Below you'll find some frequently asked questions about Nikon cameras (and some generic camera questions, as well), complete with my answer.
The remainder of this page is an accordion: click/tap on the colored topic headers to open and close them:
SecureDigital or CompactFlash? Which is better and why?
The answer isn't definitive. Camera makers don't like CompactFlash for consumer products for one reason: it involves pins in the camera, and consumers can and do bend and break pins when they attempt to force cards into the camera the wrong way. Pros like CompactFlash cards because they have tended to have higher capacities than Secure Digital cards, though this is becoming less and less the case over time. Personally, I don't really care one way or another, though I do find it easier to lose or misplace the smaller Secure Digital cards than CompactFlash cards. If you buy somewhat behind the technology curve you can find bargains in both CompactFlash and Secure Digital cards, enough so that buying a small handful of new cards is not very painful.
I'm getting a CHA error message
That's not a question, but I'll answer it anyway: CHA indicates a card write error. The camera doesn't think it can write to the card. If it happens with a single card, generally the card has a problem (bad sectors, improper formatting, etc.). Perform a proper low level format of the card using your computer, then reformat the card in the camera and see if that fixes the problem. If not, the card should be returned to the maker for repair. But if it happens with multiple CompactFlash cards, then you have to look at the camera. Take a close look inside the camera's card slot (with the card removed, obviously). If you see any bent pins or additional material in there, that would explain your problem. Unfortunately, that would also mean the camera has to go back to Nikon for repair. SecureDigital cards don't have "pins" so it's difficult to damage a camera's card slot if it uses SD. But it is still possible to damage an SD card slot.
Should I format in the camera or computer?
These days I don't think either is a likely cause of card corruption, but you should format cards in the camera whenever possible because some manufacturers interpret small aspects of the way data is placed on a drive differently. Here's what you should avoid if you want to avoid card corruption: (1) shooting bursts of frames with too slow a card for the camera; (2) shooting right to the point where the card is filled (especially in bursts); and (3) shooting video until the card is full. #1 has a tendency to cause the write controller in the camera to get stressed and miss a beat. #2 is even trickier because of the way card space is calculated on the fly by the camera. #3 is problematic because video compression is being done by the camera in real time, and sometimes there's less space left than the camera thought when it decides it had better save what it's got to the card and stop the video recording.
I've shot 999+ images but my folder number is still 100. What gives?
The actual specification that Nikon follows doesn't say that the folder number should be incremented every time you shoot 999 images. Instead, it says "if you fill a folder with 999 images a new folder with a higher folder number will be created." If, for example, you always shoot 500 images, transfer them to your computer, then format the card, you should stay at folder number 100 (you might not be still at 100 if you moved a card from another camera that had a higher current folder number, which gets recognized by the new camera). In general, you don't want folder numbers incrementing if you can avoid it. On the Nikon consumer cameras, the camera will lock when it gets to folder 999 and image 999, and it's a pain in the butt to fix that (on the pro cameras it is easy: just specify folder 100 and restart shooting).
Does using a slower card in the second slot slow the buffer clearing?
It will if you've got the camera configured to write to both slots (Backup or RAW+Jpeg). If you're set on Overflow, buffer clearing shouldn't slow until you start saving images to the second card. Personally, I prefer identical cards in both slots: same size, same performance, same vendor. There have been too many issues with subtle card differences in digital cameras over the years, and we still see them too often in the latest firmware to risk encountering one. So I test cards in a camera to verify that they perform the way I want and without incident, then use matching ones in both slots. Even then I've seen one instance where a card failed (at which point I had to replace both cards to get the camera back to normal). Cards are relatively cheap; don't skimp.
My mirror is stuck up. Can I fix that?
While I've been able to fix that in the field many times, it's not something I recommend. The mirror is fragile and easily damaged. Better to have someone who knows what they're doing look at it.
What does tested to 50,000 shutter actuations mean?
It doesn't mean much of anything, unfortunately. Some people think that it's a guarantee claim. It is not. It's marketing gibberish. The camera companies are very careful in their wording in an attempt to avoid an implicit guarantee, though I suppose a good lawyer could easily call them to task in a class action suit if it was found that the average shutter life was far lower than the number in those marketing materials.
It's also not a MTBF (Mean Time Before Failure) number, either. It appears to be a faux standard, as in "we took a bunch of these shutters and testing them X times and they didn't fail more than we expected." No one specifies how many parts were tested, how the tests were conducted, how many failures were allowed (though the wording implies none), or whether they tried going further than the number stated to see just where the MTBF value was.
In Nikon DSLRs, we now have some commonality: the consumer DSLRs all tend to be rated, um, excuse me, tested to 50,000 or 100,000 shutter actuations; the prosumer and pro DSLRs all list 150,000 actuations or higher. I suppose that is to suggest that pro camera shutters should last longer than consumer camera shutters, but I think we all knew that should be the case without the misleading numbers. Frankly, shutter failures can and do occur, but they seem to be one of the less frequent causes of a DSLR needing a repair (unless, of course, you were cleaning the sensor when the shutter closed on you unexpectedly).
How do I find out how many shutter actuations a camera has?
Use a program that can pull out Maker's Tags from the EXIF data, such as EXIFTool.
If you're a Mac user, it's easy and doesn't require a special program. Start Preview, open an image you've taken. Select Get Info by pressing Command-I. In the box that appears, click the tab with the circled i. Click the Nikon sub-tab. Look at the data under ShutterCount.
I'm Offended; Why Do People Call the D3200 Entry Level?
Let's see, the complaint is that the D3200 has lots of features, many of which weren't even in film SLRs a decade ago. So how dare anyone call it entry level?
The problem here is low self-esteem on the part of the D3200 owner, not the term "entry level." The D3200 is currently Nikon's entry DSLR: the lowest specified one with the fewest features. The assumption is that users get more sophisticated over time and migrate up to higher level models.
To be offended by the nomenclature here shows that you're not entirely confident of your own abilities. I'll man up to it: I've shot with a D3200 and liked it. I'm certainly not entry level.
It always amazes me how much ego people put into the products they own. "Hey, I drive a Corvette, I must be sexy" or "I've got a bigger TV than my neighbors." Stop comparing things or equating products with accomplishment. Buy what you can afford and what you need, and be happy with it. There is absolutely no correlation with sensor size and penis size, no correlation with EXPEED version number and IQ, not even any strong correlation between camera owned and paycheck size. Heck, some pro photographers don't make much money but own the best camera ;~).
Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
What does frames per second actually mean?
Some people get confused about this because they count from zero and include ones (darned programmers ;~). 4 fps means you'd get images taken at time 0, 0.25, 0.5, and 0.75 seconds (and another at 1s, which is why some people erroneously think 4 fps is 5 fps, but 1 is the start of the second second). A better way of thinking of it is what is the average number of frames you get in any given second out of a much longer period of time. At 4 fps, the answer would be 4.
With video, you get a completely unexpected answer. 30 fps is not actually 30 fps, but rather 29.97 fps. What? Long story, but it has to do with the way television frequencies were calculated. 30 fps is a rounded number from what was actually used.
What Lenses are Supported by Auto Distortion Control?
Cameras that have built-in Auto Distortion Control abilities:
- D3100, D3200
- D5000, D5100, D5200
- D7000, D7100
Here's Nikon's supported lens list (version 1.009), reconfigured for the way most people would search for their lens (focal length first, aperture second, other attributes third). I've also taken out the confusing "AI" designation Nikon uses in their list, as this marking is not on the lens and appears to be an artificial after-the-fact addition by Nikon to try to distinguish older D-generation lenses from G-generation lenses.
- 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G ED AF-S Nikkor
- 12-24mm f/4G AF-S Zoom-Nikkor ED IF
- 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S Nikkor ED VR
- 17-55mm f/2.8G AF-S Zoom-Nikkor ED IF
- 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S Nikkor VR
- 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S Zoom-Nikkor ED II
- 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S Zoom-Nikkor ED
- 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G AF-S Zoom-Nikkor ED IF
- 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S Zoom-Nikkor ED VR
- 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S Zoom-Nikkor ED IF
- 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S Zoom-Nikkor ED IF
- 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S Nikkor ED VR II
- 18-300mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S Nikkor ED VR
- 35mm f/1.8G AF-S Nikkor
- 40mm f/2.8G AF-S Micro Nikkor
- 85mm f/3.5G ED VR AF-S Micro Nikkor
- 55-200mm f/4-5.6G AF-S Zoom-Nikkor ED IF VR
- 55-200mm f/4-5.6G AF-S Zoom-Nikkor ED
- 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G AF-S Nikkor ED VR
FX Lenses (Autofocus)
- 14mm f/2.8D AF Nikkor ED
- 14-24mm f/2.8G AF-S Nikkor ED
- 16-35mm f/4G AF-S Nikkor ED VR
- 17-35mm f/2.8D AF-S Zoom-Nikkor ED IF
- 18mm f/2.8D AF Nikkor
- 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5G AF-S Nikkor ED
- 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5D AF Zoom-Nikkor ED IF
- 20mm f/2.8D AF Nikkor
- 20-35mm f/2.8D AF Zoom-Nikkor IF
- 24mm f/1.4G AF-S Nikkor ED
- 24mm f/2.8D AF Nikkor
- 24-50mm f/3.3-4.5D AF Zoom-Nikkor
- 24-70mm f/2.8G AF-S Nikkor ED
- 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G AF-S Nikkor ED VR
- 24-85mm f/2.8-4D AF Zoom-Nikkor ED IF
- 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G AF-S Zoom-Nikkor ED IF
- 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S Zoom-Nikkor ED IF VR
- 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6D AF Zoom-Nikkor ED IF
- 24-120mm f/4G AF-S Nikkor ED VR
- 28mm f/1.4D AF Nikkor
- 28mm f/1.8G AF-S Nikkor
- 28mm f/2.8D AF Nikkor
- 28-70mm f/2.8D AF-S Zoom-Nikkor ED IF
- 28-70mm f/3.5-4.5D AF Zoom-Nikkor
- 28-80mm f/3.3-5.6G AF Zoom-Nikkor
- 28-80mm f/3.5-5.6D AF Zoom-Nikkor
- 28-100mm f/3.5-5.6G AF Zoom-Nikkor
- 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5D AF Zoom-Nikkor IF
- 28-200mm f/3.5-5.6G AF Zoom-Nikkor ED IF
- 28-200mm f/3.5-5.6D AF Zoom-Nikkor IF
- 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S Nikkor ED VR
- 35mm f/1.4G AF-S Nikkor
- 35mm f/2D AF Nikkor
- 35-80mm f/4-5.6D AF Zoom-Nikkor
- 35-105mm f/3.5-4.5D AF Zoom-Nikkor IF
- 50mm f/1.4G AF-S Nikkor
- 50mm f/1.4D AF Nikkor
- 50mm f/1.8G AF-S Nikkor
- 50mm f/1.8D AF Nikkor
- 60mm f/2.8G ED AF-S Micro Nikkor
- 60mm f/2.8D AF Micro-Nikkor
- 70-180mm f/4.5-5.6D AF Zoom-Micro Nikkor ED
- 70-200mm f/2.8G AF-S Nikkor ED VR II*
- 70-200mm f/2.8G EAF-S Zoom-Nikkor D IF VR*
- 70-200mm f/4G AF-S Nikkor ED VR*
- 70-210mm f/4-5.6D AF Zoom-Nikkor
- 70-300mm f/4-5.6D ED AF Zoom-Nikkor
- 70-300mm f/4-5.6G ED AF Zoom-Nikkor
- 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G AF-S Zoom-Nikkor ED IF VR
- 75-240mm f/4.5-5.6D AF Zoom-Nikkor
- 80-200mm f/2.8D AF Zoom-Nikkor ED
- 80-200mm f/2.8D AF-S Zoom-Nikkor ED IF*
- 80-200mm f/4.5-5.6D AF Zoom-Nikkor
- 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G AF-S Nikkor ED VR
- 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D AF Zoom-Nikkor ED VR*
- 85mm f/1.4G AF-S Nikkor
- 85mm f/1.4D IF AF Nikkor
- 85mm f/1.8G AF-S Nikkor
- 85mm f/1.8D AF Nikkor
- 105mm f/2D AF DC-Nikkor
- 105mm f/2.8G AF-S Micro-Nikkor ED IF VR*
- 105mm f/2.8D AF Micro-Nikkor
- 135mm f/2D AF DC-Nikkor
- 180mm f/2.8D AF Nikkor ED IF
- 200mm f/2G AF-S Nikkor ED VR II*
- 200mm f/2G AF-S Nikkor ED IF VR*
- 200mm f/4D AF Micro-Nikkor ED IF
- 200-400mm f/4G AF-S Nikkor ED VR II*
- 200-400mm f/4G AF-S Zoom-Nikkor ED IF VR*
- 300mm f/2.8G AF-S Nikkor ED VR II*
- 300mm f/2.8G AF-S Nikkor ED IF VR*
- 300mm f/2.8D AF-S Nikkor ED IF II*
- 300mm f/2.8D AF-S Nikkor ED IF*
- 300mm f/2.8D AF-I Nikkor ED IF*
- 300mm f/4D AF-S Nikkor ED IF*
- 400mm f/2.8G AF-S Nikkor ED VR*
- 400mm f/2.8D AF-S Nikkor ED IF II*
- 400mm f/2.8D AF-S Nikkor ED IF*
- 400mm f/2.8 AF-I Nikkor ED IF*
- 500mm f/4G AF-S Nikkor ED VR*
- 500mm f/4D AF-S Nikkor ED IF II*
- 00mm f/4D AF-S Nikkor 5ED IF*
- 500mm f/4 AF-I Nikkor ED IF*
- 600mm f/4G AF-S Nikkor ED VR*
- 600mm f/4D AF-S Nikkor ED IF II*
- 600mm f/4D E AF-S Nikkor D IF*
- 600mm f/4 E AF-I Nikkor D IF*
- 800mm f/5.6E FAF-S Nikkor L ED VR*
*TC-14E, TC-14EII, TC-17EII, TC-20E, TC-20EII, and TC-20EIII supported, as well; also TC800-1.25E supported on 800mm
What Picture Control Should I Use?
Whichever one you like! But...the most "accurate" of the Picture Controls and the most useful for those trying to preserve the best possible JPEG data for later post processing tends to be Neutral, sometimes with a Contrast setting of -1. Why? Because it's easier to add contrast, saturation, vibrance, and color shifts to neutral data than it is to remove those things from already modified pixels. Neutral, especially with AdobeRGB set as the Color Space, will produce pretty drab-looking out-of-camera JPEGs, though, and many people don't like that. It's a pity that Nikon's engineers are stuck in the past. Most cameras have a bracket button, after all. In these days of advanced cameras, why we can't bracket anything, including Picture Controls, seems a bit archaic.
The act of photography is about making decisions, and "bracketing" is capturing multiple possible choices for delayed decision making. That Set Picture Control is buried in the SHOOTING menu of most advanced Nikons just adds insult to injury. Funny thing is that on my Panasonic LX-5 I press one button and I'm immediately on the Panasonic equivalent of Picture Controls.
But enough of the design lecture, let's get back to the question: one of the Picture Controls is likely to appeal to you more as the base for your image look. Experiment finding the right base first (Standard, Neutral, Vivid, etc.), then experiment with the parameters within the Picture Control (Contrast, Hue, Saturation, etc.). Don't get stuck on the notion that one Picture Control will suffice for all your shooting needs. You might like a different base for portrait work than for landscape work, for instance. That means it'll take you awhile to find the proper Picture Control. Remember to save your changed Picture Controls (both on the camera and to a small settings card you carry with you).
Why Won't My D3s Tether with Lightroom?
Let's play a little game of "whose bug is this?" This famous game goes back to the very first days of computers, when hardware and software engineers would argue that the problem being experienced couldn't possibly be their fault. Today's contestants: Nikon and Adobe.
Nikon will say it's an Adobe problem. Adobe will say it's a Nikon problem. Who's right? Well, here's a clue: try erasing the cards in the camera. That's right, they were full. Seems that the camera will tether with NO card in the camera, and it'll tether with empty cards in the camera, but if the card(s) in the camera is full, then the D3s and Lightroom will refuse to cooperate with one another. Still confused about whose bug it is? So are Nikon and Adobe. But fortunately, you now know the answer to your problem, so you're happy, right?
How do I preview a pano before stitching it on a DSLR?
I used to think the answer was to use a Hollywood director's finder in one of its wide-screen modes, but these days there's a more interesting way: use your iPhone. I use the Pano app on the iPhone to quickly generate a handheld pano that's wider than I think I'll eventually want, then review it to find where I want my final start/end points to be (bonus credit: edit the pano you made in one of the iPhone photo editing apps to see the exact pano you want to create on the DSLR).
If you know something about the optics on the iPhone and your DSLR, you'll even be able to guess at how many stitches it'll take to do your final pano stitch sequence on the DSLR.
Another alternative is to use one of the compact cameras with a "sweep pano" function (such the Sony RX-100 or the Sony NEX-5). Why not just use the iPhone (or compact) and ditch the DSLR for panos? It all boils down to quality and pixels. On my D3x I generated massive panos (a two-row, five-column stitch can easily be 15,000 x 9,000 pixels in size, or 135mps), and they're very high in quality.
For video do I want 1080 or 720? 24 fps or 30 fps?
Depends upon your use. If your intended distribution has any possibility of broadcast or commercial distribution, then 1080P/30 would be the best choice, 720P/30 would be the second best (in areas where PAL is the norm for TV, substitute 25 for 30 fps). Professional broadcasters or distributors can downgrade the video to the standard they need, if necessary.
For online distribution, both 1080P and 30 fps are probably too much at the present, though as bandwidth improves worldwide it will likely become favored. 720P and 24 fps are perfectly fine for online work right now, and doesn't push the storage size or delivery bandwidth too badly. But if you were "playing it safe" (hoping your online video will make it viral and get picked up commercially), I'd say stick with 30 fps.
For home use, shoot what you want, but realize that 1080 creates bigger file sizes than 720, and 30 fps creates bigger file sizes than 24 fps. If you shoot much video, you're going to find that that extra storage space adds up rapidly.
I've been asked to shoot a friend's wedding. Which camera should I get?
You should get your head checked. Friends don't shoot friend's weddings. Relatives don't shoot relative's weddings. Friends don't shoot relative's weddings. Relative's don't shoot friend's weddings. I'm tempted to say if you haven't shot a wedding before you shouldn't shoot one now. In fact, I'll say it. Despite the obvious faulty logic (eventually no one would ever shoot weddings in the future if they can't shoot a "first one"), if you fail to take the advice that's appeared up to this point in my answer, you're headed for a potential disaster. A disaster that starts life-long feuds and creates ex-friends and disowned relatives, and may even end in court.
A bride that doesn't get what she expects from a wedding photographer, or worse still, fails to get any of the crucial moments captured forever, is not a thing you want to encounter in the wild (or in civilization, either). The more expensive and elaborate the wedding, the more guests, the more upscale the location, the easier it will be to fail at something. But even if it's a dozen people gathered in the woods for five minutes, you're still likely to fail. Even pros screw up once in a while, which is why all smart wedding photographers carry insurance and hire assistants to do supplemental (backup) shooting. And, no, your D3200 with an 18-55mm kit lens isn't going to cut it (which you probably knew or you wouldn't have asked the question).
No, the correct thing to do when confronted by someone asking you to shoot their wedding is this: say "I'd be happy to bring my camera and do some candid shooting at the reception for you, but you should hire a professional photographer who knows what they're doing and will deliver everything you want." Then, when the day arrives, you should introduce yourself to the pro and say "look, my friend/relative/insane acquaintance/Bridezilla asked me to do some casual shooting for them, but I want you to know that if you think I'm in your way at any time, just ask and I'll defer 100% to you. I understand you have a job to do and I don't want to get in your way." And then do everything to stay out of the pro's way the rest of the day. Don't bogart their shots; find your own (where you won't be in the pro's frame).
Sure, you may win the lottery and get away with a wedding shoot that works and doesn't displease anyone. But the odds are considerably stacked against you.
I use a bubble level. Why aren't my images level?
Welcome to Manufacturing Tolerances 101. In my experience with hundreds of DSLRs, I've found none to have 100% alignment. In one case, I found an expensive new camera to have a viewfinder that was more than 2% off. In no case have I found perfect alignment between camera bottom, hot shoe, sensor, and viewfinder, and it's common that I find I need a half degree to one degree angle correction in post processing using almost any of the leveling capabilities supported by my equipment. The only reliable way to get absolute level images is to use Live View, and then only if you have something visual you can align to the gridlines.
For some reason, Nikon seems to be perfectly happy with "downhill right." Every Nikon DSLR I've used (which is all of them, and many in multiple copies) is downhill right when aligned on a tripod that's absolutely horizontal, or aligned by viewfinder to the horizon. Every Nikon DSLR. The fact that I've never seen a Nikon whose alignment is downhill left says something important. That means that Nikon's jig in manufacturing for positioning the sensor is structured that way: half degree off, downhill right. The viewfinder may be "more off" of "less off," which explains the small variation that people have encountered.
This gets me back to one of my pet peeves about Nikon: if you're not close enough to hear your customers, you just keep making the same mistakes. No one's ever complained enough that it got back to manufacturing to look at the alignment, let alone the tolerance.
Why is my viewfinder image out of focus but the picture isn't?
First thing to check is the diopter setting for your viewfinder. Remove the lens from the camera and point it at something brightish, like your computer's monitor. Use the diopter adjustment (knob or lever, varies on different Nikon models) until the overlaid lines in the viewfinder appear the sharpest. Put a lens back on and test.
If this doesn't solve the problem, the likely issue is that the focus screen in your camera needs shimming.
Focus screens are shimmed at the factory to adjust for manufacturing tolerances, but we're talking about very small differences, so sometimes the factory adjustment isn't perfect. Also, if you change focus screens or have to re-seat them after dislodging them, the shims may no longer be in place or properly installed. Nikon makes several shims ranging from .05mm to .15mm, and they're often combined to make other thicknesses. While you can get a shim set for about US$12, re-shimming is not something I suggest most users should tackle on their own, though. It's delicate work around delicate components (the mirror, for instance). It requires patience, time, and discipline to do right, and is one of those jobs I usually leave to a good repair facility (it doesn't require Nikon authorized repair). The Nikon part numbers for the shims are 1K603-xxx, where xxx is 372, 373, 374, or 384 depending upon the thickness.
My camera won't operate. All I see is a blinking low battery indicator.
This is classic DBS (dead battery syndrome). It's caused by the camera's computer seeing a signal from the lens that's out of the expected range. There are four potential causes that I know of.
First, some background. This problem has been present in the high-end Nikon DSLRs since at least the D200. Some pros say they saw it on earlier models, too, but the D200 was the first body on which I encountered it. I've found it to be more common with VR lenses, particularly when VR activates. They draw more power from the camera and this may be related to the improper signal on the mount communications that causes the camera to shut down.
When DBS was most prevalently reported (around the intro of the D3 and D300), the typical scenario was this: you'd take a photo with one of the VR lenses and the camera would shut down before you could take another. Turning off the camera and turning it back on would "restore" the camera to proper operation. So what are the four causes?
- Dirty contacts or poor contact between lens and camera. Anything that impairs the transfer of signal between lens and camera can produce DBS-like symptoms. For dirty contacts, use DeOxit to clean them (be sure to read instructions carefully: you don't apply DeOxit directly to the contacts). For poor seating of camera and lens, you'll likely have to have Nikon look at the two.
- Pre-fix firmware. Nikon altered their D3 and D300 firmware in a way that seems to have corrected the problem for most people. Make sure you're using the latest firmware. I had two people on my Botswana 2010 workshop who came with cameras with older firmware that exhibited the problem, but since I had carried a full set of firmware updates with me, we were able to fix this in the field. But if you're headed to the wilds, you need to make sure you're using the latest firmware before you head out on your trip and find that you've got DBS.
- A bad part in the camera. DBS can also be caused by the part in the camera that's managing information from the lens being bad. From what I can tell, there were some cameras that weren't fixed by #1 and #2 that only stopped exhibiting DBS when Nikon repaired the camera and replaced this part. Unfortunately, if you get this far in the list, the camera has to return to a Nikon authorized repair center to be cured.
- Third party lenses. I've encountered more than one third party lens that will produce DBS on some NIkon bodies. For example, I have a Tamron 28-300mm that will produce it almost every time VR is re-engaged after taking a shot on my D700, but never triggers it on my D3. Yet there are other Tamron 28-300mm lenses that work fine on my D700. So the problem is clearly linked to the lens. Nikon won't touch this problem, they'll refer you to the third party lens maker.
Does VR work while recording video or using Live View?
Yes, it does. Some of the confusion comes from Nikon itself, which very early on in the history of VR posted a support response that VR requires the shutter release to be half pressed to operate. This was in response to a question about when focus is set to be enabled only by the AF-ON button, VR wasn't active while focusing (you'd have to press the AF-ON button and half-press the shutter release simultaneously).
Many people remember that short answer ("shutter release activates VR), unfortunately, and it was broadcast by others after Nikon made it. But the answer needs to be modified for cameras with Live View and Movie mode: both a half press of the shutter release and use of Live View enable VR; VR is also active when you record movies (as it's an extension of the Live View capabilities).
Curiously, Nikon has gone back and made VR active with AF-ON pressed on the latest cameras (D4 and D800). Personally, it doesn't bother me—I long ago mastered the two finger dexterity necessary to use AF-ON with VR—but it does bother some, and it seems an odd omission, as the focus system benefits from a stabilized image.
There's something stuck to my mirror. How should I clean it?
Step away from the camera. I repeat, step away from the camera.
Mirror cleaning really needs to be left to professionals, especially if it involves physically touching the mirror with your cleaning equipment. Why? Because the mirror is front surface and partially silvered in places. It's highly vulnerable to damage by even modestly rough cleaning. If you manage to damage portions of the mirror surface you risk exposure and focus issues. Not worth it.
Of course, if you leave that thing stuck to your mirror you risk exposure and focus problems, so you need to have a competent repair person do a cleaning of the mirror box for you, including the surface of the mirror. Even I won't clean a mirror unless I'm in the middle of nowhere and have no alternative (e.g. can't keep shooting with it the way it is).
How do I remove an insect I see in my Viewfinder?
A can of Raid isn't going to help you here. Seeing something in the viewfinder (hair, dust, blob, insect) and not in your shots is common. DSLRs get dirty.
The most likely places the intruder lives is on the main mirror or on the focus screen, though there are some other possibilities that are more complex and vary a bit with different cameras.
Here's the rub, cleaning either the mirror or focus screen, while it can be done by the user, is not something you generally want to tackle. The mirror is very easily damaged, and damaging it can impact exposure and autofocus. The focus screen is often "shimmed" by Nikon to get it to a precise position.
The good news is that virtually any competent camera repair facility can make fairly quick work of doing the type of cleaning you need. Many camera stores have someone on staff that can do this kind of work.
Personally, I just ignore small dust bunnies like this and once every year or two have my working cameras given a full CLA (clean lube adjustment) by NikonUSA. It's a little pricey (just under US$300 last time I had it done), but the camera comes back like new and with everything reset to manufacturing tolerances.
Are Nikon Cameras Okay to Use in Rain?
While there is an agency that defines water resistance, if Nikon is testing to those standards they don't disclose or market using them.
- IPX0 — no special protection.
- IPX1 — Protected against falling water equivalent to 3-5mm rainfall per minute for a duration of 10 minutes. Unit in normal operating position.
- IPX2 — Protected against falling water when tilted up to 15 degrees (in each of four directions).
- IPX3 — Protected against spraying water 60° from vertical at 10 liters/min and a pressure of 80-100kN/m2 for five minutes.
- IPX7 — Protected against water immersion for 30 minutes at a depth of 1 meter.
- IPX8 — Protected against continual submersion, manufacturer must disclose conditions fully.
I've left out a few levels, as they don't really tend to apply to photography (you couldn't keep a lens clean at IPX4 through IPX6 levels, in my opinion, so you wouldn't be using a camera in those situations).
By not disclosing a water resistance, Nikon is essentially claiming IPX0: no protection. In reality, most of the pro gear (D300s, D800, D4) certainly seems to hold up to IPX1 standards, and many of us have used them in IPX2 levels without consequences. But that's not guaranteed. Thus, you have to balance the risk of having real problems with your camera versus getting the picture in light mist and rain situations.
Fortunately, there are plenty of simple solutions, ranging from just tying a baggie over your camera to dedicated and complex rain covers. In serious rain, I tend to use ThinkTank and/or AquaTech covers for my gear.
A few camera makers do claim "splash proof" for their cameras, but it usually turns out to be a rating of IPX1.
Short answer: if you want a camera guaranteed to be usable in very wet conditions, you need something like a Coolpix AW-100 or Olympus Tough TG-1 that is rated IPX8, or a housing for your camera that has the same level of rating.
What Cameras Qualify for NPS?
NPS is Nikon Professional Services. Members must maintain at least two professional camera bodies and three professional lenses to remain members. The current list of acceptable products is here.
Should I shoot JPEG Small instead of JPEG Large?
Yes. You'll save the planet's beaches because you use less silicon (files are smaller so you can use smaller cards).
Okay, sarcasm aside, the answer is still Yes. Image quality should be a little better and you'll hit the buffer boundary far less often (and maybe never, as most of the Nikon cameras can shoot 100 shots continuously at any JPEG Medium or JPEG Small setting).
Of course, you can't print such images as large. This only works if your normal output is something like Facebook or the Web.
Does the white balance setting impact raw files?
Back in the D1 days, yes, there was a direct impact of white balance on raw data.
Today, however, there is only an indirect impact. Remember, the histogram and highlight displays on your camera are calculated from the embedded JPEG image, not the raw data. Thus, if you set a wrong white balance and evaluate exposure via the histogram or highlight display, you'll be getting erroneous information and may set a wrong white balance.
A wrong exposure means you're not optimizing your raw data. This is one of those things that have led some extremely serious users to use something called UniWB (which you'll find fully described in many of my books on the prosumer and pro Nikon DSLRs).
What Does "Refurbished" Mean?
Nikon's explanation of "factory refurbished" can be found here.
Three things to note about refurbished Nikon product:
- The warranty is reduced from one year to 90 days.
- Generally, no exchanges are allowed on refurbished products.
- Active rebates for the product as sold new almost always don't apply.
Personally, I'm not a big fan of reconditioned equipment, especially at the high end. Yes, I know the discount might be enticing, but you're essentially buying a used product that Nikon has reconditioned. It might have never been used, it might be slightly used, it might be fairly heavily used. A 90-day warranty means you'd better test and use the product a good deal very quickly to establish that it doesn't have a defect that needs repair. With most Nikon camera repairs running US$300 and up these days, failure to find any inherent problems quickly may mean you'll be paying all of what you saved in the first place. Moreover, your only real recourse would be to have it repaired, as there's usually a "no replacement" policy if you find a problem with the product.
Recently, one pro I know bought a refurbished Nikon camera in order to save money in his upgrade process. He tried to shoot an assignment with it only to discover it had a problem that needed fixing. In the end, did he really save money? No. Had he bought a new product from a local dealer, almost certainly the moment the problem was discovered his dealer would have been able to swap out the defective unit for a new one. Instead, not only did he lose the assignment, but the camera had to go to Nikon for repair, which took it out of operation for a period of time.
What is UniWB?
One less than DuoWB ;~).
The "uni" refers to the fact that this is a white balance with the red, green, and blue coefficients all set the same (to a value of 1, or at least something extremely near 1).
To understand what that means you have to understand that when a camera (or software) applies "white balance" to raw data, the green data is (generally) left as is and the blue and red values are swung to different values (the coefficient). In "warm" indoor light, for example, we have an abundance of red data, so we lower red and increase blue. In "cold" outdoor shade, we have an abundance of blue data, so we increase red and decrease blue.
Here's the thing: white balance is a multiplier (or divider) of the actual raw data. So you could have a raw data value of 250 (in 8-bit terms) for a red photosite in the sensor, but the final white balanced JPEG could push that value to 255 or down to 200. In the first case, it looks as if red is "blown" out, but the raw data was only 250. You might see that "blowout" on the histogram or highlight display and lower exposure in response, but you don't actually have a blowout.
Likewise, if the histogram seems to put values lower down (that 200 for our example red pixel), you might increase exposure thinking it is too low. But that 200 was an adjusted value in the first place—the real value was 250. Thus, if we increase exposure based upon the histogram, we risk blowing out that red pixel.
UniWB uses coefficients of 1 for red, green, and blue. If you multiply something by 1, it comes out to be the same value as it was before ;~). Thus, by using UniWB you get accurate histograms and highlights for your raw data.
So why don't camera makers allow a setting of UniWB? Don't get me started! Okay, I'm started... Nikon used to allow us to use Capture to create UniWB settings and move that over to the camera. With Capture NX they took that facility out. Hello? Anyone home there in Tokyo? Apparently not.
One reason why the camera makers are reluctant about UniWB is that the JPEG (and thus the embedded preview image that shows up on the LCD of the camera) will come out with a heavy green tint. Which just begs the issue of why they don't calculate histograms and highlights display from the raw data instead of the embedded JPEG. Short answer: it's easier and faster and the camera companies don't understand that photographers might actually want the correct data.
I told you not to get me started. Silly. Design. Decision. For people that buy my books on the pro and prosumer DSLRs, I used to supply a UniWB balance file that can be loaded and used until such time as the camera makers come to their senses (true for my older D90, D300/D300s, D700, D5100, D7000, D3/D3s/D3x books). Unfortunately, every camera needs a different file, and the proper use of it needs a chapter of its own in my books, so it's a pain to have to keep creating these files and describing them.
Why does the green channel go up in a UniWB file?
After all, isn't green always a coefficient of 1?
Yes, it is. But you can see blowouts in the green channel with UniWB that you didn't see a regular white balance because "green" doesn't just live in the green photosites and some green was being calculated from red/blue photosites.
There's overlap in the spectral response of photosites, so even red and blue channel photosites have some green component to them, and they are the values that are being "swung" by the white balance settings.
Let's say that there was a fair amount of green in your red channel and the coefficient was .8 for a regular white balance. That would understate the green a little. Now make that red coefficient 1 and the green also goes up in value slightly.
It's actually far trickier than that simplified description. Remember, we're dealing with data after the demosaic has occurred, so what the demosaic routine is doing with neighboring photosites is important to the end result.
Bottom line, even UniWB isn't a perfect representation of the individual photosite raw values—it's calculating off the embedded JPEG after all—but it is far closer to the truth of the raw data than any other white balance setting. For those of us paying attention to every last detail in our data capture, what I call "capture optimal data" instead of "photograph", it's the best we have.
What is micro contrast?
And how come large format cameras seem to get more of it?
Sorry, but there's a three drink maximum in this bar, and it'll take me at least four Diet Cokes to explain all that. Unless I grossly simplify. And I mean grossly. Dare I? Oh, you know me, I'll take on most any challenge.
Let's consider two sensors, one very small sensor that can capture a maximum of 8000 electrons, and one that can capture 60,000 electrons (these are not arbitrary numbers—I'm kind of generalizing one small sensor I know about and one large one). Let's push things further and say that because the smaller sensor camera needs to be mass produced and made cheaply, we're going to throw an 8-bit Analog-to-Digital converter on it (8-bit ADC). On the bigger sensor, we have to charge an arm and a leg for the camera because of sensor costs anyway, so let's give it a 16-bit ADC.
With me so far? Now let's record a middle gray. (Look away, here comes one of the simplifications.) The 8-bit sensor takes 4000 electrons and the camera's imaging ASIC places that at a value in the JPEG at 128 (actually, most cameras place it lower). It takes about 32 electrons to move to another value (127, 129). Now our big camera grabbed 30,000 electrons and put that same value at 32768. It takes about one electron to move to another value. (Yes, I'm going to ignore Poisson distribution of photons here; just look away when I simplify!)
So which camera is better at delivering information about low-lying detail? The big one, of course. Assuming that its ADC is accurate, it is distinguishing between very small differences in light that the smaller camera must just assign the same value. That's a tiny bit what micro contrast is all about. We've got data that we can move around and establish low-level tonal ramps from low-level edges.
Likewise, this answers the large-better-than-small question, too: we have better data. I'm sure somewhere on this site I've written the words "we don't take photographs, we collect optimal data." (Actually, Ansel Adams was all about collecting optimal data, too, but he did it in the analog world.)
Now, as I wrote many times, this is grossly simplified. I left out gamma, amongst a lot of other things. And lenses can impact micro contrast, because, after all, if the lens isn't passing the detail, the sensor sure as heck isn't recording it.
What's with the dispose of in 10 years symbol on my camera's label?
Ah, government regulation. The bottom of my D5100 has seven government or industry-mandated symbols on it. The one you refer to is a 10 with two arrows circling it. This has little to do with disposing of the equipment. It fulfills a Chinese government RoHS regulation. RoHS is short for Restriction of Hazardous Substances. It appears on items that have lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyls, and polybrominated diphenyl ethers. The 10 refers to the number of years before any of these substances is likely to leak out and cause harm to health or the environment (I believe 10 is the maximum value you can put there even if you're confident that it'll take longer).
Hmm, now I suspect that we'll have a fire sale on D5100's nine years from now. And you thought the EPA was watching out for you.
What's with long exposures using the intervalometer?
Would you believe 30 is really 32?
For some reason Nikon (and others) seem to have not used the right doubling numbers to deal with long exposures. Double 1 second is 2, 2 to 4, 4 to 8, 8 to 16, and 16 begets 32.
Even that's not quite precisely correct. As I point out in my books, a "15 second exposure" on a Nikon DSLR is nominally 16.5 seconds for some reason. A 30 second exposure works out to something over 32 but not 33 for yet more unclear reasons.
But the point is this: if you set the "interval" to 30 seconds, that means 30 seconds between the start of each shot. But if the 30-second shot takes 32 seconds, you're going to lose shots. Moreover, if you've got Long Exp. NR turned On, a 30-second exposure can take as long as 65 seconds on some Nikon bodies (or as little as 45 on others). Ugh.
So if you're trying to do a sequence of long exposures, for example to create star trails, what should you do? Skip the Intervalometer.
Here are the steps:
- Turn Off Long Exp. NR.
- Take a 30 second shot with the lens cap on (this will be your noise reduction shot later).
- Set the camera to Continuous shooting mode.
- Set your exposure manually, choosing 30 seconds for the shutter speed.
- Using a locking remote, hold down the shutter release and lock it.
- When you're done, unlock the remote and the camera will stop firing.
- Batch process your sequence of images with the noise reference you took in Step 1.
Should I cover the logo on my camera with black tape?
Since I just invested in a company that specializes in black tape, I regard this as an excellent suggestion. May I suggest that you use our premium grade tape for your premium grade camera? While you're at it, be sure to use tape to cover the logos on your lenses, camera bags, camera strap, t-shirt, baseball cap, automobile, credit cards...well, basically anywhere you see a company name or trademark. You might also want to use the tape to cover your entire body so no one can see the "I'm a tourist" vibe you give off.
I've never quite understood how people think that taping over the word Nikon (or Leica, or Canon, or whatever) suddenly makes photographic equipment so stealth-like that criminals can't see it or figure out what it is. If you think that a thief will undervalue a big hulking DSLR simply because it has tape over the logo, then you have a really low opinion of the intelligence of thieves.
Can I get a buffer upgrade for my DSLR?
Oh, I'm sorry, we're closed for the season. A couple of Nikon DSLRs have had "official" buffer upgrades available at various times, the most recent being the original D3. Unfortunately, these extra cost options officially ended in late July of 2011. The D3's US$500 buffer upgrade pushed JPEG Fine Large from 52 to 119 images and the worst case NEF buffer from 16 to 36 images. The D3s has the extra memory in it already and didn't need the buffer upgrade. But unfortunately, Nikon no longer has any buffer upgrades available for any DSLR. Since memory is soldered into the main digital board on Nikon DSLRs, there's no user option to upgrade memory.
Why do my JPEG images come out slightly smaller than my raw images?
To get an RGB value for an individual R, G, or B photosite location, you have to look at neighboring photosites. At the extreme edges, there obviously are no neighbors to one side. Nikon uses extra pixels at the edges so that they can run the same demosaic algorithm throughout the JPEG image (i.e., look at all neighbors). Some raw converters, however, will attempt to use photosites right out to the edges, using adaptive demosaic routines to try to calculate a reasonable RGB value when there aren't any neighbor values on one or two of the sides.
My camera just stopped focusing. What do I do?
Things you need to definitely try before punting and sending the camera to Nikon for repair:
- Make sure you haven't accidentally released the lens. On recent Nikons with the bigger Lens Release button, it's very easy to accidentally partially press this button without noticing, and if you did that while twisting the focus or zoom ring on the camera, the lens may not be set right. Unmount and remount the lens.
- Check the settings! Both the lens and the body may have Focus Mode controls, and if any of them are set to Manual focus, that's what the camera does.
- Check more settings. Did you assign focus to the AF On button (or equivalent)? If so, the camera doesn't focus unless you press the button.
- Inspect and clean the contacts on the lens and camera body. On the lens, the little nubs should spring out on being pressed; none should stay depressed. To clean the contacts, use DeOxit, which should be in your regular cleaning kit.
- Inspect the mirror box, specifically the area underneath the shutter. Because the AF sensors point upwards from the bottom of the box, any hair, dirt, or other large gunk that ends up at the bottom of the mirror box may block the focus sensors.
If you have a D3s and focus disappears in low light at random intervals, welcome to the club. I reported this one to Nikon within days of acquiring a D3s and have a long list of complaints from others that have encountered the same thing. The problem is that it is random, happens rarely, and only seems to happen in extremely low light (often light with strong color cast), and usually only when the subject is relatively low contrast. Thus, it's near impossible to replicate, let alone document. Why only on the D3s? Because it's the only camera we'd ever try shooting at extremely low EV lighting values, values that are near the stated minimum capability of the focus system. The solution is usually simple: shut the camera off and turn it back on. Or you can just wait. After a few minutes the camera usually starts acting fine again, which makes me believe that the problem is an internal loop with a long timeout. But it's annoying when it happens.
Why shouldn't I just always shoot in Program mode?
A couple of reasons. First, Flexible Program is just an alteration of the program by an offset. If you use it to dial in a two stop change, things will stay a two-stop change until Flexible Program is cancelled. What that usually means is that you're constantly dialing something new, because what you're really trying to do is set a specific aperture or shutter speed, not adjust "the program."
With the consumer cameras it gets even more likely that'll you'll continue dialing something in, as "the program" is really multiple programs that change with focal length. And in all cases, Nikon's "program" is pretty dumb: it's a linear progression of aperture/shutter speed choices, not a complex "program" as suggested by the name. But the big reason for not using Program exposure mode has to do with flash: it probably won't do what you want it to do. In some cases, you're setting yourself for ambient underexposure due to aperture and shutter speed limitations that Program exposure mode imposes. Given that Aperture-priority and Shutter-priority are both "automatic" exposure modes like Program, there's no real drawback to using them. If the aperture is most important to you, choose Aperture-priority. If maintaining a shutter speed is most important to you, choose Shutter-priority. You'll do a lot less "command dialing" that way than you will with Flexible Program ;~). Really.
How do I set two functions when I only have one button?
"On my D300 I use focus assigned to AF On and set AE-L/AF-L to AE Lock Hold. What do I do on my backup camera which only has one button? (AE-L/AF-L)"
Simple: set AE-L/AF-L to AF On and use Manual exposure mode. Exposure is locked until you change it ;~). Focus still only happens when you press a button.
If DEET is detrimental to plastic, what should I do?
Sign up only for Antarctica trips and take your malaria medication. Seriously, DEET is probably the best of the insect repellants, but it doesn't really work great for photographers. Why? Because if you get any of it on plastic parts of your camera, especially in concentrated form (more on that in a bit), it tends to soften the plastic and lead to some real ugliness. I once saw someone (not me) leave a perfect fingerprint in the top plate of his camera. Nice trick if he needed to ID the camera after a theft, I suppose, but nevertheless a constantly visible reminder of the dangers of DEET around plastics.
So, here's Thom's quick and dirty insect avoidance advice:
- Invest in clothes treated with permethrin. They come in names like Insect Shield, Bug Off, etc., but you can make your own by just buying a bottle of the stuff at your local outdoor retailer. And those should be long-sleeved shirts, full pants, socks, and a hat at a minimum. You want to be fully covered, and you want your coverage to repel insects.
- If you're headed into really nasty bug country, a head net is really useful. And consider some really thin gloves treated in permethrin.
- You're still going to have exposed skin (mostly your neck and head). You can protect your neck with a permethrin-treated buff, or by just keeping collars up and tight. On any remaining exposed skin use a picaridin-based bug spray, if possible. You'll probably have to apply it more often, as my experience says it doesn't last as long at repelling at 33% DEET.
If you have to use DEET, a few things to keep in mind:
- You don't need 100% DEET. Military testing showed that 25-33% concentrations do just fine and higher concentrations really don't add to repellence (they might lengthen the time the DEET works, though). The lower the concentration, the less likely you'll experience the dreaded plastic warp.
- Consider using swipes instead of a spray. The pre-moistened towelette versions allow you to make sure you're only applying it to areas you want to and not to everything via a not-so-well-directed spray. Make sure you wash your hands thoroughly after applying DEET this way. You absolutely do not want DEET on your fingers, palm, and inside wrist, which come in contact with your camera equipment all the time. Likewise, consider not putting any on parts of your face that come into contact with the camera all the time.
- Carry a small towel or wiping cloth. Keep perspiration from dripping onto your equipment and wipe off the equipment itself if you suspect you've gotten DEET directly on it. Wash the towel frequently.
- Keep the DEET itself inside a plastic Ziplock bag. The worst damage I've seen happen with DEET occurred when the repellant leaked in someone's pack and spread directly over equipment.
Has the Nikon firmware been hacked yet?
Yes, some of it has been hacked, with limited success so far. The camera with the most hacks available is the D5100. You can remove the NEF compression, remove the time limit for video, allow JPEG Optimal Quality, and disable the third-party battery check, for instance.
Unlike the Canon cameras, which can execute modifications off of an SD card (external memory), Nikon cameras use an OS and chips that are restricted to execution in in-camera memory. That means that any "hack" has to fit in the firmware space and available internal memory to work. Generally, the higher end the camera is, the more precious that space is. Note that the D5100 options that have been uncovered so far are ones that are implemented in the D7000. The implication is that Nikon crippled the lower end camera intentionally, but uses mostly the same code base between cameras. Thus, there are opportunities for hacking, especially in the lower and midrange cameras.
But a few warnings are in order:
- You can "brick" your camera. A bad hack can render your camera inoperable.
- The hacking community isn't great at documenting. I've seen conflicting and incomplete instructions in the time I've been monitoring this development. Some descriptions are terse, some use technology terms you might not be familiar with, some assume knowledge you might not have.
- You're dependent upon others at the moment. The tools necessary to make any changes are homegrown. Vitaliy has been doing this for awhile now, originally for the Panasonic cameras (he was the source of the GH1/2 hacks), so he knows what he's doing. Still, you're not using tools developed by companies with which you may have some recourse should something fail.
- You're voiding your warranty. Nikon repair won't "un-brick" a camera should that happen to you and it's discovered you're using firmware hacks. They don't want the implied liability that comes with that.
That said, if you're still interested in what's going on, here are two sites to check out:
Which Camera Settings Apply to NEF? To JPEG?
This question is more tricky than you think. Let's look at the SHOOTING MENU items, in particular (so tricky that I got a few items wrong in the original post, now corrected):
Applies to NEF (raw) and JPEG:
- Storage Folder
- File Naming
- Image Area
- Active D-Lighting (deceptive: exposure changes in raw, but otherwise data is untouched)
- Long Exposure Noise Reduction
Applies to NEF (raw) only:
- NEF (RAW) Recording Type
- NEF (RAW) Recording Bit Depth
Applies to JPEG only (but read note at end):
- Image Size
- JPEG Compression
- White Balance
- Picture Control (and all the sub-components, such as Contrast and Sharpening)
- Auto Distortion Control
- Color Space
- High ISO Noise Reduction
But here are the two "gotchas" you need to be aware of:
- Embedded JPEG. All raw files have an embedded JPEG in them, and the JPEG-only settings are applied to that embedded file. That embedded file is what you see on the camera's LCD! Moreover, that embedded file is what is used to calculate histograms and highlights displays on the camera. Since many of those JPEG settings can impact "exposure," you can get misleading exposure information from the camera compared to the actual data being stored in the raw file. See my comment about UniWB.
- Nikon's Converters. By default, Nikon View NX2 and Capture NX2 pick up all the camera settings and use them in a raw conversion. View NX2 doesn't have much ability to override some of those settings, while Capture NX2 has a funky way of modifying them (to change a Picture Control setting such as Sharpening you have to open the Picture Control Editor, which isn't obvious from the UI).
I highly recommend that if you shoot raw that you at least set White Balance and Picture Control settings (and consider which Color Space you're using). If for no other reason you'll get more accurate histograms and highlights displays and you'll have a reference image (the embedded one) that tells you what Nikon thought the scene looked like. It's all much more complicated than even this answer suggests, which is one reason why I write books on these cameras and try to explain all the subtleties and nuances that sometimes catch people unaware.