Nikon D50, 18-55mm Kit Digital SLR Camera Review
I like taking photos, and I’m sure many of you enjoy it as well. Probably most of you have some sort of camera, whether it be digital or film. I’m the kind of person who takes pictures of anything, small or big, weird or normal, everything.
Nikon is a familiar name to all of us. They started producing lenses and optical glasses in 1917. Recently, Nikon has had a bit of resurgence in the face of heavy competition due to their new D70 DSLR camera, a very advanced and professional-grade camera. The D70 is not the kind of camera most users are ever going to need, much less purchase.
Today I will review Nikon’s latest camera which is slotted below the D70 series, the D50. This camera is aimed at the “pro-sumer” market.That is consumers who are seriously into using digital cameras and have moved beyond the entry and intermediate levels but are not going to go for National Geographic professional equipment.
Unlike many of the items we review here at ModSynergy, the Nikon D50 was not supplied by the company. Deciding that I needed to step up from a point and shoot camera into the world of DSLR, I shelled out approximately $1000+ dollars (CAN) on the Nikon D50 with the 18-55mm lens kit. In the process, I saw my entire summer job money fly away from my hands! So this review is on a unit that is right off the shelf and what a typical user will encounter. We subject it to our standard review process, starting with its packaging, specifications, construction, and then getting into real-world usage.
The Nikon D50 comes in a quite large rectangular style box with the camera predominantly shown on the front and on the back. On the side of the box contains information on what is included with the camera and features of the Nikon D50.
Full specifications can be found here – Nikon D50 specifications
What are included with the Nikon D50 18-55mm lens kit are the following items…
The Nikon D50 at first glance seems to go against the current trend for traditional point and shoot cameras. It is obviously bigger, coming in at a pproximately 5.2 x 4.0 x 3.0in. However, in the digital single lens reflex camera community, it is currently one of the smaller cameras. As the saying goes, “the bigger, the better”, and in the case of DSLR it usually is as that reflects the larger CCD and additional electronics. For some DSLRs, that extra size can make for awkward handling. But the D50 is so well balanced I quickly grew accustomed to it. In fact, I now find that my old camera feels comparatively awkward.
The Nikon D50 body
The exterior of the Nikon D50 is made of what seems to be hard textured plastic. It’s very rugged in strength with no parts of it being flimsy in any way. There is lots of grip room on this body. The right rear of the D50 provides a thumb-shaped grip which is more rubbery than the rest of the body. I would have liked if Nikon also provided that same rubbery grip on the front left of the camera so the user would be holding essentially two rubber grips. But for the most part, the camera is comfortable in the hand and is rugged enough for the dangers in photography.
The front portion of the D50 features a couple of things. First, in the upper left of the camera there is an LED which is the AF Assist Lamp which can also act as a self-timer lamp. Second, on the bottom right hand corner, right beside the lens mount area, are the Auto-Focus switch and the Manual mode switch. Just above that is the lens release button. Right above that button is the flash pop-up button. These controls are all easy to access and use.
On the rear of the camera, Nikon simplified the control layout compared to the D70 control layout. On the left side there are 6 buttons all having their own functions. Some of these buttons also work in addition with the dial situated on the upper right. These are multifunction buttons. For example if we press and hold on the “WB” button and rotate the dial, you can see on the top LCD that you changing which white balance presets that you want to shoot on. On the right side we have the control dial where you can go up, down, left and right. Below is the “trash” button and AE-L/AF-L (auto exposure lock, and auto focus lock respectively) button.
On the top of the camera we have a couple of things. From left to right contains the dial switch, hot shoe for external flash, LCD displaying things such as f-stop, shutter speed, number of images remaining, resolution, and accounting for the “2-in-1” button that I was talking about previously. Unfortunately, Nikon chose not to provide a backlight for this LCD to save costs. I recommend getting a cheap keychain LED light to help out on this absence for bad light conditions. The ON/Off button is controlled via a rotating switch, the usual fashion of Nikon digital cameras. The last two buttons pertain to the self-timer button and exposure compensation controls. What do all these buttons mean to you and me? It tells us that we will need to learn lots of things to grasp the full potential of this camera! Bring out the thinking caps, folks.
The camera’s side profile contains the SD card slot and opposite ends provides the USB, AC/DC output, and video-out connections.
On the bottom of this camera contains a metal tripod mounting hole.
Since relative newbie’s to the world of digital photography may pick up the D50, Nikon decided to provide “Digital-Vari Programs”. These programs are on the dial and are for many different situations where shutter speed, white-balance and other options are optimized for that specific event. We have the fully AUTO mode, Portrait mode, Landscape mode, Child mode, Sports mode, Macro mode, Night-portrait mode and other manual modes which include P, S, A and M.
The Nikkor 18-55mm lens
This lens is the kit lens that comes with the Nikon D50. In the box comes the lens, manual, lens cap, and lens cover which you should use when swapping out lenses.
The Nikon 18-55mm lens is a lightweight (3.0x optical) lens weighing in approximately 210g and is part of the new DX family of Nikon lenses specifically made for the DSLR range of cameras. This lens comes with the rated f-stop speeds of f3.5-5.6 so it is relatively quick.
The lens barrel contains rubber that is not very rubbery but gets the job done. Twisting the zoom, the torque is quite easy to turn without any major resistance. Just beside the zoom barrel is a switch relating to AUTO and Manual. Funny thing is that you can’t use the manual mode because the lens is AF-S (Auto Focus Servo). Thus you cannot manually override the focus.
The 18-55mm lens comes with SWM technology. ‘Silent Wave Motor’ is Nikon’s name for the auto-focus motor. Thankfully when in use, this lens is quiet and does not sound loud when focusing.
One of the biggest cons with this particular lens is the mounting frame on the D50’s camera body. It’s plastic, not metal. The lens, on the other hand, is metal. If you happen to knock this lens while on the body, there is a chance the frame might break.
Using the Nikon D50
I will base this review on the quality of the images, which speak for themselves and are ultimately what the photographer cares about...
I have to admit, I am completely in love with my Nikon D50. It feels comfortable in my hands. It performs admirably, is quick to handle, and offers a lot of room for improvement as a photographer. In fact, there are just so many things to learn with this camera that it consumes me.
From the time you turn on the Nikon D50, it’s ready to use instantly just like the old film SLR cameras. So you will not miss as much as before if your point and shoot camera took a couple of seconds to be ready to actually shoot. And when taking snapshots, you hear the shutter go off, just like a “real” camera – this isn’t a special effect, this is the real shutter sound which cannot be shut off.
The Nikon D50’s 2.0” LCD display is sharp and is good for outdoor use, although it can be deceiving at times because the ambient light will take away brightness from the LCD display. There were times when pictures I reviewed on the LCD looked so bad I deleted them. However, after transferring some of these “bad” pictures to my computer, I was surprised to see that they turned out perfect! I need to have faith on the D50’s ability and not rely on the LCD as much.
The LCD displays a couple of things you can use to your advantage when reviewing your photos. It has the specifications for the images you have taken, can supply magnification to check for blurriness, can check for blown highlights, and even supplies a histogram. I especially like the histogram because if one learns on the use the histogram correctly, then it will become more reliable than just viewing the images off the LCD. Remember, the LCD can sometimes be deceiving due to its small size.
It is worth to note that the 2.0” rear LCD is only able to review the images. You cannot use this LCD to frame your shots as compared to point and shoot cameras in which you can. You must utilize the viewfinder. And speaking of the viewfinder, the one on the Nikon D50 is a little bit smaller than the ones you would find and use on regular SLR cameras. When using the viewfinder, there are 5 focus points in the viewfinder that you can manually select for focusing. At the bottom of the viewfinder is than array of information, such as f-stop, shutter speed, if flash is needed, shots remaining, and more. This information means you don’t have to shift your eyes to the top LCD screen and away from the viewfinder.
There are many great features on this camera. One I really like is the ability to shoot continuously. The Nikon D50 has the capability of shooting in continuous fashion at up to 2.5 frames per second depending on the performance of the SD card in use.
After taking your photos, you will connect the D50 to your computer and appreciate that it is USB 2.0 Hi-Speed enabled. This will ensure that you are downloading your photos at the highest possible rate possible.
After two months of use, the cons I’ve identified include the lack of a backlight for the top LCD, lack of rubber grip, overexposure with the firmware version 1 (can be fixed by tuning the exposure back to -0.7), and some soft images due to the lens. Other than that, there are so many pros to this camera that the cons seem like nothing.
Before I forget, the battery life on the Nikon D50 is simply amazing, I can literally go without re-charging for many days. Depending on types of usage, Nikon claims up and sometimes more, 1000 shots. I can testify that indeed I have went over 1000 shots many times.
Image ISO Results
Here is a comparision between ISO values 200, 400, 800, and 1600. Note that the lighting conditions were not the brightest so outdoor results will be a bit better than what you notice here. With that said, you can see at even 1600 ISO, it is still usable. At ISO 200, the images that the Nikon D50 produces have very little noise.
Image Quality Results - 56K no no
Nikon supplies a driver CD and software CD in the Nikon D50 package. The software they provide is Nikon PictureProject and NikonCapture. PictureProject is a program in which you can organize and modify your photos. It’s a simple program that is well laid out and is easy to navigate. You can edit your photos by changing their colors, sharpness and crop pictures to enhance them. Also, this program gives you the ability to quickly email photos, run slideshows, and burn photos onto CD or DVD. The NikonCapture program is much more complex than PictureProject and allows you to use your camera to the fullest extent possible. It has more ability to completely edit your NEF files in ways PictureProject cannot. The NEF files are Nikon’s way of saying RAW files. This program has also other unique features such as taking pictures through the USB connection, checking for dust, and much more.
Unfortunately when purchasing this camera over $1000, Nikon chooses to bundle NikonCapture as only a trial-version, which truly does suck. I would have liked it if Nikon supplied full version of this program, but this is not the case. I guess they have to make money somehow.
I like the Nikon D50 a lot. I am satisfied with my purchase and have no regrets in spending over a thousand dollars on this camera. It feels great, shoots great, and even smells great! ;) If you are interested in buying this camera, I would advise you to look at purchasing the Nikon D70 kit lens. This is an 18-70mm lens which is a better lens in every way. While the 18-55 lens works, it’s really for beginners or people on a budget like I was. It still produces good images with nice colors but sometimes can be a bit soft. I should note that, when this occurs, the picture can be fixed with the in-camera sharpening. The kit lens is not the best of lens, but certainly not the worst either.
All in all the Nikon D50 will surely bring lots of people more within reach into the world of DSLR photography.
Pros and Cons
+ Strong and comfortable body
+ 2.0 inch LCD screen which is brilliant to view
+ Great images
+ Lots to learn
+ Digital Vari Program modes
+ Pricey but now within reach
+ ISO 1600 is totally usable
+ Firmware can be updated
+ Very little noise in images
- Top LCD has no backlight
- Tendency to overexposure within firmware version 1.0
- Kit lens isn’t the best, however isn’t the worst
- One pays $1000+ dollars to have the NikonCapture software to be a trial version