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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 4:Viewfinder

Review First Posted: 11/16/2001

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.

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