Today's Nikon D600 Fact
You never can tell whence knowledge will stream. Someone left an old Nikon D300 book here at the shop as part of a trade in. As I use Nikon D300 camera I started to read it at lunchtime. It made some of the custom setting menu business a little more comprehensible than the official Nikon manual, and I was grateful for that. It also uncovered a hidden command that is actually very useful.
This command also appears on the new full-frame Nikon D600. I have one here at the editorial desk to verify this. There is a little difference between the D300 and the D600 in this hidden command but the essence is the same - it is a convenient way for a studio worker to ensure that the correct shutter speed is set in the camera.
You see, studio product work that is done with monoblock or power pack flash units is dependent upon the light those flashes put out - it is rare that you want to mix this with natural light or other light sources in the photo. You set your lights to make the illumination that will enhance the subject, and exclude other influences.
The way to do this is to make the camera "blind" to these other sources of light. I mean the sort of light that leaks in through thin curtains, or open doors, or exists at a low level in the back of the studio where you need to avoid power cables and find the coffee cups. The way you do it is set the ISO of the camera down low to 200, 100, or less. Then you boost the shutter speed up to the maximum synch speed of the shutter you are using and dial in a moderate aperture like f:8 to f:16. Pop your shutter and look at the LCD screen at the back of your camera - darkness.
Now you can relieve that darkness with your studio flash - put on the modelling lights, boost up the power, position the lights, staple the model to the floor, and have at it. Even if the outside of studio is in noonday sunshine, the inside of the camera only sees your flash arrangement.
Here's the fly in the ointment. The maximum synch speed for the D300 on a studio flash is 1/250 sec. The max for the D600 is 1/200. Above this the flash coverage starts to run out and the dreaded black cutoff starts to creep in from one edge of the picture. And unfortunately it is all too easy to hit the shutter speed wheel on the back of the camera with your thumb or heel of your hand and move it to 1/320, 1/500 and up. You don't notice what you are doing and a whole sequence of files is ruined.
The Nikon D3 and D4 address this by giving you a lock setting for the shutter speed that you can punch in - once set you cannot move it until you punch it out. The D300 and D600 use a different idea. They have special settings in either M or S mode that are titled 250x or 200x respectively. These settings are not locked with a physical button like the D3 and D4, but they ARE right next to the Bulb setting on each camera.
If you put the 250x on my camera you can shoot safely in studio...should you inadvertently jog the wheel off this setting there is only one place it can go - to the Bulb setting. That alerts you that you have done something wrong and you do not go off in a whole sequence of great images that only show half their frame. You can recover your setting immediately.
Bonus day. Two Nikon facts for the price of one. Someone rang in yesterday to see when we were going to get stocks of the Nikon D600. Good news. Right now. Sittin' on the shelves. Bring your wallet and take your camera home. Buy some lenses. Got them too. Don't sit there dobbing away on the net when you could be out in the spring sunshine with a new Nikon D600 taking wildflower pictures.