Defending Nikon's Menu Banks

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AlexBlct Junior Member • Posts: 49
Defending Nikon's Menu Banks
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After using a D7000 for a few years, I bought a used D800 about a year ago. Trying to understand how the menu banks in the pro bodies worked, I was at first a bit disappointed because I thought that Nikon's implementation of the menu banks was weird and not really useful. Reading some forums at the time, I came to the conclusion that most Nikon users thought the same, and never used the menu banks. So, I simply added my most used settings to the "My Menu" to access them more quickly every time I needed to change something.

But I got back to this a few weeks ago, this time digging in the user's manual and doing some deeper googling to figure out what these banks were about. To be fair, the manual really is not super clear, especially if you have very little prior understanding of the logic of these banks. But I must admit that I am now loving these banks a lot, and I find them to be really useful. I now think that most complains about these banks come from confusion about how they work. So I thought that I would describe a bit how I use these banks, and perhaps other people can chime in as well. Hopefully, our experiences will help some users understand how useful these banks can be.

But, first, how do these banks work?

There are 2 independent banks (Custom Settings Bank, and the Shooting Menu bank), each containing 4 slots (A, B, C, D) to memorize settings. The Shooting Menu bank (SMB) deals with pretty much anything that happens after the shutter is released. This goes from file naming and organization, to picture quality, to any tweaking you may want to do by default to your jpeg files. To me, this is the least useful of the two banks, but I still use it. The most useful bank to me is the Custom Settings Menu bank (CSB), it deals with everything that comes before you take a photo. That is autofocus, metering, timers, camera controls and so on. The two independent banks can be used in whatever combination you want.

To modify a bank, you do not need to save anything, you just have to be using the specific bank, and any modification that you make to the settings while using that bank will be memorized. Now, what is memorized in a bank is the stuff that is included in that bank. So for instance, if I am using the CSB-A and I change from Jpeg to Raw+Jpeg, that change will NOT be memorized in CSB-A since this specific setting is in the SMB. The change will be memorized in whatever SMB I am happen to be using at that moment. But, if I change the function associated to the Fn1 button, this change will be memorized automatically in the CSB-A. I think a lot of people are confused about what is in CSB and what is in SMB. Sometimes they change a setting that belongs in SMB, thinking that it is memorizing in a CSB, and then they come back to the CSB to realize that nothing has changed in that bank. So again, just be mindful of what settings belong to which banks. The stuff that comes before you press the shutter is in the CSB, the stuff that comes after (or that relates to how the data is treated) is in SMB.

Some people complain about the fact that you don't need to save anything to modify a bank because if they happen to make a modification to a bank and then come back to it later, the bank is no longer how it was supposed to be set up in their mind. I can understand this confusion, but I think that this is again coming from a misunderstanding of how to use these banks. The thing is that once your banks a set up, I see very little reasons to modify any of them. I may tweak a bank now and then if I find that what I initially thought would be useful for a certain bank turns out to be better with another setting, but I see literally no reason to be constantly changing stuff in these banks.

So, how do I use these banks? Obviously, my use is dictated by the kinds of things that I shoot, but I hope that you will find some inspiration for your own shooting.

Custom Settings Banks

A -> Normal.

B -> Tripod

C -> Flash

D -> Amateur

In the four banks, the AE-L button is set to the first item in "My Menu", which happens to be the CSM. This makes it very easy to quickly switch between them.

Slot A is essentially for handheld shooting, and it's my general default bank. The most important stuff in this bank is how the camera controls are set up. The preview button is set to spot metering, Fn1 to viewfinder virtual horizon, movie record button to ISO, AF-On for focusing.

Slot B is for landscape or macro, or pretty much anytime my camera is on a tripod. This slot mostly differs from slot A by the following stuff:

- Exposure delay mode is set to 2 seconds. I typically shoot my landscape using live view, so this acts as a delay after I touched the shutter (if I happen not to be using a remote)... and it has the advantage of not doing the annoying beeps that the self-timer does. So, even if the mirror is already raised (since I am in live view) this is useful because it is equivalent to a shutter delay.

- the preview button is set to 1 step spd/aperture instead of spot metering. This is useful when I use neutral density filters. If I use a 6 stop ND, then I only need 6 clicks to compensate instead of 18. Plus, spot metering is useless when I shoot landscapes because I use the live histogram to establish my exposure.

- The record button is set to Image Area instead of ISO. I never "pre crop" images, but since I love using the 8:10 aspect ratio, I like to use this function while I am composing. Moreover, when the camera is on the tripod, the dedicated ISO button on top of the command wheel is easier to use anyway, so having a dedicated ISO button for the right hand is not really useful in these situations.

Slot C is for flash. It differs from bank A only in that a switched a few of the function buttons so that they instead control stuff that is related to flashes. So, in this bank I "sacrifice" how I really like my function buttons to be set up in order to have better controls over the flash. I very rarely use flashes, so I rarely use this bank.

Slot D This is for when I let my camera to somebody else. The main modification from slot A is that in slot D the camera uses the shutter button to focus. This avoids having to explain people how to use back button focus, only to get back home and find out that they did not understand anything you said.

Shooting Menu banks

A -> Normal.

B -> Speed

C -> Bracketing

D -> Panorama

A is the default slot that I use 95% of the time.

B is for when I need more speed from the camera. The D800 is not a speed monster, but it can get to 5 fps when using the 1.2 crop mode or lower. So, this bank automatically switches to a 1.5 crop mode. Also, in order to gain every bit of buffer, this bank turns any stuff that may overload the buffer too quickly. So, in this bank I only shoot 12 bit jpeg, with all of the noise reduction, lens correction or whatever else turned off. Hence, this transforms the camera into a 5 fps, 16 Mp DX camera with a respectable buffer. That's pretty much 1 fps from being a D7000.

C and D are for bracketing and panoramas. The only difference between these and slot A is the naming of the files. Shots that are part of a bracketing sequence are named "BKT" when I use the C bank, while those that are part of a panorama are named "PAN" by simply selecting slot D. This is useful to identify which files are part of this kind of sequence once when you get back home.

So, these banks are very useful to me. The Custom Settings Banks are much more useful than the Shooting Menu banks, but these a very useful as well.

There are 2 things that I would like Nikon to tweak about this system.

1. Having the option to use the "Menu" button in combination with the main and subcomand dials. Pressing the menu button and turning the main dial would change the Custom Settings Banks, while doing the same with the subcommand dial would change the Shooting Menu banks. That would be even quicker, and it would free my AE-L button for other stuff... this may be even more important since new pro bodies no longer have that button.

2. I would be nice to be able to set the picture controls in the CSB as well as in the SMB. I understand that this typically comes "after" you press the shutter (hence it makes sense that it is in the SMB), but for those of us using the live histogram (and therefore using a flat picture control to get the most accurate histogram possible), picture control also comes "before" we press the shutter. Hence, I would love to be able to automatically set my CSB slot for landscape so that it automatically use the flattest picture control.

So, hopefully this has been helpful to some!

 AlexBlct's gear list:AlexBlct's gear list
Nikon D800 Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G ED Tokina AT-X Pro 100mm f/2.8 Macro
Nikon D7000 Nikon D800
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