Digital Outback Photo
- Photography using Digital SLRs

"D30 from a Nikon shooter's perspective - First Impressions"

by Curt Austin

I bought a D30 to serve as a second body. A lot cheaper than another D-1, and I would get a foot in both camps. I will get confused from time to time over the controls, of course. The strategy was to use the D-1 long, and the D30 short (where AF speed is not a big issue).

But the first lens I got was the IS 28-105. Medium. It was cheap, and I was dying for the image stabilization.

The IS lens is wonderful, so the new strategy is to use the D-1 long or short (I got the 18-35), and the D30 medium.

Anyway, my first impressions, leaving out some of the things that are well-known to those that read forums such as this one:

Actually weighs more than a D-1, with lens and flash attached.

Goes forever on two lithium batteries in the vertical grip (booster in Canon-speak).

Comes with things that Nikon treats as high-margin accessories, like capture software, AC adaptor, two-place charger with progress indicators.

Note that a Canon representative participates in D30 forum. Nikon adheres to strict secrecy (something that encouraged me to try Canon). On the other hand, Canon rep currently in denial over flash issues.

You can see the preflash through the lens! Interesting.

You don't need to stick a Custom Function cheat sheet on the D30 - the LCD monitor explains them to you.

Lots of things are changed via the monitor. It is intuitive and fast, readable in bright light.

The batteries are strong enough, or the system is efficient enough, so you can leave the monitor in "review" mode all the time.

In aperture priority mode, the default behavior is "slow synch" - rarely appropriate without a tripod. You can set it to be fixed at 1/200, but that isn't so good either. Will have to change my habits.

In program mode, D30 takes focal length into account when setting shutter speed. Not that I use it often, but maybe I should. As far as I know, Nikon's stupidly ignore inverse law.

Flash system is unsophisticated compared to, say, an F5. Point, focus, recompose will not work well, although many find it does not work well in any case. Whatever the focusing point is aimed at when the picture is taken will be 18% gray, unless you program a special button and push it beforehand to set off the preflash. Most subjects will think you've taken a picture if you do this, and stop smiling.

D-1 uses a preflash system, but appears to know when you've recomposed. Or does it? I don't know. I don't trust it, and Nikon won't tell us how it really works.

Aforementioned D30 flash issue is tendency to underexpose, a lot. D-1 appears to sporadically overexpose (can be ruinous).

While D-1 manual is the best I've seen from Nikon, it is still written in a uniquely inappropriate style. Canon a little better. A few features are not described well - I don't think the writer understood them.

D-1 is built like a luxory SUV. D30 is more like a Chevy Blazer.

Canon master-slave flash system is a jaw-dropper. Like a mini-studio system with remotes.

Both Canon's and Nikon's software generates much criticism. But Canon scores big by providing software that reads RAW files and does capture. They also include the best stitching program I've ever used.

Many of these comments are innately unfair: The D30 has the advantage of being a year newer, while the D-1 has the advantage of a higher manufacturing cost target.

They are both fine cameras, I love them both.

I hope Nikon will be able to respond to the inevitable Canon assault. If a 6MP nearly-full-frame CMOS sensor is feasible, look out.