The D1H - H is for Hot!

08.28.01 -- Moose Peterson

I've been shooting digital for nearly five years now and I think I've finally found the digital camera that suits my needs for wildlife photography. Yeah, the D1 does a excellent job and the D1x even better, but the D1H really brings all the features, speed and quality together in one machine! Now, there are at least three options from Nikon when it comes to a pro, SLR digital camera and there's no doubt the D1H is it for me, but is it the right one for you? Shooting for the last three weeks in Alaska with many of the same subjects I shot with the D1x, proved to myself the D1H is the right tool for the wildlife photographer (compared to the D1 or D1x).

Nikon has traditionally named their "fastest" cameras with an H, like the F2H for example that shoots 10fps. With this lineage, I think it more than fitting that they put an H in the D1H designation. Speed is what the H is all about, and not just in the fps (frame per second) but in its entire operation. This is what makes the D1H the great wildlife photography, action photography camera it is!


The D1H is rated at 5fps (compared to 4.5fps in the D1 and 3fps in the D1x) but I have gotten up to 5.3fps out of it. Yeah, that's nowhere as fast as the 8fps of the F5 but for digital, it's flying! More importantly to me than the FPS speed of the D1H is the speed in which it handles the processing of images. I'm shooting everything in the FINE mode which produces a 1.3MB file, the same size as the FINE file in the D1. But the D1H with the same file processes it approximately 2.1 TIMES faster than the D1 when it comes to write speed. That's 2.1 times faster folks! Does this make a difference? I sure do think it does when it comes to capturing action. The D1H is already writing the files to the CompactFlash card before you finish firing a five frame burst! (This is using a Lexar  512MB 12x card.)

The fps and write speed are not the only thing that's faster, so is the preview speed. The time is takes for the D1H to call up an image on the monitor is a New York heartbeat compared to the D1. This can be an essential part of your photography as well. Even though I don't think the monitor preview on the D1H (or X) is as faithful for color and exposure as that on the D1, it more than makes up for it in the speed in which the image appears!

There is nothing different about the AF system on the D1H, it's the same as the D1. But being coupled to the 5fps and 40 frame buffer, you'll be fooled into thinking the AF is faster. This is because of that 40 frame buffer "freeing" up some of the camera resources to in a sense so the camera can simply operate faster.

The bottom line for me is using this combination in the field. Shooting in Alaska, I focused for a week on grizzly bears fishing in a creek. The bears had many styles of fishing, the most common is running up and down the bank after a spawning salmon, diving in on top of it when appropriate. This is fast action that anyone who as seen it can attest to. Not even a problem for the D1H to handle! I got series after series of grizzlies doing this and when I preview all the images in a row in DigitalPro, I can see the action all over again without missing a beat!

I went to where I photographed the Puffins with the D1x just a few weeks earlier with the D1H on my last trip. With the D1x I would get one, two may be three images in a fly by of a puffin. But with the D1H, I got as many as I desired, there was never any waiting, just shooting! It was heaven!


Another way the D1H is faster is the method in which you can customize it to fit your own shooting needs and style (compared to the D1, it has the same system as the D1x) . The same menu system that resides in the D1x is in the H. The four menus are easy to read and functions easy to understand so you can program on the fly, or create up to four separate banks of custom settings, camera settings and the like that you can select with just a click!


Well here's where the D1H again speeds things up! Flash on the D1 is difficult as best and only after lots of use, predictable. Face it, it was a step back in TTL flash photography. That's far from the performance you'll experience with the D1H (or x). Flash photography is a snap again, as in snap the SB-28dx into the hot shoe and snap away!

Unlike the D1 where you need to select A mode on the flash or TTL on the F5, the D1H (and X) truly can be used easily with no lengthy explanation required. Simply set the SB-28dx to DTTL Matrix and shoot and 90% of the time your flash fill exposure will be just gorgeous!


The added fps of the D1H requires more out of the flash to keep up. Using the Nikon SD-8a powered by PowerEx AA batteries, I'm able to easily shoot 12-14 frames bursts without waiting for the flash to recycle (subject appx. 11 feet away, f/8). This is something the D1 could do as well, but remember that it is a slower firing rate with flash exposures often not to your liking.

Many have asked about the SB-50 flash. I'm of the same opinion as David, it's a cute flash made for those who want an auxiliary flash for their built-in pop-up flash. The flash foot design of the SB-50 is superior to any other flash on the market, but that's about where its professionalism stops. When the subject is about 12 feet or less away and you're working at f8, the SB-50 does a great job even with the 14mm. Go outside the range of the flash and you'll experience overexposed images, mirroring results obtained with the D1/SB-28dx, with the D1H.


Thank goodness that's a non-issue again, I was getting a headache! The main exposure problem with the D1, the classic white bird on blue water is not present on the D1H. The only exposure problem I have found with the D1H and X is in shooting totally flat light, ie fog. In this situation I have to dial in +1 stop for the exposure I want. Since I don't shoot in a fog often (take that as you want), it's really not a big issue as all of my other exposures are so right on, I'm a happy camper!


The speed in which you can pick up a D1H if you're a D1 shooter and start shooting will shock you! There is no new learning curve, you can plug in your settings from the D1 into the D1H, shoot and get the results you want. In the D1 and the D1H (and X), I shoot in the FINE mode, Cloudy -3, Aperture Priority nearly 98% of the time and the results are just stunning. The D1H (and x) has a custom setting #32 Color Mode that permits the selections of Adobe RGB color space which was not available on the D1. Shooting for publication, I really like this and use it all the time.

Not so Hot

There is one issue with the D1H (and x) that drives me nuts, and that has to do with the rear LCD monitor. The D1H and X offer eight displays of information when you preview an image on the monitor (one at a time). While this seems cool and great on paper, it's not operationally very swift. For example, I like to use the blinkie highlights so that's what I have selected. Be that as it may because sometimes it appears when I depress the monitor button and sometimes it doesn't. And if you want both the blinkie highlights and Histogram to appear at the same time, forget it, it doesn't work!

The D1H Battery

The Power for the D1H is the EN-4, the same battery as that for the D1. It is essential that when you first get this battery, your charge it by refreshing it three times in a row prior to its first use. This ensures that you'll get the best possible performance from your D1H. You should expect a minimum of 300 captures and a maximum of 1000 on one charge. The one problem with the D1H that within 300 captures, the battery indicator indicated the battery is at half. This is not accurate as you might be able to fill as many as three 256MB CompactFlash cards after the battery indicator displays half full. The real problem to all of this is the viewfinder info disappears as soon as you remove your finger from the shutter release once the battery indicator hits half. This can be annoying at the very least. It also means you must mentally think about the battery consumption rather than just being able to capture images.

Bottom Line

It's simple, the D1H is the digital camera for me! You might be saying, "heck, this review doesn't even mention image quality." That's because that is a non-issue to me. The D1H delivers the same file quality as the D1 with better color and exposure. Since I've made hundreds of sales off D1 images, I have no doubt I'll do as well with the D1H.

I'm quite thrilled with 29GB of D1 images I've captured in the last 18 months. I've even more thrilled with the 5k D1H images I've captured in the last three weeks! I'm not a computer geek or pixel counter, just a photographer and what I need are tools I can depend on to capture what it is I want to communicate. The D1H is the best tool I've found to do just that. I feel lucky to have found it so early in my digital shooting career considering it took 18 years to get to the same point with conventional. The H in D1H is not just for high speed, it's for HOT!

--Text and photos by Moose Peterson

 Back to other Nikondigital Reviews


Subscribe to:
DigitalPro Shooter
the newsletter!

Subscribe to DigitalPro Shooter
Enter your email to receive our newsletter on shooting digital.


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


Subscribe to DigitalPro Shooter
Enter your email to receive our newsletter on shooting digital.

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