Nikon D80 custom settings

Nikon D80 custom settings

The D80 has 32 custom settings which allows this little camera to be set to your own preferences and needs – and this makes it a very flexible little beast.

This page details my preferences .. and why.


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There are custom settings such as #18, which I believe should be changed from the default settings. Then there is a custom setting like #7, 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 – AF Area Mode

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

default : Single Area,
my preference : default.

My preference would be for shooting in Single Area mode, 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.

Dynamic Area allows the camera tracks a moving subject.
In this mode, you can fire the shutter even when the subject isn’t in focus.

Custom Setting 3 – Center AF Area

This option controls how wide the AF Area is.

default : Normal Zone,
my preference : default.

This custom setting is up to individual preference.

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 – 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 6 – 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 7 – 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.

My recommendation with the D100 and D70 was to keep this OFF, because of the simplistic way it was implemented.
But with the D200 and now the D80, the ISO auto setting has become flexible enough to be more generally used.

default : OFF,
my recommendation : OFF, unless you have a specific need for it.

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 flashmeter, and the camera bumps your ISO to 1600, then your photos will be over-exposed by 3 stops.

The D80 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 – while still keeping the ISO to a maximum that you’re happy with.

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 8 – Grid Display

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

default : OFF,
my preference varies.

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 – Viewfinder warning

This custom setting enables or disables warnings in the viewfinder.

default : ON,
my preference : default.

This one is personal preference. But it makes sense to have a visual reminder of certain things, such as having set the camera to B&W mode.

Custom Setting 10 – 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 Full Custom Settings Menu option via the Setup Menu.

Custom Setting 11 – 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 12 – 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.

Custom Setting 13 – Auto bracketing set

Custom Setting 14 – Auto bracketing order

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 – ie, manual exposure mode – so I keep these settings to the defaults.

Custom Setting 15 – Command dials

This option controls the direction in which the command dials change the shutter speed and aperture settings. This will be a personal preference, but the defaults are the most logical.

Custom Setting 16 – 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 D80 such a versatile camera.

default : ISO display in the viewfinder
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 FV Lock 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.

Custom Setting 17 – 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 : Off,
my preference : On.

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 this function selected, the LCD will light up whenever I hit any of the D80 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.

Custom Setting 18 – 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.
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.

Even though I mostly use manual exposure mode, and this setting doesn’t really affect the way I shoot – my recommendation is to use this button as the AE lock exclusively. I mostly 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 19 – 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 : OFF
my recommendation : keep to the default.

The default makes sense here, since you don’t want to link the point of focus with the area you meter from. Focusing and metering should be two separate actions, and shouldn’t be linked with a single press of the shutter button.

Custom Setting 20 – Focus Area

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

default : OFF,
my preference : default.

Custom Setting 21 – AF 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 22 – Built-in Flash

This option controls which mode the built-in flash will use.

default : TTL
my recommendation : Commander mode.

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).

My recommendation would be to keep it to the Commander mode. Since the built-in flash is about the worst kind of way to use flash, you really should be using a larger external strobe to give you more options in using flash.

With the built-in flash set to Commander mode, you can use your external Nikon strobe, and when you need wireless TTL flash, you can simply remove your Nikon Speedlight and you are immediately set to control the Nikon Speedlight in Commander mode.

Custom Setting 23 – Flash Warning

This option controls whether the camera should indicate with a blinking warning in the viewfinder that flash might be needed.

default : ON,
my preference : off.

When to use flash should be a more conscious decision than your camera suggesting it.

Custom Setting 24 – Flash Shutter Speed

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.

Custom Setting 25 – Auto FP

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.

Custom Setting 26 – 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.

Custom Setting 27 – 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.

Custom Setting 28 – 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 D80 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.

Custom Setting 29 – 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.

Custom Setting 30 – Remote duration

This will determine how long the camera will wait for remote signals when in remote mode.

default : 1 min,

This setting is dependent on your own specific use of the camera.

Custom Setting 31 – 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.

Custom Setting 32 – MB-D80 batteries

Here you select which batteries you are using in the MB-D80 grip, so that the correct battery levels can be displayed.

my suggestion : use EN-EL3e batteries.

If you use EN-EL3e batteries, which are the best choice of batteries for the D80, then this becomes a moot point.

33 Comments, Add Your Own

  1. 2Ingrid Meijerink says


    Since one month I have a Nikon D80 with a tamron 18-200+ SB800 speedlight. Before I had a Nikon D40 for only 5 months but I wanted a better camera.
    I have problems with the sharpness in automatic setting. Mostly I try the M-stand but sometimes I must photografic in big eventshals with high cealings, diffrent kinds of light-circumstances etc. it is with big linedance-events with dancers and musicbands on stage etc. That is why I choose for the automatic setting.
    There are a lot of photo’s not good because of the sharpness and mostly very often people have red-eyes.

    In spite of the automatic setting it was possible to change the iso and sharpness-setting. I”ve used iso 320 until 800. and AF-C (that went evertime I put the camera off to AF-A. With the Nikon D40 it was not possible to change this things in automatic setting. And red-eyes and sharpness where much better.

    Do you know what I did wrong?

    The Nikon D80 from 1 month now is already defect. I can’t put the sd-cards in the camera anymore. Now I must go to the shop on the other side of the Netherlands to get a new one. I heared that it is an problem that Nikon more has.

    greetings, Ingrid

    and sorry for my bad English

  2. 4Wendi says

    H Neil,

    I have been working with my d80 for a few months now. I shoot mainly inside ice arena’s where the lighting is low and the action is fast. Im using an AF-S VR 70-200. My pictures in any mode (I have tried several) are still very grainly and or have a lot of blur. My best pictures were with my old D50 and regular 300 zoom.

    Any help would be much appreciated!

  3. 5 says

    Wendi …

    Re the grain, can you send me an unedited photo so I can have a look?
    If you expose correctly, noise should not be much of a problem, even at higher ISOs.

    Neil vN.

  4. 6Gejza Cepela says

    Great stuff,
    even though I’ve got the manual it was ineteresting to read about your suggestions and tips.Thanks from Toronto, GC

  5. 7callum says

    hey neil ive jus got my D80 for my 18th birthday im loving it and use it for lots of extreme sports photography i use the multi shot function alot but have found that it is not taking enough photos per secound is there anyway of chaging this so i can get a better squence shot

  6. 8 says

    Callum …

    The D80 has a maximum shooting rate of 3 frames/second.
    That’s just the design limitation.

    Enjoy the camera!

    Neil vN.

  7. 11Aileen Agustin says

    Hi Neil!

    I just got my D80 and I love it…. I tack great pics for my children’s track meets but horrible blurry pics on my kids’ basketball games. I’m playing around with the ISO as it is indoors – but I either get a dark shot OR I get a descent shot with lots of blurr…. I’ve only had the camera for 3 weeks – and we’re inseparable…. but I do need help…. any help would be great.

    Many thanks for your site…. it’s encouraging.

  8. 12Jaymee says


    I have a D80 and when I first got it, I never had a problem with pictures, blowing out frames, lighting, using my SB600 flash. Pictures came out Awesome! I just recently started doing on location with this camera, and my camera is usually set to studio settings ISO 160, on manual. I’ve been told to do AUTO, TTL….etc for outdoors…but let me tell you the issues I’ve been having. You would think I was using a disposable camera. They are either grainy, blurry, blue sky blown out….etc. So I guess I went through your guide and tried to update the settings, but my flash doesn’t pop off all the time (another huge problem), how long to I honestly need to wait between taking pictures to be sure the flash will pop off. And also, can you just tell me what to set the camera at for outdoor, sunny settings, once and for all. I never had these issues when shooting with nikon film cameras and an old SB24! Thanks so much for your help!


  9. 13Uven says

    Hi Neil, thanks of your greatly Nikon D80 setting. I just got my D80 since 3 days ago.. did u use the “image priority “setting since the most photo that you have taken is from “people”. Im using at the moment color mode I(for people) and Saturation+. What do you think about this Setting Neil ? i like to make a crazy ,warm color from my Picture. Free comment at my Picture’s website .. thanks Neil

    Thanks for your help :)


  10. 14 says

    Uven …

    I shoot in RAW and then edit my images afterward for contrast and saturation, and so on. Therefore I just keep the image settings to the defaults.

    Neil vN.

  11. 15Fi says

    Hi Neil,I am new to metering. In Manual, if I take a reading do I then have to adjust the exposure to get it back to 0 on the reading? Is that the correct setting? I am trying to meter read an 18% greycard but don’t know which is the correct reading! Thanks.

  12. 16 says

    Fi .. it all depends.

    If you meter off a grey card like that (and you have the grey card at a correct angle), then you would normally zero your meter in manual exposure mode.

    But just zeroing your meter reading for any scene in front of your camera, wouldn’t give you a different result than if you had been using an automatic mode. As you seem to be aware already, the tonality of your subject and scene will influence your meter reading … but shouldn’t influence your actual settings.

    I would still recommend though that you also be guided by your histogram, and checking your histogram specifically for the brightest relevant tone.

    Neil vN

  13. 17margaret Palmer says

    Hello. I have had the D80 and seven thought I have been taking beautiful pictures on A or P in the past, I now get a black screen. I can lighten it and see something so the image is there but I have something turned wrong. I am having to use my automatic settings and they are not satisfactory. Please tell me what I have done. I just reset my camera to your recommendations.

  14. 18 says

    Hi there Margaret

    I suspect you have your exposure compensation dialed in, and most likely to something like -3EV compensation. Just check that.

    Neil vN

  15. 19Chris says

    I have just bought a new Nikon D80. (It is not my first Nikon camera.) While testing the camera I have encountered an issue which concerns the depth-of-field preview button, and perhaps its mechanism. When I press the button lightly, the mirror goes up to the focusing screen and nothing can be seen in the viewfinder. The mirror goes back down when I release the button. However, if the button is pressed a little bit more firmly, everything works correctly. I have tried it with different lenses and it is all the same. Do you know what this might be and why?

  16. 20Pierre says

    I just had an indepth look at your site, your pict. and your tips and tecniques.
    It is just all great , the pictures too.
    Also you don´t say much ( or nothing ) regarding WB settings. I have D80+SB800 and have a yellow/red cast almost every time i use the flash as a main light source in dark places, and when y tweek the WB it goes toward blue cast.
    Is it possible to avoid this ? I have seen in the forums many complaints with the D300+SB900 doing the same.
    Best regards

  17. 23Kathy says

    I am so grateful for sites like this on the net. They are so helpful so thank you! I have been shooting with the d80 since the summer and have tried to progress from auto to ap to shutter now to manual. I have recent;y started playing around with the ISO levels to shoot indoors with less flash. The pics are coming out so noisy around 640. Is that the way it is or is there something I can do to avoid this? My noise reduction is set to on.

  18. 24 says

    Kathy …

    The best thing to reduce noise in images is to expose correctly, and not under-expose.

    If you’re unhappy with what the noise looks like at 640 ISO, you also have to keep in mind your end use of the image. While the noise might appear noticeable at 100% viewing on your computer screen, it might print differently.

    So I good test would be to print a properly exposed image (at a specific ISO setting), and then see how the noise appears in the print.

    Here’s more about my choice of ISO settings.


    Neil vN

  19. 25hockey says

    I shoot hockey using the same lens but on a d90, I have found shooting shutter priority 1/640 with auto-iso ON works best for me. Sometime I kick exposure compensation up +0.3 if the arena is really dark in the corners.

  20. 26Mark J says

    I have a D80 and can’t turn the RGB Histogram off. The manual is useless for this procedure as is the Nikon website. Thanks.

  21. 28Edwin says

    Hello sir. I’m new to this hobby and I have my D80 and I have a problem… I really need your help… My AF-area mode (02 in my custom setting is disabled) It says ‘This option is not available with current settings’… What do I need to do? Please help… :(

  22. 30Mim K says

    Hi, I am having the same problem as Edwin – my “built-in flash” mode is grey and I can’t click on it. How can I fix this?

  23. 31 says

    If certain settings are greyed out in the Nikon D80 menu and you can’t change settings, then it is most likely because you’re operating your camera in full Auto ‘green’ mode. Change it to any of the ‘MAPS’ modes, and see if you get control again.

    Neil vN

  24. 32Gabriella Kiss says

    Dear Neil
    I prepare my camera for trekking in Namibia. Nikon D80 with 500 m Nikkor. I am working about 4 years with this camera, but now I have atricky problem, the LCD monitor is still dark after opening.
    This means that I can take picture only to look in and with 2 kg it is difficult. I checked all Settings and really not understand why it is dark.
    Maybe you can advice if you are still working in this page.
    Thanks you very much, Gabriella

  25. 33Margaret Carrola says

    Thank you so much for this! I recently inherited a Nikon D80 but was totally confused as to operating and applying settings. Thank you for this helpful webpage!!

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