My Nikon D90 Camera Settings

First published on: Saturday, 27 September 2008

Last update (Feb 15, 2009): Now, I prefer a modified Landscape Picture Control setting, as opposed to Standard.

Here’s how I setup my Nikon D90 digital SLR camera for my general photography use.

Page numbers refer to the English Language version of the Nikon D90 Manual.

Autofocus mode: AF-S (Single-servo AF)
Press and hold down the AF button located to the right of the control panel on the top of the camera body, and rotate the Main command dial (also known as the rear command dial) to cycle through the available values, which are AF-A, AF-S and AF-C.

The default setting on the D90 is AF-A (Auto select) where the camera automatically determines whether the subject you’re focusing on is stationary or moving. If it’s stationary, the D90 will select AF-S, but if the subject is moving at the point of pressing the shutter-button halfway, AF-C (Continuous servo AF) will be selected.

Because I’m not confident that the camera will always make the correct decision on whether to select AF-S or AF-C, I prefer to always have this mode set on AF-S, unless if I’m shooting a moving subject (say a reed swaying in the wind, my kid on a swing, a sports car, moving vehicle or running athlete), in which case, I manually select AF-C.

MENU button > SHOOTING MENU Settings

Set Picture Control: SD
Generally, I prefer that my photos come out vivid, with high contrast and saturation, but not too high, and used to like using the VI Vivid picture control on my D300.

The Vivid picture control can sometimes cause problems when the subject or scene you’re trying to photograph already has colorful objects to begin with, and these can lead to blown out areas of color.

With the D90, I leave it on the default SD Standard picture control, but with one modification — Brightness is set at — (negative).

If Brightness is left at its default 0 value, the photos you get tend to have that over-exposed look.

Feb 15, 2009 update: I now find that I prefer the punchy colors and contrast that I get with the Landscape (LS) Picture Control, but taking into account the following modifications:

  • Sharpness: Auto

  • Contrast: Auto

  • Brightness: — (negative)

  • Saturation: Auto

I use the modified Landscape picture control even when shooting people. Only when the scene calls for a little less “punch” do I revert to Standard.

Image quality: FINE

Tuesday, February 03, 2009 update: I now shoot only in RAW mode, and process the files through either Nikon ViewNX or Nikon Capture NX 2 (there’s a 60-day, fully functional, free trial available for download). The rest of the information in this section pertains to what I used to use in the past.

The default value is NORM (JPEG normal) which in most cases, is perfectly fine even if you print at 8 x 12 / A4 size (see the first photo I shot when I got my D90).

If you want to shoot in JPEG mode and want better quality files cropping or pixel-peeping, then select FINE (JPEG fine).

With a fully-formatted 8GB SDHC card popped into my D90, the frame count shows 2.1 K if Large, JPEG normal is selected, while the count drops to 1.0 K if I choose Large, JPEG fine instead.

I have a preference for the FINE setting. Only if I’m running out of storage memory do I switch to the NORM setting.

Active D-Lighting: AUTO
I leave this setting at its default AUTO value.

I set this to OFF if I want cleaner, high-ISO images, or I wish for the contrast of the scene to be dictated only by my choice of Picture Control or the Contrast value within the currently-selected Picture Control.


Nikon D90 — Main page

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