Nikon D800 and D800E Setup and Configuration

D800 Big Lens

I now have a page with the setup and configuration for the Nikon D810.

A while back, Out There Images posted a list of recommended settings for the Nikon D800. I used that as a starting point to create four custom menu banks for my most common shooting situations.  The menu banks are not great because they don’t save all of the settings you need to change, but they are better than nothing.  The U1/U2 settings of the D7000 and D600 are superior to the menu banks both in terms of features and ease of use.  I have no idea why Nikon has decided to leave out such a fantastic function on their high-end cameras.  Neither the D800 nor the D4 have the U1/U2 settings.  Nice work Nikon.

Here are the four menu banks I created:

  • HDR – sets up the camera for high dynamic range shooting.  I usually use a tripod, have time for manual focus, etc.  If the shutter speed is fairly slow, I also turn on “Exposure delay mode” (custom setting d4).
  • Action – I often use this when photographing dogs at the local animal shelter.
  • Portrait – useful not just for portraits but for any stationary or slow moving target.
  • Point & Shoot – Since I use the “AF-ON” focusing technique (*1), it makes it difficult to hand my camera to a stranger if I want to be in the photo.  Rather than try to explain the technique, I just change the settings and let them shoot.  I also use this mode when I give the camera to my wife, sometimes she just wants to take a few simple shots so this mode shoots in jpeg with things configured to make shooting easier.

The settings for all four modes are outlined below.  Note that the settings just make the starting point for configuration easier.  It doesn’t mean these are always the settings I use when shooting.  I may not use ISO100 for all situations nor the same AF settings.  If you want to use them as a starting point for your own custom settings it is easiest to just download my config file here: Nikon D800 custom settings file. You should also grab the custom picture control explained in footnote 3. To use the custom settings file, copy it to your media card, insert the media card into your camera and navigate to SETUP MENU -> Save/load settings -> Load settings. This will copy the settings over to your camera.  You may want to save your own settings before you copy mine to your camera in case you need to revert back.

Note the [change this] in the settings below, these are things you will want to change in your own camera before you start shooting.  At the bottom, you can also see what I put in “MY MENU” to access some controls I often change on the fly.

To switch between the various menu banks, you have several options:

  • The slow way.  Go to menu -> shooting menu -> shooting menu bank -> select your bank.  Then go to custom setting menu -> custom settings bank -> select your bank.
  • I have ‘shooting menu bank’ and ‘custom settings bank’ as the top two items of ‘my menu’.  This allows me to change the settings relatively quickly but also provides a visual reminder of what banks I’m using when I go into this menu.
  • The fastest way is to simply press the “info” button twice, that should select your shooting bank.  Press the center button in the multi-selector, pick your setting.  Do the same for custom settings bank.

If you have questions, or a suggestion feel free to leave them in the comments at the bottom of the page.  If you want more detail on the settings below download Nikon’s D800/D800E manual (free), for something even better I recommend Thom Hogan’s Complete Guide to the D800/D800E ($30).  Thom not only covers the options but gives you a recommendation on what to use for each setting.

HDRActionPortraitPoint & Shoot
Exposure ModeA (Aperture Priority)A (Aperture Priority)A (Aperture Priority)P (Program)
Metering Mode3D Matrix Metering3D Matrix Metering3D Matrix Metering3D Matrix Metering
Bracketing5F, +/-1 EV (use 7 or 9F if needed)OffOffOff
Shooting ModeTimerCH (continuous high)CH (continuous high)CH (continuous high)
Autofocus Mode *1Manual or AF-C, single pointAF-C, 3DAF-C, single pointAF-S, Auto
Format memory cardAs neededAs neededAs neededAs needed
Monitor brightnessManual (0)Manual (0)Manual (0)Manual (0)
Clean image sensorClean at shutdownClean at shutdownClean at shutdownClean at shutdown
Lock mirror up cleaningAs neededAs neededAs neededAs needed
Image Dust Off ref photoAs neededAs neededAs neededAs needed
Flicker reductionAutoAutoAutoAuto
Time zone and dateSet to local timeSet to local timeSet to local timeSet to local time
Auto image rotationOnOnOnOn
Battery infoN/AN/AN/AN/A
Wireless TransmitterN/AN/AN/AN/A
Image comment *2NoneNoneNoneNone
Copyright InformationOn [change this]On [change this]On [change this]On [change this]
Save/load settingsAs neededAs neededAs neededAs needed
Virtual horizonN/AN/AN/AN/A
Non-CPU lens dataN/AN/AN/AN/A
AF fine tuneSet for your lenses if neededSet for your lenses if neededSet for your lenses if neededSet for your lenses if needed
Firmware versionN/AN/AN/AN/A
Shooting menu bankABCD
Extended menu banksONONONON
Storage folderDefaultDefaultDefaultDefault
File NamingMKH [change this]MKH [change this]MKH [change this]MKH [change this]
Primary slot selectionCF card slotCF card slotCF card slotCF card slot
Secondary slot functionBackupBackupBackupBackup
Image SizeN/AN/AN/ALarge
Image area
– Auto DX cropOnOnOnOn
– Choose Image areaFXFXFXFX
JPEG CompressionOpitmal QualityOpitmal QualityOpitmal QualityOpitmal Quality
NEF (RAW) recording
– TypeLossless compressedLossless compressedLossless compressedLossless compressed
– NEF bit depth14-bit14-bit14-bit14-bit
White BalanceAuto1Auto1Auto1Auto1
Set Picture Control *3Custom (Live View Max Sharp)SD (Standard)PT (Portrait)VI (Vivid)
Manage Picture ControlDefaultDefaultDefaultDefault
Color SpaceAdobeRGBAdobeRGBAdobeRGBsRGB
Active D-LightingOffOffOffOff
HDR (high dyn. range)N/A (disalbed when shooting RAW)N/A (disalbed when shooting RAW)N/A (disalbed when shooting RAW)Off
Vignette controlNormalNormalNormalHigh
Auto distortion controlOnOnOnOn
Long Exp. NROffOffOffOff
High ISO NRLowLowLowNormal
ISO Sensitivity Settings
ISO sensitivity100100100100
Auto ISO sensitivity controlOffOn (Max ISO: 6400, Min shutter: auto,faster)OffOn (Max ISO: 6400, Min
shutter: auto,faster)
Multiple exposureOffOffOffOff
Interval timer shootingOffOffOffOff
Time-lapse photographyOffOffOffOff
Movie settings
Frame size/rate1920×1080; 30fps1920×1080; 30fps1920×1080; 30fps1920×1080; 30fps
Movie qualityHighHighHighHigh
MicrophoneAuto sensitivityAuto sensitivityAuto sensitivityAuto sensitivity
Sustom settings bankABCD
a1 AF-C priority selectReleaseReleaseReleaseRelease
a2 AF-S priority selectFocusFocusFocusFocus
a3 Focus track lock-onOffLongShortNormal
a4 AF ActivationOff (AF-ON focus technique)Off (AF-ON focus technique)Off (AF-ON focus technique)On
a5 AF point illuminationOnOnOnOn
a6 Focus point wrapOffOffOffOff
a7 Number of focus points51515151
a8 Built-in AF assist illumOffOffOffOff
b1 ISO sensitivity step val.1/31/31/31/3
b2 EV steps for exposure1/31/31/31/3
b3 Exp./flash comp step1/31/31/31/3
b4 Easy exposure comp.OffOffOffOff
b5 Center-weighted area12mm12mm12mm12mm
b6 Fine tune optimal exp.0 (for all)0 (for all)0 (for all)0 (for all)
c1 Shutter-release AE-LOffOffOffOff
c2 Auto meter-off delay10s10s10s10s
c3 Self-timer
– Self-timer delay2s10s10s10s
– Number of shots5 (should match # bracket exposures)111
– Interval between shots0.5s0.5s0.5s0.5s
c4 Monitor off delay
– Playback10s10s10s10s
– Menus1m1m1m1m
– Information display10s10s10s10s
– Image review10s10s10s10s
– Live view10m10m10m10m
d1 BeepOffOffOffOff
d2 CL mode shoot speed2fps2fps2fps2fps
d3 Max continuous release100100100100
d4 Exposure delay modeOff (on if exposures slow)Off (on if exposures slow)Off (on if exposures slow)Off (on if exposures slow)
d5 File number sequenceOnOnOnOn
d6 Viewfinder grid displayOnOnOnOn
d7 ISO display adjustmentOffOffOffOff
d8 Screen tipsOnOnOnOn
d9 Information displayAutoAutoAutoAuto
d10 LCD illuminationOnOnOnOn
d11 MB-D12 battery typeLR6LR6LR6LR6
d12 Battery orderMB-D12MB-D12MB-D12MB-D12
e1 Flash Sync Speed1/2501/2501/2501/250
e2 Flash shutter speed1/601/601/601/60
e3 Flash cntrl built-inTTLTTLTTLTTL
e4 Modeling flashOnOnOnOn
e5 Auto bracketing setAEAEAEAE
e6 Auto bracket (Mode M)Flash/speedFlash/speedFlash/speedFlash/speed
e7 Bracketing orderUnder > MTR > overUnder > MTR > overUnder > MTR > overUnder > MTR > over
f1 switchLCD Backlight and info displayLCD Backlight and info displayLCD Backlight and info displayLCD Backlight and info display
f2 Multiselect center button
– Shooting modeResetResetResetReset
– Playback modeZoom, medium magnificationZoom, medium magnificationZoom, medium magnificationZoom, medium magnification
– Live viewZoom, medium magnificationZoom, medium magnificationZoom, medium magnificationZoom, medium magnification
f3 Multi selectorOffOffOffOff
f4 Assign Fn button
– Fn button pressViewfinder virtual horizonViewfinder virtual horizonViewfinder virtual horizonViewfinder virtual horizon
– Fn button + command dialsOffOffOffOff
f5 Assign preview button
– Preview button pressPreviewPreviewPreviewPreview
– Preview button + command dialsOffOffOffOff
f6 Assign AE-L/AF-L button
– AE-L/AF-L button pressAE/AF lockAE/AF lockAE/AF lockAE/AF lock
– AE-L/AF-L + command dialsOffOffOffOff
f7 Shutter spd & ap lockN/AN/AN/AN/A
f9 Cust. command dialsDefault (Off, on, off)Default (Off, on, off)Default (Off, on, off)Default (Off, on, off)
f10 Release button to use  dialOffOffOffOff
f11 Slot emply release lockLockLockLockLock
f12 Reverse indicators– 0 +– 0 +– 0 +– 0 +
g1 Assign Fn buttonPower aperture (open)Power aperture (open)Power aperture (open)Power aperture (open)
g2 Assign preview buttonPower aperture (close)Power aperture (close)Power aperture (close)Power aperture (close)
g3 Assign AE-L/AF-LAE LockAE LockAE LockAE Lock
g4 Assign shutter buttonTake photosTake photosTake photosTake photos
Playback folderND800 (default)ND800 (default)ND800 (default)ND800 (default)
Hide imageDefaultDefaultDefaultDefault
Playback display optionsHighlights, RGB histogram, OverviewHighlights, RGB histogram, OverviewHighlights, RGB histogram, OverviewHighlights, RGB histogram, Overview
Copy image(s)N/AN/AN/AN/A
Image reviewOffOffOffOff
After deleteShow nextShow nextShow nextShow next
Rotate tallOffOffOffOff
Slide showN/AN/AN/AN/A
DPOF print orderN/AN/AN/AN/A
Shooting menu Bank
Custom settings bank
c3 Self-timer
d4 Exposure delay mode
ISO sensitivity settings
Long exposure NR
Active D-Lighting


*1 – Autofocus : I have started using the “AF-ON” technique (for lack of a better term) to focus my camera. You can read more about the technique here. You will see that in my settings, I primarily use AF-C as the default focus mode when I use the camera. With the AF-ON technique, you decouple the focusing of the camera from the shutter press. The nice thing is that you can have both continuous and static autofocus at the same time. Focus and recompose is also easier as you don’t have to keep the shutter half-pressed, just release the AF-ON button and the camera stops focusing. It works very well, but takes a bit of getting used to. This technique works on both Nikon and Canon cameras (likely other brands as well but I haven’t checked into it).

*2 – Image comment : There are two spots to put your personal info into the file EXIF data: “Image comment” and “Copyright information”. Some people use both, but there isn’t really a reason to do so. I have found one reason not to use the ‘image comment’ field, and that is because the comment shows up in the description field when you post images online (facebook for example). At times, I post images to facebook and I don’t want the description for each one to say “copyright 2013…”, blah, blah, blah. My friends want to see something about the image, not a copyright notice. For me, it just makes the upload process more time consuming and it doesn’t add any value. You may like it, so feel free to use the field if that fits into your workflow.

*3 – Set Picture Control : The live view of the Nikon D800 isn’t great, but I still use it at times to get sharp focus. I zoom in the live view display and manually focus the lens to the best setting. If you change the picture control to the highest sharpening level you actually get a better display. Since I almost always shoot in raw, this has no effect on the final image. You can edit your existing picture control but it’s best to create a new, custom, one. To make this easier, you can download a custom picture control I created called Live View Max Sharp. Unzip the file, you should see a “Nikon” folder, copy that to the top level (root) of your flash card and put the card into your camera. In the menu, go to SHOOTING MENU (camera icon)-> Manage picture control -> Load/save -> Copy to camera => Live View Max Sharp, click “OK”. Select one of the custom picture control spaces to use (C1..C9) and you are done. Now you still have all of your default picture controls plus the new one to pick from.