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Nikon D1H

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

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Page 3:Design

Review First Posted: 11/16/2001

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.

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