How to use a new camera?

When somebody asks me how to use a new camera my advice is always: set it in one of the auto modes and shoot away for a few days. Let it show you what it can do. Enjoy it.

I had to take my own advice some weeks ago.

Having recently sold my trusty Nikon D7200 I realized that for my rainforest bird shooting in very low light conditions a camera with a DX sized sensor was irreplaceable. The combination of the higher magnification of a crop sensor, reasonably large photo sites, and excellent focusing puts medium-sized sensor cameras on a sweet spot for shooting small avian subjects in dark environments.

So I got a Nikon D500 just before a short trip to California in which I managed to squeeze-in a visit to Yosemite National Park…

Even though I know how to use the Nikon system very well, I decided to follow at least partially my own advice and let the camera do its job. For me, this meant I would use no tripod, multiple image compositing and fancy post processing: just Auto ISO in P mode and in-camera contrast control (auto d-lighting).

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I checked the auto focusing accuracy of my only lens (a 16-80 mm zoom) on the first picture: luckily it was on the spot, and off I went along with my wife to this awesome national park. I took along three fairly standard filters: a polarizer for dialing down reflections, a neutral density (ND) filter for long exposure times of waterfalls and a 2-stops graduated ND for taming a too bright sky… none of these are things that can be done by the camera itself.

Here are some straight off camera jpegs, “SOOC jpegs” on current web acronyms. My only input was exposure compensation after a test shot. There are some imperfections that I could fix by post-processing but it is not the point of this post: this is what the camera can do on its own!

 

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