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Nikon D2x - Setting the White Balance
D2x Discussion Forums
© Darrell Young
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Back in the good old days, we'd buy a roll of tungsten balanced film to shoot under the orange-colored light of indoor bulbs. Or, we'd buy a fluorescent filter to correct for the greenish light of a florescent bulb. If it was an overcast day, or we were shooting in the shade, we might add an 81A filter to warm things up a bit.

Instead of needing to carry a big pack of filters around with you, your D2x has a method for balancing the camera to the available light. It is your White Balance controls. Normally, the White Balance is used to adjust the camera so that whites are truly white, and other colors are accurate, under whatever light source you are shooting. But, you can also use the White Balance controls to deliberately introduce color casts into your image for interesting special effects.

First, let's look at the normal use of the White balance controls, that of balancing the camera's sensor to the light in which you are shooting.

The D2x gives us two distinct methods to adjust white balance. One is more sensitive than the other, and will work in much lower light levels.

Notice the WB button, FUNC button, rear command-dial (thumb wheel), and small lower LCD in Figures 1, 2, and 3 below. These buttons are used to adjust the white balance.

White Balance Method One

This method is best used in areas where there is relatively bright light. It uses the small white “third-eye” sensor on the top of the D2x.

  1. Press and hold the WB button.
  2. Rotate the rear command-dial until PRE shows in the lower right of the rear LCD.
  3. Release the WB Button.
  4. Press and hold the WB button until the PRE starts flashing.
  5. Hold the camera in the light source in which you will be taking pictures.
  6. Press the FUNC button.
  7. Check the small rear LCD and see that GOOD is flashing.

Please note that the flashing GOOD means that a successful white balance reading was taken, and your camera is now color balanced for that light source. If you do NOT see a flashing “GOOD,” but instead see a flashing “noGd” then the operation was unsuccessful and the light source may not be bright enough. Use method two below instead.

White Balance Method Two

  1. Press and hold the WB button.
  2. Rotate the rear command-dial until PRE shows in the lower right of the rear LCD.
  3. Release the WB Button.
  4. Press and hold the WB button until the PRE starts flashing.
  5. Point the camera at a white or neutral gray card in the light source in which you will be taking pictures. It does not have to focus on the card, just be pointed at it so that it fills the frame.
  6. Press the shutter release fully as if you were photographing the white card. It will fire the shutter, but nothing will appear on the main image viewing LCD.
  7. Check the small rear LCD and see that GOOD is flashing.

Remember, if you see “noGd” flashing, instead of “GOOD” then the operation was NOT successful.

Method number two is very sensitive, since it is actually using the light coming through the lens to set the white balance, so it will virtually always be successful. Method number one uses the small white sensor on the prism housing of the D2x, and it will only work in medium to high brightness light sources.

Using the White Balance to Experiment with Color Casts

Many of us previously used daylight balanced film and an 81A filter to warm up our subjects. Or we might add a filter to put some blue in on a foggy day to make the image feel cold and foreboding. We can achieve the same effects with the hard coded white balance settings built-in to the D2x. Please see page 54 of your D2x user's manual to see what each of the symbols mean.

To achieve the same effect as daylight film and an 81A filter, simply select the “Cloudy” white balance setting while shooting in normal daylight. This sets the D2x to balance at about 6000K which is warmish, and makes nice warm-looking images. If you want to really warm the image up, set the controls to “Shade” which sets the camera to 8000K.

On the other hand, if you want to make the image appear cool, try using the Fluorescent (4200K) or Incandescent (3000K) settings in normal daylight.

Examine Figure 2 below to see how shifting the color temperature can cool down or warm up an image.

Remember, the color temperature shifts from “cool” values to “warm” values. The D2x can record your images with any color temperature from 2500K (very cool) to 10000K (very warm), and any value in between. There's no need to carry different film emulsions, just to deal with differing light types. The D2x has them all!

Learn to use your White Balance controls to play around with color temperatures, and you will eliminate most of the filters you used to have to carry. The D2x has very easy to use color temperature controls, and a full range of color temperatures available.

Below is how to use the preset White Balance values:

  1. Press and hold the WB button.
  2. Rotate the rear command-dial thumbwheel until an A (for Auto) shows up in the small rear LCD.
  3. Now, with the WB button still held down rotate the command dial thumbwheel to the right. Each click of the thumbwheel will bring up a new preset white balance in the following order:
    • Auto White Balance, 3500-8000K.
    • Incandescent, 3000K.
    • Fluorescent, 4200K.
    • Direct Sunlight, 5200K.
    • Flash, 5400K.
    • Cloudy, 6000K.
    • Shade, 8000K.
    • K, Choose your own color temp from 2500 to 10000K.
    • PRE, Use with methods One or Two above to set to actual light.

Pages 54 to 66 of your D2x manual has extensive white balance information. With these simple tips above, and a little study of the manual, you can become a white balance expert with your D2x. Learn to use the color temperature settings above to make superior images.

You will be able to capture very accurate colors with your camera, or make images with color casts reflecting how you feel about the image. Experiment a bit, and you'll find it easy to remember how to set your white balance in the field.

Keep on capturing time…

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