Nikon D1X SLR Review

Steve's Digicams

Nikon D1X: Second Opinion

A review by Uwe Steinmueller

Digital Outback Photo

Also photos by Bettina Steinmueller

We have taken about 1,500 D1x NEF(raw format) photographs during the first two weeks with the D1x. We only use the RAW format images as we want to get the most out of this camera although the D1x seems to have improved its JPG and TIF format a lot (see Steve's review).

We have used two D1s for more than a year so there wasn't much to learn before using the D1x.

This review will show some photos we like and the lessons we've learned so far using the D1x.

Lesson 1: Good color (auto WB works)
We exclusively used "Auto WB" (white balance) and got colors that were very close to what we remembered. We do like some enhanced saturation which will be covered in lesson #3

Chipmunk in Mammoth Lakes (AF-S 300 f/4 + TC-14E)

Nature's colors are rendered very beautifully with the D1x and the increased resolution helps to portray creatures like this Chipmunk. The fur looks softer and smoother than D1 photos could possibly show.

Mountains near Bishop (AF-S 80-200 f/2.8)

The D1x captures the early morning light quite nicely.
Lesson 2: A lot more resolution than the D1. Cropping is no problem

Wilson's Phalarope at Mono Lake

This photo of Wilson's phalaropes at the Mono Lake County Park needs a crop to get rid of the destructive foreground.

No problem with D1x photos. Due to the high resolution this crop could be easily printed on our letter-sized Olympus P-400 printer.

Here is a crop of the full resolution image for your reference.

Saturation enhanced and sharpened

Lesson 3: Saturation

In some way the D1x renders the colors very truthfully. But if you compare this to photos taken with Velvia film you are often missing a bit more saturation. Have a look at our article about " Digital Velvia".

We had the pleasure of visiting Galen Rowell's new gallery in Bishop. The many Lightjet prints demonstrate that good saturation/color/contrast is needed to provide prints with some "punch".

Grass at Mono Lake South Tufa (Bibble 2.99, saturation enhanced)

South Tufa Impression (Bibble 2.99, saturation enhanced)

Lesson 4: Low Shadow noise and Good Resolution at ISO 125

Bodie School (photographed through a dirty window)

We loved this scene when we were in Bodie for the first time three years ago. Here's the catch: we photographed this through a dirty window using a tripod. On the other side this contributed to the soft impression of the photo.

Crop demonstrates smooth details

Very low shadow noise

Lesson 5: Dust and real Birds

Mono Lake South Tufa (Bibble 2.99 + dust spots)

Dust on the CCD is a major issue with the D1x and other digital SLRs with interchangeable lenses. The Kodak DCS 760 and the Fuji S1 have the advantage that they fully support the use of Sensor Swabs for cleaning. Nikon only supports the use of a hand blower or sending in the camera (not really a practical solution).

Crop of the image above (original 3008x1960)

The dust spots in the sky are not difficult to retouch in Photoshop (using the clone tool) but the spot in the mountain top is far more difficult to remove. One spot is actually a real bird.
After some retouching (took about 2 minutes for this photo to remove about 20 dust spots), a few curves and adding saturation we got this final result

Mono Lake South Tufa

Lesson 6: Be aware of the Histogram

Mono Lake: California Gull catching Alkali Flies (Bibble 2.99)

We watch the histogram all the time with the D1x. There should never be a spike on the right side as this means lost highlights. Very handy is the auto preview, it shows the image plus the histogram for about 2-3 seconds after it's taken. With the D1 we had to wait forever using a Microdrive!

The above photo had a little spike on the right and is not really technically optimal. We have the impression that it is more difficult to read the D1x histogram and find these little spikes. If there is a spike visible then the highlights are lost anyway. But small spikes like in the above photo are difficult to analyze.


The D1x is a very impressive camera and builds on the strength of the D1 while removing some of its weaknesses. Resolution is there and the discussion about the strange CCD layout is mute if you look at the convincing results. Some other digital cameras provide more "punch" with the resulting photos. In our opinion the color rendering of the D1x is very accurate but some might like a bit more saturation (see lesson #3).

Problems so far:

  • There is this strange bug which changes the menu language to Japanese and also the image counter to 1.
  • As of now the only serious problem we found (again) was dealing with dust on the CCD. In the news groups there is a whole subculture dealing with hot recipes on how to clean a D1/D1x CCD. Would be nice if Nikon came up with a more reasonable solution than sending in the camera.

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