Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Nikon D50 6.1 MP Digital SLR Camera - Black (Body Only)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

I can remember getting my fist point-and-shoot camera with my brother. It was the Fuji FinePix MX-1200. The thing was so old, it actually used Smart Media cards. I’ve come a long way since then. Last year, I decided to get a digital SLR. I knew I wanted Nikon, but was debating between several different models. Should I go with the D200 and spend a lot of money or should I go for a lower-priced model and spend the money on the lenses?

I had made the decision to get an SLR mostly because I wanted the better lenses, so I decided to buy a Nikon D50 used from my manager. I didn’t have any lenses prior to the purchase, so you may be wondering why I chose Nikon over another brand. Part of it was that I know a lot of people that shoot Nikon, which makes it easier if I need help.

You may also be asking why I chose the Nikon D50. Even when I bought it, the camera had been discontinued for a while. I was looking into the Nikon D40 which had a low price, but it couldn’t use film lenses on fully automatic. I was also looking at the D80, but the price was out of my range at the time. My manager was willing to sell the D50 at a low price and it would work with the film lens that he was selling with it. (More on that later.)

The D50 was meant to be an entry-level camera for those that had never really owned a digital SLR before. It has different scene modes, such as for portrait or for landscape, but also has automatic, Program, Aperture value, Shutter priority and Manual settings. (Very rarely do I do anything other than Program and Manual.) I have been trying to learn to use a few of the other modes, but it depends mostly on what you’re shooting.

For instance, I’ve been doing a lot of nighttime shooting, which requires a certain setting. I leave it on Manual adjust the settings as I see fit. In other cases, I leave it on Program so that I can make just a few choices, like whether or not to use the flash. It’s very easy to adjust; all you have to do is turn a wheel.

The resolution is also pretty good. I’m not making posters, so 6.1 megapixels is more than enough. It’s 2000 x 3006, which puts the aspect ratio very close to the aspect ratio for a 4x6 print, whereas point-and-shoot cameras tend to be closer to 4½x6.

The down side to the image sensor is that it’s the APS-C size. This means that it’s smaller than a regular 35mm frame. This means that if you’re using a film lens, there’s light falling outside where the sensor can detect it. You may have heard about the 1.5x conversion that film lenses have. This is where it conversion comes in. I have a 50mm f/1.4 lens. On a film camera, this would be considered normal human perspective. The angles will look the same, but it will effectively be a 75mm f/1.4 lens on the D50. The 35-135mm lens that I bought with the camera is now like a 52.5-202.5 lens. It’s great if you want telephoto, but not if you want wide angle. You can get nice wide-angle lenses, though. I bought a Sigma 10-20 which works great on it, but I’ll save that for another review.

Startup time on the camera is effectively instant. I turn it on and it’s ready to go. Lag time depends on certain things like flash usage, but you can usually get the 2.5 fps advertised. Focusing and the speed of the actual photograph will depend on the lens. Nikon lenses are going to be better, but you can get some great Tamron and Sigma lenses out there.

As for menu settings, I tell people it’s like driving a car. The buttons are usually the same, but you have to figure out where they are. For instance, the camera has white balance. This tells the camera to compensate based of the type of lighting. Grey cards were used to do this in the days of film. I’ve been able to leave the white balance on automatic and get great photos 95% of the time.

As for accessories, the camera uses an EN-EL3 battery and the corresponding charger. The battery will last for a long time. I’ve taken over 5000 shots with it and only had to charge it at most a half a dozen times. I’d only recommend a spare battery if you’ll be away from a power outlet for long periods of time.

You will need to get a memory card. The D50 uses the SD card, which is by far the most common in use among all cameras. You should be able to find one anywhere. If you’re looking to get something bigger than 2GB, you’ll need to get several cards, though, since the D50 can’t use the new SDHC cards. This was actually an issue when my brother wanted to borrow the D50 and all he had was a 4GB card. I had to lend him one of my memory cards.

You’re also committed to buying lenses, especially if you’re buying just the body only. When it was available, it was available with a basic lens. I would recommend using something like an 18-55 to start out with and seeing if you need anything more than that. I started out with the aforementioned 35-135 and a sigma 28-90. Between the two, I was able to get a lot of shots. However, I soon realized that I needed something wider, so I bought a Sigma 10-20 for $500. That lens will get you wider shots than any point-and-shoot…if you have the money.

As for other accessories, I would recommend getting an SB-600 flash. You’re going to notice a difference in photo quality indoors and with the ultrawide-angle lenses. When I used the Sigma 10-20 with the onboard flash, I could actually see lines that the flash made. Also, when taking pictures indoor, it removes any sort of yellowish tint at all. You can also use it as a bounce flash, creating much more even tones among other things. (But again, that’s for another review.)

You might also want to get the ML-L3 remote, but this is not a necessity. You could easily survive without, but you can pick one up for under $20. I’d say get one if they’re available in store. If not, you’ll be able to tell pretty easily if you need one.

I will say that the camera does have a small LCD. I don’t mind so much for several reasons. First, a bigger LCD is going to drain the battery more quickly. Second, you can’t always trust the LCD to tell you if you have a good picture. It’s usually a good idea to take two or three pictures if you can. And, no, there’s no live view. This is something that’s just now becoming popular and is not something I really like. It’s better to compose your picture through the viewfinder.

The only drawback is that you can’t get GPS coordinates automatically embedded in the pictures EXIF data. I do have the Eye-Fi Explore SD card, which uses waypoints, but it’s not as accurate. You need a D200 or better to do this using a GPS device and I’m not quite willing to drop $999 on a camera.

If you can get a good deal on it used from a friend or if your local store happens to have one in stock, I’d definitely recommend getting one. If you’re looking to see examples of what a D50 can do, go to Flickr. There are plenty of D50 photos there, a few of which I’ve taken. (You can see them at http://www.flickr.com/photos/seacow_99/.) The D50 gets 4 out of 5 stars.

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