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Nikon D1x Review

June 2001 | By Phil Askey


Review based on an production Nikon D1x, firmware v1.01

I was first introduced to the D1x at the Nikon launch here in London, to a room full of journalists Nikon unveiled its new six megapixel D1X and the 40 image buffer, 5 fps high speed D1H (2.74 megapixel). The D1x is largely based on the first Nikon produced professional digital SLR, the D1, which took the professional photography market by storm and had a huge influence on the price of professional digital SLR's. The D1x builds on the D1, it adds another 3.3 megapixels of resolution (while maintaining a respectable 3 fps, 9 image buffer), makes several tweaks to the user interface (new menu system, shifted controls) and finally brings selectable colour profiles (sRGB / Adobe RGB), an area which was probably D1 users biggest bug bear.

D1x Features Summary

  • Same body as D1 (some labels / buttons have shifted)
  • Same AF system as D1 (and F5)
  • Same 1.5x focal length multiplier
  • Selectable colour space mode (sRGB or Adobe 1998)
  • 3D White Balance (with hue compensation for colour shift produced by artificial lighting)
  • Textual custom functions (available in four languages)
  • Increased number of custom functions, now 35
  • RS232C port for connection to GPS units, GPS location is recorded in image header
  • ISO sensitivity selectable in 1/3 or 1/2 stops (D1X from ISO 125, D1H from ISO 200)
  • D1X also supports a 2.74 megapixel image size which is of higher quality than the 2.74 megapixel image from the D1/D1H (though frame rates remain 3 fps despite this lower resolution)
  • New faster ASIC processor (image processor)
  • Photoshop plugin for RAW files
  • RAW file optional lossless compression mode (2:1)
  • New "total system anti-noise strategy"
  • Less noise at high ISO's
  • New Nikon Capture 2
  • New Nikon View 4 (file copy from card with rename)
  • Improved IEEE 1394 (Firewire) data transfer speed
  • New 130,000 pixel LCD with "white LED backlight"
  • One-button playback with magnification capability
  • Official support for new 1 GB Microdrive (though not older 340 MB) *

* Initial problems with later 1 GB Microdrives now solved with firmware v1.01

The D1x's new 5.4 mp CCD

The slightly controversial thing about the D1x's new CCD is that it has twice the resolution in the horizontal direction than in the vertical. Indeed, vertically it has exactly the same resolution as the D1 (1324 rows).

A portion of a normal "square pixel" CCD A portion of the D1x's double horizontal resolution CCD (rectangular pixels)

The D1X's pixel grid layout is rectangular rather than square (though still uses the Bayer GRGB colour filter array), in camera processing turns the 4028 x 1324 raw pixels (5.33 megapixel) into a 3008 x 1960 pixel image (5.9 megapixel). While it's clear that some interpolation is being carried out in the vertical direction (to get from 1324 rows to 1960 rows) there is also compression in the horizontal direction (reducing from 4028 to 3008 columns), this compression is used to add detail to the vertical data. Nikon argue that because the input and output resolution are almost identical no image degradation will be visible. Something we'll be able to test later in this review...

D1X "sees" an image with higher horizontal resolution, 4028 x 1324 (approx. 6:2) D1X produces an image which is horizontally narrower and vertically taller, 3008 x 1960 (approx. 3:2)

The reasoning behind using a layout is that Nikon have managed to double resolution while maintaining a usable frame rate, by keeping the "readout queue" the same (1324 rows) they have managed to maintain relatively high frame rates (3 fps) while doubling the overall resolution of the camera.


Lenses

Obviously when you buy a digital SLR you've also got to consider lenses, a good percentage of D1x buyers will probably be existing Nikon SLR owners, so they will more than likely have several suitable lenses. Nikon were good enough to provided the following lenses for evaluation of the D1x in this review:

AF Zoom-Nikkor 28-105mm
f/3.5-4.5D

(42 - 157.5 mm equiv.)
AF-S Zoom-Nikkor 17-35mm
f/2.8D IF-ED

(25.5 - 52.5 mm equiv.)
AF-S Nikkor 300mm
f/4D IF-ED

(450 mm equiv.)


If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read the Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this review (it may help you understand some of the terms used).

Images which can be viewed at a larger size have a small magnifying glass icon in the bottom right corner of the image, clicking on the image will display a larger (normally 960 x 720 or smaller if cropped) image in a new window.

To navigate the review simply use the next / previous page buttons, to jump to a particular section either pick the section from the drop down or select it from the navigation bar at the top.

DPReview calibrate their monitors using Color Vision OptiCal at the (fairly well accepted) PC normal gamma 2.2, this means that on our monitors we can make out the difference between all of the (computer generated) grayscale blocks below. We recommend to make the most of this review you should be able to see the difference (at least) between X,Y and Z and ideally A,B and C. Colourspace used for evaluation is sRGB (unless otherwise stated).

This review is Copyright 2001 Phil Askey and the review in part or in whole may NOT be reproduced in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from the author. For information on reproducing any part of this review (or any images) please contact: Phil Askey.

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