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Nikon D1HAll the color and image-quality enhancements from the D1x, but 2.7 megapixels and 5 frames/second, and 1,000 lower price!
Review First Posted: 11/16/2001
||True Nikon pro SLR that just happens to be digital|
||2.74-megapixel CCD, 2,000 x 1,312-pixel images|
||ISO from 200 to 1,600 ("ISO Boost" to 6,400)|
||Five frames per second, super-fast shutter response, 40 frame buffer!|
||Part of Nikon "Total Imaging System" - Compatible with >90% of all Nikon F-mount lenses ever made.|
Nikon is one of the names that literally needs no introduction in the world of photography. Long a leader in the film world, they offer cameras for both the serious amateur and working professional. Their professional line contains cameras like the legendary F3, continuously produced for over 20 years now, and new "legends in the making" like the F5 and F100, renowned for their toughness and advanced features. In the digital world, Nikon has developed a commanding presence in the "prosumer" market with their Coolpix series. They broke new ground for usability and features with their Coolpix 900 a couple of years back, building on that success with the 2 megapixel 950, followed by the 3 megapixel 990, which has now been upgraded to the 995 with a 4x zoom lens and improved flash configuration. The "Nikon Total Imaging System" also includes the hugely successful Super Coolscan 4000ED, 8000ED, and Coolscan IV film scanners, which I've reviewed elsewhere.
Back in early 1999, Nikon announced their first all-digital professional SLR, the D1. At the time, the specifications and projected price point (2.7 megapixels and a list price of $5850 for the body) rocked the pro camera world, and left many wondering whether Nikon could actually do it. They did. Now, not quite two years later, they've once again raised the bar, in the form of the 5.47 megapixel D1x and the new, speedy D1h, with a 2.7 megapixel sensor but improved operating speed and a roomy 40 frame buffer memory. The new cameras have the same superlative "cameraness" (a favorite Nikon term, describing how the device functions as a camera), but incorporate all-new electronics, offering dramatic reductions in image noise and improvements in color fidelity. The D1h (the subject of this review) isn't quite the fastest pro digital SLR on the market -- that honor currently belongs to Canon's EOS-1D. At 5 frames per second though, the D1h is no slouch, and it wins the buffer capacity race handily, with its huge 40 frame capacity. (Just in case you didn't do the math, that's 8 seconds of continuous shooting at the full 5 fps maximum frame rate.) Of course, speed is of little benefit without image quality, so I was pleased to see the same excellent color and tonal rendition I saw when I reviewed the higher-resolution D1x earlier this year.
The Nikon D1h is the second of a pair of pro digital SLR bodies Nikon released in 2001, the first being the 5.47 megapixel D1x. The D1h provides half that level of resolution, matching the pixel and sensor dimensions of the original Nikon D1. (2.74-megapixels, 23.7 x 15.6mm CCD area) Like the D1x though, the electronics and signal processing algorithms in the D1h were redesigned from the ground up to reduce image noise and improve tonality and color reproduction. With the same familiar, F5-inspired body design, the D1h offers the look and feel that film-based pros are accustomed to, and is quick to get to know. The D1h offers the same redesigned user interface I liked so much on the D1x, overall one of the most functional and straightforward I've yet seen on a professional SLR. Intended for photojournalists, sports shooters, and others needing high shot to shot speeds, the D1h provides half the resolution of the D1x, but a zippy five frame per second maximum frame rate, and a huge 40-frame buffer memory.
The D1h continues with the standard Nikon F lens mount, which means that you can attach most of Nikon's 35mm lenses with no problem (great for current Nikon 35mm shooters who already have a full kit of lenses). With a weight of 2.5 pounds (1.1kg), the D1h has the heft I've come to associate with professional SLRs, but somehow manages to not feel bulky or awkward in the hand. A pro accustomed to shooting with Nikon's F5 bodies will find the D1h very comfortable and familiar. In exchange for the substantial heft though, the D1h's magnesium-alloy body provides an exceptionally rugged and rigid optical platform capable of absorbing unreasonable abuse without complaint. With both hot shoe and PC-style flash sync connections, the D1h will interface with most any flash equipment, whether in the field or studio.
The D1h's accurate TTL (through the lens) optical viewfinder means that you have no need for the LCD panel as a viewfinder, a good thing, since the SLR optics mean that the LCD can't be used as a "live" viewfinder anyway. (By its nature, barring a "pellicle" mirror or beam splitter optics, the very design of an SLR precludes a "live" LCD viewfinder.) In addition to a dioptric adjustment dial and an internal shutter to prevent stray light from affecting exposures when the camera is used on a tripod, the viewfinder features a detailed information display that reports most of the camera's exposure settings and also shows a set of five autofocus targets. A very flexible autofocus system means that you can determine the type of autofocus (single, continuous, or manual), designate how it's used (single area, dynamic area, etc.) and even designate the location of the autofocus target within the frame. Exposure-wise, there are so many features on this camera that you'll have to read the entire review to get them all. I'll just mention a few of the primary options here.
To begin, you have the option of working in Program AE, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, or Manual exposure modes. Exposure settings are easily changed by using a combination of control buttons and command dials, or through the LCD menu system. The extensive Custom Settings menu provides access to a huge range of camera settings, including how various elements of the user interface itself work. For example, you can decide which command dial controls the shutter speed or aperture, adjust the image sharpness and contrast, determine whether or not the aperture changes as the lens zooms, or set exposure variables for the automatic bracketing, among many others (there are 36 Custom Settings menu options in all). With the D1h, you have a broad exposure compensation range, with a variable adjustment from -5 to +5 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third step increments. (A custom settings menu option also lets you set the EV compensation step size to one-half or one EV unit.) White balance also has a lot of flexibility, with options for Auto, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Direct Sunlight, Flash, Overcast, and Shade, all of which are adjustable from -3 to +3 (arbitrary units) in their intensity. A Preset white balance setting serves as the manual adjustment, and the D1h can store up to three presets.
Three metering modes are available: Spot, Center-Weighted, and a very accurate Color 3D Matrix metering option. ISO can be set anywhere from 200 to 1,600, giving you excellent exposure flexibility. (Special "ISO Boost" modes are available that extend the effective ISO to 3,200 or 6,400, albeit at the cost of significantly increased image noise.) The auto bracketing feature takes three exposures of the same subject at different exposure settings, with the exposure step between shots being configurable via the settings menu. There's even a black and white monochrome exposure mode. As I mentioned earlier, a Continuous Shooting mode lets you capture up to 40 consecutive images as quickly as five frames per second, and here again, you can select both the maximum number of shots as well as the frame rate. The camera's flash sync mode menu lets you select when and how the external flash fires. Choices include Front-Curtain Sync, Slow-Sync, Rear-Curtain Sync, Red-Eye Reduction, and Red-Eye Reduction with Slow Sync. Because the D1h accommodates a variety of Nikon's Speedlights, specific flash power and operation will vary depending on the particular model you're using. Note that some options such as red eye reduction are only available with Nikon flash units or others conforming closely to the flash-interface protocols used by the D1h.
The 2.7-megapixel CCD delivers an image resolution of 2,000 x 1,312 pixels. Image quality options include the usual Basic, Normal, and Fine but also RGB TIFF, YCbCr TIFF, and both compressed and uncompressed RAW formats (all listed under the High quality option in the capture-mode menu system). Image storage is on CompactFlash Type I or II, and the D1h supports the IBM MicroDrives for huge on-the-go storage capacity. (Although semiconductor memory cards have now caught up to the MicroDrives in the capacity race.) The D1h utilizes a custom EN-4 NiMH battery pack for power and an AC adapter/charger is included in the box. (I also highly recommend a spare battery pack). A design plus I really appreciate in a pro camera is that the battery pack and card slot are both accessible from the sides of the camera, meaning that you don't have to dismount the camera from the tripod to access either compartment .
To my mind, the real story about the D1h is its image quality. The D1h supports both sRGB and Adobe RGB color spaces. The sRGB space is its default, while Adobe RGB can be set via a Custom Settings Menu option. I'm pleased to see a major manufacturer provide color space options like this. The Microsoft/HP-dictated sRGB color space is fine for generic computer displays and web work, but its color gamut (the range of colors that can be accurately represented) is too small for professional use in color-critical applications. By making Adobe RGB available as an option, Nikon is helping promote a move away from the overly restrictive "standard" that's dominated the industry for years. The thing that really surprised me about the D1h's photos though, was the almost complete absence of image noise at normal ISO settings. These are some of the "cleanest" images I've seen from any digicam to date.
The original Nikon D1 raised the bar on the entire pro digital SLR category. The D1h ups the ante with higher shooting speed, huge buffer capacity, and significantly improved color rendition an image noise levels. Despite the excellent capabilities of the original D1, the improvements in the D1h are substantial enough that I suspect many D1 owners will be tempted to upgrade. Nikon's pro SLRs are no-excuses digital cameras that are first and foremost cameras, and the D1h follows suit: A true Nikon SLR in every respect!
Following in the footsteps of its successful predecessors the D1 and D1x, the D1h offers the same exceptional exposure control and features, and the same functional congruence with Nikon's film-based pro SLR line. I've mentioned the Nikon-coined term "cameraness" before, which describes the combination of features, functionality, and above all user interface design that defines how a camera operates as a photographic tool. Key to Nikon's strategy is that their digital SLRs embody the same "cameraness" as their film models, so practicing pros can switch back and forth between film and digital bodies without having to stop and adjust their shooting style or practices. The D1h fulfills this goal admirably, with an operational design that will be immediately familiar to users of the Nikon F5. Despite its digital sophistication, the D1h's user interface is clean, straightforward, and quick to navigate.
Measuring 6.2 x 6.1 x 3.4 inches (157 x 153 x 86 millimeters), the physical dimensions of the CCD in the D1h are the same as those in the original D1 and D1x, and the CCD resolution matches the 2.74 megapixels of the original D1. Weighing in at a hefty 2.5 pounds (1.1 kilograms) excluding the lens, batteries, and flash (the exact weight of the D1 and D1x), the D1h is a definite handful, but nonetheless falls about in the middle of the range for pro digital SLRs.
The front of the camera features a standard Nikon F lens mount, complete with AF coupling and AF contacts. (The D1h body contains the necessary contacts to support Nikon's latest AF-S "silent wave" autofocus lenses.) There's also a Depth of Field Preview button, Subcommand dial, sync terminal for an external flash, 10-pin remote terminal, Lens Release button, Focus Mode Selector dial, self-timer lamp, and DC In and Video Out sockets (protected by a flexible rubber flap). A substantial hand grip on the right side of the camera sports a rubbery covering that provides a very secure finger grip. A thick rib running along the bottom of the body provides a hand grip when the camera is rotated for vertical-format shots.
It's often hard to tell how big a camera is in our product photos, when the
camera appears by itself. To help get a sense of the scale of the D1h, we've
shot the photo above, with a memory card propped in front of it.
The top of the camera features the Power switch, Shutter button, Mode and Exposure Compensation buttons, and a small status display panel that reports most of the camera's settings. Also on top is a diopter adjustment dial for the optical viewfinder, Metering dial, Mode dial, and several control buttons (Flash, Bracketing, and ISO buttons). The top of the camera also contains a hot shoe for mounting an external flash unit. The hot shoe has the usual trigger terminal in the bottom, as well as three other contacts for interfacing to Nikon's dedicated speedlights. Neck strap eyelets are located on both sides of the top of the camera as well.
On the right side of the camera, a second Shutter Release button makes vertical shooting much easier. A locking dial surrounds the button to prevent accidental triggering.
The opposite side of the camera features the battery compartment, locked in place with a rotating latch.
The back panel of the D1h holds the remaining controls. The large, bright LCD screen features a removable protective cover which just pops on and off. The protective cover is a nice idea, as the LCD projects out from the back of the camera further than any other feature, and so could be subject to abrasion, sliding back and forth across your jacket or shirt front, when the camera is hanging from its neck strap. The protective cover is translucent, making it possible to see and navigate the LCD menu system without removing it. A light-tight shutter can be flipped closed across the viewfinder eyepiece, preventing stray light from affecting exposures when the camera is used on a tripod. This shutter is opened and closed by a small lever at the top left of the eyepiece. Across the top are several command buttons, including the Monitor, Delete, AE/AF Lock, and AF-On buttons, in addition to the main Command dial. The LCD panel rests in the left center of the back panel, along with a Four-Way Arrow Rocker pad, card slot cover release button (beneath a small, plastic flap), and the CompactFlash slot which supports Types I and II CompactFlash cards, as well as the IBM MicroDrive. Across the bottom of the back panel is another set of control buttons beneath a protective metal flap (Menu, White Balance, Function, Protect, and Index View buttons), another status display panel which reports the quality and white balance settings, an IEEE 1394 ("FireWire") connector and RS-232C mini-jack (for connecting to a GPS unit), and a secondary AF-On button and Command dial for vertical shooting.
The very flat bottom of the camera reveals only the metal tripod mount. (Yes, I know that's the D1x in this shot - the two are identical, and it turned out I didn't grab a product shot of the bottom of the D1h to go here.) I appreciate the fact that neither the batteries nor the CompactFlash slot are accessed from the bottom of the camera, which lets you change the batteries and CompactFlash card without dismounting from the tripod. The large surface area of the camera's bottom combines with the high-friction rubberized surface to produce a very stable mounting surface for use with a tripod.
The D1h is equipped with an optical viewfinder that works through the lens (the LCD monitor is for image playback and accessing the menu system). The circular optical viewfinder features a diopter adjustment dial and a sliding protective shutter that is manually moved in and out of place by a small lever. Nikon states that the optical viewfinder provides about 96 percent frame coverage, which agrees fairly well with my own measurements. (I measured viewfinder coverage at 93.5%.) An illuminated display inside the viewfinder provides an information readout that includes focus indicators, shutter speed, aperture, exposure mode, metering, shutter-speed lock, aperture lock, AE lock, electronic analog display, frame counter, ready light, and five sets of focus brackets. The internal metal shutter can be deployed (via the small lever just above and to the left of the viewfinder eyepiece) to avoid exposure errors due to light entering the rear element of the viewfinder during long exposures on a tripod.
While the LCD panel on the D1h isn't usable as a viewfinder, it does provide a great deal of information about your pictures after you've shot them. No fewer than eight screens of information are available, but the most interesting is the optional histogram display, shown at right. (The animated screen shot at right shows the screens from the D1x, the information display on the D1h is the same though.) The histogram display is common on professional digicams, regarded as almost mandatory by many pros for evaluating exposure levels. The histogram is simply a graph of how many pixels there are in the image at each brightness level. The brightness is the horizontal axis, running from black at the left to white at the right. The height of the graph shows the relative number of pixels having each brightness level. This sort of display is very handy for determining under- or overexposure. Ideally, the histogram would stretch across the entire width of the display, using the full range of brightness values available. An underexposed image will have a histogram with all the data lumped on the left-hand side, with nothing reaching all the way to the right. Likewise, an overexposed image will have all the data lumped on the righthand side.
The histogram display is very helpful in telling whether you've got the exposure right, but in my mind isn't adequate by itself. With digicams, it's very important not to blow-out the highlights in a picture (rather like slide film in that respect), since once you hit the maximum brightness, the image just "saturates," and any highlight detail will be lost. A histogram display does a pretty good job of telling you how the image as a whole is doing, but what if there are just a few critical areas that you're worried about for the highlights? If only a small percentage of the total frame is involved, it won't account for many pixels. That means any peak at the "white" end of the histogram graph would be pretty small, and easy to miss (or just plain invisible). What to do?
The folks at Nikon recognized this problem, and provided another special display mode that they simply call "highlights," accessible via the Playback settings menu, under "Display Mode." This mode "blinks" any highlights that are saturated in any of the color channels. It does this by taking the pure white areas on the LCD and toggling them between white and black. The screenshot at right shows this happening with the globe of a light bulb that I deliberately overexposed.
I did have one quibble with the D1h, that I also had with the original D1 - The lack of any playback zoom. It's becoming almost commonplace for prosumer digicams to have a playback mode that lets you magnify the image in the LCD by 2-3x, letting you see critical details that you couldn't begin to discern in the basic LCD image. I view this as an enormously handy feature, and use it all the time to check the product shots I do for the website. A playback zoom function was included on the D1x, but for some reason left off of the D1h. This honestly makes no sense to me, particularly since it should be such an easy feature to implement.
In this section, I usually discuss the lens characteristics of the camera I'm describing. In the case of the D1h, you can attach pretty much any lens you want, as long as it uses the Nikon F mount. The D1h features the standard F mount, with both mechanical AF coupling for older lenses, and AF electrical contacts for the latest AF-IF or AF-S Nikkor lenses with internal focus motors. With very few exceptions, you can use the D1h with any F Mount Nikkor lens ever made. (Actually, I'm not personally aware of any F-mount lenses that *wouldn't* work, but do know that some of the really unusual Nikkor lenses from the past (full-frame fisheyes?) had problems on some camera bodies, requiring mirror lockup to function properly. This is a vanishingly small percentage of the possible lenses that could be used with the camera though, so you can safely assume that most any F mount lens in your camera bag will work just fine with the D1h.)
Functions and exposure modes available with a given lens will vary with the type. More recent Nikkors (the D-type models) include a microchip that communicates focal-distance information to the camera. Lenses without the "D" microchip won't support the "3D matrix metering" mode. Here's a table giving a brief idea of the functionality available with different Nikkor lens types (abstracted from the D1h's manual).
|Type G or D AF Nikkor Lenses
(except IX models), AF-S and AF-I Nikkor
|PC Micro Nikkor 85mm F/2.8 D||
|Other AF Nikkor Lenses
Obviously, optical specifications vary greatly depending on the lens you attach. One thing that struck me about the Nikkor lenses I used with the D1h though, was how vastly superior they were to the lenses on any of the "prosumer" digicams I've tested to date. Chromatic aberration was essentially nonexistent, barrel and pincushion distortion were very low, sharpness was excellent, etc. It should be no surprise that a lens costing more than an entire lower-end digicam would perform better than that camera's own lens, but the magnitude of the difference in quality was amazing.
One important note about Nikkor optics on the D1h. With linear dimensions of 15.6 x 23.7 millimeters, the CCD in the D1h is a fair bit smaller than a 35mm film frame. Thus, the D1h is essentially cropping into the central area of the normal 35mm field of view that any given lens would have. The result is that the field of view of any lens attached to the D1h will be narrower than the same lens on a Nikon film camera. The net effect is that the D1h has a "focal length multiplier" of 1.5. Thus, a 50mm lens on the D1h will behave much as a 75mm lens on a film-based Nikon SLR. This is good news for sports photographers (all your telephoto lenses just got 50% longer), but not so good for landscape or architectural photographers, or others who shoot lots of wide angle photos. (This was apparently part of the reason that Nikon came out with the 17-35mm zoom lens that I used in much of my testing of the original D1. On the D1h, this lens effectively translates into a 25.5-52.5mm, providing moderate (rather than extreme) wide angle coverage.)
As shown in the illustration above (showing dimensions of the D1 CCD, but the D1h's is the same size), the CCD of the D1h is also much larger than that used in the Coolpix 950. One consequence of this is that depth of field in lenses used with the D1h will be much shallower at any given aperture value (f-stop) than with the 950. (Depth of field as a function of f-stop will match that of the same lenses on 35mm cameras, even though the "effective focal length" is increased.) Many of my test shots show the reduced depth of field of the D1h with typical Nikkor lenses from Nikon's 35mm line, as compared to the same images shot with the 950, 990 or 995.
Given that the optical characteristics will depend entirely on the lens attached, I'll instead concentrate here on the focusing options and modes. There's a lot to talk about here, given the exceptional control and flexibility afforded by the D1h's autofocus systems. The D1h allows you to take advantage of auto or manual focus via a small dial on the front of the camera, right next to the lens. Setting the switch to "M" puts the camera into manual focus mode, "S" places it in Single Servo AF (focus priority), and "C" puts it into Continuous Servo AF (release priority). Single Servo simply means that the camera sets focus only once, when the Shutter button is first pressed halfway, and is best for still objects. Continuous Servo means that the camera continuously adjusts the focus, as long as the shutter button is halfway pressed, and is best for moving objects. The AF-On buttons (one for vertical shooting and one for horizontal) perform the same function as halfway pressing the Shutter button by setting the focus.
You also have the freedom of setting the autofocus area on the D1h. The AF Area Mode option in the Shooting menu lets you select between Single Area and Dynamic Area, both of which offer a Closest Subject Priority option. Single Area AF simply means that the camera judges focus based on one part of the subject. Dynamic AF employs all five of the autofocus brackets, or areas. The camera first focuses on the subject in the central focus area. Whenever the subject moves to a different AF area, the camera also shifts the focus to "follow" the subject. This is great for irregularly moving subjects. The Closest Subject Priority option (enabled through the Custom Settings menu) means that the camera first focuses on the closest object that falls into one of the five focus areas and then tracks it as it moves. (Note that no focus area brackets are illuminated in the viewfinder with this mode and that this mode doesn't work well with telephoto lenses or poorly lit subjects, according to Nikon). In Single Area AF mode, you can change the main focus area by unlocking the focus area selector (the Four Way Arrow pad on the back panel) and then shifting the focus area using the up, down, right, or left arrow keys. Then, simply lock the focus area selection by sliding the switch back into place. By default, the D1h does not "wrap" the focus area selector as you scroll between focus areas. Through the Custom Settings menu, you can opt for a "Wrap" function, which hunts for the next area from top to bottom or left to right. What this means is that if you continue to press the right arrow key when the right focus area is selected, the selection will jump to the left focus area next, rather than remaining on the rightmost focus area setting.
There are two methods for using the AF Lock function. The first is to place the central subject in the selected focus area, halfway press the Shutter button, then realign the composition and fire the shutter. Alternatively, when using Single Servo AF, you can press the AF-L/AE-L button to lock focus (and exposure, unless set for focus only in the Custom Settings menu). Keeping this button pressed will lock focus and/or exposure, even if the Shutter button is released. This allows you to recompose the photograph without keeping your finger on the Shutter button, but on the AE-L/AF-L button instead. (Thereby resulting in less chance that you'll accidentally fire the shutter when you don't intend to.)
The D1h offers the same (exceptional) range of exposure control and multiple options I liked so much on original D1 and the subsequent D1x. First of all, the D1h gives you a choice between Program AE, Manual, Aperture Priority, and Shutter Priority exposure modes with shutter speeds from 1/16,000 to 30 seconds available, as well as a Bulb setting for longer exposures. A very nice touch is that, while in Program AE mode, you can rotate the Command dial to select different combinations of aperture and shutter speed settings than those normally chosen by the autoexposure system. (That is, if the automatic program would have chosen 1/125-second and f/5.6, you could instead direct the camera to use 1/60 at f/8 or 1/30 at f/11, to get greater depth of field.) This is a very handy option for those times when you need some measure of increased control, but still want the camera to do most of the work for you.
An interesting feature when using Manual exposure mode is the electronic analog exposure display visible in both the optical viewfinder and the top-panel data readout. This shows the amount an image will be over- or underexposed, based on the settings you have selected, and helps you find the best exposure for the subject. I also liked the Command Lock feature (activated through the Command Lock option of the Shooting menu) which locks the shutter speed and/or aperture setting so that it is not accidentally changed when using the Command dial for another purpose. (If you set either the shutter speed or aperture before activating the Command Lock function, a "lock" icon will appear next to the corresponding setting in both the viewfinder and data readout displays, and that setting can't be changed until you change the Command Lock option.) You can also assign the Command Lock function to the Function button.
ISO can be set to a range of values from 200 to 1,600 via the ISO button on the back panel, and to values of 3,200 or 6,400 by using the "ISO Boost" option on the Custom Settings menu (option 20). White balance can be set to Auto (useful from 4,200K to 7,000K), Incandescent (set to about 3,000K), Fluorescent (4,200K), Direct Sunlight (5,200K), Flash (5,400K), Overcast (6,000K), Shade(8,000K), and Preset (which allows you to manually adjust the white value by using a white card or object as a reference point). All white balance settings can be adjusted from -3 to +3 units on an arbitrary scale by turning the Subcommand dial (on the front of the hand grip) while holding down the White Balance button (with the exception of the Preset option, which is not adjustable). Higher values correspond to a decrease in the camera's white point, in degrees Kelvin (meaning the images become "cooler" in appearance). This is a very nice feature, as I often wish I could use one of a camera's standard white-balance settings, though just a bit warmer or cooler. To be sure, some experimentation would be required to familiarize yourself with the impact of these "tweaked" white balance settings, but having them available is a definite plus. The table below shows approximate white point temperatures in degrees Kelvin for the various adjustments in each of the major white balance settings.
A note to the Nikon engineers: I'd like to see a fine-tuning adjustment capability added to the Custom white balance option as well. I've often found that I'd like to adjust a camera's custom white balance setting a little, and a fine-tuning option like the D1h provides for its other settings would be an excellent way to accomplish this. (I've sometimes resorted to carrying slightly different "colors" of white paper to adjust manual white balances to my liking. An on-camera control would be infinitely easier.)
Three metering options are available on the D1h: 3D Color Matrix, Center-Weighted, and Spot. The 3D Color Matrix setting uses a 1,005-pixel CCD sensor (separate from the main image sensor) to meter exposure based on several areas in the frame (useful when brightly colored or very dark subjects occupy a significant portion of the frame). This is the same 3D Color Matrix metering system used on the Nikon F5 and the previous D1 and D1x models. Center-Weighted metering measures light from the entire frame but places the greatest emphasis on a circular area in the center (which you can determine the size of via the Custom Settings menu option 14). Spot metering is pretty self-explanatory, taking a reading from the dead center of the image (best when using the AE Lock function). The D1h has a nifty trick with spot focus though. With D-type lenses, and in the proper focus-area mode, the spot metering actually centers on the focus area selected, giving you the option for off-center spot metering!
Exposure compensation on the D1h is adjustable from -5 to +5 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third step increments, and is controllable in all exposure modes. The Auto Bracketing feature takes three shots of the same subject with varying exposure values determined by either the photographer in Manual mode or by the camera in all other modes. Exposure settings for bracketing can vary from -2 to +2 EV (values are added to the already chosen exposure compensation value), with step sizes of one-third, one-half, or one EV unit, and the bracketing biased toward either underexposure, overexposure, or centered around the main exposure value.
On a more mundane level, the D1h has a self-timer feature that allows you to set the time interval anywhere from two to 20 seconds, activated by fully pressing the Shutter button.
Another interesting feature is the Anti-Mirror-Shock Mode, which delays the exposure until after the mirror shock has subsided and is available through the Custom Settings Menu (option 5). (Obviously meant for times when the camera is on a tripod.) The default setting allows for the image to be exposed as soon as the shutter is released. By activating this function, the image isn't captured until a fraction of a second after the shutter is released, giving time for vibrations from the mirror actuation to damp out before the shutter is opened. Also through the Custom Settings menu, you can adjust the image Sharpness, Tone Compensation (Contrast), and Hue. I was impressed with the Tone Compensation options Custom setting, which allows you to download a custom tone curve from your computer. (If no curve is downloaded, the Custom setting defaults to the Normal setting.) The Hue adjustment offers arbitrary adjustments from zero to six, with "three" being the default setting. Raising the Hue setting above three results in a stronger yellow cast in the image, causing reds to become orange. Alternatively, lowering the Hue setting below three introduces a blue cast, which consequently changes red to purple. The D1h also features a Color Mode option in the Custom Settings menu, which allows you to capture images in sRGB or Adobe RGB color. A Color option under the Image Quality setting of the Shooting menu offers a black and white monochrome setting.
When reviewing images on the LCD monitor, you can pull up a histogram and a highlight function to give you a complete readout on the exposure. This is a useful tool to examine your exposure in the camera instead of waiting to download images and then deciding to reshoot.
Continuous Shooting Mode
The D1h offers a Continuous Shooting mode that shoots up to approximately five frames per second (as many as 40 consecutive shots), depending on the amount of image information and available CompactFlash space. Once the 40 frame limit is reached, the camera is unable to record any more photographs until at least one of the images is transferred from the buffer memory to the memory card. As the photos are being transferred, the number of available consecutive photographs is displayed in the viewfinder and on the status display panel when the Shutter button is halfway pressed. Through the Custom Settings menu, you can select frame rates of one, two, three, four, or five frames per second. You can also change the maximum number of exposures, from one to 40.
Amazing Flash Unit!
Like most professional SLRs, the D1h doesn't carry a built-in flash of its own, but rather is designed to work with external strobe systems, or "Speedlights," as Nikon is fond of calling them. When I tested the original D1 and the recent D1x, I was fortunate to have a SB-28DX speedlight to play with, but this wasn't the case with the D1h. Given that the D1h's exposure system is the same as that on the D1x, there really wasn't any reason to re-test the SB-28DX with it: To learn more about this capable flash unit, read my review of the D1x.
Shutter Lag / Cycle Times
When you press the shutter release on a camera, there's usually a delay or lag time before the shutter actually fires. This time allows the autofocus and autoexposure mechanisms time to do their work and can amount to a fairly long delay in some situations. Since this number is almost never reported on, and can significantly affect the picture taking experience, I now routinely measure it.
Almost a year ago when the D1 was first announced, I asked Richard LoPinto (VP of Nikon's Professional Division, and the "father" of the D1 in the US) what the D1's shutter lag was. He replied "58 milliseconds" (0.058 seconds). I have to confess I assumed there was some marketing hype involved in that spec, and that the actual camera couldn't possibly be *that* fast. Well, I was wrong: The D1 was phenomenally responsive to the shutter button, and very fast from shot to shot as well. I'm happy to report that this same performance has carried over to the D1h. The table below summarizes my test results:
|Power On -> First shot||
||No lens to retract, so zero time to put-away. 1.43 seconds is time to finish saving one large/fine file after capture.|
|Play to Record, first shot||
||Camera is always "live" for shooting. This time is time to capture when shutter release is pressed while an image is being displayed on the LCD monitor.|
|Record to play (max res)||
||Time to display a large/fine image after pressing the "monitor" button.|
|Shutter lag, full autofocus||
||AF time will be very lens- and subject-dependent. This time is likely best-case, with 24-85mm lens having been previously focused on a stationary target.|
|Shutter lag, manual focus||
||Very fast, although I could never get to Nikon's stated time of 58 msec.|
|Shutter lag, prefocus||
|Cycle time, large/fine files||
||Very fast. Minimum time appears to be 0.2 seconds, but camera "penalizes" you if you re-press shutter in single-shot mode before it's ready. Figure at left is the best average I could manage without using continuous mode. For fastest shooting, put camera in continuous mode - you can still fire off single frames, but no penalty for holding down the shutter button.|
|Cycle time, small/basic files||
||No difference between fine or basic JPEG compression. Minimum cycle time remains 0.2 seconds, buffer length is about 40 frames.|
|Cycle time, TIFF/NEF files||
||TIFF and NEF (RAW) files have the same cycle times, thanks to memory buffer. See note on TIFF timing under Continuous mode below though.|
|Continuous mode, JPEG files||
|Continuous-mode timing for JPEG files is very consistent, at 0.2 seconds per frame (5 frames/second).|
|Continuous mode, TIFF files||
|Oddly, although the camera still used its huge buffer memory, shot to shot times for TIFF images in continuous mode varied significantly, ranging from 0.20 to 0.30 seconds, with an average of 0.23 seconds. (If you need consistent frame to frame timing, set the camera to save as JPEGs in continuous mode.)|
The D1h is indeed a very fast camera. Shutter lag is very fast, measured at 70 milliseconds with my test apparatus. This is slightly slower than the 58 milliseconds I measured for the original D1, but still incredibly fast. This ultrafast shutter response only occurs when the camera is manually focused or prefocused by half-pressing the shutter button before the exposure itself. Autofocus performance will be dependent on the lens you're using with the camera: I clocked the 24-85mm zoom I tested at only 130 milliseconds in situations where the subject was nearly the same distance away as for the previous shot. Needless to say, these shutter delay times are enormously faster than anything I've encountered in the consumer digicam world. It's safe to say that the D1h's reflexes are quite a bit quicker than yours!
Unlike the D1, but like the recent D1x, the D1h seems to make good use of its buffer memory even in single-shot mode. Shot to shot cycle time is about 0.2 seconds, whether in single-shot or continuous modes. This is nice, as it avoids the complication of special continuous-mode setup required to get the maximum cycle time performance out of the D1. I did find though, that continuous-mode operation was a bit variable when shooting TIFF-mode images. When shooting normal JPEG files, the shot to shot cycle time was very consistent, at 0.20 seconds/frame. When I shot TIFF images though, the time between frames ranged from 0.20 seconds to as high as 0.30 seconds. - Still very fast, but if you need absolutely consistent cycle times (time/motion studies, perhaps?), be sure to shoot in JPEG mode.
The buffer on the D1h only a full 40 images at the highest resolution/quality setting, dramatically more than the 4-6 frames of the higher-resolution D1x, and a good step above even the 21 frames of buffer in the original D1. (Also incidentally, far ahead of the 14-21 frames of buffer in the Canon EOS-1D: The 1D beats the D1h in maximum frame rate, but the 40 frame buffer of the D1h should do a lot to make up for that difference for pro sports shooters.) The D1h's buffer is limited to 27 frames when saving files into TIFF or NEF format., but there isn't any limitation associated with higher ISO speed settings, as with the EOS-1D. Maximum continuous-mode shooting speed is 5.0 frames/second, the fastest available apart from the aforementioned EOS-1D by Canon.
Finally, the D1h starts up and shuts down quite quickly, taking only 0.635 seconds from power-on to the first image captured, and shutting down in effectively no time at all. (Not surprising, since there's no lens to retract, as in many consumer cameras.) It also switches from record to play mode very quickly (0.61 seconds), and from play to record mode almost instantly (0.101 seconds).
Operation and User Interface
I found the user interface on the D1h surprisingly straightforward and simple to use, just as I did the earlier D1x model. Nikon greatly simplified the user interface on the D1x/h relative to that of the original D1 by moving many of the "Custom Settings Menu" (CSM) functions to the LCD menu system. The tradeoff is that you have to cycle through multiple pages of LCD menus to find the setting you want, which could be an issue in rapid-fire shooting situations. Nikon thoughtfully did still provide "expert mode" access to the CSM options though, allowing you to program the Function button to activate the CSM menu in the cryptic (but fast) numbers-only mode.
While many of the camera's options can be accessed via the excellent "plain English" menu system, all the most common shooting controls are available via the camera's external buttons and knobs. You can also program the operation of some of the buttons, to configure the camera for your particular shooting requirements.
As I noted earlier, Nikon makes a big deal of their digital SLR's "cameraness," defined as how well/easily they function as cameras. I'm happy to say that they've done an excellent job in this respect with the D1h's control system. It's even easier to use than the D1, and the control layout is exceptionally logical and easy to follow. Big kudos to Nikon for the D1h's user interface!
Depth of Field Preview Button: Located on the front of the camera, on the top left side (viewed from the front) next to the lens, this button allows you to check the depth of field for the current aperture setting by looking through the viewfinder, which provides an approximate idea of the depth of field.
Focus Mode Selector Dial: Located on the front of the camera, on the right side next to the lens, this dial selects between Manual, Single Servo, and Continuous Servo focus modes.
Lens Release Button: Also on the front of the camera, on the right side next to the lens, this button releases the lens from its mount when pressed.
Subcommand Dial: Positioned at the top front of the hand grip, just beneath the Power switch, this dial is used for selecting secondary values in many operating modes and menus. Among other functions, it fine-tunes the white balance across the -3 to +3 range (arbitrary units) when holding down the White Balance button. While pressing the Function button, this dial allows you to change CSM (Custom Settings Menu) options. When turned while pressing the Bracket button, the dial changes the bracketing step size (in EV units) and range. The dial also adjusts the aperture in Aperture Priority and Manual exposure modes.
Power Switch: Encircling the Shutter button on the top right of the camera, this switch turns the camera on and off. It also turns on the backlights for both status display panels (on top and on the back panel) when shooting in dark situations (light bulb icon position, momentary contact).
Shutter Button: In the center of the Power switch, on the top of the camera, this button sets exposure and focus when halfway pressed and fires the shutter when fully pressed.
Exposure Compensation Button: Directly behind the Shutter button on the top of the camera, this button sets the Exposure Compensation from 5 to +5 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third step increments when pressed while turning the main Command dial. When pressed in conjunction with the Bracket button, displays the date and/or time, and allows you to change the setting.
Exposure Mode / Format Button: Just to the left of the Exposure Compensation button, pressing this button while turning the main Command dial sets the exposure mode (Program AE, Manual, Aperture Priority, or Shutter Speed Priority). In any mode, pressing this button simultaneously with the Delete button (also labeled Format) formats the memory card.
Metering Selector: To the left of the Exposure Mode / Format button on top of the camera, this selector ring surrounds a small black button. Pressing the button and turning the ring allows you to select between Spot, Center-Weighted, and 3D Color Matrix metering options.
Diopter Adjustment Knob: Directly behind the metering selector, this knob adjusts the optical viewfinder to accommodate eyeglass wearers. (Range is -3 to +1 DP.)
Mode Dial Lock Release: (See photo of mode dial below.) On the top left side of the camera (when looking at the back), next to the Mode dial, this button releases the Mode dial to select the camera mode.
Mode Dial: Underneath a set of control buttons on the left side of the top panel, this notched dial selects between PC (computer connection), Playback, Single Shot, Continuous Shooting, and Self-Timer modes.
Auto Bracketing Button: (See photo of mode dial above. The Auto Bracket button is the one labeled "BKT".) Positioned on the top of the Mode dial and next to the Flash and ISO buttons, this button turns on the Auto Bracketing function (when pressed while turning the main Command dial). When pressed in conjunction with the Exposure Compensation button, this button displays the date and/or time setting, and allows it to be changed.
Flash Sync Mode Button: (See photo of mode dial above. Flash sync button is the one with a lightning bolt icon on it.) Directly beside the Auto Bracketing button, this button cycles between the five flash sync modes (Front-Curtain Sync, Slow-Sync, Rear-Curtain Sync, Red-Eye Reduction, and Red-Eye Reduction with Slow-Sync) when held down while turning the main Command dial.
ISO Button: (See photo of mode dial above.) Directly to the right of the Flash Sync Mode button, this button changes the cameras sensitivity setting (ISO equivalent) when pressed while turning the Command dial.
Monitor Button: Situated at the top left side of the back panel, this button turns the LCD monitor on and off. Pressing the button once displays the Quick Review of the most recently captured image. A second press displays the menu system.
Delete / Format Button: To the right of the Monitor button, this button deletes individual images. When pressed in conjunction with the Mode button, this button formats the CompactFlash card.
Eyepiece Shutter Lever: Nestled above the left side of the optical viewfinder, this lever opens and closes the shutter that covers the viewfinder eyepiece for accurate exposures when using a tripod. (E.g., when your eye isn't blocking light from entering the rear element of the viewfinder.)
AE/AF Lock Button: Located on the top right side of the back panel, this button locks the exposure and/or focus when pressed (can be set through the Custom Settings menu to lock one or the other or both).
AF-On Button: To the right of the AE/AF Lock button, this button sets the autofocus when pressed (performs the same function as halfway pressing the Shutter button).
Main Command Dial: The final control on the top right of the back panel, this dial is used to select various camera settings when turned in conjunction with the Auto Bracketing, Flash Sync Mode, Exposure Compensation, Mode, Function, ISO, and White Balance buttons. In Aperture Priority and Shutter Speed Priority modes, this dial sets either the aperture or shutter speed settings. In Manual exposure mode, the dial sets the shutter speed.
Focus Area Selector and Lock / Four-Way Arrow Rocker Pad: Beneath the Command dial, on the right side of the back panel, this rocker button with its associated locking switch controls the autofocus area in Record mode. The switch unlocks the autofocus area and the four arrow buttons let you decide where to set the main autofocus area (by choosing one of the five brackets displayed in the viewfinder). In Playback mode, the rocker toggle button's up and down arrows scroll through captured images while the right and left arrow buttons cycle through various information displays for each image. The arrow buttons also navigate through the LCD menu system.
Rear control panel buttons:
The next series of five controls I describe are all located in a small control panel area on the rear panel of the camera, at bottom left. They are protected by a small metal cover that flips down to reveal the pushbuttons.
Menu Button: The first button on the top row of controls, this button calls up the LCD menu system.
White Balance Button: Directly to the right of the Menu button, this button selects the White Balance setting when pressed while turning the main Command dial. Options are Auto, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Direct Sunlight, Flash, Overcast, Shade, and Preset (which allows you to manually adjust the white value by using a white card or object as a reference point). All white balance settings (except Preset) can be adjusted from -3 to +3 EV by turning the Subcommand dial (on the front of the hand grip) while holding down the White Balance button.
Function Button: Beneath the Menu button, this button activates any function assigned to it through the Custom Settings menu while turning the main Command dial in Record mode. Available functions are Quality, CSM (allows the button to access all of the Custom Settings menu options), AF Area, and Command Lock (locks shutter speed or aperture). This button also confirms menu selections if pressed while in any LCD menu screen.
Protect Button: To the right of the Function button, this button write-protects individual images from accidental deletion (except through card formatting). Pressing this button also removes protection.
Thumbnail Button: To the right of the Protect button, this button works together with the main command dial to select one, four, or nine-image display in Playback mode.
Card Slot Release Button: Hidden beneath a plastic flap on the back panel, just below the Four-Way Arrow Rocker pad, this button releases the CompactFlash card slot cover so that the card can be removed.
Vertical AF-ON Button: Hidden on the bottom right of the back panel, this button serves the same purpose as the main AF-ON button, but is used when shooting vertically.
Vertical Command Dial: Directly beside the vertical AF-ON button on the lower right corner of the back panel, this dial serves the same purpose as the main Command dial but is used when shooting vertically.
Vertical Shutter Release Button and Lock: Located on the bottom of the right side of the camera (when looking at the back panel), this locking Shutter button can be used when shooting vertically. The rotating lock ring keeps it from accidentally firing when shooting normally.
Camera Modes and Menus
PC Mode: Accessed by turning the Mode dial to the PC position, this mode allows the camera to download images while connected to a computer.
Playback Mode: Noted on the Mode dial as "Play," this mode allows you to review captured images, as well as delete or protect them and set them up for printing.
Single-Frame Shooting Mode: Turning the mode dial to the "S" position allows you to capture single images by pressing the Shutter button. The following exposure modes are available here (accessed by pressing the Mode button and turning the main Command dial):
Continuous Shooting Mode: Accessed by turning the mode dial to the "C" position, this mode lets you capture up to 40 consecutive shots as fast as five frames per second. (Maximum number of shots and frame rate can be adjusted through the Custom Settings menu, and also varies somewhat depending on image content and how well they compress.) Exposure is set with the first shot.
Self-Timer Mode: activates the Self-Timer mode, which is triggered by the Shutter button. The time interval is variable through the Custom Settings menu from two to 20 seconds.
LCD Menu System: The following menus are available in any camera mode, and are called up by pressing the Menu button.
Custom Settings Menu: These functions can also be accessed via the Function button, once programmed to do so. The option numbers are reported with each setting (thus, you would select option 0-1, or 32-3).
Storage and Interface
The D1h uses CompactFlash memory cards for image storage, accommodating Type I and II sizes, as well as the IBM Microdrive. The D1h does not come with a memory card, so plan on purchasing one (or several) separately. As with the original D1 and D1x, I was pleased to find the CompactFlash slot very accessible, letting me quickly change the card while the camera was mounted on a tripod. The D1h utilizes a folder arrangement that allows users to organize images in the camera and a sequential frame counter option to avoid problems with overwriting files when copying them to the computer.
Captured images can be individually write-protected through the Playback settings menu. Write-protected files are only immune to accidental deletion, not card reformatting. Images are saved only at the 2,000 x 1,312-pixel resolution size. (No smaller image sizes are provided for.) File formats include several levels of compressed JPEG files as well as RGB TIFF, YCbCr TIFF, and RAW data modes. RGB TIFF is the familiar uncompressed TIFF format that can be read by most any imaging program. The YCbCr TIFF is also an uncompressed mode, dealing with data more closely to the format in which it comes from the CCD. While still uncompressed, it is a more compact data format. The "raw" file format stores the data exactly as it comes from the CCD array, either compressed or uncompressed. Since the "raw" format is proprietary though, it can only be processed by Nikon's "Nikon Capture" software, Mike Chaney's Qimage Pro program, or Eric Hyman's Bibble. The compressed RAW format is a "lossless" compression, making it difficult to determine the actual amount of compression being used, since the actual amount of compression will depend heavily on the characteristics of each image. Nikon estimates that compression is 50 or 60 percent over the standard, uncompressed RAW format.
Below are the approximate number of images and their compression ratios for a 96 MB CompactFlash card. (The largest size sold directly by Nikon. Third-party cards are now available as large as 1 gigabyte for either solid-state memory or the IBM MicroDrive.)
|Resolution/Quality vs Image Capacity||
|HI YCbCr TIFF||
|HI RGB TIFF||
One of the first things any new digicam owner will need is a larger memory card for their camera: The cards shipped with the units by the manufacturers should really be considered only "starter" cards, you'll definitely want a higher capacity card immediately. - Probably at least a 32 megabyte card for a 1.3 or 2 megapixel camera, 64 megabytes or more for a 3, 4, or 5 megapixel one. (The nice thing about memory cards is you'll be able to use whatever you buy now with your next camera too, whenever you upgrade.) To help you shop for a good deal on memory cards that fit the Nikon D1H, we've put together a little memory locater, with links to our price-comparison engine: Just click on the "Memory Wizard" button above to go to the Nikon memory finder, select your camera model , and click the shopping cart icon next to the card size you're interested in. You'll see a list of matching entries from the price-comparison database. Pick a vendor & order away! (Pretty cool, huh?)
and Japanese models of the D1h come with an NTSC video cable for connection
to a television set or VCR (European models come with the appropriate PAL cable).
This allows images to be played back on the TV screen and recorded to video
tape, with all the menu options available.
The D1h uses an EN-4 NiMH battery pack (7.2 V DC, 2000 mAh) which can be recharged
with an optional MH-16 or MH-15 Quick Charger. You can also purchase an EH-4
AC adapter separately (100-240 V AC) which is useful for saving battery power
when working in the studio, or performing mundane tasks such as reviewing or
downloading large numbers of images. An indicator on the status display panel
lets you know approximately how much battery power is left and if no segments
appear in the indicator at all, the battery is completely exhausted. As always,
I heartily recommend purchasing a spare battery pack and keeping it charged
for long shooting days or for shooting in cold weather (which can zap battery
The special connections used between the D1h and EN-4 battery pack prevented me from performing my usual power-consumption measurements on the D1h. My sense though, was that battery life was quite good, as I managed literally several hundred exposures on a single battery charge, including a goodly amount of LCD usage. It did seem though, that the D1h's power consumption was a fair bit higher than that of the D1x I tested previously: It could just be that the extensive burst shooting I did with the D1h simply burned through the exposures more quickly, but I was nonetheless left with the impression that the D1h is a bit more power-hungry than the higher-resolution D1x. Regardless, my standard recommendation of buying a second battery pack stands: Murphy's law applies very directly to digicam power sources, meaning you'll always run out of battery capacity at the worst possible moment....
The D1h ships with the "Nikon View" software, which provides basic
manipulation and cataloging capabilities for images captured by the camera,
and which can interpret the raw CCD format "NEF" files. A much more
advanced package called Nikon Capture is available separately, but I didn't
receive a copy of it for testing. Users will also want to check out the third-party
both of which offer improved interpolation of the NEF files, for even higher
In the Box
Included in the box with the D1h are the following items:
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.
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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