Important Functions of Nikon Cameras

This article will be useful to Nikon Digital SLR owners. Many people already know how to adjust shutter speed, ISO, aperture, but Nikon cameras have very useful functions and settings. Today we will focus on a few basic ones.

Thoughts on setting up Nikon cameras

Thoughts on setting up Nikon cameras

Setting Picture Control Modes

Almost all Nikon DSLR cameras have image management modes. This setting is in Shooting Mode Menu -> Picture Control Mode. Depending on the model, you can select one of the shooting modes in the submenu. Most often it

  • SD – standard
  • NL - Neutral
  • VI - saturated
  • MC - monochrome
  • PT - portrait
  • LS - landscape or native shooting mode.

This is very convenient - with the desired type of shooting you just need to set the appropriate mode and get the image settings for a given plot.

These modes affect sharpness, contrast, brightness, saturation and hue the resulting image. For example, the portrait mode has low sharpness, contrast and brightness in order to correctly convey skin tones. A saturated mode, on the contrary, has saturated colors, great sharpness and contrast.

Here is an example of the same photo in different image management modes. There is an improvement in color saturation:

Standard and Rich snapshot management in action

Standard and Rich snapshot management in action

All sample photos in this article are made on Nikon D90 using a tripod and remote control Nikon ML-L3. Focusing with Live View on Nikon 50mm F1.8D in manual mode. The items are mounted on a studio stand and flash foot. If you look closer, 1 to 1, you can see the improvement in sharpness in VI mode compared to SD

Difference in SD and VI image management modes

Difference in Picture Control Modes SD and VI

Important notice! If you shoot in RAW format, then the file is actually recorded in RAW format raw information from the camera’s matrix, but in EXIF cameras record data about the shooting control mode. At the same time, a picture with the established image management mode will be visible on the camera’s display. But when loading into a RAW converter like ADOBE LIGHTROOM, ADOBE Camera RAW these converters will not accept the metadata from the file and you will see naked original RAW picture without overlaying Picture Control. So, shooting in RAW and processing the picture on a computer, you don't have to bother with the selected picture control mode.

But, if you are shooting in JPEG, then the selected mode will greatly affect the photo. I strongly recommend that you always remember about the mode that is set and change it depending on the situation. By the way, when shooting in MC mode - monochrome, BW letters will flash in red in the viewfinder, warning that you are shooting in black and white. And if you shoot in RAW, then on the computer you will be able to see the original color photo, and if you shoot in JPEG, it will already be impossible to restore the color in the photo.

High ISO Noise Reduction

In order to minimize noise at high ISOs, you can, and sometimes need to enable the noise reduction function. Function is in  Shooting Mode Menu -> High ISO Noise Reduction. This feature helps to reduce digital noise and make your photo more attractive. The function also has the name NR (noise reduction) and several intensity values.

Two photos with and without noise reduction

Two photos with and without noise reduction

If you increase the scale, then the difference in image quality will be really visible. See for yourself:

Noise Reduction Function

Noise Reduction Function

Important factor! Shooting in RAW mode does not actually reduce the noise in the image, and the camera, when reviewing the image, shows the RAW image with noise suppressed. If such a RAW image is viewed on a computer with and without noise reduction mode, they will be identical. At first for the article I shot in RAW, but when viewed on a computer, all the photos with or without noise reduction looked the same.

Shooting in JPEG you really get a picture with suppressed noise. But always remember that shumodav is not a panacea, it reduces noise but with the same success reduces the detail of the picture (including its sharpness). For non-commercial purposes and printing, 10 * 15cm can be safely shot in JPEG at super high ISO with noise reduction turned on at maximum power level.

Using Active D-Lighting

This feature expands the Dynamic Range and preserves shadow detail. In short - the function programmatically pulls information from the shadows.

Active D-Lighting in action

Active D-Lighting in action

As you can see for yourselves, dark details became brighter in the pictures and the picture turned out brighter at the same values excerpts and apertures.

Active D-Lighting Function

Active D-Lighting Function

Attention! Although the function takes a picture with a large DD, at the same time there is one trick. Both pictures were taken in manual control of the camera at F2.8 1 \ 4c, but in automatic mode and with Active D-Lighting turned on, the camera tries to underexpose the frame by reducing excerpts or aperture. Also, information from the shadows is extracted by the program method and as a result there is an extra noise in the shadows.

More useful features

Long exposure noise reduction function should reduce noise when shooting at long exposures - but I tested and did not notice any significant change in noise. The test was carried out on shutter speed 30 seconds in RAW and JPEG - the result is almost the same at ISO100 and ISO 400. Therefore, I did not take any sample photos. Caution - Long exposure noise reduction also reduces frame buffer. For example, for Nikon D200 from 21 frames in the buffer, when this function is enabled, it sags up to 11 frames. Similarly, on other cameras. And also, when shooting at slow shutter speeds with this feature turned on, you reduce the speed of the camera. If a excerpt was 10 seconds, then the camera will “think” and process the image for 10 seconds after the picture is taken, and the display will show “work nr”. Personally, sometimes it is very, very inconvenient for me to wait 30 seconds before I can take the next picture, because this function is almost always turned off for me.

Chromatic Aberration Control Function - reduces HA. Distortion Control Function - reduces distortion. Since I have on mine Nikon D40, D80, D90, D200 I don’t have these functions, I can’t describe their work with examples, but in any case they are also very useful when shooting in JPEG.


All image enhancement functions are mainly software implemented. When shooting in JPEG, they are an indispensable means of improving images, but all of them can equally well be implemented by editing a RAW file. In order for Nikon's RAW file (NEF) to be used with the image control function applied there, you need to use the native Capture NX utility, you will have to do everything yourself in other RAW converters.

Thank you for attention. Arkady Shapoval.

Add a comment: @ f_e_d_2



Comments: 354, on the topic: Important functions of Nikon cameras

  • Irina

    Thank you very much, all articles are very intelligibly written. It’s very easy to understand even a teapot in this.

  • @ f_e_d_2

    Good day, Arkady! I disagree with the described result of long exposure noise reduction. This also applies to cameras from other companies. This function is very useful and without looking at the long waiting time when shooting, it saves a lot of time in post-processing. Acts not on the noises we are used to, but on hot and broken pixels, the number of which increases with increasing shutter speed and raising the Sensitivity. All this delay time, after the shutter is closed, the camera analyzes, finds them, and superimposes information from neighboring pixels on them. The newer the camera, the smaller the pixels and less of them are formed, so they may not be noticed, but they are.

  • Hadzek

    Good day. Help the newcomer, I haven’t figured out everything yet of course) I mainly do everything in auto mode, try mode A, why is the photo bluish?

    • Oleg

      There is such a thing as "white balance", here you have a shift of the color gamut in cold tones.

    • Valery A.

      Do you mean bluish spots on the breast? This is probably a reflection of the blue bedspread.

    • Oleg

      As for me, all the color went blue. If you add a little warm tones, it will turn out a little better.

    • Novel

      Here is an article for beginners

  • an256

    Hello, please tell me when shooting in RAW format and further developing in ACR, does Active D-Lighting on the camera play any role or not?

    • Arkady Shapoval

      Yes, it does. Not all converters understand it. If the converter does not understand, then the image will be underexposed.

  • an256

    Namely, does the Adobe Camera Raw converter understand it? And when using this converter, is it better to shoot the Nikon d3200 with Active D-Lighting turned on, or can it be turned off, for example, when shooting in cloudy weather?

    • Arkady Shapoval

      RAW is always better without it. With it, only in JPEG or when developing native software. Native Nikon View-nx, Capture-nx-d understand it well.

  • an256

    If the converter does not understand, then the image will be underexposed. The image will be underexposed if Active D-Lighting is turned on, I understand correctly?

    • Arkady Shapoval

      Not always, the D3200 adl only works in auto mode, that is, you can not control the level of its work. If it works to zero, then the exposure will be normal. If it comes to his mind to use the ENHANCED value, then the exposure will not be normal. On older cameras, the ADL level is set manually. But in the general case, ADL works at medium settings, and this is -0,3-0.7 steps.

  • an256

    Thank you very much, figured out with your help.

  • an256

    Another question, if you can, again, when shooting in RAW and further developing, does it make sense in the Picture Control mode of the camera to make its own settings, for example, add sharpness, saturation, or do the Picture Control tinctures do not matter for RAW files?

    • Arkady Shapoval

      For third-party developers, they don't.

  • an256

    Thank you Arkady, thanks to your site, I got some ideas on how to shoot with a DSLR, learned to use a histogram and it turned out that on my d3200 it makes sense to adjust the exposure right away to -1 somewhere and the photos look better than set strictly according to the readings of the camera’s exposure meter. I’m still trying to figure out how to choose the right metering, for landscapes I choose matrix metering, average weighted for flowers, and for portraits I still have not figured out which is better.

  • Vladislav

    Good afternoon. Explain what the tonality, shades affects with your own settings in nikon d200.
    That is, what does this change in the image of the photo?

  • igor

    i have a nikon d80 but the processing menu is not available in any mode - how to activate it ??

    • B. R. P.

      Maybe there is something in the instructions for the camera)

    • Victor

      Try the mode with a flash card inserted into the camera (of course, if there are pictures on it) - this is a hidden, engineering mode, but it usually helps :)

  • Anatoly

    I don't know why, but all other photographs recommend shooting in RAW(NEF) mode. I mostly shoot in JPEG mode. JPEG format. The result is the same. So maybe you shouldn't bother with RAW(NEF)?

    • B. R. P.

      Costs. More like it's worth it. But perhaps not for you. Until you try, you won't understand.

    • Valery

      The whole idea is that when processing RAW photographs, it is easier for you to correct the correction, and all these modes, as described by the author, can be done using the Add and Add button. When printing in jpeg there is no possibility. A single photo taken in RAW takes up more space and requires conversion before publishing (not all formats are supplied out of the box)

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