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I'm trying to enable auto-ISO on my dad's Nikon D5100. There is an "Auto" option for "ISO sensitivity" in the menu, logically-enough under "ISO sensitivity settings"). This works fine in the Scene modes, but with P, A, S, or M, I get:

This option is not available at current settings or in the camera's current state.

Surely auto-ISO is not only available in the preprogrammed modes. How do I enable it?

Update: there is a separate section to "ISO sensitivity settings" below the main choice. That is only available in the P, S, A, and M modes, and has "Auto ISO sensitivity control". I've set this to ON, but empirically it's the hard-set value above that actually gets used. What is this separate setting, why is it separate, and (most of all) why doesn't it work?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

Auto ISO isn't available in the non-scene modes per se.

The ISO Sensitivity Auto control option you mention in the latter part of your question is essentially 'Auto Pro'. You'll note in the menu that you can set a max ISO and a minimum shutter speed.

When ISO Sensitivity Auto control is enabled, the camera will endeavour to use the ISO you set, but will increase the ISO automatically (up to your defined max) if it's not achieving the shutter speed set in the menu. If you actually take a shot then check the settings used on the LCD, you may well see that the ISO will be a different value, and shown in red, to indicate that the camera took over and adjusted it automatically.

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Ah, I got it. That's a bit inconvenient compared to the Pentax implementation, where it just works in all modes — you set the min/max ISO and the "aggressiveness" with which it is increased, and the camera sets the target shutter speed based on focal length. (It'd be nice to have a hard minimum for that too, though.) The Nikon approach seems like it's pretty decent for aperture-priority mode, which I'm encouraging my dad to default to anyway, but seems less useful in the other modes. – mattdm Aug 28 '11 at 19:20
And I'll set the custom button to change ISO, which will make changing that easier. Kind of a shame, because with the awesome sensor in the D5100 I wanted to tell him "now you don't really have to even think about ISO". – mattdm Aug 28 '11 at 19:23
Then you should have told your dad to buy a Pentax. Somebody has to! ;) – ElendilTheTall Aug 28 '11 at 21:55
I did, but he doesn't always listen to me. :) Sorry, I wasn't trying to be partisan or anything with those comments. Honesty I wish everyone would open-source their in-camera UI so this sort of thing could be made to work in a flexible way on any brand of camera. – mattdm Aug 28 '11 at 23:00
@mattdm: too bad :) it would be really awesome to have a programmable camera, and it would be gold for geeks :) – clabacchio Jun 4 '12 at 11:45

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