Nikon D50 review
Picking up the D50 after the EOS 350D, you get a sense that build quality is a step up. You don’t really notice the extra 93g, as the grip is more comfortable – there’s more room for fingers between the grip and the lens. The D50 is also available in black or silver.
Function buttons are sensibly laid out, although there aren’t many of them. It means some functions, like metering mode, are hidden in menus, but this is because the D50 is aimed at those used to point-and-shoot compacts.
A couple of features are missing too. There’s no sports mode on the mode dial, and no mirror lock-up function to eliminate shake when shooting macro, for example. On the software front, only a trial of Capture 4.2 is included. This means you’ll need to shell out at least £90 if you want to be able to edit RAW files.
However, there’s plenty to like about the 6-megapixel Nikon, which makes a worthy alternative to the Canon. For a start, it offers a spot-metering mode (the 350D doesn’t) and shows ISO and white balance in the top LCD screen, where the 350D makes you look at the TFT. The Nikon’s TFT is also bigger at 2in, making it better for reviewing images.
We’re big fans of the kit lens too. It matches the Canon’s 18-55mm zoom range, but tends to produce sharper images, even if the final image resolution is lower. Also, we liked the fact that Nikon’s 3D Matrix Metering II is very hard to fool, allowing you to get great exposures even in tricky lighting situations.
While most DSLRs take CompactFlash, the D50 (and *ist DL) use SD cards. This is good if you already have some, but SD cards still cost more per gigabyte than CompactFlash or Microdrives. You’ll have no problems with battery life, though – it’s better than the Canon and will allow well over 1,000 shots between charges.
And, in addition to sharp shots and consistently great exposures, the Nikon has a good auto white balance and produces amazingly realistic colours. We saw oversaturation on occasion, but a quick trip to the Image Optimise menu lets you choose presets for the scene you’re shooting. Noise was almost as low as the 350D, so shots are usable up to at least ISO 800. Plus, there was virtually no fringing to be seen – this is down to the extra-low-dispersion glass used in the ED lens.
Those concerned by burst modes will note the D50 is slightly slower, but it’s a minor point overall. And at £400, the D50 has a big price advantage if you already own software that can edit RAW files.