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Customization is a big trend. From 3D printing to personalizing phones to our face, customization is becoming a requested product feature and a competitive advantage. Cameras also try to provide more and more customizable features to cater to our individual shooting styles. In this article, I will present and compare the Nikon custom modes of the D750 and the D500 including:
A D750 features ‘U1/2’ and a D500 the ‘Memory banks.’ In this article, you will learn ways to set both up. Shooting scenarios showcasing the usefulness of custom settings will be included. Finally, I will share my preferred settings for each one, as well as some thoughts on both methods.
Generally a warmly received feature, U1/2 can be found on the top dial of the cameras that include them.
The way to move between them is to push the button next to the dial and spin the dial until the required setting aligns with the white indicator line next to the dial. This then becomes the active combination of preselected settings.
On the other hand, Memory Banks are not assigned upfront directly to physical controls. Instead, these are selectable through the menus or are assignable to button and dial press-and-turn combinations.
There are different ways to access and activate banks. The most common are:
Now you should know how to access and activate both custom settings. I will now discuss the rationale behind them using them.
Firstly, I will talk about useful ‘generic’ concepts:
These concepts are a framework for you to consider in the use of custom settings. I prefer this framework, rather than simply answering ‘which custom settings are best for portrait, sports, nature or any other photography genre?’ I have intentionally left out perspective (I consider this primarily impacted by lens selection) and composition (as this is the photographer’s prerogative).
Core Settings: Aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and metering. These are at the heart of photography, regardless of genre. Most of these are changeable on the fly while shooting through the dedicated button and/or dial press/turns.
Output Settings: Most of the settings of the ‘photo shooting’ menu. These affect the output file type, size and look, such as file quality (raw and jpeg), picture control system (standard, vivid etc.), and white balance. An exception is the ISO setting, which I consider core.
Fine-tune Settings: The menu options of the ‘custom settings’ menu. These are important adjustments to the way the camera looks at and reacts to the scene/subject.
Scene variables: I keep it simple, by including (available) light levels and subject movement only.
Photographic intent: This is the part where you decide what you want to convey or achieve through your photograph. Do you want to freeze or show movement? Go high or low key on the scene? Are you isolating your subject from its surroundings or showing some background detail? These (and many more) are the meaningful aesthetic choices, which make each photographer unique.
Enablers: Out of the many props/modifiers available to photographers, I include here the flash and the tripod. These two (arguably filters as well) make possible, more than anything else, the realization of our vision in diverse genres of photography (e.g. landscape, long exposure, night photography, macro etc.). Additionally, each of them has their own distinct group of settings to maximize their effectiveness.
Any given scene can be broken down to any pair of variables (marked with x) in the table below.
I argue that superimposing our photographic intent on these sets of variables, assisted by suitable enablers, is the art and technique of photography. In my view, the custom settings number one goal is to facilitate effortless interplay between variables, intent, and enablers.
To achieve this, they should allow a quick switch from one bundle of the core, output and fine-tuning settings to another. U1/2 and Memory Banks do this in different ways, as I will demonstrate below.
Key: U1 (User-defined 1), U2 (User-defined 2), C1 (Core 1), C2 (Core 2), O1 (Output 1), O2 (Output 2), F1 (Fine-tuning 1), F2 (fine-tuning 2)
The tables above summarize the difference in the logic of U1/2 and Memory Banks.
Before I provide some examples of real-life shooting using both custom settings, I will make a few important working assumptions about a ‘generic’ shooting style:
Now, I will walk you through one of my typical shooting situations – walking around town or traveling, to show what I ideally expect from my custom settings.
As I am strolling along, I see a nice background for a portrait. I want my camera to be on the ready with pinpoint focus accuracy (AF-S single point) with a nice shallow depth of field. Depending on surrounding light levels and contrast, I may or may not want to add flash-fill or even overpower available light using high-speed sync, so it is handy to be able to quickly access a convenient flash exposure starting point.
Along the road, a cute animal is playing. I’d like to shoot it as it moves, freeze it or do a nice pan. My camera needs to be ready to follow motion (AF-C combined with any preferred focus area mode). Also, I need quick flexibility on my shutter speed selection from a 1/1000th sec (to freeze action) down to around 1/30th sec (to pan).
I enter a beautiful garden. Flowers are perfect to photograph close-up (macro) so I set up my tripod. Here, I require a deeper depth of field and pinpoint focus accuracy again (AF-S single). If the light is not plenty, I may need a longer than usual exposure.
Turning ‘on’ long exposure noise reduction and exposure delay, provides better image quality in these scenarios. To further mitigate shake risk, I also engage mirror lock-up. Unfortunately, mirror lock is not pre-configurable in U1/2 or in Memory Banks.
On any trip, it is great to take a nice landscape photo. In this case, the macro settings above, more or less apply. If there is plenty of light, shooting handheld is not an issue.
Finally, during a town-by-night walk, a nice long exposure is always memorable. Again, the macro scenario settings and my trusty tripod come in handy.
Based on these realistic hypothetical-shooting scenarios, it is evident that settings vary considerably from auto-focus mode to shutter speed and aperture, to flash or no flash etc. You may also want to give your camera to someone for a quick snap, without having the time or inclination to explain focus, recompose or other settings.
If there is an ‘auto’ option on your modes dial then all is good, if not, then resetting to ‘waiter’ or ‘dumbbell’ mode (as full-auto is also known to some) is not quick nor easy without custom settings.
Now, I will briefly show my settings for both modes and a few tips to further increase their flexibility.
U1 is my ‘General Shooting Mode’ and the settings are shown in the screen below. If you employed back-button focus, then you would use AF-C instead of AF-S
U2 is my ‘Flash Shooting Mode’ and the settings are shown in the screen below.
It is important to mention that you have additional options by customizing M/A/S modes.
My photo shooting banks are named A=General B=JPG C=Shutter D=Manual
The custom banks are named A=General B=Flash C=Tripod D=Waiter
I have set banks this way to be able to move from my usual working best quality output (e.g. A/A) to basic point and shoot output (e.g. B/D) within just a few seconds by using the ‘info’ button and changing the ‘custom settings’ banks.
Tips to maximize both methods:
After comparing U1/2 with Memory Banks for versatility in the above scenarios, my conclusion is that banks provide me with the highest flexibility thanks to their matrix structure. However, banks demand greater discipline in their set-up and use to remain helpful. This is because U1/2 are ‘sticky’, while banks are not.
Once settings are saved in U1/2, no matter what changes you make while shooting with U1/2 selected, you will not impact the saved settings. Simply reselect U1/2 and you are at your initial settings in a blink, hence ‘sticky’. However, all 8 banks save settings dynamically in real time as you apply them during your shooting. Following is a simplified example to elaborate:
You have U1 set up as A-priority, AF-S at f/5.6 and matrix metering. During your shoot, you move from the matrix to spot and f/8. Do you want to go quickly back to your base settings? Simply turn the dial from U1 to U2 and then back to U1 again, and you are back to f/5.6 and matrix.
In banks (both custom and shooting), if you wanted to keep your selected bank identical to the starting configuration, you would need to manually bring metering and apertures back to their initial values.
So, in the grand scheme of things, I have no complaints from either method in the Nikon Custom Settings. I am glad to have both available. I value the ease of use of U1/2 and I love the greater choice that Memory Banks give me. For example, being tripod-ready for landscape or macro, without having to remember to change many settings makes things easier and quicker.
It would be great to have an option to easily save and restore banks in camera to provide the best of both worlds, or to have the quick recovery of U1/2 with the greater choice of the banks.
Join the discussion and let us know your preferred method and way of programming Nikon Custom Settings on the D750, D500 or any other camera featuring U1/2 or banks.