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Nikon officially unveils D1H, D1X digital SLR cameras  
Monday, February 5, 2001 | by
Leaks across the Web last week have now been validated: Nikon this morning officially announced two new digital SLR cameras aimed at the professional market, both of which retain the strengths of the D1 while tackling some of that camera's more glaring weaknesses.

One is aimed at photojournalism and other fast-moving forms of photography. It's called the D1H. It features a 5 fps frame rate, gigantic 40 frame buffer, an ISO range of 200-1600 and the same 7.5 MB, 2000 x 1312 pixel image size and 1.5x effective focal length magnification as the current D1. The D1H is due to ship this summer with an anticipated street price of US$4500 in the US.


Nikon D1H digital SLR (specifications)

Its higher-resolution counterpart is called the D1X. The D1X fires at 3 fps for 9 frames, has an ISO range of ISO 125-800 and, because its CCD is the same physical size as that of the D1 and D1H, it shares the same 1.5x effective focal length magnification. The jury for now is way out on whether the D1X's 16.9 MB images will provide comparable sharpness and detail to competing cameras like Kodak's DCS 660, since some serious digital alchemy enables the 4024 x 1324 pixel CCD array to output either 3008 x 1960 pixel or 2000 x 1312 pixel photos. The D1X is slated to ship this spring at an anticipated street price of US$5500 in the US.


Nikon D1X digital SLR (specifications)

What's new in the D1H and D1X

In most respects, the D1H and D1X are the same. They share the same basic design of the D1, including that camera's weight, dimensions and many of its controls. As a result, the D1H and D1X should retain the D1's superb "cameraness." This is a phrase that Nikon staff use a lot to describe the D1's similarity to the F5 and F100, and it's an apt description. In conversations with Nikon USA's Richard Lopinto about the new digital duo, it became clear that Nikon has expended most of their energy tackling some, though not necessarily all, of the digital facets of the D1 that D1 users have found troublesome. These include:

  • Colour quality. Colour processing has been retuned to produce skin tones that Lopinto described as "gorgeous," based on his examination of photos processed through the upcoming Nikon Capture 2.0. It's expected that the camera's internal processing will deliver similarly-improved colour. Photographers will be able to choose the in-camera colour space that images will be processed within. Previously this was fixed at NTSC; now, either sRGB or Adobe RGB may be selected.

  • Noise. Everything that produces noise in the original D1 has been re-engineered to minimize noise in the D1H and D1X at all ISO settings. Lopinto calls this the new cameras' "total system anti-noise design." ISO is now settable in 1/3 or 1/2 stop increments too, which is a small but welcome change that will help limit the amount of noise in some photos by enabling the photographer to sometimes choose, say, ISO 1000, instead of being forced to jump to ISO 1600 when the light level is too dim for ISO 800.

  • Flash. Nikon has built a new TTL flash algorithm into the D1X and D1H that it's hoped will make the SB-28DX's TTL flash more consistent in those situations where it's inconsistent now: bounce photography and anything shot against a dark, distant background. Nikon has also introduced a new flash, the SB-50DX. It's a lower-power variant of the SB-28DX that includes wireless flash triggering a la Canon's 420EX and 550EX. Note that the SB-28DX itself remains the same. It you step up from a D1 to a D1H or D1X you will not need a new SB-28DX to benefit from any TTL flash improvements in the new cameras.


Nikon SB-50DX flash

  • 3D Matrix Image Control. This Nikon phrase describes these three musketeers: 3D Color Matrix Metering, TTL White Balance and Tone Compensation. All three have been revamped for more accurate metering, more reliable automatic white balance and more reliable automatic tone compensation. Of the three, TTL White Balance needed the most attention; it will be interesting to see if it is improved, since, like the D1, the D1H and D1X still use colour information gleaned from the 1005 pixel CCD that first appeared as part of the exposure metering system in the F5. Competing cameras, including the Canon EOS D30, determine automatic white balance from the image data itself, which would seem to be a more effective way to do it. Time will tell if Nikon now has an auto white balance system that can match or exceed the capabilities of its rivals.

  • Image transfer speed. Both the speed at which photos are written to CompactFlash cards in the camera, and the speed at which photos are transferred via FireWire from the camera, is said to be increased. Since the D1's write and FireWire transfer speed is quite slow, any speed improvement is welcome.

  • Microdrive compatibility. Nikon has officially blessed the 1GB Microdrive for use with the D1H and D1X; 512MB Microdrive compatibility is expected too, but has not been announced (though a D1H/D1X brochure on Nikon's web site cites 512MB Microdrive compatibility). When the new-design 340MB Microdrive is available (it's not in retail channels yet), I presume that it may also be dubbed compatible, though Nikon USA's press release specifically excludes the current-design 340MB Microdrive from their compatibility list.

  • Playback. Gone is a dedicated Playback mode, one in which the camera cannot shoot pictures if necessary. The D1X and D1H feature a one-button playback mode that will disengage automatically and instantly when the shutter button is pressed to take a picture. The rear LCD monitor is now the same aspect ratio as the image itself, for more accurate review of photos. And in a nod to users like myself who frequently change Custom Settings, all 35 of them in the new cameras may be read and set on the monitor. Bye bye cheat sheet! Also new is an image zoom and pan function, similar to many amateur digital cameras.

  • Storable Presets. The Preset WB feature of the D1 is powerful, but limited by the fact that only one Preset may be stored at a time. The D1H and D1X up the number of storable Presets to three. Many other limitations make the Preset WB in the D1 overly difficult to use, including the fact that one must completely fill the frame with a neutral object, and expose the neutral object very carefully, to ensure a successful Preset. It's not clear whether Nikon has stamped out these limitations as well.

  • RAW format usability. One of the best new features of the new cameras has the potential to be one of the worst new features of the new cameras, unless Nikon supports third party developers fully in the use of it. The feature I'm referring to is lossless compression of RAW format files in the camera. This should increase the speed at which the D1H and D1X write and review RAW files, which is a very good thing, since the current D1's uncompressed RAW file size is almost 4 MB. Shrinking it to 3 MB, or, if I may dare to dream for a moment, 2 MB, would move the RAW format way up the usability scale. Compressing the RAW data, however, is analogous to encrypting it; independent software developers, including Eric Hyman of Bibble/MacBibble fame, may not be able to add support for compressed RAW files without direct assistance from Nikon. This assistance would most likely take the form of a software development kit (SDK) that allows near-full access to RAW processing parameters. Nikon's current D1 SDK falls well short of providing that level of processing control. I'm cautiously optimistic about the benefits of a compressed RAW file, but I have no plans to uncork the champagne until its clear that the software available for processing compressed RAW files will provide what photojournalists need to make RAW useful.

It would appear that Nikon engineers have thrown themselves into building a better D1, and have created two new cameras in the process. D1 shooters have groused long and loud about flash exposure reliability, the infamous Magenta Cast colour problems and more, and it would appear that Nikon was listening. How effective their solutions to these problems are remains to be seen of course.

Also unknown about the new cameras is whether they will integrate better into an efficient, quality-focused press photographer workflow. From easy in-camera image tagging and better quality thumbnails through to software that unlocks the exposure and white balancing fixing capabilities of the RAW format, there is much that I would like to see in the new cameras that Nikon may or may not have addressed.

The first opportunity to see the new models will be at the PMA trade show in Orlando Florida, February 11 - 14. Nikon D1X production units will be on hand above the counter for photographers to examine; the D1H will be shown under glass only. For those wishing to turn their D1 into one of the new cameras will be disappointed: Nikon has ruled out a D1X/D1H upgrade. Citing the much-changed internal component layout of the camera and the fact that to implement the upgrade would not be cost-effective for the end user, Richard Lopinto says a D1 upgrade will not be offered.

Note that Nikon today lowered the price of the D1, which will not be discontinued when the D1H and D1X ship. See Nikon D1 price drops approximately US$500 for more information.

Below are the specifications for the D1H and the D1X, as supplied by Nikon. "Richard" on the D1 Discussion List notes a D1H/D1X brochure on Nikon's web site.

Nikon D1H specifications

Type of camera Lens-interchangeable digital SLR camera
CCD 23.7 x 15.6mm RGB CCD;
2.74 million total pixels;
2.66-million effective pixels (2,014 x 1,324 array);
captures 12-bit, full-colour image
Recording pixels 2,000 x 1,312
Sensitivity ISO equivalency 200-1,600 (variable in 1/3, 1/2 or 1 EV steps)
Storage System: Digitally stored; JPEG Baseline (approx. 1/4, 1/8 1/16 compressed), uncompressed (12-bit RAW*, 8-bit YCbCr-TIFF, 8-bit RGB-TIFF), monochrome mode. Losslessly-compressed RAW mode also available.

Media: CompactFlash™ (CF) Card (Type I/II) and 1GB Microdrive™

Shooting modes 1) Single frame shooting (S) mode: advances one frame for each shutter release; capture preview mode available
2) Continuous Shooting (C) mode: approx. 5 frames per sec. (up to 40 consecutive shots)
3) Self-timer mode: time duration can be set
4) Playback mode: playback, menu setting
5) PC mode: data transfer via personal computer
White balance 1) Auto (TTL Control with 1,005-pixel CCD, 2) Manual (6 settings with fine tuning), 3) Preset (3 settings)
LCD monitor 2-inch, 130,000-dot, low temp. polysilicon TFT LCD with LED backlighting; backlight/brightness adjustment available
Playback menu 1) Protect setting, 2) Hide setting, 3) NTSC/PAL switching, 4) Indication directory switching
Playback function 1) 1 frame, 2)Thumbnail (4/9 segments), 3) Slide show, 4) Enlarged playback, 5) Histogram indication, highlight point display and focus confirmation indication
Delete function 1) Card format, 2) All frames delete, 3) Selected frames delete
Video output NTSC or PAL (switchable)
Interface IEEE1394; RS-232C [GPS unit (not Nikon product) connection]
Usable lenses 1) D-type AF Nikkor: All functions possible, 2) D-type Manual Focus Nikkor: All functions except autofocus possible, 3) AF Nikkor other than D-type: All functions except 3D Color Matrix Metering and 3D Multi-Sensor Balanced Fill-Flash for D1-series possible, 4) AI-P Nikkor: All functions except 3D Color Matrix Metering, 3D Multi-Sensor Balanced Fill-Flash for D1 and autofocus possible, 5) Non-CPU: Usable in [A] or [M] mode Center-Weighted or Spot Metering; Electronic Rangefinder usable with lens with maximum aperture of f/5.6 or faster
Picture angle Approx. 1.5x focal length in 35mm [135] format equivalent
Viewfinder Optical-type fixed-eye level pentaprism; built-in diopter adjustment (-3 to +1 m-1); eyepiece shutter provided
Eyepoint 22mm (at -1.0 m-1)
Focusing screen B-type BriteView clear Matte screen III; interchangeable with optional E-type screen with grid for D1-series
Viewfinder frame coverage Approx. 96%
Viewfinder magnification Approx. 0.8x with 50mm lens set to infinity and -1.0m-1
Viewfinder information Focus indications, shutter speed, aperture, exposure mode, metering system, shutter speed lock, aperture lock, AE lock, electronic analog display, frame counter, ready-light, five sets of focus brackets (area)
Reflex mirror Automatic, instant-return type
Lens aperture Instant-return type, with depth-of-field preview button
Autofocus TTL phase detection, Nikon Multi-CAM1300 autofocus module; Detection range: EV -1 to EV 19 (ISO 100 equivalent, at normal temperature)
Lens servo 1) Single Servo AF (S), 2) Continuous Servo AF (C), 3) Manual focus (M), Focus Tracking automatically activated by subject's status in (S) or (C) AF
Focus area One of five focus areas can be selected
AF area mode 1) Single Area AF, 2) Dynamic AF (Dynamic AF Mode with Closest Subject Priority is available)
Focus lock Focus is locked by pressing AE-L/AF-L button or lightly pressing shutter release button in (S) AF
Exposure metering system TTL full-aperture exposure metering system; 1) 3D Color Matrix Metering with 1,005-pixel CCD, 2) Center-Weighted Metering (75% of the meter's sensitivity concentrated on the 8mm diameter circle), 3) Spot Metering (4mm diameter circle, approx. 2% of entire frame)
Exposure metering range 1) 3D Color Matrix Metering: EV 0-20, 2) Centre-Weighted Metering: EV 0-20, 3) Spot Metering: EV 2-20 (at normal temperature, ISO 100 equivalent, f/1.4 lens)
Exposure meter coupling CPU and AI combined
Exposure mode 1) [P] Programmed Auto (Flexible Program possible),
2) [S] Shutter-Priority Auto, 3) [A] Aperture-Priority Auto, 4)[M] Manual; shutter speed/aperture adjustable in 1/2 or 1/3 EV steps
Exposure compensation Exposure compensated in ±5 EV range in 1/2 or 1/3 EV steps
Auto exposure lock Detected exposure value locked by pressing AE-L/AF-L button
Auto exposure bracketing Number of shots: two or three
Compensation steps: 1/3, 1/2, 2/3 or 1 step
Shutter Charge-coupled electronic and mechanical shutter; 30 to 1/16,000 sec. and Bulb
Sync contact X-contact only; flash synchronization up to 1/500 sec.
Flash control 1) Automatic Balanced Fill-Flash controlled by five-segment TTL Multi-Sensor:

* 3D Multi-Sensor Balanced Fill-Flash for D1-series when used with SB-28DX/SB-50DX and D-type Nikkor lens
* Multi-Sensor Balanced Fill-Flash when used with Sb-28DX/SB-50DX and AF Nikkor other than D-type, AI-P Nikkor lens


2) AA (Auto Aperture) - type Flash available when used with SB-28DX/SB-50DX and lens with built-in CPU
3) Non-TTL Auto Flash with a Speedlight such as SB-28DX, 50DX, 28, 27, 22s etc.
Flash sync mode 1) Front-Curtain Sync (normal sync), 2) Red-Eye Reduction, 3) Redeye Reduction with Slow Sync, 4) Slow Sync, 5) Rear-Curtain Sync
Ready-light Lights up when flash fully charged with Speedlight SB-28DX, 50DX, 28, 27, 22s; blinks (3 sec. after flash) for full output warning
Accessory shoe Standard ISO-type hot-shoe contact; safety lock provided
Sync terminal Standard JIS terminal, lock screw provided
Self-timer Electronically controlled, timer duration 2-20 sec.
Depth-of-field preview button Stop-down lens aperture by pressing depth-of-field preview button
LCD panel information Top LCD panel: Exposure value (shutter speed/aperture), exposure mode, exposure compensation, exposure compensation value, aperture/shutter speed lock, flash sync mode, focus area, exposure bracketing information, electronic analog display, battery power, CF Card confirmation, number of shots taken, number of shots remaining, frame number at playback battery power for built-in clock, date/time
Rear LCD panel: Number of shots remaining, sensitivity, white balance mode, image quality mode, monochrome mode, CF card status, Custom function, number of pixels
Remote control Via 10-pin remote terminal
Power requirements Ni-Mh Battery Pack EN-4 (7.2V DC), Quick Charger MH-17 (12V DC) /16/15; AC Adapter EH-4 (100-240V AC)
Tripod socket 1/4 in. (JIS)
Custom settings 35 settings can be selected on LCD
Dimensions
(W x H x D)
Approx. 157 x 153 x 85mm (6.2 x 6.1 x 3.4 inch)
Weight (without batteries) Approx. 1.1kg (2.5 lbs)
Nikon USA standard accessories (likely to vary by region) Neck strap, video cable, Nikon View 4 Software, rechargeable battery EN-4, Quick Charger MH-16, body cap BF-1A.
Nikon USA optional accessories AC Adapter EH-4, replacement/additional batteries EN-4, Nikon Capture 2.0 Software, IEEE-1394 Connecting cable SC-D1, E-Type Interchangeable Focusing Screen, MH-17 Automobile Recharge Adapter

Nikon D1X specifications

Type of camera Lens-interchangeable digital SLR camera
CCD 23.7 x 15.6mm RGB CCD;
5.47 million total pixels;
5.32-million effective pixels (4,024 x 1,324 array);
captures 12-bit full-colour image
Recording pixels 3,008 x 1,960/2,000 x 1,312
Sensitivity ISO equivalency 125-800 (variable in 1/3, 1/2 or 1 EV steps)
Storage System: Digitally stored; JPEG Baseline (approx. 1/4, 1/8 1/16 compressed), uncompressed (12-bit RAW*, 8-bit YCbCr-TIFF, 8-bit RGB-TIFF), monochrome mode. Losslessly-compressed RAW mode also available.

Media: CompactFlash™ (CF) Card (Type I/II) and 1GB Microdrive™

Shooting modes 1) Single frame shooting (S) mode: advances one frame for each shutter release; capture preview mode available
2) Continuous Shooting (C) mode: approx. 3 frames per sec. (up to 9 consecutive shots)
3) Self-timer mode: time duration can be set
4) Playback mode: playback, menu setting
5) PC mode: data transfer via personal computer
White balance 1) Auto (TTL Control with 1,005-pixel CCD, 2) Manual (6 settings with fine tuning), 3) Preset (3 settings)
LCD monitor 2-inch, 130,000-dot, low temp. polysilicon TFT LCD with LED backlighting; backlight/brightness adjustment available
Playback menu 1) Protect setting, 2) Hide setting, 3) NTSC/PAL switching, 4) Indication directory switching
Playback function 1) 1 frame, 2)Thumbnail (4/9 segments), 3) Slide show, 4) Enlarged playback, 5) Histogram indication, highlight point display and focus confirmation indication
Delete function 1) Card format, 2) All frames delete, 3) Selected frames delete
Video output NTSC or PAL (switchable)
Interface IEEE1394; RS-232C [GPS unit (not Nikon product) connection]
Usable lenses 1) D-type AF Nikkor: All functions possible, 2) D-type Manual Focus Nikkor: All functions except autofocus possible, 3) AF Nikkor other than D-type: All functions except 3D Color Matrix Metering and 3D Multi-Sensor Balanced Fill-Flash for D1-series possible, 4) AI-P Nikkor: All functions except 3D Color Matrix Metering, 3D Multi-Sensor Balanced Fill-Flash for D1 and autofocus possible, 5) Non-CPU: Usable in [A] or [M] mode Center-Weighted or Spot Metering; Electronic Rangefinder usable with lens with maximum aperture of f/5.6 or faster
Picture angle Approx. 1.5x focal length in 35mm [135] format equivalent
Viewfinder Optical-type fixed-eye level pentaprism; built-in diopter adjustment (-3 to +1 m-1); eyepiece shutter provided
Eyepoint 22mm (at -1.0 m-1)
Focusing screen B-type BriteView clear Matte screen III; interchangeable with optional E-type screen with grid for D1-series
Viewfinder frame coverage Approx. 96%
Viewfinder magnification Approx. 0.8x with 50mm lens set to infinity and -1.0m-1
Viewfinder information Focus indications, shutter speed, aperture, exposure mode, metering system, shutter speed lock, aperture lock, AE lock, electronic analog display, frame counter, ready-light, five sets of focus brackets (area)
Reflex mirror Automatic, instant-return type
Lens aperture Instant-return type, with depth-of-field preview button
Autofocus TTL phase detection, Nikon Multi-CAM1300 autofocus module; Detection range: EV -1 to EV 19 (ISO 100 equivalent, at normal temperature)
Lens servo 1) Single Servo AF (S), 2) Continuous Servo AF (C), 3) Manual focus (M), Focus Tracking automatically activated by subject's status in (S) or (C) AF
Focus area One of five focus areas can be selected
AF area mode 1) Single Area AF, 2) Dynamic AF (Dynamic AF Mode with Closest Subject Priority is available)
Focus lock Focus is locked by pressing AE-L/AF-L button or lightly pressing shutter release button in (S) AF
Exposure metering system TTL full-aperture exposure metering system; 1) 3D Color Matrix Metering with 1,005-pixel CCD, 2) Center-Weighted Metering (75% of the meter's sensitivity concentrated on the 8mm diameter circle), 3) Spot Metering (4mm diameter circle, approx. 2% of entire frame)
Exposure metering range 1) 3D Color Matrix Metering: EV 0-20, 2) Centre-Weighted Metering: EV 0-20, 3) Spot Metering: EV 2-20 (at normal temperature, ISO 100 equivalent, f/1.4 lens)
Exposure meter coupling CPU and AI combined
Exposure mode 1) [P] Programmed Auto (Flexible Program possible),
2) [S] Shutter-Priority Auto, 3) [A] Aperture-Priority Auto, 4)[M] Manual; shutter speed/aperture adjustable in 1/2 or 1/3 EV steps
Exposure compensation Exposure compensated in ±5 EV range in 1/2 or 1/3 EV steps
Auto exposure lock Detected exposure value locked by pressing AE-L/AF-L button
Auto exposure bracketing Number of shots: two or three
Compensation steps: 1/3, 1/2, 2/3 or 1 step
Shutter Charge-coupled electronic and mechanical shutter; 30 to 1/16,000 sec. and Bulb
Sync contact X-contact only; flash synchronization up to 1/500 sec.
Flash control 1) Automatic Balanced Fill-Flash controlled by five-segment TTL Multi-Sensor:

* 3D Multi-Sensor Balanced Fill-Flash for D1-series when used with SB-28DX/SB-50DX and D-type Nikkor lens
* Multi-Sensor Balanced Fill-Flash when used with Sb-28DX/SB-50DX and AF Nikkor other than D-type, AI-P Nikkor lens


2) AA (Auto Aperture) - type Flash available when used with SB-28DX/SB-50DX and lens with built-in CPU
3) Non-TTL Auto Flash with a Speedlight such as SB-28DX, 50DX, 28, 27, 22s etc.
Flash sync mode 1) Front-Curtain Sync (normal sync), 2) Red-Eye Reduction, 3) Redeye Reduction with Slow Sync, 4) Slow Sync, 5) Rear-Curtain Sync
Ready-light Lights up when flash fully charged with Speedlight SB-28DX, 50DX, 28, 27, 22s; blinks (3 sec. after flash) for full output warning
Accessory shoe Standard ISO-type hot-shoe contact; safety lock provided
Sync terminal Standard JIS terminal, lock screw provided
Self-timer Electronically controlled, timer duration 2-20 sec.
Depth-of-field preview button Stop-down lens aperture by pressing depth-of-field preview button
LCD panel information Top LCD panel: Exposure value (shutter speed/aperture), exposure mode, exposure compensation, exposure compensation value, aperture/shutter speed lock, flash sync mode, focus area, exposure bracketing information, electronic analog display, battery power, CF Card confirmation, number of shots taken, number of shots remaining, frame number at playback battery power for built-in clock, date/time
Rear LCD panel: Number of shots remaining, sensitivity, white balance mode, image quality mode, monochrome mode, CF card status, Custom function, number of pixels (M/L)
Remote control Via 10-pin remote terminal
Power requirements Ni-Mh Battery Pack EN-4 (7.2V DC), Quick Charger MH-17 (12V DC)/16/15; AC Adapter EH-4 (100-240V AC)
Tripod socket 1/4 in. (JIS)
Custom settings 35 settings can be selected on LCD
Dimensions
(W x H x D)
Approx. 157 x 153 x 85mm (6.2 x 6.1 x 3.4 inch)
Weight (without batteries) Approx. 1.1kg (2.5 lbs)
Nikon USA standard accessories (likely to vary by region) Neck strap, video cable, Nikon View 4 Software, rechargeable battery EN-4, Quick Charger MH-16, body cap BF-1A.
Nikon USA optional accessories AC Adapter EH-4, replacement/additional batteries EN-4, Nikon Capture 2.0 Software, IEEE-1394 Connecting cable SC-D1, E-Type Interchangeable Focusing Screen, MH-17 Automobile Recharge Adapter

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