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How to Record Video with a Nikon D90

Your D90 offers a first-ever feature for digital SLR cameras: the ability to record digital movies. It’s easy — and fun — to learn how to make videos with your digital camera. You won’t get the quality of a professional video camera, but you will have a fun way to record memories without requiring a video editor.

  1. Set the camera to Manual Focus mode.

    If you are using an AF-S lens, set the switch on the lens itself to M. (Depending on your lens, it may carry the label AF/MF instead of A/M.)

    If you are using an AF lens, two switches are involved. First, set the lens switch to M, as just described. Then look for the AF-M switch on the camera body — it’s located just below the lens-release button. Flip the switch to M for manual focusing. For any other lens, set the switch on the camera body to M.

  2. Use a tripod or turn on Vibration Reduction (or whatever form of image stabilization your lens offers).

    All Nikon VR lenses — including the one that comes in the Nikon D90 camera kit — have an On/Off switch, which is located on the side of the lens. Whether you should turn off the VR feature while using a tripod, though, depends on the specific lens, so check the manual. If you use a non-Nikon lens, the vibration reduction feature may go by another name: image stabilization, optical stabilization, anti-shake, vibration compensation, and so on. In some cases, the manufacturers may recommend that you leave the system turned on or select a special setting when you use a tripod, so be sure to check the lens manual for information.

  3. Set your movie preferences through the Movie Settings option on the Shooting menu.

    Through the Shooting menu, you can alter are three settings: movie quality, sound recording, and focusing. (Note that frame rate, video format, and exposure are also included on the Shooting menu; these options have default settings that cannot be adjusted.)

    Movie quality determines the frame size and aspect ratio of the movie: 320 x 216 pixels, for a 3:2 aspect ratio (the same aspect ratio as your D90 still images); 640 x 424, also a 3:2 aspect ratio; and 1280 x 720, which gives you a 16:9 aspect ratio, which is found on many new TV sets and computer monitors. Remember that, as you are limited to a 2GB file, the quality affects the maximum length of the movie. If you select the highest movie resolution (1280 x 720 pixels), your movie can have a maximum length of five minutes. At the two lower-resolution settings, the movies can run as long as 20 minutes.

    Sound recording determines whether you record sound or shoot a silent movie.

    Focus allows you to choose between autofocus and manual focusing. You can use autofocusing to establish initial focus on your subject before you begin recording. But after recording begins, the autofocus system lays down and plays dead. So unless you’re recording a static subject — say, a guitar player sitting on a stool or a speaker at a lectern — opt for manual focusing. You can then adjust focus manually any time during the recording.

  4. Press the Lv button to switch to Live View mode.

    You hear a clicking sound as the camera shifts to Live View.

  5. Compose your shot.

    The scene in front of the lens appears on the monitor, shown here, and you no longer can see anything through the viewfinder. Use the monitor to compose your image.

  6. Set focus.

  7. Press OK to begin recording.

    A red Rec symbol begins flashing at the top of the monitor. As recording progresses, the area labeled Time Remaining shows you how many more seconds of video you will be able to record. (The length is dependent on the movie-quality settings you choose and the amount of space on your memory card.) If you enabled sound, you also see the microphone symbol.

  8. To stop recording, press OK.

  9. Press the Lv button to exit Live View mode and return to normal shooting.

    To play your movie, press the Playback button. In single-image playback mode, you can spot a movie file by looking for the little movie-camera icon in the top-left corner of the screen. You also can view the length of the movie in the area indicated in the figure. Press OK to start playback.

    If you plan to also zoom in and out, give yourself some time to practice before the big event. It’s a bit of a challenge to zoom and focus at the same time, especially while holding the camera in front of you so that you can see the monitor. (A tripod makes the maneuver slightly easier.)

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