Your rear command dial - shutter or aperture?

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by RaymondC, Nov 6, 2017.

  1. In the past I watched a video on studio lighting and I think someone said the rear command dial was to control the aperture and how that can influence the flash. I just checked my D600 and did a CSM reset and also my D70 reverse command dials was set to off. The aperture is with the front command dial.

    What is with yours and do some studio folks prefer to reverse the command dials?

  2. On the D70 I think you cannot switch the viewfinder. On the left side is +ve exposure and the right side is -ve. Is the D600 the other way round by default?
  3. I use the "old" orientation of rotation in the command dials (turn main command dial left -> longer exposure times) but the aperture is still controlled by the sub command dial and shutter by the main command dial. However, in the studio I lock the shutter speed to 1/200s so I don't inadvertently bump it. I adjust the aperture and the output of the flashes as well as position of the subject relative to the lights and background to control the image. Usually my aperture is in the f/7.1 ... f/11 range.
  4. Embarrassingly, I keep forgetting which way I have it set - but it's the default, aperture on the front (sub-) command dial. Which I ought to be able to remember is the one nearer the lens mount and therefore the aperture ring on pre-G lenses.

    I also tend to forget which direction I should turn the dials. When I switched from Canon I made a point of switching to the Nikon dial direction, only for Nikon to change their mind about the default in more recent cameras. As with others in this forum who've commented on this before, I sometimes have a disconnect because, while you can switch the direction of both command dials, you can't switch one individually. Whether Nikon's approach makes sense to you depends whether you think of the dial movements as pushing a slider in a direction or as turning a large wheel for which the dials are the protruding edges.

    Fortunately it's very quick to see the effect of a dial change in the viewfinder, so I usually only get the directions and dials wrong at the start of a shooting session, then remember while I'm shooting. I just forget again at the end.

    Ilkka: I was wondering who used the dial locks. I assumed that might be a useless feature, but now I know not!
  5. Correct and not changeable.

    Yes - but you can change it to be the same as in the D70.

    I keep the default: front (sub-command) dial for aperture, back (command) dial for shutter speed and exposure compensation. I don't do studio but even if I would, I would keep the same setting.

    For years, I did the same and did not change the default camera settings (D70, D200, D300, D700) for the simple reason that the changes that were possible weren't sufficiently customizable to make a difference and I might as well stick with the defaults. With the D7100, D7200, D500, D800, D810 more options are possible and I make one change: reverse the direction of the command/sub-command dial for aperture/shutter speed only. I like the - o + direction of the indicators (the reverse (and old default) always felt wrong to me) and with the change above I now have the same behavior when turning the dials (I use M mode with the exposure properly balanced at 0 as a reference): turn left, subtract light (underexpose); turn right, add light (overexpose); works the same now for aperture, shutter speed and exposure compensation. It translates to faster shutter speeds when the dial is turned left and a to closing of the aperture when turned in the same direction. I finally seem to be getting used to it;)

    In the days before I could make the above change, I tried to memorize which way to turn by imagining the "+/-": go left for plus and right for minus. In those days, I hardly ever used M mode though and hence didn't realize that the default setting back then amounted to: turn left, add light, turn right, subtract light not only for the exposure compensation but also for aperture and shutter speed. Guess the only thing that made me switch was that I like my "coordinates" to run "-" to "+" from left to right and not the reverse.

    That was the same with me until I started using "M mode with exposure balanced at 0 as a reference" and realized the add/subtract light equivalence to the turning direction - now it is only a matter of using either the "-" to "+" from left to right "coordinate axis) as a reference or the reverse "+/-".
  6. I leave everything to default whether I'm working a pseudo-studio setting or in the field. This means front is aperture, rear is shutter speed. Funny enough, I actually don't pay attention to the direction but rather just turn it to get the results I want. I just checked and on my D800, that's toward the lens decreases shutter speed/moves to a larger aperture and the opposite direction has the opposite effect.

    The aperture wheel more or less mimics the operation of an aperture ring(if you can translate it to a different axis that is). The shutter sub dial is actually opposite a typical Nikon film camera with dedicated dials where clockwise(looking down) increases the shutter speed and counter-clockwise decreases the shutter speed.
  7. Does it matter what other people choose? Your own preference is surely more important.

    Personally, I find Nikon's apparently arbitrary nomenclature of the rear command wheel as "main", and front wheel as "sub", to be counter-intuitive. My index finger finds the front wheel much more readily than my thumb finds the rear, and unsurprisingly I have more dexterity in my index finger.

    However, whether I want control over aperture or shutter more readily depends on the subject, but it's rarely sufficiently imperative to waste time poking about in the menu to swap the wheels over.

    It's easier to adjust my brain than fumble with menu options.
  8. My first "command dial" camera was a Canon T90 and I stuck with Canon for a while, so I admit that I found it a bit strange initially on Nikons to have the rear dial be the "main" dial.

    Granted the T90 only has one command dial, but it's in the same position as basically all Canons today-vertical and right behind the shutter release buttons.

    I've adapted, though, and it throws me off when I pick up a camera where the two dials are reversed.
  9. Are you sure you shouldn't be shooting Canon?

    Single-dial Canons have the dial on the front; single-dial Nikons have it on the rear, which is why I'd think of "main" in that way. My belief is that the Canon design philosophy assumes you want your most-prehensile (index) finger on the dial you'll use most often, so they put the main dial under your index finger. Nikon, on the other hand, seem to think you should keep your index finger on the shutter release most of the time, so the "main" dial is under your thumb (which you can easily adjust while keeping your finger on the shutter), and the "secondary" dial is under the middle finger (which is a little more constrained in movement while the index finger stays on the shutter). Both are valid ways of thinking about it, but my personal preference is to keep a finger on the shutter as much as possible.

    That said, I've also often got my thumb on the AF-On button, so it's not like the rear dial is all that much more useful to me - but at least I can take a photo in a hurry while I'm adjusting settings, even if it's out of focus.

    I'm not going to say it's "wrong" to use an index finger to move the front dial on a Nikon, but my impression of the ergonomics is that the front dial isn't really positioned assuming you're going to do that. Except possibly on the Df, I suppose.

    For what it's worth, I quite like the "circular dial around the shutter release" design of the Eos M100 (without having tried one to see how well it works). In theory, that should mean you can push the bottom of the dial below the shutter release with your middle finger, Nikon style, or reach above the shutter release to push the dial the other way, Canon-style. In a sense it's the best of both worlds - but it is a bit exposed, it takes up a lot of body space, and it looks a bit cramped if you've already got a finger on a shutter.
  10. "Are you sure you shouldn't be shooting Canon?"
    - Almost certain, but a Sony MLC is mighty tempting at the moment.

    My point really was that neither shutter nor aperture are the "main" control all the time. Why don't Nikon just call the rotary switches front and
    rear, and avoid any confusion or reference to the manual to clarify their purely arbitrary naming?

    Index finger on shutter and twiddling the front wheel with another finger!? I would find that a bit of a stretch, and I play guitar. Not to mention causing involuntary movement of the index finger and hence random shots.
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2017
  11. :) Well, we'd hate to lose you. Just think how you'd miss the shiny gold rings on the lenses! (I've mostly heard negative things about some of Sony's handling issues, but I've got to say that on paper the A7R3 looks like a nice piece of kit.)

    I think they want to keep the manual describing behaviour in terms of main- and sub-dials, and then allow the user to configure which is which. I agree that this is probably more confusing than necessary, and they could just have made it conditional. I suspect the same reasoning explains why the manual doesn't actually tell you which way to turn the dial when adjusting aperture and shutter speed - I checked because I was trying to remember what default I was using. Maybe I should make some technical writing suggestions to Nikon...

    All I can say is it works for me; I have a fairly solid grip on the, er, grip no matter what my middle finger is doing. But I technically play the piano (it's been a while) and, as you may have noticed, I type quite a lot, so that may be helping my independent finger movement. If what you're doing works for you, though, don't stop - I was just explaining what I see as the philosophical ergonomic difference. Some people manage to shoot while supporting the lens with their left thumbs (the "grip the lens from the side" strategy); I'm firmly in the "cup the lens from below" camp (even if it means there's absolutely no way I'm ever going to reach the AF selector switch), but it doesn't make me a significantly better photographer.

    If I'm going to grumble about the ergonomics of modern cameras, I could comment that a deep front-facing grip forces me to raise my right elbow to avoid kinking my wrist; effectively, especially with my left hand forward to support a long lens, I'm in something like an archery (or gun shooting, if that's your thing) pose. Older cameras with a shallower grip allow the wrist to reach the camera from below, with the elbow more tucked in - but the fingers are then curled at an angle rather than straight into the palm (and obviously the grip is a little less secure). For some reason, stills cameras don't seem to have followed camcorders in allowing the right hand to approach the camera from below with a straight wrist while allowing fingers to close on the grip from above - an arrangement that would also allow you to point the top LCD towards the user. Only fairly video-centric cameras like the Canon XC10 seem to have gone this way. Not that it really bothers me except when I nearly elbow someone in the face when lining up a shot (it bothers me in live view shooting because I can't wedge my right elbow on my body for stability, but for the viewfinder I can use my face as a contact point) - but it's an ergonomic oddity. I've tried the McNally left shoulder grip, but it cut off blood flow.

    Or I could just grumble yet again about Nikon's propensity to put buttons on the left of the body where I can't reach them because my hands are busy supporting the lens and the grip. It's not like there isn't room on the right.
  12. If you do switch to Sony, you will have your wish granted; Sony calls them front and rear dial. By default, the front dial controls the aperture and the rear one the shutter speed (just like Nikon, imagine my surprise); the assignment can be switched but not the direction of rotation (its also like Nikon's default).
    I do agree though that calling the rear one main through me off as I naturally assumed that the front one was the main. But historically, Nikon has always been a good example for doing things counter-intuitively.

    At least Canon and Nikon have the lens release button at the same location (though the directions to mount/unmount lenses are opposite). Sony follows Leica with the release button on the grip side of the body - which at least to me makes lens changes rather awkward.
  13. My Leica experience is limited to LTM, and of course there is no release button(although following common suggestions, I lock the lens at infinity and use the lock button as a grip). When I was using Canons, it was all nice and consistent since the rotation was the same direction, although it seems wrong to me now.

    BTW, as much as the breech lock was derided, I still love mounting properly maintained/functioning breech lock lenses. If everything is working correctly, all you have to do is push the lens against the mount and the breech lock ring will rotate itself far enough to lock securely on the mount. Of course, most lenses are worn/poorly maintained enough that you have to manually rotate, and even on ones where the mount was in good shape I usually give a bit of extra to make sure the lens is secure. Then, of course, all that went away when Canon decided to redesign their lenses such that the entire barrel acted as the breech lock ring.
  14. Both dials are in factory defaults, shutter time in rear dial and aperture is either behind button + rear dial or in front dial. I have set the viewfinder so that all cameras have + on left and - on right.

    I have also read that some folks with studio flashes like aperture on rear dial, but that was quite some time ago.

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