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Auto versus manual

edited December 2014 Posted in » Nikon D3200 Forum
Is there a way to shoot in auto (or a preset like landscape, portrait, etc) and see what aperture, ISO and shutter speed the camera chose, then tweak those settings if needed? Am I such a newbie that I should be thinking of setting manual settings a whole different way?


  • edited December 2014
    I suppose that P (Program) mode may be the closest thing you're looking for, but you do have to set the ISO. The camera chooses the shutter-aperture combination. If you don't like it, you can turn the command dial to cycle through the different combinations of shutter-aperture for that particular ISO.

    While this mode appears to be for beginners, I find it more confusing than the other 2 semi-auto modes, A (Aperture Priority) and S (Shutter Priority) modes.

    I would suggest that you just set aside some time to go through each of the Scene modes and understand what the what the camera is doing in each. For example, Sports mode is nothing more than using a fast shutter speed. Then just learn how to replicate each one in A or S mode.
  • edited January 2015
    Thanks, I will try that. When I was in my teens (about 1974) I used my dads 35mm 1950's camera a lot. The way it worked was you put high speed film in only to stop action for say sports shots, held out a light meter out, and used the light meter readings to adjust to the desired aperture and shutter speed. Now fast forward 40 years and I move up from a small automatic to a SLR and it seems they have 100 presets to make it simpler than learning the 3 basic settings. I am really just a few days into learning this but what is happening is that I shoot in a preset mode (say landscape, portrait, sports, etc) and it is slightly over exposed or underexposed and I can't change it. Maybe my approach is completely wrong. Thanks for the advise. I will try the A and S modes.
  • edited January 2015
    If you select the correct readouts in the display mode, you will get all the EXIF information for each shot. Go to the menu, to the playback options and choose what to display. Page 98 of the full (on disk) instructions explains it. You can toggle through different views with the up and down arrow keys, so you can still see a whole image as well as histograms and info as needed. Learn to read histograms. They are, in essence, a post-shot analysis of metering accuracy. Do not trust the tiny display image as much, though it's obviously good enough to know if you got any kind of picture.

    Some of the settings such as white balance that are made automatically will simply be shown as "auto" in the EXIF but you will get ISO, shutter and aperture, among other things.

    Be aware that in auto ISO the camera will choose an ISO speed between what you set and what you have specified in the menu as your maximum, but will not tell you. You can see it only in the playback info, where it will be colored red to indicate that the camera chose it. If you want full control, you are better off (I think) turning off auto ISO (done in menu only for P,S,A and M modes) and choosing it manually. I have the front button set to ISO and use it frequently as an exposure control.

    Some of the auto options include some features that are not always obvious. For example, in sports mode, though high shutter speed is the obvious main difference, it may also alter ISO. Also, I believe it defaults to multi-shot shutter mode. Landscape favors higher apertures for depth of field, but also uses a different color set, high in contrast and favoring greens, and switches to multi-point AF mode. Many of the modes make subtle color changes that are not fully explained anywhere except by vague reference to results. Portrait mode supposedly gives better skin tones, but nowhere will you find out what Nikon did to implement this.

    You can also get much of the pertinent information from View NX2, the file reading and modifying program that came with the camera. If you did not get that disk, make sure you download the full manual from Nikon (the paper manual is not complete), and also get their current raw file viewing and editing program. I believe they are now giving away a program called 'Capture NX-D' which works much the same as View NX2. Some of the information that the EXIF files show as "auto" can be figured out from this program. White Balance, for example, can be adjusted if you shot in RAW mode, and by doing so you can pretty well figure out what it was at when you started.

    Many other programs will give you some or all of the information for a shot. Irfanview, for example, will give you a pretty decent EXIF readout, and there are others out there that can do so. Not all programs read all the information, so some will lack things you'd like and others will be full of spurious info you don't want.

    If you're used to using an older film camera, the closest you'll get to the way it used to be will be by using A mode, with a manual ISO setting of your choice. I find the best AF setting for ordinary use is AFA and dynamic area focusing. AFA decides, with considerable success, whether your subject is moving, and chooses accordingly; dynamic area allows a subject to move a little and stay in focus. 3D is smarter but also easier to fool in a complex picture, as it uses both location and color to determine what your subject is as it moves. To get a contrast more like that of slides, experiment with turning off the "active d-lighting" option, which increases dynamic range but can make shadows lighter and less dramatic.

    Remember that this is a digital camera, and that you can erase thousands of pictures without a trace. Experiment with all the different options. You can just sit in the living room and take a few dozen varied shots of your bookcases and figure out what gives you the best results, lighting, focus, etc. Make sure you experiment liberally with what shutter speeds you can use reliably with AV lenses at different focal lengths. It's amazing what you can get away with if you're firm of hand. Auto ISO assumes a minimum shutter speed of 1/30 without taking AV into account. You can reset that minimum if you wish. I can get good results with the normal lens much slower.

    If you're used to an old film camera, I think what you will find most rewarding on a digital is the ability to choose ISO speeds that were unthinkable "back in the day." It was a major undertaking 20 years or so ago to get a decently clear shot with ISO 800 print film, and the best pictures rarely were found above about 160. And, of course, you could not change speeds without changing film. The D3200, while not the most apt low light shooter by far, shows little change between ISO 100 and 400, is still pretty decent at 1600. It's way way better than nothing even at 6400, and all with the flick of a little wheel. Amazing!
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