Nikon D2X Review: First Look
Is the Nikon D2X just another notch in the log for Nikon? Not in my world. It is a destination that I have been looking for, for over 35 years. I wanted a quick and simple way to make fairly large (16X20 in.), crisp, vibrant, realistic, and yet creative images. That is not asking much for the naive, but I believe I have found it.
I am not new to digital. I have been tinkering with it in different forms for the past eighteen years. In the past I have scanned prints, scanned film, owned a D1. I have owned nine different Nikon models and the D2X is a bit more than I expected or even hoped for in some ways. The Nikon D2X is just plain fun and exciting to shoot.
As a jeweler I had been using a D1 for my small product photography. It was quit adequate for shooting small objects that would only be used as part of one magazine ad page. I also do salon competition and Nikon’s D1X, D1H or D2Hs did not give me the quality I was looking for in that area, so that area was still relegated to film base. I waited until the announcement of the Nikon D2X last September. I did the math, and it would do, with minimal interpolation (resampling), my standard printing of 13X19 in. and larger. The Nikon D2X captures 4288 X 2848 pixels. That equates to 14.3 X 9.5 in. @ 300 dpi. This not only works for my salon work, but also fills a standard full-page “ full bleed” magazine ad with room to spare.
That highly anticipated Monday, when the cameras first arrived at retailers, I had a Nikon D2X already setting in my wish list at B&H. When I saw “in stock” I quickly hit “add to my cart” and it was on its way. The day it was to arrive I was excited. Was it really worth the five grand?
When my D2x arrived, I had to wait for the Nikon battery to charge up. I love Nikon’s choice of Li-ion batteries for this camera. Twice the number of recharges of nickel metal hydrides, and very little fall off of power, unlike alkalines. This lets the camera have almost peak power through the full battery charge and allows for the new five segment battery readout. With the new clip on end cap, it makes each battery smaller and they are interchangeable with my Nikon F6 (and the Nikon D2H) also. The battery charge lasted me almost two days of shooting, because with the new instant start up, one very quickly gets into the habit of shutting off the camera after the shot. It goes ahead and reads it to the card even if you turn it off. And turning it on immediately before you are ready to go again. It almost becomes a reflex.
The wait gave me a chance to look the camera over. The camera looked very professionally appointed as I expected, nice finish, good feel and balance, attention to detail and layout, snug plug in covers, replaceable protector for the monitor screen, a color menu screen with variable intensity that is easy to use even in brighter light, quality all the way, unlike many of the other lesser expensive DSLRs I had seen in the recent past from many companies.
When it was ¾ charged, (the accepted advice is to calibrate new batteries 3 times before use, for maximum performance), I put on my 70-200mm f/2.8 AF-S VR and went to the back door, opened it, VERY bright viewfinder, and finely, auto focus sensors where they should be, in the corners of a thirds layout. I leaned against the door- jamb for stability and Click. (A softer click than even my Nikon D1, much like my new Nikon F6) This was my first picture from the most expensive camera body I had ever purchased. I looked at the back ... Wow? Well not really, it worked, but a gray overcast day with barren trees and a gray parking lot, just didn't ring my chimes. It did look incredibly crisp on the back of the camera. Zoom it up 27 times (in large format) and pan to see just how crisp it is. Great feature, you don’t even have to plug it into the computer to check for sharpness or blur. This image looked crisp and promising at a 20X magnification.
I took it home and did some “arm chair” testing. It is easy to operate with the control placements and ergonomics slightly improved from my previous Nikons. The size is still a bit large for my hands but after seeing interior renderings of the camera, there is not any wasted space to pear down.
The mode, exposure compensation, and lens release buttons are larger and shaped to be tactilely discernable, so that you can drop your finger on them and instantly know where you are, without fiddling to sort them out (also used on Nikon D2H and Nikon F6). Some of the controls are slightly different but there are enough in the same form and placement, as previous high end Nikons, that the learning curve is quite easy.
I liked the offset Auto focus on, and the exposure lock buttons, easier to feel. Play back and delete have much easier to identify Icons. Two presses on the “dumpster” and it is gone. I set the function button, to change between high-speed crop modes. It is a stretch with my squatty bodied fingers to reach the function button and main command dial at the same time. But it works smoothly otherwise for a quick change between continuous shooting modes. Unless one needs the speed of 8 frames a second or to save disk space, I would shoot in full frame most of the time. On the other hand I can see how wildlife photographers will appreciate the larger crop factor. For normal use, you can always crop it to a smaller format later if you need to and it allows one the luxury of following moving objects easier and cropping when the timing is not as frantic. Late night front room testing and the auto focus locked on in all nine cross type focus brackets. Humm!