Digital info for serious shooters: specializing in Nikon & Canon

Nikon D2H: The last camera I'll ever need?

With the D2H Nikon is on track to ship the digital equivalent of an F5. Sure, there are quirks about the F5 that film shooters can still pick on, but for the most part it is the ultimate film SLR and serves as the benchmark for all other SLRs--film and digital.

First and foremost, the D2H blasts through the speed objections that continue to be raised about digital. At 8fps we're back to ripping frames--and with multi-gig cards we can rip literally hundreds of them in a short time! Just as important to me the shutter lag has been cut in half to 37ms. This is finally competitive with film SLRs and will give us more shots with the subject still at the peak of action. The D2H will blast through 40 continuous JPEGs or a very impressive 25 Raw files without a pause.

Second, the D2H provides more headroom on resolution. The 2.7MP of the D1H is enough for almost any use, but just enough. The photographer needs to compose precisely in the camera and then make sure conditions are ideal to produce enlargements. Nikon shooters have been envious of the Canon 1D 4MP image as a great compromise between the D1H and the larger and somewhat more ponderous files of the 6MP cameras. Now with the D2H Nikon shooters will also have access to convenient 4MP image.

For those looking for a medium format replacement, 4MP won't make them any happier, and they'll want and need a D2X, but I'm betting that with the two years of imaging quality improvements that Nikon has put into the D2H since the D1H, and the larger image size, that it will trump the existing D1X in most cases. I know that if I can afford the switch I'm planning to sell both my D1X and D1H and buy a pair of D2H bodies as soon as I can find a dealer to sell them to me!

Improved AF

The D2H features a new AF module, the Multi-CAM 2000, supporting a total of 11 AF sensors. When I shot review units of the Canon 1D and 1Ds I realized how useful it would be to have a few more AF sensors on my cameras, particularly if they were well integrated into the control interface so they could be easily switched to change composition. So I'm really looking forward to the 11 AF sensors. And as well as the current D1H and D1X focus, any speed or performance improvement would be icing on the cake. In particular I would like to see a little better focus tracking in low light, but really I'm always amazed by how well our current cameras focus as it is!

Enhanced Auto White Balance

Nikon appears to have put quite a bit of work into a more extensive white balance detection system. We'll see how well it works, but certainly an Auto WB which was reliable would be a first for any digital camera and a real joy to work with. Even if the Auto WB doesn't work for a particular solution, Nikon has added the ability to directly dial-in the color temperature in Kelvin, a nice and often asked for feature.

100% Viewfinder & voice recording

According to the tech specs, the D2H will feature a 100% viewfinder. Also a huge plus that most of us have missed since the F5. The D2H will also feature (according to the current specs) a built-in voice recorder for annotating images.

USB vs. Firewire?

The D2H is speced to be USB2.0. For those fortunate enough to have true USB2.0 hardware it is plenty fast. Unfortunately, almost all computers photographers already own use the much slower USB1.1, so tethered shooting will be slower unless they invest in an additional USB2.0 card (or a new machine) compared to the Firewire connectivity they've become used to.

Lithium Battery

The D2H uses Lithium re-chargeable batteries and appears to have a true battery meter. That's one huge headache finally gone!

New i-TTL Flash system

Until we get to shoot with the new SB-800, we won't know if the new i-TTL flash will actually provide true TTL flash and once and for all solve the flash issues that have bothered digital. However, the SB-800 is also an upgrade to the existing DX flashes in almost every other way.

With what sounds like a well thought out multi-flash wireless system, everyone will find the SB-800 easier to use for tricky shooting situations.

The SB-800 also features a new "Quick Recycle" Battery pack option, although your current SD-8A battery holder will also work with it.

Image is Everything

Of course, the bottom line is how good are the images. Nikon has released an impressive sounding set of imaging improvements, starting with a new proprietary JFET LBCAST CCD (a Nikon version of CMOS that allows higher speed output), in camera imaging enhancements, and a new and improved Capture 4. It all sounds great, but of course this most important piece of evaluating the camera is the one that will have to wait until they are in production and being shot with day after day. The new approach to CMOS is welcome, since until now CMOS cameras have been speed limited. The D2H will be one of the first to combine the power-saving and programmability of CMOS with the high-speed users have learned to expect from using CCD cameras.

In addition, the D2H will also allow JPEG + RAW image recording, a very popular feature among Canon shooters.

Wireless transmission with the WT-1

For those covering events, the optional WT-1 attaches to the bottom of the D2H and allows wireless transmission using FTP directly to your computer network. Studio and other tethered shooters might also find the added convenience of wireless vs. tethered worth a look. How cool is that?!


Talking about lenses without real production models and real images is even riskier than speculating on cameras, so we'll just recap here what Nikon has announced:

10.5mm f/2.8G Fish-eye: This one sounds like fun for sure, and when coupled with the fish-eye control in Capture 4 might also be an ultra-wide alternative for digital shooters.

17-55mm f/2.8G IF-ED AF-S DX Zoom: As long as you're 100% digital and can live without an aperture ring, this sounds like a no-brainer replacement for the 18-35, and possible the 17-35f/2.8 as well. Since I've been shooting all digital without using an aperture ring for several years now, I'm a big fan of these lighter & smaller G lenses. Of course it does commit you to the smaller CCD size since it is a DX lens. That one tradeoff will help keep the current Nikon lenses selling to those unwilling to make a hard to reverse investment in the smaller CCD.

200-400mm f/4G IF-ED AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor: This lens sounds like a killer tool for sports shooters although I have no idea if I'll ever own one. Unless it could replace my 400f/2.8 it is too large to replace my 300f/4 and probably will wind up being too expensive to replace my 300f/2.8, but frankly I'll have to wait and see when I can actually try one.

Devil's Advocate

I can already hear the chorus of folks comparing specs and saying that Canon has had much of this capability with the 1D for quite a while. In one sense that is true. However, I suspect that the D2H will truly justify the additional 2 years of work since the D1H and that by the time it ships later this year the questions will be asked about how it will compare to the successor to the 1D.

Miscellaneous Notes

The new SB-800 flash will work as a DX flash on existing D-SLRs, and the existing flashes will work on the D2H.

Prototypes of the D2H have a clear "Hoodman-like" cover on the rear, much like the D100.

The Bottom Line: So is the D2H really the last camera I'll ever need? Nah, now that cameras are becoming computers we'll always want them to be faster and better and there will be new ones every year or two that quickly become "must haves". But with the D2H, at least as speced., there is finally a D-SLR that equals the clear technical awesomeness of the F5 for film. It's a no-brainer upgrade for me and a camera I look forward to using.--David Cardinal

Please join us on the DigitalPro forums and let us know how you feel about the D2H!




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