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Nikon D1H

All the color and image-quality enhancements from the D1x, but 2.7 megapixels and 5 frames/second, and 1,000 lower price!

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Page 12:Test Results & Conclusion

Review First Posted: 11/16/2001

Test Results

In keeping with our standard policy, my comments here are rather condensed, summarizing my key findings. For a full commentary on each of the test images, see the D1H's "pictures" page.

As with all Imaging Resource camera tests, I encourage you to let your own eyes be the judge of how well the devices performed. Explore the images on the pictures page, to see how well the D1H performed, and how its images compare to other cameras you may be considering buying.

The D1H shares the benefits of the color-management and noise-reduction advancements we first saw in Nikon's D1X model. As a result, the D1H produced very accurate color and saturation, as well as great image quality througout my testing. The camera's White Balance system did a good job interpreting our varied light sources, though it had some difficulty with the incandescent lighting on the Indoor Portrait test (without flash). In common with just about every other camera I've tested, the D1H's automatic white balance option produced very yellowish results on this shot. Likewise its Incandescent setting. - This last bears some explanation though: Professional cameras like the D1H should be balanced for professional tungsten studio lighting, with a color temperature of 3200K. Thus, you'd expect (and actually want them to produce yellowish images when working under household incandescents, which have a color temperature more on the order of 2500K.) Regardless, the Manual white balance setting produced very nice results, successfully dealing with the strong color cast of the lighting, while still leaving a slight warmth in the image. (I ended up picking the Manual white balance option on most of my other tests as well, since it generally edged out the various presets for most accurate rendition. The differences between Manual and Auto white balance on the other test subjects was much more subtle though.) Color was very good on the Davebox target, with the D1H distinguishing tough tonal variations and reproducing the large color blocks very well. Skin tones in the Outdoor and Indoor portraits looked about right, and the blue flowers and pants were almost right, with just a hint of purple in them. (Many cameras render these colors as almost pure purple, so the D1H did much better than average with them.) I did notice a tendency for the D1H to underexpose many of my shots, and typically shot with a +0.7 EV exposure adjustment, even with the poster shots under studio lighting. Resorting to center-weighted metering helped with the Indoor Portrait shot somewhat, but for whatever reason, the D1H's metering didn't seem quite as spot-on as what I saw in the D1X. (Odd, since AFAIK, they have identical metering systems.) The D1H's varied color adjustments provided excellent control over color, which was useful when shooting the Outdoor Portrait and Davebox test targets.

The D1H performed well on my "laboratory" resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as650-700 lines per picture height, in both horizontal and vertical directions. I found "strong detail" out to at least 900 lines. "Extinction" of the target patterns occurred at about 1,200 lines.

Optical distortion on the D1H will vary depending on the lens in use. During our testing, I shot with a 24-85mm Nikkor zoom lens, which produced a slightly lower than average amount of geometric distortion. I measured an 0.67 percent barrel distortion at the wide angle setting, and almost no distortion at the telephoto end. Chromatic aberration was almost nonexistent, showing only one or two very faint pixels of coloration on either side of the target lines.

The D1H offers extensive exposure control, with shutter speeds as long as 15 seconds in Manual mode, and a Bulb mode for even longer exposures. It also incorporates the highly effective noise reduction system developed for the D1X. As a result, the D1H delivered excellent results in this category. The camera captured bright, clear images at light levels as low as 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux), at all of the ISO settings tested (200, 400, 800, 1,600, 3,200, and 6,400 equivalents). Color was accurate and well-saturated throughout the series. Image noise was very low at the 200 ISO setting, and remained moderately low even at ISO 800. As you might expect, noise increased at the 1,600 ISO setting, and became much more pronounced with the 3,200 and 6,400 ISO settings. There was a smattering of pixel noise at all ISO settings, but not bad overall. (For those wanting to achieve even lower noise levels in their images, I highly recommend Mike Chaney's Qimage Pro, which does an amazing job of removing spot noise like this without disturbing the underlying picture data. - Qimage Pro also provides a host of other features and functions, including the ability to apply ICC color profiles to image files en masse, reduce color fringing, extract more data than Nikon's own software from the raw-format NEF files, etc, etc. Highly recommended!)

The D1H's electronic optical viewfinder was only a little tight, showing approximately 93.5 percent frame accuracy. (Nikon claims 95% accuracy, pretty much in line with my test.) I generally prefer viewfinders to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, so the D1H performed well in this respect.

The D1H performed very well throughout my testing, producing the great results that I've come to expect from Nikon digicams. Color and image quality were both outstanding, and the extensive exposure control left nothing to chance. Great low-light shooting capabilities for night exposures and very flexible color controls give the D1H true professional-class power.


Conclusion
It's rare for a single product to change the ground rules for an entire marketplace, but Nikon's original D1 did just that for professional digital SLR cameras. With the release of the D1X and now the D1H, Nikon has continued to evolve our concept of the professional digital SLR camera. Capitalizing on the improvements in image quality and the user interface that appeared on the D1X, the D1H also boasts a very fast five-frames-per-second continuous shooting mode. The original D1 demonstrated that 2.74 megapixels were entirely adequate for many photojournalism and sports applications. The D1h retains that resolution level, increases the shooting speed slightly, adds a huge 40 frame buffer memory, and brings along the dramatic improvements I saw in color rendition and noise reduction I saw in the D1x. All in all, another great camera, fully qualified to carry the Nikon name.

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