NIKON D50: FIRST REVIEW

Here is the first look at the new and highly awaited Nikon D50. After many months of speculations over the Internet about the new Nikon entry level digital SLR, we’re finally able to give you our first impressions that came during an exclusive presentation to PhotoCameraMag.

After its big sales success, Nikon D70 – the camera that for a long time has fight Canon Eos 300D (Digital Rebel in the USA) market leadership – has a younger sister: the new Nikon D50. A camera that is aimed at supplementing Nikon digital reflex cameras bottom range. In practice the new Nikon D50 is D70 simplified version. An entry level digital SLR that is born to capture in the Nikon world all the costumers that want to make a big step from their compact digital camera, or from their old film SLR, to digital SLR.

Chassis and design

Since you first see the Nikon D50 you notice that it’s not very different from its older sister, the D70 that we had with us at the presentation as a comparison. Nikon D50 is a little smaller that D70 and even the camera’s controls are almost the same. If you compare Nikon D50 with its natural competitor, the tiny Canon Eos 350D (Digital Rebel XT in the US market), you can see it’s considerably bigger. In front of the camera, D70’s sub command dial is missing (main command dial is in the back within thumb’s reach) as are bracketing button and and joystick lock function.

Despite its chassis being in polycarbonate, Nikon D50 fit and finish level is quite high, not lower than D70’s: if customers don’t use it in extreme conditions it’d last for many years. You can hold it very well, thanks to the rubber surrounding the hand grip, the generous dimensions and well balanced weights.

Compared to most of its rivals (except Pentax *ist DS)that use Compact Flash as a storage media, Nikon D50 uses Secure Digital as a flash card to store pictures. It seems a trend destined to become much bigger and bigger because SD is compatible also with smart phones, PDA and other portable media devices. We’ll see.

Performance

Starting up the camera takes fractions of second: D50 is immediately ready to shot after the start up, just like a serious reflex should be. It’s fast also in terms of operating speed: navigate into menus and set up all shooting functions is not different from the already fast D70. The absence of front sub command dial (the one you usually operate with your forefinger) is not an handicap for the typical customer of this camera – that normally is a digital SLR novice. Only when you use Nikon D50 in total manual mode it’d be good to have also this command dial.

Shooting speed in continuous drive mode is lower than the D70’s, so the photographer could find it harder to shoot sport or actions scenes in panning mode.

Sample pictures you can see here, were taken at the D50 launch using two new lenses that debut together with D50: AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 18-55 mm f/3.5-5.6G ED and AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 55-200 mm f/4-5.6G ED.

In terms of quality we can say that pictures are less sharp. The objects outlines are less precise compared to D70 pictures. This could be caused by lenses quality instead, since the camera itself has the same D70 sensor and an updated.

One D50’s merit surely is the way it render skin tones, that are natural in the sunlight (see pictures). We also tried the new flash in fill-in mode: it works when called to remove shadows on a face, but skin tone become less natural. We also noticed a very welcome reduction in moire effects, thanks mainly to the updated firmware.

Conclusions

The new Nikon D50 surely is a very interesting product, because basically it’s a D70 only a little less fast, a little tinier and with some missing functions. It’s a successful machine that can be an ideal entry in Nikon digital SRL world.

Photographers that would increase they skill in the time being, would quickly feel the need to have a better machine in their hands (there are spreading rumors that a new Nikon D200 will soon be launched). But for the rest of them Nikon D50 would be an ideal companion for a long time. I’d good to spend some money on good lenses, the ones that can make the difference.

Of course this conclusions are based on first impressions that came during an half day use of the camera. We’d have soon the new Nikon D50 in our hands for an in-depth review. Watch this space.

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