The camera has a mode called "Night Vision", which appears to product gray-scale images, however I'm not experienced enough with black and white film photography to know if this behaves in a similar manner - I've only shot about a dozen images on black and white film, and I wasn't too great, but I have seen some really nice black and white images and would like to experiment with that style.

Is this "Night Vision" mode what I'm looking for? Or is there a way I can configure my camera to emulate black and white film photography?


2 Answers 2


Your best options:

1) Shoot JPG, and use Monochrome picture control. In the picture control setup menu you can simulate filters (red, orange etc) and do toning. Based on your settings, The camera will do a B&W conversion when it creates the JPG. LCD preview will show in B&W. You will not retain a full color version of the image.

2) Shoot JPG in normal (color) mode. Use the retouch menu to do a basic B&W conversion, or apply sepia toning. This will create a new B&W version of your image, keeping the original color version, so you have both. The retouch menu doesn't have the depth of options that the picture control does.

3) Shoot RAW and use monochrome picture control. This has the advantage in camera that you can preview a basic B&W conversion in your LCD, but when you save the RAW file, it will retain all color information, so you can do a more controlled B&W conversion in post processing.

4) Shoot RAW + JPG, and use monochrome picture control. Best of both worlds. You get a B&W JPG, and the full color RAW should you choose to do B&W conversion in post processing (or you change your mind and want a color image)


You want to look a the Picture Control menu and set it to Monochrome.

Night Vision is an extended-ISO trick that results in monochrome images, but it's meant for shooting in extremely low light; throwing away the colour information allows the camera to produce less-noisy images at very high ISO settings. Using Night Vision in better-lit circumstances is making your images noisy for no good reason (and may call for smaller apertures and higher shutter speeds than your camera and lens can deliver).

  • \$\begingroup\$ Is there an easy way to jump into Monochrome shooting mode? It seems weird to have to go into the Picture Control menu to jump between Standard, Neutral, Vivid, Monochrome, Portrait, Landscape... \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 24, 2011 at 14:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @ThomasOwens: you'd have to check the manual, but there's usually a way to set at least one custom profile that is easier to get at. I don't know the D5100 very well -- it's too video-oriented for my taste, which is great if video's your thing, but it means compromising the control layout as far as stills go. \$\endgroup\$
    – user2719
    Commented Dec 24, 2011 at 14:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Will do. I did find a few methods of changing the picture mode, the quickest requires about four button presses, but I'll consult the manual to see if there's a quicker way. I'm not sure how needed it is, though - I don't see myself changing shooting modes between shots that often. Thanks for the information. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 24, 2011 at 14:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hey Stan! Will shooting with a digital camera in monochrome mode produce results similar to shooting with black and white film? (Softball question....) \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Dec 24, 2011 at 16:26
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Similar -- in the way that Mrs. Butterworth's is similar to a dark amber maple syrop or a Hyundai is similar to a Bentley. You can get eerily close after the fact, especially with a dedicated B&W conversion program/plugin like Nik Silver Efex Pro or Topaz Black & White Effects to convert full-colour, hit-bit-depth images, but in-camera monochrome is only reminiscent of the real thing. As an occasional bit of spice, though, it's not bad as such things go. \$\endgroup\$
    – user2719
    Commented Dec 24, 2011 at 16:55

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