Nikon D2H TEST DRIVING
With the big announcement from Nikon heralding the D2H, we would naturally want to test one. Given that one of the primary markets for this new marvel is sports photography, we went in search of some fast-moving action to try it out.
Our good friends at ePhotocraft.com were kind enough to go to great effort to obtain a demonstrator model for us to test. For comparison, I brought along my D1 and D100.
The first stop was the VIRginia International Raceway. That same day, at night I was up the road to the University of Virginia to catch the Cavaliers in action on the basketball court. Since that initial test, a trip to the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona race and some other events with my own personal D2H has provided additional experience with this awesome camera.
START YOUR ENGINES
Shooting motorsports has been a passion of mine for many years. Beginning with a Nikon F4, I've also used a Nikon F5, D1, and D100 in this pursuit (sorry, no pun intended). When the Nikon D2H was announced, no one was more interested in this camera than I was. While the most talked-about feature, the 8 frames per second shooting rate, was certainly of interest to me, the 40-shot buffer and next-generation Multi CAM 2000 autofocus module were even more appealing. Those features, along with things like a new Li-Ion battery, vertical orientation sensor and automatic file rotation when downloading with Nikon Transfer, better TTL flash (including TTL FP-synch) were enough to have me very anxious to try this camera.
The 3.27-mile natural-terrain road course of the VIRginia International Raceway, hosts everything from amateur sportsman racers to the Professional ranks of the AMA Superbikes and Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car series I. The day I had the D2H there, I was able to catch two "Formula TR" cars testing. These small open-wheel cars are agile and fast, and proved to be a good test subject. My primary goal at VIR was to test the capabilities of the CAM 2000 AF system. I was not disappointed.
Using an 80-200mm f/2.8D ED AF-S zoom Nikkor, handheld, or an AF-I 400mm Nikkor on a monopod (at times with a Nikon TC-20E 2x teleconverter) I positioned myself as far down of the track as I could, on the front straight, in order to catch the cars at the highest speed. A hand-held radar gun measured the cars' speed at 120 mph and increasing as they passed my position. I tried the same shots with the Nikon D1, D100, and D2H. But even at these high speeds, the AF performance was superb and immediately obvious. The camera was designed to handle this and more.
As the cars turned onto the straight, all three cameras could easily and quickly lock on and track the car as it approached. The difference was when the cars were closest. The Nikon D1, with the Multi CAM 1300 AF module, can keep focus locked on a car much closer than the Nikon D100. But as good as it is, the Nikon D1 still can't reliably keep a fast-moving car focused all the way up to the camera position as the Nikon D2H did.