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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 3:Design

Review First Posted: 12/18/2003

With the established reputations of Nikon's D1, D1X, and D1H (not to mention the prosumer D100) digital cameras resting securely behind it, the D2H continues the line of Nikon's outstanding, high-performance pro digital SLRs. Offering the same exceptional exposure control and a range of features embodying the ultimate in flexibility and control, the D2H maintains the same functional design as 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. Like the previous models, the D2H fulfills this goal admirably, with an operational design that will be immediately familiar to users of the Nikon F5. Though sophisticated, the D2H's user interface is clean, straightforward, and quick to navigate, with a no-frills, four-page menu system that's slightly improved over previous models. (Actually, to interject a personal note here, I found the D2H overall to be the most enjoyable camera to shoot with that I've yet had the pleasure of using. Its user interface is one of the most transparent I've encountered, and the camera just felt "right" when using it. - This is more of a subjective comment than I'm usually comfortable making here, but I do so because the difference between the D2H and other cameras was so dramatic, even though subtle. - If that's not an oxymoron...)

While the camera bodies may look very similar, the D2H sports a number of new upgrades and features over the previous D1H model. For starters, the D2H has a slightly different control layout, and a couple of new buttons to handle previous menu options. Internally, the D2H offers a 4.1-megapixel JFET LBCAST image sensor for higher resolution images and improved long-exposure image noise. It also has much more sophisticated white balance system, with an ambient-light color sensor and the ability to save as many as five manual presets, a larger LCD monitor for better viewing, a Voice Memo mode, and a new Anti-Dust option (that needs Nikon's optional Capture 4 software to take advantage of), among other slight changes. One of the most interesting capabilities of the D2H is only available via a separate accessory, the wireless transmitter. With it attached (as shown above), you can wirelessly send image files from the camera to a computer, or even out over the internet.

Measuring 6.2 x 5.9 x 3.4 inches (158 x 150 x 86 millimeters), the physical dimensions of the D2H are practically identical to those of the D1, D1X, and D1H models. Weighing in at a hefty two pounds, 12.4 ounces (1,259 grams) excluding the lens and flash unit, but including batteries and memory card, the D2H is a definite handful, but nonetheless falls about the middle of the range for pro digital SLRs. Thanks to a cast-alloy body (see the photo above), the D2H carries forward the "built like a tank" ruggedness of previous Nikon Pro SLRs.

One new addition to the D2H is a much more complete system of environmental seals on the body than we've seen on Nikon cameras before, as shown above. The result is a camera that's by no means waterproof, but one that's at least highly resistant to water and dust.


The front of the camera features a standard Nikon F lens mount, complete with AF coupling and AF contacts. As with Nikon's other Digital SLRs, the D2H body contains the necessary contacts to support Nikon's latest AF-S "silent wave" autofocus lenses, and also supports Nikon's designed-for-digital DX-series lenses. There's also a Depth of Field Preview button, Function button, Sub-Command dial, sync terminal for an external flash, 10-pin remote terminal, Lens Release button, Focus Mode Selector dial, ambient light sensor, self-timer lamp, and secondary Sub-Command dial. A substantial hand grip on the right side of the camera features 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, covered with the same textured, rubbery surface.

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, without forcing you to resort to the rear-panel LCD screen. The images inset right include a photo of this display panel as it appears on the camera, as well as a graphic illustration showing all segments activated simultaneously.

Also on top is a diopter adjustment dial for the optical viewfinder and Metering dial (both on right side of the hot-shoe mount, when viewing the camera from the rear). On the other side of the hot-shoe mount are the Mode dial (with lock button), as well as the Flash Sync Mode, Bracketing, and Command Lock buttons. The top hot-shoe accommodates a variety of Nikon Speedlight external flash units. The hot shoe has the usual trigger terminal in the bottom, as well as three other contacts for interfacing to Nikon's dedicated speedlights.

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. Also on this side of the camera is one of the eyelets for attaching the neck strap.

The opposite side of the camera features the battery and connector compartments, and the second neck strap eyelet. Both connector compartments are covered by rubbery flaps that remain tethered to the camera when opened, and fit snugly into place. The top compartment houses the AV Out and DC In jacks, with the USB 2.0 jack in the compartment below. A rotating latch locks the battery compartment cover in place. The cover is actually a separate piece from the camera, removing completely to expose the battery chamber. When a battery is inserted, the compartment cover locks onto the battery, but can be released by pressing a tiny button just inside the outer lip.

The back panel of the D2H holds the remaining camera controls, which are extensive. The large, bright 2.5" LCD screen features a removable protective cover which 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 transparent, 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 Playback, Delete, AE/AF Lock, and AF-On buttons, in addition to the main Command dial. The LCD monitor panel rests in the left center of the back panel, along with a Four-Way Arrow Rocker pad located inside a focus selector lock dial. A card slot cover release button (beneath a small, plastic flap) is located to the left of the CompactFlash slot which supports Type-I and II CompactFlash cards, as well as MicroDrives. Card activity is indicated courtesy of a small LED just above the release button, and to the left of the CompactFlash card slot, on the back of the camera. Lining the left side of the LCD monitor is another set of control buttons, including the Menu, Thumbnail, Protect, and Enter buttons.

A small rear control panel beneath the LCD monitor works in conjunction with a series of buttons below it, which include Sensitivity, Quality / Size, and White Balance buttons. (As before, the images at right show a photo of this display panel as it appears on the camera, as well as a schematic illustration with all segments activated.)

The AF Area mode selector and Voice Memo button are next to the lower right corner of the LCD monitor, and a secondary AF-On button and Command dial for vertical shooting are in the lower right corner of the rear panel. Finally, a small speaker just to the left of the small status display panel plays back voice memos recorded via the small microphone to the right of the White Balance button.

The very flat bottom of the camera reveals only the metal tripod mount and the connector jack for the optional wireless transmitter accessory. 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 memory card without dismounting from a 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. The central position of the tripod mount with respect to the depth of the camera body, and the center-line of the lens, will help both with mounting stability and to reduce parallax error when shooting panoramas.


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