Nikon D70 custom settings

Nikon D70 custom settings

The 25 custom settings on the Nikon D70 enable this great little camera to be adapted to the photographer’s specific needs – which may change from situation to situation.

This page details my preferences .. and why.


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There are custom settings such as #15, which I believe should be changed from the default settings. Then there is a custom setting like #5, which I believe should never be changed from the default.

For the other custom settings, there are some I have set differently from the default, but is purely personal preference, and others which I believe should be kept to the default for specific reasons.

I don’t discuss the Custom settings that are entirely dependent on personal choice, such as how long the display remains lit, or how long the self-timer delay should be, etc.

Custom Setting 1 – Beep

With this setting you choose whether or not the camera beeps as focus confirmation.

default : ON,
my preference : OFF.

The beep that the D70 emits is fairly subtle as beeps go. But my personal preference would still be to keep this setting OFF, because the sound of beeping camera could be distracting to others.

Custom Setting 2 – Auto-focus mode AF-C or AF-S

This option determines whether the auto-focusing mode will be Singe or Continuous Focus.

default : AF-S,
my preference : AF-S.

I prefer shooting in Single-Servo Mode (AF-S), because it allows me to lock my focus with the shutter button, so that I can recompose and then shoot. In this mode, the shutter will only trip if the subject is in focus.

Continuous-Servo Mode (AF-C) allows the camera tracks a moving subject. With AF-C mode, you can fire the shutter even when the subject isn’t in focus.

This sounds great in theory, but unless ..

  • you have a fast lens, (f2.8 or faster),
  • and you’re shooting in bright conditions,
  • and focusing on a contrasty subject,
  • with subject always falling on the selected focusing sensor,

.. you might be disappointed in the camera’s follow-focus capabilities. As sweet as the D70 might be, a isn’t a D2H.

Custom Setting 3 – AF Area Mode

This option controls which focus sensor is chosen by the camera .. or not.

default : Single Area,
my preference : default.

This custom setting is up to individual preference, but there is a very obvious point that is sometimes overlooked – the more control you leave over to the camera, the less control *you* have. With that in mind, I prefer the Single Area mode, where I can keep the focusing to the center sensor, which is the stronger focusing sensor. In comparison, the Closes Subject Mode might not select a point of focus that is appropriate.

Custom Setting 4 – AF Assist

This option controls whether the auto-focus assist light comes on in low light to help auto-focus latch onto the subject.

default : ON,
my preference : OFF.

The bright lamp light can be annoying and intrusive at inopportune moments, so I keep it switched off.

Custom Setting 5 – 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.

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.

The D70 has an interesting and potentially useful application of the Auto ISO feature, where the camera will bump up the ISO to try and get a minimum shutter speed. This could be quite useful in helping to eliminate camera shake or subject movement, by having the camera automatically adjust the ISO. This might be a feature worth trying out, but just make sure that the Auto ISO feature doesn’t make your exposure metering inconsistent in manual metering.

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.

Custom Setting 6 – No CF Card?

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

default : LOCK,
my recommendation : LOCK.

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.

Custom Setting 7 – Image review

With this setting you choose whether or not the image immediately displays on the LCD monitor directly after the shot is taken.

default : ON,
my preference : ON.

This one is personal preference. I have mine set to show the image on the LCD after every shot, since I want to confirm that the image is correctly exposed, and look at the histogram. And anyway, I just want to see what I photographed. :-)
The downside to keeping the Image Review setting to ON, is that the LCD consumes some of your battery power.

Custom Setting 8 – Grid Display

This allows a grid pattern to be displayed in the viewfinder.

default : OFF,
my preference : ON.

This one is personal preference. The display isn’t intrusive, and it is a useful guide to have as a reference to keep verticals and horizontals correct.

Custom Setting 9 – EV Step

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

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

Detailed CSM Options

The following Custom Settings are only available if you select
the detailed Custom Settings Menu option.

Custom Setting 10 – Easy Exposure Compensation

This custom setting dictates whether the [+/-] is needed as well to dial in exposure compensation.

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

If this setting is changed away from the default, then a simple twiddle of the dials will change exposure compensation – very easy to adjust, but all too easy to do by accident such as when the camera rubs against your clothing or against your camera bag.

It is 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.

Custom Setting 15 – AE-L / AF-L

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

default : AE/AF Lock,
my recommendation : any of the other selections than the default.
This is one of the settings which I recommend be changed from the default.
my preference : AE Lock

Exposure and Focus lock should not be linked. They have nothing to do with each other – 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.

Custom Setting 16 – 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 once again 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 #15, because now they see the need to keep focus and exposure lock separate. And that’s the way it should be.

Custom Setting 18 – Focus Area Illumination

This option controls whether the active focus area is illuminated in red in the viewfinder.

default : Auto,
my preference : ON.

I like having it on – then it is immediately obvious at all times exactly where the camera is focusing.

Custom Setting 19 – Flash mode

This option controls which mode the built-in (pop-up) flash will be used in.

default : TTL

Your decision here will rest on whether you need your built-in flash as the main flash or fill-flash (and then TTL would usually make the most sense), or whether you want to use the strobe as the Commander strobe to control a Slave flashgun (a remotely triggered SB-600 / SB-800).


You have two ways of firing your remote flash:

A. with the pop-up flash:

You need to set CF#19 to Commander Mode.
You do this by going in to the Pencil menu (CSM menu), but make sure that you have “Detailed CSM Menu” selected under the Spanner menu (Set Up menu).

As part of a sub-menu to CF#19, you select which mode your slave flashgun (SB-800 or SB-600) will be used in – TTL,  AA or Manual.

You need to set your slave flashgun to Channel 3, Group A.

Note that the built-in (pop-up) flash, (in theory at least), doesn’t contribute to the exposure of the image, and only acts as the commander strobe to control your remote SB-600 or SB-800.

If you want a more versatile set-up, or have to fire different strobes in different groups .. then you need to use an SB-800 as the master strobe on your camera instead of the pop-up flash.

B. with the SB-800 on camera: 

You don’t need to set CF#19 for this. This custom function is only for when you use the pop-up flash as the commander flash.

Press the SEL button on the back of your SB-800 until you get the menu. Go into the wireless set-up and set your on-camera strobe to “Master”.

Then press the the On/Off button to go back to the wireless control display to control your various remote strobes.

Do the same for your remote strobes, and select them as “Remote”.

Press the On/Off button to go back to the wireless control display and select which channel and group you want this remote strobe to be triggered as.

From here on, you’re best off going through the manual or especially the nifty extra guide that Nikon supplies, called  “A collection of example photos”.

28 Comments, Add Your Own

  1. 5N2 says

    Thanks! I just stumbled across this while troubleshooting a homework assignment to shoot the same subject at different ISO settings, but couldn’t figure out why it stayed in auto while I was in manual mode. Super helpful.

  2. 6Bernie says

    I was shooting at an community theatre/ dinner production last night,lots of different lighting conditions, & where flash would have been intrusive. I experienced back focusing at times. This article has been incredible helpful in understanding what was happening. Thank you!

  3. 9Jesse says

    Very helpful write-up! Now, that I finally understand the different menu settings, I can’t wait to set them. Thanks again!

  4. 10IRWIN says

    I have D70 and I use only automatic mode, but always get underexpose result and must be adjusted with an image software in my computer. What happen? Thanks.

  5. 11 says

    Irwin .. your main problem here is that you’re using an automatic mode. It’s nearly always better to use manual exposure mode, and even those who use the automatic modes, often override the camera using exposure compensation.

    You also need to become familiar with your camera and how it responds in different scenarios, and adjust accordingly.

    Neil vN

  6. 12JR says

    I found that my D70S the colour contrast is much better than my D200. I would like to know and get your view and tips. T.Q.

  7. 13 says

    JR .. that might well be, since each camera will have slightly different methods of processing the images in-camera.

    In the end, this isn’t of much concern to me, since I shoot in RAW, and control those specific image settings as part of my normal RAW workflow.

    Neil vN

  8. 14Edward Drost says

    Dear Planet Neil: Do you have the custom settings for the Nikon D-60 camera? Thank you very much.

  9. 15 says

    Hi there Edward … I don’t have a similar page up for the D60. Since I don’t have one on hand, I can’t do a quick check, but how dissimilar is it from the other Nikon’s? Would it be able to interpolate the settings for the D60 from these?

    Neil vN

  10. 17William Absher says

    My camera has stopped performing properly, I am receiving a couple of different error codes on my Digital Nikon D70 SLR… I’ve been seeing ” -E- ” and don’t exactly know what it means, actually, I don’t ambiguously know what the code means…
    Theirs also a code that flashes “CHA” or “CHR”, I’m not sure if it’s an “A” or a “R”…. I thought it was an error with my Compact Memory Card so I switched it out with a couple others I had around but the code stayed. Assuming ALL of my cards were bad I borrowed a friends knowing it was good yet the code CHA/R stayed and when I took the card out it flashed??? What does all this mean? Can you please offer some assistance, you seem to be the only one who provides clear concise understandable information. Your web page is much better than NIKON’s page. Your response to my question/s is much needed and will be very much appreciated…
    Thank you immensely…

    Bill Absher 7572706749

  11. 18Stephen says

    CHA means the card can’t be used. The card may have gone bad or the camera is having trouble reading the card. Cards can go bad, although it would usually take hundreds of thousands of writes under normal use. Try reformatting the cards, getting a fresh card, and maybe blowing the CF slot in the camera (to see if there are any dust particles in there). Also, since you are seeing this problem on all your friend’s cards, the camera may be having problems and may need repair.

  12. 19 says

    There really is no good way (except full manual) to lock exposure and still have a seperate AF-lock option with the D70(s), is there? I’m using AF-C and want to lock focus sometimes for several shots in a row.

  13. 20Paul says

    I would like to be able to use the Trap Focus feature on my D70 and understand that I need to set Custom Setting #15 – but I can’t even figure out how to get to the custom settings menu ! Can you please provide an idiots guide to do this? Thanks

    Here are the specific instructions I found:-
    Camera should be in autofocus single-area
    “Pencil” menu items should be set so that 03 AF-AREA is “Single” and 15 AE-L/AF-L is “AF”

  14. 21Paul says

    OK- discovered that my pencil menu settings for CSM was on Simple – so I had only options 1-9 available to me on the CSM menu. Changed that and found Custom Setting 15…So now my question is can I use this feature to take “Trap” photos, without holding down the shutter release button? Thanks!

  15. 22Nattanya Caverhill says

    Thanks for this post. Very helpful. One question: My Nikon D70 has exposure variations of 1/2 or 1/3. I got that.
    I have exposure compensation On. I got that, too.

    But, in some information I got from the Nikon site, the D70 has + / – 5 EV. So, I presume that it should take five shots when set to continuous mode shooting, right? I get three, since I set it on 1/3 EV. I’m confused … I know that I DID get five shots in continuous mode shooting today. What it an accident? Was I dreaming? I’d really LIKE to get five shots in a row with varying EV. That would be perfect.

    Can you explain if it is possible to get five EV variations, at either 1/2 or 1/3 EV setting?

    Thanks loads.

  16. 23 says

    Nattanya … the way you set up Bracketing on the D70 is described thoroughly on p87-91 of the D70 user manual. If you’re missing the manual for some reason, download the PDF from Nikon’s website.

    Neil vN

  17. 25Mike Obadin says

    Good Day Sir,
    Please I want you help me set my camera, D70. When ever i use it to snap, the pictures comes out red or black, some time is not sharp and the production will be very bad.When i started using it it was very good but now i don’t like the production. Please help me out.
    Thanks as await your reply.

  18. 26 says

    Mike, from your description it is impossible to say whether your problem arises from a faulty camera or from improper technique. Find knowledgable photographer friends and show them what you’re getting, and they’d perhaps be able to suggest something.

    Neil vN

  19. 27stephen lumumba says

    i have nikon 70D i want you help me my camera dose not show focus on the sreen.until when i cliq it, and that when i can see the pictures. what to i do to see the pictures on the sreen before.

    thank you waiting for you response.

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