I use a Nikon D5300 for shooting stills & video of locations, setups, rough concepts, storyboards, happy snaps, etc.

It’s small and light, and it delivers the highest quality video image of any APS-C camera.

But because it’s a DSLR, not a dedicated video camera, it takes a little extra concentration when shooting video.

For a start, the camera has to be in Live View mode (that’s when you use the rear LCD screen as a viewfinder) when shooting video.

And (a Nikon quirk) you have to temporarily switch out of Live View to adjust the aperture.

Now, there’s a ton of information online about how to shoot video with these cameras. But a lot of it is technical, complicated, and sometimes plain wrong.

Here’s the simplest way to get professional video results from a low to mid-range Nikon DSLR:

Stay Away from Nikon’s Manual Movie Setting

Nikon has added a Manual Movie setting to make shooting video easier. It doesn’t.

  • It imposes a minimum shutter speed of 1/30sec
  • It switches off Auto ISO
  • It disables the Aperture indicator

Nikon was having a major ‘Doh!’ moment when it decided on these settings because:

  • 1/30th sec. is a crap shutter speed for video. It should be half the frame rate: 1/60th sec. for 30fps, and 1/50th sec. for 24 and 25 fps
  • Auto ISO adjusts the ISO to automatically compensate for changing light levels. Switching it off means you have to manually adjust the aperture instead. But the Nikon quirk means you can’t change the aperture while the camera is in Live View (video) mode
  • With the Aperture indicator disabled, you can’t adjust the aperture quickly by pre-adjusting the aperture in Live View and then rapidly switching out and back in to Live View

So, for shooting video, you need to turn Manual movie settings to OFF. Then you can select the correct shutter speed for your video frame rate, and allow Nikon’s superb Auto ISO to smoothly and silently adjust for changing light levels while you shoot.

Here’s how I set up my D5300 for shooting video:

  1. Set Mode Dial to M (Manual mode)
  2. Set Shutter to 1/50th sec. (for 25fps video)
  3. Set Aperture to f5.6 (a good starting point for most lenses)
  4. In the Shooting Menu:
    • In ISO sensitivity settings:
      • Set ISO sensitivity to 100
      • Set Auto ISO sensitivity control to ON
      • Set Maximum sensitivity to 1600
      • Set Minimum shutter speed to 1/50th sec.
    • In Movie settings:
      • Set Manual movie settings to OFF

Now your Nikon D3000/5000 series camera is set up to shoot video at 25fps, with the correct shutter speed for the frame rate, and with a starting aperture of f5.6.

To compensate for changing light, the ISO will adjust automatically between 100 and 1600 ASA.

We set an upper ISO limit of 1600 because, above this level, low-light footage shows obvious sensor noise.

If and when Auto ISO approaches the 1600 limit, stay in Live View mode and:

  1. Open up the aperture (say, to f3.5)
  2. Snap off a still shot (which forces the aperture mechanism in the lens to change to the new aperture setting)
  3. Continue filming

Simple. And you didn’t have to toggle out of and back in to Live View mode.

And one other thing. For general use, fit a decent zoom lens so you can find and frame your shots quickly.

I use a Nikkor AF-S DX 18-140mm VR lens.

It’s Nikon’s sharpest DX zoom lens, is stabilised, and offers a useful wide-end zoom range.

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