Nikon D2h Review

Since the release of the D2X, the expectations of a younger generation of Nikon fans who are eager to see their firm compete on the same level as Canon’s have increased.

Users of Nikon products have been let down by the fact that the firm has consistently lagged behind its main rival in the fight for the advancement of sensor technology. Since early 2003, customers of Canon cameras have had access to the 11-megapixel EOS 1DS, whereas Nikon users have only had access to 5.9-megapixels with the flagship D1X. (first introduced in 2001).

Although the D2X is not capable of matching the pixel quality of the new 16.7-megapixel EOS 1DS Mark II, understanding of the post-capture process has educated professionals and amateurs alike that the number of megapixels is not the only thing that matters. However, a high-quality 12MP camera may be pushed further than its pixels might imply; in fact, it can reach the same ceiling as the EOS 1DS II. A solid 12MP sensor is suitable for most purposes.

The High Speed Cropped mode on the D2X is by far the most revolutionary and ground-breaking feature of the camera. This provides users with the ability to switch from shooting at a resolution of 12.2 megapixels at a burst rate of five frames per second to a smaller crop of 6.9 megapixels with a burst rate that matches that of the D2H at eight frames per second, even though the buffer is slightly reduced from that camera.

The D2H can save 50 JPEGs of full quality and 40 RAW files, however, the D2X can only store 35 JPEGs and 29 RAW files. This isn’t too much of a handicap, especially when one considers that Canon’s 8.5fps EOS 1D II only achieves 40 JPEGs/20 RAW, thus it’s possible that the D2H will become unnecessary for photographers who have the financial means to purchase a new camera.

While the D2X is somewhat inferior to the 1D II in terms of resolution while shooting in High Speed Cropped mode, it outperforms the 1D II when it comes to focal length multiplication. This results in a 2x magnification rather than a 1.5x one, which should eliminate the requirement for slower, more cumbersome lenses or even the use of teleconverters (a 300mm lens becomes 600mm).

No user, professional or otherwise, can turn down the opportunity to get essentially two cameras in one – a high-resolution unit that can be used for portraits, landscapes, architecture, and still life, as well as a lightning-fast mid-resolution unit that can be used for sports, press, wildlife, and action shots.

Feature enhancements

There are a number of additional features that have been upgraded on the D1X, and there are a few upgrades that are particularly noteworthy on the D2H. (some of which are replicated on the new D2Hs).

These include: a massive 2.5-inch LCD; a user-definable Func button; voice annotation; Kelvin settings for white balance; a brand new, incredibly sophisticated autofocus system; simultaneous NEF (RAW) and JPEG shooting; additional high ISO noise reduction; support for the WT-2 802.11g wireless transmitter (and remote control from a PC or Mac); GPS compatibility; i-TTL flash metering system (user reports suggest it is far superior to D-TT

The latter is especially helpful for extracting as much usable information as possible from shadow detail. It enables the user to clip highlights in a single channel (with due care) while remaining certain that the information will be recovered during the RAW conversion step.

The only significant step backward is a drop in the flash sync speed from 1/500 second to 1/250 second, which will irritate those individuals who are attempting to minimize the influence of ambient illumination with studio flash (High-Speed Sync mode covers the fill-in base for on-camera flash in bright light conditions).

The bulky body is a creative reworking of the D1X and closely resembles the D2H in that it is well-labeled and easy to read from the get-go, and it features recessed buttons to minimize accidental hits.

Even Canon users shouldn’t have any trouble getting a handle on the layout, since it is far simpler to understand than the 1DS II’s ridiculous button combinations for exposure mode, autofocus mode, bracketing mode, and drive mode.

Once you’ve figured out everything in the layout, it’s not necessary to take your attention away from the action because you can still see what shots are left in the viewfinder, and all of the essential image parameters are included as well. This means that you don’t have to worry about missing any shots.

In addition, there is not the slightest bit of uncertainty that the addition of the Function button would improve the workflow for the overwhelming majority of users.

Because of the enormous screen, vibrant style, and user-friendly organization, navigating the menu system is a delightful experience. This helps a great deal. The more you use the camera, the more you’ll come to rely on the Recent Settings page, which provides access to the eight settings that you’ve modified most recently. This is something that you’ll find yourself relying on more and more as you continue to use the camera.

The same can be said for the shooting banks, which are an outstanding idea revived from the D1X and have the added benefit of being able to be labeled individually. The custom functions each have their own separate banks, and there are a lot of them that are organized in a logical fashion.

In addition, you can add speed to the expanding list of benefits associated with using D2X. The power-on delay is merely 37 milliseconds, and the viewfinder goes dark after just 80 milliseconds. Unless you truly go all out with the ‘Burst’ command, it’s going to be quite difficult for you to hit the buffer limit.

A test that was done in Burst mode with 16 compressed RAW and JPEG Fine (big) files was completed in 46 seconds using a 1GB Lexar WA 40x card from the commencement of the writing process. This equates to an amazing transfer rate of 4.6MB/s.

According to the handbook, timings are improved when using a SanDisk UltraII card; thus, it is quite plausible that our card was the cause of the bottleneck (80x Lexar cards are now available). Even more astonishing is the result of the same test carried out using a card that does not support WA and does not have a high speed. The lesson to be learned from this situation is…

The one area in which Nikon fails to deliver is with its decision to encrypt the white balance information on this camera. This means that third-party RAW conversion software, such as Adobe Camera RAW for Photoshop CS2 (CS does not have D2X compatibility as of yet) and Capture One Pro by Phase One, are unable to read the “as shot” white balance setting on the camera (though the less renowned Bibble Pro has found a way).

Because of this, those who routinely handle huge quantities of files in batches are going to find this to be a major pain in the neck because it implies that each instance will require manual intervention. Both ACR and Phase One have their own automatic white balance systems, but the results aren’t necessarily accurate all the time.

Using Nikon’s weak PicturePerfect 1.1 is not a viable alternative, and spending an additional £110 on Nikon Capture 4.2 is money that was wasted; the software is extremely sluggish and has a user interface that is difficult to navigate.

Excellent picture quality

The wonderful piece of news is that the image quality produced by the D2X is of the highest standard. Due to the exceptional amount of information and sharpness displayed by the RAW and NEF files, less of the usual software sharpening that is required for DSLRs is carried out. The dynamic range is quite strong, and we accomplished the remarkable feat of rescuing a tremendous amount of detail from shadows that had been cut by two entire stops without adding the typical prohibitive amounts of noise; this is a success that has never been accomplished before.

Once the white balance was adjusted appropriately, Nikon Capture, ACR, and Phase One did not produce any problems with the color accuracy of the images they produced (and JPEGs are perfect). However, there are typical yellow/green blotch issues with skin that occur when the green/magenta slider isn’t set correctly.

There are no issues up to ISO 400 with the D2X, but many people may place their bets on it at ISO 800 and above. The D2X does not quite surpass the competition in terms of ISO noise. Low-light photographers might want to exercise some caution, but an increased amount of ISO grain shouldn’t discourage anyone from purchasing an otherwise outstanding performance. Matt Hendry

Nikon D2h Specifications

Body materialMagnesium alloy
Sensor• 23.3 x 15.5 mm JFET sensor LBCAST
• DX format
• RGB Color Filter Array
• Built-in fixed low-pass filter
• 4.26 million total pixels
• 4.1 million effective pixels
• 3:2 aspect ratio
Image sizes• 2464 x 1632 [L] (4.0 million)
• 1840 x 1224 [M]
File formats• NEF (12-bit RAW)
• NEF + JPEG
• JPEG (EXIF 2.2)
• TIFF (RGB)
Quality settings• NEF *
• TIFF RGB
• NEF+JPEG FINE
• NEF+JPEG NORMAL
• NEF+JPEG BASIC
• JPEG FINE
• JPEG NORMAL
• JPEG BASIC
* Lossless compression
Color space• I: sRGB (Portraits & Natural Skin Tones)
• II: Adobe RGB (Wide Gamut)
• III: sRGB (Landscapes and Flora)
Lens mount• Nikon F mount
• 1.5x field of view crop
Usable lenses• AF Nikkor (including AF-S, DX, VR and D-/G-type) : All functions possible
• D-type Manual-Focus Nikkor: All functions except autofocus and some
exposure modes available
• AF Nikkor other than D-/G-type: All functions except 3D Color Matrix
Metering and 3D Multi-Sensor Balanced Fill-Flash possible
• AI-P Nikkor: All functions except 3D Color Matrix Metering,
3D Multi-Sensor Balanced Fill-Flash and AF possible
• Non-CPU AI Nikkor : Usable in [A] or [M] mode with Matrix-Metering,
Center-Weighted and Spot metering available. Indication of aperture No.,
after user inputs the aperture f/No. and focal length f=mm by multi-selector
operation.
* Electronic Rangefinder usable with maximum aperture of f/5.6 or faster
Auto Focus• 11 area TTL
• Multi-CAM2000
• AF working range: -1 to 19 EV (ISO 100, normal temperature)
Lens Servo• Single Servo AF [S]
• Continuous Servo AF [C]
• Manual focus [M]
* Focus Tracking automatically activated by subject’s status in [S] or [C] AF
AF Area Mode• Single Area AF
• Dynamic AF with Focus Tracking and Lock-on
• Closest Subject Priority Dynamic AF
• Group Dynamic AF
AF assistNone
AF Lock• Locked using the AE-L/AF-L button
• Half-press shutter release button in AF mode [S]
Exposure modes• Program Auto [P] – flexible program possible
• Shutter-Priority Auto [S]
• Aperture-Priority Auto [A]
• Manual [M]
MeteringTTL full-aperture exposure metering system;
• D-/G-type Nikkor lenses support 3D Color Matrix Metering using the 1,005-pixel CCD while other AF Nikkor lenses with built-in CPUs support Matrix Metering (Non-CPU lenses require manual input of lens data)
• Center-Weighted Metering (75% of the meter’s sensitivity concentrated on the 8mm dia. circle)
• Spot Metering (3mm dia. circle, approx. 2% of entire frame); metering position can be linked to the focus area when using Nikkor lenses with built-in CPU
Metering modes• 3D Color Matrix
• Center-Weighted
• Spot
Metering range• 3D Color Matrix Metering: EV 0 to 20
• Center-Weighted Metering: EV 0 to 20
• Spot Metering: EV 2 to 20
[at normal temperature (20°C/68°F), ISO 100 equivalent, f/1.4 lens]
Meter CouplingCPU and AI (Automatic maximum aperture indexing)
AE Lock• Locked using AE-L/AF-L button
AE Bracketing• 2 to 9 frames
• 1/3, 2/3 or 1 EV steps
Exposure compen.• +/-5.0 EV
• 1/3, 1/2 or 1.0 EV steps
Sensitivity• ISO 200 – 1600
• 1/3, 1/2 or 1.0 EV steps
• ISO 1600 can be boosted by one or two stops
Shutter• Electromagnetically controlled vertical-travel Focal-plane shutter
• 30 to 1/8000 sec
• Flash X-Sync: 1/250 sec
• Bulb
White balance• Auto (hybrid: ambient sensor, 1005-pixel CCD, image sensor)
• Presets (five)
• Manual (six steps with fine tuning)
• Color temperature in Kelvin (31 steps)
• White balance bracketing (2 to 9 frames, 10,20,30 MIRED steps)
Image parameters• Sharpening: Auto, Normal, Low, Medium Low, Medium High, High, None
• Tone: Auto, Normal, Less Contrast, More Contrast, Custom
• Color: -3,-2,-1,0,+1,+2,+3
• Hue: +/-3, +/-6, +/-9 degrees
Viewfinder• Optical-type fixed eye-level pentaprism
• Built-in diopter adjustment (-3 to +1m-1)
• Eyepiece shutter provided
• Eyepoint: 19.9 mm (at -1.0m-1)
• Frame coverage 100%
• Viewfinder magnification approx 0.86x with 50 mm f/1.4 lens
Focusing screen• B-type BrightView Clear Matte Screen III
• Interchangeable with optional E-type finder screen with grid
Viewfinder info• Focus indications
• Shutter speed
• Aperture
• Exposure mode
• Metering system
• Shutter speed lock
• Aperture lock
• AE lock
• Bracketing indicator
• Electronic analogue display
• Frame counter
• Ready-light
• ISO sensitivity
• White balance
• Image size / quality
• Eleven sets of focus brackets (area)
LCD monitor• 2.5 ” TFT LCD
• Tempered glass coating
• 211,000 pixels
• Backlight / brightness adjustment
Flash control• New Creative Lighting System: i-TTL Balanced Fill-Flash controlled by five-segment TTL Multi Sensor with Nikon Speedlight SB-800: Advanced Wireless Lighting, FV (Flash Value) -lock, Flash Color Information Communication for Auto White Balance, Auto FP High-Speed Flash Sync, Modeling Flash
• D-TTL Balanced Fill-Flash: When used with the Speedlight SB-80DX/50DX and in accordance with the mounted lens, five-segment TTL Multi Sensor control makes available 3D Multi-Sensor Balanced Fill-Flash, Multi-Sensor Balanced Fill-Flash, and Standard D-TTL Balanced Fill-Flash
• AA (Auto Aperture)-type Flash available when used with SB-800/80DX and lens with built-in CPU
• Non-TTL Auto Flash (A-type Flash) with a Speedlight such as SB-30/27/22s etc.
Flash Sync Mode• Front-Curtain Sync (normal sync)
• Red-Eye Reduction
• Red-Eye Reduction with Slow Sync
• Slow Sync
• Rear-Curtain Sync
Flash Ready-LightLights up when flash fully charged with Speedlight SB-800/80DX/50DX/30/28/
27/22s; blinks for full output warning
Flash Accessory ShoeISO 518 standard-type hot shoe contact; Safety lock mechanism provided
Flash Sync TerminalISO 519 standard terminal, lock screw provided
DOF Preview• Stop-down lens aperture by pressing button
• Activates modelling flash
Shooting modes• Single
• Continuous High [CH] – 8 fps
• Continuous Low [CL] -1 to 7 fps (programmable)
• Buffer size 40 JPEG frames, 25 NEF (RAW) frames
• Self-Timer (programmable)
• Interval timer (Timelapse)
Self-timer• 2, 5, 10 or 20 sec programmable
Voice recording• Voice memo (up to 60 sec)
• Optional auto record
Orientation sensorTags images with camera orientation
Playback mode• Full frame
• Thumbnail (4 or 9 images)
• One-touch zoom
• Slideshow
• Histogram
• Highlight point
Connectivity• USB 2.0 (Hi-Speed) Mini-B connector
• Video out
• Remote control 10-pin
• PC Sync flash terminal
CommunicationsFTP file transfer with optional Wireless Transmitter WT-1 (IEEE 802.11b)
Video out• NTSC
• PAL
Storage• Compact Flash Type I or II
• Microdrive supported
• FAT 12/16 and FAT 32 support
• 30 characters of text can be input and stored in EXIF header
• No CF card supplied
Power• Lithium-Ion EN-EL4 (11.1 V DC)
• Included battery charger MH-21 (100 min full charge)
• Optional AC adapter EH-6
Battery monitoringThe LCD monitor on the camera back displays the following information
about the EN-EL4 battery:
• Remaining charge (%)
• No. of shots taken since last charge
• Calibration status (Recommended/Not required)
• Battery life (5 stages)
Dimensions158 x 150 x 86 mm (6.2 x 5.9 x 3.4 in)
Weight (no batt)1070 g (2.4 lb)
Box contentsLi-ion Battery EN-EL4, Quick Charger MH-21, Body Cap, Camera Strap AN-D2H, AV Cable EG-D2, USB Cable UC-E4, LCD Monitor Cover BM-3, Nikon View Software CD-ROM
Optional accessoriesWireless Transmitter WT-1, Extension Antenna WA-E1, AC Adaptor EH-6, E-type Finder Screen, Anti-fog Finder Eyepiece DK-16A, Eyepiece Correction Lens DK-16C series, Speedlight SB-800/80DX/50DX, Nikon Capture 4 software,
CompactFlash™ card

Conclusion

When we reviewed the Nikon D3 in April of the previous year, we stated that it was “possibly the most compelling, capable, and well-rounded professional digital SLR ever made,” and that a (then non-existent) D3X “would have quite a job to do to better the D3.” This was because we believed that the D3 was “possibly the most compelling, capable, and well-rounded professional digital SLR ever made.”

In the end, the D3X materialized in the month of December. We’ve had it for a little over a month now, and after taking hundreds of test photos in the studio and out in the field, you may expect us to be able to firmly answer the question of whether or not the ‘X’ variant is capable of outperforming the original D3.

On the other hand, it should be obvious to anyone who has even a passing familiarity with camera technology that it is not possible to provide a conclusive response to this issue.

Due to the fact that a significant amount of the design of the D3X and the D3 are the same, it should not come as a surprise that the two cameras have comparable capabilities in many respects. However, despite the fact that the new model is unquestionably superior to the D3 in certain respects, in other respects it is inferior.

Both the excellent 51-point autofocus system and the 1005-pixel metering sensor have been immediately carried over from the D3 to the D3X, and they function just as well on the D3X as they do on the D3. The image resolution at low sensitivities is where the D3X really shines and outperforms the D3 by a mile or two. The build quality and ergonomics are both good as well, but this is where the D3X really thrives.

The output of the images at the lowest possible ISO (and with high-quality glass in front of the sensor) can only be described as breathtaking. The high-resolution sensor of the D3X, when combined with a relatively weak anti-aliasing filter and an outstanding JPEG engine, delivers a level of sharp detail that surpasses that of even the most formidable competitors, including the Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III, which was formerly ranked number one in this category.

It is simply incredible how, as you continue to zoom into the enormous image files, you can uncover an increasing amount of granular detail. If capturing fine image detail is at the top of your list of priorities, as it would be for many high-end studio photographers, there is little question that the D3X should be your top choice among the available options.

However, the image detail that is unrivaled in its class does come at a cost. It is certain that this will have an effect on in-camera processing, buffering, and continuous shooting because a 14-bit RAW+JPEG image will use almost 30 megabytes of space on your memory card.

Having said that, the D3X’s continuous shooting rate of five frames per second (12-bit RAW and JPEG) will still be sufficient for the majority of applications, and if it isn’t, you can always switch to DX mode to speed up the process and take 10.5-megapixel images at seven frames per second. Although it may not quite reach D3 speed, it is still an amazingly quick pace.

Nikon D2h Price

Pros & Cons

Good For
  • Dedicated mode for the color of skin tones
  • When dealing with bright situations, having a good dynamic range is helpful.
  • When the light source is framed, tungsten produces good results.
Need Improvements
  • Highlights from the matrix meter clips
  • If there is no light in the frame, the tungsten will not be neutralized.
  • RAW software developed by a third party is unable to read WB info.

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