Nikon accessories: a complete guide to DSLR ports, sockets and connectors

Nikon accessories: a complete guide to your DSLR's ports, sockets and connectors

Nikon DSLRs come with a variety of connectors for a diverse range of Nikon accessories. In this complete guide to your camera’s sockets and connectors we’ll show you how and where to connect your Nikon accessories to your DSLR. And even if you’re loyal to another brand, we’re certain you’ll find this tutorial and cheat sheet useful!

Nikon accessories: a complete guide to your DSLR's ports, sockets and connectors

At one time, digital cameras hardly had any connectors at all. There was just a USB socket for transferring image files to a computer and an A/V connector for displaying your pictures on a TV.

But thanks to advances in wireless communications, HD movies and automated flash control, Nikon DSLRs are now capable of carrying out a huge range of specialised tasks. If the feature you need isn’t built into the camera, the chances are there’s an accessory which can do it for you.

This sophistication is working its way down to even the basic models in the Nikon range, which is great news for keen photographers, but brings a new problem – your camera now may well have more plugs and sockets than your domestic television or HD recorder.

Socket to me
This array of plugs and connectors can be confusing, even to seasoned Nikon users, but we’ve broken down these connectors into easily-understood categories, explaining what they’re for and where there are variations in the connectors with different cameras. You may not need to use all the sockets on your Nikon, but at least you’ll know what they’re for!

SEE MORE: Nikon lenses from A-Z – the ultimate photographer’s guide

Nikon Accessory Ports: free downloadable cheat sheets

In the cheat sheets below we’ve identified all of a Nikon DSLR’s different accessory port connectors and explained what they do.

We’ve broken up the cheat sheet into two segments to make it easier for printing, should you choose. Simply click on each infographic to see the larger version, or drag and drop it to your desktop.

Nikon Accessory Ports: free downloadable cheat sheets Nikon Accessory Ports: free downloadable cheat sheets

MC-DC1
An older remote socket no longer in use
This is the socket for attaching a cable remote on the D70s and D80. It’s been replaced by the larger MC-DC2 socket on newer Nikon DSLRs, but third-party remote control makers often include an adaptor for the MC-DC1 socket, just to maintain compatibility with the all Nikon DSLRs. ‘MC-DC1’ is actually the name of the Nikon remote designed to fit this socket, but it’s commonly used as the name for the socket too.

MC-DC2
Accessory socket on consumer Nikons
This is the accessory socket on Nikon’s non-professional DSLRs. It might look similar to the older MC-DC1 socket, but the plug is larger. Introduced on the Nikon D90, it’s now found on almost every ‘consumer’ Nikon. It gets its name from the Nikon MC-DC2 cable remote, but you can plug in third-party remotes too and, increasingly, other accessories like the WU-1a Wi-Fi adaptor used by the latest Nikon models.

SEE MORE: 100 Nikon DSLR tips you really need to know

10-pin port
Pro models use a different socket
Nikon has used this 10-pin accessory port on all of its professional models, right from the D1 back in 1999 to the very latest professional models like the D800 and D4. It has a locking thread on both the socket and the plug so that accessories can be fixed in place more securely. This port can be used for a variety of accessories, including cable remotes and infrared triggers and GPS units. It’s not to be confused with the flash sync socket, which is also circular and often situated close nearby.

SEE MORE: How to set up a camera for the first time – 11 things you need to do first

USB
Most Nikons use a standard Mini-B plug, but not all
The USB socket can be used to connect your Nikon to a computer for the transfer of image files, though many photographers these days find it easier to use a card reader instead. The USB socket can also be used for tethered shooting, where you control the camera from a computer and view pictures on the computer screen as soon as they are taken.

This is a standard way of working for many studio photographers. Very early Nikon DSLRs used Firewire rather than USB. Almost all Nikon DSLRs use a standard Mini-B plug, though newer entry-level models have bespoke connectors. Only the D800 uses the newest USB 3.0 high-speed standard.

A/V
Standard definition TV and video connector
Designed to enable users to view photos on a television screen, this is now being phased out in favour of high-definition HDMI connectors, as consumers switch from old standard-definition TV and video equipment to newer high-definition devices. Some newer Nikons no longer offer A/V output at all (for example, the D600, D800, D4), and the latest entry-level Nikons (D3000/5000 series) have a combined USB & A/V connector instead of the standard 3.5mm jack.

SEE MORE: Nikon Df vs D610 vs D800: 12 things you need to know about Nikon’s full-frame cameras

HDMI
The modern hi-def digital connector for your Nikon
HDMI is now used for high-definition playback on digital TVs and other devices, and is especially important for Nikon DSLRs with video modes. The HDMI port can also be used for external monitors when shooting video. Older Nikons use Type A connectors, newer models use the smaller Type B.

MICROPHONE
Essential for serious video work
All the latest Nikon DSLRs shoot high-definition video, but professional-quality footage demands professional-quality sound to go with it, and the microphone built into the camera isn’t up to the job. This isn’t due to any lack of quality, simply the fact that it’s in the wrong place.

For professional video you need 
to use external microphones placed to pick up the voice of your presenter or directed so that you only pick up the sounds you want. Almost all video-enabled Nikon DSLRs have a standard 3.5mm stereo microphone socket. Nikon makes its own microphone (the ME-1), but there are many third-party alternatives.

SEE MORE: How to set up your DSLR for video recording

HEADPHONES
Used for video sound monitoring
As well as the ability to connect a microphone, professional videographers also insist on sound monitoring capability in their cameras – they need to be able to hear the sound being recorded during the video via a set of headphones, so that they know whether they need to reshoot the clip or rerecord the sound.

Only the more advanced DSLRs in the Nikon range have a headphone socket, including the D7100, D600, D610, D800 and D4. This is a standard 3.5mm stereo socket, so you can use regular third-party headphones while recording. This may bring some risk of confusion where the microphone and headphone sockets are directly alongside each other, but they’re clearly marked with different symbols.

HOTSHOE
Used to mount and fire external flash
Not all Nikon DSLRs have a built-in flash, and those that do use a small, pop-up flash that lacks the power, control or advanced features required for anything other than quick snaps. All Nikon DSLRs, however, have a hotshoe for mounting an external flash.

This fixes the flash to the camera via a pair of rigid metal grooves which also act as an electrical earth connection and have sprung plates to keep the flash fixed tightly – most flashguns also have a locking switch. The hotshoe has electrical connectors for carrying signals from the camera body to the flash and controlling the flash functions.

You can use third-party flash units with Nikon DSLRs, but not all offer the iTTL automatic flash control of Nikon’s own Speedlights. Strictly, the hotshoe is really an ‘accessory shoe’, because it can be used for mounting accessories like microphones and GPS units as well.

SEE MORE: Flash photography made easy – master everything from pop-up flash to multiple flashguns

FLASH SOCKET
Old but effective flash control
There are many ways to fire flash wirelessly with Nikon DSLRs, either by using the built-in flash’s ‘Commander’ mode (higher models only) or using third-party wireless flash triggers which connect to the accessory shoe and use receivers/triggers attached to the remote flash units.

But the oldest and simplest method of all is to use a flash sync cable. This is a standard connector which links the camera body to a remote studio flash unit – this can then be used to fire other flash units via optical ‘slave’ units. This is likely to be the most effective solution when using studio flash kits, where the settings and lighting ratios are controlled manually and there’s no need for sophisticated automated flash control or radio control.

SEE MORE: Wireless flash triggers – how to set up and shoot with off-camera flash

POWER ADAPTOR
You can power any Nikon DSLR from the mains using an optional adaptor
AC adaptors for Nikon DSLRs are sold separately, but the good news is that Nikon has made only a few versions over the years, and each one will work with several different models of camera.

The bad news is, though, that while earlier Nikons had a socket on the body for connecting the AC adaptor directly, newer models rely on adaptors which slot into the battery compartment once the regular battery has been removed.

This means you need to get not just the AC adaptor but the relevant connector for your specific type of camera too. AC adaptors are useful for all-day studio work, where the built-in battery would be unlikely to last through the whole session, and particularly for tethered shooting sessions.

What Nikon accessories does your camera connect to?

What Nikon accessories does your camera connect to?

Click on the infographic to see the larger version, or drag and drop it to your desktop to save.

Drag and drop to download our complete guide to all the plugs and sockets on your Nikon DSLR. Look up your model  in the cheat sheet below to find the details!

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