Digital Outback Photo
- Photography using Digital SLRs


 

D1X: Eastern Sierra Experience

A review by Uwe Steinmueller @Digital Outback Photo

Also photos by Bettina Steinmueller

 

Last Updated (07/08/2001)

 
This review is part of the "D1X Experience Report"
 
We have taken more than 1000 D1x NEF photographs (plus 140 D1 photos) during our one week stay in the Eastern Sierra (base was in Mammoth Lakes). The main places have been are Bodie, Mono Lake and the White Mountains. It will take a couple of days to work through all these photos. This page will show some photos we like and the lesson we learned using the D1x.
 
Lesson 1: Saturation
 

Grass at Mono Lake South Tufa (Bibble 2.99, saturation enhanced)

 

In some way the D/D1x are rendering the color very truthfully. But if you compare this to photos taken with Velvia film you are often missing more saturation. Have a look at our article about "Digital Velvia".

We had the pleasure during our stay to visit Galen Rowell's new gallery in Bishop. The many Lightjet prints demonstrate that good saturation/color/contrast is needed to provide prints with some "punch".

 

South Tufa Impression (Bibble 2.99, saturation enhanced)

 
Lesson 2: Dust and real Birds
 

Mono Lake South Tufa (Bibble 2.99 + dust spots)

 
Dust on the CCD is the main issue with the D1x and other digital SLRs with interchangeable lenses. The Kodak 760 and the Fuji S1 have the advantage that they fully support the use of Sensor Swabs for cleaning. Nikon only supports the use of a hand blower or sending in the camera (not really a practical solution).
 

Crop of the image above (original 3008x1960)

 
The dust spots in the sky are not difficult to retouch in Photoshop (using the clone tool) but the spot in the mountain top is far more difficult to remove. One spot is actually a real bird.
 
After some retouching (took about 2 minutes for this photo to remove the about 20 dust spots), a few curves and adding saturation we got this final result
 

Mono Lake South Tufa

 
Lesson 3: Be aware of the Histogram
 

Mono Lake: California Gull catching Alkali Flies (Bibble 2.99)

 

We watch all the time the histogram with the D1x. There should never be a spike on the right side as this means lost highlights. Very good is the fact that you can set the D1x to auto preview and so show the histogram about 2-3 seconds after the photo was taken. With the D1 we had to wait forever using a Microdrive!

The above photo had a little spike on the right and is not really technically optimal. We have the impression that it is more difficult to read the D1x histogram and find out these little spikes. If there is a spike visible then the highlights are lost anyway. But small spikes like in the above photo are very difficult to analyze.

 
Lesson 4: Low Shadow noise and Good Resolution at ISO 125
 

Bodie School (photographed through a dirty window)

 
We loved this scene when we were in Bodie for the first time three years ago. Here is the catch: we photographed this through the dirty window from a tripod. On the other side this contributes to the soft impression of the photo.
 

Crop demonstrates smooth details

 

Very low shadow noise

 

 

 
Lesson 5: Good color (auto WB works)
 
During our trip will exclusively used "Auto WB" (white balance) and got colors which were very close to what we remembered. That we like some enhanced saturation was covered in lesson #1
 

Chipmunk in Mammoth Lakes (AF-S 300 f/4 + TC-14E)

 
Nature colors are rendered very beautiful with the D1x and also the resolution helps to portrait creatures like this Chipmunk. The fur looks much softer and smoother than photos taken with the D1.
 

Mountains near Bishop (AF-S 80-200 f/2.8)

 
The D1x also could capture this early morning light quite nicely. Removing the dust took again about two minutes in Photoshop.
 
Lesson 6: Cropping is no problem
 

Wilson's Phalarope at Mono Lake

 
This photo of Wilson's phalaropes at the Mono Lake County Park needs a crop to get rid of the destructing foreground.
 
 
No problem with D1x photos. Due to the high resolution this crop could be easily printed on our letter-sized Olympus P-400 printer. Below is a crop of the full resolution image.
 

Saturation enhanced and sharpened

 
 
Conclusion
 

The D1x is really a very impressive camera and builds on the strength of the D1 while removing some of its weaknesses. Resolution is there and the discussion about the strange CCD layout is mute if you look at the convincing results. Some other digital cameras provide more "punch" with the resulting photos. In our opinion the color rendering of the D1x is very accurate but some might like a bit more saturation (see lesson #1).

There is this strange bug which changes the menu language to Japanese and also the image counter to 1. As of now the only serious problem we found was again dealing with dust on the CCD. In the news groups there exists a whole subculture dealing with hot recipes how to clean a D1/D1x CCD. Would be nice if Nikon came up with a more reasonable solution than sending in the camera.

 
 

 

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