe SLRs. The rear element
extends further into the camera,
enabling ultra-wide DX zoom
lenses to give a typical range
of about 10-20mm or 10-24mm.
At 10mm, the effective focal
length is 15mm and the angle
of view is much more impressive,
at 105 degrees on the diagonal.
Zoom lenses are much more
popular for ultra-wide shooting
on DX cameras, to the extent that

144 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

JARGON BUSTER
Hyperfocal distance
This is the focus
distance setting at which
everything in a scene
will be rendered sharp,
from half the hyperfocal
distance to innity.
It varies according to
the focal length or zoom
setting, and the aperture.

Ring-type ultrasonic
Most upmarket AF-S
(Silent Wave) lenses
contain two large rings
driven at an ultrasonic
frequency. Lenses with
more basic ultrasonic
AF systems are slower,
noisier and dont have
full-time manual override.

WorldMags.net

ultra-wide prime lenses are almost


LPSRVVLEOHWRQG+RZHYHUZHYH
included the Samyang 14mm
prime lens. Its the only lens in
the group thats designed for fullframe cameras, but still gives an
impressively short effective focal
length of 21mm on DX cameras.
The diagonal angle of view is 114
degrees (FX) or 92 degrees (DX).
Zoom lenses are convenient,
and reduce the frequency with
which you need to change lenses
on your camera. In the ultra-wide
DX class, most lenses have a 2x
zoom range of 10-20mm, whereas
the Nikon and Tamron lead the
HOGZLWKD[UDQJHRI
24mm. Most photographers tend
to use ultra-wide lenses at or near
their widest zoom settings most of
WKHWLPH+RZHYHUWKHUHVDORWWR
be said for shooting at 18mm with
one of these lenses, in preference
to a standard kit zoom lens,
because barrel distortion is
generally less pronounced.
The majority of ultra-wide
lenses on the market have
rectilinear optics. This means
that if you were to shoot a sheet

STEP BY STEP Optimise your lens


Protect your lens to get the best results from it

INTRODUCTION

WorldMags.netESSENTIAL KIT

CAMERA SKILLS

02 Go for petals

03 Use a tripod

The convex front element protrudes noticeably


and can be scratched easily. Protect it by tting
a UV lter. Low-prole versions, such as the
Hoya Pro1 Digital, help avoid vignetting when
youre shooting at large aperture settings.

Almost all ultra-wide lenses have internal


focusing, which means the front element
doesnt rotate. This enables the use of a highly
effective ower-shaped hood, crucial for
reducing ghosting and are in outdoor shots.

For careful composition of shots, you cant


beat a tripod. Contrary to what youd do with
a standard or telephoto lens, position the lens
between two of the tripod feet. This avoids a
tripod foot sneaking into the the image.

Ahead of the curve


7KHUHDUHWZRW\SHVRIVKH\H
lens, circular and diagonal.
The former produces a circular
LPDJHWKDWRQO\OOVWKHFHQWUDO
part of the image sensor, whereas

to creative effect. For example, you


could artistically distort the shape
of three-dimensional subjects, or
make tall buildings on a skyline
appear to lean in towards each
other dramatically.
Yet another bonus is that when
youre shooting at really short focal
lengths, you can get an enormous
GHSWKRIHOGHQDEOLQJ\RXWRNHHS
both close foreground subjects and
distant background objects sharp
within an image. For example,
if you shoot at 10mm with an
aperture of f/11 and manually set
the focus distance to its hyperfocal

setting of 45cm, everything


in the frame will be sharp from
just 22.5cm away, all the way
WRLQQLW\
When it comes to autofocus,
the Nikon lens and all the Sigmas
in this group feature ring-type
ultrasonic systems. These deliver
super-fast, practically silent
autofocusing complete with
full-time manual override.
By contrast, the Tamron and
Tokina lenses use conventional
electric motors, which are slower
and noisier. The Samyang has no
autofocus at all, so focusing is
a strictly manual affair.

Our tests are carried out under fixed conditions


using industry-standard tools and procedures
We ran lab tests on each lens,
to check optical performance
across the aperture and zoom
ranges. Shots were taken under
controlled conditions, with studio
lighting and charts. Images were
then processed using Imatest
Master and DxO Analyser, to give
results for resolution (sharpness),
distortion and chromatic
aberration (colour fringing).
For real world tests, we used
the lenses in a range of scenarios,

from dull interiors to sunny


landscapes. We checked for
good handling characteristics,
the speed and precision of the
autofocus and the accuracy
andconsistency with which
exposure metering was achieved
inconjunction with Nikon D-SLR
camera bodies. We also looked
for goodimage contrast, and
checkedthe resistance of lenses
to ghosting and flare when
shooting into the light.

Our resolution tests have been adapted this time around, to cope with the
extreme angles of view of these lenses. For this roundup, weve swapped
our regular ISO 12233 target for Imatests SFR Plus chart.

WorldMags.net

2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 145

VIDEO GUIDES

GLDJRQDOVKH\HVSURMHFWDODUJHU
image circle that covers the whole
frame. Weve included the Tokina
PPVKH\H]RRPLQWKLV
JURXSZKLFKLVDGLDJRQDOVKH\H
and gives full coverage on an
APS-C sensor throughout its
zoom range.
Whether its rectilinear or
curvilinear, any ultra-wide lens
is brilliant for exaggerating
perspective. Shoot an object or
person from close up and the
background will appear to fall
away at a much greater rate than
when you shoot with a standard
lens. You can use this phenomenon

REAL-WORLD MEETS LAB

ESSENTIAL KIT

You could artistically distort the shape


of three-dimensional subjects, or make tall
buildings on a skyline appear to lean in

HOW WE TESTED

NIKON SOFTWARE

of paper from head on, its sides


should be as straight as possible in
the resulting image. An alternative
LVDVKH\HOHQV7KHVHKDYH
curvilinear optics that produce
a pronounced distortion effect.
In the same paper test, the sides
of the sheet would look as though
they were bowing outwards.

NIKOPEDIA

01 Fit a UV lter

INTRODUCTION
VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

NIKOPEDIA

CAMERA SKILLS

ESSENTIAL KIT WorldMags.net

Samyang 14mm f/2.8


IF ED UMC 330, $355

Tamron 10-24mm
f/3.5-4.5 SP AF 360, $499

One of the cheapest ultra-wide lenses on test, and


it shows when you analyze optical performance

One of the cheapest ultra-wide zooms that you


can buy, with decent performance possible

$WUVWJODQFHDSULPH
lens with no autofocus
and an aperture ring at its
base looks like a dinosaur.
Sure enough, you have to set
the Samyangs aperture to
f/22 for use on Nikon D-SLRs,
after which apertures are set
via the camera. But the lack
of autofocus isnt as major a
problem as you might think.
With ultra-wide lenses,
the focus position isnt critical
EHFDXVHWKHGHSWKRIHOGLV
so large. Even when depth
RIHOGLVUHGXFHGZKHQ
youre shooting close in at the
impressively large maximum
aperture of f/2.8, you still
JHWIRFXVFRQUPDWLRQE\

Five years ago, the


main contenders on
the ultra-wide zooms market
were the Sigma 10-20mm
and Tamron 11-18mm
lenses. While the Sigma is
still available, Tamron has
upped its game with a newer
10-24mm lens that rivals the
Nikon in terms of zoom range.
The Tamron is quite light but
IHHOVDOLWWOHLPV\FRPSDUHG
with most lenses in this test.
A few luxuries are lacking,
such as the way the focus
distance scale is only printed
on the end of the focus ring,
rather than beneath a viewing
window. Autofocus is based
on a slightly sluggish but fairly

Most of our test shots required -1EV


exposure compensation before the
brightness looked right

way of the autofocus light in


WKHYLHZQGHU

Performance
The 14mm focal length is
impressive but the effective
21mm on APS-C cameras is
less so. In our tests, images
were usually overexposed by
as much as a full stop (+1EV),
requiring hefty amounts of
compensation to be dialled in.
Disappointingly for a
prime lens, barrel distortion
is noticeable. Optical quality is
pretty good but the Samyang
is only worth considering if
youre on a tight budget.

quiet conventional motor, so


theres no full-time manual
focus override available.

Performance
The Tamron frequently
overexposes shots at the
10mm end of the zoom range,
usually requiring exposure
compensation. At a 20mm
focal length, exposures are
mostly accurate. Theres
a slight lack of sharpness
at the largest apertures,
but performance improves
between f/8 and f/11. Good
results are possible, but watch
the exposure settings.

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OVERALL

OVERALL

WE SAY We can live without


autofocus but the overexposure
anddistortion are disappointing.

146 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

This sunny scene required exposure


compensation of -2/3EV at 10mm, but
none at a 24mm focal length

WorldMags.net

WE SAY Image quality is pretty


good but be prepared to apply some
exposure compensation.

INTRODUCTION

WorldMags.netESSENTIAL KIT

CAMERA SKILLS

With its constant aperture, the updated Sigma


10-20mm is new but not necessarily improved

2QHRIWKHUVWXOWUD
wide zooms designed
for APS-C cameras, Sigmas
original 10-20mm has stood
the test of time. It might lack
the constant aperture of the
newer version but its lighter
in weight, has a more typical
PPOWHUWKUHDGDQGLV
easier on the wallet.
Despite its price, the lens
boasts ring-type ultrasonic
autofocus and comes with
Sigmas usual extras, including
DRZHUVKDSHGOHQVKRRGDQG
good-quality carrying pouch.
Overall build quality is high,
and a match for the bigger,
constant-aperture Sigma
10-20mm. Both editions of

Unlike Sigmas original


10-20mm zoom, this
has a constant aperture of
f/3.5, so the top aperture is
f/3.5 across the zoom range.
This makes it a little more
than one stop faster than the
f/4-5.6 lens at 20mm, for faster
low-light shutter speeds. The
f/3.5 is also 50g heavier, and
has a larger front element to
let in more light. Most lenses
KHUHKDYHDPPOWHU
thread, but this Sigma needs
ODUJHUSULFLHUPPOWHUV

Performance
This is one of the sharpest
lenses in the group, even
at the maximum available
apertures of f/4-5.6. Theres
plenty of image contrast,
and autoexposure values are
consistently accurate in any
light. Some lenses, such as
the Samyang, are poor in this
respect. Distortions are slightly
more noticeable than with
Sigmas 10-20mm f/3.5 lens,
but its a great buy at the price.

Performance
Like the other Sigma lenses
on test, this one features fast,
quiet and accurate ring-

type ultrasonic autofocus,


complete with full-time
manual override. And, as
is the case with all but the
Samyang and Tamron lenses
on test here, the focus distance
scale is neatly tucked away
beneath a viewing window.
All in all, the Sigma feels
well engineered to use,
with good handling.
We found that distortions
were particularly well
controlled. In our tests,
though, sharpness wasnt
quite as good as it was with
the older Sigma 10-20mm lens,
which is also cheaper.

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OVERALL

OVERALL

WE SAY Compact yet sturdily


built, with very good optical
performance at the price.

Sharpness isnt great at the maximum


aperture, but this image, taken at f/11,
isnice and crisp

WorldMags.net

WE SAY The faster low-light


shutter speeds are the main benefit
over the original Sigma 10-20mm.

2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 147

VIDEO GUIDES

Image quality is impressive throughout


the zoom range, with photos looking
sharp no matter what aperture is used

the lens carry Sigmas EX


designation, denoting superior
build and optical quality.

ESSENTIAL KIT

Despite new competition, Sigmas old faithful


still offers great value for those on a budget

NIKON SOFTWARE

Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5


EX DC HSM 400, $650

NIKOPEDIA

Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6


EX DC HSM 350, $399

INTRODUCTION
VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

NIKOPEDIA

CAMERA SKILLS

ESSENTIAL KIT WorldMags.net

Tokina 10-17mm f/3.5-4.5 Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6


AT-X107 DX 530, $600
DC HSM 550, $650
Buck the trend with some extreme distortion,
using the only Nikon-compatible fisheye lens

When youre dealing with angles of view this


wide, sharpness has to give at some point

Out on its own, this is


WKHRQO\VKH\H]RRP
available for Nikon cameras.
You can go wild with extreme
barrel distortion for really
funky images, the effect being
most pronounced at the 10mm
end of the zoom range. As is
W\SLFDORIVKH\HOHQVHVLWV
considerably smaller than
regular ultra-wide zooms,
and weighs a mere 350g.
The built-in hood doesnt allow
OWHUVWREHWWHGZKLFKZRXOG
cause massive vignetting.
But, as with all Tokina lenses,
overall build quality is great.
2QHEHQHWRIWKHVKH\H
effect is that you get a full
180-degree angle of view at

This is the widestangle rectilinear lens


available. Like all but the
Samyang in this group, its
GHVLJQHGVSHFLFDOO\IRU
APS-C cameras, on which it
has an effective shortest focal
length of 12mm. This gives a
huge diagonal angle of view
of 115mm, enabling you to
shoehorn in more of a scene.
+HOSLQJWRGHOLYHURQWKH
extra-wide-angle potential,
the lenss front element is
particularly bulbous, and
WKHRZHUVKDSHGKRRGLV
EXLOWLQ7KHOHQVFDSWVYLD
a secondary, circular hood,
which also contains a 72mm
OWHUWKUHDGDURXQGLWVIURQW

Angles of view are extreme but come


with massive sheye distortion, if thats
the effect youd like to start using

the 10mm zoom setting, which


drops off to a still considerable
100 degrees at 17mm.

Performance
Despite the conventional
motor, autofocus is fast, if a
little noisy. Its normally not
an issue, because focusing will
usually be in the tiny fraction
of the range that covers 0.4m
WRLQQLW\6KRWVDUHRIWHQ
severely overexposed, but
image quality is good and,
FRQVLGHULQJWKDWVKH\HOHQVHV
usually capture a lot of sky, the
Tokinas resistance to ghosting
DQGDUHLVZHOFRPH

edge. The upshot is that you


FDQRQO\DWWDFKOWHUVDWWKH
longest zoom setting, or youll
get extreme vignetting.

Performance
Sharpness is disappointing
at the extreme edges of the
frame, and at the centre at the
largest available apertures. But
its quite acceptable between
f/8 and f/16. Barrel distortion
is also quite pronounced at the
shortest focal length of 8mm,
but is well contained in the
12-16mm sector. This is a good
buy if you want to go extra
large on your viewing angles.

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OVERALL

OVERALL

WE SAY Quality is good all round,


but its a pricey lens, and the fisheye
novelty can soon wear off.

148 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

We had to stick with an aperture setting


between f/8 and f/16 to achieve good
edge-to-edge sharpness

WorldMags.net

WE SAY This is as wide as it gets


for APS-C cameras, but you wont be
able to use filters.

INTRODUCTION

WorldMags.netESSENTIAL KIT

CAMERA SKILLS

If you can afford a bigger budget, this lens is


big on both zoom facilities and features

7KH1LNRQWYHUVLRQ
of Tokinas original
12-24mm lens lacked an
autofocus motor. So, on
bodies that didnt have an
internal AF drive, it could
only be used in manual focus
mode. The updated Mark II
edition puts that right with a
built-in motor, so autofocus is
available with any Nikon body.
Other improvements include
new multi-coatings that aim to
UHGXFHJKRVWLQJDQGDUH
Like the Sigma 10-20mm
f/3.5 lens, this has a constant
aperture, so the maximum
aperture of f/4 is available
throughout the zoom range.
+RZHYHUWKHVKRUWHVW

With a zoom range of


10-24mm, equalled
only by the Tamron lens,
this is a worthy successor
to Nikons older 12-24mm
lens. It provides a wider angle
of view at its shortest focal
length, and build quality feels
robust, with silky-smooth
zoom and focus rings.
The lens features two
ED (Extra-low Dispersion)
elements to ensure excellent
sharpness and contrast, and
the ring-type AF-S autofocus is
super-fast and highly accurate.

Performance
Whereas the Samyang,
Tamron and Tokina 10-17mm
lenses all have a tendency to
overexpose images, this lens
often underexposes by a third
to a half of a stop. Autofocus
is fast but noisy, based on an
electric motor. Theres no fulltime manual focus override,
but you get a push-pull action
for switching between auto
and manual focus quickly.

Performance

focal length extends through


the zoom range. For an ultrawide zoom, the Nikon proved
remarkably sharp at its largest
apertures in our tests, and
there was little vignetting,
making it great for handheld
shooting in dull light.
From low-lit indoor shots to
sunny landscapes, the Nikon
gives extremely accurate
exposures throughout its
zoom range. Distortions are
a little more noticeable than
with some lenses. But, then
again, these can be tuned out
automatically with Nikons
latest D-SLRs.

The largest available aperture


shifts from f/3.5 to f/4.5 as the

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OVERALL

OVERALL

WE SAY Good build quality, but


the lens isultimately a bit lacking in
its ultra-wide field of view.

Plenty of detail shows up in images, and


exposures are spot-on with practically
every shot

WorldMags.net

WE SAY Its the most expensive


lens in the group but is well worth
the extra expenditure.

2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 149

VIDEO GUIDES

Images can be a bit on the dark side,


needing about +0.5EV exposure
compensation to be dialled in

equivalent focal length on


APS-C cameras is 18mm. Most
competing lenses offer a 15mm
effective focal length.

ESSENTIAL KIT

The Mark II is a better bet for Nikon users than


the first Tokina 12-24mm lens, adding autofocus

NIKON SOFTWARE

Nikon 10-24mm f/3.54.5G ED AF-S DX 640, $780

NIKOPEDIA

Tokina 12-24mm f/4 ATX124 PRO DX II 440, $400

INTRODUCTION

ESSENTIAL KIT WorldMags.net

LAB TESTS IN FULL VIEW


Nikon 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G
AF-S DX ED

SHARPNESS

NIKOPEDIA

CAMERA SKILLS

Find out how the ultra-wide lenses on test compare


our detailed lab results separate the best from the worst

Outright sharpness is best at the crucial


ultra-wide focal lengths, and remains
consistent throughout the aperture range.
LAB TEST AT f/8

LAB TEST AT f/8

FRINGING

Theres a lack of sharpness, especially at


the 8mm end of the range, where you need
to be between f/8 and f/16 for good results.
LAB TEST AT f/8

Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5


EX DC HSM

In the wider half of the zoom range,


sharpness is only good from f/8 to f/11. Its
disappointing at large or small apertures.
LAB TEST AT f/8

1681

Sharpness at 14mm

2239

Sharpness at 8mm

1643

Sharpness at 10mm

1919

Sharpness at 15mm

1766

Sharpness at 12mm

1763

Sharpness at 14mm

1728

Sharpness at 24mm

1488

Sharpness at 16mm

1935

Sharpness at 20mm

1951

14MM f/8

Fringing is only slightly noticeable in


the10-15mm zoom range. At longer focal
lengths, chromatic errors are negligible.
LAB TEST AT f/8

16MM f/8

Colour fringing is only noticeable when


youre shooting at the largest aperture
off/2.8, at the edges of theframe.
LAB TEST AT f/8

20MM f/8

Performance is reasonable throughout


the range. At mid to long focal lengths,
fringing diminishes with smaller apertures.
LAB TEST AT f/8

Chromatic aberration is most noticeable


at each end of the zoom range, but is fairly
well controlled between 14 and 18mm.
LAB TEST AT f/8

Fringing at 10mm

0.33

Fringing at 14mm

0.07

Fringing at 8mm

0.28

Fringing at 10mm

0.34

Fringing at 15mm

0.35

Fringing at 12mm

0.06

Fringing at 14mm

0.3

Fringing at 24mm

0.96

Fringing at 16mm

0.11

Fringing at 20mm

0.22

10MM f/4.5

DISTORTION

NIKON SOFTWARE
ESSENTIAL KIT

Performance is poor at f/2.8, but the


Samyang delivers impressive sharpness by
f/4, and only really drops off again at f/22.

Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6


DC HSM

Sharpness at 10mm

24MM f/8

14MM f/4.5

Distortion is well controlled overall,


although barrel distortion is clearly visible
at the 10mm focal length.
LAB TEST AT f/8

VIDEO GUIDES

Samyang 14mm f/2.8


IF ED UMC

8MM f/4.5

For a prime lens, barrel distortion is


extreme, and uneven across the frame.
Wed have expected better.
LAB TEST AT f/8

10MM f/4.5

Barrel distortion is clearly visible at


8mm, but drops off at 12mm, switching to
slight pin-cushion distortion at 16mm.
LAB TEST AT f/8

Barrel and pin-cushion distortions are


only visible at the shortest andlongest
extremes of the zoom rangerespectively.
LAB TEST AT f/8

Distortion at 10mm

-3.86

Distortion at 14mm

-4.67

Distortion at 8mm

0.28

Distortion at 10mm

-2.52

Distortion at 15mm

-0.23

Distortion at 12mm

0.06

Distortion at 14mm

-0.27

Distortion at 24mm

-0.81

Distortion at 16mm

0.11

Distortion at 20mm

0.85

IMAGE TEST VERDICT


The Nikon delivers supremely accurate
and consistent metering, and acquits
itself excellently in all aspects of
imagequality.

IMAGE TEST VERDICT


Overall image quality is poor at the
largest aperture of f/2.8, but improves
between f/4 and f/16, although barrel
distortion is disappointing.

150 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

IMAGE TEST VERDICT


The Sigma 8-16mm really pushes the
ultra-wide boundaries for a rectilinear
lens. Ultimately, image quality is
slightlycompromised.

WorldMags.net

IMAGE TEST VERDICT


Sharpness could be better at large and
small apertures, especially at ultra-wide
focal lengths, but overall image quality
is respectable.

The tests explained!

Sharpness

Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6


EX DC HSM

Tamron 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5


SP AF Di II

LAB TEST AT f/8

Theres a drop in sharpness at about


15mm with largest available aperture.
Overall, though, sharpness is good.

Distortion

(scores closest to
0 are best)
Our real-world tests
show how colour fringing affects a
typicalsubject, while the lab tests
provide exact measurements.

Tokina 10-17mm f/3.5-4.5


AT-X107 DX

Nice and sharp, especially for a fisheye.


The Tokina manages to resolve plenty of
detail right into the corners of the frame.
LAB TEST AT f/8

LAB TEST AT f/8

(scores close to
0 are best)
The shots of the
brick wall offer real-life examples,
while the lab tests offer precise
comparisons between lenses.

Tokina 12-24mm f/4


AT-X124 PRO DX II

Sharpness at the centre of the frame is


particularly good at the largest available
apertures down to f/11.
LAB TEST AT f/8

Sharpness at 10mm

2402

Sharpness at 10mm

2403

Sharpness at 10mm

Not tested

Sharpness at 12mm

2079

Sharpness at 14mm

2430

Sharpness at 15mm

2118

Sharpness at 15mm

Not tested

Sharpness at 15mm

2159

Sharpness at 20mm

2124

Sharpness at 24mm

2067

Sharpness at 17mm

268

Sharpness at 24mm

2433

20MM f/8

24MM f/8

LAB TEST AT f/8

Fringing is quite noticeable towards the


corners of the frame when youre shooting
at 10mm, especially with large apertures.

12MM f/8

Colour fringing can be troublesome


where there are high-contrast edges, such
a dark branches against a bright sky.
LAB TEST AT f/8

LAB TEST AT f/8

Chromatic aberration is well controlled,


and fringing is much less evident than
withthe original lens.
LAB TEST AT f/8

Fringing at 10mm

0.24

Fringing at 10mm

0.31

Fringing at 10mm

Not tested

Fringing at 12mm

0.14

Fringing at 14mm

0.25

Fringing at 15mm

0.2

Fringing at 15mm

Not tested

Fringing at 15mm

0.17

Fringing at 20mm

0.41

Fringing at 24mm

0.24

Fringing at 17mm

0.489

Fringing at 24mm

0.14

10MM f/4.5

Barrel distortion is apparent at 10mm,


turning to mild pin-cushion distortion that
remains fairly constant from 14 to 20mm.
LAB TEST AT f/8

10MM f/4.5

Barrel distortion is reasonably well


contained but is present throughout the
zoom range, most evident at 10-15mm.

12MM f/4.5

As youd expect from a fisheye lens,


distortion is off the scale. Its most
pronounced at the 10mm end.
LAB TEST AT f/8

LAB TEST AT f/8

Barrel distortion is only modest at the


12mm focal length. Theres practically no
distortion at 24mm.
LAB TEST AT f/8

Distortion at 10mm

-3.06

Distortion at 10mm

-2.6

Distortion at 10mm

Not tested

Distortion at 12mm

-2.55

Distortion at 14mm

1.11

Distortion at 15mm

-2.34

Distortion at 15mm

Not tested

Distortion at 15mm

-1.18

Distortion at 20mm

0.979

Distortion at 24mm

-1.63

Distortion at 17mm

-15.4

Distortion at 24mm

0.04

IMAGE QUALITY VERDICT


Overall image quality is hampered
bythe Tamrons frequent tendency to
overexpose shots. Apart from this, its
good at the price.

IMAGE QUALITY VERDICT

IMAGE QUALITY VERDICT

Image quality is pleasing, but you need


to watch out for overexposure. Note that
the fisheye design meant we could not
test at focal lengths other than 17mm.

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Its quite an expensive lens to buy and


lacks a little width in its maximum angle
of view. Image quality is good in every
respect though.

2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 151

VIDEO GUIDES

IMAGE TEST VERDICT


Image quality proved impressive in our
lab tests, especially for sharpness at
large apertures, where its the best
Sigma lens in the group.

ESSENTIAL KIT

10MM f/4.5

NIKON SOFTWARE

Theres quite a lot of fringing towards


the image corners at 10mm, especially in
the f/8 to f/22 aperture range.

10MM f/8

NIKOPEDIA

Sharpness is impressive, even at large


apertures, where the lens outperforms
Sigmas pricier 10-20mm f/3.5 model.

Fringing

CAMERA SKILLS

We checked three main


aspects of performance to
assess each lenss abilities

(high scores
are better)
For these ultra-wideangle optics, we used the Imatest SFR
Plus chart and analysis software to
calculate resolution data.

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INTRODUCTION
CAMERA SKILLS
NIKOPEDIA
NIKON SOFTWARE
ESSENTIAL KIT

ESSENTIAL KIT WorldMags.net


COMPARISON TABLE
Tamron 10-24mm
f/3.5-4.5

Sigma 10-20mm
f/4-5.6

Sigma 10-20mm
f/3.5

Tokina 10-17mm
f/3.5-4.5

Sigma 8-16mm
f/4.5-5.6

Tokina 12-24mm
f/4

Nikon 10-24mm
f/3.5-4.5G

samyang-lens.co.uk

tamron.com

sigmaphoto.com

sigmaphoto.com

tokinalens.com

sigmaphoto.com

tokinalens.com

nikon.com

HOW THE
WIDE-ANGLE
LENSES COMPARE
WEBSITE
STREET PRICE

330, $355

360, $499

350, $399

400, $650

530, $600

550, $650

440, $400

640, $780

LENS TYPE

Rectilinear prime

Rectilinear zoom

Rectilinear zoom

Rectilinear zoom

Diagonal fisheye zoom

Rectilinear zoom

Rectilinear zoom

Rectilinear zoom

DX/FX

FX

DX

DX

DX

DX

DX

DX

DX

MIN FOCUS DISTANCE

28cm

24cm

24cm

24cm

14cm

24cm

30cm

24cm

MIN APERTURE

f/22

f/22-29

f/22-32

f/22

f/22-29

f/22-29

f/4-22

f/22-29

EFFECTIVE FOCAL LENGTH (DX)

21mm

15-36mm

15-30mm

15-30mm

15-25.5mm

12-24mm

18-36mm

15-36mm

ANGLE OF VIEW (DIAGONAL)

114 (FX) 92 (DX)

108-60

102-64

102-64

180-100

115-76

99-61

109-61

AUTOFOCUS MOTOR TYPE

Manual focus only

Standard motor

Ring-type ultrasonic

Ring-type ultrasonic

Standard motor

Ring-type ultrasonic

Standard motor

Ring-type ultrasonic

FILTER SIZE

None

77mm

77mm

82mm

None

72mm

77mm

77mm

LENS HOOD

Built in

Included

Included

Included

Built in

Built in

Included

Included

DIMENSIONS (DIAMxLENGTH)

92x86mm

83x87mm

84x81mm

87 x 88mm

70x71mm

75 x 106mm

84x89mm

83x87mm

WEIGHT

555g

406g

470g

520g

350g

555g

540g

460g

FEATURES
BUILD QUALITY
IMAGE QUALITY
VALUE FOR MONEY
OVERALL

10 things we learnt in this test


Use these tips and tricks to get the best out of your ultra-wide lens

Into the light

Big expanses of bright sky are a


common feature of ultra-wide shots. Keep
WKHIURQWHOHPHQWRU89OWHUFOHDURIVSHFV
of dust or drops of rain to reduce ghosting.

Mind your feet

Its easy to get your feet in the bottom


of the image, especially when
shooting in portrait
(upright) orientation.
Review images on
your cameras LCD
to double check.

VIDEO GUIDES

Samyang 14mm
f/2.8

Slow it down

With equivalent
focal lengths of as
little as 15mm, you
can safely shoot
handheld at 1/15
sec without worrying
about camera-shake,
even without Nikons
Vibration Reduction.
152 The Ultimate Nikon SLR

In at the deep end

Manually setting the hyperfocal


distance is great for ensuring front-to-back
sharpness in landscape scenes. Check out
www.dofmaster.com to calculate the settings
for your camera and lens.

Back to basics

Due to the wide angle of view,


FLUFXODUSRODULVLQJOWHUVFDQEHSUREOHPDWLF
on ultra-wide lenses, as the effect will
vary in intensity across the image.

Doors to manual

7RFRQWUROGHSWKRIHOG
Aperture Priority shooting
mode works well, enabling you
to easily set the aperture you
want to use.

Sweet spot

The sweet spot


of lenses, at which they give
optimum image quality, is
usually at an aperture of

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between f/8 and f/11, so use these settings


to ensure best results.

On the edge

Roll out the barrel

10

Trial and error

Vignetting, which means the


darkening of the image corners, is usually
most noticeable when you combine the
largest available aperture with the most
wide-angle zoom setting. Reducing the
aperture by a couple of stops will normally
[WKHSUREOHP

Barrel distortion is common in


ultra-wide shooting, but you can reduce
its appearance at the editing stage, using
a program such as Photoshop Elements.

Some of the lenses on test give


incorrect exposure settings using the
cameras metering system. Therefore,
it pays to check the results and then
reshoot with positive or negative
exposure compensation if necessary.

THE WINNER IS...

CAMERA SKILLS

Nikon 10-24mm
f/3.5-4.5G AF-S DX ED
Nikon has it all sewn up when it comes to
ultra-wide performance on APS-C cameras

The cheaper options

Whats good Wide zoom range, and excellent


quality in any shooting scenario.
Whats bad The price, plus slight fringing at
10-15mm zoom, and barrel distortion at 10mm.
Our verdict If youve got a bigger budget, this
lens cant be beaten in terms of image quality.

OVERALL

Not winners but denitely not losers

Whats good Very capable performance, and


impressive build quality at the price.
Whats bad Cant quite match the Nikon for
zoom range or image contrast.
Our verdict A brilliant buy at the price its
almost half the price of the Nikon.

Whats good Matches the Nikons 2.4x zoom


range, and is cheap to buy.
Whats bad Basic autofocus motor and exposure
accuracy can be inconsistent.
Our verdict A good budget option, but features
and build quality feel a bit downmarket.

Whats good Puts the ultra into ultra-wide,


with a massive 115-degree angle of view.
Whats bad Not the sharpest tool in the box, and
you cant use filters at wide zoom settings.
Our verdict Youre paying a hefty premium for
that extra 2mm at the wide-angle end.

OVERALL

OVERALL

OVERALL

Visit www.nphotomag.com for more expert reviews


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2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 153

VIDEO GUIDES

Tamron 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 Sigma 8-16mm f/4.5-5.6


DC HSM
SP AF Di II

ESSENTIAL KIT

Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6


EX DC HSM

NIKON SOFTWARE

The only sticking point with the Nikon is


that its by far the most expensive lens in the
group. For a more modest outlay, both Sigma
10-20mm lenses offer advanced features, but

the older f/4-5.6 version is particularly


good value. The Tamron 10-24mm is
the cheapest zoom lens in the group, but
suffered from exposure inconsistencies in
our tests and lacks the Sigma lenses ringtype ultrasonic autofocus.
For maximum wide-angle coverage, the
Sigma 8-16mm is a tempting proposition,
but image quality isnt quite as good as with
the two Sigma 10-20mm lenses. Another
DOWHUQDWLYHLVWKH7RNLQDPPVKH\H
lens, which gives the widest angle of view
LQWKHJURXS%XWWKHVKH\HHIIHFWLVPRUH
of an oddity than something that will
appeal on a regular basis. At the other end
of the scale, the angle of view offered by
the Samyang 14mm and Tokina 12-24mm
lenses are disappointing, and the Samyangs
distortion is pronounced, especially given
that its a prime lens rather than a zoom.

NIKOPEDIA

For reliable, consistent, top-quality


results in practically any conditions,
the Nikon 10-24mm is a clear winner.
Sharpness is excellent even at the largest
aperture, and images have bags of contrast,
HYHQZKHQOLJKWLQJFRQGLWLRQVDUHDWDQG
gloomy. The ring-type AF-S autofocus
system is superbly fast, practically inaudible
in operation and comes complete with fulltime manual focus override. Build quality is
a good match for Nikons top APS-C cameras,
such as the D7100 and D300s, yet the lens
still feels well balanced on lightweight
bodies such as the D3300.

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INTRODUCTION
CAMERA SKILLS

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VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

NIKOPEDIA

LENSES

One size fits all? With their colossal zoom ranges, superzooms offer
unparalleled versatility. We put eight Nikon-fit options to the test
154 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

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INTRODUCTION

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CAMERA SKILLS

NIKOPEDIA
NIKON SOFTWARE

ESSENTIAL KIT

THE CONTENDERS
1 Tamron 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II Macro 132, $200
2 Sigma 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 II DC OS HSM 240, $300
3 Sigma 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 DC OS HSM 300, $350
4 Tamron 18-270mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD 330, $450

6 Nikon 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S IF-ED VR 450, $860


7 Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S DX ED VR II 590, $597
8 Nikon 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S ED VR 660, $1047

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2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 155

VIDEO GUIDES

5 Tamron 28-300mm f/3.5-6.3 XR Di LD VC Macro 515, $750

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EQUIPMENT KNOW-HOW

FEATURES TO LOOK FOR


Front element

DX or FX?

Image stabilisation

Front elements that dont rotate during focusing


enable the use of highly efcient, petal-shaped
lens hoods, and are much easier to use with
circular polarizers.

On an APSC-format camera, youll need to


use a DX lens if you want to maximise wideangle potential. But full-frame lenses can
give you an extra boost if telephoto reach is
most important.

The various optical stabilisation systems


(such as Nikons Vibration Reduction) are great
to have on superzoom lenses, where handheld
shooting without a tripod is the norm.

Zoom range

Autofocus

Mounting plate

In terms of versatility, a bigger zoom range is


better. However, it can come at the expense of
poorer image quality, with impaired sharpness
and more distortion.

Ring-type ultrasonic is the fastest and


quietest type of autofocus system, with
ultrasonic motors lagging behind and basic
electronic models bringing up the rear.

Apart from the Tamron 18-200mm, all the


lenses in this group have metal mounting
plates rather than plastic ones. These tend to
be more robust and longer lasting.

VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

NIKOPEDIA

CAMERA SKILLS

Some of the finer points to consider before making your superzoom decision

main attraction of any


'6/5LVWKDW\RXFDQW
the ideal lens for pretty
much any shooting scenario.
But this practice isnt without its
pitfalls. Most of us are rightly
concerned about swapping lenses
in dusty environments, dumping
dirt into the camera body that can
RIWHQQGLWVZD\RQWRWKHLPDJH
VHQVRU$QGZLWKHHWLQJSKRWR
opportunities, theres always the
risk that the moment will have
SDVVHGEHIRUH\RXYHQLVKHG
UHPRYLQJRQHOHQVWWHGDQRWKHU
and taken aim.
There are also times when
you might need to travel light,
and its not just about baggage
allowances when youre going
on holiday. Anything from city
wanderings to countryside rambles
and hill-climbing can become an
arduous challenge when youve
got a big bag stuffed with heavy
lenses hanging off your shoulder.
Wouldnt it be nice if you could just

carry a single lens that answered


almost every photographic need?
Enter the superzoom.
The whole idea of these lenses
is that they deliver everything
IURPDZLGHDQJOHHOGRIYLHZ
to serious telephoto reach, all
DYDLODEOHDWWKHLFNRIDZULVW
There are two main types those
designed for APSC-format cameras
from the D3100 to the D300s, and
full-frame lenses for bodies such as
the D700 and D4. Nikon calls these
two types DX and FX lenses
respectively. With Sigma, its DC
and DG, and for Tamron its Di
II and Di. But if youre using an
APSC-format camera you neednt
let lens type be the deciding factor;
full-frame lenses are compatible
with smaller-sensor bodies.
If you want a really wide-angle
focal length on an APSC-format
body, youll need an APSC-format
lens. Once you take the 1.5x crop
factor into account, an 18mm focal
length effectively becomes 27mm.

156 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

JARGON BUSTER
Focal length
The actual focal length
(measured in millimetres)
is always quoted on
lenses, regardless of
whether theyre DX (APSC)
or FX (full-frame) models.
For shooting on
APSC-format cameras,
apply the 1.5x crop factor in
both cases to get the
effective focal length.

Internal focus
This simply means that
the focus mechanism is
internal, so the overall
length of the lens doesnt
increase or decrease with
focus adjustments.

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However, a lens such as the Nikon


24-120mm still equates to 36mm
at its widest zoom setting, which is
practically identical to the 35mm
focal length of a wide-angle lens.
Sure, the maximum effective
telephoto reach of 180mm isnt all
that impressive either, but thats
not the whole story.

A ne balance
The bigger the zoom range, the
more image quality is likely to be
compromised. Outright sharpness
might be impaired, and distortions
are likely to be more noticeable. So
while a lens such as the Tamron
18-270mm gives a class-leading
15x zoom range, equivalent to 27405mm, you push the boundaries
of whats possible when you also
demand high optical quality.
Naturally, if youre not too
fussed about wide-angle shooting,
a full-frame 28-300mm lens goes
extra large on telephoto reach
ZKHQWWHGWRDQ$36&IRUPDW

STEP BY STEP Hold it steady


Fend off camera-shake with a natural grip

INTRODUCTION

WorldMags.netESSENTIAL KIT

CAMERA SKILLS

02 Portrait technique

03 Added support

Rest the base of the camera on the palm of your


left hand and cup the lens gently in your ngers.
Keep your left elbow tucked in and, if youre
crouching for a low shot, rest your right elbow
on your knee for added support.

For upright handheld shots, rotate the camera


counter-clockwise so that the shutter release
button is uppermost. This enables comfortable
yet rm left-handed support, just as you had
when shooting in landscape orientation.

A monopod gives stability without the need for a


tripod. A ball-and-socket head enables you to
shoot in portrait as well as landscape. For the
former, rotate the camera clockwise to avoid
unscrewing it from the mount.

Compensation). All competing


systems have a microprocessorcontrolled group of lens elements
that senses vibration and attempts
to cancel it out by moving the
group. Its worth having, as you
get sharp shots quite consistently
at shutter speeds up to three or
four stops slower than you would
without stabilisation.

Keep the noise down


Speed and accuracy are also
critical factors when it comes to
autofocus. All the Nikon lenses on
test have fast, whisper-quiet, ring-

type ultrasonic systems. These


KDYHWKHDGGHGEHQHWRIERDVWLQJ
full-time manual focus override in
Single-AF mode.
At the other end of the scale,
basic electric motors are sluggish
and noisy, as shown by the Tamron
18-200mm and 28-300mm lenses.
All other lenses on test are based
on ultrasonic motors. Unlike ringtype ultrasonic systems, these
arent much faster than basic
electric motors, although they are
quieter. Theyre not as near-silent
as ring-type systems, though,
because gear wheels are still used
to drive the autofocus.

Our expert test team reveal the rigorous criteria


they used to rate the superzooms in our roundup
We tested these lenses in both
real-world and lab shooting
conditions, looking for good build
quality and handling as well as
smooth zoom and focus rings. We
also tested autofocus speed and
accuracy, resistance to ghosting
and flare, and image stabilisation.
We then ran a full range of lab
trials under controlled
conditions, using the Imatest
Master and DxO Analyser suites.
Photos of test charts were taken

across the range of apertures and


focal lengths of the lenses and
analyzed for sharpness,
distortion and chromatic
aberration. You can see our image
quality lab test results on pages
162 and 163, but these are
summaries. We also considered
data from a wider range of
apertures and zoom settings.
Finally, we combined the lab
tests and real-world shooting
results to get Overall verdicts.

Our sophisticated lab tests use a combination of optical resolution


charts and mathematical analysis to deliver precise resolution gures
across a range of apertures and focal lengths

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2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 157

VIDEO GUIDES

unless you resort to increasing the


sensitivity setting of your camera.
All other lenses on test are even
slower at f/6.3 under anything
other than bright sunlight, camerashake can be a big problem.
If you want to travel light with
just a superzoom on your camera,
lugging a tripod around defeats
the object. Instead, try handheld
shooting. To fend off camerashake, all but the Tamron 18200mm in the group feature image
stabilisation. Nikon calls its system
VR (Vibration Reduction), Sigma
has OS (Optical Stabilization)
and Tamron has VC (Vibration

REAL-WORLD MEETS LAB

ESSENTIAL KIT

There are times when you might need to


travel light, and its not just about baggage
allowances when youre going on holiday

HOW WE TESTED

NIKON SOFTWARE

camera. Even so, the minimum


effective focal length of 42mm is
not wide enough for most of us.
But if youre considering trading up
to a full-frame body in the future,
any full-frame lenses you buy now
will be suitable.
Speed is another issue,
especially when it comes to
maximum aperture. At their
longest telephoto focal lengths,
all Nikon lenses tested here have
a maximum available aperture of
f/5.6. This means that under dull
lighting conditions youll be forced
to use quite a slow shutter speed,

NIKOPEDIA

01 Landscape tips

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NIKOPEDIA

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Tamron 18-200mm f/3.5- Sigma 18-200mm f/3.56.3 Di II Macro 132, $200 6.3 II DC OS HSM 240, $300
Its one of the oldest superzooms around for
APSC-format cameras, but can it still compete?

New, improved and downsized, the mark II


version of this lens is an easy travel companion

This lens made a splash


when it launched, but
that was in 2005, and its the
only zoom on test without
image stabilisation. Getting
sharp handheld shots is a
challenge, with a maximum
available aperture of only f/6.3
at the longest zoom length.
7KH1LNRQWYHUVLRQ
originally had no internal
autofocus motor, instead
relying on the in-camera AF
drive featured on upmarket
Nikon bodies. So, there was no
autofocus ability on cameras
such as the D40 and D60 and
subsequent bodies like the

The recently launched


version of this lens is
smaller and lighter than its
predecessor, at 75x88mm and
490g rather than 79x100mm
DQGJ7KHOWHUVL]HKDV
been reduced from 72mm
to 62mm, too. The new lens
also gains an FLD (F Low
Dispersion) element. This
is equivalent to top-quality
XRULWHJODVVJLYLQJKLJKOLJKW
transmission and very low
dispersion. Even so, the largest
aperture at the telephoto end is
still a sluggish f/6.3.
7KHUVWJHQHUDWLRQ6LJPD
OS (Optical Stabilizer) from

D3100 and D5100. Tamron put


things right in 2008, adding a
basic built-in autofocus motor.

Performance
Autofocus is a little slow,
and quite shrill. Sharpness
isnt great at 18mm, and
drops off slightly between
35-135mm, and more so at
200mm. Distortion is more
disappointing, considering the
relatively modest zoom range.
Barrel distortion is particularly
noticeable at the 18mm focal
length and, unlike with
genuine Nikon lenses, autocorrection isnt available.

VIDEO GUIDES

18mm

Performance
Autofocus is fast and quiet,
but its driven by an ultrasonic
motor and the focus ring
rotates during autofocus.
Sharpness isnt as good as with
Nikon lenses at wide-angle and
mid-zoom settings, but instead
of dropping off at maximum
telephoto focal lengths it
increases a little. The Sigma
has the sharpest performance
of any lens in the group at its
maximum zoom stretch.

18mm

FEATURES
BUILD QUALITY
IMAGE QUALITY
VALUE FOR MONEY

FEATURES
BUILD QUALITY
IMAGE QUALITY
VALUE FOR MONEY
The zoom range is
average but the lack
of stabilisation means
sharp handheld shots
are tricky to achieve

the original lens has been


updated, taking performance
from 2.5 stops to four.

200mm

OVERALL
WE SAY Cheap, but outclassed by
newer competition in terms of both
optical quality and features.

158 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

Sharpness is quite
reasonable
throughout most of
the zoom range, and
peaks at 200mm

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200mm

OVERALL
WE SAY Refreshingly compact
and light, but lacking the refinement
you might expect at this price.

INTRODUCTION

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CAMERA SKILLS

Putting the super in superzoom, this brings a


class-leading 15x range to DX cameras

Like Sigmas 18-200mm,


also on test, this is a DC
lens for APSC-format cameras.
Both lenses have Sigmas fourstop OS (Optical Stabilization),
and HSM (Hyper Sonic Motor)
autofocus. Unlike many of the
brands more exotic lenses,
the 18-250mm doesnt have
advanced ring-type HSM, but
the motor-driven system is still
fairly speedy and quiet.
Its bigger than the 18200mm, but its easier not to
foul the the focus rings action
while its rotating. You get a
lot more reach at the telephoto
end, equivalent to 375mm.

This lens is far from a


simple revision of its
predecessor. With added PZD
(Piezo Drive) autofocus, its
much smaller and lighter
WKDQWKHUVWPP
has 16 elements rather than
18, a smaller and lighter VC
(Vibration Compensation)
V\VWHPDQGDOWHUWKUHDGRI
62mm not 72mm.
Its about the same size and
weight as most 18-200mm
lenses, and 115g lighter
than Nikons. Handling is
assured, but the sluggish f/6.3
maximum aperture at the
telephoto end makes handheld

However, the maximum


available aperture of f/6.3
means the image stabilisation
has its work cut out in
anything other than bright,
sunny conditions.

Performance
Sharpness is adequate at wideangle and mid-range zooms,
on a par with the 18-200mm
lens, but theres a drop at
the longest end of the range.
Fringing can also be noticeable
as you approach the 250mm
focal length. But distortions
are well controlled considering
the extra-large zoom range.

Performance
Autofocus is much quieter
than with the original 18270mms basic motor, but its
no quicker. Sigmas ultrasonic
motors are faster. Sharpness is
disappointing at both ends of
the zoom range, and adequate
in the middle region. Barrel
distortion is also pronounced
at 18mm, switching to pincushion distortion at mid-range
zoom settings. Colour fringing
is also an issue at either end of
the zoom range.

18mm

18mm

250mm

OVERALL
WE SAY A chunky heavyweight at
630g, but its good value with its
generous zoom range.

This Tamron is
unbeatable for sheer
zoom range, but the
optical quality is
disappointing

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270mm

OVERALL
WE SAY A compact lens
considering its 15x zoom range, but
the image quality doesnt match up.

2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 159

VIDEO GUIDES

FEATURES
BUILD QUALITY
IMAGE QUALITY
VALUE FOR MONEY

FEATURES
BUILD QUALITY
IMAGE QUALITY
VALUE FOR MONEY
The extra zoom
range gets you that
little bit closer, and
can make all the
difference to shots

a challenge despite the fourstop stabiliser.

ESSENTIAL KIT

The 13.9x zoom range ensures plenty of reach for


DX cameras, and the price is wallet friendly

NIKON SOFTWARE

Tamron 18-270mm f/3.56.3 Di II VC PZD 330, $450

NIKOPEDIA

Sigma 18-250mm f/3.56.3 DC OS HSM 300, $350

INTRODUCTION
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NIKOPEDIA

CAMERA SKILLS

ESSENTIAL KIT WorldMags.net

Tamron 28-300mm
f/3.5-6.3 XR Di 515, $750

Nikon 24-120mm f/3.55.6G AF-S VR 450, $860

Tamrons big-hitting superzoom for full-frame


cameras offers a good deal for the money

Nikon has gone for optical quality over zoom


range here, with a compact full-frame lens

A direct competitor to
Nikons full-frame 28300mm lens, the Tamron is
much cheaper. It matches the
Nikon for stabilisation, with
Tamrons four-stop Vibration
Compensation. Its a bit
smaller, too, and some 250g
lighter, although the build
doesnt feel as robust.
7KHOWHUWKUHDGLV
just 67mm, rather than
Nikons 77mm, but with
less light entering the lens
the maximum aperture is a
third of a stop slower at the
telephoto end. As a result, this
pushes the image stabiliser to

Almost exactly the


same size and weight
as Nikons 18-200mm DX VR
lens, this FX counterpart is
appealing, with an impressive
24mm wide-angle and modest
120mm telephoto. While the
5x zoom range only just edges
the lens into the superzoom
category, the widest focal
length is an effective 36mm
on DX bodies. Meanwhile, the
telephoto length translates to
180mm, making it a viable
superzoom for cameras such as
the D3300 or D7100.
One advantage of this lens
over Nikons 18-200mm is

the limit when youre using an


APSC-format camera.

Performance
Impressively, sharpness is on
a par with the more expensive
Nikon 28-300mm at the wideangle end of the zoom range,
and slightly better at midrange and telephoto lengths.
Distortions are fairly well
controlled, although colour
fringing is more noticeable,
especially at frame corners.
The slow autofocus is a bit
of a letdown. Plus, theres a
tendency for it to hunt back
and forth or stop in dull light.

VIDEO GUIDES

28mm

Performance
Sharpness is great at the
wide-angle end, excellent at
mid-range and only drops off
a little at the longest focal
length. Theres much less
distortion at the wide-angle
end, compared with several
lenses in the group.

24mm

FEATURES
BUILD QUALITY
IMAGE QUALITY
VALUE FOR MONEY
Theres plenty of
reach on APSCformat cameras, but
wide-angle coverage
is completely lacking

that it doesnt suffer from any


zoom creep. This is handy if
you want to use a tripod for
shooting at extreme angles.
However, VR is a generation
older, only gives a three-stop
EHQHWDQGODFNVDQ$FWLYH
mode for moving platforms.

300mm

OVERALL
WE SAY A real money-saver for
full-frame camera users, but the
autofocus performance isnt good.

160 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

FEATURES
BUILD QUALITY
IMAGE QUALITY
VALUE FOR MONEY
Fantastic wide-angle
coverage on full-frame
cameras becomes
merely adequate on
APSC-format models

WorldMags.net

120mm

OVERALL
WE SAY Gives a super-wide-angle
on full-frame cameras, and is still a
worthy contender for DX bodies.

INTRODUCTION

WorldMags.netESSENTIAL KIT

CAMERA SKILLS

A big step up in terms of physical size, this fullframe Nikon delivers true telephoto power

The original version of


this lens was a hit. This
mark II version looks almost
identical, but important
updates include a four-stop
optical stabiliser rather than a
three-stop one.
The zoom mechanism
has also been redesigned, as
the original lens was often
criticised for zoom creep
between 24-135mm. The issue
hasnt been cured completely,
but a zoom lock switch at
18mm has also been added.
Two high-performance ED
(Extra-low Dispersion) lens
elements are still present, but

Noticeably larger than


the DX-format lenses
on test, this full-frame model
gives a zoom range thats
almost identical to the effective
27-300mm from 18-200mm
lenses on an APSC-format
body. It has a newer design
than the Nikon 24-120mm
lens, and four-stop Vibration
Reduction with Normal and
Active mode options.
The extra length of the lens
is even more noticeable at full
stretch, but zooming from 28
to 300mm demands a little
effort, as the zoom ring feels
a bit sticky in places. As with

updated lens coatings further


UHGXFHJKRVWLQJDQGDUH

Performance
Handling outstrips that of any
other DX-format lens on test,
with a silky-smooth focus ring.
The fast, near-silent ring-type
ultrasonic autofocus means
its also the only DX lens on
which the focus ring doesnt
rotate during autofocus, yet
enables full-time manual focus
override. Distortion is quite
pronounced at the 18mm end
of the zoom range but the incamera correction on Nikons
latest bodies combats it well.

18mm

Performance
As with the Nikon 24-120mm
lens, barrel distortion is well
restrained at the widest-angle
zoom setting, and pincushion is similarly low at the
telephoto end. Thats quite an
achievement given the greater
10.7x zoom range. Sharpness
is similarly impressive between
28 and 250mm, but drops off
quite noticeably at 300mm.

28mm

200mm

FEATURES
BUILD QUALITY
IMAGE QUALITY
VALUE FOR MONEY

OVERALL
WE SAY For any DX-format Nikon
body, you cant buy a better
superzoom than this one.

Big telephoto reach is


a bonus, but this lens
has no wide-angle
potential when you use
it on DX cameras

WorldMags.net

300mm

OVERALL
WE SAY With this big camera,
handling still feels well balanced on
chunky full-frame bodies.

2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 161

VIDEO GUIDES

FEATURES
BUILD QUALITY
IMAGE QUALITY
VALUE FOR MONEY
Theres plenty of
contrast on tap with
this lens, which gives
images a really
punchy look

the other Nikons on test, the


ring-type ultrasonic autofocus
system is quick and quiet, and
comes complete with full-time
manual override.

ESSENTIAL KIT

A downsized DX design thats big on quality and


features - this Nikon ticks all the right boxes

NIKON SOFTWARE

Nikon 28-300mm f/3.55.6G AF-S ED VR 660, $1047

NIKOPEDIA

Nikon 18-200mm f/3.55.6G AF-S VR II 590, $597

INTRODUCTION

ESSENTIAL KIT WorldMags.net

ZOOM IN ON PERFORMANCE
Nikon 18-200mm
f/3.5-5.6G AF-S DX ED VR II

SHARPNESS

NIKOPEDIA

CAMERA SKILLS

Find out how the superzoom lenses on test compare our


detailed lab results separate the best from the worst

Excellent throughout almost all of the


zoom range. Theres plenty of sharpness
right into the corners of the frame.
LAB TEST AT f/8

LAB TEST AT f/8

FRINGING

Great performance in the 28-250mm


range, with sharpness dropping off at the
maximum 300mm focal length.
LAB TEST AT f/8

Sigma 18-200mm
f/3.5-6.3 II DC OS HSM

Fairly consistent throughout the zoom


range, sharpness is okay at the centre of
the frame, less so towards the corners.
LAB TEST AT f/8

2311

Sharpness at wide angle

2279

Sharpness at wide angle

2147

Sharpness at wide angle

1461

Sharpness at mid range

1265

Sharpness at mid range

1479

Sharpness at mid range

1459

Sharpness at mid range

1194

Sharpness at telephoto

872

Sharpness at telephoto

1141

Sharpness at telephoto

781

Sharpness at telephoto

1218

24MM

Very good for a superzoom lens slight


colour fringing is only usually a danger at
the long end of the zoom range.
LAB TEST AT f/8

28MM

Resistance to colour fringing is good


and remains constant throughout the
entire zoom range.
LAB TEST AT f/8

18MM

Colour fringing is a little noticeable in


the central region of the zoom range, but
well controlled at either end.
LAB TEST AT f/8

Apparent at both ends of the zoom


range, fringing at image corners can also
be noticeable at mid-range settings.
LAB TEST AT f/8

Fringing at wide angle

0.31

Fringing at wide angle

0.43

Fringing at wide angle

0.33

Fringing at wide angle

1.67

Fringing at mid range

0.34

Fringing at mid range

0.41

Fringing at mid range

0.6

Fringing at mid range

0.77

Fringing at telephoto

0.56

Fringing at telephoto

0.44

Fringing at telephoto

0.46

Fringing at telephoto

1.58

18MM

DISTORTION

NIKON SOFTWARE
ESSENTIAL KIT

Sharpness can be lacking at the largest


available apertures, but performance is
good if you make a one-stop reduction.

Nikon 28-300mm
f/3.5-5.6G AF-S ED VR

Sharpness at wide angle

18MM

24MM

Theres a fair bit of barrel distortion at


the wide-angle end but the latest Nikon
bodies can tune this out automatically.
LAB TEST AT f/5

VIDEO GUIDES

Nikon 24-120mm
f/3.5-5.6G AF-S IF-ED VR

28MM

Barrel distortion is quite restrained at


24mm, switching to a slight pin-cushion
effect at middling and longer zooms.
LAB TEST AT f/3.5

18MM

A close match for the Nikon 24-120mm,


distortions are well controlled, especially
considering the extra zoom range.
LAB TEST AT f/3.5

Barrel distortion at 18mm is more


obvious than with the Sigma 18-250mm,
despite this lenss smaller zoom range.
LAB TEST AT f/5

Distortion at wide angle

-4.31

Distortion at wide angle

-2.58

Distortion at wide angle

-2.48

Distortion at wide angle

-3.26

Distortion at mid range

1.49

Distortion at mid range

1.03

Distortion at mid range

1.18

Distortion at mid range

1.11

Distortion at telephoto

1.35

Distortion at telephoto

1.02

Distortion at telephoto

0.99

Distortion at telephoto

1.11

IMAGE QUALITY VERDICT


This lens delivers the best image quality
of any DX-format superzoom currently
available, with excellent results for
sharpness, fringing and distortion.

IMAGE QUALITY VERDICT


This often-overlooked lens works well
on full-frame and DX bodies alike,
consistently delivering high optical
quality at a good price.

162 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

IMAGE QUALITY VERDICT


Image quality is good overall. Our only
reservation is that sharpness could be a
little better at the maximum 300mm
focal length.

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IMAGE TEST VERDICT


Edge-to-edge sharpness could be better,
especially when youre using the largest
available apertures. Overall, this lens is
good rather than great.

The tests explained!


We test lenses to their limits
in three key areas of optical
performance: sharpness, colour
fringing and distortion

LAB TEST AT f/8

At maximum apertures, sharpness is


quite lacking throughout the zoom range.
At f/8 the lens fares rather better.
LAB TEST AT f/8

Tamron 18-270mm
f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC PZD

Distortion
(scores closest to
0% are best)
We measure
distortion for each lens across its
focal range. Negative numbers
indicate barrel distortion, and
positives show pinch distortion.

Tamron 28-300mm
f/3.5-6.3 XR Di LD VC Macro

At f/8, sharpness is pretty good at focal


lengths around 135mm, but less inspiring
towards either end of the zoom range.
LAB TEST AT f/8

In the 28-200mm section of the zoom


range, sharpness is great, and its still
acceptable at the longest 300mm setting.
LAB TEST AT f/8

Sharpness at wide angle

1449

Sharpness at wide angle

1352

Sharpness at wide angle

1172

Sharpness at wide angle

2108

Sharpness at mid range

1165

Sharpness at mid range

1269

Sharpness at mid range

1344

Sharpness at mid range

1682

Sharpness at telephoto

1019

Sharpness at telephoto

1127

Sharpness at telephoto

885

Sharpness at telephoto

1128

18MM

18MM

LAB TEST AT f/8

Fringes around high-contrast edges can


be an issue throughout the zoom range
but are most obvious in telephoto shots.
LAB TEST AT f/8

28MM

Apart from in the central region of the


zoom range, fringing is a major issue, with
some of the worst results on test.
LAB TEST AT f/8

Colour fringing is obvious at mid to long


focal lengths throughout the zoom range
a lot worse than with Nikons equivalent.
LAB TEST AT f/8

Fringing at wide angle

1.25

Fringing at wide angle

1.56

Fringing at wide angle

2.33

Fringing at wide angle

1.8

Fringing at mid range

0.98

Fringing at mid range

1.3

Fringing at mid range

0.6

Fringing at mid range

2.54

Fringing at telephoto

2.18

Fringing at telephoto

2.02

Fringing at telephoto

3.37

Fringing at telephoto

3.78

18MM

18MM

Given the generous zoom, distortions


are fairly low, especially for pin-cushion
distortion at telephoto settings.
LAB TEST AT f/5

Barrel distortion is pronounced at 18mm


and, unlike with Nikon lenses, automatic
corrections are unavailable.
LAB TEST AT f/5

28MM

Pronounced barrel distortion switches


to high pin-cushion distortion as you zoom
from wide-angle to mid-range settings.
LAB TEST AT f/5

Theres very little to differentiate the


Tamron and Nikon 28-300mm lenses in
terms of distortion. Both perform well.
LAB TEST AT f/4

Distortion at wide angle

-2.48

Distortion at wide angle

-4.28

Distortion at wide angle

-4.02

Distortion at wide angle

-2.44

Distortion at mid range

1.02

Distortion at mid range

1.25

Distortion at mid range

1.25

Distortion at mid range

0.81

Distortion at telephoto

0.84

Distortion at telephoto

1.09

Distortion at telephoto

1.09

Distortion at telephoto

0.75

IMAGE TEST VERDICT


Lab data is disappointing for the Tamron
18-200mm, and our real-world results
are further hampered by the lack of
optical stabilisation.

IMAGE TEST VERDICT

IMAGE TEST VERDICT

The extreme 15x zoom range is an


undoubtedly good feature to have, but
brings with it a fairly major compromise
in terms of image quality.

WorldMags.net

Colour fringing is the only real flaw in


the Tamrons image quality. Other than
that, its a strong performer at a
good-value, reasonable price.

2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 163

VIDEO GUIDES

IMAGE TEST VERDICT


Outright sharpness could be better,
especially towards corners of the frame,
but the Sigma 18-250mm acquits itself
fairly well overall.

ESSENTIAL KIT

18MM

NIKON SOFTWARE

Most noticeable at either end of the


zoom range. Theres still some apparent
colour fringing around the 135mm mark.

18MM

NIKOPEDIA

Sharpness is in line with the Sigma


18-200mms at wide-angle to middle focal
lengths, but drops off at 250mm.

Tamron 18-200mm
f/3.5-6.3 Di II Macro

Fringing
(low scores are
better)
Shooting at minimum,
maximum and intermediate apertures,
we measure colour fringing (chromatic
aberration) in pixels. The perfect result
in this test would be 0%.

CAMERA SKILLS

Sigma 18-250mm
f/3.5-6.3 DC OS HSM

Sharpness
(high scores are
better)
We measure sharpness
using industry-standard test charts and
image-analysis software. Results are
combined over the full range of apertures
and focal lengths to get a verdict.

INTRODUCTION

WorldMags.netESSENTIAL KIT

INTRODUCTION
CAMERA SKILLS
NIKOPEDIA
NIKON SOFTWARE
ESSENTIAL KIT

ESSENTIAL KIT WorldMags.net


COMPARISON TABLE
Nikon 18-200mm Nikon 24-120mm
f/3.5-5.6G AF-S DX f/3.5-5.6G AF-S
ED VR II
IF-ED VR

Nikon 28-300mm
f/3.5-5.6G AF-S ED
VR

Sigma 18-200mm
f/3.5-6.3 II DC OS
HSM

Sigma 18-250mm
Tamron 18-200mm
f/3.5-6.3 DC OS HSM f/3.5-6.3 Di II Macro

Tamron 18-270mm
f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC
PZD

Tamron 28-300mm
f/3.5-6.3 XR Di LD
VC Macro

nikon.com

nikon.com

sigmaphoto.com

sigmaphoto.com

tamron.com

tamron.com

tamron.com

HOW THE
SUPERZOOMS
COMPARE
WEBSITE

nikon.com

STREET PRICE

590, $597

450, $860

660, $1,047

240, $300

300, $350

132, $200

330, $450

515, $750

FULL-FRAME COMPATIBLE

No

Yes

Yes

No

No

No

No

Yes

EQUIVALENT ZOOM (APSC)

27-300mm

36-180mm

42-450mm

27-300mm

27-375mm

27-300mm

27-405mm

42-450mm

APERTURE RANGE

f/3.5-5.6 to f/22-36

f/3.5-5.6 to f/22-36

f/3.5-5.6 to f/22-38

f/3.5-6.3 to f/22

f/3.5-6.3 to f/22

f/3.5-6.3 to f/22

f/3.5-6.3 to f/22-40

f/3.5-6.3 to f/22

IMAGE STABILISATION

Four-stop

Three-stop

Four-stop

Four-stop

Four-stop

None

Four-stop

Four-stop

AUTOFOCUS ACTUATOR

Ultrasonic (ring-type)

Ultrasonic (ring-type)

Ultrasonic (ring-type)

Ultrasonic (motor)

Ultrasonic (motor)

Electric (motor)

Ultrasonic (motor)

Electric (motor)

INTERNAL FOCUS

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

FRONT ELEMENT ROTATION

No

No

No

No

No

No

No

No

MIN FOCUS DISTANCE

50cm

50cm

50cm

45cm

45cm

45cm

49cm

49cm

MAXIMUM MAGNIFICATION

0.22x

0.21x

0.32x

0.26x

0.29x

0.27x

0.26x

0.33x

DIMENSIONS (DIAMxLENGTH)

77 x 97mm

77x94mm

83x115mm

75x88mm

79x101mm

77x84mm

74x84mm

78x99mm

WEIGHT

555g

575g

800g

490g

630g

398g

450g

555g

FEATURES
BUILD QUALITY
IMAGE QUALITY
VALUE FOR MONEY
OVERALL

10 things we learnt in this test


Live with a lens for a while and initial impressions only get stronger
compact and lightweight. Youll notice
1 Wide open
8 Flower power
Small maximum apertures at the
telephoto end might mean you have to shoot
wide open more often, and this can be an
issue for image quality.

Wider angles

Minimum focal lengths greater than


18mm on an APSC-format camera or 28mm
on a full-frame body are often quite limiting
for wide-angle compositions.

Play by numbers

VIDEO GUIDES

In the vast majority of scenarios,


PPRQDQ$36&IRUPDWFDPHUDLVQH
For full-frame cameras, 300mm is better.

Stable shooting

Size matters

For handheld pictures, stabilisation


systems make a big difference, especially at
the longer end of the zoom range.

When buying a superzoom as a travel


lens, it pays to get one thats reasonably
164 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

the difference if youre carrying it


around all day.

Smooth and silent

Ring-type ultrasonic
autofocus, only available on
the Nikons here, enables great
handling. The focus ring
remains static during
autofocus, so you dont
need to worry about
getting in the way.

DX dream

Superzooms
for full-frame
cameras are often
bigger and heavier
than APSC-format
ones, but not always.
The full-frame Tamron
28-300mm is smaller
and lighter than the Sigma
18-250mm APSC lens.

WorldMags.net

The petal-shaped lens hoods


supplied with the superzooms on test not
RQO\ZRUNHIFLHQWO\WRUHGXFHJKRVWLQJ
DQGDUHEXWDOVROHVVHQWKHULVNRI
the front element being knocked and
scraped.

On brand

In-camera auto
distortion control doesnt
work with independently
manufactured lenses,
strengthening the case
to stick with genuine
Nikon glass.

10

Saving time

)RUHHWLQJ
photo opportunities, you
really can get great shots
with a superzoom lens. You
might miss them if you have to
swap lenses on your camera.

THE WINNER IS...

CAMERA SKILLS

Nikon 18-200mm
f/3.5-5.6G AF-S DX ED VR II
A seamless extension to any Nikon DX body, its a
winning mix of high-end features and quality
least at either end of the zoom range, while
distortions are better controlled and colour
fringing is generally less of a problem.

The bigger picture

Whats good Excellent build; fast, ring-type,


ultrasonic autofocus; refined handling; great
image quality.
Whats bad Lab test data for sharpness at the
200mm focal length could be better.
Our verdict This is as good as it gets for
superzoom lenses on a DX body.

OVERALL

Not winners but denitely not losers

Whats good The compact, light build makes it


a neat travel lens. Telephoto sharpness is great.
Whats bad Barrel distortion at 18mm is
noticeable, which could be irritating.
Our verdict As a new lens it wasnt particularly
good value for money, but prices have dropped.

Whats good Offers a big zoom range without


too much compromise on image quality.
Whats bad Not the greatest for sharpness, and
its quite big and heavy for an APSC-format lens.
Our verdict Great value for money, especially if
youre looking for extra telephoto reach.

OVERALL

OVERALL

OVERALL

Visit www.nphotomag.com for more expert reviews


WorldMags.net

2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 165

VIDEO GUIDES

Whats good Great all-round image quality, with


extra wide-angle potential on full-frame bodies.
Whats bad Only has a three-stop stabiliser, and
comes up short on outright zoom range.
Our verdict A tempting choice for full-frame and
DX bodies, and its sensibly priced.

ESSENTIAL KIT

Nikon 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6G Sigma 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 Sigma 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3


AF-S IF-ED VR
DC OS HSM
II DC OS HSM

NIKON SOFTWARE

For full-frame cameras, the Nikon 28300mm and Tamron 28-300mm are direct
competitors. The Nikon is more advanced,
with ring-type ultrasonic autofocus, but the
Tamron only has a basic electric motor thats
slow, noisy and more prone to hunting in
dull light. The Tamrons sharpness is better
at 300mm, but the Nikon delivers better
image quality. Overall, our full-frame choice
is the Nikon 24-120mm. Yes it lacks outright
telephoto reach, but the extra wide-angle
coverage is useful and offers a step up in
image quality. The lens is also good for
APSC-format cameras, if youre planning on
upgrading from APSC to full-frame.

NIKOPEDIA

Beautifully built, the secondgeneration of Nikons 18-200mm


VR superzoom packs in plenty of top-level
features. The ring-type ultrasonic autofocus
is fast, supremely accurate and practically
VLOHQW+DQGOLQJLVIXUWKHUUHQHGE\IXOO
time manual focus override, which is shared
with Nikons full-frame superzooms in the
group. Its not perfect, as theres a little zoom
creep, and the image sharpness measured
in our lab tests could have been better at
the 200mm focal length. Out and about,
however, it delivered the best overall image
quality time after time.
For maximum zoom range on APSCformat cameras, the Sigma 18-250mm OS
is a better bet than the Tamron 18-270mm
VC. Both feature ultrasonic, motor-driven
autofocus systems, but the Sigmas is faster.
The Sigmas sharpness is also better, at

INTRODUCTION

WorldMags.netESSENTIAL KIT

INTRODUCTION

NIKOPEDIA

CAMERA SKILLS

WorldMags.net

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

STANDARD
Upgrading a standard kit zoom should give you great
all-round versatility as well as excellent image quality.
Our Test Team reveals the best lens options
standard zoom is the
lens most of us use
for the majority of our
shooting. It can deliver everything
from wide-angle to short telephoto
focal lengths, providing great
versatility. Plus, the overall
image quality isnt compromised
to the extent it usually is with a
superzoom lens. Compared with
an 18-250mm lens, the more
modest zoom range of a standard

VIDEO GUIDES

lens tends to result in greater


sharpness at all available focal
lengths. Youre also likely to get
less distortion, reduced chromatic
aberration (colour fringing) and
less vignetting (darkened corners).
This is especially true when youre
combining the shortest focal length
with the largest available aperture.
Its no surprise, then, that Nikon
sells most of its D-SLRs with the
option of a kit standard zoom

166 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

lenses. The most popular are the


18-55mm VR and 18-105mm
VR. Theyre both good, giving
acceptable sharpness, contrast and
all-round image quality. Even so,
its easy to feel that theyre built
on a budget. The mounting plates
are plastic rather than metal, and
lack the rubber weather seals
featured on many of Nikons more
upmarket lenses. Also, the lenses
DUHOLJKWZHLJKWDQGFDQIHHOLPV\

WorldMags.net

INTRODUCTION

WorldMags.net

CAMERA SKILLS

NIKOPEDIA

NIKON SOFTWARE

ESSENTIAL KIT

THE CONTENDERS
1 Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 SP AF XR Di II VC 350, $650
2 Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4 DC Macro OS HSM 330, $500
3 Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 SP AF XR Di LD 360, $500
4 Nikon 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S DX ED VR II 440, $630

6 Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 EX DG IF HSM 600, $800


7 Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8G AF-S IF-ED 1050, $1400
8 Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G AF-S ED 1245, $1890

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2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 167

VIDEO GUIDES

5 Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM 310, $520

INTRODUCTION

ESSENTIAL KIT WorldMags.net


EQUIPMENT KNOW-HOW

CAMERA SKILLS

FEATURES TO LOOK FOR

Zoom range

Vibration Reduction

A constant-aperture lens such as the


Sigma 17-50mm offers the equivalent
of 25.5-75mm on a DX body. The Nikon
16-85mm gives a more generous
24-127.5mm effective zoom range.

For general handheld shooting,


optical stabilisation is a massive
bonus, even for lenses with relatively
fast f/2.8 maximum apertures. It
often means you wont need a tripod.

Size and weight

Autofocus

Weather seal

Smaller, lighter lenses are easier


to carry and feel more balanced
on light bodies such as the D3300.
Nikons 16-85mm VR is only about
half the weight of its 24-70mm.

For the fastest performance, quietest


operation and full-time manual override,
ring-type ultrasonic autofocus is best. Its
featured on all Nikon lenses in this group,
plus the Sigma 24-70mm.

The three Nikon lenses on test have a


rubber ring around the mounting plate, to
prevent dust and moisture entering the
camera. This seal is absent on all other
lenses in the group.

How to recognize the basics and


choose your optional extras

VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

NIKOPEDIA

Filter thread
Faster, constantaperture standard
zooms usually have
larger front elements,
so require bigger lters.
These are usually
77-82mm compared
with 52-72mm.

The Vibration Reduction (VR)


system on the Nikon 18-55mm and
18-105mm lenses lacks the brands
popular Active mode, and its AF-S
autofocus is based on fairly slow
motor-driven ultrasonic motors,
not the faster and quieter ringtype system. Ring-type ultrasonic
autofocus is featured in all of the
Nikon lenses here, as well as the
Sigma 24-70mm. It gives you
full-time manual focus override in
Single AF mode. Another minus
point of the 18-55mm VR kit lens
is that its front element rotates
during focusing, which makes it
WULFN\WRXVHURWDWLRQVSHFLFOWHUV
such as circular polarisers.
So what are the main upgrade
FKRLFHV"7KHUVWWKLQJWRFRQVLGHU

is whether youre using an FX (fullframe) body such as the D700 or a


DX body that has a smaller APSCformat (Advanced Photo System
Classic) sensor. For FX bodies,
the main contenders are the Nikon
24-70mm, Sigma 24-70mm and
Tamron 28-75mm. However,
theres something to be said for
using these lenses on DX bodies
as well. Due to the crop factor,
youll only be using the central
part of the lens image circle,
where picture quality is at its best.
That means you can expect less
vignetting and the possibility of
greater sharpness in the extreme
corners of a photo.
The downside of using an FX
lens on a DX camera is that youll

168 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

JARGON BUSTER
Optical stabilisation
A microprocessorcontrolled group of
elements within the lens
counteracts camera-shake
for handheld shooting.

Ring-type stabilisation
Instead of an electric or
ultrasonic motor, advanced
ultrasonic autofocus uses
two big rings that almost ll
the lens internal diameter.

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VDFULFHZLGHDQJOHSRWHQWLDO
For example, a 24-70mm model
gives an effective zoom range of
36-105mm on cameras such as the
D3300, D5300 and D7100.
The short end of the zoom
range is effectively still very close
to the classic wide-angle focal
length of 35mm, but the Tamron
28-75mms maximum wide-angle
equivalent of 42mm really puts
it out of the running. Either way,
a standard zoom thats designed
exclusively for DX cameras and
zooms out to 16 or 17mm has an
effective wide-angle potential of
24 or 25.5mm respectively. This
gives a much wider angle of view
WKDWPRVWSKRWRJUDSKHUVZLOOQG
far more appealing.

STEP BY STEP Zoom and focus


How to avoid trouble when handling your lens

INTRODUCTION

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CAMERA SKILLS

02 Image stabiliser

03 Focus ring

All the lenses on test are resistant to creep, but


its still a good idea to use the zoom lock switch,
if featured, when walking around with the
camera over your shoulder. This stops the lens
extending and reduces the risk of knocks.

Optical stabilisers often shift the optical path


through the lens, so the viewnder image seems
to move. For precise positioning of the camera
when youre using a tripod, it therefore helps to
switch the stabiliser off.

Without ring-type ultrasonic AF, the focus ring


will rotate during autofocus. This can make it
tricky to hold the lens naturally, as your ngers
can foul the action of the focus ring. Adapt your
grip of the camera and lens accordingly.

example, the Nikon 16-85mm has


a maximum available aperture
of f/3.5 at 16mm but only f/5.6
at 85mm. The alternative is a
constant-aperture lens, where the
maximum available aperture is
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In this class, its typically f/2.8,
two stops faster than f/5.6.
A big advantage of a larger
maximum aperture is that you can
JHWDVPDOOHUGHSWKRIHOG7KDWV
good for isolating the main area of
interest in a shot by blurring the
background, and is particularly
useful in portraiture. Other

assignments. The drawback is that,


when youre walking around, the
relatively large size and weight can
feel cumbersome. At nearly 1kg
and 133mm in length, the Nikon
24-70mm in particular feels a bit
unbalanced on a lightweight body
such as a D3300 or D5300.

Need for speed

Our expert test team reveal the rigorous criteria


they use to rate the standard zooms in our roundup
As part of our testing, we use
lenses in real-world shooting
conditions. We examine build
quality and handling, and check
zoom and focus ring smoothness.
We test image stabilisation modes,
autofocus speed and accuracy, and
resistance to ghosting and flare.
We then run a full range of lab
trials under controlled conditions,
using the Imatest Master and DxO
Analyzer suites. Photos of test
charts are taken across the range

of apertures and focal lengths and


analysed for sharpness, distortion
and chromatic aberration (colour
fringing). You can see our image
quality lab test results on pages
174 and 175, but bear in mind that
these are summaries. We also take
data from a wider range of
apertures and zoom settings into
consideration.
Finally, we combine the lab
tests and real-world shooting
results to get Overall verdicts.

Our sophisticated lab tests use a combination of optical resolution


charts and mathematical analysis to deliver precise resolution gures
across a range of apertures and focal lengths

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2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 169

VIDEO GUIDES

Another major consideration


is the speed of the lens, or its
maximum aperture. As with any
other type of zoom lens, standard
zooms often have maximum
apertures that shrink a little as
you extend the focal length. For

bonuses include the potential of


faster, more accurate autofocus
in dull light, and a brighter
YLHZQGHULPDJH+RZHYHU
constant-aperture zoom lenses
typically have less zoom range
and leave you wanting at the
telephoto end.
If youd rather have the extra
zoom range, its well worth
considering an f/3.5-5.6 standard
zoom, and buying a 50mm f/1.8
prime lens for portraiture as well.
At about $120, the Nikon 50mm
f/1.8D is a cracking lens and has
a faster aperture than any of the
other zooms on test.

REAL WORLD MEETS LAB

ESSENTIAL KIT

As with any other type of zoom, standard


zooms often have maximum apertures that
shrink a little as you extend the focal length

HOW WE TESTED

NIKON SOFTWARE

Overall construction quality in the


lenses on test is also a step up from
Nikons 18-55mm VR and
18-105mm kit lenses. All models
in the group are more robust and
each of the three Nikon lenses
features weather seals. Even so,
some of the lenses still feel a bit
plasticky, whereas the Sigma
24-70mm feels particularly
sturdy and the Nikon 17-55mm
and 24-70mm models have fully
professional build quality. Theyre
big, weighty beasts, with metal
bodies, and are built to take the
knocks of daily duty on tough

NIKOPEDIA

01 Zoom lock

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CAMERA SKILLS

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Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 Sigma 17-70mm f/2.8-4


SP AF XR Di II VC 350, $650 DC Macro OS HSM 330, $500
Small but perfectly formed? Well, its little, but its
also lacking too many essential features

Does this budget zoom represent an ideal


compromise or is there room for improvement?

Despite having the same


fast, constant aperture as
the Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8 (see
page 111) the Tamron is smaller,
lighter and cheaper. It also has
a four-stop optical stabiliser,
which is lacking on the Nikon.
On the surface it looks a steal,
but the devil is in the detail.
Build quality feels less rugged
than with the Nikon lens,
and the basic electric motor
autofocus is relatively sluggish
and noisy. Even the Vibration
Correction (VC) is audible.

This Sigma bridges the


gap between fast constantaperture lenses and those with
a more generous zoom. Its
maximum available apertures
are about a stop larger than
with most kit lenses, ranging
from f/2.8 at 17mm to f/4 at
70mm. The zoom range is quite
impressive, too, equivalent to
25.5-105mm. The lens also
features four-stop Optical
Stabilization and only costs
marginally more than the
Tamron 17-50mm VC.
The HSM (Hyper-Sonic
Motor) autofocus isnt a ringtype system, so uses a motor
and gear wheels, but its a lot
quieter and a bit faster than

Performance
Lab test results look quite
good on the whole, but while
sharpness is good at the centre

of the frame, it drops away


alarmingly towards the corners.
This is especially true at f/2.8,
at both ends of the zoom range.
Even when youre shooting at
IDQ\QHGHWDLOLVODUJHO\ORVW
around the edges of images.
It also seems to cause a
problem with overexposure,
which often happens by about
two-thirds of a stop. This results
in overly bright images and
blown highlights. The effect is
most noticeable at the wideangle end of the zoom range,
where you always have to be
ready to dial in some negative
exposure compensation.

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28mm

OVERALL

This wide-angle shot on a DX camera


required a full stop of negative exposure
compensation, which is a lot to ask

WE SAY Cheap for a fast lens,


but build quality is unimpressive
and corner sharpness poor.

170 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

the Tamron lenses more basic


electric motors. The focus ring
rotates during autofocus, so take
care not to foul its action.

Performance
You get plenty of sharpness and
contrast, though not quite as
much as with the similar Nikon
16-85mm VR (opposite). Barrel
distortion at 17mm switches to
pin-cushion at 35mm, which
then stays at a similar level up
to 70mm. Even so, the amounts
of these distortions arent too
severe, especially considering
that the overall zoom range is
bigger than average.

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28mm
Sharpness is good right into the corners,
even at the largest available apertures,
and distortion isnt too noticeable

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OVERALL
WE SAY A worthy upgrade to a kit
lens, the Sigma 17-70mm offers very
good value for money.

INTRODUCTION

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CAMERA SKILLS

Offers decent DX performance but scrimps on


features to target photographers on meagre budgets

A feature-packed, effective and easy-to-carry


standard zoom without the pro price tag

With a fairly conventional


zoom range of 28-75mm,
this Tamron lens lacks wideangle coverage compared with
Nikon and Sigmas 24-70mm
lenses. On full-frame D-SLRs
such as the D700, its noticeable
how much less width there is
in the maximum angle of view.
On a DX body, any wide-angle
potential is completely lost.
Build quality and handling
are on a par with Tamrons
slightly cheaper 17-50mm
lens, being adequate but not
impressive. The full-frame lens
is much slimmer and has a
IDLUO\VPDOOPPOWHUWKUHDG
despite its large f/2.8 constant
aperture. However, unlike the

There are plenty of highend features packed into


this travel-friendly zoom. The
ring-type ultrasonic autofocus is
fast, practically silent and comes
complete with full-time manual
override. The VR II optical
stabiliser is similarly top notch,
offering a four-stop advantage
as well as boasting an Active
mode thats ideal for shooting
from vibrating platforms or
when youve got the shivers.
Build quality isnt a match for
the pro Nikon lenses on test but
the lens is still pretty tough and
beautifully put together, feeling
much more of a quality item
than Nikons kit zooms. The only
drawback is that the maximum

Tamron 17-50mm VC, this lens


lacks optical stabilisation. The
basic electric motor that drives
autofocus is slow and loud.

Performance
Mounting this lens on a DX
ERG\DWWHUVLWVSHUIRUPDQFH
Sharpness is quite good from
corner to corner, and vignetting
is also very low, even when
youre shooting at 28mm at
f/2.8. On a full-frame camera,
though, edge sharpness is
poorer. In both cases, contrast
is a little on the low side,
especially when light conditions
are gloomy.

28mm
Image contrast is alright in bright
sunlight, as above, but below average
under dull lighting

Performance
The 16-85mm acquits itself well
in the lab and is a joy to use. The
VR system is superb and image
quality is impressively sharp,
even at the largest apertures,
making the f/5.6 at 85mm all
the more usable. Contrast is
excellent and the lens gives
superb results in practically any
shooting conditions.

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OVERALL

OVERALL

28mm

WE SAY Only worth considering


if you have a full-frame camera
and a very tight budget.

Excellent real-world use means you can


expect fabulously sharp, high-contrast
images time after time

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WE SAY If youre not fussed


about the lack of an f/2.8 constant
aperture, this lens is unbeatable.

2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 171

VIDEO GUIDES

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aperture of f/5.6 at the long


end of the zoom range is two
stops slower than for some of
the lenses on test. And f/5.6
at 85mm still gives scope for
PLQLPLVLQJGHSWKRIHOG

ESSENTIAL KIT

Nikon 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G


AF-S DX ED VR II 440, $630

NIKON SOFTWARE

Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8


SP AF XR Di LD 360, $500

NIKOPEDIA

Tumsan volor se tie tin ulla


adit ex euipiss ismolor
sequism odigna conum
digniscilisl iliquissi elesto

INTRODUCTION
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ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

NIKOPEDIA

CAMERA SKILLS

ESSENTIAL KIT WorldMags.net

Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8


EX DC OS HSM 310, $520

Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8


EX DG IF HSM 600, $800

This is a pricey proposition, but its worth the cash


for the high optical quality on offer

When you take price into account this becomes a


serious contender for full-frame cameras

At a glance, theres very


little to distinguish this
lens and the Sigma 17-70mm,
which costs much less. As an
EX lens, the 17-50mm has an
upmarket, textured coating
to denote superior build
and optical quality, but both
lenses are of a similar size and
weight, and the controls and
onboard markings are nearly
identical. The main difference
is that the 17-50mm is a fast
constant-aperture f/2.8 lens
with a smaller zoom range. As
H[SHFWHGWKHOWHUVL]HLVODUJHU
at 77mm instead of 72mm.
Disappointingly, the HSM
autofocus system isnt ring-type,
so the focus ring rotates during

This beefy Sigma optic is a


little broader than Nikons
24-70mm full-frame lens, but is
slightly lighter and nearly 20mm
VKRUWHU%XLOGTXDOLW\DQGQLVK
are excellent, with silky smooth
zoom and focus rings. The latter
JLYHVWKHDGGLWLRQDOEHQHWRI
full-time override in autofocus
mode, thanks to a super-fast
and blissfully quiet ring-type
ultrasonic system.
The constant f/2.8 aperture
is good to have, but one thing
thats lacking is Sigmas OS
(Optical Stabilization), which
is featured on the smaller
17-50mm f/2.8 lens for DX
cameras. Filters will also be
expensive, because at 82mm

autofocus and impairs handling


slightly. Theres also no full-time
manual override. On the plus
side, Sigmas four-stop optical
stabiliser works very well.

Performance
Optical quality is excellent, even
at the maximum aperture of
f/2.8, and theres impressively
low vignetting. The only caveat
is that corner sharpness is a little
poor at f/2.8, especially at focal
lengths of 28-35mm. However,
this isnt a problem in practical
terms, as youd usually use the
large aperture to reduce depth
RIHOGDQGEOXUWKHEDFNJURXQG

FEATURES
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28mm
Theres plenty of corner sharpness on
hand if you stop down to f/5.6, although
at f/2.8 it drops off a little

OVERALL

172 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

Performance
Sharpness is good, but drops
off a little at the 50mm zoom
setting and could be better in
the corners at the wide-angle
end at f/2.8. Theres plenty of
contrast and distortions are
fairly low. Vignetting is less
pronounced than with the
Tamron 28-75mm lens on a
full-frame body and negligible
on a DX camera. Overall, its
a high-quality lens that only
costs about half the price of the
competing Nikon.

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28mm

WE SAY A good, fast constantaperture zoom, but its a shame it


lacks ring-type HSM.

this lens has the widest diameter


thread in the group.

Sharpness isnt quite a match for that of


the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 lens but is still
very good within the group

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OVERALL
WE SAY For full-frame users, its
the best-quality standard zoom
that doesnt cost a fortune.

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CAMERA SKILLS

Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G


AF-S ED 1245, $1890

A hefty lens with


battleship build quality,
this 17-55mm is the discerning
professionals choice. Indeed,
theres nothing amateurish
about its price tag. Even so, the
cheaper equivalent Sigma and
Tamron lenses both feature
optical stabilisation, which is
lacking in the Nikon lens.

The 17-55mms ring-type


ultrasonic autofocus system is
spectacularly fast and unerringly
accurate. Its even faster than
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the Nikon 16-85mm and Sigma
24-70mm lenses on test. Theres
plenty of travel in the focus ring,

When it comes to size


and weight, this lens
feels more like a 70-300mm
telephoto than a standard zoom.
Its still well balanced on a big,
heavy body such as a D4 or
D700, though. As a grown-up,
full-frame version of the Nikon
17-55mm, this lens also features
a fast, constant f/2.8 aperture
and lightning-quick, ring-type
ultrasonic autofocus.
One advantage of the lens
over the DX-format 17-55mm
is that it features Nikons Nano
Crystal coating, which does a
great job of reducing ghosting
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similarities include the lack
of an optical stabiliser, which

28mm
Sharpness and contrast results are very
good, but no better than those youd get
with Nikons 16-85mm zoom

Performance
$V\RXGH[SHFWIURPDDJVKLS
standard zoom, contrast
and sharpness are excellent
throughout the zoom range.
Theres little colour fringing at
either end of the range, but it
can be noticeable at mid-zoom
settings. Distortions are well
controlled at all focal lengths.
The sheer length of the lens
makes it impossible to use
candidly, but for all-round build
and image quality this is as good
as it gets for full-frame shooters.

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OVERALL

OVERALL

28mm

WE SAY Tough build quality, but


its pricey, lacks stabilisation and
doesnt offer great image quality.

Theres no faulting the optical quality of


Nikons mighty 24-70mm, but youll
need a steady hand to use it

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WE SAY Impressive optics and


build, but its a big lens and doesnt
have an optical stabiliser.

2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 173

VIDEO GUIDES

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makes handheld shooting more


of a challenge.

ESSENTIAL KIT

Performance

too, which aids precise manual


focusing in MF mode and when
overriding autofocus.
Overall image quality is
excellent, but sharpness is no
better than with the Nikon
16-85mm lens in the 17-55mm
sector of its zoom range. Sure,
the cheaper Nikons sharpness
drops off a little at 85mm, but
the pro lens doesnt offer this
focal length anyway. Distortion
is similar between the two
lenses, and fringing is slightly
better on the 16-85mm. The
only real bonus of this lens is
the larger maximum aperture,
which is just over a stop faster.

NIKON SOFTWARE

Professional users of DX bodies need look no further Nikon brings out the big guns in every sense with
for a high-quality standard zoom
this heavy but sharp-as-nails flagship zoom

NIKOPEDIA

Nikon 17-55mm f/2.8G


AF-S IF-ED 1050, $1400

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UP TO STANDARD?
Nikon 16-85mm
f/3.5-5.6G AF-S DX ED VR II

SHARPNESS

NIKOPEDIA

CAMERA SKILLS

Find out how the zooms on test compare our


detailed lab results separate the best from the worst

Lab data isnt spectacular at 85mm,


but real-world results are pin-sharp
corner to corner.
LAB TEST AT f/8

FRINGING

A good performer, but sharpness isnt


better than it is in the 17-55mm portion
of the Nikon 16-85mm lens range.
LAB TEST AT f/8

Sigma 17-50mm
f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM

Its top of the full-frame class for


sharpness, beating Sigma and Tamron
competitors, but is expensive.
LAB TEST AT f/8

Levels of sharpness are impressive


right into the corners, even at the
maximum f/2.8 aperture.
LAB TEST AT f/8

2359

Sharpness at wide angle

2345

Sharpness at wide angle

2468

Sharpness at wide angle

2562

Sharpness at mid range

2318

Sharpness at mid range

2421

Sharpness at mid range

2381

Sharpness at mid range

2354

Sharpness at telephoto

2076

Sharpness at telephoto

2494

Sharpness at telephoto

2471

Sharpness at telephoto

2469

55MM

At 16mm theres only slight colour


fringing, which essentially disappears at
longer focal lengths.
LAB TEST AT f/8

70MM

Chromatic aberration is among the


highest on test at 17mm, even though its
reduced by current Nikon D-SLRs.
LAB TEST AT f/8

50MM

Colour fringing is a non-issue at either


end of the zoom range, and only slightly
noticeable at mid-range settings.
LAB TEST AT f/8

Fairly consistent throughout the zoom


range, colour fringing is well controlled
and barely noticeable in most shots.
LAB TEST AT f/8

Fringing at wide angle

0.71

Fringing at wide angle

1.25

Fringing at wide angle

0.15

Fringing at wide angle

0.56

Fringing at mid range

0.13

Fringing at mid range

0.36

Fringing at mid range

0.48

Fringing at mid range

0.48

Fringing at telephoto

0.16

Fringing at telephoto

0.18

Fringing at telephoto

0.16

Fringing at telephoto

0.34

16MM

DISTORTION

NIKON SOFTWARE
ESSENTIAL KIT

Nikon 24-70mm
f/2.8G AF-S ED

Sharpness at wide angle

85MM

17MM

Distortion is only really noticeable at


16mm, but even here its very uniform
and easy to correct when editing.
LAB TEST AT f/8

VIDEO GUIDES

Nikon 17-55mm
f/2.8G AF-S IF-ED

24MM

From barrel distortion to pin-cushion,


performance is almost identical to
Nikons cheaper 16-85mm lens.
LAB TEST AT f/8

17MM

Distortions are minimal throughout


the zoom range, so the lens is especially
suitable for architectural shots.
LAB TEST AT f/8

Some barrel distortion at 17mm, and


this switches to a small amount of
pin-cushion by 28mm.
LAB TEST AT f/8

Distortion at wide angle

-3.43

Distortion at wide angle

-3.27

Distortion at wide angle

-1.45

Distortion at wide angle

-2.71

Distortion at mid range

1.21

Distortion at mid range

1.35

Distortion at mid range

0.15

Distortion at mid range

0.63

Distortion at telephoto

1.18

Distortion at telephoto

1.14

Distortion at telephoto

0.23

Distortion at telephoto

0.98

IMAGE QUALITY VERDICT


With great sharpness and contrast,
helped by highly effective optical
stabilisation, this is a brilliant lens for
handheld photography.

IMAGE QUALITY VERDICT


Theres no real increase in image
quality compared with Nikons
16-85mm, though the 17-55mm does
have a faster maximum aperture.

174 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

IMAGE QUALITY VERDICT


Brilliant image quality in all respects,
but it comes at a very high price and
the lack of stabilisation can
downgrade handheld results.

WorldMags.net

IMAGE QUALITY VERDICT


Overall image quality isnt better than
with the Nikon 16-85mm, but this
Sigma is a good choice if you want the
faster, constant aperture.

The tests explained!


We test lenses to their limits
in three key areas of optical
performance sharpness,
colour fringing and distortion

LAB TEST AT f/8

Sigma 24-70mm
f/2.8 EX DG IF HSM

Very good overall, but theres a slight


dip in sharpness at focal lengths around
the 50mm mark.
LAB TEST AT f/8

Fringing

Distortion

(low scores are


better)
Shooting at minimum,
maximum and intermediate apertures,
we measure colour fringing (chromatic
aberration) in pixels. The perfect result
in this test would be 0%.

Tamron 17-50mm
f/2.8 SP AF XR Di II VC

(scores closest
to 0 are best)
We measure
distortion for each lens across its
focal range. Negative numbers
indicate barrel distortion, and
positives show pinch distortion.

Tamron 28-75mm
f/2.8 SP AF XR Di LD

Sharpness is very respectable at the


centre of the frame, but its poor
towards the corners at some apertures.
LAB TEST AT f/8

On a full-frame body, sharpness


around the borders is a little lacking,
but its not so noticeable on DX cameras.
LAB TEST AT f/8

Sharpness at wide angle

2345

Sharpness at wide angle

2298

Sharpness at wide angle

2383

Sharpness at wide angle

2262

Sharpness at mid range

2143

Sharpness at mid range

2175

Sharpness at mid range

2404

Sharpness at mid range

2287

Sharpness at telephoto

2134

Sharpness at telephoto

1926

Sharpness at telephoto

2343

Sharpness at telephoto

2079

70MM

70MM

LAB TEST AT f/8

Theres not much fringing throughout


the zoom range but the lens cant quite
match the mighty Nikon 24-70mm.
LAB TEST AT f/8

75MM

Fringing isnt too bad at wide angles


but, unlike most lenses, this lens doesnt
improve much at longer focal lengths.
LAB TEST AT f/8

The worst lens in the group for


fringing, most noticeably at the edges of
the frame at wide-angle settings.
LAB TEST AT f/8

Fringing at wide angle

0.43

Fringing at wide angle

0.31

Fringing at wide angle

0.33

Fringing at wide angle

1.42

Fringing at mid range

0.21

Fringing at mid range

0.23

Fringing at mid range

0.32

Fringing at mid range

1.21

Fringing at telephoto

0.12

Fringing at telephoto

0.24

Fringing at telephoto

0.27

Fringing at telephoto

0.32

24MM

Barrel and pin-cushion distortion is


restrained, especially considering the
above-average zoom range of this lens.
LAB TEST AT f/8

17MM

A little barrel distortion at wide-angle


and mid-zoom lengths, switching to
fairly low pin-cushion at the long end.
LAB TEST AT f/8

28MM

Barrel distortion is quite pronounced


at 17mm, but theres practically no
distortion at the 50mm end.
LAB TEST AT f/8

Fairly little distortion at any zoom


length. This is the most impressive facet
of the Tamrons image quality.
LAB TEST AT f/8

Distortion at wide angle

-2.97

Distortion at wide angle

-2.17

Distortion at wide angle

-3.66

Distortion at wide angle

-1.48

Distortion at mid range

1.26

Distortion at mid range

-0.55

Distortion at mid range

-0.18

Distortion at mid range

-0.48

Distortion at telephoto

1.28

Distortion at telephoto

0.71

Distortion at telephoto

0.09

Distortion at telephoto

0.5

IMAGE QUALITY VERDICT


The Sigma 24-70mm offers excellent
image quality on both full-frame and
DX-format cameras, making it a great
value option.

IMAGE QUALITY VERDICT

IMAGE QUALITY VERDICT

Edge and corner sharpness are quite


poor, especially at the f/2.8 focal
length, and you often need to stop
down to f/5.6 for good results.

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Its not a star performer on DX


cameras, and no match for the Nikon
and Sigma 24-70mm lenses on a
full-frame body.

2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 175

VIDEO GUIDES

IMAGE QUALITY VERDICT


Overall image quality lags a little
behind the more expensive lenses in
the group, but the Sigma is still very
good value at the price.

ESSENTIAL KIT

17MM

NIKON SOFTWARE

Fringing is well contained and only


really noticeable around high-contrast
edges towards the corners of the frame.

50MM

NIKOPEDIA

Corner-to-corner sharpness is great


for a lens of this price, but the zoom isnt
on a par with the best in the group.

(high scores are


better)
We measure sharpness
using industry-standard test charts and
image-analysis software. Results are
combined over the full range of apertures
and focal lengths to get a verdict.

CAMERA SKILLS

Sigma 17-70mm
f/2.8-4 DC Macro OS HSM

Sharpness

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INTRODUCTION
CAMERA SKILLS
NIKOPEDIA
NIKON SOFTWARE
ESSENTIAL KIT

ESSENTIAL KIT WorldMags.net


COMPARISON TABLE
Nikon 16-85mm
f/3.5-5.6G AF-S
DX ED VR II

Nikon 24-70mm
f/2.8G AF-S ED

Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 Sigma 17-70mm


EX DC OS HSM
f/2.8-4 DC Macro
OS HSM

Sigma 24-70mm
f/2.8 EX DG IF HSM

Tamron 17-50mm
f/2.8 SP AF XR Di
II VC

Tamron 28-75mm
f/2.8 SP AF XR Di LD

HOW THE
SUPERZOOMS
COMPARE
WEBSITE

nikon.com

nikon.com

nikon.com

sigmaphoto.com

sigmaphoto.com

sigmaphoto.com

tamron.com

tamron.com

STREET PRICE

440, $630

1050, $1400

1245, $1890

310, $520

330, $500

600, $800

350, $650

360, $500

DX/FX

DX

DX

FX

DX

DX

FX

DX

FX

EQUIV ZOOM (APSC)

24-127.5mm

25.5-82.5mm

36-105mm

25.5-75mm

25.5-105mm

36-105mm

25.5-75mm

42-112.5mm

APERTURE RANGE

f/3.5-5.6 to f/22-36

f2.8-f/22

f2.8-f/22

f2.8-f/22

f/2.8-4 to f/22-32

f2.8-f/22

f2.8-f/32

f2.8-f/32

IMAGE STABILISATION

Four-stop

None

None

Four-stop

Four-stop

None

Four-stop

None

AUTOFOCUS ACTUATOR

Ultrasonic (ring-type)

Ultrasonic (ring-type)

Ultrasonic (ring-type)

Ultrasonic (motor)

Ultrasonic (motor)

Ultrasonic (ring-type)

Electric (motor)

Electric (motor)

INTERNAL FOCUS

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

ACCESSORIES INCLUDED

Hood, pouch

Hood, pouch

Hood, pouch

Hood, pouch

Hood

Hood, pouch

Hood

Hood

MIN FOCUS DISTANCE

38cm

36cm

38cm

28cm

22cm

38cm

29cm

33cm

MAXIMUM MAGNIFICATION

0.22x

0.2x

0.27x

0.2x

0.37x

0.19x

0.21x

0.26x

DIMENSIONS (DIAMxLENGTH)

72x85mm

86x111mm

83x133mm

84x92mm

79x89mm

89x95mm

80x95mm

73x92mm

WEIGHT

485g

755g

900g

565g

520g

790g

570g

510g

FEATURES
BUILD QUALITY
IMAGE QUALITY
VALUE FOR MONEY
OVERALL

10
things
we
learnt
in
this
test
Theres plenty to think about when choosing your standard zoom upgrade
1

Sizing things up

Middle ground

Most full-frame lenses are big and


heavy, so they feel a bit unbalanced when
used on lightweight DX bodies such as the
D3300 and D5300.

A plus point of using full-frame lenses


on DX bodies is that youre only using the
central portion of the image circle, where
image quality is at its best.

VIDEO GUIDES

Nikon 17-55mm
f/2.8G AF-S IF-ED

Travel light

When youre out and about, the fewer


lenses you have to carry and the less often
you have to change them the better. A lens
with a greater zoom range helps with this.

All a blur

An f/2.8 lens enables you to shrink


WKHGHSWKRIHOGEXWZKHQ\RXVKRRWDWD
longer focal length of 70mm or 85mm you
can still blur backgrounds well at f/5.6.
176 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

Sensitivity issues

Keep still

Speed it up

A larger aperture enables


faster shutter speeds. However,
with current Nikon bodies giving
excellent quality at high ISOs,
this is a less important factor.

The addition of an
image stabiliser can make
a massive difference to
handheld shooting,
reducing camerashake dramatically.

Ring-type
ultrasonic autofocus
generally delivers faster
performance than motorbased ultrasonic or electric
systems, and allows full-time
manual override.

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Fingers and thumbs

In ring-type ultrasonic systems, the


focus ring doesnt rotate in autofocus, so
you dont need to worry about fouling
the focus rings action with your hands.

Zoom creep
None of the lenses on test
suffer from zoom creep, which
makes it easy to shoot at
upward or downward
angles with the camera
mounted on a tripod.

10

Filter size

Theres a big
VSUHDGRIOWHUWKUHDG
sizes in the group of lenses
on test, ranging from
67mm to 82mm. Larger
sizes will mean more
expense when it comes to
EX\LQJOWHUV

THE WINNER IS...

CAMERA SKILLS

Nikon 16-85mm
f/3.5-5.6G AF-S DX ED VR II
Compact and lightweight yet packed with
high-tech features, the Nikon is a great performer
image quality at high sensitivities) rather
than having to use a larger f/2.8 aperture.

Paying the price

Whats good Class-leading zoom range,


ring-type autofocus, dual-mode stabilisation and
superb image quality.
Whats bad The maximum aperture is f/5.6 at
the long end of the zoom range, and only f/5 at
about 50mm.
Our verdict Small on size and weight yet big on
performance, this is a standard zoom thats
incredibly easy to live with.

OVERALL

Not winners but denitely not losers

Sigma 24-70mm
f/2.8 EX DG IF HSM

Whats good Generous zoom range, fairly fast


aperture, quiet HSM autofocus and budget price.
Whats bad Not as refined as the Nikon
16-85mm, and image quality isnt as good.
Our verdict An excellent choice if you cant quite
stretch to the cost of the Nikon 16-85mm VR.

Whats good Fairly compact for an f/2.8 lens,


and includes a four-stop optical stabiliser.
Whats bad As with the Sigma 17-70mm, the
focus ring rotates during autofocus.
Our verdict Much better value than the Nikon
17-55mm, which is pricey and lacks stabilisation.

Whats good Full-frame compatibility, ring-type


autofocus and very good image quality.
Whats bad Theres no optical stabiliser and the
filter thread is very large at 82mm.
Our verdict Not quite as good as the whopping
Nikon 24-70mm, but its only half the price.

OVERALL

OVERALL

OVERALL

Visit www.nphotomag.com for more expert reviews


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2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 177

VIDEO GUIDES

Sigma 17-50mm
f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM

ESSENTIAL KIT

Sigma 17-70mm
f/2.8-4 DC Macro OS HSM

NIKON SOFTWARE

The Nikon 16-85mm is fairly affordable, but


if you want a DX-format lens on a tighter
budget, the Sigma 17-70mm is great. Were
not so impressed with the even cheaper
Tamron 17-50mm. It lacks sharpness away
from the frame centre and often seems to
cause metering errors. The best-value f/2.8
for DX cameras is the Sigma 17-50mm,
with its four-stop stabiliser. For FX cameras
there arent any optically stabilised standard
zooms, but the Sigma 24-70mm is the best
buy. It costs less than half the price of the
Nikon 24-70mm. The DX-format Nikon
17-55mm f/2.8 also lacks stabilisation.
Unless you need bombproof build, the Nikon
f/2.8 lenses are fairly poor value for money.

NIKOPEDIA

A standard zoom is ideal for walkabout


photography, and the compact Nikon
16-85mm weighs less than 500g, so is an
ideal travel companion. Despite its small,
lightweight design, build quality feels great
and luxuries include fast, deadly accurate
ring-type ultrasonic autofocus, as well as a
brilliant dual-mode optical stabiliser. It also
has the biggest zoom range in the group.
Most importantly, image quality is superb.
One thing the lens lacks is a relatively
fast, constant maximum aperture of f/2.8.
However, the f/2.8 lenses on test have less
zoom range, lacking the telephoto reach of
their slower rivals. By using the longer focal
length of 85mm, you can still get a similarly
WLJKWGHSWKRIHOGDWI$QGLI\RXQHHG
faster shutter speeds, theres a lot to be said
for increasing the ISO setting in current
Nikon cameras (which deliver excellent

INTRODUCTION

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INTRODUCTION
CAMERA SKILLS

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NIKOPEDIA

VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

LENSES

MACRO OPTICS
Are you ready for your close-up? We check out eight Nikon-fit
macro lenses that can deliver full life-size magnification
178 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

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THE CONTENDERS

INTRODUCTION

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1 Nikon 40mm f/2.8G AF-S DX Micro 200, $277


2 Tamron 90mm f/2.8 SP AF Di Macro 370, $500

4 Sigma 70mm f/2.8 EX DG Macro 330, $460


5 Nikon 60mm f/2.8G AF-S ED Micro 390, $540

6 Nikon 85mm f/3.5G AF-S DX ED VR Micro 375, $527


7 Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM Macro 380, $670
8 Nikon 105mm f/2.8G AF-S IF-ED VR Micro 630, $920

CAMERA SKILLS

3 Tamron 60mm f/2 SP AF Di II Macro 350, $525


7

NIKOPEDIA

NIKON SOFTWARE
ESSENTIAL KIT
VIDEO GUIDES

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2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 179

INTRODUCTION

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EQUIPMENT KNOW-HOW

FEATURES TO LOOK FOR


Manual focus ring

Focal length

Internal focus

Manual focusing is often needed in macro


shooting, so the focus ring should be large and
comfortable to use, with a long range of travel
and smooth operation for precise adjustments.

Longer focal lengths usually mean bigger


lenses, but at least you wont have to get
uncomfortably close to the subject youre
trying to photograph.

With macro lenses that feature internal


focusing, the front element doesnt extend at
shorter focusing distances, so theres more
clearance between the lens and subject.

Autofocus system

Image stabilisation

Focus limit switch

Ring-type ultrasonic autofocus tends to be faster


and much quieter than a conventional electric
motor, and comes complete with full-time
manual override.

Usually offers a four-stop bonus against camerashake in general shooting, but the effectiveness
is greatly reduced in close-up photography. Its of
negligible benet at the closest focus distances.

To avoid the autofocus system hunting back


and forth through the entire focus range, a
limit switch can disable either the longer or
shorter end of the focus travel.

VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

NIKOPEDIA

CAMERA SKILLS

The macro-friendly ticklist that will go a long way

acro badges are often


slapped on lenses that
RIIHUDPDJQLFDWLRQ
factor of 0.5x or less. However,
true macro lenses (or Micro, as
Nikon calls them) deliver 1.0x, or
PDJQLFDWLRQ7KLVPHDQVWKDW
if you photograph a small object
at the lens closest focus distance
setting, it will be the same size
as the image projected onto the
cameras sensor.
$[PDJQLFDWLRQIDFWRU
might not sound impressive, but
bear in mind that this is on the
sensor itself. When the digital
image is viewed on a computer
screen or turned into a photo print,
theres the potential for enormous
enlargement levels of detail

are revealed that are practically


invisible to the naked eye.
7RJHWIXOO[PDJQLFDWLRQ
youll need a macro prime lens
rather than a macro zoom lens.
Even then, some prime lenses
bearing the macro designation
GRQWJLYHIXOO[PDJQLFDWLRQ
All of the lenses weve included
LQWKLVWHVWWWKH[FULWHULD
but there are still some major
differences between them.

Range nder
7KHIRFDOOHQJWKVRIWKHOHQVHVLQ
our roundup range from 40mm to
105mm. Unlike some antiquated
optics, all modern macro lenses
DUHGXDOSXUSRVHGHVLJQV7KH\UH
good for close-ups but also as high-

180 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

JARGON BUSTER
Focus limit switch
This might just limit focus
travel to the long end 50cm
to innity, say. Switches that
can also lock at the close-up
end are more useful, while
some lenses dont have this
feature at all.

Depth of eld
The distance in front of
and behind the point of focus
where objects remain sharp.

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quality prime lenses with a fairly


fast maximum aperture, typically
f/2.8 great for portraits or in low
OLJKW7KHRQO\YDULDWLRQVLQWKLV
group are the Nikon 85mm, which
is two-thirds of a stop slower at
IDQGWKH7DPURQPP
which is one stop faster at f/2.
A more crucial factor is what
focal length is going to be most
useful to you. Nikon cameras
with APSC-format sensors have
a 1.5x focal length multiplier, or
FURSIDFWRU7KH1LNRQPP
lens would therefore have an
HIIHFWLYHIRFDOOHQJWKRIPP
which is also useful for general
shooting with a fairly standard
effective focal length. Lenses of
PPHTXDWHWRPPLQWHUPV

STEP BY STEP Sharper images


Avoid blurry macro shots with a crafty camera setup

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CAMERA SKILLS

02 Focus manually

03 Shutter delay

A short duration of ash will help you avoid


camera-shake. Shoot in Manual (M), select an
exposure setting of about 1/125 sec at f/16, and
adjust the ash power manually. The built-in
ash can be used as long as youre not too close.

Its unlikely that the main point of interest in a


macro shot will line up exactly with one of the
AF points. Focus manually instead, and use Live
View with maximum magnication to make
really precise focus adjustments.

The action of the mirror ipping up immediately


prior to a shot can unsettle the camera and
cause blurred macro images. Use the Exposure
delay mode featured on most current Nikon
D-SLRs to give the camera a chance to settle.

Focal factor
Focal length is also vital for macro.
If youre shooting small bugs, for
example, a greater focal length is

7KHTXLHWQHVVRIWKHDXWRIRFXV
system can also play an important
role when youre trying to
photograph timid wildlife. All of
the Nikon lenses on test, as well
as the Sigma 105mm, feature
very quiet, ring-type ultrasonic
DXWRIRFXV7KLVDOVRKDVWKH
advantage of full-time manual
override in Single AF mode, so
you can tweak the focus setting
without switching back and forth
between auto and manual focus
RSWLRQV7KLVLVYLWDOLQPDFUR
photography because the depth
RIHOGLVH[WUHPHO\VPDOODW

the closest focus setting, which


JLYHVPD[LPXPPDJQLFDWLRQ
$WDQDSHUWXUHRIILWVMXVWD
millimetre or two, and even if you
UHGXFHWKHDSHUWXUHWRILWZLOO
still only be 4mm.
Sometimes, in macro shooting
its easiest to just use manual
focusing, to avoid the autofocus
hunting through its entire range
ZKHQPDNLQJDGMXVWPHQWV7KH
smoothness and precision of the
lens manual focus ring then
becomes very important, though
LWVVRPHWLPHVHDVLHUWRPDNHQH
adjustments to the position of the
camera instead.

Our expert team reveal the rigorous criteria they


used to rate the macro lenses in our roundup
Our two-fold testing system is
based on both real-world shooting
conditions and lab trials. The test
shots on the following pages,
accompanying each review, were
taken at an aperture of f/16, which
is ideal for macro photography. As
well as image quality, we checked
for good handling, especially in
the smoothness and precision of
manual focusing, which is critical
for macro. Overall build quality,
autofocus speed and accuracy,

and optical stabilisation (where


available) were also tested.
A full range of lab trials were
performed in controlled conditions
and included the Imatest Master
and DxO Analyser suites. Photos of
test charts were taken across the
range of apertures and analysed
for sharpness, distortion and
chromatic aberration. Results are
summarized on pages 186 and 187.
Our overall verdicts reflect the lab
tests and real-world results.

Our sophisticated tests use a combination of optical resolution charts


and mathematical analysis to deliver precise resolution gures across a
range of apertures and focal lengths

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2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 181

VIDEO GUIDES

preferable because the minimum


focus distance will be longer. With
a 105mm lens it will be about
35cm, but with a 40mm its only
DERXWFP7KLVPDNHVLWKDUGWR
get close enough to tiny creatures
without scaring them. In fact, its
worse than it sounds because the
focus distance is measured from
the sensor, or focal plane, at the
EDFNRIWKHFDPHUD7DNHWKHGHSWK
of the camera body and the lens
length into account, and the lens
front element can get very close to
your subject. Shorter focal lengths
DUHEHWWHUIRUFRQQHGVSDFHVDQG
ORZHUPDJQLFDWLRQV

REAL WORLD MEETS LAB

ESSENTIAL KIT

A 1.0x magnification factor gives the potential


for enormous enlargement levels of detail are
revealed that are invisible to the naked eye

HOW WE TESTED

NIKON SOFTWARE

of angle of view, so are good for


portraits, whereas 105mm lenses
give a telephoto reach equivalent
to 157.5mm. You might think
these could be good for action
shots, but the focusing systems of
macro lenses are often low-geared
to enable the precise adjustments
UHTXLUHGIRUFORVHXSV7KDWPHDQV
autofocus can be too slow to keep
pace with fast-moving action.

NIKOPEDIA

01 Use ash

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NIKON SOFTWARE

NIKOPEDIA

CAMERA SKILLS

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Nikon 40mm f/2.8G


AF-S DX Micro 200, $277

Tamron 90mm f/2.8 SP


AF Di Macro 370, $500

Nikons baby macro lens is a real lightweight but


can still capture sharp, punchy images

A legend in its own lifetime, its easy to see why


this is such a popular lens among macro shooters

7KHPRVWFRPSDFWOHQV
in the group, the Nikon
40mm is even smaller and
lighter than the Nikon 18-55mm
VR supplied with cameras such
as the D3300. Conveniently for
kit lens owners, it also has the
VDPHPPOWHUWKUHDGDV
does the Nikon 85mm Micro.
7KHIURQWHOHPHQWGRHVQWURWDWH
during focusing with the 40mm,
which it does on the 18-55mm,
although it still extends as you
IRFXVIURPLQQLW\GRZQWRWKH
minimum focus distance.
When youre close-focusing,
the lens extension is a problem
at its closest setting, the front
of the lens is a mere 3.5cm from
WKHVXEMHFW7KLVZLOORIWHQFDVW

A favourite with serious


macro photographers over
WKHODVWHLJKW\HDUVWKH7DPURQ
PPKDVVWRRGWKHWHVWRIWLPH
Compatible with both full-frame
and APSC-format cameras, its
reasonably compact and only
about half the weight of the two
PPOHQVHVLQWKHJURXS7KH
front element is recessed within
the lens barrel, making the
supplied hood something youll
never need.
Unlike most lenses on test,
WKH7DPURQODFNVLQWHUQDO
focusing and almost doubles
in overall length at the closest
IRFXVVHWWLQJRIFP(YHQVR
theres much less of a problem
with casting subjects youre

whatever youre shooting into


shadow unless the main light
source is at the side or youre
XVLQJULQJDVK

Performance
Autofocus isnt particularly
fast for a ring-type ultrasonic
system, but is aided by a focus
limit switch that can lock the
UDQJHDWPWRLQQLW\'XH
partly to the compactness of the
lens, the manual focus ring is
small, and it lacks smoothness
both in autofocus override and
full manual mode. On the plus
side, sharpness, contrast and
image quality are very good.

photographing into shadow than


with the Nikon 40mm lens.
With an electric autofocus
motor theres no full-time
manual override, but a pushpull mechanism on the focus
ring makes it quick and easy to
switch between focus modes.

Performance
Excellent optical quality is
the main reason for this lens
success. Autofocus is sluggish
but the extra-long travel of the
silky smooth focus ring makes it
a joy to use for manual focusing.
7KHUHVDOVRDIRFXVOLPLWVZLWFK
on both sides of the 40cm mark.

FEATURES
BUILD QUALITY
IMAGE QUALITY
VALUE FOR MONEY

FEATURES
BUILD QUALITY
IMAGE QUALITY
VALUE FOR MONEY

OVERALL

OVERALL

Between f/2.8 and f/8 this is the


sharpest lens in the test group, and its
still good at f/16

182 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

The wonderfully precise, long-travel


focus ring is a treat for manual focusing,
ensuring pin-sharp macro shots

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WE SAY Build quality isnt great


but macro handling is refined and
optical results superb at the price.

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CAMERA SKILLS

With no autofocus options on many Nikon bodies,


Sigmas macro lens is very much a hands-on affair

Given the success of


7DPURQVIXOOIUDPHPP
macro lens, its natural that the
brand should try to replicate
WKHZLQQLQJUHFLSHLQDPP
lens for DX cameras. On bodies
such as the D3300 and D7100
\RXJHWDQHIIHFWLYHPPIRFDO
length in a smaller package. A
NH\GLIIHUHQFHLVWKDWWKLVPP
lens has internal focusing, so its
length doesnt increase as focus
distance decreases.
7KHPPOHQVSXVKSXOO
focus ring design is replaced
here with an AF/MF switch.
7KHDXWRIRFXVPRWRULVVWLOOD
basic electric type, so theres
no manual override and the
VZLWFKLVPRUHGGO\DQGWLPH

Put this lens on a D3300,


D5300 or any previous
Nikon bodies of this class and
\RXUUVWUHDFWLRQZLOOSUREDEO\
be that the autofocus is broken.
7KDWVEHFDXVHWKHOHQVGRHVQW
have a built-in motor so, for
autofocus, relies on the screw
drive thats only featured in
high-end bodies such as the
D7100, D300s and D800.
While this can be frustrating
for general photography, it isnt
a major downside for macro
shooting, where youd normally
use manual focusing anyway.
On the upside, the focus ring
itself is very smooth and has a
long travel that enables precise
DGMXVWPHQWV7KHIRFXVOLPLW

Performance
:KHUHDV7DPURQVPPOHQVLV
extremely sharp at its maximum
DSHUWXUHWKHPPLVE\IDUWKH
poorest in the group. It redeems
itself with good resolution in the
IWRIUDQJHZKLFKLVPRUH
appropriate for macro shooting.
However, the focus ring is
horribly stiff and jerky, making
QHDGMXVWPHQWVWULFN\ZKHQ
youre focusing manually.

switch is handy too, limiting the


range either side of about 50cm.
But again, this is only really
useful on bodies that can drive
autofocus. Without internal
focusing the lens also doubles
in length at its shortest focus
distance.

Performance
Sharpness lags behind that of
WKHVLPLODUO\SULFHG7DPURQ
PPZKHQ\RXUHVKRRWLQJDW
the largest aperture of f/2.8.
7KHUHVOHVVRIDGLIIHUHQFH
EHWZHHQIDQGIWKRXJK
Contrast is a little less inspiring
from this Sigma lens, too.

FEATURES
BUILD QUALITY
IMAGE QUALITY
VALUE FOR MONEY

OVERALL

OVERALL

WE SAY Optical quality could be


better and handling is poor. Its not
a patch on its 90mm big brother.

Contrast can be a little lacking from this


lens, even though things look ne in this
brightly lit shot

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WE SAY Autofocus is slow or


non-existent, while image quality
is merely average at best.

2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 183

VIDEO GUIDES

FEATURES
BUILD QUALITY
IMAGE QUALITY
VALUE FOR MONEY

ESSENTIAL KIT

Sharpness is pretty good between f/8


and f/16, but any larger apertures are
best avoided for good results

consuming to use than the pushpull arrangement. Build quality


is nothing special, though this is
the fastest lens on test, with a
maximum aperture of f/2.

NIKON SOFTWARE

Downsized from its 90mm macro predecessor and,


unfortunately, somewhat downgraded as well

NIKOPEDIA

Tamron 60mm f/2 SP AF Sigma 70mm f/2.8 EX


Di II Macro 350, $525
DG Macro 330, $460

INTRODUCTION
VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

NIKOPEDIA

CAMERA SKILLS

ESSENTIAL KIT WorldMags.net

Nikon 60mm f/2.8G


AF-S ED Micro 390, $540

Nikon 85mm f/3.5G AF-S


DX ED VR Micro 375, $527

An upsized equivalent of Nikons 40mm DX lens,


offering compatibility with full-frame cameras

Nikons 85mm offering is designed exclusively for


DX cameras, but at what cost?

While the Nikon 40mm


can only be used on DX
ERGLHVLWVPPEURWKHULV
equally suitable for full-frame
cameras. Indeed, it has exactly
the same focal length on an
FX body as the effective focal
length of the 40mm on a DX
body. Further similarities
include ring-type ultrasonic
autofocus and a rubber weather
seal on the mounting plate, as
featured in all the Nikons in the
group. However, only this lens
and the 40mm lack Vibration
Reduction (VR).
Unlike the Nikon 40mm,
this lens has internal focusing,
so maintains its modest length
right through to its closest focus

Downsized lenses for DX


rather than full-frame
cameras are generally smaller
and lighter. Sure enough, this
lens is only half the weight
of the big, full-frame Nikon
105mm Micro, but its still
slightly larger than the fullIUDPH7DPURQPP3DUWRI
this is due to the VR (Vibration
5HGXFWLRQ V\VWHPWWHGWRWKH
Nikon, which is a mark II edition
WKDWJLYHVDIRXUVWRSEHQHWDW
least, it does at medium to long
focus distances. For macro shots,
theres practically no advantage.
/LNHWKH1LNRQPPOHQV
for full-frame cameras, this DX
optic has no focus limit switch,
but the ring-type ultrasonic

Sharpness at f/16 can be disappointing


compared with some of the cheaper
lenses on test

distance of 18.5cm. Even so, the


front of the lens comes a bit too
close for comfort to the subject,
at a distance of just 4.5cm.

Performance
Autofocus is faster on this lens
than with the Nikon 40mm,
which is perhaps why Nikon has
omitted a focus limit switch.
Manual focusing is slightly
jerky, and lacks the precision of
some of the other lenses on test.
Sharpness is also disappointing
compared with the other lenses,
especially at apertures around
IZKLFKDUHRIWHQIDYRXUHG
for macro shooting.

autofocus system is fast. As


usual, theres full-time manual
override. Also, as with all Nikon
lenses on test (apart from the
40mm), focusing is internal, so
the front element doesnt extend
at closer focusing distances.

Performance
Sharpness is impressive even at
the widest aperture, although
thats only f/3.5 this lens is
two-thirds of a stop slower
than most others in the group.
Darkened image corners are
noticeable at the maximum
DSHUWXUH7KHUHVDOVRDELWRI
barrel distortion.

FEATURES
BUILD QUALITY
IMAGE QUALITY
VALUE FOR MONEY

FEATURES
BUILD QUALITY
IMAGE QUALITY
VALUE FOR MONEY

OVERALL

OVERALL

WE SAY Reasonably priced, but


the image quality and handling
arent particularly inspiring.

184 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

Shooting at f/16 gives plenty of detail


and avoids the problem of darkened
image corners at the top aperture

WorldMags.net

WE SAY Sharpness and contrast


are impressive but downsides are
vignetting and a little distortion.

INTRODUCTION

WorldMags.netESSENTIAL KIT

CAMERA SKILLS

Sigmas latest 105mm


macro lens feels every
inch a professional lens. It is
noticeably lighter than Nikons
105mm though and packs
plenty of advanced features,
including Sigmas four-stop
Optical Stabilisation, super-fast
ring-type ultrasonic autofocus
and internal focusing.
7UDFNLQJIDVWPRYLQJREMHFWV
is no problem for the autofocus
system. And to make full use of
this, the Optical Stabilisation
uses a dual-mode system that
includes horizontal panning.
7KHIRFXVOLPLWVZLWFK
goes one better than that on
Nikons 105mm lens, with three
positions: full focus range, 31-

Compared with the other


Nikon lenses on test, the
105mm VR offers a real step
up in terms of build quality. Its
bigger, heavier and has a much
more robust, professional feel
to it. Advances over its popular
predecessor include fourstop Vibration Reduction and
completely internal focusing, so
LWVRYHUDOOOHQJWKUHPDLQV[HG
/LNHWKH1LNRQPPOHQV
which is also compatible with
both full-frame and DX bodies,
the 105mm features Nikons new
nano crystal coating on the rear
HOHPHQW7KLVKHOSVWRUHGXFH
DUHE\PLQLPLVLQJLQWHUQDO
UHHFWLRQVZLWKLQWKHOHQV$Q
LPSURYHPHQWRYHUWKHPP

Performance
Our camera autofocused quickly
and with good resistance to
hunting, even under dull light.
7KHUHVQRWTXLWHVRPXFKWUDYHO
in the focus ring as with the
similar Nikon 105mm lens,
EXWQHDGMXVWPHQWVDUHHDV\
WRPDNH7KHULQJVRSHUDWLRQ
is smooth and precise. Optical
quality is spectacular, with
sharp images rich in contrast
and saturation even at the top
aperture. Its the sharpest lens
KHUHIRUFORVHIRFXVLQJDWI

lens, this one features a focus


limit switch, although you cant
select only the shorter end of the
range. It enables either full focus
travel or just the range between
FPDQGLQQLW\

Performance
Autofocus speed is super-fast
and the manual focus ring is
very smooth, which it isnt for
the cheaper Nikons in the group.
7KLVLVWUXHZLWKERWKIXOO\
manual focusing and manual
IRFXVRYHUULGHRIDXWRIRFXV7KH
only slight disappointment with
the lens is that the sharpness at
IFRXOGEHDOLWWOHEHWWHU

FEATURES
BUILD QUALITY
IMAGE QUALITY
VALUE FOR MONEY

FEATURES
BUILD QUALITY
IMAGE QUALITY
VALUE FOR MONEY

OVERALL

OVERALL

WE SAY The perfect lens for


serious macro photographers and
equally adept at general shooting.

At a macro-friendly aperture of f/16,


sharpness is less impressive than with
most lenses in the group

WorldMags.net

WE SAY Superb build quality


and lovely handling, but sharpness
drops off at small apertures.

2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 185

VIDEO GUIDES

Superb image quality is a hallmark of this


lens, and sharpness is unrivalled within
the group at f/16

45cm close-focusing and 45cm


WRLQQLW\IRUJHQHUDOVKRRWLQJ

ESSENTIAL KIT

Big and chunky with a solid build and pro feel, but
does the image quality live up to those standards?

NIKON SOFTWARE

Packed with advanced features, this is a real


heavyweight lens, with performance to match

NIKOPEDIA

Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG Nikon 105mm f/2.8G AF-S


OS HSM Macro 380, $670 IF-ED VR Micro 630, $920

INTRODUCTION

ESSENTIAL KIT WorldMags.net

QUALITY CLOSE UP
Nikon 40mm f/2.8G
AF-S DX Micro

SHARPNESS

NIKOPEDIA

CAMERA SKILLS

Find out how the macro lenses on test compare our


detailed lab results separate the best from the worst

From f/2.8 to f/11, sharpness edges


ahead of even the Sigma 105mm, and is
still excellent at f/16.
LAB TEST

LAB TEST

FRINGING

NIKON SOFTWARE

LAB TEST

Offers great sharpness and contrast


even at the maximum aperture of f/2.8,
but performance dips at f/16.
LAB TEST

Sharpness at f/2.8

2049

Sharpness at f/3.5

2233

Sharpness at f/2.8

2400

Sharpness at f/8

2559

Sharpness at f/8

2271

Sharpness at f/8

2372

Sharpness at f/8

2313

Sharpness at f/16

2025

Sharpness at f/16

1703

Sharpness at f/16

2098

Sharpness at f/16

1910

F/2.8

Fringing is slightly higher than


average for a macro prime lens, but only
towards the corners of the frame.

F/3.5

Chromatic aberration is basically a


non-issue, even when there are very
high-contrast edges in a scene.
LAB TEST

F/2.8

As with the Nikon 60mm lens theres


practically no visible colour fringing,
even towards the corners of the frame.
LAB TEST

Theres some noticeable colour


fringing at the corners of the frame,
throughout the whole aperture range.
LAB TEST

Fringing at f/2.8

0.33

Fringing at f/2.8

0.17

Fringing at f/3.5

0.17

Fringing at f/2.8

0.65

Fringing at f/8

0.45

Fringing at f/8

0.14

Fringing at f/8

0.2

Fringing at f/8

0.5

Fringing at f/16

0.57

Fringing at f/16

0.18

Fringing at f/16

0.16

Fringing at f/16

0.59

F/2.8

DISTORTION

Sharpness is good throughout the


aperture range, but the maximum
aperture is smaller than usual.

Nikon 105mm f/2.8G AF-S


IF-ED VR Micro

2471

LAB TEST

ESSENTIAL KIT

Its quite disappointing at small


apertures around f/16, which is a real
drawback for macro shooting.

Nikon 85mm f/3.5G AF-S


DX ED VR Micro

Sharpness at f/2.8

F/2.8

F/2.8

Theres very marginal pin-cushion


distortion, but its barely noticeable in
images and not really an issue.
LAB TEST

Distortion

VIDEO GUIDES

Nikon 60mm f/2.8G


AF-S ED Micro

F/3.5

Theres practically no distortion at all,


with the Nikon 60mm achieving the best
test score in the group.
LAB TEST

0.12

IMAGE QUALITY VERDICT


The baby Nikon delivers excellent
image quality, but the short focal
length of 40mm makes it impractical
for many common macro scenarios.

Distortion

Barrel distortion is noticeable, and in


this respect the lens returned the worst
score in the group.
LAB TEST

0.02

IMAGE QUALITY VERDICT


Excellent in terms of colour fringing
and distortion, the Achilles heel is its
sharpness at small apertures, which is
vital for macro shooting.

186 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

F/5.6

Distortion

LAB TEST

-0.56

IMAGE QUALITY VERDICT


Good for sharpness and absence of
colour fringing, the Nikon 85mm is let
down by a poor level of distortion and
noticeable vignetting.

WorldMags.net

The lens does show some barrel


distortion, but its not very apparent
compared with that from other lenses.
Distortion

-0.2

IMAGE QUALITY VERDICT


The Nikon 105mm delivers extremely
pleasing results but isnt quite as
excellent as the equivalent Sigma
105mm lens.

The tests explained!


We test lenses to their limits
in three key areas of optical
performance: sharpness,
colour fringing and distortion

LAB TEST

Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG


OS HSM Macro

Excellent sharpness from f/2.8 down


to f/16 makes this a superb lens for both
general shooting and macro work.
LAB TEST

Fringing

Distortion

(low scores are


better)
Our real-world test
shows how colour fringing affects a
subject, while the lab results provide
precise values at different focal lengths.
The perfect result would be 0%.

Tamron 60mm f/2 SP


AF Di II Macro

(scores closest
to 0 are best)
The shots of the
brick wall show how distortion affects
our real-world subject, while the lab
data reveals clear measurements.
Again, the perfect result would be 0%.

Tamron 90mm f/2.8


SP AF Di Macro

Theres a major lack of sharpness


when you shoot at f/2 and f/2.8. The lens
doesnt get into its stride until f/5.6.
LAB TEST

The compact yet competent Tamron


delivers great sharpness and contrast,
even at its largest aperture of f/2.8.
LAB TEST

Sharpness at f/2.8

1791

Sharpness at f/2.8

2308

Sharpness at f/2

532

Sharpness at f/2.8

2214

Sharpness at f/8

2320

Sharpness at f/8

2413

Sharpness at f/8

2346

Sharpness at f/8

2241

Sharpness at f/16

2002

Sharpness at f/16

2241

Sharpness at f/16

2027

Sharpness at f/16

2079

F/2.8

F/2.8

LAB TEST

Colour fringing is only occasionally


noticeable at the very corners of the
frame, and even then its minimal.
LAB TEST

F/2.8

Noticeable colour fringing can be


problematic outside the centre of the
frame, and is quite poor in the corners.
LAB TEST

Theres a little colour fringing at the


extreme corners of the frame but its
not generally noticeable in images.
LAB TEST

0.17

Fringing at f/2.8

0.32

Fringing at f/2

0.79

Fringing at f/2.8

0.43

Fringing at f/8

0.12

Fringing at f/8

0.24

Fringing at f/8

0.28

Fringing at f/8

0.19

Fringing at f/16

0.13

Fringing at f/16

0.25

Fringing at f/16

0.3

Fringing at f/16

0.16

F/3

Its not the best in the group, but with


only slight pin-cushion distortion its not
too far behind the leaders.
LAB TEST

Distortion

F/2.8

Lab tests reveal the tiniest bit of


barrel distortion but its practically
impossible to see in images.
LAB TEST

0.17

Visible barrel distortion is a flaw, the


Tamron delivering lab figures almost as
bad as those from the Nikon 85mm.
LAB TEST

-0.09

IMAGE QUALITY VERDICT


With superb results for everything
from full macro close-ups to general
long-distance shooting, the Sigma is a
real star performer.

Distortion

The lens is low on distortion theres


a hint of pin-cushion but you have to
look quite hard to see it.
LAB TEST

-0.55

Distortion

IMAGE QUALITY VERDICT

IMAGE QUALITY VERDICT

Disappointing in almost every


respect, the Tamron 60mm has the
worst all-round image quality of the
lenses in our test.

WorldMags.net

0.14

Tamrons 90mm boasts an overall


image quality that would be good at
any price, and is even more appealing
considering the lens low cost.

2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 187

VIDEO GUIDES

IMAGE QUALITY VERDICT


This lens works quite well as a macro
optic, but the lack of sharpness and
contrast at large apertures is less
than ideal for close-up shots.

Distortion

F/2.8

ESSENTIAL KIT

Fringing at f/2.8

F/2.8

NIKON SOFTWARE

Chromatic aberration is controlled


very well. Theres no real evidence of
colour fringing within test images.

F/2

NIKOPEDIA

Theres a lack of sharpness when


shooting at the maximum aperture, but
things improve at f/5.6 and beyond.

(high scores are


better)
Our real-world
resolution test uses a standard ISO 12233
SFR chart. The point where lines merge is
the maximum resolution (line widths per
picture height, multiplied by 100).

CAMERA SKILLS

Sigma 70mm f/2.8


EX DG Macro

Sharpness

INTRODUCTION

WorldMags.netESSENTIAL KIT

INTRODUCTION
CAMERA SKILLS
NIKOPEDIA
NIKON SOFTWARE
ESSENTIAL KIT
VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT WorldMags.net


COMPARISON TABLE
Nikon 40mm f/2.8G
AF-S DX Micro

Nikon 60mm f/2.8G Nikon 85mm f/3.5G


AF-S ED Micro
AF-S DX ED VR Micro

Nikon 105mm f/2.8G Sigma 70mm f/2.8


AF-S IF-ED VR Micro EX DG Macro

Sigma 105mm f/2.8


EX DG OS HSM Macro

Tamron 60mm f/2


SP AF Di II Macro

Tamron 90mm f/2.8


SP AF Di Macro

WEBSITE

nikon.com

nikon.com

nikon.com

nikon.com

sigmaphoto.com

sigmaphoto.com

tamron.com

tamron.com

STREET PRICE

200, $277

390, $540

375, $527

630, $920

330, $460

380, $670

350, $525

370, $500

DX/FX

DX

FX

DX

FX

FX

FX

DX

FX

EQUIV FOCAL LENGTH (APS-C)

60mm

90mm

127.5mm

157.5mm

105mm

157.5mm

90mm

135mm

APERTURE RANGE

f/2.8 to f/22

f/2.8 to f/32

f/3.5 to f/32

f/2.8 to f/32

f/2.8 to f/22

f/2.8 to f/45

f/2 to f/22

f/2.8 to f/32

IMAGE STABILISATION

None

None

Four-stop

Four-stop

None

Four-stop

None

None

HOW THE
MACRO LENSES
COMPARE

AUTOFOCUS ACTUATOR

Ultrasonic (ring-type)

Ultrasonic (ring-type)

Ultrasonic (ring-type)

Ultrasonic (ring-type)

No internal motor

Ultrasonic (ring-type)

Electric (motor)

Electric (motor)

INTERNAL FOCUS

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

No

MIN FOCUS DISTANCE

16.3cm

18.5cm

28.5cm

31.4cm

25cm

31.5cm

23cm

29cm

MAXIMUM MAGNIFICATION

1.0x

1.0x

1.0x

1.0x

1.0x

1.0x

1.0x

1.0x

FILTER SIZE

52mm

62mm

52mm

62mm

62mm

58mm

55mm

55mm

ACCESSORIES INCLUDED

Hood, pouch

Hood, pouch

Hood, pouch

Hood, pouch

Hood, pouch

Hood, pouch

Hood

Hood, pouch

DIMENSIONS (DIAMxLENGTH)

69x65mm

73x89mm

73x99mm

83x116mm

76x95mm

80x150mm

73x80mm

72x97mm

WEIGHT

235g

425g

355g

790g

527g

460g

400g

405g

FEATURES
BUILD QUALITY
IMAGE QUALITY
VALUE FOR MONEY
OVERALL

10
things
we
learnt
in
this
test
Detail matters with macro lenses, so heres what to look for
1

Stopping power

Stand clear

In the way

7KHPD[LPXPDYDLODEOHDSHUWXUHRI
macro lenses decreases as you approach the
shortest focus setting. In most cases, its by
one or two stops.

A focal length of about 85-105mm


is ideal for most types of outdoor macro,
enabling you to stay at a reasonable working
distance from your subject.

:KHQXVLQJPPRUPPOHQVHV
at their minimum focus distance, youll often
QGWKHIURQWRIWKHOHQVFRPHVVRFORVHWR
the subject that it blocks the light source.

Under the hood

Lens hoods are good for general


outdoor shooting but often cast a shadow
over subjects in macro photography,
HVSHFLDOO\LI\RXUHXVLQJDDVKJXQ
188 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

Circle of light

Shaky situations

$VSHFLDOLVWULQJDVKZKLFKWV
around the front of the lens, provides highly
effective illumination for macro shots.

While image stabilisation


is useful for more general
shooting, especially when
youre using smaller
apertures, its of practically no
EHQHWIRUH[WUHPHFORVHXSV

Staying put

Macro lenses
that feature internal
focusing are easier to
use in close-up work
as you dont need
to worry about
the front element
extending towards
your subject.

WorldMags.net

Stand and deliver

Handheld macro shooting is hard if


you move the camera even a millimetre the
UHVXOWLQJLPDJHZLOOEHRXWRIIRFXV7KLV
means a tripod is useful.

Further aeld

When youre using the closest


focus setting to get full 1.0x macro
PDJQLFDWLRQWKHPLQLPDOGHSWKRIHOG
means its often better to shoot subjects
from further away and then crop the
results as necessary.

10

The sharp end

Manual focus is often


the only effective way to get
the most crucial part of an
object really sharp. Using
Live View with maximum
PDJQLFDWLRQLVDJUHDW
way of setting focus with the
utmost precision.

THE WINNER IS...

CAMERA SKILLS

Sigma 105mm f/2.8


EX DG OS HSM Macro
Sigma comes up trumps with its new
and dramatically upgraded macro lens
LPDJHTXDOLW\LVZKDWPDWWHUVPRVW7KHUHV
not much to distinguish the Sigma and
Nikon 105mm lenses, but the Sigma wins
with class-leading sharpness at small
apertures, ideal for macro shooting. It also
has less colour fringing and distortion.

Breaking the bank


Whats good Supreme image quality, speedy
and accurate autofocus, refined handling and
great build quality.
Whats bad Its the heaviest lens in the group,
and the most expensive.
Our verdict If youre serious about your macro
photography, this is the ultimate lens for the job.

OVERALL

Not winners but denitely not losers

Tamron 90mm f/2.8 SP


AF Di Macro

Whats good Excellent build quality, effective


Vibration Reduction and very fast autofocus.
Whats bad Cant quite match the Sigma 105mm
for image quality, especially at small apertures.
Our verdict One of Nikons top macros, it offers
professional quality.

Whats good Good sharpness and contrast, plus


quite a compact and lightweight DX build.
Whats bad Noticeable barrel distortion, while
vignetting is poor at large apertures.
Our verdict A good lens at the price, but for very
close-up shots the Tamron 90mm has the edge.

Whats good Superb all-round image quality and


very precise manual focusing.
Whats bad Autofocus is quite slow and noisy,
while build quality isnt overly robust.
Our verdict For spectacular image quality at a
bargain price, the Tamron is unbeatable.

OVERALL

OVERALL

OVERALL

Visit www.nphotomag.com for more expert reviews


WorldMags.net

2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 189

VIDEO GUIDES

Nikon 85mm f/3.5G AF-S


DX ED VR Micro

ESSENTIAL KIT

Nikon 105mm f/2.8G AF-S


IF-ED VR Micro

NIKON SOFTWARE

7KHRQO\ZHDNQHVVRIWKH6LJPDPPLV
that it is more expensive than many macro
lenses. It really does justify its price tag, but
WKHUHDUHEDUJDLQVWREHKDGHOVHZKHUH7KH
7DPURQPPKDVHDUQHGDJUHDWUHSXWDWLRQ
as a macro lens and, with superb image
TXDOLW\DQGUHQHGPDQXDOIRFXVLQJIRU
close-up shooting, its unbeatable value at
the price. However, while the Sigma 105mm
DQG7DPURQPPOHQVHVDUHWZRRIWKH
best in the group, the Sigma 70mm and
7DPURQPPDUHWKHOHDVWLPSUHVVLYH

NIKOPEDIA

Launched last year, the optically


stabilised Sigma 105mm is a wishlist
come true for macro photographers. It
has fully internal focusing, so theres no
extension of the lens barrel at short focus
GLVWDQFHV7KH+60 +\SHU6RQLF0RWRU 
autofocus is practically silent, very fast and
extremely accurate. Manual focusing is
wonderfully smooth and precise too, which
is something that cant always be said for
ring-type ultrasonic focus systems.
7KHIRFXVULQJVLQWKH1LNRQPP
PPDQG WRDOHVVHUH[WHQW PPOHQVHV
DUHDOODELWVWLIIDQGMHUN\7KLVPDNHVYHU\
QHIRFXVDGMXVWPHQWVPXFKHDVLHUWRPDNH
on the Sigma. However, the Nikon 105mm
has a smoother focus ring.
7KH6LJPDPPVKDQGOLQJLV
supremely good, and its optical stabiliser
works well in general shooting. However,

INTRODUCTION

WorldMags.netESSENTIAL KIT

INTRODUCTION

WorldMags.net

CAMERA SKILLS

6
4

VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

NIKOPEDIA

SUPER

TELEPHOTOS

Put some power into your telephoto reach with a lens that
really covers the distance. Want a focal length of
400mm? We put the top contenders through their paces

190 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

WorldMags.net

INTRODUCTION

WorldMags.net
THE CONTENDERS
1 Samyang 500mm f/6.3 MC IF Mirror 155, $140

3 Sigma 120-400mm f/4.5-5.6 DG OS HSM 640, $900


8
4 Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM 730, $870
5 Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D AF ED VR 1900, $2700
6 Sigma 50-500mm f/4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM 1000, $1500
7 Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G AF-S ED VR II 1600, $2400

CAMERA SKILLS

2 Samyang 800mm f/8 MC IF Mirror 195, $200

8 Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM 2800, $2700

NIKOPEDIA

NIKON SOFTWARE
ESSENTIAL KIT
VIDEO GUIDES

WorldMags.net

2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 191

INTRODUCTION

ESSENTIAL KIT WorldMags.net


EQUIPMENT KNOW-HOW

VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

NIKOPEDIA

CAMERA SKILLS

FEATURES TO LOOK FOR


The specifications that can
make for an ideal long tom

Telephoto power

Autofocus

Outright telephoto reach is often the main


concern with super-telephotos, but its worth
considering a lens that has a shorter focal
length but is compatible with a teleconverter.
Youll get two lenses in one.

A good turn of speed from the autofocus


system makes it easier to keep pace with
moving targets. This is good for anything
from shooting motor sports to tracking birds
in flight.

Zoom range

Tripod collar

Along with telephoto power, a good zoom


range adds versatility. Youll be able to take
shots at shorter focal lengths without wasting
time swapping lenses, which is important for
sports and wildlife photography.

Most super-telephoto lenses are too heavy


to attach to a tripod via a camera body. A
tripod collar will fit around the lens barrel,
centralising the weight to enable safe use
with a tripod or monopod.

Image stabilisation

Size and weight

Effective optical stabilisation makes a huge


difference to handheld shooting with a
super-telephoto. Without it, camera-shake is
an ever-present danger and you can expect
blurry results a lot of the time.

Some of the heaviest lenses in this test are


uncomfortable for prolonged handheld use.
Size and weight are key considerations if,
for example, youll be standing in a crowded
spectators area at a sporting event for hours.

ts time to wheel out


the big guns. Most of the
lenses in this group are
designed with one thing in mind
bringing serious telescopic power
to your D-SLR. As such, theyre
weighty beasts, tipping the scales
at anything up to 3kg. Many are
more than 20cm long even at their
shortest zoom settings.
The Nikon 70-200mm and
Sigma 120-300mm lenses arent
particularly powerful in terms of
telephoto reach, but have a secret
weapon in the form of a fast, f/2.8
maximum aperture. However,
theyre in the same size and weight
bracket as the Sigma 120-400mm
and 150-500mm.
Indeed, the Sigma 120-300mm
is the heaviest lens in the test
group. The bonus is that they
enable fast shutter speeds and a
WLQ\GHSWKRIHOGIRUEOXUULQJ
the background in standard
trim. Meanwhile, theyre also
fully compatible for use with
teleconverters. For example,
WD[WHOHFRQYHUWHUWRWKH
Nikon 70-200mm and youll get

a 140-400mm zoom range, albeit


with a more pedestrian effective
maximum aperture of f/5.6.
Yet another diversion comes
in the form of mirror lenses. The
Samyang 500mm and 800mm
mirror optics are comparatively
lightweight and measure just
120mm and 145mm in length
respectively. Mirror lenses
offer considerable cost-savings
compared with conventional prime
and zoom lenses, although there
DUHVLJQLFDQWGUDZEDFNVWRWKHP
as we describe in the reviews on
the following pages.

Going the distance


So why buy a super-telephoto lens?
Well, theyre ideal if you want to
shoot things you simply cant get
close to. The most popular subjects
include wild animals and birds,
as well as action sports. That
makes them a tempting summertime proposition, and especially
so this year, with the World Cup
on its way to Brazil. When youre
physically removed from the action
and limited to a spectators area,

192 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

JARGON BUSTER
D-type
Nikons older D-type
lenses have an aperture ring
at the base of the lens. This
is superuous for D-SLRs,
and needs to be locked at its
smallest aperture.

Teleconverter
This is an add-on optic that
sits between the camera
body and a compatible lens.
Popular options include 1.4x,
1.7x and 2.0x, which reduce
the maximum available
aperture by one, 1.5 and
two stops respectively.
Teleconverters increase
focal length.

WorldMags.net

a super-telephoto is essential for


covering the distance.
All of the lenses on test are fully
compatible with full-frame (FX)
cameras such as the D800, and
are even more powerful on bodies
that have an APS-C format (DX)
image sensor, such as the D7100.
Thanks to the 1.5x focal length
multiplier (or crop factor), a lens
with a maximum reach of 500mm
becomes equivalent to a 750mm
lens on a full-frame camera. Even
a more modest 400mm lens jumps
to a whopping 600mm. If you
ZHUHWRWD[WHOHFRQYHUWHUWR
the Sigma 120-300mm lens youd
get an enormous 900mm effective
focal length on a DX camera.
For fast-moving wildlife and
sporting action, quick autofocus
is a must. The fastest systems are
generally ring-type ultrasonic
ones, as in the Nikon 70-200mm
and all Sigma lenses in the group.
7KHVHWXSUHOLHVRQWZRULQJVWWHG
just inside the circumference of
the lens barrel. These are driven
at an ultrasonic frequency of about
30kHz. Its not a guarantee of

STEP BY STEP TELECONVERTERS AND TRIPODS


Heres how to safely use a teleconverter and tripod, and get sharper images

INTRODUCTION

WorldMags.netESSENTIAL KIT

CAMERA SKILLS

02 Attach to a tripod

03 Use Shutter Priority

Check that your lens and teleconverter are


compatible if theyre not the right t, you
might damage both of them. Mount the lens on
the teleconverter, switch off your camera and
mount the teleconverter and lens onto it.

A tripod collar centralises the weight of the


camera and lens. For portrait-orientation shots,
loosen the tripod collars locking screw. Rotate
the lens and camera within the collar, rather
than using the tripod heads swivel facility.

Switch to Shutter Priority (S) mode and set a


fast shutter speed to minimize motion blur as
well as camera-shake. The Auto ISO function
will be handy as it increases the sensitivity as
necessary in dull lighting conditions.

Stabilisation (OS). These are based


on an additional group of elements
built into the lens. Motion sensors
detect any vibration or shake in
the lens, and microprocessorcontrolled servo motors move the
VR or OS elements to keep the
overall optical path stable.
The latest stabilisation systems
from Nikon and Sigma give a
four-stop advantage in beating
camera-shake, which makes
handheld shooting with a supertelephoto more feasible. However,

Most of the lenses in this group test are


designed with one thing in mind bringing
serious telescopic power to your D-SLR

Hold steady

Our expert team reveal the rigorous criteria they


used to rate the super-telephoto lenses in our test
As part of our testing, we use
lenses in real-world shooting
conditions. We examine build
quality and handling, and check
zoom and focus ring smoothness.
We test image stabilisation modes,
autofocus speed and accuracy, and
resistance to ghosting and flare.
We then run a full range of lab
trials under controlled conditions,
using the Imatest Master and DxO
Analyzer suites. Photos of test
charts are taken across the range

of apertures and focal lengths and


analysed for sharpness, distortion
and chromatic aberration (colour
fringing). You can see our image
quality lab test results on pages
198 and 199, but bear in mind that
these are summaries. We also take
data from a wider range of
apertures and zoom settings into
consideration.
Finally, we combine the lab
tests and real-world shooting
results to get Overall verdicts.

Our sophisticated tests use a combination of optical resolution charts


and mathematical analysis to deliver precise resolution gures across a
range of apertures and focal lengths

WorldMags.net

2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 193

VIDEO GUIDES

Another factor that has a massive


effect on super-telephoto sharpness
is camera-shake. Like macro
lenses, super-telephotos are very
sensitive to movement, so blurred
results are all too common. The
most effective mechanism for
combating the problem is an
image-stabilising system such as
Nikons Vibration Reduction (VR),
or Sigmas competing Optical

no amount of stabilisation can


counteract the movement of the
people or objects being shot, so
for sports or wildlife youll often
need to increase the ISO setting to
enable fast shutter speeds.
The need for fast shutter
speeds demands a lens that can
produce good image quality at its
largest available aperture. This is
especially true with lenses where
that aperture is a fairly small f/5.6
or f/6.3 at the long end of the
zoom range. In top-quality optics
such as the Nikon 70-200mm and
Sigma 120-300mm, the maximum
aperture is not only faster at f/2.8
but remains constant throughout
the zoom range.

REAL WORLD MEETS LAB

ESSENTIAL KIT

camera bodies have no internal


autofocus motor to drive the lens,
so focusing is a strictly manual
affair. Worst of all, neither of
the Samyang lenses on test can
autofocus on any camera body.

HOW WE TESTED

NIKON SOFTWARE

speed, and some ring-type systems


are faster than others. However,
all the ultrasonic AF lenses in this
group have very fast autofocus.
At the other end of the scale,
the Nikon 80-400mm D-type
lens has no built-in autofocus
system. Instead, it relies on the
screw-drive built into the camera.
This makes for sluggish autofocus
on cameras such as the D7000,
D300s and D800. Things get worse
with the D3200 and D5100, and
predecessors in their class. These

NIKOPEDIA

01 Fit the converter

INTRODUCTION
VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

NIKOPEDIA

CAMERA SKILLS

ESSENTIAL KIT WorldMags.net

Samyang 500mm f/6.3


MC IF Mirror 155, $140

Samyang 800mm f/8 MC


IF Mirror 195, $200

Its a trick done with mirrors, but can the Samyang


really compete with proper super-telephoto lenses?

Its large for a mirror lens, but this Samyang offers


the biggest reach out of the whole test group

This Samyang gives even


greater reach than a Nikon
70-200mm optic coupled with
a 2x teleconverter. Its also so
cheap by comparison that you
could buy no fewer than 16
Samyang lenses for the same
price as the Nikon combination.
So wheres the catch?
Both Samyang lenses in this
test group are mirror lenses.
Instead of having the usual
collection of optical elements,
they rely on curved mirrors
that bounce light back and
forth within the lens. This
creates similar telescopic power
to that of telephoto lenses
but in a much shorter, more
lightweight package. Limitations

Like the smaller Samyang


on test, this mirror lens
attaches to the camera via a
screw-on adaptor that lacks any
electronic connections. It feels
like a throwback to the last
century, and is a strictly manual
DIIDLU7KHUHVQRQHU\VXFKDV
autofocus or image stabilisation,
and you have to adjust shutter
speeds manually for correct
H[SRVXUHVDWWKH[HGDSHUWXUH
which is a small f/8.
At least you can use the
cameras light metering
LQGLFDWRULQWKHYLHZQGHUWRVHW
the appropriate shutter speed.
Overall, though, using the lens
is a long-winded and confusing
procedure that makes it

Theres no shortage of reach, but


sharpness and contrast are lacking

of the design include the lack of


autofocus and the impossibility
RIWWLQJDGLDSKUDJP7KLV
means you cant adjust the
DSHUWXUH[HGDWIKHUH

Performance
The whole of the outer lens
barrel rotates during focusing,
but in the absence of autofocus
its rubberised central section
offers the most assured grip
for manual focus adjustments.
The action is quite smooth and
precise, but focusing can still
EHDELWGGO\,PDJHTXDOLW\LV
disappointing, with the same
DZVDVWKH6DP\DQJPP

unsuitable for fast-paced sports


or wildlife photography.

Performance
The 800mm produces slightly
sharper images than Samyangs
500mm mirror lens but still
lags behind the other lenses
on test. Contrast is lacking too,
while accurate focusing is more
GLIFXOWWRDFKLHYHWKDQZLWKWKH
Samyang 500mm, requiring tiny
movements of the outer barrel.
Theres no denying that both of
the Samyang lenses are cheap.
%XWXOWLPDWHO\WWLQJWKHPWR
any Nikon D-SLR is like hitching
a farmyard cart to a racehorse.

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OVERALL

OVERALL

WE SAY Its a very cheap lens but


dont expect fancy features or
impressive image quality.

194 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

The resolution of ne detail is poor, and


images often look lifeless and bland

WorldMags.net

WE SAY A very long focal length


for minimum outlay, but the lens is
ultimately a disappointment.

INTRODUCTION

WorldMags.netESSENTIAL KIT

CAMERA SKILLS

The smallest, most


lightweight and cheapest
Sigma lens in this group, the
120-400mm super-telephoto
still has the same ring-type
autofocus and dual-mode
RSWLFDOVWDELOLVHUWKDWDUHWWHG
to its more expensive siblings.
Its lacking in reach compared
with Sigmas 50-500mm and
150-500mm, but is a third of
a stop faster at its maximum
telephoto zoom setting.
Its compatible with Sigmas
1.4x and 2.0x teleconverters,
although autofocus becomes
unavailable. At least you still get
FRQUPDWLRQRIDFFXUDWHIRFXV
LQWKHFDPHUDVYLHZQGHU(YHQ
without a teleconverter, the

Looking every inch a


super-sized version of the
Sigma 120-400mm lens, this
optic is about 50mm longer
and 140g heavier. Even so,
the weight of 1.78kg is still
manageable for handheld
shooting. As with all other
Sigma lenses on test, the
dual-mode stabiliser can be
switched manually, for static
shots or horizontal panning.
As with the other Sigma
lenses on test, the mounting
base of the tripod collar has
QJHUJURRYHVPRXOGHGLQWRLW
However, its more comfortable
to rotate the ring so the base is
at the top, and to support the
lens barrel itself. Theres no

Performance
The autofocus system is superfast, matching that of the
Nikon 70-200mm and Sigma
50-500mm. The smooth and
precise action of the focus ring
makes full-time manual override
easy and effective. Theres very
little pin-cushion distortion
throughout the zoom range at
the telephoto end its the least
noticeable of any Sigma in the
group. Sharpness and contrast
are also pretty impressive.

need to worry about fouling the


action of the focus ring with
\RXUQJHUVDVLWGRHVQWURWDWH
during autofocus.

Performance
Autofocus is near-silent and
quick. However, its marginally
slower than with the Sigma
50-500mm and 120-400mm
lenses. Sharpness is excellent
throughout most of the zoom
range, dropping off a little at
500mm. Pin-cushion distortion
is slightly worse than with the
Sigma 120-400mm, but both
lenses control distortions better
than the Nikon 80-400mm.

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OVERALL

OVERALL

WE SAY The size and weight of


this lens are manageable, and
performance is good for the price.

Image quality is excellent, with plenty


of sharpness and contrast on offer

WorldMags.net

WE SAY For really powerful


telephoto reach on a tight budget,
this Sigma lens is unbeatable.

2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 195

VIDEO GUIDES

Sharpness is better than with either of


the Nikon lenses at 400mm

effective reach is impressive, at


600mm on cameras with APS-C
format sensors.

ESSENTIAL KIT

Very similar to the Sigma 120-400mm


super-telephoto, but with added power

NIKON SOFTWARE

Big on upmarket features and reasonably small in


size while still managing to be kind to your wallet

NIKOPEDIA

Sigma 120-400mm f/4.5- Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3


5.6 DG OS HSM 640, $900 DG OS HSM 730, $870

INTRODUCTION
VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

NIKOPEDIA

CAMERA SKILLS

ESSENTIAL KIT WorldMags.net

Nikon 80-400mm f/4.55.6D AF ED VR 1900, $2700

Sigma 50-500mm f/4.56.3 DG OS HSM 1000, $1500

Is there still life in this ageing 80-400mm


super-telephoto, or has this Nikon had its day?

This Sigma reigns supreme in terms of zoom range,


but what price does the image quality pay?

Designed more than a


decade ago for 35mm
OPFDPHUDVWKHPP
VR features an old-style D-type
mount, with an aperture ring
thats redundant on D-SLRs.
Theres no built-in autofocus, so
the lens relies on a screw-drive
from the camera body. This isnt
WWHGRQWKH''RU
previous cameras in their class,
making autofocus unavailable.
7KH95V\VWHPLVDOVRUVW
generation, and only offers a
three-stop advantage, although
it does have automatic panning
detection. Instead of the Normal
and Active modes of recent VR
systems, the two modes here
apply stabilisation only when the

Nicknamed the Bigma,


the original version of this
lens has been updated and now
sports Sigmas four-stop optical
stabiliser. This makes getting
sharp handheld shots much
easier. Its still a heavyweight
lens at almost 2kg, and is
heavier than both the Sigma
120-400mm and 150-500mm
lenses on test.
The mighty 10x zoom range
is the main attraction here. Its a
real plus point when you want to
zoom out to more standard focal
lengths without having to waste
time changing lenses. However,
the 50-500mm is much more
expensive than Sigmas 150500mm lens, and nearly twice

Sharpness could be better at 400mm,


and pin-cushion distortion is noticeable

shot is taken, or show the effect


WKURXJKWKHYLHZQGHU7KH
latter really drains the battery.

Performance
Put the 80-200mm on a D7100,
D300s or full-frame body and
autofocus is very slow compared
with all other AF lenses in the
group. It struggles to keep pace
with moving targets, and the
only solution is to pre-focus on
a point the target is likely to
move into. Sharpness is pretty
good at the 80mm end of the
zoom range, but drops off
noticeably through mid-range
and longer settings.

the price of the companys 120400mm offering.

Performance
Distortion is remarkably well
controlled. Theres some barrel
distortion at the 50mm end of
the range, and a pin-cushion
effect at mid-range and long
focal lengths. But these are less
noticeable than with the Nikon
80-400mm. In both cases,
distortions are less pronounced
than with most standard
zooms, such as the Nikon
17-55mm. Autofocus is superfast, and sharpness is very good
throughout the zoom range.

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OVERALL

OVERALL

WE SAY This cant match the


cheaper Sigmas for image quality,
autofocus speed or stabilisation.

196 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

Sharpness isnt as good as the Sigma


150-500mm at the longest zoom setting

WorldMags.net

WE SAY Offers more zoom range


than the Sigma 120-400mm and
150-500mm optics, but is pricier.

INTRODUCTION

WorldMags.netESSENTIAL KIT

CAMERA SKILLS

Performance
Autofocus speed is rapid with
or without a teleconverter,
but the largest effective
aperture shrinks to f/5.6 with
the converter. The biggest
disappointment is that with the
WHOHFRQYHUWHUWWHGVKDUSQHVV
is worse than with the Nikon
80-400mm at short and midrange zoom settings. Its only
fractionally better at 400mm.

The biggest and heaviest


lens in the group, the
Sigma 120-300mm is 289mm
long and weighs in at just under
3kg. Thanks to its internal
zoom mechanism, its hardly
any longer than the Sigma
120-400mm at its maximum
telephoto zoom setting, but is
nearly double the weight.
Youll also need Sigmas 1.4x
teleconverter to give it a similar
reach of 420mm. Either way,
the lens is too heavy to use
handheld for long periods of
time, even if its four-stop image
stabiliser works very effectively.
The combined cost of the
lens plus the teleconverter is
$3430, but for this you get a

fast, constant-aperture f/2.8


lens up to 300mm, and a larger
than average f/4 with the
WHOHFRQYHUWHUWWHG7KLVJLYHVD
168-420mm zoom range.

Performance
The autofocus isnt as rapid as
in Nikons 70-200mm or Sigmas
50-500mm and 120-400mm,
but its very fast. Compared to
the Nikon 70-200mm with a 2x
teleconverter, theres much less
impact on image quality when
you use a converter. Sharpness
remains excellent throughout
the zoom range, with only a
slight increase in colour fringing.

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OVERALL

OVERALL

WE SAY Great on its own, the


70-200mm is somewhat less stellar
with a 2x teleconverter attached.

Theres very little drop in image quality


when you pair the lens with a converter

WorldMags.net

WE SAY Excellent quality with or


without a teleconverter, but too
heavy for prolonged handheld use.

2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 197

VIDEO GUIDES

With a 2x teleconverter, image quality is


worse than that from Nikons 80-400mm

Teleconverter III. This extends


the physical length of the lens by
45mm and doesnt have a rubber
weather seal. Its expensive,
though, costing $470.

ESSENTIAL KIT

The 70-200mm telephoto


range and fast f/2.8
aperture thats constant
throughout the zoom range
make this lens popular with
professionals. Image quality is
spectacular too, with excellent
sharpness and contrast. Its
matched by fully professional
build quality, including a rubber
seal on the mounting plate.
At 206mm long and just over
1.5kg, the lens is manageable.
The zoom mechanism is fully
internal, so the lens doesnt
extend physically at longer focal
lengths. However, to boost the
Nikons reach to a 140-400mm
super-telephoto range, you
QHHGWRWD1LNRQ7&($)6

NIKON SOFTWARE

A stunning 70-200mm lens, but can it still come up A real heavyweight in the test group, Sigmas new
trumps with a teleconverter fitted?
120-300mm will give you a workout in the field

NIKOPEDIA

Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8


AF-S ED VR II 1600, $2400 EX DG OS HSM 2800, $2700

INTRODUCTION

ESSENTIAL KIT WorldMags.net

LONG SHOTS

SHARPNESS

NIKOPEDIA

CAMERA SKILLS

Find out how the super-telephotos on test compare


our detailed lab results separate the best from the worst

Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G


AF-S ED VR II (2x TELE)

Nikon 80-400mm
f/4.5-5.6D AF ED VR

Samyang 500mm
f/6.3 MC IF Mirror

Samyang 800mm
f/8 MC IF Mirror

400MM f/8

400MM f/8

500MM f/8

800MM f/8

Fitting Nikons 2x teleconverter


degrades sharpness to levels worse than
with any Sigma lens in the group.
LAB TEST

LAB TEST

FRINGING

LAB TEST

Its marginally sharper than the


Samyang 500mm mirror lens, but its still
very uninspiring.
LAB TEST

1682

Sharpness at wide

1753

Sharpness at wide

N/A

Sharpness at wide

N/A

Sharpness at mid

815

Sharpness at mid

1266

Sharpness at mid

N/A

Sharpness at mid

N/A

Sharpness at tele

934

Sharpness at tele

879

Sharpness at tele

283

Sharpness at tele

389

F/5.6

Theres little colour fringing without the


teleconverter, but with one fitted its the
worst lens on test at 400mm.

F/6.3

Worse than average through the zoom


range, colour fringing is most noticeable at
the longest available focal length.
LAB TEST

LAB TEST

F/8

Colour fringing is the second-worst in


the group, behind the Nikon 70-200mm
and its 2x teleconverter at 400mm.

Colour fringing isnt too bad compared


with results for other lenses in the group
at their telephoto settings.
LAB TEST

LAB TEST

Fringing at wide

0.21

Fringing at wide

0.38

Fringing at wide

N/A

Fringing at wide

N/A

Fringing at mid

0.16

Fringing at mid

0.43

Fringing at mid

N/A

Fringing at mid

N/A

Fringing at tele

1.33

Fringing at tele

0.74

Fringing at tele

1.02

Fringing at tele

0.86

F/5.6

DISTORTION

NIKON SOFTWARE
ESSENTIAL KIT

Theres a real lack of resolution from


this mirror lens, resulting in a loss of fine
detail in images.

Sharpness at wide

F/5.6

F/5.6

Distortions are minimal, and when you


fit the teleconverter theres practically no
distortion at mid and long zoom settings.
LAB TEST

VIDEO GUIDES

A decent performer at 80mm, but


sharpness drops off progressively through
the zoom range, and is poor at 400mm.

F/6.3

Theres barrel distortion at 80mm,


switching over to a pin-cushion effect at
medium to long zoom settings.
LAB TEST

F/8

Theres very little distortion, with only


slight pin-cushion in evidence. Its the only
strong point of the lens.
LAB TEST

Pin-cushioning is more noticeable than


with the Samyang 500mm but still less
than with some of the lenses on test.
LAB TEST

Distortion at wide

0.25

Distortion at wide

-0.83

Distortion at wide

N/A

Distortion at wide

N/A

Distortion at mid

-0.06

Distortion at mid

0.71

Distortion at mid

N/A

Distortion at mid

N/A

Distortion at tele

Distortion at tele

0.96

Distortion at tele

0.31

Distortion at tele

0.53

IMAGE QUALITY VERDICT


This lens would get a five-star rating
on its own but only merits three points
when used with the 2x teleconverter.
Weve averaged this out to four stars.

IMAGE QUALITY VERDICT


The old-school Nikon 80-400mm has
now been overtaken by the newer
Sigma lenses in all aspects of image
quality.

198 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

IMAGE QUALITY VERDICT


Very disappointing in terms of
sharpness and contrast. Proof that
mirror lenses are a poor substitute for
proper super-telephotos.

WorldMags.net

IMAGE QUALITY VERDICT


Typically for a mirror lens, theres a lack
of sharpness and contrast in the final
images, which is the price you pay for
such significant cost-savings.

The tests explained!


We test lenses to their limits
in three key areas of optical
performance: sharpness,
colour fringing and distortion

Sharpness
(high scores are
better)
Our real-world test
uses a standard ISO 12233 resolution
chart. The point where lines merge is the
maximum resolution (line widths per
picture height, multiplied by 100).

Fringing

Distortion

(low scores are


better)
Our real-world test
shows how colour fringing affects a
subject, while the lab results provide
precise values at different focal lengths.
The perfect result would be 0%.

(scores closest
to 0 are best)
The shots of the
brick wall show how distortion affects
our real-world subject, while the lab
data reveals clear measurements.
Again, the perfect result would be 0%.

Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 EX


DG OS HSM (1.4x TELE)

Sigma 120-400mm
f/4.5-5.6 DG OS HSM

Sigma 150-500mm
f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM

500MM f/8

420MM f/8

400MM f/8

500MM f/8

LAB TEST

Excellent on its own, the Sigma


120-300mm still offers the best average
sharpness with a 1.4x teleconverter fitted.
LAB TEST

Most impressive at mid-zoom settings,


this lens still offers decent sharpness at
the shortest and longest focal lengths.
LAB TEST

Very impressive throughout most of the


zoom range, with plenty of sharpness still
on offer at the 500mm focal length.
LAB TEST

Sharpness at wide

1855

Sharpness at wide

2149

Sharpness at wide

1146

Sharpness at wide

2299

Sharpness at mid

1805

Sharpness at mid

2340

Sharpness at mid

1934

Sharpness at mid

2254

Sharpness at tele

1540

Sharpness at tele

1904

Sharpness at tele

1305

Sharpness at tele

1630

F/6.3

F/4

Colour fringing increases when you use


the 1.4x converter but is barely noticeable
even at the longest zoom setting.
LAB TEST

LAB TEST

F/6.3

Theres low colour fringing at 120mm,


and results get progressively better
throughout the rest of the zoom range.

Colour fringing peaks at mid-zoom focal


lengths but is very well restrained at the
500mm end.
LAB TEST

LAB TEST

Fringing at wide

0.47

Fringing at wide

0.28

Fringing at wide

0.39

Fringing at wide

0.28

Fringing at mid

0.41

Fringing at mid

0.22

Fringing at mid

0.37

Fringing at mid

0.33

Fringing at tele

0.71

Fringing at tele

0.48

Fringing at tele

0.27

Fringing at tele

0.16

F/4

Theres barrel distortion at 50mm and


pin-cushioning at mid and long settings,
but theyre low given the big overall range.
LAB TEST

F/5.6

Pin-cushion distortion is above average


with the 1.4x teleconverter, and only
slightly evident at the longest focal length.
LAB TEST

F/6.3

One of the best performers in the group


in this respect, distortions are low at all
zoom settings.
LAB TEST

Distortions are a little more noticeable


than with the Sigma 120-400mm but are
still fairly low throughout the zoom range.
LAB TEST

Distortion at wide

-0.61

Distortion at wide

0.49

Distortion at wide

0.3

Distortion at wide

0.36

Distortion at mid

0.76

Distortion at mid

0.55

Distortion at mid

0.27

Distortion at mid

0.49

Distortion at tele

0.77

Distortion at tele

0.7

Distortion at tele

0.39

Distortion at tele

0.55

IMAGE QUALITY VERDICT


The superb image quality of the Sigma
120-300mm lens is only slightly
impaired when you use it in conjunction
with a 1.4x teleconverter.

IMAGE QUALITY VERDICT

IMAGE QUALITY VERDICT

Its not quite as sharp as some lenses in


the group but the overall image quality
is good, making this Sigma well worth
the money.

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Sigmas 150-500mm lens gives the best


overall image quality in the group for
shooting at a super-long 500mm focal
length.

2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 199

VIDEO GUIDES

IMAGE QUALITY VERDICT


The overall image quality produced by
this Sigma is remarkably good for a lens
with a 10x zoom range, adding
performance to versatility.

ESSENTIAL KIT

F/6.3

NIKON SOFTWARE

A trade-off for the extra-large zoom


range is that colour fringing is above
average, particularly at 50mm.

F/5.6

NIKOPEDIA

Fairly consistent through the zoom


range, this lens is quite sharp at 50mm
and doesnt drop off much at all.

CAMERA SKILLS

Sigma 50-500mm
f/4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM

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INTRODUCTION
CAMERA SKILLS
NIKOPEDIA
NIKON SOFTWARE
ESSENTIAL KIT
VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT WorldMags.net


COMPARISON TABLE
Nikon 70-200mm Nikon 80-400mm
f/2.8G AF-S ED VR II f/4.5-5.6D AF ED VR

Samyang 500mm
f/6.3 MC IF Mirror

Samyang 800mm
f/8 MC IF Mirror

Sigma 50-500mm Sigma 120-300mm


f/4.5-6.3 DG OS HSM f/2.8 EX DG OS HSM

Sigma 120-400mm
f/4.5-5.6 DG OS HSM

Sigma 150-500mm
f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM

nikon.com

nikon.com

samyang-lens.co.uk

samyang-lens.co.uk

sigmaphoto.com

sigmaphoto.com

sigmaphoto.com

sigmaphoto.com

HOW THE SUPERTELEPHOTO LENSES


COMPARE
WEBSITE
STREET PRICE

1600, $2400

1900, $2700

155, $140

195, $200

1000, $1500

2800, $2700

640, $900

730, $870

DX/FX

FX

FX

FX

FX

FX

FX

FX

FX

EQUIV FOCAL LENGTH (APS-C)

105-300mm

120-600mm

750mm

1200mm

75-750mm

180-450mm

180-600mm

225-750mm

MINIMUM APERTURE

f/22

f/32

f/6.3

f/8

f/22

f22

f/32

f/22

IMAGE STABILISER

Four stops

Three stops

None

None

Four stops

Four stops

Four stops

Four stops

TELECONVERTER USE?

Yes

No

Not recommended

Not recommended

Yes (no AF)

Yes

Yes (no AF)

Yes (no AF)

AUTOFOCUS ACTUATOR

Ultrasonic (ring)

None

No autofocus

No autofocus

Ultrasonic (ring)

Ultrasonic (ring)

Ultrasonic (ring)

Ultrasonic (ring)

INTERNAL FOCUS

Yes

No

No

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

MIN FOCUS DISTANCE

1.4m

2.3m

2m

3.5m

0.5-1.8m

1.5-2.5m

1.5m

2.2m

MAX MAGNIFICATION

0.25x

0.42x

0.37x

0.37x

0.32x

0.12x

0.24x

0.19x

FILTER SIZE

77mm

77mm

34/95mm (rear/front)

30.5/105mm (rear/front)

95mm

105mm

77mm

86mm

ACCESSORIES INCLUDED

Hood, pouch

Hood, pouch

Pouch

Pouch

Hood, pouch

Hood, pouch

Hood, pouch

Hood, pouch

DIMENSIONS (DIAMxLENGTH)

87x206mm

97x171mm

98x120mm

111x145mm

104x219mm

114x289mm

92x203mm

95x252mm

WEIGHT

1.54kg

1.36kg

0.7kg

0.95kg

1.97kg

2.95kg

1.64kg

1.78kg

FEATURES
BUILD QUALITY
IMAGE QUALITY
VALUE FOR MONEY
OVERALL

10
things
we
learnt
in
this
test
Theres a lot to think about when youre shooting with a super-telephoto lens
1

Mind your back

Hidden depths

Super-telephoto lenses can be weighty


beasts. A monopod can help take the load
without imposing the restrictions of a tripod.

While theyre long to start with, some


super-telephotos almost double in length
at their longest zoom settings. The Nikon
70-200mm and Sigma 120-300mm remain
[HGWKDQNVWRLQWHUQDO]RRPPHFKDQLVPV

Staying constant

Take the weight

Constant aperture lenses retain the


same largest available aperture throughout
the zoom range, enabling faster shutter
speeds at longer focal lengths.

With heavy super-telephoto lenses,


image stabilisation systems often make all
the difference between sharp and blurry
handheld shots.
200 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

Slow it down

For tripod-mounted shots, its best to


use the Exposure Delay or the Mirror Lockup functions to avoid mirror-bounce blurring
your results.

Small margin

On the move

Lights on

'HSWKRIHOGFDQEH
extremely small at longer zoom
settings, especially when you use the
largest available aperture.

With super-telephotos,
motion blur and camerashake are exaggerated.
Youll need a fast
shutter speed to
freeze the action.

Youll often
need to increase your

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cameras sensitivity setting to achieve fast


shutter speeds in anything other than bright
lighting conditions.

Keep up

A fast autofocus speed


is essential for tracking quickmoving subjects. All the ring-type
ultrasonic lenses on test perform
well, while the Nikon 80-400mm
is relatively slow.

10

Mirror, mirror

Mirror lenses
offer massive
cost-savings but
the image quality
they provide is
comparatively
poor. They also
lack autofocus
and adjustable
apertures.

INTRODUCTION

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THE WINNER IS...

CAMERA SKILLS

Sigma 150-500mm
f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM
For premium quality and advanced
features in a lightweight package,
this Sigma offers plenty of punch
2x teleconverter. The Sigma 120-300mm
retains most of its excellent image quality
when used with the teleconverter, but the
weight of the lens alone can literally be a
pain. Filters are also costly for the Sigma,
WKDQNVWRLWVKXJHPPOWHUWKUHDG

the Sigma 50-500mm, but its not worth the


extra outlay unless you really need its 10x
zoom range. Neither of the Samyang lenses
are worth considering seriously unless youre
on the tightest of budgets.

Suit yourself

Whats good Very good image quality, effective


image stabilisation and excellent value.
Whats bad The largest available aperture is
only f/6.3 at the long end of the zoom range.
Our verdict A great combination of quality and
features at a reasonable price.

OVERALL

Not winners but denitely not losers

Whats good Spectacular image quality, superb


build and fully professional specifications.
Whats bad Image quality is significantly
impaired when you use a 2x teleconverter.
Our verdict Brilliant as a fast telephoto, but
costly and less impressive with a teleconverter.

Whats good Superb image quality, even with a


1.4x teleconverter fitted.
Whats bad Big, very heavy and has a combined
price of around 3000 with the teleconverter.
Our verdict Too weighty for prolonged handheld
use, but excellent in every other way.

Whats good Fairly compact and lightweight,


but has plenty of advanced features.
Whats bad Lacks the outright telephoto reach
of the Sigma 150-500mm.
Our verdict All-round quality makes this lens
a bargain at the price.

OVERALL

OVERALL

OVERALL

Visit www.nphotomag.com for more expert reviews


WorldMags.net

2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 201

VIDEO GUIDES

Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 EX Sigma 120-400mm f/4.5-5.6


DG OS HSM
DG OS HSM

ESSENTIAL KIT

Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G


AF-S ED VR II

NIKON SOFTWARE

The Sigma 120-400mm has similar specs to


the 150-500mm, and is great value if you
GRQWQHHGWKDWQDOPPRIIRFDOOHQJWK
By contrast, the Nikon 80-400mm is a more
basic affair, with no in-built autofocus, less
effective stabilisation and worse image
quality. Another interesting proposition is

NIKOPEDIA

Theres a lot to love about the Sigma


150-500mm lens. With no need for
a teleconverter, it gives a massive 500mm
reach, equivalent to 750mm on cameras
with APS-C sensors. It also combines an
effective four-stop optical stabiliser with a
manageable weight of 1.78kg, so is ideal for
handheld use. Image quality is very good,
especially considering the relatively modest
purchase price of 730.
By comparison, the Nikon 70-200mm and
Sigma 120-300mm optics are about three
times as expensive, once you factor in the
teleconverters, and the image quality of the
Nikon 70-200mm becomes poor with the

INTRODUCTION

ESSENTIAL KIT WorldMags.net

CAMERA SKILLS

VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

NIKOPEDIA

3
5

TRIPODS

TRAVEL TRIPODS
Looking for something compact and light that still offers sturdy support?
We look out for the last man standing in our three-legged race
202 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

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INTRODUCTION

WorldMags.netESSENTIAL KIT

CAMERA SKILLS

7
6

NIKOPEDIA

ESSENTIAL KIT

THE CONTENDERS

NIKON SOFTWARE

1 Hama Traveller Compact Pro (004214) 40, $60


2 Manfrotto Compact Photo-Movie Kit (MKC3-H01) 50, $60
3 Slik Sprint Pro II GM 60, $90
4 Jessops Major Carbon Fibre (5145152) 85, $135

6 Benro Flat Traveller 2 (BRA1192TB0) 200, $250


7 Velbon GEO E-530 220, $320
8 Giottos Vitruvian (VGRN8255-5400-652) 300, $420

WorldMags.net 2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 203

VIDEO GUIDES

5 Vanguard Nivelo 245BK 132, $126

INTRODUCTION

ESSENTIAL KIT WorldMags.net


EQUIPMENT KNOW-HOW

CAMERA SKILLS

FEATURES TO LOOK FOR

Ball-and-socket head

Want one for the road? Check out the tripod


features you shouldnt leave home without

With a single locking clamp, ball-and-socket


heads are very quick for making positional
adjustments. With two or three separate
clamps, conventional three-way heads are
more time-consuming to use.

Spirit/bubble levels
A bubble level or pair of spirit levels enables
you to easily level the tripod when using it on
uneven ground. If theyre placed on the tripod
heads camera platform, they can also assist
with levelling the camera itself.

Multi-angle legs
Being able to adjust the angle of the legs is
handy for low-level shooting and its also a
big bonus when shooting on very rough
terrain. The provision of two or three
alternative, lockable angles is common.

VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

NIKOPEDIA

Extra leg sections


Many travel tripods feature five-section
legs. Compared with four-section legs and in
particular three-section legs, they combine
a decent maximum operating height with a
short stowage length.

Comfort padding
Clip or twist?

Foam padding on one or more of the tripod


legs upper sections makes for more
comfortable carrying, particularly in very
hot or cold weather. Padding can also help
to absorb the shock of any knocks received
when in transit.

Clip locks are generally quicker in use than


twist locks. This is an important factor to
take into account, considering that a tripod
with five sections in each of its three legs
has a total of 12 separate clamps.

ou cant beat a tripod


for ensuring shake-free
shooting, and ultimately,
getting a sharper image. Big,
chunky heavyweights offer
maximum stability, but theyre
far from ideal when youre on
your travels. Usually weighing
in at around 3.5kg, full-sized
tripods will eat into your baggage
DOORZDQFHZKHQ\LQJ7KH\OO
also put a strain on your back
when youre on country walks or
exploring the city.
/HWVWDNHDORDGRII7UDYHO
tripods aim to deliver the perfect
compromise between lightweight
compactness and rigid support.
But downsizing is a tall order. How
do you go about making a tripod
thats smaller to stow away yet
still offers a respectable maximum
operating height? And how can a
spindly tripod that weighs as little
as 1kg be substantial enough for
outdoor use, remaining steady
rather than blowing around in
the breeze?
7KHWULSRGVLQRXUURXQGXS
tackle the problems in various

ZD\V7KHOHJVRIVRPHDUHEXLOW
IURPFDUERQEHULQVWHDGRI
aluminium, which can offer a
weight saving of around 25 per
cent. Others, like the Benro and
Vanguard, rely on crafty designs
that buck tradition.

JARGON BUSTER

High ve
A favourite trick to make the
transition from short carrying
length to respectable operating
KHLJKWLVWRXVHYHWHOHVFRSLF
sections in each tripod leg.
Considering most full-sized tripods
only have three sections per leg,
thats a lot of extra sections in all.
Conventional wisdom says that
each joint in each leg is a weak
point that can reduce stability.
Also, having a greater number
of leg sections means that the
lower sections end up being very
WKLQDQGVSLQGO\7KLVODWWHUSRLQW
is a real risk, considering that
even the upper sections of most
travel tripods are quite small in
diameter to start with, making the
bottom sections very thin indeed,
DQGPRUHSURQHWRH[LQJ7R

204 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

Head
Ball-and-socket heads
are favoured in most travel
tripod heads because of their
speed and ease of setup.
The Manfrottos pistol-grip
head is a variation on the
theme, while the Jessops
and Vanguard tripods have
more conventional threeway and two-way heads.

Feet
The feet of most tripods
are rubber pads but
these sometimes contain
retractable spikes that can
extend for a surer foundation
on loose ground.

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increase rigidity, each leg sections


mechanism needs to be solid
DQGVHFXUH7KHPDLQFKRLFHRI
fasteners is between clip locks or
twist locks. Either way, the clamps
QHHGWRJLYHDUPORFNDVZHOODV
enabling smooth extension when
released, while not introducing
DQ\XQZDQWHGH[LQJLQWRWKH
overall leg.
7KHH[WUDOHJVHFWLRQVHPSOR\HG
by most travel tripods inevitably
result in thinner bottom sections,
but these sections will also be
relatively short, so rigidity may not
be too badly impaired.
1RWDOOWUDYHOWULSRGVKDYHYH
VHFWLRQVSHUOHJ7KH+DPDDQG
Slik models on test are based on
four-leg sections, while the Jessops
and Velbon tripods have a more
conventional three sections per leg.
7KHWUDGHRIILVWKDWWKH-HVVRSV
and Velbon in particular dont
fold down as small as the other
tripods in the group, but theyre
still reasonably easy to carry
DURXQG7KH9HOERQVGLPHQVLRQV
actually look quite diminutive in
our comparison table, but this is

STEP BY STEP THE HIGHS AND LOWS OF SHOOTING


The best ways to get a different perspective while keeping your camera steady

INTRODUCTION

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CAMERA SKILLS

02 Legs akimbo

03 Down under

The upper legs have a larger diameter and are


less prone to exing. Extend these rst and
work your way down, only using the bottom
sections if you really need the extra height.
Only extend the centre column as a last resort.

Multiple leg angles enable you to shoot from


nearer the ground. You may need to partially
raise the centre column, as shown here, but
sometimes it can be split and the lower section
removed to give more ground clearance.

For ultra-low-level shooting, you can remove


the centre column completely and invert it,
shooting from between two of the legs with the
camera upside down. With the Vanguard, you
can pivot the centre column 180 degrees.

Heads up?
In most cases, the tripod head
adds about 8cm to the overall
folded length of the tripod. Its a
VLJQLFDQWDPRXQWXVXDOO\DERXW
a sixth of the complete length.
7RFRPEDWWKLVWKH*LRWWRVDQG
Vanguard take a radical diversion
from conventional design for

or more shorter than most travel


tripods when stowed.
)OH[LELOLW\LVQWSHUKDSVWKHUVW
thing to leap onto your wish list for
whats supposed to be a rigid piece
of kit, but it can be good in one
respect. Some travel tripods are
FHUWDLQO\PRUHH[LEOHWKDQRWKHUV
when it comes to adapting to wideranging shooting needs. All but
the Manfrotto tripod in the group
KDYHPXOWLDQJOHOHJV7\SLFDOO\
they can be locked at two or three

different angles from the centre


column, and the Jessops goes top
with four angles on offer.
Splaying the legs enables you
to quickly and easily shoot from
nearer the ground. Its also a bonus
on very uneven ground or for
working around obstacles.
Another handy aid for low-level
shooting is that you can sometimes
split the tripods centre column
by removing its lower section.
7KLVE\SDVVHVWKHQHHGWRUHPRYH

Our expert team reveal the rigorous criteria they


used to rate the eight travel tripods in our test
In our tripod round-up, we
checked the ease of use and
smoothness of operation in leg
and centre column adjustments.
This included adjusting the legs to
multiple angles, as well as splitting
and reversing the centre column,
where applicable.
We went on to test the whole
range of adjustments offered by
each of the tripod heads in each
kit, checking for speed and ease
of use, along with firm locking

actions. To check the combined


sturdiness of each set of legs and
heads, we used them with a D7000
body and 70-300mm VR lens.
We looked for good resistance to
flexing throughout the range of
heights offered by each tripod. To
gauge steadiness in breezy outdoor
conditions, we switched off the
lenss Vibration Reduction system
and checked Live View images on
the LCD in maximum magnification
mode, with a 300mm zoom setting.

LWDQGUHWLWXSVLGHGRZQLQDQ
inverted position.
Bubble levels or spirit levels are
handy for levelling the tripod on
uneven ground, especially if your
camera doesnt feature a virtual
horizon display. However, unless
there are bubble or spirit levels on
the tripod heads camera platform,
theyre only useful for levelling the
tripod, not the camera itself.

JARGON BUSTER
Sections
Tripods with ve leg
sections fold down smaller,
but can be slower to set up.
Tripods with fewer sections
are more stable but not so
compact when not in use.

WorldMags.net 2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 205

VIDEO GUIDES

JUHDWHUVSDFHVDYLQJ7KH*LRWWRV
has fully pivoting legs, while the
Vanguard features a pivoting
FHQWUHFROXPQ7KHUHVXOWLQ
both cases is that rather than
protruding from the top of the
tripod when folded, the head
ends up nestling between the
tripods feet.
Indeed, with folded lengths of
40cm and 37cm respectively, the
*LRWWRVDQG9DQJXDUGDUHFP

REAL WORLD MEETS LAB

ESSENTIAL KIT

Splaying the legs enables you to quickly and


easily shoot from nearer the ground, and its also
a bonus for working on very uneven ground

HOW WE TESTED

NIKON SOFTWARE

the only tripod in the group thats


sold as just a set of legs, and not as
a tripod kit with an attached head.

NIKOPEDIA

01 Fat legs rst

It certainly looks the business, but


our review sample practically fell
apart in our hands as we used it

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The head can be switched for photo


or video use, but in practice, its
quite spongy and insubstantial

Hama Traveller Compact Manfrotto Compact


Pro (004214) 40, $60
Photo-Movie Kit 50, $60
Hama offer the outright cheapest tripod in the
group, but do you get what you pay for?

Its a big name in tripods but does the mini


Manfrotto live up to its makers reputation?

On the face of it, the Hama


offers a great deal for the
money. Despite its aluminium
legs, it weighs fractionally less
WKDQWKHFDUERQEHU*LRWWRV
Vitruvian and has a 163cm
maximum operating height,
ZKLFKLVRQO\FPOHVV7KH
compromise is that with fourVHFWLRQUDWKHUWKDQYHVHFWLRQ
legs, the folded length is a
sizeable 52cm.
5HQHPHQWVLQFOXGHGXDO
position multi-angle legs,
retractable metal spikes within
the rubber feet pads, a split/
reversible centre column and a
ball head with a bubble level on
the camera platform.

0DQIURWWRLVDUP
favourite with professional
and discerning amateur
photographers the world over,
and theres no denying that the
company makes some extremely
good tripods. Sadly, this isnt
RQHRIWKHP7KH&RPSDFW
Photo-Movie Kit folds down
to a travel-friendly length of
FPEXWGHVSLWHKDYLQJYH
leg sections, it only achieves a
maximum height of 154cm with
the centre column extended.
7KDWVWKHORZHVWLQWKHJURXS
Loosening and fastening
all 12 clip locks for maximum
extension is quite a chore and
the Manfrotto is the only tripod
in the group that doesnt have a
multi-angle facility for its legs.

Performance
In testing, our review sample
of the Hama turned out to be
a massive disappointment.
7KHOHJVZHUHYHU\ZREEO\DW
maximum extension and failed

to give solid support. Worse


still, the clip locks not only have
a cheap, insubstantial feel to
WKHPEXWWKHWKXPEDSRIRQH
of them broke off completely the
UVWWLPHZHXVHGLW
Worst of all, though, despite
looking similar to some of
Manfrottos excellent ball heads,
the one on our review sample
refused to clamp in place, no
matter how tightly the locking
knob was adjusted.

FEATURES
BUILD QUALITY
STABILITY
VALUE FOR MONEY

is very wobbly in use. It has the


smallest maximum load rating
of any tripod on test, at just
1.5kg, but even when mounted
with a lightweight camera, it
lacks stability.
7KHVDPHLVWUXHRIWKHSLVWRO
grip head, which feels spongy
and fragile. On the plus side,
it has switchable operating
modes for video and stills use,
the latter enabling swivel for
portrait-orientation shooting.

FEATURES
BUILD QUALITY
STABILITY
VALUE FOR MONEY

OVERALL

Performance

OVERALL

WE SAY It promises much but


really fails to deliver. The legs
are poor and the head is worse.

7KHRYDOVKDSHGOHJVHFWLRQV
DUHYHU\SURQHWRH[LQJDQG
like the Hama, the Manfrotto

WE SAY Compact and lightweight


but lacks stability, despite a fairly
low maximum operating height.

206 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

WorldMags.net

CAMERA SKILLS

The ball head may be rather small,


but it clamps down securely and
holds a camera rigidly in place

NIKOPEDIA

Wed have preferred a ball-andsocket head, but the multi-angle


leg mechanisms are good

What price a carbon fiber tripod? Jessops


rewrites the price list with this bargain kit

7KHOLJKWHVWWULSRGDQG
head combination in the
group, the Slik weighs in at a
touch under 1kg. Its maximum
load rating of 2kg is also lower
WKDQDYHUDJHEXWLVVXIFLHQWIRU
a D-SLR with a budget telephoto
lens attached.
At 47cm, its fairly small
when folded. Its based on foursection legs and an extending
centre column that enable a
useful maximum height of
FP7KHQLQHFOLSORFNVDUH
quick and easy to use, as is
the centre column which has
a locking screw as well as an
DGMXVWDEOHIULFWLRQGDPSHU7KH
column can also be split and
inverted for low-level shooting,
which is further aided by three
alternative leg angles.

At less than a third of the


SULFHRIWKH*LRWWRVFDUERQ
EHUWULSRGWKH-HVVRSVWULSRG
is amazingly cheap to buy. With
only three leg sections, however,
its folded length is on the large
size at 62cm. Its also quite
KHDY\IRUDFDUERQEHUWULSRG
at 1.78kg, its actually the
second heaviest in the group. On
the plus side, height adjustments
are quick and easy with only
two clip locks per leg, which are
chunky and simple to operate.
Unusually, the kit includes
a conventional three-way head
rather than a ball head. Its good
for making precise adjustments
but to enable slimline carrying,
you need to remove one locking
arm and screw it into the other,
which is rather time consuming.

Despite its slim build, the Slik


offers reasonably sturdy support,

even at its maximum operating


height, although its no match
IRUWKH%HQUR*LRWWRVDQG
Velbon tripods in this respect.
7KHEDOOKHDGLVVLPLODUO\
small but offers good, rigid
clamping thats streets ahead
of the Hama and Manfrotto
heads. However, it lacks variable
friction adjustment or a panonly lock, as featured on the
%HQURDQG*LRWWRVKHDGV$WWKH
price, its a good bargain buy.

FEATURES
BUILD QUALITY
STABILITY
VALUE FOR MONEY

OVERALL
WE SAY Not much more
expensive than the Hama and
Manfrotto, but its more stable.

Performance
Stability is good when only
the middle leg sections are

WorldMags.net

extended. However, when youre


also extending the lower section
RIHDFKOHJWKHUHVVRPHH[LQJ
Its not as pronounced as with
the Hama and Manfrotto tripods
but it impairs performance.
On the plus side, multi-angle
facilities are better than most,
with four lockable positions.
In the uppermost position, the
leg points almost vertically
upwards, which is handy if you
need to shoot close to a wall.

FEATURES
BUILD QUALITY
STABILITY
VALUE FOR MONEY

OVERALL
WE SAY Not particularly compact
and its actually heavier than most
aluminium tripods in the group test.

2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 207

VIDEO GUIDES

A compact and extremely lightweight tripod


thats also impressively light on the wallet

ESSENTIAL KIT

Jessops Major Carbon


Fibre (5145152) 85, $135

NIKON SOFTWARE

Slik Sprint Pro II GM


Tripod Kit 60, $90

Performance

INTRODUCTION

WorldMags.netESSENTIAL KIT

The pivoting centre column is


unique in the group, and is handy
for extremely low-level shots

One of the tripod legs can be


removed and used as a monopod,
which is a useful bonus

INTRODUCTION
VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

NIKOPEDIA

CAMERA SKILLS

ESSENTIAL KIT WorldMags.net

Vanguard Nivelo 245BK


5-Section Tripod 132, $126

Benro Flat Traveller 2


Aluminium Tripod 200, $250

A radical rethink on travel tripod design, the


Vanguard makes for very compact carrying

Smart and solid, this a fine example of Benros


second generation of flat-folding tripods

Vanguard has often


impressed us in the past
with its innovative designs and
JRRGEXLOGTXDOLW\7KH1LYHOR
245BK follows the trend, with
a pivoting centre column thats
unique in the group.
Unlike the pivot system
in some full-sized Vanguard
tripods, you cant use the centre
column at any angle through its
180-degree arc, but instead are
limited to vertically upwards or
downwards. Upwards is ideal
for regular shooting, while
downwards is great for ultralow-level shots and compact
carrying, as the head rests
between the feet when folded.

7KH%HQURLVDQLQQRYDWLYH
and beautifully engineered
piece of kit. And it really is a kit,
with an array of parts and tools
in a smart padded carry case.
Each of the tripods three legs
are positioned in a straight line
along its rectangular shoulder,
IROGLQJDWIRUVWRZDJH7KH
position of the centre leg
therefore precludes the use of
a conventional centre column.
However, a telescopic centre
column is supplied, so you can
UHPRYHWKHKHDGWWKHFHQWUH
column and mount the head on
it when you need extra height,
up to a class-leading 172cm.
Without the centre column
WWHGWKHPXOWLDQJOHOHJV
enable low-level shooting.

Performance
Speedy setup is aided by
twist-lock leg sections, which
operate by progressive twisting
RIWKHWULSRGIHHW7KHV\VWHP
works well and is a time-saver

compared with using 12 clip


locks. Stability is pretty good
and better than with the Slik.
7KHKHDGDOVRKDVDVLPLODUO\
quick action although its not a
ball-and-socket head. Instead,
two clamping screws enable
independent movement for pan
DQGWLOW7RVZLYHOWKHFDPHUD
for portrait shooting, you need
to remove the square quickUHOHDVHSODWHDQGUHWLWDWD
90-degree increment.

FEATURES
BUILD QUALITY
STABILITY
VALUE FOR MONEY

removed and replaced with


metal spikes, also supplied, for
DGGHGVWDELOLW\7RHQKDQFH
versatility, one of the tripod
OHJVFDQEHUHPRYHGDQGWWHG
directly to the head, with or
without the centre column in
between, for use as a monopod.
7KHKLJKSHUIRUPDQFHEDOO
head itself is similarly versatile,
with separate locking and
friction knobs, plus a pan-only
lock with calibrated scale.

FEATURES
BUILD QUALITY
STABILITY
VALUE FOR MONEY

OVERALL

Performance

OVERALL

WE SAY A crafty bit of lateral


thinking literally turns this tripod
on its head for compact stowage.

7KDQNVWRDUXJJHGKLJKTXDOLW\
EXLOGULJLGLW\LVH[FHOOHQW7KH
tripods rubber feet can be

WE SAY Its pricey and quite


weighty too, but build quality
and stability are excellent.

208 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

WorldMags.net

CAMERA SKILLS

A carbon ber travel tripod that


really delivers the goods, complete
with a built-in monopod

NIKOPEDIA

Weighing 1.29kg, the Velbon is quite


a hefty tripod, especially when you
consider that a head isnt included

Unlike every other tripod


in the group, the Velbon is
supplied as a set of legs and you
need to buy a head separately.
As such, you have to add about
8cm to the quoted folded length
of 52cm, which makes it longer
WKDQDYHUDJH7KHVDPHJRHVIRU
the maximum operating height,
which works out at a respectable
FPZLWKDKHDGWWHG
Build quality is very good
and the three-section carbon
EHUOHJVZLWKFOLSORFNVDUH
UHDVVXULQJO\UPDQGVWDEOH
7KUHHORFNDEOHOHJDQJOHVDUH
available, the centre column
can be easily split and inverted
for low-level shooting, and the
tripod as a whole feels adequate
for much more than its 3kg
maximum load rating.

7KDQNVWRLWVYHVHFWLRQ
legs that outdo Leonardo
da Vincis Vitruvian Man by
pivoting through 180-degrees,
WKH*LRWWRVLVOLJKWZHLJKWDQG
compact when folded. For
stowage, the kit is only 40cm
ORQJ7KDWVFPVKRUWHUWKDQ
the Jessops Major tripod, even
WKRXJKWKH*LRWWRVH[WHQGVWR
a maximum height of 165cm,
which is 4cm taller. Its about
half a kilogram lighter than the
Benro aluminium kit too.
7KHWZLVWORFNVRQWKHOHJV
DUHVPRRWK\HWHQDEOHYHU\UP
support, with a hefty maximum
ORDGUDWLQJRINJ7KHUHVDOVR
a multi-angle leg facility that
offers two locking positions.

7KHUHVSOHQW\RIVWDELOLW\DQG
the legs operate smoothly

and effectively. However,


adding a head from the same
manufacturer wouldnt be our
UVWFKRLFH,QVWHDGZHGJRIRU
a Manfrotto 494RC2 Mini Ball
Head as the perfect match for
the Velbon, which will set you
back an additional 45.
7KLVPHDQVWKHWRWDORXWOD\LV
WKHQJHWWLQJRQWRZDUGV*LRWWRV
9LWUXYLDQFDUERQEHUWHUULWRU\
DQGIRUWKHPRQH\WKH*LRWWRV
has more going for it.

FEATURES
BUILD QUALITY
STABILITY
VALUE FOR MONEY

Performance

OVERALL
WE SAY Its quite expensive, and
at the price, its a case of nice legs,
shame about the missing head.

7KH*LRWWRVLVDZRQGHUIXOO\
versatile tripod and, as with the
Benro, you can remove one of
the legs and use it as a monopod

with the ball head. Rigidity and


stability are very impressive for
a combined legs-and-head kit
that weighs only 1.38kg.
7KHTXDOLW\RIWKHKHDGLV
excellent. Its very solid and has
a main knob that serves for both
locking and adjustable friction
damping. A separate panonly lock knob, complete with
calibrated scale, and two spirit
levels on the camera platform
aid speed and versatility.

FEATURES
BUILD QUALITY
STABILITY
VALUE FOR MONEY

OVERALL
WE SAY The Giottos offers a
perfect balance of lightweight
compactness and solid support.

WorldMags.net 2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 209

VIDEO GUIDES

Brilliantly conceived and beautifully executed,


the carbon fiber Giottos is a travel tripod classic

ESSENTIAL KIT

The only headless tripod in this group test,


the Velbon GEO E-530 is all about the legs

NIKON SOFTWARE

Velbon GEO E-530 Carbon Giottos Vitruvian VGRN


8255-5400-652 300, $420
Fibre Tripod 220, $320

Performance

INTRODUCTION

WorldMags.netESSENTIAL KIT

INTRODUCTION
CAMERA SKILLS
NIKOPEDIA
NIKON SOFTWARE
ESSENTIAL KIT

ESSENTIAL KIT WorldMags.net


COMPARISON TABLE
Benro Flat
Traveller 2

Giottos Vitruvian
8255-5400-652

Hama Traveller
Compact Pro

Jessops Major
Carbon Fibre

Manfrotto Compact
Photo-Movie Kit

Slik Sprint Pro II GM


Tripod Kit

Vanguard Nivelo
245BK

Velbon GEO E-530


Carbon Fibre Tripod

BRA1192TBO

VGRN8255-5400-652

004214

5145152

MKC3-H01

N/A

N/A

N/A

HOW THE TRAVEL


TRIPODS COMPARE
MODEL/CODE NO.
WEBSITE

benro.com

giottos-tripods.com

hama.co.uk

jessops.com

manfrotto.com

sliktripod.co.uk

vanguardworld.com

velbon.com

STREET PRICE

200, $250

300, $420

40, $60

85, $135

50, $60

60, $90

132, $126

220, $320

MAIN MATERIAL

Aluminium

Carbon ber

Aluminium

Carbon ber

Aluminium

Aluminium

Aluminium

Carbon ber

HEAD TYPE

Ball

Ball

Ball

3-way

Pistol

Ball

2-way

None

FOLDED HEIGHT

51cm

40cm

52cm

62cm

46cm

47cm

37cm

52cm

WEIGHT

1.86kg

1.38kg

1.37kg

1.78kg

1.15kg

0.95kg

1.14kg

1.29kg

MAXIMUM HEIGHT

172cm

165cm

163cm

161cm

154cm

161cm

161cm

157cm

MAXIMUM LOAD

8kg

6kg

4kg

4.5kg

1.5kg

2kg

3kg

3kg

BUBBLE/SPIRIT LEVELS

1 bubble

2 spirit

1 bubble

2 bubble

None

None

1 bubble

None

NO. OF LEG SECTIONS

5 sections

5 sections

4 sections

3 sections

5 sections

4 sections

5 sections

3 sections

MULTI-ANGLE LEGS

3 angles

2 angles

2 angles

4 angles

1 angle

3 angles

2 angles

3 angles

LEG LOCK MECHANISM

Twist

Twist

Clip

Clip

Clip

Clip

Twist

Clip

CENTRE COLUMN

Removable

Invert

Split/invert

Invert

Invert

Split/invert

Invert

Split/invert

FEET

Pad/spike

Pad

Pad/spike

Pad/spike

Pad

Pad

Pad

Pad/spike

BUILT-IN MONOPOD

Yes

Yes

No

No

No

No

No

No

CARRY BAG

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

No

FEATURES
BUILD QUALITY
STABILITY
VALUE FOR MONEY
OVERALL

10 things we learnt in this test


Top tips to help you win the three-legged race
1 Lash it on
4 Carbon conundrum
For easy carrying, its often
convenient to lash a travel tripod onto
a gadget bag. Better still, many photo
backpacks have built-in tripod harnesses.

Put on weight

VIDEO GUIDES

Hanging a weight from the centre


column or tripod shoulder can aid stability,
but you have to be careful not to exceed the
modest maximum load rating that some
travel tripods have.

Removable legs

A removable leg in the Benro and


*LRWWRVWULSRGVIRUXVHDVDKLJKTXDOLW\
monopod, adds versatility, saves an
additional purchase and means you have
one less thing to carry.
210 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

With the relatively small size of travel


WULSRGVFDUERQEHURIWHQGHOLYHUVDPRGHVW
weight saving compared with aluminium.

Contortionist tripods

7KH*LRWWRVDQG9DQJXDUGWULSRGV
can stow their heads between their feet,
reducing carrying length and giving extra
protection to the heads.

Good at any angle

Multi-angle legs
are brilliant for low-level
shooting, especially
when theyre combined
with a centre column that
splits to enable greater
ground clearance.

WorldMags.net

Upside down

Count the clamps

For centre columns that dont split,


the next best thing for low-level shooting is
to invert them and shoot with the camera
upside down.

When extending travel tripods to


their maximum height and folding them
down again, the sheer number of leg section
clamps can make this process a real chore.

Exposure delay

7KHH[SRVXUHGHOD\
mode featured on most current
Nikon D-SLRs helps to avoid
mirror bounce when youre
using a lightweight tripod.

10

Having a ball

Ball-and-socket
heads reign supreme for
quick and easy setup,
enabling fast adjustments.

THE WINNER IS...

CAMERA SKILLS

Giottos Vitruvian
VGRN8255-5400-652
Its may be the most expensive tripod in our group test,
but its a top-quality, intelligently designed piece of kit
OHVVWKDQWKH*LRWWRVEXWVWLOORIIHUVDIHDVW
RIGHVLJQRXULVKHVDQGOLNHWKH*LRWWRVLW
converts quickly into a monopod for when
you dont need full three-legged support.
Its impressively rigid even at its maximum
operating height and is the second-best
tripod on test, even if its the heaviest in
the group at 1.86kg.

NIKOPEDIA

Budget options
For budget buys, the Hama and Manfrotto
are both disappointing, with a lack of
ULJLGLW\DQGRYHUDOOLPVLQHVV
Spend a bit extra, though, and youll
QGWKDWWKH6OLN6SULQWLVDQDWWUDFWLYHEX\
combining good stability with an extremely
light carrying weight of 0.95kg.
7KH6OLNLVDELWRQWKHEDVLFVLGH
however, and the more advanced Vanguard
Nivelo 245BK is unbeatable value at 132,
with a clever design, compact size and
sturdy support for your Nikon D-SLR.

Whats good Lightweight but very stable carbon


build, smart head and detachable monopod.
Whats bad Its expensive, even though its well
worth the considerable outlay.
Our verdict A superb piece of kit. Its solid,
dependable and very versatile.

OVERALL

Not winners but denitely not losers

NIKON SOFTWARE

3URYLQJWKDWFDUERQEHUFDQJLYH
great stability with a sizeable weight
reduction, even in relatively small travel
WULSRGVWKH*LRWWRV9LWUXYLDQUHLJQV
supreme. It delivers the perfect blend of
compactness, light weight, versatility and
VWXUGLQHVV7\SLFDORI*LRWWRVWKHEXLOG
quality is excellent throughout and clever
design enables a small carrying size with no
compromise on maximum operating height.
Useful novelties include a detachable leg that
you can use as a monopod.
7KHQH[WVWURQJHVWFDUERQFRQWHQGHULV
WKH9HOERQ*(2DOWKRXJKLWVFRQVLGHUDEO\
bigger when folded and you have to buy a
head separately. Build quality is still very
good and stability is rather better than with
the Jessops Major. While cheap to buy, the
-HVVRSVFDUERQEHUWULSRGLVTXLWHEXON\
and heavy, despite lacking sturdiness.
7XUQLQJWRDOXPLQLXPWULSRGVWKH
%HQUR)ODW7UDYHOOHU,,FRVWVVLJQLFDQWO\

INTRODUCTION

WorldMags.netESSENTIAL KIT

ESSENTIAL KIT

Vanguard Nivelo 245BK

Slik Sprint Pro II GM

Whats good Very well made, reassuringly rigid


and the head is of similarly high quality. It also
comes with an impressive array of extras.
Whats bad At 1.86kg, its the outright heaviest
tripod in the group.
Our verdict A very sturdy tripod that handily
doubles up as a neat monopod.

Whats good The highly intelligent design


features a 180-degree pivoting centre column,
which helps to reduce the carrying length.
Whats bad Its not quite as stable as either
the Giottos or Benro tripods.
Our verdict An excellent buy at the price,
especially when small carrying size is crucial.

Whats good Very good build quality at the


price, and it offers fairly sturdy support, even
though its ultra-lightweight at only 0.95kg.
Whats bad Four-section legs make the
carrying length a little on the long side.
Our verdict Impressive performance and
versatility for a relatively small outlay.

OVERALL

OVERALL

OVERALL
WorldMags.net

2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 211

VIDEO GUIDES

Benro Flat Traveller 2

EXTERNAL

CAMERA SKILLS

INTRODUCTION

WorldMags.net

VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

NIKOPEDIA

Spanning an enormous range of power and sophistication, the


latest Nikon-fit flashguns also vary hugely in price. We help you
pick out the best models to suit your photographic needs

212 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

WorldMags.net

THE CONTENDERS

INTRODUCTION

WorldMags.net

1 Sunpak PF30X 80, $50


2 Nikon SB-400 Speedlight 120, $285

4 Metz 50 AF-1 Digital 180, $280


5 Sigma EF-610 DG Super 120, $225
6 Nissin Di866 MkII Speedlite
Professional 200, $350
7 Nikon SB-700 Speedlight 230, $327

CAMERA SKILLS

3 Polaroid 160 Dua Flash 160, $170

8 Nikon SB-910 Speedlight 340, $547

NIKOPEDIA

3
8

NIKON SOFTWARE

ESSENTIAL KIT
VIDEO GUIDES

WorldMags.net

2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 213

INTRODUCTION

ESSENTIAL KIT WorldMags.net


EQUIPMENT KNOW-HOW

THINGS TO LOOK FOR

Bounce and swivel head


This enables you to bounce light
from the ashgun off walls and
ceilings for a softer lighting effect.
Its most useful for portraiture.

CAMERA SKILLS

A wider range of features will


expand your shooting options

Wide-angle diffuser
Flipping down over the front of the
ash head, this diffuses the light
to give a wider area of coverage.
This is essential when youre using
ultra-wide-angle lenses.

LCD panel
For making the most of advanced
settings, or for arranging custom
functions, an LCD status display
is an absolute necessity.

VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

NIKOPEDIA

Master/slave modes
Advanced ashguns can often
be used as either master or slave
units in multi-ashgun lighting
setups, enabling you to get more
exotic lighting effects.

Onboard controls
These should enable simple yet
effective hands-on control of
ashgun settings. Theyre usually
much quicker than camera-based
menu options.

AF illuminator
A patterned grid of light, usually
red in colour, enables the
cameras autofocus system to
lock on to targets accurately,
even in very dark conditions.

JRRGDVKJXQLVRQHRI
WKHPRVWHVVHQWLDODQG
YHUVDWLOH6/5DFFHVVRULHV
Its not just for dark times, when
youre shooting indoors or at night
DDVKJXQLVHTXDOO\XVHIXOIRU
OOLQJLQXQVLJKWO\VKDGRZVLQ
bright, sunny-day portraits.
8QOLNHWKHSRSXSDVKHVLQ
PRVW1LNRQ6/5VDVKJXQVJLYH
\RXPRUHSRZHUJUHDWHUH[LELOLW\
RYHUOLJKWLQJWHFKQLTXHVDQGLQ
VRPHFDVHVDGYDQFHGIDFLOLWLHVIRU
ZLUHOHVVPXOWLDVKJXQVKRRWLQJ
7KHPD[LPXPSRZHURID
DVKJXQLVLQGLFDWHGE\LWVJXLGH
QXPEHU *1 7KLVLVXVXDOO\
VWDWHGIRUVKRRWLQJDWDVHQVLWLYLW\
RI,62DQGDIRFDOOHQJWKRI
PP7KDWVEHFDXVHPRVW
DVKJXQVKDYHPRWRULVHG]RRP
KHDGVWKDWDXWRPDWLFDOO\DGMXVWDV
\RXDOWHUWKH]RRPVHWWLQJRI\RXU
OHQVRUWSULPHOHQVHVRIYDU\LQJ
IRFDOOHQJWKV
$V\RXVWUHWFKIURPZLGHDQJOH
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WKHOLJKWXVHGWRLOOXPLQDWHWKH
SHULSKHU\RIDVFHQHLVZDVWHG6R
E\]RRPLQJWKHDVKKHDGLWVOLJKW
LVFRQFHQWUDWHGRQWKHDUHDWKDW

Flash stand
This lets you position your ash
wherever you like while keeping
your hands free, and means you
dont need a bulky lighting stand.

ZLOODSSHDULQWKHSKRWR7KH*1
HQDEOHV\RXWRNQRZWKHPD[LPXP
UDQJHRIWKHDVKJXQDWDQ\JLYHQ
DSHUWXUH<RXVLPSO\GLYLGHWKH*1
by the aperture youre using.
$VDQH[DPSOHDDVKJXQ
ZLWKD*1RIZRXOGHQDEOH
\RXWRVKRRWDQREMHFWIURPXSWR
10 metres away with an aperture
RIIRUIURPXSWRYHPHWUHV
away with an aperture of f/8. That
PLJKWVRXQGOLNHPRUHSRZHUWKDQ
\RXGHYHUQHHGEXWWKHUHDUH
RWKHUIDFWRUVWRWDNHLQWRDFFRXQW

Directing ash
7KH*1JLYHVPD[LPXPGLVWDQFHV
RQO\ZKHQ\RXUHDLPLQJWKH
DVKJXQGLUHFWO\DWDWDUJHW
+RZHYHURQHRIWKHPRVWHVVHQWLDO
IHDWXUHVRIDQ\JRRGDVKJXQLVD
ERXQFHDQGVZLYHOKHDG
'XHWRWKHVPDOOSK\VLFDO
VL]HRIDDVKKHDGGLUHFWDVK
SURGXFHVKDUGOLJKWLQJWKDWFDQ
EHXQDWWHULQJIRUSRUWUDLWVDQG
FDXVHGDUNVKDGRZV%\WLOWLQJ
WKHDVKKHDGXSZDUGVLQLQGRRU
SRUWUDLWXUH\RXFDQERXQFHWKH
DVKRIIDZKLWHFHLOLQJ7KLV
HIIHFWLYHO\JLYHVDPXFKODUJHU

214 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

JARGON BUSTER
Manual power
For ultimate control
over ash power, you can
usually switch to manual
ash mode and adjust the
ash intensity in small
increments between 1/1
(full power) and the lowest
settings (typically from
1/16 to 1/128 power).

i-TTL
The intelligent Through
The Lens mode aims to
create a balance between
ash and ambient light, so
theres less difference
between the foreground
and background. Its often
referred to as TTL BL
(Balanced Light).

WorldMags.net

VRXUFHRIOLJKWZKLFKPDNHVIRU
VRIWHUOLJKWLQJ
The downsides of this are that
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DVKJXQVZLWKH[WUDPD[LPXP
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VZLYHOIDFLOLW\GRHVWKHVDPHMRE
when youre shooting in portrait
WDOO RULHQWDWLRQ

Articial intelligence
:RUNLQJRXWWKHPDQXDODVK
VHWWLQJHVSHFLDOO\ZKHQERXQFLQJ
DVKRIIZDOOVRUFHLOLQJVFDQ
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WKHDVKJXQVRQWHVWDUHIXOO\
FRPSDWLEOHZLWK1LNRQL77/
LQWHOOLJHQW7KURXJK7KH/HQV 
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shutter opens and the shot is
taken. Thats the theory, anyway,
DOWKRXJKZHIRXQGWKHDFFXUDF\

STEP BY STEP Bounce and swivel


Get a softer, more natural lighting effect from your ashgun

INTRODUCTION

WorldMags.netESSENTIAL KIT

CAMERA SKILLS

02 Swivel

03 Diffusion dome

When youre using the camera in landscape


(wide) orientation and bouncing the ash off the
ceiling, you should choose an angle of at least
45 degrees to avoid partial direct ash in the
upper part of the image.

This is useful for bouncing the ash off walls or,


in portrait (tall) orientation, the ceiling. A
near-vertical amount of swivel will usually be
necessary in order to avoid partial direct ash
affecting the image.

Shooting with a diffusion dome in bounce or


swivel mode enables softened direct ash
combined with bounced ash off walls and
ceilings. Diffusion domes are included with the
Nikon SB-700 and SB-910 ashguns.

SDQHOZKLFKXVXDOO\LSVGRZQ
IURPWKHWRSRIWKHDVKKHDG
ZKHQUHTXLUHG7KLVGLIIXVHURIWHQ
shares its stowaway area with a
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ZKHUH\RXFDQXVHWKHDVKJXQLQ
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WKHVXEMHFWVH\HV

Shot in the dark


$QRWKHUXVHIXOIHDWXUHLVDQ$)
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UHG7KLVFDQEHDQ\WKLQJIURP
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DONDOLQHEDWWHULHV5HF\FOLQJ
VSHHGVFDQJHQHUDOO\EHLQFUHDVHG
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EDWWHULHVDQGWKHVHDUHDPXFK
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H[WHQGHGVKRRWLQJVHVVLRQVWRR

Our expert test team reveal the rigorous criteria


they used to rate the flashguns in our roundup
All functions, features and
firing modes of the flashguns
were tested. To measure the
maximum power, each model
was set to manual flash mode at
its longest zoom setting. A
Sekonic flash meter was placed a
set distance away, and the light
readings were converted to give a
GN number at ISO100, measured
in metres.
We also checked for colour
accuracy by shooting an industry

standard colour chart and


analysing the output. We then
measured how much correction
was needed at the editing stage
to give accurate results.
For i-TTL flash exposure
accuracy, we photographed a
neutral grey card, which should
produce a spike at the centre of
the histogram display. We then
calculated the amount of
overexposure or underexposure
in +/-EV (Exposure Value) stops.

Our test procedures are designed to highlight inconsistencies in power


output, colour reproduction and exposure accuracy, providing a level
playing eld for comparisons between products

WorldMags.net

2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 215

VIDEO GUIDES

setting them up for use on DX


$36& UDWKHUWKDQ); IXOO
IUDPH FDPHUDV,WVQRWDOZD\VWKH
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sense what type of SLR theyre
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PRVWDVKJXQVIHDWXUHDGLIIXVHU

SHEDDING LIGHT ON FLASHGUNS

ESSENTIAL KIT

All the flashguns on test are fully compatible


with Nikons i-TTL flash metering, which aims to
ensure accurate and consistent flash power

HOW WE TESTED

NIKON SOFTWARE

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to 16-70mm.
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EHFDXVHWKHUHVQRIDFLOLW\IRU

NIKOPEDIA

01 Bounce

INTRODUCTION
VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

NIKOPEDIA

CAMERA SKILLS

ESSENTIAL KIT WorldMags.net

Controls are very limited but at


least you get a little ash
exposure compensation

Sunpak PF30X

With just a hotshoe lock, on/off


switch and ready lamp, onboard
controls are entirely lacking

80, $50

Nikon SB-400
Speedlight 120, $285

Small but perfectly formed? Well, its certainly


little, but its lacking too many essential features

The tiny yet sturdy SB-400 offers plenty of features


for those who like to travel light

7KH6XQSDNLVODUJHU
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DVKJXQVLQWKHJURXSIt runs
on just two AA batteries and
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runs on two AA batteries, rather
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Short-range subjects like this are ne,


but the Sunpaks lack of power could be
an issue in other situations

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Performance
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tedious, taking up to four times
ORQJHUWKDQ1LNRQV6%

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Performance
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FEATURES
BUILD QUALITY
IMAGE QUALITY
VALUE FOR MONEY

FEATURES
BUILD QUALITY
IMAGE QUALITY
VALUE FOR MONEY

OVERALL

OVERALL

WE SAY Its cheap but


disappointing, with poor recycling
speeds and a lack of facilities.

216 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

Simple, compact and effective, the


SB-400 can tilt through 90 degrees but
has no swivel option

WorldMags.net

WE SAY A bit lacking in versatility


and power, the little SB-400 is still a
huge step up from pop-up flash.

INTRODUCTION

WorldMags.netESSENTIAL KIT

CAMERA SKILLS

160, $170

180, $280

Polaroids Dua Flash aims to serve the lighting


needs of both photographers and videographers

This lightgun packs in an impressive amount of


features, and all at a competitive price

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Performance
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pedestrian. The motorised
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Performance
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and 1/64 settings. In i-TTL
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FEATURES
BUILD QUALITY
IMAGE QUALITY
VALUE FOR MONEY

FEATURES
BUILD QUALITY
IMAGE QUALITY
VALUE FOR MONEY

OVERALL

OVERALL

WE SAY Quite a basic flashgun,


and the secondary LED lighting
array is lacking in power.

The Metz delivers consistent power in


manual mode, and offers a good range of
bounce and swivel movements

WorldMags.net

WE SAY Theres plenty of power


but the Metz doesnt always use it,
with underexposure in i-TTL mode.

2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 217

VIDEO GUIDES

The Polaroid offers illumination for both


stills and video, but the ash control
options are weak

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ESSENTIAL KIT

Metz 50 AF-1 Digital

NIKON SOFTWARE

Polaroid 160 Dua Flash

NIKOPEDIA

Repeated, simultaneous presses


of the + and - buttons take you
through the menu options

The Polaroids old-school control


panel is basic and the buttons are
quite ddly to use

INTRODUCTION
VIDEO GUIDES

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

NIKOPEDIA

CAMERA SKILLS

ESSENTIAL KIT WorldMags.net

Theres a useful array of


features but the onboard
controls are a bit long-winded

Sigma EF-610 DG Super

The colour LCD info screen adds a


touch of class and makes menu
navigation a simple process

120, $225

Nissin Di866 MkII


Speedlite Pro 200, $350

Sigma packs in a number of advanced features at a


good price, along with plenty of power too

A colour LCD information panel is just one of the


many unique features that this flashgun offers

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Another neat feature is that
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The Nissin features a
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The Sigma delivered good results with


this shot, but you often need to apply
ash compensation for best results

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Performance
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times are a disappointing eight
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metering, so we had to resort
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The onboard menu system
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Performance
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when using NiMH batteries, and
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FEATURES
BUILD QUALITY
IMAGE QUALITY
VALUE FOR MONEY

FEATURES
BUILD QUALITY
IMAGE QUALITY
VALUE FOR MONEY

OVERALL

OVERALL

WE SAY Auto flash exposure can


leave images on the dark side, and
the menu system is rather awkward.

218 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

Interestingly, the Nissin boasts a


second, smaller ash unit to provide
ll-in light in bounce mode

WorldMags.net

WE SAY There are plenty of


advanced features, lots of power,
and a useful secondary fill-in flash.

INTRODUCTION

WorldMags.netESSENTIAL KIT

CAMERA SKILLS

Not quite as straightforward to


use as the Nikon SB-700, but the
controls are incredibly versatile

With handy accessories and a wealth of useful


features included, this is a perfect fit for your SLR

A real powerhouse of a flashgun, this Speedlight


offers professional levels of power and options

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senses when the diffusion dome
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with different image sensor
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diffusion dome, though these
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Performance
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Performance
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FEATURES
BUILD QUALITY
IMAGE QUALITY
VALUE FOR MONEY

FEATURES
BUILD QUALITY
IMAGE QUALITY
VALUE FOR MONEY

OVERALL

OVERALL

WE SAY Quality and versatility fall


naturally under the thumb with a
smart and streamlined interface.

Many of the SB-910s features can be


found on the cheaper SB-700, but it still
wins on lighting control and power

WorldMags.net

WE SAY Packed with top-end


features and wrapped in a sturdy
and solid package but its pricey.

2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 219

VIDEO GUIDES

The SB-700s sophisticated controls


include the ability to adapt to the colour
of any ambient lighting

LQWXLWLYHRSHUDWLRQ7KH6%
LVVXSHUEIRUZLUHOHVVPXOWL
DVKJXQVHWXSVZKHUHLWFDQEH
DPDVWHURUVODYHXQLW

ESSENTIAL KIT

Nikon SB-910
Speedlight 340, $547

NIKON SOFTWARE

Nikon SB-700
Speedlight 230, $327

NIKOPEDIA

Theres direct access to the key


settings, and the thumbwheel
makes any adjustments easy

INTRODUCTION

ESSENTIAL KIT WorldMags.net

RATINGS IN A FLASH
Nikon SB-700
Speedlight

Nikon SB-910
Speedlight

50

30

40

50

40

24

32

40

30

Theoretical GN
Measured GN

20

OUTPUT

Full
power

1/4
power

1/8
power

1/16
power

1/32
power

1/64
power

APERTURE READING AT 1m

COLOUR ACCURACY

ESSENTIAL KIT

12

Full
power

24

Theoretical GN
Measured GN

16

1/2
power

1/4
power

1/8
power

1/16
power

1/32
power

1/64
power

The tiny SB-400 doesnt have a massive


power output, and like the rest of the
flashguns on test, its actual output falls
some way short of the claimed figure.
APERTURE READING AT 1m

Full
power

Theoretical GN
Measured GN

20

10

1/2
power

30

1/2
power

1/4
power

1/8
power

1/16
power

1/32
power

1/64
power

Still a little way short of the expected


overall power output, the SB-700 is,
nevertheless, very consistent throughout
the rest of the range.
APERTURE READING AT 1m

Full
power

1/2
power

1/4
power

1/8
power

1/16
power

Theoretical

21

Theoretical

28

Theoretical

34

Measured

32

Measured

32

Measured

22

Measured

32

iTTL exposure accuracy

iTTL exposure accuracy

-1.0EV

Colour rendition is good, but we found


we usually had to add positive flash
exposure compensation in order to avoid
colours looking quite muddy.
Colour accuracy

Measured

At -0.2EV, the SB-400 comes extremely


close to a perfect flash exposure, matching
the larger Nikon SB-700 and SB-910 in
terms of iTTL accuracy.
Measured

Compared with the bigger Nikon


flashguns, colour balance is slightly on the
warm side. However, this could be quite
flattering for portrait subjects.
Colour accuracy

16

IMAGE QUALITY VERDICT


The Metz gun often suffered from flash
underexposure in iTTL mode during our
tests, making for dull-looking images.
Colour accuracy is good, though.

Measured

Measured

11

Colour rendition is indistinguishable in


shots taken using the SB-700 and SB-910.
Both flashguns give natural-looking
results, with neutral greys.

IMAGE QUALITY VERDICT

Measured

Measured

-0.2EV

The fantastic power ouput of Nikons


biggest flashgun is matched by good
performance in our colour accuracy tests
across the spectrum.
Colour accuracy

IMAGE QUALITY VERDICT


Theres practically nothing to separate
image quality between the SB-700 and
the fully professional SB-910, making
the former a bargain.

WorldMags.net

Youd expect supreme accuracy from


Nikons top professional flashgun, and
thats what you get, although its matched
by the SB-400 and SB-700.
iTTL exposure accuracy

-0.2EV

Colour accuracy

With its small flash head positioned


close to the camera, image quality is
only good in bounce mode, for which
the SB-400 is a bit lacking in power.

220 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2014

As with the other Nikon flashguns in the


test group, the SB-700 proves almost
impossible to fool, giving accurate results
time after time.
iTTL exposure accuracy

-0.2EV

1/64
power

APERTURE READING AT 1m

50

In iTTL mode, images are often


underexposed by a full stop (-1EV), meaning
dark pictures and requiring flash exposure
compensation to be dialled in.

1/32
power

The SB-910 matches the Metz for


outright power, and it proves really
consistent throughout the whole range,
right down to 1/64 power.

Theoretical

Measured

VIDEO GUIDES

Theoretical GN
Measured GN

In the range between 1/4 and full output


settings, the Metz is a little down on
power. However, accuracy improves at
lower output settings.

iTTL EXPOSURE ACCURACY

NIKON SOFTWARE

NIKOPEDIA

10

18

Guide number

Nikon SB-400
Speedlight

Guide number

Metz 50 AF-1
Digital

Guide number

Guide number

CAMERA SKILLS

Find out how the flashguns on test compare our


detailed lab results separate the best from the worst

Measured

18

IMAGE QUALITY VERDICT


For accuracy in both manual and iTTL
modes, the SB-910 is a standout
performer, and colour accuracy is
impressive. Its the top pro choice.

The tests explained!

Exposure
(finding out how
well the guns
auto-flash works)

We used a meter to measure flash power


at one metre across the full range of
power settings, then compared this to the
makers quoted guide numbers.

Flash output is one thing, but how well do


these flashguns work alongside the
cameras own metering system in
real-world auto-exposure situations?

Colour
(saturation, hue
and brightness
variations)
We used an X-Rite ColorChecker chart
and image analysis software to
calculate any deviation from correct
colour. The closer to zero the better.

Sunpak
PF30X

60

50

70

40

48

40

56

32

36

Theoretical GN
Measured GN

24

12

Theoretical GN
Measured GN

20

10

1/4
power

1/8
power

1/16
power

1/32
power

1/64
power

The full power output lags quite a way


behind the manufacturers stated
maximum, and accuracy is disappointing
at 1/2 and 1/4 settings as well.
APERTURE READING AT 1m

Full
power

Theoretical GN
Measured GN

28

14

1/2
power

42

1/4
power

1/8
power

1/16
power

1/32
power

1/64
power

The maximum power proves quite


disappointing compared with Polaroids
claims, and this continues throughout the
manual flash range down to 1/16.
APERTURE READING AT 1m

Full
power

Theoretical GN
Measured GN

16

1/2
power

24

1/2
power

1/4
power

1/8
power

1/16
power

1/32
power

1/64
power

The Sigma flash has the highest GN in


the group, but power is quite lacking at the
maximum setting. It also tracks fairly low
throughout the manual range.
APERTURE READING AT 1m

Full
power

1/2
power

1/4
power

1/8
power

1/16
power

APERTURE READING AT 1m

60

Theoretical

45

Theoretical

61

Theoretical

30

Measured

32

Measured

22

Measured

32

Measured

22

Measured

iTTL exposure accuracy

-1.0EV

Colour accuracy

Measured

iTTL exposure accuracy

+0.3EV

Theres a slight blue colour cast to


images. Its quite marginal, though, and
rather less noticeable than that produced
by the Nissin flashgun.
Colour accuracy

20

iTTL exposure accuracy

-0.7EV

The Sigma flash adds a touch of warmth


to our colour rendition tests. Technically,
results are poor for accuracy, but images
look quite natural nevertheless.
Colour accuracy

-2

IMAGE QUALITY VERDICT


A little too bright in most shooting
conditions, when we used iTTL flash
metering the Polaroid was good in
terms of colour accuracy.

Measured

Measured

-0.3EV

As is the case with iTTL metering, there


is practically nothing to separate colour
accuracy between the Sunpak and the
Nikon SB-700 and SB-700 flashguns.
Colour accuracy

23

Measured

IMAGE QUALITY VERDICT

IMAGE QUALITY VERDICT

Like the Metz and Nissin guns, the


Sigma unit often gives underexposed
results in iTTL mode, and colour
accuracy could be better.

WorldMags.net

18

The lack of manual power settings


might be frustrating for advanced
users, but iTTL metering and colour
accuracy are both pretty good.

2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 221

VIDEO GUIDES

IMAGE QUALITY VERDICT


Many of our test images are too dark in
iTTL mode, and the Nissin lacks
accuracy in manual mode as well.
Consistent results are a challenge.

Measured

Measured

Almost as accurate as the Nikon


flashguns, the Sunpak does well in terms
of iTTL accuracy, with a flash exposure of
-0.3EV in this case.

ESSENTIAL KIT

Along with dark exposures, colour


balance is a little on the cool side. This
makes the Nissin less than ideal for skin
tones and portrait photographers.

Measured

A little on the dark side, the Sigma


gives us -0.7EV flash exposures. This isnt
as low as the results from the Metz and
Nissin, but is still rather gloomy.

NIKON SOFTWARE

iTTL exposure accuracy

Uniquely in the group, the Polaroid is a


little on the bright side, delivering +0.3EV
flash exposures that are more likely to
wash out highlights.

1/64
power

Theres no facility to set manual flash


power on the Sunpak, so it could only
really be tested at maximum output,
where it acquits itself fairly well.

Theoretical

Like the Metz, the Nissin often


underexposed images when we used it in
TTL mode. In this case, its given the
same -1.0EV flash exposure.

1/32
power

NIKOPEDIA

Full
power

30

Guide number

Sigma EF-610
DG Super

Guide number

Polaroid 160
Dua Flash

Guide number

Nissin Di866 MkII


Speedlite Pro

CAMERA SKILLS

Guide number

Heres how we tested these


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iTTL exposure accuracy and
colour rendition

Output
(quoted versus
actual flash
strength)

INTRODUCTION

WorldMags.netESSENTIAL KIT

INTRODUCTION
CAMERA SKILLS
NIKOPEDIA
NIKON SOFTWARE

ESSENTIAL KIT WorldMags.net


COMPARISON TABLE

ESSENTIAL KIT

Nikon SB-400
Speedlight

Nikon SB-700
Speedlight

Nikon SB-910
Speedlight

Nissin Di866 MkII


Speedlite Pro

Polaroid 160
Dua Flash

Sigma EF-610
DG Super

Sunpak PF30X

metz.de/en
180, $280
50m
-7 to 90
180/120
24-105mm
DX/FX
Yes
Yes
+/-3EV
1/1 to 1/128
Yes
Slave only
5 secs / 5 secs
Yes
4x AA

nikon.com
120, $285
30m
0-90
None
27mm (fixed)
None
No
No
Via camera
None
No
None
7 secs / 4 secs
No
2x AA

nikon.com
230, $327
37m
-7 to 90
180/180
24-120mm
DX/FX
Yes
Yes
+/-3EV
1/1 to 1/128
Yes
Yes
4 secs / 3 secs
Yes
4x AA

nikon.com
340, $547
50m
-7 to 90
180/180
17-200mm
DX/FX
Yes
Yes
+/-3EV
1/1 to 1/128
Yes
Yes
5 secs / 4 secs
Yes
4x AA

nissin-japan.com
200, $350
60m
0-90
90/180
24-105mm
FX only
Yes
Yes
+/-3EV
1/1 to 1/128
Yes
Yes
8 secs / 6 secs
Yes
4x AA

polaroid.com
160, $170
45m
0-90
180/90
24-85mm
FX only
Yes
Yes
Via camera
1/1 to 1/16
No
None
10 secs / 8 secs
Yes
4x AA

sigmaphoto.com
120, $225
61m
0-90
180/90
24-105mm
None FX only
Yes
Yes
+/-1.5EV +/-3EV
None +/-1.5EV
Yes
Yes
10 secs / 8 secs
Yes
4x AA

sunpak.jp/english
80, $50
30m
0-90
None
28mm (fixed)
None
No
No
+/-1.5EV
None
Yes
None
22 secs / 16 secs
No
2x AA

HOW THE
FLASHGUNS
COMPARE
WEBSITE
STREET PRICE
GUIDE NUMBER (ISO100, 105mm)
BOUNCE (DEGREES)
SWIVEL LEFT/RIGHT (DEGREES)
MOTORIZED ZOOM (35mm EQUIVALENT)
DX/FX ZOOM OPTIONS
WIDE-ANGLE DIFFUSER
FILL-IN REFLECTOR
FLASH EXPOSURE COMPENSATION
MANUAL POWER SETTINGS
AUTOFOCUS ILLUMINATOR
WIRELESS MASTER/SLAVE
FULL POWER RECYCLE TIME (AA/NiMH)
FLASH INFO LCD
BATTERIES

FEATURES
BUILD QUALITY
IMAGE QUALITY
VALUE FOR MONEY
OVERALL

10 things we learnt in this test


With modes and features aplenty, it pays to make full use of what flashguns offer

Go slow

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VIDEO GUIDES

Metz 50 AF-1
Digital

Bounce it

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222 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook

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Master and commander

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THE WINNER IS...

CAMERA SKILLS

Nikon Speedlight
SB-700
Get all the sophistication and versatility
you need without paying over the odds

Flash players

Whats good Advanced features, useful


accessories and simple, intuitive controls.
Whats bad Maximum flash power is a little
lower than that of some competing flashguns.
Our verdict Gives consistent results you can
count on, and is an absolute joy to use.

OVERALL

Not winners but denitely not losers

Metz 50 AF-1
Digital

Whats good Mighty power and all the


professional features you could wish for.
Whats bad Expensive, especially if you dont
need all of the pro options it offers.
Our verdict If money is no object, theres no
doubt this is the best flashgun for your Nikon.

Whats good Secondary fill-flash tube, colour


LCD and a range of versatile features.
Whats bad Noisy motorised zoom, sluggish
recycling times and inaccurate i-TTL metering.
Our verdict Plenty of advanced features, but
some of the basics could be handled better.

Whats good Robust build quality, a wireless


slave mode and it can be DX-format compatible.
Whats bad Onboard menu system could be
more intuitive, iTTL metering lacks accuracy.
Our verdict A good flashgun at the price but you
have to watch out for underexposure.

OVERALL

OVERALL

OVERALL

Visit www.nphotomag.com for more expert reviews


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2014 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 223

VIDEO GUIDES

Nissin Di866 MkII


Professional

ESSENTIAL KIT

Nikon SB-910
Speedlight

NIKON SOFTWARE

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INTRODUCTION

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INTRODUCTION

t er
b u t t on in Ch a p
T h r e e l oo k f or
t h e l in k t o t h e
a c c om p a n y in g e
id
Nik on v id e o gu

FREE NIKON
VIDEO GUIDES

Instead of a disc, your free video guides can be watched by simply


clicking the link at the bottom of the software tutorial pages

ESSENTIAL KIT

NIKON SOFTWARE

NIKOPEDIA

CAMERA SKILLS

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WATCH
OUR VIDEOS!

on
Three: Master Nik
Turn to Chapter
d click the
an
2
10
ge
pa
software on
anying
tch the accomp
video links to wa
the
d
loa
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do
video guides. To
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starting les, cli
of these
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bo
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tutorial pages

Important

VIDEO GUIDES

About copyright
Please note that all the start images you download
from the email links are copyright. They are not
royalty-free or library images. They are supplied
solely for your own private use, so you can work
along with our tutorials. They must not be sold on,
redistributed in any form (whether as-supplied or
edited), made available on any server or website,
or used for any commercial purpose.

226 The Ultimate Nikon SLR Handbook 2012

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9001

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