Nikon D2x custom settings

Nikon D2x custom settings

If the Nikon D2H was an awesome camera, then the bigger brother, the Nikon D2x is simply stunning, offering amazing picture quality. The controls and functions between the two cameras are virtually the same, and the D2x offers the same myriad of options that the photographer can set according to their own style and needs.
Here are my preferences for the D2x Custom Settings .. and why.

If you find these articles interesting and of value, then you can help by using
these affiliate links to order equipment & other goodies.   Thank you!


The Custom Functions are grouped into 6 categories:

a – Autofocus
b – Metering / Exposure
c – Timers / AE & AF Lock
d – Shooting / Display
e – Bracketing / Flash
f – Controls

a1 .. AF-C mode priority

AF-C is the Continuous Focusing mode, where the shutter can be tripped whether the subject is in focus or not, ie, Release Priority. With this setting, you can turn AF-C into Focus Priority.

default : Release button (ie, FPS is maintained),
my preference : default, (Release priority).

There are generally two ways that auto-focusing are used –
– Continuous Focusing, with the focusing enabled on the rear
AF-ON button. (See custom function a5.) This enables the photographer to use follow focus, and use the AF-ON button as a way of holding focus if necessary (by letting go of the AF-ON button). This is the way that most sport photographers use AF.

With this setting the photographer has a very powerful option – to change the usual behavior of AF-C mode in only tripping the shutter when the subject is in focus. Although, that said, I am not sure it is how most photographers would want to use Continuous Focusing.

Action photographers usually need the camera to accurately track the subject, and the shutter to fire when the photographer wants, without the camera deciding otherwise.

a2 .. AF-S mode priority

AF-S is the Single Focusing mode, where the shutter can only be tripped whether the subject is in focus, ie, Focus Priority. With this setting, you can turn AF-S into Release Priority.

default : Focus Priority,
my preference : default.

My preference is for the camera’s shutter to only fire when I’ve acquired focus. Then I can lock focus by keeping the shutter button slightly in – allowing me to recompose the picture.

As an aside .. with previous generations of Nikon cameras, my preference was for the camera to be set to AF-S mode, and with Single Frame Advance, since this way it allowed me to focus on a subject, re-frame, and shoot a sequence with that point of focus locked by the shutter button. (If I had my camera set to Continuous Frame Advance without selecting AF-ON activation, then the camera would’ve re-focused after the first photo was taken, and I will need to go through the routine again to lock focus, re-frame and shoot.)

a3 .. Group dynamic AF

With this setting the shape of the grouping of the auto focus sensors are controlled in Group Dynamic AF – as well as whether the central sensor is given preference, or the subject that is closest to the camera is given preference.

default : Pattern 1,
my preference : default.

This custom function is entirely dependent on the individual photographer’s style and needs. And the way this function operates also makes more sense in conjunction with the user manual (p.76-79 & 183-184).

a4 .. Disable Lock-On

With this option you can control whether Focus Tracking is disabled with Lock-On.

default : ON,
my preference : default.

This setting controls the behavior of AF-C mode in that the camera allows for sudden changes in the subject movement.

The best resource on the implications of this setting, can be found on Digital Darrell’s website: Lock On – Does it Work?

a5 .. AF activation

With this setting you dictate whether auto-focusing is initiated via either the shutter button or the AF-ON button, or just the AF-ON button.

default : shutter button / AF-ON,
my preference : default.

The choice here is closely linked to how you prefer activating auto-focus and your choice of focusing mode (AF-C or AF-S), since the behaviors of each mode changes slightly whether you focus with the shutter button or the AF-ON button.

I prefer the default because I mostly use my camera in AF-S focusing mode, and use my shutter button to activate and hold auto-focus.

Most sport photographers however, use the AF-ON button to activate auto-focus. Setting custom function a5 to AF-ON, makes most sense if you use Continuous Focusing mode (AF-C), since this setting will then allow you to lock focus by simply releasing the AF-ON button.

With Nikon’s cameras, when you use AF-S focusing mode, you will need the camera to achieve focus before it will fire in AF-S mode, if you focus with AF-ON. This makes it (for me at least), a clumsy way of using auto-focus.

a6 .. Focus Area Illumination

This option controls the behavior of the active focus area in the viewfinder.

default : On, On, 0.2sec,
my preference : default.

Here you can control whether the chosen focus sensor lights up (or not) in manual mode, or whether it lights up (or not) in the continuous focusing mode, or how long it lights up when you move the active focusing sensor.

a7 .. Focus Area

This setting controls whether the focusing sensor selection wraps around, or not.

default : OFF,
my preference : default.

a8 .. Vertical AF-ON

The functions assigned to the Vertical AF-ON button are determined with this custom setting.

default : AF-ON + focus area,
my preference : default.

The default here makes the most sense. It allows you to control the positioning of the active auto focus sensor, as well as initiate auto focus. If you don’t use the AF-ON button at all to initiate auto focus, then you can set this option to only allow control of the auto focus sensors with the vertical AF-ON button.

b1 .. ISO auto

This setting allows the camera to automatically adjust the ISO upwards if the camera decides that proper exposure can’t be achieved at the current exposure settings for your chosen exposure mode.

default : OFF,
my recommendation : OFF.

With the Auto ISO setting ON, you will run into a problem with your camera if you use manual metering mode. Auto ISO will override your manual metering settings every time if it is any different from what the camera’s meter says – thereby completely negating the very reason for Manual Metering’s existence.

This will obviously cause problems as well when Auto ISO is used with studio lighting. Since there is no way for the camera to know what you are doing with the studio lights, the camera’s metering will perceive there not to be enough available light to take the photograph under the specific settings – and it will bump up the ISO in an attempt to get ‘correct’ exposure. This causes major over-exposure with the studio lights. If you were metering for 200 ISO with your flash-meter, and the camera bumps your ISO to 1600, then your photos will be over-exposed by 3 stops.

There are two other scenarios where you might want to consider Auto ISO.

  • If you should need a very specific shutter speed and aperture, which you then set in manual metering mode. Then, to accommodate lighting changes, you could have the camera adjust the ISO automatically to match the meter reading at that point.
  • Also, if in Shutter Priority mode, if you wanted to work only within a certain range of apertures, you could use Auto ISO to keep your auto exposures correct when you move out of the range of possible apertures.

But these would be unusual situations, and for all practical purposes, I would still recommend that the ISO Auto setting be set to OFF. The manual talks of the camera using ISO Auto to get optimal exposure, but in truth, optimal exposure is most often not the automatically selected exposure values of shutter speed and aperture. See my Exposure Techniques page why.

b2 – ISO step value

This custom setting controls whether the shutter speed / aperture increments are in full or 1/2 or 1/3 steps.

default : 1/3 step,
my recommendation : 1/3 step.

Controlling the ISO is as important as controlling aperture and shutter speed in getting to the correct exposure. Since an increase in ISO means an increase in noise, it makes sense to have the ISO increments as small as 1/3rd stop to make for incremental jumps in adjustment.

b3 .. EV step

This custom setting controls whether the shutter speed / aperture increments are in full or 1/2 or 1/3 steps.

default : 1/3 step,
my recommendation : 1/3 step.

This one is personal preference. I have mine set to 1/3rd steps, because it allows better fine tuning of exposure and exposure compensation – which is essential with digital capture. However, I can see how it might be easier or more convenient in some cases to be able to set 1/2 stop apertures and shutter speeds.

b4 .. Exposure comp. EV

This custom setting controls whether the exposure compensation increments are in full or 1/2 or 1/3 steps.

default : 1/3 step,
my preference : 1/3 step.

Once again, this is entirely personal preference. Setting exposure compensation in wider steps than 1/3 stop settings might make bracketing over a wider rage easier, but I still think that using 1/3rd stop increments allow for finer tuning of exposure.

b5 .. Easy Exposure comp.

This custom setting dictates whether the [+/-] is needed as well to dial in exposure compensation, or whether exposure compensation can be dialed in with the CMD dial only.

default : [+/-] & CMD dial,
my preference : keep it to the default.

If this setting is changed from the default, then a simple twiddle of the dials will change exposure compensation – very nifty, but all too easy to do by accident when using the camera in day to day photography. It’s simply safer to keep it to the default, where there is an extra safeguard in that the [+/-] button has to be pushed as well, before exposure compensation can be set.

Since I nearly always shoot in Manual Exposure mode anyway, this setting wouldn’t affect my normal operation of the camera. But I can see how this setting would be of real value to someone who shoots constantly in a specific auto mode such as Aperture Priority, where fast access to exposure compensation would be of great help.

b6 .. Center weighted metering

This custom setting controls the size (and hence precision) of the center-weighted metering selection.

default : 8mm,
my preference : 8mm.

This very useful setting allows you to set the metering area wider or much narrower for center-weighted metering. At the narrowest setting it acts like a wide spot-meter reading – not as highly selective as a spot-meter reading, but still precise enough to make specific meter readings off a scene.

Exactly how wide or tight you set the metering pattern is up to personal preference, but my feeling here is that anyone who has a precise approach to exposure metering, would select one of the smaller areas as a default.

b7 .. Fine Tune Optimal Exposure

This custom setting is a very powerful tool. Many photographers want their images to be brighter or darker than the camera gives at the correctly metered default. With this setting you can bias the exposure without having the exposure compensation warning. ie .. this is like permanent exposure compensation built in for each of the metering modes.

default : NO,
my preference : default.

I personally like the way that the Nikon cameras meter, which tends to give more saturated images. This also helps protect the highlights with digital photography. But this really is a setting which elevates this camera out of the ordinary, allowing unprecedented control over exposure. Every photographer can now fine-tune the camera’s metering to his / her own taste.

c1 .. AE Lock

This option controls whether exposure will lock while the shutter-release is pressed half-way, or only with the AE-L/AF-L button.

default : AE-L Button
my recommendation : keep to the default.

The default makes sense here, since the other option is to have the shutter button work as the exposure lock, which can be confusing, since it links the point of focus to the place you meter – which should not be thought of as the same thing, since it isn’t.

With this default, Nikon is essentially disagreeing with its own default for option c2, because now they see the need to keep focus and exposure lock separate. And that’s the way it should be.

c2 .. AE-L / AF-L

This setting controls the behavior of the AE-L / AF-L button.

default : AE/AF Lock,
my recommendation : anything other than the default.
my preference : AE Lock

Exposure and Focus lock should not be linked. They have nothing to do with each other, since the point that you meter off is most likely not to be the same point you are focusing on. You really don’t want to limit yourself by having the AE Lock button to also be your Focus Lock. Either use the AE/AF Lock button as an AE Lock .. or .. an AF Lock, but not both at the same time.

Which setting you choose depends entirely on your shooting style. If you use Continuous Focusing often, then it makes sense to use this button as an AF lock or set as the AF-ON selection (which will remove the focusing action from the shutter button.

My preference is to use this button as the AE lock exclusively. I only shoot in Single-frame and Single-Servo AF since this combination allows me to use the shutter button as a focus lock between frames.

c3 .. Auto meter Off

This setting controls how long your camera’s meter reading is displayed in the viewfinder and on top of the camera.

default : 4 secs,
my preference : 16 secs.

Once again, this setting is entirely personal preference, but I like my meter reading to not disappear so soon after I active it with the shutter button. The battery of the D2x is long-lasting enough that the minor bit of power-saving by having a short meter display period, is off-set by the annoyance of having to press the shutter button repeatedly when taking meter readings.

c4 .. Self-timer

This setting controls how long the self-timer takes before tripping the shutter.

default : 2 secs,
my preference : 2 secs.

This setting should be up to personal preference, but I like a shorter self-timer setting, since I mainly use this to stabilize the camera from vibrations when working with the the camera on a tripod.

c5 .. Monitor Off

With this setting you control how long the LCD display stays up.

default : 10 secs,
my preference : 1 min.

I’m an incorrigible chimper. I like seeing what I just photographed, and also, the histogram and blinking highlights are indispensable tools. Therefore I *need* to chimp. Having a much longer LCD display time helps. Besides, others usually want to see what you just shot.

d1 .. Shooting Speed

This setting controls the maximum frame rate when the camera is set to CL (continuous low-speed).

default : 3 fps
my preference : the default.

I don’t often shoot in Continuous frame-advance, since I prefer the Single Frame mode. I feel that the D2x responds fast enough in my hands, that I can fire off enough shots and fast enough, for most applications.

Action photographers will set this option to their own requirements.

d2 .. Maximum shots

With this setting you control the maximum number of frames you can shoot in a single burst.

default : 35,
my preference : the default.

I don’t quite understand why anyone would want to limit themselves to a smaller number of frames that can be shot in one go, but here’s the opportunity to do so.

d3 .. Exposure Delay Mode

The shutter release is delayed by 0.4 sec from the moment you press the shutter button.

default : off,
my preference : default.

This option is essential for photographers who shoot at slow shutter speeds or do high-magnification work such as macro photography. The mirror flipping up causes a lot of internal vibrations, and this ‘mirror slap’ can cause photographs to show camera shake. With this setting, the mirror is flipped up instantly as you press the shutter button, but the shutter itself only opens 0.4 seconds later when the vibrations from the mirror flipping up, has been damped.

d4 .. File Number Sequence

This default chooses whether the file names reset to 0001 every time you use a new CF card or new folder, or whether the camera remembers the last file name used and keep numbering sequentially from there on.

default : OFF,
my recommendation : ON.
This is one of the settings which I recommend be changed from the default.

File No. Seq OFF – will name the image files the same every time you use a new memory card or a clean memory card. The file naming will resume from the last image recorded on the memory card. This means that if you use more than one memory card, you will have duplicate file names. Even if you only use one memory card, you run will most likely get to the point where you have to rename image files continually on your computer.

File No. Seq ON – will resume file naming from the last name used. So if you use more than one memory card, the file names will be different from each other on the different memory cards. This will save you the bother of having to rename files when you download it on the computer, or of having to keep image files from different memory cards in different folders in your computer.

Although, that said, I rename my files to more logical file names, as a matter of course on downloading my CF cards.

d5 .. Control Panel / Viewfinder Display

This setting changes some of the info available on the rear LCD panel and in the viewfinder.

Rear Control Panel:
default : ISO,
my preference : ISO, (as opposed to exposures remaining.)

Viewfinder Display:
default : Frame Count,
my preference : Exposures remaining.

My feeling here is that when my eye is glued to the viewfinder, I’d want to know the number of exposures I have remaining, but when I am looking at the controls, I’d want to see the ISO immediately available, since the number of frames left are visible on the top LCD panel anyway.

d6 .. LCD Illumination

This option controls whether the LCD lights up only when the power switch is rotated to the lamp position, or when any button is pressed.

default : Lamp On Switch,
my preference : Any button.

I most often work in dim areas, and I want to be able to read my LCD without having to precisely select the Lamp button. With the “any button” selected, the LCD will light up whenever I hit any of the D2x camera controls. It just makes it easier for me when the LCD lights up as soon as I handle the camera – then it doesn’t become an extra control that I have to push.

e1 .. Flash Sync Speed

With this setting you control the maximum flash sync speed that the camera will be able to set.

default : 1/250th,
my preference : 1/250th (Auto FP)

I’m not sure why anyone would set a lower than maximum flash sync speed, unless perhaps you’re doing a lot of slow-sync flash photography in one of the auto modes. (But you’d still be better off doing it in Manual exposure mode.)

Even though using the Auto FP high-sync speed option drastically limits the range of the flash, it enables control over depth-of-field with the proper dedicated strobes such as the SB800. Most of the times that I use a sync speed higher than 1/250th I’m using the strobe as fill-flash only (and usually dialed down), so the loss in power isn’t really noticed.

e2 .. Slowest shutter speed when using flash

Here you control the minimum flash sync speed that the camera will set in any of the auto modes.

default : 1/60th,
my preference : 1/30th.

I prefer a slower sync speed in order to allow more ambient light to register. But then, I would rarely use this since I don’t often use an auto mode. I prefer the more considered approach with Manual metering mode, that allows me to drag the shutter for the specific effect I want.

e3 .. AA flash mode

With this setting you control whether changing the aperture on the camera affects the selected aperture on the flashgun, or whether the aperture in AA mode needs to be adjusted on the flash itself .. for the SB-28DX and the SB-80DX.

default : ON,
my recommendation : get the SB-800 ;)

e4 .. Modeling flash

With this custom setting you control whether the depth-of-field preview button acts as a trigger for the rapid burst from the Speedlight that acts as a modeling flash.

default : ON,
my preference : OFF.

This is helpful if you are using multiple Speedlights in a wireless TTL configuration, and it would then help to enable this at that time.

For a single on-camera strobe it makes less sense, since the modeling flash is already accessible as a button on the SB-800 Speedlight itself, and it doesn’t make much sense to tie up the depth-of-field preview button with this function.

e5 .. Auto bracketing set

e6 .. Auto bracketing in Manual exposure mode

e7 .. Auto bracketing order

e8 .. Auto bracketing selection method

These custom functions all control the way that auto-bracketing is set, and therefore is entirely up to the individual photographer’s way of working. I don’t use auto-bracketing, preferring a more specific approach to metering, so I keep these settings to the defaults.

f1 .. Center button

With this custom function, the operation of the center button of the multi-selector is defined for the Shooting Mode and Playback Mode.

Shooting Mode :
default : Center AF Area,
my preference : default

I like the default here over the other choice (Illuminate AF area), since this allows me to instantly re-select the center auto focus sensor if I have been using another focusing sensor instead.

Playback Mode :
default : Thumbnail on/off,
my preference : Zoom on/off.

I really like to be able to see a higher magnification of the image. And with the way the joystick works of the multi-selector, it is easy enough to move to any part of the image. Sweet!

f2 .. Multi selector

With this setting, the multi-selector can have an additional function when pressed.

default : do nothing,
my preference : the default.

Since I already have something assigned to happen when I press the multi-selector button, it is simpler to just have this CF set to do nothing.

f3 .. Photo Info / Playback

With this setting you can control which direction the multi-selector needs to be pushed to access the info screens for each image, or different images.

default : Info <–>.
my preference : default.

f4 .. Assign FUNC. button

This option allows a variety of functions to be assigned to the FUNC button. It is in settings like this, that helps make the D2x shine as a powerful tool for the photographer.

default : FV Lock (the flash exposure is locked)
my preference : Flash Off (the Speedlight is disabled)

This setting is entirely personal preference, since there are a variety of options here that could be put to great use by different photographers. I like the idea of instantaneously being able to disable the flash by pressing the FUNC button, instead of having to pull my eye away from the viewfinder to switch the Speedlight off on the flashgun itself.

The default option is also a strong consideration, since it allows you to lock your flash exposure off a specific tonal value, and not have large areas of white or black throw off your TTL flash metering.

f5 .. Command dials

f6 .. Buttons and dials

Both these custom functions control how your camera’s dials and buttons react, and are purely personal preference, but the defaults are the most logical.

f7 .. No CF card ?

This option disables the shutter release if there is no CF card or if the CF card is full.

default : ON,
my recommendation : ON.

The default here makes a lot of sense. If you were to shoot continuously without stopping to check how many frames you have left, you really do want your camera to stop operating when the memory card is full (or out), and not have you snap away, thinking you are getting the photograph, when you aren’t.

28 Comments, Add Your Own

  1. 1Iype Abraham says

    Hi Neil, this is good info. have you done one for the D2Xs..? is it much different..?

    Tks. iype

  2. 3Alvin Smith says

    Just wanted to know more about the D2X. I just got one and it is a little more complicated than my D70. The pictures are beautiful when I do studio shots but when i do weddings or event shots they are terrible. Please help

  3. 5Heather says

    Hi Neil,

    I need a little help, I recently purchased a Nikon D2X and every indoor picture I take is blurry, but all the outside pictures are very clear, regardless of how much light I have on indoors the pictures are still blurry. Any suggestions? Also, which lens do you recommend to use with the D2X, for wedding and portrait photography?


  4. 6 says

    Heather, I strongly suspect it is something as simple as choosing too slow a shutter speed. Send me some examples and then I will get a clearer idea.

    Neil vN.

  5. 7 says

    I went through every step above.

    You should get an award from Nikon for making this info understandable. I’ll pass this on to Professional Woman Photographers.


  6. 8Eden says

    I came across this site and also shoot with the D2X. I’m really just getting started and was wondering if you could help me with a few specific questions. I shoot children alot and they are constantly moving. I am having a really hard time getting pictures in focus, even when in continuous mode and am wondering what SPECIFIC settings you would suggest. Should I change the focus area? Also, I recently did a mini photo shoot with my son, and he was up against a really colorful background. I couldn’t seem to meter correctly so that his face was clear. Any suggestions? I have pictures I could send, if you have the time. Thanks!!!

  7. 9 says

    You could approach this like sports photographers would, using AF-C to have continuous auto-focusing, and then use the AF-ON button to active (and hold) the focusing.

    I don’t have any recommendations for the focusing area though.

    Check this page for exposure metering techniques.

  8. 11Robert Young says

    Hi, Just got a second-hand D2X ro replace my D1X – what a difference.

    So thanks for walking me through all of the Custom controls. For my shooting most of your settings were perfect.

    Why didn’t Nikon produce any easy reference guide themselves?

    Many thanks for your help – much appreciated

  9. 12Jerry-Lee says

    Hi Neil, wow what a site. I’m having a few problems with my d2x. I’m shooting weddings abroad in the sun and firstly I find my camera always under exposes no matter what light or what mode. Also in the town halls are mixed lighting but always dull so I go manual, up my iso to 500 (serious grain) have my apeture set to over 5.6 to try to keep things sharp, I make sure my shutter speed is greater than my focul legnth if I’m using a zoom and still my images are not sharp. Maybe it’s the focusing method, sometimes I use the diamond but most the time single area. I think sometimes I focus, keep my finger on the shutter half pressed, recompose and shoot and maybe this is the problem? The area I initially focused on should stay sharp even though I change the composure of my picture right? I always shoot single focus never on continuous as I’m not sure why I would use that? Also when I shoot in lowlight the pix are very underexposed even though I have my sb800 on TTL-BL or sometimes TTL.
    Then the sunset shoots, ahh problems. My camera can’t focus as it’s blinded. Is it best to manually expose for the sky by using spot meter, a high f stop like f18 and a reasonable shutter speed and let the flash light the wedding couple? Is TTL the best for this option?
    Also metering! When I meter of a meduim area in the sky am I looking at what settings my camera would use and programme them in manually myself? Is this metering? Or is it simple I point in and lock the exposure and do I always have to have the AE button pressed down the whole time to keep it locked. Sorry for the essay of questions no matter how many sites I look at it’s never clear to me. Please help.

    Thank you

  10. 16Shandelle says

    Hi, I am considering buying a secondhand Nikon D2X but I have no idea what a good price should be! Would you have an idea of the current resale value??

  11. 18Roy says

    Hi guys,I have a D2Xs and use an SB-600 flash. I often use the modeling feature of the SB-600 with the DOF button so I can see where shadows will show up mainly when I use flash indoors etc. I don’t use multi-flashes but the rapid fire modeling feature has been a valuable tool for me . For more light I use a Norman and 10″ reflector,,,,,,,,,,,Roy

  12. 21Neil vN says

    Adam .. you save any preferred combination of settings that you frequently use, in any of the banks.

    As such there is no recommendation, it’s YOUR preferences that you save there … if you want to. I never used the banks though. I tend to keep to a specific combination of camera settings so that the camera’s behavior remains consistent for me.

    Neil vN

  13. 22bob champion says

    hello.i bought a used nikon d2x and never realized untill i had returned to canada that it was locked.on the back display it shows a pic like a wrench and thats it,where there should be other movable options there are is can i get it back to normal..factory reset does nothing…please help me…

  14. 25 says

    The L button there is to lock settings. You must have inadvertently done so.
    Hit the L button while dialing your shutter speed. That should solve your problem.

  15. 26carl says

    Thank you so much… you are my hero… hahaha i mean like. Its been 4 months since my d2x shutter speed locked. Ive been using “auto” since then. And thanks to you, my photography will be nice and beautiful again. Thank you eo much

  16. 27Mark says

    Hi Please can you help, Ive not used my DX2 for a while and the shutter release button isnt doing anything when I press it… it will auto focus but not take a picture please can you help

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *