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Nikon D2H

Nikon introduces an 8 frame/second speed demon, with WiFi connectivity and an amazing new flash system to boot!

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Page 2:Executive Overview

Review First Posted: 12/18/2003

Executive Overview
The Nikon D2H is the next generation in the line of digital SLR bodies that have proven so popular among pros and advanced amateurs alike. The D2H offers a 4.1-megapixel CCD, interchangeable lens system, and a handful of updated features, in addition to the excellent exposure features enjoyed on previous models like the D1x and D1h. With the same familiar, F5-inspired body design, the D2H offers the look and feel that film-based pros are accustomed to, and is quick to get to know, with an improved user interface as well. One of the most interesting features on the D2H is its wireless capability. With the optional wireless transmitter accessory attached, you can send images directly from the camera to a computer without messing around with cabling or card readers.

The D2H continues with the standard Nikon F lens mount, which 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). With a weight of 2.5 pounds (1070 grams), the D2H has the heft I've come to associate with professional SLRs, but somehow manages to not feel bulky or awkward in the hand. A pro accustomed to shooting with Nikon's F5 bodies will find the D2H very comfortable and familiar. In exchange for the substantial heft though, the D2H's magnesium-alloy body provides an exceptionally rugged and rigid optical platform capable of absorbing unreasonable abuse without complaint. With both hot shoe and PC-style flash sync connections, the D2H will interface with most any flash equipment, whether in the field or studio.

The D2H's accurate TTL (through the lens) 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 or beam splitter optics, 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 11 autofocus targets. A 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. A new autofocus mode, Group Dynamic Area, lets you select a grouping of five AF points for the camera to base the exposure on, providing slightly more flexibility that a standard spot AF point. Exposure-wise, there are so many features on this camera that you'll have to read the entire review to get them all. I'll just mention a few of the primary options here.

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, determine the EV step-size of exposure adjustments, or set the range of ISO options available, among many others. With the D2H, you have a broad exposure compensation range, with a variable adjustment from -5 to +5 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third step increments. (A custom settings menu option also lets you set the EV compensation step size to one-half or one EV unit.) The camera's improved white balance system also has a lot of flexibility, with options for Auto, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Direct Sunlight, Flash, Overcast, Shade, and Color Temperature (with a full range of Kelvin temperature settings), 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 D2H can store up to five presets.

Three metering modes are available: Spot, Center-Weighted, and a very accurate Color 3D Matrix metering option. ISO can be set anywhere from 200 to 1,600, giving you excellent exposure flexibility. (Special "HI" modes are available that extend the effective ISO to 3,200 or 6,400, albeit at the cost of significantly increased image noise.) The auto bracketing feature takes a series of exposures of the same subject at different exposure settings, with the exposure step between shots being configurable via the settings menu. (You can also bracket flash exposures and white balance settings.) The camera's Continuous Shooting mode lets you capture up to 40 consecutive images as quickly as eight 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 and how the external flash fires. Choices include Front-Curtain Sync, Slow-Sync, Rear-Curtain Sync, Red-Eye Reduction, and Red-Eye Reduction with Slow Sync. Because the D2H accommodates a variety of Nikon's Speedlights, specific flash power and operation will vary depending on the particular model you're using. Note that some options such as red eye reduction are only available with Nikon flash units or others conforming closely to the flash-interface protocols used by the D2H.

The 4.1-megapixel CCD delivers an image resolution of 2,464 x 1,632 pixels. Image quality options include the usual Basic, Normal, and Fine but also TIFF, and both compressed and uncompressed RAW formats. Image storage is on CompactFlash Type I or II, and the D2H supports Microdrives for huge on-the-go storage capacity. (Although semiconductor memory cards have now caught up to the Microdrives in the capacity race.) The D2H utilizes a custom EN-EL4 lithium-ion battery pack for power and a charger is included in the box. (While I generally strongly recommend purchasing a spare battery pack, the D2H's battery life is pretty phenomenal: Unless you're a pro who's going to shoot more than 1500-2000 images at a time, the single battery pack included with the D2H should provide plenty of power.) A design plus I really appreciate in a pro camera 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.


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