What does a post about a Nikon D70 have to do with web development and web technology? Well, not much other than the fact that I occasionally use the camera to do photography for clients and the process of learning the camera can be applied to other walks of life.
In the case of the Nikon D70 as well as many other similar cameras, similar technology in general, there is a great little manual which if you read it all you’d become a great person. Unfortunately reading the manual is a chore in itself – the 180+ page manual, under 5″ x 7″ in size and about 3/8″ thick, were made to fit in a small camera packaging box and for people with great eyesight. The multitude of functionality and tiny little buttons don’t make it particularly easy to manage anything beyond simple automatic photography.
As a student of photography in the 80’s the functionality most important to me is:
- Manual focusing
- Shutter vs. Aperture priority
- Manual mode override
- Color temperature
These are the functions covered here as they were most critical to the most recent commercial job I did.
Why manual focusing? Sometimes, in this case with small product photography, the product is too small or doesn’t fall within the focusing frame of the viewfinder. When this happens to you need to either repoint the camera towards an object at a similar distance or move an object temporarily to within the focusing frame. To note – the camera is on a tripod.
Manual focusing process:
- Point the camera at your subject
- Switch the Autmatic/Manual focus switch on the lens barrel to A (for automatic)
- Place a sheet of paper with text at the same distance facing the camera and within the viewfinder’s focusing frame.
- With the camera on press down the shutter until it focuses.
- Switch the focus switch back to Manual.
- Repoint the camera to the regular subject. It should hold the focus now.
The mode dial is the dial on top of the camera on the left side in the camera picture. Manual (M)mode is used for controlling the shutter speed. Aperture priority is just the opposite. Controlling the shutter speed gives you flexibilty to shoot for special circumstances, such as action photography (instantaneous) or long exposures. Controlling the aperture, on the other hand, impacts relative focusing range. Lower, open apertures (F2, F2.8, F4) will display less range in focus whereas higher apertures increase the apparent range in focus.
Aperture and Shutter Speed adjustment
The camera manual has the FAQ, but it’s difficult to grasp. Here is how:
Rotate the mode dial to either A or M.
Locate the Sub command dial in front of the camera above the red marking.
Move to the left to open the Aperture (F-stop) or right to close it and increase depth of field.
Rotate the mode dial to either S or M.
Locate the Main command dial on the right top rear of the camera body.
Move to the left for slower shutter speeds and to the right for fast shutter speeds.
Manual mode override
Placing the camera in manual mode (M) allows you the flexibility of controlling both the aperture opening and shutter speed. This only works if you’re either exceptionally good at estimating correct exposure or if you first obtain an average exposure by placing the camera in Auto, Aperture or Shutter priority mode and taking note of the exposure, perhaps 1/125 second at F8.
To get the correct exposure for manual mode using the internal focusing meter:
- Place the camera in Auto, Aperture or Shutter priority mode
- Point at your subject or alternatively place an average gray card at about a 45 degree angle to the sky in front of your subject and zero in on it.
- Note the exposure aperture (as F-top) and shutter speed.
- Rotate the dial to Manual.
- Manually adjust the aperture and shutter speed settings.
Using the correct color temperature settings is critical to obtain good pictures. If you are doing product photography with Tungsten (3200 degree Kelvin) lamps you will need to switch the internal color setting to Tungsten. To do this:
- Turn the camera on, then press the MENU button on the back of the camera.
- Use the arrowed dial to the right of the LCD to move around the MENU. Click left until you are at the toplevel menu.
- Move the selection up or down until you are at the Shooting Menu and select it by clicking right arrow on the arrowed dial.
- Click right one more time to access the list, then scroll up or down until you have gotten to White bal.
- Click right to select White bal.
- Scroll up or down until Incandescent (tungsten) is selected. If your lamps are slightly warmer or colder you may have to do some fine-tuning.
Note that when the camera is in “Auto” mode, it will override your custom color temperature setting.
Sometimes the camera meter will be fooled because a setting is lighter or darker than what the averaging meter says. Bracketing refers to doing varying exposures to surround the average exposure to compensate. The bracket and shooting mode buttons are on the back to the left of the eyepiece/viewfinder.
- Click on the BKT button to enable bracketing.
- After you do the first exposure of a scene the camera will automatically change to bracketed settings for the next couple pictures.
You can just as easily do bracketing manually if your camera is in Manual (M) mode by rotating either the aperture (sub-command) or shutter speed (main command) dials.
Reading the manual and doing these tasks a couple times was of little use in becoming familiar with the camera. In my case it took taking thousands of product pictures to become acquainted with the camera’s features.