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Understanding All the Nikon D90’s Controls

A new Nikon D90 is exciting and fun — but it sure has a lot of buttons and dials to figure out. Using your digital SLR camera will be a breeze once you understand what all the D90's controls do.

Topside controls

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Control Panel: On the D90, you can view basic camera settings on this topside LCD panel or on the main monitor.

On/Off/Illuminate switch and shutter button: The switch rotates to turn the camera on or off, or to illuminate the control panel. The button controls the camera’s shutter.

Metering Mode button. Press this button to select an exposure metering mode, which determines what part of the frame the camera considers when calculating exposure. The little red Format label above the button reminds you that you can press this button together with the Delete button — which also sports the label — to quickly format a memory card.

Exposure Compensation button: This button activates a feature that enables you to tweak exposure when working in three of your camera’s autoexposure modes: programmed autoexposure, aperture-priority autoexposure, and shutter-priority autoexposure, represented by the letters P, S, and A on the camera Mode dial.

Release Mode button: With this button, you can switch from normal shooting, where you take one picture with each press of the shutter button, to one of the camera’s other modes, including Self-Timer mode.

AF Mode/Reset button: Press this button to access the Autofocus mode setting, which affects your camera’s autofocus performance.

See the little green dot above this button and the Exposure Compensation button? The dots are a reminder that pressing these two buttons simultaneously for more than two seconds restores the most critical picture-taking options to their default settings.

Mode dial: With this dial, you set the camera to fully automatic, semi-automatic, or manual photography mode. The little pictographs, or icons, represent the Nikon Digital Vari-Program modes, which are automatic settings geared to specific types of photos: action shots, portraits, landscapes, and so on.

Back-of-the-body controls

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Main command dial: After you activate certain camera features, you rotate this dial to select a specific setting.

AE-L/AF-L button: Found just to the right of the viewfinder, when you’re taking pictures in some automatic modes, you can lock in your focus and exposure settings by pressing and holding this button. You can adjust the performance of the button as it relates to locking focus and exposure, too.

Lv (Live View) button: Found just below the AE-L/AF-L button, you press this as the first step in recording a movie or taking advantage of Live View shooting, in which you can use the monitor to compose your shots.

Multi Selector/OK button: This dual-natured control plays a role in many camera functions. You press the outer edges of the Multi Selector left, right, up, or down to navigate camera menus and access certain other options. At the center of the control is the OK button, which you press to finalize a menu selection or other camera adjustment.

Focus Selector Lock switch: This switch relates to the camera’s autofocusing system. When the switch is set to the position shown here, you can use the Multi Selector to tell the camera to base focus on a specific focusing point. Setting the switch to the L position locks in the selected point.

Info button: Found on the bottom right of the LCD screen, you can press this button to display the Shooting Information screen on the camera monitor.

Delete button: This button enables you to erase pictures from your memory card. This button's icon looks like a trash can and it's located to the left of the viewfinder.

Playback button: Press this button to switch the camera into picture review mode. It's on the top of the row of buttons to the left of the LCD screen.

Menu button: Press this button to access menus of camera options. It's the second button in the row of buttons to the left of the LCD screen.

WB/Help/Protect button: This button serves several purposes: White balance control: For picture-taking purposes, the button’s main function is to access white balance options. Help: You also can press this button to display helpful information about certain menu options. Protect: In playback mode, pressing the button locks the picture file — hence the little key symbol that appears on the button face — so that it isn’t erased if you use the picture-delete functions. (The picture is erased if you format the memory card, however.) You'll find this button in the middle of the row of buttons to the left of the LCD screen.

ISO/Playback Zoom Out/Thumbnail button: In picture-taking mode, pressing this button accesses the ISO setting, which controls the camera’s sensitivity to light. In playback mode, pressing the button enables you display multiple image thumbnails on the screen and to reduce the magnification of the currently displayed photo. This button is second from the bottom of the row of buttons to the left of the LCD screen.

Qual (Quality)/Playback Zoom In button: In playback mode, pressing this button magnifies the currently displayed image and also reduces the number of thumbnails displayed at a time. Note the plus sign in the middle of the magnifying glass — plus for zoom in. In picture-taking mode, pressing the button gives you fast access to the Image Quality and Image Size options. This is the last button of the row of buttons to the left of the LCD screen.

Front-left buttons

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Flash/Flash compensation: Pressing this button pops up the camera’s built-in flash (except in automatic shooting modes, in which the camera decides whether the flash is needed). By holding the button down and rotating the main command dial, you can adjust the flash mode (normal, red-eye reduction, and so on). In advanced exposure modes (P, S, A, and M), you also can adjust the flash power by pressing the button and rotating the sub-command dial.

BKT (Bracket) button: This button is key to enabling automatic bracketing.

Lens-release button: You press this button before removing the lens from your camera.

AF/M (autofocus/manual) switch: This switch comes into play if you use certain types of lenses.

Make note of the tiny microphone perched just above the D90 label. Be careful not to obscure the microphone with your finger when you’re recording a movie.

Front-right controls

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Sub-command dial: This dial is the counterpart to the main command dial on the back of the camera. Rotate this one to select certain settings, usually in conjunction with pressing another button.

AF-assist lamp: In dim lighting, a beam of light shoots out from this little lamp to help the camera’s autofocus system find its target. This function can be disabled.

Function button: By default, this button locks the flash exposure value when pressed. You can set the button to perform one of nine other operations.

Depth-of-Field Preview button: By pressing this button, you can see how different aperture settings affect depth of field, or the zone of sharp focus in your image.

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