Review: Mastering the Nikon D800 by Darrell Young

Darrell Young has written the definitive book on the Nikon D800. If it isn’t covered in this book, you probably don’t need it. Seriously, this book is a long look inside the digital candy box for Nikon geeks and other photographers who actually (gasp!) read the manual. Unfortunately for me, reading the manual sometimes leaves a little to be desired. Darrell explains what the manual really is trying to say… and even provides the page numbers for the content in the Nikon manual. That’s what I call thorough.  I only wish the Nikon manual provided the page numbers for Mastering the Nikon D800. 

Heard of the Nikonians? I quote: “Nikonians® (www.nikonians.org) is a user community and reference site for Nikon photographers. Found in April 2000 it helps digital and film photographers to shorten their learning curve. The members and visitors improve their photography skills and results while making long lasting friendships across borders and often continents.” The page before the foreword has a 50% discount voucher for a Nikonians Gold Membership. That makes Darrell’s book actually cost nothing with the savings in membership cost.

Mastering the Nikon D800 is over 500 pages of reference. The layout is easy to understand, and it’s easy to find the chapter you are looking for, with chapter markings on the edge of pages – nice visual reference. There are many, many illustrations of menus, illustrative real-world images, and technical notes on where to find that overview in the Nikon manual. The back of the book has a… you guessed it… a nicely fleshed out index. Thoughtful suggestions are included in almost every section, including the great resource of setting up your new Nikon D800 – first chapter. Included in this chapter is a broad overview of all the Nikon D800 menus… whetting your appetite for the full chapter covering that particular area. Darrell ends each chapter with his conclusions on what he takes away from the section – and primes you for the next chapter.

Subsequent chapters cover all the menus – playback, shooting, custom settings, setup, retouch, and the powerful my menu and recent settings. I was already using my menu to house just a couple of items, but that list has grown now that I’m aware of more of the powerful back-features you might not find in the menus, or might not understand. 

Darrell then launches into the meaty chapters on metering and exposure modes, histogram use (which one and why), and the demon of digital photography, white balance. How and why white balance behaves the way it does is nicely explained, and should help a shooter who might usually shoot auto white balance be more comfortable creating a custom white balance to lessen post-processing. Also, if you shoot with a consistent light setup, like strobes in a portrait setup, you can create and fine tune a custom white balance just for that setup, and use it over and over. How to do it is all here. Final chapters cover autofocus, how the autofocus areas are determined, and release modes, plus a short section on the live view feature.

How do you setup the D800 to include your copyright statement and embed it in every image? Chapter 5. How do you accomplish in-camera perspective control (like having a PC or TS/E lens)? Chapter 6. How do you control and correct in-camera the vignetting caused by some very wide angle lenses? Chapter 3.

But wait, doesn’t the D800 shoot video? That is covered briefly along with a short chapter on speedlight usage, including the Nikon Creative Lighting System technology. Read about setting up the D800 pop-up flash as a commander for wireless TTL photography with Nikon speedlights… I read a few derisive comments on the web about having a pop-up flash on a pro camera, but it makes perfect sense to me, as I occasionally use wireless TTL, and having a built-in commander just makes that even easier.

I’m more and more impressed with the image and handling qualities of my Nikon D800’s, and Darrell’s book Mastering the Nikon D800 has granted me huge new insights on what the engineers at Nikon have created. Keep up the good work, Darrell.

Mastering the Nikon D800
by Darrell Young
Rocky Nook / Nikonians Press
ISBN 978-1-937538-05-7 (pbk.)
Available on Amazon.comfor about $23,Kindle edition about $17.