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Nikon D2H

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Review First Posted: 12/18/2003

Digital Cameras - Nikon D2H Digital SLR Test Images

 

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

 

Outdoor Portrait:

Excellent resolution, detail, and color, with very low image noise. The default tone curve is somewhat contrasty, but easily fixed in-camera.

The extreme tonal range of this image makes it a tough shot for many digicams, which is precisely why I set it up this way, and why I shoot it with no fill flash or reflector to open the shadows. The object is to hold both highlight and shadow detail without producing a "flat" picture with muddy colors, and the D2H performed nicely.

The shot at right was taken with no exposure compensation adjustment, which produces good midtones but still lost some highlight detail, while leaving the shadows darker than I would have liked. This is an example of a shot that would benefit from shooting in Nikon's NEF CCD-raw mode, and adjusting post-exposure in their Nikon Capture software. (The camera's Low Contrast setting also does a good job of balancing the exposure, see the comparison below.) I chose the Daylight white balance option for the main image, though the Auto and 5300 degree Kelvin settings also produced good results. The Manual setting surprisingly produced a very blue image.

Marti's skin tones look quite natural here, the blue flowers aren't too far off the mark, and the red and yellow flowers look pretty good as well. On the downside, while the blue flowers are fairly reasonably hue-accurate (although showing a bit more purple than they do in real life), the blues and greens are somewhat undersaturated. Not horribly so, but not really reproducing the colors of the original either. Resolution is excellent, and detail is strong throughout the frame, even in the deepest shadows. Image noise is very low.

To view the entire exposure series from -0.3 to +0.3 EV, see files D2HOUTDM1.HTM through D2HOUTDP1.HTM on the thumbnail index page.

 In-Camera Contrast Adjustment
The D2H has an option to reduce (or boost) the image contrast, ideal for subjects such as this. In the photos below, I shot two images right after each other (so the sun angle and other exposure parameters would be exactly identical), one with the default contrast setting, the other with the contrast adjustment at the "Low" setting. As you can see, this helps tame some of the hottest highlights, without affecting overall brightness or color saturation to any noticeable extent. - Just what you'd want a contrast adjustment control to do.
Contrast was slightly high at the default setting, under the deliberately harsh lighting of this test. The D2H's Low Contrast adjustment did a good job of evening out the exposure, without dimming the overall brightness too much.




 

Closer Portrait:

Again, excellent detail and resolution, although once again slightly high contrast with the default setting.

The D2H again performs very well under the harsh outdoor lighting, as contrast is only a tad high here. Midtones are just slightly darker than in the shot above, even with the +0.7 EV exposure compensation adjustment I applied. The brightest highlights have limited detail, but the exposure overall isn't too bad. I shot this image with the 5300 degree Kelvin white balance option, produced a good color balance, just very slightly on the cool side. (In hindsight, a setting of 5500K might have been a better choice. Once again, a good reason to shoot in NEF format, as you can make white-balance adjustments of this sort post-exposure.) Resolution is again excellent, with a great deal of fine detail visible in Marti's features (most likely more than she would like to see full screen).

To view the entire exposure series from zero to +0.7 EV, see files D2HFACKP0.HTM through D2HFACKP2.HTM on the thumbnail index page.

 

Indoor Portrait, Flash:

Since the D2H has no internal flash, and given that I didn't have a sample of the new SB800 to test with it, I don't have a flash-exposure example to share with you here.



 

Indoor Portrait, No Flash:
Auto White Balance
Incandescent White Balance
2,500 Kelvin White Balance
2,800 Kelvin White Balance
Manual White Balance

No color balance setting really "nailed" the color on this one.

This shot is always 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. The D2H had a surprising amount of trouble here, producing slightly warm to very warm color balances with most settings that I'd have expected to work, and an strong green color cast with the Kelvin white balance option at its 2500K setting. The Auto and Manual settings produced the strongest warm casts, while the Incandescent and 2,800-degree Kelvin options produced the least warm casts. As noted, the 2,500-degree Kelvin setting resulted in a pronounced greenish color cast. - This is quite odd, as the color temperature of this light source is actually right around 2,450-2,500K, and the 2,800K setting wasn't far off the mark. (It looks to me like Nikon's firmware needs some tweaking for the 2,500K white balance setting, as a net change of 300K shouldn't produce this large a shift in color in the final images.) I ended up choosing the 2,800-degree Kelvin white balance setting for the main series, as I felt that it had the best overall color. The warm cast gives the blue flowers a purplish hue, though that's typically expected in this shot. The shots at right were taken with a +1.3 EV exposure compensation adjustment, which is a little more than the average amount required for this shot.


ISO Series:
The D2H generally does fairly well in the image-noise department, although my quantitative test results were a little odd and difficult to interpret. (See the separate Noise Analysis page of this review for all the gory details.) The series of exposures below show results obtained at a range of ISO settings. One unexpected effect is that color saturation is reduced at higher ISO levels.

ISO Series
ISO 200
ISO 400
ISO 800
ISO 1,600 ISO 3,200 ISO 6,400



 

House Shot:
Auto White Balance
Daylight White Balance
Manual White Balance

Excellent resolution and detail, with good color as well.

Out of the three white balance settings that I tested, the D2H's Auto option produced the best overall color, with the most accurate white value on the house trim. The Daylight setting resulted in a slightly warm color balance, while the Manual setting produced a very cool image. Resolution is excellent, as the tree limbs and front shrubbery show a lot of fine detail, with great definition. (The D2H's 4.1-megapixel CCD stretches the limits of this poster a little as a test target. Even though the poster was made from a 500MB scan of a 4x5 negative shot with a tack-sharp lens, the D2H comes surprisingly close to extracting all the detail that's to be found here.) In-camera sharpening does a good job here, as details are sharp from corner to corner, with no tendency to produce halos around fine detail. (Judicious use of unsharp masking in Photoshop can still bring out a little additional detail, but at last the in-camera sharpening produces no unrecoverable artifacts.)



 

Far-Field Test

Excellent resolution and detail for a four-megapixel camera, decent dynamic range despite a contrasty tone curve.

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.

This is my ultimate "resolution shot," given the infinite range of detail in a natural scene like this, and the D2H really performs well. Resolution is excellent for a four-megapixel camera, with very good detail in the tree limbs over the roof, as well as in the fine foliage in front of the house. Details are well-defined and sharp, with great definition even in the tree trunks above the roof. The camera's contrasty default tone curve shows itself again here, as it's on the verge of losing detail in the strong highlight of the white paint on the bay window, even though the rest of the frame is rather dark. On the other hand though, shadow detail is excellent, yielding good dynamic range overall. (Note to pros: While the D2H shows a tendency to lose highlight detail, it seems to tolerate underexposure quite well, with good, relatively clean detail in the shadows. Plan on underexposing slightly if you're concerned about highlights.)

The table below shows a standard resolution/quality series, followed by ISO, sharpness, and contrast series.

Resolution Series:

Wide Angle "Fine"
JPEG
"Normal"
JPEG
"Economy"
JPEG
2,464 x 1,632
D2HFARLF
D2HFARLN
D2HFARLE
1,840 x 1,224
D2HFARMF
D2HFARMN
D2HFARME


ISO Series:

ISO Series
ISO 200
ISO 400
ISO 800
ISO 1,600 ISO 3,200 ISO 6,400

Sharpness Series:
The D2H offers a range of five setting options for its in-camera image sharpening, plus "auto" and "none." The shots below show the effect of each setting from the minimum (other than "none") to the maximum available. The crops give you some idea of the effect of each, in an area of high detail.

Sharpness Series

Low


Medium Low


Normal


Medium High


High

 

Contrast Series:
As mentioned earlier, the D2H offers three contrast settings, "Less," "Normal," and "More. The thumbnails and the high-res files linked below show the effect of each setting on this particular subject.

Contrast Series

Low


Normal


High




 

Lens Zoom Range

Really pretty meaningless, but an example of the 2x zoom range of the 28-70mm f/2.8 Nikkor wide-angle zoom.

I routinely shoot this series of images to show the field of view for each camera, with the lens at full wide angle, at maximum telephoto, and at full telephoto with the digital zoom enabled.

In the case of the D2H, zoom range will obviously depend entirely on the lens you choose. Since I shot this test with the (very sharp) 28-70mm f/2.8D Nikkor zoom, I figured I might as well show results from the two ends of its zoom range. The photos below were both shot at f/8.0, as I figured that would probably be the aperture setting that produced the sharpest results.

Wide Angle
Telephoto



 

Musicians Poster
Auto White Balance
Daylight White Balance
Manual White Balance

A sightly warm color balance with the Daylight setting, but still good performance overall.

This shot is often a tough test for digicams, as the abundance of blue in the composition frequently tricks white balance systems into producing a warm color balance. Both the D2H's Auto and Daylight settings produced similar, nearly accurate (although slightly warm) results here, while the Manual white balance resulted in a strong bluish cast. The Daylight setting looked the most natural to my eye, so I chose it for the main image. Though slightly warm, overall color looks good. The blue robe is slightly greenish however, as is the blue background. Resolution is excellent, and detail is strong in the embroidery of the blue robe and the beaded necklaces. (The original data file for this poster was only 20MB though, so cameras like the D2H are definitely capable of showing more detail than the poster has in it.)



 

Macro Shot

Because the D2H's macro performance depends entirely on the lens in use rather than the camera itself, I did not shoot any test images here.



 

"Davebox" Test Target
Auto White Balance

Good overall exposure, although a warm color cast.

The D2H's Auto white balance option did a good job here, though the overall color balance is just slightly warm (judging by the large white color block and mini-resolution target). The white balance was close enough though that I didn't feel any need to try other white balance settings. Exposure is about right, and the camera distinguishes the subtle tonal variations of the Q60 target quite well, and also resolves the difference between the darkest two steps of the large gray scale. Colors seem hue-accurate, but slightly muted in the strong primary color blocks of the MacBeth(tm) target. Detail is strong throughout the frame, and good in the shadow area of the charcoal briquettes as well. Image noise is fairly low, generally competitive with but not exceeding that of the competition. (Read my noise analysis page for a fairly exhaustive study of the D2H's image noise.)

ISO Series:

ISO Series
ISO 200
ISO 400
ISO 800
ISO 1,600 ISO 3,200 ISO 6,400



 

Low-Light Tests

Exceptional low-light performance, with good color at each sensitivity setting.

With full manual exposure control, a maximum exposure time of 30 seconds (and a Bulb setting for even longer exposures), and adjustable sensitivity from ISO 200 to 6,400 equivalents, the D2H can handle the darkest shooting conditions with aplomb. In particular, it's under low-light conditions that Nikon's LBCAST sensor technology really comes into its own, delivering significantly lower levels of sensor noise than competing technologies. In my testing, the D2H produced clear, bright, usable images down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my test, with good color at each ISO setting. I should also point out though, that the D2H could easily have handled even darker shooting conditions as well. Color was good, just slightly pinkish in the lower light levels of the ISO 200 series. The D2H's Noise Reduction system did a reasonably good job of cutting out excess image noise, though at the higher ISO settings, the noise levels appeared nearly the same with or without Noise Reduction enabled. The table below shows the best exposure I was able to obtain for each of a range of illumination levels. Images in this table (like all sample photos on this site other than those which are clearly marked otherwise) are untouched, exactly as they came from the camera.

  1fc
11lux
1/2fc
5.5lux
1/4fc
2.7lux
1/8fc
1.3lux
1/16fc
0.67lx
1/16fc
0.67lx
(No NR)
ISO
200
Click to see D2HLL0203.JPG
1.3 secs
F3
Click to see D2HLL0204.JPG
2.5 secs
F3
Click to see D2HLL0205.JPG
5 secs
F3
Click to see D2HLL0206.JPG
10 secs
F3
Click to see D2HLL0207.JPG
20 secs
F3
Click to see D2HLL0207NNR.JPG
20 secs
F3
ISO
400
Click to see D2HLL0403.JPG
1/ 2 secs
F3
Click to see D2HLL0404.JPG
1.3 secs
F3
Click to see D2HLL0405.JPG
2.5 secs
F3
Click to see D2HLL0406.JPG
5 secs
F3
Click to see D2HLL0407.JPG
10 secs
F3
Click to see D2HLL0407NNR.JPG
10 secs
F3
ISO
800
Click to see D2HLL0803.JPG
1/ 3 secs
F3
Click to see D2HLL0804.JPG
1/ 2 secs
F3
Click to see D2HLL0805.JPG
1.3 secs
F3
Click to see D2HLL0806.JPG
2.5 secs
F3
Click to see D2HLL0807.JPG
5 secs
F3
Click to see D2HLL0807NNR.JPG
5 secs
F3
ISO
1600
Click to see D2HLL1603.JPG
1/ 6 secs
F3
Click to see D2HLL1604.JPG
1/ 3 secs
F3
Click to see D2HLL1605.JPG
1/ 2 secs
F3
Click to see D2HLL1606.JPG
1.3 secs
F3
Click to see D2HLL1607.JPG
2.5 secs
F3
Click to see D2HLL1607NNR.JPG
2.5 secs
F3
ISO
3200
Click to see D2HLL3203.JPG
1/ 13 secs
F3
Click to see D2HLL3204.JPG
1/ 6 secs
F3
Click to see D2HLL3205.JPG
1/ 3 secs
F3
Click to see D2HLL3206.JPG
1/ 2 secs
F3
Click to see D2HLL3207.JPG
1.3 secs
F3
Click to see D2HLL3207NNR.JPG
1.3 secs
F3
ISO
6400
Click to see D2HLL6403.JPG
1/ 25 secs
F3
Click to see D2HLL6404.JPG
1/ 13 secs
F3
Click to see D2HLL6405.JPG
1/ 6 secs
F3
Click to see D2HLL6406.JPG
1/ 3 secs
F3
Click to see D2HLL6407.JPG
1/ 2 secs
F3
Click to see D2HLL6407NNR.JPG
1/ 2 secs
F3



 

Flash Range Test

The D2H does not have a built-in flash unit, but instead accommodates a range of Nikon external Speedlights. Results will therefore vary depending on the flash unit itself, so I've not included any flash range test shots here.



 

ISO-12233 (WG-18) Resolution Test

Very good resolution for a four-megapixel camera, 1,100 lines of "strong detail."

The D2H performed well on the "laboratory" resolution test chart. Some minor artifacts were visible as low as 700 lines per picture height, but I found "strong detail" out to at least 1,100 lines horizontally and somewhere around 1,000 lines vertically, although you could perhaps argue for a little higher in either direction. "Extinction" of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,400 lines.

Optical distortion on the D2H will depend entirely upon the lens in use. With the 105mm f//2.8 Micro Nikkor lens attached, I didn't notice even a single pixel of either pincushion or barrel distortion. Chromatic aberration was virtually nonexistent, showing less than a pixel of very faint coloration on either side of the target lines. (This distortion is visible as a very slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.) - All this ample testimony to the excellent quality of Nikon's 105mm fixed focal-length macro lens.

Resolution Series, Wide Angle
Wide Angle "Fine"
JPEG
"Normal"
JPEG
"Economy"
JPEG
2,464 x 1,632
D2HRESLF
D2HRESLN
D2HRESLE
1,840 x 1,224
D2HRESMF
-
-


Sharpness Series
Sharpness Series
Low
Medium Low
Normal
Medium High
High



 

Viewfinder Accuracy

Essentially 100% accuracy from the optical viewfinder.

The D2H is a digital SLR, meaning that the optical viewfinder looks through the lens and the LCD monitor is reserved for image review and menu viewing. The D2H's optical viewfinder is essentially 100 percent accurate, to be expected for this caliber of SLR, and important when tight framing is key.



 

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