First of all, I must admit that this is only my third digital camera, and first digital SLR. But it isn't my first SLR ... I have used a Canon Elan IIE for a number of years, and trust me, that camera is no slouch.
But enough about me ... the D50 is the real star of the show! I have had the camera (along with the standard lens included with the kit) and so far I am extremely happy. I purchased it just in time to capture some photos of my new neice, and my family swears that the pictures that I was just casually snapping at the hospital look like they are professional portaits. Granted, some of my family members ... well, their necks are pretty tan, if you know what I mean, but you get the point. The camera has a slew of modes that are ideally suited to your subject (portraits, action, etc etc), and they do a great job of making all of the fine adjustments that improve the overall quality of the photo for the non-experts. But this camera has varying levels of automation to where you would practically require a photography degree to get your picture. My skills are somewhere in between, but trust me, if you are an absolutely beginner, in 5 minutes you can be taking photos that are 99% of the quality that a pro with a $5000 setup would take. Now you might need to snap a few dozen shots to get just one that is amazing, but that is what is just wonderful about digital cameras. And with a huge, super sharp LCD preview window, you can see in an instant if you have a decent shot, and if not, delete it and try again!
The camera takes the small "big-toenail" SD memory cards, which is a departure from what you will typically see in a digital SLR. I personally like the smaller size; otherwise, I don't believe there is a significant difference. If you pick up one major point from this review ... READ THIS !!!! I initially tried shooting with some SD memory that I had been using in my MP3 player. It worked fine, but if shooting a series of rapid shots, it would take the camera what seemed like a couple of seconds to write to the memory. That is typical with all of the digital SLRs that I have read about ... you get maybe a dozen high-speed shots, and then the camera sort of "bogs down". And most of the time that is fine. But this camera takes advantage of the slightly more expensive "pro" SD memory, which can be written to at extremely high speeds. Because of this, the camera can take an unprecendented number of shots (I believe 137 according to Nikon)!!! Folks, that is amazing, let me tell you. You can just hold the button down and fire away, and capture all of the high-speed action that you can imagine. No more excuses for missing that perfect action shot. Sure, you aren't going to require this feature very often, but it is nice to have, just in case. And even with normal shots, the high-speed memory seems to work much quicker than normal memory.
The camera can save files in three different size (resolution) levels, three different JPEG quality levels, and the complete uncompressed RAW format. I've been shooting using the medium resolution and medium JPEG quality, and the photos look sharper than my old Canon 35mm SLR. You could easily print out 8 x 10 photos and they would look perfect even at the medium quality setting; poster size would look fine at the high quality setting.
The rechargeable battery that is included is simply amazing - I believe they rate it for 2000 shots, and I believe it. It would be VERY diffult to drain this battery in a single day, even with numerous flashes and auto-focusing shots.
The fast auto-focus, very user-friendly menus, flexibility with all Nikon lenses, and near-pro quality at a price that the weekend-photo-warrior consumer can afford, I don't see how you can go wrong with this camera.
on August 11, 2005
This camera feels so much like my old Nikon film camera, it was love from the first moment I held it in my hand. Using a 1 Gig memory card I can now shoot 350+ "fine" quality photos without having to change out ten rolls of film...or pay the processing! And a handy battery recharger quickly restores battery capacity when needed. Even with lots of flash pictures its charge remained strong for very long periods of time. A handy icon appears in the info screen area to let you see at a glance who much power remains.
I bought the D50 for a vacation to the photogenic Southwest, and this camera was more than up to the task. The fast auto-focus, the simplfied auto controls that give quick choices for portrait, landscape and full sun, cloudy, night etc. let me shoot like a pro while it was the Nikon that converted my impulses into reality. Neat.
With the ability to interchange lenses, and a great Nikon Zoom lens to start, I believe this camera proves that it is the optics which are every bit as important as the pixels. My earlier digital camera has suffered sudden retirement.
I have a wide carriage Epson printer and have been printing out some of the images as 12x18 prints. Even with cropping, the images look like they were taken with a medium format camera. Progress!
If you like crisp and detailed images with no hint of digital-itis, this camera is a great choice. I love precisely composing pictures through the lens rather than approximating the cropping with the display screen; but I also benefit from the ability to quickly check that screen to see the results at once. Never could do that with my old SLR without a Polaroid back!
Overall, this camera and lens is a real find and I do not think you can go wrong with it. Its only drawback is a short learning curve to become familiar with the many features and options it includes, and that is not really a complaint. This camera has more tricks than I will ever use!
on December 8, 2005
I have used Canon and Nikon film cameras for more than 20 years (love my N55 and still use an AE1-P) and own other Canon and Nikon digitals but this was my first D-SLR. I scoured magazine and online reviews and the choice came down to the Canon EOS Rebel XT and the Nikon D70.
They are very similar. The EOS is 8.0 MP vs. the D70's 6.1 MP but for the type of photography I will be doing (max 11x14 prints) that is not a problem. The D70 has quite a few more control features. That and the price difference tipped me towards the Nikon.
Once I made up my mind to buy a Nikon, I compared the D70 to the D50. They are quite similar and in some ways the D50 is superior to the more expensive D70. Besides a more rugged body, the D70 has a few nice features the D50 lacks: a lighted control panel, a front sub-control thumbwheel, depth of field preview, and you can fine-tune white balance. But the D50 has some features over the D70, notable a larger LCD monitor, higher capacity battery, and USB 2.0 high speed support. Every magazine I read raved about the D50 and none of the features it lacked made me willing to pay more for the D70. I purchased the D50 with the Nikkor AF-S DX 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G Zoom Lens.
After using it for several weeks all I can say is, wow! It is easy to use but I can fiddle with nearly all settings when I want to get creative. Using a digital with almost no shutter lag has spoiled me. I've taken many great shots with a Canon PowerShot 1S IS but it's my backup now. In the D50 I have finally found an affordable digital camera that is as fun to use as my film cameras.
Pros will probably prefer higher-end Nikons but if you like using film SLRs and would like to get into a D-SLR for less than the price of a decent used car, I highly recommend the D50.
June 2006 update: I recently used my D-50 to photograph friends doing a triathlon to raise money for cancer research. It performed flawlessly in all settings and I ended up with many outstanding photos. The triathlon gave me ample opportunities to use the D-50's "sports" setting and continuous exposure feature to capture athletes swimming, bicycling, and running from a variety of distances. The colors are perfect and I was able to get 5x7 and 8x10 prints on photo paper (from a lab) with hardly a tweak beyond cropping. The D-50 is now my favorite camera. Yes, there are cameras with higher resolution and more features but it is hard to beat the "bang for the buck" factor on the D-50.
One suggestion: like every other camera manual I have ever read, the Nikon manual that comes with the D-50 is accurate and complete but leaves a lot to be desired. Unless you are so experienced that you do not have to read a manual (and I'm not) I highly recommend you invest in a copy "Magic Lantern Guides: Nikon D50" by Simon Stafford. This book is everything the Nikon manual is not. This Magic Lantern Guide not only thoroughly explains every feature on the D-50 but goes beyond to illustrate how, when, and why you would use a setting or feature. It also throws in tips & tricks that Nikon's writers wouldn't include. Highly recommended.
on November 9, 2005
I had the chance to test the Canon XT and Nikon D50 at the same time during a whole day.....and I leant towards the D50...why??? because I noticed eight differences:
1. D50 is less noisy than XT from Iso 200 to 800 and also crispier.
2. DR is better on the D50, ...
3. D50 grip is excellent (to me)
4. The start-up is also a bit faster on the D50...the XT under low light conditions take more than a second to focus properly and raise the flash.
5. Nikon colors are awesome.
6. Battery life is endless.....much much better than XT battery....no doubt on it.
7. 18-55Dx is sharper than 18-55 EFs, in fact, the Canon kit lens is unusable.
8. NEF is less noisy than Canon RAW.
This camera takes great pictures... period. I bought it to use with the 18-200 VR lens from Nikon, and it is awesome. Some (like Ken Rockwell) insist that you should skip the RAW mode and just use JPEG (Ken even says to use Normal JPEG rather than fine). I couldn't disagree more. (although I LOVE Ken's reviews and think you all should read them before buying ANYTHING! Google Ken Rockwell and check it out.)
My tests showed that the quality difference between RAW and FINE Jpeg are noticeable, but subtle... so... buy some big old 1G cards. But then again... if you're going on vacation and can't bring a computer, don't fret... shoot at FINE Jpeg, and you'll be happy as can be.
The scene modes might be handy for the total amateur (that's NOT a bad thing, btw) but I don't use them, and the flexible program mode is so useful you may want to even skip the Aperture and Shutter Priority modes (although I like both from time to time so go figure...). Manual is manual ( I like it a lot, but I used to use purely manual cameras and I liked it, so there you go...) and the on-camera flash is uneven (I'm getting set to order an SB600) and inadequate. For simple snapshots, it's okay, but it tends to wash out your colors. For fill flash outdoors, it can work pretty great. Red Eye is EXTREME on a flash like this by the way.
The lack of depth of field preview, white balance fine-tuning, and wireless control are most of what distinguishes this from a D70. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, buy a D50 and forget about it. I know what they're for (I've used quite a bit of pro gear from Nikon and Canon), and I STILL don't miss them. (The DOF preview... yeah, I miss it a little, but being able to view my photo on the excellent LCD makes up for it.
Here's the bottom line. If you can afford a D70 and a decent lens (or set of lenses) or a D50 and a GREAT lens (or set) go with the latter.
All the Nikon DSLRs that are currently available are super, and the glass is way more important.
I would say, instead of getting a D70 and an 18-70, get a D50 and one of those swank 18-200s from Nikon (which is TOTALLY cool) although you will wait for the 18-200 (Do NOT get a Sigma or Tamron... Stick with Nikon). That's what I did. I'm very happy with them!
Lastly... Get yourself one of those way cool plastic protectors for the LCD. 'Cause if you bust it or scratch it real bad, you're hosed.
on May 7, 2006
Most people write reviews about pros and cons of this camera. But if you think a little bit, there are not too many DSLR cameras on the market and for the most people the choice they make is not if they like or not some particular camera, but which camera out of a very few available they like more. So my review is not really about D50 itself, but why to choose D50 between other compeitors.
I think my story is pretty typical. I've had a couple digital cameras and finally decided I'm ready for a digital SLR. After some reading and comparing specs, my short list was down to 4 entries - Canon XT and D30 and Nikon D200 and D50. I've heard a lot of people gettting to this point, so I'm sure many readers are facing the same decision.
Here is how I approached that. I knew all 4 cameras can deliver what I need, but I couldn't find a "dream" lense I'd like. Keep in mind, when you change lenses, some dust gets inside your camera. If it sticks to your film, you may lose a shot but in DSLR, if dust lands on a sensor (technically it's a filter in front of the sensor), it will stay there and it's really hard to clean it out. The moral is you don't want to change lenses too often.
Also, I was looking for a good all around lense equal to 28-100+, but with typical DSLR x1.5 multiplier, that would require something like 18-70+.
Canon 17-85 and Nikon 18-70 were close, but when Nikon announced the 18-200 and reviewes confirmed it's a good lense, I set my mind. Nikon 18-200 is the lense I want and it's ahead of the next one (Canon 17-85) by a huge margin.
So now my choice was down to D200 or D50. A first reaction was if D200 costs triple of D50, that should be the one. But when I started looking closely, I realized it's not that obvious. Some key factors:
- Megapixels. Everyone points out D200 is 10+ and D50 is 6+, but is it a big deal? I've been shooting with 5MPixel camera for a few years and it's never been a limiting factor. So too me anything above 5M is ok.
- D200 is faster. Same thing. Both cameras turn on instantly, both are focusing faster then I can start noticing any delays, both have very fast shutter release and multiple shots per second. Yes, D200 specs are better, but it wouldn't make difference for me.
- Convinience. What really changed my mind is set of controls on D200. Most people probably just set camera to Auto and never change it. I usually switch between preset modes like "Portrait" or "Landscape" and sometimes add some EV compensation. Guess what, D200 does not have those preset modes! Yes, it has a lot of other controls and you can fine tune D200 better then D50, but it requires different skills. I just tried mentally compare how would I take some typical shots with each camera and I realized that I'd feel more comfortable with D50. That was a big factor.
- Price. $1000 difference in favor of D50.
So my line of thinking was:
Because I like the Nikon 18-200 lense so much, it has to be Nikon. Because D200 and D50 meet my requirements, but I feel more comfortable with D50 controls (and by the way, it's a grand cheaper!).
So the conclusion is I can't see any better value then Nikon D50 + Nikon 18-200 lense.
P.S.: This is not related to this particular camera, but maybe it will help you make your choice.
Keep in mind, that a good lense will keep it's value for years. But for the same price in a couple years you will be able probably to buy a much better camera body. So to me it's much smarter to invest in a great lense then in the latest and greatest camera.
on October 24, 2005
This is a fantastic camera and I'm having a load of fun shooting with it. If you want a real short review...solid body, amazing low light performance, get the 18-70 mm lens, shoot away and have fun!
Here is the long version:
A little photographic background about myself first. I'm what you'd call an amatuar enthusiast. My dad gave me Canon A-1 (35 mm SLR from the early 80's) to play with when I was in middle school. I still have and it still works great. I use it occasionally now when I need the telephoto lens it has. My first digital camera was an Apple Quicktake 100, a pioneering product, but not much real use. I bought a Canon S30 in 2002, wonderful little camera took great pictures and can take a lot of abuse, when I moved to a Canon A95 last year, the S30 was passed to my mom. In general, I can't say any bad things about all the Canon's I have owned, except the A95 costed me a bit in batteries. The S30 and the A95 took great photos and are tough cameras.
Anyway, back to the D50. It's my first Nikon, actually it's my family's first Nikon. It's also the most anyone has ever spent on a camera in my family (although what my dad spent on the A1 in 1982 dollars probably came close to this). I got it primarily because I wanted to shoot in darker settings and need longer zoom than my A95 can provide. I was seriously considering the Canon 350D. I knew it would be a good camera because of my past experience with Canon. But but in the end I decided to get the D50 instead on the grounds that the Nikon D50 body is better built and more pleasant to shoot with and has better noise performance at high ISO. I also had a slight 'grass is greener on the other side of the fence' itch...in any case, after two weeks, I'm not disappointed with the D50. Actually I'm pretty thrilled!
Here is my experience with the camera. First of all, the camera feels great in my hand. I feel like 'photographer' when I'm shooting with it. The balance with the 18-70 mm nikkor f3.5-4.5 lens is good. The camera doesn't feel tender or too plasticky. It begs to be held.
Secondly, the low light performance of the camera is absolutely amazing. The camera has very low noise at ISO 800 and I use that setting on a regular basis. At ISO 1600, the noise does increase a bit but the photos are still usable. There is a work around where you can get the ISO 1600+ performance but the ISO 800 noise level. Simply use +5 exposure compensation with ISO 800 in shutter priority mode. Compare to a campact digicam, the difference in quality is night and day. I very rarely use flash now. That said, the built-in flash is not bad! Pretty uniform illumination with good range.
Thirdly, the auto focusing does a very good job and pretty fast. I rarely use the AF assistance lamp. I turn it off unless I'm in an unlit room. The AF will have problems focusing on uniform background but that's understandable.
The last thing I want to mention is that the battery life is excellent. I have yet to drain the battery in one day yet. Turning off the AF assist lamp, use less flash and turn off the sound all helps with battery life. There are many other features of the camera that I haven't really played much yet...WB, sharping, saturation and etc., the auto mode on those parameters seem to do a fine job.
Here are my recommendations if you want to get this camera. First, I'd forgo the 18-55 mm kit lens, get the body only and the 18-70 mm lens (normally part of the D70/D70s kit). You'll appreciate that extra 15 mm often. Second, get a fast 1 GB or more SD card. A 1 GB card gives me about 270-300 photos at best JPG setting. Third, get a nice camera bag like something by Lowepro. It'll protect your camera and allow you to take it to many places that you won't take the camera to had you not had the camera bag. Fourth, get a UV filter with the lens from the get go. They say B+W is good, I got their MRC filter and now I'm worry free. Lastly, send in your lens warranty card right after you get your lens! If you don't you are giving away a 5 year warranty and it becomes a 1 year warranty. My next purchase would be a nikkor 80-200 mm F2.8 zoom lens but that'll have to wait till I replenish my bank account somewhat.
In summary, this is a great camera for serious amatuars upgrading to their first dSLR. Highly recommended.
You can check out my photos at [...]
It has photos taken with all of my cameras (Canon A-1, S30, A95 and the Nikon D50).
on November 23, 2005
Being a long time Nikon user, it seemed only natural to "stay in the family so to speak" when purchasing a DSLR. I decided to look into Canons after hearing so many rave reviews, and to make sure I was getting the best camera for my money. The Canon Digital Rebel Series of cameras felt small and toy like in my hands. The Nikon D50 felt well, like a Nikon. Larger, heavier, more durable and like an old friend. I found the controls and program modes extremely user friendly. This is coming from someone who has used Nikon FM and FM2 35mm cameras ( these cameras are fully manual and can even work without batteries) for over two decades. The D50 metering system is simply superb in all modes. I was a bit disappointed that there is not a depth of field preview button on the camera. This concern was quickly dispelled by the very bright screen on the back of the camera. Another plus, especially for old Nikon users like my self, is that most all Nikon lenses from the past can be used on this camera. My first photos shot using the D50 were so sharp, they looked like prints made from Kodachrome in my old cameras. From beginner to seasoned photographers, the Nikon D50 is a superb choice.
on November 27, 2005
I extensively researched many entry level DSLRs. I was focusing on the Nikons, Canons and Olympus models (the new Olympus ones - E300 and 500). Olympus has a pretty strong story now. Both the 300 and 500 have great features and are fairly inexpensive. However, the somewhat limited lens selection (not only an issue for buying, but also for selling if you ever want to get rid of a lens) and lack of history in this arena led me to look at other manufacturers. For Canon, the E series cameras are great, but expensive. The Rebel series felt a bit "cheap" and low end to me. That led me to Nikon. The D50 is priced very well and offers many great features. The only feature I may miss over the D70/70s is a depth of field preview, but this is less important with digital since you can play around with many different focus points and aperture settings. The D50 also lets you zoom in pretty close with the LCD screen so you can see what you shot. I was thinking about getting only the 18-55 lens, but seeing as the price difference wasn't huge for the extra lens, I went for it. I have the camera for about a week now and love it!
I don't love the software that came with the camera, but that's just my opinioin. In searching for options on how to deal with Nikon's NEF RAW files, I discovered the open source imaging program called GIMP. So far, this is as close to a free Adobe Photoshop I could find, and deals with the Nikon proprietary NEF file format, so I am very happy.
I put a sample pic on this website that I shot in NEF and used GIMP to convert to .jpg. It is a somewhat gloomy shot, but it is just about winter here in New England so there's a lot of that around now! It is entitled Tobacco Farm in the Winter.
To summarize, I love the camera and think it is the best choice for a DSLR in the $1000 range. I bought mine in Manhattan at B&H (they even have free parking if you spend over $100!). If you don't live near New York, they also have a great online store.
on May 11, 2006
I have done a lot of research before I purchased this camera. Still I got a few pleasant surprises (BTW all the good things you have heard are also true):
1. The pictures are prettier than I thought, especially regarding the color and contrast. I have heard warnings that D-SLRs do not automatically give you better-looking pictures and that you need to understand the camera better to get the job done right. That is not so for D-50. It does automatically gives you better-looking pictures. (Of course the more you understand the better.) Don't assume the more expensive cameras necessarily take better pictures. D-50 has done some smart processing in camera. And there are plenty of adjustments you can make to suit different tastes.
2. The ergonomics and control layouts matter more than I thought. And Nikon got it right. A pure joy to use.
3. 6MP is just enough for me. I do look at my pictures close up on screen but do not make large print often. I did not find myself missing the higher megapixels. Higher megapixels actually means inconveniently larger files for most people. Don't oeverestimate how important the megapixels are to you. Be realistic.
4. Low noise is no hype. It makes pictures look perceivably better and there is less quality loss after post-processing.
5. BTW I am using Nikkor DX 18-200 VR lens. It's a great companion for D50.