Digital Outback Photo
- Photography using Digital SLRs


 

Nikon D2h Experience Report

A review by Uwe Steinmueller @Digital Outback Photo

Also photos by Bettina Steinmueller

 

 

 
This review will be written again in the form of a diary. Most recent findings on top.
 


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If you work with Photoshop CS and Nikon Capture our e-books DOP1009 or DOP2000 are the right choice for the Nikon D2H. DOP2000 is the more complete handbook.

 

 
1/8/2004 Camera back to Nikon
 
The D2H is back to Nikon. We will only update this diary if we learn about new raw conversion options.
 

 
12/20/2003 Phil Askey's D2H Review
 

Today Phil published his D2H review. Overall he finds the D2H to be excellent. Except in the area of ISO noise the D2H seems not quite as good as the Canon competition.

Overall the D2H is and outstanding camera and the image quality is very pleasing. Also other reviewers stressed the term "filmlike".

 

 
12/17/2003 Bjorn Roerslett's D2H Review
 
We like Bjorn's photography and his reviews are always worth reading.
 

 
11/29/2003 Nikon Capture 4 Review
 
We have now our Nikon Capture 4 review online. We highly recomment NC 4 for the Nikon D2H. We have to wait when other third parties come up with their own solutions.
 

 
11/28/2003 Nikon D2h at high ISO vs. the Canon 1D
 

So far we explored the camera and image quality in terms of color. Remains the question how does the D2h perform at high ISO (mean how much noise). There are only 2 cameras to compare to:

  • Nikon D1h
  • Canon 1D

Actually only the Canon 1D can also shoot at 8 fps and is the real competition. We have also to keep in mind that the Canon 1D is now 2 years old (we personally expect an update soon, maybe PMA??).

Comparing noise is tricky and we never claimed or wanted to be a test institute. So we did a rather naive comparison of both cameras at different ISO levels and the same scene.

Also the raw converter is a big part of the equation. We used Capture One DSLR Pro for the Canon 1D files (C1 is known to do a great job on removing color noise). For the Nikon D2h we used Nikon Capture 4 (with noise removal off as we did not find a good setting in NC 4).

Note 1: With Tools like Noise Ninja and Neat Image you can clean up a lot of noise from high ISO shots

Note 2: This test also does not look into the noise you get in deep shadows as we worked in a well lit scene

We used the Nikon AF-S 28-70mm f/2.8 and Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 lenses which are both excellent zooms. The Canon 1D shots came out a bit brighter and the Nikon D2H shots have more contrast. Sharpening was done in both case with PhotoKit SHARPENER (only basic Capture Sharpening).


Our target

Nikon D2H
Canon 1D


ISO 200


ISO 200


ISO 400


ISO 400

ISO800

ISO 800

ISO 1600

ISO 1600

The Canon 1D has a slight edge at ISO 800 and 1600. But overall we think the Nikon D2h performed well. One main factor is also the noise removal in C1 that showed the 1D in better light.

 

 
11/27/2003 Nikon D2H at Santa Cruz Pier
 
We love to walk the pier in Santa Cruz to watch the birds and scenery. Unfortunately we could only see pelicans in the distance. The next images are all not cropped.
 


California Gull

We would say that the color rendition is excellent. Only a few steps in Nikon Capture 4 and Photoshop CS.


Gull's tail


Boardwalk in Santa Cruz (at 280mm/420mm effective)

The above photo shows a strong saturation that matches how we remember the reality.


Seal posing


Sleeping Seal


Seal Flippers


Gull on a lamp pole

 
The slight overcast help today a lot against burned out highlights. We have to say that the results are very nice, nothing to complain here.
 

 
11/23/2003 Nikon D2h first Impression
 

This is actually a second impression of the Nikon D2h as we had the chance to use this camera for 2 days in Cleveland in September. But in Cleveland we used the D2H in the environment of action sport photography. While this is the main market for this new camera it is not the domain we know very well.

This time we use the D2h in the context of nature and wildlife photography.

The D2h is the replacement for the Nikon D1h and also targeted against the current Canon 1D. There are actually only 2 cameras that are valid competitors:

  • Nikon's D1h (we only know the D1x very well)
  • Canon's 1D

as this is a camera capable of 8 frames/sec which matches the current leader the Canon 1D in terms of frames per second.

There are two things to any digital SLR (we borrow again terms from Rob Galbraith):

  • Cameraness
  • Digitalness

Nikon D2H is an all new Camera

 

The D2h is an all new camera and not an update from the D1h. We consider the D2h to be a statement on technology that Nikon can deliver to professional photographers (with the main market photo journalists).

Here is an incomplete list of features that are new with the D2h (many a first for Nikon and even for all digital cameras):

  • Body that is quite light but still 100% professional
  • Much larger view in the 100% viewfinder
  • Largest LCD ever available on a digital SLR with 2.5"
  • All new 11 point auto focus system
  • Light yet amazing lasting batteries (about 2000 shots possible on one charge, we did 900 shots and the battery was more than half full)
  • Much improved flash system (and the Nikon flash system was quite advanced before) that allows the cordless synchronization of multiple slaves
  • 8 fps bursts
  • Buffer can hold 40 JPGs or 24 RAW(NEF, if noise reduction is off)
  • New Nikon LBCAST sensor (Nikon says it is neither an CCD nor a CMOS sensor)
  • Instant camera on (You switch the camera on and can shoot, virtually zero wait time)
  • Virtually no shutterlag
 
Yes, the new D2H is a very impressive camera if it comes to the "cameraness". So far we don't see any fault here. Congratulations Nikon!
 

Let us summarize the features which we think are most important:

  • The viewfinder is in a new class for Nikon and rivals the Canon 1D/1Ds (we will check into it later)
  • an LCD in this size is heaven for judging exposure
  • The D1/D1x/D1h were notorious lacking enough power for longer sessions and the memory effect was painful. The D2h has the lightest and longest lasting battery we seen in any digital pro camera. Great power management!
  • The 11 point autofocus works great
  • Now even compressed NEFs are stored fast enough to be useable (3.5 - 4.7MB depending on detail level).
  • The 8 fps speak for themselves and can even be handy for us photographing wildlife.

Note: Some experts indicate that Nikon uses a "visually lossless" compression. This means for ultimate quality you might be safer to use the uncompressed NEF format. We don't see that much of a problem using compressed NEFs.

Terms:

Lossless compression: there is no data loss or truncation whatsoever

Visually Lossless compression: There is data loss but you should no be able to see the difference. But stronger image manipulation may reveal the data loss.

 
D2H Image Quality
 

As we cannot fault the "cameraness" in any aspect it all boils down to image quality.

The D2H is designed for speed and as such the resolution is limited to 4MP. But even the D1H served journalists well at 2.7 MP. So the 4MP is matching the Canon 1D and will be enough for most journalistic work. There will be always a tradeoff between speed and resolution (but we still expect Canon come out with a follow up to their 1D as next year are the Olympic games).

All the following images were converted using Nikon Capture 4.0 (we will add an overview and review of NC 4.0 later). The only other application right now that can handle D2H is Adobe Camera Raw 2.0 in PS CS. But ACR 2.0 did not get a final and official calibration for the Nikon D2H. We used mainly our Nikon AF-S 80-200mm f/2.8, Nikon AF-S 28-70 and the TC-14E tele converter. We consider these zooms to be excellent.


Rock in Tide

All our first shots were at lowest ISO (which is ISO 200 for the D2H).


Oyster Catcher (slight crop)


Rock Pattern (we call this Earthframes)

The above shot was made in full sunlight but shaded using the Lastolite Translucent Tri-Grip Reflector. We later corrected the WB using a GretagMacbeth Mini Colorchecker and added some "digital sun" to it.

Here is the shot in sunlight (watch the harsh shadows)


Same scene in harsh sunlight


Hair like algae at Point Lobos

This was photographed in full sunlight. The color reproduction is very good.

As Rob Galbraith mentioned the photos show more saturation by default. Rob likes it while we are not sure. On the other side it gives the pictures a more film like look. Overall the image quality is there at ISO 200.

We will look more into the shadow noise and higher ISO later. We also plan to take the same shots with the Canon 1D and the D2h for comparison.

Note on exposure histograms (also valid for all Canon cameras):

We as photographers want a histogram that shows all three RGB channels as the current luminosity histograms do not show blown channels (mainly red or blue). As far as we know only the Fuji S2 and the Sigma SD 10 (a bit small though) show channel histograms.

We will repeat this request until we get it in all(!) digital cameras. We already successfully influenced some raw converters to show channel histograms!

 
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