Digital Outback Photo
- Photography using Digital SLRs


Nikon D50 Experience Report

A review diary by Uwe Steinmueller @Digital Outback Photo

Also photos by Bettina Steinmueller



Diary Index


Note on image processing:

As usual we work only with raw files and use RawShooter essentials 1.1.3 (with preliminary support for the D50 - as shot WB not working yet) and Nikon Capture 4.3 as reference. Because RSE is free you can do your own tests with the RAW file we provide (see below). You have to use "click WB" or set the color temperature/tint manually to get a correct WB though.

All images are also sharpened using EasyS Sharpening Toolkit and tonality tuned with our Tonality Tuning Kit (e.g. mid-tone contrast and opening up shadows).


7/30/2005 Getting Started

The D50 is Nikon's answer to Canon's 300D and 350D. The D50 is a bit stripped down from the D70 (our review) in size and features.


The D50 has the usual Nikon multiplier of 1.5. We did not try the new kit lens (AF-S DX 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G ED. We are already certain that saving on lenses is not a good idea for this camera.

First Pictures

Today we did only our usual walk in Los Gatos:

Ristorante in Los Gatos

Crop at 100% magnification

Original RAW can be downloaded from here (5.5MB).

You can only use this file for your own tests as all copyright is U&B Steinmueller. Do not publish any derived images.

We took all our test images today with the AF-S 28-70mm lens. This is a great zoom but also probably out of the price range for most D50 buyers. We use good lenses to be more limited by the camera's capabilities than by the lens.

We actually like the first results:

  • Good colors
  • Detail expected at 6MP
  • Low noise at ISO 200

The camera is quite a bit smaller than the D70 but feels still good in our (small) hands. The viewfinder is pretty good in its class. No problem for us at all.



What about noise? We used RawShooter Essential 1.1.3 with no extra noise removal. We shot once again the Los Gatos Bear Cafe at different ISO levels:

The following crops are all at 100% magnification.

Note: The D50 was used with the AF-S 28-70mm (excellent and expensive zoom).

Nikon D50

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

The ISO up to 800 looks really good for the D50 and you can make even useable shots at 1600 if you use extra noise removal software.

What about only one command dial? This is clearly not as good as having two. But pressing the "+/-" while using the command dial to change aperture is ok. We use manual mode all the time and don't feel really handicapped.

So far we feel home with the D50.

7/31/2005 Finding a matching zoom

There is an old rule: Save on the body and spend on lenses.

This rule was from the old film times where you could put the best film into any camera. Today a digital camera is body and film in one. This means you have to watch that your DSLR is good in terms of digital imaging.

The reality is different: Oh, this camera was so expensive and now I have hardly any money for a lens. Let's start with a cheap do-everything lens. Of course your dealer has many great bundles in stock.

For some people this maybe just fine and they never find out the difference. But many will find out that you cannot replace a good lens by a lower quality one. At that point all your old photos had been degraded by your too simple lens.

We checked out some of the Nikon options.

  • AF-S 28-70mm f/2.8 (mounted)
  • AF-S 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G DX, D70 kit lens (right)
  • AF-S 18-55 f/3.5-5.6 G DX, D50 kit lens (left)

Rule of thumb for zooms: More weight means better quality and higher price :-)

We photographed a very inspiring :-) brick wall to show the differences. Be aware that this is not a scientific lens test.



All photos were taken from the same position, at about 55mm focal length, processed with RSE and EasyS Sharpening Toolkit in exactly the same way.

Center 100% magnification
Corner 100% magnification

AF-S 28-70mm f/2.8



AF-S 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G DX



AF-S 18-55 f/3.5-5.6 G DX



There is no real surprise here: The most expensive lens wins. This does not really mean that we now want you to buy an AF-S 28-70mm f/2.8 lens as a companion for your D50.

Here are some more reasonable suggestions:

  • Do not buy the kit lens AF-S 18-55 f/3.5-5.6 G DX and degrade this fine camera
  • Buying the AF-S 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G DX maybe ok
  • Check out the Tamron SP AF 28-75mm f/2.8 XR Di lens (we use one on the Canon 1DS Mk. II) for a ok lens and great value for the money, all these lenses vary in quality from one sample to the other).
  • Get some good prime lenses and a good 55mm Macro. Prime lenses most of the time beat even the top zooms hands down.
  • Zooms with a ratio above 3-4x are rarely very good and/or get heavy/bulky. A zoom is always a compromize and the larger the range the harder to get right.

We took also some real photos today

We love to take test shots in Alviso (joined today by our friend Jim Collum). Not only for the nice brick walls but for other photo opportunities. Here are some shots from today (nice overcast):

Mural Detail

Weathered Wall

Also in round two we had quite a bit of fun using the D50.

Some Glitch: At some point we got a bad exposure and the camera did not show a proper f-stop but "--" instead. We have no idea what happened but a quick on/off operation fixed the problem. We had issues like this with other cameras (different manufacturers).


8/4/2005 First Look at the Nikon AF-S DX 55-200mm f/4-5.6 Zoom

The range of this zoom (you may have to buy it with a kit) has an equivalent angle of view of 82-300mm on a full frame sensor. This lens covers a very attractive tele range.

Initial tests show that it may be pretty good for the price point (about $250 in the kit) at least at 200mm. The lens is very much plastic only but in the end the image quality counts.

We will give this lens a workout over the next few days.

We really would like to see from Nikon (and Canon too) a zoom of this focal range with fixed f/4 and image stabilization. In this range image stabilization can make a big difference. Price point could be about $500-600.

8/6/2005 New Nikon D50 Gallery, Big Sur with Nikon AF-S DX 55-200mm f/4-5.6 Zoom

We used yesterday the Nikon AF-S DX 55-200mm f/4-5.6 Zoom exclusively at our trip to Big Sur (see also our article "Chasing the Fog"). We are very satisfied with the D50 using this inexpensive zoom. Here are some shots:

These photos are also part of our new "Nikon D50 Gallery".

The D50, Nikon AF-S DX 55-200mm f/4-5.6 Zoom and the AF-S 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G DX provide you with a very light and yet complete travel kit. Add a 2GB SD card (we use a card from ATP) and you are ready even for an intensive day of shooting (a 2 GB card can hold about 300 of the D50 RAW files).

8/7/2005 Nikkor 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 IF-ED AF-S

We did not check out this lens ourselves but a reader mentioned this lens as a good value for under $400.

Here is a review by Thom Hogan.

As mentioned before that hardest part for any camera owner is to get the right lenses:

  • Focal Range
  • Quality, quality, quality
  • Weight and size
  • Price

The lenses make your images sharp/soft not the camera!



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