DigitalPro Shooter Volume 3, Issue 3, March 18, 2005
Welcome to DPS 3-3. A special issue on the most eagerly awaited camera of the year, the Nikon D2X, including lots of hands-on experience, advice, and links to full-size sample JPEG and Raw (NEF) images. I've also got my updated event calendar for the year. We've still got openings on the added Grizzly Bear week, our Monterey Bird & Marine Mammal trip (great for couples), our Bay Area Bird week and our Botswana/Namibia trips (which will feature large mammals, birds & scenics, so something for everyone--couples welcome with special programs for non-shooting spouses), so now's the time to get out and put into use all those great skills you've been working on--or to make time to come on out and learn those skills you wish you'd been working on!

Nikon D2X: Two Cameras in One

$5,000 is a lot to spend for a camera. Sure, it's what I paid for my first D1 and for my first D1X, but aren't prices supposed to be coming down? So it was with some trepidation that I decided to go ahead and sell one of my D2Hs and purchase one of the first Nikon D2X units. That is a lot of image sales. My camera arrived right on schedule, the 1st of March, and I got to work putting it through its paces.
Whether you need high resolution portraits or to capture action
the D2X can help. Nikon D2X camera JPEGs converted for web.

The first thing I noticed is that the D2X looks & feels pretty much like my D2H. Frankly, I really enjoy using Nikon D-SLRs. I like the way the controls are laid out and the way the cameras handle. I was pleased that the D2X would be no exception. As I went to customize my settings the new menu system was a real treat. It is more logically organized than previous versions and packs lots of cute little tricks to make it easier to set common functions-including a recent settings menu that allows you to go back and re-do or un-do recent changes.

Want to capture this scene?
And seconds later get this closeup?
I needed to get both for a job I was shooting,
and with the High-Speed Crop feature of the Nikon D2X I did

What I found was that I'd really purchased 2 cameras in 1. When used in its normal full-resolution mode the D2X is suitable for the most demanding architectural and landscape applications. Used either in the full resolution or high-speed crop mode it makes a great wildlife and sports camera. The ability to quickly shift to 8 frames per second and a tighter 6.8 mega-pixel crop with the twist of a dial is like having a 1-click Teleconverter always with you. Sure, I know it is really just pixel magic and I could crop the same way in Photoshop, but this way I get the faster frame rate and don't have to waste time with a large image workflow when I don't need it. I'd prefer the feature was a little easier to get to, as the "function" button in the lower front of the camera is a little hard to reach while you turn the command dial, but it's still a piece of cake compared to adding a teleconverter.

What about the images?

The first time I used the phrase "dripping with detail" about a digital image was when I used a Canon 1DS. But the camera was too slow and too expensive for my needs. Now Nikon has packaged even more detail in a camera which is twice as fast and half the price. That's progress! In short, I really like the images. The color is more natural than with any D-SLR I've ever used and the detail is more stunning. Is all that detail truly essential to get my job done. Usually not. But for when I'm creating large prints it certainly adds an extra dimension to the viewing experience.

Whether in crop mode or full-resolution mode the D2X can capture great images.
These images were taken with the HSC (high-speed crop) mode turned on.

I'm not sure how to quantify it in numbers or even show it to you online, but the combination of resolution and color produce the best quality digital images I've ever taken and certainly some of the best I've ever seen.

Lower noise = more light: The D2X has lower noise than any previous D-SLR. That means you may be able to shoot at a higher ISO than you're used to. Combined with the HSC mode which gives you an effective Teleconverter without any light loss and you may have up to 2 stops of light you can use to increase depth of field or to stop motion.

Workflow with the D2X

The D2X supports both JPEG+RAW mode and provides large previews in the Raw files so image management applications like DigitalPro3 can quickly display even the large Raw files. However the files are large. Uncompressed NEF files are nearly 20MB. Compressed NEFs, using a similar approach to that in the D70 and D2H range from 11MB to 14MB depending on the subject. Crop mode files are of course proportionally smaller. Unfortunately your true Raw processing options are limited at this point. Adobe has not yet released a version of Camera Raw for the D2X so Nikon Capture is the obvious choice. On Windows, however, Capture 4.2 has a memory problem which slows it down and makes it almost unusable unless you have at least a Gigabyte of memory so look for an update from Nikon. [Note: Bibble 4.2 with D2X support has also just been released].

GPS Returns

Nikon has added GPS support to the D2X, which is a welcome change for those of us who got hooked on it with the D1X and D1H. Unfortunately it requires a $99 custom cable, the Nikon MC-35, which runs from your 10-pin connector to the serial end of your GPS cable. The result is expensive and requires two cables, but at least GPS is back. Hopefully someone will take the time to build some custom cables that connect directly with common GPS units.

Even "everyday" birds like the Rock Pigeon or Gold-crowned Sparrow 
can look good when photographed with a D2X

Other Features

For those looking for the best image right out of the camera Nikon has split the old ColorMode setting into two. One, now more properly called ColorSpace, chooses whether the camera JPEGs will be rendered into Adobe RGB (larger gamut, suitable for post-processing) or sRGB (will match consumer montiors natively but has a smaller overall gamut). The other, still called ColorMode has settins forfor Portrait (I), Neutral/Default (II) and Landscape (III) (think Velvia. This mode most closely corresponds to choosing a specific film for a traditional 35mm camera.

Image Overlay & Multiple Exposure: For those determined to do their image tricks in the camera the D2X offers two clever approaches. The more traditional of the two--multiple exposure--lets you take from 2 to 10 images which become a single output image. A more novel design--Image Overlay--lets you add together more than one existing Raw image to create a composite. One really nice aspect of doing an overlay this way is that the processing happens on the Raw data, so it can be simply added together rather than the traditional approach of layering in Photoshop which occurs after the data has been processed. Of course you don't have any capability to mask one image or the other using this command, but you can control the gain for each of the images separately.

Interval shooting: The D2X features a built-in interval capability, always handy when trying to record an ongoing activity of which you are part or an unfolding event. This isn't a substitute for shooting tethered and using the interval capability in Capture for really long sessions, but it is handy to have for working in the field. Highlights and histograms are now RGB. You can see either the overall image or just one of the R, G, or B channels. This is particularly useful when you are working to adjust your lighting or have colored light sources. There are also an ever increasing number of options for on camera viewing and marking of images, but frankly I don't tend to use most of them beyond a review of the image along with highlights and histograms.

"D2" family features

For those of you who haven't used a D2H yet, the D2X has some other nice upgrades over the D1 family. Faster Auto-Focus with a flexible set of 11 sensors and group AF modes, a re-designed menu system, image orientation tagging for vertical images and support for Nikon's spiffy new CLS (Creative Lighting System) multiple flash control.

Should you buy one?

Of course only you can decide that. I think if you do you'll really like the camera and love the images, but it is a lot of money that could buy several lenses or some time to attend workshops and practice your shooting. I will say that if you thought you'd need two different cameras for action & high-resolution photo needs that the D2X can handle both chores admirably.

Full Disclosure: I bought my D2X retail (from Robert's) and don't receive anything from Nikon for writing about their products. So anything you read here is what I have found using the equipment and what I believe.

If you want to see some full resolution images for yourself, we have posted a variety of them below, including both the camera JPEG and the camera Raw images--for your personal use only.

Cardinal Photo 2005 Events

San Francisco Bay Area Bird sign-ups, May 16-19, 2005
(maximum 8 shooters, 4 slots open)

Alaska Grizzly Bear & Puffin Trip sign-up
ADDITIONAL SESSION: July 11-18, 2005 (maximum 6, 2 openings). See images from our 2004 trip.

The July 17-24, 2005 is SOLD OUT.

Monterey Bay Photo Safari sign-up
October 23-27, 2005 --  (maximum 7 shooters, 6 slots open)

Southern Africa! (Botswana & Namibia), November 20-December 2 (max 12, 5 openings)

Sample Images:
(for the personal use of DigitalPro Shooter subscribers only)

  Camera JPEG: Raw Image: Notes:
Kitten Portrait: Cat.jpg Cat.nef  
DOF/Detail Test:
(small rice bowls)
DOF_0002.JPG DOF_0002.nef 600f/4 at 20', ISO 400
  DOF_0004.JPG DOF_0004.nef at f8
  DOF_0006.JPG DOF_0006.nef at f16
High ISO DOF_0008.JPG DOF_0008.nef at f22, ISO 3200
Teleconverter DOF_0010.JPG DOF_0010.nef with TC 1.7

New Products: A Tale of two Service Organizations

In this era of commodity products customer responsiveness can make all the difference. Recently I had a chance to experience some of the best and worst computer service of my career and wanted to pass along what I learned in case it will be helpful to you. Recently I purchased a Sony VAIO S150 notebook. I loved the light weight and X-Brite screen. I knew it was not built as solidly as my older Toshiba or a Dell, but it worked well and was a delight to use on the road. I added Bluetooth and a larger hard drive and was off and running.

But my machine started to flake out. From tracking down the errors on the web it became clear it was a failing motherboard. Armed with my research I called Sony Support. The hold time was listed as 48 minutes. Wow! Long even for a low-end product let alone a new $2000 PC. So while I waited I used Sony's online support to interact with an agent. After coming to the same diagnosis I did he told me to call the support phone number so they could give me an address to mail the machine. But the online agent (or his supervisor) couldn't give me the address or instructions.

So eventually my 48 minute hold cleared (after about an hour) and I walked through the situation with a support representative on the phone--again. He seemed reasonable and gave me an RMA number and said he'd send a box for me to return the machine in. Unfortunately no box ever arrived and even calling back to ask where it was would have involved another hour wait on hold.

Fortunately I had figured out by then that Laptop Repair in Ohio was certified to repair Sony laptops under warranty and would do it by mail. I sent them an email requesting authorization. They quickly replied. When they hadn't received my computer in a couple days they emailed to make sure that it hadn't been lost in transit. When I sent the laptop in they made sure to give me a status update every day or two with information about how the repair was progressing--they too decided the machine needed a new motherboard and had ordered one from Sony.

In less than a week after I sent my machine in it was back. In hindsight I should have asked them for an extra charge and overnight shipping but even with their default ground shipping I was quite satisfied with their professionalism. And the computer works great. I've still never heard back from Sony.

Frankly, without Laptop Repair I wouldn't ever be buying another Sony computer. The combination of consumer electronic build quality and Sony's incredibly bad service would be a show stopper. But thanks to Laptop Repair I have a fun to use and excellently working laptop.

DigitalPro Tip

We've released a version of DigitalPro (an updated 3.1 Beta) with full support for the Nikon D2X. To download it head to and on the Download page look for the Beta link. The release correctly displays the image and meta-data for D2X JPEG & Raw files, including compressed Raw. It also supports D2X features such as image auto-rotation and reports the serial number & image count on your shutter.

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All contents copyright Pro Shooters LLC. All rights reserved.
Nikon is a trademark of Nikon Corporation. is not affiliated with Nikon Corporation.