Nikon D1H SLR Review

By Movable Type Admin

Steve's Digicams

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The Nikon D1 has become the camera of choice for photojournalists but it left many sports photographers wanting for a faster capture rate and a larger image buffer. If you passed on the purchase of a D1 for these reasons you'll be happy to know that the D1H now has a continuous capture speed of 5fps and can buffer up to 40 frames. The Custom Settings menu lets you easily set both the burst rate (1 to 5fps) and the burst depth (1 to 40 frames.) Color rendition has also been improved, the D1 often yielded "people" pictures that were too magenta, the D1H captures very realistic skin tones as well as all the other colors.

If you've used a D1 then you'll be very happy with the new user interface of the D1H. Nikon has put the 2-inch color LCD to good use with a new menu system that lets you change all of the Custom settings without need of the manual. The D1 used the color LCD for image review only, the D1H uses it for everything except for setting the camera's basic functions. The Shooting menu lets you change resolution and quality, ISO speed and the AF Area mode easily. The Playback options now mimic those found on the consumer cameras with zoomed playback and pan, thumbnail review and several screens of camera and exposure data as well as a histogram display. Even the color LCD itself has been improved with more resolution and energy-efficient white LEDs for its illumination.

Anyone familiar with the Nikon F5 or F100 will feel instantly at home with the D1H as the basic camera controls and ergonomics are the same. This is a big and heavy camera by consumer camera standards, it weighs a good two and half pounds before you stick a lens on it. The camera body is made of a magnesium alloy and designed to take the day to day beating of a war correspondant as well as resisting dust and moisture in the harshest environments. I'm sure that many Nikon F5's have been used as weapons to fend off rioters and others attempting to do the photographer harm while they were covering a "hot" story. You may not have to endure the Los Angeles riots but it's nice to know that airport baggage handlers aren't going to destroy your expensive equipment with their typical TLC handling. The D1H is more than capable of surviving in the real world.

You can almost get lost in the feature set of the D1H. The ISO sensitivity is variable from 200 to 1600 with a user-selectable variation between ISO steps of 1, 1/2 or 1/3. The ISO Boost allows for ISO 3200 and 6400 for those times when you're willing to give up some image quality to get that special shot. There are a myriad of options for focusing; single or continuous servo AF, single focus area or dynamic or select one of the five focus points on the fly, and of course full manual focus as well. Every exposure option possible; Manual, Program AE with shift, Shutter speed priority up to 1/16,000 sec, Aperture priority, AE Bracketing, exposure compensation of +/-5EV in 1/3EV steps, single frame drive mode or continuous at 3fps with a maximum depth of nine full resolution images, the framerate and maximum number are user-selectable. White balance options are also numerous with presets for Auto, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Direct Sunlight, Flash, Overcast and Shade which all can be fine tuned +/-3 plus three manual white balance presets. Three metering modes; 3D Color Matrix, Center-weighted averaging (with your choice of the metered area: 6mm, 8mm, 10mm, 13mm or the entire frame) or 4mm Spot.

The D1H has a regular PC flash sync connector so it can be used with any type of studio lights or external flash units. It also has a flash hot shoe to accomodate Nikon Speedlights. For true TTL flash you need the Nikon SB-28DX or SB-50DX Speedlight. The SB-28DX (and new SB-50DX) features 3D Multi-Sensor Balanced Fill-Flash (with D-type AF Nikkor lenses) and were designed specifically for the D1 series. The SB-28DX (and SB-50DX) also offers Auto Aperture flash capability and top flash sync speeds up to 1/500 second. Five flash modes: Front-Curtain Sync (normal sync), Red-Eye Reduction, Red-Eye Reduction with Slow Sync, Slow Sync and Rear-Curtain Sync

The D1H captures the same size image (2000 x 1312) as the D1. The images can be in- camera processed as finished JPEG with Fine 1/4, Normal 1/8 or Basic 1/16 compression. If you want artifact-free images you can select between TIFF YcbCr, TIFF RGB, or raw NEF compressed or uncompressed formats. Even the color space is selectable between sRGB and Adobe RGB with the Adobe RGB offering a wider and richer gammut of colors. The physical storage of your images is on any CompactFlash Type I or II device including the IBM Microdrives. The media of choice for most working professionals are the Lexar Pro Series 16x speed 512MB CF cards. The Microdrives offer a larger storage capacity but they are mechanical devices and as such they are prone to failure from g-shock, temperature or altitude. For this reason most working pros will opt to use several flash cards rather than risk all their pictures on a miniature hard drive.

As with any digital camera, even the $5000 ones, there are a few gotchas. The most common and annoying problem is keeping the CCD imager clean. It's a problem with all interchangeable lens digital cameras, it's not specific to the D1 series. No matter how careful you are when changing lenses there's always the chance of dirt or other contaminants getting onto the imager. You know you have this problem when you start seeing little dark spots in your photos, most noticeably in the large areas of blue sky in outdoor scenics. Those of us that use these digital SLRs always keep a can of compressed air handy to "blow" away most of those contaminants but it doesn't always work. Sooner or later the camera has to be sent in to a service center for a thorough cleaning. Unlike Kodak Professional and Fujifilm, Nikon does not endorse the use of Sensor Swabs to physically clean the imager.

To make use of the D1 series raw NEF files you must purchase the optional Nikon Capture 2 software. In my opinion it should be included in the package. At least Nikon USA is making it available to those that purchase the D1H (or D1X) for a discounted $100, a far cry from the $499 they charged for it previously. There are two excellent third- party alternatives for those wishing to be able to fully manipulate the D1's raw NEF files. The Bibble and Qimage Pro programs both can read in the NEF format and output 8- or 16-bit TIFF images.

The bottom line - the D1H is a professional digital camera that will please both the photojournalist and the sports shooter as well as advanced amateurs. Its 5fps capture rate and image quality will allow it to hold its own against 35mm film cameras. Currently the D1H is the fastest digital SLR available although it is soon to be eclipsed by Canon's new 4-megapixel EOS-1D and its 8fps capture rate. For those that already have a significant investment in Nikon lenses or are making the switch from F5/F100 film cameras to digital, the Nikon D1H is the way to go if you need the speed. If you need or want higher image resolution then look at the Nikon D1X.

Sensor Swab -N for D1 Series

Photographic Solutions, Inc. is pleased to announce the release of Sensor Swab -N on 08 January 2002. This latest addition to our unique digital cleaning product line is designed for cleaning the Nikon ® digital camera models D1 / D1h / D1x when used with our Eclipse ® Optic Cleaner.

Sensor Swab -N is easily distinguished from our regular sized Sensor Swab (for Kodak DCS and Fuji S1 digital cameras) by the designation within the white star on the front panel which states : Designed for Nikon D1 / D1h / D1x

While the Sensor Swab -N differs from our regular Sensor Swab in size only, this new Nikon version has not yet been officially approved by Nikon.

Like Sensor Swab , Sensor Swab -N is available in boxes of 12, and is priced at $48. per box.

For detailed information see your professional photographic supplier or visit our web site at www.photosol.com and check our What's New? page.

Nikon Capture 2 Review

Our good friends at Outback Digital have recently posted a review of Nikon Capture 2 as used with the Nikon D1X's raw NEF files. Many changes and fixes since the original Nikon Capture program and a lot more reasonably priced now too. Read the Nikon Capture 2 review.

Connecting a GPS to D1X / D1H

The D1X and D1H products support the recording of Longitude, Latitude and Altitude information with any picture taken when the D1X/H is receiving GPS data from any valid source. Follow the link below for the latest list of supported GPS devices and a quick "hot-to" do it from Nikon Tech:

GPS Connection to D1X and D1H

Nikon D1 Series Raincovers

Thanks to a news item on Rob Galbraith's site we have discovered a very useful item for anyone that has to take their expensive Nikon D1, D1X or D1H cameras out into the wet world. ickiewarez.com has a line of custom made raincovers for the Nikon professional digital cameras and they're reasonably priced too. To quote the Scott Iskowitz:

    "It all began with a quest for the perfect rain cover, followed by countless, disappointing hours searching the Internet and trade magazines. Frustrated, I set out to design my own. It took months of creating and recreating covers to fit a variety of professional lenses. The result is a high-quality, handcrafted product that can stand up to the elements. The best part may be that pros also won't get soaked by the cost."

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