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 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
- 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. at 30fps and 1/50th sec. at 24 and 25 fps
- Auto ISO enables the camera to adjust exposure for changing light levels. Switching it off means you have to use the aperture to adjust exposure. 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 pre-adjust the aperture and then switch out and back in to Live View mode to adjust the aperture quickly
You need to turn Manual movie settings to OFF. Then you can shoot video at the right shutter speed 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:
- Set Mode Dial to M (Manual mode)
- Set Shutter to 1/50th sec. (for 25fps video)
- Set Aperture to f4.5 (a good starting point for the f3.5 to f5.6 zoom lens)
- 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
- In ISO sensitivity settings:
Now your D5000/3000 series camera is set up to shoot video at 1/50th with a starting aperture of f4.5.
As the light changes, to compensate, 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 strong sensor noise.
If and when Auto ISO approaches the 1600 limit, stay in Live View mode and:
- Open up the aperture (say, to f3.5)
- Snap off a still shot (which forces the aperture mechanism in the lens to change to the new aperture setting)
- Continue filming
And one other thing. For general use, fit a decent zoom lens so you can find and frame your shots quickly.
I use the AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-140mm VR.
It’s Nikon’s sharpest DX zoom lens, is stabilised, and offers a useful wide-end zoom range.