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The Nikon D3200 #photography

A member of the Black Country toggers group has bought a Nikon D3200 like mine and so I’ll devote today’s post to the Nikon D3200. Like most cameras, it has a dial on the top where you can choose ‘scene modes’ such as portrait or landscape. Most serious photographers like to use manual settings and have more control over the camera. Those settings are M for manual, A for aperture priority, S for shutter speed priority and P for programmed auto.

Rocker switch

At the back of the camera there is a familiar rocker switch on the right that is used for selecting settings and of course, there is a display. Notice the thumb wheel at the top right, that is used all the time for setting the aperture or shutter speed. On the left, you have a play button at the top for viewing your photos.

The menu button

The menu button gives you access to 5 menus. The playback menu isn’t used much and can be left with default settings. The next one is the shooting menu. Click OK on the picture control and you have a choice of picture settings. I have mine set on portrait virtually all the time. Portrait gives you subtle colours, for something with vivid colours like a fun fair you might choose vivid. When you go to the portrait setting, click right on the rocker switch and then you can set contrast, etc. within that setting. That isn’t too obvious and is useful to know. Your photos will probably lack contrast so you can increase contrast there or when you edit. I prefer to add a little contrast and make the image a little lighter when I edit. Set image quality to fine, image size L (big picture allows you to crop), white balance can be set on auto because it works well. The next setting is ISO sensitivity setting, set auto ISO sensitivity control to off. This is an important setting, you can leave it on if you’re going to start doing landscape photography and nothing too challenging for the camera but on auto, it does produce noisy pictures under fluorescent light and the problem isn’t obvious. Setting the ISO manually is easy and it is good to learn the settings right from the start. When the light is poor you choose a higher setting, it isn’t too complicated. The rest of the shooting menu settings can be left as default.

The setup menu

I would leave almost everything in the setup menu as default unless you need to change the language. You might want to set the time and date because the date will be embedded into your photos and can help you find them in a database. The retouch menu might be useful for some users but I do all my editing on a computer. It is fairly self-explanatory. At the bottom of those 5 menu settings is ‘recent settings’ that allows you to go straight to recent settings if you have changed something and it isn’t quite right.

The info button

The ‘i’ for info button at the bottom left on the camera is the important one because you’ll use it all the time. Press the info button and you’ll have a menu on your screen which will either be a graphic display or numbers. That can be changed under info display format in your tools menu. I like the numbers but the graphic display will show you a graphic of your aperture and you can turn the thumb wheel to make it wider or narrower.

You should now be able to press the info button and see a menu on your display. Top right of the screen is quality, I have mine on L and fine. Next down is the white balance, keep that on auto until you get used to setting it. It works well on auto. Next, you can choose a single shot or multiple. Multiple is useful for events where people blink or move.

The next setting down the menu is the focus mode, set it on auto for now. Then your next setting is AF area which again can be set on auto. Then you come onto metering which can be set on matrix. Metering will become important because for portraits, etc. You will find centre weighted metering works better.

Your menu then goes along the bottom of your screen and gives you exposure compensation settings and flash settings. These settings are more difficult so better left until you’ve used the camera for a while.

Finally, you can start taking some pictures! Try the landscape setting first. Use the viewfinder and you’ll see the aperture, shutter speed and ISO at the bottom of your view. You should get a reasonable picture but if the ISO is too high then the picture might be noisy. If the shutter speed is too slow, you might get a slightly blurred image. If the aperture is too wide distance objects might be out of focus. This is why we use manual settings and use judgement to set the camera. To go to a manual setting try S (shutter speed priority) and let the camera set the aperture. Try putting your focus points on objects close to the camera and the aperture will go wide and farther away it will go narrow (high number). Let the camera teach you about apertures while you shoot at 1/100 of a second, which should give you fairly sharp images. The Nikon D3200 is a great camera and a good introduction to serious photography.

If all this sounds complicated, don’t worry, just master apertures and shutter speed to begin with. Try shooting landscapes and shoot fast at least 1/100 of a second to freeze not only the movement in your frame but camera movement too.

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