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Nikon D50 Review

July 2005 | By Phil Askey


Review based on a production Nikon D50, firmware 1.00

Digital SLR's are quickly becoming the fastest moving segment of the digital camera market, this means more new digital SLR's, more competition and lower prices. The Nikon D50 is introduced as a more affordable and easier to use version of the D70 which was released just under fifteen months ago. Anyone who has seen or handled the D70 will immediately see a strong resemblance in the D50, it's only when you start to examine the camera in a little more detail that you notice the differences (we've detailed them below). Clearly the D50 is designed to compete with other affordable digital SLR's such as the Canon EOS 350D (Digital Rebel XT), Pentax *ist DS and Olympus E-300.

Differences between D50 and D70/D70s

Although quite similar in use and appearance there are some noteworthy differences between the D50 and D70, we have detailed all of the feature / specification differences in the table below. To summarize the most important; the D50 has improved auto focus especially in the area of motion tracking, it has a new auto AF mode (which automatically switches between single and continuous AF depending on the subject), it has a lower resolution metering sensor but that sensor is a newer generation than the one used in the D70 (and D70s) - spot metering circle is also larger, the maximum shutter speed is 1/4000 sec, continuous shooting is 2.5 fps, it has a better viewfinder eyecup, the LCD monitor has increased to 2.0" in size, the D50 takes SD cards (not CF), it's slightly smaller and lighter than the D70 and several features have been removed or simplified to make the camera easier to use.

The only key difference between the D50 and D70 from an image pipeline point of view is that the image processing algorithm has now been tweaked to improve rendition of highlight detail (to clip less and have a softer roll-off to the highlight). It's also worth noting that the D50's default color space mode is IIIa which is still sRGB but is described as being optimized for nature and landscape photographs, you can see the difference in the sample on this page of our D70 review.

 

Nikon D50

Nikon D70/D70s
Body colors Black and Silver Black
Medium image size 2256 x 1496 pixels 2240 x 1488 pixels
RAW format Uncompressed NEF Compressed NEF
AF modes AF-S, AF-C, AF-A (Auto) AF-S, AF-C
AF algorithm Improved speed and accuracy, especially motion tracking n/a
Image processing Improved highlights rendition n/a
Scene modes Auto, Portrait, Landscape, Child, Sports, Close-up, Night Portrait Auto, Portrait, Landscape, Close-up, Sports, Night Landscape, Night Portrait
Default color space IIIa (sRGB nature & landscape) Ia (sRGB portrait & natural look)
Metering 3D Matrix Metering II 3D Matrix Metering
Metering sensor 420 segment RGB (2nd gen.) 1,005 segment RGB
Spot metering 3.5 mm circle (2.5%) 2.3 mm circle (1%)
AE Bracketing 3 frames 2 or 3 frames
Sensitivity steps 1 EV steps (ISO 200 - 1600) 1/3 EV steps (ISO 200 - 1600)
Auto ISO Yes, with min shutter speed selection Yes
Max shutter speed 1/4000 sec 1/8000 sec
Continuous shooting 2.5 fps 3.0 fps
WB fine tuning No Yes
Hide picture (Play) No Yes
Small picture (Play) Yes No
New Pictbridge menu Yes No
Custom functions 20 25
Flash coverage 18 mm 20 mm
Viewfinder eyecup DK-20 (larger) DK-16
LCD monitor 2.0", 130,000 pixels D70: 1.8", 130,000 pixels
D70s: 2.0" 130,000 pixels
Power EN-EL3 Lithium-Ion D70: EN-EL3 Lithium-Ion
D70s: EN-EL3a Lithium-Ion
Charger MH-18a (smaller) MH-18
Storage Secure Digital (SD) card Compact Flash card
USB 2.0 (Hi-Speed) 1.1
Menu languages 13 10
Dimensions 133 x 102 x 76 mm
(5.2 x 4.0 x 3.0 in)
140 x 111 x 78 mm
(5.5 x 4.4 x 3.1 in)
Weight (no batt/card) 540 g (1.2 lb) 595 g (1.3 lb)
Command dials One rear One front, One rear
AE Lock button AE/AF Lock, AE Lock, AF Lock, AE Lock Hold, AF-ON, FV Lock AE/AF Lock, AE Lock, AF Lock, AE Lock Hold, AF-ON
Continuous / Self-Timer Separate buttons One button
Bracket button No Yes
Wireless flash No Yes (commander mode)
Viewfinder grid No Yes, optional
Control Panel lamp No Yes
Monitor cover No Yes
Lock switch No Yes
DOF preview button No Yes
4-way controller in play mode Up / Down = Display mode
Left / Right = Browse
Up / Down = Browse
Left / Right = Display mode
Browse with command dial in play Yes No

Two new AF-S DX lenses

In addition to the D50 Nikon has also announced two new AF-S DX lenses, the 18-55 mm will become the 'Kit lens' (adding just $100 to the price of the camera) and the 55-200 mm offers a lightweight and affordable 'big zoom' addition which when combined with the Kit lens will provide a 27-300 mm equiv. FOV coverage. In comparison to the Canon equivalent lenses these two both feature Silent Wave Motor (SWM) technology which means faster focusing and near silent operation. Click here for an image of the D50 with the 18-55 mm lens mounted. (Canon do a version of the EF-S 18-55 mm with a USM motor but only standard in Asia).

AF-S DX 18 - 55 mm F3.5 - F5.6G ED
(27 - 82.5 mm equiv. FOV, 3x zoom)
Also available in silver
AF-S DX 55 - 200 mm F4.0 - F5.6G ED
(82.5 - 300 mm equiv. FOV, 3.6x zoom)
Also available in silver


If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read the Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).

Conclusion / Recommendation / Ratings are based on the opinion of the reviewer, you should read the ENTIRE review before coming to your own conclusions.

Images which can be viewed at a larger size have a small magnifying glass icon in the bottom right corner of the image, clicking on the image will display a larger (typically VGA) image in a new window.

To navigate the review simply use the next / previous page buttons, to jump to a particular section either pick the section from the drop down or select it from the navigation bar at the top.

DPReview calibrate their monitors using Color Vision OptiCal at the (fairly well accepted) PC normal gamma 2.2, this means that on our monitors we can make out the difference between all of the (computer generated) grayscale blocks below. We recommend to make the most of this review you should be able to see the difference (at least) between X,Y and Z and ideally A,B and C.

This article is Copyright 2005 Phil Askey and the review in part or in whole may NOT be reproduced in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from the author. For information on reproducing any part of this review (or any images) please contact: Phil Askey

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