Nikon D100Nikon ups the ante with 6 million pixels, superb color and resolution, at a 'bargain' price!
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D100 Sample ImagesReview First Posted: 5/31/2002
Digital Cameras - Nikon D100 SLR Test Images
(Original test posting: 06/05/02)
|I've begun including links in our reviews to a Thumber-generated index page for our test shots. The Thumber data includes a host of information on the images, including shutter speed, ISO setting, compression setting, etc. Rather than clutter the page below with *all* that detail, I'm posting the Thumber index so only those interested in the information need wade through it!|
Slightly high contrast (but the tone-compensation "low contrast" setting works great), great resolution and color.
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 without any 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.
The D100's default settings produced an image that was quite a bit too contrasty, IMHO. The shots at right show the results of this very harsh lighting with the normal tone setting, and the low contrast option selected. I found that I liked the "low contrast" setting on the D100 for a wide variety of shots. (Actually, I'd like to spend the time to make my own custom tone curve with the software and download it to the camera.)
I played a fair bit with the camera this particular day, under the hash mid-day sun. I was disappointed in that it seemed to underexpose the subjects pretty dramatically, whenever there was a really strong highlight in the frame, as here. It was the next day before I discovered that I'd been shooting with the camera set to use center-weighted metering for most of the day. Experimenting later, I found that the center-weighted metering seemed to react pretty drastically to strong highlights like this, almost always underexposing them by a full stop or so. By contrast, the matrix metering option handled such situations with relative aplomb. (Although you 'll naturally need to use some positive compensation if you have a fairly high-key subject, with high overall brightness. - No getting away from that, as the camera still has to assume an 18% gray world...)
As usual, I shot this subject with three different white balance settings. The Auto white balance setting produced similar results to the Daylight setting, though the Daylight setting's images were slightly cooler. I also shot with the Manual white balance adjustment, which produced a much warmer color balance.
Color is really just about spot on here. The always-difficult blue
flowers are almost exactly the right hue. Skin tones are about right,
and saturation in the flower bouquet is quite accurate IMHO. Not too
hot, not to dull. The D100 picks up fantastic detail, with very high
resolution throughout the frame. Detail is also very good in the deep
shadows, with low noise. Really an excellent job overall!
Default setting again too contrasty, but great detail, and the "minus contrast" option does pretty well..
The difference between the normal and reduced contrast settings is more obvious in this closer shot. (I know, I know, the highlights in Marti's collar are grossly overexposed. - You'd hopefully never expose like this! To reiterate, the whole point here is to see how the camera handles worst-case lighting...)
Results in this shot are similar to the wider shot above I shot with
the contrast adjustment set to Normal
and Minus, choosing the lower contrast
image for the main shot. I kept with the Auto white balance, and chose
an exposure adjustment of +0.7 EV for the main image. Oddly though,
the low contrast setting apparently caused the camera to jump the exposure
slightly, since it dropped the shutter speed from 1/250 to 1/200 here.
The level of fine detail increases dramatically in the model's face
and hair, with amazingly well-defined details in the skin. (Really a
little too well defined: I won't shot Marti these shots 1:1 onscreen.
:-) Details are again very sharp throughout the frame, and the shadow
areas show great detail, with very low image noise.
Good coverage, balanced exposure, though default settings underexposed slightly.
The D100's flash illuminates the subject well, with good color and brightness. At the camera's default exposure setting, I shot with the flash at its normal intensity and with a +0.3 EV brightness adjustment. The default exposure was slightly dim here, but the increase in flash intensity blew the highlights. Color is very good though, and there's only a slight orange tint from the household incandescent lighting in the background. Next, I increased the camera's ambient exposure compensation to +0.7 EV, which brightened the background a little, and snapped images with the flash set to normal and -0.7 EV brightness adjustments. Of these, the -0.7 EV shot produced the best results, with a good overall exposure and good flash intensity on Marti. Finally, I shot with an external flash unit, which produced outstanding results and much more even lighting (from the bounced flash).
I asked for one of Nikon's new SB-80DX speedlights to use with the
D100, and the two devices integrated beautifully. This shot doesn't
nearly show off their capabilities, but fill flash outdoors is really
just about effortless. Very highly recommended combo!
Indoor Portrait, No Flash:
Color balance requires "tweaking" with white balance adjustment tool, but good results overall.
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 D100's white balance system did a good job with its white balance adjustment feature, though the default settings had some trouble. The Auto setting resulted in a very warm color balance, no matter how I tweaked it. I found the least color cast with the +3 manual adjustment. The Manual white balance setting produced nearly accurate results, though the overall color balance was a little greenish. For the Incandescent white balance setting, I found the best results with a +3 adjustment, and liked that "look" the best overall. Color balance is just slightly warm here conveying more of the feeling of the original lighting, but skin tones look more natural and color is good. The background wall is yellow from the warm cast, and the blue flowers are dark and purplish (a common problem with this shot), but overall color is still pretty good. The main shot selection has a +1.7 EV exposure compensation adjustment.
I was surprised by how much positive exposure compensation the D100 needed in this shot though. The high key background provided by the off-white wall means most cameras need +0.7 to +1.0 EV of boost, but the D100 seemed to do best with +1.7. I didn't check, but it's possible that these were also shot using center-weighted metering, which seemed to consistently underexpose, as noted above.
To view an abbreviated exposure series from +1.0 to +2.0 and zero EV with the Incandescent white balance setting, see files D10INTP3P3.HTM through D10INTP3P6.HTM, and D10INTP3P0.HTM. To view the same series in the Manual white balance, see files D10INMP3.HTM through D10INMP7.HTM, and D10INMP0.HTM on the thumbnail index page.
White balance adjustments:
Auto White Balance Series:
Incandescent White Balance Series:
Excellent resolution and detail, great color.
I liked the Daylight white balance best on this shot, as the overall color and white value looked the most natural and accurate. That said, the Auto and Manual white balance settings both produced nice results as well. I noticed just a slight reddish tint with the Auto white balance, and a slightly cool tint with the Manual setting, but overall color in both is still very good. Resolution is very high, with excellent detail in the tree limbs above the roof and the shrubbery in front of the house. You can almost see the individual pine needles in the branches above the house. (Actually, with a camera of the D100's performance, we're starting to run up against the limits of this poster. - While it was scanned from a tack-sharp 4x5 negative (to a file size of 500 MB), the fact that the image has been through 3 sets of optics (camera lens, scanner lens, and laser photo printer) means that the D100 is getting awfully close to the maximum that you could realistically resolve from the image.) With the camera's sharpness setting at its default value, details are just slightly soft, perhaps a little reminiscent of the edge rendition of Canon's cameras, notably the competing D60 model. Here again though, the default exposure calculated by the D100 underexposed the target slightly, so I increased the exposure compensation to +1.0 EV. This borders on being too bright, but there's still acceptable detail in the highlights.
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. The D100 handles the challenge very well, and captures an exceptional level of fine detail throughout the frame. The fine foliage details in the tree limbs above the roof and in the shrubbery in front of the house are very well defined, with the intricacies of the leaf patterns completely visible. Shadow detail is very strong, as the brick pattern is completely visible in the shadow area above the front door, and even the dark door panels themselves are visible and relatively low in noise. The camera does a very good job with the bright white bay window trim, holding onto a fair amount of detail in this difficult area. Color is accurate and well-saturated, without any strong color casts. Click here for an example of the camera's NEF (RAW) file format. (Only useful if you're a programmer playing with the file format, it's different from the NEF used in the D1x/h, so earlier versions of Nikon software won't read it.) An excellent job overall. Below is the standard resolution and quality series, followed by ISO, Hue, Sharpness, and Tone series.
Lens Zoom Range
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. Since the D100 accommodates a wide range of Nikkor lenses, I shot the following with the 24-85mm f/3.5-45. G AF-S zoom that I shot a lot of my test photos with. (This lens seems like a very nice match for the D100, IMHO, corresponding to a range of 36 - 127.5mm on a 35mm film camera.) Following are the results at each zoom setting.
A very slight warm cast, but overall great color and resolution.
This shot is often difficult for digicams, as the abundance of blue
in the image can trick white balance systems into producing a overly-warm
color balance. The D100 did a good job here, producing only very slight
warm casts with the Auto and Daylight
white balances. Both resulted in reddish backgrounds, though overall
color still didn't look too bad. I chose the Manual
setting as the most accurate, not only because of the good color, but
also because the white flowers in the Asian model's hair are about right.
Because the D100 initially underexposed this target a fair bit, I boosted
the exposure compensation to +1.0 EV (which is almost too bright). The
slight overexposure (my fault) washes out color slightly, but skin tones
still look good. p I like the D100's handling of skin tones very much.
The blue robe looks just about right, with only a hint of a purplish
tint in the deep shadows (this is a tough blue for many digicams to
get right). Resolution is very high, with excellent detail in the embroidery
of the blue robe. (Really, the D100's resolution is beyond what this
aging poster can reveal.)
I did not shoot this test because the D100's macro performance will be dependent on the lens in use. (But it's pretty incredible with Nikon's 100mm f/2.8 Micro Nikkor. This is an amazingly sharp lens, give it a serious look if you plan on much macro work!)
Very accurate color and saturation, with great shadow detail.
This time, I chose the Auto white balance setting as the most accurate, because the white values on the test target appear the most neutral. both the Manual and Daylight white balance settings produced nearly accurate images, though both have slight color casts. The Daylight setting is slightly warm and the Manual setting is a touch greenish/yellowish. I again added a +1.0 EV exposure compensation adjustment, because the D100 underexposed the initial shot. This exposure is a slightly bright, but the camera still picks up a lot of detail in the subtle tonal variations of the Q60 target. (Though the highlight details of the white gauze are slightly blown out.) The large color blocks look very good and accurate, with appropriate saturation. Detail is excellent throughout the frame, including in the shadow area of the charcoal briquettes, with very low noise.
Overall, the D100's color handling is simply excellent.
Outstanding low-light capability, with very low noise.
The D100's Bulb shutter setting and wide range of ISO sensitivities gives the camera excellent shooting capabilities in low light. The camera captured bright, clear images at light levels as low as 1/16 foot-candles (0.67 lux) at all ISO settings tested from 200 to 6,400. Noise was very low at the lower ISO settings, creeping up slightly with the 1,600 and becoming pronounced with the 3,200 and 6,400 ISO settings. (These settings are actually only referred to by Nikon as ISO "Hi I" and "Hi II," indicating that they're not "officially" rated.)
I was surprised that the "hot pixels" I saw in the D100's long-exposure images weren't more prominent, even with the noise reduction option turned off. While plenty of hot pixels showed up, they weren't nearly as bright as I would have expected. (More like "warm" pixels than "hot" ones. ;-) They did produce odd little cross patterns, a result of the D100's particular RGB interpolation algorithms. The D100's noise reduction system was entirely successful in eliminating these artifacts though.
The table below shows the best exposure I was able to obtain at 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux), the darkest I normally test at (since that's as low as my light meter goes). Images in this table (like all of our sample photos) are untouched, exactly as they came from the camera.
Flash Range Test
Good intensity all the way to 14 feet. (No surprise, that's less than the rated range of the unit.)
The D100's flash maintained excellent intensity all the way to the 14 foot limit of my test range. I tested the flash at the default brightness level, with no flash exposure adjustments, using the D100's D-TTL (Auto) flash exposure setting. Below is the flash range series, with distances from eight to 14 feet from the target.
The D100 performed exceptionally well on the "laboratory" resolution test chart. In particular, it was remarkably "clean", showing virtually no artifacts of any sort until you get comfortably over 1000 lines/picture height, and even then you have to really know what you're looking for, and squint to see them. Comparing the D100 to other ~6 megapixel SLRs (the Canon D60 and Nikon's own D1x), its res target images are really the hands down winners. Very clear and clean, unusually well-controlled artifacts as you get close to the resolution limit. I called the resolution here at about 1250 lines per picture height in the horizontal direction, and 1150 lph in the vertical direction. (And yes, I'm aware that other reviewers have claimed resolutions as high as 1600 lph. I simply take a much more conservative approach to interpreting these test results, stopping when I see evidence of significant aliasing in the target features.) I called the "extinction" point as occurring about 1600-1650 lines.
On consumer cameras, I normally comment here on the optical distortion and artifacts. Since these are functions of the lens, not the imager, it doesn't make sense to report on them for removable-lens SLRs. It is worth noting though, the difference a really good lens can make: I shot these photos with the Micro Nikkor 100mm f/2.8 Micro Nikkor, one of the sharpest lenses Nikon makes, and one that also has about the least distortion. As a result, chromatic aberration is exceptionally low, and the image is sharp corner to corner. (I also shot with the lens stopped down a bit for this shot, so I'd come as close as possible to testing the sensor and image processing algorithms, not the lens itself.)
Resolution Series, 100mm f/2.8 Micro Nikkor
Viewfinder Accuracy/Flash Uniformity
An accurate optical viewfinder.
The D100's SLR optical viewfinder tested out at approximately 97 percent frame accuracy, slightly better than Nikon's claimed 95% figure. I generally prefer viewfinders to be as accurate as possible, so the D100 performs very well here. Flash illumination is even throughout the frame. (No surprise, this was shot at a little distance, not wide angle at all.)
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