25 Apr 2013

Project D800E - seamlessly restore the custom settings

Nikon D800 and D800E gives the user possibility to define up to 4 different setting sets (4 for shooting menu, and 4 for  custom settings menu) containing different settings according to the preferences of the user.
Those sets are called Shooting Menu Banks and Custom Settings Banks in the Nikon manual.
This feature is a nice thing, allowing to group the options that are convenient in particular shooting situation and quickly switch between them. For instance I have two separate settings sets: one for landscape photography and one for street photography.
What is not so nice is the fact that in case of D800 there is no way to 'lock' the sets. Once a shooting menu bank or custom settings bank is selected, all the settings in the selected bank can be freely modified. So if one doesn't pay attention he/she can ruin carefully prepared settings just by changing many parameters and not restoring them back to the values set originally for this bank.

There are basically two solutions to deal with it that I come up with:

  1. Reserve one bank for the testing purposes and play freely with this bank, leaving 3 others as 'fixed' i.e. intact after settings them up.
  2. Prepare the settings, store them on the memory card, backup on your computer and retrieve when needed.
The drawback of the 1st option is that one needs to remember to switch to the 'Test' banks during experiments. And after some time the settings of the Test bank can become quite messed up making it unusable.

The 2nd option is actually the solution to the problem. 
To store the settings:
  1. Insert a memory card in the camera. 
  2. Go to the setup menu (the wrench icon), go to the option Save/load settings, enter the option's menu.
  3. Select the option Save settings, press Ok
The camera will create a file NCSETUP8.BIN in the root folder of the memory card. Now you can backup those settings somewhere on your laptop or just store the memory card for later.

To restore the settings, perform the opposite:
  1. Copy the file NCSETUP8.BIN from your backup location to the root folder of the memory card.
  2. Insert a memory card in the camera. 
  3. Go to the setup menu (the wrench icon), go to the option Save/load settings, enter the option's menu.
  4. Select the option Load settings, press Ok
Note that with this mechanism in place and a proper backup you can create multiple sets of settings and apply them according to your needs. Of course some administration of the NCSETUP8.BIN files would be required in this case, but it can be relatively easily achieved by using some naming conventions on the backup location.
Another option would be to collect some old memory cards which are not usable any more because of limited capacity, store the settings there and label them properly.