Just bought a Nikon D3400 - what settings should I begin with?

Started 8 months ago | Discussions thread
jdw-photo New Member • Posts: 2
Re: Just bought a Nikon D3400 - what settings should I begin with?

FingerPainter wrote:

There is no one best mode dial setting for all beginners.

Use AUTO if you don't want to think and are happy to let the camera make the choices. Or use it to let the camera make the choices, and then take note of what choices it made and try to figure out why it made them. In Auto mode you are restricted from changing many of the camera's settings yourself.

Use Scene modes instead of Auto to indicate to the camera the type of scene you are shooting. This means the camera doesn't have to make an educated guess about the type of scene there is.

Use the Guide mode, for a guided way of learning to use various controls and perform various actions.

Use P, A or S mode to allow you to have greater control over settings, but still have the camera choose the image lightness. If you want to use P, A or S modes, then take advantage of the fact that you have a digital cameras. Do this by enabling Auto ISO. In P, A or S modes, you are letting the camera decide how light or dark your image will be, though you can adjust that lightness by changing the "Exposure Compensation" setting. in these modes there is almost never a need for you to change the ISO setting yourself if you can get the camera to do so for you as needed. Since you are trusting the camera to set lightness, and ISO is essentially a lightness control, it usually makes sense to leave the ISO setting to the camera. Setting the ISO value yourself just amounts to putting needless constraints on the camera's choices. You may find that a lot of people who learned on film cameras will not understand this. They are used to setting the ISO value first. With film that was pretty much essential. With digital cameras, it is often counter-productive to set ISO first.

If you do not enable Auto ISO, P, A and S modes mostly do the same thing. You point the camera at a scene and half-depress the shutter release. The camera uses its light meter to set a target image lightness, and sets one or both of the aperture and shutter in order to get the target lightness for the ISO setting you chose. If you turn the command dial, the camera will adjust both the aperture and the shutter speed. The adjustment to the two will be by reciprocal amounts, so the image lightness remains unchanged. If the camera is no longer able to get the desired lightness after you turn the command dial, it will Display "Lo" or "Hi" in the viewfinder. To change the image lightness, turn the command dial while pressing the Exposure Compensation button.

The main difference between P, A or S modes when Auto ISO is not enabled is how the camera chooses which aperture and shutter settings to use to get the target image lightness. In S mode, the came uses whatever shutter setting you last used in S Mode, and changes the aperture to whatever value is necessary in order to get the target lightness. If it is unable to get the target lightness with the aperture wide open, the cameras displays "Lo" in the viewfinder. In A mode the camera uses whatever aperture value you last set and adjusts the shutter speed. If it is unable to get the target lightness at the slowest available shutter speed, the cameras displays "Lo" in the viewfinder. In P mode the camera might change either or both of the aperture and shutter to get the desired lightness. If it is unable to get the target lightness with the aperture wide open, and at the slowest available shutter speed, the cameras displays "Lo" in the viewfinder.

When Auto ISO is enabled, the camera acts similarly, except that if the camera encounters a situation where it would have displayed "Lo" had Auto ISO not been enabled, it will attempt to achieve the target lightness by raising the ISO setting.

Hi, new member here.

Sorry, I don't know if there are rules around posting an introduction post before joining in on conversations. I'm also not hoping to hijack the thread, but have a query in relation to the above.

I'm new to DSLRs, and recently purchased a D5300 (I imagine very similar in functionality to the D3400). I'm currently using the AF-P 18-55mm kit lens that came with the camera.

My experience over the last couple of weeks since owning the camera has been really great. My learning curve looks almost identical to the one suggested by bobthearch.

I shoot mostly in either Aperture priority with the occasional need for shutter priority. I have however been giving my best attempts at using manual to get to grips with the impact individual settings have on a shot, especially in non-critical situations where I can take unlimited shots of unmoving features of my garden/house.

I did start out mainly using auto ISO, mostly to streamline the learning experience a bit, and to have one less thing to worry about. I've also set my min shutter speed to 1/60 and max ISO to 6400. I know that the sensors on these entry level models can suffer from excessive noise at higher ISOs, and aren't the best for low light conditions, especially given the higher min f/stop of the kit lenses.

I have however started to move away from the auto ISO. What I noticed is that (for example in aperture priority) the camera seemed to prioritise shutter speed over ISO. That is, it seemed that if the shot would be underexposed, the camera wildly and rapidly moves the ISO all the way up into the undesirable noisier ranges before actually moving the shutter speed. When I'm shooting in A, I'm usually fine with the shutter speed anywhere above my min 1/60 that I can handhold and still get a sharp picture. The camera, or so it seems, is keeping the shutter speed relatively sharp whilst moving the ISO up quite high before compensating with the shutter speed change.

Is this normal, a feature of these cameras/lenses, or am I going mad and imagining it? I've managed to mitigate the effect a bit by using bracketing, giving me a choice of 3 exposures, and then choosing a shot with a nice compromise between shutter and ISO. But what it's pushed me towards is either remembering the settings A chooses at my given aperture, flicking into manual, and then pulling shutter speed down a stop and ISO down a stop to accommodate (there or there abouts).

All this just to stop the camera boosting up into the higher ISO... I mean, surely an ISO of 800+ isn't needed in glorious sunshine. Just had a thought... Maybe my metering is off, I've been using spot metering. Perhaps I should be exposing for the sky, or the lighter tones in the composition?

Anyway, sorry, that was a ramble. All this to say, in response to the quote above, I've actually found that to get the cleaner pics out of my D5300, and likely the other entry level Nikons, that I'm often best off starting with the ISO fixed (at between 100-200) and then only bumping it up as and when needed as a measure when I can't compromise on the shutter speed.

I guess for fast action/moving wildlife shots I'll need to learn to be a bit more adept with shutter priority  and maybe that will be a whole new kettle of fish.

If you're still reading, thanks for staying awake. My question then, is it normal for cameras, or these Nikons, to prioritise the shutter speed over the ISO in aperture priority when using autoISO? How does the camera decide whether to reduce shutter speed or increase ISO? As said above, I've been using manual ISO as I've found the camera's decision making to be a bit questionable... But it could all just be me not using it properly!

Thanks for any help


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