Nikon introduced this feature with their ground breaking D300 back in August 2007 and has been used in all their new DSLRs since. What is it? Does it work? How is it different from D-Lighting?

Active D-lighting is a on camera extension of dynamic range (think of it as the amount of detail that can be found in the very bright and very dark parts of a photo). Nikon has long had D-lighting on camera, as a post processing option, but Active D-lighting is processed at the time of capture by altering the exposure and preserving shadow and highlight detail.

Does it work? In short yes, but there are some caveats about using Active D-lighting. Most importantly it is not magic, it will provide good results for most photos when applied properly. From my experience I tend to leave Active D-lighting OFF and turning it on when I feel the need to use it. If you ever have a shot that you think that could do with a boost in retrospect then you can always reshoot using Active D-lighting or use D-lighting or even in Photoshop or the like.

Here are some shots comparing the effects of Active D-lighting:

(Nikon D300, Active D-lighting OFF)

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(Nikon D300, Active D-lighting HIGH)

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It is important to note that using Active D-Lighting can slow the speed of processing on your camera. More importantly Active D-Lighting is still processing based method unlike the extended dynamic range functions on a Fuji S5 PRO that are a physical, sensor based extension of dynamic range.