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Photography - Settings - Nikon D70 Notes

These notes from the Nikon D70 Chart page popups are presented here for your convenience and ease in reading.

Mode Dial - Manual - I use manual mode with the aperture and strobe controlling the exposure of the foreground and the shutter speed controlling the background, where slower shutter speeds equal brighter blues and faster shutter speeds equal darker blues and blacks.

Main Command Dial - Speed - 1/100 Sec. Using shutter speeds slower than 1/60 sec. may result in motion blurring if either the camera or the subject is moving. At 1/80 sec. motion blurring in the underworld environment is rarely a problem. And at 1/100 sec. I have only ever experienced motion blurring when rapidly panning the camera or when shooting speeding schools of fish.

Advanced Shooters - For darker backgrounds, increase the shutter speed to between 1/200 sec. and 1/500 sec. depending on the effect you want to achieve.

Sub Command Dial - F Stop - 8.0 My baseline setting is 8.0 although at times I go as high as an additional f stop, i.e. f 11.

A good way to determine if this setting should be increased or decreased is to check the LCD after taking the shot. Not only can you see the picture you just took but more importantly, you can look at the picture in the highlights mode and see blinking areas where the picture was overexposed. Using the highlights mode as a guide, increase the f stop if the highlights mode indicates overexposed areas. Conversely, if there is no overexposure indicated in the highlights mode you can decrease the f stop to get a more exposed picture. For details on using the LCD after taking the picture, see the users manual pgs. 113 - 117.

ISO - 400 - I started at ISO 200, the minimum for the D70 which ranges from 200 to 1600, to keep noise to a minimum. But according to Thom Hogan;

"ISO 400 is actually quite close to 200 in quality, so don't be afraid to use it. Normally you don't want to give up any image quality at all, but the very slight increase in noise at ISO 400 isn't worth agonizing over: if it allows you to capture what you need to, use it!"

So for me, wanting to use f 8.0 to f 11:0  for a greater depth of field, ISO 400 gets me the exposure I need.

Image Quality - RAW - RAW is just what it implies, RAW data from your camera sensor before any image processing has been applied. As such it provides the greatest flexibility in photo editing before converting to a final file format. In particular you can make adjustments in white balance and exposure with a good RAW converter that you cannot make nearly as well once the RAW file has been converted to TIFF, JPEG, etc. For more information on RAW, see the section on RAW on this site.

Note: If you don't want to shoot RAW, for whatever reason, the next best choice is Fine which is the highest quality JPEG available on the D70. And, if you use Fine, no changes in any of the other settings need to be made i.e. all of the settings will work for both RAW and Fine.

Motor Drive - Single Frame - With Ikelite DS 125 strobes set at 1/2 power, you can shoot RAW frames in Single Frame mode about as fast as you can work the shutter release lever or least at a rate of 1 frame per second.

Advanced Shooters - You can set Motor Drive to Continuous Frames and shoot RAW frames at a rate of 3 frames per second by just holding the shutter release lever down.

If you use Continuous Frames, you should be aware that there are some limitations to using this mode. The limitations as I see them are;

  • You can only fire 4 shots at the 3 frames per second rate after which you become gated by the 4 frame buffer and by the difference between the rate of the frames going into the buffer and the rate of the frames being written from the buffer to the memory card. Think of the buffer as 4 gallon bucket with water coming in from a hose faster than water leaking out a hole in the bottom ... eventually the bucket is going to overflow.

    Note: From photos taken of a watch recording time in 1/100 second increments, I found that 4 frames are in fact captured in the first 1 second of shooting, each of the 4 shots separated by times ranging from 0.29 seconds to 0.40 seconds, with the total interval for the 4 frames ranging from 1.00 to 1.01 seconds based on 4 trials. For all shots after the first 4 frames, the interval ranged from 0.99 seconds to 1.11 seconds, or approximately 1 frame per second, based on a tested maximum of 12 total frames for each of the 4 trials. So, figure 4 frames in the 1st second and 1 frame per second thereafter.

  • You are going to run out of memory card space if you aren't careful. Two reasons. The increase in frames deliberately shot in Continuous Frames mode and the accidental second shots taken if/when you don't take your finger off the shutter release lever fast enough.

  • You will see a drop off in light on frames 2, 3, and 4 as the strobes try to keep firing at 1/2 power at the 3 frames per second rate. Beyond frame 4 the strobes should be able to easily keep up with the slower 1 frame per second rate.

    Note: With iTTL support this problem will not exist if the strobes are firing at less than 1/2 power. But, if the iTTL calls for more than 1/2 power you will definitely see a drop off in light on frames 2, 3, and 4.

  • You may find that not enough is happening at 1/3 second intervals during the first second. Maybe with a Rock Blemy popping in and out of a hole. But probably not with a Southern Stingray swimming toward you.

Note: When using the Continuous Frames, predictive focusing will continue to try to update the focus while the shutter-release button is fully depressed. However, predictive focusing may not be successful during the first second of shooting RAW due to the high frame rate and the fact that the mirror blackout time of more than 160 ms may not allow enough time to get the needed data. After the first second, when the frame rate drops to one frame a second, predictive focusing should have enough time to easily operate successfully. What this means to you is that for most shooting situations, subjects swimming toward you or away from you will remain in focus when using Continuous Frames.

If I had my druthers, Continuous Frames would run at 1 frame per second. For me, this would be a lot more useful. But that's not the way the camera works.

Flash Sync Mode - Front Curtain Sync - With front curtain sync the flash fires when the shutter is first opened. This is the default setting. The theoretical advantage of this mode is that it gives the strobe the maximum amount of time to complete firing before the shutter closes.

Advanced Shooters - You may want to use Rear Curtain Sync with rapidly moving subjects or slow shutter speeds where blurring is likely to occur. Why? With Rear Curtain Sync, the flash fires just before the shutter closes. The resulting effect is an in focus subject with a trailing blur which gives the illusion of motion.

Exposure Metering Mode - Center Weighted - Unless you are using TTL exposure, this setting has no effect on your pictures. And with TTL exposure, center weighted exposure seems to give the same results as matrix metered exposure without bringing in the uncertainties of how matrix metering deals with lens distance to subject information.

Advanced Shooters - You can use the exposure meter to set the shutter speed to achieve darker blue water backgrounds. To do this, point the camera at the water that will be in the background and, with the shutter half pressed, adjust the shutter speed while looking at the exposure meter in the bottom of the view finder. Set the exposure to be about 1 f stop under exposed. For this use either the center weighted or spot meter modes need to be used.

Focus Area - Central Sensor - Reasons for using the central focus sensor include it's ability to deal with subjects that have either horizontal or vertical detail and it's ability to work in low light environments.

To make the Central Sensor the default single area sensor, slide the focus selector lock to the up position marked by a dot. Then 1/2 press and release the shutter. Then use the multi selector arrow pad to select the center focus area while looking in the view finder. Then set the focus selector lock to L (lock) to prevent the selected focus area from changing.

Advanced Shooters - You may want to leave the focus selector lock turned off so that you can change the sensor you want to use to suit the shot. Quoting Ryan at UCP "I always compose based upon the rule of thirds, and move the focus area selector to what I want to emphasize in the image. Sure, the Nikkor 12-24 lens has lots of DOF, and small differences aren't noticeable, but especially with large subjects at an extreme angle, using the central sensor could be a problem."

Viewfinder Diopter Adjustment Lever - Personal Adjust the Viewfinder Diopter Adjustment Lever on the camera before putting it in the housing since it can not be adjusted when it is in the housing. Wear the same optics when making the adjustment that you will wear underwater.

Note 1: I was concerned about my ability to compose pictures with the D70 viewfinder as compared to the LCD on my C-5050. Turns out I like the viewfinder better than the LCD. I can easily see the whole frame and looking through the eyepiece really focuses my mind for the shot ... it's like looking through a scope on a rifle. So with no shutter lag it's aim-shoot, aim-shoot. And my compositions are spot on with marine life action shots I never could get before.

Interestingly, looking through the viewfinder with a dome port make objects appear further away underwater i.e. where they really are. This can cause some surprises when, for example, taking a picture of a diver swimming toward you. Looking through the viewfinder it appears that you have time to take one more shot before the diver swims into you. So you take the shot and hen look up to see the diver 25% closer and bigger than they did in the viewfinder.

Note 2: I wear glasses for reading and have gage reader lenses in my mask with magnification for seeing my watch, gages, etc. But I have no magnification in the top part of my lenses and it's this part of the lens that I use for looking thru the viewfinder. The reason this works is that if you adjust the focus of the D70 viewfinder on land without glasses, the same amount of magnification will work underwater without special optics. What doesn't work is trying to look through the lower part of my gage readers. Not only is the magnification wrong but the angle of my face to the camera is also wrong.

Note 3: To adjust the viewfinder, you need to have a lens on the camera and the lens has to be focused. So, put the lens on the camera, turn the camera on, look thru the viewfinder with the same optics when making the adjustment that you will wear underwater, aim the viewfinder at something you can easily see detail in, press the shutter halfway to focus the lens, and then set the viewfinder focus with the Viewfinder Diopter Adjustment Lever.

Bottom line: Adjust the Viewfinder Diopter Adjustment Lever on the camera before putting it in the housing since it can not be adjusted when it is in the housing.

Focus Mode Selector Switch - AF - Caution: The Focus Mode Selector Switch can be changed to M (manual Focus) with the same Ikelite housing control used for the lens release button. And, when setting up your camera in the housing it is possible to accidentally move this switch from AF to M. So double check the setting when you have your rig together to avoid shooting in manual focus mode.

Speedlight Lock Release Button - Tape Flash - Caution: The Flash Lock Release Button causes the internal flash to popup. On land this is no problem. If you don't want it up, push it back down. However, when housed there is no way to push it back down. And leaving up, or partially up, is not ok because it changes some of the camera's operating characteristics e.g.  the fastest shutter speed is limited to 1/500 sec. To make matters worse there is a housing control to push this button because it doubles as the Flash Sync Mode button and the Flash Exposure Compensation button. Long story short, I put two small pieces of scotch tape on the sides of the flash popup to keep the flash from being accidentally deployed.

No iTTL Controller With Sync Cord Attached  - Set Strobe to 1/2 Power - Shooting at full power definitely gets more light on the pictures. But I feel more comfortable with 1/2 power since the risk of blowing out pictures is reduced. Also, I have some not so rational reasons for shooting at 1/2 power. Specifically, I can take a second shot about as fast as I can work the shutter release lever, the batteries don't run down so fast, and lastly, I don't like to hear the strobes squealing ... it always makes me think something is wrong.

Note: Manual controllers, attached by a sync cord, can be used for finer exposure control. In this case set your Ikelite strobe to TTL. That said, I prefer the simplicity of my rig with only a dual sync cord and I prefer the simplicity of not messing with strobe power settings. For me it's easier to control the lighting by changing the f stop or the shutter speed depending on what effect I am trying to achieve. YMMV

With iTTL Controller for TTL or Manual Control - Set Strobe to TTL - The Ikelite iTTL controller works great. But if you prefer, just press two buttons and the controller switches to manual mode. Either way, it's super easy to use.

  • TTL Mode -  Use Center Weighted Metering set on the camera and -1/3 EV to -2/3 EV Flash Compensation set on the housing. When shooting, I leave Flash Compensation on the housing set to -1/3 EV unless I am shooting highly reflective subjects e.g. white sand and shiny fish. Then I use -2/3 EV or even -1.0 EV. Here your best guide is the LCD monitor set to highlights mode where you can easily see if you are blowing out the highlights.

  • Manual Mode - Leave metering set to Center Weighted though it has no effect in manual mode. Then, as a starting point, set the manual controller on the housing  to - 1.0 EV which is equivalent to 1/2 power on a DS 125 strobe. From here you can increase or decrease the power to your strobes with the up and down buttons on the housing. As with iTTL, your best guide is the LCD monitor set to highlights mode where you can easily see if you are blowing out the highlights.

Image Rotation - Actually there are two controls that effect image rotation.

1. Image Rotation in the Camera Setup Menu - By default, the D70 records camera orientation with each photograph taken. This allows "tall" (portrait) orientation photographs to be displayed in the correct orientation when played back on the camera or viewed using the supplied software or Nikon Capture 4 version 4.1 or later. If desired, this feature can be turned off while taking photographs with the lens pointed up or down, when to record the correct orientation.

2. Rotate Tall in the Camera Playback Menu - "Tall" (portrait) orientation photos are displayed in tall orientation during playback (to fit in monitor, tall orientation photos are displayed at 2 /3 the size of other photographs).

I turn both off because it's too complicated for me to deal with underwater. Furthermore, when shooting vertical underwater, I often want to review and shoot again in the vertical mode.

And finally this note from Thom Hogan's Guide to the D70, page 375;

"There's currently a bug that affects color profiles. If image rotation is turned on in the camera and you use AdobeRGB as your color space, the tags that Photoshop reads from this file may be incorrect."

Bottom line, this is a feature I prefer not to use.

RAW Related Settings - Assuming RAW, the Optimize Image settings and White Balance settings only effect how RAW images are first displayed when opened in RAW pre processing i.e. they cause no permanent change to the raw data. If you are shooting JPEG images, these settings will be permanently applied to the JPEG file. Thus, for both RAW and JPEG I recommend you use the default settings.

Auto Focus - There are two auto focus modes to choose from. Each has it's own advantages and disadvantages. Beginner Shooters should use AF-S because your pictures will be in focus. Advanced Shooters should consider AF-C, particularly if you are planning to shoot action shots or shoot in low contrast/low light conditions.

  • AF-S - AF-Single Servo (Focus Priority) - The shutter can only be released when the in-focus in indicator () is displayed (focus priority). This is a good feature since an out of focus picture is a guaranteed trash picture and you can't tell until you get home if it's in focus or out of focus.

    With moving subjects, the camera attempts to focus when the shutter is depressed halfway. When focus is achieved, the in-focus indicator appears in the view finder.
    • If the subject is moving toward or away from you when focus is achieved, the camera will continue to adjust the focus as the subject moves. This is good because the subject will stay in focus until you take the shot.
    • However, if the subject is not moving when focus is achieved, but then starts moving, the camera will not adjust the focus as the subject moves. This is not good because the subject may not be in focus by the time you take the shot.

    Note: In low-light or low contrast conditions, where the camera has a hard time detecting focus, there may be a significant lag between pressing the shutter release and the taking of the picture. Or the camera may not take the picture at all. As a test, try taking a straight on shot of a plain wall. I can't take the picture. Ditto for a featureless side of a ship. But give the D70 an edge or some relief and bam, it locks on instantly.

  • AF-C - AF-Continuous Servo (Release Priority) - The shutter can be released even if the in-focus in indicator () is not displayed (release priority). This is a good feature since the picture will be taken without any delay, even under the most adverse conditions. The downside is that the picture may not be in focus.

    With moving subjects, the camera focuses continuously, using predictive focusing, while the shutter-release button is pressed halfway. If the subject is moving or starts to move, the focus will be adjusted to compensate. Assuming focus is achieved, this method of operation is superior to the AF-S mode because a subject's movement is always tracked.

    However, it's really scary to think of using AF-C due to the risk of coming home with a camera full of out of focus pictures. Here are some things you can do to reduce the number of out of focus pictures when using AF-C.
    • Use the Single Area - Central Sensor for the focus area because of its ability to deal with subjects that have either horizontal or vertical detail and because of it's ability to work in low light environments.
    • Use higher f stop settings where possible for their increased depth of field.
    • Use the AE/AF Lock Button to lock the focus on a nearby area at the same distance as your subject. This technique is a must when trying to take a picture in a dark area when light areas are nearby e.g. shooting under a ledge.
    • Have faith in your camera, particularly when shooting under normal conditions because the camera will probably be able to focus before the picture is taken i.e. auto focus still attempts to focus in AF-C mode and under good conditions will be at focus or on it's way by the time you take the picture.


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