Nikon today has announced a replacement for the Nikon D2H.
Dubbed the D2Hs, the new model incorporates an improved version of the D2Hís 4.1MP LBCAST sensor, all new 12-bit image processing circuitry and other more minor refinements.
The changes in the camera, says Steve Heiner, Nikon USAís General Manager for Digital SLR and Professional Products, will add up to a better D2H. By tweaking the design of the image sensor itself, and utilizing new image processing algorithms derived from the upcoming D2X, the most significant difference between the D2H and the D2Hs is expected to be image quality. Promised is lower noise, improved colour rendition and smoother tonal gradations.
In addition, the D2Hs incorporates other refinements that bring its basic feature list up to match that of the D2X, including 3D Color Matrix II metering, RGB histogram display, compatibility - including camera remote control - with the WT-2/2a wireless transmitter and more. Burst depth is also increased, to a maximum of 50 JPEG Fine or 40 RAW (NEF) frames.
Not changed is the number of image pixels. Like the D2H, the D2Hs remains a 4.1MP camera, which means that some newspaper, sports and event photographers may well be pleased with the specifications for the new model, while other Nikon shooters whose work requires more resolution will still be looking at a D2X purchase as the most logical upgrade from any of Nikonís current and past digital SLR models.
Changes in the D2Hs
Since its inception, the single biggest complaint about the D2H from available light shooters in particular has been image quality. Our experience has been that the camera put out somewhat too-noisy files, its colour processing tended to produce overly ruddy skin tones and that in infrared-heavy light, shadow areas and darker fabrics could show a colour shift or increased noise visibility.
Weíre not sure if the infrared-related colour problems have been addressed in the tweaking of the design of the LBCAST sensor in the D2Hs, though weíre certainly hoping thatíll be the case. It does seem likely, however, that the noise and skin tone rendering will be improved, since it would make little sense for Nikon to produce the new model unless those image quality pain points were addressed.
But, as weíve not seen any image files from the D2Hs, itís impossible to say how much improved the image quality will be.
Other changes in the D2Hs are about making the new model match the core feature set of the D2X. In fact, Nikonís pair of 2005 digital SLR models should be nearly identical in operation, except in areas impacted by the different resolution of each model. So, while frame rate, burst depth and framing when the D2X is set to High Speed Crop mode will all be different, almost every other aspect of handling the two cameras should be the same.
Changes in the D2Hs, relative to the D2H, include:
Greater colour space/colour look flexibility. It will be possible to choose Adobe RGB as the output colour space for in-camera JPEGs for all Color Mode settings in the camera, if desired.
Support for Wireless Transmitter WT-1/1a and WT-2/2a. The D2Hs will be able to transmit pictures over both the slower 802.11b-only WT-1/1a and faster, more secure 802.11b/g WT-2/2a Wi-Fi wireless transmitter devices. When the latter unit is used, it will also be possible to control the D2Hs remotely over the wireless connection using Nikon Capture 4.2.1 or later (wired remote control over USB will also be possible).
Only the D2Hs will be compatible with both the WT-1/1a and WT-2/2a; the D2H will accept only the WT-1/1a, and the D2X will accept only the WT-2/2a. The D2Hs, like the D2X, utilizes the PTP/IP protocol for easier setup of the camera/computer wireless link.
Increased burst depth. The D2Hs can shoot a burst of up to 50 photos when the camera is set to JPEG Fine, an increase from the D2Hís 40. The new camera can also capture up to 40 RAW NEFs in a sequence, compared to the D2Hís 26.
3D Color Matrix Metering II. Nikon revamped the exposure calculation engine interpreting the data coming from the 1005 pixel RGB metering sensor. The goal is to improve highlight handling in particular.
Improved Auto White Balance and Auto Tone Control. The Auto White Balance (AWB) algorithm in the D2Hs is designed to work better - to produce photos that are more neutral in appearance - in low colour temperature lighting and with Speedlights in particular. The improvements in Auto Tone Controlís (ATC) functionality arenít specified (and this function seemed to work pretty darn well already in the D2H, at least when switched on in situations suited to automatic black point setting).
Faster, more precise autofocus. Focus acquisition, focus tracking and focus precision are said to be improved over the D2H. The D2Hs uses the same autofocus hardware and has the same AF feature set as the D2H (with firmware v2.0.0 loaded).
232,000 pixel rear LCD monitor. Though it has the same physical dimensions as the rear LCD monitor in the D2H, the D2Hsí 2.5 inch display is 232,000 pixels (up from 211,000 pixels) and is said to be flicker-free (though image flicker hasn't been on our list of concerns about the D2H's rear LCD). Our main beef with the D2H was the brightness of the rear LCD; even turned all the way down, pictures looked noticeably lighter than they actually were when compared to a properly-calibrated computer monitor. We hope that the rear LCD in the D2Hs shows truer image brightness when viewed under typical indoor illumination. Also new to the D2Hs is both composite and RGB histogram views, integrated help functionality, a recently-accessed settings list, a world time menu and more.
GPS connectivity. The latitude, longitude and time (Coordinated Universal Time is used) is entered into a photoís metadata. GPS units that comply with the NMEA 0183 v2.0.1 interface standard can be connected using the optional Nikon MC-35 cable.
sYCC colour space support. For claimed better colour when connected and printing directly to a compatible printer.
Minor improvements in body design. The AF-ON button and Main command dial are now nestled in a contour in the vertical grip, while the CompactFlash door opens an additional 10 degrees for easier insertion and removal of camera media.
Improved battery life. The EN-EL4 battery of the D2H can power that camera through thousands of frames under real world conditions. Battery life is said to be better still in the D2Hs, though Nikon hasnít specified how much better.
Bundled with PictureProject. The camera will come bundled with PictureProject, an iPhoto-like image management application from Nikon. For most working shooters, itíll be safe to leave the PictureProject install CD to gather dust on the shelf and instead look to other solutions for browsing and managing D2Hs photos.
The Nikon D2Hs is expected to ship in March 2005 at a price in the U.S. of US$3499.95 ( this price is both MSRP and MAP, which means that US$3499.95 will be pretty close to the initial street price in the U.S. too). It will not be possible to upgrade a D2H to D2Hs status: the complexity and cost of doing so precludes making an upgrade option available to D2H owners, says Heiner.
Thanks to Steve Heiner, Saurabh Wahi and Justin Joseph for their assistance in the preparation of this article.