Nikon D2Xs Optics

In this section, I usually discuss the lens characteristics of the camera I'm describing. In the case of the D2Xs, you can attach pretty much any lens you want, as long as it uses the Nikon F mount. The D2Xs features the standard F mount, with both mechanical AF coupling for older lenses, and AF electrical contacts for the latest AF-IF or AF-S Nikkor lenses with internal focus motors. With very few exceptions, you can use the D2Xs with any F Mount Nikkor lens ever made. (A short list of incompatible lenses and accessories is included at the back of the manual. Apart from relatively ancient "non-AI" lenses, most are older types of perspective-correction lenses, a few small-aperture telephoto zoom lenses, and some serial number ranges of reflex telephoto lenses.)

Functions and exposure modes available with a given lens will vary with the type. More recent Nikkors (the D-type and G-type models) include a microchip that communicates focal-distance information to the camera. Lenses without the microchip used in the "D" and "G" types won't support the "3D color matrix metering" mode. Here's a table giving a brief idea of the functionality available with different Nikkor lens types (abstracted from the D2Xs's manual).

Lens Type
Functions Available
Type G or D AF Nikkor Lenses
(except IX models), AF-S and AF-I Nikkor
All functions supported with the exception of color matrix metering
PC Micro Nikkor 85mm F/2.8 D
Works only in Manual mode, with Manual focus enabled. Exposure metering and flash control don't work when tilting / shifting the lens, or with apertures other than the maximum. Color matrix metering not possible
AF-S, AF-I Teleconverter
All functions except color matrix metering. Autofocus or manual focus with electronic range finder requires max. effective aperture of f/5.6 or faster. Compatible with all AF-S and AF-I lenses except the DX 12-24mm f/4G ED, AF-S 17-35mm f/2.8D IF-ED, DX 17-55mm f/2.8G ED, AF-S 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5G ED, VR 24-120mm f/3.5-5.6 G ED, and 28-70mm f/2.8D ED
Other AF Nikkor Lenses
(Excluding lenses for F3AF)
(May require manual focusing for some lenses at their minimum focal distances.)
AI-P Lenses
Autofocus requires max. aperture of f/5.6 or faster
Other Lenses (Non-CPU)
Most lenses will work, using the Non-CPU Lens Data option in the shooting menu to specify focal length and maximum aperture as appropriate. Center-weighted or spot metering may be needed with some lenses to get accurate exposure. Electronic rangefinder can be used with lenses with a maximum aperture of f/5.6 or faster. A variety of restrictions apply to different lens types, consult manual pages 240-241 for the details.


Given that the optical characteristics will depend entirely on the lens attached, I'll instead concentrate here on the focusing options and modes. There's a lot to talk about here, given the exceptional control and flexibility afforded by the D2Xs's autofocus systems. The Nikon D2Xs allows you to take advantage of auto or manual focus via a small dial on the front of the camera, right next to the lens. Setting the switch to "M" puts the camera into manual focus mode, "S" places it in Single Servo AF (focus priority), and "C" puts it into Continuous Servo AF (release priority). Single Servo simply means that the camera sets focus only once, when the Shutter button is first pressed halfway, and is best for still objects. Continuous Servo means that the camera continuously adjusts the focus, as long as the Shutter button is halfway pressed, and is best for moving objects.

You also have the freedom of setting the autofocus area on the D2Xs. A dial on the camera's rear panel selects between Single Area, Dynamic Area, Group Dynamic Area, and Dynamic Area with Closest Subject Priority modes. Single Area AF simply means that the camera judges focus based on one part of the subject, while Dynamic AF employs all 11 of the autofocus brackets, or areas. (Both modes allow the user to manually select the main AF area.) The camera first focuses on the subject in the central focus area. Whenever the subject moves to a different AF area, the camera also shifts the focus to "follow" the subject. This is great for irregularly moving subjects. Group Dynamic AF mode is a new feature on the D2Xs, and lets you manually select a group of five AF points in any section of the frame, from which the camera automatically focuses based on the portion of the subject closest to one of the selected points. This is good for moving subjects that remain within the same general area of the frame. Finally, the Dynamic Area with Closest Subject Priority option means that the camera first focuses on the closest object that falls into one of the 11 focus areas and then tracks it as it moves. (Note that no focus area brackets are illuminated in the viewfinder with this mode and that this mode doesn't work well with telephoto lenses or poorly lit subjects, according to Nikon). In Single Area and Dynamic Area AF modes, you can change the main focus area by unlocking the focus area selector (the Multi Selector pad on the back panel) and then shifting the focus area using the up, down, right, or left arrow keys. Then, simply lock the focus area selection by sliding the switch back into place. By default, the Nikon D2Xs does not "wrap" the focus area selector as you scroll between focus areas. Through the Custom Settings menu, you can opt for a "Wrap" function, which hunts for the next area from top to bottom or left to right. What this means is that if you continue to press the right arrow key when the right focus area is selected, the selection will jump to the left focus area next, rather than remaining on the right most focus area setting.

There are two methods for using the AF Lock function on the D2Xs. The first is to place the central subject in the selected focus area, halfway press the Shutter button, then realign the composition and fire the shutter. Alternatively, when using Single Servo AF, you can press the AF-L/AE-L button to lock focus (and exposure, unless set for focus only in the Custom Settings menu). Keeping this button pressed will lock focus and/or exposure, even if the Shutter button is released. This allows you to recompose the photograph without keeping your finger on the Shutter button, but on the AE-L/AF-L button instead. (Thereby resulting in less chance that you'll accidentally fire the shutter when you don't intend to.) The AF-On buttons on the rear panel set focus without needing to half-press the Shutter button. The purpose of the AF-On buttons is to allow you to lock focus independently of exposure, if the AE-L/AF-L button has been set to lock exposure only. Thus, you can lock the focus for one section of the frame, and the exposure for another.

Shooting very fast-moving subjects at close range with the Nikon D2Xs, I found that the camera offered the best AF tracking response if I kept it in Single-Area AF mode. Dynamic Area and Group Dynamic Area AF both seemed to slow the AF response somewhat. (Not that these other focus modes were particularly slow: The subject in question was a motorcycle at a range of 50-100 feet, approaching at ~80-90 mph, captured with a Nikkor 200mm f/2.0 lens.)

As an enhancement to the D2X, the D2Xs has added four options for Focus Tracking with Lock-On: Long, Normal, Short and Off (Custom Setting a4). These settings adjust how long the camera waits before refocusing when the current subject is briefly obscured by objects passing through the frame.


Since the Nikon D2Xs isn't bundled with a "kit" lens, there's no lens to show the zoom range of. Hence, this section has been intentionally left blank.


The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Nikon D2Xs Photo Gallery .

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