Tuesday, August 12, 2008

virtual horizon - useful or waste?

In August of 2007 Nikon announced the now "king of the hill" the D3. Touting image-to-noise ratio that blew away the competition with a full frame image sensor able to resolve more efficiently than any other DSLR on the market, The D3 dropped into the world and changed the game forever. One feature that was a big press piece early on was the virtual horizon. Utilizing the internal gyroscope as more than just an orientation reading, the D3 built in a really cool piece of technology. Early hands on reviews and commentary by Moose Peterson and Joe McNally sorta killed the feature as a - it's cool but I don't find myself using it all that much.

The virtual horizon is a feature that the Nikon D700 inherited from it's older brother. Shortly after geting my hands on one I hunted that feature down (not super easy) within the tools menu. When selected the LCD gives you an image like the two at the top of the photo above. While this is a neat feature I realy don't see a real-world practical use for this other than setting up a tripod. I did a little digging - I wasn't ready to let this potentially amazing feature go without a fight. If you have used a Nikon D80, D200, D300, D700, D2x, D3, etc you are familiar with the function (fn) button next to the depth of field preview button.

Several functions can be set to this button. It is designed to give photographers quick access to features that normally one's eye out of the viewfinder. Different camera models allow for different features. I was excited and hopeful to see the Virtual Horizon as an option in the list. When bound to the fn button this feature transfors a bit. While depressed the exposure meeter becomes a level both in the viewfinder and on the top LCD display. This means while framing an image for capture you can note your level settings within the image capture process without taking your eye from what is important - subject.

In a world where we can straighten images in just about every editing application it is refreshing to see a feature that assists photographers in taking the image correctly in the camera. The virtual horizon is a HUGE feature when paired with the fn button and should not be overlooked when considering your next camera.


Anonymous said...

It was nice to read about how the feature can be used in a practical manner in more depth than I could find anywhere else. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

I shoot a lot of night time long exposure shots by moonlight. This feature is great for leveling when it's to dark to see the detail in the landscape.