Announced in April of 2005, the D50 is Nikon's entry level digital SLR. It's in the same family as the D70s and D200. Included are a 6.1 effective megapixel Nikon DX Format CCD sensor and the next generation of in-camera processing including seven digital scene modes. It's designed to be easy to use and easy to hold with a lightweight body. Included is a large 2.0-inch LCD inch screen, a refined 5-area auto focus system, continuous 2.5 frames per second frame-rate, and Nikon's 3D Color Matrix Metering II. All of this comes in at a fantastic street price of $509.95, for body only.
Price: $509.95 US
Nikon D50 Pros and Cons
Long battery life
Nikon consistent 1.5x digital crop factor
Impressive focusing with an improved AF algorithm
On camera scene mode assistance
Flash sync to 1/500th of a second
Uses Secure Digital (SD) memory cards
Only one control for both aperture and shutter speed
Introduction After recently reviewing the Nikon D70s, and many point-and-shoot digital cameras, I was interested in testing the D50. The manual and Nikon's marketing material indicates that this camera is designed for the beginning photographer and who wants a simple camera that can deliver superb results. The Nikon D50 digital SLR may just be the best value in its class. The goal of this review is to confirm or deny whether the D50 lives up to the hype and the Nikon name.
Nikon D50 Design
The moment I picked up the camera I noticed the solid feel. Even though the outer body is mostly made of a plastic, there are key areas in the grip and eyecup that are made of rubber. These provide comfortable and secure contact points to the camera. The eyecup and viewfinder provide a bright and comfortable view. The monitor is bright and very crisp with good contrast. Nikon's display is easily viewed in daylight and the especially large text makes for easy menu navigation. When you turn on the camera it's ready to go without delay. Even functions like image playback and viewing are quick. As you take photographs you will enjoy 2.5 frames per second up to a total of 137 frames. All of the controls are in typical Nikon format and easily reached by small and large hands alike.
The D50 is quite easy to use and the design is fantastic. A photographer can choose from Auto, Portrait, Landscape, Child, Close up, Sports, or Night Portrait scene modes (called Digital Vari-Programs by Nikon). If you don't know what a particular scene mode is for, you can press the question mark button on the back of the camera and a description of that scene mode will be displayed on the D50's LCD. Having on-camera scene mode assistance is important since this camera relies heavily on these modes. One of the scene modes I really liked was the Child program. It's set up to capture photos of children with just the right amount of saturation and color. The Nikon D50's scene modes are really a menu of common photo subjects that many people want to photograph. Programming the camera settings to emulate certain photo styles allows the photographer to concentrate on the moment and just take photographs.
As mentioned in my Nikon D70s review, the Nikon flash system is one of my favorite things about using Nikon SLRs. You can use iTTL flash controls in combination with the kit lenses and the SB-600 or SB-800 Speedlights. With other flashes, manual flash exposure is necessary. If you upgrade to a non-kit Nikkor lens, then you can use iTTL flash with most of the Nikon flash system. The flash button near the pop-up flash quickly changes the flash mode. Options are normal sync, red-eye reduction, red-eye reduction with slow sync, slow sync, and rear-curtain sync. Even with the entry-level target market, the Nikon D50 has top quality flash control.
There are a couple of D50 design decisions that I don't understand - the minimum ISO speed and the SD memory card slot. Allowing only SD memory cards is confusing. They are standard in most compact digital cameras. So it helps photographers who are upgrading. But most digital SLRs use CompactFlash cards. A photographer using the D50 will have to buy new memory cards if they upgrade to a Nikon D70s or D200.
Regarding the D50's minimum sensitivity, I am baffled that Nikon chose ISO 200 as the lowest available sensitivity setting. For my main subjects - landscape and portrait photography - I really need the low noise performance of ISO 100. The ISO 200 minimum is probably to prevent photos lost to camera shake. By raising the sensitivity, Nikon ensures a higher percentage of "keepers" for less experienced photographers. As with the camera's scene modes, Nikon is taking away the need to think technically and allowing the user to concentrate on the subject. It would be nice if the D50 offered ISO 100 in manual, aperture, and shutter priority exposure modes and only had the ISO 200 minimum in the program modes.
Nikon D50 playback display, with histogram
Nikon D50 main menu
Nikon D50 detailed playback display
Nikon D50 Playback display
Camera Experience For a camera that costs barely over $500 dollars, the D50 is a great performer. Auto focus is fast and accurate, allowing for great impromptu photographs. I cannot say enough about Nikon's ergonomics and how well the controls are laid out. When I turn on camera it's ready to shoot, focus, and capture an image. Having a rubber grip on the camera makes the Nikon D50 feel like it's stuck to your hand. The camera's minimal weight and a super-long lasting battery made shooting all day fun and trouble-free.
The D50 lacks some of the controls of the D70s and other higher-end digital SLRs, such as white balance fine-tuning and separate shutter speed and aperture controls. Sensitivity can only be adjusted by full stops compared to 1/3 stop adjustments on the D70s. There's also no Auto Exposure Bracketing button - standard on most Nikon digital SLRs. Even so, the improved 3D Matrix Metering II, improved image processing, and AF algorithm provides excellent and reliable results. Automatic white balance was actually better than the D70s, so the need to fine tune isn't needed. Overall the D50 is a great performer that helps make photography fun.
Image Quality One word: "wow!" When I compared images from the D70s and the D50 the D50 photos were cleaner and had less noise. Even at ISO 1600 images were very acceptable. Nikon used to have a problem with high-ISO noise, but it looks like that is behind them now.
Shadow detail is excellent and provides detail in both highlights and shadows. In Carmel I took a couple of images of a brightly lit alley with dark shadows. Shadow detail was good, straight from the camera.
With my Canon digital cameras, I had to do a lot of color correction when I downloaded from the camera. The images I downloaded from the D50 were spot on and had very accurate color. It was nice to see images come straight from the camera with color that was very close to the original scene.
Click on thumbnails to view sample photos.
Click on thumbnails to view sample photos.
Conclusion The Nikon D50 lives up to its promises and is a quality camera inside and out.
I am a control freak and giving up some control for the sake of automation had me worried. Needless to say, the results speak for themselves and I am very impressed. There is little sacrifice to be made with the D50. I made a big decision after reviewing this camera. When I realized how much fun it was to use the Nikon D50, I sold all of my Canon gear and switched back to Nikon. The D50 and the D70s performed so well for me, I felt completely comfortable making the switch. I recently bought an F6 and a D200. And I wouldn't hesitate to buy the D50 for a travel or vacation camera.
Who Should Buy The Nikon D50 If you are just stepping into the digital SLR arena and haven't invested in any lenses yet, then the Nikon D50 may be the camera for you. Anybody who enjoys taking photographs and doesn't want the shutter-lag typical of a point-and-shoot digital will enjoy this camera. I told my mom to buy a D50 and I would recommend it to anybody.
The only question is whether you should invest a little more to buy the Nikon D70s or a Canon Rebel XT. If the Nikon D50 fits your needs and price range, buy it. The D50 has something to offer almost anyone.
Strengths: Grab it and go. Very user friendly. Uses cheap AF lenses. Results are excellent.
Weaknesses: If the lens isn't locked into the smallest (F22) aperture it won't shoot; and gives you a code. If you're not carrying the manual (like I wasn't) I had to wait until I returned from the mountains before I could look up the stupid reason it wouldn't shoot. My ignorance, but it wasn't helpful.
Got spare battery and charger from Ebay, about a dozen lenses none of which were over $150 and most were in the $50 range. Slightly used. Also got a D60 for a backup but it only uses the 18-55 AF lens so I've got a 55-200 coming just for it.
The D50's currently wearing a 75-300 Tamron and once I got used to it it's awesome.
Found out you have to manually hardlock it into the smallest fstop or it won't shoot. Operation is sweet, easy. Stick it on auto and go for it. SD cards are fine, but some won't work in the camera. Stick to name brands.
Lenses for the D60 contain the motor and are usually much more costly. I got one again for under $150 so my complete gear, two cameras, two lenses, two bags, all the manuals, caps, filters, SD cards and spare batteries and I'm still WAY under a grand. All the AF lenses work fine on the D50; Quantaray, Sigma, Tamron and even a Soligor. Happy.
Similar Products Used: D60 bought for a backup, as it uses more expensive lenses but has 10 megapixels.
Many Pentax film cameras. I have no idea why I went Nikon instead of Cannon; I had a Cannon which I gave to my kid when the Nikons came along.
Type of photography: People
Date Reviewed: June 3, 2009
Strengths: -High Consumer Reliability Index
-Compatible with past AF lenses
-Still Competitive Performance
-Maximum Flash Sync of 1/500th
-Low cost vs. performance ratio
Weaknesses: -Plastic Body
-No DOF Preview
-No built-in Commander for Speedlights
I bought the D50 used as a supplement to my D300 for commercial work. I shoot mostly events, weddings, and portraits, and my style is predominantly photojournalistic, so having an extra body with an additional lens attached makes things a lot easier. The D50 was Nikon's first foray into entry-level DSLR manufacturing, and as such, it has understandable weaknesses, like 3fps, no DOF button, plastic body, etc. However, for my applications, it does an excellent job as a second body, for the price I paid.
It is also worth noting that the D50 is a traditionally reliable camera, so if you see one pop up (in 2009) for a good price, I wouldn't hesitate getting it. And for someone just starting out, it is absolutely ideal, considering that its ergonomic qualities make learning photography a breeze, and you would, in addition, have access to an affordable array of past, AF Nikkor lenses to buy used.
quality out of the camera
Weaknesses: If i must grine , the only thing i miss a bit is the DOF button but that's all
Yeah yet another review about this Suberb piece of Nikon Microelectronics in the DSLR (Digital Single line Reflex)
I have had many other camera's but when i bought this one i had done extensive research on the type i was going to buy. Bought it as backup camera but love it so much that it now is the second main carera on equal level with my D70.
the reason for nuying this camera are the perfect iso performance ( much better than my D70) and the size and weigth and the quality of the shots directly out of the D50
it is more than entry level to me i rate it prosumer because it has so much to offer for such a small prize
Strengths: Very good high ISO noise performance, 800 looks fine and 1600 is usually OK with a little cleanup.
Great Infrared sensitivity, this is my main camera for IR photography.
Will work with older AF lenses (using the focus motor in the camera). The D40/D60 only works with the newer AF-S lenses.
The camera is very straightforward to use.
Good battery life.
Shoots in Raw (NEF) and Jpg format.
Very good image quality.
Weaknesses: The only battery grips are aftermarket
Burst speed (3 FPS) is slow compared to newer cameras, burst is only good for 3 shots or so when shooting Raw.
Is kind of smallish in size, plastic build.
Will not meter with old AI lenses, they have to be used old school with entirely manual settings.
Can be durable, they are rated for only 10-15,000 actuations before the shutter goes, D50 #2 has 43,000 and D50 #1 has 8,000 going on three years of use.
SD card support only, but then SDHC didn't exist when they made this.
The D50 is a nice beginner/introductory camera, good for people getting their first SLR or needing a backup camera. I've had my first one for just over about three years, and my second I got a few months ago.
Strengths: -ISO performance
-Ability to use so many quality lenses
-Impressive battery life (500-900 shots without flash, per battery charge) I have 2 batteries
-LCD screen (in 2005, it was very good) Canon owners were envious !
-Durable (contrary to popular belief, the SD memory card door is just fine! It's NOT cheap. No problems AT ALL!)
-Many quality lenses to pick from!
-I shoot 99.99% of the time in RAW and the 13" by 19" prints from my Epson R1800 printer look wonderful !
-Virtually instantaneous start-up.
Weaknesses: -Auto White Balance once in a while.
-Only 5 Auto focus points.
-No gridlines in the viewfinder. I've deleted so many sunset shots because the horizon wasn't level.
-Viewfinder is small.
-Slight over exposure in bright situations.
-shot counter only goes to 9999 wish it had 5 digits
This is my first Digital SLR . I've had point and shot cameras over the years for vacations, but that was about it . On Christmas 2005, I received a Nikon D50 . Boy was I shocked ! The next,day I immediately went to compare the D50 and the Canon XT at the store before I even opened up my D50 box at home . I decided on the D50 because it was easier to use/better ergonomics and it had a higher quality feel . Well, it's over 2 years later and this beauty of a camera has taken over 65,000 shots and it's showing no signs of slowing down ! Photography is an enjoyable hobby for me . Wether it's the zoo, the beach, the park, or anywhere else, the D50 performs WONDERFULLY ! Next year I am going to purchase the D90 with my tax return .
I give this camera a 5 out of 5. I've read other reviewers give the D50 a lower score. Remember, this was the entry level camera in 2005, not 2008! I still think it's a wonderful camera 3 years later, even compared to the D40, D40x, or the D60. The D50 has an internal auto focus motor where as some other cameras don't have this. Currently, I have some prime lenses that otherwise, would be very difficult to use if that autofocus motor wasn't there.
Auto Flash • Front Sync Flash • Rear Sync Flash • Red-eye Reduction Flash • Slow Sync • Manual
With LCD Panel
LCD Panel Size
LCD Screen Resolution
LCD Protected Position
Without LCD Protected Position
2 Sec. • 20 Sec.
Without Built-in Microphone
Without Built-in Speaker
With Tripod Mount
Apple Mac OS 9 • Apple Mac OS X • Microsoft Windows 2000 • Microsoft Windows 98SE • Microsoft Windows ME • Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition • Microsoft Windows XP Professional
Software • USB Cable • Video Cable • Lithium Battery • Battery Charger • Strap
Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL3
Without Built-in Microphone
Without Built-in Speaker
Without Digital Zoom
Auto w. scene modes, Programmed Auto [P] with flexible program, Shutter-Priority, Aperture Priority, and Manual, with 3D Color Matrix Metering II, spot meter, exposure compensation, exposure lock, and Auto Exposure Bracketing