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In my list of standard picture controls here I have a Monochrome option. This creates a black-and-white version of your image when you shoot. All you get out of it is a black-and-white. The original color is discarded. I have some opinions about the Monochrome picture control here. First, let's take a look at what you can do with it. I can open it up here and dial in sharpening values, contrast values, brightness, or apply filter and toning. Filter--you see I have got yellow, orange, red, and green. These simulate shooting black-and- white film with a specific-colored filter, so if you're used to working that way, you can simulate that right here in camera.
The thing about black-and-white shooting is that a big part of your creative process is determining how you want specific controls translated into specific shades of gray. So having the camera do that for you through a default recipe, even if you're dialing in some filters, doesn't give you near the level of control that you get using black-and-white conversion software on your computer. So by doing us in camera you're giving up a tremendous amount of black-and-white potential. Also, you are losing your original color image, so you don't have the option later to go to your computer and do a black-and-white conversion on your own.
If you do need to work in black and white on you camera, either because you are not comfortable previsualizing a scene in black and white and so you'd like to actually see it on the back of the camera or you've got a workflow where you need to turn images around very quickly, I think there's still a better way to do it then to use picture control, and that's to go ahead and shoot in color and then use the Retouch menu here to dial in a monochrome effect. Because when you do this, it will create a copy of your original image and do a black-and-white conversion on it. That leaves you with the color image if you want to go home later and using your image editing software, turn it into a really refined black and white.
If you'd like to know more about shooting and editing in black and white check out my Foundations of Photography: Black and White course. If you like to learn more about specifically working with black-and-white conversion in Nikon's own Capture NX software, check out my Capture NX2 Essential Training course.
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