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Compared to...

Simply for a lack of any other 3 megapixel digital SLR's (yet) we're forced to compare the D1 to Canon's (prosumer) EOS-D30. Readers of my D30 review will realise that we've already carried out this comparison in some detail and so you should go and read that part of that review right away.

The results of that comparison were close, the D30 possibly piping the D1 because of its better out-of-the-camera colour and super-smooth image quality. Next I decided to see what the D1 can do when you work around it's little quirks. These are the workarounds applied to the D1 for this comparison:

  • Set in-camera sharpening to Low (CSM 23-1)
  • Use a preset white balance (don't trust auto white balance)
  • Convert the JPEG from NTSC to sRGB colour space

Results working around the quirks

Here's the complete setup:

  • Canon EOS-D30: Canon EF 28-135mm F3.5-5.6 lens, Manual Mode, Auto White Balance
    • Standard settings, ISO 200
  • Nikon D1: Nikkor 28-105mm F3.5-4.5D lens, Manual Mode, Preset White Balance
    • Sharpening: Low (
    • CSM 23-1), NTSC->sRGB profile conversion, ISO 200
  • Lighting: 2 x 800W studio lights with dichroic daylight filters bounced off a white ceiling reflector (simulated daylight).

We found that the D30 worked best with the Auto white balance setting and the D1 with a preset white balance from a gray card.

Colour correction step

Nikon D1 before profile conversion Nikon D1 after profile conversion

The first step is to take the original D1 JPEG and put it through our prefered colour correction procedure (NTSC -> sRGB profile conversion). This correceted image (shown on the right here) will be used for the comparison below.

De-Quirked Scene Comparison

Exposure: 1/1.3s, F10

Something to consider when looking at these images is that the D30 has 160 more horizontal and 128 more vertical pixels (should this have any major bearing on the interpretation of the D1's resolution). To be fair to the D1 we only compare it to the D30's ISO 200 image.

Nikon D1 @ ISO 200
(Corrected, Low sharpening)
Canon EOS-D30 @ ISO 200

Working around the D1's quirks you soon see that the results are impressive, indeed after the profile conversion its colours are better than the D30 (I personally tend to use a -10 saturation adjustment in Photoshop to push colours down a little). With Low sharpening (CSM 23-1) we remove the majority* of the artifacts associated with the in-camera sharpening algorithm but still haven't lost any detail.

* Examples of crossover artifacts can be seen between the D and I of DISTILLED in the above crop.

The D30 has slightly more pixels so it's more able to resolve some more of the detail and also has a cleaner, smoother image in flat areas. If you ensure you're using low sharpening and can fit the profile conversion into your workflow then you should get very good results from the D1.

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I used one of these in 2002 when I worked as a reporter/photographer for a community newspaper. It was, for its time, a pretty incredible machine even three years after it was introduced.

Compared to the Canon PowerShot A40 that I had just received quite excitedly as a college graduation gift, the D1 I used at work was like something out of a science fiction movie. It was lightning fast to focus and shoot, it had crazy low-light ability (ISO 1600), and the f2.8 AF-S zoom lenses that the newspaper had to go along with it were stellar.

Today with the improvements in sensor technology, you can get similar image quality in a smart phone (with a lot more resolution), and the professional DSLRs are just leaps and bounds ahead.

It's impossible to overstate just how significant a camera the D1 was for photojournalism and photography in general. Total game changer.

Comment edited 7 minutes after posting