The D50 bears a strong resemblance to the D70 launched last year, but there are some obvious differences. For instance, the D70 has two input wheels whereas the D50 has only one and the D50 has no aperture preview button below the lens. More significantly the D70 stores its images on CompactFlash cards, but like the Pentax *ist DL the D50 uses SecureDigital (SD) cards, presumably because Nikon assumes that most people upgrading from a compact camera will be more likely to buy the D50 if they don’t have to replace all their memory cards as well. There are other minor cosmetic differences, but the initial impression is that the D50 is the D70’s little brother. This is somewhat misleading, because in some ways the D50 has the better specification of the two cameras. It has a slightly larger final image size, a larger LCD monitor, improved AF system, improved metering, a better built-in flash, a USB 2.0 PC connection and shoots uncompressed RAW files, which is vital for maximum picture quality.
Where money has been saved is by shaving off additional features that most amateur photographers won’t even miss, such as wireless flash control, viewfinder composition grid, the backlight in the LCD display, and the ability to fine-tune white balance settings. The result is a camera that is much easier to use. There have been a few minor performance sacrifices, for instance the D50 has a maximum shutter speed of 1/4000th sec, against the D70’s 1/8000th, and a continuous shooting mode that fires 2.5 frames a second as opposed to the D70’s 3fps, but even so it is no way inadequate. Any keen amateur photographer will find that the D50 can provide all the creative control they are looking for.
Of course the real test of an entry-level camera is not its appeal to professional photographers, but how accessible it is for someone coming from a background in compact snapshot cameras, and here the D50 scores highly.
The main shooting control is the big mode dial on the left of the top plate, which includes such familiar options as full auto, portrait, landscape, child portrait, sports/action, macro and night scene. If anyone is unfamiliar with these options, there is a ‘help’ button on the back, which presents a brief description of each mode and what it is used for. As well as these options, there is of course the full range of manual exposure settings: full manual, aperture or shutter priority and program auto mode. The program mode can be biased by turning the input dial.