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Nikon D1H digital camera

by Patrick Hudepohl, 2002


Introduction

The Nikon D1H is a professional digital SLR camera, well fitted into the Nikon system and is the high-speed brother of the Nikon D1X. The D1H looks and feels like a digital F100 with MB-15 grip (though the recently announced D100 looks like a digital F80). This camera is targeted at the professional photojournalist or sports photographer. In March 2002, the D1H costs approximately $4,300.

The main features of this camera are:

  • 2.6 megapixel (2,000 x 1,312 pixels) CCD;
  • 5 frames per second continuous shooting speed, with a large enough memory to buffer 40 frames in JPEG Fine mode;
  • 1/16,000 sec. top shutter speed and flash sync speed up to 1/500 sec.
  • 8-bit JPEG, 8-bit TIFF and 12-bit NEF/RAW formats;
  • Compact Flash card (type I and II) and IBM Microdrive storage;
  • IEEE 1394 ("FireWire") interface for image transfer.
  • RS-232C interface for connecting a GPS unit

The action photos illustrating this review were taken in a local motocross arena and beside a nearby speed skating rink.

Power

IJmuiden motocross, January 27th 2002

A single, large and heavy 7.2V NiMH battery provides the D1H with power. It is at least powerful enough to last 200 images, even outdoors with temperatures between 0 and 10 C. Obviously, power consumption is very much dependent on the use of the LCD screen. For a good afternoon shooting with moderate image reviewing, I suggest you bring a spare battery.

The included MH-16 quick charger can recharge a battery within 90 minutes and can also perform a refresh operation, recommended if you notice diminished battery performance. This operation takes several hours. Except for an optional AC-adapter, no alternative power supplies are available. Note that the optional AC-adapter becomes somewhat mandatory as the "raise mirror for CCD cleaning" feature does not work when the camera is operating on its battery. Though not explicitely recommended by Nikon, you may be able to circumvent this by setting the camera to manual exposure, selecting "bulb" and using the lock on the MC-30 cable release to keep the mirror raised while you are cleaning. Beware: the camera is actually taking a picture and I do not know if seriously overexposing the CCD will cause damage.

Storage

IJmuiden motocross, January 27th 2002

The D1H accepts type I and II Compact Flash cards, as well as IBM Microdrives. I found a 256 MB card sufficient for one single shoot (e.g., an afternoon spent on motocross) when using JPEG Fine quality. If you have multiple assignments on one day, or want to use NEF storage, I recommend packing more memory.

I used a White Lake 256 MB CF card and the camera would occasionally lock with a flashing card signal. This happened on a chilly Sunday morning at an ice rink as well as indoors where it was comfortably warm. Please note: I suspect this was a problem with the card itself and not the camera: an HP C912 camera simply crashes with the same card (though my friend Paul's Pentax Optio 330 works fine with it). I also briefly used 16MB and 128 MB Sandisk cards, without any problems.

Lenses

IJmuiden motocross, January 27th 2002

The D1H has a Nikon F-mount and accepts all lenses of the AI-type or more recent (non-AF lenses impose several limitations on the available exposure, metering and focussing functions of the camera). Most obvious lenses to be used on this camera are therefore the AF and AF-S types.

The sensor of the D1H measures 23.7 by 15.6 mm and this is smaller than a standard 35mm frame. It means that focal lengths are effectively multiplied by 1.5, resulting in a tighter crop of the image. The AF-S 80-200 zoom will gain telephoto power and become a 120-300 mm, but your AF-S 17-35 wide-angle lens is reduced to a 26 - 53, seriously limiting your wide-angle coverage. Also note that if you have specialised lenses, such as an AF 105/2 DC for portraiture, you may have a hard time finding a suitable replacement with the same picture angle (the long end of the AF-S 28-70/2.8 seems quite a different beast).

Handling

IJmuiden motocross, January 27th 2002 In the best F5 and F100 tradition, the D1H is a large and heavy camera with a solid build quality. It seems unlikely that anything is going to break soon on these machines. Even the CF card compartment has a decent door with a double locking mechanism to prevent accidental access: you open a small hatch, push a button and only then will the card door itself open.

The viewfinder is big and bright, but not as big as that of the F100. Unlike the F5 camera, the D1H does not have a 100% coverage viewfinder (but rather 96%) which would have been very useful since digital photos can be used full-frame (i.e., no cropping because of a slide mount or printing machine need occur). Nevertheless, it is a joy to use. It is good to see that Nikon included a built-in viewfinder cover with this camera, instead of the silly viewfinder cap you get with an F100. I must admit that, contrary to my own expectations, I still have not lost the cap of my F100, even after almost 3 years.

The built-in vertical grip is useful and ergonomically fairly sound, so it really assists in creating portrait images. It might have been better if the grip were optional since that would be a good way to reduce bulk and weight. A clumsy decision in ergonomics is the fact that the secondary command wheel, which is used to set the aperture (particularly on the new G-type lenses which lack an aperture ring) is not replicated on the vertical grip. Since I do not own any G-lenses and use the aperture rings on my lenses instead of the camera control, this did not bother me much. Also worth mentioning is the fact that the gamepad selector on the back, which is used to select an AF sensor, is more difficult to reach when holding the camera in the vertical position.

IJmuiden motocross, February 3rd 2002 Nikon could pay a bit more attention to HP, because their C912 camera offers both a switch to determine the orientation of the camera and a wireless remote control. Nikon forces the user into buying software like ACDSee to perform lossless JPEG rotations, forces viewers using the video-out option to cramp their necks and forces the user into buying a $55 MC-30 cable release (which is not even wireless).

The D1H has a play mode, in which it becomes useless as a camera, but you do not have to use it. Instead, press the monitor button on the back of the camera to review the last image you shot. Then use the gamepad to browse through the images and to toggle the display of additional information on the current image. Press the shutter release button and the camera immediately takes a picture.

Whitebalance and ISO speed can be set without using the menu system of the camera. Custom functions can be set using the menu system (using plain English) or, if so assigned, the FUNC button (using the rather hopeless "3-1", "4-0" number puzzle of the F5/F100).

Speed of Operation

Peter Boersma, skating, Haarlem ice rink

The D1H is a fast camera, not only with respect to frame rate or AF performance, but also with respect to start-up time. It does not really matter if the camera was switched off or had gone to sleep: you can get the first exposure well within the second.

If you shoot a sequence of, say, 8 images and then pause (to recompose, perhaps), the camera starts writing images to the memory card. This does not prevent you from taking more images: as soon as you press the shutter release, it will start recording again. Only when you completely fill the 40-image buffer (on JPEG Fine mode), will you have to wait for the camera to write an image to the memory card.

In short: the D1H has the responsiveness I expect from my F100 and, for serious photography (i.e., not occasional point-and-shoot work), I would not have it any other way.

Autofocus

Skating, Haarlem ice rink

The D1H has a 5 sensor, fast and accurate autofocus system, which works best with Nikon's AF-S lenses. Operation with regular AF lenses, however, is very good as well. The "gamepad" on the back makes switching between sensors easy. Only with low light and using the AF Micro Nikkor 105/2.8 (which has a long focussing throw to facilitate precision macro focussing), was AF operation somewhat less than satisfactory.

Shooting motocross and speed skating sports (and I really am much more of a city and landscape photographer), I found the D1H to pick up focus quite easily and tracking the subjects was no problem at all, even if they were sometimes partially obscured by bushes or other participants.

One problem is worth mentioning, though. During the motocross shoots, I noticed that, at times, the camera would not re-focus immediately after shooting a short sequence. That is: I used continuous, dynamic AF to track the subject and shot several frames. I then completely released the shutter release button for a second or so and then pressed it again for the next sequence. I expected the camera to pick up focus again and shoot, but instead it would block. I am not sure if this should be chalked up as user-error or a flaw in the D1H.

A final note on the AF system of the D1H: this system presents the user with a bewildering array of options: there is an AF switch on the front of the body, a shooting menu (for selecting the "AF area mode": dynamic area AF, single area AF), Custom Function 4 (AF-start using shutter release and AF-ON button, or AF-ON button only), Custom Function 9 (dynamic AF, Single servo: choose between closest subject or selected AF area) and Custom Function 10 (same as 9, but for Continuous servo). AF-S lenses include an M/A - M switch, some AF lenses have an M-A switch and some (AF or AF-S) lenses even include a focus limiter.

Exposure

Preparing the ice, Haarlem ice rink

Using 8-bit per channel JPEG, which I believe will be used most often, you are essentially working with slide film. Nikon's matrix metering proves very accurate in day-to-day operation, though you should pay particular attention to backlit scenes. A bright window in the back may set exposure off, or it may become a horribly burnt-out white patch. As always, there simply is no subsitute for a thinking photographer!

Changing metering modes (matrix, center, spot) requires operating a locked switch located on the prism and you will almost surely need to remove your eye from the viewfinder to do so. This makes a quick switch to, say, spot metering difficult.

Flash photography

My parents listening to a speech at dad's retirement party

The D1H supports the latest in Nikon flash technology, but not with the older flash units. You will need a newer DX-type flash, such as the SB28DX or the SB80DX. The popular SB26 and SB28 models will only work in non-TTL mode with this camera. The D1H has a X-contact for connecting studio strobes. There is no built-in flash.

Illustrating the D1H flash capabilities are some pictures of my father's retirement party (he taught electrical engineering for almost 34 years at a junior secondary technical school). The camera was set to ISO 400 or 800 with aperture priority auto-exposure and matrix metering. I used a Nikon SB28DX flash with Sto-Fen Omnibounce.

Image quality

Except for resizing, images in this section were not edited.

The D1H can be set to ISO speeds of 200 to 1600 using a button on the top deck and the main dial. The HI-1 and HI-2 speeds ("one step" and "two steps" over ISO 1600, in Nikon-lingo) can only be set using the menu system. Image quality from 200 to 800 is very good and I think ISO 1600 is even usuable (depending on the purpose). ISO 3200 and 6400 should be avoided, these settings are really pushing the sensor too far to obtain an acceptable image.

ISO 200 ISO 400 ISO 800
My desk at home, ISO 200, mixed lighting, auto whitebalance My desk at home, ISO 400, mixed lighting, auto whitebalance My desk at home, ISO 800, mixed lighting, auto whitebalance
My desk at home, ISO 1600, mixed lighting, auto whitebalance My desk at home, ISO 3200, mixed lighting, auto whitebalance My desk at home, ISO 6400, mixed lighting, auto whitebalance
ISO 1600 ISO 3200 ISO 6400

Note that a brighter (and more brightly lit) subject causes less noise at higher speeds. The ISO 1600, 3200 and 6400 images below appear much cleaner than the images at matching speeds above.

ISO 1600 ISO 3200 ISO 6400
Books, ISO 1600, overcast daylight from window, auto whitebalance Books, ISO 3200, overcast daylight from window, auto whitebalance Books, ISO 6400, overcast daylight from window, auto whitebalance

You can set the contrast of the images the D1H creates to less, normal and more. I recommended you keep the camera set to less. The images below show the difference between the settings:

Less contrast Normal contrast More contrast
Kitchen, less contrast, no sharpening, preset whitebalance Kitchen, normal contrast, no sharpening, preset whitebalance Kitchen, more contrast, no sharpening, preset whitebalance

Likewise, the camera can be set to sharpen the images, to various degrees: none, low, normal and high. I think low or normal gives the most pleasing results. The photos below illustrate the settings:

No sharpening Low sharpening Normal sharpening High sharpening
Books, no sharpening, less contrast, incandescent whitebalance Books, low sharpening, less contrast, incandescent whitebalance Books, normal sharpening, less contrast, incandescent whitebalance Books, high sharpening, less contrast, incandescent whitebalance

A note on in-camera contrast and sharpening: purists might argue that you should not use these options and use Photoshop afterwards on selected images, if needed. However, for press professionals, it makes sense to have the camera add a little contrast and sharpening as it will increase the speed of workflow. (As an aside, those purists should probably keep using film, or a D1X and not the D1H).

The D1H can be set to several pre-defined whitebalance settings, such as incandescent, fluorescent and flash, as well as to an auto whitebalance mode. Furthermore, three preset modes are available for a user-set white balance: aim the camera at a neutral subject, press the shutter release and the camera adjusts itself. Auto whitebalance worked very well, particularly outdoors and under fluorescent lighting. It has more trouble with incandescent light, resulting in a yellow cast.

My desk, halogen light. whitebalance: auto My desk, halogen light. whitebalance: incand. +3 My desk at the office, fluorescent light, whitebalance: auto My desk at the office, fluorescent light, whitebalance: fluorescent
WB: auto WB: incandescent WB: auto WB: fluorescent
Incandescent light Fluorescent light

Connectivity and Software

The D1H uses an IEEE 1394 ("FireWire") interface to connect to your personal computer. This should ensure a fast transfer of images. Unfortunately, my PC is not equipped with FireWire, so I had to use my HP PhotoSmart P1100 printer and was unable to test the FireWire performance.

Nikon bundles both Nikon View 4 and Cumulus 5 Single User with this camera.

Nikon View

Consider this snippet from the online help:

Q. Can I display images transferred to the hard disk, etc. in a Thumbnail list?
A. Nikon View 4 is unable to browse or to manipulate either images that have been transferred from the camera or the card reader, or save copy images. To browse or manipulate images saved on the hard disk, etc, use the bundled image database software or image software

Back to ACDSee, I guess.

Cumulus 5

Cumulus allows you to build an image library (though the program uses terms as catalogs, collections and media assets). After stuffing the (proprietary) database with information on your photos, you can search for specific images, export them to HTML, view a slide show or create a QuickTime movie. As a software engineer, however, I have written my own image management software, so I did not spend much time using Cumulus.

Nikon does not bundle Photoshop Limited Edition, or any other software of that kind. Presumably, professional digital photographers will already own a copy of Photoshop.

Competition

If you do not already own Nikkor lenses, Canon is a serious competitor with their (more recently introduced) EOS-1D camera. It offers more megapixels and a higher frame rate. The larger image sensor makes wide-angle photography more feasible.

If you are a Nikon user and are more concerned with image quality than raw speed, consider the D1X. The higher resolution allows rotating and cropping images while still preserving enough pixels to make a large print.

If you are a Nikon user and are concerned with both image quality and raw speed, consider the F5. Frame rates up to 8 per second, true wide-angle photography is more feasible and the images can be scanned to 6 - 12 megapixel digital files. Obviously, the F5 does not offer the per-shot flexibility of a digital camera (setting ISO speed, white balance etc for individual shots, if needed), nor does it have the high workflow speed of a digital system. But for many photographers using the Nikon system, it will remain a valid option for quite a while.

Where to Buy

This camera is stocked by Adorama, a retailer that pays photo.net a referral fee for each customer, which helps keep this site in operation. We also get a fee when you comparison shop the retailers at Dealtime . For additional retailer information, see our recommended retailers page and the user recommendations section.

Conclusion

The D1H is fast, well built and offers high image quality. The camera is a joy to work with; it really felt as if my F100 had been transformed into a digital camera. It is not an all-purpose camera: the limited 2.6 megapixel resolution and the (compared to 35mm film) small sensor size make the camera unsuitable for certain tasks.

More information

About the photos: as usual, the thumbnail images in this article link to larger, HTML-wrapped versions. These may have undergone some Photoshop editing to achieve a good web-quality image. In all cases, a link is included to the original file as produced by the camera.

Except for a possible lossless rotation with ACDSee, no other manipulation was performed on these files. Unless noted otherwise, I shot all images using the "less contrast" and "normal sharpening" settings of the camera and in JPEG Fine mode (I found this the most practical setting of the D1H).

Patrick Hudepohl ( e-mail).

Readers' Comments


Add a comment



Fredrik Renander , April 05, 2002; 09:09 P.M.

Isn't this camera a little out of date? Why would someone pay $4300 for a 2.6 megapixel camera when you can get a camera with 6 million pixels for half that price? Maybe its a very well built and solid camera, but I find the number of pixels to be a big limitation.

Fredrik,
www.worldsphotos.com

Tim Triche , April 10, 2002; 02:41 P.M.

Ummm, because if you miss the decisive moment, all 6 million of those pixels are wasted? This camera is about the most obvious 'PJs only' camera ever -- the purpose is to quickly catch the important image, quickly get it to the service bureau, and quickly get paid. A half-page newspaper spread or quarter-page magazine shot doesn't need 6 million pixels to be indistinguishable from film -- so many of these guys shoot (or at least USED TO shoot) high-speed film that I doubt they'd need 1 megapixel for most of their work. They're all about workflow and not screwing around with unnecessary steps on an assignment. Besides, with the volume of work a professional news or editorial photographer does, on the off chance their camera isn't actually the property of their employer, they go ahead and invest in the thing to speed up their workflow, and it pays for itself in development and processing in 3-6 months anyways. This is not the case for amateurs. So naturally the amateur-market (<$2000, let's say) digicams have large numbers of megapixels and horrific lag times (3-7 SECONDS, dozens of times slower than the expensive pro models) and are useless for capturing action (or even un-posed people shots). Every so often you get lucky, but that just doesn't cut it for pros who are paid to be lucky. Who wants to see a bunch of sharp, colorful images of uninteresting moments when they hire a photographer?!? The point is to get the good stuff -- f/8 and be there, the world isn't going to wait for you!

The fast, expensive ($2500 and up) digital cameras today are marketed to pros who would not use them *at all* if the shutter didn't pop within a couple hundred milliseconds after they depressed the release. That takes some significant engineering, which costs money, and it's faster to move less data around (given the same processor speeds, interconnects, etc.) so the fastest pro digicams unsurprisingly have less pixels stored per shot. The consumer digicams market their megapixels and conveniently omit any discussion of lag time, which is the hard part to compete on (but, IMHO, the important quantity). Another notable number is the flash sync speed -- 1/500th of a second, great for getting serviceable pictures in daylight. Amateurs get to wait for good light -- pros usually don't, especially not PJs. You get the idea by now I'm sure -- you're not the target market (AFAICT).

So anyways, that's why megapixels are irrelevant to some people. It's like if I bragged about how much my pickup truck can tow and wondered why anyone would buy a wimpy little Porsche that couldn't even tow Grandpa's pontoon boat to the Shore. No one would be very impressed by the arguments against the Porsche... it's a tool for a very different job. (eg. picking up bimbos and/or going fast) Likewise the pros who I have spoken with that use digital cameras for their jobs care about the speed of workflow, not the sheer number of pixels. That's why the D1H, D30, and similar digital cameras sell well to pros, and why 35mm film is rapidly disappearing from workaday photojournalism.

Jose Roberto Wagner , April 12, 2002; 01:20 A.M.

Nice comments !

Don´t forget that more pixels use more memory and limit the numbers of pics per card.

José Roberto Wagner

Fredrik Renander , April 13, 2002; 05:44 P.M.

I think you forget about (for example) the Canon D60 here. It has 6 million pixels and a lagtime of 100 miliseconds, which is shorter than many traditional SLR's. And the price? Around $2000. With such a camera around I see no need on spending almost the double on a 2.6 megapixelcamera. And I also doubt it has a shorter lagtime. The worst thing with digital SLR's (in my opinion) is that a wide-angle lens suddenly gets a normal perspective.

Fredrik,
www.worldsphotos.com

Tim Triche , April 15, 2002; 04:19 P.M.

True enough... the D30 in particular opened up a new market segment when it was introduced. AFAIK it was around $3000 so that's why I chose $2500 as a low pricepoint. The D1H is overpriced, like all Nikon stuff, but it's also overbuilt like the F5 it's based on, and its flash sync speed worth an extra stop or two (obviously not something to spend $2000 extra on, but nice anyhow). A friend of mine who does this for a living has a D30 and LOVES IT. In fact, most of my observations were ripped straight out of a conversation with him! I don't know how widely available the D60 is but it's probably already making my dummy numbers look dated.

I got the impression that you were comparing cameras like the Coolpix or Powershot series, with the D30, D60, and D1 cameras. That's not a fair comparison, which is what I took issue with.

Hopefully the D100/D60 price wars and the eventual arrival of Contax's purported full-size sensor will lead to a reasonably-cheap (~$2000, or maybe ~$1000 within a few years) 35mm SLR body with a 36x24mm full-size sensor and a lens mount so we can put our nice ultra-wide-angle lenses on it and just take pictures the way we see things with a film SLR. That will be very enjoyable, I think.

I for one, will not miss film, except for infrared and black-and-white hobby projects. But as an amateur I can't justify spending thousands on a device that, especially with the current technology, doesn't really do what I want it to. It seems like you feel the same way, and I don't blame you one bit. I don't make my living from getting grab shots of newsworthy events, and I pay for my own equipment, so I too see the higher-end cameras as outrageously expensive. But the newspapers here in DC and up in NYC seem to feel otherwise :-).

charles boyer , April 23, 2002; 06:24 P.M.

I, for one, will not escape film until cameras are 16 megapixels or higher with the same speed/specs as this one and under $1,000.

What I am saying is that this is a technology suited only for the photojournalist under deadline. Amatuers, even serious ones, should wait until the technology matures and the inevitable occurs -- it becomes affordable.

Andrew Moore , June 03, 2002; 04:59 P.M.

Frederick writes: Isn't this camera a little out of date? Why would someone pay $4300 for a 2.6 megapixel camera when you can get a camera with 6 million pixels for half that price? <p> No, not out of date -- close but not yet. Resolution is only one aspect. The D1H has better build quality, lower noise at high ISO settings (fully usable at 1600, and can push to 6400), smaller focal length multiplier (good for wide angles), and the price is actually $3580 not $4300 (at least until the end of June). A comparison between the D60 and D1H is tricky because they're still very different cameras. I think the D1H's closer competition might actually be the EOS-1D, but even then you're talking $5500 and some high-ISO noise problems. It may be "only" 2.62 MP, but it's a fantastic 2.62 MP! So many digicams come close to being perfect (within their megapixel ratings) yet always seem to have a couple big shortcomings. For example, the D1X (5.47 MP) would be great for me if it weren't for high ISO noise and interpolation (it's really a 3.95 MP camera with stretched pixels). But I'm trying hard to find flaws (not just "inconveniences") with the D1H and it's tough -- again, if you can live with 2.62 MP. Personally I think that within its MP rating, the D1H is close to the perfect product for its application.

What I've found is that 2 to 3 MP can often do quite well with good lenses and functionality around it. The low MP figures might be getting a bad reputation because they're usually associated with a very cheapened camera/lens.

That said, for some applications there is no substitute for resolution.

Stephen Rohrbacher , June 10, 2002; 09:28 A.M.

I am a Canon user but have to say that to compare this camera to a D60 is ridiculous. I have used a D30 for almost two years and cannot believe how bad the autofocus is, and from what I can tell from comments on various forums it hasn't improved much in the D60. In an auditorium I would routinely miss shots of people moving on stage because the camera wouldn't focus, and that's with good L series zooms. I think this camera is a very good choice for PJ's and others that want speed and do not have to make prints bigger than 8x10.

Andrew Moore , June 13, 2002; 01:48 P.M.

...and the D1H just came down to $3300 at B&H (D1X down to $4200). Wonder what Nikon's got coming down the road...

Mike Kovacs , June 27, 2002; 06:19 P.M.

No Nikon vs Canon wars here...

Lets put it this way: Look at the price difference between an F5 and an Elan7. Is it surprising that this camera costs over $1000 more? Apples to apples...the F5 is a professional spec camera, the Elan 7 is not. Compare the D1H to the EOS 1D for a fair comparison.

Yes the D1H/D1X are based on an F5, not the F100 as the reviewer states. They have the 3D *colour* matrix metering capability of the F5.

Imagine a film camera with a 5 fps motor drive, an assistant, and a second body all in one. The D1H camera can capture up to 40 frames in buffer at 5fps, and continually downloads them to the memory card. No lag, no film changing, no rewinding...amazing! Keep blasting away until you fill the card.

Its my understanding that the D1X is not a worthwhile investment, although I have not had the opportunity to compare both cameras side by side. The extra resolution is only added in the horizontal direction, the vertical is "interpolated".

Mark Duke , July 08, 2002; 03:11 P.M.

As said above the D1h captures 40 frames at 5 fps or so and downloads constantly to the card, try that with a d60.. Look at the sports pages of your daily newspaper, This is where cameras such as the d1h and the 1d shine, you need to be fast, you need to be able to hold the shutter down from when that guy goes up for the ball, till the moment he crashes to the ground. You NEED the FPS to get the shot.

A d100, or d30/d60 wont do that.

You need the AF speed, which the D100, d30, d60 dont have. You need to be able to use the camera EVERY DAY. In all weather, you need to be able to drop it, bang it, swing it to get your other body into play when the action gets closer. Go to your local camera store, Pick up a d30/d60 in one hand, and a 1d in the other. A d1x/d1h in one and a d100 in the other. Try the AF speed. hold the shutter down on Hi.

Proffesionals who make their living from their gear, need gear that suits what they are doing. And they (or their employer) pays for that in the price of their gear, which they recoup through the images, and the speed at which those images can make it to publication. Sure one day when storage, and technology advances, we will all shoot with inexpensive 16mp+ cameras, however their will remain a STRONG difference between the PRO gear, and those created for amateurs. As there always has been. And for good reason.

Lorenzo Luc , July 09, 2002; 11:25 P.M.

I use the D1h every day, and I think disregarding its capabilities because of its 2.94 MP sensor isn't the best idea.

My colleagues mostly use the d1x. In fact, d1x's 3000 pixels across the long dimension is the required size for nearly every wire service I have encountered. 3000x2000 (approximately) is the standard image size wireservices distribute to every newspaper and magazine.

However, the d1h sensor is only 2000 pixels across. Consequently, I have to upsize the file before filing.

Sounds horrendous doesn't it? Upsizing, interpolation, etc. In reality, it doesn't matter at all for commercial purposes. Here's the key. I shoot the raw format, crop, and upsize the jpg output with an image editor that uses lanczos interpolation. Qimage for example.

Nobody has ever seen any quality differences (on a technical basis anyway) between what I submit and the fellas with their d1x's or canon 1d's. In fact, they compliment mine. The newsdesk has called me and asked why my stuff looks so good all the time. (Ok, one call, but at least it came from someone I didn't know.) Low light work at concerts has been particularly noticed.

As a result, I saved $1000 on the camera (vs a d1x), have amazing low light performance (better than D1x or 1d), and have a riproaring fast camera.

Maybe if someone shot the raw format in a d1x, their output could beat mine. However, they would have to deal with a much lower frame burst rate than they have now and enormous file storage requirements. They would even have to use an extremely athletic workstation to process their files. Processing the d1x 8 meg raw file will bring many mighty machines to their knees.

All in all, I think the D1h is the best value and performer of the bunch.

All the cameras about have egregious faults though. You have all read about how terrible TTL flash is on all these cameras. For example, do not ever use ttl flash unconcernedly on someone in a white shirt or suit. These cameras will underexpose that scene so fast. The results are TERRIBLE, almost unusable.

The ambient light meters are horrendous too. Don't believe all that talk about 1005 metering points, and matrix whatever. You cannot shoot in program mode on these cameras if you expect a correct fleshtone to appear in the picture. Sky, a sunlit window, white wall, all of these will screw you in ways you don't expect. Film cameras have somewhat figured out how to handle these situations. Digital is a long way from home.

It mystifies me that in nearly every review of these cameras, the writer always praises the meter. The meter's awful. Ask many photojournalists and you'll hear that they don't trust the meters at all.

The only way to reliably bring back a properly exposed assignment is to use manual mode and check the LCD often. In situations where the light changes rapidly, I do shift to an auto mode, but I check exposures even more frequently.

Because of this fault though, the D1x/h batteries are entirely inappropriate. The only way I shoot now is with a Turbo plugged into my H. That solves the problem.

Mark Duke , August 07, 2002; 06:54 P.M.

You can now purchase the d1/h in Australia, at the major photographic retailers in Melbourne for $5100AU - $2550US. Cf $4800 for the D100. If i had the money, for my needs the d1/h would be the camera I would go with. I have used both, and the speed of operation of the d1/h, as well as build quality, which is supremely better than the d100, would prove to be a much wiser investment, in terms of durability + probably resale value.

Luke Fields , August 07, 2002; 11:49 P.M.

I've used the Nikon D1 for one and a half years and the D1H for the past eight monthes while working for a 14,000 circulation newspaper as a part-time press photographer.

I would like to re-affirm the comments made by Mr. Luc, they are accurate, and I agree with them after working with these cameras. However, I have never had a problem submitting my pix to AP because of the rez, but I have only done that as a member, never as a stringer or staffer.

One thing I would like to point out is that on the D1H, selecting the autofocus mode was moved to a menu option, as opposed to a button command on the original D1. This makes the switching of autofocus modes much slower and also less intuitive. Also, on the D1 you had the choice of 3 AF modes before you had to resort to Custom Functions. On the D1H, only two modes are readily available, all others hidden in CF.

The D1H is more what you would expect a digital camera to be like. The D1 on the other hand was made to operate like a film camera, with none of the shooting functions placed in a menu system. Personally, I feel more comfortable shooting with a D1 because of this.

As to the meter problem, it is highly annoying, however, at work we routinely set the camera to underexpose, and then use levels and curves in photoshop to compensate. As my boss says, shooting digital is more akin to shooting slides than negative film. You can save an underexposed image, but an overexposed one is lost.

As to the flash problems, it is best to bounce light whenever possible, or you should plan on lugging a monolight with you. We do both at work, usually taking the monolight with us if we know we're going to be shooting in a gym or other dark scary place, otherwise we'll get dark scary images. We even shoot sports this way, especially wrestling. Nikon needs to correct the flash issue, because once you start depending on a monolight, the 5fps dissappear.

The D1 and D1H are also sealed against moisture like the F5. This, along with their ruggedness, has enabled me to get once in a lifetime photos in conditions that I doubt any other camera would've sufficed. One instince was an eagle bequest on a day that suddenly turned frigid and snowy/sleetly like only a day in Wisconsin can. The cameras held up, and the photo was selected to run in the Week in Pictures section of msnbc.com for the week of April 22. You can still see the photo there if you like. The camera performance was amazing, I think I probably would've given out before they would've.

All in all, the D1H is a niche camera, for press photographers like myself. It should only be used in situations where communicating ideas and stories quickly are more important than the actual quality of the image.

Markus Maien , February 04, 2004; 05:22 P.M.

I don't have any experience with anything but Nikon, but as a photo journalist in the Air Force I can attest that the D1-H does a great job in the field. Most of the recent photography you see shot in Iraq and Afghanistan by Air Force Combat Photographers were shot with the D1-H or the D1-X. I guess it all depends what you need your camera for. But in a wartime situation, the D1-H is perfect because of its speed and its robust housing, which can take quite a bit of abuse. I like it so much I bought one of my own and I enjoy it tremendously.

paul mac , January 20, 2008; 03:07 P.M.

Had my D1H since 2000 and am now using it more and more. Love the TRI-X like look to B&W conversions of files from this camera. IMHO this is a better camera than my D2X whoose images just don't have the same look or quality of images from the D1H. D1H images are sharp at the NORMAL in camera setting and will easily give an excellent 16 x 12 print. My D2X has to be set at HIGH sharpening to achieve only modest sharpness and the the sharpening artifacts destroy the look of the image. High ISO on the D1H is far superior to both the D2H and D2X. Floodlit soccer at 3200 ASA on the D1H is a no brainer - try this on a D2H or D2X and you will end up with unusable noisy images. My conclusion is FOR ME the D1H is the best digi camera I own, closely followed by the D1X and D2H with the D2X miles behind and basically the most expensive paperweight I ever bought!!

Triggerr Coja , July 15, 2008; 10:05 P.M.

I just LOVE my D1H also! I too have had it since 2000 and was just starting a hunt for new compatible lenses instead of upgrading to the newer "better" diggy SLR's that are now available.... just can't seem to part with this camera! lol

ken quon , October 12, 2008; 01:24 P.M.

i also have had the D1H for a few years now. i just can not imagine myself using another camera, if this camera ever decides to bite the dust, i will try to find another. Long live the D1H !


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