Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Nikon Releases the New SB-910 Speedlight Flash Unit

Nikon has released a brand new Speedlight flash unit, the SB-910. Here is their official press announcement:

MELVILLE, N.Y. (November 29, 2011) – Today, Nikon Inc. announced the addition of a new flagship speedlight, the powerful and capable SB-910 speedlight. Building on the versatility of Nikon’s Creative Lighting System (CLS), the SB-910 incorporates an enhanced intuitive operating system and graphic user interface (GUI). The SB-910 speedlight comes equipped with a wide zoom range covering the most popular focal lengths as well as FX/DX-format identification that optimizes zoom settings based on the camera body. This new speedlight also provides more efficient battery usage as well as an enhanced Thermal Cut-Out function. [End Press Release]

The new Nikon SB-910 Flash Unit 

The new SB-910 is an accessory-shoe mounted Speedlight made for both FX and DX format Nikon DSLR cameras. It will work with the COOLPIX P7000 camera also. It has both wireless remote commander and slave unit capabilities with up to four channel (1–4) operation. When used in Commander mode it can control up to three groups (A, B, and C) of an unlimited number of other Nikon speedlight units. It can control remote Speedlights of the following types when used as a commander:

  • SB-910
  • SB-900
  • SB-700
  • SB-R200

Any particular group can have any number or mixture of the speedlights in the list. Nikon does not specifically list the SB-800 Speedlight in its specifications, but since the SB-800 is fully CLS compatible, you should expect that the SB-910 can control it too. Nikon calls this "system integration." I call it cool!

It uses Nikon iTTL (intelligent through-the-lens) metering when used on-camera or in a group of remote slave flashes. This allows the flash to share exposure information with any Nikon camera compatible with Nikon CLS (creative lighting system). It has manual mode with "Power Ratio", three illumination patterns to allow for specific lighting arrangements, and a wide zoom range (17–200mm).

The controls on the camera have been "strreamlined" by Nikon for easier operation. They added a dedicated Menu button to make it operate more like Nikon DSLRs when accessing the menu system. Here is a look at the back of the SB-910:

Nikon SB-910 back, showing the streamlined controls

Nikon has "improved" the thermal cutout protection on this flash. If you recall, when the older flagship SB-900 flash was released, there was a great outcry about the flash unit "overheating" and shutting down at inopportune moments. The SB-910 changes how the flash reacts to high-heat situations. Instead of cutting off the flash when it gets hot, the flash merely slows down recycling time to prevent overheating. Sounds like a good idea to me, as long as it is not too overenthusiastic in preventing minor overheating.

Some have complained about Nikon flash filters fading or wearing out. Nikon has solved that issue by creating two "hard" color-correction filters specifically for the SB-910 Speedlight: the SZ-2TN Incandescent Filter and the SZ-2FL Fluorescent Filter. Both snap on like the diffusion dome. They should be easier to use and last longer in high-volume usage environments. Also, here is a look at the new SJ-3 regular filter set for the SB-910 Speedlight:

Nikon SJ-3 Color filter set for the Nikon SB-910 Speedlight

The SJ-3 Color Filter Set allows you to modify the SB-900 Speedlight flash output to match the lighting of the background scene when shooting under fluorescent or incandescent lighting. It includes eight colors: FL-G1 (fluorescent), TN-A2 (incandescent), Blue, Yellow, Red, and Amber. There are a total of 20 filters in the set.

Additional accessories include (see: : 
  • SU-4 Wireless Remote TTL Flash Controller (US$120)
  • SC-28 and SC-29 Coiled Remote Cords (US$81 and US$112)
  • SW-13H Diffusion Dome (US$16.50)
  • AS-21 Speedlight Stand (US$9.50)
  • SZ-2 Color Filter Holder (US$13)
  • WG-AS1, WG-AS2, WG-AS3 Water Guards (US$35.50 each)
  • SS-910 Soft Case (US$36.50)
  • SZ-2TN Incandescent Filter (Snaps on like a diffusion dome for US$11.95)
  • SZ-2FL Fluorescent Filter (Snaps on like a diffusion dome for US$11.95)

Of the above mentioned accessories, these are included in the box with the SB-910:
  • AS-21 Speedlight Stand
  • SW-13H Nikon Diffusion Dome
  • SZ-2FL Fluorescent Filter
  • SZ-2TN Incandescent Filter
  • SS-910 Soft Case

Technical Specifications

Commander Function:  

Remote Function:  

Guide Number:
34 m/111.5 ft. (at ISO 100, 35mm zoom head position, in FX format, standard illumination pattern, 20°C/68°F) to 48 m/157.5 ft. (at ISO 200, 35mm zoom head position, in FX format, standard illumination pattern, 20°C/68°F)

Electronic Construction:
Automatic Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistor (IGBT) and series circuitry

Flash Exposure Control
  • Distance-priority manual flash
  • i-TTL Balanced Fill-Flash with CLS compatible cameras
  • Manual Flash (with Nikon Creative Lighting System digital and 35mm SLR cameras) 
Lens Coverage:
  • 8 to 11mm (DX-format, Automatic mode with built-in wide-angle panel deployed)
  • 12 to 17mm (FX-format, Automatic mode with built-in wide-angle panel deployed)
  • 12 to 200mm (DX-format, Automatic mode)
  • 17 to 200mm (FX-format, Automatic mode)
Illumination Pattern:
The light distribution angle is automatically adjusted to the camera's image area in both FX and DX formats:
  • Standard
  • Even
  • Center-weighted
Other Available Functions
  • Test Firing
  • Monitor Pre-flashes
  • AF-assist illumination for multi-point AF
  • Modeling illuminator
Bounce Function (Tilt)
Flash head tilts down to 7° or up to 90° with click-stops at -7°, 0°, 45°, 60°, 75°, 90°.

Bounce Function (Rotate)
Flash head rotates horizontally 180° to the left and right with click-stops at 0°, 30°, 60°, 75°, 90°, 120°, 150°, 180°

Minimum Recycling Time
  • 2.3 sec. (approx.) with Ni-MH (2600 mAh) batteries
  • 3.0 sec. (approx.) with Oxyride™ (1.5V) batteries
  • 4.0 sec. (approx.) with Alkaline-manganese (1.5V) batteries
  • 4.5 sec. (approx.) with Lithium (1.5V) batteries
Flash Duration
  • 1/880 sec. at M 1/1 (full) output
  • 1/1100 sec. at M 1/2 output
  • 1/2550 sec. at M 1/4 output
  • 1/5000 sec. at M 1/8 output
  • 1/10000 sec. at M 1/16 output
  • 1/20000 sec. at M 1/32 output
  • 1/35700 sec. at M 1/64 output
  • 1/38500 sec. at M 1/128 output
Required Power Source:
  • Four 1.2V Ni-MH (AA-size) batteries
  • Four 1.5V Alkaline-manganese (AA-size) batteries
  • Four 1.5V Lithium (AA-size) batteries
Optional Power Supplies: 
  • SK-6 Power Bracket Unit, SD-9 High-Performance Battery Pack
  • SD-8A High-Performance Battery Pack
Flash-ready Indicator
  • Rear and Front lights blink: Insufficient light for correct exposure (in i-TTL, Auto Aperture flash, Non-TTL Auto flash, or Distance-priority manual flash operations).
  • Rear lights up and Front blinks: recycled and ready to fire.
Ready Light:  

Flash Compensation:
–3.0 EV to +3.0 EV in increments of 1/3 steps in i-TTL auto flash, Auto Aperture flash, Non-TTL auto flash and Distance-priority manual flash modes

Custom Settings
  • AF-Assist Illumination
  • Modeling Illuminator
  • Monitor pre-flashes
  • Test firing
Minimum Number of Flashes / Recycling Time
  • 110/4.0 – 30 sec. (1.5V Alkaline-manganese)
  • 125/3.0 –30 sec. (1.5V Oxyride™)
  • 165/2.3–30 sec. (Ni-MH (eneloop))
  • 190/2.3–30 sec. (2600mAh Ni-MH)
  • 230/4.5–120 sec. (1.5V Lithium)
Wireless Flash Modes:
  • Master
  • Master (RPT)
  • Off
  • Remote
  • SU-4

Wireless Communication Channels
Four: 1, 2, 3 and 4 Channels

Wireless Groups
Three: A, B and C

Other Functions

  • Firmware update
  • ISO sensitivity setting
  • Key lock
  • Recalling the underexposure value in the TTL auto flash mode
  • Resetting the settings
  • Improved Thermal Cut-out

3.1 x 5.7 x 4.4 in. (78.5 x 145 x 113mm)

Weight (Approx. without batteries)
14.8 oz. (420g)

Supplied Accessories
  • AS-21 Speedlight Stand
  • SW-13H Nikon Diffusion Dome
  • SZ-2FL Fluorescent Filter
  • SZ-2TN Incandescent Filter
  • SS-910 Soft Case


The SB-910 is Nikon's new flagship Speedlight Flash Unit. It is going to sell in the US$500+ range, with a suggested retail price of US$549.95.  With Nikon's new minimum pricing structure, I wouldn't expect a lot of discounting. Here is a link to for the Nikon SB-910 Speedlight Flash Unit. Support this blog by buying from my link, please ( It is currently listed at US$549.00.

The Nikon SB-900 and SB-800 should now drop in price as the market is flooded with older flash units, so those wanting a more powerful flash unit can look into the new SB-910 or find a good used SB-900 or SB-800.  The SB-900 is going to remain available as new stock, at least until stock runs out.

You can view sample photos created with the Nikon SB-910 at the following website (case sensitive):

We have an excellent choice of Speedlights available for our Nikons. Now is the time to get a new flash unit for yourself. Check out the new flagship SB-910, or find a less costly unit. Either way, why use anything but a Nikon flash unit on your Nikon camera?

Keep on capturing time...
Darrell Young
See my Nikon books here:

Friday, November 25, 2011

PhotoPlus Expo 2011 and New York City

During the recent PhotoPlus Expo in New York I was privileged to spend three days with Jorg Muhle and Julian Buhler of Germany; and Devon Bell of California. My publishing company, Rocky Nook of California, had a booth at the Expo and I had the privilege of being one of the hosts.

The booth presented Rocky Nook's books for photographers,'s Fine Art Photography, and c't Digital Photography magazine, which Rocky Nook is co-publishing. Here's a picture of the crew in our booth at the Expo:

Left to right: Darrell Young, Jorg Muhle, Devon Bell (and baby), Julian Buhler 

Since this blog is about both the PhotoPlus Expo and New York, I'd like to discuss a couple of favorite companies of mine in the early part of this blog (part 1) and later show you some pictures from two enthusiastic Nikon photographers—my wife and I—as we experience the fast times of New York with our cameras up to our eye (part 2).

Part 1 – PhotoPlus Expo 2011

There were a lot of people at the Expo and hundreds stopped by our booth to get discount coupons for Rocky Nook books (including mine),'s Fine Art Photography, and to see the newly introduce c't Digital Photography Magazine. I had the opportunity to meet several readers of my Mastering the Nikon DSLR books, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Darrell and Brenda Young at the PhotoPlus Expo Booth

Left to right: Brad Berger of, Hendric Schneider of, Jorg Muhle and Julian Buhler of c't Digital Photography Magazine

Darrell Young and Brad Berger of Berger Bros Digital Photography & Video 

I was pleased to meet Hendric Schneider of and Brad Berger of Berger Bros Digital Photography & Video of Long Island. I have spoken to these friends on the phone but was especially glad to see them in person. I buy all my Nikon cameras and accessories from Brad Berger, so he made a special trip to meet me when he heard I was going to be at the Expo.

Each morning of the Expo hundreds of people assembled just outside the main entrance. As soon as they dropped the rope the mad rush began:

Attendees waiting patiently for the rope barrier to be removed.

Here they come! See all the new Nikon bags, ready to collect goodies?

The Nikon booth was very popular

People lined up all day long at the Nikon booth to see presentations and experiment with all the current Nikon DSLRs, Nikkor lenses, and the new J1 and V1 ILC cameras. It was gratifying to see all the interest in Nikon.We had a great vantage point being just across the hall from Nikon's huge area.

Nikon didn't release any new DSLRs at the Expo, although I can understand why due to the massive flooding in Thailand and recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Nikon did have up for display their new Nikon 1 (J1 and V1) Interchangeable Lens Cameras (ILC). I recently blogged about this new line here. Although not DSLRs the new Nikons are an exciting addition to the line for Nikon shooters. The cameras are small, high quality, and have interchangeable lenses. They ought to make excellent party and vacation cameras for those times when you don't want to carry a larger DSLR.

Devon Bell and Brenda Young prepare the Nikon bag full of hundreds of entries for the Rocky Nook and c't Digital Photography sweepstakes drawing. Expo attendees wait in hopes they will be the winner. (You didn't have to be present to win.)

Rocky Nook and c't' Digital Photography held a drawing on Saturday at noon for some nice items. Here is the winner announcement from c't' Digital Photography's Facebook page:

"Congratulations to B. Carmine, the winner of the Sigma Corporation of America 50mm lens and Lowepro Pro Runner 200 backpack as well as other goodies from Rocky Nook, photography, and c't Digital Photography."

Overall, PhotoPlus Expo 2011 was a great success and a really good time for all involved. I can't wait until next year!

Rocky Nook Publishing Company

Rocky Nook's books are very popular with photographers. They are very high quality in print, and many come in eBook formats too. The authors publishing with Rocky Nook are some of the best and most experienced authors and photographers around.

I've been writing for Rocky Nook since my first book, Mastering the Nikon D300, was released in October 2008. The company is rare in its concern for both authors and readers, in my opinion. The staff at Rocky Nook—including Joan Dixon, Managing Editor; Gerhard Rossbach, Publisher and CEO; and Devon Bell, Sales and Marketing Manager—are all exceptional people.

My experience with the company has been a pleasurable one. If you really want to learn the deep techniques of excellent photography, buy a few Rocky Nook books. Download their 2011 catalog (PDF), and from the subject matter you'll see what I mean:

The visitors at the Rocky Nook booth were many and varied and, in addition to the Rocky Nook books, seemed especially interested in c't Digital Photography magazine.

Devon Bell discusses c't Digital Photography magazine with an Expo attendee

A local New Yorker examining a c't Digital Photography Magazine.  Many people subscribed on the spot!

c't Digital Photography Magazine

Let me tell you about the new c't Digital Photography magazine. They are a quarterly German magazine brought over to English, new to the USA, and somewhat different from most American magazines. You are familiar with the German attention to detail, I am sure, and the magazine is no different from other fine German creations. It is a physically larger magazine than most, along the size of the photography magazines from the UK. It is also much thicker than most magazines, with extremely in-depth articles. For instance, the article on 3D photography in the 5th issue goes out to 35 pages, with several sections. In fact, the magazine averages about 20 pages per article, which is unheard of in American mags.

When you sit down to read c't' Digital Photography you'll feel more like you are reading a book. That's been my experience, and I'm totally hooked. I am keeping each magazine on a shelf, sort of like a reference book. It costs a little more than many American magazines at US$14.95 per issue, but there is so much more reading material that I would dare say that one issue of c't Digital Photography magazine is equivalent to three or four issues of most American magazines.

Each issue of the magazine comes with a DVD including video tutorials, software, and sample photographs. Here's a PDF file showing the contents of the DVD from issue six, which includes a complete eBook copy of Torsten Andreas Hoffmann's new Rocky Nook book The Art of Black and White Photography, not even released until January 2012 (a US$44.95 value). The DVD by itself is worth the subscription price!

This is no light weight, advertising filled, fluff magazine that is encouraging you to feel good about the latest camera release (buy, buy, buy!). Instead, it is designed to actually teach enthusiast photographers several new things in each issue. In fact, it is billed as an "in-depth quarterly for the photo enthusiast." I heartily agree! I just got an email from Devon Bell about a special subscription offer for the magazine, good until December 31, 2011 (I get no commission). Here's what she wrote:

Subscribe now through December 31st and get a 5th issue free - a savings of over 30% off the newsstand price! 

Please enter Offer Code 1104DD05 in "Comments" field of the online order form to receive your 5th issue. The Comments fields is found at the bottom of the order form here:

Subscriptions are $49.95, with 4 Issues per Year – Offer Expires 12/31/11

Learn more about c't Digital Photography by visiting them at or joining them on Facebook or Twitter:

I highly recommend c't Digital Photography Magazine to my enthusiastic photography friends. Its value exceeds the cost of the subscription. You'll prize each issue like a book and keep them for future reference.

Special note: I need your help! I really want to see c't Digital Photography Magazine survive and thrive here in the USA. Subscribe, or at least pick up a copy on the newsstand. If you like it (I know you will), please let other photographers know about the magazine. Word of mouth means a lot for the success of a new magazine. Will you help spread the word, please? As photographers with Facebook, Google+, and blog accounts, we are a force to be reckoned with. Please help me take this viral. Thanks!

Part 2 – Touring the Big Apple

Moving on to some experiences with the incredible New York City. My wife, Brenda, and I enjoyed Wednesday October 26th and Sunday, October 30, 2011 in the Big Apple. We traveled around New York on the subway and had some great experiences.

Here is the camera equipment we were carrying for the New York excursion. Brenda packed light, I had a lens in each coat pocket to keep from attracting any attention to myself with a camera bag:

  • Nikon D300S body
  • AF-S Nikkor 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6G VR lens
  • AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G lens (Read my review of this lens here)
  • Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX lens
  • 32 gig memory card and spares

  • Nikon D7000 body
  • AF-S Nikkor 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G VR lens
  • Nikon SB-400 flash unit
  • 32 gig memory card and spares

Our first stop in Manhattan was the World Trade Center site and the new enormous World Trade Center buildings. Here is a picture of them under construction. They are standing in the original locations of the former Trade Center buildings:

World Trade Center Buildings under construction on October 30, 2011

If you want to visit the actual Trade Center Site you must arrive early or schedule in advance. They only allow a limited number of people on the site each day. You can get more information about visiting the World Trade Center site here:

Here are a couple of pictures of the World Trade Center Memorial Center on 20th Avenue with one of the new buildings in the background and inside the memorial center:

The World Trade Center Memorial Preview Site on 20th Avenue in New York with one of the new Trade Center buildings in the background.

Inside the World Trade Center Memorial Preview Site on 20th Avenue

I saw something inside the memorial center that was quite humbling to me. They have a piece of one of the beams from one of the towers that fell.  It is warped and twisted like molding clay from the intense heat and pressure:

A piece of a supporting beam from one of the collapsed World Trade Center buildings. It is warped by the heat and pressure of the collapse. Very humbling when you realize what this beam represents.

New York Subway

My wife and I had never ridden the subway before and it was quite an experience. Sort of like riding on a flat roller coaster with very fast starts and stops that will knock you down if you are not prepared. I now understand why the subway cars have hand rails all over the place. You need them!

11-year old subway dancer makes $200 per day

Here is a young lad that we met on the subway. He waited till the cars were rolling, whipped out a boom box, and proceeded to lay some cool Michael Jackson dance moves on us. Of course, everybody in the vicinity added a dollar bill to his cap afterward. We asked him how much he makes per day and he said, "about $200." Not bad for an 11-year old! My wife asked him about school and he said his mom won't let him subway dance unless he is regular at school. His brother makes about $300 per day doing something similar on the subway. New York natives!

We learned all kinds of cool terminology that New Yorkers must know, such as "Uptown, Midtown, Downtown, what a borough is, and how to figure which subway train to take." We found out that if you stand around looking dumbly at the signs saying A,B,C, 1,2,3 that New Yorkers ignore you soundly but other tourists walk up and ask if you know how to interpret the signs. You can tell the tourists by their open maps and confused faces. After a few trips uptown and downtown, we got the hang of how things worked and lost our fear of being trapped forever on a moving subway train going who knows where. If confused, take the A train, it'll get you somewhere eventually!

Central Park

We next toured Central Park only to find that the snow storm from the night before had done some major damage to the trees. I heard there were over 1000 big limbs down in the park. Trees and branches were down everywhere from the high winds and heavy, wet snow.

Here's a picture of the Maine Monument at the entrance of Central park near West 59th street. This monument was created for 260 mariners that lost their lives in the harbor of Havana, Cuba on February 15, 1898. Their battleship exploded and sank. Spain declared war on the USA in April of 1898:

The Maine Monument. The gold sculpture on top was cast from the metal of the Main battleship that sank in 1898 killing 260 mariners. This monument was built from donations over a period of time, including lots of pennies from school children.
Read the story of the Main Monument and the events surrounding the sinking of the Maine Battleship at this website:

We strolled around the partially snow covered grounds of the park. Here is my wife Brenda, with her trusty Nikon D7000 on the famous Pine Bank Arch cast-iron bridge you see in nearly every TV show and movie shot in Central Park:

Pine Bank Arch cast-iron  bridge in Central Park, notice the tree on the left is down across one end of the bridge. We had to climb through the tree to get on the bridge. Brenda is in the middle for this picture.

Brenda with her Nikon D7000 in Central Park on the famous bridge

Central Park with downed tree limbs all around

Staten Island Ferry

After leaving Central Park, we headed back down the subway (downtown) to take a ride on the Staten Island Ferry and get a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty. Here are a few shots of the ferry ride. It was windy and fun!

Entrance to the Staten Island Ferry

Looking back at the end of Manhattan Island from the outside deck of the Staten Island Ferry

One of the Staten Island ferry boats returning on its round trip from the island to Manhattan. Two ships passing at sunset.

The Statue of Liberty from the Staten Island Ferry at sunset

Times Square

Next on our tour is the world-renowned Times Square. It's a place of people, noise, movement, and lights; especially at night! As Tennessee hillbillies (Jed Clampett and I are cousins), we just stood around with our mouths hanging open looking at all the lights. People never stop on the square, 24-hours per day. Weather doesn't matter either. New York and Times Square never sleeps! Look at these pictures and a four minute video I shot with my Nikon D300S:

Brenda and her D7000 at Times Square. There is no need for flash here at night, except for a little fill!
Cars and people and bicycle buggies, all night long!

Time Square and New York Never Sleeps!

My Nikon D300S Video of Times Square at night on YouTube (Kindle Touch and Keyboard viewers do not show this video. See it here: online instead)

Empire State Building

Our final event before leaving New York was a trip up the Empire State Building. You can go up to the observation deck on the 86th floor at a cost of US$22 adults and US$15 children. For an additional US$15 you can go even higher to a deck on the 102 floor. Brenda and I dutifully paid our US$44 to go see the sights from on high. We were hearded like cattle around and around, back and forth, floor after floor, multiple elevator rides, metal detector, empty your pockets and remove your belt, x-ray machine of your items in baskets, explain the lenses in your coat pocket, and finally to the 86th floor. Whew! However, the trip was worth it once we got there. Here are a few pictures and a video to see what I mean!

The Empire State Building in New York City

Nikon D300S and AF-S Nikkor 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6 G VR lens handheld shot from the 86th floor of the Empire State Building at Night

Chrysler Building, Nikon D300S and AF-S Nikkor 16-85mm f/3.5-5.6 G VR lens handheld shot from the 86th floor of the Empire State Building at Night

My Nikon D300S Video of Manhattan at night on YouTube (Kindle Touch and Keyboard viewers do not show this video. See it here: online instead)

We greatly enjoyed our trip to New York City and the PhotoPlus Expo and would like to thank Rocky Nook and c't Digital Photography magazine for letting me be a host at the booth. It was fun and exciting to meet so many nice people and even some of my book readers. It was also great to discover what is now my favorite digital photo magazine.

New York was an experience of a lifetime. Everyone should go there at least once. I've never seen anything like it! I can't wait to take my wife and my Nikon back to New York again. Let's hope we can do it again in 2012 at the next Expo. Thanks for reading my blog. I hope I've captured a tiny bit of the flavor of New York and allowed you to take a short trip of your own.

Keep on capturing time...
Darrell Young
See my Nikon books here:

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Nikon GP-1 GPS Unit Review

As Nikon DSLR users we have a choice of many fine accessories for our Nikon cameras. Our Nikons are part of a "system" of lenses and accessories that make our choice in camera brand one of the wisest and most efficient in the world.

When you travel to far off places, it's good to have a GPS unit in your car to find where you are going. Wouldn't it also be nice to have your camera record GPS coordinates to each picture you take so that you can find your way back to a specific spot for future photography? With the Nikon GP-1 GPS unit, your Nikon DSLR can do just that! Let's see how it works.

Nikon GP-1 GPS Unit

I bought a Nikon GP-1 GPS unit a few years back when I wanted to write about it in one of my books. It's a great addition to any Nikon photographers accessory collection. Nikon's GPS takes up little space in any size camera bag and works very well in the field.

Figure 1 – Nikon D7000 with a GP-1 GPS Unit and Accessories

In figure 1 you can see my Nikon D7000 with a GP1-GPS unit mounted in the accessory shoe on top of the camera (where an external flash mounts). The GP-1 GPS comes with a GP1-CA90 cable to interface with Nikons such as the D7000, D90, D5100, D5000, D3100, and D3000. It also includes a GP1-CA10 cable for Nikons with a 10-pin port on the body, such as the D200, D300, D300S, D700, D2X, D3, D3S, and D3X. You can see the GP1-CA90 cable in figure 1 on the right side. I put a cool curl in the wire to make it look sophisticated.

If you'll notice in figure 1, I have a MC-DC2 remote release cable attached to the GP-1 (wire on left side). If you use your Nikon on a tripod and need a remote release for sharp pictures, you'll need to acquire one of these inexpensive MC-DC2 remote releases. The GP-1 GPS unit has a port on its side made for the MC-DC2, as shown. It will allow you to release the shutter on any Nikon through the GP-1 unit, while it is mounted. 

When I go to the Smoky Mountains to take pictures, or any time I am traveling and would like to be able to remember where I took a certain picture, I have my GP-1 GPS unit mounted on my camera. In figure 2 is a close up picture of the GP-1 unit mounted in my D7000's accessory shoe. You can also see a close up of where the GPS-to-camera GP1-CA90 cable plugs in to the unit:

Figure 2 – Nikon GP-1 GPS Unit Mounted in Accessory Shoe

The GP-1 GPS unit is powered directly by the camera's battery; therefore, you may want to take more than one battery for your camera body if you shoot a lot during the day. The GP-1 unit, like the GPS in your smart phone, pulls extra current. From personal experience with the unit, I suspect it increases the battery drain by as much as 50% over a camera with no GP-1 mounted. If one battery will last all day normally, you will need two batteries to do the same. However, for the cost of extra battery drain, you'll have the convenience of later knowing exactly where each picture was taken. You'll be able to return to that exact spot and shoot new views of the scene–even years later. You can access the GPS coordinates in various applications, such as Nikon View NX2, Nikon Capture NX2, Lightroom, or Photoshop.

While you are shooting pictures with a GP-1 mounted, the camera will display an extra data screen with GPS information, as follows:

Figure 3 – GPS Coordinates screen from a Nikon D5000

The GPS coordinates screen will show on the camera's monitor, overlaying the picture behind it, as shown in a GPS data screen from a Nikon D5000 in figure 3. You can scroll to the GPS coordinates screen with the Multi selector thumb switch when an image has the extra GPS data embedded by the GP-1. It displays the Latitude, Longitude, Altitude, and Universal Coordinated Time (UTC) for each image. The GP-1 does not record compass direction.

When you have a GP-1 mounted the camera will display a small GPS word on the camera's upper control panel and/or on the rear monitor. In figure 4 you can see a screen on the left from a Nikon D7000's upper Control panel LCD. The screen on the right in figure 4 is from a Nikon D5000's Information display on the rear monitor.

Figure 4 – GPS in use indicators on Nikon display screens

Now, let's examine how to use the GP-1 GPS Unit with a Nikon DSLR.  The configuration method is similar for most Nikon DSLR cameras.

Preparing the Camera for GPS Usage

There are several screens used in setting up a Nikon for GPS use. First, a decision should be made about the exposure meter for when a GPS unit is plugged into the camera. While the GPS is connected, the camera’s exposure meter must be active to record GPS data to the image. You’ll have to do one of two things:

  • Set the exposure meter to stay on for the entire time that a GPS is plugged in, which, of course, will increase battery drain, but keeps the GPS locked to the satellites (no seeking time).
  • Press the Shutter-release button halfway down to activate the exposure meter before finishing the exposure. If you just push the Shutter-release button down quickly and the GPS is not active and locked, it won’t record GPS data to the image. The exposure meter must be on before GPS will seek satellites.

You can decide between these two conditions with the following Auto meter off settings:

Auto Meter Off

Figure 5 shows the Setup Menu screens used to set the meter to stay on the entire time the GPS is connected or to shut down after the Auto meter off delay expires:

Figure 5 – Setting Auto meter off to Disable so that your GPS will stay connected

The GPS will only stay connected to satellites when the exposure meter is active. You can select either Enable or Disable, which controls how the exposure meter reacts to a GP-1 GPS unit being mounted on your Nikon. Here’s what each selection does:

  • Enable (default) – The meter turns off after the Auto meter off delay expires (default 6 seconds). GPS data will only be recorded when the exposure meter is active, so allow some time for the GPS unit to re-acquire satellites before taking a picture. This is hard to do when Auto meter off is set to Enable. You just about have to stand around with your finger on the Shutter-release button trying to keep the meter active. I suggest Disable!
  • Disable – The exposure meter stays on the entire time a GPS unit is connected. As long as you have good GPS signal, you will be able to record GPS data at any time. This is the preferred setting for using the GPS for continuous shooting. It does use extra battery life, so you may want to carry more than one battery if you’re going to shoot all day. I keep my Camera's Auto meter off setting set to Disable so that I can depend on a good GPS connection when I am shooting, without constantly checking the unit for connectivity. Turn your camera off between shooting sessions to save battery life.

It sounds a bit weird to use the word Disable to make your GPS unit stay connected. However, remember that you are enabling or disabling Auto meter off (automatic exposure meter shutoff), not the GPS unit itself. When Auto meter off is disabled the exposure meter stays on the entire time the GPS unit is attached.

Note: If you choose to leave Auto meter off enabled, you can control the Auto meter off time delay with the camera's Custom Setting Menu. I would suggest increasing it from the default 6 seconds to a longer period so that your camera is not constantly having to reconnect to GPS units between shots. That's a time waster! Some Nikons use Custom Setting Menu > c Timers/AE lock > Auto meter-off delay. Other Nikons use Custom Setting Menu > c Timers/AE lock > Auto off timers > Custom > Auto meter-off. Each of those custom settings allow you to configure an "auto-off" time for the exposure meter. The Custom Setting Menu selection differs from the GPS Auto meter off selection in that the Custom Menu selection affects all exposure meter operation timeouts, not just when a GPS is attached.

Using Your Camera with the GP-1 Nikon GPS

If the GPS icon is flashing on the Control panel and/or Information display, it means that the GPS is searching for a signal. If you take a picture with the GPS icon flashing, no GPS data will be recorded. If the GPS icon is not flashing, it means that the D7000 is receiving good GPS data and is ready to record data to a picture. If the camera loses communication with the GPS unit for over two seconds, the GPS icon will disappear. Make sure the icon is displayed, and isn’t flashing, before you take pictures!

The GP-1 GPS unit has a small LCD on its rear side that blinks red when it is acquiring satellites and goes solid green when the unit it ready to use. It takes about a minute to acquire satellites the first time the GPS is used in a particular area. After that initial satellite acquisition, the GPS relocates satellites within a few seconds when turned off and back on.

Other than checking for the flashing GPS or LED light to make sure it is tracking satellites, using the GP-1 GPS is easy and foolproof. Once you mount it on the camera and it acquires satellites, you'll have GPS coordinates for each picture. If you worry about battery drain, just make sure you have an extra battery or two for all day shooting.

The Nikon GP-1 GPS unit mounts either onto the camera’s Accessory shoe or on the camera’s strap, with the included GP1-CL1 strap adapter.

My Recommendation: Get the Nikon GP-1 GPS unit! It’s easy to use, foolproof, and has all the cables you need for using it with the camera. The only other cable you’ll need to buy is the optional MC-DC2 shutter-release cable. I use the tiny Nikon GPS unit constantly when I’m out shooting nature images so I can remember where to return in the future.  Here is a link to the GP-1 GPS and MC-DC2 remote release on

Nikon GP-1 GPS Unit:
Nikon MC-DC2 Remote Release:

Once you start using a GPS unit, it will be hard to stop. I rarely leave home without my Nikon and its GP-1 GPS. It costs less than US$200 and is available at most large camera stores and online at places like Get one for your camera, you'll use it often. I do!

Keep on capturing time...
Darrell Young
See my Nikon books here:

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Understanding Your Camera's Histogram

Using your camera’s histogram screens will guarantee you a much higher percentage of well-exposed images. It is well worth spending time to understand the histogram. It’s not as complicated as it looks.

I’ll try to cover this feature with enough detail to give you a working knowledge of how to use the histogram to make better pictures. If you are deeply interested in the histogram, there is a lot of research material available on the Internet. Although this overview is brief, it will present enough knowledge to improve your technique immediately.

Light Range

The camera’s sensor can only record a certain range of light values—about 5 to 7 usable EV steps. Unfortunately, many of the higher-contrast subjects we shoot can contain over 12 stops of light values. This is quite a bit more than it is possible to capture in a single exposure. It’s important to understand how your camera records light so that you can better control how the image is captured.

Figure 1 – A basic histogram
 Look at figure 1 closely. The gray rectangular area represents an in-camera histogram. Examine it carefully! Think about it for a minute before reading on.

The histogram is basically a graph that represents the maximum range of light values your camera can capture, in 256 steps (0 = pure black, and 255 = pure white). In the middle of the histogram are the mid-range values that represent middle colors like grays, light browns, and greens. The values from just above zero and just below 255 contain detail.

The actual histogram graph looks like a mountain peak, or a series of peaks, and the more there is of a particular color, the taller the peak. In some cases the graph will be rounder on top, and in other cases it will be flattened.

The left side of the histogram represents the maximum dark values that your camera can record. The right side represents the maximum brightness values your camera can capture. On either end of the histogram the light values contain no detail. They are either completely black or completely white.

The height of the histogram (top of mountain peaks) represents the amount of individual colors. You cannot easily control this value in-camera, other than changing to a Picture Control with more or less saturated color, so it is for your information only.

We are mostly concerned with the left- and right-side values of the histogram, since we do have much greater control over those (dark vs. light).

Simply put, the histogram’s left and right directions are related to the darkness and lightness of the image, while the up and down directions of the histogram (valleys and peaks) have to do with the amount of color information. I repeated this for emphasis!

The left (dark) and right (light) directions are very important for your picture taking. If the image is too dark, the histogram will show that by clipping off the light values on the left; or if it’s too light, by clipping on the right. This will become easier to understand as we look at well-exposed and poorly exposed images. Check out the Histogram Basic Tutorial in figure 2, and then we’ll look at things in more detail.

Figure 2 – Three histograms – one underexposed, one correctly exposed, and one overexposed

When you see the three histograms next to each other, does it make more sense? See how the underexposed histogram is all the way to the left of the histogram window and is clipped mid-peak? Then note how both edges of the well-exposed histogram just touch the edges of the histogram window. Finally, notice how the overexposed image’s histogram is crammed and clipped on the right. I hope this helps somewhat! Now let’s look at some histogram detail.

Histogram Shape

Look at the image in figure 3. It is well exposed with no serious problems. The entire light range of this particular image fits within the histogram window, which means that it’s not too light or too dark and will take very little or no adjustment to view or print.

Figure 3 – Good image with normal histogram shape, no clipping

It contains no more than 4 or 5 stops (EV steps) of light range. To finalize the image, I might increase the brightness in the trees a little, but otherwise it’s a sound image with potential for immediate usage.

Compare figure 3’s histogram to the histogram graph on the left in figure 4. See how the figure 3 histogram does not cram itself against the dark value side, as seen in figurte 4? In other words, the dark values are not clipped off on the left. This means that the camera recorded all the dark values in this image, with no loss of shadow detail.

Then look at the right side of the histogram graph and note that it is not completely against the right side, although quite close. The image contains all the light values available. Everything in between is exposed quite well, with full detail. A histogram does not have to cover the entire window for the exposure to be fine. When there is a very limited range of light, the histogram may be rather narrow.

The image in figure 3 is a relatively bland image with smooth graduations of tone, so it makes a nice smooth mountain-peak histogram graph. This will not occur every time, since most images contain quite a bit more color information. Each prominent color will be represented with its own peak on the histogram graph. The most prominent colors will have higher peaks, while the less prominent will have lower or no peaks.

As we progress into images with more color or light information, we’ll see that the histogram looks quite different.

Figure 4 – Histogram showing underexposure (dark side)

Look at the image in figure 4. This is from an image that exceeds the range of the camera’s digital sensor.
Notice that, overall, this image is dark and looks underexposed. The histogram in figure 4 is crammed to the left, effectively being clipped off. There are no gradual climbs like on a mountain range, from valley to peak and back to valley. Instead, the image shows up on the left side in mid-peak. It is clipped. This is an underexposed image and the histogram reflects that well.

The most important thing to understand when you see a histogram like the one in figure 8.45, with part of the peak clipped off on the left, is that some or all of the image is significantly underexposed.

Now look at a similar image in figure 5. In this image, a larger aperture was used and more light was allowed in. We can now see much more detail. However, once again, the range of light is too great for the sensor, so it is now clipped off on the highlight side (right). The dark-side value is not clipped; instead, the graph extends to the left dark-side edge but stops there.

Figure 5 – Image with highlights (bright side) clipped

The image in figure 5 shows more detail but is not professional looking and will win no awards. The range of light is simply too great to be recorded fully. Many of the details are overly light, and that can be seen by the clipping of the histogram on the right side. The most important thing to remember here is that when you see a histogram graph that is crammed all the way to the right and clipped, some or all of the image is significantly too light. Overall, a great deal of the image in figure 8.46 is recorded as pure white and is permanently gone, or blown out.

It is important that you try to center the histogram without clipping either edge. This is not always possible, as shown in figure 5, because the light range is often too great and the sensor or histogram window can’t contain it. If you center the histogram, your images will be better exposed. If you take a picture and the histogram graph is shifted way left or right, you can then retake the photograph, exposing in the direction of the opposite light value.

If there is too much light to allow centering the histogram, you must decide which part of the image is more important, the light or dark values, and expose for those values.

How Does the Eye React to Light Values? 

The camera, with its imaging sensor and glass lenses, is only a weak imitation of our marvelously designed eye and brain combination. There are very few situations in which our eyes cannot adjust to the available light range. So, as photographers, we are always seeking ways to record even a small portion of what our eye and mind can see.

Since our eyes tend to know that shadows are black, and expect that, it is usually better to expose for the highlights. If you see dark shadows, that seems normal. We’re simply not used to seeing light that’s so bright that all detail is lost. An image exposed for the dark values will look very weird because most highlight detail will be burned out.

Your eyes can see a huge range of light in comparison to your digital sensor. The only time you will ever see light values that are so bright that detail is lost is when you are looking directly at an overwhelmingly bright light, like the sun. So, in a worst-case scenario, expose the image so that the right side of the histogram graph just touches the right side of the histogram window, and the image will look more normal.

Since photography’s beginning, we have always fought with only being able to record a limited range of light. But, with the digital camera and its histogram, we can now see a visual representation of the light values and can immediately approve of the image, reshoot it with emphasis on lighter or darker values, or see that we must use a filter or multiple-exposure high dynamic range imaging (HDR) to capture it at all.

Computer Adjustment of Images 

Looking at the image in figure 6, taken in mid-day overhead sunshine, we see an example of a range of light that is too great to be captured by a digital sensor but is exposed in such a way that we can get a usable photo later.

Figure 6 – Cabin picture with correct exposure but dark shadows, and its histogram

Notice in figure 6 how the dark values are clipped off and dark detail is lost. But look to the right side of the histogram and notice how the light values are not clipped off. The camera recorded all the light values but lost some dark values.

Since our eye sees this as normal, this image looks okay. If we were standing there looking at the cabin ourselves, our eye would be able to see much more detail in the front porch area. But the camera just can’t record that much light range. If we want to get a bit more detail in the shadows than this image seems to contain, we can do it. Normally, a camera does not give us enough control to add light values on the fly, so we use the histogram to get the best possible exposure and then adjust the image later in the computer.

Some cameras can be profiled to capture light ranges more effectively in one direction or the other, but when you push one area, the opposite area must give. So, we need a way to take all this light and compress it into a more usable range.

Figure 7 – Post-processed cabin picture and its histogram (in-computer manipulation)

We are now entering the realm of post-processing, or in-computer image manipulation. Look at the image in figure 7. This is the exact same image as in figure 6, but it has been adjusted in Photoshop to cram more image detail into the histogram by compressing the mid-range values. Notice that the entire histogram seems to be farther right, toward the light side. Also notice that the mid-range peaks are basically gone. We removed a good bit of the mid-range, but since there was already a lot of mid-range there, our image did not suffer greatly.

How this computer post-processing was done is outside the scope of this book, but it is not very hard. Buy a program like Nikon Capture NX 2, Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Lightroom, or another fine graphics program designed for photographers. Your digital camera and your computer are a powerful imaging combination—a digital darkroom, where you are in control from start to finish, from clicking the shutter to printing the image. But, retreating from philosophy, let’s continue with our histogram exploration. Notice in figure 7 how the histogram edge is just touching the highlight side of the histogram window?

A small amount of clipping is taking place, and you can see the slightly blown out area on the peak of the cabin’s roof. Sometimes a very small amount of clipping does not seriously harm the image.

The photographer must be the judge. The greater apparent detail in this image is the result of compressing the mid-range of the light values a bit in the computer. If you compress or make the mid-range light values smaller, that will tend to pull the dark values toward the light side and the light values toward the dark side. So, you will have more apparent detail in your image. It’s like cutting a section out of the middle of a garden hose. If you pull both of the cut ends together, the other two ends of the hose will move toward the middle, and the hose will be shorter overall. If you compress or remove the mid-range of the histogram, both ends of the graph will move toward the middle. If one end of the graph is beyond the edge of the histogram window (clipped off), it will be less so when the mid-range is compressed.

We are simply trying to make the histogram fit into the frame of its window. If we have to cut out some of the middle to bring both ends into the window, well, there is usually plenty in the middle to cut out, so the image rarely suffers. Remember, this is done outside of the camera in a computer. You can’t really control the in-camera histogram to compress values, but you need to be aware that it can be done in the computer so that you can expose accordingly with your camera’s histogram. Then you will be prepared for later post-processing of the image.

In fact, now that we have compressed the mid-range values, figure 8.48 more closely resembles what our eye normally sees, so it looks more normal to us.

In many cases, your progression from the shooting site to your digital darkroom can benefit if you shoot NEF (RAW) images.

A RAW digital image contains an adjustable range of light. With a RAW image you can use controls in Capture NX2, Photoshop, or even the basic Nikon ViewNX2 software included with the camera to select from the range of light within the big RAW image file. It’s like moving the histogram window to the left or right over all that wide range of RAW image data. You select a final resting place for the histogram window, capture the underlying RAW data, and your image is ready for use.

This is a serious oversimplification of the process, but I hope it is more understandable. In reality, the digital sensor records a wider range of light than you can use in one image. While you might be able to use about 5 stops of light range in a normal image, the digital sensor probably records about 7 stops of light range. Although you can’t get all of that range into the final image, it is there in the RAW file as a selectable range. I prefer to think of it as a built-in bracket, since it works the same way.
This bracketed light range within the image is present to a very limited degree in JPEG, but is the most pronounced in pure RAW images. That is why many choose to shoot in RAW mode instead of JPEG.

Your camera meter should be used to get the initial exposure only. Then you can look at the histogram to see if the image’s light range is contained within the limited range of the sensor. If it is clipped off to the right or the left, you may want to add or subtract light with your Exposure compensation button, or use your Manual mode. Expose for the light range with your histogram. Let your light meter get you close, then fine-tune with the histogram.

There are also other Monitor viewing modes that you can use along with the histogram graph, such as the Highlights (blink) mode for blown-out highlights (see the Playback Menu > Display mode and select Highlights). This mode will cause your image to blink from light to dark in the blown-out highlight areas. This is a rough representation of a highlight-value clipped histogram, and it is quite useful for quick shooting. Using your camera’s light meter, histogram, and the highlight burnout blinky mode together is a very powerful method to control your exposures.

If you master this method, you will have a very fine degree of control over where you place your image’s light ranges. This is sort of like using the famous Ansel Adams’s black and white Zone System, but it is represented visually on the Monitor of your camera.

The manipulation of the histogram levels in-computer is a detailed study in itself. It’s part of having a digital darkroom. Learn to use your computer to tweak your images, and you’ll be able to produce superior results most of the time. Even more importantly, learn to use your histogram to capture a nice image in the first place!

Your histogram is simply a graph that lets you see at a glance how well your image is contained by your camera. Too far left and the image is too dark; too far right and the image is too light. Learn to use the histogram well and your images are bound to improve!

Keep on capturing time...
Darrell Young
See my Nikon books here:

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Deeper Look at the Histogram

This is a short excerpt from my upcoming book Moving Beyond Point-and-Shoot Photography due in March 2012. The book is designed to help enthusiastic new DSLR and ILC/EVIL camera users learn how to shoot well with their new cameras. It assumes no previous knowledge of photographic terms, principles, or technology.

Back in the “good old” film days we didn’t have a histogram, so we had to depend on our experience and light meter to get a good exposure. Since we could not see the exposure until after we had left the scene and developed the film, we measured our success by the number of correctly exposed images we were able to create. With the exposure meter/histogram combination found in your camera the good exposure success rate you can experience is much higher than ever before.

Is the Histogram Really That Important?

The histogram can be as important, or even more so, than the exposure meter. The exposure meter sets the camera up for the exposure, and the histogram visually verifies that the exposure is a good one. Together they will give you the most accurate exposures you have ever made, if you use them both.

If your exposure meter stopped working, you could still get excellent exposures using only the histogram. In fact, I gauge my efforts more by how the histogram looks than anything else. The exposure meter and histogram work together to make sure you get excellent results from your photographic efforts.

Figure 1.1 – Two histogram types (Luminance and RGB)

Figure 1.1 shows two histogram types from my Nikon D7000. The first screen in figure 1.1 shows a series of histograms to the right of the small picture of my grandson and me. On top is a white-colored luminance (brightness) histogram, followed by individual red, green, and blue channel histograms (RGB = red, green, blue). On the second screen, the luminance histogram appears to the right of the small picture of my cars in the snow.

I have no way of knowing whether your camera offers only a single luminance histogram, like the one in figure 1.1’s second image, or whether it gives you a RGB histograms too, as in figure 1.1’s first image. What is the difference between the luminance and RGB histograms? Let’s examine both histogram types and see.

RGB Histograms

The RGB histograms show all three color channels that a camera uses—on an individual basis. Remember, the camera combines the red, green, and blue colors from its color channels to make the final color in the picture. The red, green, and blue colors are blended together to provide color in up to trillions of shades, well representing the colors your eyes see in your subjects. Therefore, the RGB histograms are simply representations of how well your camera exposed each basic color that it later combined into the final image.

Luminance Histogram

How does the luminance histogram differ from the RGB histograms. The luminance histogram is a representation of the perceived brightness (luminosity) from the combination of the red, green, and blue channels shown in the individual RGB histograms. In other words, the luminance histogram tries to accurately reflect the light you actually see by weighting its color values in a particular way. Since the human eye sees green most easily, the luminance histogram is heavily weighted toward green. Notice in figure 1.1’s first image how the luminance histogram on top looks very similar to the green channel histogram below it. Red and blue are represented in the luminance histogram too, only in lesser quantities (59 percent green, 30 percent red, and 11 percent blue = luminance). The luminance histogram measures the perceived brightness in 256 levels (0–255).

In my opinion, the luminance histogram is a more accurate way of looking at the color levels in real images. Since it more accurately reflects the way our eyes actually see color brightness, it may be the best histogram for you to use. Now, let’s discuss the use of a histogram in detail.

Understanding the Histogram 

Finding and using your camera’s histogram(s) will guarantee you a much higher percentage of well-exposed images. It is well worth spending time to understand the histogram. I’ll try to cover this feature with enough detail to give you a working knowledge of how to use the histogram to make better pictures. If you are deeply interested in the histogram, there is a lot of research material available on the Internet. Although this overview is brief, it will present enough knowledge to improve your technique immediately.

I am going to concentrate on the luminance histogram. It is the best histogram for most photographers to use since it accurately reflects the way we see light. I am not going to keep on repeating luminance histogram over and over. From this point forward, when you see the word histogram, realize that I am talking about the luminance histogram.

What is The Basis for a Histogram?

When you take a picture, whether in JPEG, TIFF or RAW mode, the camera presents the luminance histogram based on its approximation of a JPEG image. In other words, the histogram is what the camera or computer would show for an 8-bit JPEG image (256 color levels per RGB channel).

When you take a JPEG (.jpg) picture the camera crams all the light values of the RGB channels into 256 levels. The same thing happens when you take a picture in 8-bit TIFF (.tif) mode. All the light values are reduced to 256 levels. When you shoot a RAW image, there are significantly more than 256 color values available.  However, the camera still shows you a JPEG histogram when you are viewing a RAW (.nef) image on the camera’s monitor. In reality, most 12- or 14-bit RAW images can hold from 4096 to 16384 color levels per channel. However, all that color is represented by a 256-color-level-per-channel histogram.

In a way, this is a safety factor for RAW shooters. A RAW image has additional capacity to record light values within the brightest parts of the image (highlight headroom). The camera does not show you the histogram based on the total capacity of the RAW image. It uses a JPEG image as the basis for the histogram. For 8-bit JPEG and TIFF shooters, the histogram gives you exactly what you see and nothing more.

Therefore, if you shoot mostly in JPEG or TIFF, be careful that the histogram is exactly right or you may have badly exposed images. For RAW shooters, the histogram under-represents the actual highlight headroom you have available in the image; however, if you shoot for an accurate histogram anyway, you will have less noisy images, even in RAW, because the limited exposure range of the JPEG-based histogram fits well within the headroom of a RAW image. A RAW shooter just has more room to correct errors in exposure since greater range is available in the image than the histogram shows. As a RAW shooter, I always check the histogram for my best images.

The main point I want to make in this article is use your camera's histogram. Your pictures will be better for it!

Keep on capturing time...
Darrell Young
See my Nikon books here: