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Nikon D1x

Nikon ups the ante with 5.33 million pixels (5.9 megapixel file size), improved color, and exceptional noise performance!

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Page 2:Executive Overview

Review First Posted: 6/16/2001

Executive Overview
Just like the previous D1 model, we couldn't wait to get our hands on the updated D1x. (We're highly partial to cameras offering full manual control and loads of features, and use Nikon prosumer SLRs for our own film-based photography.) With the same familiar, F5-inspired body design, the D1x offers the look and feel that film-based pros are accustomed to, and is quick to get to know. The standard Nikon F lens mount 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). Although the D1x is quite a bit heavier (2.5 pounds or 1.1 kilograms) than the prosumer-level digicams we've reviewed in the past, we feel pretty confident that pocket-sized portability isn't much of an issue with this camera's potential buyers, all of whom will value the extraordinary control and exceptional image quality provided by the D1x far above a few ounces of extra weight. Also, the weight is due in part to the incredibly rugged magnesium metal body, which creates a rigid optical platform designed to absorb unreasonable abuse with aplomb. (Handy for pounding tent pegs while on safari. ;-) We were pleased to see the inclusion of an external flash hot shoe on top of the camera as well as an external flash (PC style) sync socket in the design, giving you as much flash flexibility as any high-end film-based Nikon SLR.

The very accurate TTL 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, 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 very detailed information display that reports most of the camera's exposure settings and also shows a set of five focus 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. We'll just mention a few here that we find particularly noteworthy.

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 D1x, you have a broad exposure compensation range, with a variable adjustment from -5 to +5 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third step increments (the increments can also be altered 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 D1x 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 125 to 800, giving you tremendous exposure flexibility. (Special "ISO Boost" modes are available that extend the effective ISO to 1,600 or 3,200, albeit at the cost of image noise.) The auto bracketing feature takes three exposures of the same subject at different exposure settings (the variation of which either you or the camera can control). There's even a black and white monochrome exposure mode. Continuous Shooting lets you capture up to nine consecutive images as quickly as three 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 the flash fires. Choose from Front-Curtain Sync, Slow-Sync, Rear-Curtain Sync, Red-Eye Reduction, and Red-Eye Reduction with Slow Sync. Because the D1 accommodates a variety of Nikon's Speedlights, specific flash power and operation will vary depending on the particular model you're using.

The 5.47-megapixel CCD delivers image resolutions of 3,008 x 1,960 and 2,000 x 1,312 pixels. Image quality options include the usual Basic, Normal, and Fine but also RGB TIFF, YCbCr TIFF, and two RAW data formats (all listed under the High quality option in the menu system). Image storage is on CompactFlash Type I or II, and the D1x supports the 340 MB IBM MicroDrive for huge on-the-go storage capacity. The D1x utilizes a custom EN-4 NiMH battery pack for power and an AC adapter/charger is included in the box. (We also highly recommend a spare battery pack). A design plus we really enjoyed here 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 (this is something we always pay attention to, given the amount of studio work we do).

To our mind, the real story about the D1x is its image quality. Color rendition is significantly improved from that of the original D1, and the D1x now 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. We're 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 work. 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 us about the D1x's photos though, was the almost complete absence of image noise at normal ISO settings. These are some of the "cleanest" images we've seen from any digicam to date. (June, 2001)

The full manual control, lack of LCD reliance, and bevy of features will make the D1x a coveted addition to any photographer's equipment bag, and the larger, CCD will doubtless tempt many current D1 owners to upgrade. This camera is perfect for the professional photographer as well as the advanced amateur ready for a digicam that's a no-compromise creative tool. We're thrilled to see the carryover of Nikon's extensive exposure controls and features to the digital world and glad to see the return of the familiar styling that made the D1 so easy to get acquainted with. Kudos to Nikon for creating a digital camera that's practical in the studio and out in the field, with all the exposure and creative control we could ask for: A true Nikon SLR in every respect!


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