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Nikon’s D50, the company’s latest foray into the sub-$1,000 digital-SLR category, outstrips most other budget bodies in its class and kicks much point-and-shoot ass.
Much of that capability comes from the D50’s lineage. The body feels and functions like a detuned D70, which was itself a breakthrough product. The D50 sports the same imaging sensor as the more expensive D70, and delivers terrific bang for the buck.
The body is rated for 2.5fps, which sounds slow, but thanks to fast write times, the D50 will shoot almost continuously until your memory card is full (provided you own a fast card, of course). We tested the D50 with a SanDisk Ultra II SD card and only experienced slowdowns shooting RAW or at high ISO. Nikon likely switched to SD to save space and make the D50 smaller.
The body is plastic but feels solid. Ergonomics are good but a few things irked us. First, you have to use the menus to switch metering modes. And there’s only one command dial, so changing exposure settings in manual mode is cumbersome; it’s much easier with two dials. Hobbyists will also miss a mirror-lock feature for macro or telephoto work, and we hate that the top LCD lacks a backlight. Grrr.
The biggest weakness of the camera is in perception though. At 6.1MP, many consumers will pass on the D50 in favor of a point-and-shoot with a higher pixel count that costs about the same. That would be a mistake. With its larger CCD sensor, the D50 will shoot far superior images to any point-and-shoot on the market today.
With a mirror lock-up feature, and a better viewfinder, this would be a Kick Ass camera, without a doubt. Coming off the full-frame EOS 5D (reviewed in April) and its spectacular viewfinder, the D50 finder looks like a disposable camera’s. That shouldn’t be a deal breaker, though, as the D50 is a great bargain.
Month Reviewed: March 2006