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Thom Hoganís Complete Guide to the Nikon D1, D1h & D1x 2nd ed.

A book review by Paul Caldwell

 

I have used either the D1 or D1x cameras now for over 1-Ĺ years. Previous to that I used several of the prosumer digital cameras before upgrading to the Nikon D Series. I have been involved with outdoor photography for over 25 years mainly as a personal hobby/passion. Before the advent of the 2.1mp digital camera I was a 35mm film user who developed his own work with the Cibachrome process.

This book is in e-Book format. You will need the following to run it, a PC or Mac, and Adobe Reader 4.0 or higher. The book is sent to you on (1) CD. It is written in an online format allowing you to read it from your PC or you can print the book from Adobe Reader (included on the CD). The total length of the book is 250 pages. Shipment includes the following:

  • 250-page eBook, including a white balance laminated field card, DOF Spreadsheet, and other useful software tools, $29.95 plus shipping. This Book along with many others can be purchased from www.bythom.com.

As the field of digital photography continues to grow, one will find that a complete and concise guide to any digital camera is very hard to find. Of course all cameras will ship with an owners manual. However, in my experience, these manuals tend to focus only on the very basic material, i.e. simple operations. Being paperbacks they are never updated even as the camera's features are via firmware or software enhancements.

With Thom's book, you get a very detailed explanation of the Nikon D1 family of cameras. Detailed enough that you might find yourself looking up questions in this book rather than the Nikon Users Guide that ships with your camera.

The Book breaks out into three main parts:

    1. Basics
    2. Field Usage
    3. Images and Software

Everything is written in a logical progression, thus the reader's knowledge base is built up based on information learned in earlier chapters. The book also features an excellent table of contents and index so you can look up individual subjects. This review follows the flow of the book.

 
CAMERA OVERVIEW SECTION
 

Thom starts with a good overview of the D1 camera family's main physical features. He also quickly compares the D1 with the other two main Nikon Pro bodies, the F100 and the F5. He does this with both detailed descriptions and pictures. He follows this with a much more in depth discussion on the D1 family. Whenever one of the cameras is listed, either the D1, or the newer D1x and D1h, they are shown in bold type. I felt that this was a nice step in that it draws attention to the newer cameras. It is very easy to get confused between the 3 separate bodies.

One note, throughout the book Thom will mention tips. An example of this is in the portion of the book that talks about the camera's LCD. Thom talks about Hoodman USA products for the LCD and points to the company's URL This is done by putting the tip in italics and within the normal margins of the book. I feel that this is a nice touch. Before going into more detailed information on the D1 family of cameras, there is an explanation on both CCD technology and power options for the cameras. The section on CCD's contains information all the way down to the actual photosite. Things such as physical size considerations, 8-bit vs. 12-bit color and basic limitations of the Bayer pattern CCD are also covered. This section closes with a nice discourse called "35mm Film or Digital". In it, Thom lists some good pointers as to advantages and disadvantages to each medium and some printing considerations.

 
POWER & IMAGE STORAGE SECTION
 

The sections on power and image storage should interest everyone using these particular cameras. It seems to me that these two subjects get constant activity in the various user forums on the Web. Thom covers every available Nikon power option for the D1 family and then talks about some third party solutions. In the image storage section, the reader will find a detailed analysis of all the various storage mediums for the D1 series, with a special focus on the IBM microdrive.

The book next gives a very detailed analysis of the various image formats, i.e.JPG, TIF and NEF. Thom gives a good explanation of when and why each format should be used. Pay special attention to Thom's information on jpg artifacts and the usage of exif information. In the section on raw or nef files, the reader will find a very comprehensive discussion on a subject I feel is very misunderstood by most photographers. This is followed by a run down of all the setup options and how best to access them. The improvements Nikon made in this area with the newer D1x and D1h are duly noted. Take special note of pages 76 & 77 as Thom not only gives the reason for the famous Japanese menu reset of the D1x but also gives a way to fix it. In my research, Nikon never published this information anywhere and kudos to Thom for getting it out.

 

EXPOSURE & WHITE BALANCE

 
The next two main sections cover exposure and white balance. Thom covers in extreme detail the 4 basic exposure modes of the D1 family. He then covers the all-important histogram and the new "highlight" option for evaluating exposure the later feature is a new option with the D1x and D1h. Even more detail on histograms is given later in the book. He follows next with a breakdown on the D1 families' ISO sensitivity ranging from the normal settings to the step or push values of 3200 and 6400. In this section the reader will learn steps/methods to enable you to shoot with these higher ISO settings along with the possible compromises. In the white balance section, the basic concept of how white balance works is defined along with why it's so important a setting to consider with a digital camera.
 
LENSES, FOCUS CONTROLS & SHARPENING
 
I found all the necessary information to understand how all the different Nikkor lenses work with the various versions of the D1 family in the Lens and Focus section. You can also learn about the various autofocus settings here. I would recommend this portion to anyone using a D1x since there have been so many complaints about back focusing recently. In the past I have found Nikon's user manuals very lacking when the various AF modes are described. In this book the subject is handled in a very straightforward manner, which aids in the learning curve. Then comes a section, which is an excellent analysis of the various sharpening settings of the camera and recommendations as to their use.
 
SHOOTING CONTROLS
 
The subject of shooting controls is next covered in depth. The topics include the physical shutter releases, reasons for shutter lag and the various continuous speeds of the three camera bodies while shooting raw, jpg and tif. A natural progression in the book is a section on the actual shooting menus of the D1x and D1h and the numerous error messages generated by the camera. These errors are shown on the page with the actual Nikon camera error code on the left of the page with the description of the error to the right.
 
PLAYBACK
 
One of my primary reasons for switching to digital was the unique ability to preview my work. I could now edit out all the images I felt were flawed with the playback option. However the process of image playback on the D1 series can be fraught with perils. Unlike a roll of film, everything you capture is in electronic bits and bytes. One mistake with the wrong series of buttons and you have lost hours worth of work. In the playback section of Thom's book every facet of playback is covered including frame playback, thumbnails, deletion, protection, hiding images and the unique Digital Print Order Format (DPOF). Hooking up to a TV is also covered in this section.
 
CUSTOM FUNCTIONS
 
In the heart of the book, Thom covers the 36 custom functions of the D1 family. Each CSM (Custom Function) is listed by its name followed by the CSM number. Thom lists each camera by each function then gives a detailed description of what each function controls. The various ways to access these functions is camera dependent and again the subject is given good attention. The methodology is very straightforward. A definition of the specific function is given followed by the way to access the function. As this is dependent on the camera a recommendation section is included where the reader can find advice on usage of that specific function. Since the D1x and D1h allow for the custom functions to be controlled with the camera's LCD, Thom has a picture of the appropriate screen shown on the LCD as that function is accessed. I have always felt that Nikon was very unclear on many of these functions, however after reading through this portion of the book, I gained appreciable knowledge.
 
FIELD USAGE
 
Any issue of Field usage of the D1 family is covered very well. This includes a "routine" that Thom outlines. The routine is a series of steps the photographer should take before using a D1 Series camera. Things like basic camera settings that should only be changed once, checks you should make before each shoot, and things to do after you have finished a shoot. One of these, transferring files to your computer ASAP, is a real key point. The longer you wait to transfer the more chance you have of losing those particular images. I have made this mistake before. He then passes on some tips for camera use in bright light and operating temperature considerations.
 
FOCAL LENGTH LIMITATIONS
 
The section on "Focal Length Limitations" gets special applause from me. Here the whole issue of the 1.5x focal length magnification factor I feel, is put to bed. Many people still think that a 400mm lens on a D1 camera will become a 600mm lens due to the 1.5x factor and this, in my opinion is untrue. Thom's discussion makes this point quite clearly. He continues with a good comparison of lens differences when used with either 35mm film bodies or the D1. This discussion includes an excellent chart mapping the various 35mm focal lengths to 35mm view and the D1 family 1.5x magnification factor.
 
LIGHTING AND FLASH
 

Thom's book then covers some very important lighting considerations. These include UV, infrared and fluorescent. There is special focus on how the D1's CCD reacts to various lighting. The subject of Colorspace, sRGB or Adobe sRGB is handled next in consideration to the D1x and D1h.

With any camera, the use of flash is a key element to any total camera system. Thom's book spends over 20 pages covering every aspect when using flash on the D1 family. This starts with a full section on the various flash modes of the camera, such as "multi-sensor balanced fill flash" one of the (4) TTL modes and provides notes on each mode's uses and advantages. The other flash modes such as "slow sync" and "red-eye reduction" are also covered. Each mode is thoroughly discussed in detail, however Thom also mentions that even more details on the modes/and flashes are available in his separate book, the Nikon Flash Guide. (350 pages, $19.95 and also available from the www.bythom.com site)

Thom now takes the reader even deeper in the usage of the SB-28DX, Nikon's high-end flash made to work with the D1 series of cameras. Every feature of the flash is covered including a series of charts showing the guide numbers of the SB-28DX at various ISO settings. I would have liked to see a diagram showing the flash's LCD and all the corresponding definitions. After the SB-28DX, there follows a listing of all the other current Nikon Flashes and their operation considerations with the D1 family. I found the entire flash section worth the cost of this book alone. When I purchased my SB-28DX, I basically received a SB-28DX manual with a foldout on the "extra" features of the DX unit. It was very little information on a very complicated flash. After reading this section I also realized my flash has a European external power connector, even though a U.S. dealer sold it to me.

 
CLEANING
 
Cleaning notes for both the CCD, mirror box, and camera are included next. Any D1 owner should read this section. Throughout the various web based forums are constant questions about cleaning the CCD. Thom covers all the bases, especially why you should not be cleaning with the camera's bulb setting. Cleaning is a subject that gets a lot of airtime. I would recommend reading this section and using it as a baseline before you develop your own cleaning process.
 
IMAGE SOFTWARE & ACCESSORIES
 

The last couple of sections cover working with D1 camera images and the available Nikon accessories for the camera. Within the Image section you will find an excellent description of Nikon's software i.e. Nikon View and Capture 2. Thom covers all the highpoints of each. He then talks about two non-Nikon packages, Bibble and Qimage and gives advise on their use. Then comes a section, which covers when one of these software packages should be used. The book closes with a section that covers the cameras specifications including the use of a GPS. I have never seen anything from Nikon on this subject of GPS use; expect a statement from them in the Nikon owner's manual that it works. In Thom's step-by-step guide, you now will find this a workable process.

In conclusion, I would have to say, go out and buy this book, in fact you might want to spend some time on Thom's website as he has a wealth of information regarding the Nikon product line. I only wish that the book could be printed out in a smaller format so you could carry it in the field. It can totally replace the Nikon User's Manual. Thom has also started a quarterly report, which readers can subscribe to. This is an annual subscription service that costs $69.95 per year. In it, the reader will find new articles on camera use, software reviews, and much more.

 
Paul Caldwell
 
 

Thom Hogan's "D1 Report" Vol. 1 Issue 1

review note by Uwe Steinmueller

 

We just received the first issue of the "D1 Report" by Thom Hogan.

Issue 1 covers (this is not a complete list):

  • Focus Sensors on the D1 Models
  • Higher ISO or Longer Shutter Speed (which results in higher rate of artifacts)
  • D1 TTL observations
  • Recognizing Image Artifacts (Describes 11 different types of artifacts)
  • Bibble, Capture or Qimage

The "D1 Report" is good reading and you will find some interesting insights into the use of your D1/D1x/D1h.

 
 

Thom Hogan's "D1 Report" Vol. 1 Issue 2

 

Issue 2 shipped. It covers:

  • White Balance
  • Getting Flash right
  • Color Management