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The other controls are just as accessible, with exposure compensation, drive mode, flash mode, ISO setting, white balance and image quality all requiring nothing more than the press of a button and a turn of the input dial. The only time you need to go into the menu is to make a set up adjustment, such as manual flash power, colour space, exposure compensation interval etc. If anything the D50 is actually easier to use than many fixed-lens cameras.
It’s all about the picture quality at the end of the day, and unfortunately here’s where it all goes horribly wrong somehow. The lens sold with the D50, an 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 G ED DX, is not one of Nikon’s proudest achievements. Compared to the solid high-performance optics that have made the company famous, this is a nasty plastic tube that feels cheap and actually rattles when shaken. It suffers from problems normally associated with compact zoom lenses, specifically barrel distortion and slight blurring in the corners of the frame at wide angle.
Added to this, the D50’s auto white balance seemed to have a bit of a problem shooting on an overcast day, producing a significant blue cast over many images. I also discovered some nasty purple fringes on high-contrast edges in several shots, which is not something I’d have expected from a Nikon SLR. Although level of detail in the centre of the frame was good, focusing was very quick and accurate, and noise control at high ISO settings is among the best I’ve seen, I have to say that even considering the lousy weather I was rather disappointed with the overall image quality, especially considering the good things I’ve read about it on other review sites.
The D50 kit is a mixed bag. On the one hand it is a truly affordable, easy-to-use digital SLR that offers an entry point into the huge Nikon system. It is well designed, well made and performs admirably. On the other hand it has a sub-par lens and some problems with image quality. Maybe the D50 would be better with a more expensive lens, but there’s no denying that at under £500, it is going to be found under a lot of trees this Christmas.