Home   Donate   New   Search   Gallery   How-To   Books   Links   Workshops   About   Contact

Nikon D90 User's Guide:
Front Controls

© 2008 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.
Please help KenRockwell..com

Nikon D90

August 2008    Top of D90 Users Guide    D90 Review    More Nikon Reviews

Want free live phone support? In the USA, call (800) NIKON-UX, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

NEW: Nikon D90 iPod and iPhone App.

Front Dial     top

Used for all sorts of settings. You knew that. It usually changes the aperture setting.

Programmable FUNCTION Button     top

The Function (Fn) button lies under your middle finger. It's in a different location than it is on other cameras.

I program this trick button for many different things depending on what I'm doing.

This button is programmed as explained in Custom Functions.

Depth-of-Field Preview Button     top

The preview button lies under your ring finger.

Tap this to stop the diaphragm down to the taking aperture. The viewfinder gets darker, but look carefully and you can see what's in focus or not. This is a legacy feature from film days. Today most people look at the LCD playback.

Unlike fancier Nikons, you cannot program this to do any tricks.

Nikon D90

Flash control, Nikon D90.

Flash Bolt +/- Button (right side of flash hump as seen from front)     top

Press this to pop up the flash.

This button also sets the flash sync mode and the brightness of the flash. Flash brightness is more formally called "flash exposure compensation."

Press and hold the flash button and turn the front dial to change the flash exposure compensation. This sets the brightness of the flash. + makes the flash brighter, - makes it dimmer. This setting only changes the brightness of the flash while leaving the background (ambient) exposure alone. Set it to - if your subjects are getting washed out. If you run out of flash power beyond 10 to 20 feet, then setting it to + can't make the flash any brighter.

If you set flash exposure compensation to anything other than zero, you'll see a little "+/- bolt" icon in the finder and on the top LCD and INFO panel. This resets when you do a green reset.

Press and hold the flash button and turn the rear dial to change the flash sync mode. You'll see the mode shown on the top LCD (and INFO panel) in the box with the bolt.

Flash Sync Modes (set with Bolt button)      top

Select these by holding down the flash button on the side of the flash hump and spinning the rear dial. Your selection is shown on the top LCD in the box with the bolt, or in the rear LCD if you hit INFO.

Normal (blank on the top LCD)

This is the default position.

In Program and A exposure modes, the shutter won't stay open longer than about 1/60 second.

You can change this 1/60 minimum speed in Custom Setting Menu option e1, which defaults to 1/60 second. I have mine set to 1/30. Set a longer time, like 1/8, to allow more ambient light in the photo and prevent inky black backgrounds. Set it shorter to prevent subject motion blur.

This is brilliant! In the old days we'd have to use Manual exposure to set this to a reasonable number like 1/8. The problem with using the slow mode, explained below, is that in dark locations the shutter may stay open a stupidly long time and ruin the shot. This Custom Setting lets you have the camera adjust itself automatically and stop at the longest time with which you feel comfortable.

I usually use Normal mode, since if I don't I can get some scary long exposures if I'm not expecting them in the dark.

Red-Eye (eyeball icon on top and rear LCDs)

I never use this. It shines an obnoxious light in your subject's eyes for a couple of seconds and then releases the shutter after you've already missed the picture. Use this only if you have some people you want to get rid of at a party.

Warning: If I set the Red Eye mode by accident it bugs the heck out of me, because the camera doesn't go off until several seconds after I've pressed the shutter, but I've set no self timer! It doesn't do much to reduce redeye anyway. Skip this mode. You won't know you've set it, since there is no in-camera indication. If for some reason the shutter seems to have a weird delay, check this!

SLOW (called SLOW on top and rear LCDs)

This mode lets the shutter stay open as long as it needs to so dim ambient light can expose properly with flash. These exposure times can get stupid long, in which case you want to use the setting I covered under Normal.

In daylight, SLOW is the same as NORMAL, since exposure times are short. SLOW unlocks the camera in P and A exposure modes to make exposures as long as it wants to in dim light.

Have a look at most issues of National Geographic and you'll see many indoor shots made in this mode. The background exposes correctly, people may be blurred, and a burst of flash freezes them along with the blurry ghost images.

Normal and SLOW do the same thing in S and M exposure modes, since you or the camera may select any shutter speed in these modes regardless of flash sync.

The default combinations of apertures and shutter speeds do not change in Program mode (they do on some older cameras).

Red-Eye SLOW (eye and SLOW icon)

This is the SLOW mode and redeye. I don't use it for the same reason I don't use Redeye mode.

REAR (called REAR on the top LCD)

When you're shooting with flash and long exposures, this makes the blur come from behind moving subjects.

Normally the flash goes off the instant the shutter opens. This makes sense, but looks stupid if you have motion blur because the blurs will be in front of the moving subject. Select REAR mode to have the flash go off as the shutter closes. Now you'll have motion blurring from behind the frozen flash image, which looks great.

Another reason to select REAR is because people presume photos are made the instant a flash fires, then they leave. This wreaks havoc with long exposures, since people will leave at the beginning of the exposure! Use the REAR mode and the flash doesn't go off until the end of the exposure. You'll also want to select flash lock to eliminate the preflash. Read about programming the FUNC button to do that here.

REAR doesn't do anything with short exposures. REAR also engages SLOW, but SLOW doesn't light up on the LCD until you take your finger off the flash mode button.

Trick Flash Exposure Lock Mode: You can set your FUNC button in the Custom Menus here to lock flash exposure and eliminate preflashes which make people blink.

Nikon D90 BKT button

Nikon D90.

BKT Button        top

This button is used to set the various exposure bracketing modes.

This is a hold-over from film days, and was a bad idea back then, too.

Don't guess at exposures when you can look at your LCD and adjust from there.

HDR weirdoes might like it, but you shouldn't need HDR if you do your lighting and use fill flash properly.

Forget this button.

Nikon D90 lens release

Nikon D90 lens release button.

Lens Release Button        top

Push this button and turn the lens to remove it. It locks automatically when you attach and rotate a lens.

Nikon D90 FOcus Mode Switch

Nikon D90 FOcus Mode Switch.

Focus Mode Switch        top

Leave this at AF. See my complete Guide to Setting the D90's AF System for more.


My D90 User's Guide continues below.

I support my growing family through this website.

This guide is free to read online, but copyrighted and registered. If you haven't helped yet and would like to save or make a printed copy of this article for your camera bag, please send me $5.00 for each complete or partial copy that you print or save, for personal use only. Others charge $29.99 for crappier information, and with your honesty I can continue to offer these guides online for less.

If you bought your D90 by clicking through my links, then you've saved money and also helped me write this guide. Thank you and please enjoy it. It's great people like you, and those who help me otherwise, who allow me to keep adding to this site for everyone's benefit.

The biggest help is to use these links to Adorama, Amazon, B&H, Ritz and J&R when you get your goodies. It costs you nothing and is a huge help to me. These places have the best prices and service, which is why I've used them since before this website existed. I recommend them all personally.

Thanks for reading!


Back to Top of D90 User's Guide or Top of Nikon D90 Review









          a Autofocus

          b Metering/Exposure

          ac Timers/AE&AF Lock

          d Shooting/Display

          e Bracketing/Flash

          f Controls




Home   Donate   New   Search   Gallery   How-To   Books   Links   Workshops   About   Contact