Conclusion - Pros
- Good resolution and detail, just slight less 'crisp' than the D70/D70s
- Use of default color Mode III delivers punchy vibrant colors
- Low noise even at high sensitivities, better than competitors
- Excellent image parameter control; sharpening, tone, color mode, saturation and hue
- Custom curves allows user definable tone response
- Nikon Matrix metering II , brighter than D70/D70s
- Body design, finish and build quality
- Very fast camera operation, virtually no startup, minimal usage delays
- Larger viewfinder eyecup (less stray light)
- Viewfinder focus screen display of memory card and battery status
- Fast SD write performance
- Excellent continuous shooting buffer usage, slower but more frames in 30 seconds
- Most camera settings available via buttons on camera body
- Lighter than D70 although not as small as Pentax or Canon competition
- Help pages on custom function menus
- Image comment attachment
- Multiple color space support (sRGB, Adobe RGB)
- Orientation sensor for automatic image rotation
- Fully Nikkor lens compatible (plus new DX lenses)
- Large, 2.0" LCD monitor
- USB 2.0 (Hi-speed) transfers
- Value for money
Conclusion - Cons
- Not as crisp (per pixel sharpness) as D70/D70s
- Still some moire / maze artifact pattern visible (noticeably less than D70/D70s however)
- Kit lens performance is pretty average, corner soft, light fall-off
- No Kelvin white balance selection
- No backlight on status LCD
- No mirror lock-up (vibration reduction for long / macro exposures)
- One command dial
- LCD monitor display gamma can make some images appear over-exposed when they aren't
- No viewfinder grid lines (surprisingly useful if you're used to them; D70/D70s)
- No vertical grip (portrait grip / battery pack) available
- Encrypted white balance in RAW files limits third party converters
- RAW+JPEG only captures a Basic quality JPEG
Unlike Canon when they produced the EOS 300D (Digital Rebel) Nikon chose not to cripple their affordable digital SLR. Instead the D50 while lacking some of the D70's features doesn't compromise performance or photographic flexibility, most important for first time buyers who (surely) the manufacturers hope will progress to a more expensive D-SLR later.
The D50's sensor and image processing pipeline are clearly different to that of the D70/D70s, it exhibits fewer of the moire/maze artifacts but at the same time isn't quite as crisp as its 'elder siblings'. That said the D50 is more than capable of producing some fantastic results, and is tuned to deliver bright and colorful images from the first exposure. If this isn't to your taste you can of course configure the image processing to produce D70-like images.
We were probably the most surprised by the D50's noise levels, Nikon has clearly spent time since the creation of the D70 on design changes to keep noise down. The D50 has the lowest noise levels of any of the affordable digital SLR's we've tested (although they're all fairly clean, we're talking fractions here).
The nicest thing about the D50 however is that it just feels right, build wise it's a step above the Canon EOS 350D and Pentax *ist DS, it's also not too small, I'm all for making cameras lighter but there's a limit as to how small you can make an SLR before the hand grip feels cramped and controls begin to get in the way. The D50 feels as responsive as any film camera and is a pleasure to shoot with. The only change I would make would probably be a larger viewfinder view (like that of the Pentax *ist DS).
I'm quite happy to give the D50 our highest rating, Highly Recommended, there's little to dislike and for anyone looking for an affordable digital SLR it has to be seriously considered. My only advice would be to research lenses and decide if you want to go with the Kit or spend a little more on a slightly better lens.