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Nikon D1

The D1 WonderCam!

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D1 Sample Images

Review First Posted: May 12, 2000

We've begun including links in our reviews to a Thumber-generated index page for our test shots. The Thumber data includes a host of information on the images, including shutter speed, ISO setting, compression setting, etc. Rather than clutter the page below with *all* that detail, we're posting the Thumber index so only those interested in the information need wade through it! ;)

 

 

Outdoor portrait: (1229k)
This is a tough shot for many digicams, due to the extreme tonal range (which is why we set it up this way!). The trick is to hold highlight and shadow detail without producing a "flat" picture with muddy colors and the D1 did an excellent job. We shot this image using the automatic (1231k) and manual (1229k) white balance settings, with the manual setting producing the most accurate results in both skin tone and white values. (We actually did shoot a series with the daylight setting, but as it was nearly identical to the automatic, we didn't save the series). The D1 did an excellent job with colors in the flowers and the model's pants, particularly the often-difficult blues. (Many digicams have a tendency to reproduce these with a purplish hue). We did feel though, that the skin tones were a little problematic for a $5,000+ camera: They're a little "hot" overall, with a yellowish cast in the highlights that doesn't appear in the lower tonal values. If this were a prosumer-level digicam, we'd let this level of color inaccuracy pass and give the camera a "very good to excellent" rating on color, but feel that a camera of this price and sophistication needs to be held to a bit higher standard. (In fact, we'd rate the D1's color as more accurately saturated overall than that of Nikon's excellent prosumer Coolpix 990, which we commented on more favorably in this regard) - Fortunately, there appears to be an excellent third-party solution to color problems of this sort, in the form of Mike Chaney's Qimage Pro program: It can work from the "raw" files the D1 takes, producing very natural skin tones and more accurate color overall. (Unfortunately, in all our tests, we only saved one image in "raw" format, none of the outdoor shots!) Do check Mike's site though, for $30, Qimage looks like a "must have" for the D1 shooter. Addendum: A number of readers have written it to tell us of Eric Hyman's excellent Bibble software, which appears to do even better than Qimage on the color-correction front (although it lacks Qimage's high-ISO noise filtering). At only $50 for Bibble, we'd also put it on the absolute must-have list for every D1 owner! (Which one should you get? - Why not both? Each offers capabilities the other lacks, and for $80 for the pair of programs, you really can't go wrong! - Note that we have no affiliation with either Mike Chaney or Eric Hyman.)

Resolution and detail look extremely good, particularly in the small green leaves next to the model's shirt and the strands of her hair. (Again, making the obvious comparison to the Coolpix 990, we feel that the D1 did a better job on the finest details, despite having a somewhat lower resolution at the CCD level than the 990. One possible reason might be that the lens used on this shot (the Nikon 17-35 f/2.8 D) costs more than the entire 990 camera!) The shadow areas also look great, showing a lot of detail and virtually no noise! We required +0.3 EV of exposure compensation on this shot for our main image (less than most cameras require, perhaps due to the accuracy of Nikon's matrix metering system), which managed to get the best exposure overall, albeit at some cost to the highlights in the shirt and the white flowers. The table below shows the results of a range of exposure settings from -0.3 to +1.0 EV in both automatic and manual white balance settings.

Exposure Compensation Series, Auto White Balance
-0.33 EV
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/500
Aperture: F11

(1205k)
0.00 EV
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/400
Aperture: F10

(1235k)
+0.33 EV
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/350
Aperture: F9.5
(1231k)
+0.67 EV
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/320
Aperture: F9

(1179k)
+1.00 EV
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/250
Aperture: F8.5
(1174k)


Exposure Compensation Series, Manual White Balance
-0.33 EV
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/500
Aperture: F11
(1221k)
0.0 EV
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/400
Aperture: F10
(1239k)
+0.33 EV
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/350
Aperture: F9.5
(1229k)
+0.67 EV
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/320
Aperture: F9
(1176k)
+1.00 EV
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/320
Aperture: F8.5
(1169k)



 
Closer portrait: (1167k)
The D1 also turns in an excellent performance with this "portrait" shot, although we would have done better to use a longer-focal length lens. Shorter focal length lenses tend to distort facial features in close-up shots like this and the availability of longer focal lengths is a key feature if you're going to be shooting close-up people shots. (This image was again shot with the 17-35mm zoom, this time set at the 35mm position, which resulted in an "effective" focal length of 52.5 mm. Our ultra-sharp 105mm Nikkor Micro lens would have done well on this, producing an effective focal length of about 160mm, but we were pressed for time, wanting to catch the sun at the right angle, and didn't have that lens with us.) Our main shot (1167k) required no exposure compensation away from the settings chosen by the metering system. Sharpness and detail are again exceptional, again with almost imperceptible noise in the shadow areas. We're still not crazy about the skin tones, but the detail in the image is exceptional. The table below shows the results of a range of exposure settings from -0.3 to +1.0 EV. We chose the manual white balance setting again as it produced the most accurate color balance.

Exposure Compensation Series

-.33 EV
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/400
Aperture: F10
(1191k)
0.0 EV
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/350
Aperture: F10
(1167k)
+.33 EV
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/320
Aperture: F9.5
(1132k)
+0.67 EV
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/320
Aperture: F9
(1143k)
+1.00 EV
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/250
Aperture: F8.5
(1115k)



 
Indoor portrait, flash: (1199k)
The D1 performs very well in this category and has a tremendous range of exposure and flash options to play with, thanks to the flexibility of the optional external SB-28DX flash unit. (NOTE that the D1 does not have any internal flash: This test was performed with an external unit, available at extra cost. Some shots (including our "main" one for the category) were taken with TWO flash units... - The lack of onboard flash is normal and expected on a professional SLR, but we wanted to point out that these shots were taken with an external flash, so nobody would accuse us of stacking the deck in favor of the D1 relative to the prosumer cameras with onboard flash.) We took several shots with the main flash and then tried a series with two flash heads, daisy-chaining the flash units together with an accessory cable. In the first series (using just the main flash) we achieved the best results overall when we bounced the flash and boosted the exposure compensation to +0.7 EV while using the flash white balance (1172k) setting, which lit the foreground and background nicely without blowing out the highlights or causing a major color shift. Both the highlight and shadow areas look very good, as does color balance, although the strong room light gave things a rather warm cast. Staying in the flash white balance setting, we snapped the same shot as before but with a direct instead of a bounced flash at +0.7 EV, producing this (1192k) image. Using the direct flash makes the lighting a little harsh, darkening the background slightly and producing more noticeable shadows. We took the same shot using the automatic white balance (1202k), which produced similar results. We also tried a little photographer's trick of balancing the flash to the ambient lighting, and then using the ambient setting for the white balance: Here's (1194k) a shot taken with the flash on, but using the manual white balance setting for the room lighting. Yuck, really blue! Check this out though: Here's (1122k) a shot taken with the same white balance setting, but an orange gel taped over the flash head. - Pretty good, but it'd need a little tweaking for professional work. (A very weak yellow gel added to the flash head would probably have done the trick.) Still, this illustrates a very useful technique for balancing room light and flash illumination. (And for it to really work well, you need a camera with an accurate manual white balance capability, like the D1.)

Now, on to the multiple flash tests. In the first shot, we bounced one flash from the side at full strength and pointed the main flash directly at the subject at -2.7 EV (just the barest fill), producing this (1196k) shot, which resulted in subtle, moody lighting and a nice color balance (although a touch warm). Using the same setup, we kept the side bounce at full strength and increased the main, direct flash to -0.7 EV, producing a brighter image with better lighting and color balance. We chose this image as our main shot (1199k), since it produced the best exposure overall with good lighting and subtle highlights. Keeping the side bounce at full strength, we boosted the main, direct flash to 0.0 EV, producing this (1182k) image which still looks nice but the main flash begins to dominate the image slightly. Finally, we decreased the side bounce to half strength and left the main, direct flash at 0.0 EV, producing this (1196k) image, which is much closer to the effect of the on-camera flash alone, but still has some fill to eliminate some of the harshness and shadows. Although the overall exposure still looks pretty good, the main flash definitely dominates the image and the highlights become more prominent while the background gets darker.

Again, an excellent performance on this test shot, as we achieved good results in both of our series and the D1's many exposure options give you a lot to play with. For practicing pros (or well-heeled amateurs), the ability of the SB-28DX flash units to work in concert with each other is a huge plus. The lighting control you can achieve in this manner is unprecedented, going way beyond anything we've been able to achieve with the prosumer cameras we've tested in the past. (To preempt the likely comments though: You're right, we haven't tried working with any of the special slave units for prosumer digicams, with which we might be able to achieve the same results. Part of our point here though, is that the Nikon system offers a single-vendor solution for multiple-head flash that's nicely integrated with the camera itself.)


 
Indoor portrait, no flash: (1043k)
This shot is a very tough test of a camera's white balance capability, given the strong, yellowish color cast of the household incandescent bulbs used for the lighting. No problem for the D1, which gave us plenty of exposure options to try. For our main EV test, the D1 did by far the best job in the manual (1043k) white balance setting (which we chose for our main shot (1043k)), producing nice color balance and good detail with little noise. We also shot in the tungsten (1067k) and automatic (1077k) white balance settings, which both produced very warm results (auto a little more so than tungsten). The table below shows our standard series, a range of exposure compensation settings from zero to +2.0 EV in the manual white balance setting.

Exposure Compensation Series

0.00 EV
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/40
Aperture: F3
(1079 k)
+0.33 EV
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/30
Aperture: F3
(1084k)
+0.67 EV
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/25
Aperture: F2.8
(1112k)
+1.00 EV
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/20
Aperture: F2.8
(1043k)
+1.33 EV
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/15
Aperture: F2.8
(1044k)
+1.67 EV
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/13
Aperture: F2.8
(1040k)
+2.00 EV
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/10
Aperture: F2.8
(1016k)

As an interesting aside, discerning readers may note the much shallower depth of field in these shots than is commonly the case with the prosumer digicams we test. This is due to the much longer focal length of the lenses we're using on the D1, and the resulting larger physical iris openings for corresponding f-stop values. These shots were taken with the lens set to a focal length of 24mm, and an aperture of f/2.8. By comparison, a typical prosumer digicam has a lens focal length of only 8-9mm on this shot, or roughly 1/3 of the focal length. (This due to the smaller size of the CCD sensor in those cameras.) As a result, the prosumer cameras will have much greater depth of field than pro units like the D1, under similar shooting conditions. This can be a two-edged sword: It's tough to get good subject isolation (shallow depth of field) with prosumer digicams, but likewise tougher to get great depth of field with the pro models.

An interesting feature on the D1 is the ability to adjust the intensity of the white balance presets. We shot a series in the tungsten white balance setting from -3 to +3 adjustment levels with the results below. (The actual increments for these adjustments in degrees Kelvin are listed in the main review. Very nice feature we wish other digicam manufacturers would adopt - how difficult would this be to add to most any digicam?)

-3 white balance adjustment


(1077k)
-2 white balance adjustment


(1074k)
-1 white balance adjustment


(1026k)
0 white balance adjustment


(1070k)
+1 white balance adjustment


(1050k)
+2 white balance adjustment


(1060k)
+3 white balance adjustment


(1104k)
 



Finally, we shot a series with each ISO setting. We found that the noise level only increased minimally from 200 (1055k) to 400 (1090k) and just slightly more when we went to 800 (1240k). We saw the biggest increase in noise at the 1600 (1232k) setting (as you'd expect). While shooting at the 1600 sensitivity setting, we took one shot with the aperture set at f/6.3 (1219k) to gauge the variance in the depth of field. (Compare this with the ISO 200 shot (1055k), which was taken with an aperture of f/2.8.) As noted above, we observed that the D1's depth of field is less than the prosumer digicams because its lenses are made to cover a 35mm frame and they have much longer (though ineffective) focal lengths. As a result, f/6.3 on the D1 is more like the f/2.8 setting on a typical digicam lens. Compared to the prosumer cameras we've tested, the D1's noise performance is exceptionally good: Noise at ISO 1600 is less than most lower-end units at ISO 400. (We haven't tested any other pro cameras yet, so can't comment on the noise levels relative to other pro units.) We did notice a noise characteristic at high ISO that's been commented on by some other writers: There's a "banding" in the noise patterns at ISO 1600. This is most noticeable in the wider-aperture ISO 1600 (1232k) shot, and can be seen in the blue channel, across the model's face and hair. As noted, the overall noise level is quite low, but the non-random nature of the noise pattern at ISO 1600 makes it more visible than it would be otherwise.


 
House shot: (1353k)
NOTE that this is the "new" house shot, a much higher-resolution poster than we first used in our tests. To compare the D1 with previously-tested cameras, here's a shot of the original house poster at the manual (1344k) white balance setting.

First of all, let us say that the D1 did an excellent job on this shot. We preferred the manual (1353k) white balance setting on this one, as the color balance seemed the most accurate. The automatic (1332k) setting produced just slightly warmer results and the daylight (1355k) setting resulted in a noticeably warmer image. Resolution and detail look great all over. You can see the tiniest details in the tree limbs and shrubbery, as well as in the often hard to distinguish brick and shingle areas. As far as we can tell, the only noise in the image is coming from the actual house poster itself. We picked up just the tiniest halo (about a pixel or so) around the dark and light edges, giving away the in-camera sharpening, but the default sharpening is some of the best and most subtle we've seen on a digicam. The D1 performed brilliantly and we really don't have any complaints! The table below shows our standard quality series.

Image Quality Series
Uncompressed
NOTE: TIFF file! Download to disk to view in imaging program.
(7747k)
Fine
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/30
Aperture: F8
(1355k)
Normal
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/30
Aperture: F8
(664k)
Basic
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/30
Aperture: F8
(331k)

Sharpness Series

The D1 provides four options for in-camera sharpening: Auto (default), "Soft", "Hard", and "None". As noted above, the default sharpening does a really excellent job on most images. You may want to choose soft or hard depending on the subject matter and type of printout you'll use. The No Sharpening option would be the best choice if you intend heavy editing of the images, with sharpening applied in Photoshop(tm) or other program at the end of the process. We shot tests with the camera's variable sharpness settings, with the results below. Overall, the camera did a good job of not over-sharpening in the hard setting and doesn't get too soft at the other end.

Sharpness Series
Default Value
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/40
Aperture: F8
(1355k) 
Soft
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/30
Aperture: F8
(1351k) 
Hard
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/30
Aperture: F8

(1354k)
No Sharpening
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/30
Aperture: F8
(1374k)



 
 
Far-Field test (1318k)
This image is shot at infinity to test far-field lens performance. NOTE that this image cannot be directly compared to the other "house" shot, which is a poster, shot in the studio. The rendering of detail in the poster will be very different than in this shot, and color values (and even the presence or absence of leaves on the trees!) will vary in this subject as the seasons progress. In general though, you can evaluate detail in the bricks, shingles and window detail, and in the tree branches against the sky. Compression artifacts are most likely to show in the trim along the edge of the roof, in the bricks, or in the relatively "flat" areas in the windows.

Again, the D1 performed beautifully with this shot. This subject is the strongest test of detail of any we do, and the bright white of the central bay window often tricks digicams into losing detail in that area. The D1 somewhat fell prey to this as well, but you can still see the outline of some of the bay window's detail. Color balance and saturation look very good and noise is extremely low, showing just slightly in the roof shingles. Resolution looks great all around, especially in the bricks and trees. The table below shows our full quality series.

Image Quality Series
Uncompressed
NOTE: TIFF file! Download to disk to view in imaging program.
(7747k)
Fine
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/1000
Aperture: F5
(1318k)
Normal
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/1250
Aperture: F4.5
(658k)
Basic
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/1600
Aperture: F4
(328k)


As with the House poster, we shot with the camera's variable sharpness settings, with the results below.

Sharpness Series
Default Value
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/320
Aperture: F9
(1323k) 
Soft
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/320
Aperture: F9
(1328k) 
Hard
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/320
Aperture: F9

(1336k)
No Sharpening
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/320
Aperture: F9
(1324k)



 
Lens Zoom Range (new)
We've received a number of requests from readers to take shots showing the lens focal length range of various cameras having zoom lenses. The D1's ability to accept a wide range of lenses means you can get pretty much anything you want, from full-frame fisheyes to 1500mm equivalent telephoto lenses. Given enough money for lenses ;-), the D1 performs very well in this category. The following series of shots shows something of what you can expect with typical 35mm focal lengths, showing the field of view with two different lenses: the Nikon 17 to 35mm f/2.8 zoom and the Tamron 28 to 300mm. (Apologies for the tilted subject on the Nikkor shots!) The focal length numbers in parenthesis are the effective focal lengths, given the 1.5x multiplier resulting from the size difference between the D1's CCD and the normal 35mm film frame. These shots also show the difference between a really high-end lens and a perhaps slightly better-than-average consumer one: Although impossible to compare scene elements directly, given the vast range of subject sizes, the difference in sharpness at the 300 mm end of the Tamron lens relative to the Nikkor across its range is fairly dramatic. The telephoto Tamron shot also shows a slight amount of chromatic aberration that isn't apparent in the Nikkor lens. (To head off the inevitable comments yes, it's possible there could be some camera shake on the 300mm shot, but we doubt it: The shot was taken from a pretty rugged tripod, the shutter speed was 1/320 of a second, we released the shutter with the self-timer, and the camera was operating in its "vibration reduction" mode, in which it waits for a fraction of a second after flipping the mirror up, before releasing the shutter. Thus, there really shouldn't be any noticeable vibration affecting that image.)


17mm (25.5mm) (Nikkor)
(1345k)
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/320
Aperture: F9.5
28mm (42mm) (Tamron)
(1355k)
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/320
Aperture: F9
35mm (52.5mm) (Nikkor)
(1332k)
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/320
Aperture: F9
300mm (450mm) (Tamron)
(1153k)
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/320
Aperture: F9.5



"Musicians" poster (1347k)
As with the House shot, we shot samples of this using auto (1365k), daylight (1364k) and manual (1347k) white balance options. We chose the manual setting as it produced the best skin tones and overall color balance, although we felt it was a bit cool in hue. The daylight setting came out just a hint warm (mostly visible in the background, which takes on a greenish hue) and the automatic setting produced very warm results as well. (In hindsight, this is a shot that would have been a good one to use the manual "tweak" adjustments on the preset white balance options: Pulling the daylight white balance setting a bit towards cooler tones would have produced a near-perfect result.) Color saturation looks good, as the model's blue robe looks just about right, as do the reds and yellows of the other costumes. (The shadows of the blue robe show just a hint of the dreaded blue/purple problem we've seen so often in digicam images though.) Resolution and detail look great, as the D1 picks up the subtle detail of the birdís wings and the tiny silver threads on the Oriental modelís robe. (Really, the D1 is pulling out all the detail that's to be found in this lower-resolution poster.) The only noise in the image comes from the poster itself, so we're very pleased with the D1's performance in this category. Below is our standard image-quality series.

Image Quality Series
Uncompressed
NOTE: TIFF file! Download to disk to view in imaging program.
(7747k)
Fine
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/25
Aperture: F8
(1347k)
Normal
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/20
Aperture: F8
(670k)
Basic
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/20
Aperture: F8
(313k)

We again took shots showing the effect of the camera's variable sharpness settings, with the results below.

Sharpness Series
Default Value
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/25
Aperture: F8
(1347k) 
Soft
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/20
Aperture: F8
(1347k) 
Hard
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/20
Aperture: F8

(1288k)
No Sharpening
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/20
Aperture: F8
(1159k)



 
Macro shot (1373k)
Here again, we're really more testing a particular lens than the camera itself. (As with the wide/tele examples above, the message in this test is simply that you can put whatever lens on this camera you want.) These shots were taken with our 105mm Micro Nikkor F/2.8 D lens, an exceptionally sharp 1:1 (on 35mm film) macro lens. Given the stellar performance of the lens, it's no surprise that we were very pleased with the D1's performance in the macro category: It captured a minimum area of only 0.95 x 0.62 inches (24.10 x 15.81 mm). The D1 produced the usual superb detail, sharpness and color.


 
"Davebox" test target (1176k)
The D1 does a very nice job in this category as well. We shot with the daylight (1184k), auto (1174k) and manual (1176k) white balance settings, choosing manual as the most accurate. Daylight produced the warmest cast overall while the automatic setting looked slightly cool. All the color blocks look very vibrant and accurate, particularly the bright yellow one, which many cameras under-saturate. The usually difficult red and magenta color blocks on the middle, horizontal color chart look nice as well, with the D1 able to distinguish between the two nicely (many digicams have trouble here and try to blend the colors into one). The subtle tonal variations in the Q60 chart look very nice also, with the "B" range in the pastels completely visible and distinguishable. The shadow area of the briquettes shows a lot of detail and only a minimal amount of noise. The D1's excellent tonal range is perhaps best seen in the vertical gray scale though: If you play with the image a bit in a photo editing program, you can see that the D1 actually manages to discriminate between blocks 18 and 19 at the bottom of this gray scale, the first time we've seen this on a digicam we've tested. (March, 2000) A job well done!

Image Quality Series
Uncompressed
NOTE: TIFF file! Download to disk to view in imaging program.
(7747k)
Fine
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/30
Aperture: F8
(1176k)
Normal
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/30
Aperture: F8
(599k)
Basic
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/30
Aperture: F8
(309k)

We again took shots showing the effect of the camera's variable sharpness settings, with the results below.

Sharpness Series
Default Value
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/30
Aperture: F8
(1176k)
Soft
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/30
Aperture: F8
(1111k)
Hard
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/30
Aperture: F8

(1246k)
No Sharpening
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/30
Aperture: F8
(943k)


 
 
 
Low Light Series
Well, there were two tests we really went a little overboard with, even by Imaging Resource standards, and Low Light was one of them. In the pro digicam arena, ISO ratings are one parameter that's hotly contested. We shot with elevated ISO settings in several of our other tests, but this test under controlled low-light conditions would clearly reveal more of what the camera and sensor could really do when pushed in this regard than any other test we'd conduct. Accordingly, we shot a massive matrix of images, at light levels ranging from 8 foot-candles (88 lux) down to 1/16th of a foot-candle (0.0625 fc or 0.69 lux), with ISO settings ranging from 200 to 6400. The results were very interesting. First, we found that overall, the D1 performed exceptionally well at low light levels, capturing very usable images all the way down to the limits of our test. - And that's very low light indeed: At 1/16 of a foot-candle, there was barely enough light to see our way around the studio, without waiting for our eyes to acclimate a fair bit. First off, we found that the automatic white balance had a hard time handling the slightly warm cast of the 4800K photoflood bulb we use to illuminate these tests. (A fairly typical occurrence.) We also found that long time exposures (we went out to about 8 seconds) produced modest amounts of single-pixel noise artifacts at the low ISO settings, while the higher ISO settings produced more noise all the time, regardless of the shutter speed involved. One thing that interested/excited us was how easily we could clean up even the longest exposures shot at ISO 200 in Photoshop(TM), with an auto levels operation, followed by a dust & scratches filter (to kill some of the single-pixel noise), followed by an unsharp mask filter to counteract some of the softening effect of the dust & scratches filter. OK, that's a little convoluted, but the results are amazing, as seen in this image (961k), shot at 1/16 of a foot-candle, ISO 200, f/2.8, 8 seconds exposure time. (You'd swear it came from a prosumer digicam, shooting at a light level a good 100x brighter!) I mean, that is *amazing*!

At higher ISO settings, the noise level increases significantly, regardless of exposure time. Comparing performance to the prosumer cameras we've tested in the past, we'd say that the D1's performance at ISO 1600 is better than most consumer cameras at ISO 400, a full two stops slower. On the other hand, the "Gain Up" options for ISO 3200 and 6400 available through the CSM menu. are really of questionable value IOHO. Perhaps if there's a shot that you just have NO hope of getting at a lower ISO, you might be willing to put up with the noise levels in the "Gain Up" options, but it's hard to imagine many photographers or situations that would justify that (surveillance?). The noise levels are truly horrendous, particularly at ISO 6400, and to the point that we really question their usefulness.

As noted earlier, we also observed a nonrandom component in the D1's image noise at elevated ISO settings: There are very noticeable horizontal striations in the image, beginning at about ISO 1600. (At ISO 800, the effect is almost invisible, and by ISO 3200, it's quite severe.) Interestingly, this horizontally oriented noise appears to be independent of the individual color channels, expressed almost entirely as a luminance artifact. (Our guess is that it has to do with data readout, either from charge-transfer efficiency variations, or by noise sources in the readout amplifiers.) Much has been made of this effect in some internet discussions, and its nonrandom character does indeed make it much more noticeable than a purely random noise distribution would be. Not having had other ISO 1600+ capable digicams through our labs to test, we can't comment on how the D1 fares relative to its high-end competition, but we remain quite impressed with its low-light operation relative to the consumer-level cameras we've seen in the past.

OK, enough analytical blather: The proof is in the pudding (printing?) - Herewith the mondo low-light matrix:

Low-light/Variable ISO exposure series
8fc, ISO 200
(1220k)
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/8
Aperture: F2.8
8fc, ISO 400
(1226k)
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/15
Aperture: F2.8
8fc, ISO 800
(1100k)
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/30
Aperture: F2.8
8fc, ISO 1600
(1289k)
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/60
Aperture: F2.8
   
4fc, ISO 200
(1166k)
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/125
Aperture: F2.8
4fc, ISO 400
(1238k)
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/10
Aperture: F2.8
4fc, ISO 800
(1117k)
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/20
Aperture: F2.8
4fc, ISO 1600
(1278k)
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/40
Aperture: F2.8
4fc, ISO 3200
(1095k)
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/80
Aperture: F2.8
4fc, ISO 6400
(1136k)
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/160
Aperture: F2.8
2fc, ISO 200
(1178k)
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1.3
Aperture: F2.8
2fc, ISO 400
(1238k)
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/6
Aperture: F2.8
2fc, ISO 800
(1142k)
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/13
Aperture: F2.8
2fc, ISO 1600
(1061k)
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/30
Aperture: F2.8
2fc, ISO 3200
(1126k)
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/50
Aperture: F2.8
2fc, ISO 6400
(1219k)
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/5
Aperture: F2.8
1fc, ISO 200
(1244k)
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/3
Aperture: F2.8
1fc, ISO 400
(1199k)
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 2.5
Aperture: F2.8
1fc, ISO 800
(1148k)
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/5
Aperture: F2.8
1fc, ISO 1600
(1061k)
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/10
Aperture: F2.8
1fc, ISO 3200
(1122k)
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/20
Aperture: F2.8
1fc, ISO 6400
(1163k)
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/40
Aperture: F2.8
1/2fc, ISO 200
(1228k)
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 3
Aperture: F2.8
1/2fc, ISO 400
(1245k)
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1.3
Aperture: F2.8
1/2fc, ISO 800
(1137k)
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/2
Aperture: F2.8
1/2fc, ISO 1600
(1047k)
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/3
Aperture: F2.8
1/2fc, ISO 3200
(1105k)
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/6
Aperture: F2.8
1/2fc, ISO 6400
(1144k)
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/10
Aperture: F2.8
1/4fc, ISO 200
(1039k)
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 6
Aperture: F2.8
1/4fc, ISO 400
(1195k)
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 3
Aperture: F2.8
1/4fc, ISO 800
(1167k)
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1.5
Aperture: F2.8
1/4fc, ISO 1600
(1070k)
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/1
Aperture: F2.8
1/4fc, ISO 3200
(1092k)
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/3
Aperture: F2.8
1/4fc, ISO 6400
(1154k)
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/4
Aperture: F2.8
1/8fc, ISO 200
(1113k)
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 8
Aperture: F2.8
1/8fc, ISO 400
(1040k)
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 4
Aperture: F2.8
1/8fc, ISO 800
(1197k)
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 2
Aperture: F2.8
1/8fc, ISO 1600
(1084k)
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1
Aperture: F2.8
1/8fc, ISO 3200
(1136k)
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/2
Aperture: F2.8
1/8fc, ISO 6400
(1166k)
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/3
Aperture: F2.8
1/16fc, ISO 200
(1124k)
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 8
Aperture: F2.8
1/16fc, ISO 400
(1284k)
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 5
Aperture: F2.8
1/16fc, ISO 800
(1140k)
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 2.5
Aperture: F2.8
1/16fc, ISO 1600
(1103k)
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1.5
Aperture: F2.8
1/16fc, ISO 3200
(1097k)
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/2
Aperture: F2.8
1/16fc, ISO 6400
(1138k)
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/3
Aperture: F2.8

 

Love high ISO photography? Hate noise? Check out Fred Miranda's ISO-R noise-reducing actions for Photoshop. Incredible noise reduction, with *no* loss of subject detail. (Pretty amazing, IMHO.) Check it out!




 
Flash Range Series
As with most pro SLRs, the D1 doesn't have a built-in flash unit. We worked extensively with the SB-28DX dedicated external speedlight, but there was really little point in running a flash range series in our studio, as it's capable of illuminating subjects at distances much greater than the 15 feet or so we can manage in our studio...


ISO-12233 (WG-18) resolution test (1100k)
This is the second test we really went hog-wild with. We did a *very* rough "shootout" at the Spring PMA 2000, and were roundly criticized for undertaking such a poorly-controlled test. Questions were raised (and rightfully so) about lens type on the different cameras being tested, subject positioning & lighting, etc., etc. With that in mind, we wanted to prepare for a really conclusive set of comparative resolution tests on professional digicams. With that in mind, we used the D1 as a test platform for evaluating the performance of various lenses in our personal collection, as well as those provided to us by Nikon for the purposes of our tests. The objective was to both check out how the D1 behaved with a fairly wide range of optics on it, and also to settle on a "standard" lens to use for future tests. As it turns out, we chose our own Micro Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 D macro lens as the basis for future comparisons: We'd heard that this lens was tack-sharp across the full field of view, and full range of focusing distances, and our testing certainly seemed to confirm this advance billing. The 105mm test images were razor-sharp, to the point that we were comfortable declaring it the winner amongst the variety of lenses we tested. For the sake of sharing as many of our results with the community as possible, we're including an unusually large set of resolution test images here from the D1. Our "official" resolution numbers for the D1 are based on the results from the Micro Nikkor 105mm lens, but we include links to tests from all the other lenses for all the glass fanatics out there (like us), who are interested in knowing how some of the other lenses performed.

As to the specifics of the test, we "called" the D1's resolution as being 800 lines per picture height in both vertical and horizontal directions, although there was a slight amount of aliasing before that point was reached. Significant detail was visible all the way out to 900 lines per picture height, but aliasing became progressively greater. The D1's in-camera sharpening is fairly subtle, so the res target images had a slightly soft appearance relative to some other cameras. (We were in particular comparing images to those from Nikon's own Coolpix 990, which has a somewhat heavy-handed sharpening applied internally.) We tried our usual trick of applying fairly strong unsharp masking in Photoshop (300% at 0.5 pixel radius), with this (747k) result: We felt it created a much crisper-looking image, without introducing any halos or significant artifacts.

105mm Quality series, default sharpness
Uncompressed
NOTE: TIFF file! Download to disk to view in imaging program.
(7747k)
Fine
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/40
Aperture: F6.7
(1101k)
Normal
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/40
Aperture: F6.7
(658k)
Basic
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/40
Aperture: F6.7
(341k)


105mm Sharpness series
Default
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/40
Aperture: F6.7
(1101k)
Soft
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/40
Aperture: F6.7
(1069k)
Hard
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/40
Aperture: F6.7

(1145k)
None
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/40
Aperture: F6.7
(966k)
Default
NOTE: TIFF file! Download to disk to view in imaging program.
(7747k)
Soft
NOTE: TIFF file! Download to disk to view in imaging program.
(7747k)
Hard
NOTE: TIFF file! Download to disk to view in imaging program.
(7747k)
None
NOTE: TIFF file! Download to disk to view in imaging program.
(7747k)


One of the lenses we received from Nikon to test with the camera was the new 17-35mm f/2.8 AF-S lens with the "silent" internal focusing motor. Very fast focusing, very sharp lens, although we'd give a very slight sharpness edge to the 105mm above. Here are some shots from the 17-35mm lens:

17-35mm (Shot at 35mm) Quality series, default sharpness
Uncompressed
NOTE: TIFF file! Download to disk to view in imaging program.
(7747k)
Fine
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/30
Aperture: F8
(1111k)
Normal
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/30
Aperture: F8
(651k)
Basic
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/30
Aperture: F8
(333k)


17-35mm (Shot at 35mm) Sharpness series
Default
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/30
Aperture: F8
(1111k)
Soft
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/30
Aperture: F8
(1070k)
Hard
Size:2000x1312
Shutter: 1/30
Aperture: F8
(1153k)
None
Size: 2000x1312
Shutter: 1/30
Aperture: F8
(956k)
Default
NOTE: TIFF file! Download to disk to view in imaging program.
(7747k)
Soft
NOTE: TIFF file! Download to disk to view in imaging program.
(7747k)
Hard
NOTE: TIFF file! Download to disk to view in imaging program.
(7747k)
None
NOTE: TIFF file! Download to disk to view in imaging program.
(7747k)


The other new Nikkor lens we tested was the 85mm tilt/shift perspective control lens. We shot only a single image of the res target with it, at f/16, with the default sharpness setting Clearly an excellent lens, although to our eyes also clearly a slight notch softer than the 105mm above. Click here (1157k) to see the test image.

The Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 manual focus lens is widely recognized for its sharpness at medium aperture settings: Here's (1048k) a shot taken with it, shot with an aperture of f/8.

Just for kicks, we shot an image with the cheapie Nikkor 35-85mm f/4-5.6D lens that came with our Nikon 6006 prosumer SLR, with the lens zoomed to its 35mm setting. While still much better than the typical prosumer digicam lens, the 35-85 shows here (1147k) why it sells for a fifth the cost of the 105mm Micro: Not only is it softer (actually, looking much like the 85mm tilt/shift at f/16), but it also begins to show some chromatic aberration in the extreme corners.

Finally, we stuck our "vacation" lens on the D1, a Tamron 28-300mm ultra-ratio zoom. This shot was taken at a focal length of 120mm, again at f/8.0. This shot (1101k) clearly shows why pros look down their noses at these "all-in-one" zoom lenses: While convenient, this lens at least definitely doesn't have the critical sharpness of lower-ratio zooms or single focal-length lenses. (But when using one of these means the difference between packing along one lens instead of 4 or 5 on a day hike, we'll opt for the "vacation" lens any time!)


 
Viewfinder accuracy/flash uniformity
We found the D1's SLR optical viewfinder to be about 96 percent accurate at both wide angle (247k) (17-35mm lens at the 35mm setting) and telephoto (151k)(105mm Micro Nikkor lens) focal lengths. (This is a typical figure for pro SLR cameras, although we're really partial to full 100% viewfinders, as found in the Nikon F3 film-based SLR.) As with other lens-related measurements, it doesn't make a lot of sense to talk too much about lens distortion, given that it's a characteristic of the lens and not the camera, and in the case of the D1, you can put any of probably a few hundred different lenses on it. One thing that became very clear in working with the D1 and various lenses was just how big a difference in quality there is between the lens on a $999 digicam, and one costing that much or more for just the lens alone! This will probably surprise no one, but the magnitude of the differences we saw frankly surprised us: The high-end Nikkor optics showed almost no geometric distortion, exceptional sharpness corner-to-corner, and no discernible chromatic aberration. (Now, if only prosumer digicam lenses could advance at the same pace as the CCDs...)
 

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