Sunday, December 18, 2011

Nikon D7000 – Battery Tips

This article is an excerpt from Mastering The Nikon D7000, published by Rocky Nook and NikoniansPress.

Many of us have purchased or received new cameras recently. The Nikon D7000 is certainly one of Nikon's most popular cameras at this time. This article describes the care and feeding of the lithium-ion battery and how to use it in the camera. However, since all Nikon DSLRs use lithium-ion batteries and have similar chargers, menus, and insertion methods, the principles in this article can be applied to virtually any modern Nikon.

If you’re like me, you’ll open your camera’s box, attach the lens, insert the battery, and take your first picture. Wouldn’t it be a better idea to wait an hour to charge the battery, and only then take the first picture? Sure it would, but I’ve never done that, and I bet you won’t either. Nikon knows this and doesn’t send out new cameras with dead batteries.

Most of the time the battery is not fully charged, but it has enough power to set the time and date, then take and review a few pictures. Think about it. How would you test a brand new battery? You’d charge it and see if it will hold a charge. Do you think Nikon is in the habit of sending out batteries that are untested? No! So most of the time, you can play with your new camera for at least a few minutes before charging the battery. I’ve purchased nearly every DSLR Nikon has made since 2002, and not one of them has come with a dead battery.

When my latest camera arrived, the battery was about 68 percent charged. I used the camera for an hour or two before I charged the battery. However, let me mention one important thing. If you insert the battery and its charge is very low, such as below 25 percent, it might be a good idea to go ahead and charge it before shooting and reviewing lots of pictures. You may be able to set the time and date, and test the camera a time or two, but go no further with a seriously low battery.

Included in the box with the camera is the Nikon Battery Charger MH-25. The battery will only fit on the charger in one direction, as shown in figure 1.1. An orange indicator light on the charger will blink until the battery is fully charged. When the blinking stops and the light stays orange, the battery is ready for use.

Figure 1.1 – Charging the camera’s battery with the MH-25 charger

The D7000 uses a Lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery pack. While this type of battery doesn’t develop the memory effects of the old Nickel-Cadmium (NiCad) batteries from years past, there can be a problem if you let them get too low. A Li-ion battery should not be used to complete exhaustion. It has a special protection circuit that will disable the battery if one of the cells goes below a certain key voltage. You’d probably have to run it all the way down and then store it in the camera for a few weeks to actually cause the battery to disable itself. However, a good rule of thumb is this: When your camera’s Li-ion battery gets down to the 25 percent level, please recharge it. I don’t let mine go below 50 percent for any extended use.

If you can hold yourself back from turning on the camera until after the battery is charged, that would be the optimum situation.

Figure 1.2 – Examining and inserting the battery

Figure 1.2 shows how to insert the battery into your camera. On the left side of the image you can see the battery from the top and bottom. Notice that you insert the battery with the rounded side up and the flat side down. Below the word “Nikon” on the battery’s top is a small, faint arrowhead. Insert the battery in the direction of the little arrow, as shown in figure 1.2.

In the picture, the little door on the bottom of the camera’s grip is open and the battery is partially inserted in the correct orientation. Push it all the way in until the yellow battery-retention clip snaps into place, and close the Battery-chamber cover (battery door).

The yellow battery-retention clip holds the battery in place even when the Battery-chamber cover is open. To remove the battery you will need to open the Battery-chamber cover and push the retaining clip toward the door hinge. The battery will pop out when you have done it correctly.

Figure 1.3 – Battery info screen

Please use only a Nikon brand EN-EL15 battery pack in your camera. This particular battery has a special circuit that talks to the camera and enables the 0–4 Battery age scale shown on the Battery info screen (see figure 1.3). It tells you when a battery has outlived its usefulness and should be disposed of—going beyond just telling you when it’s low on power.

In figure 1.3, image 2, you can see a picture of the Battery info screen. Notice that it shows the Bat. meter, which gives you the amount of voltage charge or power the battery has left as a percent value. The Pic. meter shows the number of images taken since this battery was last charged and inserted. Finally, the Battery age scale tells about the life of the battery and whether it needs to be replaced. It uses a scale of 0 – 4, or five steps of life. The Battery age scale has nothing to do with the amount of power that the battery currently contains. It shows how much useful life the battery has left until you need to recycle it and buy a new one.

My Recommendation: A genuine, new Nikon EN-EL15 battery for the D7000 is usually less than $60 USD when purchased online. Why buy a cheap aftermarket battery made who-knows-where and use it to power the circuits of your expensive camera? How can you be sure that a cheap non-Nikon battery even has the correct circuit for Battery info communication? How can you know that the cheap cells won’t short-circuit and burn your camera to a cinder? Li-ion cells are somewhat finicky and require careful manufacture and charging control. Personally, I’ll only trust the real thing—a Nikon brand EN-EL15 battery—to power my expensive camera.

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

Friday, December 9, 2011

Using a Macro Lens or Closeup Diopter Filters

Sometimes you want to get very close to your subject. Maybe you've found a flower that is attractive to you, or a bee taking pollen. Maybe you need to photograph some coins or stamps from your collection for insurance purposes. Any time you need to take a picture up close, you need a macro lens.  A macro lens is especially designed for close-up pictures. Most genuine macro lenses are also prime lenses (see previous section) not zoom lenses. They don’t look much different from a regular prime lens except that the internal lens elements are designed in such as way that it is easy to make “life-size” images.

A true macro lens (figure 1) has a 1:1 ratio, which means it can take a picture of an object and render it in its normal size. A bee on a flower is the same size in the picture as the real bee on a flower. That is hard to do with a zoom lens—or a regular prime lens—because they will not focus close enough.

Some zoom lenses are advertised as "macro" zoom lenses. Those lenses can focus closer than most zoom lenses but they are not true macro lenses. Most macro zooms are limited to about half-life size or a 1:2 ratio, which means a bee on a flower would only be half its normal size in the picture. You just cannot get close enough with most zoom or regular prime lenses. For maximum close ups only a true macro lens with a 1:1 ratio (lifesize) will do.
Figure 1 – AF Nikkor 60mm f/2.8 Macro Lens

In figure 1 is a picture of a real Nikon macro lens, the AF Nikkor 60mm "Micro Nikkor." Nikon calls their macro lenses by the name Micro Nikkor. Most other lens brands use the word Macro. In figure 2 is a macro image of a compact flash memory card with a couple of SD memory cards lying next to it. Notice how realistic the close up image looks. It is a true macro shot taken with the Nikkor macro lens above.

Figure 2 – A picture taken with the AF Nikkor 60mm f/2.8 Macro lens

Real macro lenses are a bit more expensive than standard prime lenses because they are a specialty prime lens. They have special features to make the picture look its best, such as “flat-field” design, which keeps the edges of the picture from curving in a distracting way. Macro lenses are highly corrected lenses, which mean the lens elements are carefully designed to give maximum quality and lack of aberrations (color shifting or shape warping). They are optimized for up close work. That does not mean you shouldn’t use a macro lens to take a picture of a more distant object, they do fine there too. They are simply made to do their best work at 1:1 distances (extreme close ups).

For maximum image quality, it is a good idea to use a real macro lens. However, there are substitutes that cost a lot less money. Let’s consider one low cost way to get extreme close up images without the expense of a macro lens, screw-on closeup filters.

Close Up Diopter Screw-On Macro Filters

The lowest cost way to take close up pictures is to use a set of close up diopter filters on your lens, such as the four pictured in figure 3.
Figure 3 – A set of close up diopter filters for macro shooting on a budget 

These filters cost only a few bucks online and do a reasonably good job with making extreme close ups. I bought a package of four filters with diopters (magnification factor) running from + 1 to +10 (figure 3).

These filters simply screw into the front of your prime lens (or zoom lens) and add magnification to the lens. It is sort of the same principle as using a magnifying glass. You screw the filter onto the front of the lens and it magnifies the close-up subject. There are different diopter “powers” in the filter set so that you can increase or decrease the magnification. The main limitation of diopter close-up filters is a very limited amount of focus control and somewhat lower quality images. They are not as convenient to use by any means, in comparison to a true macro lens. However, they do a pretty good job on taking extreme close up pictures and are much lower in cost.

Figure 4 – Same subject as in figure 2 shot with diopter close up filters

With a diopter filter on your lens it cannot focus sharply on anything farther away than a few inches; therefore, the filter cannot be left on a lens for any other purpose than shooting the macro shots. While these filters can’t possibly give you the same quality edge to edge as a true macro lens (figure 2.30), they do provide the photographer on a budget with a way to make interesting close up pictures without spending a lot of money.  Look on the back of your lens’s cap to see the correct size of filter to buy. The filters must match the screw-in filter size of the lens you will use them with.

Extension Tubes and Lens Bellows

You can get by without a true macro lens or screw-on filters—by using either extension tubes or a lens bellows. I’m not going into any detail about these two options in this article because they require knowing some advanced techniques, such as stop-down metering (no automatic lens aperture), and how to shoot without your camera’s light meter active. I'll cover these ways of shooting macro in a future article. However, remember that these two alternatives exist and check them out when you feel ready (do a Google search on the terms for info).

If you are serious about excellent macro photography and can afford to buy an extra lens, get yourself a true macro lens. It is a lot less hassle to use and gives you much better quality.

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

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Eye-Fi Pro X2 8GB Wi-Fi SD Card Review

Have you ever needed to transfer images to your notebook computer, but had no USB cable with you?  Have you ever been shooting an event and thought how nice it would be if your images could quickly show up on a nearby computer?  Would you like to shoot in your home studio and have the images go directly to your laptop for processing, with no wires or extra software purchases needed?

Until recently, there were only a few choices that would allow you to do the things mentioned previously. You could buy a Nikon® WT-4 Wireless Transmitter for about the same cost as a mid-level DSLR camera body.  Or, you could plug in an actual wire and hope you don’t trip over it.

For most of us, wireless (Wi-Fi) image transfers were a pricey proposition—until Eye-Fi® offered a low-cost solution. For a very reasonable price, you can buy an Eye-Fi® wireless memory card for a camera that supports SD/SDHC; such as the Nikon D300S, D7000, D90, D5100, D5000, D3100, and D3000. They are virtually identical to a normal SD card, but allow you limited-distance wireless image transfers directly to a Wi-Fi enabled computer of your choice.

The Eye-Fi 8GB Pro X2 Wi-Fi Card for Nikons that can use SD cards

The Eye-Fi® company makes several SD/SDHC cards with built-in Wi-Fi transmitters.  The picture above shows my personal Eye-Fi 8GB Pro X2 high-speed “Class 6” level card (6 MB per second write speed). With an Eye-Fi card inserted, and Eye-Fi software installed on your laptop computer—or any computer connected via a wireless network connection—you can take pictures and they are automatically transferred to the computer.

Most lower-cost Eye-Fi cards require a local wireless network to transfer the images. However, recently Eye-Fi came out with a card that will do “Ad Hoc” transfers; meaning that they don’t need a wireless network connection via a wireless access point.  The Pro X2 card will send pictures directly to a computer with wireless capability with no intermediate network required.

Eye-FI separates their Ad Hoc transfer capable card(s) under the “Pro” moniker.  The other cards have names like Connect X2, Geo X2, and Explore X2.  Only the Pro X2 cards can do the “no network required,” direct to notebook computer Ad Hoc file transfers.

Since memory cards are extremely volatile, price-wise, I’m sure that capacities and card names will change quickly.  However, just be aware that only the cards considered pro-level by Eye-Fi will do Ad Hoc transfers.

The Eye-Fi card partially inserted into a Nikon D300S's SD slot

I’ve been using an Eye-Fi card for quite some time and wanted to give you some information on how they work:

Eye-Fi Card Cost & Availability – According to which card you purchase, Eye-Fi cards cost from $49.95 to $149.95 USD, and are available for purchase at most online camera stores and many brick & mortar stores.

Memory Capacity – Current Eye-Fi X2 cards are available in 4 and 8 GB memory capacities. Eye-Fi previously made a series of older cards that do not bear the X2 monikor. The standard capacity on the early cards was 2GB. These older cards may not support some of the following Eye-Fi standards. Buy the X2 cards for best functionality!

Image Transfer Range - Wi-Fi publishes on their website that their cards can transfer images from 50 feet (15.2m) when shooting inside. If you are outside, with nothing between you and the receiving computer, the card can transfer images from up to 90 feet (27.4m) distance. In actual use, I’ve found that while the Eye-Fi card can indeed approach a 50 foot range indoors, the speed drops as you move farther away from the receiving computer. To get the best use out of the card, I would recommend staying within eyesight range of the computer (20-30 feet), and keeping it in the same room, if possible.

The Eye-Fi is a unique card with a built-in transmitter – It makes your images fly (through the air)

Card Profile Required - When you set up your card, using included software from Eye-Fi, you create a profile on the card that matches it with a particular computer. It will not transfer images to any other computer except the one that has the proper profile. That’s a good thing! Otherwise, anybody with a wireless device could grab your images as they fly through the air.

Private Wi-Fi Networks – You’ll need a Wi-Fi network to transfer images for the non-Pro X2 cards. You can configure the card to work under up to 32 specific private Wi-Fi networks. If the networks are security encrypted, you’ll have to know the proper key name/password to use it. You specify these details in the card’s profile for each private Wi-Fi network you often use. When you take pictures and come within range of one of those networks, the camera will automatically begin downloading images to your computer. There is a bit of handshaking with Eye-Fi servers that can take a few minutes sometimes.

Ad-Hoc Networks – You can configure a “Pro X2” Eye-Fi card (only) to do ad-hoc file transfers.  In effect, the Eye-Fi card become a wireless transmitter that can talk directly to a Wi-Fi enabled notebook or desktop computer—without an intervening network.  This is a more professional way of doing things, and allows you to take your computer and camera to places where there are no Wi-Fi networks, and still wirelessly transfer images. I configured my notebook computer so that it finds a normal wireless network, when available, so that I can browse the internet. However, even if a wireless network is currently available—an ad-hoc transfer does not use it—and does not interfere with normal internet usage, either. As soon as you turn the camera on with an enabled Eye-Fi card, it makes an Ad Hoc connection to the computer and they shake hands. When you take a picture, the download begins almost immediately. The Ad-Hoc connection is completely separate from normal wireless computer to internet connectivity. Currently, only one card, the Eye-Fi 8GB Pro X2 ($149 USD) will transfer directly to a notebook computer without needing a wireless network as an intermediary. The other cards cost less, but require a wireless network connection to move images.

Open Wi-Fi Networks – You can specify in the card profile that it is allowed to use open networks freely. If you are in range of an open Wi-Fi network the card will do its job immediately. Lots of places provide free internet connectivity. In fact, with all the people out there using wireless networks without a clue about security, you could probably drive through an average subdivision and transfer your images.

The Eye-Fi card is exactly the same size as a normal SD card

Hotspot Access Service – Eye-Fi made a deal with AT&T that gives you access to over 21,000 Wi-Fi hotspots in the USA. That means you can upload images at places like Starbucks, Marriott Hotels, and Barnes & Nobles bookstores (being sure to browse the Mastering The Nikon DSLR books from NikoniansPress while there, of course). Eye-Fi Explore X2 and Pro X2 cards come with one year of included hotspot access. The service costs money after the first year. However, it is only $29.99 USD per year, currently.  Connect X2 and GEO X2 cards require that you purchase hotspot access initially.

File Formats (RAW vs. JPEG) – Eye-Fi cards generally work only with JPEG files.  However, the new 8GB Pro X2 card now supports both JPEG and NEF (RAW) files. If you shoot mostly in RAW, you’ll need to use a Pro X2 card to transfer your images.

Endless Memory - The Eye-Fi card offers a mode called “Endless Memory” on their X2 cards.  If you activate this mode, the card will intelligently make room when it is nearing capacity.  It will remove old images that have been successfully transferred, to allow room for new images. You can shoot endlessly without filling up the card.  Would that be convenient—event shooters?

File-Sharing Websites - If you really want to, you can have the Eye-Fi card transfer images to file sharing services like Flickr®, SmugMug®, Zenfolio®, and facebook®. You can send the images to 25 different file-sharing websites.  You can even transfer your videos to YouTube®!  This is configured in the card’s profile at setup.

Network Speeds Supported – The Eye-Fi card can support most of today’s network speed standards. Specifically, they support 802.11b (11 megabits per second), 802.11g (54 megabits per second), and 802.11n (300 megabits per second).  I recommend using the fastest speeds you can get! An 802.11b  network can be frustratingly slow with large RAW files. In fact, I wouldn’t use an 802.11b network for anything but small JPEG file transfers.

Camera Battery Life – According to Eye-Fi, when using the Eye-Fi Card to take photos, “a camera’s battery life will not be noticeably shorter than when using a standard SD memory card.” However, when you are actively transferring images to your computer battery usage goes up. Any time you fire up a radio signal, which is what an Eye-Fi card and Wi-Fi network uses, you’ll have significantly larger requirements for power. I heartily recommend having multiple batteries when doing extended shoots with full-time image transfer. Your Nikon DSLR's accessory battery pack would be a great help. The card itself does not drain your batteries excessively during normal picture taking. However, the process of transferring images will have you sending images by radio to a computer, so the battery drain is naturally higher. I would recommend using an Eye-Fi card on 803.11g or 803.11n (54 or 300 MB per second speed) Wi-Fi networks, or you may experience excessive battery drain—merely because it will take significantly longer to transfer the images.  In other words, leave 803.11b (11 MB per second speed) networks alone, when possible.

An Eye-Fi card is a great addition to your Nikon armory

Internal Memory Type – I read a review of an Eye-Fi card where a fellow pulled his apart to see what was inside. His card was using Samsung® memory. This could change at any time, of course.

Geotagging of Images – If you don’t use a Nikon GP-1 GPS (or other brand) and would like to have latitude and longitude information added to your image’s EXIF metadata, you’ll find Eye-Fi’s geotagging services convenient.  Eye-Fi cards do not have built in GPS sensing equipment, so it is not as accurate as a normal GPS unit. Instead of GPS, Eye-Fi uses what’s called the Wi-Fi Positioning System (WPS).  It works a little like GPS by sensing the positions of surrounding known Wi-Fi networks—even ones that you do not have in your list of approved uploading networks. When you upload your images via the Eye-Fi card wireless transfer, each image has positioning information written to the EXIF header metadata of the image. One problem I can see with this service is that you must be in an area with multiple Wi-Fi networks in order to use geotagging.  If you are shooting in the wilds of Africa, Yosemite, or the Great Smoky Mountains you’d best have a real GPS unit. There are no Wi-Fi networks hanging around the wilderness areas.  City dwellers should be able to use geotagging with ease. Eye-Fi has partnered with Skyhook Wireless who has mapped millions of geographic coordinates around the world. Skyhook estimates that is has 70% of the populated areas of the USA, Canada, Germany, France, and the UK covered. In other areas of Europe only the top 50 metropolitan areas are covered. The GEO X2, Explore X2, and Pro X2 cards all have free, unlimited, lifetime geotagging included. If you use a lower-priced Eye-Fi card you can buy the geotagging service for $14.99 USD per year.

Eye-Fi cards work with's Annotate software

Nikonians® Annotate Expert Software and Eye-Fi Cards – If you’ve used the excellent Nikonians® Annotate Expert software to write annotations on your images for sharing and educational purposes, you may be using the convenient tethered mode. In that mode you connect your camera to your laptop computer and images flow directly into Annotate Expert. Well, things just got even more convenient!  The latest version of Annotate Expert now has built-in Eye-Fi functionality.  Instead of having to plug your camera into the computer with a wire, you can let your Eye-Fi card handle the uploading wirelessly and Annotate will pull the images in automatically. When you select tethered mode (Ctrl-T), you can choose two new selections from the list of cameras, Eye-Fi JPEG and Eye-Fi RAW. Annotate seamlessly imports the images into its tethered mode window for your immediate use. Bo Stahlbrandt—co-owner of—reviews Annotate Expert here:

Should I use an Eye-Fi Card Instead of a Nikon WT-4 Wireless Transmitter? – For a professional living by his images, I would say no. The WT-4 is a very fast, long range transmitter, with multiple modes, designed to let a pro control where when and how his or her images arrive at a receiving computer. Its price reflects its power. The Eye-Fi card is slower and has significantly shorter range.  However, it works well with the faster network types, and will provide advanced amateur and semi-pro level functionality. I bet a few pros also have an Eye-Fi card in their bags for an emergency backup.

Can I Transfer Images Wirelessly to a Non-Wi-Fi Computer? – I’ve not figured out how to do it, yet, although I wish I could. If you figure out how, let me know, please! The whole Eye-Fi process requires either a wireless network, or an Ad Hoc configuration to a computer equipped with wireless capability. I tried installing the Eye-Fi software on my main computer with its wired network; hoping I could transfer the images to the internet, and then have them appear on my internet connected non-wireless computer. Instead, once installed, the Eye-Fi software is completely non-functional. It opens with frustrating blank screens that do nothing. I wish the software would open and say something like “Hey dummy, why are you wasting your time installing me on a non-wireless computer?”  I wasted a good half hour fiddling with the software on my non-wireless computer before my brain finally reminded me, “You need a wireless computer for a Wi-Fi connection...duh!”

Can I use an SD to CF adapter? - Most SD/SDHC compatible cameras can use an Eye-Fi card to transfer pictures wirelessly.  Some people use an SD/SDHC to CF card converter and use the Eye-Fi cards in cameras with only a CF port (like the Nikon D300).  This may or may not be a successful operation.  Here are some comments from Eye-Fi’s website ( on the subject of using the SD/SDHC-based Eye-FI cards in CF converters:

Eye-Fi does not support the use of SD to CF card adapters with the Eye-Fi Card. Eye-Fi has not tested the Eye-Fi Card in cameras designed to use CF cards and has no explicit knowledge to share about the success of these adapters when used with an Eye-Fi Card. We only support the Eye-Fi Card in cameras designed to use SD or SDHC cards. We are aware that many users want the Eye-Fi Card functionality in their CF-based cameras and have opted to use a CF card adapter to get the functionality offered by an Eye-Fi Card. The following list of known issues with CF card adapters is a collection of information gathered directly from customer and blogger descriptions of issues they have experienced. By sharing this information Eye-Fi accepts no responsibility for problems encountered when using the Eye-Fi Card and a CF Card adapter.
  • Wireless range of the Eye-Fi Card is noticeably reduced.
  • Formatting the Eye-Fi Card in a CF adapter has caused the Eye-Fi Card to fail.
  • File corruption of photos.

Eye-Fi Card Advanced Use – If you’re intending to use your Eye-Fi card as a serious wireless device, and have no interest in all the bells and whistles like hotspots, geotagging, uploading to file sharing sites, etc.—you may want to consider the Pro X2 card and disable various features. I’ve found that Eye-Fi’s normal Wi-Fi “Relayed Transfer” is simply too slow for large RAW or JPEG files. You see, when you take a picture with Relayed Transfer enabled the image must flow to Eye-Fi’s servers out there on the internet before being transferred back to your computer. Imagine the time and battery drain involved with files larger than small point-and-shoot’s JPEGs flowing across the internet and then back to your computer. That’s like an upload and download—and we know how long that can take. Relayed Transfer doesn’t work fast enough on a 11-25 megabyte RAW file, yet it’s the default mode for Eye-Fi cards. The best (and quite usable) transfer speed I’ve achieved is by using an Ad Hoc wireless connection directly between the camera and computer with no Relayed Transfer.  This makes the image go directly to your computer with no internet flow involved.  With this type of setup the Eye-Fi card is pretty fast, and even large RAW files only take a few seconds each to wirelessly upload to your computer. You can disable Relayed Transfer under the Transfer Mode tab of the Eye-Fi software.  Unfortunately, when you disable Relayed Transfer, you lose all the neat little things like transferring files while you have a Big Mac® at McDonalds.  Instead, in non-relay mode your camera and computer are married and depend on each other for file transfer. As a pro shooter, you’ll find the Eye-Fi card very usable in Ad Hoc non-relayed mode.  Only the Pro X2 card allows for Ad Hoc connections, so a professional should consider no less.  It’s only $149.99 USD for adding Wi-Fi to your camera.

Eye-Fi card – The easiest way to backup and share

About Eye-Fi - Founded in 2005, Eye-Fi® is dedicated to building products and services that help consumers manage, nurture and share their visual memories. Eye-Fi’s patented and patent-pending technology wirelessly and automatically uploads photos and videos from digital imaging devices, including digital cameras and the iPhone, to online, in-home, and retail destinations. They are headquartered in Mountain View, California, USA. More information is available at

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