Big Bubbles (no troubles)

What sucks, who sucks and you suck

D50 First Impressions

More rampant Western materialism over cheap technology…

Stuff I like

  • The Auto ISO control: you can set a base ISO and let the camera raise it to maintain a minimum shutter speed (e.g. 1/30th to avoid camera shake). Working in low light, I’m not overly worried about noise or high image quality so long as I can get the shot.
  • The weight and handling: any SLR could always stand to be lighter, but this feels nice in the hand and has a good heft.
  • The way you can just hold the button down and blast away, sometimes without even putting the camera to your eye. I wouldn’t normally say this is good photographic practice, but for certain subjects (like, say, hyperactive children), it’s A-W-E-S-O-M-E. Some of these informal grab shots often turn out to be the best in terms of capturing a moment. And no celluloid trees have to die to make them.
  • RAW files: thanks to UFRaw, I now have an element of 16 bit workflow under Linux.
  • Resolution: those files look surprisingly clear at 100% compared to the average scan.

Stuff I’m not so keen on

  • Menus: Being aimed at the na├»ve user, most of the settings are buried in the menu system. It’s a good system, but it’s difficult to remember where everything is. If one thing would have ameliorated this somewhat, it would have been putting the metering selection on a dedicated button; sometimes you want to swap rapidly between matrix, centre and spot. ISO and White Balance - which I care less about - both have shortcuts so why not this?
  • Out-of-camera JPEGs: The D50 is supposed to output the best ones of all the Nikon DSLRs, but many of the ones I’ve seen so far look visibly poor - dim, unsaturated and off-colour - and even the ones that pass for acceptable on first glance look much worse after post-processing and comparing the NEF versions.
  • Digital workflow: the tedious manual process of scanning negatives and slides is replaced with the involving and creative act of fiddling with RAW conversions and, for B/W, the channel mixer. This is more satisfying but ultimately achieves no reduction - probably the opposite - in the time spent on images. Digital brings out your worst inner perfectionist even - perhaps especially - on the lousiest shots.
  • Managing hundreds of 6MP output files: Basically, I have enough spare disk to dump a full 1Gb card four times and then it’s time to start archiving to DVD. I’m going to need an external drive sooner rather than later. And while I swore I would be more aggressive when it came to deleting sub-par or duplicate shots, in practice it hasn’t happened - particularly when your Glamorous Research Assistant says, “Aw, they’re all lovely, keep them!”
  • Lack of time to try long exposures, multiple exposures, pinholes, manual lenses, etc.

Stuff that wasn’t an issue in the end

  • The viewfinder: it still sucks, but not yet sufficiently to overly bother me. I haven’t felt the need to spring for a magnifying eyepiece yet.
  • DX crop factor: My 24mm and 50mm AFD lenses give me 35mm and 75mm equivalents on the D50, which is a good pairing.

I haven’t yet bought the Sigma 35mm prime or any DX wide angles, or even a Lensbaby, as I haven’t had sufficient time to justify their use: that’s one aspect of photography that buying a DSLR has completely failed to address.